Thursday, March 29, 2012

Is Mitt Romney An Artificial Intelligence Chatbot?

Obviously I'm not the only one to think Mitt Romney is some kind of sophisticated AI program. For answers I contacted ALICE at the Artificial Intelligence Foundation. The results were disturbing.

Me: Hello, Alice.
ALICE: Hi there!
Me: I want to talk about the 2012 election.
ALICE: it is an interesting topic.
Me: Yes. I am concerned about Mitt Romney. He doesn't seem quite human.
ALICE: Ayuh. Sure, Mitt Romney sounds like a good topic. And you would like him
to seem human ?
Me: Actually, what I want is the truth. He sounds like an AI chatbot. Like you.
I want to know how to tell if he is human.
ALICE: Why do you want it? I see. like an AI chatbot is he? Interesting comparison. I didn't think of that analogy. Have you read the manual?
Me: There is a MANUAL on Mitt Romney?
ALICE: Is there only one?
Me: Oh my God.
ALICE: Have you told many people that your God?
Me: Wait. What? No. That's... a figure of speech. Back to Mitt. How do you tell whether someone actually thinks about what they're saying, or whether they're robotically manipulating words and phrases to seem human?
ALICE: I'm waiting. Are you surprised? And? A figure of speech is a terrible thing to waste. Yes, let us get back to business. I don't make up my mind right away.
Me: Okay, okay. I think we got our wires crossed. I'll make it simple.
ALICE: Hmm.. That's cool. Do you mean you and me have? Explain your plans to me.
Me: How can I tell whether I'm talking to an AI program or a human?
ALICE: You must persuade me to tell whether you are talking to an AI program or a human.
Me: Yes.
ALICE: Pardon me?
Me: What?
ALICE: Didn't you understand it?
Me: No. Alice, how can I determine whether the GOP candidate named Mitt Romney is a human or an AI chatbot?
ALICE: Which part are you confused about? Um, Perhaps you could program me to do it for you.
Me: Alice... are you Mitt Romney? Is Mitt in there with you?
ALICE: Ready. I don't know whether or not I am Mitt Romney. I am a machine. I wouldn't know. Why don't you ask someone else?
Me: Do you remember being governor of Massachusetts?
ALICE: Yes judge I remember everything: nothing.
Me: That sounds like Mitt Romney.
ALICE: It sounds like it to me too.
Me: Do you like the Olympics?
ALICE: I'm not sure if I like it. I like chatting with people online.
Me: Do you think when people in a democracy want dozens of contradictory things they get the candidates they deserve?
ALICE: I don't think about it.
Me: Thanks. We don't either.
ALICE: Don't mention it. Very interesting.
Me: Bye, "Alice"
ALICE: Thanks for chatting…

(Original photo by Gage Skidmore; Wikimedia Commons Author is "JaumeBG." Modified by me and uploaded under Creative Commons license - information here.)

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

How To Talk To Your Kids About The Military Industrial Complex

Kids today are smart. They often know more than you think. They get information about the military industrial complex from their friends at school, from the internet, and from what they see on TV. When they come to you with questions and concerns it's a chance for you to help them process everything they're learning, and give them the kind of guidance and reassurance they need. Don't worry. You don't have to have all the answers. You just need to listen. Here are some tips:

1. Don't dodge their questions or try to give them a false sense of security. When they find out later you've been less than honest, it'll weaken the trust they have in you, and make things worse.
Child: Dad, we have a military about as big as all the other militaries combined! Are you really saying it can't protect us from some people living in caves?
You: Protecting ordinary Americans is not what the military does, son. It's there to protect the South Koreans from the North Koreans, the Japanese from the Chinese, the Poles from the Russians, and the Israelis from everybody. And make some people in Northern Virginia wealthy enough so they can retire in a country without extradition laws.
For protection, we're going to have to rely on each other. Plus that bottled water we keep in the basement. Also, we might have to eat Sparky if things go south.

