Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Alchemy and AI

TL;DR -- This post is about Dreyfus and his arguments about what computers can and cannot do from a philosophical position. Dreyfus was a student at Harvard. He taught at MIT and Berkeley. The post provides links to some of his material in the interest of future work related to technology. 


We have a technological focus to pay attention to. Of late, the main topics have related to the xNNN/LLM approach that has been called "generative." In November of 2022, OpenAI released ChatGPT upon the public. It got acclaim and criticism. The former is still there as companies rush to make money on the idea, even though AI has had a troubled past in some cases. 

Criticism range over a wide domain. For one thing, students got to using it to do their work. Again, companies have been using it where "fiction" is not an unlikely find. For instance, where PR doesn't have a firm basis. So, people came up with analogs, such as "lies" or "hallucinations" to describe the careless output. Well, actually, sophisticated, albeit misdirected, mathematics was doing the work. 

A sister approach became quite adept at creating "fake" photos that could fool people. And, movies being a moving stream of photos, there were "fake" videos.  

Since then, there is a newer version of ChatGPT. It has scored well on some tests. But, at the hard problems where guts and smarts are necessary, we still see low scoring. No one, in their right mind, would trust their lives being run by these new deals. Though, management decisions now are setting up the future for just that event. 

Of all of the issues at hand, that is the one that really bears some attention due to its potential for errors. Oh yes, bias has come up in discussion as it seems to be inherent to the approach. There are many things to discuss, as said. 

In the below, we will use "AI" to mean "artificial intelligence," in toto. We coined AIn't about two years ago with respect to the adulation being given xNNN (and its manipluative ways) which is only one aspect of what has been considered to be important to AI.  

So, is any of the critical opinions other than new? You bet. The following is a summary. 

  • Hubert L. Dreyfus (1929-2017) is one example. He studied transcendental and existential phenomonology at Harvard and in Europe. He talked to some of the greats (Heidegger, Sartre, ...). He also was a professor at MIT which was the hotbed of the early development of AI. As we will see, he and AIers did not agree. 
  • While at MIT Dreyfus wrote "Alchemy and Artificial Intelligence" which was published by RAND and is available at the DOD site. Later, this paper became a book, What Computers Can't do
  • Later Dreyful publish an update since AI had made seeming progress. His new title was What Computers still Can't do. There is a "preview" available copy of this book at GDocs. In the commentary, there is this great quote about this work: ... was widely attacked but quietly studied. Dreyfus's arguments are still provocative and focus our attention once again on what it is that makes human beings unique.
  • Hubert Dreyfus's views on artificial intelligence (at Wikipedia) has a great summary of the discussions and related themes. John McCarthy, early AI pioneer, mentioned that Dreyfus had good concerns, however his presentation and argument style was offputting. Which, in McCarthy' opinion was too bad as some necessary discussions were not to be. 
And, that is where we are now. Dreyfus's ideas will figure in coming work. Too, one
thing that might be the result of this cycle of AI which has had several is that AI might now continue into the future as something that is recognized though without proper definition. It means different things to different people. But, over these decades, there have been many cases of AI involvment in progress and effective work. In fact, it's daily on the computer horizon and touches operational situations more than we might realize. 

Remarks: Modified: 08/23/2023

08/23/2023 --

Sunday, August 20, 2023

Reworks and recaps

TL;DR -- During our thirteen years of working, we have had a few readjustments. We are at that time, again, and will be organizing the posts and their information content. At the same time, we are now into American History fully having been given a shot in the arm by the COVID constraints. At the core and toward the periphery, and everywhere else, we will see technology's influence growing, regulary. Probably, too, that will be more steady; after the pop of this latest bubble related to AIn't. 


This post collects together stories that are American at the core.  We will add to this for a while. Then, each of these deserves some further study and comment. 
  • Royal connections --  This comes from the Nutfield Genealogy blog that is about as old as this Thomas Gardner Society, Inc. one. We have been working on applications for D.A.R. for a while which has lead to many stories of historical interest. From this work, we continued exploring our theme "the long reach of New England" in many directions which seems to be endless in scope. This post is about a Spanish Lady (with uncountable titles, almost) who applied for D.A.R. membership through a Scottish connection. 
  • Salton Sea -- This huge affair (see article at Wikipedia) in southern CA is well known by visitors and locals. Is it naturally there? This is an answer that was found on Quora with respect to the subject.  

