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All posts for the month May, 2004

Keep getting cross-search-hits with an organisation called s_t_o_r_m_f_r_o_n_t – no-link / disguised here to avoid linking / hits and providing the oxygen of publicity.

Dreadful mentality these people (evil anti-islam propaganda forum in the current world climate), but the common ground is the Aryan (Proto-Indo-European) cultural origins, and the Vedic / Sanskrit sources of Hindu / Bhuddist thinking. Innocent cross hits on the word “Viras”. Apparently Sanskrit for “man” – probably perfect man in the Sanskrit language of perfection sense – but hijacked for the “master race” rhetoric of this group. My Vedic interests crossed with a reference to Viras as one surname of Pallikari-Viras, authors of a 1991 paper on Quantum Non-Locality. How remote is that ?

Each to his own I guess, but boy, does the web need at least some useful ontology.
Discrimination (discernment) of the right kind.

Talking of which – Save the Great White Males concludes Eric Idle. [via Adam Curry][via Lisa Rein]

Informal Education – Been browsing the INFED site since I linked to their Argyris biography earlier.

As well as the site’s own collection of educational content, it is dedicated to promoting the idea of informal education & lifelong learning, and other resources on the subject of education and learning. It’s heavily based around a 1997 (2nd Ed 1999) eponymous book by the same authors as the site – and as such is at least partly promotional with respect to the book – Good though. Decidedly London centred – includes an informal educational walk around Soho, Covent Garden, Euston and Fitzrovia, focussing on YMCA and other societies set up over the centuries for the “betterment of youth” – Fascinating list of famous-name-dropping-by-association with the buildings en-route – many more than the blue-plaques reveal.

Has a good conversation and story-telling focus – which is (rightly) fashionable in this sector of the blogosphere. Can’t help thinking this is where Pirsig was with his informal education “Chautauqua” too.

When I posted the piece on Francisco Ayala a couple of weeks ago, I amost started with a flippant aside about a spooky coincidence with his name – but thought better of it when I saw how significant the guy’s work was.

Anyway the story was this. The name Ayala rang a bell, because about 5 years ago I was working in the Philipines, in a suburb of Manila called Ayala. The software I was setting up had a web server running in a third-party component and it was called Ayala, on the box I’d brought in from the UK. I thought, that’s nice, the supplier called the server after the customer’s location – how thoughful. Well no, the supplier in fact had no idea we were in Ayala, or that Manila had a suburb called Ayala, in fact neither did I until I was in the taxi from the hotel to the office. Apparently the supplier was in the habit of naming his web servers after wines, and Ayala was the name of one of his favourites. (Makes a change from Star-Wars characters I suppose.) Spooky.

That’s Not What I Meant. Dave Pollard via Anol’s Soul Soup. Someone in this blogosphere published something very similar over a year ago, may even have been Dave.

Fits very much with the Cynefin warning about what people “hear” being massively influenced by their existing “schemata”, and of course the two “laws” of Schank and Dennett below

It’s also the “send three and fourpence” syndrome. I call it shooting rabbits – once a misunderstood message gets out there, (for whatever reason it is mis-interpreted) correcting the situation is like shooting a whole herd (?) of rapidly breeding rabbits as they disperese away from you into the world – not very effective. Memes succeed because they are easy to understand from a current perspective, and because they are easy to pass on, not because they are in any sense right or true or otherwise “as-intended”.

Had another connection there, for a minute – damn, lost it … the Italian connection ? … Nicola Guarino … ah got it. His model is like an elaboration on Lakoff’s Conduit Metaphor. Messages look like they are passed from communicator to receiver, but in fact they pass thorugh many layers of filtering and distortion on the way, rather than through a simple conduit.

In fact in my original Manifesto I put it like this …

C.3 There are no facts, only interpretations of perceptions etc. of facts. Given humans in the loop the idea of facts being recorded or communicated becomes tenuous to say the least. You are brought back to interpretation of perception at every level from existence of fact, through observable phenomena, through formulation of model of observable facts, through formulation of decision or intent, through framing of message, through transmission of message, through observation of message phenomena on receipt, through model held by recipient, to interpretation and/or recording by recipient. Send three and fourpence is only the half of it !

And as if to prove my point – the prisoner abuse photos from Iraq may not have been the message the US Army and Government wanted to communicate (however true / false / distorted / exaggerated they might be in relation to the overall facts) – but once the genie is out of the bottle / the rabbits have run, the memes take over – they ARE the facts. Post on Salon, via Matt Mower this week.

Gates Backs Blogs [via Lilia][via Basturea][Quote]”What blogging and these notifications are about is that you make it very easy to communicate,” Gates told executives gathered at Microsoft’s headquarters for its annual CEO Summit. Gates’ comments on blogging technology were the most extensive thus far from Microsoft’s chief software architect, signaling that the world’s largest software company is waking up to the potential of blogging as a potential threat and also as a new business opportunity. The growth in the number of blogs, and those who read them, however, is attracting greater attention from businesses as a means to communicate more directly with their employees, partners and customers. That’s due in part to the way that blogging has driven the adoption of yet another technology, called Real Simple Syndication (RSS), which allows blog readers to track freshly posted information without having to browse through a long list of home pages. Instead, many subscribe to RSS feeds on blogs so that they can read them on desktops as they come in. [Unquote][And here reported by the Beeb]

The Edge Annual Question 2004 Q. What’s your law ?
Here’s a selection of my favourite answers; Interesting how many are about meaning and communication, and more specifically about wishing to believe.

