Readings worth reading
The essence of poetry
A poet is somebody who feels, and who expresses his feelings through words.
This may sound easy. It isn’t.
A lot of people think or believe or know what they feel — but that’s thinking or believing or knowing; not feeling. And poetry is feeling — not knowing or believing or thinking.
Almost anybody can learn to think or believe or know, but not a single human being can be taught to feel. Why? Because whenever you think or you believe or you know, you’re a lot of other people: but the moment you feel, you’re nobody-but-yourself.
To be nobody-but-yourself — in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you everybody else — means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting.
The universal intelligence alrgorithm
"The neocortex is simple because the details in every region are nearly identical. Through evolution, a single algorithm developed that can be applied to all the things a neocortex does. The existence of such a universal algorithm is exciting because if we can figure out what that algorithm is, we can get at the heart of what it means to be intelligent, and incorporate that knowledge into future machines."
"...learning can be achieved by rewiring, sparse representations, and embodiment, which refers to the use of movement to learn about the world."
The flow of time
"whether time flows forward, or doesn’t flow at all, or moves back and forth, our resulting subjective experience would be identical in all cases: we would always find ourselves in an experiential snapshot extending smoothly backwards in memory and forwards in expectation, just like the desert road. We would always tell ourselves the same story about what’s going on. A mere cognitive narrative—based purely on contents of the experiential snapshot in question—would suffice to convince us of the forward flow of time even when such is not the case.
The ostensible experience of temporal flow is thus an illusion. All we ever actually experience is the present snapshot, which entails a timescape of memories and imaginings analogous to the landscape of valley and mountains. Everything else is a story."
Individualism and collectivist as identity frames
"...the American desire for choice has manifested in numerous ways: politically, in a demand for a voice in governance; commercially, in the demand for a variety of consumer goods and services; and spiritually, in the demand to choose and create exactly the kind of individual life, and self, you believe in. In the U.S., the overriding perception is that anything you do out of allegiance to tradition and social expectation is inauthentic and not you. Because the real you is the choices you make. My fellow Americans and I believe that choice allows us to individuate ourselves, to prove that we are free. Our preferences, therefore, become who we are. We feel acutely the need to construct a personal narrative out of our choices and, thus, construct our own identity.
Rather than knowing who you are by knowing your preferences, you know who you are by knowing where you belong to.
In some Asian cultures, to fulfill your independent self is not the primary goal of an individual: The goal is to be interdependent and maintain relationships and make them harmonious. In Japan, for example, being a “going your own way” person is to be immature and not culturally sophisticated. Though people obviously have preferences, they often don’t choose what they like, because that’s not the ideal manner. “Your cultural task is harmony, not self-expression,” All of them foster an idea that a person is not a whole, but a part, and only becomes whole in connection with others,” “The fundamental, ontological understanding of what a person is is as a node in a network.”
The limits of representation
Technical design projects run the risk of drifting as the interests of the powerful are maintained through the legitimacy of collaborative design.
Participation is subject to the same challenges as democracy itself; it is a matter of representation in different degrees, formats, and configurations that will always be in the service of someone. Representation is an issue of biased operation, implying that participation can never be complete: For each act of inclusion, there will always follow a series of exclusions. Neither is representation pure. As collectives are formed, they take on a networked character wherein the collective doings and endeavors transform participation. As participants already “burdened” by representing a multitude of others, they are changed themselves in ways that detach them even further from what they originally represented. What follows is that participation is the effect of network configurations.
Per Linde and Anna Seravalli, Malmö University - Nov.-Dec. 2018 Interactions, ACM
Cybernetics and AI
Cybernetics and AI are different ways of thinking about intelligent systems or systems that can act toward reaching a goal. AI is primarily concerned with making computers mimic intelligent behavior based on stored representations of the world. Cybernetics more broadly encompasses the study of how systems regulate themselves and take action toward goals based on feedback from the environment. These systems are not just computational; they include biological (maintaining body temperature), mechanical (governing the speed of an engine), social (managing a large workforce), and economic (regulating a national economy) systems.
