AI Just Search of Blogs?

Ideas, Ponderings, Software, Technology - No Comments » - Posted on November, 15, 2008 at 12:50 pm

Here’s an interesting idea: I reckon there are so many blogs out there that the first Artificial Intelligence (AI) will simply be a modified search engine. Tthe more obscure and convolouted the topic, the more likely someone is to blog on it. I reckon there’s probably a blog on just about everything. What about an Amish blog – yep (well kinda). What about a blog on cleaning sewers – yep (kinda). Pick a subject, google it, I bet it’s there.

And why am I picking blogs instead of just the web in general? Well blogs are opinions. To be declared an AI, the machine/software must pass The Turing Test – in short it must fool a real person into thinking that it’s a person through text based chat (e.g. IRC, MSN Messanger etc). Of course real people participate as the “control” and sometimes the judges pick the real people as machines and the machines as real people, but nobody has claimed the prize as yet (though apparently there were a few that were close this year).

So what I’m trying to say is that this software that is undergoing the test must act like a human – i.e. have an opinion. What’s the best way to do that? Data mine the millions of human opinions floating in the World Wide Web. Basically if the judge asks a question, the software would look up that question on the web (blogs only) and find someone who’s had an opinion or thought about it somewhere out there, do a bit of syntactic juggling and pass the result back to the judge.

It’s not really an AI, because it’s not really thinking for itself – it’s more like a global consciousness. It just takes the opinions of the people out there and uses them as it’s own.  I know I’ve glossed over some pretty complex stuff – how could you properly take input and find the right answer? What is this syntactic juggling? Google has technology which pretty much knows what you’re asking even when you mis-type it, so I think the technologies are out there.

I wonder how hard it would be to do this, and I wonder how good the results would be.

A Most Horrid Dream

Dreams, Ponderings - 2 Comments » - Posted on October, 8, 2007 at 8:46 pm

On Saturday night I had probably the most vivid, realistic, and horrible dream I have ever had in my life.

I was holidaying somewhere on the bank of a river with my beautiful girlfriend Ele (pictured here). Ele We’d parked the car right up on the waters edge. I was still in the car and she was approaching the waters edge. I noticed an alligator (it was definatley an alligator, not a crocodile) right where she was heading and I flicked a towel at it (?) and screamed at her to jump in the car. The alligator launched out of the water but she scrambled into the car and we were safe.

But then the sand underneath the front wheels started giving way and the car slipped into the water and started to sink. I climbed into the back seat and I said “ok on three we’ll jump through the back window, one…two…three” – blam I jumped out through the back window and landed on the sand.

But then I realised that Ele hadn’t come with me. I looked back at the car as it sunk below the water’s surface, and I started to panic; I thought “I should dive into the water and find her” but then there was hesitation “It’s alligator infested!” and then all of a sudden it was too late. I ran and told a life guard what had happened and then the dream seemed to fast forward to me sitting in the life guard tower with my head in my hands waiting for any news on the search. This part of the dream stretched out forever. The torment was immense – I kept thinking “I should have grabbed her when we jumped out, I should have gone back in to get her”. I was feeling hope, worry, and anxiousness. But as the hours dragged by these feelings were replaced with guilt, remorse, despair, the most gut wrenching grief and the unnerving realisation that I was now alone in this life.

Then I was sobbing into someones arms, telling them I knew she was dead, that there was no way that they would find her alive. And as I was doing so the search party returned, and they had something with them… I ran out to look, it was Ele’s torn up dead body, all white and dirty with sticks and muck through her hair – and that was when I woke up.

I re-lived the dream in that semi-concious moment just after waking up as I was taking a leak. As I returned to bed the whole thing overwhelmed me and I bawled my eyes out. It was so realistic, and I could still feel those strong emotions that I had felt in the life guard tower deep in my stomach. In those initial few minutes I felt a sense of grief and loss that I don’t think I have experienced before.

I then had a most surreal morning being comforted and consoled by the very person I was mourning. It was a really strange feeling, I felt as if she were dead, and yet here she was. It was almost the opposite of Lucid Dreaming (where you realise you are asleep and take control of the dream) because I woke up and thought that my dream was reality and this was something else. It truly was a most horrible dream, and it showed me a few things:

  1. Never park the car right on the waters edge, you never know when Alligators will strike (heh), or the sand will give out.
  2. Always attempt to save your loved one, make sure they get out or at least go back for them. The torment of not doing so is far too greater burden to bear.

Peace out.

PMD (Post Movie Depression)

Ponderings, Technology - 4 Comments » - Posted on August, 15, 2007 at 10:24 pm

Whenever I go and see a movie with some great hero who defeats all evil in the name of good I leave it feeling utterly depressed.

