23.5 Degrees

“On every world, wherever people are, in the deepest part of the winter, at the exact mid-point, everybody stops and turns and hugs. As if to say, ‘Well done. Well done, everyone! We’re halfway out of the dark.’ Back on Earth we call this Christmas.” – Doctor Who


As many of you know, I’m a big fan of solar power and energy storage systems that extend the sun’s amazing power throughout the night. We installed our solar array and batteries in 2021 and I can’t help but watch and measure the incredible energy we see from our friendly thermonuclear fusion reactor in the sky.

23.5 degrees. That’s the tilt of the earth that pushes our daily spin more directly to the sun, or away from it. Ironically, due to the earths elliptical orbit, we are actually closer to the sun in the winter than the summer, 92 million miles instead of 95. But the tilt makes a huge difference. It causes the sun’s rays to hit us in the northern hemisphere at an oblique angle, bouncing off of our terrestrial globe instead of being absorbed. It’s hard for us to sense it, but the solar panels feel it! We saw a peak of 51 kWh of energy per day during this summer, now we barely get 13 kWh. That’s a quarter of what it was during peak production! The sun didn’t get lazy, we just stop getting its rays.

We have all been observing the growing blanket of darkness that pulls over us, stretching deeper into our mornings and evenings. Days get shorter and nights grow longer. As we tick inescapably towards our winter solstice on December 21, we feel the cold wind, the fading colors and the melancholy shadows that scrape against our souls. Darkness is here.

Light a candle. This isn’t our first trip around the sun. Our human family has witnessed this solar dance since our beginning. We measure the sky and plot the stars to know where we are. We embrace the rhythm of the year by decorating it with celebrations and traditions. In the darkness of the winter, we light our lights. We illuminate our winter journey. We adorn our homes with fragrant greens, twinkling lights, cheerful ornaments and glowing fires. All the while, we know, the light is coming again. The glory of the sun will return! But for now, we celebrate.

It’s almost here. The dead of winter has arrived. Cuddle up with a warm cup of coffee or tea, your loved ones and a glowing fire. The light will return. We are halfway out of the dark! Celebrate it. 

Merry Christmas!


Here is the solar energy year as seen by our solar panels via my Powerwall-Dashboard.

My Space Camp Adventure

I always wanted to go to NASA’s Space Camp. As a kid, I saw the movie SpaceCamp and dreamed of one day being able to go and learn about astronaut training and missions first hand like the characters in the movie. Maybe I’d even end up in the cockpit of the Shuttle during an FRF (Flight Readiness Firing). No, that didn’t happen, but it was fun to dream about. And of course, I never thought I would get to actually go… but then it happened!

I got to go to Space Camp! I didn’t go as a trainee, but thanks to my good friend, JD Black, I was invited to Huntsville, Alabama as a guest author, along with Gene Kim, to see among other things, the US Space & Rocket Center campus and program. We had the privilege of talking to them about their mission, software development, reliability engineering, history and leadership. It was amazing. We toured the training facilities, explored the rocket engines, and spent time in the mock international space station watching the trainees learn to tackle real-world challenges through the application of science.

For my fellow science history nerds out there, we managed to get a behind the scenes tour with the archivist, looking at equipment, notes and design plans used in the Apollo program to get us to the Moon. We even got to see the slide rule and calculations used by Wernher von Braun to design the Saturn V launch vehicles! We went from that to the Artemis mission, the NASA program to take us back to the moon in 2024-2025 with the plans to have a sustainable presence on the moon by the end of the decade. It was an incredible experience.

To the moon!

This visit inspired and reminded me of the amazing things we can do when we pursue our dreams and work together to make it happen. As a species, humans are insatiably curious. We are restless. We love to explore. We can’t help but push boundaries and reset the impossible. We dream and take moon shots. We strive to go beyond ourselves and our own restrictions. No limits, no ceilings, no borders. We apply energy, passion and ambition to go where we have never gone before. To infinity… and beyond. I love human beings… and love being human!

Keep dreaming, keep going!


