September 25, 2008

Machine Intelligence

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , — alsuren @ 8:02 pm

Alex and I had an interesting discussion a while back relating to machine intelligence. It would be difficult to really do justice to all arguments made this far after the fact, but we agreed that a useful thing to do would be to each post an article at least outlining the conclusions we came away with. His post should be found at . If it ends up at or later, then he owes me lending of some books 😛

It is my belief that computers are already intelligent in all of the same ways that humans are. I come at this from an empirical viewpoint, and I also don’t make the claim that they are more intelligent than us. I think that it would be ridiculous to rank intelligence, as there will always be a rock-paper-scissors argument that makes the ranking undecided. I will not concern myself with scales and magnitudes here, otherwise we will always be late in arriving at the conclusion that computers are intelligent.

A simplified version of my claim is that it is impossible to make a scientific test for any specific *type* of intelligence which the average human can pass, and no computer can.

The obvious test for self-awareness is the mirror test: Does an animal recognise itself in the mirror? Well it’s *easy* to make a machine recognise itself in the mirror. Simply make it learn a correlation between what it outputs, and what it sees in the mirror.

Once my simplified claim is accepted, the next objection is that there is a human programmer imparting his intelligence into the computer. I don’t think I can quite do Alex’s argument justice, so you may need to read his post at this point. The idea is that it isn’t the computer that’s intelligent, but its human programmer, and the computer program is just a manifestation of the human’s intelligence. While I don’t believe that this condition is possible to scientifically test for, we will address it all the same. The argument goes like this:

Would a human child raised by dogs pass an intelligence test? I’m not convinced that it would in all cases. If an untrained human can’t pass an intelligence test, but a trained one can, it suggests that it’s not the human’s intelligence that’s causing it to pass the test. Rather, it is simply a manifestation of its parents’ intelligence. A possible conclusion to be drawn from this is that no humans are intelligent, and we only behave intelligently as a manifestation of some intelligent creator. Neither of us were happy with this conclusion, so another approach would be needed to claim that computers are not intelligent.

The point about deriving intelligence from beings other than one’s creator is a useful one, and should be explored further. A proposed restriction was that more intelligence should be derived from one’s surroundings and experiences than one’s creator. Once again, this leads to the problem of trying to decide whether one measure of intelligence is greater than another. If it’s done in terms of information required to record/recover intelligence, most machine learning algorithms already pass this test, as their programming is generally very simple, and probability based, but their corpus of knowledge is potentially very large, especially if the system’s graphical model is well connected, with large cliques.

I will concede that most machines are programmed with a model, and are restricted to learning the parameters of that model, without changing the structure. The one kind of intelligence that we seem to possess, which is hard to program into computers, is the ability to learn new model structures. There is extensive research going on into this problem, but it is hard to test whether a machine is doing this or not, because the same results can be had by simply fitting a model with too many parameters.

We then got on to whether it would be possible for a machine (or human) to completely comprehend itself. I proposed the construction that if a being has complexity C, and in order to completely comprehend itself in its current state, its complexity increases to no more than (1 + r) C, then in order to understand the self that understands its original self, its complexity will increase to (1 + r + r^2) C and so on in an infinite series. So long as r is less than 1 for this being, it will converge on a finite complexity. Alex argues that in order to understand the new self, it must re-understand the old self, as well as the bit that was bolted on in order to understand its old self. This makes its complexity for the second step (1 + r)(1 + r) C, and so on, which makes the complexity go to infinity for any positive r.

It is around this point that it emerges that I subscribe to most of the monist, empiricist, and reductionist ideas. I will let Alex make his own statement about his philosophical subscriptions in his own post. It has also recently emerged (from discussions with Holly) that I have a utilitarian-like philosophy, but with an objection to the commonly held assumption that the aim is to increase the utility of the world. Including the utility of others in my own, and greedily optimising my own [expected] utility seems like one less assumption to make. Once you do this, it should be possible to concoct a set of priors, and a utility function which encompasses (or at least explains) almost all {theological, philosophical} {views, behaviour strategies}. A more detailed post on this will follow in time.


