Headcanon Award


With the recent decision that the World Fantasy Award will no longer be a bust of H.P.Lovecraft, some people have got somewhat upset. I assume this is due to a decline in really ugly goggle-eyed heads as awards. To restore the balance the above is my design for a head-cannon award which can be award by anybody in their own heads to whoever they privately think should have won something.


Moravec’s Paradox

Hans Moravec is a roboticist and futurist and as is common in such field expects big things of robots in the future.

Moravec’s paradox though is an interesting observation which implies some fundamental difficulties about building effective and autonomous machines. The reasoning is this. The kinds of mental activity we regard as ‘intelligence’, the conscious, ‘higher order’ thinking we regard as being distinctly human developed relatively quickly in evolutionary terms. Even our smartest and closest relatives don’t have anything like our capacity for complex language for example. Step further away from the great apes and our relatives just aren’t that smart in terms of conscious abstract reasoning.

However all animals are quite smart in the sense of making sense of their environment and choosing actions and basically looking after themselves. A dog may struggle to make sense of what you are pointing at but they can cope with a wide range of sensory information, they can hunt, socialize with other dogs etc.

This suggests that evolutionary process took a long time fine tuning the capacity of animals to deal with what we might regard as relatively low-level use of a brain but actually very little time developing complex language skills and abstract thought. Which suggests that our usual wy of thinking about these two things is upside down.

i.e. abstract high-level ‘intelligence’ is relatively easy but the base on which that sits is very, very hard.

Here is a quote from Moravec’s 1988 book Mind Children via Wikipedia:

Encoded in the large, highly evolved sensory and motor portions of the human brain is a billion years of experience about the nature of the world and how to survive in it. The deliberate process we call reasoning is, I believe, the thinnest veneer of human thought, effective only because it is supported by this much older and much more powerful, though usually unconscious, sensorimotor knowledge. We are all prodigious olympians in perceptual and motor areas, so good that we make the difficult look easy. Abstract thought, though, is a new trick, perhaps less than 100 thousand years old. We have not yet mastered it. It is not all that intrinsically difficult; it just seems so when we do it

NaNoWriMo Update

urrrrggghhhh nearly there…must finish but everything seems trite…


Stuck with how to solve a murder – so literally the butler did it. Sure it was a robot butler but still.

Now main character has a maguffin and a chase scene and needs to switch on the deus-ex-machina machine to end the story. Make it stop….