The Recent Killings In St. Louis

The world is in an uproar over the recent police shootings which have taken place in St. Louis, Missouri.  There’s rioting, looting, and general mayhem.  It’s intense.

If you all wonder how these things happen, check out this first hand video captured by a passerby.  This isn’t the same Michael Brown police shooting you’ve been hearing about.  This is another police killing that just happened.

We find a man in a hoodie jacket, standing outside of a convenience store, pacing around in the parking lot.  He’s stolen two soda cans and placed them on the sidewalk next to the road.  He just keeps angrily pacing, telling passerbys, “I’m tired of this shit!”  I’m assuming he’s angry about what happened to Michael Brown, so he’s going to steal a few small things and threaten the police to kill him too.

I don’t think any of this was well thought out on his part.  He wanted to provoke the police in some way, basically telling others, “See how they treat us?  We have no rights here in America!”  He may also have been hoping that the videos would be uploaded to Facebook, showing the world how bad the police treat blacks.  He does seem to mention something about Facebook, but it’s hard to hear.  Still, the people who end up filming the event don’t even know him, so it doesn’t seem like he planned to capture any of it on video.  It’s possible that he actually planned to fight with the police and exact some sort of revenge.  People there in the parking lot were telling him, “This isn’t the way to do things”, but he wouldn’t listen.  He was angry.

The cops pull up and order the man to take his hands out of his hoodie pockets.  At first he doesn’t comply, and instead just presses toward them yelling, “Shoot me mutha’ fuckas!  Shoot me!  C’mon!  Shoot me!”  It’s as if he were asking the cops, “C’mon, are you going to shoot me like you did Michael Brown?”  He then takes his hand out of his pocket and both hands are clearly visible, hanging next to his thighs.  To me, it doesn’t look like he had a weapon of any sort, but the camera quality isn’t good enough to tell.  Then he climbs up on this ledge and continues to yell at the officers from a short-distance.  According to some of the comments, he also pulls out a knife at some point.   I couldn’t see a knife, but he must have had one.  The man in the red hat was yelling, “Drop it bro, drop it.”  If you carefully listen to the police, they’re also saying, “Drop the knife, drop the knife”, over and over.  This all goes on for about fifteen to twenty seconds, then the young man is gunned down and collapses on the sidewalk.

Now it all gets really strange.  The cops keep their guns pointed at the dying man, and once he finally dies, they roll him over and place hand-cuffs on him.  Then they run off all eye-witnesses and tell them to leave.  Wouldn’t they want to question them as to what just happened?  That’s all pretty shady if you ask me.  They really want to keep it contained, considering all that’s been going on with the Michael Brown issue.

What a tragedy.  That was a very stupid thing to do.  If the police are yelling at you with guns drawn, the last thing you should do is provoke them or act aggressive.  Even worse, are you seriously going to pull a knife out and press toward the officers?  But this young man was really angry and people do stupid things when they’re angry.

I try to see things from the cops perspective.  You’re dealing with all these poor, inner city delinquents, many of them in gangs.  You don’t know if they’re carrying guns or other weapons.  They have no respect for you or the law.  How do you deal with them?  You’re going to have to be cautious.

For these officers, it’s just another day on the job.  They hear a report on the radio that a convenience store has been robbed and they go to check it out.  They pull up to find a grown man yelling and swearing at them, visibly angry and aggressive, pressing toward them with a knife, refusing to comply.  He wouldn’t put his hands on his head.  They were in a terrifying situation.

I can imagine that these officers have a home, family, and kids.  Imagine dying in a place like that, gunned down by some hoodlum in a convenience store parking lot over a few stolen colas.  Or imagine being stabbed and injured for life?  I can understand that officers would often need to employ strong precautionary measures when dealing with these people.

Was the police force excessive?  Did this young criminal deserve more?  Well, the cops could’ve waited for backup and then they all could’ve tackled him or used a taser.  Still, the man is jumping around with a knife, yelling and threatening the officers.  Still, did they really need to gun him down so quickly?  Fifteen seconds isn’t very long to comply.  There’s a lot of yelling and angry jumping around, then bang bang bang.  What did any of that accomplish?  But with that knife, the man could quickly dash off the ledge and plunge a blade right into one of the officers.

It’s terrible that the young man had to die, but he’s far from blameless.  That’s how these things go.  I imagine the Michael Brown case was similar to this one.  We have a thug robbing a convenience store and he’s not cooperating with law enforcement.  He’s fighting, refusing to comply, and putting the cops in a difficult situation.  He may also have threatened the police with weapons.  They chose to take him out.  I wouldn’t doubt that there was also some excessive force used there as well, and the cops are covering it up.

Neurosynaptic Chips

As I’m sure many of you are aware, the United States has been investing billions of dollars in R&D projects related to brain simulation.  One of them is taking place at IBM.  They’ve just released their latest neurosynaptic chip.  It’s completely different from a traditional computer chip.

They process information using a hierarchy of “neurons”, following the same sorts of pattern recognition techniques I was mentioning the other day.  Traditional processors aren’t very efficient at hierarchical pattern recognition, so we’re building chips which process information in the same way the brain does.


This is all part of the new cognitive computing revolution.  Right now, we’ve living in an era where computers need to be programmed.  They don’t have any real intelligence.  Using a central processor, software written by a programmer moves data around like a mindless secretary.  That’s all changing.  These new computers will not be programmed.  They will be aware of their environment and self-learning.  They will simply interact with you and learn what you want from them.  This is unlike anything you’ve seen before.

IBM’s goal is to create a giant cloud of these new synaptic computers.  Their goal is to build a stackable array of these chips, and create a cognitive computer as powerful as the human brain within a one liter volume.  How long before they reach human levels of performance?  Right now a single chip can emulate about 46 billion synaptic operations per second.  To compare this to our brain, we do about 100 trillion synaptic operations per second.

