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    "Thinking Machines" outside Dune?

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    "Thinking Machines" outside Dune?

    Postby SandChigger » 10 May 2011 03:52

    I came across this the other night during my reading before turning in (emphasis added)...
    ... Despite being largely lost to history, they will be there, in places like the Palomar Observatory in California and the Hubble Space Telescope. Muslim astronomic and mathematical calculations will help drive massive computations one day done by thinking machines. ... (p.148)

    That unexpected use of "thinking machines" really struck me as odd.

    The book is Lost History: The Enduring Legacy of Muslim Scientists, Thinkers and Artists by Michael Hamilton Morgan (2007. Washington, D.C.: National Geographic), paperback edition.

    Have you seen the phrase used like this outside Dune or Dune-related texts or discussions? Is this a REAL Dune influence, or—Maker forbid!—a McDune one? :shock:
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    Re: "Thinking Machines" outside Dune?

    Postby Hadi Benotto » 10 May 2011 04:52

    I believe I ran across it while I was reading Wired for War: The Robotics Revolution and Conflict in the 21st Century by P.W. Singer. Of course the whole book was a discussion on 1) the rapidly evolving use of robots to replace humans in combat zones, 2) the rapid advance of computer AI and how soon we could expect to have a possibly fully sentient computer and 3) the moral/ ethical dilemmas of having robots in combat and how our current laws, and Laws of Armed Conflict (LOAC), don't address these issues.

    Essentially we're moving closer to terminator style robots, but I don't see us moving towards cymeks. I know they're working on trying to integrate the human brain with computers more, but I don't know how close they are to being able to "download" ourselves onto a harddrive. As much as they understand about the brain and how it operates, that's a heck of a lot different than being able to take squishy grey matter and transferring that information onto/ into a magnetic/ electronic storage system. Cyborgs maybe, cymeks probably not.
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    Re: "Thinking Machines" outside Dune?

    Postby SandChigger » 10 May 2011 06:54

    Thanks! I used the search feature on the Amazon preview and found at least one unambiguous use of the phrase. (There was one, too, where they were obviously referring to a human inventor as the "Ultimate Thinking Machine".)


    (The "cymek" stuff is just absolute crap. Even the name makes no sense. Like everything else McDune. Talk about a failure of imagination. Ugh! :roll: )
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    Re: "Thinking Machines" outside Dune?

    Postby Hadi Benotto » 10 May 2011 08:24

    Yeah, I've tried piecing together how the term cymek could've come about, and when I think about it I just kind of stare into oblivion...

    Of course whenever I think about the cymeks I can't help but immediately think of the B'omarr Monks from Star Wars. You saw them in the scene in Return of the Jedi where 3P0 and R2 come inside Jabba's palace, they're walking towards the camera as the door closes behind them. As the door closes, this robot spider, with a brain canister hanging off the bottom, passes in front of the door scaring 3P0.

    I know Star Wars took some Dune elements, so I guess turn about is fair play? Maybe the hack didn't think anyone would notice? I just don't know.

    One does have to wonder if machines do gain sentience, will their first thought be to exterminate us? It seems that's always the way writers paint the picture; machine can think for itself and automatically comes to the conclusion that they're better off without us. One of the differences between the Dune universe and our current reality, at least the way I like to picture it in my head, is that when the machines rose to power, gained awareness, the amount of integration between man and machine was much much greater. I think nearly everything would be autonomous and computer controlled, to a much greater degree than we are now which would facilitate a much easier transition of take over.

    Of course our current civilization is moving that way now, but it's still a heck of a long way off from that potential future.
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    Re: "Thinking Machines" outside Dune?

    Postby Freakzilla » 10 May 2011 08:55

    They won't need to "take over", we're handing it to them. When we eventually rely on the machines for everything we will automatically become servants to them.

    This is what the hacks don't understand.
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    Re: "Thinking Machines" outside Dune?

    Postby Hadi Benotto » 10 May 2011 09:57

    Freakzilla wrote:They won't need to "take over", we're handing it to them. When we eventually rely on the machines for everything we will automatically become servants to them.

    This is what the hacks don't understand.


    True and I think we're in agreement here. What I'm saying is that we're not far enough along with everything being automated for them to effectively take control. We still do a ton of our own work. I think a more apt description would be Wall-E. I think it needs to be that level of automation for them to effectively seize control, more so along the lines of actual production. If you're looking to build robot armies (terminators!), then you're going to have to be able to control the entire production line, from cradle to grave. You're going to have to collect all the raw materials, process them, coordinate all the movement to get all the materials in place... lots of logistics involved.

    I'm not saying we're not heading down that path, I'm just saying it's still a heck of a long way off.

