Artificial Life Breeds Surprising Duh Moments for Its Programmers

April 20th, 2018

A group of computer programmers collected a bunch of real-life stories about surprising things that happened while they were trying to create “artificial life.” Their story collection is:

The Surprising Creativity of Digital Evolution: A Collection of Anecdotes from the Evolutionary Computation and Artificial Life Research Communities,” Joel Lehman, Jeff Clune, Dusan Misevic, Christoph Adami, Julie Beaulieu, et al., arXiv:1803.03453v2 [cs.NE], March 29, 2018. (Thanks to Sune Mølgaard for bringing this to our attention.) The authors report:

The process of evolution is an algorithmic process that transcends the substrate in which it occurs. Indeed, many researchers in the field of digital evolution can provide examples of how their evolving algorithms and organisms have creatively subverted their expectations or intentions, exposed unrecognized bugs in their code, produced unexpectedly adaptations, or engaged in behaviors and outcomes uncannily convergent with ones found in nature…. This paper is the crowd-sourced product of researchers in the fields of artificial life and evolutionary computation who have provided first-hand accounts of such cases….

For example, players of NERO are encouraged to place walls around their evolving robots to help them learn to navigate around obstacles. However, somehow evolution figured out how to do something that should have been impossible: the robotic operatives consistently evolved a special kind of ‘wiggle’ that literally causes them to walk up the walls, allowing them to ignore obstacles entirely, and undermining the intent of the game. The NERO team had to plug this loophole, which is apparently a little-known bug in the Torque gaming engine, after which the robots acquiesced to the more respectful policy of politely walking around walls to get to the other side.

How to Commit a Perfect Murder [research study]

April 19th, 2018

Perfect murders are more common in actual life than in crime fiction—and also more highly approved, suggests this forensic study:

How to Commit a Perfect Murder,” Mark Cooney, International Journal of Law, Crime and Justice, vol. 43, 2015, pp. 295-309. The author, at the University of Georgia, explains:

Curiously, social science has ignored the problem of the perfect murder…. Whatever the reason, the neglect is not justified as the topic harbors an important scientific question: when will people get away with murder? Moreover, the data for answering the question already exist. A large body of research conducted by criminologists, anthropologists, historians, sociologists, human rights activists and others provides a wealth of detail about the handling of real-life homicide cases across a broad range of human societies….

Fact… deviates sharply from fiction. In the real world, the perfect murder is not committed by an evil genius but by a moral agent acting in the name of the common good—fighting crime, restoring honor, eliminating enemies, protecting communities. Nor is it a mystery: the killer’s identity is publicly known, and the killing is tolerated, even applauded, by legal officials and by fellow civilians. The killer may even wear the badge of the law. In short, while the perfect murder remains a source of aesthetic fascination, it is no longer a scientific puzzle. To commit a perfect murder, the killer should:

  1.  Be of as high status as possible.
  2.  Select a low status victim who is, ideally, socially close as well.
  3.  Have extensive strong partisanship and the victim none at all.
  4.  Be significantly closer, socially, than the victim to those making the crucial decisions in the case.

Mark Cooney, the study’s author [pictured here], himself pursues the perfect analysis of the perfect crime. His web site notes: “Most of Dr. Cooney’s work employs a theoretical system known as Blackian theory or pure sociology.  Deviating from conventional conceptions of reality, pure sociology [explains] human behavior without reference to what people think, feel, or want.”

‘JoyGuzzling’ – should one refrain? (new study)

April 19th, 2018

“Our thesis is that there is no moral requirement to refrain from emitting reasonable amounts of greenhouse gases (GHGs) solely in order to enjoy oneself. Joyriding in a gas guzzler (joyguzzling) provides our paradigm example”

– explain Ewan Kingston and Walter Sinnott-Armstrong of the Philosophy Department, Duke University, Durham, NC, US, in a new paper for the journal Ethical Theory and Moral Practice.

“We stress that it may well be optimal or virtuous to refrain from joyguzzling. However, the path to showing a moral requirement to refrain from joyguzzling does seem to contain very difficult hurdles. Approaches that try to show an adequate connection between single acts of emitting and the bad effects of climate change must deal with the fiendish complexity of the causal pathways connecting emissions with extreme weather events and gradual harms.”

See: What’s Wrong with Joyguzzling?Ethical Theory and Moral Practice, February 2018, Volume 21, Issue 1, pp 169–186.

Note: Professor Sinnott-Armstrong is co-director of MADLAB at Duke.

Chantal Roggeman joins Luxuriant Flowing Hair Club for Social Scientists

April 18th, 2018

Chantal Roggeman has joined the Luxuriant Flowing Hair Club for Scientists™ (LFHCfS). She says:

I have been told I may never cut my hair, because people would no longer recognize me. Indeed, in international gatherings, I am recognized as “the woman with the long blond hair”. Blond is my trademark, and I enjoy making “dumb blond” jokes in the first person. I have occasionally colored my hair blue, green, orange, purple, pink and fluo-yellow, which I then classify as “artificial intelligence”.

Chantal Roggeman, Ph.D., LFHCfS
Medical Advisor, Immunology
MSD Belgium

Kategoria and Apologia That Combine to Incite Journalistic Antapologia

April 17th, 2018

A rare study—though by no means the world’s first—that specifically examines the kategoria and apologia that combine to incite journalistic antapologia, is now available:

Flag on the Play—A 5-Year Analysis of the Kategoria and Apologia That Combine to Incite Journalistic Antapologia in Sports Reporting,”  Jennifer L. Harker, published online in the Journal of Communication and Sport, in 2017.

So far as we are aware, there is a dearth of studies that specifically examine the kategoria and apologia that combine to quell journalistic antapologia.