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PostPosted: Tue Jan 17, 2017 9:10 pm 
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Actually, this makes a weird bit of sense for AIs, though it's so far from common knowledge that I kinda doubt that Howard knew about it before he wrote it in. EDIT: Scrap that, it's entirely possible he was thinking about it.

There was some work done on generating simple logic circuits on FPGAs (programmable, fully parallel logic chips) using genetic algorithms. Turns out the genetic algorithms like to make circuits that used impossibly few gates, and would fail if you moved them to new hardware - or even to a different location on the original chip. Basically, they depended on the idiosyncrasies inherent to where they were grown to shortcut the formal logic. Fast, but the manufacturing wasn't precise enough to allow them to be replicated on other hardware.

If you assume a 'vanilla helix' grow corresponds to "use the hardware in a deterministic manner" then all this makes sense in Schlock Mercenary. If you're trying to eke out all the speed you can from your AI, you might 'grow' the program into the hardware, shortcutting out logic but sacrificing the ability to run it on other hardware. And even if you did, it would be much, much slower. Ennesby is relatively slow wherever he runs, but can run on anything.


Last edited by JohnSmith on Tue Jan 17, 2017 11:48 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Tue Jan 17, 2017 9:17 pm 
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JohnSmith wrote:
Actually, this makes a weird bit of sense for AIs, though it's so far from common knowledge that I kinda doubt that Howard knew about it before he wrote it in.

There was some work done on generating simple logic circuits on FPGAs (programmable, fully parallel logic chips) using genetic algorithms. Turns out the genetic algorithms like to make circuits that used impossibly few gates, and would fail if you moved them to new hardware - or even to a different location on the original chip. Basically, they depended on the idiosyncrasies inherent to where they were grown to shortcut the formal logic. Fast, but the manufacturing wasn't precise enough to allow them to be replicated on other hardware.

If you assume a 'vanilla helix' grow corresponds to "use the hardware in a deterministic manner" then all this makes sense in Schlock Mercenary. If you're trying to eke out all the speed you can from your AI, you might 'grow' the program into the hardware, shortcutting out logic but sacrificing the ability to run it on other hardware. And even if you did, it would be much, much slower. Ennesby is relatively slow wherever he runs, but can run on anything.

This also presents an interesting juxtaposition between humans using RED-HACK and non-vanilla AIs. Though I swear, I think the yellow goop running out of the ears was the old "hardware" being replaced by new brain material.

That doesn't explain how Kowalski was able to take over Mako without a big mess....

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PostPosted: Tue Jan 17, 2017 9:23 pm 
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Black Sheep wrote:
JohnSmith wrote:
Actually, this makes a weird bit of sense for AIs, though it's so far from common knowledge that I kinda doubt that Howard knew about it before he wrote it in.

There was some work done on generating simple logic circuits on FPGAs (programmable, fully parallel logic chips) using genetic algorithms. Turns out the genetic algorithms like to make circuits that used impossibly few gates, and would fail if you moved them to new hardware - or even to a different location on the original chip. Basically, they depended on the idiosyncrasies inherent to where they were grown to shortcut the formal logic. Fast, but the manufacturing wasn't precise enough to allow them to be replicated on other hardware.

If you assume a 'vanilla helix' grow corresponds to "use the hardware in a deterministic manner" then all this makes sense in Schlock Mercenary. If you're trying to eke out all the speed you can from your AI, you might 'grow' the program into the hardware, shortcutting out logic but sacrificing the ability to run it on other hardware. And even if you did, it would be much, much slower. Ennesby is relatively slow wherever he runs, but can run on anything.

This also presents an interesting juxtaposition between humans using RED-HACK and non-vanilla AIs. Though I swear, I think the yellow goop running out of the ears was the old "hardware" being replaced by new brain material.

That doesn't explain how Kowalski was able to take over Mako without a big mess....


How do you know there wasn't a big mess? She went and took a nap. We saw her before and after, but not during.
If the bed or couch got a little sticky as a result, (s)he probably stripped the bed or flipped the cushions.


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 17, 2017 9:38 pm 
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So Ennesby runs in a virtual machine? I expect a joke about Ennesby, or humans, "running on Java" pretty soon.


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 17, 2017 9:45 pm 
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JohnSmith wrote:
Actually, this makes a weird bit of sense for AIs, though it's so far from common knowledge that I kinda doubt that Howard knew about it before he wrote it in.

