Archive for June, 2011

The K is Coming

Thursday, June 30th, 2011 | Distractions, News, Tech

Earlier this month, the Top500, the project which measures and ranks the world’s fastest supercomputers, unveiled the latest instalment of their twice-yearly list. It had a new number one – Japan’s K computer.

Of course, an even faster computer is in itself very exciting, this is especially exciting because the project, pronounced kei, aims to be the first computer to reach ten petaflops per second when it becomes fully operational in November 2012.

Ten petaflops is a key number because, despite there being much discussion of its accuracy, ten peraflops is the number put forward by Kurzweil for the upper boundary of estimates on the processing power of the human brain.

That means that, once the K is fully operation, for the first time we will have a computer more powerful than the human brain.

That’s pretty exciting!

Of course, it could be entirely inaccurate. Some think the brain is capable of 38 petaflops per second, or even higher – other estimates have suggested 100, or even 1000 petaflops.

But considering the exponential growth of computer power, even if that is true, that doesn’t actually delay the arrival of such a computer that much time.

Consider Cray’s new XK6. It is aiming to hit 50 petaflops (http://www.informationweek.com/news/hardware/supercomputers/229700091) and they say it will be ready later this year! Of course, it hasn’t been delivered yet, but presuming it does, this represents a significant step forward in the chase to beat the brain.

Even if you assume that the brain does, in fact, operate at 1,000 petaflops per second, 100 times faster than Kurzweil suggested, the release of the XK6 this year means that within seven years, 2018, we will still achieve a computer faster than the human brain. Soon enough that I very much hope my grandparents will still be around to see it.

Row One’s anniversary

Wednesday, June 29th, 2011 | Friends

Last Wednesday, myself and Jason, collectively known at Buzz as Row One, celebrated our second anniversary. Despite his recent engagement to Sarah, our bond remains as strong as ever as as such we celebrated by going for a romantic meal at West End House. Accompanied by JB, Ian and Average Matt.

Try Vegetarianism Week

Tuesday, June 28th, 2011 | Thoughts

This post is aimed primarily at my vegetarian friends.

I’m going to put this forward as a supposition: you believe that for a number of possible reasons including the good feeling from being ethical, the health benefits associated with avoiding meat, the fact that meat can be expensive (though some vegetarian alternatives are also) it is better to be a vegetarian.

Surely it follows then that if only more people tried it, more people would become vegetarian and this would be good because you think vegetarianism is the best, most ethical position.

So how about this idea: Try Vegetarianism Week. It is a week (or a fortnight, or a month, it might not work over such a short time period) in which one of your friends gives up meat and tries vegetarianism, and in exchange, for period of time, you eat meat.

This would mean that many more people try vegetarianism and hopefully some of them like it and stick with it and as a result, we’ve won a fresh convert.

Of course the next likely question is “why do I have to eat meat instead of them?” The reason is that most meat eaters are arrogant bastards about it, using quips like “we’re naturally meat eaters” and “I’m a real man” and “why don’t you eat eat, you giraffe, you!”

Indeed, there is nothing most of them would enjoy more than a vegetarian eating meat. That’s the hook, that is what sells them. Most of them would never try vegetarianism (otherwise they would probably be vegetarians), but breaking a deal with them such as this could finally get them to give it a go.

Secondly, it doesn’t increase the number of animals being killed for food by you eating meat for that period because they will have stopped eating meat, so it balances out (and hopefully in the long term reduces the number of animals breed and killed for food because they will hopefully like being a vegetarian and convert).

Thoughts?

Btw, to my non-vegetarian friends, just as a quick gauge of its popularity, who would be interested in this?

Partnership with Dailymotion

Monday, June 27th, 2011 | Foundation, News

We’re pleased to announce that online video site Dailymotion has accepted us into their content partner programme!

Over the past twelve months we have been building up an achieve of the academic lectures and events that we, and our follow groups have been staging and we will now be able to bring this collection to the world – all in full 1080 HD.

Look out for more exciting news on this topic in the upcoming weeks and months, but for now you can browse our newly opened Dailymotion channel. The first lecture we have posted is Dr Terrence Kee delivering the 2010 Worfolk Lecture on “did life on Earth originate on Earth?” and we are adding new talks on a regular basis.

Leeds Transhumanists

Sunday, June 26th, 2011 | Foundation

At Chris Worfolk Foundation, we support and manage a number of local community groups, allowing us to leverage our resources to provide a better experience for members of the local community who attend them.

We’re also passionate about Transhumanism and the benefits that GNR can bring to society.

As a result, we’re now supporting the Leeds Transhumanists group, a group for anyone interested in discussing and furthering Transhumanism and related topics, such as the technological singularity.

So, if you’re around the Leeds area and have an interest in the future of humanity, why not join us?

