5.3 km = 51:48

Filed under: — Bravus @ 8:32 am

So I had the bright idea of going for an early morning run on the beach this morning. Thought it would be lovely, and in some ways it was, but without daylight saving, even though I was up and out at 5:30 the sun was well and truly up.

Not sure whether the photo fully conveys it, but the sea was rough and the sky was hazy because there was a howling southerly gale.

That meant that running south down the beach meant running straight into the teeth of it (and then it’s less help than one might assume and hope on the way back). Also, the tide was coming in, not going out, so rather than the firm plane of sand I’d expected to be running on, it was near-quicksand.

It’s a dog beach we come to often, and we tend to think that it’s 2 km from the sand dredging jetty in the photo to the point that marks the end of the dog beach, and therefore our round trip is 4 km. My plan was to add an extra 700 m or so south at the end to make it just over 5.3 round trip. Pushed, fought, struggled – glasses gradually being obscured by salt spray – to the marker, only to discover it’s 1.5 km, not 2.0.

At this point, with the deep sand, my right achilles was on the verge of protected industrial action, so I decided to turn around, finish the beach section, and then finish the distance around the park. It did get a bit easier on the way north, but the sand was still treacherous.

More dogs than usual said “Hi”. Maybe the sweat smells good to them, maybe it was because I was alone and am usually in a group… or maybe they were just checking in whether I was in need of assistance!

The first two runs I’d forgotten to wear the Apple Watch with its built-in heart rate counter (a gift from a very kind friend), which was not clever, but this time I brought it. I think it confirmed that I’d been doing pretty much the right thing. I’d run for a bit, until I felt kind of wrecked, then slow to a fast walk for a bit, and alternate.

I found that, when I chose to stop running, my heart rate was usually at about 161-162 bpm. Since the danger zone is considered to be roughly 220 minus your age, that intuition was serving me pretty well in keeping me at a place where I was pushing the boundaries but not to the point of risk or harm.

After running on the beach in those conditions, I have to admit I paused the Strava for a moment to put shoes on (I’m no triathlete) and then run-walking in the park felt like… a run-walk in the park.

On the beach I’d been thinking the time would be over an hour with the tough going, but in the end it was less than 5 minutes longer than my first run, less than a week ago. Slight increase in fitness? A few more steps run to hit the target zone? Who knows: stay tuned for Marathon in a Month 4/8!


Quantum Supremacy and the Threat of AI Supremacy

Filed under: — Bravus @ 10:51 am

OK, it’s not the zingiest title in the Hogwarts world… 😉

Google recently claimed (a claim disputed by others, including IBM) to have achieved ‘quantum supremacy’. This is a term, popularised by John Preskill, for the ability of a quantum computer to solve a computing problem that would be impossible for a conventional computer within its lifetime.

Google claimed that their ‘Sycamore’ quantum computer, with 54 ‘qubits’ (quantum bits) solved a problem in 3 minutes 20 seconds that would take a conventional computer 10,000 years.

The details are contested, but a working quantum computer (IBM also has one, which for some reason has 53 qubits) is a huge step forward.

Conventional computers use bits that can take values represented by 0 or 1. Like Schrodinger’s Cat, though, a qubit doesn’t have to choose until it’s ‘observed’. It allows quantum computers to ‘explore a problem space’ more efficiently. (This is a very lay explanation of quantum computing in a paragraph that has everyone who actually knows anything about it cringing!)

Dr Stuart Russell has recently published a book called ‘Human Compatible: Artificial Intelligence and the Problem of Control’. The book is well worth reading, but the Probably Science podcast interviewed him a week or so ago, and that’s how I learned about the book and his arguments.

I tend to be an optimist in these kinds of issues, but Dr Russell poses a simple but hard question: “So, you’re spending hundreds of millions of dollars a year to create entities much smarter than you. How do you plan to keep control of the world once you succeed?

He has some great examples of the unintended consequences of even the dumb AI we currently have – helping corporations make profits while making society worse – but the extra ‘horsepower’ offered by quantum computing just makes his key question a lot more urgent.


Three Grounds

Filed under: — Bravus @ 1:30 pm

I’m not vegetarian, although I’m increasingly moving in that direction, trying to taper off the flesh and add more plants.

Both my daughters, Cassie and Alexandra, and their respective partners, Crank and Peter, are vegetarian, but all of us have our different reasons, and that’s what this post is about.

For Cassie and Crank, it’s primarily about the environmental impact of meat production: the rainforests cut down for beef grazing land, the methane produced by sheep and cattle, the runoff from piggeries and so on.

For Alexandra and Peter, it’s mostly about animal welfare: they love animals and don’t want to see them mistreated during production and killed for their flesh.

For me, some of those reasons also resonate strongly, but it’s also about health: about managing my weight and cholesterol and blood pressure.

On the one hand, all those are great reasons. On the other, the kinds of people who try to argue with vegetarians often miss the mark by arguing against a ground which is not the primary one for the person they’re arguing with.

Application of this concept to a wide range of other arguments in society is left as an exercise for the reader…