Wednesday, April 26, 2023

The film M3GAN was superb.

On the flight back from Vancouver to Tokyo after the TED conference, I watched the film M3GAN. Although I knew the hype about the film, I was not sure whether I had the guts to see it (I am weak about horrors and thrillers). However, after watching the film Nope (which is kind of a horror film, but I tend to accept sci fi), I felt that I was in a condition to watch M3GAN.

The film was superb. The script was clever and addressed some critical issues of AI alignment. M3GAN stands for Model 3 Generative Android, and the risks coming from uncontrollable generative artificial intelligence was well depicted in the film. 

This was days before ChatGPT surprised the world, and the producers of the film could be lauded for the future.

The mention of "attachment theory" in the script is symbolic of the general high standard of scientific and technological aptness. I recommend the film to anyone interested in the future of the alignment of AI with humans.

Wednesday, April 19, 2023

I am attending #TED2023 in Vancouver, Canada.

I am attending #TED2023 in Vancouver, Canada.

Despite competitions from likes of Lex Fridman podcast, TED still shines as one of the world's foremost market for exchanging ideas. Attending Session 1 I think I came to realize some reasons why.

It is the wholistic humane approach that characterizes TED. It is great to have geek talks about LLM and AGI, but at the end of the day, in order to alight AI with human society we need to value things outside the tech world. At TED we have a broad spectrum of people concerned with bringing the best in humanity. The better angels in us are flying in the arena.

Saturday, April 15, 2023

It would be important to consider evolution of artificial intelligence systems in terms of group dynamics

For now, Artificial Intelligence systems seem to be developed as stand-alone entities, while historically,  evolution of biological species happened in the ecosystem. Instances such as ChatGPT are conceived as proving and being expected to prove excellence on its own. Dependence on the corpus makes them embedded in the ecosystem, though.

It would be important to consider evolution of artificial intelligence systems in terms of group dynamics, as happened in the case of biological systems, as opposed to the arms race metaphor typically employed in discussions about AI today, e.g. in the perceived confrontation between Elon Musk and Sam Altman, for example.

Related video. Towards a society of artificial intelligence.

Monday, April 10, 2023

Many things in Japan would perhaps go the way of Hachiko.

In Japan, for now, wherever you go, there are a lot of people. On the Shinkansen train, on the streets, at tourist attractions, everyone everywhere all at once.

With the covid-19 pandemic, the tourism came to a standstill, as in many countries. Now tourists are back with a vengeance. A noticeable change is the presence of people from abroad compared to domestic tourists.

Perhaps this is a vision of the future for Japan. In comparison to other global destinations such as London, New York, and Paris, Tokyo feels like and is still a place where the effects of globalism is seen only in mild signs, unless, of course, you go to the Shibuya Crossing. The Hachiko statue nearby is now always busy with tourists from abroad queueing up to have a chance to take a photo beside the famous Akita dog.

When I was a college student I could not imagine a day when the world would come to meet and greet Hachiko. It was a domestic presence then. Now many things in Japan would perhaps go the way of Hachiko. What a time to live in, apart from the rapid development of artificial intelligence. 

Friday, April 07, 2023

High intelligence is a double-edged sword

The conventional wisdom would be that if you have high intellect you would be more adaptive to a wide range of environments. Homo Sapiens has evolved to possess a highly developed intelligence, and it surely correlates with the fact that humans have come to dominate in a wide range of environments, from the tropics to the north and south poles on the earth, and to International Space Station and further beyond, perhaps even to Mars.

However, although intelligence has surely helped humans to be more robustly adaptive in a wide range of environments, it has also made the human existence less robust and stable. The possibility of human extinction through total nuclear war is just one example.

It could be argued therefore that high intelligence is a double-edged sword. On the one hand it can help make the system more robust. On the other there would be increased vulnerabilities, easily scaling out of the comfort zone.

It is an interesting question whether incorporating artificial emotion or consciousness in a system would make it more or less robust. Memorably, Eliezer Yudkowsky remarked in a recent Lex Fridman podcast that endowing an AI with emotion would be terrible. Artificial consciousness might make a AI more stable, by the incorporation of metacognitive processes, realizing the veto function, which is indispensable in human ethics.

The jury is still out.

In a recent episode of Ken Mogi's Street Brain Radio I discussed these pressing issues in some detail.

Related video:

High intelligence, artificial or natural, becomes unstable. Can consciousness help that? 

Thursday, April 06, 2023

The arms race happen between people, not AI systems.

