Thursday, December 25, 2008

Anteater: ...If an effort is initiated, perhaps at random, by a few ants in some locale, one of two things can happen: either it will fizzle out after a brief sputtering start -
Achilles: When there aren't enough ants to keep the thing rolling?
Anteater: Exactly. The other thing that can happen is that a critical mass of ants is present, and the thing will snowball, bringing more and more ants into the picture. In the latter case, a whole "team" is brought into being which works on a single project. That project might be trail-making, or food-gathering, or it might involve nest-keeping. Despite the extreme simplicity of this scheme on a small scale, it can give rise to very complex consequences on a larger scale...
(C) Douglas R.Hofstadter - Goedel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid.

This description appears to be perfectly applicable to the open-source projects, too ;)

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Разум подразумевает самосознание: возможно ли вообразить разумное существо или группу существ, не обладающих понятием "я"? (Пусть даже это "я" пчелиного роя или мыслящего океана).

С другой стороны, все мировые религии учат, что просветления достигают только те, кто каким-то образом поднимается над этим "я" в себе.

И что тогда? Открывается некое иное, высшее "я"? Или же вся Вселенная - это одно большое "я"? Если это так, то что тогда "не-я"?

Monday, December 08, 2008

Old is the new new :)

Путеводная нить Ариадны или клубок, с которым Иван-Царевич свою лягушку искал - это примеры personal navigation devices with augmented reality interface :)

Про яблочко, которое каталось по золотому блюдечку и показывало страны заморские, я думаю, и объяснять не надо. Mobile broadcasting.

А смерть Кащеева была скрыта за семью файрволлами :) И вообще все они были персонажами стимпанковской эрпэгэшки :)

Sunday, December 07, 2008

60-е годы во всем мире, похоже, были временем мечтаний о счастливом будущем. Последствия войны были более-менее заглажены, уже заработали на полную мощность порожденные этой войной компьютеры, благодаря чему человек смог увидеть свою планету в круглом окошке космического корабля, и, наверное, всем казалось, что это - только начало времени чудес.

У нас в это время был написан "Понедельник начинается в субботу", - книжка, благодаря которой целый легион бестолковых фантазеров (включая и меня) подался "в науку".

У них в то же самое время проходила выставка под названием Futurama 2, которая, в свою очередь, была реминесценцией Futurama 1, проходившей в конце тридцатых (если подумать, то и тридцаты тоже были эпохой открытий, хотя и с другим оттенком... именно тогда Гедель представил миру доказательство своей теоремы, а товарищи в разных частях света раздумывали о том, как расщепить атом и что из этого может получиться... но это так, к слову...). И у них тоже писали книжки о счастливом будущем (или "тоже" - это у нас?)

Интересные воспоминания о том времени - от тогдашнего 8-летнего мальчишки.

Книжка, которую он описывает, мне сильно напоминает Гуревича (которого я примерно в том же возрасте просто зачитывала до дыр :) )

Thursday, December 04, 2008

"To understand something" means to substitute something lumpy and complicated with a more or less orderly pattern of trivialities.

"To have experience in something" means the ability to build the way to the distantly looming and fuzzy goal from the building blocks of trivial actions,plus the ability to prove that whatever appeared from the distance as looming and fuzzy and whatever the way has lead us to is exactly the same thing.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Trodding over the Propositional Calculus, I've nearly stumbled at the Switcheroo rule:
" and <~x implies y> are interchangeable".

The rigorist in me (which was probably born back during my freshman year in the MSU, when I've got the lower mark for my calculus exam for forgetting to state the condition which seemed obvious) only agrees to accept this rule together with the condition that x≠y. Otherwise it doesn't make sense. Yet Hofstadter seems to just assume it by default!

I am a Tortoise, sort of :)

PS. That is what the "Ganto's ax" tale might be about, by the way: in Tao, everything is assumed to be the same, therefore the rules of formal logic (or at least, this rule) wouldn't apply, and their implications wouldn't apply either.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Thought while reading a preface to GEB and trying to sum up for myself what it was about (which is a strange loop per se, by the way!):

The main criterion of self-conscience (of intelligence, if you want) is the ability to create models of the environment (outside world) in which the conscientous being eists (believes to exist, find oneself existing, to be utterly precise) and to use these models to guide one's existence in that world (which is also some sort of experimental verification / fine-tuning for these models). It's that simple. Turing test describes exactly this, but from the point of human, and taking the world where only humans are considered to be legitimate intelligent beings, as a premise.

So simple.

Upd: but it is also something that animals do. The essence of intelligence (I've just read the next chunk :) ) is that it can model its own way of modeling the Universe, and then model this modeling, and so on. This is called "self-reference" and this is something that divides inteligent beings from merely sentient ones... something that makes what is already alive even more alive, so to say. The deeper the reflection can go - according to GEB - the higher is the intelligence level.

But what about finding patterns where they are not present, then? (which is the common sign of mental illness...) How does this fit in there?..

