The Machine of Life – Washington Free Beacon

‘Death Comes to the Banquet Table’ (detail) by Giovanni Martinelli (1635)

BY: Joseph Bottum April 8, 2017 4:58 am

Here’s a new book about how wonderful the next stages of the cyber-revolution are going to be: Heart of the Machine: Our Future in a World of Artificial Emotional Intelligence by Richard Yonck, a contributing editor to TheFuturist magazine. And here’s another: The Digital Mind: How Science Is Redefining Humanity by Arlindo Oliveira, president of the Instituto Superior Tcnico in Lisbon.

Recent months have also brought us Thinking Machines: The Quest for Artificial Intelligenceand Where It’s Taking Us by the widely published technology writer Luke Dormehl. And What Algorithms Want: Imagination in the Age of Computing by Arizona State University professor Ed Finn. In case that’s not enough, you can always go for Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow by Yuval Noah Harari, a history professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and self-designated cheerleader for modern atheism. And if you get bored with that, you can add in the more worried Data for the People by Andreas Weigend, former chief scientist at Amazon, and The Art of Invisibility by Kevin Mitnick, the convicted-felon hacker, freefrom prison and wondering where computers are taking us.

Or you can just skip them. The moral reasoning in these books rarely rises above a freshman-level ethics class, and the metaphysical analysisis more like a late-night bull session in the dorm after those freshmen have had a few beers: But, like, Turing said that if you can’t tell if you’re talking to a computer, then it’s a mind, you know? Each of these authors issmart, for certain values of the word smart, especially Oliveira, Dormehl, and Weigend. But even the professional writers among them have a prose that clatters, connecting thoughts like train cars being slammed together. And they all have the kind of intelligence that imagines it can fly because it is so completely ungrounded.

I gave up on Harari, the anti-religion activist, around the point he informedhis readers that the name Eve derives from the Hebrew word for snake and thus, you know, Judaism is basically nothing more than a harvest-festival cult. I gave up on Yonck after he insisted that proof of the coming of emotional machines is found in the fact that cavemen had tools before they had language. I gave up on Finn once he found himself incapable of explaining the agency, the final causation, that he ascribes to bits of computer code ashe speaks of what algorithms want. In truth, these books are far more interesting in general than they are in particular, and the bulk of them suggests far more compelling thoughts than any one of them manages on its own.

Although the authors tend toward the happy-happy end of futurismSoon we will live like George Jetson!they begin in outrage. It’s outrageous that our bones break and our cells fail. It’s outrageous that we have such flimsy bodies. It’s especially outrageous that we die. The indignation here is metaphysical, a fury at the human condition, and it has its root down in Francis Bacon’s modernity-defining claim that science is born in rejection of the world as unchangeable.

Unfortunately, the new futurists’ panangelicum is not Bacon’s seventeenth-century New Atlantis, much less Thomas More’s sixteenth-century Utopia. Instead of plowing ahead on the path that early modern thinkers pointed out, seeking to ameliorate the shocks that flesh is heir to, the new generations of computer-enamored writers seem to have taken a detourand found themselves looping back to recreate, all unknowingly, the old hatred of the material world taught bythe gnostics of late antiquity. If it’s outrageous that our bodies fail us, then we should try to eliminate the body. If it’s outrageous that we die, then we must become immortal. If it’s outrageous that human existence is so sloppy and fragile, then the human parts of us will simply have to go.

So let us become computer programs, you and I. Let us upload our consciousness into the cloud. Let us turn insubstantial, immaterial. Let us be pure spirit, just as the old gnostics wanted. What could possibly go wrong? Not just self-improvement is involved here. Soon robots will be human, fully self-conscious and aware. So we must computerize ourselves in self-defense.

Part of these writers’ ungroundedness is their inability to believe that rational thinkers could possibly disagree. Back in 1624, John Donne suggested that “affliction is a treasure, and scarce any man hath enough of it.” It’s not enough that the new futurists imagine Donne is mistaken. For these modern gnosticsespecially the religion-hating futurist Yuval Noah Hararipeople like Donne must be either idiots or hypocrites. Only rank stupidity or evil motives could produce a thought so manifestly wrong.

And thus, human sympathy soon follows the human condition down the drain. Richard Yonck, for example, begins with love for the promise of emotional machinesand he ends by insisting that those who are bothered by the idea of robot sex are the exact equivalent of the racist opponents of miscegenation. Luke Dormehl starts with great optimism about humans in the cyber future. “Barring some catastrophic risk,” he writes, artificial intelligence “will represent an overall net positive for humanity when it comes to employment.” But by the conclusion of Thinking Machines, he suggests that the intellectual advantages of neural nets will compel us to cede them rightsgiving them our jobs and forcing us to upload ourselves into computer code.

The other worrisome part of these books is their certainty that the gnostic transformation will happen soon. Years ago, teaching logic to young engineers, I had a student who insisted he could simply take the time to keep following an infinite regress. When I suggested that, if nothing else, death convinces us of our finitude, he had an answer. “I’m not going to die,” he explained, “because by the time I get old enough to die, medical science is going to have cured whatever it is that I was going to die of.”

I think about that student from time to time, wondering what happened to him when he learned about mortality. The new futurists are all older than my student was, but even in their adulthood they seem to share his sophomoric conviction that never-endingness lies just around the corner. Yuval Noah Harari is already an angry man, but what will the ebullient Richard Yonck dowhat rage will possess himwhen he discovers that he is born to die? How will Luke Dormehl and Ed Finn take the news? For them that think death’s honesty / Won’t fall upon them naturally, / Life sometimes must get lonely.

We seem to have some weakness that lures us to think fundamental change is barreling down upon us. As it happens, the utopians and dystopians do share one thing in common: For centuries now, neither group has been much more successful at predicting the future than the gypsy lady who reads palms down on 18th Street. But still we imagine that this time, it’s going to be different. This time, the world will change.

The current futuriststend toward happy visions of the world to come,but along the way totheir utopias they take our susceptibility for the new and divert it to the old, old belief that there’s something ugly and vile, something outrageous, about life in a fragile material body. Why should the new gnostics differ much from the old? Each of them longsto be an animal, a tree, a stone, an angel, a machineanything but a human being.

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The Machine of Life – Washington Free Beacon

Is it possible to fly spaceships with our minds? – The Independent

Computers and brains already talk to each other daily in high-tech labs and they do it better and better. For example, disabled people can now learn to govern robotic limbs by the sheer power of their mind. The hope is that we may one day be able to operate spaceships with our thoughts, upload our brains to computers and, ultimately, create cyborgs.

Now Elon Musk is joining the race. The CEO of Tesla and SpaceX has acquired Neuralink, a company aiming to establish a direct link between the mind and the computer. Musk has already shown how expensive space technology can be run as a private enterprise. But just how feasible is his latest endeavour?

Neurotechnology was born in the 1970s when Jaques Vidal proposed that electroencephalography (EEG), which tracks and records brain-wave patterns via sensors placed on the scalp (electrodes), could be used to create systems that allow people to control external devices directly with their mind. The idea was to use computer algorithms to transform the recorded EEG signals into commands. Since then, interest in the idea has been growing rapidly.

Indeed, these brain-computer interfaces have driven a revolution in the area of assistive technologies letting people with quadriplegia feed themselves and even walk again. In the past few years, major investments in brain research from the US (the BRAIN initiative) and the EU (the Human Brain project) have further advanced research on them. This has pushed applications of this technology into the area of human augmentation using the technology to improve our cognition and other abilities.

The combination of humans and technology could be more powerful than artificial intelligence. For example, when we make decisions based on a combination of perception and reasoning, neurotechnologies could be used to augment our perception. This could help us in situations such when seeing a very blurry image from a security camera and having to decide whether to intervene or not.

Despite investments, the transition from using the technology in research labs to everyday life is still slow. The EEG hardware is totally safe for the user, but records very noisy signals. Also, research labs have been mainly focused on using it to understand the brain and to propose innovative applications without any follow-up in commercial products. Other very promising initiatives, such as using commercial EEG systems to let people drive a car with their thoughts, have remained isolated.

To try to overcome some of these limitations, several major companies have recently announced investments in research into brain-computer interfaces. Bryan Johnson from human intelligence company Kernel recently acquired the MIT spin-off firm KRS, which is promising to make a data-driven revolution in understanding neurodegenerative diseases. Facebook is hiring a brain-computer interface engineer to work in its secretive hardware division, Building 8.

Musks company is the latest. Its neural lace technology involves implanting electrodes in the brain to measure signals. This would allow getting neural signals of much better quality than EEG but it requires surgery. The project is still quite mysterious, although Musk has promised more details about it soon. Last year he stated that brain-computer interfaces are needed to confirm humans supremacy over artificial intelligence.

The project might seem ambitious, considering the limits of current technology. BCI spellers, which allow people to spell out words by looking at letters on a screen, are still much slower than traditional communication means, which Musk has already defined as incredibly slow. Similar speed limitations apply when using the brain to control a video game.

What we really need to make the technology reliable is more accurate, non-invasive techniques to measure brain activity. We also need to improve our understanding of the brain processes and how to decode them. Indeed, the idea of uploading or downloading our thoughts to or from a computer is simply impossible with our current knowledge of the human brain. Many processes related to memory are still not understood by neuroscientists. The most optimistic forecasts say it will be at least 20 years before brain-computer interfaces will become technologies that we use in our daily lives.

But that doesnt make Musks initiative useless. The neural lace could initially be used to study the brain mechanisms and treat disorders such as epilepsy or major depression. Together with electrodes for reading the brain activity, we could also implant electrodes for stimulating the brain making it possible to detect and halt epileptic seizures.

Brain-computer interfaces also face major ethical issues, especially those based on sensors surgically implanted in the brain. Most people are unlikely to want to have brain surgery or be fit to have it unless vital for their health. This could significantly limit the number of potential users of Musks neural lace. Kernels original idea when acquiring the company KRS was also to implant electrodes in peoples brain, but the company changed its plans six months later due to difficulties related to invasive technologies.

