Friday, December 6, 2013

Putting together GPU Workstation

I am setting up a gpgpu workstation for prototyping the neural nets. It's an interesting time in history, this will likely be the last digital, von Neumann machine I use for this work. It is a good, fast number cruncher, but it is the wrong type of machine for ANN's. It's a bad fit. 4 little islands of 4/6gb ram spinning wheels hyper-fast. The interconnects slow as mud in comparison. PCI3.0 doesn't come close, honestly PCI4.0 won't make any real difference.
My ideal is one, extremely large, homogenous 'brain'. That gives me much less work to do. Now I will have to come up with algo's to deal with very fast, slow-connect sub-nets. I will be using compression techniques to communicate between the gpu's and find ways to architect around the hardware. The 4/6gb sub-nets will have to adapt with minimal information from the rest of the network. Trying a rasterizing technique won't be efficient since the buses and HD's will be far too slow for the gpu's and their speed will not be utilized.

We are now coming into the era of neuromorphic hardware, Qualcomm is releasing "zeroth" processors, and I imagine in short time other gear in labs will become commercially available.
From now on the bulk of processing will be analog. Quite a change. When I was a kid I loved the 'Science & Invention' encyclopedia set my Dad got. When I was looking at the analog computer entry I thought 'how old fashioned'. Digital was new, modern, space-age and high-techy. Analog was rusty and a kludge. Digital has had the spotlight for decades now. But with the work of Carver Mead and his students (Sarpeshkar, Boahen, etc), analog is not just 'in vogue' but is inevitably the permanent winner for the majority of this type of low power, high throughput processing. To be clear, it's not just analog, but mixed analog/digital (mostly analog).

I'm also going to give litecoin mining a shot. If I can make back some money and pay off all this gear, then great. I could use it. So I bought the gpu's and other stuff early, I was going to bargain shop next year, but the litecoin hype has got me going. It's late getting into the game, we'll see what happens.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

A.I. Design Notes 1

Here is a brief outline of some of my views on AGI design which I'll expand on in time.

Noise is Necessary.
Noise is an essential ingredient for any reasonably intelligent system. This is less controversial to say now than a few years ago given recent findings in several fields. Maybe you can have limited success in limited domains with a non-noisy brain, but that's about it. And the deltas that come from a rich, complex environment can provide a lot for what is needed in an agent brain. But again I suspect that the limitations will show up and become more pronounced as time goes on.
We know for example via implants that there is an immediate loss of fidelity in hearing if the implant is not a noise-sensitive circuit. As an agent becomes more advanced and the brain becomes larger, I believe this is definitely the case.

Open Architecture & Self Organization.
One take on this idea I heard about is Andy Clark's 'Natural Born Cyborgs', and his great line 'Everything Leaks'. I see it as going up the meta-algorithm hierarchy. Arbitrary algorithms & related brain architecture is induced via development. I had my own saying - 'the intelligence is in the data' or 'the intelligence is already out there'. More on this later.

Sameness & Difference
Both are necessary. However, since the environment gives us plenty of free deltas, and noise adds more, the brain can be biased to 'integrating' and 'unifying' functions. This saves on the workload and required resources.
With sensory deprivation we can see a limited balancing response, due to lack of deltas, by the human brain. This also suggests the above open-architecture of the human brain - it is not a wholly-specified 'unifying machine'. The behaviour is induced and there are higher meta-algorithms that determines architecture. 

Given the last 2 points; if your brain design has a diagram with boxes and arrows then in my opinion It's suspect. If an AI designer tries to specify the structure of a brain, they run the risk of all sorts of pathologies. For such a highly adaptive system they may end up being a necessary component of the machine itself - they will constantly have to intervene to reestablish intended structure and functionality. A cog in their own machine. As a human being, the designer (or engineering team) becomes the bottleneck, the weakest link, for such an extremely complex, high throughput machine.
I consider the necessary meta-algorithms to be a function of the agents embodiment, primarily. True, there is a downside: the cost of a less specified and more adaptive brain is the resource consumption required for self-organization.

Aside note: Jordan Pollack a while back (2001) had an article 'software is a cultural solvent' and I like that metaphor. Even more so, continued IT and broad technological advancement can be thought of as a material solvent. Briefly looking at the article again, he seems to allude to that. As above, I see that the brain in it's 'integrating' role can also be seen as a 'solvent'.

More is Better
Peter Norvig has recently pointed out that the performance of several traditional AI algorithms goes up dramatically after a certain threshold of size is reached. Training data set, training time, and machine size are all increased.
This lines up with my own work. Several years ago while I was very eager and active on my project, I got that terrible, sinking feeling as I began to realize what resources would be needed to make something with non-trivial performance. The human brain is massive for a reason. And this is unbound. 