For some time now people have been discussing existential risks for humanity with the development of artificial intelligence. Although there would be genuine vulnerabilities due to the general disruption that the intelligence-related technologies would cause, especially by those involved in military operations, the tendency to depict AI, AGI in particular, in the light of possible overtaking of human existence is not only misleading but also potentially damaging.

Typically, when people discuss doomsday scenarios, they are projecting their own psychology onto the machine. It is not AI that would try to overtake the world. People have desires and ambitions about exerting control over others, and artificial intelligence systems are regarded as tools to realize their obsessions.

The arms race happen between people, not AI systems. The alpha male projection of aggression on the coming AGI is not only misplaced but also damaging to the neutrality of the technology.  

Related video.

The existential risk of Artificial Intelligence only comes from human nature and imagination

Saving Japan

In the last few years I have written two books on Japan. One on ikigai and another one on nagomi. With these attempts, I have hopefully presented the best in the tradition of the land of the rising sun.

As I have written in the small print sections of these books, I had no intention of claiming that Japan is the best, or indeed, unique among nations on the globe. Each culture has its own merits and strengths, juxtaposed with shortcomings and weaknesses. Japan is far from perfect, especially when it comes to gender equality, for example.

In a way, with the ikigai and nagomi books I have presented a vision of what Japan could be, could have been, and would be, in addition to what it actually is. I believe realities can be seen from a new and hope-giving perspective, when you have the perception and good will to achieve that.

I really admired the film Saving Mr. Banks. It told the true story behind Mary Poppins. As a lover of the excellent musical film, I believe in the alchemy of transformation from the actual Mr. Banks to the fictional character, depicting what he could have been, inspiring people. 

In the same spirit, I wanted to do something in the spirit of Saving Japan, while remaining true to the essential nature of the nation. Sometimes, you see the real self better from a distance.

Saturday, April 01, 2023

The idea of copying the consciousness of oneself appears to be doubtful, if not outright ridiculous.

There are people who almost casually endorse mind-uploading or whole brain emulation as methods for copying self-consciousness, which is a real puzzler for this author. 

For me, the idea of copying the consciousness of oneself appears to be doubtful, if not outright ridiculous.

In the latest episode of my Street Brain Radio series I explored the reasons why I am a skeptic in this matter while walking on the streets of Tokyo.

In a nutshell, self-consciousness would depend on metacognition, and that would not be possible to copy. In addition, when information is in the conscious domain (as opposed to the unconscious domain) metacognitive processes would again be essential so that it is not straightforward to copy them.

Ken Mogi's Street Brain Radio is a poor man's answer to Lex Fridman's podcast, which is of course brilliant. I like the way of exploring fundamental questions at length, without paying too much attention to the potential audience.

Related video.

The impossibility of copying self-consciousness and metacognitive information.

ChatGPT and illusion of intelligence.

One of the interesting things about Large Language Models is that there are a lot of hallucinations.

The factually incorrect statements generated by LLMs such as ChatGPT etc. are entertaining, but potentially risky when one considers practical applications of the generative AIs. It is understandable then that the frequency of hallucinations are taken as an important measure in testing AI safety.

On the other hand, there are many hallucinations on the side of humans, too. When we interact with LLMs, we have the illusion that these systems are genuinely intelligent. A Google researcher famously was convinced that they were conscious and became a whistleblower in 2022. The perception that LLMs such as GPT4 are intelligent or conscious is likely to turn out to be illusory, especially the latter, if you look into the structure and dynamics behind these systems. Otherwise, how are we to justify the fact that we are quite happily treating GPT4 and other LLMs as tools, disregarding their quality of experience in their stream of consciousness?

Let's put aside the problem of consciousness for the time being. When you come to think about it, intelligence is ultimately merely an illusion, and cannot be verified by a series of objective testing. This would be true about humans as well as artificial agents. When we believe an agent to be intelligent, we do not have a definite measure as in the case of the mass or electrical charge of particles. We only have an impression that the agent in question is intelligent, rather like the hallucinations LLMs famously exhibit from time to time.

The tentative conclusion therefore would be that it is all make-believe when it comes to the assessment of intelligence, concerning humans or otherwise. It is no wonder that the Turing test is no longer regarded as a valid verification of intelligence, since it was based on illusions from the beginning. The truly interesting challenge to decipher intelligence beyond the realm of illusion starts from here.

Related youtube video.

Ken Mogi's Street Brain Radio episode 29.

Perceived ability of Large Language Models and illusions of free will and intelligence. 

Monday, March 27, 2023

Reasons behind excellent performance of Large Language Models.

The superb functionalities of Large Language Models (LLMs) such as ChatGPT, GPT4, Bard, etc. would a puzzler even for people who have been optimistic about the potentials of artificial intelligence.  

