douglas macrae smith

Father & dreamer, Humanity

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Can AI help in solving the problem it's creating?

Watson, Asimo and their robot pals are creating a society with new problems in terms of labour, income, inequality etc - can't their computing qualities be programmed to help find some novel solutions?

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    Jun 13 2013: Thanks fellas - I realise the question comes across as a bit of a paradox, but in order to discover something new: paradigms must be examined.

    Just to be clear; are you suggesting that AI can only have negative effects on society? Surely that can't be right!

    I sometimes get the impression that whatever computers do, they do it better. Or at least as well as the very best humans in their discipline - take deep thought at chess, Watson at jeopardy, and all those robots working on the assembly line.

    What about a computer developped to crunch data on economics, social policy, education? Not only are they perfect for wholly concentrating on the topic at hand , but they are also not mislead by their own belief systems - facts are just facts to them, the effects are the effects.

    Of course, AI does not work in a vacuum - both the users and the developpers are part of the system - by the individual programmes developed and the billions of tweets tweeted. (social, medical, and marketing policy has changed/improved thanks to AI crunching the data from social media)

    Homo cyberneticus is already here - its u and me. AI and us are not enemies, we are already in symbiosis - the way forward will be together.
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      Jun 13 2013: To address these problems we first need to make a smarter-then-human AI, our current AI's are not nearly as smart as a 5 year old child. But yeah, I think it can and will be done.
      But there are many problems, like people not wanting to accept that machines do it better.

      Won't computers program themselves in the future? And I agree, there's no reason we should fight each other, it simply isn't logical.

      (Oh and it's Deep Blue, Deep Thought is from the hitchhikers guide to the galaxy.)

      P.S did you know that your conversation is closing in 18 hours? It would be nice if you extended it a bit perhaps?
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        Jun 13 2013: Thanks Jimmy - (okay u got me, I am a sci fi fan and the answer is 42)

        Maybe one day computers will be as smart as us - but we obviously dont need to wait to get them working - the key is in the specialisation and cooperation - ie Deep blue and Watson are specialists, but they are already superior in their chosen field. The data crunching ability is already impressive, we just got to point them in the desired direction.
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          Jun 13 2013: Yes, I get your idea, and I have thought of it as well. But I think that it'll be many years (15-25) before computers are ready for this.
          Just look at how poorly equipped the best chat bots of today are. They can't even simulate a believable conversation for more then a minute or two. We still have some years until the Turing test is accomplished.

          We today have some impressive programming for specific tasks, but solving the issue on inequality for example has so many unknown factors that I find it hard to imagine that we'll have a script for that soon.

          However, maybe these issues aren't so hard after all and it may be that many people are already right about these things. While others are simply wrong, would those that are wrong accept that they are proven wrong more by a computer then by a man? I don't think they will. We have the problem in the world of people making their own evidence and making their own claims to reality.

          If truth is singular (which I think it is) we first need to get all those who don't accept it to accept it. Or any truth coming from a computer will matter as much as truth being spoken today by people.
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    Jun 24 2013: "Douglas M S. stated: "So the self is no where to be found, but we want to instill a sense of this confusion into AI ?"

    No. Absolutely not. Why would we want to do that?

    Some people (most people), confuse Artificial Intelligence with the idea of a singularity, that is, a self-aware being.

    Computers can be Intelligent. But no computer has ever been self-aware. Humans can be intelligent but all (most) humans are self-aware.

    We can design computers to mimic the base ideas of intelligence, problem solving, etc., but we can't program emotions into machines. We can mimic emotions in a computer but we can't, design nor program, a computer to develop emotionally. Why? Because we know very little about our own emotions, much less how to control them. No one has ever come up with a sure fire method of emotion control that we can program ourselves to utilize.

    I’ve been in the programming business since 1978 and I have yet to see this done. I've contemplated it since that time and I can't figure a way to do it. I can't even come up with a basic algorithm that sets us on a course to accomplish such a feat.

