Sunday, May 13, 2018

On Highway 420

On Highway 420 


This post is now over 8 years late. There are a lot of things I have not done, that should have been done.

It was the end of summer 2009, maybe fall had started, I can't quit remember. We were on highway 420. It was a clear, sunny day - beautiful. There was the three of us, my Mom, Sister, and I.
It was quiet in the van, no one was speaking. I was looking around at the clear, blue sky. The wisps of clouds. The traffic. Lots of people walking on the sidewalks. It was still tourist season, nearing the end. The crowds were only beginning to dwindle.
The 420 is a short strip of highway in Niagara Falls that connects the Rainbow bridge with the main highway - the QEW.
Locals often use it as a shortcut in town, which is what we were doing. My sister and I were taking Mom to the doctors office downtown.
It was not even a year since my Mom was diagnosed with cirrohsis as a complication from diabetes.
Her condition had deteriorated rapidly. This appointment was not like the others. I knew, I could tell.

Trying to Win

In the early 2000's I was a man on a mission. I was in full positive-mindset you-can-win-at-anything mode. I had turned my life around a lot. Still work to be done, still insecurities & social gaffs; but the path to betterment was working and slowly these shortcomings were going away. I felt 10 feet tall, that I could do anything. I was really doing well.

There was an older dream of mine - full aritificial general intelligence. I had shelved it, but with arrogance jumped right back into working on it. I became obsessed and driven. It started to warp me. I became a recluse, increasingly unable to relate to people and have normal, proper interactions. Injuries started piling up at the gym. I doubled down and kept going, I wanted this done.

Then the realization came how big the project was. I could not just plow through this. The resources required for AGI, for something non-trivial and fully productive, was huge. With my tunnel vision I could not have the open mind to see options.

I crashed. Burn-out. I went down, and because I was so obsessed I had burned bridges and had no fallback. I had previously broken up with my girlfriend before I started. So I had no girl in my life. Because I was 'mister winner', I thought marriage was for fools while I could indulge in free sex. I bought into that idea. And because I started getting warped in my head and success was derailed I just couldn't get a girl.

It wasn't just that. It turns out that whole idea of the 'power of positive thinking', of a 'winner mindset', doesn't really deal with issues. It doesn't actually properly fix things inside. I thought it did - I was wrong.

So here I was a failure, the proverbial loser living in his parents basement, with no girl and no prospects. I started studying finance as a way out. This was in mid 2006, a year later the global financial crisis would hit full force. Just in time to learn enough to understand the disaster in all its glory.

Day to day events started confirming the warnings I was reading from multiple sources - this was going to be bad. And at the same time 'doomer porn' was all over the net - peak everything. Society was going to crash and real life events was confirming more and more of it. So if some of these warnings are true, then maybe the others are too.

I was already in a bad place and then this. Going from bad to worse. There was a certain thrill, a certain excitement while preparing for TEOTWAWKI. One of many acronyms I learned from the survivalists online whom now became my only social contacts. But the anxiety and fear was only increasing. I was in a really, really bad place. And then Mom happened.


If I was to describe my Mom in one sentence, it would be as a big ball of love and joy. Everything was right about her. I see that now. I see now that she was the anchor in our Family, that she was the one bringing so much goodness into my life. The best thing that I was given in this life. I cannot overstate this. And now even that was being taken away from me.

This was a time of complete terror for me. I think I aged several years in those months.
There was nothing left. I was a dead man. That was me, a dead man going down the highway. I was just in the waiting queue. Killing myself was not so much a deliberative act, as just simply finishing off what was already the case.


What is important for me is to describe what this was like, what I experienced. Looking at the bustle of life around me as an outsider, as one of the dead looking over people going about their way.

I had a realization. I felt that a protective layer, a psychological 'skin' had been pulled away and I was exposed. I saw the futility of life, of existence. All these people were fooled. Thinking that this life mattered, that the contents of their lives and what had their attention was important. A delusion.