Simple feedback systems have goals imposed on them. Second-order systems, which observe themselves, may adjust their goals. Second-order systems don’t just react; they may also learn. When two first-order systems engage, the result is interaction. They push each other. When two second-order systems engage, the result may be conversation, an exchange about both goals and means. As discourse on cybernetics expands to second-order systems, issues of ethics emerge.
Instead of finished plans, designers must create possibilities for others to design and make; designers must build flexible platforms, defined by patterns and rules for interaction and rules for changing the rules. Instead of making decisions about what and how, designers facilitate conversations about why and who.
The task of user experience practitioners is to slow down and pay attention to the dynamics that would pass by unnoticed—to be the guardians of meaning making on a human scale.
Great tools disappear into the hand. We don’t think of their operation. Instead, they act as an extension of the body. To our brains, they appear quite similar. Swinging a well-made hammer and walking generate the same level of pink noise in the brain. Barely requiring much attention, the not quite random randomness of the activity is more like controlled falling than conscious thought. All relevant information is sensory data—the native language of the brain—ensuring that most of the mental effort to do the tasks is relegated to background cognitive abilities.
The absence of constant data translation allows the brain to focus attention on more difficult, higher-level functions such as deep creative thinking, rather than the operating of the tool or the body.
When the context switches, the brain resets the working memory for the new situation and wipes out all the previous information. This is called the doorway effect, and it’s why you so easily forget that you want a glass of water when you walk from the couch into the kitchen. The level of noise inherent in the technological tool is deafening, killing our ability to think. Which is ironic, considering that AI tools are designed to amplify our cognition.
We may need to fundamentally redesign our current interaction model with our computing tools. In doing so, we may need to slow down and observe ourselves.
Nikolas Martelaro, Stanford University Wendy Ju, Cornell Tech - Nov.-Dec. 2018 Interactions, ACM
Obvious vs simple
Being obvious does not mean that it is necessarily easy to generate. It just means that it is relatively easy to follow.
We love understanding things, but it makes it hard to make progress. You make progress when there's something you don't understand, some puzzle that is being given to you.
We follow an understanding until a better one comes along.
Thresholds of creation and complexity
* Big Bang: relativelly little structure - radiation soup and hydrogen
* Star formation: structure at a higher level - rich gradients of energy, density, gravity can build complext structures like stars and galaxies
* Dying stars produce the remaining elements of the periodic table. Planets, asteroids, etc are formed. Chemistry in action.
* Life emerges: complex creations operate in unstable environments. Information becomes important in alerting about changes in the environment. Metabolism and homeostasis in action.
* Intelligence appears: a species acquires information at unprecedented levels. Information accumulates faster than its lost and perpetuates (stories, printing, internet) accross generations. Language and culture in action.
Representation vs reality
You create the prison for your mind when you confuse representation for the real thing like you confuse the recipe for the real food. Do you want to live in the world of recipes or in the world of food?
The shape of the shade of a cup might be circular if you use a spot light from the top and rectangular if the spot light goes to the side. If two different people look at them they will form a different perception of what it is but they will be both be wrong. How do you then know that what you see is true?
Citizenship vs humanity
Citiceship will expect to obey the law and execute the capital punishment but humanity does not....
Criticism reduces complexity
Our masochistic impulse for self-criticism arises from the fact that ambivalence is the basic condition of our lives.
Ambivalence is the way we recognize that someone or something has become significant to us… Where there is devotion there is always protest… where there is trust there is suspicion.
We are continually, if unconsciously, mutilating and deforming our own character. Indeed, so unrelenting is this internal violence that we have no idea what we are like without it. We know virtually nothing about ourselves because we judge ourselves before we have a chance to see ourselves (as though in panic). Or, to put it differently, we can judge only what we recognize ourselves as able to judge. What can’t be judged can’t be seen. What happens to everything that is not subject to approval or disapproval, to everything that we have not been taught how to judge? … The judged self can only be judged but not known. [We] think that it is complicitous not to stand up to, not to contest, this internal tyranny by what is only one part — a small but loud part — of the self.
