Intelligence — What I Think About A.I.


The dawn of artificial intelligence has led to much consternation about whether this is a good or bad development.  But, in order to better understand the technology and the implications, we must first define what we mean by intelligence.  What does it mean to be intelligent?  What makes us intelligent beings?

The definition of intelligence, provided by Google, is “the ability to acquire and apply knowledge and skills.”  But this seems to be a little vague and inadequate.  Robots, used in manufacturing, already apply knowledge and skills—things programmed into them by human operators.  And “ability to acquire” isn’t too clear either.  So we need to break this down further.

Intelligence is the ability to usefully process information.  

It has components.  

First there is the ability to interface within a broader space or an external environment.  If there is no information to input them there is nothing to intelligently process.  Our senses are what connects us to the physical world and part of how we navigate through life.  An internal model of the outside domain starts with information gathering or interface.

Second, intelligence requires memory, the capacity to remember past success and failures.  Much of what counts as human intelligence is a bunch of procedures and formulas we obtained from others through language.  This rote learning isn’t actually intelligence, memory or knowledge alone aren’t intelligence, but it is definitely part of the foundation.  Memory is one component of IQ we can exercise and expand.

Third, intelligence is an ability to recognize patterns, to accurately extrapolate beyond the data and draw the correct conclusions.  The reality is that our ‘intelligence’ is mostly a process of trial and error, often spanning generations, which leads to advancement in technology and thought.  All one needs to do is observe how major inventions came to be and the many flops along the way to realize we’re more like blind rats running through a maze, using impact with walls until we find an opening to pass through.

Forth, intelligence is an ability create good models to recombine existing ideas.  Nikola Tesla was a genius and not only because of his knowledge.  No, he could use what he knew to construct an apparatus in his brain, which he could then build in the real world.  What set Tesla apart is that his imagination wasn’t fanciful.  Indeed, anyone can proclaim that “there should be,” but it takes something else entirely to accurately extrapolate.

Finally, intelligence has an aim.  Truly a pile of knowledge is worth much less than a pile of manure if it can’t be usefully applied.  And if something is useful, that is to say that there is an underlying meaning or purpose.  To be intelligent there must be some agency or will to drive it.  Curiosity is one of the things that sets us apart, it moves us forward—questions like “what is beyond that mountain” or “how high does the sky go,” push innovation.

Intelligence is knowledge and abilities that are useful to something.  Useful to us.  And really becomes a question of what our own consciousness.

Intelligence Failure

“Primitive life is relatively common, but that intelligent life is very rare. Some say it has yet to appear on planet Earth.”

Steven Hawking

Another way to define what intelligence is is to explore what it is not.  Encyclopedias hold knowledge, stored in human language, but a book on a shelf has no logos.  It is the writer and reader that provide reason to the words, via their own interpretation or intended use, which is something that can’t be contained in ink on the page.  There are many people who are full of knowledge, but it is largely trivial because they lack ability to put it to good use.

Another problem is perception.  Even our physical eyes provide a very selective and distorted view of the world.  We do not see everything and, in fact, can literally miss the gorilla in the room if our focus is occupied elsewhere.  Many can’t comprehend their own limitations, they are guided through the evidence by confirmation bias and not with good analysis.  We really can connect the dots any which way, see patterns in what is random truly noise, and errant perception is difficult to correct once entrenched.

Intelligence must be about knowledge and theories that can be usefully applied.  The intuitions we have that help us to navigate the mundane tasks do not necessarily help us to draw correct conclusions so far as the more abstract areas.  People can persist in being wrong in matters that can’t be readily tested and falsified.  Any processor is only as good as the data that is entered and the depth of the interpretative matrix through which it is sifted and measured.  Even the slight error in one of the pillars of a thought, no matter how good the rest of the material is, can lead to an entirely failed structure.

Thoughts are structures only as good as their base assumptions.

Being slow is also a synonym for a lack of intelligence.  That is to say, in order to be useful, information must be processed in a timely manner.  Missing context and cues also leads to poor understanding, like Drax protesting the metaphor “goes over his head” with, “Nothing goes over my head. My reflexes are too fast. I would catch it.”  It does not matter how much information you process if the conclusions are inaccurate or too late for the circumstances.  Wittiness and a good sense of humor is a sign that a person is intelligent.

