Thursday, December 19, 2013

Ode to Language

Deep branch of the 3 branches of the trigeminal nerve and the nerves of the middle ear - Atlas of Human Anatomy - Bergman et al

More endearingly referred to as the Ode to Douglas Hofstadter, whose "biography will break your spell check"
-Donald Kennedy, introducing Douglas Hofstadter. Presidential Lecture, Stanford University. Uploaded September 10, 2009.

After multiple literary projects over the course of the last few years, and spanning from academic research to speculative fiction; to date, roughly 300 words added to dictionary:



Saturday, November 23, 2013

On Vague Notions of Accuracy

Accuracy is not a reliable metric for the real performance of a classifier, because it will yield misleading results if the data set is unbalanced. -The Internet

Now this is what I call a multivariate frequency distribution chart, in that it barely qualifies as such, hence Art.
(aka - Categorganization)

As it turns out, the concept of a Confusion Matrix is itself so confusing, splitting into entirely different classes of semanticity, that it requires a Confusion Matrix itself in order to be understood. Taking only two of these categories, (or the "machine-learning" and "statistics" disciplines), one can distribute the various names given to the idea of a confusion matrix into four potential states, those being either one discipline, the other, both, or none. Being that "Contingency Table" falls under both, perhaps it is the most apt label for the concept. Other applicable terms include: multi-variate frequency distribution of variables, two-class prediction problem, binary classification, prediction value vs. actual value, instantiation map.

POST SCRIPT: On Theft and Creation in the Digital Age

Ship of Theseus
It seems like you can replace any component of a ship, and it is still the same ship. So you can replace them all, one at a time, and it is still the same ship. However, you can then take all the original pieces, and assemble them into a ship. That, too, is the same ship you began with.

Sorites paradox
aka the new Climate Change paradox: If you remove a single grain of sand from a heap, you still have a heap. Keep removing single grains, and the heap will disappear. Can a single grain of sand make the difference between heap and non-heap?

Monday, October 28, 2013

To See You Staring Back at You

The Uncanny Valley
The uncanny valley is a hypothesis in the field of human aesthetics which holds that when human features look and move almost, but not exactly, like natural human beings, it causes a response of revulsion among human observers.

The "valley" refers to the dip in a graph of the comfort level of humans as subjects move toward a healthy, natural human likeness described in a function of a subject's aesthetic acceptability.

Mori Uncanny Valley Chart
Hypothesized emotional response of human subjects is plotted against anthropomorphism of a robot, following Mori's statements. The uncanny valley is the region of negative emotional response towards robots that seem "almost human". Movement amplifies the emotional response. (MacDorman, 2005)

There is nothing more intriguing than the repulsive: A car-crash, a rotting corpse, a deformed human - of the mental proclivity, particularly. The Uncanny Valley, however, is in another class of revulsion. It rides that fine line, the liminal zone of quasi- quantum- existence, the seat of all things aesthetic, where the tension between beauty and ugly is in not-exactly equilibrium-enough to stay that way, vacillating about its target. Am I irresistibly enthralled, or alarmingly frightened? None, and both; a flickering Necker cube of decision.

Perhaps the power with which the Uncanny Valley toggles our hedonic switch comes from our tendency, or is it our need, to seek ourselves in things that seem like us, in order that we might create ourselves, in our own image. We give animals emotions, we imagine dialogue between the sun and the wind; but most of all, we see ourselves in others. And that is how we make our selves.

Were it not for others, we would not be able to know ourselves. Something about sympathetic mirror neurons, collemulation, or mimetic desire. Catch-up on the mirrorbox. And the source is in the eyes, the windows to see through. But the story is worse than this. Were it not for those windows, we would not be able to create ourselves.

Look into the eyes of a robot, not just any robot, but one that falls just-so into the Valley. What do you really see?

You see yourself in those eyes, because you are human, and that is what we do. But you are afraid. One day, it may be you. All of you. And then what?

Do you want to be the robot, or are you afraid? You can't decide. It is against your program, rather, it has yet to be written. When something of such human-ness exposes itself to you, opening its reservoir of self-ness, you cannot resist. How does it look, the world through those eyes? Is it you? Could it be?

Never? We'll see.

 less creepy
source Anouk Wolse

In 1970 the Japanese roboticist Masahiro Mori published a short paper in the journal Energy where he conjured the term bukimi no tani, or "uncanny valley".