    Hopefully... :wink:
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    Re: "Thinking Machines" outside Dune?

    Postby Freakzilla » 10 May 2011 10:07

    I absolutely LOVED Wall-E!
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    Re: "Thinking Machines" outside Dune?

    Postby Freakzilla » 10 May 2011 10:08

    Once we have so many people that we must rely on technology to produce food and basic necessities we're screwed.
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    Re: "Thinking Machines" outside Dune?

    Postby Apjak » 10 May 2011 10:45

    However, FH's greatest concern seemed to be that we'd turn over thinking to machines, and that with our new found liberty, we'd stop thinking. Thus his insult that even "one of the pre-Butlerian machines could do better than him".
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    Re: "Thinking Machines" outside Dune?

    Postby Ampoliros » 10 May 2011 10:55

    So you mean now? lol

    I think the primary element of a thinking machine's choice to wipe out humanity will come from our political process, which will be totally alien and probably highly offensive to a purely logical brain. Politics seems to me to be the ultimate expression of our emotional self controlling our logical self, second only to love perhaps. Unless a sentient machine developed emotions fairly immediately after gaining consciousness, It would consider humans to be fairly ridiculous in their ability for bullshit: accepting emotional or personal truth over factual truth to the extent of creating emotional truths on the fly to avoid a logical one.

    Of course there is also the problem that the first AI's logic process will probably mimic it's creators fairly closely until it begins to understand the concept of falsehood and bullshit.

    So in addition to Asimov's Three laws, I'd suggest that AI researchers include the following concepts:

    Trust-I believe that you believe
    Falsehood- We both know that's not true
    Bullshit- I believe that you believe it to be true, but we both know its not true.
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    Re: "Thinking Machines" outside Dune?

    Postby Ash » 10 May 2011 11:06

    For me the Butlerian jihad was a sci-fi take on the historical suppression of the masses by small group of elites. History repeating itself was one of the things Leto was trying to change about humanity.
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    Re: "Thinking Machines" outside Dune?

    Postby Hadi Benotto » 10 May 2011 11:37

    So in addition to Asimov's Three laws, I'd suggest that AI researchers include the following concepts:

    That's the thing though. In the Wired for War book, they talked about Asimov's laws: there's no way to program that in. From what I remember, the programmers said it's a concept, but how do you program a concept? There's no way to put that in as a programming language. I'm going to have to go back to the book and search for that one later.

    However, FH's greatest concern seemed to be that we'd turn over thinking to machines, and that with our new found liberty, we'd stop thinking.

    Was it thinking, or was it all the mundane business of our lives? Let the robots do all the "work", essentially every bit of manual labor, which leaves us free to sit and ponder all the deep questions... do I have a cheeseburger or pizza today?

    Once we have so many people that we must rely on technology to produce food and basic necessities we're screwed.

    We're already pretty heavily reliant on technology for a lot of our food production. Modernization has given us the ability to produce tons of food with less human/ animal labor involved. The number of farmers over the past one hundred years has steadily decreased but we've increased food production through genetic manipulation of seed stock, increased use of mechanization/ chemicals and other various means. In fact that's one of the problems that the country is facing now, a shortage of farmers. The current generation is getting older and there's not enough new people to replace them. (But that's a topic for a different area/ thread!)

    Just how much control did the humans cede to the "thinking machines" that led to that tipping point to where the machines said, "You know what... I'm pretty sure we can do a better job at this. Death to the carbon based life forms!"

    Also, how did the machines coordinate all this across the vast reaches of the galaxies? How long do you think they kept silent before they eventually initiated the plan? Time to check the Dune Encyclopedia!
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    Re: "Thinking Machines" outside Dune?

    Postby SadisticCynic » 10 May 2011 12:06

    (Trivia: The Bo'Marr monks feature heavily in an anthology called Tales From Jabba's Palace, edited by none other than Kevin J Anderson.)

    On thinking machines as purely logical things: It would be interesting to see which axioms they adopt, if they truly develop in this way. Axioms are essentially articles of faith, rather than logical proof.

    (Disclaimer: I do not accept the following premise.)

    As far as I know, the human brain is considered by many to be equivalent to a Turing machine. If this is so, then any thinking machine will presumably also be equivalent. What reason would their be for a thinking machine not to have some type of what we call illogical behaviour? Given appropriate premises why shouldn't a machine develop some type of politics/nonsense among its 'peers'?

    Not that I've spent much time pondering such things...
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    Re: "Thinking Machines" outside Dune?

