Archive for March, 2010

physical symbol systems & AI

March 30, 2010 Leave a comment

from Wikipedia: Physical symbol system:

A physical symbol system (also called a formal system) takes physical patterns (symbols), combining them into structures (expressions) and manipulating them (using processes) to produce new expressions.

“A physical symbol system has the necessary and sufficient means for general intelligent action.”
– Alan Newell and Herbert Simon

from Wikipedia: Alan Newell:

Newell came to believe that information processing is the central activity in organizations.

from “The Role of Symbol Systems“:

This is a brief summary of Allen Newell’s discussion of the role of symbol systems in cognition. This material is taken from Unified Theories of Cognition , section 2.5.

It is a physical law of nature that any processing must necessarily be done locally. Furthermore itt is a basic proposition of information theory that any given technology has a particular limit to the amount of encoding that can occupy a given region of physical space. Thus if a computational system is to have any sufficient complexity there must be some method for utilizing information that is not confined withing a limited region of space. A symbol, represented concretely by a symbol token, provides a means for representing distal knowledge. Since the symbol token is generally a more compact abstraction of the knowledge itself it can be manipulated in a more restricted region of processing space. The assumption is that the symbol token obeys the representational law , that is encoding knowledge X into symbol X’, encoding transformation T into transformation T’, applying transformation T’ to X’ to produce Y’ and subsequently decoding Y’ into Y (in the format of the original knowledge) is exactly equivalent to applying T to X to produce Y. If an elaboration of the symol in terms of the original knowledge is actually needed the symbol also provides the means for accessing the distal knowledge represented by the symbol, i.e. an address.

Symbols are not useful in and of themselves but rather are components of symbol systems, which have the following characteristics:

– Contains structures that contain symbol tokens
– Independently modifiable at some grain size

– Patterns that provide access to distal structures
– A symbol token is the occurence of a pattern in a structure

– Processes that take symbol structures as input ans produce symbol structures as output

– Processes that take symbol structures as input and execute operations

– Sufficient memory and symbols
– Complete composability
– Complete interpretability

Newell argues that these characteristics are sufficient for a symbol system to produce all computable functions, that is it is universal. If a large variety of knowledge and goals are to be represented, distal access and univerality are necessary features of the ensuing knowledge system. Thus, a symbol system can realize a knowledge-level system, albeit imperfectly. It therefore follows that a cognitive architecture designed to approximate a knowledge system should have a symbol system as its basis.

Newell argues that the human cognitive architecture is itself realized by a symbol system. His argument rests on his assertion that – given enough time and external represenational ability – humans can approximate a universal machine. Though this hypothesis is obviously impossible to determine experimentally, he takes our efflourescence of adaptation as empirical evidence of his hypothesis. Humans are able to produce such a wide variety of response functions in such a wide variety of situations that it appears that humans are universal machines. It does not seem reasonable that humans would have every single response function included in their cognitive architecture so it would follow that we are actually composing response functions from a much smaller set. Furthermore the human distributed memory system requires some sort of distal access. Since a symbol system can approximate a universal machine and provides the capability for distal access and function composition it appears to be a natural choice as a foundation for the human cognitive architecture. Any cognitive architecture modelled after the human cognitive architecture, such as Soar , should then be built to support a symbol system.

Categories: consciousness

Open Control Systems and Mythological Mashups

March 17, 2010 Leave a comment

from Rev. Illuminatus Maximus’ “The Eden Experiment”

The Control System Hypothesis

…So why have these protean tricksters chosen to visit us? Perhaps Vallee’s most controversial claim is that these mysterious visitors are themselves mere epiphenomena, shadows and reflections of a vast (and very ancient) “control system” which has been operating in the background to manipulate human belief systems since time immemorial, guiding our species towards some unknown purpose. Notes Vallee:

If UFOs are having an action at [the level of myth] it will be almost impossible to detect it by conventional methods… because they are the means by which man’s concepts are being rearranged. All we can do is trace their effect…

This “control system,” Vallee hypothesises, could represent a projection of the collective unconscious, the activity of an unknown species or even some sort of ecosystemic feedback loop…….