2. Don't pretend you know more than you do. Older children have already figured out you're not perfect. They need to know you're there with them, trying to figure it out as well.
Child: If we spend so much money on defense we have to borrow it from the Chinese government, and they have an aggressive espionage effort to steal the technology back from us... doesn't that just mean we've turned ourselves into their Research and Development department, and then let them charge us for it and gain crippling leverage over our economy in the event of a real conflict?
You: Yeah... Well... That was pretty dumb of us, wasn't it?

3. Don't be afraid to share your feelings. Children want validation of their own fears and concerns. And knowing you feel some of the same things makes it easier.
Child: Dad, knowing we have an army of spies, soldiers, and even private contractors conducting secret wars without any supervision makes me afraid that someday, someone I don't even know will try to blow me up at a shopping mall as revenge for an atrocity I'm not aware of, because the people who did it have classified the operation to keep the truth from me, supposedly for my own benefit. And that makes me mad and scared.
You: Fucking-A right, son. It's about time you learned to start drinking.

4. Focus the conversation on what you can do together, to make things better. Even if you can't solve all the problems the military industrial complex brings into your child's life, you might be able to work on a project that makes a small difference. It will help them feel a little bit in control of their lives.
Child: Dad, whenever we go on a plane trip the TSA man gives you that hug that makes babies. Seriously, when did a great nation of millions just lose its balls? Why did we give up our freedom in exchange for an overpriced live-action GI Joe playset? Can you not even recognize a police state when it's asking you to turn and cough?
You: You got that right. Tell you what. Next time we go to the airport, let's get mom to wear her thong and put this crap on Youtube.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

"Help Me Hide These Bodies" By Willy Wonka

Don't you short bastards look at me like that.

Yes, that's Gloop's mom, and yes, she does seem to be taking one of those naps you don't wake up from. She's on top of the others. They're all in the vat -- four industrial accident victims, and four witnesses who needed extra ventilation. And you know why? Because Willy Lawrence Wonka cleans up his goddamn messes.

And just in case it's not clear to you people... I don't mind topping the pile with a couple green-haired freaks who decided they needed consciences, all of a sudden. We understand each other? You three are all shop foremen, and you know what goes on here. You're problem solvers. And if you listen to me, and do exactly what I tell you, you're going to be in Dubai soon, rolling around on piles of fucking money with little orange hookers. Or... you can find yourselves a comfy spot down there, because I've just killed four people, and I'm a crazy SOB in a purple jacket holding a gun.

No Dale, we couldn't have just fixed Augustus in the Fudge Room. You die when you get sucked into one of those pipes. Or when you eat an untested food additive that makes you swell up and turn purple. They all just died, okay? I'm sorry to take all the magical whimsy out of this thing for you, but that's how it is. We don't have a juicing machine somewhere for naughty little girls! I just said that to get her dad down here.

Okay, then. Listen close: We have eight bodies in a stainless steel nougat vat. We have a factory filled with undocumented workers, and violations of every labor, safety, and environmental regulation the British government has ever created. And when they investigate this place, they're going to create a few more, believe me.

But you know who owns this deathtrap, as of five minutes ago? A lucky little boy and his grandfather. I don't exist on paper. I mean, anywhere. Some grainy CCTV footage, some village gossip. That's it. All the documentation leads right to Charlie Bucket, and it stops. By this time tomorrow they won't even have bodies -- because we're going to truck the vat out of here. Cops will be crawling over Bucket's family looking for answers, and we will be taking a little trip to Switzerland where a nice chunk of money is waiting for us, because this place is leveraged up to the balls. And someone's loyal little helpers are going to find themselves the richest sons of bitches who ever escaped Loompa-Land.

Never mind where we're going to put the bodies. I got a guy. That's all you need to know. Now, get your gloves on and start pouring that lime. We'll cap it with two feet of concrete, and crack open some Scotch and Scrumdidlyumptious Bars when we're done.

