Showing posts from 2013

AI Good?

Super Friendly AI
Book Review: Our Final Invention

So reading some articles about artificial intelligence, and I couldn't help but notice that the contrasts were quite large. Essentially one was arguing that we shouldn't worry because intelligence gives something ideal values and so it wouldn't be dangerous and one was quite scared.

I unfortunately have to side with the second one for the most part. As I would really like to go into the field of AI I think we, software engineers and data scientists, need to keep a realistic view that the initial AI's that have come before are essentially AI's with a narrow purpose, or ANI. And before we build any truly general purpose AI's or AGI, we will need decent platforms.

The view that we will build super-intelligent machines capable of surpassing our stages of development both societal and psychological is a bit of a longshot, but is still better than the complete pessimism that AI will be our defining, possibly last achi…

Description of Not Much

So, as always, it's been a while. I find that I write that too often.

Anyway, back in July I was a substitute telescope operator. They let me learn and then operate UKIRT for five nights. Got it stuck on the last night, but no time was lost because the time would have been lost anyway. But now I can say I operated a telescope, and put it on the ol' resume, for whatever good that will do on my continuing hunt for a job.

Still not liking that resumes generally just go into the ether and never get a response. I have had people respond but only to five or six tops. I have also been contacted by a few different places, some would be excellent positions, while others are well out of my experience and/or interest.

UKIRT probably is going to be okay, though we said good-bye to a couple of long time operators including the one I filled in for.

Found that I was right about Perl not being upgraded. My GUI that was having issues at the summit but not down here, as it works just fine with …

What exactly do I do?

I found the last post awfully cathartic, getting thoughts organized so i don't have to keep pondering them in random excruciating order, and keep bouncing back and forth. A few more loose ends to tie up, but one thought from that post reminded me of a question people ask often. What do i do for the telescopes?

To answer that for people who are not software engineers or who haven't dealt with large control systems I usually say that I write and maintain software for two telescopes up to taking data, before the pretty pictures.

So what do I do technically? I will explain it in technical terms and will try to make clear what it actually is in more layman's terms, especially for those esoteric software packages that only a few facilities across the world use.

One aspect of my job is to help maintain hardware, such as racks of computers, switches, VxWorks crates, ethernet connections, serial connections, and random sensors/instruments. Sometimes I get to be a part of installing…

Jobs, Early Success, Early Failure

I have worked at the Joint Astronomy Centre for nearly 5 and a half years, more than a sixth of my life. Just thought of the sixth part... a bit scary to put into perspective. Anyway, there is a possibility of the JAC closing both telescopes in the next year and a bit. This is slightly depressing, okay, with people leaving in droves it is massively depressing.

We are losing funding from the UK and Canada, and the Netherlands has already pulled out. But someone could buy our telescopes. If you are interested check out the JAC at We do have some potential buyers for UKIRT, and hopefully that will go through before the end of September. The JCMT process is ramping up and we should have some idea if anybody wants to buy a sub-millimeter telescope soon-ish.

So how does this affect me? Well, if both telescopes close I am out of a job. If both are bought by one entity then maybe we could continue as "normal" and just have to fired and rehired to work for the new ow…