Recovering from depression induced by “Superintelligence”.

“Superintelligence” was a great and valuable read but it left me depressed. There seems to be so many dangers with AI and just so much time for us to get a grip on the control problem before It arrives.

To lift myself up I started to read “How to Live: or a life of Montaigne” by Sarah Bakewell. Ooooh WOW! It’s wonderful so far! Such a delight!

As I hinted in the picture, I know a thing or two about how to live (at least this week! Hehe! ), enjoying myself in beautiful surrounding with an eminent all-you-can-eat buffet.

Check out my review of Superintelligence and enjoy your Monday!

Thoughts on: “Superintelligence” by Nick Bostrom

Bostrom paints a gloomy picture of what’s in store for us would we ever develop a superintelligence. It left me depressed, but I think it’s essential to have rudimentary understanding of the challenges a general artificial intelligence would entail. This book presents potential paths to reach superintelligence and dives deep into the problem of controlling a force with capacities far beyond our own.

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Paths to Superintelligence:

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🚸 “Seed AI” – A program learning by trial and error. Becoming more and more advanced over time. 🌱

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🚸 “Whole Brain Emulation” – Creating a digital representation of a brain by scanning and then replicate and enhance its it’s functions. 🧠

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🚸 “Biotechnological Enhancements” – at least weak forms of super intelligence can be achieved by mental and physical enhancements in the near future. 🔬

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🚸 “Iterated Embryo Selection” – Another way to reach super intelligence is through gene manipulation and breeding. Creating supersperms by matching and breeding them in labs, concentrating leaps of several generations in one go. This could create a new enhanced “race” of humans that together could be called a super intelligence. 👶🏼

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⭐️ Takeaway:

The introduction of a superintelligence will propose a potential existential risk. But it would prevents other existential risks, like a meteor strike or super Volcano eruption.

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The book is complex and sometimes painfully dense with information. But I consider it worthwhile investment of my time in hindsight! For a less academic and technical, but more accessible, starting point for learning about AI I recommend “Surviving AI” by C. Chace.

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To uplift my spirit I started reading “How to Live: A Life of Montaigne”. It’s awesome so far! What book made you depressed?

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4/4

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Photo credit: @christyharner

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Thoughts on: “Into Thin Air” by Jon Krakauer

“Into Thin Air” is Jon Krakauers gripping first hand account of the May 1996 Mt. Everest disaster. Standing on the top of the worlds highest mountain he couldn’t see any signs of a deadly storm coming in. But he was wrong. When the group arrived at base camp, the mountain had claimed 5 lives and left the ones surviving in a guilt-ridden state.

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“People who don’t climb mountains, the great majority of human kind that is to say, tend to assume that the sport is a reckless Dionysian pursuit of ever escalating thrills. But the notion that climbers are barely adrenaline junkies is a fallacy. At least in the case of Everest. …The ratio of misery to pleasure was greater by an order of magnitude than any other mountain I’ve been on. I quickly came to understand that climbing Everest was primarily about enduring pain.”

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It’s a really good and my first one the topic of mountaineering. One thing that stuck with me was the climbers anti-climactic feeling of reaching the peak. There is no beer and BBQ being served at the top of the world. No warming tea and campfires to comfort you while enjoying the view. And that’s because, you know, people need air! Instead it’s just a few painful minutes of snapping photos before you have make the climb down again, realizing you are only halfway to the finish line.

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📝 Sherpa people are an ethnic group living in the Himalayas. They are fantastic mountaineers and are frequently used to support expeditions to Everest because of their ability to endure high altitudes.

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📝 For mountaineering purist the only “real” Everest climbs are done without bottled oxygen.

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📝 There is a movie based on this book called “Everest”. I didn’t know it was base on this book and now I’m excited to see it!

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⭐️ TAKEAWAY: Don’t climb Everest.

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Maybe it’s because stepping out of society and into the wilderness is more enticing to me, than ascending a cold mountain, but I like “Into the wild” a lot more than this book. Situations where one cannot breath just isn’t for me.

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What is your favorite books about endurance?

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4/5

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Thoughts on: “Born to Run” by Christopher McDougall

4 years ago I was in the worst shape of my life. I felt that something needed to be done and that it was time to get my priorities straight.

About this time I found this book and it really sold me on long distance running. It was a perfect fit for me. I’m not fast, but persistent. I’m not into team sports, but love to compete against myself. And I rather spend time in nature than in a sports hall.

The books tells the story of the authors search for the mysterious Tarahumara Indians, the running people, that live most hard to reach areas of the Copper canyons.

Caballo Blanco, a running lone wolf, who lives among them becomes the key to finding out the secret to their amazing endurance.

The problem is that this Caballo guy is not easy to find either. And he has a plan of his own; To arrange one of the worlds toughest races, where the worlds top ultra runners will compete head to head with the Tarahumara under the scorching Mexican sun.

This is the second time I read “Born to Run” and the arguments about how modern footwear is the source of all running injuries and that chia seeds is the silver bullet when it comes to a healthy diet, feel extremely week and exaggerated this time around.

