Friday, 14 November 2014


I was watching a Zeitgeist Movement's video the other day and the speaker was talking about how the world would be run by computers as they are so "scientific", have no agendas, personal opinions, ambitions and so forth. As he was talking about this, my first thought was "gigantic solar flare". Besides producing really nice northern lights, such things can wreak havoc on electrical equipment. There was a really huge solar flare in the nineteenth century which destroyed the new telegraph communication system. Undoubtedly there were many others before that event, but apart from pretty northern lights, no one would have noticed because there was no use of electricity in the world. Unlike with variable earth conditions, the sun does not get much in the way of external influences and we know that if there was one giant solar flare then there will be others when the same cycle rolls around again. The problem is that we only know of one event and cannot know if the next one will be tomorrow or in the very distant future. All of the eggs in the Zeitgeist basket would become instantly scrambled when that happens. They would not even be able to issue a "Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible" notice. The hill people would be fine, though, and life would go on. Evolution would "select out" the Zeitgeist believers.

The speaker then went on to say how the Computer would weight variables in complex decision making situations. He did not elaborate on that statement or even give the correct term "fuzzy logic" so the audience never got to hear that such algorithms' parameters are set up by people. A computer only does what it has been told (and as we all know, can sometimes screw that up too). It cannot think. When I built my first expert system, I had never heard of expert systems. It was Bob van Arsdell who noted that my identification chart for Coriosolite staters was an expert system. I don't really like the term. Undoubtedly, there are expert systems which mimic the thought processes of an expert, but I built mine very differently. After I had become computerized, I built an html version which eliminated some people's tendency to skip steps in the paper system and thus end up in the wrong place. Ironically, it was people who had some "expertise" who were doing that. Anyone who had no knowledge of the subject matter never failed in getting to the right destination. I have seen expert systems which use fuzzy logic and they are of limited use. For such applications as Zeigeist envisions, they would not work at all, regardless of solar activity. Think about it, a washing machine can deliver water at the right temperature for you laundry, but if your maintenance man had forgotten to turn the cold tap on after doing something, some of your clothes will shrink.

The reason that the more knowledgeable people failed sometimes is because they thought that my system had the same structure as their minds and was acting like an expert. The problem was that I had not built it that way. I had constructed it by sometimes trying for a 50% division of the data, and sometimes by eliminating very short paths to allow for the remaining data to be more easily split according to my 50% goal. It was "organically grown" and resembled some evolutionary biological processes. Unlike my Coriosolite chronologies, it was not entirely built along cladistic lines. (for more information, enter cladistic and expert in the search box in the top bar of this blog).

When the expert system first went online in 1996, there was quite a reaction to it from different sources. Most of them were enthusiastic and from various honest people without sinister agendas, but two of the reactions were of a different sort. One was from a man from southeast Asia who claimed to be a student and wanted me to help him understand what was going on under the hood, so to speak. His English was not very good, but there was something about his message that made me suspicious, so I tracked him down. He was not a student; his English was very good; he owned a company that built expert systems.

The next response was from Lockheed Martin and written by a woman who officiously demanded that I tell her how I built it. At first I thought that this might mean business for us, but Carrie looked at their web page and saw that they were emphasizing ethics. She told me that companies who would go to some lengths to emphasize their ethics most likely did not have any. I started to wonder if it would be good plan to have dealings with a company who could build a missile that knew where I lived. I took a leave out of southeast Asian friend's book and replied "I did it in html". She knew she had been "found out" and did not ask me to elaborate.

What neither of us knew at the time was revealed several years later by a Texas I.T. developer who flew up to Calgary to talk to us about my new map technology (I had been able to produce more levels of easily understandable data in a map than was previously thought possible). He explained that this would have to be first introduced into the US private sector before it could be offered to the military as, otherwise, it would fall under their official secrets policies and could never again be used commercially. His interest in my technology was, ultimately, for military use.

Later, I was producing maps for a huge utilities company and they tried to reverse engineer my methods (unsuccessfully -- it  cannot be reverse engineered) after violating our contract. After we started to spend thousands of dollars on lawyers, the company went into a partnership with the Canadian government to destroy us. After all, the utility company paid the government a huge amount of tax money. One of the government minions told my wife on the phone: "We know what we are doing, we are putting you out of business." Our bank accounts (by then most of our money had gone to expensive lawyers) were seized and our other clients were scared off. Carrie suffered unbearable stress from all of this and as a direct result her breast cancer which had been gone for eight years returned, metastasized, and with its inevitable prognosis of death. A utility company and our own government killed my wife as surely as if they would have used a gun. It was just a slower death. I got off light with a minor heart attack and years of grief. I made two decisions: I would never again conduct business in Canada and my map technology would never be used anywhere. It will die with me (it also has a "perceptual engineering" component and that always worried me as such things can control minds too easily, and can be applied to far more than just maps). The problem with idealism is that it mostly fails to notice the dark side.

But I will end on a light note: Are you troubled by evidence of garden pests? Perhaps you have elephants in your garden. I built this silly little expert system so you can find out. It is full of misunderstood "facts" and absurd observations. All of the drawings and animations are by Carrie. Click here to explore it and to discover if your garden is infested by elephants.

More on the Zeitgeist theme on Monday. Have a great weekend.

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