Open Control Systems and Mythological Mashups

…Often dismissed as a primitive heresy that fell under the weight of its own obscurantist tendencies, Gnosticism was instead a sophisticated system of occult hermeneutics whose acolytes employed special neurolinguistic trance-inducing techniques to engage in a sort of memetic sabotage, splicing, remixing and mutating of biblical stories in a manner seemingly calculated to cause maximum offense and psychological discomfort. But why? Notes one literary critic [William S. Burroughs]:

Drugs, sex, and power control the body, but “word and image locks” control the mind, that is, “lock” us into conventional patterns of perceiving, thinking, and speaking that determine our interactions with environment and society. The cutup is a way of exposing word and image controls and thus freeing oneself from them, an alteration of consciousness that occurs in both the writer and the reader of the text.

For the Gnostics, the biblical creation stories weren’t divine revelations, but the shattered fragments of a monstrous and malevolent spell – the control system. By rearranging and retelling Judeo-Christian myths, the Gnostics sought clues that might allow them to reprogram creation itself, changing the past, seizing control of the heavens, and overthrowing the phony god of the Bible.

Categories: Uncategorized

notes on associative universe

March 16, 2010 Leave a comment

from Jacques Vallee’s Dimensions:

Time and space may be convenient notions for plotting the progress of a locomotive, but they are completely useless for locating information. …modern computer scientists have long recognized that ordering by time and space is the worst possible way to store a lot of data at high speed. In a large computer-based information system, no attempt is made to place related records in sequential physical locations. It is much more convenient to sprinkle the records throughout storage as they arrive, and to construct an algorithm for retrieval based on some type of keyword or on “hashing,” a procedure where the record index is randomized. Probability serves as the link between something objective, the record location, and something subjective, the request for retrieval…

From fusionanomaly’s Jacues Vallee page:

So reality is like a computer database in that the right search word or “incantation” might cause a piece of information–a UFO or ghost or other anomaly–to materialize. If you think of [reality] as the software for the universe, all it would take is for someone to change a comma in the program and the chair you are sitting in wouldn’t be a chair at all. The major benefit from this model is that it handles anomalies very well. Coincidences would be a normal expectation. If you address a database with a request for anything with the word “pool” you will get ads for sunscreen, lotions, billiard balls and an investment prospectus or two. In parapsychology, gifted subjects may be forcing similar coincidences between separate locations or separate minds. One way of testing the theory, by the way, is to create massive informational anomalies and see what happens when they collapse. You could enhance remote viewing experiments, for instance, by loading the site with large quantities of data about highly unlikely events or situations, then quickly erase that data to collapse the singularity.

from Steve Mirzach’s “UFOs in the Age of Information”

The theory of space and time is a cultural artifact made possible by the invention of graph paper. If we had invented the digital computer before graph paper, we might have a very different theory of information today… what modern computer scientists have realized is that ordering by space and time is the worst possible way to store data… if there is no time dimension as we usually assume there is, we may be traversing incidents by association; modern computers retrieve information associatively… if we live in the associative universe of the software scientist rather than the Cartesian sequential universe of the spacetime physicist, then miracles are no longer irrational events… at a time when we are beginning to suspect that computer-based network communication may create altered states conducive to psychic functioning, a new type of physical experiment is becoming possible… these experiments would aim at probing the reality of information-handling by the brain through associative constructs. The SRI experiments with Swann and Price suggest that remote viewing is based on an addressing scheme. Is it possible to promote coincidences and peculiar effects by systematically creating physical structures serving as information singularities ? Consciousness could be defined as the process by which informational associations are retrieved and traversed. (Jacques Vallee, Messengers of Deception)

But I want to particularly focus on a key concept that Vallee stresses here and elsewhere in his work: that UFOs focus as a kind of cybernetic control system…

The Internet allows us to look at UFO reports across space and time, possibly even allowing us to discover a third kind of patterning – associational or informational linkages to particular keywords, kinds of places, or other “Name Games” which Fortean researchers often delight in. These “Name Games” have led some UFO researchers to consider ways in which the phenomenon may have links to another global cybernetic system – Lovelock’s “Gaia,” the biospheric meta-system which seems to maintain the Earth’s climate within tight boundaries.