Our first post was on the 25th of September of 2010. We had started to study the family lineage the prior summer (2009). As the winter was amongst us, we started the Wikipedia page, Thomas Gardner (Planter), on the 10th of January of 2010. BTW, one can use "View history" to see the edits through time in detail with regard to the change and the person doing the change. This page needs to be rewritten (see the post, In summary) as does many of the blog posts. Before the blog, we had started the Thomas Gardner Society, Inc. website (summer of 2010). Our first issue of Gardner's Beacon was in the spring of 2011. Our first redo was in 2012 (movement from Microsoft's cloud). We will have more recaps on all subjects as we go along. 

As we research Sherborne records and modify the story, we will also identify places where we cannot tell the story without some speculative modes. These will be clear. We will watch to see how others might conjecture. The thing with the internet and the process used by most publishers to verify information, we expect that those things published will be in good order. However, on the other hand, anyone with a creative bent is free to write to their heart's content. The future will be fun, even with technology muddying up the water. 

Remarks: Modified: 08/20/2023

08/20/2023 --

Saturday, August 12, 2023

Cols. Joseph Hodgkins, Nathaniel Wade

TL;DR -- After reading of the Society of Cincinnati, it seemed apropos to find a case close to home with respect to finding some to add to the prospectii list. In one case, only the daughter had children some of whom have descendants alive today. The other has male descendants bearing the name. In the first case, there is another organization that may offer memberhip. In the other case, a little more research work is required.   


The subject matter of this post deals with close relatives and demonstrates various types of studies that can be done to find interesting stories. We begin with the story of one book that led to a TV series. 

Part of this motivation was the prior post on the Society of the Cincinnati which organization allows one member (male) per each Patriot that is qualified. The qualification, briefly, is being an officer for the Continental Army. There are additional requirements, one of which is having served to three years. At the same time, the daughters have their own organization but allow multiple members for each Patriot. Our interests, in part, deal with the time and conflict, in general, the unfolding of the U.S. from them to now (we're talking 247 years), the movement of families, and historic/genealogical studies and consequence of these research, such as related memberships.  

So, it didn't take long to pull this example which deals with our favorite town, Ipswich MA, after Salem, of course. The post looks at two families who are related, but there are many others involved. 
  • Let's start with the book, 1776, David McCullough, which deals with the times and letters of Col. Joseph Hodgkins (WikiTree) and his wife Sarah Perkins. Hodgkins served under Col. Nathaniel Wade (WikiTree). They were both at Bunker Hill and served for more than three more years. Joseph and Sarah had children, however only one daughter had children who grew to adulthood. She married the son of Col. Wade, and they had children with descendants who are alive now. 
  • Society of the Cincinnati membership claims comes down through the sons. So, that would not be a sustainable claim. On the other hand, female descendants of Joseph and Sarah would be eligible for the Daughters of the Cincinnati should they be able to prove their lineage. Our  hope will be find an extant male descendant of an officer who meets the prospectii requirements. 
  • The blog, Historic Ipswich, provides commentary and a copy of some of the letters. We have had used this blog as a resource several times. Our last post was on the founding of Ohio by a team of veterans from Ipswich. But, the Smithsonian Museum of American History displays a house that was taken from Ipswich
  • Taking this a little further, we can look at the D.A.R. and S.A.R. databases. Col. Joseph Hodgkins is not in the D.A.R. database, but Col. Nathaniel Wade is there with several applications being done by his descendants including through his son, Nathaniel who married Hannah Hodgkins. For the S.A.R. database, Joseph Hodgkins has a record but no applications. S.A.R. has been trying to identify all Patriots. The Col. Nathanial Wade record shows no applicants with the Wade name. 
This is an example of how families were involved in the Revolution. The two Patriots were from the same town and served together. Their children married. There were many cases like this. So the families kept an association through the years. D.A.R. allows supplemental applications after a primary one is verified and one becomes a member. 

One motivation can be membership approval. However, the larger picture related to history is very much tied into the families who were there. That type of research will be better served with the improvements in technology than we had before where paper chasing was the theme. But, the larger problem was figuring out where to find the paper as well has hoping that such might exist and actually be of use. 

Now? One of our interests is technology for reasons that John has dealt with that for decades. STEM is pushing this type of thinking without any regard for other issues. Such as? Take philosophy which was thrown to the background (for reason that can be discussed). See the Knowbility post. It's a beginning. Briefly, one problem is that assumption computing have no basis. Oh sure, these issues can supposedly be overcome through demonstration. But, rationalaity is going to have to be deconstructed and put back on its pedastal. That work has been waiting in the wing for several decades now. 

Remarks: Modified: 08/12/2023

08/12/2023 --

Society of the Cincinnati

TD;DR -- We have had regular posts about the Revolution and descendants of the Patriots - D.A.R. and S.A.R. This post is about a Society that recognizes the officers of the Continental Army.  


