Thursday, March 17, 2011

Proof of a new method of search engine optimization

Here it is: Write the word "proof" in the title of your blog post.

In September, last year, I wrote a post called, "Proof that 2012 will happen!" I wasn't trying to be sensationalist, just silly. The joke ended up being that of course 2012 will happen. Whether or not the end of the world will happen during 2012 is a different story.

Well, you can see that, on my "top posts" widget to the right, that post is ranking at number 1. But that ranking doesn't tell the whole story. Not at all.

If you give the number of visits that the #5 item in that list (Gerson Therapy) has gotten in the last month a value of 1, as a baseline, the bottom three items all have a value of about 1. They've gotten about the same number of visits as each other. Then, the #2 item (Proof of Time Travel) has a value of about 2. It has about double the visits of any of the lower three items.

The number 1 item, though, Proof that 2012 will happen!, has a value of 12. That means it has approximately twelve times the visits of any of the bottom three, and it even has six times as many visits as the second one. It's a wide gap.

Note: PornOH, I now know, is a
pornography website. In a search
for that keyword, a link to my blog
is on the second page.
I noticed this trend in early February, and it bothers me a bit, because I realized that the people who are actually looking for proof of the end-of-the-world scenario are not going to find it at my blog. The bad part is, I didn't even present evidence against it in that post. Just a perspective of what I think of it. So, those people are getting no value out of that search.

This didn't stop my from my next experiment, though, which you can see above. I wrote a post about a time-travel related video I'd seen, and stuck the word Proof in there, not so innocently this time. Very very quickly, Proof of time travel! -or- Giving your hoax a makeover, climbed up the charts, and now, as I said, has double the hits of the three lower results. Neither of these posts are particularly interesting, in the scheme of things, but that silly word, proof, makes them popular.

The Google searches for proof do have a skeptical basis, though. It's a plea to cut through the BS, get away from all of the conjecture, and just please prove it to me. Unfortunately, there is no proof to be found online. You can find videos that can be faked, stories that can be made up, peer-reviewed scientific papers that are, nevertheless, ever-debated. You can find theories and hypotheses and absurd certainties. But no proof.


The Singularity -or- Why I'm not afraid of the coming robot holocaust

A little creepy
Artificial intelligence! It's an exciting subject for me, being that I like to write a bit of quirky sci-fi on the side. More than artificial intelligence, I want to talk about our (some say inevitable) future robot holocaust. With how we rest on technology, if the technology became sentient, isn't it reasonable to think that it would take the very short step from surrounding us to ruling us, destroying us, or turning us into human batteries?

In my mind, the fear of doomsday-through-artificial-intelligence is fed through a misconception about the nature of intelligence. Human beings are different than the rest of the animals on the planet in two major ways. Firstly, we are, in some very special ways, the most intelligent animals around. Secondly, we rule the world. We lord over this place like a king ape, with our big scepter and crown, making the plants and animals bend to our needs. So, it's only natural that we would get nervous when something that's potentially more intelligent than us comes onto the scene. It's not hard to imagine that, if we start creating slaves that are stronger and smarter than us, we could end up being the next endangered species.

But keep in mind that intelligence is not the same as a wish to rule the world, or even a wish to be free from bondage.

Let's think about Data, the humanoid robot from Star Trek. Data was intelligent, but without emotions. At least, he was supposed to be. Watching that show as an adult, though (Which I did one time. Really.) I realize that Data did have emotions. Because, if someone, or something, is truly without emotion, then they will never move from one spot. If I lost all of my emotion right now, I wouldn't be driven by my desire to spread my ideas, so I would stop typing this blog. I wouldn't have any reason to hold my bladder, because I wouldn't fear the consequences of peeing my pants while sitting here. I wouldn't get up and eat, because I wouldn't feel discomfort at the sensation of hunger, nor displeasure at the feeling of wasting away. Every move we make is, at its root, driven by an emotion. We feel the emotion, and then use our intelligence to decide how to accommodate it. This is always running in the background. If Data didn't have any emotions, he would never have gotten out of the crate he was shipped in.

Google's fancy self-driving car
So, how intelligent could you make a machine before it hit you in the face and took your wallet? We could make it as intelligent as we wanted. In fact, according to Steven Levy, author of a Wired Magazine article that I enjoyed, we've already got artificial intelligence. There are computers that can think faster, and better, in very specialized ways, than humans. Jeopardy champion Watson comes to mind.

