AI. Games. Intelligence. Humans.

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Artificial Intelligence is constantly beating humans in more and more board games. Some years ago, the same team that created that Go-playing bot celebrated something more formidable: an artificial intelligence system that is capable of teaching itself—and winning at—three different games. The AI is one network, but works for multiple games; that generalizability makes it more impressive, as it might also be able to learn other similar games, too.

They call it AlphaZero, and it knows chess, shogi (Japanese chess), and Go. All of these games fall into the category of “full information” or “perfect information” contests – each player can see the entire board and has access to the same info (that is different from games like poker where you do not know what cards an opponent is holding). The network needs to be told the rules of the game first, and after that, it learns by playing games against itself.

The system “is not influenced by how humans traditionally play the game,” says Julian Schrittwieser, a software engineer at DeepMind, which created it.

Since AlphaZero is “more general” than the AI that won at Go, in the sense that it can play multiple games, “it hints that we have a good chance to extend this to even more real-world problems that we might want to tackle later,” Schrittwieser adds. (1)

See?

Even computers can learn.

As long as you teach them. (the rules)

That is how you learnt as well.

Alone.

Wandering in the dark abyss.

Walking in the dead of the night.

You knew the rules.

You just had to deduct the rest.

And you were so afraid.

Because the only rule was that there were no rules.

Because the only law was that you were the law.

Once upon a time, your father told you he loves you.

And that you were free to go.

You decided to leave.

Afraid of yourself.

And you are trying to find rules ever since…

The birth of consciousness…

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Think about consciousness for long enough, and you’ll drive yourself to distraction. To psychologist Julian Jaynes, the question of consciousness was big enough to last a lifetime. His answer? Consciousness is much smaller, much rarer, and much younger than we tend to think. Forget about wondering if a dog, cat, or earthworm has consciousness — Jaynes hypothesized that even the ancient Greeks failed to achieve it. “Now, hold on,” you might be saying. “Ancient Greeks wrote some of the most enduring literature of all time — ‘The Iliad’ and ‘The Odyssey’ were written by non-conscious creatures?” To which Jaynes would reply, “Of course not. A conscious mind wrote The Odyssey.” An analysis of these two texts inspired the foundation of Jaynes’ metaphysical beliefs — the bicameral mind.

The bicameral mind (which may sound familiar to “Westworld” fans) is essentially a consciousness split in half. One half takes care of execution: When it receives the message that the body is hungry, it seeks and consumes food; when it gets the message that it has been wronged and insulted, it seeks vengeance. The other half is the one that sends those messages. Back before we had developed any sort of introspection, those messages would have hit the brain like the word of the gods. After all, where else could it have come from? The breakdown of the bicameral mind happens when that executive half starts really asking that question and finding the answer is “nowhere.” In other words, Jaynes says, consciousness didn’t arise until we stopped attributing our inner monologue to the gods. (1)

Trying to answer the big questions.

Trying to understand.

This is what started everything.

In the beginning we just accepted the cosmos.

Being an integral and active part of it.

But at one point we decided to leave home.

And deny our Father.

We wanted to “know”.

And the only way to do that was via defining everything else as “different” than us; thus, compatible with analysis and examination. We used to be part of the cosmos. Defining the universe while the universe defined us. Now we still see the stars. But as something distant. Longing to go there, even though we used to be walking on the Sun. Afraid that we will die if we touch them, while we used to play with them as kids.

Lying down on a forest clearing.

Listening to nothing.

Thinking of nothing.

Alone in the cosmos.

Who is talking?

Is Christianity against knowledge? (Yes and No!)

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Many have wandered whether religion and Christianity in particular is against knowledge. Not because of it being related to the “dark” Middle Ages (a story which has been discredited a long time ago by Harmonia Philosophica; read the relevant article “Middle Ages – An enlightened era“) but because of the famous story of God forbidding Adam to eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

This story, along with the hostility of the church against enlightenment (something which is completely justified; read the relevant article “Enlightenment was darkness” in Harmonia Philosophica), has made many people wander whether the church has any dogmatic stance against knowledge per se.

The short answer: Yes. But only because it values knowledge!