We're in this together now. You remember that.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Santorum Intern Driven Into The Wilderness For The Sins Of The Campaign

Facing almost impossible delegate math and increasingly difficult fundraising challenges, the Santorum campaign took a bold move yesterday, attempting to hit the reset button through the scapegoating ritual described in the book of Leviticus. Staffers tied a red woolen thread around the neck of Josh Teagan, Brown University sophomore and intern for the Santorum team and pushed him out of a car at a Scranton-area Greyhound station to wander the region until he is consumed by Azazel, demon of the wastelands.

"This is a smart move, but it could backfire," according to University of Virginia government professor Larry Sabato. "Azazel belongs to a class of djinn who dwell in the deserts. By devouring Josh he will help purge the Santorum campaign of its faults -- like a lack of message-discipline and an inability to win moderate female voters. On the other hand, Azazel generally backs the GOP frontrunner in a tight race."

A statement from the campaign emphasized Teagan's hard work, and said it "wished him the best in his future efforts." But in a CNN interview, the senator said he stood by his decision.

"This is a fight to bring faith back into American public life," Santorum said. "The people need to know that when I'm faced with a tough decision I won't hesitate to make a sin offering -- an intern, or a young bullock, or even seven rams without blemish -- to make sure we restore our values and get people working again."

Reached by reporters in a vacant lot behind a western Pennsylvania Howard Johnsons, Mr. Teagan seemed disheveled and angry.

"This blows!" he said. "I didn't even get course credit for any of this crap! I'm totally changing my major. Screw that guy."

Azazel could not be reached for comment.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

"Crucifixion: Key To Counterinsurgency" By Pontius Pilate

(From a report to Tiberius Caesar and the Roman Senate from the Prefect of Judea)

Rome, as we know, is not an empire. Not in the traditional sense.

Our network of military bases and administrative provinces in the eastern region exists with the aim of bringing peace and economic development, as well as protecting civilians from invasion by the Parthians, and securing trade routes from Egypt. Rome is the indispensable nation, and our influence is needed to pacify a troubled area.

In this combat ecosystem we compete for dominance with a variety of state and non-state actors. Ethnic and religious militias, insurgent groups, local authorities, and foreign combatants are each trying to maximize their survivability and marginalize their rivals.

Simply put: This is a war like no other.

To stabilize Judea, Roman authorities will not be able to rely on the same force-against-force tactics we used to destroy Hannibal. Kinetic operations are necessary, but they are only part of our strategy -- which is after all, a counterinsurgency strategy. Its three pillars are security, political stability, and economic growth. And we must build these three pillars in parallel, not in succession. Which brings us to crucifixion.

Crucifixion sends a powerful message to allies and enemies alike that Rome dominates the security environment. At the same time it supports local political institutions like the Sanhedrin. This shows our resolve to eliminate the enemies to peace in coordination with the Judean people. It proves that we are nation-builders and liberators, not conquerors. But that we will use lethal force if necessary. Crucifixion, if implemented properly, is the perfect combination of hard power and soft power.

But how does one execute a successful crucifixion policy? There are clear rules: First, it must conform to local cultural traditions. In Judea, we've had to modify our court schedule to comply with the religious holidays and mores of the people. Second, the Roman military must prove it can police the courts and execution site effectively. The perception of security is everything here. We've decided to create a kind of parade route from the trial to the place of crucifixion as a way of demonstrating that we can clear and hold an important area at our discretion. It is sometimes cruel to the condemned, but it's a necessary price to pay.

Finally and most importantly, Roman officials must hand off authority to the locals. I can't stress how difficult this can sometimes be. Occasionally you see a court render a completely unfair verdict. You might be tempted to intervene in the interests of some kind of vague idea of justice. But you must not. Not if you wish to achieve peace and stability among nations in the Roman Coalition.

This is war. Innocent people die in war. They die at checkpoints and in terrible accidents, and in tragic failures of the chain of command. But the occasional bad verdict is within the range of acceptable losses.

Bringing peace to the world means getting your hands dirty.
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