All posts for the month August, 2002

Read the Apoorva Patel article (tough going for a non-physicist), and had one of those WOW! moments. Just like one I remember in schooldays when I came across that integral that links e, i and pi in a single equality – spooky how three seemingly independant irrational numbers can co-exist in a single concept, I thought (and strangely still recalled the impression 30 odd years later.) Well Apoorva’s ideas have a similar spooky trilogy – can quantum mechanics, DNA and information processing really be unified – could this really be how meat thinks ? WOW!
[The original "Thinking With Meat" link from Terry Bisson.]

Thread on compai.nat-lang looking for predictive Markov Chain s/w to look for misinterpretation in the text of jokes, draws a humourous reponse from Darryl McCullough.
They all laughed when I said I wanted to build a joke-telling machine.
Well, I showed them! Nobody’s laughing now !
Actually the post is quite interesting. (Strangely, Jim Balters threads on all now becoming US Political flame-wars, not helped by George / Hoo Hoo.)

Reading Michel Foucault’s “The Order of Things” (1966) first published in English in 1970, and came across his reference to “The Semantic Web”. Seems this is the origin of the expression ? A good read so far, about history and culture of language in classifying things. Interestingly in French the title is “Les Mots et les Choses” – words and things, pretty close to “word and object” (Ref Quine below) – I wonder how the translation became “The Order of Things” ?

Following-up google search on Foucault and Semantic Web I hit this interesting Philosophy Loft site at Centroid Cafe. Interesting content on Critical Thinking, Reasoning (rational, binary, dialectic) and General Philosophy, including a link to Sasha’s page (see side bar).

General Knowledge Machine Research. Link picked-up from
Also Generic Artificial Consciousness (GAC) and MindPixel projects. Unfortunately statistically based on the “average” mind – collecting concensus from web contributors – but interesting. Mindpixel is overtly competitive with CYC.
(Mindpixel’s featured book is Wolfram’s – New Kind of Science.)

Quote from Charles Richmond in the Thinking with Meat thread on
I believe that we should work harder to get people to think.
I heard a comedian say once that he thought the little tags on hair-dryers that say “DO NOT USE WHILE SHOWERING” should be removed. His reasoning was: If you are stupid enough to use the hair dryer in the shower, then the world would be better off without you.
Example of the humour thread, but interesting how this little thread has grown almost into a flame war. Jim Balter got into a US attitude generalisation about litigious society aspects – which he is defending as not particularly American (anymore). Jim’s point is being missed I feel. The serious thread is the positive evolution in knowledge when people learn from exposure to risks, rather than being protected from them – see earlier post on BBC story on boringly safe school playgrounds and Dutch experiments without road traffic priority signs. Also buried in this thread are some interesting thoughts on causal relationships limitations in programming AI.

[Terry Bisson's "Thinking Meat" original.]

I’ve captured several more important links, originally embedded in the blog, now in the sidebar. Sasha’s is completely new to me and quite inspiring. These are rich links, though not necessarily all frequently updated blogs.

(Still need to sort out old archives and link to new pages, so much search engine traffic is hitting the archives from the old weblog pages, and those people will not find any link to the new.)

Ten Little Niggers – Another Radio 4 Gem – A spokesman for the UK Campaign for Racial Equality was being interviewed yesterday about an experienced, competent, respected nursing manager who had resigned under pressure after jokingly making a “ten little niggers” remark about late arrivals at a committee meeting. Counter intuitively, the CRE spokesman (with an “ethnic” accent) was insisting that the resignation was inappropriate and was “political correctness gone barmy” and also that “we all needed to re-learn the place of humour” in communication. Refreshing stuff. Many a true word.

