lunar was: Standards in Artificial Intelligence

Eugene Miya eugene at
Tue Nov 7 17:16:56 EST 2000

Oh, where to begin.
First off, out of bionet.

In article <3A018460.367A5A76 at>,
Aaron R. Kulkis <akulkis at> wrote:
>"Glover, Roger" wrote:
>> Aaron R. Kulkis wrote:
>> > > Other than Neural Net computing, Artificial Intelligence is a bunch
>> > > of bullshit.

I'm on the fence about neural nets.
I give more credit to Rodney Brooks and what he has done for robotics
and AI than others (like so call "expert" systems).

>> Well... genetic algorithms show some promise too.

I have limited insufficient knowledge.  Perhaps.

>> Jerry Freedman Jr wrote:
>> > At the risk of starting a flame war ( hell, I was snubbed, insulted,
>> > treated as an uncultured boor by enough AI investigators in the 80's)
>> With most of the rest of us here it was the MPP pushers in the 90's.

Oh I am amused by the funding wars taking place in the halls of the NSF.
Did MPP help AI, I largely doubt it.

>> > How did that BS last as long as it did?

Lighthill's comments succeeded in a small country like England.
In a larger more Cold War paranoid country like the US, distribution
likely helped it out enough with scattered groups convincing naive
funders to give them money.  There were "strong" incentives due to
"need" which around still around to this day (e.g., machine translation).

>> AI?  Strong attraction to playing God on the part of many researchers
>> and funding agencies.  Just enough "breakthroughs" to drive the research
>> engine through another funding cycle.  Desire to have HAL available for
>> the first manned mission to the outer planets next year.  :^)
>> None of it particularly surprising.  Just people being people.
>> Along science and technology R&D lines, what I find most surprising is
>> that we could put six sets of men on Earth's moon in 3.5 years... AND
>> THEN **NEVER** RETURN AGAIN.  That failure of vision will never cease to
>> astonish me.

In some ways the goals were well intended, we have social needs, but I
think the guys like Doug Engelbart with their concepts of Intellect
Augmentation (IA) had better ideas (J.C.R. Lickleighter (sp)) was
another contemporary.

>Failure of vision.
>Exactly WHAT can be accomplished on the moon that can't be done
>in a space station or shuttle orbiter?

Lots of things. See below, I've more than enough to avoid repeating myself.

>Basically, we went to the moon for PROPAGANDA purposes.

Largely true.

>There's NOTHING on the moon that we don't have here on earth.
>Just cold silicate and volcanic found on so many beaches
>and islands around the world.

It has never ceased to amaze me that computer scientists think the world
is flat (the Microsoft Terraserver is partially a case in point, but
hardly unique).  Most beaches aren't volcanic.  They are largely silicates.

What you point out what you know is only known because WE WENT THERE.
You should find text books on astronomy pre-1964. There were perfectly
valid (at the time) ideas that the Moon was deep miles of dust.  It was
Surveyor and other craft after landing there.  Comparative planetary
science was just getting off the ground.  Where do you think weather
codes come from?  They are compared in various ways against other planets
and they are surprisingly consistent.  

It's possible to take a photo of the Whole Earth from the Moon.
My acquintance of Stewart Brand asked the question about 1968 or so
"Why having we seen the whole Earth?" which went on to rake in a small
fortune with his catalog and his other efforts.  Those photos he and
others will tell you changed people's thinking about this speck of rock
we live on.

>>              For stupid shortsightedness, this decision s rivaled only
>> by the decision by the 15th century Ming rulers in China to stop funding
>> their naval explorations.
>Wrong.  The Chinese would have gained greatly by further nautical
>exploration of the earth.

We don't know that. Yet.  It might have been better that they remained

>On the other hand, we have very little to gain by sending more and
>more rockets to the moon.  The cost/minute of having a man on the
>moon is incredible.  (Compare that with the cost/day of having
>men exploring a coast, who can always drop anchor wherever they
>please, and send a party ashore for more food).

It's true that spaceflight is very expensive.  But it might represent
an awareness which might "save" mankind, but I doubt that.

>> Instead we funded AI research.  Maybe the moon launch cut-off is not so
>> surprising after all.
>The whole moon-race thing was for propaganda purposes to demonstrate
>that our technological base was more advanced than the Soviets.

Western technology is only marginally better than Soviet work.
We are ahead in some areas, and they are a head in a few others.
Advantage is at best momentary.

>Interestingly, the Soviets *never* even tried to go to the moon.


>Whether that was because they considered it beyond their abilities,
>or just not worth the investment is something of debate.

Easy, you can just ask the Russians.
The answer is complex, but they were bummed about not getting to the
Moon first.

>But...anyway, the majority of the payoff of going to the moon was
>realized BEFORE Armstrong and crew ever strapped in...namely, the
>technological innovation needed to get Apollo to the moon.
>Successive launches saw no real change in technology, as there was
>no *need* to improve the technology.  Thus, the majority of the
>gain has already been realized at that point.

That says more about the conservativism of the US space programs.
I recall General Terhune at JPL where I worked say,
	If it ain't broke, don't fix it.
He didn't have the opinion of progress or improvement.
Fortunately Gen. Terhune is now retired.

>And what did we get from all of the moon-trips?
>Movies of Armstrong skipping like a schoolboy, various guys
>driving the space dune-buggy, Cernan (?) making a shot with
>a 7-iron....and a few nondescript rocks to put in the Smithsonian.

Shows your lack of foresight.
It was Alan Sheperd who took the club head (had a chance to meet him
before he died). Cernan flew 3 missions later.  Actually, you sound like
my old man who was a business man type.  Ah yes as explorers have noted
"shop keepers."

Actually mankind got inspiration which is powerful lot.
It got all kinds of important space imagery.  We got confirmation of
Newtonian mechanics (and actually if you count communications, we
confirm a lot of Einstein as well).

Can you cut down on your sig a bit.

Now if you are going to be good, Aaron, you are supposed to cite AI's
accomplishments.  And don't give me the traditional "compilers,"
language translation, the traditional "once it moves out of AI, it stops
being AI."

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