Wednesday, May 28, 2008

A reason to be fan of computer science

Having computational perspectives in life can help design your lives so nicely! Here's a solid example which many singles can use, thanks to Scott for including the dating protocol in his lecture 18 :)

This can not only help in dating but also classifying people into jerks and reasonable ones. If the dating protocol does not work then the conclusion is at least one of them is a jerk, hypocrite, liar or whatever in which case you at least have a solid reason not to worry. Of course it is not necessary that you won't worry though!

Monday, May 26, 2008

Depth of knowledge

The amount of knowledge one has is measured in the number of truths he can handle efficiently in some beneficial way. Truths are deduced essentially using logic even though the deduction process is not always deterministic. The depth of knowledge one has can be measured by quantifying the resources needed for the deduction process: the most important resource being time.

A person is said to have deeper knowledge than another if the other person needs more time for deduction than the former. Having deeper knowledge hence can buy you time! To increase the depth of your knowledge you need to improve your deducing abilities and for that you need to constantly practice it so that you become fast. One useful improvement technique is memoization where you do not recompute the same sub-problem every time: if you solved it once just remember and use it. Don't resolve the same puzzle over and over again. The goal is to constantly build a global lookup table for your life. This will help not only you but also those with whom you can share the table.

This is basically why experience can help increase your depth of knowledge.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Ways of procrastination

Procrastination is the trough in the cyclic process of being productive. It's almost inevitable for everyone in all tiers of society. To scroll to higher tiers you have to adapt their working styles which include their procrastination styles as well!

A simple and good indicator for a better way to procrastinate is to see if you get something everytime. By that I mean stuff that can actually be of value when you use it. Some such examples are reading papers from other fields, reading blogs of good guys, blogging about good stuff :), refreshing relationships with people you care about (which should actually mean who care about you). Some bad ways of procrastinations include watching repeats, talking or chatting with too many (I say this because it's more likely than not that you won't be cared by more than a handful which usually is composed of family (long term) and professional friends (medium term)), basically any activity that you cannot share with atleast 3 different people without getting embarrassed or feeling stupid.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Entanglements and emotions

Entanglements are very commonly observed at microscopic level. These phenomenon were discovered when classical physics enabled us observing the microscopic phenomenon. The entanglements don't commonly manifest in the same way at macroscopic level but I think they do in some fashion. Think about it. Emotions like feelings of togetherness, compassion, right or wrong and on the whole the subjectivity of human beings is kind of entangling behavior. The subjectivity is like an evolving function until it is actually observed when it collapses to objectivity. The cultures which focus on the latter part of trying to observe and collapsing things to objectivity are currently leading because they are capable of supporting more biological life. The older cultures which focus on the former part cannot support life as efficiently but they have their own definition of life. They rather prefer life to be non-mechanical and mechanical life just isn't life for them! But see this is just a matter of choice. And see the choices one makes defines his or her characteristics and personality. Usually heroes stand for the objective strategies which favor purely rational arguments. As Scott put it they are bullet swallowers instead of bullet dodgers.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Heart & Mind

Heart & brain are the two main contending organs for definition of life & death. They are also the two contending organs in decision making. In decision making heart is usually associated with emotions. It's mainly for historical reasons even though there might be some physiological reasons. Brain is associated with logic. More specifically with verifiability in a mechanical way. Since the notion of computation unifies the concept of machine it means verifying in a computational way.

We know a lot of details of working of heart: at least to the extent of having mechanical hearts that can simulate the pumping blood which is the primary functionality of heart for life. While mysteries of brain are still abysmal, self-referentiality of thinking lead to computational model of brain which lead to the dream of artificial intelligence. Efficient computations are usually based on local information which limits its powers in this physical world. In fact the limits of logic as pointed out by Godel are based on the fact that logic is based on local information. In general the locality principle limits us from having God like powers. The more experience we gain the better is our global perspective. Hence experience helps!

Emotions are usually mysterious and quite "non-mechanical" to deal with. This hints us that we might be processing something more than local. We feel emotions instantly about someone miles away something like the famous "spooky action at a distance" phenomenon of quantum mechanics. The typical explanation of the "entanglement" behavior in modern physics is that the particles all belong to "same system" and that's why they are somehow "connected". Though they usually say this so that classical principles (like constancy of speed of light) of physics are consistent with modern principles. Thus there is something global happening with entanglements and hence hard to be verified mechanically. Hence for e.g. even though "heart-breaks" is a common term usually the mysteries of emotions are rooted in the brain NOT in the heart. This realization will atleast let you focus on using appropriate resources for specific problems. Specifically, when you are baffled with emotions you should rely more on brain to help yourself.