Schank’s Law
Because people understand by finding in their memories the closest possible match to what they are hearing and use that match as the basis of comprehension, any new idea will be treated as a variant of something the listener has already thought of or heard. Agreement with a new idea means a listener has already had a similar thought and well appreciates that the speaker has recognized his idea. Disagreement means the opposite. Really new ideas are incomprehensible. The good news is that for some people, failure to comprehend is the beginning of understanding. For most, of course, it is the beginning of dismissal.

Dennett’s Law of Needy Readers [an extension of Schank’s Law]
On any important topic, we tend to have a dim idea of what we hope to be true, and when an author writes the words we want to read, we tend to fall for it, no matter how shoddy the arguments. Needy readers have an asymptote at illiteracy; if a text doesn’t say the one thing they need to read, it might as well be in a foreign language. To be open-minded, you have to recognize, and counteract, your own doxastic hungers [desires to believe – see Blackmore below].

Rees’s Law
As cosmological theories advance, they will draw more concepts from biology …. we’ll need to draw on concepts from ecology and evolutionary biology …. life can eventually become pervasive and powerful enough to render the dynamics of the cosmic future as unpredictable as that of an organism or mind.

Rheingold’s Law [specially for Lilia]
Communication media that enable collective action on new scales, at new rates, among new groups of people, multiply the power available to civilizations and enable new forms of social interaction. The alphabet enabled empire and monotheism, the printing press enabled science and revolution, the telephone enabled bureaucracy and globalization, the Internet enabled virtual communities and electronic markets, the mobile telephone enabled smart mobs and tribes of urban info-nomads.

Dawkins’s Law of the Conservation of Difficulty
Obscurantism in an academic subject expands to fill the vacuum of its intrinsic simplicity.

Dawkins’s Law of Adversarial Debate
When two incompatible beliefs are advocated with equal intensity, the truth does not lie half way between them.

Blackmore’s First Law
People’s desire to believe [doxastic hunger – see Dennett above] in the paranormal is stronger than all the evidence that it does not exist.

Blackmore’s Second Law
Humans are not in control of the web; the memes are.

Evolutionary Intelligence. Harvard Graduate and Doctorate biologist Francisco Jose (Ze) Ayala posted a link to his paper in Google Group comp.ai last year. I didn’t noticed the significance then. The guy has serious credentials in biological evolution and its detailed evidence in the fossil record (S J Gould has cited his work). His paper proposed a mathematical model for evolving a complex intelligent brain from simple neural networks with relatively simple computational and selection functions.

Presumably EI per se is a well enough established concept, though no doubt the relationship between genetic physical biological cellular evolution and the memetic mental evolution is not yet understood. (This is the whole mind-matter “science of consciouness” agenda, quantum or otherwise.)

Interestingly Ze also notes parallels with Cellular Automata, and the then recent publication of Wolfram’s ANKOS, which claimed that all the worlds complexity can be created from relatively simple CA’s.

EI as a mathematical model seems to have died a damp squib in 1999 / 2000 if Ze’s web site is anything to go by. (His only two threads in Google Groups died with little intelligent input. Lots of lectures / talks 1998/9 &2000. Nice paper summarising Evolution on the Counterbalance Meta-Library web site.

Interesting conclusion [Quote] Scientific knowledge, like the description of size, materials, and geometry of Guernica, is satisfying and useful. But once science has had its say, there remains much about reality that is of interest, questions of value and meaning that are forever beyond science’s scope. [Unquote] Definite tendencies here and elsewhere that non-scientific interest leads towards the religious as well as philosophical, but hey.

Actually this whole paper is worth a read, though his teleological view of evolution is initially a little disconcerting. True the popping into existence of anything from nothingness doesn’t bear thinking about, but for the most part his teleological evolution is “internal” non-conscious (emergent / metaphorical I’d say) rather than “external” or conscious. His coda on scientific knowledge is salutory. [Quote above] and [Quote] Science is a way of knowing, but it is not the only way … In The Myth of Sisyphus, the great French writer Albert Camus asserted that “we learn more about ourselves and the world from a relaxed evening?s perception of the starry heavens and the scents of grass than from science?s reductionistic ways” … a scientific view of the world is hopelessly incomplete. [Unquote]

[Quote] Francisco Ayala was recently [2000] profiled in a major story in The New York Times as the “Renaissance Man of Evolutionary Biology.” He is professor of biology and philosophy at the University of California at Irvine, where he specializes in evolutionary genetics, using DNA to track the path and flow of evolution. He has published 12 books and 650 articles. He is past president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). [Unquote] Source “Closer to Truth” TV Media Production Channel – no sign of activity since 2001/2 – their last show “Will Intelligence Fill The Universe ?”

Terry Lecturer at Yale 2001 / 2002. Here at UCI (post-2003) Still very busy publishing – highly technical / scientific in genetics etc, however at the “Faculty of Philosophy“.

Interesting person I’d not heard of. Obviously doesn’t have Brockman as his publicist.

Interesting Post-Grad Philosophy course at UCI “Ontology of Intentionality”, featuring the work of David Chalmers. The increasingly tangled web.

McAfee pulls it off. Been struggling under spam and adware in recent weeks. The spam’s bad enough, but the adware (CoolWebSearch) has gradually been hijacking and spawning browsers all over the place.

Difficult to be vigilant with the firewall with four different domestic users klicking OK to so many different legitimate reasons to access the web that eventually the garbage starts leaking through. VirusScans help, but I needed to install McAfee AntiSpyware today to get rid of the hijackers. When it turned out that didn’t scan and delete deep enough to get rid of the particular hijacker without the infection popping-up next time you hit a browser, the guys at McAfee instantly sent me a tool from Ad-Aware that did the trick.

Very impressive service, the McAfee 24/7 human web-chat support.
Maybe I should start attacking the spam more vigilantly too.