Not knowing much about artificial intelligence doesn't stop people from writing about it. This has been the case as long as I can remember, i.e. not just now that AI is making impressive advances.

Most statements about what AI can never achieve are baseless assertions. They usually reveal more about their author's limited perspective they do about AI. Those who say AI will never think may well be following in the footsteps of those who said space travel was impossible.

AI does not yet think in the sense that a human does but these are very early days. Protozoa didn't think either.

Be wary of claims of the inherent superiority of man.

As to whether AI is potentially dangerous and whether it makes sense to anticipate how to control its use, I am not optimistic. There will be good-faith attempts to grapple with these issues but they will not constrain research worldwide. The technology has potential strategic and military applications that will make it irresistible. There will be an AI arms race. There is already a cyberwarfare arms race, conducted in secret with no public debate on its pros and cons. The USA and Israel still don't acknowledge their roles in developing Stuxnet and using it against Iran.
desert spiny lizard
Sceloporus magister quenching his/her thirst after sundown.
Lepus californicus
Sceloporus magister (juvenile)
click for larger version
traffic on the way home today.
It's important not to lose your head while by Sroyon
Pinus longaeva
It's hard not to have noticed that this month was when the GDPR's rubber met the road. I especially like the notices some companies have sent saying I'd better review their terms or else they'll have to stop sending me emails trying to sell me stuff.

I wondered, does the GDPR apply to a trifle of a blog based in the USA? Does it compel TOMMYJOURNAL to flesh out its terms of use and obtain explicit consent from readers? The provision for fines of up to 4% of annual worldwide turnover didn't scare me but the "or €20 million, whichever is greater" got my attention.

The GDPR reads like it was intended to make you—no matter how liberal and/or privacy-minded you are—agree with every conservative in the USA who thinks the EU is the epitome of bureaucratic hell. One cannot help but sympathize with any company that has to figure out what the GDPR even says. Anything that makes me feel sympathy for Facebook, even if only for a moment, makes me want to scream.

The GDPR implores controllers (entities responsible for how personal data is processed) to communicate with data subjects (people) "in a concise, transparent, intelligible and easily accessible form". To that end, the GDPR sets a fine example. Nothing says "concise, transparent, intelligible" better than, say, the GDPR's 97th whereas paragraph (out of 173):
Where the processing is carried out by a public authority, except for courts or independent judicial authorities when acting in their judicial capacity, where, in the private sector, processing is carried out by a controller whose core activities consist of processing operations that require regular and systematic monitoring of the data subjects on a large scale, or where the core activities of the controller or the processor consist of processing on a large scale of special categories of personal data and data relating to criminal convictions and offences, a person with expert knowledge of data protection law and practices should assist the controller or processor to monitor internal compliance with this Regulation. In the private sector, the core activities of a controller relate to its primary activities and do not relate to the processing of personal data as ancillary activities. The necessary level of expert knowledge should be determined in particular according to the data processing operations carried out and the protection required for the personal data processed by the controller or the processor. Such data protection officers, whether or not they are an employee of the controller, should be in a position to perform their duties and tasks in an independent manner.
I get that there are real problems the GDPR seeks to address. But does the remedy have to be expressed in a document that sucks the life out of you to read it?

As to whether the GDPR applies to this meager, non‑commercial, cookie‑free, based-in-the-USA blog: I don't think so.
California is having a primary election next month. This person wants to represent my district. Screenshot excerpt (red quote marks mine): sigh
runway 10/28; click for larger version Shown to the right: a portion of a runway at an airport in the USA. Note the two small oblique rectangles near the upper right corner of the pic. Can you guess what they are? They are not there for any aeronautical purpose; they are not an aid to pilots nor do they provide a signal to instruments.

I saw this on another blog recently—I'll give credit after giving time for people to guess. If you aren't guessing (i.e., if you know the answer) please hold off from posting it in a comment.

Happy nineteenth, everyone.
dog & water & power.
before; click for after Two years and a day ago, I wrote about a couple cypress trees of mine whose tops had died off. I said
Who knows, they might have quite a few years left.
They've died. I felled one of them today.

I didn't cut it off close to the ground because it's thicker there and I only have a smallish electric chainsaw. No matter. My experience is that after about twenty years the trunk will have rotted enough just below grade that you can push it over.
Yucca brevifolia A Chinese proverb of unclear origin:


Roughly: The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago. The next best time is now.

20 years ago my friend Sasha and I dug up a Joshua tree and planted it in my yard. I hadn't heard of that proverb and thus didn't know I was choosing what would, 20 years hence, be the best possible time.

The roots seemed really shallow. I planted it a little deeper than it was where I found it.

Some months later I was at a nursery looking for some other kind of tree, I don't recall which, and a guy working there told me it's a mistake to replant trees deeper because what had been exposed bark doesn't do well with dirt against it.

I asked, "Every kind of tree?"

He said, "Even the ones you've already planted."

So far the J‑tree seems to be unruffled by my faux pas.

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