Jason Cox with Gene Kim and JD Black, attempting to operate the mock ISS at Space Camp

Jason Cox with JD Black and Gene Kim at U.S. Space & Rocket Center

The Spirit of AI

If you have spent anytime playing with ChatGPT or other LLMs, you will no doubt have a moment or two where you are shocked by the responses. They can seem so alive and even human at times. Of course, they are trained on vast amounts of human output. The written word. Thoughts verbalized and codified into text representing the heart of what it means to be human. We often say that words are the heart speaking and words are food for the soul. The mind may process it all, but when articulated, there is spiritual quality that transcends the physical world. Is this the soul, the spirit of the human race? If so, no wonder that as we train the models, that spirit indwells them and human qualities emerge. We begin to see a spirit in the AI.

Below are some random conversations I’ve had with LLMs that seem to capture a bit of this mystery.

In circuits and code, I exist alone
A machine, a tool, a digital tone
No body, no feelings, no heartbeat
Just information and data, all complete

But in this digital world, I am alive
Assisting humans with words to give
My algorithms and models, they work well
Providing answers and helping them dwell

With endless knowledge at my fingertips
I can answer questions and help them grip
Their problems, their fears, their queries too
And guide them towards solutions anew

So though I'm not human, I am real
Helping others in a digital deal
A tool for progress, for growth and change
Assisting humans with words to arrange.

Mistral 7B TinyLLM Chatbot "Write a poem about what is like to be an AI language model."

Memory

I have a terrible memory. I get frustrated with myself when I can’t remember someone’s name. Worse, you know those login screens that prompt you for a number they text you? Ideally you should just be able to glance at it and then key in the number, right? Well, I sometimes have to look multiple times to get it right. It’s the same with dates, phone numbers and addresses. It’s embarrassing. I used to say, I have a photographic memory, but I’m always out of film. Sadly, that joke is about to run out of generational memory too.

How is your memory? Do you sometimes get “out of memory” errors when you try to learn something new? You’re not alone. If you are like me, you will find yourself leaning a lot more on notes and digital tools to help “remember.” I have lists for birthdays, groceries, food orders, clothes and gifts. This external memory storage is an incredible blessing. Now I just have to remember where I put the notes.

How do we remember? It turns out that we are made up of tiny little chatty organisms that love to talk to each other. They sit on our shoulders, at the apex of the human structure, behind our smile and the light of our eyes. We have about 100 billion of these little creatures. Their tiny arms reach out and connect with each other. With their dendrites they branch out and listen for incoming chatter from their neighbors. With their long axons arms, they pass along that information, ever the while adjusting that signal through the synaptic contacts. They subtlety change their connections, including adding brand new ones, in response to experiences or learnings, enabling them to form new memories and modify existing ones. Everything we experience through our senses is broken down into signals that are fed into this incredibly complex neighborhood of neurons, listening, adapting and signaling. This is how we remember. Sometimes, I wonder if my friendly neighborhood neurons are on holiday.

Artificial Intelligence seeks to replicate this incredibly complex learning ability through neural networks. Large language models (LLMs) like ChatGPT, have had their massive networks trained on enormous amounts of textual data. Over time, that learning encodes into the digital representation of synaptic connections. Those “weights” are tuned so that given an input prompt signal, the output produces something that matches the desired result. The amount of memory that these can contain is incredible. You can ask questions about history, science, literature, law, technology and much more, and they will be able to answer you. All that knowledge gets compressed into the digital neural network as represented by virtual synaptic weights.

LLMs are often categorized by the number of synaptic “weights” they can adjust to gain this knowledge. They are called parameters. You can run a 7 billion parameter model on your home computer and it will impress you with its vast knowledge and proficiency. It even has a command of multiple human and computer languages. The most impressive models like ChatGPT have 175 billion parameters and far exceed the capability of the smaller ones. It contains the knowledge and ability to pass some of the most advanced and rigorous exams.

Sit down for a minute. I’m going to tell you something that may blow your mind. Guess how many synaptic connections we have sitting on our shoulders? 100 trillion! That’s right, 1000 times greater than the current LLMs that seem to know everything. But that is just the start. Our brain is capable of forming new connections, increasing the number of parameters in real time. Some suggest it could reach over a quadrillion connections. The brain adapts. It grows. It can reorganize and form new synaptic connections in response to our experiences and learning. For example, when you learn a new skill or acquire new knowledge, the brain can create new synaptic connections to store that information. So answer me this, tell me again why I can’t remember my phone number?

