"All right action flows from the breath"
- Hajakujo

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Monday, November 26, 2007

After the Oil crash...

...we can fuel our global needs with leftover Jimmy Dean products! He is the foul genius of the apocalypse! Imagine -

"Jimmy Dean Chocolate Chip Pancakes & Sausage on a Stick"!!!

Read the comments here, hilarious, thanks Kris. The ingenuity of this man's artistry obviously provokes immense feeling in the sensitive breast of the junk food cognoscenti, as all great art should.

"Dear Jimmy Dean

I use the roll sausage in recipes for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. It’s so versatile. Would love to see a light maple version.

--Madeleine, Glens Falls, NY"

Breakfast, lunch and dinner! Amazing what you can do with a roll sausage :D

"Dear Jimmy Dean

What are you rebelling against?"

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Creative Computing

So, for those who might stumble upon this blog in hope of content on games, I've been posting everything games-related over on the blog for my research group, Creative Computing Coleraine. I set up this blog a while back, but it didn't hit critical mass until recently, when it got redesigned by my supervisor anyway [so you can't even see my classic design :( and around the same time, the machine I did the design on was riddled with virii and I had to wipe it, so nothing remains of that...week's...work. Ach, no matter!]

Oh, and apparently now we have two blogs, for some reason - see also Creative Computing Coleraine 2.0. Which will be the ultimate blogging champion?! Only time will tell!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Peak Oil - Aaaaaaaaaaaargh!

Peak Oil is coming, it's great neon claws flexing to rend us asunder. Can it really be as bad as is made out on LATOC (as he likes to call himself in a way very reminiscent of the U.S. government and their endless acronyms)?

To precis the site:

Economically viable oil production - including R&D, exploration, drilling, processing and distribution - operates on a bell curve, because supply is limited. Once all the easy to find oil runs dry, the ROI goes down when we go looking for harder to find oil. That exploration requires greater investment (and remember wealth equates to oil, so it's investment of oil), which means we need more oil than before.

However the global economy that runs on oil operates on a linear growth curve, because our systems of finance require growth to in order to define wealth. Credit lending institutions need to know that their debtors will be able to pay them back. That they can pay back is dependent on an increase in wealth value of the debtors economy. America right now is a good example - even conservative papers like the Observer are running stories (Sunday 11.11.07) about the inevitable decline of US global power, as it is linked to the US economy which cannot maintain the confidence of its creditors, like China.

Two vicious cycles par excellence!

So the oil crash will happen because as we hit the down slope of the oil bell curve, our economy will still be trying to go up, and it will struggle higher and higher until it stalls and crashes when oil becomes prohibitively expensive to meet world demand.

The question is - has this become inevitable? Can we segue out of the global oil economy into one that runs on another energy source - while maintaining economic growth and our current standard of living?

In the LATOC website, Matt Savinar makes some very persuasive arguments to the effect that we cannot. One could find it quite easy to be persuaded, go outside to a hill somewhere and start building a bunker and a homemade wind turbine (actually not that hard to do). On the other hand, you could put your trust in the powers that be to implement renewable alternative energy paradigms for the global economy to run on, before it's gone; then you could invest in these energy types on the ground floor, so to speak, and become filthy rich (the catch - if the energy changeover doesn't happen or work, all money will become worthless, so investment as we know it will have been meaningless).

I'd like to diverge from my standard model of pontificating and then wrapping up, in order to open the floor and ask - which option would you go for, or would you suggest another? Maybe after a little to and fro, I'll be inspired to make up my own mind!


Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Help! I need somebody (to play Pacman)

Hello all friends of Ben's PhD!

I'd like to invite you to take part in an experiment being run as part of my PhD project, entitled Player Profiling & Modelling for Adaptive Artificial Intelligence in Computer and Video Games. This experiment aims to address the thorny problem of building into a game, an A.I. that can reason about the player's preferences for the kind of experience they will have.
It involves two parts - gathering of data on player habits, and building an automated modeller based on such data.

The first step is where I need your help - to download and play my Pacman implementation; and complete an online survey that will determine the type of player you are (adapted from the original donated courtesy of Chris Bateman and iHobo, many thanks).
All you need do, is proceed to my Pacman web page and follow the instructions!
Also, please please forward this mail on to as many people as you think may be interested in playing a free casual game, or advancing the field of game play research (by a tiny amount!).

If you take part, your privacy is completely assured and you'll be enveloped by the warm rosy glow of helping mankind (have better games of Pacman)...
Remember, this is for posterity, so, be honest...

Many thanks!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

What precisely is the point, Mr God? : Cassus Belli

I've rambled recently on about Dawkins and all that jazz, so I want to wrap that up by rambling a bit on a more general take on argumentation and God.

Lately, we've seen over here how action as born of speech forms our highest expression, to wit: "The future of mankind depends on our capacity to exercise this thought, to use it as the foundation for speech, by which to determine the action we should take."