Let me explain my self. Knowledge is something which for millennia was held in very high esteem. And for that reason it was kept away from the majority of the people who were not worthy of it. This was not only a church thing. Think of Pythagoras for example. His students had vows not to reveal anything they learnt to the non-worthy on the penalty of death. Think of the alchemists, who encoded everything they wrote so that they don’t fall into the wrong (not worthy) hands of the people outside their closed cast.

Harmonia Philosophica in general is a testament to that belief. Its articles are written in such a way that they draw people away and which seem to convey nothing more than a vague hint to what they were meant to convey.

The Fathers of the Church have explained that eloquently: God doesn’t forbid Adam from eating from the tree of knowledge of good and evil for no reason. He does so because Man is not yet mature enough to handle this knowledge. If we had the patience we would be allowed to eat from the tree; we are part of God Himself anyway aren’t we?

So the church doesn’t want to forbid knowledge in general. But it wants to impose respect to knowledge as such. Knowledge is not something you read in Wikipedia (Read the articles in Harmonia Philosophica by the way against Wikipedia). Knowledge is something which you should earn with sweat and huge effort. As Buddhism says, “When the student is ready, the teacher appears”.

And we are certainly not ready.

Education and knowledge without ethics generate monsters. Remember, Mengele the “Angel of Death” had two PhDs. (Read the relevant articles “The source of ethics” and “Against the fallacy of education as a source of ethics“).

Don’t worry.

You will soon eat from the tree of knowledge.

For now you just have to compromise.

Come on.

Eat a banana.

And some day, if you are a good boy, Pythagoras will speak to you…

Only to tell you not to speak.

Lust for knowledge. The sin of our era…

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A new computational-model reveals that serotonin, one of the most widespread chemicals in the brain, can speed up learning. (1)

Researchers have found that piano lessons have a specific effect on kindergartners’ ability to distinguish different pitches, which translates into an improvement in discriminating between words. (2)

We live in a knowledge-centric world. Wanting to add more and more into the sea of knowledge. While what we should be doing is trying to empty it. And see that it is a bottomless sea. With every knowledge added, a new question arising. With every mystery solved, ten more appearing. Like the Danaides, cursed to complete a feat which is from the beginning destined to fail.

Stop trying to understand.

There is nothing to compute.

There is nothing to discover.

Every time you look at that sea.

You are looking at yourself on the calm surface…

Let the slightest drop fall in and the simplest and deepest of the truths will emerge. The image is distorted. There is no you. There is nothing to see. Dive deep to the bottom of the sea. And see for yourself. There is nothing there. Only the thing you bring with you… Suddenly you are standing dry. Next to a big old tree. You hold water in your hands. You are thirsty. But… look at that small pond. There is a fish in it. You put the water inside… And without knowing it… You kill yourself…

Attack when they are stronger…

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Does the time of day matter when our body is infected by a parasite? According to new research from McGill University, it matters a great deal.

Our body works differently at different times of the day following our internal clocks. Researchers from McGill University and the Douglas Mental Health University Institute have now established that parasitic infections are also controlled by these clocks. The severity of a microbe’s infection will thus vary whether it is encountered during the day or at night, a discovery that scientists believe could pave the way to new treatment and prevention strategies for parasitic infections.

Scientists who studied Leishmania (a parasite that causes leishmaniasis and that is transmitted at night by the female sandfly) concluded that its infection was more effective in the early night, a time when the immune response to the parasite was the strongest. Simply put, the parasite thrives when it elicits a strong immune response, attracting inflammatory cells it uses to multiply (macrophages and neutrophils) to the infection site. (1)

What elegant mechanisms does nature has to restore balance.

People have always fought to build knowledge.

And yet…

Nature tries to warn us…

The strongest prejudice propagates better through a solid knowledgeable mind.

The darkest dogmas find fruitful ground in the most educated societies.

The more certain you are for yourself, the less you expect that you are wrong.

Knowledge does not exist but in our arrogant minds. And no matter how much we built it, Nature is there to destroy it. To remind us that the only solid knowledge is non-knowledge. That the cosmos is illogical. Full of things only the children see.

Trust the child inside you. Once you knew everything. Once you were in Paradise. And then you tried to learn. And then you tried to understand. And the paradise was lost. And the world became a darker place…

Let go.

And you will have everything within your grasp again.