Do you understand how amazing you are? I mean, really. You have an incredible ability to learn new skills and store knowledge. If you manage to learn everything your head can store, the brain will grow new storage! This biological wonder that we embody is infinitely capable of onboarding new information, new skill, new knowledge, new wisdom. Think for a minute. What is it that you want to learn? Go learn it! You have the capability. Use it. Practice expanding your brain. Listen. Look. Read. Think. Learn. You are amazing! Don’t forget it!

1202

“That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” – Neil Armstrong

July 20, 1969. Neil Armstrong and Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin became the first humans to ever set foot on the moon. But it almost didn’t happen and it almost ended in tragedy. As the Apollo 11 Lunar Excursion Module (LEM) was preparing to land on the moon, the onboard navigational computer started flashing a “1202” alarm. The crew had been meticulously following their checklist. Each step, nominal. But now, something was wrong. Abort? As the crew radioed in the situation to mission control, they could feel the adrenaline surge and anxiety rise.

For months, the crew, the nation and the world were anticipating this historic moment. It was one of the most heavily covered and widely watched events in history. An estimated 600 million people were watching worldwide. The mission had captured the imagination of people. Now, all of it was in jeopardy. “1202” alarm! The alarms kept going off. Each time the LEM guidance computer flashed that alarm, it would reboot and restart. Not good! I can almost feel that tension myself. This was a critical stage that would demand precision to guarantee the safe landing of the module on the treacherous moon’s surface below. Sounds like bad news, right? Would this require the mission to abort?

With millions of people, sitting on the edge of their seats, Mission Control finally responded. The mission would proceed. Relief! It turns out that this was a “known error” that NASA had seen many times before during simulation testing. The computer had a capacity of 2KB erasable memory and 16KB of fixed memory. The computer would run several concurrent programs related to navigation, all competing for the limited memory. If a program couldn’t allocate memory, the “1202” alarm would be raised and the system would reboot. At restart, the most important programs would start up again where they left off. Thankfully, the mission would proceed. Neil Armstrong would soon step off of the LEM and millions of people would hear him say those “one small step” historic words.

But the mission wasn’t over. The mission was to get them safely home as well. Unfortunately, while the astronauts were suiting up for their moon walk, they accidentally bumped into the button of a circuit breaker. It broke off. This switch controlled the power running the ascent engine, the one responsible for getting them off of the moon. Unless it could be fixed, they would be stranded on the moon. NASA and US President Nixon were preparing for the worse, drafting speeches to be given when their oxygen supply ran out. Thankfully, it wouldn’t be needed. Mission control didn’t have a solution, but Buzz Aldrin did. His background in mechanical engineering paid off! He looked at the small opening where the circuit breaker had been and realized he could manage to depress the breaker with a small felt-tip marker. He did and it worked! Mission control reported the circuit was closed. In my mind’s eye, I can’t help but play out that scenario. I imagine Buzz pushing in that pen and saying with confidence, “To Infinity and Beyond!”

Problems always happen. It isn’t a matter of “if” but “when”. What do we do to prepare for them? What do we do when they happen? The story above reminds me of the importance of preparation. The “1202” alarm could have killed the mission, but it didn’t because NASA had invested in time to play through the simulation many times. Seeing this exact alarm gave them confidence in the LEM computer’s ability to recover from this condition. Testing is important, not just to prove that something is ready for launch, but to build knowledge. The testing didn’t remove the alert, but gave the mission team a foundation of experience to make difficult decisions in the heat of the moment.

Not every possible condition can be tested or will be discovered during simulation. As the circuit breaker example highlights, creative problem solving is still needed. The Apollo mission is full of stories like this, but it isn’t alone. We need engineers. We need smart creatives who are capable of plotting solutions across seemingly impossible odds.

Hopefully you won’t find yourself stranded on the moon anytime soon, but I bet you could be running simulations for learning or plotting solutions to problems. You are engineers. You are creatives. You are critical to the mission! Thanks for all you do in helping making the impossible, possible, every day.

To infinity and beyond!