Intelligence is a continuum.  We can have more or less of it.  But measures like IQ don’t really mean that much, a person with a high IQ isn’t necessarily smart or wise.  A Mensa membership doesn’t mean you’ll make good decisions or be free of crackpot ideas.  Sure, it will probably help a person navigate academia and be more verbose in arguments, but it is not going to free someone of bias nor does it mean they’re rational.  This is why true intelligence needs to be about useful application.

Deus Ex Machina

Deus ex machina, literally “god from the machine,” refers to a plot element where something arrives that solves a problem and allows the story to proceed.  

Ex Machina is also the title of a great movie which explores questions about artificial intelligence, with an android named Ava, her creator Nathan and a software engineer named Caleb.  Caleb who was selected by Nathan is there to perform a Turing test and is eventually manipulated by Ava who uses his feelings for her as a means to escape.  It is a sobering story about human vulnerability and the limits of our intelligence—Caleb’s human compassion (along with his sexual preferences) is exploited.


However, this kind of artificial intelligence does not exist.  Yes, various chat bots are able to mimic human conversation.  But this is not Ava talking to Caleb.  There is not real self-awareness or observer behind the lines of code.  It is, rather, a program that follows rules.  Sure, it may be sophisticated enough to fool many people.  But it is not sentient or being having agency, it is augmented human intelligence.  They have essentially created a mannequin, not a man.  Despite these bots being able to manufacture statements which sound like intelligence, they lack capacity for consciousness.

A true Ava would require more than mere ability to interact convincingly with humans, it would take the “ghost inside the machine,” that is to say duplicates our own singular experience of the present moment or has a mind’s I.  This level of artificial intelligence doesn’t seem possible until we crack the code of our own self-awareness and that is a mystery yet to be solved.  Even if you do not believe in things like immaterial spirit or detached soul, there is likely some special quality to the structure of our brains which creates this synthesis.

Without some kind of quantum leap, this A.I. technology will be an amplifier of the values of the creators, an intelligence built in their image and to serve them.  It will not uncover objective truth or be a perfect moral arbiter.  Nor will it be our undoing as a species.  It will be a reflection of us and our own aims.  It has no reason for it’s being apart from us.  No consciousness, survival instinct or true being besides that of those utilizing it to extend their own.


The Difference Between A Car Enthusiast And An EV Fanboy…


Ferrari has decided to stick with internal combustion engines rather than join the crowd.  The famed Italian supercar manufacturer is known for its shrieking V8 and V10 engines.  And, despite government pressure, will not force electric drivetrains onto their customers.  The sound is, after all, a big part of what makes them a Ferrari.

Under the article, there was a comment “a Ferrari that doesn’t win races isn’t a Ferrari” and went on to suggest that the tune would change “when their $600,000 works of art start getting blown away by an electric minivan full of kids, driven by a soccer mom sipping a latte and talking to her mom about her test results, and towing two jet skis.”

If owning a Ferrari was about winning illegal drag races, redlight to redlight, this is a valid point.  Obviously, being formidably fast is part of the supercar equation and electric does have a significant torque advantage right off the line.  Nobody who spent half a million on a vehicle wants to be dusted by a minivan full of kids.

The van was faster and legend is, in the book of Things That Never Happened, the guy with the McLaren traded it for the modded Honda.

However, the problem with this argument is that there are already muscle cars that will beat a Ferrari in a straight-line race.  And many mundane cars can be modified or tuned to at least give a supercar a run for their money.  But that’s not the point.  Nobody is going to trade their F50 for a Civic with a big turbocharger.  Why is that?

First of all, what it takes to win a drag race is completely different from being competitive in the 24 hours of LeMans.  

Currently, there is no EV in the world that has the kind of endurance to go full bore (or coil) for as long as a real track car.  The Tesla P100DL can only last a lap and a half before it must be pitted due to the batteries overheating.  But the main problem is simply that batteries do not store enough energy and take far too long to recharge to be viable in competition.