The fact that at this stage artificial intelligence systems have achieved this level of perceived success would tell a lot about natural language as well as AI.

The way natural language is organized, no matter what word orders we generate or receive, they would be accepted as good as long as certain grammatical rules and contextual constraints are satisfied. Within that particular domain, anything goes.

So this is presumably how it works. Once the LLMs have studied the statistical patterns on the available texts on the web (which have been generated by humans), they would be able to produce endless examples of word sequences satisfying the contextual constraints specified by the prompt, while doing OK grammatically. 

The fact that AI systems with the present level of sophistication can generate texts perceived to be proper and good is thus a glimpse into the nature of natural language itself. While the achievement is certainly remarkable, it remains to be seen whether that would be considered as a hallmark of artificial general intelligence given the incredible flexibility of the natural language system within a contextual constraint, which has been studied and exploited by the LLMs.

In addition, the emergence of complexity exhibited in the word sequences produced by LLMs would qualify as trajectories in life histories. In life, we make choices and take actions, satisfying certain constraints while remaining interestingly unpredictable. If the choices and actions become too predictable, they would be taken advantage of by other players in the great game of life.

From this point of view, the outputs of LLMs could be taken as exhibitions of life histories by artificial intelligence systems in terms of the word orders generated.

(A short summary of the arguments in Ken Mogi's Street Brain Radio episode 28: The reasons behind the excellence of Large Language Models) 

Sunday, March 26, 2023

On the silence of NHK in the wake of the BBC documentary on Johnny Kitagawa: It's yodomi, not nagomi.

The silence of NHK in the wake of the BBC documentary on Johnny Kitagawa, founder of the largest boy bands talent agency in Japan, was the greatest disappointment in the public broadcaster so far in my life.

I do not want to recount the why's and how's about scandal here, as they are too cumbersome and miserable. I also do not want to describe how the practice of nepotism is letting down Japanese entertainment industry as a whole. 

I just want to clarify one thing. As the author of The Way of Nagomi, I would like to declare that the silence of NHK, in this unjustifiable consideration for the unfair practices of Johnny and Associates, is not nagomi at all. 

There is quite a different Japanese word for this lack of professional journalism. Yodomi. NHK's attitude in this matter is yodomi, not nagomi. 

FYI, yodomi refers to stagnation, lack of life, blandness, dirt, bad smell, as you would find in a gutter full of garbage. Nagomi is more pro-life, based on good will, with an emphasis on humane values. It would have been nagomi for NHK to report on the scandal fairly and rigorously, while casting the talents from Johnny and Associates in appropriate manners. 

The way of Nagomi is much deeper than the shallow, cowardly, and clumsy yodomi exhibited by NHK on this matter. Shameful.

As regards the scandal about Johnny Kitagawa, people involved in the silence of the NHK are all in the gutter. But I do hope that some of them are looking at the stars.

Sunday, January 01, 2023

Remembering Horace Barlow.

In December 2022, I attended the conference in the University of Cambridge Physiological Laboratory honoring the late Horace Barlow. There was a memorial service at the Trinity College Chapel, and a dinner in Trinity.

I cannot describe in words what I learned from Horace, during the time I stayed in Cambridge from 1995 to 1997, and on many occasions when I visited him.

We are all mortal beings, and our time on this earth is limited. However, we are all touched by universal things, truth, beauty, and goodness. Horace was a person of truth, beauty, and goodness. I miss him dearly. His memory would live on in me as long as I stay and breathe in this strange world.

Thursday, December 29, 2022

Witnessing Kengo Kuma go walkabout in the wild.

I went to the island of Yakushima for a few days. Yakushima, in southern Japan, is rich in pristine nature, and is a UNESCO World Heritage registered site. I went there in my capacity as the headmaster of Yakushima Ozora High School, a correspondence-based institution with the main campus on this island, providing a much valued learning experience for students from all over Japan. 

This time, there was something special. The world-renowned architect Kengo Kuma came to see the campus and its surroundings. I came to know Mr. Kuma as a guest of the Professionals program at NHK, where I was the co-host of the show. At that time, I learned that Mr. Kuma would go walkabout, when he visits a site of interest. So when Mr. Kuma started to walk on the school premises, it was as if a confirmation of a long-held view on the habits of the master designer of buildings came to be confirmed.