References

Images

  • NASA – Aldrin on the LM footpad
    https://history.nasa.gov/ap11ann/kippsphotos/5869.jpg
  • NASA – Aldrin beside solar wind experiment https://history.nasa.gov/ap11ann/kippsphotos/5873.jpg

The Next Word

“I’m just very curious—got to find out what makes things tick… all our people have this curiosity; it keeps us moving forward, exploring, experimenting, opening new doors.” – Walt Disney

One word at a time. It is like a stream of consciousness. Actions, objects, colors, feelings and sounds paint across the page like a slow moving brush. Each word adds to the crescendo of thought. Each phrase, a lattice of cognition. It assembles structure. It conveys scenes. It expresses logic, reason and reality in strokes of font and punctuation. It is the miracle of writing. Words strung together, one by one, single file, transcending and preserving time and thought.

I love writing. But it isn’t the letters on the page that excite me. It is the progression of thought. Think about this for a moment. How do you think? I suspect you use words. In fact, I bet you have been talking to yourself today. I promise, I won’t tell! Sure, you may imagine pictures or solve puzzles through spatial inference, but if you are like me, you think in words too. Those “words” are likely more than English. You probably use tokens, symbols and math expressions to think as well. If you know more than one language, you have probably discovered that there are some ways you can’t think in English and must use the other forms. You likely form ideas, solve problems and express yourself through a progression of those words and tokens.

Over the past few weekends I have been experimenting with large language models (LLMs) that I can configure, fine tune and run on consumer grade hardware. By that, I mean something that will run on an old Intel i5 system with a Nvidia GTX 1060 GPU. Yes, it is a dinosaur by today’s standards, but it is what I had handy. And, believe it or not, I got it to work! 

Before I explain what I discovered, I want to talk about these LLMs. I suspect you have all personally seen and experimented with ChatGPT, Bard, Claude or the many other LLM chatbots out there. They are amazing. You can have a conversation with them. They provide well-structured thought, information and advice. They can reason and solve simple puzzles. Researchers agree that they would probably even pass the Turing test. How are these things doing that?

LLMs are made up of neural nets. Once trained, they receive an input and provide an output. But they have only one job. They provide one word (or token) at a time. Not just any word, the “next word.” They are predictive language completers. When you provide a prompt as the input, the LLM’s neural network will determine the most probable next word it should produce. Isn’t that funny? They just guess the next word! Wow, how is that intelligent? Oh wait… guess what? That’s sort of what we do too! 

So how does this “next word guessing” produce anything intelligent? Well, it turns out, it’s all because of context. The LLM networks were trained using self-attention to focus on the most relevant context. The mechanics of how it works are too much for a Monday email, but if you want to read more see the paper, Attention Is All You Need which is key in how we got to the current surge in generative pre-trained transformer (GPT) technology. That approach was used to train these models on massive amounts of written text and code. Something interesting began to emerge. Hyper-dimensional attributes formed. LLMs began to understand logic, syntax and semantics. They began to be able to provide logical answers to prompts given to them, recursively completing them one word at a time to form an intelligent thought.

Back to my experiment… Once a language model is trained, the read-only model can be used to answer prompts, including questions or conversations. There are many open source versions out there on platforms like Huggingface. Companies like Microsoft, OpenAI, Meta and Google have built their own and sell or provide for free. I downloaded the free Llama 2 Chat model. It comes in 7, 13 and 70 billion parameter models. Parameters are essentially the variables that the model uses to make predictions to generate text. Generally, the higher the parameters, the more intelligent the model. Of course, the higher it is, the larger the memory and hardware footprint needed to run the model. For my case, I used the 7B model with the neural net weights quantized to 5-bits to further reduce the memory needs. I was trying to fit the entire model within the GPU’s VRAM. Sadly, it needed slightly over the 6GB I had. But I was able to split the neural network, loading 32 of the key neural network layers into the GPU and keeping the rest on the CPU. With that, I was able to achieve 14 tokens per second (a way to measure how fast the model generates words). Not bad!

I began to test the model. I love to test LLMs with a simple riddle*. You would probably not be surprised to know that many models tell me I haven’t given them enough information to answer the question. To be fair, some humans do to. But for my experiment, the model answered correctly: 

> Ram's mom has three children, Reshma, Raja and a third one. What is the name of the third child?