"Understanding the uncanny is neither an entirely subjective nor objective endeavor. Study it long enough, and eventually it makes a study out of you.
-Samuel Weber, professor of philosophy and literature at the European Graduate School

-via: Into the Uncanny Valley
Joe Kloc, Seed Magazine, November 7, 2013

On the Psychology of the Uncanny 
Ernst Jentsch, Translated by Roy Sellars, 1906, pdf

Among all the psychical uncertainties that can become a cause for the uncanny feeling to  arise, there is one in particular that is able to develop a fairly regular, powerful and very general  effect: namely, doubt as to whether an apparently living being really is animate and, conversely,  doubt as to whether a lifeless object may not in fact be animate – and more precisely, when this  doubt only makes itself felt obscurely in one’s consciousness. The mood lasts until these doubts  are resolved and then usually makes way for another kind of feeling. [partly citing Freud's "The Uncanny", p226]

"The Aesthetic of the Real"
Incidentally, it is of considerable interest to see in this example how true art, in wise moderation, avoids the absolute and complete imitation of  nature and living beings, well knowing that such an imitation can easily produce uneasiness: the  existence of a polychrome sculpture in wood and stone does not alter this fact in the least, and nor  does the possibility of somewhat preventing such unpleasant side-effects if this kind of representation is nevertheless chosen.

"Time-Released Self-Induced Psychosis"
The child of nature populates his environment with demons; small children speak in all seriousness to a chair, to their spoon, to an old rag, and so on, hitting out full of anger at lifeless things in order to punish them. Even in highly cultivated Greece, a dryad still lived in every tree. It is therefore not astonishing if that which man himself semi-consciously projected into things from his own being now begins again to terrify him in those very things, or that he is not always capable of exorcising the spirits which were created out of his own head from that very head.

"Latent Animation"
The horror which a dead body (especially a human one), a death’s head, skeletons and similar things cause can also be explained to a great extent by the fact that thoughts of a latent animate state always lie so close to these things. Such a thought may often push its way into consciousness so that it is itself capable of giving the lie to appearance, thereby again setting the
preconditions for the psychical conflict that has been described.

Conclusion: Certainty and Uncertainty
The human desire for the intellectual mastery of one’s environment is a strong one. Intellectual certainty provides psychical shelter in the struggle for existence. However it came to  be, it signifies a defensive position against the assault of hostile forces, and the lack of such  certainty is equivalent to lack of cover in the episodes of that never-ending war of the human and  organic world for the sake of which the strongest and most impregnable bastions of science were  erected.


Robots: Is the uncanny valley real?
Rose Eveleth, 2013 Sept 02
Transference is a phenomenon characterized by unconscious redirection of feelings from one person to another.
Ramachandran vs. The Mirrorbox
Nov 2012

Uncanny Valley Not So Uncanny for Lonely People
Sep 2014

Webcam sex with fake girl Sweetie leads to sentence
BBC News, Oct 2014
[interesting, in direct relation to above - is 'Sweetie' more believable because of the [potentially] 'lonely' people interacting with her]

Realistic robot faces aren't enough – we need emotion to put us at ease with androids, Jun 2015

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Urban Dynamics

 the palimpsest_east-west germany

A mathematical framework for understanding cities: Part social reactor, part network
Jun 20, 2013

New research by Santa Fe Institute Professor Luis Bettencourt suggests a city is something new in nature – a sort of social reactor that is part star and part network, he says.

"A city is first and foremost a social reactor," Bettencourt explains. "It works like a star, attracting people and accelerating social interaction and social outputs in a way that is analogous to how stars compress matter and burn brighter and faster the bigger they are."

Cities are also massive social networks, made not so much of people but more precisely of their contacts and interactions. These social interactions happen, in turn, inside other networks – social, spatial, and infrastructural – which together allow people, things, and information to meet across urban space.

Ultimately, cities achieve something very special as they grow. They balance the creation of larger and denser social webs that encourage people to learn, specialize, and depend on each other in new and deeper ways, with an increase in the extent and quality of infrastructure. Remarkably they do this in such a way that the level of effort each person must make to interact within these growing networks --does not need to grow--.

"The Origins of Scaling in Cities," L.M.A. Bettencourt, Santa Fe Institute
Science, 2013
Provided by Santa Fe Institute

Reading, Riting, Rithmetic

Big Datty

You Are Being Tracked: How License Plate Readers Are Being Used to Record Americans' Movements
American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)
July 17, 2013
[full pdf]

Law enforcement or private companies can construct a virtual fence around a designated geographical area, to identify each vehicle entering that space.

-For example, Tiburon, California has license plate readers monitoring its only two roads that leave the town.

Cyrus Favriar, Rich California Town Considers License Plate Readers For Entire City Limits, Ars Technica (Mar. 5, 2013)
Prime Communications, Corporate Overview, Public Records Responses, p. 3557 [pdf]
ELSAG North America, Geofencing Capabilities of the Mobile Plate Hunter-900, p. 1 (Sept. 14, 2011) [pdf]

License plate data are widely shared in California’s Bay Area through the Northern California Regional Intelligence Center (NCRIC), although the full extent of sharing is not publicly known. According to a May 2012 document, this fusion center’s goal is to collect license plate information from approximately 22 police departments, and grant access to several more. NCRIC maintains a broad mandate for its use of license plate information — in addition to law enforcement, NCRIC maintains that it may use license plate information for the “protection of special events; protection of critical infrastructure; and responding and mapping the license plate landscape of critical events.”