September 21, 2008

Dance Mutex

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , — alsuren @ 11:42 am

As touched on in a previous post: after breaking up with a dancer, dance
events tend to become Mutually Exclusive. Now as you can imagine, this is
extremely damaging to your routine (previously, me missing out on a lesson
was a noteworthy event). Also, I have been wanting to get more involved in
Cambrdige Lindy this year.

Recently, Gill and I have come to the agreement that I will respect her wishes
and keep away from lessons (for at least a term). In return, she will tell me
in advance if there’s something she’s *not* going to, so that I can avoid
missing out needlessly.

I should still be able to go to Cambridge Lindy Exchange, and troupe training.
Annoyingly, my shoulder is currently eating itself, so I half-expect to be
told to give myself a break when I go to see a physio (will do so when I get
back to cambs). On the other hand, Tango is likely to be *less* bad for me,
and I think learning tango connection would be good for my Lindy/Blues, so I
*will* be there (St Paul’s on a Tuesday, I think) as often as possible.

The intuitive among my readership may have made the link between this me
dropping out of Herrang at the last minute, and will be asking “why didn’t
you just go different weeks?” Well that was partly because of a communication
breakdown, entirely my own fault, and partly because by the time I booked up,
the only lessons available week 2 was balboa, and I’m really *not* a very
good bal dancer, and by the time we’d resolved the issue, even they were

September 20, 2008

Told you I’d do something Stupid.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , , — alsuren @ 12:48 pm

So every Friday so far, when I’ve gone out to Balboa Fridays, I’ve done *something* stupid, but it’s always been fun recovering.

First time I went, it took me longer than I thought to get there, and I didn’t like the idea of joining halfway through a lesson (even if it was a beginner lesson, and I had done bal before) so I went back home without actually dancing. On my way back, I got a call from Vid asking about jazz clubs. Unfortunately I was little help.

Second time I went, I think I managed to get away with not doing anything too stupid.

Third time I went, the trains were broken, and everyone was in the pub so I thought “screw this” and joined them. I then ended up taking the night bus home.

Fourth time, went to the pub again, without checking the time of the last train. Got to the train station just in time to catch the last useful train home, but needed to go back to the pub to drag Holly out. I also left my shoe bag at the venue with my wallet in (though by some stroke of fortune, I had my cash card in my pocket). I should really post a full entry on the lolz that resulted, but a summary will have to do:

I ended up getting as far as Holly’s house, and slept in her absent housemate’s bed (in Bow). I turned down an offer of charging my phone, as I thought I had enough (turns out that all S60 phones lie about their battery status, as Rob will confirm). In the morning, I established that Dan did indeed have my bag, and thought I might as well make a day of it. Phoned my nan (No answer) and went climbing at mile end instead. Got as far as Ealing Broadway, and stopped for lunch, then borrowed a phone to call Dan. Got on the Oxford train rather than the West Ealing train, and had to back-track. Eventually got to Dan’s, and asked him the route to walk back. Enjoyed it. Stopped in a shopping centre at Ealing Broadway to buy fluids and a new bag (from Argos, and I’m very pleased with it so far.) and then wandered home.

Last night, I got there fine, had a good meal on the high-street there, and had a really good lesson. All the way home I was thinking “When am I going to do something stupid?” “I’m due to do something really stupid any second now.” Riding down the hill…. Got hit by a U-turning taxi. “Hooray!”. Turns out that not putting my lights on was a stupid idea. I must have been going pretty fast, because the resulting bang attracted the attention of the couple from across the street. This turned out to be a good thing, because the nice man had a truck, and offered to take me and my bike back home.

I got in, and my mum was still in bed reading, so I dragged her out, and she helped me get cleaned up. She also made me ovaltine, and gave me honey + yogurt. It reminded me of being a kid again, which was great. What was quite funny was the fact that our first aid kit had nothing useful in it (like say… TCP, or sterile dressings), so we ended up slathering Savlon all over the place, and taping a wad of cotton wool to my knee.

Right now, I’m pretty okay. I think my back hurts more than my knee (which is not especially much more than usual) I need to take a look at my bike, and see if it’s dislodged breaks or a buckled wheel that’s stopping it from actually working as expected. I have had a suggestion of cycling from Alex today, which actually sounds like a really good idea, but I’m not sure if I’ll be able to get it working in time, and anyway, I promised to help Mum with gardening today.