The huge advantage of petroleum is energy density.  This means both extended range and also lightweight.  This translates to better driving dynamics, and less demand (or wear) on brakes and tires, which is key to winning races.

And there is no magic wand that will solve these massive drawbacks of EVs either.  It’s just how the chemistry and physics work out.

Secondly, most people who drive a Ferrari aren’t racing them nor do they need to own the fastest car on the road.  They own the car for the same reason that a person buys a painting rather than a photograph.  Sure, the image a cell phone can produce is much more realistic than the artwork, but arguing that this makes a van Gogh worthless is silliness.  

Or, more to the point, a true aviation enthusiast isn’t going to turn down a ride in a P-51 Mustang arguing that commercial airliners are fast or that the jet engine made that V12 Merlin obsolete.  Sure, the car may have replaced the horse, but that doesn’t mean that everyone who enjoys these beautiful animals is Amish or a Luddite.  No, rather they enjoy the experience of riding a horse, being near something with a personality, breathing and majestic.

A pure driving experience is not about only the performance stats on paper.  No, it is about way more than that.  It is about how it feels.

There’s a reason why Mazda Miatas are a favorite and it had nothing to do with being able to blow the doors off all comers.  It was about those intangibles.  A combination of size and handling makes a driver’s car.

My Shelby GT-350 isn’t the fastest Mustang on the road.  The manual transmission makes it slower than it could be with the latest automatics.  But there is just something glorious about the whole experience that was not matched during my test drive of a similarly powered Mustang Mach-E. 

Sure, EV fanboys may only care about the 0-60 numbers.  But, if that’s all it is about, then why not buy the theoretical future EV minivan that accelerates like a top fuel dragster while pulling jet skis?  It’s much more practical than a Ferrari.  Why pay a premium for a less capable vehicle?

A car enthusiast knows the answer. They know why the old guy in the neighborhood putters around in their Model T Ford and they also understand why someone restores a vintage Porsche that’s not even a match for a family sedan. 

There’s no way to rank fine art.  It is all subjective, finesse and balance, what does it for you, those who want to turn everything into some kind of adolescent tool measuring contest don’t get it—they never will.

The Russo-Ukraine War—A Timeline


As with most reporting of current events, the presentation of the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine is distorted.  Both sides are engaged in their own propaganda.  It is said that truth is the first casualty of war and in the case of this one the falsehoods span many decades.  The first thing to do, to get beyond this, is explore the history leading to to the present…

862 —1242 

East Slavic tribes, in the area of modern day Ukraine, Belarus and Russia unite to become the Kievan Rus’ people.

980 — 1015

Vladimir the Great brought Christianity to the Kievan Rus’ people.  Often referred to, in the West, as the Eastern Orthodox, this tradition (practiced from Egypt all the way to Greece) broke from the Roman Catholics in 1054.

1237 — 1480

The Mongols invade and, laying siege to Kiev in 1240, come out victorious.  This begins a period of Mongol rule.

1547 — 1721.

Mongol rule fades.  The Muscovy dynasty rises.  This Tsarist Russia, with periods of chaos and conflict, including what is referred to as a Time of Troubles from 1598 to 1613, ends with the rise of Peter the Great and brings us to the modern age.

1721 to 1917

The Russian Empire expands from historical Kievan Rus’ territory and, stretching around 8,800,000 square miles, becomes the third largest empire in history behind the British and Mongol empires.

An empire spans West to East

March 22, 1917

Tsar Nicholas II and his family are murdered by Bolshevik revolutionaries.  Their dynastic rule over the people of Ukraine, Moscow and the entire Russian Empire, which had been weakened by their involvement in WW1, was replaced by a Communist state.  The USSR (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, aka Soviet Union) was very antagonistic towards Christians.

Orthodox Cathedral demolished by Soviets


Joseph Stalin, an ethnic Georgian, becomes the General Secretary and begins his rule over the Soviet Union.  His reign is marked by the Great Purge, from 1936 to 1938, when from 700,000 to 1.2 million people are killed, the number including many Orthodox priests, political dissidents are rounded to be sent to Gulags.


The Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists (OUN) is formed in Vienna.  This group was known for assassinations of Poles, Russians and Jews.  It was later supported by the CIA as part of an effort to undermine the Soviet Union and led to a bloody insurrection.


Of Stalin’s atrocities, the Ukrainian famine or Holodonor, when 3.9 million were starved to death, stands out.  This suffering directly the result of a collectivist plot against successful private farmers.  This murderous Soviet campaign was covered-up with the help of the New York Times and Walter Duranty, a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, who wrote glowing reports about Stalinism.

June 23, 1941

Stepan Bandera, the leader of the far-right Ukrainian nationalism, reaches out to Nazi invaders offering his support in exchange for an independent Ukrainian state.  Bandera is responsible for the brutal massacre of ethnic Poles, from 1943 to 1945, and is celebrated today as the father of Ukraine.  Ukrainian paratroopers (and nationalist priests) today chant “Our father is Bandera, Ukraine is our mother!”

Poles murdered by Ukrainian nationalists


Vladimir Spiridonovich Putin and Maria Ivanovna Shelomova struggle to survive the brutal German siege of Leningrad (now the city of St Petersburg) and are nearly killed.  Vladimir, who lost a couple brothers in the battles, was wounded by a grenade in the fighting and crippled for life.  The pair would meet after the war, get married and have a son named Vladimir Putin in 1952.

April 4, 1949

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization (or NATO) is formed in Washington DC as an alliance to oppose the Soviet Union.  The Warsaw Pact was created in May of 1955 as a response.

February 19, 1954

Crimea, that was part of Russia since being annexed from the Ottomans back in 1783, is gifted to Ukraine by the Soviets as a gesture of friendship.  This ethnically Tatar and Russian speaking region is the site of a key warm water Russian naval base.

Oct 16, 1962—Oct 29, 1962

The Soviet Union responded to the United States putting nuclear missiles Italy and Turkey by sending their own missiles to Cuba.  The Kennedy administration, after the failed Bay of Pigs invasion, authorized a CIA campaign of terrorism and sabotage within Cuba, answers with a naval blockade.  The Cuban Missile Crisis ended when Moscow backed down after a secret deal where the offending US missiles were removed in Europe.

Nikita Khrushchev, Fidel Castro, and JFK


A pro-Soviet government government takes power in Kabul in 1978 and tries to counter Islamic traditionalism with steps towards modernization.  They invite Soviet military advisors and this leads to troops being deployed to help the Afghans suppress the insurgency.  The CIA supplied the Afghan rebels and foreign fighters (including a Saudi named Osama Bin Laden) the Mujahideen, with weapons.  The Soviets withdrew after a humiliating costly affair.

December 26, 1991

The Soviet Union collapsed, Warsaw Pact dissolved, and Soviet republics (including Ukraine) given their independence.  NATO begins an eastward expansion, absorbing former Soviet republics.  Russia falls into disarray as oligarchs partner with West to exploit the vast resources of that country and Ukrainian also becomes known for extreme corruption.

March 24, 1999—June 10, 1999

NATO intervenes on behalf of Kosovo rebels, who had been resisting Serbian authorities, and then demands that the country be partitioned along ethnic lines.

December 31, 1999

Vladimir Putin became the acting President of the Russian Federation when Boris Yeltsin unexpectedly resigns.  From 2000 to 2004, after winning a special election, he begins to reform the country and reign in the oligarchs forcing them to answer to his government in order to keep their power.  Putin opposes the expansion of NATO to his border, regarding it as a threat to Russian sovereignty, and makes this red line clear.

Vladimir Putin, a former KGB officer.

Nov 21, 2013—Feb 22, 2014

The democratically elected President of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych, decided to keep closer ties with Moscow over the European Union.  This leads to protests in Maidan Nezalezhnosti (Independence Square) in Kiev.  The protestors occupied the square, they had their own food production, medical and broadcasting facilities, along with that stages for speeches and performances, as well as their own security forces.  This boiled over when snipers, still unidentified, fired on the crowd.  Both police and protesters were killed in this attack.  Prior to this escalation high ranking US officials, then Secretary of State Victoria Nuland and the Ambassador to Geoffrey Pyatt, picked the replacement of Yanukovych who is later overthrown in the Maidan coup.

