Singularity & The Unltraintelligent Machine

NPR had a piece yesterday on the idea that machines may one day be so intelligent as to become capable of designing and building even more intellingent machines, triggering a exponential growth of intelligence, an intelligence sigularity, such that human intelligence becomes negligible by comparison.  Some consider this intelligence sigularity a existential threat.  

Here is a link to the NPR Story:  


The Singularity: Humanity's Last Invention?

In this story we learn of The Singularity Institute, dedicated to "Ensuring humanity's future in a world with advanced artificial intelligence." 

I'm writing this short note simply because the man who introduced the idea in 1965, Dr. I. J. Good, was a friend of mine.  Here is a citation to his seminal paper on the idea:

Good, I. J. 1965. Speculations Concerning the First Ultraintelligent Machine. In Advances in Computers, vol. 6, ed. F. Alt and M. Rubinoff, pp. 31-88. Academic Press.

This article is available online.

Dr. Good was a remarkable fellow.  I knew him as a statistics professor at Virginia Tech in the mid 1970s.  I only vaugely understood his very human intelligence, except to percieve it as much greater than my own.


Blood Libel

Submitted by cvining on

When someone yells 'fire!'
In a crowded theater
And people react
And people get hurt
The person who yelled
At least
Feel sorry about yelling

Assange/Marxist Duty

The founder of Wikileaks, Julian Assange, in an interview with BBC while out on bail pending possible extradition to Sweden concerning sexual assault without a condom charges, had this to say concerning his persumably unrelated mission with Wikileaks:

"Every person who has some ability to do something about it, if they are a person of good character, has the duty to try and fix the problems in the environment in which they're in."

This is, of course, is equivalent to the first half of the 1875 Marxist slogan:

"From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs."

Marx's version is to be preferred because Assange allows that persons of less than "good character" are relieved from said duty.

The whole idea is somewhat mystifyihg, and in some conflict with the American idea of a right to pursue happiness.

The trouble is that there are always and always will problems.  To say individuals have an actual duty to solve problems not of their making hands Society a sweeping, blunt, oppressive and easily corrupted tooland liable to wax repressive.  Further, said duty is bound to conflict with the individual's pursuit of their own self interests, their own happiness.

A big part of the genious of the American Experiment is the attempt to construct a society in which people's individual self interests are cultivated in ways intended to benefit Society as a whole.


Below is a link to my chess games.  I played tournament chess actively from 1973-1990 reaching a USCF rating of the low 2128s.

Cronin Vining Chess Rating

The file below contains 347 of my games, about 250 of which were in rated tournaments.



Submitted by cvining on

Funicular, funicular
A euphonious word
One of the finest
I ever heard

Funicular, funicular
I don't even know
If one of those comes
Or if one of those goes

Funicular, funicular
What the hell does it mean?
And where can I get one?
Where can one be seen?

Funicular, funicular
I tell you what
I'll look it down
While you look it up

Funicular, funicular
So that's what one is!
Take note everyone
It's on the next quiz!

Antony, Cleopatra and fish

Submitted by cvining on has a piece with Adrian Goldsworthy, who recently published his latest book Antony and Cleopatra, in which he relates the following fish story:

From Plutarch's "life of Antony"

One instance will suffice. He was fishing once, and had bad luck, and was vexed at it because Cleopatra was there to see. He therefore ordered his fishermen to dive down and secretly fasten to his hook some fish that had been previously caught, and pulled up two or three of them. But the Egyptian saw through the trick, and pretending to admire her lover's skill, told her friends about it, and invited them to be spectators of it the following day.  So great numbers of them got into the fishing boats, and when Antony had let down his line, she ordered one of her own attendants to get the start of him by swimming onto his hook and fastening on it a salted Pontic (which is to say, from the Black Sea) herring. Antony thought he had caught something, and pulled it up, whereupon there was great laughter, as was natural, and Cleopatra said: "Imperator, hand over thy fishing-rod to the fishermen of Pharos and Canopus; thy sport is the hunting of cities, realms, and continents."

Former Argentine President Kirchner discussing President Bush's "War is Good" policy

Submitted by cvining on

Oliver Stone mentioned this conversation on a recent episode of Bill Maher.  The main speaker is former Argentine President Néstor Kirchner Yes, the Bush era is over.  Still, this is pretty amazing:

I said that a solution for the problems right now, I told Bush, is a Marshall Plan.  And he got angry.

He said the Marshall Plan is a crazy idea of the Democrats.

He said the best way to revitalize the economy is war.  And that the United States has grown stronger with war.

... He said that.  Those were his exact words.

To paraphrase Gordon Gecko "War is Good."

The American

Saw it this afternoon.

Not exactly, I suppose, a 'feel good' movie.  Even a bit dark.  But actually quite well done.  Bits of foreshadowing, some very nice cinematography with those italian villages.

I love the scene in the bar with that Sergio Leone film "Once Upon A Time In The West" playing in the background.  The bartender just nods at the TV with pride: "Italiano."  

"Once Upon A Time" is a great film in it's own right.  In the opening scene, Jack Elam (Snaky), a character actor in a bit role, is waiting for a train at a remote railroad station.  Out of boredom, he traps a fly in the barrel of his gun.  It's an exquisite scene, setting up the contrast of long periods of mindless waiting punctuated from time to time by rapid, decisive action.  By the end of the opening scene, Charles Bronson (Harmonica) has killed Snaky.


This just in:

WHAT'S NEW   Robert L Park   Friday, 17 Sep 2010   Washington, DC
(Portions snipped.  see Park's website for the entire Newsletter)

Last week I defended the right of a barely coherent Baptist preacher to
burn the Koran, or for that matter the Holy Bible or any other religious
text. "Why shouldn't he as long as he pays for the books and doesn't
violate any municipal burning ordinance?"  Some thought that line was
irresponsible.  I have never burned a Koran or a Holy Bible, but I defend
anyone's right to do so.  Thousands of Americans have died and are still
dying  to defend the Constitution. I stand with them.  Meanwhile, in
Damascus, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei accused the US government of orchestrating
desecrations of the Koran with about 1000 protesters chanting death to
America. There were also riots over the non-burning in Kashmir, but there
are always Muslim riots in Kashmir.

Opinions are the author's and not necessarily shared by the
University of Maryland, but they should be.
Archives of What's New can be found at

My response:


James Forestall

Submitted by cvining on

James Forestall.  The first US Secretary of Defense.  Died from a fall from the 16th story window of a psych hospital.  Some (many) say it was suicide.  He was being treated for depression after being fired as Secretary of Defense by Truman.