The tyranny of the superego, Phillips argues, lies in its tendency to reduce the complexity of our conscience to a single, limiting interpretation, and to convincingly sell us on that interpretation as an accurate and complete representation of reality:
Self-criticism is nothing if it is not the defining, and usually the overdefining, of the limits of being. But, ironically, if that’s the right word, the limits of being are announced and enforced before so-called being has had much of a chance to speak for itself.
You can only understand anything that matters — dreams, neurotic symptoms, literature — by overinterpreting it; by seeing it from different aspects as the product of multiple impulses. Overinterpretation here means not settling for one interpretation, however apparently compelling it is.
Authority wants to replace the world with itself. Overinterpretation means not being stopped in your tracks by what you are most persuaded by; it means assuming that to believe one interpretation is to radically misunderstand the object one is interpreting, and indeed interpretation itself.
Schopenhauer’s central premise is that talent achieves what others cannot achieve, whereas genius achieves what others cannot imagine.
How do we develop a definition for a term?
1. Definition of components: In terms of characteristics/parts both conceptuly and operationally (how they work together). The challenge is in accomodating various perspectives and points of view that won't change over time.
2. Semantic definition: In terms of boundaries (its similarities and differencies with other terms). Borders could be both theoretical and empirical.
Painting vs photography
The difference between painting and photography is the difference between seeing and looking. Painting invites reality while art searches for it.
The meaning of existence
While the universe itself isn’t inherently imbued with meaning, it is in this self-conscious human act of paying attention that meaning arises.
how our desire to matter fits in with the nature of reality at its deepest levels?
By the old way of thinking, human life couldn’t possibly be meaningful if we are “just” collections of atoms moving around in accordance with the laws of physics. That’s exactly what we are, but it’s not the only way of thinking about what we are. We are collections of atoms, operating independently of any immaterial spirits or influences, and we are thinking and feeling people who bring meaning into existence by the way we live our lives.
We are not the reason for the existence of the universe, but our ability for self-awareness and reflection makes us special within it. Purpose and meaning in life arise through fundamentally human acts of creation, rather than being derived from anything outside ourselves.
We will ultimately understand the world as a single, unified reality, not caused or sustained or influenced by anything outside itself.
The difference between a living being and an inanimate object seems much more profound than the way certain molecules are arranged.
The craftsmanship of meaning amid the unfeeling laws of nature invariably calls on us to use human tools like ethics and art to answer questions of what is right and beautiful.
The world is what exists and what happens, but we gain enormous insight by talking about it — telling its story — in different ways.
The world is just the world, unfolding according to the patterns of nature, free of any judgmental attributes. The world exists; beauty and goodness are things that we bring to it.
The dynamic nature of life manifests itself as desire. There is always something we want, even if what we want is to break free of the bonds of desire… Curiosity is a form of desire.
Nothing and nobody exists in this world whose very being does not presuppose a spectator.
The act of moving as an embodied being through a world of appearances.
Autopoiesis attempts to define the uniqueness of the emergence that produces life in its fundamental cellular form. It's specific to the cellular level. There's a circular or network process that engenders a paradox: a self-organizing network of biochemical reactions produces molecules, which do something specific and unique: they create a boundary, a membrane, which constrains the network that has produced the constituents of the membrane. This is a logical bootstrap, a loop: a network produces entities that create a boundary, which constrains the network that produced the boundary. This bootstrap is precisely what's unique about cells. A self-distinguishing entity exists when the bootstrap is completed. This entity has produced its own boundary. It doesn't require an external agent to notice it, or to say, "I'm here." It is, by itself, a self- distinction. It bootstraps itself out of a soup of chemistry and physics.
The nervous system is not an information-processing system, because, by definition, information-processing systems need clear inputs. The nervous system has internal, or operational, closure. The key question is how, on the basis of its ongoing internal dynamics, the brain configures or constitutes relevance from otherwise nonmeaningful interactions. You can see why I'm not really interested in the classical artificial-intelligence and information-processing metaphors of brain studies. The brain can't be understood as a computer, in any interesting sense, and I part company with the people who think that the brain does rely on symbolic representation.