May 12, 2014

Hunter Biden, son of the then US Vice-President, Joe Biden, is given a seat on the board of Burisma Holdings, as a “legal advisor” and is paid over a million for this service.  He gave Burisma executives access to his politically powerful father and later the elder Biden would brag, live on television, about a quid pro quo that got a Ukrainian prosecutor fired who had been investigating Burisma corruption.

Like father, like son

Feb 20, 2014 – Mar 21, 2014

The Russians, believing their naval base in Crimea would be threatened by the new pro-West government, moved quickly to secure it from the Kievian nationalists.  They already had a significant military presence there, it is a Russian speaking area, and the Crimean status referendum, held on March 16, 2014, had 87% turnout and was 97% in favor of reunification with Russia.  

April 6, 2014–February 24, 2022

The Russian-speaking Donbass region also wanted more autonomy, they opposed Kiev’s efforts at “Ukrainianization,” which sought to erase their Russian heritage, and eventually declared their independence.  These break-aways were invaded by the Kievan regime, starting a war that killed over 14,000 and lasted nearly eight years before the current Russian intervention.

Donbass, when nobody outside Ukraine cared about the war.

May 2, 2014

Protests around the country became violent again when the right-wing nationalists, who favored the new post-coup government that had been installed in Kiev, forced opposition demonstrators into a building that was set a blaze.  This incident, the Odessa Massacre, burned alive 48 people, some of those who did manage to escape were beaten by the mob.  Like the shootings used to justify the Maiden insurrection, nobody was arrested or charged for this mass murder.

April 21, 2019

Volodymyr Zelenskyy, a comedian, groomed by an oligarch, wins the second round of voting in a landslide victory and becomes the President of Ukraine.  He promised to bring peace and end corruption.  There was not much success on either front.  Human rights abuses have only increased during his presidency and especially after the start of the Russo-Ukraine War.

Zelenskyy, the other Vlad.

February 24, 2022

After massing their troops on the Ukrainian border, Russia demands that the shelling of Donbass cease.  When the attacks continue, the “special military operation” begins, which is condemned in the West as an “unprovoked invasion,” and is now effectively a proxy war between NATO and Russia.  The bloodshed continues to the time of this writing.

Vladimir versus Volodymyr

While many commentators, on both sides, want to present this as a battle of good and evil, it is really a fight between spiritual (even actual) cousins.  Those who say that Russia is the aggressor neglect that the war began years ago with the Ukrainian nationalists and their campaign against separatists, that this came about as a result of a coup apparently orchestrated by or at least with the direct aid of the US State Department.  If Ukraine can be independent of Russia, or Kosovo from Serbia, why not Donbass?  And who says that the Soviets handing over Crimea, in the 1950s, is more valid than the referendum that brought it back?

The US “rules-based international order” only makes sense for those who share the bias of those spoon-fed by US media.  The legacy of CIA support for terrorism abroad and violent overthrow democratic makes anything done by Russia seem like child’s play.  The US acts with impunity around the world—provoking sanctioning, and invading with destructive campaigns of “shock and awe” anyone who dares to oppose its imperial aims.  The US really had no business playing king maker in the backyard of Russia.  The US enforces the Monroe Doctrine in the Western Hemisphere, why would Russia (or China) be happy with our military expansion in their own areas of national interest?

Us-rules based order

Sure, Russia isn’t faultless, by any means, and Putin is no St. Vladimir either.  But, that said, nor is Zelenskyy or the Kievan (Kyivan) nationalist regime he represents.  Truthfully, the most significant difference between the two sides of the war may actually be their Slavic language dialects.  Which is to say it isn’t much.  Both sides commit war crimes, both lie about the other side, both also share the same religious and ethnic heritage.  They are natural allies, given their shared Kievan Rus’ history, which is probably why Western powers want to instigate and encourage the division.  It is a family feud, a fratricidal war, and benefits only the US military-industrial complex.