County of San Mateo, NCRIC Answers to Questions Submitted from Potential Vendors, p. 2 (May 22, 2012), at pp. 22737-40. [pdf]

While police departments and government agencies argue that the data they collect will be used only for proper purposes, even the International Association of Chiefs of Police has recognized that pervasive surveillance can have negative chilling effects regardless of its purpose. As it has explained, “The risk is that individuals will become more cautious in the exercise of their protected rights of expression, protest, association, and political participation because they consider themselves under constant surveillance.”

Psychologists have confirmed through multiple studies that people do in fact alter their behavior when they know they are being watched. In one such study, the mere presence of a poster of staring human eyes was enough to significantly change the participants’ behavior.

[but what does digital social media do to condition us on a mass-scale?]

International Association of Chiefs of Police, Privacy Impact Assessment Report for the Utilization of License Plate Readers, p. 13 (2009)
Sander van der Linden, How the Illusion of Being Observed Can Make You a Better Person, Sci. Am. (May 3, 2011)
M. Ryan Calo, People Can Be So Fake: A New Dimension to Privacy and Technology Scholarship, 114 Penn St. L. Rev. p. 809 (2010) [pdf]

[A problem with the 2013 NSA leaks (and, obviously, with the license plate readers mentioned herein), is that what could be perfectly benign, and potentially very beneficial to everyone (i.e. urban surveillance systems for use in 'smart cities'), becomes seriously suspicious. Something like the situation in the late 1960's, when many people were irresponsibly taking LSD and hurting themselves, an entire generation of scientists were stigmatized if they tried to do research using the drug. Today, and henceforth, the suspicion of the public will limit the studying and augmentation of urban information systems.]

exhibit A:
E-ZPass scanners track cars far away from toll plazas
Sept. 09, 2013

Art vs Science

How an Entirely New, Autistic Way of Thinking Powers Silicon Valley
Temple Grandin, Richard Panek, 05.23.13

Vincent van Gogh’s later paintings had all sorts of swirling, churning patterns in the sky — clouds and stars that he painted as if they were whirlpools of air and light. And, it turns out, that’s what they were! In 2006, physicists compared van Gogh’s patterns of turbulence with the mathematical formula for turbulence in liquids. The paintings date to the 1880s. The mathematical formula dates to the 1930s. Yet van Gogh’s turbulence in the sky provided an almost identical match for turbulence in liquid.

Even the seemingly random splashes of paint that Jackson Pollock dripped onto his canvases show that he had an intuitive sense of patterns in nature. In the 1990s, an Australian physicist, Richard Taylor, found that the paintings followed the mathematics of fractal geometry — a series of identical patterns at different scales, like nesting Russian dolls. The paintings date from the 1940s and 1950s. Fractal geometry dates from the 1970s. That same physicist discovered that he could even tell the difference between a genuine Pollock and a forgery by examining the work for fractal patterns.

Monday, September 30, 2013

To Drone or Not to Drone

Semantics is not a game.

Drone industry to journalists: Don't use the word 'drones'
Ben Wolfgang, Washington Times, 2013 Aug 14

Word Up

Brain Translation of Words:An fMRI decoding study of speech recognition
Joao Correia, Milene Bonte, Giancarlo Valente, Lars Hausfeld, Elia Formisano, Bernadette Jansma; Department of Cognitive Neuroscience, Faculty of Psychology and Neuroscience, Maastricht University, and Maastricht Brain Imaging Center (M-BIC), Maastricht, The Netherlands
Neurobiology of Language Conference; San Sebastian, Spain; October 2012

Wegman reading two books

How do we represent the meaning of words independent of the language we are listening to?

This fMRI study investigates the neural network of speech processing responsible for transforming sound to meaning, by exploring the semantic similarities between bilingual wordpairs. Eight native Dutch participants with high proficiency of English listened to four different nouns (animals), either spoken in Dutch or in English.

These nouns were presented in separate runs for each language while participants were asked to detect non-animal targets (11% of the trials) within a list of animal non-target items. Activity patterns elicited by these non-target stimuli was analyzed using Machine learning methods and multivariate classifiers.
Firstly, to identify brain regions generally involved in spoken word processing, we let the classifier discriminate between word pairs within the same language (e.g. bull vs. horse).

Secondly, to isolate language-independent semantic/conceptual representations in these regions, we assessed the ability of multivariate classifiers trained within one language (e.g. bull vs. horse) to generalize to the other language (e.g. the Dutch equivalents ‘stier’ vs. ‘paard’).