The Wunderkind has no Clothes. (Via Jorn again). Quote from Heinz Pagels in a Wired review by Steven Levy of Stephen Wolfram’s meisterwerk “A New Kind of Science“.
“Most scientists will find it difficult to believe that there’s a better way to do science.” OTT, unscientific, but intriguing thesis based on complexity underlying all phenomena, and the simple quantum effects and algorithms underlying all knowledge and computation. Hits so many of my threads that this looks like a must read. My conclusion is in here somewhere already – “scientific method” – objective inductive rational logic – is effectively useless for any real life processes beyond simple controlled experiments – life is just too complicated (or in Wolfram’s words – just complex enough.) “Anything can be done on three or four lines of code !” Too radical to ignore. (Interesting angle on humour too.)

BBC Radio 4 Today this morning, interviewing a head teacher and a local authority administrator about boring “safe” school playgrounds with no chance of injury – hit all key points. Individually all three in the studio arrived at same “some level of risk is a good thing” conclusion and noticed they’d agreed, but all said such a decision would not get made by any committee with coroporate responsibility for kids at school – “fear” of litigation, rather than litigation is the rationale, but this is identical to thread (2) Rationalisation based on cultural pressure in “organised” decision making. John Humphries, bless him, even suggested sueing a local authority for providing playground facilities for a child NOT getting exposure to risk, and therefore not learning / preparing for life adequately. Spot on. (Also tied in with the general issue of “people” in general not comfortable with the idea of “acceptable risk” – in fact it illustrates precisely the opposite, specifically that thoughtful individuals are comfortable – it’s organised decision making that’s not.)

Political Heat (Chicago 1995). New Yorker (via Jorn again – how does he find them ?) review of book by Malcolm Gladwell. A complete set of rationalisations of poor decisions leading to many deaths, and the “political” reality and “act-of-god” justifications used. Interesting blend of science / engineering calculations in sizing power supplies and air-con units, vs the “complexity” of weather forecasting vs the political aspects of decision making, together with the “random” chance outcomes of who does and doesn’t survive. Review based anecdotally around July 1995 Chicago heat-wave disaster, but drawing on references to many earlier, mainly natural / extreme weather related, disasters. Interesting angle on behaviour at extreme cases in complex systems being the true determinant of “good performance”, rather than long-term steady-state averages. I was beginning to wonder why disasters like Enron, 9/11 etc were becoming an emerging theme of this research – morbid fascination / ambulance chasing or a natural consequence of looking at complex behaviour ? In fact it is quiet literally “Catastrophe Theory” all the significant minutiae are hidden or suppressed until the chaotic outcome reaches some cusp, whereupon we have a catastrophe on our hands. Blindingly obvious again – “ambulance chasing” a euphemism from the “Many a true word” thread.
[And a further review from Salon, also via Jorn.]

. Just posted a first draft (barest outline actually) thesis / essay / paper on the threads emerging from this effort. Accessible from my Work in Progress page too. The threads identified are (1) Values & Levels, (2) Rationalisation, (3) Emergence, (4) Many-a-true-word. Bookmarks to this draft should avoid my continuing need to repeat myself in the K-Blog itself everytime I find a relevant link. Encouraging that Heylighen’s draft paper on complexity and overload (below) should turn up so recently too. I wish I had the personal bandwidth to do justice to this research.

Salon interview (via Jorn) with D. Quinn Mills author and professor of business administration at the Harvard Business School, by Paul Roberts. Enron et al “evidence, not of the irrational exuberance of ordinary investors, but of a complete ethical collapse”. Also includes a reference to the McNealy (Fools Paradise for CEO’s) link blogged below, concerning complex IT systems products which don’t work.

Complexity and Info Overload. Recent draft paper (in pdf) by Heylighen for The Information Society.
Covers – Ephemeralisation, Value judgements in identifying progress, Competitive selection and evolution, Friction, entropy and “send three and fourpence”, Several paradoxes in speed and efficiency of “miscommunication”, Chaos, and much more. (Two separate papers in fact – one on the symptoms, another on tackling the effects.)

I’ve given up on the Tiscali take-over of my domestic webspace, which is a pity ‘cos it went so smoothly at first. This site is now hosted on commercial space, ironically also hosted at Tiscali. If you haven’t noticed the status remark in the header above, please re-tune to What was it Ev said, in “The end of the free” ?, “People will in fact pay for what they value”. Onward and upward.