We have run across the Society of the Cincinnati a few times in our research and have mentioned it in the blog (five posts). The latest post was from our helping a friend apply to the Baronial Order of the Magna Carta which is a member society of the Hereditary Society Community. At the time, we discussed a house in New Hampshire owned by the Society of the Cincinnati (Two houses) but did not look further at the Society. 

This post corrects that oversight and is motivated by research performed for a recent post (Knowability). We had been reading an editorial in the American Ancestor magazin and also saw an add for a recent book: Biographies of Original Members and Qualifying Officers

This is the intro to the Society at their website. 

The Society of the Cincinnati is the nation’s oldest patriotic organization, founded in 1783 by officers of the Continental Army who served together in the American Revolution. Its mission is to promote knowledge and appreciation of the achievement of American independence and to foster fellowship among its members. Now a nonprofit educational organization devoted to the principles and ideals of its founders, the modern Society maintains its headquarters, library, and museum at Anderson House in Washington, D.C.

The research arm of the Society has a list of the officers who have known descendants: The American Revolution Institute. Gardner Research will be pay ing more attention to the work of this Institute as we would like to identify officers who are not represented. There is a process that allows such work to be documented and verified. Like we have seen with the Daughters of the American Revolusion (D.A.R.) who honors Patriots who supported the Revolution, Patriots with known descendants who have joined D.A.R. are a small percentage of the total. A perusal of one research effort (Mass. Soldiers and Sailors) will give one an idea of the quantity of prospecti having a modern descendant who qualifies and can establish the fact.

The Society of the Cincinnati is for gentlemen. A comparable organization has been established for the ladies: Daughters of the Cincinnati

Remarks: Modified: 08/12/2023

08/12/2023 --

Thursday, August 10, 2023


TL:DR -- This post introduces a topic of long-standing debate which pertains closely with how we ought to consider technology and choices related to it. 


Can we know it all? Can any one? Or any thing? That latter case? One might point to the new approach to AI which is doing just that, albeit the source for knowledge is the collection (of stuff, over about three decades) on the internet. A good look at that might get one to realize one huge issue: how much is believable?; or, knowable, for that matter? 

And one consequence is that we see failures and have since one major release in November (ChatGPT). Of late, the six months of experience (with multitudes making updates and supposed improvement via learning) brings out another observation: failures are increasing despite an attempt at training by the public. 

We might add, you cannot train out the crap that was originally introduced. 

Earlier, we mentioned Charles Sanders Peirce and his work which will become more usable. There are other Americans of note to bring into the discussion. We learned of one yesterday: Frederic Brenton Fitch (Wikipedia). He was a mathematical logician and is the maternal grandfather of D. Brenton Simons (Wikipedia) who is CEO and President of the NEHGS (New England Historic Genealogical Society) which we all know and love. It's been around for a while having had an illustrious start in the 1830s. The NEHGR is a phenomenal publication providing historic and genealogical information that has been verified, somewhat.  

This is brief, but Prof Fitch is known for his paradox about knowability. There are many sides to this issue. We will look at each of those. Why? They are interwoven with the debates about computing and what we have been calling "AIn't" since there is more promise than actual realization with the current approaches. 

Aside: Fitch, too, had a Paradox: (1) Possibility (blog of Bas van Fraassen). Simons mentioned him in his commentary in the summer (2023) edition of American Ancestors

One dynamic is business versus academic. Or rather, proprietary information versus science. Who owns knowledge that is applicable to us, generally?

Another aspect of S. B. Simons' background is that he has New Amsterdam heritage (van Deusen). We will look at that. Too, he has an ancestor who was born in Lawrence KS (E. L. Simons) and went to TX and became a paleontologist of note dealing with primates. Notice the drifts that we will be considering. S. B.'s ancestor visited seveal continents in his pursuit of knowledge. 

Earlier, we mentioned a Thomas Gardner descendant who was a field biologist with many publications and species named after him. 

But, technology and computing? They are inseparable. As said, we are picking this up as our operational interest with regard to all aspects some of which get little consideration in today's environment of rah-rah money chasing, silly boys rushing and breaking things, issues related to undecidability being shouted down by the bullying environment, and other things best left for later.  

Remarks: Modified: 08/09/2023

08/09/2023 --

Wednesday, August 9, 2023

To date, mainly

TL;DR -- This post looks at two major themes: origins and technology. There will be others to look at later. The issue of origins came about due to additional digitization of records which is an advance in several technologies. Going forward, technological improvement will be more generally available and useful to the point of being problematic since the matter of complication always lurks.  