The results of our discrimination analysis show that word decoding involves a distributed network of brain regions consistent with the proposed ‘dual-stream model’ (Hickok and Poeppel, 2007). The results of our generalization analysis highlights a focal and specific role of a left anterior temporal area in semantic/concept decoding. Together, these distributed and focal brain activity patterns subserve the extraction of abstract semantic concepts from acoustically diverse English and Dutch words during bilingual speech comprehension.

There is one major drawback to the process, which quashes any visions of a full-on real-time mind translation machine hitting stores anytime soon — the neural activity patterns differed slightly from person to person. Our neurons learn and identify in unique ways, and understanding these pathway patterns through machine learning would be a long process. “You would have to scan a person as they thought their way through a dictionary,” said Matt Davis of the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit in Cambridge. It would be difficult to translate a mind now without this concept map. However, we are only at the beginning of this line of study, and an algorithm could potentially be devised to aggregate hundreds of neural activity patterns to help indicate what the brain activity of an individual unable to communicate represents.

Personality, Gender, and Age in the Language of Social Media: The Open-Vocabulary Approach
H. Andrew Schwartz, Johannes C. Eichstaedt, Margaret L. Kern, Lukasz Dziurzynski, Stephanie M. Ramones, Megha Agrawal, Achal Shah, Michal Kosinski, David Stillwell, Martin E. P. Seligman, Lyle H. Ungar
Sept. 25, 2013

We analyzed 700 million words, phrases, and topic instances collected from the Facebook messages of 75,000 volunteers, who also took standard personality tests, and found striking variations in language with personality, gender, and age. In our open-vocabulary technique, the data itself drives a comprehensive exploration of language that distinguishes people, finding connections that are not captured with traditional closed-vocabulary word-category analyses. Our analyses shed new light on psychosocial processes yielding results that are face valid (e.g., subjects living in high elevations talk about the mountains), tie in with other research (e.g., neurotic people disproportionately use the phrase ‘sick of’ and the word ‘depressed’), suggest new hypotheses (e.g., an active life implies emotional stability), and give detailed insights (males use the possessive ‘my’ when mentioning their ‘wife’ or ‘girlfriend’ more often than females use ‘my’ with ‘husband’ or 'boyfriend’). To date, this represents the largest study, by an order of magnitude, of language and personality.
-via io9

Facts vs Values in Science

Science, performing some social hygiene:
(and using what else but climate change as the primary example)

Better scientific policy decisions start with knowing facts from values, Aug 2013

When gathering public input on policy questions, scientists can speak with authority about facts, but must remember that everyone is an expert when it comes to values.

"Using climate change as an example, a scientist could say, 'The climate is changing.' That's a fact that can be checked," said Thomas Dietz, a member of the MSU Center for Systems Integration and Sustainability (CSIS) and professor of sociology, environmental science and policy, and animal studies.

"But if a scientist says, 'We need to take these actions to halt climate change because it's affecting what people care about,' that's a value. And scientists have no more authority to speak about values than anyone else. Everyone is qualified to speak about values."

Bringing values and deliberation to science communication, Thomas Dietz, 2013
This paper results from the Arthur M. Sackler Colloquium of the National Academy of Sciences, “The Science of Science Communication,” held May 21–22, 2012, at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, DC. The complete program and audio files of most presentations are available on the NAS Web site at

see also:
Anthropogenic Metadata on Climate Science
aka The Low-Hanging Fruit of Neuro-Pop in the Age of Big Datty
July 21, 2013

Collective Decision Making Fail

Field study shows group decision making not always the best
Aug 1, 2013,

team studies ants looking for a new nest:

The team noted that when one of the nests was obviously far superior to the other, both the colony as a whole, and individual ants more often chose the better option. What was surprising, however, was that individuals had a slightly better hit rate then the colony as a whole.

When a colony "decides" it needs a new nest, scout ants are sent out to find a new site. When one of the scout ants finds one it likes, it releases a chemical that attracts another of the colony members. If that member also likes the site it too will release a chemical attracting another ant and so on. The site that gets the most "votes" is the one eventually chosen by the colony. But, when a single ant is forced (by the researchers) to make a decision about which site to pick, it has to look at all the options and make a decision on its own—that takes more time than the multiple ant approach because in that scenario, individual ants only ever review one site—its more efficient. It's also more likely to lead to errors of course and that's why the colony as a whole tended to choose the wrong best site more often than the single ants—when the choice was obvious—who could make the decision without having to waste time thinking it over.

Ant colonies outperform individuals when a sensory discrimination task is difficult but not when it is easy, PNAS, Published online before print July 29, 2013, doi: 10.1073/pnas.1304917110

All Bodies Are Virtual

Adults become more like children in a virtual world
BBC 16 July 2013

In a virtual world adults in a child-like body start to perceive the world more like a child, a study has shown.

Adults were either placed in a virtual four-year-old body or an adult body scaled down to the same size.

It was found that participants in the child's body overestimated the size of objects and identified better with child-like attributes.