    There is a lot more to "me" and "you" than "you" and "I" can perceive. I would dare say that the greater part of our knowledge about humans has yet to be discovered.
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    Jun 21 2013: What if we are the machine?

    Russian tycoon's plan to live forever
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    Jun 13 2013: Okay - this conversation is already starting to pinpoint an underlying (possibly more important) issue: Human Belief systems as a major obstacle to dealing with Reality.

    The problem will not really be the ability of AI to advance by leaps and bounds. And thus their ability to provide solutions. The future is all about humanity playing catch up, emotionally and psychologically.

    (maybe a solution is a robot therapist - lol)
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    Jun 13 2013: No
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    Jun 25 2013: It's always good to be alive Douglas. Good luck. I've enjoyed the questions.

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    Jun 25 2013: The sense of self is coming up a lot in this discussion - Now Time traveller's last post talks about total data input - and Mitch Smith mentions psychopathic tendancies - The sense of self being subordinate to the collective might be the way to go - as in the internet as an entity rather than the individual computer as the self referenced unit - the energy/data shared rather than the hardware involved as the self.
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    Jun 25 2013: Hmmm, much to contemplate in recent posts here.

    Moonstroller, thanks for your input, especially in terms of active involvement with AI/computer evolvement. Am guessing that you are in your 60's with regard your less than 20 years to go mention... gotta say btw even your extra 20 to go is more than some even get!

    For me I don't know how long there is to go but in terms of AI development and even despite current technology, I do see a future whereby machines will be their own life form and capable of Learned human behaviours.

    Just as we are self aware, so I believe a machine will become self aware. It will know its source, its programme and be able to navigate in an informationly initiated instant on the basis of total knowledge in its database, so that all information and everything known is incorporated into any decision it makes!


    If humanity has this knowledge/computer chip integrated into their brains so that mental/cyborg AI intelligence is manifested then we as a civilisation would have entered a whole new world paridigm.

    With reference to the 3rd world, they are becoming more first world with each passing decade as first world countries outsource to cheaper labour economies. As they become more affluent and technologically enabled, the economic gaps will lessen.

    Also don't be fooled into thinking that because of circumstance that another countries occupants are not smart... humanity is smart, humans are clever... it is our species, collectively we are smart. It is only circumstance that has put civilisations into less desirable positions, however there are people actively involved from other societies and world influences helping them to better their collective situation.

    Just as we as individual families want better for our children. The world also wants better for their humanity brothers and sisters! : D
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    Jun 25 2013: I think they will.

    But it is complicated.

    For instance, I believe that google is probably about to become a full AI entity.
    I do not believe that google will be good for humans - it is based on the psychopathic corporate entity model.

    A true AI can only exist when it can perform the entire existential loop:
    (initial local energy state)-->sense-->perceive-->compare-->remember-->adjust-->evaluate-->act-->(changed local energy state) Repeat.

    If it does not have these capacities at the service of its survival(advantage) it can not engage with the universal open-system and cannot have intelligence.

    Many of the machines we create as AI are not AI - they are tools. At best they are sophisticated prophylactics - and they will never be more while they are at the service/command of a human.

    I imagine that some experimenters are working on fully autonomous AI constructs. Such things can have value to humans and human problems if they are close enough to human parameters, can execute the empathy convergence function and are treated as friends.
    However, if you make a machine that is dedicated to solving human problems, it cannot be an AI and will not be any help.
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    Jun 24 2013: I think a good use of AI would be an app that would make people aware of a social problem or criminal activity going on in their neighbourhood. If it appeared that there was some activity building on twitter that indicated a possible protest was building, people could be alerted to where and when it might take place and they could make sure they were not in the neighbourhood.

    If we had such an app when the Boston bombings took place, people in a neighbourhood where the police might be slinging lead around could be alerted and they could get down and hide.

    We already have such apps for traffic so we don't get caught in it. In Panama City Florida. They have a map of all current and past criminal activity posted on a map of the City. A simple Amber alert does little to give us a picture of where such a kidnapping took place. An App that would post it on your Ipad, would be nice. You could see instantly where the abduction took place, where you are in location to the event, etc.

