Trying To Think
Thursday, November 25, 2004
Change - Eight Lectures on the I Ching
- Hellmut Wilhelm, PL 2464.Z7.W513

To be aware of what is constant in the flux of natures and life is the first step in abstract thinking ... the concept of constancy in change provides the first guarantee of meaningful action (p23)

The Creative and the Receptive are indeed the gateway to the Changes. The Creative is the representation of light things and the Receptive of dark things. In that the natures of the dark and light are joined, the firm and the yielding receive form. (p31)

The Book of Changes contains the measure of heaven and earth; therefore it enables us to comprehend the tao of heaven and earth and its order.
Looking upward we contemplate with its help the signs in the heavens; looking down, we examine the lines of the earth. Thus we come to know the circumstances of the dark and the light. Going back to the beginnings of things and pursuing them to the end, we come to know the lessons of birth and death. The union of seed and power produces all things; the escape of the soul brings about change. Through this we come to know the conditions of outgoing and returning spirits.
Since in this way man comes to resemble heaven and earth, he is not in conflict with them. His wisdom embraces all things, and his tao brings order into the whole world; therefore he does not err. He is active everywhere but does not let himself be carried away. He rejoices in heaven and has knowledge of fate, therefore he is free of care. He is content with his circumstances and genuine in his kindness, therefore he can practice love.
In it are included the forms and the scope of everything in the heavens and on earth, so that nothing escapes it. In it all things everywhere are completed, so that none is missing. Therefore by means of it we can penetrate the tao of day and night, and so understand it. Therefore the spirit is bound to no one place, nor the Book of Changes to any one form.
(I, 315-19, quoted on p69)

It is important to think of this representation as very concrete. Today we tend to speak of “symbols” in such a context, each person varying at will the distance between the symbol and the thing symbolized. In a magical world view, however, such as the one which has left its impress on the oldest stata of our book, a thing and its image are identical. (p35)

This attempt to view the totality of changing phenomena in terms of such a strict law of form may appear strange to us. The fact, however, that nature lends itself more easily to such systemizations than does the human mind is witnessed – to cite one example – by the arrangement, as rigid as natural, of the elements in the unbroken order of their atomic numbers. The occasional gaps, it became clear, were to be attributed to the state of chemical research and not to defects in the system. (p49)

The clouds pass and the rain does its work, and all individual beings flow into their forms.
(II, 3, quoted on p51)

He who is noble and has no corresponding position, he who stands high and has no following, he who has able peple under him who do not have his support, that man will have cause for regret at every turn.
(II, 16, quoted on p58)

The cosmos was not yet strange to him; it was not the subject of a specialised science; he lived in direct contact with the law of change, and the images were at hand, out of the store of ideas offered by the time and a living tradition. (p65)

Where disorder develops, words are the first steps. If the prince is not discreet, he loses his servant. If the servant is not discrete, he loses his life. If germinating things are not handled with discretion, the perfecting of them is impeded. Therefore the superior man is careful to maintain silence and does not go forth.
(I, 248, quoted on p71)

Natural-Born Cyborgs
Natural-Born Cyborgs (Andy Clark, T14.5.C58/2003)

The more closely the smart world becomes tailored to an individual’s specific needs, habits and preferences, the harder it will become to tell where that person stops and this tailer-made, co-evolving smart world begins. (p30)

Well-fitted transparent technologies have the potential to impact what we feel capable of doing, where we feel we are located, and what kinds of problems we find ourselves capable of solving. (p34)

Study of chimps: those who learnt to use plastic tokens to stand for objects were able to solve problems that other chimps were not (p70)

The whole imposing edifice of human science itself is testimony, I believe, to the power and scope of this species of cognitive shortcut (p71-72)

There is, to be sure, a kind of low grade, approximate numerical sensibility that is probably innate and that we share with infants and other animals. Such a capacity allows us to judge that there are one, two, three, or many items present, and to judge that one array is greater than another. But the capacity to know that 25 + 376 is precisely 401 depends, Dehaene et al. argue, upon the operation of distinct, culturally inculcate, and language-specific abilities. (p72)


