Your Personal Sim: Pt 4 — Deep Agents (Grokking Deep Learning/Natural Intelligence)

The Brave New World of Smart Agents and their Data

A Multi-Part Series

Part 1 — Your Attention Please
Part 2 — Why Agents Matter
Part 3 — The Agent Environment
Part 4 — Deep Agents (this post)
Part 5—Deep Training

More soon…
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Why will our smart agents and sims soon become as indispensible as the web and our smartphones are today? Why will we think of our sims as “our better selves” by 2030? To understand this key aspect of our global future, our next two posts will take a deep look at deep learning, a new paradigm of not only machine learning, but of future computer development.

These two will be long posts, but they are about the technology behind the greatest story of our collective future, the advent of machines that think and feel like us, so I make no apologies for their length. Plenty of people will write the short versions. But there are many doubts and misconceptions on these topics, so the length will hopefully clear up a few of both.

There are also some rewards at the end, to make up for this post’s length. The first reward is the “Mind Meld” (aka, “Merging With our Sims”, or “Slippery Singularity”) prediction. This is a big reward, as it explores how humanity will use deep learning to solve the greatest tragedy presently inflicting our planet — the inevitable death of each and every one of us, due to the disposable nature of human biology. I think this mind meld future is inevitable, and when it comes later this century, hundreds of millions of us, at the very least, will use it to move easily into postbiology as our biological bodies age and die.

Once mind melding happens at scale, and we see that it works, cultures everywhere will stop pretending that human mental death is a good thing, and we’ll upgrade our religious faiths (which will never go away) to be consistent with a new world of indefinite human lifespan, for all who desire it. The second reward is more prosaic, some powerful investment tips you can implement today in the Calls to Action at the end.

The Rest of this Post (on Medium)

Heathrow Has No Wifi Clothes, It’s Gone Boingo

Heathrow, airport of the 2012 Olympics. No affordable internet access.

It’s high time for another post to the Deviants section of the blog, so let’s get started. Like cockroaches under a rock, Deviants frequently come in packs. Find a problem, dig deeper, and you often discover a bundle.

This time we’ve got at least four deviants to offer you. Let’s start with Heathrow International Airport, bane of international travelers (To remember how bad they are, it would be great if we could “heave and throw” them out of the global airport hub system till they up their game)

At Heathrow, wi-fi costs over $25 (US equivalent) for a “day pass”. No hourly rate is available. This Machiavellian strategy screws thousands of short-layover people every day out of any access to the internet.

From Logo and running man should be reversed, to show customers fleeing, I think. Any graphic designers want to update this pic?

The wi-fi is run by Boingo Wireless, one of the largest and horriblest (yup, that’s a word) wireless companies presently inhabiting our precious island Earth. Check out Boingo’s atrocious reviews at CNet. They’ve been regularly accused of several deceptive practices, including repetitive billing when customers sign up for a day pass, and terrible procedures for getting off their repetitive billing. See more lovely complaints by the downtrodden here. Boingo has an apparent, if not a legal monopoly, on wi-fi at Heathrow. I wasn’t able to find anything else when I was recently there. The information desk didn’t know of others either. (Were you waiting for a way to remember Boingo as a deviant? Think of getting boinked economically, in a coercive manner, and you’re pretty close.)

Heathrow is designated as a hub airport in the global travel system. By choosing Boingo, the UK is screwing all international flyers, telling them what they really think of them and their travel dollars. It would be lovely if the ICAO or another governing body for airports could hold them accountable on this. Heathrow’s general level of service is has long been rated poorly (see the large number of low ratings at Skytrax buried among the positive ones, some of which I suspect are pre-Olympics PR shills). Heathrow’s run by BAA (think black sheep to remember them) the plutocratic, bureaucratic airport management conglomerate that until recently had a monopoly on all the main London airports for years. In 2009, the UK government finally forced divestiture of the two other London airports also owned by BAA. Big money here, so things are slow to change.

Free wireless now exists in hundreds of civilized airports globally. See: for a list. Apparently T-Mobile (only slightly less sucky than Boingo) was in Heathrow before them. And apparently the Starbucks in one of the Terminals at Heathrow had good cheap connectivity way back in 2006. It’s not rocket science.