This is the important part to convey, that skin that was pulled away was a protective delusion - or perhaps better called the source of our protective delusions. All the things we experience and care about and invest so much of ourselves in - these are the delusions. My state, what I suspect most people think of as a compromised state was anything but.

I expect most people reading this will think I was not in my right mind, I had a deficit in judgement and sound thinking. I can't say strongly enough - NO. It is the exact opposite, and I am fully convinced to this day. It is completely the other way around. It is all of us, all living a 'normal' life who are living in a delusion.

This protective skin, this delusion, is with us from our earliest memories and we live inside it all our lives. Well, potentially all our lives. When something happens like what happened with me, our eyes are opened for the first time. This is the abyss. I trust that the abyss that any deep thinkers are referring to is one and the same.

How to tell someone of such a different mind set what this is like? I was looking at that blue, sunny sky over the 420 when I was looking at the abyss. There was nothing supernatural. As I said, just a pulling away of this protective skin. I will say two things to describe the abyss:

1. It is utterly invincible
2. It does not exist

A confusion of our language, to use a noun, the 'abyss'. What 'it' is, is the experience of annihilation. What is realized is that this life is a sick joke. The sickest joke there is, and that is all it is. Everything gets annihilated.

Do we get an extension? Can we take out the library book longer? Sure, we can cross the great filter, re-engineer ourselves to live indefinitely. Spread throughout the Cosmos, live on for billions of years. That's like an eternity, except that it isn't.

Any number approaches zero as n approaches infinity. Then the heat death - the stars go out one by one, the sky becomes black, more and more memories are lost, forgotten forever. All the peoples throughout the universe dissappear one by one, until the last person remains - slowly forgetting everything, all of time, all that ever happened. Quiet, alone. And then nothing.

Humanity always has lived and will dissappear on the edge of the abyss. Our protective delusion, our skin, keeps us from knowing this.
We are all an abomination, we should not be. We need to die, and die quickly, as an act of mercy. End this horror. This is what is true.

So much of what people do now seems silly. Trying to be important, signalling to each other this or that. Knowing this, the most outrageous, the most galling, the greatest act of rebellious audacity is for a man and a woman to come together, here at the edge of the abyss, and purposely bring another life into being. And even more outrageous, to willingly love and sacrifice without limit...

The greatest acts of defiance, of audacity, of outrage, is to purposely sacrifice to make this life good and beautiful. To say in word and in deed that this life has unlimited meaning and value. That it is worth it.
There is are no other acts that anyone can ever do that compares to these. All the rest of humanities achievements pale in comparison.


I was at the end. My Mom was soon to die, and so was I. What was my final act? Against the abyss I was impotent, there was nothing for me to do, I was nothing, except my last words. How do I conclude my life?

In the midst of my decision to complete the process of dying, something else happened to me. Against the horror of the abyss,  something came from inside me. With all life at an end, with my Mom soon to die, what was my last act? How do I end this?

From within me, from my heart, came the only thing I could say, with an overwhelming flood of emotion, with all of my heart

I said Thank You

Against hopelessness, meaninglessness,
Against the realization this life is an abomination,
From the bottom of my heart

Thank You

Instead of rage, instead of resentment
Despite all the ugly things of this life
Despite all that went wrong
Despite all the loss

Thank You

For all the Beautiful things I have been given
For all the Love
For all the Joys

Thank You

Over time the protective skin started growing back. I could actually feel it happen. I slowly started to care about the things of this world and life started to feel more like it did. But I have never forgotten that time - I will never be able to.

The effects of those days have slowly continued in me. That Thank You is my mission in life. I am now on the side of the rebels. We are not just after Eternity, but the most Triumphant Eternity. The magnitude of the response needs to match the magnitude of the fight. The trade needs to be in-kind.

I Love You Mom, I always will. 

Dear God,
Thank You

Willy Rempel

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

On Highway 420

On Highway 420  Intro This post is now over 8 years late. There are a lot of things I have not done, that should have been done. It ...