Tag Archives | Intelligence

William Gibson Answers Readers’ Questions on Intelligence Communities, Style and More

WilliamGibson

Photo: Gonzo Bonzo (CC)

Here are some notes from an older (September 2010) questions and answers session from William Gibson’s Zero History tour. Via Technoccult:

Asked about the intelligence communities in his books

I don’t want anyone to think I’ve gone “Tom Clancy” but what you find is that you have fans in every line of work. How reliable those narrators are I don’t know, but they tell a good story.

Asked about humor in his work.

Neuromancer was not without a comedic edge. My cyberpunk colleagues and I back in our cyberpunk rat hole sniggered mightily as we slapped our knees.

But writers can’t have more than two hooks. “Gritty, punky,” sure. “Gritty, punky, funny” doesn’t work.

I asked him about the slogan “Never in fashion, always in style” because I read that slogan on his blog and never found out what company that slogan actually belonged to.

Aero Leathers in Scotland.

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Does The U.S. Have A Team In Iran?

MEK IranMiddle East expert Seymour Hersh reveals the United States’ military’s ties with The People’s Mujahedin of Iran, a/k/a M.E.K., in the New Yorker:

From the air, the terrain of the Department of Energy’s Nevada National Security Site, with its arid high plains and remote mountain peaks, has the look of northwest Iran. The site, some sixty-five miles northwest of Las Vegas, was once used for nuclear testing, and now includes a counterintelligence training facility and a private airport capable of handling Boeing 737 aircraft. It’s a restricted area, and inhospitable—in certain sections, the curious are warned that the site’s security personnel are authorized to use deadly force, if necessary, against intruders.

It was here that the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) conducted training, beginning in 2005, for members of the Mujahideen-e-Khalq, a dissident Iranian opposition group known in the West as the M.E.K. The M.E.K. had its beginnings as a Marxist-Islamist student-led group and, in the nineteen-seventies, it was linked to the assassination of six American citizens.

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Internet Makes Smart People Smarter, Dumb People Dumber

Or so claims Kevin Drum, writing for Mother Jones, and using his attempt to Google the price of milk as a supporting anecdote. The theory (that the internet increases “cognitive inequality”) has yet to be tested via scientific study, but, does it ring true?

Moral of the story: the internet makes dumb people dumber and smart people smarter. If you don’t know how to use it, or don’t have the background to ask the right questions, you’ll end up with a head full of nonsense. But if you do know how to use it, it’s an endless wealth of information. Just as globalization and de-unionization have been major drivers of the growth of income inequality over the past few decades, the internet is now a major driver of the growth of cognitive inequality. Caveat emptor.

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Inside The Octopus Mind

octoWho can think? Who can feel? Via Orion, the revelation that octopi — boneless creatures with brains the size of a walnut — seem to have immense intelligence, feelings, and personalities is challenging our understanding of what consciousness means and where it comes from:

I have always loved octopuses. No sci-fi alien is so startlingly strange. Here is someone who, even if she grows to one hundred pounds and stretches more than eight feet long, could still squeeze her body through an opening the size of an orange; an animal whose eight arms are covered with thousands of suckers that taste as well as feel; a mollusk with a beak like a parrot and venom like a snake and a tongue covered with teeth; a creature who can shape-shift, change color, and squirt ink. But most intriguing of all, recent research indicates that octopuses are remarkably intelligent.

Many times I have stood mesmerized by an aquarium tank, wondering, as I stared into the horizontal pupils of an octopus’s large, prominent eyes, if she was staring back at me—and if so, what was she thinking?

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High Childhood IQ Linked to Subsequent Illicit Drug Use

Child ProdigiesVia ScienceDaily:

A high childhood IQ may be linked to subsequent illegal drug use, particularly among women, suggests research published online in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. The authors base their findings on data from just under 8,000 people in the 1970 British Cohort Study, a large ongoing population based study, which looks at lifetime drug use, socioeconomic factors, and educational attainment.