I should get out of my dressing gown, shouldn’t I?

September 18, 2008


Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — alsuren @ 12:40 am

In my previous post ( I think I may have misrepresented myself. In the interests of not tainting the mood of the previous post, I stopped at a point that probably showed me in a better light than I maybe deserve. Also, it probably presented me as someone who is ready for something new, but while writing it (specifically because of the things that were deferred into this post) I realised that this is not the case.

In the time between then and now, I have had two serious relationships, and backed out of both for similar reasons. We will come to them when we come to them.

We start off with me just come back from Utah. Jared demonstrated himself to be a good friend, and introduced me to Linux, which became the object of my love and energy in the absence of a muse. When I returned to Bancroft’s, my friends were good, and didn’t treat me any differently. I also met a load of new people from the year below, who were great fun. I developed a crush on Aysha, who was fighting with a crush on Rory. At some point, I tried to kiss her in the computer room, and got nothing. Some time later, there was a little roleplaying (started by her, and ending with me almost telling her to fuck off if she didn’t mean it). Other people I was [secretly] interested in during that time were Irma (mostly because she’s cute, though she lost her girlfriend-appeal for me when she got her hair permed into curls) and Qian (who often comes across as shy, and embarrassed, but when she gets passionate about something, she is quite forceful (and hot as hell, I should add)). Obviously, everyone fancied Ka, but she was well and truly attached.

Also worthy of mention is Lu. Now don’t get me wrong. Lu is a bitch. I didn’t very often miss an opportunity to remind her of this. I became her favourite seat that year (especially during film club). There were many instances of possibly inappropriate snuggling, but it became clear to both of us quite early on that there was no chance of us going out, so it was all in good fun (my whole group of friends from bancrofts were always very sexually suggestive towards each other). Also, she had a massive crush on Sam (from the last post, who is two years below me, and therefore one below her). I found this hilarious when I found out, because this is Sam, who I had down as quite possibly the worst boyfriend anyone could ever have, and Lu…. anyway: she got her man, and it lasted until after I lost touch with them both. Mel (as we treat each other these days) is similar to Lu in my mind.

Also during that year Mandy (now Amanda) who we left in the last post, got back in touch (triggered by the Marci incident). We had a relationship which started off essentially as roleplay (though I knew her to be smart and good to talk to from before), and got her into no end of trouble with her mother (I often think that she *wanted* to get in trouble with her mother). It got more serious partly out of need, because fighting Mandy’s mother takes some dedication. When I look back on it, I think of it as mostly sexual, with the fight against a common enemy as the binding that made us stronger. I think that the contrast between her arts geekiness and my science geekiness made us a good match from the beginning, but it was overshadowed by the sexual aspect in many cases.

When I went to visit her (close to Saratoga, New York) we had a blast of a time (there might be a post or two in the archives somewhere if anyone cares to look). There were a few fights with her mum (like when she thought we were being naughty in my (her brother’s) bed). There was some play, hidden from her mother, but no penetration.

When we both moved away to university, I was finding that there was too much going on in the process of settling in that I was missing by trying to keep in touch with her (observe that I didn’t really get involved in any societies in first year, as the first few weeks were spent mostly online. I also didn’t do all of the preparatory problems). Also, since her mother wasn’t there to fight against, we lost some of our strength. She was also convinced that I didn’t love her, and she possibly loved me too much. I think that if it were Marci, we would have just taken a break at this point, and gotten back together a few months later. Then again, if it were Marci, we wouldn’t have had sex. I tried to break it up and remain friends. Someday I will learn that this is impossible. Maybe I should have just let her go, and let her get back in touch when she wanted to. I don’t expect she will ever talk to me again.

