[ExI] sanity and connectedness, was: RE: list test

Anders Sandberg anders at aleph.se
Mon Jul 29 07:52:41 UTC 2013

On 2013-07-29 06:38, spike wrote:
> Consider for instance this magnificent beauty:
> Mt. Rainier Tiger Beetle - Cicindela depressula
> I have been hiking for years up at Mount Rainier, and had never seen 
> one of these that I recall.  The photo above is about 2x actual size.  
> I spent some time observing them, after having the good fortune of 
> showing up apparently right after they hatched.  I yearned to know 
> more about these beasts, while I was still there on site to observe.  
> Later I found out it is likely a Cicindela depressula.  Kewall!

Indeed. The dispirited tiger beetle! (the name apparently has to do with 
the "broken elbow" in the patterning, rather than any mood in the 
beetle) I know the problem of photographing tiger beetles - they refuse 
to sit still for a picture.

An automatic species detector would be awesome. But it is tricky to get 
the species right. I can imagine software recognizing the picture above 
as "a cincidelid beetle", and likely homing in on a few likely species 
based on color and location. But to get to Cicindela depressula you need 
to check the length of the labrum and how the eybrow bristles look - and 
that requires a facial closeup. Many species are even worse, you need to 
dissect them to figure out what they are. So the species detector should 
have a micro-DNA sample device too, in order to use DNA barcodes.

There are a few projects going in this direction:

It seems to me that sensor fusion is the way to go: use pictures, 
animations, recorded birdsong, whatever to help focus the search. One 
could use something like 
http://people.csail.mit.edu/torralba/tinyimages/ or 
to do an overall guess at what kind of critter it is, then apply local 
expert software to narrow things down. In many cases it will just tell 
you "some kind of cincidelid" or "little brown thing" due to lack of 
information, but I suspect it will be amazingly good under the right 

I think we will get the system eventually. And probably sooner than it 

Dr Anders Sandberg
Future of Humanity Institute
Oxford Martin School
Oxford University

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