Of sentient beings and kitten pee.

Sometimes a man must step back for a moment, take a deep breath, and start asking profound questions in all seriousness. This is not the time. Nevertheless...

Why are computers not sentient yet?

Computers have not been around for very long (although perhaps longer than one might think). They are now, however, ubiquitous and clearly here to stay. It has something to do with their universality, which is also why these things are getting more and more powerful at every instant. Given how powerful they already are, in a sense it's flattering that no machine -that we know of- has yet reached consciousness. But how long will this last? How will we know when a machine really becomes conscious? What does this word even mean? How will this new consciousness arise? And what will happen next?

The usual answers to these five questions are, in order:
1. not long;
2. with a Turing test or a variant of it;
3. we don't know but we don't need to know for the Turing test;
4. we have no idea;
5. something big, hopefully nothing bad.

On the last two questions however, screenwriters are actually not short of ideas.


Blue eyes, light and Octopuses

Some remarkable facts about the eye:

1. until 10 000 years ago there almost certainly was no blue-eyed person on the face of the earth.

This blows my mind a bit..Language and culture are both dated back to something like 100 000 or 50 000 years ago (See J. Diamond's excellent book). So for tens of thousands of years, all these people were doing what humans are known for doing so well, which is mostly having sex, fighting and talking (not necessarily in that order), fighting again, drinking, eating, talking again, making tools and art, playing chance games and having sex - and all of them had brown eyes. Mr check-this-out-chicks-I've-got-blue-eyes must have had an incredible success. No doubt he was perceived as marked by the gods. But did it make him more, or less popular? Well you say, we know the genes have spread, so after all the pooh-pooh couldn't have been that bad.