Now I gained a lot from Mandy. It was her that recommended The Fountainhead to me. I didn’t read it with the same passion as she did: I simply read it as a novel. It was polocrunch who first made me aware that what I had been reading was more a work of philosophy than fiction. I really need to read it again (I’m sure my regular readers will be tired of me saying this, but I still haven’t asked Gill for my copy back). She also recommended another book on my to-read list. Annoyingly, I’ve forgotten the name, and can’t exactly ask her what it is. From what my mind can remember, it’s young adult fiction, and involves school kids and time-omniscient (and therefore fatalist) beings (Note that the wikipedia article on fatalism suggests that it is Slaughterhouse Five. I suspect that it may be right :P.)

On the other hand, ours was a long distance relationship based on sex, and therefore involved unhealthy amounts of masturbation. I have not recovered from the resulting addiction, even though it has probably already ruined my life. I have looked for help on one occasion, but it was only temporary. This is the first time I have publicly admitted to it, and I welcome help from anyone who has experience with addiction, and is willing to offer their support.

After Mandy, I had a brief thing with Charles (From Christs. Not Charlie (Cao), my supervision partner: that would be wrong). I found out that he already had a boyfriend before we did anything stupid, though he was a good kisser, and I do actually quite enjoy being overpowered, as long as I feel safe. Now while Marci had been dating some guy the second time we got together, that was different, because we’d already had something together, and I also knew about her boyfriend already. I told Charles that I wouldn’t get between him and his boyfriend. When he told me they were no longer going out, it made no difference. Last I heard he’s going strong with someone from cambs, though I’m also told he still sleeps around.

I tried to get together with Jenny at some point during first year. That never happened. It seems that Jenny is good at attracting the attention of men she doesn’t fancy, but not those that she does. In the end, she got her man though (Dave).

I also became good friends with Liz (after I ranted about my problems over MSN, completely out of the blue). Over the summer, we were both doing internships in cambs, and she dragged me dancing. There were many times when I almost ended up kissing her, but I think we both knew that it would have been wrong. We became hug-buddies, though we don’t talk so much anymore. She tried teaching me the charleston, and failed, forcing me to seek swing lessons. Turns out she didn’t like Matt and Lotte as much as her previous teachers, so she left me to it after dragging her then-boyfriend along to one lesson.

At some point in second year, when Liz was single again, I was invited to dinner (formal) with her and her friend from Christs (also a friend of Charles). It transpired that her friend was bisexual, and going out with some guy. It also transpired that she was trying to set me up with Liz. Rather than tell her why this would never happen, we just went along with it. Everyone ended up kissing everyone, and nobody meant anything by any of it, even if it was a little awkward. It’s funny now, because she’s supervision partners with Charles, and she knew about me and him before she really met him properly. Also, her boyfriend apparently gets worried about the whole hug-buddy thing. I’ve not met him though. (We were supposed to meet up this summer. Shit.)

And then we get to Gill. I initially went to dancing with the explicit intent *not* to be kissing anyone. Turns out Blues after-parties aren’t good for my resolve, but the full story of this is documented elsewhere on my blog, so I won’t repeat it in full.
Lessons to be taken from Gill include:
Don’t jump into bed too quickly. It gives you the wrong priorities (but you’d have thought I’d already known that one)
Don’t hook up with anyone who’s in a long term relationship. It makes you not expect it to be serious. If it becomes serious, you may not be able to adjust.
If you fancy someone mostly because you enjoy dancing with them, be careful, because it may not last if you over-do it.
If you are both of a small community (eg. CambridgeLindy, or an office) the aftermath will be hell, as all events suddenly become mutually exclusive.

So if you wish to add another few terms specifically for lovers (to add to the basic ones at ) we have:

Do not put yourself at my mercy, because I will destroy you.
Long distance relationships have eaten my soul. Don’t ask me to start another.
Don’t ask me to dance with you with you as your boyfriend.
I’m a massive wanker. Don’t let me sleep with you.
Please tell me you’ve got a boyfriend if I start hitting on you. If you want me to, I will wait.

September 7, 2008


Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , , , , , — alsuren @ 7:11 pm

I decided to watch Dirty Dancing last night, between 9 and bed. I’d never seen it before, but since watching it, I can see why Salsa is more popular than Lindy (compare with ‘Swing Kids’ and you’ll understand).