What Mr. Kuma was capable of, however, was something beyond my imagination. The land in which the Yakushima Ozora High School is situated is rich in vegetation, with threes, shrubs, and weeds rampant, except for, of course, the well-maintained areas in the vicinity of the buildings. Mr. Kuma was like a fireball of curiosity. Wherever he wanted to go, he would go. He was heading the whole group, venturing into the most wild parts of the premises without aid, glancing in this direction and then in another, inspecting how the landscape and the views around would change, with the avid observation of a five-year-old and the mature wisdom of an experienced architect. It was an inspiration and privilege to witness.

Mr. Kuma's family name, "kuma", has the same sound in Japanese as the animal "bear". On that day, Mr. Kuma went walkabout like a wild bear in Yakushima, and it was fascinating to witness the workings of a great mind.

Mr. Kuma and myself in front of a giant watermill in the Senvus Village, an ecological education site attached to the high school.

Mr. Kuma, myself, and the high school staff.

Sunday, December 25, 2022

I wish everyday of the year would be Christmas, a season of goodwill.

This is Christmas day. It is big in Japan, a country where a mere 1 percent of the population are self-proclaimed Christians.

The Japanese are incredibly flexible when it comes to the secular adaptations of religious cultures. It is customary to pay a visit to a Shinto shrine on the New Year's Day, to be wed in the Christian fashion, and do funerals in the Buddhist way. Halloween is increasingly popular in recent years, especially in and around the world-famous Shibuya Crossing in Tokyo. Such a frivolous attitude might surprise people from other parts of the world, but for a typical Japanese, it is something very natural. It is so nagomi.

From my early childhood, I have been accustomed to the idea that on the Christmas day you would get a present from Santa Claus, only to learn as you matured that it was actually from the mama or papa or combination of both. When you are a teenager you are constantly bombarded with the ads that suggest that lovers should spend a romantic few hours on the Christmas Eve. I would say that every boy and girl in Japan has been exposed to this idea at some time in life.

So when I went to the U.K. to do postdoc at the University of Cambridge, it was refreshing to know how Christmas was celebrated there. It seemed to be more of a family-oriented affair, not so commercialized, and certainly not about lovers. I was once invited over to the house of late Professor Horace Barlow for Christmas dinner. It was fascinating to wear the paper crown hats popping out of the Christmas cracker. Horace was wearing the hat, just like a five year old, beaming with a happy smile. He must have been over 70 years old then. I was impressed by the general idea that Christmas was a season of goodwill, where people would be kind to each other, giving money to the charity, celebrating humanity in general. Perhaps this aspect of Christmas is still to be imported in any substance to the land of the rising sun.

So I wish everyday of the year would be Christmas, a season of goodwill. I don't want any presents, or romantic hours for that matter. I just wish that people would be civil to each other, all year round, never thinking of waging wars or being involved in cunning plans to take advantage of people. Maybe this is too naive, but it is part of the magic of Christmas, to be naive.

Related video.

Sunday, December 04, 2022

Are children an endangered species in Japan?

Japan is a country with a rich cultural tradition focused on childhood. You actually need to look no further than the obvious and ubiquitous anime and manga, but there are many hidden treasures in addition. The Hayao Miyazaki films, My Neighbour Totoro in particular (at least in my opinion), is a great tribute to the magic of childhood. The Japanese are in general very well at keeping the inner child alive, and then at being kind to the actual children.

So it came as a great surprise that there was a high profile case in the city of Nagano, where a playground was reported to be closed due to the complaints of a few residents nearby. Allegedly, the kids were making too much noise.

Well, it does not require much common sense to realize that the name of the game for children is to make some noise. Actually, a lot of noise. They need to play together, to the accompaniment of cries and calls, in order to develop their cognitive skills. When I wrote about this incomprehensible incident on my Japanese twitter account @kenichiromogi, a majority (say, 95%) of people responded with indignation and calls for a better environment for children in Japan, a nation where the combination of aging population and fewer childbirths is perceived to be a serious social issue. Only a minority of people seemed to sympathize with the complaining residents, with less persuasive powers obviously.

So, it appears that the spirit of My Neighbour Totoro, where the magic of the childhood is appreciated and protected, is very much alive, despite the presence of a few impatient people. These complainers would have been children once. It is sad when someone conveniently forgets his or her own past and live in the echo chamber of the present. It would be quite a wrong case of being in the here and now.

Are children an endangered species in Japan?

If the number of people who become oblivious to the magic of childhood increases, the answer to this question might turn out to be an "yes." I do hope that would not come to pass. 

Wednesday, November 30, 2022

I AM A CAT was a solace for Soseki.

 When Soseki Natsume wrote the first chapter of his debut novel I AM A CAT, he probably did not expect to become a professional novelist.