Its easy for billionaires like Musk to be optimistic about the development of brain-computer interfaces. But, rather than dismissing them, lets remember that these visions are nevertheless crucial. They push the boundaries and help researchers set long-term goals.

Theres every reason to be optimistic. Neurotechnology started only started a few years after man first set foot on the moon perhaps reflecting the need for a new big challenge after such a giant leap for mankind. And the brain-computer interfaces were indeed pure science fiction at the time.

In 1965, the Sunday comic strip Our New Age stated: “By 2016, mans intelligence and intellect will be able to be increased by drugs and by linking human brains directly to computers!”

We are not there yet, but together we can win the challenge.

Davide Valerianiis a post-doctoral researcher in Brain-Computer Interfaces at theUniversity of Essex

This article was originally published on The Conversation(theconversation.com). Read the original article

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Is it possible to fly spaceships with our minds? – The Independent

Ghosts and Shells: Is Transhumanism Cartesian? – National Catholic Register (blog)

Blogs | Apr. 2, 2017

Do transhumanists believe in the soul, or in materialistic reductionism? Or could it be both at the same time?

The Cartesian idea of the spirit or soul as a disembodied presence merely using or occupying a body, rather than the two being integrally connected, is a cardinal principle in transhumanism, the ultimate goal of which is to transcend the limitations of corporeal existence through technology.

So I wrote in my recent review of the transhumanist fantasy Ghost in the Shell, starring Scarlett Johansson. In the combox a longtime reader who goes by Pachyderminator challenged this:

Modern transhumanists tend to hold a scientific materialist worldview, which is often concerned specifically to refute Cartesian dualism and replace it with physical reductionism, which holds that any system can in principle be modeled without loss solely with reference to its lowest-level parts.

This is quite true of many (not all) transhumanists a point I would have noted myselfin a piece on transhumanism. Since I didnt, I thank Pachyderminator for highlighting this point.

This is precisely what makes it so odd that, juxtaposed with this penchant for reductionistic materialism, transhumanist imagination also embraces, at least in its more quasi-religious or existential forms, a Cartesian notion of the self as not bound or defined by the material reality supporting the self a ghost in a shell, as the Japanese franchise, unambiguously an expression of transhumanist imagination, proposes.

The reductionist side of transhumanist thought lies in the notion that the mind, and more fundamentally the self, comprises a system that can be fully replicated, thus becoming equivalent to the original system.

The Cartesian side of transhumanist thought lies in the aspirational hope that replicating the mind and uploading ones memories, thought patterns, etc. can preserve ones identity or self that the me currently residing in my body can be transferred into a completely different form, and this too will be me, continuous with the me I have always been.

Only last week this fantasy was given imaginative expression in an article on transhumanism in the Guardian:

You are lying on an operating table, fully conscious, but rendered otherwise insensible, otherwise incapable of movement. A humanoid machine appears at your side, bowing to its task with ceremonial formality. With a brisk sequence of motions, the machine removes a large panel of bone from the rear of your cranium, before carefully laying its fingers, fine and delicate as a spiders legs, on the viscid surface of your brain. You may be experiencing some misgivings about the procedure at this point. Put them aside, if you can.

Youre in pretty deep with this thing; theres no backing out now. With their high-resolution microscopic receptors, the machine fingers scan the chemical structure of your brain, transferring the data to a powerful computer on the other side of the operating table. They are sinking further into your cerebral matter now, these fingers, scanning deeper and deeper layers of neurons, building a three-dimensional map of their endlessly complex interrelations, all the while creating code to model this activity in the computers hardware. As the work proceeds, another mechanical appendage less delicate, less careful removes the scanned material to a biological waste container for later disposal. This is material you will no longer be needing.

At some point, you become aware that you are no longer present in your body. You observe with sadness, or horror, or detached curiosity the diminishing spasms of that body on the operating table, the last useless convulsions of a discontinued meat.

The animal life is over now. The machine life has begun.

You see how this is imagined to work? The piece posits continuity of consciousness (a first-person experience of self, addressed here in the second person) between you that submits to the operation and the you that at some pointbecome[s] aware that you now exist in another form, leaving behind only discontinued meat. Pure Cartesian imagination.

Crucially, bolstering this mental sleight of hand, the scanning and the consciousness of ones self in the new form is imagined to be simultaneous with a process of destroying what is scanned. If we were to adjust the imaginative scenario so that the scanning process is conceived as non-invasive and non-destructive, you would still have the (imagined) phenomenon of a conscious awareness in a new form but you would also continue to be conscious and aware in your own body.

This alteration reveals that the consciousness we imagine in the machine is in fact a copy of the consciousness in our minds; if I can continue to exist as me in my own body, side by side with the version of me imagined to be in the computer, then I have not escaped or transcended death at all. In this scenario, I would continue to exist in my body for my natural lifespan and then die like anyone else, and the copy of me in the computer would be like a clone with implanted memories, a new self or consciousness based on me, but not me.

As an aside, Christopher Nolans The Prestige explores these implications (in a non-transhumanist cultural context) with his customary ruthlessness. To enjoy Star Trek, on the other hand, we are obliged to ignore the reality that if a viable transporter were ever invented, it wouldnt really transport a person from one place to another; it would kill the original person and create a copy in another location. (The Next Generation comes perilously close to admitting this in the episode where Commander Riker is inadvertently duplicated in a transporter accident, with one version stranded on a deserted planet for years and another version going on to a successful Starfleet career.)

To be sure, there are hard-headed transhumanists who will admit all this, at least in principle. The frankest will admit that, on their own reductionist principles, the notion of a continuous self is an illusion; there is no continuous underlying reality uniting what I call me today and what called itself me yesterday or will call itself me tomorrow. In fact, there is no I or self at all; selfhood itself is a chimera.

On this model, memory fools us all. I have inherited the memories of past iterations of me, which, they say, tricks me into feeling as if or believing that some underlying, continuous reality has had all of these experiences. But this is all unreal. There is no survival of the self from death, but then there is no survival from day to day either, or even from hour to hour.

So they say. Yet they generally believe, for example, in keeping their promises, i.e., promises of which they have inherited memories, though presumably they would not feel bound by promises remembered by what they knew or believed to be false, implanted memories.

Even if they were real promises made by someone else and then copied technologically or telepathically into their minds, they would hold the original promise makers, not themselves, responsible for them. Yet on their own principles its not obvious how the inherited memory of a promise transmitted organically differs from one transmitted from one mind to another.

For that matter, its not clear how much sense the notion of a promise makes at all. A promise creates what we conceive as an obligation for who? Not for me, for by hypothesis I dont exist at all, and certainly I wont exist at the future date when the obligation is held to apply. That will be some other iteration of me, with memories of what I have done to be sure, but the me that made those promises no longer exists, and its far from clear why the me that inherits those memories should be obliged by them.

If artificially transmitted promises dont count, then a consciousness into which all my memories and thought patterns had been poured would be no more bound by my promises than a mind that received them via artificial or telepathic means. But thats another way of saying that the copy of me isnt really me at least, as long as they hold that I am bound by my own promises.

At any rate, such hardheaded materialistic reductionism hardly seems to comport with quasi-religious zeal for achieving immortality through mind uploading. Yet this zeal for immortality is not only often found among those who theoretically acknowledge the illusionary nature of the self, it seems to be an important motive, perhaps even the motive, driving much of the enthusiasm for the transhumanist project in all its forms, technological, biological, cyborganic, etc.

Like a ghost in a shell, a Cartesian notion of the self as an actual, intangible thing lurking inside the biological machines of our bodies, a valuable presence that can be saved from organic frailty and given digital eternal life, coexists anomalously with a reductionistmaterialist view of our cerebral hardware as nothing more than the sum of its parts.

Transhumanists may or may not say out loud that we have no souls, but this doesnt stop them from hoping for the salvation of their souls in a way fundamentally convergent with believers in conventional religions. The main difference isnature of the deity and the hoped-for eschaton.

See also Ghost inthe Shell (review)

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Ghosts and Shells: Is Transhumanism Cartesian? – National Catholic Register (blog)

Interkosmos Is A Clever, But Harrowing, Astronaut Adventure For HTC Vive – UploadVR

I dont know about you, but Ive had just about enough of space and I havent even been there yet. Ive been on one too many virtual walks around the ISS, and spent more than my fair share of time floating in zero gravity. If youre going to take me back to the dark abyss, then youll need a really good reason to bring me there. Fortunately, Interkosmos has just that.

This upcomingHTC Vive title from indie developer Ovid Works isnt about escaping some giant, Gravity-esque set piece, nor is it about going for yet another spin around the Earths orbit. Instead, this is a memory puzzle game of sorts that mixes a splash of comedy with a dab of simulation and then sprinkles on some arcade influences to boot. All of that and its set in one of the most detailed, convincing VR environments Ive seen in some time. Not bad for a debut effort.

Interkosmos takes place inside a 70s-inspired Soviet re-entry capsule thats been lavishly assembled with help from the European Space Agency. Though the teams Yashar Dehaghani never uses the term simulator as we chat, its not far from the mind as I explore a maze of buttons, switches and levers, each of which can be pressed, flicked or pulled. Youll need them at specific times, because Interkosmos wants to give you an authentic feeling of attempting to land safely on Earth, though it doesnt take itself as seriously as Apollo 13.

When you start up the game a thick Russian accent comes on the radio, barking instructions at you. Eventually your comrade will entangle himself in an argument with Americans that also gain access to the craft and try to convince you to steer your vessel towards the USA. The game has two branching paths and Ovid wants to encourage multiple playthroughs, especially as players first few attempts will likely result in death.

Getting home is easier said than done. For the purposes of the demo, switches I need are highlighted at the right time Id have been lost without them but when the game is available for everyone to take at their own pace players will also have a mode that expects them to memorize the entire layout of the cockpit, which I suspect is where the real fun comes from.