    The program used by the NSA is a similar Application. It can post on a map where are the recent criminals are, those that have been recently released and so on. It can pinpoint the location of people deemed to be a possible threats and help guide the security forces to make sure they have enough resources to deal with a possible attack. For those who are duty bound to protect our national security, I can see how such a program would be useful and help to protect both, the innocent and the agents.

    If some people are labelled as possible threats and we see a gathering building on the map, we can apply security where we need it in a timely manner. It would be an asset.

    If we could put chips on people, we could probably eradicate crime for the most part by knowing where everyone was in real time. It doesn’t have to be embedded in people. It can be worn. People who walk by a device that doesn't detect a chip could also be indicated on a map.
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      Jun 24 2013: All good ideas - but none of this can be forced, we have too many emotional barriers - as usual culture and tradition will probably be the main brake on the our coming techno society - until most people actually want to be tagged or connected 24/7 - becoming cyborgs must be perceived as cool, like owning an iphone or google glass.
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        Jun 25 2013: It sounds good on paper but in real life, operations to accomplish bio-machine integration with the human body are hurtful and dangerous at this time. I've had two hip replacements and the healing process is not always predictable.

        One day we may have to make a choice wither we want to be "in" the society or on the "outside". Those on the outside may have to fend for themselves in a lesser grade technological society. The cold hard facts of life are: there is only so much copper to go around. Looking at 9 billion people carrying two lbs of copper and rare metals per person in techno-products may sound cool but it may not be workable considering the limited energy we have to process resources and the reduction in resources due to expanded use. We may have to consider what is more important. Ipads for billions or dialysis machines for a few hundred thousand.

        What most young people don't take into consideration when they contemplate the future world is will we have the resources to outfit 9 or 11 billion people with modern technology. Industrialist know the answer to this question already. But, they won't tell everyone the truth because people have a tendency to react to bad news quickly, putting strain on the current economy.

        One day, soon, we will have to divide our society into the haves and the have-nots. The haves will walk towards the future and the Have-nots will become more primitive in their culture. What we will see is a growing third world,, not a declining one.

        Always consider this when projecting future developments in technology. Fresh water is also becoming a strong commodity that some are willing to pay more for, leaving others with only rain water.

        Of course..... it's not my problem.... it's a problem for the young of this planet. I'm be moving on in a couple of decades leaving my problems behind.
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          Jun 25 2013: You've obviously given this a lot of thought. I was using the word cyborg in a rather loose sense of 'in symbiotic relationship with' rather than 'physically merged' with the machine - which in fact we already are for us 1st worlders.
          Equality and abundance for all is obviously another issue, that will probably depend on being able to create matter from energy - something which doesn't seem to be on the cards at all right now. Still, we live in exciting times.
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    Jun 21 2013: There are some basic human functions that are built into our DNA. We sleep, breathe,eat, drink and seek comfort(shelter, clothing).

    After these functions are fulfilled, we are stuck with what else to do. This is the distinction between man and machine. We perceive a purpose to not only stay alive but pursue activities not related to survival because. Why? Because we are curious.

    How can we program a machine to pursue activities not related to survival or production, that mimics the human potential of curiosity? I've often sat down and tried to determine how my mental program permits me to accomplish tasks and it seems simple enough to do with a machine also. But what I can't do is determine just what curiosity is and how to implement it in a program.

    I've fooled around with, so called, universal programs where you don't have any memory size limitations, the program can augment itself and grow larger based on certain inputs but they always find a settling point and cease to function outside the survival mode. They can maintain themselves, they just can't develop something else to do outside this domain. They can't say "what is that over there and is it relevant to me?" They can't determine what "me" is.
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      Jun 23 2013: Buddhists often have this discussion of 'what is me?' - some would say that there is no actual entity 'me' - just the processes of cognition and memory - the process gives the effect of the me. Thus everything I sense is not me (but is sometimes considered mine) - This sense of me is apparently essentiel if there is to be a sense of competition and personal progress

      The feeling amongst buddhists is that the sense of self is overwhelming, counterproductive and the cause of our psychological confusion. Its only real utility being self preservation from danger.
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        Jun 23 2013: I have a friend who lives in a Buddhist commune in Tenn. On occasions, I go and spend some time with her up there and share in their customs. She is a pilot trainer.