At the time I love it – we’ve just seen Harry Potter Order of the Phoenix, and whilst it’s nothing on the book it was a decent flick. However, as soon as the credits roll I start to feel glum and un-special. I’m no Harry Potter, the magical Hogwarts doesn’t exist, and really I’ve got nothing at all which sets me apart from the rest of the rabble we call humanity.

I get this feeling every time I watch a movie. It’s like some reaction to seeing greatness. All of a sudden I realise that I’m not doing shit, that I’m just living my life and that I’m not actually making an impact on the world. I start thinking up how cool it would be to build a castle up on some mountain somewhere and open it up as a school for technical wizards. We can teach bright young wizards (aka nerds/dweebs/geeks) how to wrangle the magics of computer wizardry. We could have transfiguration classes which focus on types and polymorphism, defence against the dark arts classes which focus on secure networking, and a virtual world in which magic (i.e. computer skills) are put to the test via duels and CPUidditch (a peculiar game where two teams attempting to guide worms and virus’ into their opponent’s network)….

See I know I’ve got a wicked (as in good) imagination, and I really feel like I should be able to use it somehow. However I can not write (as you can tell) and I can not draw/paint/sculpt etc. I can code, and a little imagination goes a long way when solving problems, but I’m no genius there. Poetry is fun but I don’t have the word-smithing skills needed for that either. I feel like I have a gift, but I’m not using it. And obviously I have deep seated delusions of grandeur which are exposed and raw after I watch a movie.

Goals, Dreams, Needs and Lucid Dreams

Ponderings - 3 Comments » - Posted on April, 14, 2007 at 9:55 pm

I think there is a an important distinction between a goal and a dream. A goal has some achievable outcome and a deadline. A dream is something less substantial and it’s something you will probably never actualise. As I said in my previous post, setting too many goals can be dangerous to your general well being because you end up chasing your goals. But you can’t really chase a dream, it’s always so much further away than a goal, and it’s so hard to grasp what you actually want from it so I don’t think it’s such a problem. I get a warm fuzzy feeling when dreaming, but I don’t get the same nice feeling when I think about my upcoming goal. I think having dreams is important, because dreams give hope. And hope is essential to feel human. Or maybe I should say something quotable like “to be human is to hope”?

I think my darkest moments have been filled with a distinct feeling of complete hopelessness, which correlated highly with a complete lack of will to live. Not as in “I want to die”, but “live” as in to get up, move around, do something proactive, achieve etc etc.

I’m no great thinker, here are some quotes from some people more eloquent than I (source):

  • To eat bread without hope is still slowly to starve to death. (Pearl S. Buck)
  • He who has never hoped can never despair. (George Bernard Shaw)
  • Hope is the worst of evils, for it prolongs the torments of man. (Friedrich Nietzsche)
  • A sobering thought: what if, at this very moment, I am living up to my full potential? (Jane Wagner)

Anyway, my original intention with this post was to bring to your attention the Maslow Hierarchy of Needs, and discuss whether it relates at all to the general well being of the person. See I think you can reach the top of the pyramid, self actualisation, and still be terribly unhappy. In fact, I don’t think it addresses well being at all. What DOES it address? Anyway, those down the bottom have some simple needs, and I’d say they have a lot of hope. I’m not saying the beggar is happier than the aristocrat, but those at the top may have everything except hope, and hence feel completely lifeless, where as the beggar feels hungry but alive. Hope is necessary but not sufficient for happiness.

The other thing I wanted to bring your attention to was this really interesting article on lucid dreams. This ties in with both the “dream” theme of this post (although it relates to sleep dreams as opposed to life dreams) and the Maslow Hierarchy of Needs. Basically it says that you can have some level of control your dreams and actually use them as a tool. The lucid dreams FAQ briefly mentioned being able to use it to achieve “self actualisation”. Certainly an interesting article anyway and it related to what I was thinking about at the time.

Since the FAQ said there is not harm in attempting to enter into lucid dreams, I’m going to try it out. Getting the “rush” of knowing I’m in a dream sounds like fun to me. I’ll let you know how I go. Then you can brand me as a new age hippy and be done with me. I’m not a hippy, I’ve just got an open mind (maaan).


Ponderings - 13 Comments » - Posted on March, 26, 2007 at 6:05 pm

As you have probably guessed, I’ve been having a bit of a hard time over the last few weeks. I think these dark times are at an end.