Illusory ownership of a virtual child body causes overestimation of object sizes and implicit attitude changes.

source: pnas

Sexualized avatars affect the real world, researchers find
Oct 10, 2013,
A Stanford study shows that after women wear sexualized avatars in a virtual reality world, they feel objectified and are more likely to accept rape myths in the real world. The research could have implications for the role of female characters in video games.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Distal Perception

Zoologist Andrew Parker explains the sudden Cambrian explosion thus: 

The oceans become transparent, revealing a new world, "if only there were eyes to see".

And so, eyeballs, and with it "distal perception" allows action at a distance, or at least, a distance much greater...

via Dan Dennett, on the subject of strategic forecasting etc.

The Predictionary

See below: the methodology alone is a complete mindfuck, and should provide some sense of the nature of scientific studies in the age of big data.

Get ready...

Researchers say readers' identities can reveal much about content of articles
Aug 12, 2013
modified article:

Articles that people share on social networks can reveal a lot about those readers, but a  new study reverses the proposition: What can be learned about an article from the attributes of its readers?

To find out, the CMU researchers, along with colleagues at the University of Washington, analyzed almost 3 million news articles and the public profiles of the people who shared those articles on Twitter.

This enabled them to generate a few thousand "badges" that characterized the content of the shared news articles and also could be used to analyze any subsequent article, including those that had never been shared or even read.

In order to train their model, the team began by looking at three months of tweets—from September of 2010, 2011 and 2012—and selecting those that included links to mainstream news articles and came from a user who had filled out a Twitter profile.

[collect major news outlet's articles that have been tweeted about] 

Each news article was then downloaded and the most meaningful, unique words were extracted, creating a "bag of words" for each article; similar to a visual word cloud, these bags give greater weight to more important words. Likewise, from each user's Twitter profile, a set of descriptive words, or badges, was extracted.

[each article, as well as each twitter-user-profile, gets a weighted wordcloud]

By comparing the bags of words with badges from the people who shared the articles, the researchers were able to create a dictionary that associated each badge with its characteristic words. For example, people who self-identify with the music badge in their profiles are likely to share articles with words such as "band," "album" and "song." Different dictionaries were created for each year to compensate for interests or topics that change over time. These dictionaries were then used to encode new articles, leading to a document representation based on attributes of potential readers.

[the article wordclouds and the user-profile wordclouds of the users who tweeted those articles are cross-correlated to create a "dictionary", or rather a "predictionary", if you will, that predicts who will share what, or what will be shared by whom]

Case Study Example:
New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd had readers who tended to be progressive. This association was notable because Dowd never explicitly uses the word "progressive" in the articles analyzed by the researchers. Rather, the algorithm detected that the words Dowd uses in these articles correspond to the type of content self-described progressives tend to share on Twitter.
-Carnegie Mellon University

Cotard Syndrome

aka Walking Corpse syndrome

rare mental disorder in which people hold a delusional belief that they are dead (either figuratively or literally), do not exist, are putrefying, or have lost their blood or internal organs. In rare instances, it can include delusions of immortality.
-Berrios G.E. and Luque R. (1995) Cotard Syndrome: clinical analysis of 100 cases. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica 91: 185-188

Those who suffer from this illness often deny that they exist or that a certain portion of their body exists.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Swift Quanxi

undersea cable cross-section

E-commerce's future is in creating 'swift guanxi,' or personal and social rapport, 14 Jun 2013
modified article:

online marketplaces can create the sense of personal and social relationships between buyers and sellers, termed "swift guanxi" in China, to facilitate loyalty, interactivity and repeat transactions

Guanxi is a Chinese concept "broadly defined as a close and pervasive interpersonal relationship" and "based on high-quality social interactions and the reciprocal exchange of mutual benefits" (Ou, Pavlou and Davison)

Communication before a transaction of a few dollars could take more than 45 minutes; this is in stark contrast to American marketplace expectations.

"This study validates this warning by showing the ability of social technologies to transform online marketplaces from impersonal transactions among strangers to personal relationships among virtual friends," Pavlou said. "The future of electronic commerce lies in personal relationships virtually enabled by social technologies."

"Swift Guanxi in Online Marketplaces: The Role of Computer-Mediated-Communication Technologies," MIS Quarterly
Professor Paul A. Pavlou, Temple University Fox School of Business; Carol Xiaojuan Ou, Tilburg University; Robert M. Davison, City University of Hong Kong


You ain't fake, until you China-fake
This guy is David Choe btw

Inside the Elaborate Web Presence of the Government's Fake University
Chronicle of Higher Education, April 2016

They made up a fake president with fake tweets about his fake grandmother passing away, where fake students send fake condolences on fake facebook pages. Phew!