Outside of physics, I can’t think of anything more interesting than this stuff.  Unlike theorizing and philosophizing about the mind, we’re now actually building them.  I plan to follow these developments closely.  In twenty to thirty years, I’ll sit next to my computer, which will probably just be a thin sheet of glass on my desk, and I’ll have conversation with it, just like I would any of you.  It will be wired into this giant synaptic-cloud-brain which will have read every scientific document, every history book, and will have watched every video that’s available online.  Unlike search engines today, my computer will actually understand what I say to it, and understand what it reads online.  It will think just like me and my interactions with it will be very natural. It will know everything and, at my command, be able to dynamically prepare a presentation on any topic I ask.  What a dream!

Nice Things Happen Sometimes

Just the other day, something rather amazing happened to me.  It really took me by surprise.

I’ve mentioned before that I’ve sort of been trying to meet new people over the past, I don’t know, six months or so.  For too many years, I’ve been a shut-in recluse, and I knew that needed to change.  So I started doing things I don’t normally do.  I’ve actually met all kinds of people.

But throughout all of that, I met a new friend.  She’s a just a tad younger than me, and very thoughtful.  It’s not romantic at all.  She’s actually engaged to marry a very nice guy, who I’ve met several times as well.  They’re both great.  I was hanging out with her the other day, and for whatever reason, I told her that over the years I’ve given myself to daydreaming too much, and she pressed for details.  I laughed and said, “Alright.”

I told her how I’d been running eight miles every day that week when I normally only run four.  I was determined to keep it up for an entire week, even if it killed me, but I didn’t know if I was going to make it.  I was getting so tired and my body was giving out.  After four days of doing it, I ended up eating an entire baked chicken and then passed out for fourteen hours.  My body was going crazy.

I told her how it was such a challenge for me and I had a silly daydream that once I finished my last lap that Friday evening, a news crew would run up to me exclaiming, “Ladies and gentleman, this man has run eight miles every day this entire week! Absolutely incredible!  How are you feeling right now?”  Then they’d stick microphones and cameras in my face and I’d reply, “I’m so tired, but exhilarated.  I can’t believe it.  I actually did it.  I’m so proud of myself.”  Just as I finished, a crowd of cute girls would surround me, cheering, while others would open champagne and throw confetti in the air.  As the crowd sprayed me with champagne, another person would dump a Gatorade cooler on me, and I’d just sort of put my arms in the air and think, “Life is good.”

She listened and laughed, “You should do it.  Go the whole week!”  Then I told her, “Just two more days.  I can do this!” I didn’t think anything of it.  It’s just me in my own little world, being silly.

So Friday came and I’m at the track.  I’m pretty tired but keep reminding myself that this is the day.  Nobody’s around.  It’s just me, the trees, and the few squirrels who were running across the green lawn.  I’m in a Zen state, at one with the track.  The breeze is blowing.  It’s not too hot to run.  I chug down some water in preparation and start stretching my legs.

I gently lift myself up and down off the track using my toes, and make my way to the starting line.  I can feel the rubber beneath me through my running shoes.  I place my hands on the track and bend over, just like I did back in school when I ran track.  My thoughts run over and over, “Eight miles.  Thirty-two laps.  It’s not so bad.  I’ve done it before and I can do it again.  Whew.  Ok.  Here we go.  Let’s do this!  I got this!”  Then I take off at a nice, brisk pace.

First six or seven laps?  No problem.  Ten laps come, I’m feeling it, but I’m still good.  Fifteen laps.  Twenty laps!  My goodness, I’m feeling it.  Can I go on?  I can’t give up now!  I press forward.

Then I got to lap twenty-six.  The sun’s setting and I’d been out there a while.  I’m pretty well exhausted, just trying to make it through the final few laps.  All of the sudden a car pulls up and in the distance I see my friend entering the gate.  What is she doing here?  No matter!  I had to finish.  That’s all that mattered.  I was going to run thirty-two laps, and nothing was going to stop that.

She goes and sits in the front row of the bleachers, not too far from the track.  I ran by, waved, and she smiled and waved back.  In a very tired voice, gasping for air, I said, “I can’t stop. I’m so clos….”  I didn’t have enough air.  She seemed to understand and I kept at it.

Finally I was down to the last three laps, two laps, and then the final lap!  By that time it was hard to say what was keeping me up.  When you’re at the track, all alone, you wonder why you’re pressing yourself so hard.  But this time I had a spectator and I knew I couldn’t quit.  I kept pushing, and pushing, and pushing.  I trudged around the final turn and made it to the last one hundred meter stretch.  I normally have a policy of finishing hard but not this time.  I just wanted to finish.  I had to finish.  That’s all that mattered.  I just had to go the distance.  It wasn’t about victory.  This was for me.

Then I crossed it.  Thirty-two laps.  I had run eight miles for seven days straight.  Impressed?  You should be!

After crossing the finish, I put my hands over my head, gasping for air, and then walked in circles.  Realizing I’d finished, my friend stands up, approaches me, and then threw confetti in the air.  As I struggled to catch my breath, exhausted and bent over, I looked up at her and was greeted with a gentle smile as she said, “Congratulations.”  Then she did a little cheer.

I went and sat down in the bleachers, drinking some water with confetti stuck to my sweaty forehead.  I’m someone who can space out.  I sort of looked over at her and then looked off into the distance while blankly staring off into the distance.  I don’t think I was thinking about anything, I was just exhausted.

Once I sort of came back from wherever I was, I looked over at her, smiled, and said, “Thanks.”  What a nice person!  It’s the nicest thing anyone has done for me in a long time.  I was just in shock.