The paradoxical nature of this information seems to point to some deeper truth than vast extraterrestrial conspiracies. It points to the role of the human consciousness in organizing complex and contradictory information into a coherent whole. It points to a reality which is socially constructed through communication and interaction between human beings with different semantic structures for organizing their perceptions. It points to the dramatic ways in which science and technology seem to be transforming fundamental concepts of epistemology and ontology. The medium is the massage…

So there are two simultaneous trends in the “noosphere” of UFOlogy at the moment. Ultimately, they point to two different ways of looking at information. There’s the paranoiac view of information, which is that you have to learn as much as possible about the Other while minimizing what they can find out about you. Information is a weapon, a strategic resource, a commodity, your best defense against a potentially hostile enemy. Deception is essential. The other is the pronoiac view of information, which might be summed up as the idea that information is negotiated between equals in open dialogue, and increases in value when it’s shared and is open-ended, leading to more questions and more dialogue rather than rigid answers and aggressive conflict.

Although deception may be integral to the UFO phenomenon, it may be the kind used by Zen masters. Literal-mindedness, attachment to concreteness, obsessive focus on the letter rather than the spirit of truth, and fundamentalist dogmatism prevent people from thinking. The Trickster figure in many cultures pulls the wool over peoples’ eyes, and plays tricks on them, because it’s the only way to start tugging at the lenses of their consensus reality. Clowns in many cultures are sacred figures, because their antics and games help people to loosen their grip on “sacred cows” that prevent them from grasping the truth. The Trickster is no angel, and he isn’t always beneficent, and he often causes people a lot of grief and pain, but he is necessary.

Brainsturbator’s More Chronon Theory: Jacques Vallee’s “Associative Universe” covering a bunch of the above and more

A dissenting opinion from forgetomori:

I find those speculations very interesting, but one fundamental weakness about them is their emphasis on our consciousness. Like New Age interpretations of Quantum Mechanics, that somehow turns fundamental limitations in our knowing about subatomical phenomena into theories of how we actually control everything with our minds; I think they turn our ignorance about our own consciousness upside down.

Rather, the evidence suggests consciousness and free will may be an illusion themselves, which means that the idea that UFOs or time itself may be illusions created by it is just saying that everything is an illusion, which does not help much.

But the link between coincidences and the mind is indeed something very important, because finding coincidences is part of the illusion that generates our consciousness. When we are puzzled by a coincidence, it’s just that we are exercizing the very fundamental function that generates our mind, which is, to find relationships between things.

This materialistic vision of mind and consciousness may look depressing and boring, but if you really understand it, it has implications as far reaching as the New Age ones. For instance, it may just be possible that the illusion of consciousness may arise among other things. And not just extraterrestrial life or artificial robots.

Dennis & Terence McKenna’s Invisible Landscape (via brainsturbator post above)

the complex symbol systems of alchemy are but one example of a property that seems to characterize mind in general: that is, its tendancy to construct symbolic totality metaphors. The constructs of the mind are, by and large, couched in symbols. Even “raw” sensory data is seldom experienced without symbolic interpretations, associations and judgements. This tendency of the mind to symbolize, to organize experience into meaningful, coherent pattern is indicative of its ceaseless effort to somehow “encompass” reality, to construct a suitable model of the self and the world. This quality of mind is seen best of all in the dynamics of unconscious processes, in dreams, vision and trance.

Categories: Uncategorized

social network analysis

March 15, 2010 Leave a comment

from wikipedia: social network # social network analysis

The shape of a social network helps determine a network’s usefulness to its individuals. Smaller, tighter networks can be less useful to their members than networks with lots of loose connections (weak ties) to individuals outside the main network. More open networks, with many weak ties and social connections, are more likely to introduce new ideas and opportunities to their members than closed networks with many redundant ties. In other words, a group of friends who only do things with each other already share the same knowledge and opportunities. A group of individuals with connections to other social worlds is likely to have access to a wider range of information. It is better for individual success to have connections to a variety of networks rather than many connections within a single network. Similarly, individuals can exercise influence or act as brokers within their social networks by bridging two networks that are not directly linked (called filling structural holes).