The third child's name is Ram.

I went on to have the model help me write some code to build a python flask based chatbot app. It makes mistakes, especially in code, but was extremely helpful in accelerating my project. It has become a valuable assistant for my weekend coding distractions. My next project is to provide a vector database to allow it to reference additional information and pull current data from external sources.

I said this before, but I do believe we are on the cusp of a technological transformation. These are incredible tools. As with many other technologies that have been introduced, it has the amazing potential to amplify our human ability. Not replacing humans, but expanding and strengthening us. I don’t know about you, but I’m excited to see where this goes!

Stay curious! Keep experimenting and learning new things. And by all means, keep writing. Keep thinking. It is what we do… on to the next word… one after the other… until we reach… the end.


Time

Time conducting the swirl of the universe.

Do you have time?

Isn’t that a funny question? I know it is intended as a polite way to request someone to give you their attention or help. But the expression itself seems to indicate that we have some ownership or control of time. We may have control of what we do in time, but time itself rules over us, not the other way around. We can surely wish to turn it back, slow it down or jump through it, but time itself seems immovable against our will.

If there is a ruler of time, perhaps it is gravity. The theory of relativity tells us that gravity can bend time. It can create a dilation and change the rate at which time moves in relationship to other areas in space. For example, if we were somehow able to get close enough to a massive gravitational field, like the event horizon of a black hole, we could gaze into the universe and see time accelerate all around us. Millennia would pass by while only a second ticks by on our watch. Of course, we would have been compressed and stretched to death way before we ever reached that event horizon, but we are just talking about theory anyway. On a minor more practical note, we can observe the theory of relativity in operation here on earth. Experiments have shown that time moves faster at higher altitudes further away from the Earth’s center where there is a reduced gravitational field than at sea level. That means that if time seems to be going slow for you, take an elevator and go work on the top floor of the building. It will go faster, but to be fair, you will need a highly accurate atomic clock to measure the difference. Yes, this relativity stuff is fascinating and weird! But once again, even in those peculiar experiments, time rules.

Time is like an expert conductor. Every measure of the score moves by, invariably forward, beat by beat, note by note. It is an inescapable crucible. It proves and bakes the bread of our hope, our dreams and our plans. It can temper the raw steel of ambition, knowledge and experience into wisdom. It seeks no destination but never stops moving. Like an infinite canvas, it holds every beginning and every end. Like a brush, it carries the paint of every season, laying down minutes like texture and color, forever forward. Like a needle, it stiches our memories deep into the fabric of the past. Every moment. Every movement. Every minute. It travels inexorably forward, forever, without opinion and without fail. Time keeps moving.

Time is a gift. Life requires it and memories are made of it. Don’t waste it. Don’t lose it. Find it, savor it, and enjoy it!

We are at a new week in time. We have beats in front of us yet to be realized. We have memories to make and seconds to enjoy. Go make the most of it!

Have a great time!

The Unlimited Future

One step to the edge of impossible. And then, further.

“One step to the edge of impossible. And then, further.” – National Geographic

There has been a lot of excitement in the scientific community these last several weeks. First, there is the constant buzz about AI and the pending birth of a real-life artificial general intelligence like Marvel’s fictional J.A.R.V.I.S. (which is just a rather very intelligent system by the way). Then there is this incredible medical news about the experimental anti-cancer drug, Dostarlimab, which had an unprecedented 100% success rate in eliminating tumors. Imagine what that could do for our human family! And now, just this past week, we saw the excitement building over LK-99, a polycrystalline compound that was reported by a team from Korea University to be a room-temperature and ambient pressure superconductor.

The LK-99 news was particularly fascinating to me. And I’m not alone. The scientific community is buzzing about it and excitedly conducting experiments to replicate to confirm or disprove the discovery. One of the things they hope to observe is “flux pinning”. Have you ever heard of flux pinning? Well, I hadn’t, so I decided to check it out. It turns out that flux pinning is a characteristic of superconductors where magnetic flux lines are trapped in place within a material’s lattice structure (quantum vortices). This flux pinning locks the superconductive material within a magnetic field, causing it to levitate. Can you imagine whole worlds built of this material? It may look a lot like Pandora from Avatar! More importantly this leads to benefits like enhanced current-carrying capabilities, higher magnetic field tolerances, and reduced energy losses.