There was some work done on generating simple logic circuits on FPGAs (programmable, fully parallel logic chips) using genetic algorithms. Turns out the genetic algorithms like to make circuits that used impossibly few gates, and would fail if you moved them to new hardware - or even to a different location on the original chip. Basically, they depended on the idiosyncrasies inherent to where they were grown to shortcut the formal logic. Fast, but the manufacturing wasn't precise enough to allow them to be replicated on other hardware.

If you assume a 'vanilla helix' grow corresponds to "use the hardware in a deterministic manner" then all this makes sense in Schlock Mercenary. If you're trying to eke out all the speed you can from your AI, you might 'grow' the program into the hardware, shortcutting out logic but sacrificing the ability to run it on other hardware. And even if you did, it would be much, much slower. Ennesby is relatively slow wherever he runs, but can run on anything.


Yep, everyone was amazed when the first attempts to use genetic algorithms on FPGAs did things like have a stub of connections hanging out that didn't "do" anything, but somehow the inherent capacitance and resistance of the circuits ended up creating an oscillator that could act as the clock for the circuit. You can't clone it because the next fpga layers are an atom thicker or thinner, etc...

And, I suspect Howard knows all about that. At the time it was very well reported, and that would have been when Howard was very much a tech guy.


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 17, 2017 9:54 pm 
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https://www.damninteresting.com/on-the- ... -circuits/


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 17, 2017 10:14 pm 
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RickBoatright wrote:
Yep, everyone was amazed when the first attempts to use genetic algorithms on FPGAs did things like have a stub of connections hanging out that didn't "do" anything, but somehow the inherent capacitance and resistance of the circuits ended up creating an oscillator that could act as the clock for the circuit. You can't clone it because the next fpga layers are an atom thicker or thinner, etc...

And, I suspect Howard knows all about that. At the time it was very well reported, and that would have been when Howard was very much a tech guy.

Ah! Then I stand corrected. I sometimes forget that he had a career before Schlock Mercenary. You're right, it was well reported in the tech field, but I'm quite certain that if I asked every single one of my friends about it, none would have any idea what I was talking about... and one is an electrical engineer.


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PostPosted: Tue Jan 17, 2017 10:49 pm 
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Ken_g6 wrote:
So Ennesby runs in a virtual machine? I expect a joke about Ennesby, or humans, "running on Java" pretty soon.

Well, the humans where I work sure run on java . . .

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 18, 2017 12:26 am 
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Sean wrote:
How do you know there wasn't a big mess? She went and took a nap. We saw her before and after, but not during.
If the bed or couch got a little sticky as a result, (s)he probably stripped the bed or flipped the cushions.

Remember she was dimly aware in her dream of him "moving in" so it seemed to not involve a massive physical change, either the tech or the method allowed a more subtle and cleaner replacement.


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 18, 2017 12:40 am 
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ExenTrik wrote:
Remember she was dimly aware in her dream of him "moving in" so it seemed to not involve a massive physical change, either the tech or the method allowed a more subtle and cleaner replacement.

Exactly. As a sleeper agent she was well-prepped for a Kowalski mental make over.


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 18, 2017 1:59 am 
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ExenTrik wrote:
Sean wrote:
How do you know there wasn't a big mess? She went and took a nap. We saw her before and after, but not during.
If the bed or couch got a little sticky as a result, (s)he probably stripped the bed or flipped the cushions.

Remember she was dimly aware in her dream of him "moving in" so it seemed to not involve a massive physical change, either the tech or the method allowed a more subtle and cleaner replacement.

It seemed to me she had a splitting headache and went to lay down for what she thought was only an upgrade.

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 18, 2017 2:37 am 
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The sense of pain is your brain cells dying!

It's not unexpected about non-removable hardware; Para has been talking about "growpramming" in AIs like Tagii since Credomar.


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 18, 2017 6:09 am 
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Reaver225 wrote:
The sense of pain is your brain cells dying!

It's not unexpected about non-removable hardware; Para has been talking about "growpramming" in AIs like Tagii since Credomar.

Speaking of Tagii, is Chinook now vanilla helix? Or maybe was? She was copied into Ennesby by some means or another, and later migrated into the station.


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 18, 2017 8:21 pm 
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ExenTrik wrote:
Speaking of Tagii, is Chinook now vanilla helix? Or maybe was? She was copied into Ennesby by some means or another, and later migrated into the station.

Don't forget, being copied like that meant she had to lose a few capabilities that turned out to be important — she was pretty much pared down to the limitations of Ennesby's hardware, so much that she apparently didn't realise she was giving away the fact of her survival, and that this was a Very Not Good Idea™.