Even with the guidance though, Interkosmos can be a frantic thrill. Youll need to keep tabs on your oxygen and other meters as you busy yourself with other tasks; let them fall too low and youll die. Fill them up too much and, guess what, youll probably die. Or just start a fire, in which case youll very likely die a bit later. The game is rightly punishing in that regard, as it wants to push you, though I do wonder if everyone will take to the insistence on memorization very well. It could come off as a bit of a chore.

The capsule takes full advantage of VR, as youre never really sure where to look and which of the many screens is the one you should be reading. At one point Im using a lever to steer the capsule towards Earth, while the next Im trying to put out a small fire thats broken about because Ive been neglecting other duties.

With a successful playthrough said to take around 30 minutes, Im going to be interested to see how people take to Interkosmos unforgiving brand of survival. I had a great time scrambling around my cockpit desperately looking for the right buttons to push, and I hope that hardcore element resonates with the VR community.

Ovid is planning to launch Interkosmos on the HTC Vive towards the end of April for approximately 4.99.

Tagged with: Interkosmos, Ovid Works

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Interkosmos Is A Clever, But Harrowing, Astronaut Adventure For HTC Vive – UploadVR

Is neuroscience rediscovering the soul? – Minnesota Public Radio News

The idea that neuroscience is rediscovering the soul is, to most scientists and philosophers, nothing short of outrageous. Of course it is not.

But the widespread, adverse, knee-jerk attitude presupposes the old-fashioned definition of the soul the ethereal, immaterial entity that somehow encapsulates your essence. Surely, this kind of supernatural mumbo-jumbo has no place in modern science. And I agree. The Cartesian separation of body and soul, the res extensa (matter stuff) vs. res cogitans (mind stuff) has long been discarded as untenable in a strictly materialistic description of natural phenomena.

After all, how would something immaterial interact with something material without any exchange of energy? And how would something immaterial whatever that means somehow maintain the essence of who you are beyond your bodily existence?

So, this kind of immaterial soul really presents problems for science, although, as pointed out here recently by Adam Frank, the scientific understanding of matter is not without its challenges.

But what if we revisit the definition of soul, abandoning its canonical meaning as the “spiritual or immaterial part of a human being or animal, regarded as immortal” for something more modern? What if we consider your soul as the sum total of your neurocognitive essence, your very specific brain signature, the unique neuronal connections, synapses, and flow of neurotransmitters that makes you you?

Just as we have unique fingerprints, our brains, their “connectome,” are also unique. Surely, all brains are made of the same stuff, but wired in very individual ways. Recall that our brains are plastic, and mold themselves according to environmental and emotional inputs the stories of our lives. To this, we must add our bodies and their relation to our brains. For the mind is embodied, the self not an isolated property of what’s inside your cranium but an emergent property of your whole mind-body integration as mapped through the complex highways of nerves interlocking all of you.

Consider, then, the modern soul as the unique neuronal-synaptic signature integrating brain and body through a complex electrochemical flow of neurotransmitters. Each person has one, and they are all different. That is, or can be considered, your essence from a materialist perspective.

Once we have this definition of the soul, the next question is inevitable. Can all this be reduced to information, such as to be replicated or uploaded into other-than-you substrates? That is, can we obtain sufficient information about this brain-body map so as to replicate it in other devices, be they machines or cloned biological replicas of your body? This would be, if technologically possible, the scientific equivalent of reincarnation, or of the long-sought redemption from the flesh an idea that is at least as old as organized religions in the East and West (as Mark O’Donnell remarked in his book To Be a Machine, reviewed here).

Well, depending on who you talk to, this final transcendence of human into information is either around the corner a logical step in our evolution or an impossibility a mad dream of people who can’t accept the inevitability of death, the transhumanist crowd.

Silicon Valley is taking very seriously the possibility that aging is a technological problem that can be hacked. For example, the website of Google’s company Calico states right upfront that its mission is to tackle “aging, one of life’s greatest mysteries.” The company’s approach is more one of prolonging life than of uploading yourself somewhere else, but in the end the key word that unites the different approaches is information. If life is a code written genetically, it can be dealt with, including the instructions for aging. Another Google company, DeepMind, is bent on cracking AI: “Solve intelligence to make the world a better place.” Google is approaching the problem of death from both a genetic and a computational perspective. They clearly complement one another. Google is not alone, of course. There are many other companies working on similar projects and research. The race is on.

What to make of this? It’s inevitable that science will be at the forefront of the quest to prolong or upload life. This is not a bad thing, per se, given that the knowledge this research will surely produce will open new pathways to healthier, longer lives. Accepting death is a hard pill to swallow, the hardest. As I wrote elsewhere, referring to my family in this context: “Every day I have to love them is one less day I have to love them.”

However, the possibility of extending life indefinitely also raises all sorts of moral and social questions, and possibly a lot of pain and loss. The curse of the immortal is to lose everyone he loves. Unless everyone jumps in. But how reasonable is this assumption? Who will benefit from these technologies? The very wealthy? The select few that have access to them? What of the rest of society? Would we end up creating a dual species of beings, humans and transhuman demi-gods? Would there be mutual tolerance and respect? I can imagine all sorts of sci-fi scenarios unfolding, utopic and dystopic.

Meanwhile, while the quest for immortality continues, what we can do is eat well, exercise, and try to live a life of meaning, leaving the world a better place than how we found it. Or, perhaps, for some in the future, never leaving it at all.

Marcelo Gleiser is a theoretical physicist and writer and a professor of natural philosophy, physics and astronomy at Dartmouth College. He is the director of the Institute for Cross-Disciplinary Engagement at Dartmouth, co-founder of 13.7 and an active promoter of science to the general public. His latest book is The Simple Beauty of the Unexpected: A Natural Philosopher’s Quest for Trout and the Meaning of Everything. You can keep up with Marcelo on Facebook and Twitter: @mgleiser

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Is neuroscience rediscovering the soul? – Minnesota Public Radio News

A Rancor In Cloud City: Behind VR’s Best April Fools’ Prank Yet – UploadVR

If you pulled on your Vive on April Fools day and booted it up, chances are you found yourself in your normal home space and didnt think much of it. However, if youre a bit of a Star Wars fan enough to decorate your space after The Empire Strikes Back then you may have been in for a shock.

Last year Kent Sunde created one of the better Star Wars VR tributes; a Vive home space set inside the iconic Cloud City from the series most celebrated chapter. The space authentically recreates the wind-swept cat walk scene where a certain Dark Lord relieves a certain son of a certain hand. Thousands of tiny lights surround you, seemingly stretching on forever both above and below. You can stand on the edge of the catwalk and imagine dropping all the way to the bottom like a desperate Luke Skywalker did, or walk to the end and picture Darth Vader urging you to join him and rule the galaxy. Sunde did an excellent job of making a space thats fun to simply exist in.

But on April 1st he had other ideas.

Even knowing what was to come I still jumped out of my skin. As the screen flickers to life youll find a huge, monstrous set of claws just inches away from your face. Its enough to make you scramble backwards in surprise, convinced for a brief few seconds that youve fallen into a nightmare. If you dare allow yourself to turn your head to the left a little, youll find what the hand is attached to: the Rancor from Return of the Jedi.

Im kind of a VR evangelist, and the idea for the Rancor had come from one of my common rants about how VR will revolutionize game playing once we get past this wave based shooter phase, Sunde tells me when I catch up with him following the brilliantly cruel prank. As a 3D artist passionate about VR, Sunde wants to focus on two things within the medium.

The first is the sense of scale VR provides, which is actually why hed made the Cloud City environment in the first place. He also loves experiences that really root the player in the virtual space theyre standing in.

Weve all gotten that sense of scale and presence with the whale encounter [theBlu], which is the first thing I show people who havent tried VR yet, Sunde says. When the whale comes up to the user I quite regularly see them back up to give that whale space as it enters the players area and that to me is presence, and something right now that game designers really need to play with in a narrative sense.

Sunde, who now teaches modelling and texturing at Capilano University, was working on his portfolio with these thoughts in mind. He wants to create something large and introduce it into an environment in which the user was contained. Obviously, hed already done the leg work on one of those ideas, and 20,000 people already had it installed.

I thought why not go dark side and play an April Fools prank? he says. First, it was a fantastic excuse to fix up some of the lighting and texturing in that scene. However I almost didnt go through with it because I thought the Rancor would be too big, and it wouldnt make sense, but after blocking him in and prototyping I thought its a joke too and hes fitting in okay

So he set about sculpting, posing and painting the beast all within the space of two days. By the end, he had to make some optimizations to the scene itself to fit it in there.

I think the goals of the project were achieved by watching my students and other colleagues going into the environment, he explains. Given the fact I dare not touch the Rancor even knowing it wouldnt move, Id say he did a pretty good job too.

April Fools day usually means an amusing, if throwaway, prank story or product render mock-up. Sunde, however, used VR in a brilliant way to play one of the best tricks on people Ive seen in years.

Tagged with: april fools, htc vive, Kent Sunde, Star Wars

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A Rancor In Cloud City: Behind VR’s Best April Fools’ Prank Yet – UploadVR

CRSSD Festival Spring 2017 || Livesets – EDM Identity (blog)

CRSSD Festival Spring has kicked off festival season proper, relive the weekend with these epic livesets now!

San Diegos premierhouse and techno festival, CRSSD Festival Spring, has come and gone, but that doesnt mean we cant still enjoy the sick beats and amazing vibes that came with the sets over the weekend! Bringing yet another stacked lineup for this edition, it was hard to catch each act that we wanted to see and decisions had to be made as to who we should miss. With that in mind, we are glad to see some fans, sponsors, and artists themselves upload their sets from the festival. More will be added as soon as they released, so make sure to bookmark the page and check in at a later date!

Check out our full review of CRSSD Festival Spring from the eyes of MyStro HERE!

What was your experience like at the festival this year? Let us know in the comments or our Facebook Group!