        There is the me you see and the me, I feel when I look outward from the inside. Most interpretations of this me are derived form outside observation, where we agree or disagree on what we see. Internally, it is harder to define in a group setting.

        The "me" you see is not the "me" I feel and know. We are left to compare how we feel about ourselves. Most of this type of introspection is not well defined in the area of philosophical knowledge.
        Can I trust you telling me how you feel? Can you trust me?

        When I look outward into reality, I sometimes get a sense that I am alone and everything else is prepared for me, as a kind of test, if it were so. You may be real but then again you may not. You may be some kind of temporal manifestation of the energies and matter that make up this reality. These elements could be controlled by some kind of master intelligence. It could all be a cyber-reality, on some program running somewhere. Some say a simple test is to whack your toe with a hammer. But can we trust what the brain is telling us?

        An AI device will have to explain this conundrum to itself, if it is to be considered on par with our sense of "self" or "me".

        Being emotional creatures, it is hard to imagine a pure intellect, devoid of emotion. Even the Buddhists cannot conceive of it. Ultimately, "Bliss" consists of the emotional experience of pure freedom from constraint and the feeling of harmony.

        Most AI machines we imagine, are devoid of the emotional, self-sense. I'm not sure it is possible to have such a single life force that is not introspective and feels something as a result.

        That is why, when I try to resolve these issues, I try to consider the ideas of Deaf, Dumb, Blind and unfeeling. I have practiced sensory deprivation and it is still hard to find me in all of the chaos of reality.
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          Jun 24 2013: So the self is no where to be found, but we want to instill a sense of this confusion into AI ?
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    Jun 21 2013: OpenCog:

    General Intelligence via Cognitive Synergy

    OpenCog is a diverse assemblage of cognitive algorithms, each embodying their own innovations — but what makes the overall architecture powerful is its careful adherence to the principle of cognitive synergy.

    The human brain consists of a host of subsystems carrying out particular tasks — some more specialized, some more general in nature — and connected together in a manner enabling them to (usually) synergetically assist rather than work against each other.

    The OpenCog design aims to capture the spirit of the brain’s architecture and dynamics without imitating the details (which are largely unknown), via:

    integrating together a carefully selected combination of cognitive algorithms acting on different kinds of knowledge
    in a scalable, robust and flexible C++ software architecture
    in a manner specifically designed:
    to cooperate together with “cognitive synergy” for the scope of tasks characteristic of human intelligence
    to give rise to the emergence of an effectively functioning knowledge network in the AI system’s mind, as it interacts with the world, including a self-updating hierarchical/heterarchical ontology and models of itself and others
  • Jun 18 2013: When I went through Engineering school, as an undergraduate, our mech design professor told us that Engineers were meant to do the following algorithm- (1) innovate your job away (2) repeat step 1. That is, increases in efficiency are usually equivalent to the removal of jobs. A little thought will reveal the underlying truth of the situation. Objectively, we all benefit from the boost to the economy, but subjectively, as a father with a family, we want secure employment to carry on as long as possible.
    I think this is a really interesting problem in system dynamics. There will be new workers entering the workforce, as people graduate from secondary and tertiary education. But these workers are not just conservative influences who want the nipple to yield milk as long as possible- they are also young people whose tastes as a consumer change, and who apply change pressures by virtue of their mass effect on markets.
    There are significant infrastructural 'leaks' which add significant loads to this basic churn dynamic, the largest of which is international tax evasion systems. The large banks are the prime vectors of this loss.
    As always, what matters is not what is, but what can be changed. Public opinion en masse can be affected by government advertising, such as the recent non-smoking drives. Public 'background' behaviours are highly resistant to deliberate influence, yet regularly exhibit cascades, ie rapid changes in equilibrium state. This problem is chaotic. Economists sure have their work cut out. I'm an AI researcher who has made considerable inroads into the 'rusted on' problems in my field. I need my counterparts in the field of neo-economics to perform similar magic. Good luck!
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      Jun 21 2013: Yes. The eternal question in research: "Where is the money coming from?".
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      Jun 21 2013: Very interesting website Miro. I see your stuck on the "me" question also.

