Happy Birthday, Mr. President

Tomorrow will be President James Buchanan’s 232nd birthday.  In his honor, around 100 people showed up to lay a wreath on his grave and make a few speeches.

I got there early before the crowd arrived.

Then, out of the early morning mist, walked six apparitions from the past in military uniforms from his times.  James was a private in the Pennsylvania Militia, which has now become the National Guard and many Guardsmen and Guardswomen were there to join the ranks.

Then the color guard marched out and the speeches soon began.  One of the speakers referred to his nickname as “Old Buck,” but that wasn’t his nickname until very late in his life.  Most of the time he was referred to as “The Old Public Functionary,” not a nickname that trips lightly off the tongue, but it did honor the 50 years he spent in service to his country as Representative, Congressman, Senator, Secretary of State, Ambassador to Russia and England, and of course, 15th President of the United States.  To me, it also represented the 160 years he has spent as scapegoat for the Civil War, even though he, actually, did more than anyone to try to prevent that war.

Buchanan served during the War of 1812, and his outfit was detailed on a secret mission to help the Maryland Militia.  Fortunately, by the time they got there, the battle was already won, and so, he returned home to civilian life.  He is the only President who joined the military as an enlisted man and wasn’t made an officer.  The Head of the Pennsylvania National Guard used that fact as an opportunity to thank all the enlisted men, who protect our Country.

The festivities ended with a 15 musket salute by the group I now knew weren’t apparitions, but Civil War reenactors, who probably travelled here from a little town across the river named Gettysburg.  I was amazed at how quickly they were able to fire and reload their muskets for the next volley.

In total, fifteen shots were fired, but I was only quick enough with my camera to captured 10.  If you look carefully at their feet you can see the tubes of gunpowder they tore open with their teeth to fill the barrel for the next round.

It was a fine tribute to a very under-rated President, and I definitely hope to go again next year.

Peace & Love, and all of the above,


Everything You Believe

“Just remember this my girl, when you look up in the sky.  You can see the stars, but still not see the light…”

  • The Eagles

I watched a YouTube video, Everything You Believe Is Based on What You’ve Been Told.  That, in a nutshell, was the theme of the video.  Unless you have really studied a field, and even if you have studied a field intensely, the ideas you hold in your advanced human brain were probably just planted there by things you were told in the past.  Some thoughts might have been planted by brilliant professors, but, it is more likely, that many of your thoughts were originally planted there by your drinking buddies.

Then, I watched an episode of John Oliver’s show, Last Week, Tonight.  The episode was about possible things that could go wrong with AI, Artificial Intelligence.

The problem that John foresaw with AI was that it learned rapidly, but it also could develop false thinking if the input it absorbed wasn’t accurate.  It was something I learned about computers a half century ago, Garbage In/Garbage Out, as expressed by the catch phrase GIGO.

To be reasonably accurate, both artificial intelligence and human intelligence require plenty of accurate input.  Humans learn mostly from what they are told, but they also absorb what they see in movies, TV, and books.  This might explain why so many people are concerned about a zombie apocalypse.

Computers learn by accessing the Internet.  This is the big reason why everyone is so worried about Artificial Intelligence.  We realize that while AI can gather intelligent information almost at the speed of light, unfortunately, based upon the current content of the Internet, it will also be acquiring and absorbing tons of absolute nonsense just as quickly.  There are plenty of websites out there in cyberspace that dare to “prove” that the Earth is flat.

Too bad that before AI accesses the Internet, we can’t limit the websites for it to search to the websites where the information is accurate.  However, who is to say what is accurate?  Who even knows what really is accurate anymore?  We believe what we’ve been told, and we haven’t always been fed the truth, nor did we always seek it. Most of us live in the information bubble of our own choice.  So, carefully filtered AI would probably just result in a computer conclusion that mirrors our own biases.

That’s exactly what is already happening.  AI programs are working in Human Resources.  They are currently scanning thousands of job resumes and selecting only applicants who closely match the programmer’s idea of desired employees. Ultimately, these might not be the best employees and discrimination of some sort is probably inevitable.  GIGO.

AI will eventually partner with humans, much like the way that humans now partner with computers.  Hopefully, humans will still be needed to feed the AI computers the information that they will need to make better decisions for us.

So, what do we do?  Well like Ken Jennings wrote when he and Brad Rutter lost at Jeopardy to the IBM computer, Watson,

“I for one, welcome our new computer overlords.”

Personally, I believe that the future computer overlords will treat humans well, probably even better than we currently treat ourselves, but, to insure this, we must stock the Internet with much better information for the AI computers than we are currently feeding ourselves.

Peace & Love, and all of the above,