J. Elman “Learning and Development in Neural Networks: The Importance of Starting Small”, Cognition, 48 (1994): 71-99

S. Fahlman and C. Lebiere, “the Cascade-Correlation Learning Architecture”, in Advances in Neural Information Processing Systems 2, ed. D Touretzky (1990)

C. Thornton, Truth from Trash (MIT Press, 2000)

Languages of Art
An Approach to a Theory of Symbols
- Nelson Goodman, BH301.S8.G6/1976

The artist’s task in representing an object before him is to decide what light rays, under gallery conditions, will succeed in rendering what he sees. This is not a matter of copying but of conveying. (p14)

The measure of realism is habitation, but descriptions do not become descriptions by habitation. The most commonplace nouns of English have not become pictures. (p41)

Representation is thus disengaged from perverted ideas of it as an idiosyncratic physical process like mirroring, and is recognized as a symbolic relationship that is relative and variable. (p43)

With representation and expression alike, certain relationships become firmly fixed for certain people by habit; but in neither case are these relationships absolute, universal, or immutable (p50)

With progressive loss of its virility as a figure of speech, a metaphor becomes not less but more like literal truth. What vanishes is not its veracity but its vivacity. Metaphors, like new styles of representation, become more literal as their novelty wanes. (p68)

In metaphor … a term with an extension established by habit is applied elsewhere under the influence of that habit; there is both departure from and deference to the precedent. When one use of a term precedes and informs another, the second is the metaphorical one. As time goes on, the history may fade and the two uses tend to achieve equality and independence; the metaphor freezes, or rather evaporates, and the residue is a pair of literal uses – mere ambiguity instead of metaphor. (p71)

The shifts in range that occur in metaphor, then, usually amount to no mere distribution of family goods but to an expedition abroad. A whole set of alternative labels, a whole apparatus of organization, takes over new territory. What occurs is a transfer of a schema, a migration of concepts, an alienation of categories. Indeed, a metaphor might be regarded as a calculated category-mistake – or rather as a happy and revitalizing, even if bigamous, second marriage. (p73)

Whatever reverence may be felt for classes or attributes, surely classes are not moved from realm to realm, nor are attributes somehow extracted from some objects and inserted into others. Rather a set of terms, of alternative labels, is transported; and the organization they effect in the alien realm in guided by their habitual use in the home realm. (p74)

The incessant use of metaphor springs not merely from the love of literary color by also from urgent need of economy. If we could not readily transfer schemata to make new sortings and orderings, we should have to burden ourselves with unmanageably many different schemata, either by adoption of a vast vocabulary of elementary terms or by prodigious elaboration of composite ones. (p80)

In effect, the fact that a literary work is in a definite notation, consisting of certain signs or charatacters that are to be combined by concatenation, provides the means for distinguishing the properties constitutive of the work from all contingent properties - that is, for fixing the required features and the limits of permissible variation in each. Merely by determining that the copy before us is spelled correctly we can determine that it meets all requirements for the work in question. In painting, on the contrary, with no such alphabet of characters, none of the pictorial properties - none of the properties the picture has as such - is distinguished as constitutive; no such feature can be dismissed as continguent, and no deviation as insignificant. (p116)

Initially, perhaps, all arts are autographic. Where the works are transitory, as in signing or reciting, or require many persons for their production, as in architecture and symphonic music, a notation may be devised in orider to transcend the limitations of time and the individual. This involves establishing a distinction between the constitutive and the contingent properties of the work. (pg 121)

When there is a theoretically decisive test for determining that an object has all the constitutive properties of the work in question without determining how or by whom the work was produced, there is no requistite history of production and hence no forgery of a given work. Such a test is provided by a suitable notational system with an articulate set of characters and of relative positions for them. (pg 122)

That the characters must thus be disjoint may not seem very important or striking; but it is an absolutely essential and, I think, rather remarkable feature of notations. (pg 133)

The syntactic requirements of disjointness and of finite differentiation are clearly independent of each other. The first but not the second is satisfied by the scheme of classification of straight marks that counts every difference in length, however small, as a difference of character. The second but not the first is satisfied by a scheme where all inscriptions are conspicuously different by some two characters have at least one inscription in common. (pg 137)

