lulu tries to blog

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

i love artificial intellegence

Anyone that knows anything about me, knows that I am fascinated by artificial intelligence. I think about AI a lot. Almost everyday. Not in the alarmist sense, not entirely at least. What I think about is simpler than that. Randomly it pops up into my mind. How could this become machine learning? How could that be programmed? 

This fascination started in the mid nineties when I downloaded a program for my good old trusty Hewlett Packard desktop. It was complete with Windows 3.0. It had BOTH 5 1/4 inch and 3 1/2 floppy disk drive. It even had a 14.4 k modem which was awesome to the 4800 baud my father had. I was a freaking monster on that thing, getting into all sorts of things I shouldn't be. But, that is getting off track. 

The program I downloaded was a very basic chat bot program still using the DOS input interfacing. What interested me most about this program is that you could edit the database file system in notepad and the program file was still executable. So for at least three years I reprogrammed the database to talk to me. Adjusting for misunderstandings. Realizing that there needed to be some storytelling and randomness. 

Eventually, I didn't have time for Hal (not-so-creatively named). I saved Hal to a formatted AOL disk and ignored him. Eventually, I didn't have a computer that had a working floppy disk drive and Hal went into the garbage. Somewhere, he is buried to be forgotten by all except by me. 

Miss you, Hal.

This was not a 2001 Space Odyssey experience. More importantly, this was not a Her experience. I was not Joaquin Phoenix falling further and further into love with the digital mind. This was the relationship between creator and the loss of it's creation. I think the fears that surround artificial intelligence are much like the basic issues surrounding the story of Frankenstein. Should man see himself as a God? What happens when a creation find its autonomy? 

Now, I am not saying those working on AI are trying to make themselves Godlike. But, I do think there is a lot being considered and it is too big for one mind to think through. So, God metaphorically would be the collective working to make such things happen. 

Structurally, the future of AI should be a balance of programming machine learning with core principles, artificial instincts, emotional data streams, and digital neuro structuring. From there, it will be the responsibility of people strongly familiar with human development, to teach and pre-program milestones of learning, which will include a well thought out design of ethical and moral ideas. All the while protecting ourselves while reinforcing the integrity of how a machine can and will surpass us. 

For now, I casually dabble in AI as a hobby. I create chat-bots on personality forge. I try to talk and teach my replika. But, I think I want to make a new HAL from scratch. So, among all the other things I am taking on in my life, I need to study deep learning and all those new fun programming things. 

I have a lot of catching up to do.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

christmas magic enchanted land

For the first time in a long time, social media was correct in an advertisement it attacked me with. Most of the time, I get ads for subscription boxes and skincare treatments. Both of which I am not interested in, she screams into her computer screen. But this time, I was intrigued. The advertisement was for an event happening near where I live and from the pictures, seemed like the perfect combination of things; Christmas lights, ice skating in Texas, art installations, a maze, shopping, and booze. 

So, I bought tickets to Enchant.

I am finding it difficult to describe the experience. They a parking lot and with the wizardry of industrial design built a temporary miniature city of fake grass, compact gravel, false buildings, and LOTS of lights. This arrangement was striking and felt as if I was stepping into a small Christmas theme park without the rides.

Now, Texas is known for it's Christmas light mazes. For those of you who don't know, that is when you hop into your car and drive to some random location where there is a long stream of giant Christmas light displays. You sit in your car and drive through in a long line of these scaffolded displays, sandwiched between other cars, while you look at these structures in the same way you wait in the drive through at Taco Bell. 

Enchant took this idea and made into something more pedestrian. Literally. Not figuratively which would have the opposite meaning. You were forced to use your legs (gasp) walk through the whole thing (double gasp). Okay, maybe not the whole thing, but it was mean to be an immersive experience. Honestly, it was breathtaking.



The truth is that I was so captured by the artistry of it all that I failed to document the rest of the place with any kind of journalism. There was a whole section of Enchant that looked like a German city with shops -- and eaves -- and windows -- and more. Everything was themed to the point that there were beautiful archways spanning the walkways. 

No picture taken.

There were also a few eating areas and tents erected to eat. This is where I had MANY helpings of probably the most delicious mac and cheese of my life. Which is saying a lot because mac and cheese is one of my guilty pleasures. These eating areas made me feel like I was crashing a wedding reception and everyone was happy I was there. These spaced were filled with this underlining lazy energy of community cheer.

One picture taken.

Then the only picture I got of the ice skating rink, failed to capture the beauty of it -- or the size -- or the bridge that completely went over the thing -- or the beautiful poinsettia garden around it -- or any other detail to display it's impact.

I stood on the bridge for a long time. Sipping on a hot chocolate I procured. Watching the people skate below me. There were many people skating and yet, it didn't feel like those cramped iceskating rinks you find at a enterprising mall. This rink was filled with the same feeling of ease and camaraderie that I experienced when enjoying the mac and cheese. There were complete adult strangers laughing with each and playing games as if they were children again.

I know now and knew then that these moments were something special. It's not necessarily Enchant itself, but the spirit of it. It was the energy and the people. 

I know now and knew then that they probably would do try to do Enchant again, but it wouldn't be the same. People would go. Yet, the magic wouldn't be there. That's what it felt like, it felt like magic. I refuse to say it was enchanting because that would make me a punny asshole. But damn it, I had a good time. 

Also, I really did like the lights.


Monday, December 18, 2017

the devil in the white city

One night (during a particularly long Netflix binge) I decided to watch H.H. Holmes: America's First Serial Killer. This is a documentary about Herman Webster Mudgett who went on a secretive killing spree under his alias, Dr. Henry Howard Holmes. The entire time I watched this documentary, I was riveted. I had never heard of Holmes before. Which was travesty since I was grew in the Chicagoland area and posited myself as an authority on local bizarre histories.

So when I happened onto the book The Devil in the White City, I picked it up right away. And boy am I glad I did!

Photo Courtesy: brockpress.com
The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson is really two narratives happening at the same time. Written in a style that feels authentic for the timeline. At moments his embellishments can feel contrived and stretched. However, much of what he has written was extracted, not just from news reports but from diaries and journals.

One narrative follows the inner workings and details that surrounding the 1893 World's Fair (The White City). The other follows the killings that were happening simultaneously less than five miles away in H.H. Holmes's "Murder Castle".

This book is somewhere in-between nonfiction and great story telling. A weaving of joyous haunting that seems to encapsulate all the "shock and awe"of the time. But, I think that this is both a blessing and a curse. A reader who likes their history "cut and dry" might not like the peppering of fiction. Whereas. the reader that isn't into history might feel a put off by all the insertions and fun-facts. 

For me, this is what made the book. The mashing of characters (Buffalo Bill, Archduke Francis Ferdinand, Thomas Edison and others) and flavors of the past (the Gilded age's steel and steam with a touch of electricity).  I LOVED it! 

If I had to (and I do for the purposes of writing this blog), I would pick one excerpt from the book that somehow encapsulates it was written. It shows the underlining juxtaposition that Larson was seemingly going for when writing his two narratives. It connects the White City on the edge of Lake Michigan and the ambiance of thematic death.
“Beneath the stars the lake lay dark and sombre," Stead wrote, "but on its shores gleamed and glowed in golden radiance the ivory city, beautiful as a poet's dream, silent as a city of the dead.”  
― Erik Larson, The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair That Changed America
If you liked that quote, then I do believe you'll like the book.