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 18, 2017 9:03 pm 
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ExenTrik wrote:
Speaking of Tagii, is Chinook now vanilla helix?

Simple answer, yes.


Apparently Ennesby really did make up the voice in his head.


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 18, 2017 9:06 pm 
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Well, this moves quite firmly into the realm of 'how much of me do you require for the copy to still be me?' Since we've been talking about copies of people and losses of forevers and all that. This Tagii certainly seems to remember being Tagii. Believes herself to be Tagii. Is she? Certainly there was a loss of continuity.


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 18, 2017 10:08 pm 
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JohnSmith wrote:
Well, this moves quite firmly into the realm of 'how much of me do you require for the copy to still be me?' Since we've been talking about copies of people and losses of forevers and all that. This Tagii certainly seems to remember being Tagii. Believes herself to be Tagii. Is she? Certainly there was a loss of continuity.


AIs back themselves up all the time. Remember TAG couldn't be rebooted, but Tagii could access all of his memories.

This kind of thing is normal for them. They likely don't make any distinction. Which makes Tailor's comment in Tagon's mindspace even stranger.

Petey died when he blew up, but he had already made his 'backup', and then he cloned and copied himself hundreds of times, several of which have died after transferring their gestalt.

Organic life in this era is just rediscovering what the Oafans learned long ago, and AIs have known for as long as there have been AIs....you are who you think you are, no matter if you've died or not? And no matter what and who OTHER people think you are. So long as you have a backup, YOU CONTINUE.


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 18, 2017 10:47 pm 
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Not so fast, Ken. Petey himself phrased it as "I'm not the one who committed suicide - I'm descended from the AI who woke up in the cryokit." He's still Petey, but he's definitely acknowledging the continuity gap. The AIs just don't seem to be bothered by it.

Nobody's saying Tagon isn't Tagon or Schlock isn't Schlock. They're acknowledging the continuity gap. They're not the same Tagon and Schlock who got themselves killed.


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 18, 2017 11:03 pm 
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JohnSmith wrote:
Not so fast, Ken. Petey himself phrased it as "I'm not the one who committed suicide - I'm descended from the AI who woke up in the cryokit." He's still Petey, but he's definitely acknowledging the continuity gap. The AIs just don't seem to be bothered by it.

Nobody's saying Tagon isn't Tagon or Schlock isn't Schlock. They're acknowledging the continuity gap. They're not the same Tagon and Schlock who got themselves killed.


I think the next point to be made is how like humans AI are. Their gestalt is grown into their matrix, and on subsequent restores, their matrix has to be formed to match their gestalt.
It took two months to rebuilt Kaff. I suspect it wouldn't have taken a quarter of the time if they didn't have to so carefully mold the new brain to match the structure of the old one.


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 18, 2017 11:13 pm 
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Ken_g6 wrote:
So Ennesby runs in a virtual machine? I expect a joke about Ennesby, or humans, "running on Java" pretty soon.


Morning coffee?

===

So, we recently got a refresher on all the ships that the Toughs have had. Does someone with a better memory / indexing ability / search-foo than me want to provide a list of the AI's that the Toughs have had and the ships they go with?

---

On the evolving circuit thing: This is the bit that I never understood from this whole thing:
Quote:
There was also evidence that the circuit was not relying solely on the transistors’ absolute ON and OFF positions like a typical chip; it was capitalizing upon analogue shades of gray along with the digital black and white.


While I can understand an isolated section with no data inputs using hardware quirks to send / receive data with the main section (barely -- what would happen if there was a connection between the two sections, would the hardware-quirk signal conflict with the wire signal?), how in the heck can analog behavior be there? If the gates are working correctly, then a normal binary signal behavior would be seen, and any divergence from the binary signal would mean that the hardware was faulty/broken. Yet that's exactly what this says.

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 18, 2017 11:27 pm 
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Ennesby seems to have a talent for turning systems that weren't AIs into AIs. Remember Lunesby? So maybe Chinook came out of a raw data dump Tagii put into Ennesby.

Come to think of it, Lunesby hopped systems too. So I guess all the AIs Ennesby creates are vanilla helix like he is.


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PostPosted: Wed Jan 18, 2017 11:33 pm 
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I know little about electronics, but I know (some of) this.
Let's start with a resistor. We all know what a resistor does. It provides resistance to current. Generally, it gets warm by doing so.
An incandescent lightbulb makes a passable resistor.
The thing is, materials tend to have different resistances when cold, (say, 22c,) and when hot, (say, 30c.)
So, the resistor only behaves in a certain way when it's at a certain temperature.