I see the mind as an emergent property, and the very important and interesting consequence of this emergent property is our own sense of self. My sense of self exists because it gives me an interface with the world. I'm "me" for interactions, but my "I" doesn't substantially exist, in the sense that it can't be localized anywhere. An emergent property, which is produced by an underlying network, is a coherent condition that allows the system in which it exists to interface at that level — that is, with other selves or identities of the same kind. You can never say, "This property is here; it's in this component." In the case of autopoiesis, you can't say that life — the condition of being self-produced — is in this molecule, or in the DNA, or in the cellular membrane, or in the protein. Life is in the configuration and in the dynamical pattern, which is what embodies it as an emergent property.
The laws of nature, were we to understand them in their final form, would explain themselves
That the laws of nature, were we to understand them in their final form, would explain themselves. We would see why they had to be. Maybe we’ll never see that. Spinoza says we never will because we’re finite and the final theory of everything would be infinite.
What makes people good communicators is, in essence, an ability not to be fazed by the more problematic or offbeat aspects of their own characters. They can contemplate their anger, their sexuality, and their unpopular, awkward, or unfashionable opinions without losing confidence or collapsing into self-disgust. They can speak clearly because they have managed to develop a priceless sense of their own acceptability. They like themselves well enough to believe that they are worthy of, and can win, the goodwill of others if only they have the wherewithal to present themselves with the right degree of patience and imagination.
Minsky on artificial intelligence
Whenever a problem seems too hard, I start wondering why that problem seems so hard, and we're back again to psychology! Of course, we all use familiar self-help techniques, such as asking, "Am I representing the problem in an unsuitable way," or "Am I trying to use an unsuitable method?" However, another way is to ask, "How would I make a machine to solve that kind of problem?"
Even today, programmers spend most of their time at trying to make programs work perfectly. The result has been a pervasive trend toward making everything more precise — to make programming into a science instead of an art, by doing everything with perfect logical precision. In my view, this is a misguided idea. What, after all, does it mean for anything to work perfectly? The very idea makes sense only in a rigid, unchanging, completely closed world, like the kinds that theorists make for themselves. Indeed, we can make flawless programs to work on abstract mathematical models based on assumptions that we specify once and then never change. The trouble is that you can't make such assumptions about the real world, because other people are always changing things.
...we all share the notion that inside each person there lurks another person, which we call "the self" and which does our thinking and feeling for us: it makes our decisions and plans for us, and later approves, or has regrets. This ...doesn't explain anything. This is what makes it so useful for everyday life. It helps you stop wondering why you do what you do, and why you feel how you feel. It magically relieves you of both the desire and the responsibility for understanding how you make your decisions. You simply say, "I decided to," and thereby transfer all responsibility to your imaginary inner self. Presumably, each person gets this idea in infancy, from the wonderful insight that you yourself are just another person, very much like the other people you see around you. On the positive side, that insight is profoundly useful in helping you to predict what you, yourself, are likely to do, based on your experience with those others.
The trouble with the single-self concept is that it's an obstacle to developing deeper ideas when we really do need better explanations. Then, when our internal models fail, we're forced to look elsewhere to seek help and advice about what to do in our real lives. Then we find ourselves going to parents, friends, or psychologists, or resorting to those self-help books, or falling into the hands of those folks who claim to have psychic powers. We're forced to look outside ourselves, because that single-self mythology doesn't account for what happens when a person experiences conflicts, confusions, mixed feelings — or for what happens when we enjoy pleasure or suffer pain, or feel confident or insecure, or become depressed or elated, or repelled or infatuated. It provides no clues about why we can sometimes solve problems but other times have trouble understanding things. It doesn't explain the natures of either our intellectual or our emotional reactions — or even why we make that distinction.
...maybe you can't understand anything unless you understand it in several different ways, and that the search for the single truth — the pure, best way to represent knowledge — is wrongheaded.
The secret of intelligence is that there is no secret — no special, magical trick.