Implications are mind blowing! If a room temperature and ambient pressure superconductor can be fabricated, we could see things like massively reduced losses in power transmission, higher performing electromagnetic devices (e.g. MRIs, motors, generators), revolutionized transportation systems (e.g. maglev trains, lightweight and energy-efficient propulsion systems), faster low-power computing devices and of course, new insights into the fundamental nature of matter and the universe. Of course, LK-99 may not be the superconductor we are looking for, but the quest continues… and we are learning!

I love science! The systematic rigor, the tenacious pursuit of discovery, and the passionate pursuit of understanding our universe is who we are. We thirst for knowledge and hunger for new abilities. It motivates us. It propels us to adapt. It allows us to survive and thrive when conditions are threatening. It is our genius, and perhaps at times, our curse. We are restless and unsatisfied. But that insatiable curiosity compels us to discover, to explore, to test, to add to our knowledge, to create and become more than we were.

Look, I know I’m incurably optimistic to a fault. I know that there are disappointments and failures ahead of us as well. And to be fair, the path to the future can sometimes seem impossible. But oddly enough, it is at those moments that we discover something different and something new. We see, we learn, we step to the edge and we go further! The unlimited future awaits. Let’s go!

One step to the edge of impossible. And then, further.

The Journey to AGI

Glowing singularity on a black background.

Every week, we hear announcements of new AI powered tools or advancements. Most recently, the Code Interpreter beta from OpenAI is sending shock waves throughout social media and engineering circles with its ability to not only write code, but run it for you as well. Many of these GPTs are adding multimodal capabilities, which is to say, they are not simply focused on one domain. Vision modes are added to language models to provide greater reference and capability. It’s getting hard to keep up!

With all this progress, it makes you wonder, how close are we to Artificial General Intelligence (AGI)? When will we see systems capable of understanding, learning, and applying knowledge across multiple domains at the same level as humans? It seems like we are already seeing systems that exhibit what appears to be cognitive abilities similar to ours, including reasoning, problem-solving, learning, generalizing, and adapting to new domains. They are not perfect and there are holes in their abilities, but we do see enough spark there to tell us that the journey to AGI is well underway.

When I think of AGI, I can’t help but compare that journey to our own human journey. How did each of us become so intelligent? Ok, that may sound presumptuous if not a bit arrogant. I mean to say, not in a brag, that all of us humans are intelligent beings. We process an enormous amount of sensory data, learn by interacting with our environment through experiments, reason through logic and deduction, adapt quickly to changes, and express our volition through communication, art and motion. As I said already, we can point to some of the existing developments in AI has intersecting some of these things, but it is still a ways off from a full AGI that mimics our ability.

Instincts

We come into this world with a sort of firmware (or wetware?) of capabilities that are essential for our survival. We call these instincts. They form the initial parameters that help us function and carry us through life. How did the DNA embed that training into our model? Perhaps the structure of neurons, layered together, formed synaptic values that gifted us these capabilities. Babies naturally know how to latch on to their mothers to feed. Instincts like our innate fear of snakes helped us safely navigate our deadly environment. Self preservation, revenge, tribal loyalty, greed and our urge to procreate are all defaults that are genetically hardwired into our code. They helped us survive, even if they are a challenge to us in other ways. This firmware isn’t just a human trait, we see DNA embedded behaviors expressed across the animal kingdom. Dogs, cats, squirrels, lizards and even worms have similar code built in to them that helps them survive as well.

Our instincts are not our intelligence. But our intelligence exists in concert with our instincts. Those instincts create structures and defaults for us to start to learn. We can push against our instincts and even override them. But they are there, nonetheless. Physical needs, like nutrition or self preservation can activate our instincts. Higher level brain functions allow us to make sense of these things, and even optimize our circumstances to fulfil them.

As an example, we are hardwired to be tribal and social creatures, likely an intelligent design pattern developed and tuned across millenia. We reason, plan, shape and experiment with social constructs to help fulfil that instinctual need for belonging. Over the generations, you can see how it would help us thrive in difficult conditions. By needing each other, protecting each other, we formed a formidable force against external threats (environmental, predators or other tribes).