Towards the end of the film, I realised that the main character looks a lot like Marci’s kid sister. I say kid, but Kristi’s probably older than Marci ever was by now, and is engaged to be married. I think that everyone in that family is [/was] beautiful, in some delightfully elegant/awkward way (I’m waiting for Jared to say something here). I kind of get the feeling that even if Marci were still around, we might still be attending another family wedding before having our own.

So at any rate: I went to bed thinking about Marci, and it occurred to me that I still haven’t done a proper public summary, and resolved to do so today. In the interests of keeping resolutions, I will start at the beginning:

To set the scene, picture me as a 15 year old, or so, with Terrible Acne (worse than Shanahan’s) back in the days of Windows 2000, and MSN Messenger Plus! with the cinescape Harry Potter Message Boards (yes: they were still called boards rather than forums) as my introduction to the internet proper, and a contact list almost entirely composed of american teenage girls.

The initial encounter went something like this: We were in some group chat with Marci and a friend from some other board. I don’t remember who it was, other than that the other girl was someone I knew better than Marci. Neither can I remember what we were talking about. Probably just growing up and being depressed about body fat, or something girly like that. At some point, this other girl leaves the conversation (I think with the intention of coming back later), so we end up with two chat windows open. We keep talking in the main window, and Marci comes out with *walks towards alsuren* or something, and then in the other window “Play along”. What else could I do? After a few messages back and forth (with no objections from me, as I’d been instructed to play along in the other window) one of us ended up sitting in the other’s lap, and eventually kissing each other. Trying to recall details at this point would be prone to error, but I remember vividly the “play along” part, as it was genius. I think it also became an in joke IRL (In Real Life) as well, and I’ve many times since wanted to do it to someone for real but never had the guts. (If anyone tries that on me for real, I *will* play along, if nothing else because women with that sort of guts are hot as hell.)

The next day, we got talking again. The jist was that I had never kissed anyone before (okay, so I was 15 and ugly as sin), and had wanted my first kiss to be special, so we should really make a go of things. It also turned out that Marci had never kissed anyone before either. She was the self-styled VL (Virgin Lips: don’t worry. I’d never heard the term before either). I never quite worked out whether in Utah, this was considered a good or bad thing, though she always seemed a little depressed about the fact. I suppose she was two years older than me, so it was a little different.

At some point in the next two weeks, I expressed my concern that there was the danger of us getting married without me ever knowing what it was like to be with anyone else. This may have been influenced by my dad’s line in “scary Mormons want to suck you in” comments, though it’s hard to say. I’m not sure whether what happened next says more about her or me: she ended up setting me up with a girl in my class (Charlotte. A plain, quiet girl, and a Christian. It later transpired that she was both slightly skitz, but we won’t dwell on that.)

So that first romance with Marci lasted all of about 2 weeks, but I still count her as both my first kiss and my first love. I always found it harder to tell Marci that I loved her than anyone else, but I suspect that this may be because she is the only person I ever *truly* loved. The relationship with Charlotte lasted for about 3 months, until I realised that I didn’t love her (She seemed very dependant on me, and it occurred to me that I would live just as happily without her. It seemed like it was only her reliance on me that kept us together, which wasn’t healthy. Compare and contrast this with Marci’s attitude.)

In the year that followed, I had one other relationship (Annie, who was a terrible kisser, but strong-willed, intelligent and beautiful to me at the time) and had my heart broken. This relationship also pissed off Mandy, who publicly “went out” with my friend Sam on the boards, who is my oldest friend, and who proceeded to be a complete cock to her. Turned out that this third relationship was the last straw, and she would be ignored no longer.

All of this time, I remained close friends with Marci, who was also dating other people as well, both online and off, but maintains that she never kissed anyone in that time either (though someone did strip off to her on webcam at some point apparently, but I was only told about that later (probably only their shirt or something. I never asked). We’ll come back to that later).

On the year anniversary of our first encounter, I was asked whether I knew what day it was. It took me a while (and probably a hint or two) but eventually I realised. I think the excuse that time was “for old time’s sake” or similar, but whatever the cause, it started again, and in almost the same manner as the previous time. It turned out that she was actually dating someone at the time, so there was even a similar kind of doubting “is this right?” conversation the next day. Much of the next few months was spent in a whirlwind of staying up until stupid-o-clock and sending long emails back and forth, to compensate for the 7 hour time difference. We managed to arrange for her to come over here for a week around valentine’s day (I think this was during one of the legendary Bancroftian 2 week spring half term holidays or something, but I would have to look it up to be sure).