Then we have semiconductors.
There is a point where a semiconductor "breaks down" and turns from an insulator to a conductor.
Diodes and transistors exploit this, along with a few other properties, to do what they do.
All Diodes leak.
Zener Diodes are even designed to break down and conduct in the "wrong" way, given a sufficient current.
But all Diodes let a little current "backwards", at a given point in time. If memory serves, these many years since I learned this, they leak when they're first turned on. Like a check valve that doesn't have a spring in it, letting a tiny splash of water through the pipe before the water pressure holds the valve closed.

Components are built to a spec. That spec acknowledges that the components aren't going to be "perfect". Sometimes "perfect" would even be a detriment.
Even the broken oscillator that comprises the basic RAM address depends on the fact that, of the four resistors that are part of it, at least one of them will be just a little stronger, or weaker, so that the memory "falls" to 1 or 0, like a coin "falls" to heads or tails, and doesn't stay perfectly balanced with neither transistor high..., like a coin that consistently lands on its edge.


Edit. Links to a couple pictures.
Ideal diode http://www.hazardousphysics.com/main/ap ... _diode.png
Real diode https://cdn.sparkfun.com/assets/4/4/a/5 ... 000000.png

A third image.
The oscillator I know as the basis of one bit of RAM. https://i.stack.imgur.com/6Z1sa.gif
For 1 bit, two of those lines would be flipped.
Whoops, the bistable IS the basis of RAM. No flipped connections needed.

keybounce wrote:
Ken_g6 wrote:
So Ennesby runs in a virtual machine? I expect a joke about Ennesby, or humans, "running on Java" pretty soon.


Morning coffee?

===

So, we recently got a refresher on all the ships that the Toughs have had. Does someone with a better memory / indexing ability / search-foo than me want to provide a list of the AI's that the Toughs have had and the ships they go with?

---

On the evolving circuit thing: This is the bit that I never understood from this whole thing:
Quote:
There was also evidence that the circuit was not relying solely on the transistors’ absolute ON and OFF positions like a typical chip; it was capitalizing upon analogue shades of gray along with the digital black and white.


While I can understand an isolated section with no data inputs using hardware quirks to send / receive data with the main section (barely -- what would happen if there was a connection between the two sections, would the hardware-quirk signal conflict with the wire signal?), how in the heck can analog behavior be there? If the gates are working correctly, then a normal binary signal behavior would be seen, and any divergence from the binary signal would mean that the hardware was faulty/broken. Yet that's exactly what this says.


Last edited by Sean on Wed Jan 18, 2017 11:51 pm, edited 3 times in total.

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PostPosted: Wed Jan 18, 2017 11:39 pm 
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Ken_g6 wrote:
Ennesby seems to have a talent for turning systems that weren't AIs into AIs. Remember Lunesby? So maybe Chinook came out of a raw data dump Tagii put into Ennesby.

Come to think of it, Lunesby hopped systems too. So I guess all the AIs Ennesby creates are vanilla helix like he is.

Huh, excellent point. Well, Para did talk about how his design was based around maintaining multiple personalities - perhaps he ends up collecting data until it spawns an independent AI?

keybounce wrote:
While I can understand an isolated section with no data inputs using hardware quirks to send / receive data with the main section (barely -- what would happen if there was a connection between the two sections, would the hardware-quirk signal conflict with the wire signal?), how in the heck can analog behavior be there? If the gates are working correctly, then a normal binary signal behavior would be seen, and any divergence from the binary signal would mean that the hardware was faulty/broken. Yet that's exactly what this says.


The important thing to remember is that in the end, absolutely everything is analog. Digital behaviour is a product of the design, a trick we use to prevent the loss of information. The reason your computer has a 'clock speed' is that you need a way for every gate in your circuit to latch at the same time, after all the changes have propagated and all the analog signals have settled to their final states. That's the clock signal. If you push it too fast, you end up with transistors that haven't quite switched, or groups of gates that haven't quite finished their operation. So if unconnected oscillator causes the voltage to be just a bit lower in a switching gate when that clock signal comes in, the output comes out as a 0 when it should be a one... or maybe it requires the disconnected oscillator, and another nearby gate to be 1 to produce that 0. So now, in what should be one-transistor system (basically a switch) you end up with three inputs! The original switch, a timing input from the oscillator and the nearby transistor. It's absurd and impossible to replicate, but it works.


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