Lying Smarts

A group of Swiss researchers recently developed a set of robots that were programmed to find and share “food” with each other. These were learning robots. Robots with a built-in ability to try new things and devise new strategies over time. The interesting part? While initially the robots signaled each other whenever any of them found food, the robots eventually learned that concealing the fact they had found food often resulted in higher portions of food for themselves. In other words, they developed the ability to lie.

While it’s tempting to see this as startling, the only starting aspect is that the robots were evolving intelligence, not that they were lying. Despite the reality that pretty much everyone values honesty, the reality is that everyone lies. Effective lying is directly correlated to intelligence, and lying is actually a developmental milestone in children, which correlates positively with brighter kids. Lying has also been found in primates, and it is speculated that lying is at the root of the evolution of the higher intelligence we humans prize so much.

After all, in order to lie you must be aware of the truth, and then actively conceive and sell an alternate reality. It’s a rather complicated mental task. But that hardly means that all liars are geniuses, or all geniuses are liars. It just means that the ability to lie convincingly correlates with intelligence. How you use that can still make you a good or a bad person.

There’s a world of difference between selling, “Honey, that dress looks amazing on you!” and selling, “Our best intelligence says there are WMDs in Iraq.”

Coming Soon to CSI

A team in Israel has figured out a process to fabricate DNA evidence. So far they have been able to create fake saliva and blood samples that then passed standard forensic lab tests as being from the framed DNA donor. What’s more frightening is that they not only did this from a small DNA sample such as a hair or a drinking cup, but they were even able to construct wholly artificial DNA evidence by simply having someone’s DNA database record.

On the one hand, this was inevitable. The same thing happened to fingerprints, which were once considered infallible. Science was bound to eventually unseat DNA as the golden child of criminal forensics. It’s probably a good thing. This clearly doesn’t discredit DNA evidence overall, but puts it into perspective with other evidence at a crime scene. You need to build a case, not just collect a sample.

And speaking of inevitable, how long do you think it will be before one of the numerous lab intensive crime dramas picks this up as a plot for the fall season? I’m guessing sweeps week.

Bad Moon Rising

As John Fogerty stated, “Hope you are quite prepared to die.” Yet, after reading this explanation of the specifics of the trip, I’m guessing probably not. While I remain unafraid of being dead, thanks to this article, the prospect of getting there is now reasonably terrifying.

Drowning doesn’t sound too bad, and I understand freezing is pretty painless, although they didn’t discuss that one. But death by fire, hanging, falling, or even electrocution? No thanks. The most disturbing revelation? Apparently after being decapitated (which sounds pretty swift and painless), your brain still functions for 7 to 30 seconds. Meaning you have ample time to contemplate your new state, and even take a gander at your better half assuming your head rolls quickly to a stop at a convenient angle. Ewww.

Honey, Lie Down. We Need to Talk

Science pushes forward yet again, revealing this time that people are less likely to retaliate to insults while lying down. Unfortunately they still become as subjectively angry, they are just less likely to smack you when reclined.

I guess maybe bank robbers had it right all along. If you’re going to piss people off, make them lay down on the floor first. Although, short of holding a weapon on someone, it’s hard to see how you might persuade them to get prone prior to annoying them. So clearly I’m struggling with the practical application of this information. Although I suppose you could use it on yourself by lying down prior to hearing something you know is going to tick you off. Places such as:

  • At the Auto Repair Shop – “Yes, we’ve fixed your cigarette lighter. That will be $575.25 with tax.”
  • In Divorce Court – “The court finds…”
  • On the Phone with Tech Support – “Thank you for calling. Your current expected wait time to speak to someone who will read our database to you with an accent you can’t understand is… “
  • At the Doctor’s Office – “Well these things are perfectly normal as we get older.”
  • Your Friend Is at the Door – “You know when I borrowed your truck this morning…”
  • In Your Boss’ Office – “You’ve been with us many years, but times are tough…”

India’s Birth Control Plan

I’m unsure if this is funny or sad, but India’s health and welfare minister has come up with a non-intrusive plan for regulating the country’s population boom in its rural communities. Without resorting to laws against extra children or taxes for having them, the plan is elegantly simple, and if the population growth rate in places like the U.S., Canada, and Europe are any indication, will be wildly effective.

What’s the plan? Run electricity to every village such that the residents will be able to watch TV at night. Although some of those Bollywood productions are pretty steamy, so this could backfire!