SoundCloud | Mixcloud | YouTube

SoundCloud | Mixcloud | YouTube

SoundCloud | Mixcloud | YouTube

SoundCloud | Mixcloud | YouTube (36 Minutes)

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Featured Photo Credit: Fixation Photography

Grant has been listening to electronic dance music since the early 2000s. Actively involved in the EDM community, Grant is an admin for the EDC & Coachella subreddits and their Facebook groups. Previously he has been part of several EDM startups and promotion companies such as Shamele55, Electric State of Mind and Q-Dance. Originally listening to trance artists such as ATB, Armin Van Buuren and Paul Oakenfold, Grant has expanded his listening experience to include a full set of genres ranging from hardstyle to deep house and has been regularly attending both festivals and club events since 2010.

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CRSSD Festival Spring 2017 || Livesets – EDM Identity (blog)

The clock is ticking on getting your pet licensed – WOWT

The countdown is on to register your pet. Failure to do so will have consequences.

If you live in Omaha or Sarpy County and don’t register your pet by Wednesday, March 15, you’re in violation and you can face a late fee.

Your pet has to have a current rabies vaccination in order to obtain his license. However don’t avoid licensing if your pet is due and you can’t get in to see your veterinarian before Wednesday. You can license him this week and avoid the penalty. You’ll then have 30 days to get your rabies vaccination.

Simply send in your license payment and information through the mail, postmarked by March 15. Or bring it to the shelter, or renew on line just as you would if his vaccination was current.

To license online, grab your licensing statement. It shows your animal’s ID number and license number. Go to the Humane Societys website. Once you plug the numbers in, you can pay by credit card and you’re done. It’s easy, you’ll have immediate confirmation and you don’t have to stand in line.

If you are licensing a pet for the first time you can do that online too. Just follow the cues for a new license no matter how you license your payment will be processed on time and your information will be updated, you just won’t get your permanent license satus until you provide proof of rabies. Then, once your pet is vaccinated, your vet can send the records or you can bring them in to the shelter.

Remember a license is one of the best ways to ensure that if your dog or cat gets out, you can get him back. Licenses can be tracked across county and state lines.

And by uploading your license yearly you update your contact information so you can be reached if your animal ends up a stray. It’s smart, it’s peace of mind, and it’s the law.

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The clock is ticking on getting your pet licensed – WOWT

Paytm rolls back decision to charge fee on credit card usage to recharge wallet – YourStory.com

[This post has been updated to reflect Paytms roll back decision]

Paytmhas rolled back its decision to charge the 2 percent fee. In a latest blog post it said, We are suspending the 2 percent charge on credit cards for adding money to wallet keeping users convenience inmind.With an intent to prevent the misuse of transfer to bank facility at 0 percent, we had applied a refundable fee of 2 percent on add-money through credit cards. At the same time, we are conscious that this move caused inconvenience to a large segment of our users, including those who are using their credit card for genuine transactions.]

A day before the roll back, digital payments platform Paytm has announced that they will charge users a 2 percent fee whenever their mobile wallet is recharged using credit cards. The reason stated in Paytms blog is that, misusing the free option earlier, many users funded the Paytm wallet with credit cards and later transferred that money to the bank – all for free.

They were not only getting free loyalty points, which effectively is free cash, but also getting access to free credit, the blog says.

According to government regulations, all e-commerce platforms. including Paytm,have to pay banks (or card networks) whenever the customer pays them online.Paytm also pays hefty charges when the customer uses credit cards to recharge their wallet, to card networks and issuing banks.

However, when a user adds money and transfers it to a bank, Paytm ends up losing money. Our revenue model requires users to spend money within our network, and we make money from the margins available to us on various products/services we offer, Paytm explains in the blog. It has specified that there will be no fee when users shop on Paytm, and using payment options other than credit cards remains free.

Although they will charge a 2 percent fee (inclusive of taxes) for adding money to the wallet using credit cards, this can be reversed in the form of a gift voucher for amounts of Rs 250 and above. It will be issued within 24 hours of adding the money using a credit card.

Taking on their biggest rival, online payment platform MobiKwik also released a press statement today, declaring that it will continue to offer free uploading of money into their wallet for all users, including credit card users.

MobiKwiks Founder and CEO, Bipin Preet Singh, has said in the statement, In order to popularise the governments vision of a cashless society, we at MobiKwik have decided not to charge 2 percent on credit card recharges so that more people can transact online without having to worry about additional charges. Mobikwik has more than 55 million users, while Paytm recently crossed 200 million wallet users.


Paytm rolls back decision to charge fee on credit card usage to recharge wallet – YourStory.com

Forgetting to Upload Your Disavow File – Business 2 Community

Uh oh. Of all the mistakes to make when moving your site from insecure HTTP to totally safe HTTPS, forgetting to upload your disavow file is one of the biggest.

Whys that, exactly? Well, if you forget to upload your disavow file to the new HTTPS site, all those bad links you already disavowed will transfer over. Youre basically taking all the hard work you put in and flushing it down the drain. All because of one teensy little file.

We at SEO Inc. have inspected hundreds, if not thousands of backlink profiles over the years. Weve seen mistakes for just about every problem under the sun. But what is it about the disavow file that makes it so easy to get lost in the HTTP-to-HTTPS shuffle?

Join us in taking a long, hard look at why the disavow file is so often overlooked, and why overlooking it is so darn irresponsible.

Forgetting to upload your disavow file is astounding to us because of how important it is to your websites success.

Your disavow file is a critical part of link detox. Detoxifying your link profile rids your site of unwanted links spammy, artificial, or low quality. Its a painstaking process, and one we have performed hundreds of times, removing 21 manual penalties and countless algorithmic penalties. Clients who have benefited from our link detox services have seen their rankings return.

Ultimately, thats what a link detox is designed to do: restore your rankings. Think about it you get a bunch of crummy links pointing at your site, and Google slaps you with a penalty. Obviously, you dont want your site to be associated with a bunch of spam, so you start thinking about disavowing them.

(Warning!! Indiscriminately disavowing links without doing the full required work could be damaging to your site! Make absolutely certain youre disavowing the worst illegitimate links. In a worst case scenario, contact a professional.)

Webcast, March 15th: How to Scale Upmarket with Enterprise Field Sales

But if you dont add your disavow file to your shiny new HTTPS site in Google Search Console, there is no layer of protection between you and all those crummy links you had already disavowed. All of the linking signals, both good and bad, will eventually transfer over to the HTTPS site.

When you forget to upload your disavow file, youre making a lot more work for yourself during a site move by having to find your most recent disavow file and import it to the new property. But whats even worse is that all those toxic links are now pointing to your new site.

So, yeah forgetting to upload your disavow file is a big deal.

The next question we need to answer is: why does it happen? How do we keep making such a gigantic mistake?

Too much on your mind thats what it all comes down to. When moving from HTTP to HTTPS, you have to juggle many different tasks to make the transition smooth, and lets face it the disavow area in Google Search Console isnt the most accessible section.

Google offers a thorough guide on how to prepare your new site for a move, but wed like to share some specific mistakes weve seen that have led to some bumpy website moves.

Preserving your links is a high priority when moving your site to HTTPS. If you neglect this, you could end up with a bunch of broken links that will not only frustrate users but will sever valuable sources of precious link juice. 301 redirects ensure that your old links send users (and search engines) toward the right places.

Heres how to use 301 redirects in the best way for SEO.

Google Analytics is one of the most powerful tools a webmaster can wield. But if you dont update it for your HTTPS property, youll miss out on all the data for your new site. When ROI is on the line, thats a mistake you cant afford to make.

Old links pointing to the HTTP page that are then redirected to the HTTPS version will lose some link juice or pagerank. Make sure to link to the correct versions.

The irony is that all the things weve mentioned above are usually kept front-of-mind over the disavow file. Is it any wonder that, with so many critical pieces to include, something even as important as the disavow file gets forgotten?

To help you out, here are a few reminders when moving your site over.

Our advice: Know your domains. Big blogging sites like WordPress and Blogspot that link back to you should be judged on a page-by-page or subdomain basis. Dive into the links you find and see if the sites actually link back to you legitimately or if they deserve to get disavowed.

Mistakes happen. Theyre unavoidable especially when youre attempting a huge, multi-step process like moving a site from HTTP to HTTPS. But failing to upload your disavow fail should not be one of them. Not anymore. Theres simply too much at stake to forget.

Add a reminder to your smartphone calendar. Write DISAVOW FILE on a sticky note and slap it onto your monitor. Heck, print up this blog post and read it every day. Do whatever it takes to remember, so long as you remember.

Just do not forget to upload your disavow file. When your new HTTPS site is flourishing with nothing but healthy, carefully curated links, youll thank us later.

John Caiozzo is a SEO, PPC, and WordPress expert based in Carlsbad, CA. John provides companies with custom tailored digital marketing strategies to drive more traffic and conversions to their websites. When he’s not working or blogging about internet marketing you can find him hiking, biking, and skiing in Southern Viewfullprofile

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Forgetting to Upload Your Disavow File – Business 2 Community

Paytm to continue free uploading of money – Free Press Journal

By IANS|Mar 11, 2017 08:12 am

New Delhi: Doing a quick U-turn in about 24 hours, digital payments firm Paytm on Friday suspended the two per cent charge it announced for adding money using credit cards. We are suspending the two per cent charge on credit cards for adding money to wallet, keeping users convenience in mind. We will introduce new features to prevent credit card misuse in adding money, Paytm said in a blog post here on Friday.

With an intent to prevent the misuse of transfer to bank facility at 0 per cent, Paytm had earlier applied a refundable fee of two per cent on add-money through credit cards.

At the same time, we are conscious that this move caused inconvenience to a large segment of our users, including those who are using their credit card for genuine transactions, it said, reports IANS.

The withdrawal of the two per cent charge apparently came in view of losing out to competition after mobile wallet major MobiKwik on Thursday announced that it would continue to offer free uploading of money.

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Paytm to continue free uploading of money – Free Press Journal

Boys in Surrey and Hampshire urged to seek help on suicidal feelings – Eagle Radio

Young boys in Surrey and Hampshire are being urged to speak out about feeling suicidal.

Childline says government figures show the number of such deaths in 2015 was more than double that of girls.

