2016 Year in Review

For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he: Eat and drink, saith he to thee; but his heart is not with thee.” -Proverbs 23:7 KJV

Grandmommy Funeral

Grandmommy’s Funeral in Tipton

In January, my wife’s grandmother, Helen, died and my Grandpa Stauffer started to get sick. My oldest daughter turned 12 and my wife took her to Universal Studios. My mom ended chemo therapy and started radiation treatment. I flew to Orlando for work at GoServicePro.

Erich at Goservicepro

Erich at the WWETT16 Show in Indianapolis

In February, my best friend, Jason Cobb, told me he was moving to Wisconsin. My brother, Mitch, moved into a new house. Skinny and Company offered me full-time employment. On the last day of the month, GoServicePro moved offices and I let them know I was moving on.

Erich and Jason at the Hi-Fi

Erich and Jason at the Wakey Wakey Concert in Fountain Square

In March, my Grandpa Stauffer died. Our family decided to wait to get together. I began working nights at Skinny and Company and went full time March 28th. I started to notice that our kids were starting to grow up.

daddy-and-amalia-2016

On the weekends I would take the kids down to the park by the church. The Catholic church had decided to tear down the old church in the background as maintenance costs were too much to repair it.

samuel-and-kevin-swinging-2016

Working at Skinny was fun and exciting, but also challenging. We were setting up new systems and so I had to do a lot of learning really quickly. This also uncovered other areas, which needed improvement so there was a lot to do.

erich-at-skinny-coconut-oil

My mom’s cancer went into remission and her hair started to grow back. I admired her pursuit of health and her consistently positive attitude through the whole ordeal. Here she is at a band concert:

moms-hair-2016

In April I went and visited Jason in Wisconsin. It was a long drive up there and back, but I’m glad I did it. We walked along the Mississippi river and up on top of the bluffs. While I was there my wife told me she was pregnant.

erich-jason-lacrosse-2016

Later on that month I went to my first Pacer’s game with Skinny. That’s Mike, Luke, me, and Matt in the picture. Jordan, Landree, and Mike’s wife were also there (she was pregnant, too).

erichs-first-pacer-game

Samuel keeps growing up. He really likes going to the park. He’s my little buddy.

samuel-in-tree-2016

At the end of April we drove out to Missouri to see Peggy before going on to Dixon for the funeral for Grandpa Stauffer.

kids-with-peggy-2016

It was a good way to remember Grandpa.

grandpa-stauffer-funeral-2016

Here we are all together in front of the church where my parents got married.

dad-mom-family-church-2016

In May I finally setup my own office at Skinny. My brother-in-law, John, got married, and Suzanne and I went to a “Rev Indy” event at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway with Skinny.

erichs-skinny-office-2016

By the end of the month, I stopped to smell the roses. I bought a season pass to Eagle Creek Park and would go walking there during lunch kind of like I used to when I worked at Worksmart Systems.

smell-the-roses

I took the boys out there, too.

boys-at-eagle-lake

We went to the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500. It was my first time going. It was hot.

race-day-2016

And we started going to the Silver Beach off Lake Michigan.

kids-silver-beach-michigan-2016-may

In June, Jason and I went to Chicago. I’ve been to Chicago with Jason more than any other person (so far). We watched a Cubs game.

We road bikes to China town to see the famous “Post No Signs” sign. It wasn’t there anymore, but we remembered it.

In July I thought I was going to Atlanta, but I didn’t get to go so I went to the 100 Acres Woods instead.

I went and saw my mom playing in the Greenwood band at a Greenwood park. She did good!

Worlds collided when Hans from GoServicePro went out with me and Mike from Skinny and Company to Amber Indian.

Kids got some ice cream and started growing up.

In August I went on a walk around Tipton with Samuel.

Magdalena left me a note.

We went and visited Jason and his family in La Crosse, Wisconsin.

And here’s us at the top of a bluff.

Here’s the office I had setup for a while at Skinny.

In September I bought a new bike (the first bike I’ve ever bought myself as an adult). My goal is to ride the Hilly Hundred in 2017.

Me and Magdalena went for a walk in Carmel on the Monon.

I took Samuel for ice cream.

Kevin learned how to ride a bike.

And I started going to the gym (or at least took at least one picture of myself at a gym).

In October I told Skinny I was moving on and I had Mike and Matt take this picture with me (thanks to Allison for taking it).

