Sunday, February 20, 2011

Programmers Anonymous notes, 1

Marvin Minsky was an adviser[7] on the movie 2001: A Space Odyssey and is referred to in the movie and book.
"Probably no one would ever know this; it did not matter. In the 1980s, Minsky and Good had shown how neural networks could be generated automatically—self replicated—in accordance with any arbitrary learning program. Artificial brains could be grown by a process strikingly analogous to the development of a human brain. In any given case, the precise details would never be known, and even if they were, they would be millions of times too complex for human understanding." Arthur C. Clarke

Moravec's paradox is the discovery by artificial intelligence and robotics researchers that, contrary to traditional assumptions, high-level reasoning requires very little computation, but low-level sensorimotor skills require enormous computational resources.
"In general, we're least aware of what our minds do best.Marvin Minsky
"The main lesson of thirty-five years of AI research is that the hard problems are easy and the easy problems are hard. The mental abilities of a four-year-old that we take for granted – recognizing a face, lifting a pencil, walking across a room, answering a question – in fact solve some of the hardest engineering problems ever conceived.... As the new generation of intelligent devices appears, it will be the stock analysts and petrochemical engineers and parole board members who are in danger of being replaced by machines. The gardeners, receptionists, and cooks are secure in their jobs for decades to come."[2] Steven Pinker

Trailer for "Rosies: The Human Computers of World War II"
Some of the women chosen to be human computers went on to become the first programmers of the machine-computer ENIAC.
The ENIAC Programmers worked tirelessly to make programming easier for all. They created the first sort routine, software application and instruction set, and classes in programming. Their work dramatically altered computing in the 1940s and 1950s. They paved the path to the modern software industry.

Processing (computer language) commands, borrowed from OpenGL's glPushMatrix() and glPopMatrix(), make my friend Libbey happy.

Few have made a name for themselves in games research, and Jane McGonigal is one of them. She is in demand as a speaker partly because of her enthusiasm for the potential of games, so I find it extraordinary that her recent book, "Reality is Broken", could draw this kind of bitter critisism:
Julian Hall wrote that he was "awed by the idealism while also believing that Reality is Broken could be an hour-long comedy show at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival."[5] Meanwhile, journalist Edward Champion called Reality is Broken "the most irresponsible nonfiction book I am likely to read this year," finding fault with McGonigal's overly optimistic viewpoint, her misunderstanding of psychology and science, and "a soul-sucking need for constant self-affirmation."[6]

Griffin's c = c + 1 comic, Misner. Obtuse, in a funny way, as usual. Charles Misner is a physicist, and his name is indelibly associated with the canonical book about general relativity, "Gravity", usually referred to as "Misner, Thorne and Wheeler", or just MTW. But Griffin's title refers to Misner space:
Misner space is an abstract mathematical spacetime, discovered by Charles Misner of the University of Maryland. It is also known as the Lorentzian orbifold \mathbb{R}^{1,1}/boost.
An intuitive analogy may be drawn with a video game screen, where a screen element exits the frame through the right side, only to re-enter the frame right away through the left side.
Moving the spatial limits (e.g.: the walls of a room) enclosing an existing Misner space in the physical world, could theoretically lead to time travel.

Griffin thinks that reality is continuous, best described by real values, not rational values. But perhaps Pacman is a good metaphor. People like George Lakoff  think that metaphor is the best (only?) description of conciousness. I personally loathe Lakoff's application of these ideas to the realm of politics. Others think that only through embodiment can machines become intelligent. Too bad Watson couldn't shake hands, nor even read, with its own eyes, the Jeapordy! clues.

The most recent XKCD
I made it a rule that as soon as I finished any task, or got bored with it, I had to power off my computer.
I could turn it back on right away--this wasn't about trying to use the computer less. The rule was just that the moment I finished (or lost interest in) the thing I was doing, and felt like checking Google News et. al., before I had time to think too much, I'd start the shutdown process. There was no struggle of willpower; I knew that after I hit the button, I could decide to do anything I wanted. But if I decided to look at a website, I'd have to wait through the startup, and once I was done, I'd have to turn it off again before doing anything else. (This works best if your ongoing activities are persistent online--for example, all my IRC chat is through irssi running in screen, so turning off my laptop doesn't make me sign out.)
A Boing Boing comment points out LeechBlock software for Firefox that gives better control over how to control browser clicktrance.
LeechBlock is a simple productivity tool: an extension for the Firefox web browser designed to block those time-wasting sites that can suck the life out of your working day.

Arts, Fear and Gaming

Fear and Gaming: Being and Nothingness and “Minecraft”

Jonathan Gourlay explores Minecraft, an ugly game with no point and endless possibility.

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