The IQ scores of the participants were measured at the ages of 5 and 10 years, using a validated scale, and information was gathered on self reported levels of psychological distress and drug use at the age of 16, and again at the age of 30 (drug use only) . Drug use included cannabis; cocaine; uppers (speed and wiz); downers (blues, tanks, barbiturates); LSD (acid); and heroin.

By the age of 30, around one in three men (35.4%) and one in six women (15.9%) had used cannabis, while 8.6% of men and 3.6% of women had used cocaine, in the previous 12 months.

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Did Prehistoric Giant Squids Make Art From Bones?

octoIt sounds completly crazy. But it’s what a group of paleontologists are claiming — the first sentient beings on Earth to create art may not have been humans, but monstrously large, tentacled sea creatures called “kraken” who lived 200 million years ago and possibly arranged bones in geometric, decorative patterns. io9 explains further:

For decades, paleontologists have puzzled over a fossil collection of nine Triassic icthyosaurs (Shonisaurus popularis) discovered in Nevada’s Berlin-Ichthyosaur State Park. Researchers initially thought that this strange grouping of 45-foot-long marine reptiles had either died en masse from a poisonous plankton bloom or had become stranded in shallow water.

But recent geological analysis of the fossil site indicates that the park was deep underwater when these shonisaurs swam the prehistoric seas. So why were their bones laid in such a bizarre pattern? A new theory suggests that a 100-foot-long cephalopod arranged these bones as a self-portrait after drowning the reptiles.

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Test Tube DNA Brain Gets Quiz Questions Right

Neuron-SEM-2A step closer to artificial intelligence? Discovery News reports:

A team of researchers lead by Lulu Qian from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) have for the first developed an artificial neural network — that is, the beginnings of a brain — out of DNA molecules. And when quizzed, the brain answered the questions correctly.

They turned to molecules because they knew that before the neural-based brain evolved, single-celled organisms showed limited forms of intelligence. These microorganisms did not have brains, but instead had molecules that interacted with each other and spurred the creatures to search for food and avoid toxins. The bottom line is that molecules can act like circuits, processing and transmitting information and computing data.

The Caltech used DNA molecules specifically for the experiment, because these molecules interact in specific ways determined by the sequence of their four bases: adenine (abbreviated A), cytosine (C), guanine (G) and thymine (T).

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Can AI-Powered Games Create Super-Intelligent Humans?

EinsteinA technology CEO sees game artificial intelligence as the key to a revolution in education, predicting a synergy where games create smarter humans who then create smarter games.

Citing lessons drawn from Neal Stephenson’s The Diamond Age, Alex Peake, founder of Primer Labs, sees the possibility of a self-fueling feedback loop which creates “a Moore’s law for artificial intelligence,” with accelerating returns ultimately generating the best possible education outcomes.

“What the computer taught me was that there was real muggle magic …” writes Peake. And he reaches a startling conclusion.

“Once we begin relying on AI mentors for our children and we get those mentors increasing in sophistication at an exponential rate, we’re dipping our toe into symbiosis between humans and the AI that shape them.… Read the rest

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Secret of NIMH? Memory Implant Boosts Brain Function in Rats

Secret of NIMHThis article reminds me a bit of The Secret of NIMH. Yes, my first awareness of animal experimentation was likely from a(n) Disney animated movie. Benedict Carey writes in the New York Times:

Though still a long way from being tested in humans, the implant demonstrates for the first time that a cognitive function can be improved with a device that mimics the firing patterns of neurons. In recent years neuroscientists have developed implants that allow paralyzed people to move prosthetic limbs or a computer cursor, using their thoughts to activate the machines.

In the new work, being published Friday, researchers at Wake Forest University and the University of Southern California used some of the same techniques to read neural activity. But they translated those signals internally, to improve brain function rather than to activate outside appendages.

“It’s technically very impressive to pull something like this off, given our current level of technology,” said Daryl Kipke, a professor of bioengineering at the University of Michigan who was not involved in the experiment.

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