My own theory to why we have seen an increase in running related injuries, while shoes get more and more high tech and bouncy, is that people live more sanitary lives today. And they have done that for a long time. To expect yourself to be able to run a Marathon with just a couple of months of training, after spending 25 years in an office cubicle, is naive at best.

This will lead to all kinds of injuries because nature don’t allow for the same type of instant gratification that Netflix and overnight shipping does.

What really makes this book shine is not the science it presents, but the story and the characters. I hate to use the word “inspiring”, but I think I have to in this case, because this book brings a smile to my face and makes me want to run all day.

📝 You don’t stop running because you get old, you get old because stop running.

📝 Runners peak around 27 but you will reach an age of 64 before you get back to a teenagers ability.


5/5

 

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Thoughts on: “Walk Like a Buddha” by Lodro Rinzler

“All of you are perfect as you are, and you can use a little improvement”

Zen Master Suzuki Roshi


This is a very practical and accessible book about how to apply the teachings of the buddha to different aspects modern life. It has a question/answer format like: What would the buddha do in this and that situation or what would his stance be on one thing or another.


The book is good, but I feel that most of the value I got from it comes from cited sources rather than from the authors own experiences and insights.


📝 An elderly man teaches his grandson about peace. He said that he has two wolves that lives within his heart. One is fueled by anger and aggression and the other by kindness. They are always at war with each other for his heart.. The grandson asked: “who will ultimately win?”. The man answers:

“The one that wins will be the one I choose to feed”.


📝 Everyone think they are busy all the time. It’s easy to be busy! Get a dedicated time for meditation.


📝 Impermanence is a bitch. Going through Hell is not punishment, it’s training. We have to learn to deal with. A big part of life is pain and if you don’t learn to relate to it you are missing out on big aspects of life.


📝 At work: if you feel boredom. Drop it like a meditator drops an intrusive thought. The present moment is a perfect point from which to start anew.


📝 “Always don’t know”. Keep an inquisitive mind.


📝 There are so many things that can make an office environment toxic, but Mindless speech seems to be is chief among them.

The Four Gates of Speech:

1. Is what I’m about to say true?

2. Is what I’m saying necessary?

3. Is what I’m saying kind?

4. Is it a good time?


📝 From “The Top 5 Regrets of the Dying” by author Bronnie Ware:

“I wish I had the courage to live a life true to myself and not the life others expected from me.”


💡 Takeaway. “Live your life as an experiment”. Nothing new here! BUT I’m a big proponent doing experiments. Going forward I will post about concluded and ongoing experiments I’m conducting. Stay tuned!What are you experimenting with in your life?

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Thoughts on: “Thank You for Being Late” by Thomas L. Friedman

As a professional within software development I really felt the increase in the speed with which new technologies replace older one in recent years. We are barely able to get familiar with the basics of the latest tech before it’s considered “old” and in need of replacement.


Thanks to Moore’s Law, the law that says that the number of transistor in an intergrated circuit doubles approximately every 2 years, the power of computers have increased at a exponential rate, while the price of hardware is on a steady decline.


Today connectivity is ubiquitous and complexity is free (thanks to the “cloud”). Amplify this with smart software (apps) and Moore’s Law and you will understand why the world is moving really fast. And it’s accelerating.


This book sets out to explain; why the world has gotten so fast and later looks at what challenges we face in this accelerating world. And lastly how to deal with those challenges and strive this new era.


📝 In 1997 the AsciiRED supercomputer was the size of a tennis court. Consumed energy equal to 800 houses and cost 55 million dollars.


📝 2005: PS3 1.8 teraflops. 299 dollars.


📝 “It’s so easy to spread our political view online. And because they stay published forever. We are less motivated to change opinion.”


📝Skills for the future: Coding, math, life long learning, creativity, self motivation, entrepreneurship, improvisation, grit, critical thinking, communication, collaboration”


📝 Columnists about the Austrian election:

“We are in a situation where people don’t understand the world anymore because its changing so fast. And then came the immigrants and people where told that politicians had lost control over the borders. That just heightened the sense that control was gone”


📝 When you get off track in the age of accelerations there is a long road back.


⭐️ To implement: Read a books like this every year to keep up and maintain an understanding for “how’s” and “whys” in a world of rapid change.


A great book! But the last part, about the importance of a strong community, drags on forever. This is unfortunate. It lands in a good point, but it could have been done in a fraction of that time.

3/5

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Thoughts on: “Principle-Centered Leadership” by Stephen R. Covey

Stephen Covey, of “7 habits”-fame, shares his formula for what he calls principle-centered leadership. The book has start with broad, general and timeless guidelines to enhance the life you lead. You will have heard a lot of it before, but it’s these fundamentals we tend to forget in our busy everyday life. A refresher might be good!


The second part is more specific to management and organizations. What motivates people? How can we strive amid constant change? A mission and common goals a invaluable. Empower people and see them raise to the occasion. Involvement and managing expectation is key.


Pros:

– Leadership principles, not only for the workplace, but also for relationships, parenting and over yourself.

– contains a short version of the “7 habits of highly effective people”.


Cons:

– Repetitive.

– Feels a bit dated.