He was busy teaching at a university and a high school, and the whimsical novella was never intended to be anything more than a temporary sway from his daily routine. 

It proved to be hugely popular, and the general public demanded for more. Soseki wrote the sequel to the novella, completing the voluminous I AM A CAT, and went on to write quite a few masterpieces, and became arguably the most important writer of fiction in Japanese history since Lady Murasaki of the Tale of Genji.

It is quite interesting to observe that the writing of I AM A CAT provided a much needed release of emotion, stress, and joy for the young scholar. It was literally a solace for his soul. It is often the case that something written for the welfare of the writer or those around him goes on to become something of a universal value. A similar example might be Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, written to amuse a little girl that the mathematician knew personally.

Saturday, November 26, 2022

I do not make an external to-do list.

I haven't been able to write anything in this space for a week now, due to a hectic schedule involving lectures and travel.

Meanwhile, I was feeling that there was always something in my mind, mostly unconscious, suggesting and urging to write an entry in the qualia journal. This is a phenomenon probably familiar to you all, and I find it quite interesting in terms of brain functions involved.

When you haven't met someone for sometime, there would often a "reminder" in your head, alerting and nudging you to make a contact to that person in question. When there is an overdue homework, you would be often unconsciously reminded of it. Sometimes, things would emerge out of the blue, presenting a case that it needs to be done immediately. It would be interesting to speculate how this is done in the brain circuits, possibly involving the lateral prefrontal cortex

 (LPFC), but it is also quite fascinating to acknowledge that such a cognitive process exists at all. 

I do not make an external to-do list. I have a habit of holding a mental image of what needs to be done in the short, medium, and long terms, and try to do something from that list whenever there are a few spare minutes, hopefully reducing the stack. 

Now that I have written something brief here (this entry), there are other items I need to attend to, and I would try to do so at my next available leisure.

Saturday, November 19, 2022

An oil painting of Albert Einstein reaching for a blue earth in the darkness of the universe, sprinkled with pink hearts

This is an artwork that I presented at the Peace Exhibition held in Spiral, Omotesando, Japan, from18th November to 20th November. 

It was actually open-AI's DALL-E which created the image, based on my prompt text:

 “An oil painting of Albert Einstein reaching for a blue earth in the darkness of the universe, sprinkled with pink hearts”

It is interesting to play with these AI systems. In a sense, you are fine-tuning the response of the AI with increasingly detailed and sophisticated text. In order to generate this particular image, I experimented with several tens of prompts, 52 to be precise. 

If you make your own drawing or painting, the narrowing down in the phase space is straightforward, because you are using your own hands. With an AI such as DALL-E, it becomes more of an educated guess work. While your own manual maneuver is sharply directed, negotiations with AIs are more random and full of surprises, whether serendipitous or nasty, and that, I suspect, would be a common defining feature of our lives in the near future with artificial intelligence systems.

Friday, November 18, 2022

A sense of inadequacy in Soseki's works.

I was reading Soseki Natsume again. A few days ago I finished Kojin, and was moved by the impression of the brother, who was intelligent but did not know what to do with the world in general, let alone his wife.

A sense of inadequacy is always a central theme of Soseki. After Kojin, I moved on to Kokoro, another study of the feeling of "not good enough". The protagonist of Kokoro, a young student, is nevertheless attracted to Sensei, who does not seem to be forthcoming in giving advise and mentorship.

In the latter half of Kokoro we learn the tragic event behind the hesitation of Sensei. However, I do feel that the unfortunate events that led to the reclusion of Sensei was only a visualization of much more universal and profound human condition.

In the world today, we see too many people who appear to be confident, eager to give advises to people, whether well-intended or otherwise. Soseki's Kojin and Kokoro are such fresh breaths of air because we all know that superficial people can only help us in superficial ways.

Thursday, November 17, 2022

A stone-age anachronism

The alleged falling of Russian missile in Poland is a case of ambiguities.

Whether the missile was Ukrainian or Russian in origin, the larger picture is that it is ultimately the war that is responsible. 

The world is a complex system, and events and intentions are often mixed and dispersed be. Fact-checking is useful, but we should ultimately be focused on the larger picture, in order to see things clearly onto the future.

The gist of the matter, it seems to me, is that the concept of nation states with clear national borders and the claim by the supposed "leaders" of countries to defend the territory no matter what human costs might be is now a stone-age anachronism and has no place in the world today. 

The ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine is a shameful demonstration of the cognitive vulnerabilities of supposedly cunningly wise leaders, and should be stopped immediately, in order not to allow the merchants of death take advantage of the ambiguities that exist and would surely keep emerging like bamboo shoots after rain.