In Surrey and Hampshire there were a combined 179 suicides in 2015, which are the most recent figures available.

The statistics show rates in girls and boys aged between 10 and 19.

The figures come as the charity urge boys to speak out about thoughts of ending their lives.

Emily Cherry from the NSPCC says it’s extremely important to seek help:”When you’re experiencing those depression and those dark thoughts, it can be almost like you get locked away in a prison that’s your own mind.

“When you speak to somebody about it, when you reach out for support, it can be like that real unlocking and it can really help you then to put you back on the path to recovery.”

“There’s this terrible phrase that I hear constantly used that you should “man up” and somehow you’re weaker, if you show your feelings.

“So what we really want to say there to boys and men out there is that actually, it is tough to talk but when you do, it’s the right thing to do.

“You are deserving of support, the same of anyone else. You shouldn’t feel guilty for speaking out about how you’re feeling.”

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Boys in Surrey and Hampshire urged to seek help on suicidal feelings – Eagle Radio

Functionalism (philosophy of mind) – Wikipedia

Functionalism is a theory of the mind in contemporary philosophy, developed largely as an alternative to both the identity theory of mind and behaviorism. Its core idea is that mental states (beliefs, desires, being in pain, etc.) are constituted solely by their functional role that is, they have causal relations to other mental states, numerous sensory inputs, and behavioral outputs.[1] Functionalism is a theoretical level between the physical implementation and behavioral output.[2] Therefore, it is different from its predecessors of Cartesian dualism (advocating independent mental and physical substances) and Skinnerian behaviorism and physicalism (declaring only physical substances) because it is only concerned with the effective functions of the brain, through its organization or its “software programs”.

Since mental states are identified by a functional role, they are said to be realized on multiple levels; in other words, they are able to be manifested in various systems, even perhaps computers, so long as the system performs the appropriate functions. While computers are physical devices with electronic substrate that perform computations on inputs to give outputs, so brains are physical devices with neural substrate that perform computations on inputs which produce behaviors.

An important part of some accounts of functionalism is the idea of multiple realizability. Since, according to standard functionalist theories, mental states are the corresponding functional role, mental states can be sufficiently explained without taking into account the underlying physical medium (e.g. the brain, neurons, etc.) that realizes such states; one need only take into account the higher-level functions in the cognitive system. Since mental states are not limited to a particular medium, they can be realized in multiple ways, including, theoretically, within non-biological systems, such as computers. In other words, a silicon-based machine could, in principle, have the same sort of mental life that a human being has, provided that its cognitive system realized the proper functional roles. Thus, mental states are individuated much like a valve; a valve can be made of plastic or metal or whatever material, as long as it performs the proper function (say, controlling the flow of liquid through a tube by blocking and unblocking its pathway).

However, there have been some functionalist theories that combine with the identity theory of mind, which deny multiple realizability. Such Functional Specification Theories (FSTs) (Levin, 3.4), as they are called, were most notably developed by David Lewis[3] and David Malet Armstrong.[4] According to FSTs, mental states are the particular “realizers” of the functional role, not the functional role itself. The mental state of belief, for example, just is whatever brain or neurological process that realizes the appropriate belief function. Thus, unlike standard versions of functionalism (often called Functional State Identity Theories), FSTs do not allow for the multiple realizability of mental states, because the fact that mental states are realized by brain states is essential. What often drives this view is the belief that if we were to encounter an alien race with a cognitive system composed of significantly different material from humans’ (e.g., silicon-based) but performed the same functions as human mental states (e.g., they tend to yell “Yowzas!” when poked with sharp objects, etc.) then we would say that their type of mental state is perhaps similar to ours, but too different to say it’s the same. For some, this may be a disadvantage to FSTs. Indeed, one of Hilary Putnam’s[5][6] arguments for his version of functionalism relied on the intuition that such alien creatures would have the same mental states as humans do, and that the multiple realizability of standard functionalism makes it a better theory of mind.

The broad position of “functionalism” can be articulated in many different varieties. The first formulation of a functionalist theory of mind was put forth by Hilary Putnam.[5][6] This formulation, which is now called machine-state functionalism, or just machine functionalism, was inspired by the analogies which Putnam and others noted between the mind and the theoretical “machines” or computers capable of computing any given algorithm which were developed by Alan Turing (called Turing machines).

In non-technical terms, a Turing machine can be visualized as an indefinitely and infinitely long tape divided into rectangles (the memory) with a box-shaped scanning device that sits over and scans one component of the memory at a time. Each unit is either blank (B) or has a 1 written on it. These are the inputs to the machine. The possible outputs are:

An extremely simple example of a Turing machine which writes out the sequence ‘111’ after scanning three blank squares and then stops as specified by the following machine table:

This table states that if the machine is in state one and scans a blank square (B), it will print a 1 and remain in state one. If it is in state one and reads a 1, it will move one square to the right and also go into state two. If it is in state two and reads a B, it will print a 1 and stay in state two. If it is in state two and reads a 1, it will move one square to the right and go into state three. If it is in state three and reads a B, it prints a 1 and remains in state three. Finally, if it is in state three and reads a 1, then it will stay in state three.

The essential point to consider here is the nature of the states of the Turing machine. Each state can be defined exclusively in terms of its relations to the other states as well as inputs and outputs. State one, for example, is simply the state in which the machine, if it reads a B, writes a 1 and stays in that state, and in which, if it reads a 1, it moves one square to the right and goes into a different state. This is the functional definition of state one; it is its causal role in the overall system. The details of how it accomplishes what it accomplishes and of its material constitution are completely irrelevant.

According to machine-state functionalism, the nature of a mental state is just like the nature of the automaton states described above. Just as state one simply is the state in which, given an input B, such and such happens, so being in pain is the state which disposes one to cry “ouch”, become distracted, wonder what the cause is, and so forth.

A second form of functionalism is based on the rejection of behaviorist theories in psychology and their replacement with empirical cognitive models of the mind. This view is most closely associated with Jerry Fodor and Zenon Pylyshyn and has been labeled psychofunctionalism.

The fundamental idea of psychofunctionalism is that psychology is an irreducibly complex science and that the terms that we use to describe the entities and properties of the mind in our best psychological theories cannot be redefined in terms of simple behavioral dispositions, and further, that such a redefinition would not be desirable or salient were it achievable. Psychofunctionalists view psychology as employing the same sorts of irreducibly teleological or purposive explanations as the biological sciences. Thus, for example, the function or role of the heart is to pump blood, that of the kidney is to filter it and to maintain certain chemical balances and so onthis is what accounts for the purposes of scientific explanation and taxonomy. There may be an infinite variety of physical realizations for all of the mechanisms, but what is important is only their role in the overall biological theory. In an analogous manner, the role of mental states, such as belief and desire, is determined by the functional or causal role that is designated for them within our best scientific psychological theory. If some mental state which is postulated by folk psychology (e.g. hysteria) is determined not to have any fundamental role in cognitive psychological explanation, then that particular state may be considered not to exist . On the other hand, if it turns out that there are states which theoretical cognitive psychology posits as necessary for explanation of human behavior but which are not foreseen by ordinary folk psychological language, then these entities or states exist.

A third form of functionalism is concerned with the meanings of theoretical terms in general. This view is most closely associated with David Lewis and is often referred to as analytic functionalism or conceptual functionalism. The basic idea of analytic functionalism is that theoretical terms are implicitly defined by the theories in whose formulation they occur and not by intrinsic properties of the phonemes they comprise. In the case of ordinary language terms, such as “belief”, “desire”, or “hunger”, the idea is that such terms get their meanings from our common-sense “folk psychological” theories about them, but that such conceptualizations are not sufficient to withstand the rigor imposed by materialistic theories of reality and causality. Such terms are subject to conceptual analyses which take something like the following form:

For example, the state of pain is caused by sitting on a tack and causes loud cries, and higher order mental states of anger and resentment directed at the careless person who left a tack lying around. These sorts of functional definitions in terms of causal roles are claimed to be analytic and a priori truths about the submental states and the (largely fictitious) propositional attitudes they describe. Hence, its proponents are known as analytic or conceptual functionalists. The essential difference between analytic and psychofunctionalism is that the latter emphasizes the importance of laboratory observation and experimentation in the determination of which mental state terms and concepts are genuine and which functional identifications may be considered to be genuinely contingent and a posteriori identities. The former, on the other hand, claims that such identities are necessary and not subject to empirical scientific investigation.

Homuncular functionalism was developed largely by Daniel Dennett and has been advocated by William Lycan. It arose in response to the challenges that Ned Block’s China Brain (a.k.a. Chinese nation) and John Searle’s Chinese room thought experiments presented for the more traditional forms of functionalism (see below under “Criticism”). In attempting to overcome the conceptual difficulties that arose from the idea of a nation full of Chinese people wired together, each person working as a single neuron to produce in the wired-together whole the functional mental states of an individual mind, many functionalists simply bit the bullet, so to speak, and argued that such a Chinese nation would indeed possess all of the qualitative and intentional properties of a mind; i.e. it would become a sort of systemic or collective mind with propositional attitudes and other mental characteristics. Whatever the worth of this latter hypothesis, it was immediately objected that it entailed an unacceptable sort of mind-mind supervenience: the systemic mind which somehow emerged at the higher-level must necessarily supervene on the individual minds of each individual member of the Chinese nation, to stick to Block’s formulation. But this would seem to put into serious doubt, if not directly contradict, the fundamental idea of the supervenience thesis: there can be no change in the mental realm without some change in the underlying physical substratum. This can be easily seen if we label the set of mental facts that occur at the higher-level M1 and the set of mental facts that occur at the lower-level M2. Given the transitivity of supervenience, if M1 supervenes on M2, and M2 supervenes on P (physical base), then M1 and M2 both supervene on P, even though they are (allegedly) totally different sets of mental facts.

Since mind-mind supervenience seemed to have become acceptable in functionalist circles, it seemed to some that the only way to resolve the puzzle was to postulate the existence of an entire hierarchical series of mind levels (analogous to homunculi) which became less and less sophisticated in terms of functional organization and physical composition all the way down to the level of the physico-mechanical neuron or group of neurons. The homunculi at each level, on this view, have authentic mental properties but become simpler and less intelligent as one works one’s way down the hierarchy.