Well, where does this put my philosophy on emotion? Why aren't these emotionless machines sitting and rotting, as opposed to vacuuming our floors and driving our future cars? Well, it seems to me that these machines do have emotions. Their emotions are very few, and very simple, but they are there. A Roomba is driven to vaccuum all the time, and it uses its intelligence to figure out how to do it. Watson is driven to answer Jeopardy questions, and it uses its intelligence to figure out how to do it. We are driven to avoid spoiled food, and to have sex with sexy people, and to eat pizza, pizza, pizza all day long, and we use our own intelligence in these pursuits. Simple emotions for simple machines, and uber-complex emotions for uber-complex machines like ourselves.

My point is that, if computers wanted to rule the world, someone would have to program that desire into them. If they wanted to enslave humanity, some geek would have to spend many sleepless nights figuring out the easiest, most bug-proof way to enslave himself and his species-peers. It's not something that would happen automatically. It's far from a foregone conclusion.

Just like the idea of alien life, we humans tend to think of intelligent machines in human terms, as if humanity is something you'll reach if you just keep adding virtual neurons. But we're not the product of virtual neurons. We're the product of millions of years of selective pressure in certain environmental/social conditions. Nobody thinks that a virtual brain will automatically generate the personality of a crow, or a lemur, but there are loads of people assuming that a human's drives will spontaneously arise in a complex-enough computer.


Sunday, March 13, 2011

Japan Earthquake Relief

Doing my small part to help people that need help. All I can hope is that it actually helps.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Gerson Therapy: Where is the research?

(Time to get that horrid optical illusion off of the top of my blog.)

According to Charlotte Gerson, we have a cure for cancer, and we've had it for more than sixty years. And it's not chemotherapy.

The Gerson Therapy, invented by Max Gerson, is, in short, a very extreme, very strict, dietary regimen, that involves a lot (really a lot) of juicing, zero salt, all-organic, a bunch of supplements, nothing processed. And don't forget about the organic coffee enemas. But we're all adults here, so we're not going to overreact about people putting a tube in their asshole to cure cancer, are we? Cancer is a big deal, while a tube in the ass is really not.

But does it work? In the documentaries about it (1, 2) there are nice, convincing stories from real people about how wonderful it is. But any documentary about a thing is going to have nice convincing stories. The documentary about hitting yourself in the face with a hammer has some of the most convincing testimonials I've heard.

In fact, there are two things, regarding Gerson Therapy, that are as easy to find as they are unhelpful.

1). Testimonials from people who say that the therapy has cured a number of different maladies, including cancer. Any or all of these could be people who are paid to make blog comments and reviews and things like that. Think I'm being cynical? I've been to Elance. I've seen the listings.
2). Skeptical people who take a glance at the therapy and decide that it shouldn't work, because of A B and C, and that Max Gerson once maybe cheated on his wife, and there was once some other BS therapy that was debunked, so this is obviously wrong. Basically, the blah, blah, blah of someone who uses big words in their guessing.

What I wanted was studies. The scientific controlled experiments that I can pick apart at my leisure. After all, if you've got lots and lots of stories that this thing is vanishing tumors, I would think that the medical community would be eager to either verify the claims, or to show it as a sham. Whichever one may be true.

But, according to
"There have been no well-controlled studies published in the available medical literature that show the Gerson therapy is effective in treating cancer.

In a recent review of the medical literature, researchers from the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center identified 7 human studies of Gerson therapy that have been published or presented at medical conferences. None of them were randomized controlled studies."

Well, that frankly pisses me right off. I know I'm just being a cranky non-scientist. Someone that doesn't begin to understand the struggle of scientific research, and funding, and so on. But, this is a pretty big deal. Cancer is something that a third of us are looking forward to as we quickly age, and many of us are going to be doing the Gerson therapy, whether the scientific community has researched it or not. Because, reading testimonials, it seems to work, and because we've all heard horror stories about chemotherapy.

Just to make myself clear, I'm not saying that we (we the people) ought to do the Gerson Therapy. I'm saying that it will happen. If it were proven to be more effective than medical treatments, it would be revolutionary. If it were proven to be false, then there would at least be data present to help the cancer victim make their choice.

Would I do it? Well, if I found that I had cancer, and I had more than a year projected to live, I would probably juice some vegetables and periodically stick a tube in my butt for a month, sure. See what happens. Because, in my heart of hearts, as much as cancer might scare me, chemotherapy scares me a little bit more.