Thought must be the foundation of communication, thus speech, thus the formal and/or inter-personal action that we take (which must be nearly all action, we are a social species after all - action that has no effect on anything outside the actor can hardly be considered worth accounting). So I've been told that speech/communication serves as a guide for how we take action, but I as see it, speech also serves a facilitator of action because without explaining our actions, documenting them, translating our intent for them, we circumscribe our ability to act by failing to be cooperative. This is why the public forum, the ear of the masses, is so important. Power comes from people, the power to act and act upon.

But as I said in the previously (post on Dawkins) its hard to get everyone to listen. How do you communicate about your actions in broadcast? Context is vital to communication, and incredibly difficult to convey. Its inherently hard to even define context, just look at the research on ubiquitous computing, where context is everything.

We need big ideas to anchor our little lives - massive, all encompassing concepts that change little with time, distance, frequency of repetition (chinese whispers). All communication requires analogy since people cannot share what is in their heads directly (is my colour green the same as your colour green?). Analogy requires reference points or measures with associated plausibility or truth-value, since without reference to source knowledge the analogy reverts to unsupported assertion (is my 'big as a house' the same as your 'big as a house'? Probably not, I live in a flat :D BUT seriously, one needs *at least* knowledge of the margins for variability).

In context of the post title, can you see where I'm going with this? High Rennaissance art had a very limited subject range, but vast variety of scenes, models and constant revolution in execution. Still, everyone knew what was being talked about when they saw a woman with a babe in arms, whether she's sitting on a throne or on some rocks by the sea.

In truth, it is no small thing to establish immutable truths (see what I did there? :D ). We can, of course, say there is no big 'T' truth. So that rules out universal points of agreement - one can always deny someone elses truth, if necessary from a solipsist standpoint. But still, the story doesn't end there - because we must avoid that very solipsist standpoint in order to maintain functional existence. Solipsism is an absolute stance - there are no half-measures. And it also seems rather untenable to me - if it is true that only my own thoughts exist, then I can have no relationship with anything else and must conclude that the thoughts themselves are quite of suspect existence - why are they occurring if there is nothing to think about? Oblivion beckons. If there is anything to think about,that's a point of reference outside oneself, which is not true solipsism and forces one to admit that the rest might as well exist as well.
From another viewpoint, if there is no objective truth, how can one dismiss anything as not being true since one has no grounds for comparative judgment?

My point is - there is no big 'T' truth, since we only exist in relation to anything else through application of our consciousness, which is an approximation model at best. So what possible use can one find for the truth concept? Well one can apply it as a working guide - with an inherent plausibility - to whatever can be demonstrated to offer a repeatable framework for one's consciousness model.
Then all truth is relative, relative to the degree to which one can personally understand it (as demonstrated), otherwise one is taking it on faith. For instance, I personally believe that Newtonian mechanics hold true, because (for example) when I run into a wall, I hit it and it hits me back equally hard. Once I can stand up and think again, I don't have to think very hard about the principle of the Third Law to see that it described the actions of the model that I call my perception/memory of the reality of what just happened, namely, running into the wall (I have done similar, alcohol was involved :D). In fact, I don't think about it at all, but that's because the Third Law was encountered years ago in school and assimilated once reason was satisfied that evidence supported it.
It doesn't have to be held true - in fact, this is a very rough approximation model indeed, as Newton stated the third law within a world-view that assumed instantaneous action at a distance between material particles. The wall doesn't really effect an equal force on me in the instant I hit it - it's more like a wave effect of forces on particles that the wall and I are composed of. In modern physics, action at a distance has been completely eliminated, except for subtle effects involving quantum entanglement. But it is a close enough approximation model - it is true enough - that it suffices for communication of related concepts in the everyday.

The degree of faith that one has in the model's universality determines its utility as a tool for communication. I suppose that is one reason why God(s) is(are) so popular, and so divisive - when you believe in the absolute, it makes the reference point absolutely clear; but if you realise that another's God reference has a different value, nothing can be communicated that depends on these reference points. Then it seems that historically the usual reaction is: one of you has to go!

To paraphrase Huizinga, 'Its not the cheater who ruins the game, but the player who refuses to recognise the rules...'
This applies to what we're saying here with the (I think) relatively recent emergence of atheism as a tenable and respectable metaphysical position. And it's not atheism in the strict sense of the definition, since people have been denying each other's gods forever. It is rather, when someone stands aside from the metaphysical bedrock of the argument, and calls it scotch mist, that the communication really breaks down. Now the game is not even being admitted on its own terms!
It must (have) look(ed), to those who have true faith, kind of like Jack Thompson looks to game developers:
"You're developing mass-murder training tools!"
"No we're not, we're just entertaining people?"