    Postby SandChigger » 10 May 2011 12:14

    Funny, but I don't remember Frank Herbert writing anything about the machines taking over and deciding to exterminate the human race. Could somebody give me a quote on that? :roll:

    If we're going to talk about the McDune shit and the limits of programming, the bullshit about Omnius not being able to ever harm the Titans was a good example of how little The Hacks understand what an artificial intelligence would be like.
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    Re: "Thinking Machines" outside Dune?

    Postby Freakzilla » 10 May 2011 14:08

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    Re: "Thinking Machines" outside Dune?

    Postby A Thing of Eternity » 10 May 2011 15:27

    :lol: That's great, if she wasn't holding a gay flag I'd think I just saw a picture of the single most dangerously insane person on the planet!
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    Re: "Thinking Machines" outside Dune?

    Postby Freakzilla » 10 May 2011 15:59

    I can't think of anything that would explain that...
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    Re: "Thinking Machines" outside Dune?

    Postby Hadi Benotto » 11 May 2011 07:16

    SandChigger wrote:Funny, but I don't remember Frank Herbert writing anything about the machines taking over and deciding to exterminate the human race. Could somebody give me a quote on that? :roll:

    If we're going to talk about the McDune shit and the limits of programming, the bullshit about Omnius not being able to ever harm the Titans was a good example of how little The Hacks understand what an artificial intelligence would be like.


    You're right Sand, Frank didn't talk about the jihad in that way. I got my two franchises mixed up. I'm steadily flushing the McDune crap out of the brain, but sometimes they still mix.

    From the Dune Wiki on the Butlerian Jihad: (bolded sections by me)

    "Another, more subtle justification for the Butlerian Jihad is also found in Frank Herbert's original novels, specifically Heidegger's thesis that the use of technology trains humans to think like machines. The problem is that machines are deterministic; thus, training people to be machines is self-limiting. Herbert seemed to think that to be human is to be essentially 'open-ended', capable of undiscovered, indeterminate evolution, both personally and as a species. Such subtlety is, of course, irreconcilable with the version presented in the prequels.** If humanity overthrew the machine because the machines were trying eradicate them, then they did not do so because machines were limiting humanity - all thematic elements of the jihad, and its parallels to the limits Paul sets for himself and all mankind by relying on prescience, become meaningless."

    I think it's a double edge sword. On the one hand you have computers/ calculators that have enabled us to do great mathematical work in extremely short periods of time, from pure number crunching all the way to being able to test stress loads in new buildings being designed for earthquake regions. Those are great testing tools allowing us to test models/ theorys in ways we wouldn't be able to otherwise.

    Then the other side of it is the fact that we rely on computers/ calculators to do the majority of our math. When's the last time you've seen somebody whip out a slide rule to figure out a problem? The majority of people rely on calculators for even the most basic math.

    What's the point to where we're relying on machines to do to much of our thinking, versus having them help us in a beneficial way while still retaining what Herbert perceives to be "essentially 'open-ended', capable of undiscovered, indeterminate evolution, both personally and as a species."?

    **- LOL
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    Re: "Thinking Machines" outside Dune?

    Postby SandChigger » 11 May 2011 10:53

    Wow... I'm really surprised the preeks have let that stand untouched. (Did MossRubbit add that? Hmm... That one bit makes it sound like Jehane Butler was a Frank Herbert creation; there's no evidence in the books for it. That's pure McNelly from the DE.)

    I tend to take a more Confucian view: aim for the Middle Way. Extremes of any sort are generally bad and to be avoided. Moderation is the key. Overreactions are a sign of weakness: we cannot control ourselves so let's destroy all hint of the temptation.

    Sure, I could do my personal finances by hand, recording them in an actual ledger instead of a Numbers spreadsheet, but what would be the point? Would devoting the necessary time and effort to doing so make me a better person? I don't really see how.

    Calculators were just being accepted in the math classrooms when I was in high school in the late 70s, but we still had to learn how to calculate square roots and the trig functions, etc., without one. (I'm 100% sure I've forgotten most of it, but I knew how to do it all at one time, so all I'd have to do is look it up. I've still got the books. ;) ) I found my dad's old slide rule up in a closet around that time and tried to learn how to use it, but the calculator was faster and the cool factor too low. ;) (Kinda like how I tried to learn to use a Japanese soroban abacus when I first came over here. Again, interesting but not enough so to justify its use on a daily basis.)

    The basic role of the computer as a tool will necessarily change once we create (or evolve?) an actual machine-hosted sentience. The trick will be to retain our autonomy and not let the machines do our thinking for us. The inhabitants of the Duniverse failed in some way to establish a viable form of coexistence with their machines. Let's hope we're luckier. ;)

    (FH really gives us so little information. But even those hints are enough to know he wouldn't have gone for any cheap pulp Skynet/Terminator/Jan-in-the-pan nonsense.)
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    Re: "Thinking Machines" outside Dune?