Carmina had fun seeing Skinny Coconut Oil at grocery stores around Indianapolis. She’s a good spokesperson.

I went and visited Jason in La Crosse, Wisconsin and made a movie of the trip.

The Cubs ended up winning the World Series. I had nothing to do with it, but I did visit them (twice).

Jason and I went for a bike ride on the trails at the top of the bluffs.

In November I accepted the job at Marine Credit Union in La Crosse, Wisconsin and moved into a hotel.

I came home for a bit and ate some tacos with Hans.

It was hard to say goodbye to my family after the weekend.

Samuel learned how to ride a bike and we went for a ride to the park.

In December I had a baby. We named her after Helen.

And my parents flew to Hawaii.

I bought the kids a PS4.

My brothers came up for Christmas.

I took Amalia to the park.

Here’s to 2016.

Things I Want You to Know About Life

My mom wrote this recently when the power was off. She had, “no WiFi, & time to reflect.”
Power is off and sensors are beeping. So here goes:

Things I want you to know about Life

It can change in an instant.
Don’t wait to do the things you love.
Don’t waste time on things that don’t matter.
Do something new.
Think about others needs & feelings. Express your gratitude.
See the beauty all around you.
Listen more Get off your phone.
Look up.
Write personal notes, not texts. Handwritten notes  express your heartfelt appreciation
Be trustworthy always.
Build your character & integrity.
Keep a journal to record the highlights you will forget.
Good times can be very simple. Enjoy them as they come.
Watch the sunset.
Smell the rain.
Read a child a book.
Take them for a nature walk.
And the power is back. Hallelujah.
Time is too slow for those who wait, too swift for those who fear, too long for those who grieve, too short for those who rejoice, but for those who love, time is eternity. Hours fly, flowers die, new days, new ways, pass by. Love stays. —a sundial
Enjoy life!

The Acceleration of Artificial Intelligence

Sometime over the last 20 years artificial intelligence has gone from something we laughed about and feared in movies to something that people are now devoting their lives to and view it as a salvation for (or the destruction of) mankind.

Stock photo representing artificial intelligence by Adobe.

Stock photo representing artificial intelligence by Adobe.

Tim Urban at Wait but Why has already written a tome on “The AI Revolution” (Part 1 and 2), which is a very good primer on AI. For a slightly longer read, consider Nick Bostrom’s Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies. This post is neither.

This post is meant to describe the acceleration of artificial intelligence development as seen through various news updates and published papers. In the process I hope to convey to you, the reader, how close we are to artificial general intelligence (AGI).

What is Artificial Intelligence?

For this post, we are limiting the topic to AGI, which Tim Urban describes as, “a computer that is as smart as a human across the board—a machine that can perform any intellectual task that a human being can.” The problem is that we may not have a good way of quantifying AGI. It’s as if once we’ve achieved any new threshold in AI, humans tend to move the bar higher.

Once there is a program in existence that does the job, you are inclined to think it’s merely a formula and that isn’t thinking. The very success of me producing a program which exhibits thinking causes you to deny that that can be thinking.” -Dr. Richard W. Hamming (1915-1998) in a lecture from “The Art of Doing Science and Engineering: Learning to Learn: Artificial Intelligence – Part I” (April 7, 1995)

Peter H. Diamandis and Steven Kotler echo this sentiment in their book, Bold: How to Go Big, Create Wealth and Impact the World, which covers artificial intelligence as “exponential technology”. It’s not just this human bias that hides artificial intelligence’s acceleration, sometimes AI gets written about by other names such as “natural computing”:

Researchers at UCLA and the National Institute for Materials Science in Japan have developed a method to fabricate a self-organized complex device called an atomic switch network that is in many ways similar to a brain or other natural or cognitive computing device…The device we have created is capable of rapidly generating self-organization in a small chip with high speed…Experiments demonstrated that the atomic switch network exhibits emergent behavior…has the potential to process information at very high rates…We plan to move towards a hybrid morphic system using the best of conventional computation with our brain-like device capabilities…This would be a radical step in the real development of AI.” –Scientists develop atomic-scale hardware to implement natural computing, May 13, 2015 by Lisa Zyga

“Emergent behavior” is when a number of simple entities (agents) operate in an environment, forming more complex behaviors as a collective. This is similar to cellular automata that Stephan Wolfram describes in A New Kind of Science.