...how do you learn things that are relevant, that are essentials rather than accidents. For example, suppose that you find a new way to handle a screwdriver so that the screw remains in line and doesn't fall out. What is it that you learn? It certainly won't suffice merely to learn the exact sequence of motions (because the spatial relations will be different next time) - so you have to learn at some higher level of representation. How do you make the right abstractions? Also, when some experiment works, and you've done ten different things in that path toward success, which of those should you remember, and how should you represent them? How do you figure out which parts of your activity were relevant? Older psychology theories used the simple idea of 'reinforcing' what you did most recently. But that doesn't seem to work so well as the problems at hand get more complex. Clearly, one has to reinforce plans and not actions - which means that good Credit-Assignment has to involve some thinking about the things that you've done. But still, no one has designed and debugged a good architecture for doing such things.
"...I was listening to this group talking about universes, and it seems to me there's one possibility that's so simple that people don't discuss it. Certainly a question that occurs in all religions is, "Who created the universe, and why? And what's it for?" But something is wrong with such questions because they make extra hypotheses that don't make sense. When you say that X exists, you're saying that X is in the Universe. It's all right to say, "this glass of water exists" because that's the same as "This glass is in the Universe." But to say that the universe exists is silly, because it says that the universe is one of the things in the universe. So there's something wrong with questions like, "What caused the Universe to exist?"
Likelihood vs probability
Likelihood is not a probability, but it is proportional to a probability. The likelihood of a hypothesis (H) given some data (D) is proportional to the probability of obtaining D given that H is true, multiplied by an arbitrary positive constant (K). In other words, L(H|D) = K · P(D|H).
Likelihood is when you try to fix the data to fit the hypothesis. It will allow comparison of hypothesis by comparing their likelihood to see which one fits the data.
Unlike a probability, a likelihood has no real meaning per se due to the arbitrary constant. Only by comparing likelihoods do they become interpretable, because the constant in each likelihood cancels the other one out.
Does intelligent life have to evolve eventually, if only for the sake of giving a meaning to the existence of the universe?
"Universe" is a is human concept.
"Need" is a human concept.
"Meaning" is a human concept.
"Intelligence" is a human concept.
"Evolution" is a human concept.
All of these words, and really ALL WORDS are just our attempt to describe and understand our experiences.
The "universe" only needs to "evolve" "intelligence" to have "meaning" within the narrative of human who thinks so.
The rest of "the universe" is probably unaffected by that narrative.
Conciousness doesn't really exist
“For the vast majority of human history, we were hunting and gathering and had more pressing concerns that required rapidly executed voluntary actions. Consciousness seems to have evolved for these types of actions rather than to understand itself.”
“One thought doesn’t know about the other, they just often have access to and are acting upon the same, unconscious information. You have one thought and then another, and you think that one thought leads to the next, but this doesn’t seem to be the way the process actually works.”
“Why do you have an urge or thought that you shouldn’t be having? Because, in a sense, the consciousness system doesn’t know that you shouldn’t be thinking about something. An urge generator doesn’t know that an urge is irrelevant to other thoughts or ongoing action.”
The current understanding of work-life balance is too simplistic. People find it hard to balance work with family, family with self, because it might not be a question of balance. Some other dynamic is in play, something to do with a very human attempt at happiness that does not quantify different parts of life and then set them against one another. We are collectively exhausted because of our inability to hold competing parts of ourselves together in a more integrated way.
These hidden human dynamics of integration are more of a conversation, more of a synthesis and more of an almost religious and sometimes almost delirious quest for meaning than a simple attempt at daily ease and contentment.
Human beings are creatures of belonging, though they may come to that sense of belonging only through long periods of exile and loneliness. Interestingly, we belong to life as much through our sense that it is all impossible, as we do through the sense that we will accomplish everything we have set out to do. This sense of belonging and not belonging is lived out by most people through three principal dynamics: first, through relationship to other people and other living things (particularly and very personally, to one other living, breathing person in relationship or marriage); second, through work; and third, through an understanding of what it means to be themselves, discrete individuals alive and seemingly separate from everyone and everything else.
Work is a constant conversation. It is the back-and-forth between what I think is me and what I think is not me; it is the edge between what the world needs of me and what I need of the world. Like the person to whom I am committed in a relationship, it is constantly changing and surprising me by its demands and needs but also by where it leads me, how much it teaches me, and especially, by how much tact, patience and maturity it demands of me.