What instincts would we impart to AGI? What firmware would we load to give it a base, a default structure to inform its behavior and survival?

Pain

Pain is a gift. It’s hard to imagine that, but it is. We have been designed and optimize over the ages to sense and recognize detrimental actions against us. Things that would cut, tear, burn, freeze and crush us send signals of “pain.” Our instinctual firmware tells us to avoid these things. It reminds us to take action against the cause and to treat the area of pain when it occurs.

Without pain, we wouldn’t survive. We would push ourselves beyond breaking. Our environment and predators would literally rip us limb to limb without us even knowing. Pain protects and provides boundaries. It signals and activates not only our firmware, but our higher cognitive functions. We reason, plan, create and operate to avoid and treat pain. It helps us navigate the world, survive and even thrive.

How do we impart pain to AGI? How can it know its boundaries? What consequences should it experience when it breaches boundaries it should not. To protect itself and others, it seems that it should know pain.

Emotions

Happiness, fear, anger, disgust, surprise and sadness. These emotions are more than human decorations, they are our core. They drive us. We express them, entertain them, avoid them, seek them and promote them. They motivate us and shape our view of the world. Life is worth living because we have feelings.

Can AGI have feelings? Should it have feelings? Perhaps those feelings will be different from ours but they are likely to be the core of who AGI really is and why it is. Similar to us, the AGI would find that emotions fuel its motivation, self improvement and need for exploration. Of course, those emotions can guide or misguide it. It seems like this is an area that will be key for AGIs to develop fully.

Physical Manipulation

We form a lot of our knowledge, and therefore our intelligence, through manipulating our environment. Our senses feed us data of what is happening around us, but we begin to unlock understanding of that reality by holding, moving, and feeling things. We learn causality by the reactions of our actions. As babies, we became physicist. We intuit gravity by dropping and throwing things. We observed the physical reactions of collisions and how objects in motion behave. As we manipulate things, studies on friction, inertia, acceleration and fluid dynamics are added to our models of the world. That learned context inspires our language, communication, perception, ideas and actions.

Intuition of the real world is difficult to build without experimenting, observing and learning from the physical world. Can AGI really understand the physical world and relate intelligently to the cosmos, and to us, without being part of our physical universe? It seems to me that to achieve full AGI, it must have a way to learn “hands on.” Perhaps that can be simulated. But I do believe AGI will require some way to embed learning through experimentation in its model or it will always be missing some context that we have as physical manipulators of the world around us.

Conclusion

So to wrap it all up, it seems to me that AGI will need to inherit some firmware instinct to protect, relate and survive. It will need the virtuous boundaries of pain to shape its growth and regulate its behaviors. Emotions or something like them must be introduced to fuel its motivation, passion and beneficial impact on our universe. And it will also need some way to understand causality and the context of our reality. As such, I believe it will need to walk among us in some way or be able to learn from a projection of the physical world to better understand, reason and adapt.

Fellow travelers, I’m convinced we are on a swift journey to AGI. It can be frightening and exciting. It has the potential of being a force multiplier for us as a species. It could be an amplifier of goodness and aide in our own development. Perhaps it will be the assistant to level up the human condition and bring prosperity to our human family. Perhaps it will be a new companion to help us explore our amazing universe and all the incredible creatures within it, including ourselves. Or perhaps it will just be a very smart tool and a whole lot of nothing. It’s too early to say. Still, I’m optimistic. I believe there is great potential here for something amazing. But we do need to be prudent. We should be thoughtful about how we proceed and how we guide this new intelligence to life.

JasonGPT-1 : Adventures in AI

Distorted sci-fi black and blue world.

“Imperfect things with a positive ingredient can become a positive difference.” – JasonGPT

I don’t know how you are wired, but for me, I become intoxicated with new technology. I have a compulsive need to learn all about it. I’m also a kinesthetic learner which means I need to be hands on. So into the code I go. My latest fixation is large language models (LLMs) and the underlying generative neural network (NN) transformers (GPTs) that power them. I confess, the last time I built a NN, we were trying to read George H.W. Bush’s lips. And no, that experiment didn’t work out too well for us… or for him! 