A symbol scheme is analog if syntactically dense; a system is analog if syntactically and semantically dense. Analog systems are thus both syntactically and semantically undifferentiated in the extreme: for every character there are infinitely many others such for the some mark, we cannot possibly determine that the mark does not belong to all, and such that for some object we cannot possibly determine that the object does not comply with all. ... A digital scheme, in constrast, is discontinuous throughout; and in a digital system the characters of such a scheme are one-one correlated with compliance-classes of a similarly discontinuous set ... To be digital a system must be not merely discontinuous but differentiated throughout, syntactically and semantically. If ... it is also unambiguous and syntactically and semantically disjoint, it will therefore be notational. (p160-1)

If the subject matter is antecedently atomized, we tend to adopt an articulate symbol scheme and a digital system. Or if we are predisposed to to apply an available articulate symbol scheme to a previously undifferentiated field, we try to provide the symbols with with differentiated compliance-classes by dividing, combining, deleting; the fractional quantities not registered by our meter tend to be disregarded, and the smallest units it discriminates to be taken as the atomic units of what is measured. Should a prior structuring authoritatively resist such surgery, we may lay aside our articulate symbol scheme and turn to an analog system. (p162-3)

You see no experiment can be repeated exactly. There will always be something different ... What it comes to when you say you repeat an experiment is that you repeat all the features of an experiment which a theory determines are relevant. In other words you repeat the experiment as an example of the theory. (Sir George Thomson, quoted on p177)

Thursday, November 04, 2004
Some sort of contest?
"Apparently there was some kind of contest last night. We hope that guy sings "She Bangs" in that funny voice won."

- http://www.wonkette.com/archives/while-we-were-sleeping-well-technically-we-were-passed-out-again-024896.php

Wednesday, November 03, 2004
Getting Things Done (1)
In knowledge work .. the task is not given; it has to be determined. ... There is usually no right answer; there are choices instead. And results have to be clearly specified, if productivity is to be acheived.
Most often, the reason something is "on your mind" is that you want it to be different than it currently is, and yet:
- you haven't clarified exactly what the intended outcome is
- you haven't decided what the very next physical action step is, and/or
- you haven't put reminders of the outcome and the action required in a system you trust

Things rarely get stuck because of the lack of time. They get stuck because the doing of them has not been defined. (pg19)

Tuesday, November 02, 2004
neural networks
... can be thought of as partitioning a space. Each input node of the NN is a dimension of the space; for any given array of input values, we have a point in the space. The outputs of the NN divide up this space, and so the point will exist in one (or more) regions.
All a NN does is map input values to output values. All this description does is create a visualisation of mapping.
Internal representations: these can be thought of in the same way, simply by taking hidden nodes instead of output nodes. But this is not what I want to do - I want to create "objects" or "pictures" that can be thought to mediate the mappings.
Modularity: an important assumption in Cog Sci is that mental processes (and in particular, the abtract mental modules we theorize about) are modular. This seems to be the case, or at least we have theories of mind (folk and scientific) that are modular and have some success.
But how can we modularise a NN? Can we look at it (or its behaviour) and deduce functional modules, or can we only take a functional stance towards the behaviour as a whole (following Dennett - does he address the idea of modularisation in his talk of stances?).

eg. a NN may say words aloud, following the grammatical and ad-hoc rules of English. We can break this function up into modules, and brain damage in humans show that different modules may be independantly impaired.
Must the NN also have these modules, or may they be distributed through the NN? If the latter (which seems likely), then is it incorrect to modularise the NNs reading, even if it is functionally the same as ours? It would not show the same patterns of damage, but wouldn't the same modular theory of mind apply?
Even worse, the NN must be physical sub-structures, which can be considered as functional modules. These might not be the same functional modules as we have. And so the same function (reading words aloud) should be modularised differently?

What this might all mean: we have intuitions about how our minds should be modularised. These intiutions (generally) are based on modules that happen to exist, simply because of the idiosyncratic development of our brains, and have no deeper significance. (of course, there might be only a small number of possible ways for a brain to develop, given the tasks that it has to perform. There might be a natural modularisation in the task itself, which the brain might as well mirror. If this is the case, then the NN that reads words aloud would probably show the same functional modules, if it is allowed to develop in a similar way to our brains)
to do: think of some examples.

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