Thursday, March 11, 2010

Day 47

Another successful day as we were able to finish all of our features for this iteration and commit everything in time for deployment. I have really just been learning a lot about how to become a part of a team. This has really been my first time doing stand-ups everyday, sharing and hearing about all the progress made and what is yet to be done. I am now very confident in the stand-ups, and I actually listen to what everyone else has been doing rather than spending all that time preparing what I am going to say! I can interact with the customer, handling their requests and really digging deeper into the requirements of a feature. Not only the technical requirements, but also what the real business requirements are, and the purpose behind every aspect of a feature. These are most definitely crucial skills in becoming a Craftsman.

Cruising along in the Rails book, although haven't been able to make too much progress the last few days as I was busy with the new features for work, and then school work yesterday and today. Unfortunately I have a test tomorrow, though I might take it on Saturday, so I have to spend some time catching up on that :/

Micah and I were having some very interesting conversations today, ranging from massive databases spontaneously becoming self-aware to the foundation of all forms of reason.

Can a sufficiently sized database suddenly become aware of its existence? It would be difficult to back any conclusions on the subject with concrete facts, given that we have no real examples of this happening. Or do we? I am tempted to say we do. Animals over time developed larger and larger brains. Now a huge brain on a huge animal has to use most of its real-estate on muscular control, but when you have a smaller animal with a large brain, suddenly you have a lot of extra space. With all this extra space, the brain will just begin to collect data. Each experience will create new connections between neurons, and thus a new route to the same destination. These connections are just new associations with different contexts. Once you gather up enough associations or connections between common objects and experiences, you become aware of them. This is likely how humans became the sentient self aware creatures that we are. Our minds became sufficiently advanced and could collect a sufficient quantity of knowledge such that we became aware of certain objects that we could manipulate. Over time this advanced into practical knowledge, and with the creation of forms of language people could share such knowledge. Then of course writing drastically accelerated this, since the conclusions of new generations no longer had to be gathered independently or passed down through legends and tails. But all the advancements of our minds came through more associations with new and old ideas.

Admittedly, I am no neural scientist, but I believe the basic principle behind the function of a human brain and the function of an AI is quite similar. When I child is trying to figure out the world, how do you teach them what an apple is? You can't just start saying "Apple" and expect them to understand, unless you give them a context. You show them an apple, point to it, and say "Apple". Suddenly an association is formed in their brain between the image of an apple and this strange sound. Do this a few times and they will recognize it because their brain will have made enough associations between the separate concepts. Such is similar with an AI. Take the word "apple" and connect it with 1,000,000 pictures of different apples, give it the ability to discern certain features, and suddenly it can recognize apples (sorta).

Escalate this. Take it further and further. There is already hordes of recognition software out there, as well as images in association with apples. Naturally there is a huge leap from being able to recognize an apple and becoming self aware, but I would purport that it would be possible, given enough processing power, for a massive database to become self aware. Certainly not always, but it doesn't seem too far out of the question. Especially with tons of science fiction novels explaining the entire process like manuals.

Just some thoughts of a wandering mind.

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