Sunday, October 26, 2008

"A miracle" is just a description for the parts in the clockwork of the Universe which we still cannot access, or even notice. Ergo: there exists a valid reason for every miracle, but may be we are not always supposed to get informed about these reasons ;)

Monday, September 01, 2008

Say "NO" to TV in the background if you want to be creative ;)

Teresa Belton, a research associate at East Anglia University in England, first got interested in daydreaming while reading a collection of stories written by children in elementary school. Although Belton encouraged the students to write about whatever they wanted, she was startled by just how uninspired most of the stories were.

"The tales tended to be very tedious and unimaginative," Belton says, "as if the children were stuck with this very restricted way of thinking. Even when they were encouraged to think creatively, they didn't really know how."

After monitoring the daily schedule of the children for several months, Belton came to the conclusion that their lack of imagination was, at least in part, caused by the absence of "empty time," or periods without any activity or sensory stimulation. She noticed that as soon as these children got even a little bit bored, they simply turned on the television: the moving images kept their minds occupied. "It was a very automatic reaction," she says. "Television was what they did when they didn't know what else to do."

The problem with this habit, Belton says, is that it kept the kids from daydreaming. Because the children were rarely bored - at least, when a television was nearby - they never learned how to use their own imagination as a form of entertainment. "The capacity to daydream enables a person to fill empty time with an enjoyable activity that can be carried on anywhere," Belton says. "But that's a skill that requires real practice. Too many kids never get the practice."

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Alastair Reynolds / Century Rain

Finally, I have finished this book off (and I must confess, last 3/4 went pretty quickly - it only took me some hours during the last weekend to do it).

I rather liked it (as most of the stuff Reynolds writes). Pity this sort of things does not seem to make it onto wide screens! I would love to see the movie made after it, or after other Reynolds' stories... may be it would convince some folks to go into science?..

The beginning of the story was a bit slow, at least for me, but once I got hooked onto it (after several chapters) I became more and more immersed.

As usually, it is about the future, and as usually in Reynolds' books, there are several fractions of people who seem to follow different philosophy in life. In this case, ones of them enjoy the progress (they are called Slashers - tribute to /.) and the others are rather careful about it (and they are called the Threshers, from the word "threshold"), especially where it comes to nanotechnology stuff. You see, in this world our beautiful Earth has been cleared from people by the nanobots who went out of control. What is worse, at some moment all electronic information storage (keeping memories of the past) collapsed, for some reason, so the humanity lost most of the memories about the history. If they want to retrieve some, they have to come down, to a very hostile Earth, and try to dig something out from under the ice there (if the machines would not eat them alive).

That is just a set-up. As the story will unravel, there will be: a snapshot of our world in 1940 where Second World War did not take place, a network of hyperspace tunnels, a love story (it's a space opera after all...) and some war scenes in space, too. There are two protagonists: one of them a divorced woman from the near-Earth world, archaeologist devoted to her job, another of them a troubled man from the alternative Paris in 1959, which is not actually on Earth but in some other world, which look like Earth from the inside, but from the outside is some sort of hermetically sealed sphere where you can only get via an irregular wormhole (interesting description of the wormhole travel there). Naturally, they will meet and do some interesting things together (nothing cheesy, it is rather the spirit of the original Star Wars than the prequel), and... well, I wouldn't put a real spoiler by telling how it ends.

I'd recommend this one, even if it seems to be a bit more sad than I would have wanted (but this is typical for Reynolds anyway). But it is a good story and it has been told lovely.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Luxury items are not necessarily the ones which are better than the cheap stuff; quite often, it is exactly the other way round. It is the fact that certain artefacts are difficult to obtain that turns them into luxury.

Imagine the situation when teleportation has been invented. It will be a luxury to get oneself teleported. But then, it appears that teleportation is way cheaper than moving around by oil-consuming transport. Everybody starts getting teleported everywhere. No travel time is assumed for the employees, no excuses over the late train, flat tyre or even broken heel.

What a luxury might it become then to explore the outside world by car, by bike or even by foot, especially while going to work or back!.. A precious time spent just to relocate yourself physically from point A to point B!..

Saturday, March 22, 2008

On Vox: Орѳографiя

Случайно забредя на дискуссию о тонкостях правописания в русском языке, наткнулась на упоминание о весьма любопытной статье, в которой очень обоснованно и с многочисленными примерами (они в конце статьи - обязательно рекомендую тем, кто будет читать, дойти до них) объясняется, почему отмена дореволюционной орфографии не была таким уж благом для языка. Впечатлилась. Думаю, не перейти ли на дореволюционную орфографию (правда, для этого ее сначала надо выучить).

Основная мысль - упрощение орфографии породило огромное количество омонимов, которые на самом деле таковыми не являются:

у насъ имѣется еще продовольствiе...

Правописанiе: «пока у насъ еще есть, что ѣсть...».
Кривописанiе: «пока еще у нас есть, что есть...».
Безсмыслица: мы имѣемъ то, что имѣется въ наличности.

Единственная проблема - в том, что для большинства читателей уже неясно, какое написание соответствует какому значению: откуда человек, всю жизнь употреблявший новую орфографию, знает, когда пишется "есть", а когда - "ѣсть"?

Однако, меня зацепило :)

Originally posted on