Mechanistic functionalism, originally formulated and defended by Gualtiero Piccinini[7] and Carl Gillett[8][9] independently, augments previous functionalist accounts of mental states by maintaining that any psychological explanation must be rendered in mechanistic terms. That is, instead of mental states receiving a purely functional explanation in terms of their relations to other mental states, like those listed above, functions are seen as playing only a partthe other part being played by structures of the explanation of a given mental state.

A mechanistic explanation[10] involves decomposing a given system, in this case a mental system, into its component physical parts, their activities or functions, and their combined organizational relations.[7] On this account the mind remains a functional system, but one that is understood mechanistically. This account remains a sort of functionalism because functional relations are still essential to mental states, but it is mechanistic because the functional relations are always manifestations of concrete structuresalbeit structures understood at a certain level of abstraction. Functions are individuated and explained either in terms of the contributions they make to the given system[11] or in teleological terms. If the functions are understood in teleological terms, then they may be characterized either etiologically or non-etiologically.[12]

Mechanistic functionalism leads functionalism away from the traditional functionalist autonomy of psychology from neuroscience and towards integrating psychology and neuroscience.[13] By providing an applicable framework for merging traditional psychological models with neurological data, mechanistic functionalism may be understood as reconciling the functionalist theory of mind with neurological accounts of how the brain actually works. This is due to the fact that mechanistic explanations of function attempt to provide an account of how functional states (mental states) are physically realized through neurological mechanisms.

There is much confusion about the sort of relationship that is claimed to exist (or not exist) between the general thesis of functionalism and physicalism. It has often been claimed that functionalism somehow “disproves” or falsifies physicalism tout court (i.e. without further explanation or description). On the other hand, most philosophers of mind who are functionalists claim to be physicalistsindeed, some of them, such as David Lewis, have claimed to be strict reductionist-type physicalists.

Functionalism is fundamentally what Ned Block has called a broadly metaphysical thesis as opposed to a narrowly ontological one. That is, functionalism is not so much concerned with what there is than with what it is that characterizes a certain type of mental state, e.g. pain, as the type of state that it is. Previous attempts to answer the mind-body problem have all tried to resolve it by answering both questions: dualism says there are two substances and that mental states are characterized by their immateriality; behaviorism claimed that there was one substance and that mental states were behavioral disposition; physicalism asserted the existence of just one substance and characterized the mental states as physical states (as in “pain = C-fiber firings”).

On this understanding, type physicalism can be seen as incompatible with functionalism, since it claims that what characterizes mental states (e.g. pain) is that they are physical in nature, while functionalism says that what characterizes pain is its functional/causal role and its relationship with yelling “ouch”, etc. However, any weaker sort of physicalism which makes the simple ontological claim that everything that exists is made up of physical matter is perfectly compatible with functionalism. Moreover, most functionalists who are physicalists require that the properties that are quantified over in functional definitions be physical properties. Hence, they are physicalists, even though the general thesis of functionalism itself does not commit them to being so.

In the case of David Lewis, there is a distinction in the concepts of “having pain” (a rigid designator true of the same things in all possible worlds) and just “pain” (a non-rigid designator). Pain, for Lewis, stands for something like the definite description “the state with the causal role x”. The referent of the description in humans is a type of brain state to be determined by science. The referent among silicon-based life forms is something else. The referent of the description among angels is some immaterial, non-physical state. For Lewis, therefore, local type-physical reductions are possible and compatible with conceptual functionalism. (See also Lewis’s mad pain and Martian pain.) There seems to be some confusion between types and tokens that needs to be cleared up in the functionalist analysis.

Ned Block[14] argues against the functionalist proposal of multiple realizability, where hardware implementation is irrelevant because only the functional level is important. The “China brain” or “Chinese nation” thought experiment involves supposing that the entire nation of China systematically organizes itself to operate just like a brain, with each individual acting as a neuron. According to functionalism, so long as the people are performing the proper functional roles, with the proper causal relations between inputs and outputs, the system will be a real mind, with mental states, consciousness, and so on. However, Block argues, this is patently absurd, so there must be something wrong with the thesis of functionalism since it would allow this to be a legitimate description of a mind.

Some functionalists believe China would have qualia but that due to the size it is impossible to imagine China being conscious.[15] Indeed, it may be the case that we are constrained by our theory of mind[16] and will never be able to understand what Chinese-nation consciousness is like. Therefore, if functionalism is true either qualia will exist across all hardware or will not exist at all but are illusory.[17]

The Chinese room argument by John Searle[18] is a direct attack on the claim that thought can be represented as a set of functions. The thought experiment asserts that it is possible to mimic intelligent action without any interpretation or understanding through the use of a purely functional system. In short, Searle describes a person who only speaks English who is in a room with only Chinese symbols in baskets and a rule book in English for moving the symbols around. The person is then ordered by people outside of the room to follow the rule book for sending certain symbols out of the room when given certain symbols. Further suppose that the people outside of the room are Chinese speakers and are communicating with the person inside via the Chinese symbols. According to Searle, it would be absurd to claim that the English speaker inside knows Chinese simply based on these syntactic processes. This thought experiment attempts to show that systems which operate merely on syntactic processes (inputs and outputs, based on algorithms) cannot realize any semantics (meaning) or intentionality (aboutness). Thus, Searle attacks the idea that thought can be equated with following a set of syntactic rules; that is, functionalism is an insufficient theory of the mind.

As noted above, in connection with Block’s Chinese nation, many functionalists responded to Searle’s thought experiment by suggesting that there was a form of mental activity going on at a higher level than the man in the Chinese room could comprehend (the so-called “system reply”); that is, the system does know Chinese. Of course, Searle responds that there is nothing more than syntax going on at the higher-level as well, so this reply is subject to the same initial problems. Furthermore, Searle suggests the man in the room could simply memorize the rules and symbol relations. Again, though he would convincingly mimic communication, he would be aware only of the symbols and rules, not of the meaning behind them.

Another main criticism of functionalism is the inverted spectrum or inverted qualia scenario, most specifically proposed as an objection to functionalism by Ned Block.[14][19] This thought experiment involves supposing that there is a person, call her Jane, that is born with a condition which makes her see the opposite spectrum of light that is normally perceived. Unlike normal people, Jane sees the color violet as yellow, orange as blue, and so forth. So, suppose, for example, that you and Jane are looking at the same orange. While you perceive the fruit as colored orange, Jane sees it as colored blue. However, when asked what color the piece of fruit is, both you and Jane will report “orange”. In fact, one can see that all of your behavioral as well as functional relations to colors will be the same. Jane will, for example, properly obey traffic signs just as any other person would, even though this involves the color perception. Therefore, the argument goes, since there can be two people who are functionally identical, yet have different mental states (differing in their qualitative or phenomenological aspects), functionalism is not robust enough to explain individual differences in qualia.[20]

David Chalmers tries to show[21] that even though mental content cannot be fully accounted for in functional terms, there is nevertheless a nomological correlation between mental states and functional states in this world. A silicon-based robot, for example, whose functional profile matched our own, would have to be fully conscious. His argument for this claim takes the form of a reductio ad absurdum. The general idea is that since it would be very unlikely for a conscious human being to experience a change in its qualia which it utterly fails to notice, mental content and functional profile appear to be inextricably bound together, at least in the human case. If the subject’s qualia were to change, we would expect the subject to notice, and therefore his functional profile to follow suit. A similar argument is applied to the notion of absent qualia. In this case, Chalmers argues that it would be very unlikely for a subject to experience a fading of his qualia which he fails to notice and respond to. This, coupled with the independent assertion that a conscious being’s functional profile just could be maintained, irrespective of its experiential state, leads to the conclusion that the subject of these experiments would remain fully conscious. The problem with this argument, however, as Brian G. Crabb (2005) has observed, is that it begs the central question: How could Chalmers know that functional profile can be preserved, for example while the conscious subject’s brain is being supplanted with a silicon substitute, unless he already assumes that the subject’s possibly changing qualia would not be a determining factor? And while changing or fading qualia in a conscious subject might force changes in its functional profile, this tells us nothing about the case of a permanently inverted or unconscious robot. A subject with inverted qualia from birth would have nothing to notice or adjust to. Similarly, an unconscious functional simulacrum of ourselves (a zombie) would have no experiential changes to notice or adjust to. Consequently, Crabb argues, Chalmers’ “fading qualia” and “dancing qualia” arguments fail to establish that cases of permanently inverted or absent qualia are nomologically impossible.

A related critique of the inverted spectrum argument is that it assumes that mental states (differing in their qualitative or phenomenological aspects) can be independent of the functional relations in the brain. Thus, it begs the question of functional mental states: its assumption denies the possibility of functionalism itself, without offering any independent justification for doing so. (Functionalism says that mental states are produced by the functional relations in the brain.) This same type of problemthat there is no argument, just an antithetical assumption at their basecan also be said of both the Chinese room and the Chinese nation arguments. Notice, however, that Crabb’s response to Chalmers does not commit this fallacy: His point is the more restricted observation that even if inverted or absent qualia turn out to be nomologically impossible, and it is perfectly possible that we might subsequently discover this fact by other means, Chalmers’ argument fails to demonstrate that they are impossible.

The Twin Earth thought experiment, introduced by Hilary Putnam,[22] is responsible for one of the main arguments used against functionalism, although it was originally intended as an argument against semantic internalism. The thought experiment is simple and runs as follows. Imagine a Twin Earth which is identical to Earth in every way but one: water does not have the chemical structure HO, but rather some other structure, say XYZ. It is critical, however, to note that XYZ on Twin Earth is still called “water” and exhibits all the same macro-level properties that HO exhibits on Earth (i.e., XYZ is also a clear drinkable liquid that is in lakes, rivers, and so on). Since these worlds are identical in every way except in the underlying chemical structure of water, you and your Twin Earth doppelgnger see exactly the same things, meet exactly the same people, have exactly the same jobs, behave exactly the same way, and so on. In other words, since you share the same inputs, outputs, and relations between other mental states, you are functional duplicates. So, for example, you both believe that water is wet. However, the content of your mental state of believing that water is wet differs from your duplicate’s because your belief is of HO, while your duplicate’s is of XYZ. Therefore, so the argument goes, since two people can be functionally identical, yet have different mental states, functionalism cannot sufficiently account for all mental states.

