Artificial Intelligence keeps popping up everywhere from generative AI which created the image above to the financial sector. What AI is currently doing is copying and reformatting data into new patterns (but still using the inputted patterns), meaning that currently AI is not conscious and is not “thinking”. This could easily change in the next decade, only time will tell. To prepare for when AIs seem to express consciousness we need to think about what consciousness actually is and how we can confirm its existence.
What might we ask a potential mind born of silicon? How the AI responds to questions like “What if my red is your blue?” or “Could there be a color greener than green?” should tell us a lot about its mental experiences, or lack thereof. An AI with visual experience might entertain the possibilities suggested by these questions, perhaps replying, “Yes, and I sometimes wonder if there might also exist a color that mixes the redness of red with the coolness of blue.” On the other hand, an AI lacking any visual qualia might respond with, “That is impossible, red, green, and blue each exist as different wavelengths.” Even if the AI attempts to play along or deceive us, answers like, “Interesting, and what if my red is your hamburger?” would show that it missed the point.
Of course, it’s possible that an artificial consciousness might possess qualia vastly different than our own. In this scenario, questions about specific qualia, such as color qualia, might not click with the AI. But more abstract questions about qualia themselves should filter out zombies. For this reason, the best question of all would likely be that of the hard problem itself: Why does consciousness even exist? Why do you experience qualia while processing input from the world around you? If this question makes any sense to the AI, then we’ve likely found artificial consciousness. But if the AI clearly doesn’t understand concepts such as “consciousness” and “qualia,” then evidence for an inner mental life is lacking.
Games are fun and we should play more of them! That being said, we should also be conscious of the impact our technological-driven gaming has on the environment. Ben Abraham recently launched a new project called Greening the Game Industry to promote the concept of sustainable gaming. The project stems from his work on a very good book, Digital Games After Climate Change, and he hopes to get more people thinking about ways gaming companies can better respect the environment.
One of the best ways to reduce your impact in any industry is to buy second hand and use things to their end of their life. Thus, the thinking of a “patient gamer” is one we should all follow.
The initiative is called the “Games Consoles EU Self-Regulatory Agreement”, and I won’t go into the details of self-regulation but suffice to say most of what you need to know is right there in the name. This is not the EU trying to bring energy-profligate console manufacturers to heel, and is more like a simple mechanism to get them all to the table to see what stuff they already agree on and can codify into some (not even particularly binding) rules of the road. It is also not really a climate-focussed initiative, at least not primarily, which might work backwards from the known impact of the industry and/or a given constraint and say ‘you can use this much no more’ (and there are substantial barriers, practical and conceptual, to being able to do that yet anyway). Since the EUalready has rulesabout “vampire power”, or the power consumed when switched off or in standby.
A few years ago Microsoft decided to sink a data centre and see how well it performs. The short answer is: well, the underwater server farm did just fine. This is significant because it proves that underwater data centres are feasible and, to Microsoft’s surprise can be more reliable.
Data centres take a lot of energy to keep cool so by putting it in the water the cooling system uses the chilly waters surrounding it. The carbon footprint of these underwater systems is potentially smaller too since instead of running massive air conditioners (which consume a lot of energy) they are using their local environment.
Their first conclusion is that the cylinder packed with servers had a lower failure rate than a conventional data centre.
When the container was hauled off the seabed around half a mile offshore after being placed there in May 2018, just eight out of the 855 servers on board had failed.
That compares very well with a conventional data centre.
“Our failure rate in the water is one-eighth of what we see on land,” says Ben Cutler, who has led what Microsoft calls Project Natick.
Without a doubt these are exceptional times; I cannot think of another moment in history in which capitalist democracies basically put their economies on hold to protect people. COVID-19 is causing great harm and we have a chance to do all our parts to fight it. The most important thing is to practice social distancing as much as possible.
Use your work computer and your own to passively help researchers using BOINC. It’s a way to use your computational powers to help researchers run simulations to better understand the Coronavirus.
While you’re staying away from people you can play Foldit@Home to help researchers working on COVID-19. Previously Foldit successfully solved an enzyme problem which AIDs researchers were facing. So now is our chance to play games to help fight COVID-19.
Foldit is a free, online game that anyone in the world can download and run on their Mac, Linux, or Windows PC. The main drive of Foldit is our science puzzles. These are weekly challenges that we refresh every week . . . that are directly related to research weâ€™re doing here in the lab at the Institute for Protein Design or in our other labs. Foldit players can participate in the science puzzles. . . [which] are constructed in such a way that competing players who develop high-scoring solutions make meaningful research contributions.
E-Waste continues to be a growing problem in our waste streams. This is unfortunate since it doesn’t need to be this way as people can use computers for longer, or, use the laptop for parts. In the video above you can get some really neat ideas for DIY projects all from reusing parts from a dead laptop. Some are practical like reusing the hard drive while others are more for fun. Either way, it’s worth a watch.