Fake US university exposes 'pay-to-stay' immigration fraud
BBC News, April 2016

Alibaba’s Jack Ma: Better-Than-Ever Fakes Worsen Piracy War
Bloomberg, June 2016

Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. founder Jack Ma said Chinese-made counterfeit goods today have gotten better than the genuine article, complicating the effort to root out fakes

China's Copycat Cars Compete With Western Giants
NBC News, May 2016

Gordon Snoddy, a vice-president with Jaguar Land Rover. "We are the authentic premier SUV brand that has been around for a long period of time. I think imitation is the best form of flattery, isn't it?"

Kay Jewelers accused of swapping diamonds with fakes
wreg, May 2015

[and in other 'fake' news]
NYC jury hears details of modern masters forgery scandal
circa 2015

China 'fake exhibit' museum shut down
16 July 2013
A museum in China's Hebei province has shut after many of its exhibits were found to be fakes, state media report.

Reports said millions of dollars were spent building the museum and buying exhibits - the exact amount is unclear.

These included an item which was apparently inscribed with "Made by Huangdi," the Yellow Emperor, who was a legendary sovereign in Chinese tradition.

But the "signature" was written in simplified Chinese characters and dated to about the 27th Century BC, long before such characters were even created.

Chinese zoo tries to pass off a dog as a lion
George Dvorsky, 8/15/13 
A Chinese zoo is under fire for trying to disguise a Tibetan mastiff dog for a lion
Louvre in Paris fears fake Chinese ticket scam
12 September 2013

Medicines Made in India and China Set Off Safety Worries: "China is the source of some of the largest counterfeit manufacturing operations that we find globally."

Artificial snowstorm brings chaos to Beijing - ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

Investigation reveals black market in China for research paper authoring
Nov 29, 2013

Chinese nationals accused of taking SATs for others - BBC News
BBC - May 2015

The US Department of Justice has charged 15 Chinese nationals with developing a scheme to have imposters take university entrance exams.

The prosecutor said that the students also cheated student visa requirements by using counterfeit Chinese passports.

After China’s fake Rolex - now there’s a fake Goldman Sachs
Irish Times, Aug 2015

Who's investigating fake Chinese goods? Fake investigators
Associated Press, Dec 2015

Double Wut

straight-up repost, because it's worth it:
Double Matrix, on Mind Hacks, July 2013
This is quite possibly the least comprehensible abstract of a psychology article I have ever read. It starts off dense and wordy and ends up feeling like you’re huffing butane.
The psychologization of humanitarian aid: skimming the battlefield and the disaster zone. Hist Human Sci. 2011;24(3):103-22. De Vos J.

Humanitarian aid’s psycho-therapeutic turn in the 1990s was mirrored by the increasing emotionalization and subjectivation of fund-raising campaigns. In order to grasp the depth of this interconnectedness, this article argues that in both cases what we see is the post-Fordist production paradigm at work; namely, as Hardt and Negri put it, the direct production of subjectivity and social relations. To explore this, the therapeutic and mental health approach in humanitarian aid is juxtaposed with the more general phenomenon of psychologization.

This allows us to see that the psychologized production of subjectivity has a problematic waste-product as it reduces the human to ‘Homo sacer’, to use Giorgi Agamben’s term. Drawing out a double matrix of a de-psychologizing psychologization connected to a politicizing de-politicization, it will further become possible to understand psycho-therapeutic humanitarianism as a case of how, in these times of globalization, psychology, subjectivity and money are all interrelated.
via PubMed

also see this great explanation for why you think your phone is ringing when it's not

Friday, August 9, 2013

Marijuana, Aliens, and Alzheimer’s

From Contention to Ubiquity

Charlie Behrens –  short film –  Algorithmic Architecture

Start with Marijuana, and that’s Marijuana the idea, not marijuana the substance. It’s been illegal in the United States for a long time. It made its popular culture breakthrough in the 1960’s and was immediately followed by the Reefer Madness campaign, which caused just about every self-respecting parent to steer their kids away from it until about 1990. By this time, a generation passes, and with it the Reefer Madness. Note also that by this time the anti-marijuana campaign has been absorbed by the larger, all-purpose, Anti-Drug campaign where it is grouped together with more dangerous drugs such as cocaine and heroin. In these hospitable conditions, the Legalize It front comes on strong. Yet, it takes more than twenty years for marijuana to begin its descent from criminal-maker to decriminalized.

As we look around, in this year 2013, we see that although the Legalize It force seems to grow stronger, its entire context has shifted. Not only has the timespan of a generation wiped out the memory of Reefer Madness, but in other ways, practically unpredictable in the 1990’s, a resonating reconfiguration of the cultural matrix makes Legalize It almost obsolete.

The first of these coincidences relates to the Back-to-Nature movement (the one responsible for beards, backyard chickens and a resurgence in taxidermy). Part New Age, part WebMD and part Healthcare Reform, people are ready, willing, and able to use natural drugs to cure their ailments. It is readily apparent that the Legalize It dialog has changed drastically, yet somehow imperceptibly according to a general publicpoint-of-view. The dialog is no longer legal-illegal, but recreational-medicinal. The resolution, the conclusion of the Marijuana Dialog Proper is foregone, and in its place a less contentious polarization. Contentious enough, however, to maintain public interest, and related enough to still be identified as part of the Marijuana Dialog.