Wendy House

Saturday, June 25th, 2011 | Events, Friends

Last Saturday we hit Wendy House to celebrate Oli’s birthday (as if he wouldn’t be going anyway lol). Unfortunately Viki got in a mood and refused to come, and banned George from going as well.

Never the less we pushed forward and Sarann set around customising Norm appropriately for the evening. Turns out he pulls off the top hat very well.

Secrets of the Superbrands

Friday, June 24th, 2011 | Distractions, Tech, Thoughts

I finally got round to watching the first episode of Secrets of the Superbrands which looks at technology.

I’ll be honest, the presenter, Alex Riley, really failed to endear himself to me with his surely attitude. I’m sure he’s an intelligent guy who on purposely plays the fool with comments like “iPhones, and iPads and 3gs and stuff like that.”

In fact, these go on and on with comments like “that’s a massive electromagnet, so if I brought in anything that was metal it would fly over there and rip Adam’s face off” or “is there any time when you think eww, it’s a brain, it’s horrible” to which the woman succinctly answers “no.”

Anyway, as we are all aware, marketing these days is brilliant. It’s amazing. Remember the last time you went round Tesco – did you buy something that wasn’t on your list? Buy an extra one because it was two for one? That isn’t an accident. You didn’t go out to buy that stuff, but you did, and it might sound like a simple thing, but millions of pounds of Tesco’s money goes into making sure it happens, every time you walk in that door.

Apple especially have some amazing marketing too. People hang off Steve’s every word.

But I really felt the show suggested that Apple were somehow tricking us into buying their products. Missing the point – that Apple produce really, really good products. So they should be – they are really expensive. But isn’t that just how the world works normally? You pay more, you get a better product? I don’t buy Apple products because it’s a cult, I buy them because I have enough disposable income to buy better products.

As for his treatment of Microsoft, there seemed to be disdain in his voice when he said they spend $5.5 billion on research and development. Of course R&D helps their profits in the long term, but it’s also giving back to the community (OpenOffice is great for example, because they just copied Microsoft Office which is great is because of all the money Microsoft spent making it great).

Also some of it was just factually incorrect. Microsoft’s income isn’t dwindling, they’re setting new quarterly records.

There is nothing wrong with his Nokia 6330 Classic but it’s just silly to take an attitude of “if it isn’t broke, don’t fix it” when new phones are adding some amazing new features bringing you better communication to those you care about and access to the sum of all human knowledge.

As for, us getting better software because they get our details to target ad at, surely that is actually a good thing? How many boring ads do you sit through on TV ad breaks? Most of them don’t target you, so there is no point you looking at them. What if you could just watch the one advert and then get back to your programme? That is what targeted ads offer.

And seriously the presenter was very, very annoying. No surprise he labels himself as an agnostic. And who asks the man behind Kinect if he was abused as a child? He’s like annoying, offensive, shit version of Louis Theroux.

Anyway, rant over lol.

McNight Out

Thursday, June 23rd, 2011 | Friends, Life

On Thursday I finally got up with some old friends who worked with me at The D.

It was somewhat disappointing that Elina didn’t instantly fall in love with Nando’s, but we had a great night away heading up to the much loved Cuthbert Brodrick afterward and finished the night at Revolution.

The Victoria

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011 | Humanism

While I naturally dislike Sweden because I’m conjugally obligated to, I have to admit they make very good cider.

Last Tuesday we headed down to The Victoria for the usual A-Soc weekly social. However their otherwise well stocked drinks cabinet was missing the always popular Kopparberg. The surprisingly friendly barmaid recommended Rekorderlig instead, another Swedish cider.

Turns out it’s very similar, instead similar enough that I probably couldn’t tell the difference between it and summer fruits Kopparberg. They also had steak, though it was somewhat more expensive than ‘Spoons and not quite as good. Of course you’re setting unreasonable expectations to compare anything to my love of ‘Spoons but a good effort anyway.

Can you rewrite your own brain?

Tuesday, June 21st, 2011 | Science, Thoughts

I’m currently in the process of re-reading Ray Kurzweil’s The Singularity is Near and having read the section about how the brain rewrites itself as you learn got me thinking. This is nothing new of course, it’s basic brain biology, but chancing on the subject again made me wonder.

If you can reinforce a pattern in your brain simply be repeating the activity over and over again, and this doesn’t even including physical actions but can also be done by thinking a certain idea, can you by mere repetition, implant a false idea in your head?

If you can, the consequences are obvious.

But this seems to be a hypothesis that is quite testable. What would happen for example, if we all collectively decided to believe a lie. If say, all the members of the A-Soc circle, picked a false statement to collectively believe, spent all their time thinking it was true and telling each other it was true for social reinforcement.

Of course, it could well fall flat on it’s face. Because you would know it wasn’t true, you could well spend all your time thinking “I’m pretending to believe this, even though I know it isn’t true” and therefore strongly reinforce the pattern that you know it secretly isn’t true.

Still, it might be an interesting project for someone to undertake.