Except the atheists would be saying
"You're mass murdering delusional zealots!"
"No, we're just saving people's souls"

And that is essentially where my ramblings are leading - atheism poses the unique threat to established religion of making it socially acceptable to do away with communication references to the absolutes that the religions deal with. Perhaps this is scientists, not priests/sages/soothsayers, are now the holders of all human wisdom and advisors to the powerful.
This shouldn't bother the faithful if they are not great espousers of organised religion, but it seems to anyway, perhaps because everyone wants to cheer for their team. Likewise, religion should never have been a threat to the pursuit of scientific knowledge, but perhaps its unsurprising that it has become so - because ever since quantum physics, science has not proven all that satisfactory in replacing religion with a clear and unchanging absolute reference framework.
And as the 'Truth' shifts about, communication becomes more ephemeral and people must adapt. Some people, they just don't like to adapt!

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Bastards. Bastard Sons of a 1000 Maniacs

I was spammed. I feel so...dirty!
I worked as a spam filter technician a few years ago, so I know when it's happened. 140 bastard comments from bastard RX peddlers. Not too hard to miss :D

Thus, word verification is now on. Sorry folks.

Fucking spammers. I hope all the hypochondriacs die. Vitun apara. Va fanculo. Voi helleti, tvoyu mat, pog mo thoin, merde, cazzo, mingia, puta madre ...

Friday, November 02, 2007

What precisely is the point, Mr God?

[Above, Dawkins on the warpath again. I believe he's actually licenced to kill by HRM decree]

Having recently finished reading Mr. Dawkin's highly controversial anti-religious rant, the God Delusion, I'd like to chime in with a kind of review cum explication of my own views. These are probably aetheist/humanist, but lean away from Dawkin's antipathy to God without leaning toward religion. I think I'm more interested in the process of thinking about it than in the answers anyway, but this may be a function of my youth, and comparative distance from thoughts of death (by aging). No matter the person, I think mortality is a shadow over all thought. Even for the aestheist who professes to be reconciled/resigned to death without afterlife. It would be interesting to see if the positive correlation between education and aetheism is prefaced in life by a correlation between ambition to suceed and high educational achievement. The point being, people may want to be remembered in this life because they believe there will be no next one. Can't imagine how you'd go about designing such an experiment though.
Enough tangential rambling - on with the topical rambling.

Dawkins' hypothesis seems to be that the probability of a big G god's existence is so slight that faith in that probability is irrational and unproductive. Then he argues that since belief has so little demonstrable worth, and the negative consequences of religion are so great, the entire enterprise should be done away with. There's a good bit more to the book (although editing his personal anecdotes would still cut it in half) - but that is the gist as I understood it. To paraphrase:
'Faith in God is inherently worthless, is largely a consequence of psychological conditioning, and collectively has great negative consequences and few positive ones that would not be occurring without it.'
I don't recall the argumentation addressing the corollary of the last point - that religion's negative consequences might also be occurring without religion. That's an aside though.

Can we ask an important question - what is the point of this kind of attack? Surely people of a religious bent will not be 'converted' to atheism by a single polemic? Dawkins invokes the demonstrably tiny probability of a creator god, as though the tiny probability were not what seekers of religious truth were seeking in the first place (Things that are rather self-evident don't really require faith)! And as for those who might be persuaded, Dawkins is so acerbic, impolite and unrelenting in his attack on religions that those on the fence must be more likely to remain there than come to his side. They may well have been on the fence because they disliked religious fanaticism (now I can't compare atheist fervour with religious fanatics, but still...) so it's surely a turn off for such moderates. Especially when he says he has utmost contempt for agnostics!

But no. Despite all this, it is worth saying a lot of what he says. Much of it is one-sided, but much is also true. Some has not been widely publicised before. The logic is nice in places, particularly where he discusses the God hypothesis. Of course, he does nothing to demonstrate that one shouldn't believe in a creator God on grounds of the intrinsic lack of logic in the hypothesis, for it is a minority indeed that cares if its belief(!) system is validated by logic - mostly logicians and mathematicians, I would guess.
Still, we need the like of Dawkins. The scarier the Creationists etc get, the scarier we need someone to hold the other corner. Nobody listens to nice people. They listen to lots of people, and crowds are always easier swayed when you're loud and scary. The politicised Christians in the U.S. are particularly scary right now, and having angry uncompromising people like Dawkins tells the rest of America that they can hold their own views and get away with it. They don't need to agree with him, just be inspired to independence of thought. Not many tend to do that on their own. When something threatens one in a basic and fundamental way, we can either be Chamberlain or we can be Churchill.

To carry the analogy, taking the path of most resistance forces one immediately into conflict. The appeasement route looks like initially like live and let live, but how far can this go? It cannot be thought of as resolution, since neither opposing side is likely to abandon their mutually inimical stances by a process of entropy. Depending on the overlap of their spheres of concern, and their proximity, it would seem inevitable that the expansionism inherent in human nature is going to force the issue sooner or later.

So, whether by this eventual process, or if one first chooses the path of most resistance, one naturally comes straightway right against the other fellows beliefs, which he cannot abandon, which in fact he may have been hoping to foist onto you. What to do? However you cut it, believing strongly or having interests in something - anything - seems to have the potential to force you into a situation of conflict. If what Dawkins is doing is recognising this and drawing up his battle, I do not find myself inclined to fault him too greatly for it.