Most defenders of functionalism initially responded to this argument by attempting to maintain a sharp distinction between internal and external content. The internal contents of propositional attitudes, for example, would consist exclusively in those aspects of them which have no relation with the external world and which bear the necessary functional/causal properties that allow for relations with other internal mental states. Since no one has yet been able to formulate a clear basis or justification for the existence of such a distinction in mental contents, however, this idea has generally been abandoned in favor of externalist causal theories of mental contents (also known as informational semantics). Such a position is represented, for example, by Jerry Fodor’s account of an “asymmetric causal theory” of mental content. This view simply entails the modification of functionalism to include within its scope a very broad interpretation of input and outputs to include the objects that are the causes of mental representations in the external world.

The twin earth argument hinges on the assumption that experience with an imitation water would cause a different mental state than experience with natural water. However, since no one would notice the difference between the two waters, this assumption is likely false. Further, this basic assumption is directly antithetical to functionalism; and, thereby, the twin earth argument does not constitute a genuine argument: as this assumption entails a flat denial of functionalism itself (which would say that the two waters would not produce different mental states, because the functional relationships would remain unchanged).

Another common criticism of functionalism is that it implies a radical form of semantic holism. Block and Fodor[19] referred to this as the damn/darn problem. The difference between saying “damn” or “darn” when one smashes one’s finger with a hammer can be mentally significant. But since these outputs are, according to functionalism, related to many (if not all) internal mental states, two people who experience the same pain and react with different outputs must share little (perhaps nothing) in common in any of their mental states. But this is counter-intuitive; it seems clear that two people share something significant in their mental states of being in pain if they both smash their finger with a hammer, whether or not they utter the same word when they cry out in pain.

Another possible solution to this problem is to adopt a moderate (or molecularist) form of holism. But even if this succeeds in the case of pain, in the case of beliefs and meaning, it faces the difficulty of formulating a distinction between relevant and non-relevant contents (which can be difficult to do without invoking an analytic-synthetic distinction, as many seek to avoid).

According to Ned Block, if functionalism is to avoid the chauvinism of type-physicalism, it becomes overly liberal in “ascribing mental properties to things that do not in fact have them”.[14] As an example, he proposes that the economy of Bolivia might be organized such that the economic states, inputs, and outputs would be isomorphic to a person under some bizarre mapping from mental to economic variables.[14]

Hilary Putnam,[23]John Searle,[24] and others[25][26] have offered further arguments that functionalism is trivial, i.e. that the internal structures functionalism tries to discuss turn out to be present everywhere, so that either functionalism turns out to reduce to behaviorism, or to complete triviality and therefore a form of panpsychism. These arguments typically use the assumption that physics leads to a progression of unique states, and that functionalist realization is present whenever there is a mapping from the proposed set of mental states to physical states of the system. Given that the states of a physical system are always at least slightly unique, such a mapping will always exist, so any system is a mind. Formulations of functionalism which stipulate absolute requirements on interaction with external objects (external to the functional account, meaning not defined functionally) are reduced to behaviorism instead of absolute triviality, because the input-output behavior is still required.

Peter Godfrey-Smith has argued further[27] that such formulations can still be reduced to triviality if they accept a somewhat innocent-seeming additional assumption. The assumption is that adding a transducer layer, that is, an input-output system, to an object should not change whether that object has mental states. The transducer layer is restricted to producing behavior according to a simple mapping, such as a lookup table, from inputs to actions on the system, and from the state of the system to outputs. However, since the system will be in unique states at each moment and at each possible input, such a mapping will always exist so there will be a transducer layer which will produce whatever physical behavior is desired.

Godfrey-Smith believes that these problems can be addressed using causality, but that it may be necessary to posit a continuum between objects being minds and not being minds rather than an absolute distinction. Furthermore, constraining the mappings seems to require either consideration of the external behavior as in behaviorism, or discussion of the internal structure of the realization as in identity theory; and though multiple realizability does not seem to be lost, the functionalist claim of the autonomy of high-level functional description becomes questionable.[27]

The general theory of adaptive biological systems, named practopoiesis (meaning creation of actions), has been used to derive a theory that explains mental operations as an adaptive process. Much like species adapt through evolution and an organism adapts through development, the theory of anapoiesis (meaning re-creation) proposes that a thought is a process of adaptation to the immediate environment. This is performed by fast physiological machinery that can operate within a few 100s of milliseconds and relies on the mechanisms of neural adaptation. A key difference between anapoietic approach and the functional approach is that for anapoietic process much of the information needed for the mental operations is located outside the organism. If mental operations are an adaptive process, they do not juggle symbols internally (like a computer) but make guesses of what changes should be made to the nervous system and then test them against the environment.

The mechanisms of anapoiesis offer a solution to the problem of the Chinese Room posed by John Searle.

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Functionalism (philosophy of mind) – Wikipedia

Cam Site Launches iTunes-Like Marketplace Of Oral Sex For Women – AskMen

Trending News: Good Enough To Make A Porn Star Orgasm? Now You Can Find Out Long Story Short

A cam site has launched an iTunes-like digital marketplace where you can upload clips of cunnilingus through yoursmartphone. When the simulated oral sex is uploaded, anyone can download the experience to their vibrators and get their O-face on.

Are you a cunning linguist (to borrow the name of the rap group)? Are you as good as a porn star? Well, now you can find out with a new service from the wild and pervy brains over at CamSoda.

The cam site has just launched O-cast, which is similar to their recently released ‘iTunes for Blowjobs,’but for women to experience. You simplydownload the O-Cast app from their site and give the screen your best ‘ABCs’ or whatever. Yes, literally lick the screen (you might want to give your phone an old wipedown for germs).

Then, just upload your best licks to the site where women can choose and download their favorite tongue dance to a teledildonics sex toy (it only works with the Lovense Lush Bluetooth egg vibrator).

You better be good, though, because your magic tongue will be competing with cam girls, porn stars and other average Janes/Joes through the digital marketplace. To make things even more competitive, keep in mind that if the porn stars are uploading, chances are they might want to try it out for themselves.

CamSoda says it’slaunching the service in conjunction International Women’s Month and will make all downloads free for March in honor of the lovely ladies out there. After that, each cunnilingus download will be a buck.

Man, cam sites sure changing the future of sex.

Do women really want to get off to some stranger’s tongue?

As many as 68% of women fake orgasms, according to a recent survey.

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Cam Site Launches iTunes-Like Marketplace Of Oral Sex For Women – AskMen

Jio Giga Fiber Broadband Expands Beta Testing With 100Mbps Connection & 100GB FUP – Indiatimes.com

While the cellular 4G VoLTE Jio party has gone past the 100 million subscriber mark under six months and has unveiled monthly paid plans under the Jio Prime Membership scheme, Reliance Jio is now aggressively expanding its fiber-to-the-home Gigabit broadband service.

Even as Mukesh Ambani took to the stage and delivered a seismic shock to Indias communication landscape with its Jio 4G launch in September last year, one of the slides during his hour-long presentation also touched upon Jio Giga Fiber broadband deployments later in the future. The promise of that future is now upon us.


As early as January signs of Reliance Jio making inroads in the countrys broadband market with a fibre-to-the-home (FTTH) network dubbed as Giga Fiber broadband started offering free services until March 31, with a 100 Mbps data speed in select residential areas of Chennai, Pune and Mumbai regions.

According to an ET report, there are only about 18 million home broadband connections in India, which is an abysmally low number compared to the nations cellular Internet penetration, and its only natural that both the top telcos in this space, Bharti Airtel and Reliance Jio, are trying to expand their footprint — but not without stiff competition from local rivals such as Hathway, Spectranet, Tikona and Nextra Teleservices, all around the country.

With that in mind, Reliance Jio seems to be in aggressive expansion mode, right now, conducting pilot and beta testing programs by actually wiring up homes, apartment complexes and housing societies in Mumbai, New Mumbai, Pune and Chennai. Currently, Reliance Jios offering residents free 1Gbps connection at 100Mbps speed and 100GB monthly FUP or download limit.

According to India Today, one of the residential buildings where Reliance Giga Fiber is being tested out of is the home of Rushabh Vora, in Walkeshwar, Mumbai, whos reporting Jio Gigabit Fiber speeds as following — 94.99 Mbps download, 79.99 Mbps upload, and 6 milliseconds ping as tested through Speedtest.net while pinging a local Mumbai server.

Digit is reporting one of their team members based out of Tardeo, Mumbai, whos piloting the Jio Giga Fiber home broadband connection at 100Mbps speed and monthly FUP of 100GB for the next three months. As reported by Digit, the Jio agents who visited their colleagues home didnt give him a list of the company plans to choose from. Seemingly they charged him Rs. 4000, as a security deposit for the Jio Gigabit router, on a refundable basis should he choose to opt out of the service at the end of the free three month trial period.


Amazing speed, isnt it? Movies will download within minutes, if not seconds, and buffer will never be an issue! But what happens when all that FUP is consumed? No need to worry, the service wont disconnect completely as the Reliance Jio broadband service’s speed will throttle down to 1Mbps — still allowing you to connect and surf the Web.

Just hope and pray that Reliance Jio Giga Fiber comes to your town or city soon, they actually have a target of lighting up Jio Giga Fiber in at least 100 cities in India within 2017 itself. Also, according to sources close to the matter, readers are strongly urged to not get fooled by alleged Jio Giga Fiber broadband plans doing the rounds on the Web, as theyre all fake according to a Jio spokesperson. Once Jios Giga Fiber testing phase gets over, the company will move step one closer towards commercial launch of the service, during which time the final Jio Giga Fiber plan will be released, according to a source privy to the information.