      Too many AI researchers are stuck with the demands of industry to have eyes, ears, touch, smell (all the sensory inputs of a healthy human being). They would also like to have enhancements to these inputs like encompass more of the light spectrum, etc. It's like they are working from the want list instead of from the bottom up, so to speak.

      I work the problem from the perspective that you can be blind, dumb, deaf, paralyzed and still be a conscious human being or singularity. It greatly reduces complexity in the search and focuses on the real goal of declaring a conscious function, activating it, and pursuing a self-actuated goal, or suggested goal from a list of suggestions.

      I've had no success so far.
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    Jun 18 2013: The Gods may soon walk upon this Earth - How they look upon their creators we shall not know
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    Jun 18 2013: There is a point in time Douglas that will indeed answer these questions and so much more. That point in time is refered to as "The Singularity".

    Jimmy's timeframe of being 15-20 years away is possibly how long til it occurs. You may like to google, Jason Silva, who has much to say on this whole AI area. He even has just started on Nat Geo his own program, called, "Brain Games".

    J'pense il y a nous vie epoch une vrai monde que etat avec intelligence artificial! Excuse moi si mon ecrit ete ne bon pas! : D
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      Jun 18 2013: I thought the Singularity was a Sci fi novel - but found this on Wikipedia

      Technological singularity

      The technological singularity is the theoretical emergence of superintelligence through technological means. Since the capabilities of such intelligence would be difficult for an unaided human mind to comprehend, the technological singularity is seen as an occurrence beyond which events cannot be predicted
      Proponents of the singularity typically postulate an "intelligence explosion", where superintelligences design successive generations of increasingly powerful minds, that might occur very quickly and might not stop until the agent's cognitive abilities greatly surpass that of any human.

      Kurzweil predicts the singularity to occur around 2045 whereas Vinge predicts some time before 2030. At the 2012 Singularity Summit, Stuart Armstrong did a study of artificial generalized intelligence (AGI) predictions by experts and found a wide range of predicted dates, with a median value of 2040. His own prediction on reviewing the data is that there's an 80% probability that the singularity will occur in a range of 5 to 100 years.[
      • Jun 18 2013: I know this might sound weird, but I think my research will bring forward significantly the singularity. Allow me to qualify my statement. I have solved the fundamental problems of AI, by doing the following- (1) believing that cognition IS computation - first that the mind is software, the brain is hardware, language is the UI (2) taking each of these areas in turn, and developing a realistic model of each. I have just finished the language solution, having completed the hardware solution last year, and the (system) software the year before that.

        Ten years ago, I found I had to stay at home to mind kids while my partner, a successful lawyer, pursued her (our) financial security. Therefore, if I was going to discover something basic, real and hopefully amazing, I was never going to have a better opportunity. My main quality that counts is my lateral thinking ability. I have the unconventional mindset AND the intellectual energy to pursue alternative models of cognition.

        I found the biggest problems to progress in this field were unnecessary - introduced by so-called gurus of the field, like Fodor. His analysis of symbol computation systems is fundamentally flawed.

        I have read many crazy things on the Internet that sound pretty much as I do now. I also know that a proportion of readers will always regard transhumanist pronouncements like this one with a jaundiced eye. All I ask is that you read my website, and suspend judgement until you have read and understood my work, and its main ideas.
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          Jun 19 2013: Thanks Miro - I had a quick look at your website (way over my head) I was very much struck by the theory that memory and consciousness are in fact the same - it rings so true!