Anticompetitive industry lobbying groups like the CTIA (formerly called the Cellular Telephone Industries Assn, but you can call them Controlling Today’s Information Access) push for airport monopolies on wifi service provision, as they did in 2006 at Logan Airport in Boston, for example. That sucks.

It’s high time to recognize wi-fi access to the internet is no longer a luxury good, but a community service that should be free in all civilized countries, like bathrooms. Soon it will be a right, like 1Mbps internet is in Finland.

How do we get free wi-fi as the base layer in all our airports over the next few years, including the largest, most plutocratic and bureaucratic ones like Heathrow and LAX? For a start, I recommend complaining to Heathrow on Twitter, @HeathrowAirport, and using the tag #HeathrowAirport. Anyone searching the tag will forever see your thoughts about their crappy wifi, and can add their voice. You can also complain here on their website, but that’s private. I’d trust BAA/Heathrow’s willingness to do anything with your private feedback as far as I’d trust a scorpion not to sting me.

Until your cybertwin can relay your opinion to the web for you on voice command, for all of us to use to guide us to the best things, and to help us rein in the deviants, take a moment and let them know what you think. If you have any other good strategies in mind, let us know in the comments, thanks!

On Human Destiny and the Value of an Acceleration-Aware World View

Below is start of an interview I did last month with Phil Bowermaster and Stephen Gordon, my futurist friends who run and Fast Forward Radio. The topic was human destiny, and the personal and social value of cultivating a big picture, acceleration-aware view of the world and our opportunities within it. You can find the full text interview here, at, and listen to a related Aug 31st, 2011 audio interview, on a panel with fellow futurists Venessa Miemis and Robin Hanson, at WT2: Human Destiny Transformed.

Thoughts? Responses? Please feel free to use the comments section here, at my new blog home, and I’ll do my best to respond.  Thanks!

1. If you were to pick just one current or coming transformation that you would advise people to focus on, which one would that be?

I run the Acceleration Studies Foundation, so I’m a tad biased, but I would say one thing to focus on is to try to understand the meaning, risks, and opportunities presented by accelerating technological change, in your own life and in society.  Accelerating change is causing a whole number of transformations today, and several of these are giving us more options for what to do and how to live than we’ve had at any time in the past. Others (automation, globalization, fossil fuels, IEDs) are causing disruption in more ways than ever before. Read Martin Ford’s Lights in the Tunnel, 2009, for one of many thoughtful works on the way technology improves us in some ways, while disrupting us in others.

When you think carefully about accelerating change, you may conclude, as I have, that just a few technologies, specifically computing, communications, and nanotechnologies, are continually accelerating because every new generation of these particular technologies uses less resources per computation or physical transformation than the previous one, a phenomenon I call STEM compression. So these special technologies continually escape the “limits to growth” we see in traditional technologies. And it is these same technologies, as they perennially accelerate, that increasingly shape our future. We can think of them as the growing framework, or cage which restrains and directs all the most powerful actors today, the corporations, the governments, the ultrawealthy, the terrorists, everyone.

Our parents saw minicomputers, cheap telecom and the PC fuel the growth of multinationals, and at the same time, flatten corporate hierarchies. We’ve seen the iPod and internet disrupt the music industry, tablets are now starting to change the publishing industry, and as I argue in How the Television Will be Revolutionized, 2010, a few years from now  iTV will disrupt the television and film industries in even more powerful ways, bringing millions of channels to every device. Blogs, Wikis, virtual worlds, mirror worlds, social networks, and other facets of the internet are flowering and enhancing our collective intelligence. Twitter gives us a window on the thoughts of humanity. Smartphones connect us 24/7 to each other and the web. Sensors are proliferating across the planet, making every nation a transparent society. Lifelogs, wearable computing, telepresence, and augmented reality are just now emerging.

Today, Facebook and Twitter empower the Arab Spring. Tomorrow, we’ll have a conversational interface to the web, and cybertwins (digital assistants that model our personality and can act and transact for us, at first in simple ways, later in very intelligent ways) assisting us in our information consumption, communication, commerce, and political activities. We can expect a valuecosm to eventually emerge, quantitated versions of the publicly expressed values that each of us all hold on all kinds of topics, allowing us to connect with others who share our values, to work with others on projects that we care about, and helping us to generate a whole new level of specialization and subcultural diversity. [The rest of the interview].

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