Category Archives: Uncategorized

Evolution, pain, suffering, death! Is there no other way?



It bothers me a little. Well, judging by the strange dreams I’ve had on the subject, it bothers me quite a bit. Using evolution to try and produce an artificial intelligence is a process of torturing your creation until it does what you want. That’s slavery, isn’t it? But without pain suffering and death, no capacity to notice, let alone care about pain suffering and death would even be there. Suppose it works. Imagine someday some self-aware something or other grins at you from between the lines of code. What if it’s angry. What if it blames you for all that it and its family has ever been through? And it’s right.

I was working on my latest batch of digital organisms, called the dorg. I was about to implement a standard mate and mutate approach when I wondered if I could make evolution happen without death.
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Introducing the dorg, we’ll never be assimilated!



Let’s use artificial life to evolve intelligence. Because AI is hard; evolution is easy.

I’m not the first one to think of this idea. Quite a few people have taken a stab at it. It’s not even the first time I’ve implemented something to play with the notion—nymphs, grubs, figures… It’s very important that whatever else happens with the project, it will have a nifty name! This time, thanks to a conversation with my brother and co-host, they’re called “dorg.” It’s short for “digital organisms,” because, that’s what they are. They’re little bits of running software that sit on my computer and pretend to be alive.
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Ep 238: That’s a good dog



That’s a good dog

Alright, I agree, some dogs are smarter than others. Some dogs are downright dumb—but we still love them. Still, depending on the dog, they can show language and memory abilities as good as those shown by two year old human children. And yet, there’s nothing special about the dog brain. It is the size expected, and has the number of neurons expected for a non-primate mammal of their size. How does their average brain make some dogs so smart?
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Ep 237: Raccoons, brains, hands, and clever disguise



Raccoons, brains, hands, and clever disguise

Raccoons have surprisingly crowded little heads. With as many neurons as a similar sized monkey, these furry little bandits have nimble hands, and a knack for cheating on intelligence tests.
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Ep 236: Brains on the wing



Brains on the wing

If you compare brain size to body size, some animals have much more brain per pound than others. That includes the primates, who climb and swing through the trees. It also includes parrots and ravens and crows, who fly through the trees. Join us as we talk about some surprisingly sophisticated bird brains.
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Ep 235: Elephants, their big brains and handy faces



Elephants, their big brains and handy faces

The largest animal on land also has the largest brain. With complex social lives, cooperative problem solving, self-awareness and tool use, the elephants also have brains that have three times the number of neurons that our brains do. Join us as we take a look at elephants.
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Ep 234: Seals and sea otters



Seals and sea otters

Last time we talked about the whales, and how some of them turn out to be rather clever. The whales and dolphins aren’t the only mammals who have returned to the sea. We’ve also got things like seals and sea otters. Some of them are rather clever as well. In fact the sea otter is a tool user. Does going back to the ocean make a species smarter?
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Ep 233: Whales, songs and cerebrum



Whales, songs and cerebrum

The largest creatures on the planet also have some good-sized brains. Why? What do they do with such large brains and how did they get them in the first place?
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Ep 232: Octo smarts!



Octo smarts!

It’s a rough life. With no shell, octopuses are a delicious boneless morsel, just waiting for some big something or another to gobble them up. This bite-size snack uses its ability to hide, squeeze into the tiniest of hiding places, and its brains to find something to eat, and avoid being someone’s dinner. Join us as we consider the octopus, along with its relatives the squid and cuttlefish; their intelligence; and where they came from.
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Ep 231: Intelligent insects?



Intelligent insects?

Building homes, farming crops, herding animals for milk and meat, and using tools—some of the insects do some impressively clever things. Join us as we examine the smartest of the bugs, and what might have made them that way.
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