Dec 31, 2011

Big Bad Uzbek Solar Laser

I'm ending this year with an uplifting example of engineering, Uzbekistan's 1MW solar-powered Nd:YAG laser research facility. I'm not exactly sure what the intended research objective is, but if I had to wager a guess, I'd say it has something to do with energy transmission from orbit. What (relatively) poor, resource-rich, Uzbekistan, with its large deserts, is to gain from orbital solar power is somewhat unclear, so I may be wrong here. Still, while I'm posting this for the obvious Dr. Scaramanga connotation, this project is an example of rationally justifiable, cost-efficient science with a clear objective, at least if compared to madman's schemes such as magnetic confinement fusion, the Space Launch System, or the occasional FP7 project (link in German), or most of what I've seen at AGI-11 this year. Cheers to 2012 !

Sep 16, 2011

A Change to the Link List was Overdue

I'm no longer linking to the Singularity institute blog, as I do no longer wish to be associated with this organization in any way. Dresden Codak gets the boot for displaying Megatokyo Syndrome (glacial pacing, asking for donations for broken computers, etc.) and Pink Tentacle seems, sadly, to be defunct since April (I dearly hope this guy is OK).

Replacing them are Gene Expression, a blog on "human evolution, genetics, genomics and their interstices"; something like a 21st century Rassenlehre without any of the associated wickedness; Hark! A Vagrant, a webcomic, by the wonderful Kate Beaton, on topics like Sherlock Holmes, Canadians, Tesla, Chopin and Liszt, book covers, and much more; and Monsieur LaMoe (moderately NSFW), who lends a unique voice to the world's hikikomori, and whose status as a real person vs. a consortium of writers is still under debate. (I'm leaning somewhat towards "real person".)

Aug 23, 2011

Loriot is Dead

German comedian Loriot died yesterday, aged 87. He will be missed.

Aug 3, 2011

Paper Drafts

Here are draft versions of two short papers. They are on machine ethics and decision theory in the context of reinforcement learning. Comments are welcome.


This article presents a modification of reinforcement learning where an agent’s action lead to rewards being received by a second agent interacting with same environment. This model can be useful in the development of powerful AIs. Agent policies are proposed for dealing with observable rewards, with non-observable rewards in perfectly rational agents, and with non-observable rewards in bounded rational agents.

Newcomblike Problems and Optimal Agents


This article discusses the family of Newcomblike problems in the context of reinforcement learning. It reframes the problem of rational decision making as one of obtaining maximal rewards in a wide range of environments. Newcomblike problems are characterized by correlations between agent and environment policies. An optimal policy, taking into account these correlations, is given for known environments. For unknown environments, a quality criterion for policies is formulated.

Aug 1, 2011


The picture above shows an East German spy. I am not making this up.

It was taken during an official course on how spies should dress, and was recently dug out by artist Simon Menner. See his online Stasi gallery for more spy pictures.

Make now mistake - despite the occasional screw-up, the East German state security was in fact a (deadly) effective, and ruthless, organization.

Another spy pic, more Austin Powers style:

Jul 8, 2011

The End of the Shuttle Program

LUKE:You were raised Jewish, right?

ELIEZER: Well that’s what I used to think, and then at one point I was watching a space shuttle launch on TV and getting tears in my eyes and realizing that I didn’t really get tears in my eyes for anything Judaism-related. That was when I realized that my childhood religion that I’d sort of grown away from over time, but still had the power to bring tears to my eyes, wasn’t Judaism so much as space travel.

(Luke Muehlhauser interviewing Eliezer Yudkowsky)

Celebrating the last launch of a space shuttle earlier today, a little music video by Yours Truly. Yoko Kanno's "BLUE" (performed by Mai Yamane, Yoko Kanno & the Seatbelts) from Cowboy Bebop set to Discovery's last launch, and a slideshow of a few shuttle-related images. This is in personal memoriam of A.K., who didn't make it for Discovery's final flight by a few weeks.