“RMIT University researchers have mimicked the way the human brain processes information with the development of an electronic long-term memory cell. Researchers at the MicroNano Research Facility (MNRF) have built the one of the world’s first electronic multi-state memory cell which mirrors the brain’s ability to simultaneously process and store multiple strands of information. The development brings them closer to imitating key electronic aspects of the human brain — a vital step towards creating a bionic brain.” –Nano memory cell can mimic the brain’s long-term memory, May 12, 2015

Sometimes, narrow AI technology is created that works in ways that the creator did not intend or does not understand. “He can’t really explain all the reasons it does what it does. It’s started making decisions on its own,” which is a quote from George Hotz in “The First Person to Hack the iPhone Built a Self-Driving Car. In His Garage; George Hotz is taking on Google and Tesla by himself” by Ashlee Vance.

“He’d devoured the cutting-edge AI research and decided the technology wasn’t that hard to master. Hotz took a job at Vicarious, a highflying AI startup, in January to get a firsthand look at the top work in the field, and this confirmed his suspicions. “I understand the state-of-the-art papers,” he says. “The math is simple. For the first time in my life, I’m like, ‘I know everything there is to know.’” -George Hotz

The Economics of Artificial Intelligence

And then there is the economic aspect of AI. More narrow AI such as those used in driverless cars may have the need to buy gas (or electricity) and get maintenance. It can even make money for it’s owner by making deliveries or driving people around.

The self-driving car then, calculating it has approximately 3.5 hours before it will be required by one of its owners again, logs in to Uber and makes itself available for a 3-hour block as a self-driving resource. It is immediately called out to a pickup, and after 3 hours has earned $180 in fees, which it puts away in its wallet.” -“The Death of Bank Products has been greatly under-exaggerated” by Brett King, an excerpt from the book, Augmented: Life in the Smart Lane.

What happens when AI starts making money, needs it’s own bank account and credit cards, and needs to be able to make transactions on it’s own? With artificial intelligence, that future is sooner than you might think.

It’s theoretically possible to write an autonomous self-funded application on Ethereum that earns money to pay for its own execution, or rather its own existence. It might create value by enabling new kinds of markets, for example. Artificial intelligence might help optimize the value it delivers to ensure its own survival. In this case, it’s not just the network that’s unstoppable, but an autonomous agent operating within the network. Cue Skynet joke.” -“Ethereum: Rise of the World Computer” by Rick Seeger.

Skynet may not be a joke. The United States military is increasingly looking into how artificial intelligence can help supplement drones and fighter jets on the battlefield.

One new project … is called Avatar, and calls for the Pentagon to pair high-tech “fifth-generation” fighter jets like the F-22 Raptor and F-35 Joint Strike Fighter with unmanned versions of older jets like the F-16 Fighting Falcon or F/A-18 Hornet, which would be flown without a pilot for the first time. The Avatar effort was previously called Skyborg by SCO and is known as “the Loyal Wingman” concept in the Air Force, Roper said. The program will require unmanned fighters to act with enough autonomy that the pilot in the manned jet doesn’t have to direct them all the time.” – by Dan Lamothe

Why are Smart People So Afraid of AI?

You may have read that Elon Musk is weary of an AGI becoming an artificial super intelligence, which according to Nick Bostrom, could happen minutes to weeks after AGI is established. Elon Musk has read Nick Bostrom’s work and it’s part of why he’s helped create Open AI, a collaborative effort to create an open-source AI.

The hope with Open AI is to reduce the risk that one person, company, or country could create and control an AI that could cause unintended (or intended) negative consequences. But what types of negative consequences?

The Paperclip Maximizer

The “paperclip maximizer” is a thought experiment showing how an artificial general intelligence, even one designed competently and without malice, could ultimately destroy humanity. The thought experiment shows that AIs with apparently innocuous values could pose an existential threat.

An extremely powerful optimizer (a highly intelligent agent) could seek goals that are completely alien to ours (as humans), and as a side-effect destroy us by consuming resources essential to our survival. I thought it would have been better to use red staplers, but that’s just me. 🙂

The Rise of Artificial Intelligence

When I was 14 I called to get a ‘free’ magazine subscription in the mail. The operator asked me what I was interested in and I said ‘artificial intelligence’. Immediately, an unknown man on the line bust out laughing, but quickly contained himself. No one is laughing now.