I read an article at a friends house over a game of Quizzit. It was entitled “Why It’s So Hard to Be Happy“, which given my mood grabbed me instantaneously. It had some very interesting and counter intuitive advice. I would have thought goal setting a good thing to do, but apparently a goal oriented life isn’t conducive to happiness because as soon as one goal is achieved another is set and so you’re always following the carrot. Time is never taken to sit back and really enjoy what was achieved.

They also condone mindfulness as a psychological technique that actually works. Mindfulness preaches that one must live in the present and not be concerned about the past or future. Apparently this is actually really good for well being.

Anyway, I read this article and looked at the last couple of weeks. I had been so busy over the last 5 weeks that I’d hardly stopped to actually live. And over the last 5 weeks I’ve been slowly getting more and more depressed. Don’t get the wrong impression – I wasn’t working, I was just busy. For starters, the aquaponics systems that I am setting up take up a large portion of my weekend. On top of that I play soccer. I attended a wedding last weekend. I’ve had parties and circuses and training and … etc etc

So on Sunday night I relaxed. I lay on the couch with Ele and cuddled. I smelt the air, felt the cold air and her warmth, heard the sounds of the fish tank and actually saw my surroundings – which is exactly what being mindful is all about. I was taking in the present moment with out the usual feeling that I was wasting time. And guess what? Today (Monday) I am far far happier than I’ve been in weeks.

So I’m going to schedule some time each day where I just sit and be mindful. I did it today in the lunch room at work – it was brilliant. I was living without the blinkers of consciousness. Thinking naught and experiencing the senses as if a newborn.

Meet my alter-ego: Gremwell

Ponderings - No Comments » - Posted on March, 23, 2007 at 8:55 am

A good sleep brought me out of the last dark mood. So now I’m going to run a little experiment. When I’m in a normal or good mood, I’ll post as Gemmell. When I’m in my bad mood, I’ll post using the alter-ego Gremwell. After a little while we’ll see how many postings I have as Gremwell and how many I have as Gemmell.

From here on in,  anything I do that is evil – Gremwell did it.

A Dark Theme

Ponderings - 1 Comment » - Posted on March, 21, 2007 at 9:17 pm

I’ve been sick the last 2 days and hence I’ve had time to finally upgrade to gallery 2.2 and wordpress 2.1.2. I’ve put on this nice dark theme. It reflects the mood I’m in more often than not these days. Honestly sometimes I feel so … so black … so dark and moody. Deep down I know there is absolutely no reason to feel this way, but none the less I feel frustrated and annoyed at my life, I hate it. In my good moods I love the comfort my life provides, in my bad I feel it’s stagnant. I feel I’m wasting time and not making any “progress” even though I don’t know what I’m supposed to be making progress on. Like there is something I’m supposed to be doing, and it doesn’t involve writing software.

There are a couple of things that can bring me out of these moods. The first is a decent nights sleep, but this only works sometimes. The second is a good dosage of loud classical music, but this can sometimes backfire and send me further into despair. The third is intense physical exercise, usually at soccer training, but sometimes I’m too apathetic to even try. Lastly, the sunny presence of my wonderful girlfriend chases away some darkness, but she’s susceptible to the same moods I am. Honestly though, I don’t know what I’d do without her.

I went to a friends wedding this week and it occurred to me that I’d thought more about what to say at my girlfriends funeral than what to say if and when I married her. Is that wrong?

I had a chat to my good friend, who is also a psychologist, about my thoughts on death. He made me seriously reconsider my standpoint. In his opinion it’s perfectly OK to be completely screwed up by an unexpected death. It’s a normal and natural human reaction and that in good time all will be OK. And that you’ll only get yourself depressed by dwelling on the early demise of all your friends and family. So I’ve changed my opinion and will endeavor to banish these thoughts when they enter my head.

Anyway, I feel a bit like a twat, so here’s a photo of the decorations catching fire at my friends wedding. They’re real flowers, who’d have thought they’d burn?

The End of the Shower of Innovation

Environment, Ponderings - No Comments » - Posted on February, 28, 2007 at 7:48 pm

This drought is killing off innovation in Australia. A bold statement, and backed up with very little scientific evidence. But thats whats great about a blog, you don’t have to be right.

I was in the shower today and I started to drift off into a magical world of thought. I was thinking how the world could be better off if I just did…. Oops, don’t want to waste water, I better get out of the shower!

How often have you thought of the solution to a problem, had a great idea or an invented something that could potentially change the world? With reduced shower times due to our conscious effort to save water due to the drought, we’re killing off thousands of innovative solutions and ideas every morning and night. Sometimes the shower is the only place you can really relax and let your mind wander because your life is so busy.

Where will Australia innovate now?

