Monday, March 30, 2009

ruby is so cool

result = do |thing|
//some code
end if some_criteria

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Man; Dogs' Bitch

This came from a discussion I was having this morning about what Aliens would perceive to be the superior life, would it be humans or something else?
They would have some criteria to make their judgment of superiority. They may look at intelligence or size or how things have changed over history and ask if they are in a better state now than its predecessors. Intelligence and size are very human perceptions of superiority. Perhaps a good unbiased metric of which species has advanced the most might be the amount of energy it must output in order to survive and a comparison of how this has changed over the spices development. So the superior species would be the one which has optimized its energy outputs most effectively in order to achieve the same or better than its predecessors.

Humans would like to feel that we hold the leash over our development and the development of many other species but this is our view of things. At some point man found that it was good to have a dog by his side, and we like to feel that we have now domesticated dogs. How about looking at it the other way round.

Some humans where better suited to dogs and the dogs could scavenge from these types of people. These dog friendly people then had an edge over other dogless folk and so began the process of the dog selecting for more and more dog friendly people. This is not where it ends. The dog has now effectively out sourced nearly all of its major energy expending activities to mankind. We provide food, heating and couch.

An alien may judge what we see as our pets to be the masters of us as we still have to do the actual energy outlay.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Mathematical Representation of Understanding

What is understanding? What do we mean when we say that a facet of life is understood? One definition of understanding is a mathematical one.

It can be said of everything that we understand that we create a mathematical representation of it. We are unable to create such models of things we do not understand. By creating models we are able to see if our understanding is correct by comparison with the real and where there are discrepancies we know we must improve our understanding.

Our understanding of solar orbits is such that our models can be used to make accurate predictions of the positions of celestial bodies, we can model a neurone and its electrical and chemical composition and explain how action potentials arise and how they are propagated. Yet we are not able to model emotions but who can claim complete understanding in that field?

It is a very common to hear "its impossible to model emotion". Why? At first we must assume there was no understanding and no maths. As the first levels of understanding emerged so too came the dawn of maths. At which point the notion of calculating distance in n-dimensional space would have been far beyond the level of understanding. Thankfully Pythagoras sorted triangular relationships out and so today this problem is a simple extension of Pythagorean theorem. However I think all of our great math geniuses of old would be baffled by the mathematics of a modern cpu chip or a metabolic pathway. My point is this; understanding continues to swell and what was impossible today is 1st grade school tomorrow. We can't mathematically model emotions now but 100 years ago we barley knew of the existence of neurones let alone their function. It is a matter of time, whether we have the time is another matter entirely.

Whether or not it is believed that something can or can not be mathematically modelled does not detract from the fact that once something is understood we are able to model it. In short understanding is the mathematical dissemination of something such that accurate predictions can be made.

Survival of the misconception

Something which I wrote a while ago to try and set the record straight on Conservapedia.

A lot who dismiss evolution have never watched it in action and think that it is impossible to do so. When asked what it is they say “survival of the fittest” or “something which is slow” and that’s about it. Either statement is a misunderstanding of the concepts.

It is not survival of the fittest, I know that this is what Darwin said but if he were alive today I’m sure he’d agree that this isn’t the right catch phrase and neither is it accurate. Its un-survival of the un-fittest, which is less catchy but far more accurate, things which don’t do well get selected out of the gene pool, everything else has a fighting chance of continued genetic existence. Sounds like splitting hairs but the distinction is important. If you just breed from what is at that time the “fittest” from the population it is likely that the population will become susceptible to some future disease or defect. When some time later the meaning of survival changes there may not be enough diversity to adequately adapt. By only eliminating those which are too weak to survive a level of variability is maintained that allows for future adaptation.

Neither is it slow. It takes Time to get going (autopoiesis) and then wham it’s of (The Cambrian explosion), and then its refinements are slow. We perceive it from our stand point as being slow because we are on the plateau of evolutionary rate. In the initial stages the potential for exploring new avenues is vast and the rate of genetic change is great, but it is destined to fall off exponentially. Initially populations move very fast toward genetic convergence and achieve a largely converged gene pool early on. As the gene pool has becomes more converged the diversity is reduced and the rate of evolution slows to a rate related to the rate of mutation.

The mind is beautiful complexity, founded on intricate simplicity

There seems to be some resistance in accepting the notion that simple distributed design could produce anything as complex as the human brain. There is however little reason to support such thinking; as yet we have not discovered a significant component in the brain, the network of neurones seems to be the majority of its construction. We are not so blocked when considering the liver, it is an organ of several hundred functions and is largely homogenous. Each cell of the liver can be described yet how overall function is performed is largely unknown, complexity is formed from simplicity in this instance.

Experiments with artificial neural networks as shown that a) A three layer network can approximate ANY mathematical function and b) very simple neural network can produce staggeringly complex behaviours. A single layer, 16 neurone network is sufficient to link 8 optic sensors to two wheels and give the behaviour of object avoidance.
Given that the majority of components in the brain are neurones arranged in networks, that complex behaviour can arise from simple networks and that the brain is a network is of substantial complexity; is it not feasible that ALL of our behaviours and perceptions of consciousness are born out of the intricate interactions of very simple components?

Why the block about the mind. We accept that every other facet of our bodies is comprised of cells and each one is relatively simple and understandable. So why is it so hard for some to accept consciousness as distributed interaction?

City-dwellers emit less CO2 than countryfolk

Some not particularly bright spark released a report which states that people who live in the country side consume more electricity than city dwellers. Off course country folk consume more resources per capita, they are tasked with the job of feeding all the people in the city as well as themselves. Where do people think their food comes from? Are we really that mentally disconected with our environment?

Heres the post on

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Cutting Wheels

The Wheel; the invention which we think of as being the most important in our development. However I would argue that before we could make the wheel we would need an axe or some cutting implement. A blade of some sort would have occurred before the wheel, would have been instrumental in making the wheel and would have been needed to go hunt for lunch while taking a break from building the first wheel.

The Blade was what gave us our first set of really sharp teeth, made us into hunters we became and whittled society into shape. Therefore is it not our most important invention?

I think that it is more palatable to think of mankind as creative inventor rather than reactive arms developer, but that is our nature, we have cut not rolled our way though history.

A subtle notion I have, which some may feel to be far too far fetched, is that by considering the wheel to be more important that the blade we are able to ignore our destructive nature. I think that it is important to own the hunter in us all and I think that if we considered the blade to be the most important invention we would naturally be led to wonder about our aggressive nature as well as our creative nature.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

On names

Many of my friends dislike my choice of user names. Ok so they are not English, but at least they have meaning. In this case sujimichi is Japanese for logic or reason. Deal with it.