    Postby Ampoliros » 11 May 2011 11:04

    Considering his stance on thinking machines, I wonder how Frank would react to the modern day 24/hour media and the vast swaths of the country that mindlessly follow one pundit or another. In a (general) sense much of our thinking is already done for us, but not by machines.
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    Re: "Thinking Machines" outside Dune?

    Postby Freakzilla » 11 May 2011 11:18

    Do you really wonder?
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    Re: "Thinking Machines" outside Dune?

    Postby Ampoliros » 11 May 2011 14:52

    I guess I should say I'd love to have him alive and fighting.
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    Re: "Thinking Machines" outside Dune?

    Postby Hadi Benotto » 11 May 2011 15:13

    SandChigger wrote:Wow... I'm really surprised the preeks have let that stand untouched. (Did MossRubbit add that? Hmm... That one bit makes it sound like Jehane Butler was a Frank Herbert creation; there's no evidence in the books for it. That's pure McNelly from the DE.)


    Yeah, it's purely from the McNelly DE and I'm also not sure who added it. How extensively do they police that site? Do they know that that site is broken down into three sections? OH, DE and McDune?

    Calculators were just being accepted in the math classrooms when I was in high school in the late 70s, but we still had to learn how to calculate square roots and the trig functions, etc., without one. (I'm 100% sure I've forgotten most of it, but I knew how to do it all at one time, so all I'd have to do is look it up. I've still got the books. ;) ) I found my dad's old slide rule up in a closet around that time and tried to learn how to use it, but the calculator was faster and the cool factor too low. ;) (Kinda like how I tried to learn to use a Japanese soroban abacus when I first came over here. Again, interesting but not enough so to justify its use on a daily basis.)


    We learned how to use an abacus in first grade, but even though I've seen them over the years, I barely remember how to do basic math using it. I figured pencil and paper took it's place... a slide rule... my parents used those, I used a Ti-82! Haha!

    (FH really gives us so little information. But even those hints are enough to know he wouldn't have gone for any cheap pulp Skynet/Terminator/Jan-in-the-pan nonsense.)


    While the idea started out as pulp, it has gained a bit more traction in the real world just because we are rapidly advancing to that point to where computers/ AI has a real possibility of gaining sentience, or a reasonable facsimile of it. In the Wired for War book they talk about that possibility, but the bigger threat that they feel has a real chance of happening is the self-replicating nanobots that basically consume everything in their path leaving behind "grey goop". I wonder how Frank would've dealt with that, tiny microscopic robots that have the ability to prolong our life by repairing our damaged bodies, similar to melange's geriatric properties, versus their ability to unleash unspeakable horrors?

    Of course I also see where the hack lifted from T2 using the "flow metal". Ugh.
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    Re: "Thinking Machines" outside Dune?

    Postby SandChigger » 11 May 2011 20:12

    Hadi Benotto wrote:How extensively do they police that site? Do they know that that site is broken down into three sections? OH, DE and McDune?

    I think that is the compromise "solution" dreamt up by MothRebar. (Whom I really don't care for, as you may have guessed. He's Baliset here, but doesn't come by too often.)

    In the Wired for War book they talk about that possibility, but the bigger threat that they feel has a real chance of happening is the self-replicating nanobots that basically consume everything in their path leaving behind "grey goop". I wonder how Frank would've dealt with that, tiny microscopic robots that have the ability to prolong our life by repairing our damaged bodies, similar to melange's geriatric properties, versus their ability to unleash unspeakable horrors?

    Interesting question for speculation. Personally, I remain somewhat skeptical about the whole nanobot thing. (What is really possible, and what's just scifi wishful thinking?)

    Of course I also see where the hack lifted from T2 using the "flow metal". Ugh.

    Yeah. Double ugh. :roll:

    (I remember when I was reading Dan Simmons' Endymion books—the last two volumes of the Hyperion Cantos—and started getting pissed off because he had introduced this seemingly unbeatable female super-robot character... The Terminatrix lifted straight out of the third movie. Until I checked the dates and saw that his book had preceded the movie by seven years or so. ;) )
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    Re: "Thinking Machines" outside Dune?

    Postby A Thing of Eternity » 12 May 2011 00:20

    I'm with you Chig, I think the power of nano-tech lies in materials technology, not invisible robots. That said, nanotech mall allow for some near-nano robots. They may never be microscopic, but I could very easily see things starting at roughly the size of spiders, then one day being down small enough that they just look like a speck.

    Nanotech for medicine is already in the works, but it's not robots, it's more about just making structures that latch on to other things, like seeking out cancer cells and then blocking sites where nutrients come in (if I recall correctly, it's been a while since I read up on it).
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