Consciousness is a hard problem

Hard Consciousness may be the most difficult problem.  Oliver Burkeman,  for an article in The Guardian, writes about the efforts to solve the mystery and why it might not be solved.

I love reading about consciousness simply because it is one of those problems that may never be solved.  Some of you may know that I wrote a short story called “Oddly Perfect” about a mathematician who goes in search of a large odd perfect number — something which might never be discovered, simply because it may not exist — only to find something even more amazing.  I think the search for an answer to Hard Consciousness is like that.  It’s also like discovering America for the first time or many other explorations in history.  There are many looking for answers, and maybe someday someone will bump into a completely unrelated but pretty important discovery along the way.

If you also enjoy thinking about this subject, you might enjoy the video below with Australian philosopher and cognitive scientist David Chalmers.

Game inventions

On my other blog, NEWWorthy, I recently posted a couple of game-related entries I thought I would share here as well.

Researchers have figured out how to use a quantum light beam to solve a maze in the fastest possible time to date.

You can also read about Cepheus, a computer program that plays an almost perfect game of Texas Hold’em Poker.

Speaking of card games, I have designed a new solitaire type of game, and I’m programming an interactive version in Unity.  It combines some of my varied interests into a new card game.  Look for more on this in 2015.

Back-up computers, tablets, phone data…soon, back-up your brain?

BBC – Future has a thought-provoking — pun intended — piece on the concept of back-up brains.  The idea has been explored quite a bit in science fiction.  Even “Frankenstein” explores this a little in that there is an attempt to restore a dead brain to life.

More recently, the movie “Transcendence” took a look at saving a person’s consciousness to a computer.  By the way, Jack Paglen, who wrote the screenplay,  is said to be working on the script for the “Battlestar Gallactica” movie — some of you may remember that the robots in the reboot television series were able to move consciousness from one body to another.  While “Transcendence” got mixed reviews, a number of them less than kind, it looked at the some of the issues that the BBC – Future article explores.

So this seems to be a hot topic, with Google and others spending a lot of money on AI and all that an artificial intelligence entails.  I was happy to see that the BBC –  Future interview with Anders Sandberg from the Future of Humanity Institute at Oxford University mentions quantum states — aka quantum consciousness — as a potential gigantic brick wall to building a back-up brain.  Though he doesn’t give it much credence — he says ” I do not think these problems apply” — I guess I still have an open mind about the possibility for a quantum consciousness.

Anyway, back to “Transcendence” for a moment.  While the movie wasn’t great, I think it was perhaps better than what the trailer implied.  In any case, the trailer and the articles mentioned above might be food for thought.

Accidentally dismissed Outlook reminder

I modified a reminder in Outlook, and as I was preparing to delete another reminder, the modified one popped up.  This caused me to accidentally delete the wrong reminder, and I had no idea which one it was.  So I wondered if there was a way to figure this out.  Please note that I have not tried this for Outlook Calendars that are stored on the internet.

If you are running Outlook 2013 or later, I think there is a solution — of sorts — to finding a dismissed reminder.  If you run into this situation, here’s something you can try.  Go to your Outlook calendar and click on the menu “Search Tools” and then “Advanced Find”.  Then select the “Advanced” tab in the find dialog.  Now under “Define More Criteria” select “Date/Time Fields” from the “Fields” drop-down and then “Modified”.   For “Condition” select “Today”, or “Yesterday”, or whenever you accidentally dismissed the reminder.

Click “Add To List” and then “Find Now”.  Outlook will search and find Calendar items that you modified today, including those reminders that were dismissed.  At least it did work for me when I tried it.  I hope it works for you.

Neural Networks and Games

When I started programming in the late 1970’s, computer chess was the challenge of choice for eager hobbyists looking for ways to show off their skills.  Using 8080 machine language, I developed a 4k (that’s a bit over 4,000 bytes of code, NOT megabytes or gigabytes) chess program that used an alpha-beta pruning method to play a reasonable level of chess.  It couldn’t beat many humans, but it wasn’t too bad against other microcomputer players.  Well, enough about that.  Chess-playing machines have mastered the art and are able to play at the level of the top human players.

For the last decade or two, the game of Go has been one of the games of choice for software and computer engineers wanting to make a mark in algorithms or artificial intelligence research.  With recent advances in deep learning and neural network programming, researchers are making progress on automated Go players.  MIT Technology Review posted an article on the subject recently and pondered whether the best human Go players might fall to computer players soon.  I’m not so sure that’s about to happen, but the advances are impressive.  In any case, if you are working on games and haven’t delved into neural nets or deep learning yet, now might be a good time to start.

Retrogaming Events Calendar

Wikipedia defines retrogaming — yes, they spell it with no spaces, but many websites (about 3 to 4 times as many) use the two words retro gaming — as “the playing or collecting of older personal computer, console, and arcade video games.”  Although there are some comprehensive databases online of game conventions such as Game Convention Central and Upcoming Cons, they aren’t classic gaming specific and they are not always easy to search.

Game Convention Central
So I thought some gamers might like a list of some of the retro gaming expos held throughout the year.  I say “some”, because I’m positive I left many out, including some held in January and February this year.

Please double check the actual dates and locations at the links below, as things can change.  I only listed the dates and places for convenience and you should not count on my information as correct.  Also, the ones marked with a “?” indicate that I don’t know if this expo will be held this year, since no information is available at the time of this blog entry.

Arcade Expo (March 6-8, 2015), Louisville, KY

SXSW Gaming Expo (March 13-15, 2015), Austin, TX

Retro Gaming Expo (April 18, 2015), Vancouver, BC, Canada

Play Blackpool (May 2-4, 2015), Blackpool, U.K.

Retro Gaming Expo (June, 2015?), Seattle, WA

NERG 2015 (June 20-21, 2015), Gateshead Stadium, U.K.

Classic Game Fest (July 25-26, 2015), Austin, TX

Let’s Play Gaming Expo (August 1-2, 2015),  Plano, TX

Classic Gaming Expo (July or August, 2015?), Las Vegas, NV

Retro Con (September 12-13, 2015), Oaks, PA

Play Expo (October, 2015?), Manchester, U.K.

Retro Gaming Expo (October 2015?), Portland, Oregon

Pittsburgh Retro Gaming (November, 2015?), Pittsburgh, PA

Retro Gaming in Sweden