N.B.: Updated May 10, 2008. 1:36 AM.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Uncertainty - a life force?

Randomness in computation is very useful to understand some hierarchies in complexities of problems (probabilistic complexity classes, zero knowledge proofs, probabilistically checkable proofs). Randomness (or pseudo randomness) is the key in preventing adversarial attacks. It is the key in simulating physical processes of Nature. It is the key in many practical applications.

Now coming to life part. Imagine if the viruses all know how our entire body works then they can attack us without leaving us any choice of survival. But fortunately future is non-deterministic that is there are uncertainties in future, our genes mutate, the entropy of the universe keeps increasing at least until the pathways of the universe start interfering which is not supposed to happen for a long long long time. Even better: at microscopic scale even past is non-deterministic! All this can lead us to wonder if God wants to keep His power of designing Nature and life and let us just experience/measure and play around with randomness with regularities (bounds) but without complete derandomization. I think there is a good reason in doing this. First it let's us value life (because we don't know the causal reasons to replicate it) and two it keeps the "feeling of quest" alive which is the basic feeling of being alive anyways! The goal of AI as defined by Turing test is to create a machine whose responses can not be distinguished from those of a human being (of certain background). Without uncertainty such AI becomes impossible as well! Remember this is only about artificial intelligence not artificial life because it only talks about "conversations". Simulating the functions involving our intelligence itself seems very elusive. To simulate artificial life we need to simulate even more complex distributions.

About year and a half ago I posted about karma as a possible anthropic analog of evolution and hinted how hope can be argued from karma. Well analyses using theory of karma take "deterministic hidden variables route" for explaining things but even without that hidden variable (karma) we can still argue for hope just from inherent uncertainties that can be exploited to protect ourselves from being hopelessly attacked by adversaries.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Health: Genes

In one of my previous health posts I talked about continually focussing on new challenges in the journey of better health. After being driven by external indicators on our body (like dresses), then we are driven by indicators a layer below those (naked body), then we are driven by those a layer further below (organs like heart, kidneys, pancreas, brain etc.). Now it's time to dig deeper!

The whole point of seeking knowledge is trying to increase the odds of survival in odd times. The more variables we uncover the more we discover that we have lot more to uncover! But we can atleast try to make sure we can rationally handle the ones we uncover. Health science progressed a lot. The role of genes in health is quite an integral part of our intellectual heritage now. There's a lot to discovered about genes but one thing is sure about them: they are programmable, that is they are Turing tapes of a non-deterministic Turing machine. Their states can sometimes be non-deterministically changed (mutations) but they are pretty much "rule oriented". The rest of the body is like the console system (input/output device set) for the basic computations happening on those tapes. The important point is that we can write input onto those tapes. In fact without this ability the concept of evolution is infeasible! Let's try to see what we can do try to write good stuff (stuff that helps us survive) onto those.

First we should not write bad stuff! It is known that carcinogens can seriously screw up the tapes that screws up cell dynamics which can lead to cancer. So obviously don't smoke and in a bigger picture be friendly to the environment both in terms of recycling and using Nature friendly energy sources like hybrid cars, electric trains or in the worst case if you have to rely on gas use mass transportation or pool up. Don't stick to your cell phones all the time! Use them reasonably. Use hands-free devices and keep them a bit far when you work. Do not consume "diet stuff" in excess. It's good to take safe sides on such issues.

Now about writing good stuff. It is well known that writing bug free programs is very hard. So it's not a good idea drying to actually manipulate the genes using some kind of external agents (excluding the cases where it's treatmental for immediate survival). The best programmer of genes so far is Nature itself. What we can do is "ask" Nature to do the job for us. Let's say if we want to write a certain piece of code with which we can be naturally smart, we just constantly try to do smart things consciously and then it will be embedded into your genes by Nature over a period of time. If we want to be naturally peaceful practicing medidation would have the same effect. Beware that period of time might be a really long! But good thing is we at least don't make them worse in such a way. To see the effects of such really long-term plans we have to try to make sure humanity survives!