📝 “principles, unlike values, are subjective and external. They operate in accordance to natural law”


📝 Principle-centered people discover that as their circle or knowledge grows, so does it’s outside edge of ignorance.


📝 habit 2: “Begin with the end in mind”


📝 habit 5: “Seek first to understand, then to BBe understood. Most people problems are basic communication problems.”


📝Trying to please everyone and become “all things to all people” and you eventually become nothing to everyone.


📝 Affirm a persons worth and potential if you want them to grow. Goethe: “Threat a man as he is and he will remain as he is; treat a man as he can and should be, and he will become as he can and should be”


📝 Abundance Mentality: Thinking there is plenty out there for everybody. Most people are scarcity minded and think win-lose and lives in a zero-sum paradigm of life.


📝”Our ability to perform better will increase as we exercise the discipline of doing important and difficult work first…”


📝”I don’t care how much you know until I know how much you care” Empathy is key. Keep you open and others feel you are learning and are influenceable.


4/5

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Thoughts on: “Silent Spring” – Rachel Carson

Sometimes there are books that keeps getting referenced again and again in book I read. Silent spring is one of them. ——————————————

Being the book that kicked off the American environmental movement, I thought it would be interesting to see what it was all about.

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Rachel Carson describes the damage being done to plants and wildlife by using chemical pesticides like DDT. She shows how nature has checks and balances and when they are being disrupted, consequences are often unexpected and unwanted.

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The book was published in 1962 and a lot of the issues raised in “Silent springs” have been addressed or are being taken very seriously in today’s world. Readers today should look at this as a history piece rather than a way to learn about pressing environmental issues. ——————————————

It reads beautifully, like horror story with a touch of poetry. But I think you will get by just with knowing about the book and not necessarily having to read it. The reason is that most content is outdated and there’s probably more value in spending your time learning about contemporary issues elsewhere. But I can see how this book really stirred up feelings back in the day! ————————————————

“Silent Spring altered the balance of power in the world. No one since would be able to sell pollution as the necessary underside of progress so easily or uncritically.”

H. Patricia Hynes

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Naturalist Sir David Attenborough has stated that Silent Spring was probably the book that had changed the scientific world the most, after the Origin of Species by Charles Darwin.

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“Nature has introduced great variety into the landscape, but man has displayed a passion for simplifying it. Thus he undoes the built-in checks and balances by which nature holds the species within bounds.”

Rachel Carson, Silent Spring

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3/5.

What books do you see referenced everywhere and you feel you need to read?

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Thoughts on: Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer

Christopher McCandless was found dead in an abandoned bus in the Alaskan wilderness in 1992.

He graduated 2 years earlier, having what we would call a “promising” career ahead of him. But Alex had other plans. He donated his 25.000$ worth of savings to charity, left his family and society as a whole.

Disgusted by the rat race, conformity and addiction to security that defines the middle class, and inspired by writers like Jack London, Thoreau and Tolstoy, he started to search truer way of living. Trying to find the essence of the human experience.

“…The very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun. If you want to get more out of life, you must lose your inclination for monotonous security and adopt a helter-skelter style of life that will at first appear to you to be crazy. But once you become accustomed to such a life you will see its full meaning and its incredible beauty.”

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📝 Don’t go to the Alaskan wilderness without a map if you lack wilderness experience.

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📝 Be careful with seeds. They can be poisonous even though the plant is edible.

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📝”Happiness [is] only real when shared” The last written statement of McCandless. Some people find this statement to be profound. But i think it’s more a result of that he is starving to death, alone ,in the wilderness than a profound insight. ——————————————

Overall great book! Reads like fiction and gives you a lot to think about.

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Which books would you bring if you went Into the wild?

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5/5

 

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Thoughts on: “Hardcore Zen” by Brad Warner

Brad Warner is punk rocker turned Zen master. He is “controversial” because he is not part of either of the two dominating fractions of Zen in the west; the overly intellectualized one or the woo-woo New age version. ——————————————

He wants to make Zen available and practical for to regular people with normal lives and jobs. Not having rules for the sake of rules. In the end, zen is all about silent sitting. No more, no less.

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When his publisher was slow to take action on turning the book into and audiobook, he recorded the it himself with GarageBand in his kitchen.

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This recording style definitively adds to the punk vibe. Cats interrupting the recording by walking on the laptop keyboard is quite charming. The book being a bit unstructured is also punk, but it makes the message less powerful and takes away more than it adds.

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The book also has autobiographical parts about his bands and how he got is dream job. To work with Japanese monster movies. He realizied that reaching that goal didn’t made him happier and deepened his journey into zen. ——————————————

📝 “You may find that having is not as pleasing a thing as wanting. This is not logical but it is often true” – Mr spook

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📝 The origin of suffering is desire

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📝 Instead of accepting reality for what it is, we often compare reality to our ideal version of it. Suffering comes from the comparison between our ideal and what is.

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📝 The most poisonous lie that religion spreads is that truly moral people never have immoral thought. The truth is that they have. They just only act on the moral ones.

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📝 Reaction to anger is a habit. It takes more energy resisting than to go with it.

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📝 Do what you do as well as you can. How you approach thing matters.

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3/5

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