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Jio Giga Fiber Broadband Expands Beta Testing With 100Mbps Connection & 100GB FUP – Indiatimes.com

Sprint Testing Its Gigabit LTE With Prototype Phone From Motorola – Droid Life (press release) (blog)

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5G and Gigabit LTE, while not exactly the same thing depending on whose marketing department you ask, is coming. Maybe not tomorrow and maybenot until late2017 or beyond, but its definitely coming. Recently shown off by Sprint at a small event in New Orleans, the company is currently working with a prototype Snapdragon-powered Motorola device to bring Gigabit LTE to customers.

The Gigabit LTE is based on44 MIMO, 256-QAM, and three-carrier aggregation to deliver speeds in the 600Mbps range, but that was also during a high traffic NBA game at theSmoothie King arena. As you can see in the header image, the prototype Motorola device was able to reach 612Mbps down, but only a laughable 7.83Mbps upload. This low upload is likely do to the immaturity of the network tech, but once Sprint has the kinks worked out, its sure to be much higher.

Now, as for that Motorola device, lets call it what it is. This isprototype hardware with internal components that Moto has likely loaned to Sprint while they work with the Snapdragon 835 platform. Its not ahuge mystery.However, with that said, we are approaching a timeframe whenMoto leaks would begin to happen, and Moto has stated it would be on more carriers in 2017. All good things to keep in mind.

All we can say is, bring on the gigabit speeds and more 2017 flagships! Our bodies are ready.

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Sprint Testing Its Gigabit LTE With Prototype Phone From Motorola – Droid Life (press release) (blog)

Duck Hunt Meets Five Nights At Freddy’s In Stress Level Zero’s Next VR Game – UploadVR

Duck Season is easily my favorite premise for a VR game. For anyone in the age range of about 30-45, the upcoming release from Stress Level Zero will be a giant nostalgia trip with a freakytwist.

The 1980s are in full swing and my virtual living room looks like it fits perfectly into that time period. My mom brings home a copy of the popular game Duck Season as a one day game rental, and Im going to spend all day playing it on a giant box television. Thetoy gun for the game is sitting on the floor among a heap of game cartridges and VHS tapes. Most of these are playable, so I can grab a tape or one of the cartridges and check it out.

There is a copy of the game Sinatra, for example. I stick that in the game system and I quickly recognize the startup screen for Contra with Sinatra spelled out instead. The little mini-game is reminiscent of a cross between Michael Jacksons Moonwalker and Streets of Rage. A crying Sinatra pops up whenever I die.

When I get to the Duck Season cartridge I actually go inside the television. If I turn around I can see the little boy that is me staring back through the television screen. It is a bit trippy.I pick up my shotgun and start loading shells to take out the ducks flying back and forth. Between rounds a creepy dog pops up from the brush and starts dancing. So I shoot him, just like I did that laughing mutt from the original Duck Hunt.

This might have been a mistake.

Later, when it is near midnight and I leave the game world, the lighting in that living room has darkened. Now it looks like something straight out of a childhood nightmare. If I stare at objects around the room, like the clock, the sound I hear slowly changes into a more haunting version of itself. Imagine listening to the slight ticking of a clock until it is the only thing drumming inside your skull.

The various endings are determined by the players actions, wrote Stress Level Zeros Brandon Laatsch in an email. Some elements of the sound design are driven subjectively. Focusing on them causes you to hear them how your mind might imagine them rather than how they actually sound.

My skin starts to crawl and shivers run down my spine. I pick up the toy gun off the ground will that help me here in the real world? I peek out the window nervously, turn around for fear theres something hiding behind the couch and finally focus my attention on the door open a crack just to my left.

The dog is coming for me and Im so scared.

The designers behind this world are Stress Level Zero, creators of the multiplayer shooting game Hover Junkers [Review: 7/10], and I found myself experiencing a range of emotions from laughter to straight-up fear inside a short tour of the experience at the Game Developers Conference last week. The game will feature different endings depending on what you do, including one for those that dont shoot the dog. Laatsch says everyone shoots the dog though.

Stress Level Zero is planning to release Duck Season in the coming weeks. It is coming to SteamVR-compatible headsets with tracked controllers.

Tagged with: duck hunt, Duck Season, Stress Level Zero

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Duck Hunt Meets Five Nights At Freddy’s In Stress Level Zero’s Next VR Game – UploadVR

Hackers exploit Apache Struts vulnerability to compromise corporate web servers – Network World

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Attackers are widely exploiting a recently patched vulnerability in Apache Struts that allows them to remotely execute malicious code on web servers.

Apache Struts is an open-source web development framework for Java web applications. It’s widely used to build corporate websites in sectors including education, government, financial services, retail and media.

On Monday, the Apache Struts developers fixed a high-impact vulnerability in the framework’s Jakarta Multipart parser. Hours later, an exploit for the flaw appeared on Chinese-language websites and this was almost immediately followed by real-world attacks, according to researchers from Cisco Systems.

The vulnerability is very easy to exploit and allows attackers to execute system commands with the privileges of the user running the web server process. If the web server is configured to run as root, the system is completely compromised, but executing code as a lower-privileged user is also a serious security threat.

What’s even worse is that the Java web application doesn’t even need to implement file upload functionality via the Jakarta Multipart parser in order to be vulnerable. According to researchers from Qualys, the simple presence on the web server of this component, which is part of the Apache Struts framework by default, is enough to allow exploitation.

“Needless to say we think this is a high priority issue and the consequence of a successful attack is dire,” said Amol Sarwate, director of Vulnerability Labs at Qualys, in a blog post.

Companies who use Apache Struts on their servers should upgrade the framework to versions 2.3.32 or as soon as possible.

Researchers from Cisco Talos have observed “a high number of exploitation events.” Some of them only execute the Linux command whoami to determine the privileges of the web server user and are probably used for initial probing. Others go further and stop the Linux firewall and then download an ELF executable that’s executed on the server.

“The payloads have varied but include an IRC bouncer, a DoS bot, and a sample related to the bill gates botnet,” the Talos researchers said in a blog post.

According to researchers from Spanish outfit Hack Players, Google searches indicate 35 million web applications that accept “filetype:action” uploads and a high percentage of them are likely vulnerable.

It’s somewhat unusual that attacks have started so quickly after the flaw was announced and it’s not yet clear whether an exploit for the vulnerability already existed in closed circles before Monday.

Users who can’t immediately upgrade to the patched Struts versions can apply a workaround that consists of creating a Servlet filter for Content-Type that would discard any requests not matching multipart/form-data. Web application firewall rules to block such requests are also available from various vendors.

Lucian Constantin is an IDG News Service correspondent. He writes about information security, privacy, and data protection.

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Hackers exploit Apache Struts vulnerability to compromise corporate web servers – Network World

Dying: Reborn PSVR Review Should Have Stayed Dead – UploadVR

I have to admit I didnt expect much going into Dying: Reborn PSVR. Publisher Oasis Games previous efforts on PlayStation VR (PSVR) have ranged from the mediocre (Ace Banana)to the downright terrible (Weeping Doll and Pixel Gear), so you could forgive me for being skeptical that this would be a different story. Much to my surprise, though, I found myself starting to have a bit of fun with this cheesy B-movie style escape room game.

But, just as soon as it started, it was over.

You see, Dying: Reborn PSVR isnt the full game. Instead, its three excerpts from the first three levels of the full campaign, which does not support VR. It only takes about an hour to see through the VR content, if that. This would be fine if it was available as a free experience for PSVR owners that picked up the full game but, instead, Oasis Games has decided to charge for it, effectively making it a premium demo. If there was enough here to warrant a price then that might be less of a problem, but Dying: Reborn is sadly the same story were seeing with many early PSVR titles: too short and no depth.

Piecing together the games story is tricky when parts of it have been carved out, though the voice acting is one of its more enjoyable flaws. I know VR is in the early days akin to the original PlayStation, but that doesnt mean voice overs have to act like it. I laughed out loud listening to the dialogue, which makes Jill sandwiches sound like Shakespeare. Without the context of the entire game or even a proper ending, much of the narrative doesnt fit. You wont even see the amusing fish-headed villain thats on the front cover in the flesh, just as a silhouette through a TV screen (drinking a glass of wine, much to my delight).

Thats indicative of the entire game, too. Even sequentially; Id end one level by walking through one door and then start the next one off as if Id walked through another. I could tell sections had been cut out, for whatever reason, and I was getting an abridged version.

What is here isnt terrible, though. As far as escape room games go, I found Dying: Reborn struck a pretty nice balance between brain-teasers and progression. I was able to solve each of the games puzzles on my own (which speaks to their simplicity), though there were a few times Id find myself wandering up and down a corridor, unsure of what to do next.

While many of the challenges simply involve entering the correct number on a keypad, they still delivered in interesting ways. One was a grid that I had to select specific tiles on, for example, and it was used multiple times for different puzzles. The games never mind-bendingly clever, but there is a methodical satisfaction to progressing through the trials step-by-step, even if it never goes further than that.

Thats in spite of VR though. Though the simplistic graphics (a notable downgrade from the full game) help Dying: Reborns 3D effect, theres no real reason for the game to actually be played with a headset. The environments are largely static, with assets reused time and again, giving the whole thing a very Unity asset store feel. Though I appreciated being able to move in VR with a DualShock 4, this was far from a great example of the powerful emotions this technology can drum up.

Dying: Reborn PSVR has some fun puzzles to solve, but its far too short on substance to recommend to anyone. By carving out sections of the non-VR game, Oasis Games has created something a little like the games disturbing fish-headed protagonist; a hollow Frankensteins monster, brought to life with left overs. PSVR players deserve better.

Dying: Reborn PSVR is now available for $9.99.Read our Game Review Guidelinesfor more information on how we arrived at this score.

Tagged with: Dying: Reborn PSVR, Oasis Games, PlayStation VR

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Dying: Reborn PSVR Review Should Have Stayed Dead – UploadVR