Right now, as we pull Gardner's Beacon, Vol. XIII, No. 1 together, we are looking at themes from this year's work and at major themes from the beginning. We have two huge changes coming. One deals with origins which has been a puzzle. This year we have need information to process which requires that we rework the story. The other category needing attention is our future focus in a world of increasing technology. Of course, the principal portions will deal with family and country. But, there is also culture and the roles of the U.S. Included here will be technology. 

With regard to origins, we applied a rule that we saw early: those here need to focus on U.S. records and do it right; that related to the other side of the big water is the responsibility of those there. With technology now, we can broaden our scope. In fact, we need to in order to fill in the pieces that have puzzled for centuries. Sherborn records have been quite helpful albeit shaking the foundation. Gardner research will step up to helping with the work and related discussions. We have used the WikiTree Magna Carta project as an example. However, ancestry's work on images is to be acknowledged. 

In terms of the second point, we have the colonial times to research, including New Spain: Hernando de Soto, for example. Then, there is the time of the colonies leading up to the Revolution whose remembrance is coming up in 2026 (247th of the U.S.). Along with the development of the country, we can look at education (Harvard and its Leaders, for example). 

After the Revolution, we have subjects like the frontier and lost generations to research. This came up while researching applicant heritages for DAR/SAR. Research now will have heavy computer assistance that will continue to get better over time. Noticable prowess that increases is one piece of evidence, such as we saw the the November of 2022 release of ChatGPT.  


One of our recent posts has gone up the list of reads to be second overall since the beginning which was back in 2010. We went to look at the numbers by time and confirmed the report. The image shows the first five posts on the list (see the menu area on the right of the blog). The most popular is still about the marriage of Thomas and Margaret (2014). Since then, we have seen the baptism of all of the children come to the fore due to digitization. The second item is this post: A(rtificial) I(ntelligence) researched properly (2021). The occasion was the usual review that we have done with respect to choices along the way with respect to how we handle and manage technology. The thing to note is that the post was over a year before the arrival of ChatGPT. Later, posts cover the topic of the generative approach. We will use the term xNN/LLM as we discuss this further. Then, we have the one from yearend of 2011 where were going back over the activity of the year. The 2013 post (Plus or minus the arrival) was from our research dealing with origins. Turns out that this topic is still on the plate. Then, early on, we looked at Gardners of various types. That was in 2010. Again, this is a recurring theme.  

Remarks: Modified: 08/22/2023

08/22/2023 -- Added image and verbiage about technology, especially AI. 

Sunday, August 6, 2023

Life in the U.S.

TL;DR -- Hernando de Soto toured the southeast even before New England got started. Coronado went through the middle of the country up to KS. So, that's a look at New Spain. We have started to do awareness months. One for Native Americans was started lately. A new way to know is to watch vloggers. We look at one vlogger who has been visiting the reservations and discussing the life of those there. This represents our people focus which will become regular now that we have buckets-of-bits filling the airways in various ways. 


Earlier, we did a post on Coronado's visit to the middle of the U.S., a few centuries before its inception. Then, we looked at Hernando de Soto's jaunt through the southeast. While doing that, we pointed back to earlier civilizations, such as the New Spain of the adventurer. Then, we had others, such as New France. 

We now take a pause to consider those who were here before, as experienced by Coronado and Hernando. And, the American Dream comes up. What is this dream? The first link is to a video done by a vlogger who has been in many locations and talks to the locales. For this video, he was on the Navajo reservation. He has been on several with a consistent view of the area, inhabitants, some history and a discussion with a modern descendant. 

We have this interest as the argument is that everyone is an immigrant. Some are newer than others. So, with our 400-year view, we will begin to include Native American (Awareness month is November) as a subject. One motivation is the notion that coming to the U.S. is to find riches and fame and such. Well, not, though only seven percent actually serve in the military, we might discuss how a National Service obligation for everyone might be of use. 

In this video, a grandmother (indigenous) does not have documentation to fly to see her grandson who is serving in the military. At the point where this discussion takes place, we had already seen mention of the Navajo code-talkers of WII. How can this be, that this woman cannot get recognized? 

If the link does not go there, around 12:50, the video maker asks, can anyone help? 

       How do we get granny legal documentation to fly?

This type of thing is more common than we might consider reasonable. In particular, this post looks at one example. The media mode of youtube will allow further efforts with this type of thing, assuming that we can keep a handle on proper scrutiny with respect to how the viewpoint and message might fit. The video is a good example; the vlogger has accumulated tons of examples of his visiting sites in order to talk to people who are there. Good stuff. 

People will become more important as buckets-of-bits attempt to get more attention. 

Remarks: Modified: 08/06/2023

08/06/2023 -- Started this back in the time of the Hernando de Soto post. Finished text. Added image.