          So, am I right in thinking that your work is theoretical? Is there anyone out there trying to make a computer based on your findings?
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          Jun 20 2013: I too have perused your provided link Miro and wonder like Douglas, whether it is in theory, or if it is something that you are in the process of initiating. Given the recent timelines, I am more inclined to think that it is still very much in its development stage and that you are on the verge of making it a reality : D

          It was late when I started reading thru it and I could see that you have invested an enormous amount of well thought thru intelligent and analytical analysis that clearly you have researched to an extraordinarly high standard.

          I liked how your approach, instead of standing on the shoulders of giants to develop your idea, you took a more fundamental approach (at the beginning/earlier stage) so that you were standing next to them and thereby able to see what they appear to have overlooked. Specifically the looping of information back into the program.

          I also found your point along the lines that people in the business of making computers are in the business of making money and so as such would not be inclined to develop another type of business.

          I am not suprised that there is a level of difficulty in grasping all that you have put up by way of your work, because I would expect to create a computer capable of thinking for itself, then it just has to be a very involved process.

          That said, if you are right in your findings, what are you doing with them? How are you setting about with a proof of concept? Importantly too, if you want to patent things, they must never have been published and so there are also legal considerations, as no doubt, an invention of this magnitude would literally be worth Billions! Oh just re-read your post, lol, your wife is a lawyer!

          Personally, I think you might be onto something and if Douglas doesn't mind and if you are happy too as well (in light of what I said about IP, $,etc), then I would love to run over your findings here via this AI aligned post and discuss it more!

          P.S I checked translator, thanks D !
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          Jun 21 2013: You are not the only one approaching the problem in this manner. The new term is "AGI."

          Ben Goertzel is a frequent contributor to TED comments. One can find his comments at the Sheldrake controversy blog. He is working on "OpenCog."

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      Jun 18 2013: Time traveller - May I suggest the benevolent AI : Google translate
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    Jun 15 2013: Creating more New problems - that is what our mass production of essentually mindless technological toys is doing right now. I just love your comment!

    Those who create problems for profit are not interested in solving them. I believe these upcoming tech problems, that are retarding our mentality, and sense of reality, can be prevented. We better start right now, before it's toooo late. Whether we deal with industries, education, ethics or everyday mode of life The deadly outdated Golden Rule needs to be changed: Never treat others as you would like to be treated yourself - unless they agree to it first -because what is good for you may be damaging for others.

    Just in order to survive, the good thinking people have a ton of work to do - firstly, every one of us has to understand that our exicting technology only indicates how mindlessly needy and immensely lost our undeveloped bodies and minds are. Technology is unable to fix these things, it is about crotch walking without really knowing "where". Great Werner Heisenberg has been saying that it is a true madness to explore techological innovation for creating mass production - we have no clue of what we are doing - Nature will make us pay sooner or later.

    Who trusts technology, dreams, who learns to sense and wisely interact with the nature's given world, awakes.
    I'm trying to build a unique futuristic town to nurture new mentality. I want to build this place for practicing alternative ethical, economic, and educational concepts and solutions based on precious old and new wisdom, innovative ideas and advanced research. This futuristic town is designed to peacefully co-exist with natural environment, and Serve individuals, not a non-existing prototype. Sustainable systems means flexible systems are to support highly diverse interests and micro-economy, and inspire denizens to be as thoughtfully creative as they can be.. Vera Nova

    “Come friends, it's not too late to seek a newer world.”
    ― Alfred
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      Jun 18 2013: Good luck with your project - I hope you're familiar with Permaculture - you might want to look it up and perhaps have a permaculture designer look at your plans
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        Jun 19 2013: Hello Douglas.I really am greatful for your emcouragement. Contact us at if you have somethng in mind. Ask any questions.
        Will be glad to hear from you.
  • Jun 13 2013: Can the cause of a problem be it's solution? let's see, but I need to scdratch my head.
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      Jun 24 2013: Yes. Money can both cause problems and be the solution.
      • Jun 25 2013: Okat I scratched my head money can be very good.