She arrived the day before valentines, and my parents urged her to try to stay awake until a sensible bedtime. I think we ended up resting (but not asleep) on the front room couch before the light was gone, talking about something that probably seemed important at the time. Our first kiss was there, and was both awkward and magical. I think there was some talk of holding out for the next day or something, but being un-planned was better. The next day, on the other hand, had the hell planned out of it. I woke her up with roses and chocolate (I’d bought a big cube-shaped box of chocolates, and put a rose petal in the bottom of each tray, and I’d bought a lead-crystal heart, and put it in the centre. It was all very cheesy, but I think the whole “coming over for valentines” was proof that we were into that kind of thing. We then went out to explore London, and came back for curry (my dad had convinced me that americans didn’t like hot food, so we got something hot and something not. Turns out that Utah isn’t very far from Mexico, and my dad was wrong).

We climbed Monument, and St Paul’s, with a disposable camera recording the events. On the Sunday, she took me to church. I was somewhat in awe of the general kindness and good will displayed there, and the slightly chaotic ceremonies caused by the fact that it was a convert’s church (Mormon) made it entertaining and exciting. I ended up crying at one point, and she noticed. I half wanted her to say something about it being a religious experience, so that I could argue against her, but she didn’t.

At some point during the week, we hooked up with Charlotte and went on the London Eye and played on the lions in Trafalgar Square. Marci also made her “runny cheese cake” which was a little more runny than anticipated (I won’t lie. It was a disaster in almost all respects, including cleaning out the last of the tin with a finger, which caused her injury). It was a good laugh though, and at least Charlotte and Marci enjoyed the end product.

That night, after Charlotte left, we ended up watching some cartoon version of robin hood on the projector in the back room(which is now broken, due to a completely unrelated event). During the course of things, we ended up on top of each other. There was no removal of clothes or anything like that but it turned out this was still a bad idea. She left for her room very upset, and it took me a while to understand that temptation and guilt had a lot to do with it. We talked it over then and a bit the next day, and agreed to strive to never let it happen again. It seemed like a black spot that wasn’t impossible to recover from, and we parted in high spirits, looking forward to the future.

We ended up going through a bit of a rough patch after she went home. I think I was missing her physically, and there was also doubt about when we would next see each other, and whether we would be safe. We took another break at that point, with the agreement this time that we would get back together when things were more certain. I spent a little more time with my school friends, so that I would be more comfortable introducing her to them if she came over again… and then we got together again.

We organised a trip from me to Utah in the summer, with the clever trick of bundling a week long university summer camp so that the university would pay for part of the travel. I got the rest by working for my dad.

At this point, there should be a remark about Mel, who I stopped talking to around this time, but seems to have done well by herself in the meantime.

There was a spot of bother shortly beforehand caused by my habit of getting back from school and going straight on the computer in my school stuff in the middle of summer, and Marci mentioning someone stripping for her *innocent eyes*. I *may* have pretended to undo my belt and then cut off the internet connection, which got an angry email in response. We sorted all that out, and I’m glad we did, because it was a fresh reminder of what to avoid when I was there. What *didn’t* help was that Marci’s mum thought that it would be a good idea to read her daughter’s emails shortly afterwards.

I thought I behaved pretty well while I was there. I even went to sit in the front of the car to reduce the risk of either of us doing something we would regret later. Turns out it saved my life, but this is where her story ends.

So what’s the point of this? Well it’s partly for anyone who finds my terms a little strange, and it’s partly to act a tribute. It’s also a kind of thank-you to everyone who I have met because of her. I think I will go and visit her family when I’ve got some money (probably after my PhD and the associated recovery. Give it five or ten years). I’ll see if I can visit where she did her dancing as well (she was the first person who ever tried (and failed) to teach me to dance, and part of the reason that I decided to go in search of swing when I realised that ballroom was rubbish.)

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