The power of social network analysis stems from its difference from traditional social scientific studies, which assume that it is the attributes of individual actors—whether they are friendly or unfriendly, smart or dumb, etc.—that matter. Social network analysis produces an alternate view, where the attributes of individuals are less important than their relationships and ties with other actors within the network. This approach has turned out to be useful for explaining many real-world phenomena, but leaves less room for individual agency, the ability for individuals to influence their success, because so much of it rests within the structure of their network.

bridging semantic concepts and phonetic representations

March 14, 2010 Leave a comment

formerly located at Wikipedia: Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis # Experimental support (which also no longer exists, redirecting to “linguistic determinism”), but still available in edit history or elsewhere online like this

Experimental support

The most extreme opposing position – that language has absolutely no influence on thought – is widely considered to be false (Gumperz: introduction to Gumperz 1996). But the strong version of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, that language determines thought, is also thought to be incorrect. Whorf himself never held this strong version; it is more of a theoretical construct employed as a foil. The most common view is that the truth lies somewhere in between the two. Current linguists, rather than studying whether language affects thought, are studying how it affects thought. Earlier, the bulk of the research was concentrated on supporting or disproving the hypothesis; the experimental data have not been able to disprove it. (Lucy 1992; Gumperz & Levinson 1996)

Investigation into the recall of linguistic entities confirms that the brain stores associations between semantic concepts (like the idea of a house) and phonetic representation (the sounds that make up the word “house”). The initial sounds are more important for recall purposes than later sounds. Relationships between semantic concepts are also stored, but indirect relationships between unrelated concepts can be inadvertently triggered by a “bridge” through a phonetic relationship. For example, one experiment showed participants photographs and asked them to name the item depicted. Participants who saw a picture of a cherry pit later responded more quickly and accurately when shown a picture of actor Brad Pitt.

passively multiplayer online games

March 13, 2010 Leave a comment

from io9’s “You Are Already in a Game. Right Now.”

My favorite new mind-bending idea is an extension for Firefox released today by brainy game designers Merci Grace and Justin Hall. It’s called PMOG, for passively multiplayer online game, and it turns the entire web into a fantasy world where you can go on quests. Like all cool art, PMOG makes apparent something that you knew unconsciously for a long time. Browsing the web is just a game. Gathering knowledge is a game. Finding cool new pieces of information by reading is a game. PMOG just makes those games literal, by letting you earn points for web surfing — erm, questing.

Wikipedia: Nethernet

The premise of The Nethernet came from the fact that internet users spend a large portion of their time multitasking, browsing information, or contacting other people online. The Nethernet aimed to classify and allocate an individual’s internet use and then utilize the gathered information in a unique and playful manner.

Official site
Wired: A New Type of Game Turns Web Surfing Into All-Out Information Warfare


March 12, 2010 Leave a comment

from Wikipedia: ‘pataphysics:


The pataphor (Spanish: patáfora, French: pataphore), is a term coined by writer and musician Pablo Lopez (“Paul Avion”), for an unusually extended metaphor based on Alfred Jarry’s “science” of ‘pataphysics. As Jarry claimed that ‘pataphysics existed “as far from metaphysics as metaphysics extends from regular reality,” a pataphor attempts to create a figure of speech that exists as far from metaphor as metaphor exists from non-figurative language. Whereas a metaphor is the comparison of a real object or event with a seemingly unrelated subject in order to emphasize the similarities between the two, the pataphor uses the newly created metaphorical similarity as a reality with which to base itself. In going beyond mere ornamentation of the original idea, the pataphor seeks to describe a new and separate world, in which an idea or aspect has taken on a life of its own.

Like ‘pataphysics itself, pataphors essentially describe two degrees of separation from reality (rather than merely one degree of separation, which is the world of metaphors and metaphysics). The pataphor may also be said to function as a critical tool, describing the world of “assumptions based on assumptions,” such as belief systems or rhetoric run amok. The following is an example.

Tom and Alice stood side by side in the lunch line.

Tom and Alice stood side by side in the lunch line, two pieces on a chessboard.

Tom took a step closer to Alice and made a date for Friday night, checkmating. Rudy was furious at losing to Margaret so easily and dumped the board on the rose-colored quilt, stomping downstairs.

Thus, the pataphor has created a world where the chessboard exists, including the characters who live in that world, entirely abandoning the original context.

Categories: metaphor