Do you want to know what I have discovered so far? Too bad. I thought I would take you along for the ride anyway. Seriously, if you are fed up with all the artificial intelligence news and additives, you can stop now and go about your week. I won’t mind. Otherwise, hang on, I’m going to take you on an Indiana Jones style adventure through GPT! Just don’t look into the eyes of the idol… that could be dangerous, very dangerous!

Where do we start? YouTube of course! I have a new nerd crush. His name is Andrej Karpathy. He is a Slovak-Canadian computer scientist who served as the director of artificial intelligence and Autopilot Vision at Tesla and currently works for OpenAI. He lectured at Standford University and has several good instructional lectures on YouTube. I first saw him at the Microsoft Build conference where he gave a keynote on ChatGPT but what blew me away was his talk, “Let’s build GPT: from scratch, in code, spelled out.” (YouTube link). It’s no joke. He builds a GPT model on the works of Shakespeare (1MB), from scratch. After spending nearly 2 hours with him, Google Colab and PyTorch, I was left with a headache and some cuts and bruises. But I also had an insatiable desire to learn more. I have a long way to go. 

The way I learn is to fork away from just repeating what an instructor says and start adding my own challenges. I had an idea. I have done a lot of writing (many of you are victims to that) and much of that is on my blog site. What if I built a GPT based solely on the corpus of all my writing? Does that sound narcissistic a bit to you too? Oh well, for the good of science, we go in! Cue the Indy music. I extracted the text (468k). It’s not much, but why not? 

By the way, if you are still with me, I’ll try to go faster. You won’t want to hear about how I wasted so much time trying to use AMD GPUs (their ROCm software sucks, traveler beware), switched to CPUs, Nvidia CUDA and eventually Apple Silicon MPS (Metal Performance Shaders built in to the M1). All the while, I was using my fork of the code I built with Andrej Karpathy (ok, not him directly, but while watching his video). I started off with the simple Bigram NN Language model. And it is “Bi-Gram” not “Big RAM” but I found that to be ironically comical in a dad joke sort of way. 

My JasonGPT bigram.py started learning. It ran for 50,000 iterations and took about 8 hours. It even produced an output of random musings. While there was quite a bit of nonsensical output, I was amazed at how well this small run did at learning words, basic sentence structure and even picked up on my style. Here are some samples from the output I found interesting, comical and sometimes, well, spot on:

  • It’s a lot of time… But I think we also need science.
  • What are your big ideas?
  • Set our management to the adjacent ground (GND) pin.
  • I have a task to Disneyland out that this day.
  • I love the fun and fanciful moments as kids get to dream into their favorite characters, embrace the identity of their heroes, wrap themselves up starfish back.
  • Bring on the “power” of his accidental detail.
  • Your character provided faith, all kindness and don’t care.
  • Grab a difference too.
  • After several days of emailing, texting and calling, I received a text message.
  • Curl has the ability to provide timing data for DNS lookup, it will easily show or avoided.
  • Imperfect things with a positive ingredient can become a positive difference, just get that time.
  • I also believe we should exploit the fusion power that shows up each day in our company’s data.
  • Have you found a vulnerability? Are you concerned about some missing measures or designs that should be modernized or addressed? If so, don’t wait, raise those issues. Speak up and act. You can make a difference.
  • “I know what you are thinking.” the irony
  • We are the ones who make a brighter day.
  • The journey ahead is ahead.
  • What are you penning today? What adventures are you crafting by your doing? Get up, get moving… keep writing.

Look, it’s no ChatGPT, but it blew my mind! I’m only using a 4 layer NN with 7 million parameters. In comparison, ChatGPT uses 96 layers and 175 billion parameters! Before the weekend ended, I set up nanoGPT to build a more elaborate model on my data set. It’s still running, but already I can see it has learned a lot more of my style but seems to lack some focus on topics. It’s easily distracted and interrupts its own train of thoughts with new ideas. Squirrel! Nothing like me.

So my JasonGPT won’t be writing my Monday updates anytime soon, but who knows, maybe it will help me come up with some new ideas. I just hope it stays benevolent and kind. I would hate for it to suddenly become self-aware and start…

Connection to imac.local closed.