Friday, January 31, 2014

I have everbody at work reading Wittgenstein

Who would have thought it? I've got everybody at Dentsply reading Wittgenstein. Curiously, we are having discussions including whether there is a pre-language, or if there are things in our physical makeup and environment obliging language to be a certain way. 

We all agree with Wittgenstein about thought being limited by language (or perhaps limited to language). What he is saying seems like kind of a no-brainer today, although I did not understand him when I was in college. I suspect these philosophers were driven to extreme statements for social reasons.

My confusion has nothing to do with wanting to refute Wittgenstein. Instead, I just want to know if a logical incompatibility like "an object cannot be flat and spherical" comes from language or from something else.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

A vision of the internet future

I was a bit gleeful reading IBM's plans for a future in which they monetize an investment in "Watson" supercomputing. I suppose Watson's capabilities include meaning recognition but IBM's vision seems to be for better call center automation and (I would expect) better customer service automation. They are not thinking about automated-communication (auto-com) in general. They are not yet thinking about person-to-person automation - where I use a virtual agent to look for things online; or where my agent develops a crush on yours.

As I tried to say before, the secret of meaning recognition lies in the shared world which is the topic of the communication. The cool thing is that a computer program can have a model of that world and communication with the computer can be real. Not a parlor trick. My thought was that little bits of our world might get language-ized in open source and, after a while, different pieces of the world would coalesce into more and more complex domains of automated communication.

For simple example: buying a plane ticket. This is a situation where the "world" is a trip with dates, times, and places - an itinerary. A computer can know all possibilities and detect them in free-form communication with a person planning a trip, and have a real conversation. The point is not to replace Expedia, rather that this could be based on free form text and so could other things with a shared world. 

Update: I want to extend a thought about how real communication is possible between a person and a computer if they share a world which is being discussed. Suppose, for contrast, that a robot was programmed to hand you a soft drink beverage. From your point of view getting a drink would be real. The communication does not need to be any more complicated. For one thing, the point of the communication might be to get it to give you a drink. For another, what more is there? The narrative which is exchanged in a communication must exist at both ends. But that is not necessarily complicated.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

To "own" my own PC - or do we need a computing "Bill of Rights"?

Listen Up computer manufacturers! I want to own my laptop. I want
  • freedom from scrutiny
  • freedom from aggressive advertising
  • freedom from downloading undesired components
  • built-in anonymity when going online
I have no doubt a computer manufacturer, somewhere, is busy spec'ing out a secure PC/Laptop/Tablet/Cellphone device with elementary hard drive and comm encryption.  The basic flaw in that idea is that it makes it harder for me to access the data myself, share it and recover it. The trick might be to employ some kind of compartmentalization of computer content - just unplug most of your computer from the internet. This is the opposite of the"cloud". I don't know what you could do about communications.

Obviously you need some protection from government civil rights violations. But that is the least of my worries. I just hate it when I fire up my browser and Snap.Do, Yahoo, or some other not-so-well-intentioned vendor takes over my default home page, new tabs, task bars, etc. [How about every part of my computer that I use being off the internet? Then the whole problem is: how to design a computer to pull information from the internet safely?] 
I also hate do a single Google search for a "Mediterranean Cruise" and then being pestered about cruises everywhere I go on the internet. 

I am afraid that good solutions requires genuine re-architecting of the computing devices. For example the operating system should not be vulnerable, nor any of the basic installed components. They need to be in a part of the computer that cannot be modified except by built-in hardware data transfers. Or maybe an OS upgrade will require a physical part mailed by the vendor. Internet installs can go to a programmable part of the PC but it should always remain quarantined from the OS etc.

Friday, January 17, 2014

a narrative is like an ellipse

Suppose a world shared by the sender and receiver of a piece of language. Suppose also that they use a vocabulary, grammar, and syntax to construct narratives about that world, whose meaning lies in the how the world is structured and not in how the language example is structured. By this view the language serves only to remind the receiver of something in the world.

By such suppositions, a narrative is like an ellipse, to be fit on the words rather than on spatial points. So measurement of points for the ellipse is replaced by reading of words in the text. And the result is the description of a possible state of affairs in that world.

Update: still not right. For language, the "world" is a place to assemble a picture in my head. The words serve to define and focus and detail a particular picture. The best model frames of reference, if they are to be used in this, must act like a hose, funneling incoming words into clarifications of the picture. But the things we say and 'mean' about the world, may ultimately be nothing more than the narratives we tell ourselves about it. More later about "narrative space".

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Best model formula

I like this version:

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Best models for words?

Feeling my way here. Maybe something along these lines:
The act of reading a word, is like measuring the data from the current position, with the current aligned narrative categories (plural). So then word meanings would parametrize semantic (or syntactic?) structures that are ideal narrative contexts.
So what is the goodness of fit? It has to do with whether the next word can fit into this narrative context.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

My first public speaking profit

From a talk about rock piles in Harvard MA.
This would be like the dollar bill taped over the cash register of my greasy spoon.
Update: (But as far as we know it could also be the last such check.)

Friday, January 3, 2014

Corporations should not compete with humanity

In a nutshell: unless corporations figure out some way of advancing the public good, beyond the any limited group of stock holders, then those corporations will be effectively competing with humanity. Which can't end well. 
The simplest way would be to reward employees lavishly. It is ironic that the production and distribution of goods pays the lowest possible salaries.
(since then corps are predatory both coming and going)

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Zombie Sharks

Setting: The Korean Fish Market.
Closeup of an ice tray covered with fish. They toss on a large shark, turn their backs, and walk away. The camera focuses on the shark: one eye opens....