That's it for now.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

National Biodiesel Board re: Selling Biodiesel

Thanks for writing.

As the national trade association for the US biodiesel industry, our expertise is not in the production side of the industry.  Production technology, plant development, business planning, feasibility studies are issues best serviced by the private sector.  NBB works primarily in the areas of biodiesel education and market development, and we strive to break down barriers while creating demand for US biodiesel.  For business consulting advice, technology providers, and other business-to-business services you can find some resources on the All Things Biodiesel (ATB) section of the NBB web site,

The issues associated with producing biodiesel commercially in the US include:

Registration with EPA as a biodiesel fuel producer: In the US, EPA governs fuel and fuel additive registration and anyone selling biodiesel must first be registered with them. The contact is Mr. Jim Caldwell and his number is (202) 343-9303.  See

In most cases, each fuel supplier must first be registered in the state in which the fuel is being sold and suppliers must be properly licensed, bonded, and insured. Contacting your local Department of Revenue is a good starting point.

Incorporated fuel quality assurance procedures to guarantee the fuel meets the current ASTM D6751 specification, available for purchase through ASTM at

Along with the ASTM standard for biodiesel, the industry also has in place a quality assurance program called BQ-9000. The program is a unique combination of the ASTM standard for biodiesel, ASTM D 6751, and a quality systems program that includes storage, sampling, testing, blending, shipping, distribution, and fuel management practices. For more information, see   Fuel quality is of the utmost concern and importance to the biodiesel industry.

Compliance with IRS Federal Fuel Excise Tax Regulations and any applicable state taxes.  Contact the IRS at (800) 829-3676 and your local State Motor Fuels Taxes Division for more information.

Feedstock sourcing/supply. 

Issuance of all applicable state permits for construction of the facility, building, operating, wastewater, spill containment, storm water pollution prevention, air quality permits, storage, state fire marshal, selling of product, etc. The actual number of permits required depend on the size and design of the biodiesel plant and other issues such as local requirements and methods associated with production processes. There may be as many as 20-30 permits involved in getting the plant operational. Given the number of permits, complexity of the forms, requirements that can vary from state to state, and level of technical information required, you might consider working with a consultant familiar with environmental permitting in your state and an area economic development director.

Adherence to local zoning laws with regard to storing hazardous chemicals, air quality emissions, and/or construction of a facility. Contact your local state Department of Environmental Quality.  Also, see for more information about environmental regulations, including glycerin disposal.

IRS and state blender's permitting/registration requirements. We encourage you to contact the excise tax division of your state department of revenue for more specific information on any requirements they may have. All producers and blenders need to register with the IRS under Form 637. Producers of biodiesel, if planned for on-road use, should also contact EPA regarding registration as a refiner, per the ULSD rules.

Understanding and meeting the compliance requirements of the Renewable Fuels Standard Program will be extremely important.  EPA has developed a website specific to the RFS, as well as Q&A documents to assist in meeting compliance requirements.  The following link provides more information

Insurance Issues. Do I warrant my biodiesel to the extent that will pay for any and all damages attributable to bad biodiesel?

For more information, refer to 40 Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) Part 79 regarding requirement of registration. Sections 211(b) and 211 (e) of the Clean Air Act require producers of fuels and fuel additives to be registered with EPA. Those provisions require that in order to register a fuel with EPA, that it must complete Tier I and Tier 2 health effects testing requirements. The provisions also allow individuals to form a consortium in order to complete the testing requirements as a group. NBB completed the testing at a cost of $2.2 million dollars. Prospective registrants can join as members of the NBB, for which access to health effects data is provided free to its members, as long as the member remains in good standing. There are many benefits to joining NBB besides obtaining EPA Health Effects Access.  For more information about membership, contact Doug Whitehead at (800) 841-5849.

For possible grants to help with plant development, we normally suggest trying: USDA Rural Development, USDA Conservation Security, US EPA West Coast Initiative, USDA Value Added Producer Grants under the Rural Business Cooperative Program, USDA NRI Grant Program, US EPA, US Department of Energy, your local Regional Biomass Energy Program, Clean Cities, and your local Energy Program, Department of Commerce, Department of Agriculture, and Department of Economic Development. To check on state incentives or programs, a good place to go is to the state's legislature home page and search laws, bills or statutes related to biodiesel.  The following websites provide some information as well

For listings of current biodiesel producers, marketers, distributors, and retailers, see the NBB website at under Buying Biodiesel.  

National Biodiesel Board
PO Box 104898
Jefferson City, MO 65110-4898

For information about our 2012 National Conference and Expo, see

Biodiesel:  America’s Advanced Biofuel