Well there’s only one place left….. A place where you can not be disturbed. A place where you have the time to let your mind to wander. A place you can relax. A place where there is nothing to do but sit and think. A place to innovate. Where? The good ol’ dunny of course.

On Death

Ponderings - 7 Comments » - Posted on February, 12, 2007 at 9:17 pm

We live in a privileged society where death is but a remote possibility. It’s something that happens, yes, but it’s something far off and distant. We don’t even think about death. When someone who’s close dies suddenly and unexpectedly it is an affront to our fundamental view on how-things-are. We are not prepared, and when it happens we are so unaccustomed to such strong feelings of sorrow and grief that sometimes it leaves us completely altered.

Death can come at any time – this was highlighted last week by the death of a guy who was in the year above me at school. He died of an aneurysm whilst traveling in Canada. No warning signs, no sickness, BANG – brain dead before he hit the tiles. He was 27, just one year older than me, and far younger than the average life expectancy (at birth) for males of 78.5 (83.3 for women). Sure, he’s not close to me; He is that far off distant guy who dies and you actually hear about. But he’s close to somebody. He’s someone’s son, and someone’s boyfriend.

He’s about the 5th person I’ve “known” who’s died. I say “known” even though I couldn’t tell you a thing about him. I’d met him, talked to him at a couple of parties, and that’s about it. I’ve only been to two funerals, one was for my Grandad (obviously not the blogging Grandad), and the other was for my good friend’s brother who committed suicide. The first death was semi-expected, people get old, and they die – so you don’t get that great sense that somethings gone terribly wrong in the world. Sure you grieve, but it doesn’t leave an open wound: you get over it. A sudden death, and in particular a suicide, leaves you wondering what part of society failed. It leaves you feeling cold. It makes you ask yourself some pretty confronting questions. It was a real head-fuck for me and I barely knew the guy. I can only imagine the feelings my friend would have experienced for the loss of her brother.

So here’s my advice to you. Think about death. Think about the death of a loved one when you lay in bed at night. Think about what would happen if they were taken away suddenly. What would happen? Would you have to tell the parents? How would you react if they blamed you? Could you make a speech at the funeral? Would you write on your blog about it? What would it be like lying in your bed at your house knowing that they’ll never be back, that you’ll never see their smile again, hear them talk or feel their touch. Think about every detail – what happens when you go to solicitors office to sort out inheritance? Would you be relieved to inherit something? Or distressed?

You’ll choke up, at least I hope you do. It should make you feel bad, woeful in fact. Don’t dismiss these feelings just yet – follow them through. What would happen afterwards? Would you move away to try and bury the pain? Or would you stay close to your friends? How would you feel when someone asked about it? Would your friends always look at you with a sense of pity? How would you react to that?

Maybe instead of a quick death, think about long, slow, painful deaths like cancer. Say your partner gets a tumor, what does it feel like to know that they’re going to die? Could you even stand it?

Do this alone, in a place where you can fully experience the grief, anguish and pain that is associated with the thoughts. Immerse yourself in the situation. Do this, because you can always just tell yourself that it’s not true, and that it hasn’t really happed. Your loved one is fine and sound asleep right next to you. You can still reach out and touch them.

Death is final, it’s resolute, there is no going back. No Ctrl-Z Undo or F7 restore-to-last-save. Maybe these thoughts will spur you to change some things, maybe try to get to know your parents or grandparents a little better. Maybe you can just sit back and appreciate that they are still alive and you can enjoy some time with them. Maybe you won’t feel like changing anything, but you’ve now experienced the tip of the ice-berg, you know what it might be like if you encounter the sudden death of a loved one. Maybe it won’t be such an affront to your core being because you’ve actually thought about it before. You have felt what grief and anguish feels like and will be able to recognise and deal with those feelings when they well up when/if the real thing happens.

Paddles and Poetry

Ponderings - No Comments » - Posted on January, 16, 2007 at 1:46 am

I’m off to work, there I row
It’s a little strange I know
But thats how I do it, thats how I go
Sure its tiresome and a little slow
Learning was hard, but now I know
Lucky for me the river doesn’t flow
And the water level isn’t too low.
So I get out there and make a show
Paddles and poetry, rhymes and … doh

Ahem, sorry about that guys. Got a little bit “inspired” – once again, my apologies. Yes, I paddle to work (and I’m quite aware that technically I’m not rowing). It’s really quite hard, it takes me an hour to paddle to work. It takes Josh 10 minutes to ride from the same start point. Admittedly I’m probably not the best paddler in the world, but I’m getting there. In the mean time, I’m finding muscles I never knew I had, and seeing an aspect of Canberra less travelled and quite pleasant.