Towel day

Douglas Adams and Artificial Intelligence

Deep_Thought

In The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, it is revealed that the Earth is a supercomputer designed by Deep Thought, the supercomputer that came before it.

“DEEP THOUGHT: I speak of none but the computer that is to come after me. A computer whose merest operational parameters I am not worthy to calculate – and yet I will design it for you. A computer which can calculate the question to the Ultimate answer, a computer of such infinite and subtle complexity that organic life itself will form part of its operational matrix. And it shall be called The Earth.”

I wonder whether Douglas Adams was influenced by a 1965 paper by British mathematician, Irving John Good, Speculations Concerning the First Ultra-Intelligent Machine.

Good is responding to the commonly held view that a machine could never be as intelligent as a human.

He argues that humans have limitations in intelligence. Ultimately, a machine could be constructed that would match or even exceed a human’s capability.

Good fundamentally believed that computers and their ultra-intelligent machine successors would deliver a benefit to humanity. The opening line of this seminal paper reads:

“The survival of man depends on the early construction of an ultra-intelligent machine.”

In it, he also originated the idea of an “intelligence explosion”:

“Let an ultra-intelligent machine be defined as a machine that can far surpass all the intellectual activities of any man, however clever.

Since the design of machines is one of these intellectual activities, an ultra-intelligent machine could design even better machines; there would then unquestionably be an ‘intelligence explosion,’ and the intelligence of man would be left far behind.

Thus the first ultra-intelligent machine is the last invention that man need ever make, provided that the machine is docile enough to tell us how to keep it under control.”

So is The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy supercomputer Earth docile? According to Ford Prefect it is, “Mostly Harmless.”

If you enjoyed this article, and know where your towel is, you might like this episode of The End of the World by Josh Clark:

And you also might like to join my Hitchhikers appreciation group, Stand Up for Towel Day.

Remembering Towel Day 2017

If you’ve RSVP’d to the Save the Rhino event on Towel Day 2020, you might like to know what #Team42 got up to at previous Towel Days*.

The very first Stand Up for Towel Day was in 2017 in the basement of Waterstones in Tottenham Court Road.

My sister, Helen Puddefoot, very kindly made me a towel jacket.

The towel jacket, by Helen Puddefoot

Trystan Mitchell of the Big Foot Studio made us our beautiful logo.

Steve Cross interrogated the original Hitchhiker book to find out which day the world ended for Arthur Dent and the rest of the population of Earth in the book.

You can watch the set in full, here.

Steve Cross. Photo credit: I think possibly I took this with Steve’s camera.

There were Pan Galactic Gargle Blasters courtesy of the Waterstones bar, and Andy Mil of the Cocktail Trading Company, who very kindly gave me the recipe.

Pan Galactic Gargle Blasters. Photo Credit: Stuart Green

Paul Duncan McGarrity materialised as a sperm whale at a probability of 8,767,128 to 1 against.

Paul Duncan McGarrity. Photo credit: Steve Cross

Nell Thomas and Katie Overstall won our costume competition.

Kimberley Freeman, Nell Thomas, Katie Overstall and me. Photo credit: Steve Cross

And John Lloyd joined us to read some extracts from the book he wrote with Douglas in 1983, The Meaning of Liff.

John Lloyd. Photo credit: Steve Cross

And everybody had a generally hoopy time.

Stand Up for Towel Day attendees. Photo credit: Steve Cross

This year’s Towel Day is going to be online and you can sign up to attend here.

And if you’d like to be first in the know about the event on May 25th, you can join our Facebook group.

I’ll be back with a review of 2018’s Towel Day events soon.

* Towel Day is an annual celebration on the 25th of May, as a tribute to the late author Douglas Adams (1952-2001). On that day, fans around the universe carry a towel in his honour.

Stay In for Towel Day 2020

Stay In for Towel Day logo by Trystan Mitchell of The Big Foot Studio

Delighted to announce that Towel Day this year will be performed online in collaboration with Save the Rhino.

Towel Day is an annual celebration on the 25th of May, as a tribute to the late author Douglas Adams (1952-2001).

On that day, fans around the universe carry a towel in his honour.

Due to the UK’s COVID-19 lock down, grab your towel and join us for ‘Stay in for Towel Day’ from the warmth and comfort of your own sofa.

Join me, Save the Rhino and some comedy pals for an evening of stand-up comedy, slam poetry, sketches, improv and more in homage to H2G2.

For more information, go to https://www.savetherhino.org/get-involved/events/stay-in-for-towel-day-2020/

Stand Up for Towel Day – we’re Belgium well doing it again!

Douglas&suitMarch 8th marks the 40th anniversary of the very first broadcast of a radio series called The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

Douglas Adams was inspired to write a guide to the galaxy while lying drunk in a field near Innsbruck with a copy of The Hitch-hiker’s Guide to Europe and looking up at the stars. Obviously it didn’t start exactly there. It must have come back to him later.

It is an absolutely extraordinary series, brought to life by the series producer, Geoffrey Perkins, with a little help from the BBC Radiophonic Workshop.

When Adams died in 2001, Hitchhiker fans across the world celebrated his life by carrying a towel with them for the day, after one of the show’s central tenets, “always know where your towel is.”

Since then, #towelday has been an annual celebration. In 2016, I looked around for a comedy gig to do on that night with a H2G2 theme, only to find that there wasn’t one. So in 2017, I organised one, complete with poetry, towels, copious amounts of #tea or alternatively, Pan Galactic Gargle Blasters, if you’re that way inclined.

That night was a whole bunch of fun, so we’re doing it again. Do come and join us if you’d like to.

The gig is in aid of Save the Rhino International.

Adams became interested in conservation in 1985 after the Observer Magazine sent him to investigate Madagascar’s endangered Aye-aye, accompanied by zoologist Mark Carwardine.

This resulted in a radio series for the BBC and a book, both entitled Last Chance to See, in which he and Mark visited rare species including the northern white rhinos of Garamba National Park in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Douglas Adams became a founder patron of Save the Rhino in 1994 and was a dedicated spokesperson for SRI right up until his death in 2001 at the age of 49.

At his virtual 60th birthday party there were 8 tap dancing rhinos on stage at the Hammersmith Apollo: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lsLYBF09VFA

Save the Rhino International’s top priority is to protect and increase rhino numbers and population distribution in Africa and Asia. The charity currently supports field programmes in Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Namibia, South Africa and Indonesia.

Stand Up for Towel Day is proud to donate all our proceeds to SRI. There will be donation boxes at the gig if you would like to make an additional donation (think of it as buying your favourite rhino a gargle blaster.)

The photo is of Douglas climbing Mt Kilimanjaro in a rhino suit in aid of the charity.

See you on #towelday!