The outcome of the dialog will take one of two positions: 1. It will become legal for medical use, which isn’t exactly “legal” by definition of the dialog proper, or 2. It will become fully legal, although it will not be called such, because in order to denote legal status within the new context, it must be disambiguated, or referred to instead as ‘legal for recreational use’.

This is not, though it may seem, a semantics game, but an investigation of ideas, and one can’t think about ideas unless they have names, i.e. semantic identities. Over time, however, it seems that either ideas disown their identification, or they never existed in the first place. There are more subtle adjustments in the way an idea, or a debate play out over time. These could be called exogenous because they come from a space close-to but outside-of the dialog proper. They have an effect nonetheless on how we engage in the debate, and it is because of their exogenous quality that we often neglect their impact.

Google Earth Glitch Art, via Vice

Enter, separately, Prescription Drugs and Synthetic Drugs. Today, doctors are being investigated for writing painkiller prescriptions illegally – behaving as drug dealers essentially. All this in light of a statewide drug investigation in New Jersey, due to a marked increase in drug use – prescription drugs, that is, especially the ones analogous to heroin, since that makes it part of the larger drug culture as it is understood. Compared to this portent of pharmaceutical remedies and abuses (what could be considered part of the separate Big Pharma Dialog), marijuana seems benign.

Synthetic THC was sort-of legal for about one year, and not because law enforcement was unaware of it, but because the substance didn't fit under the law – it’s not THC, but the law says “THC”, not “THC-like”, not even one that is so -like that it has only one molecule out of place. Yet, this substance, which was legal by default was sending kids to the hospital, or at least into temporary psychosis, something real, regular THC is not likely to do. If our law can’t keep up with the synthetic drugs, and they are much more damaging than their natural illegal counterparts, why not just make it legal. At this point, another thread of the dialog proper has been frayed and twisted away.

Debates such as this are never fully resolved; they are instead absorbed into the larger cultural matrix, rendered asunder, and redistributed until they can barely be recognized. I do not mean to discount human agency, but to change the way in which we engage with the Dialog, and more importantly, with how we think about the Dialog. At least we must question whether or not we are wasting time and energy articulating dialogs which no longer exist with us.

Google Earth Glitch Art Gallery

Moving on, to higher ground: Aliens
The Aliens Dialog seems fairly simple – do they exist, or do they not. The very concept as we know it today comes from (believe it or not) turn-of-the-century science fiction, which by the 1930’s evolved into the little green men of Welles’ Wells’ War of the Worlds. Ever since, Aliens have been a convenient answer to many of the world’s unsolved mysteries, as well as a source of highly imaginative fantasy. Anyone with an active imagination speculates on the day when we have some in-your-face evidence on the existence of aliens. But, as it turns out, our imagination is apparently no match for the possible expressions of the Aliens Dialog that science has been throwing our way.

What is this; life has been found in a lake, timecapsuled under four miles of ice, experiencing pressures and temperatures that are more Europa-like than Earth. What say you now, Aliens? And this; molecules capable of creating life-building amino acids can themselves be created in a comet in outer-space-like conditions. Or this; exoplanets by the week. Or this; by reverse engineering the rate of acceleration of genetic complexification, the zero-point of origin comes out at 9 billion years, five more than Earth’s existence. And let’s not forget synthetic life. And finally, in developing biosignatures for use in space exploration, some things are forcing us to seriously rethink what life is: Apparently, all that is needed to be called “life” is a particular frequency distribution of essential amino acids. Unless, of course, you would rather import the topics of artificial intelligence and algorithmic automation into the debate, in which case you would be forced to consider their processes of competition, cooperation and evolution that seem to emulate what we might call life.

At this point, the Aliens Dialog has become so faceted and nuanced that by the time we can answer the yes-no question, it won’t even exist with us. All of the above examples are exogenous in that they have come not from within the Aliens Dialog, but from completely unsolicited, relatively unrelated dialogs of their own. The search for exoplanets isn’t looking for aliens, per se, but only Earth-like places in our galaxy. Biosignatures are not to help us discover aliens, but only to expand our definition of what life is, so that we can refine our technical recourse. None of these things help or hinder the resolution of the Aliens debate. What they certainly do, is to distort, to obfuscate the dialog until it settles into a cold, moot state in the memories of a generation that once cared about its outcome. There is no outcome.

Google Earth Glitch Art Gallery

Finally, closer to home: The Body Dialog
It’s really not a dialog as of yet, except for hardcore cyberpunk enthusiasts, blue sky research groups, and anyone working with neural interface systems. But it’s coming, inevitably, and here we will, despite its mind-bogglingly ostentatious preposterousness, attempt to predict its eventual disappearance into ubiquity.

The Body dialog, being that it isn’t fully formed yet, goes something like this: Your body determines who you are to the extent that it has a physical existence which can be located and analyzed objectively, that is to say, consensually. But you are more than just your body; this “more” is your mind. The Mind is non-physical, which makes it harder for people to agree on what it is, where it is, etc. Because we can’t objectively observe, via the hard sciences, the nature of the Mind, any theory of self which incorporates the mind becomes non-falsifiable. This disrupts the intuitive notion that self should be determined by the body at all. Hence, the Body Dialog: Can we continue to exist as individuals without a body to serve as locus for the self?

Advances in neural interfaces, in all manner of prostheses, in any cognitive studies, in machine learning, and in neuroscience in general; are amassing into this meme-set we call here the Body Dialog (conditioned by the more public discourse on virtual identity and digital existence).

To what extent is our self determined by our body, and to what extent can we remove our selves form our bodies while still remaining ourself? It sounds preposterous, as it tends to be at first. Then comes the contentious phase. We are slowly entering that now, in 2013, and will be in full swing within the decade’s end. By 2050, the Body Dialog will no longer exist, and yet some chimerical form of it will keep the illusion continuous for some time after.

We can see its bifurcation from the dialog proper, because it’s already among us: Alzheimer’s is sad, there is no doubt. It dismantles your brain, module by module, if you will, until it becomes questionable as to whether you are still you. The wave of psychological disorders which is slated for the coming generation of aging Americans announces the beginning of a shift in the entire context of the Body Dialog. As a generation interacts with the mental deterioration of their elderly, the concept of self, in relation to the body, becomes so fuzzy that the envelope we use to separate life from death becomes less rigid, and as the means to manipulate it become more accessible, so grows our willingness to use it.

-A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.
-Max Plank, Scientific Autobiography, p151

Google Earth Glitch Art Gallery

Ideas change over time, making it difficult to maintain meaningful dialog about popular issues. This disguised metamorphosis, an ontological distortion, seems to happen to the idea itself, but it is better understood as a massive reconfiguration of the entire idea-space.

-The paradigm shift does not change the world …it changes the scientist. (Thomas Kuhn, 1962, p121)

In some instances it becomes readily apparent that it is not the idea itself that remains constant. The idea only exists as a product of the network in which it is embedded. Its entire identification is an illusion, required by consciousness: for how could we debate and discuss, support and deny, prove and disprove an idea throughout time if we didn’t give it a sturdy, solid form?

-Just because it did not involve the introduction of additional objects or concepts, the transition from Newtonian to Einsteinian mechanics illustrates with particular clarity, the scientific revolution as a displacement of the conceptual network through which scientists view the world. (p102)

Newsworthy topics of our time can serve as an example. When we talk about a popular subject, such as marijuana use, we address it as a dialog. In the beginning, when the dialog is “hot”, it polarizes, or in a more imaginative way, it superimposes on two possible expressions. But as the dialog cools down, it bifurcates, seeking out slightly less contentious alternatives for expression.

-Problems are anticipated well in advance, so they come as less of a surprise, until they start to come from everywhere; then you have a crisis, and then paradigm shift, and it doesn’t happen until it has to. (~p75)

The Dialog, clear and guttural at first, becomes nothing but a thousand whispers. At this point, though the Dialog is still unresolved in the explicit sense, its superpositions have all collapsed unnoticeably into benign ubiquity; homeostasis.

Google Earth Glitch Art Gallery

But there is more to the story than thermal equilibrium analogies. Enter the illusion of memetic transmutation. In these so-called Dialogs, two opposing memetic configurations use the same meme-sets but articulate them differently, thus altering their meaning. Both sides of the Marijuana Dialog Proper, for example, use the same memotypes of the mental world, of self-control (or lack thereof), of exploration (and its dangers) but they impart different ~emotional values to each, in a collaboration that makes both sides distinct.

-Since new paradigms are born from old ones, they ordinarily incorporate much of the vocabulary and apparatus…. …Within the new paradigm, old terms, concepts, and experiments fall into new relationships one with the other.” (p149)

Over time, it is not the dialog that changes, per se, it is the opposing configurations that create its distinct expressions, for they become mixed and mangled so thoroughly with outside memes, side conversations and surprises, that even the means by which we might address them will have vanished.

-Although the strategies and techniques may remain the same, it is the world itself which has changed. (p111)

The opposing sides of the dialog are reconfigured to be accessible to the largest number of belief constructs available. Different configurations will be more easily accepted by different people, who all use different belief constructs to filter, organize and engage with the dialog.

It is in these kinds of value modifiers within the different configurations, or narrative cues as we might call them, where the interest lies. The two opposing views on marijuana use may be using the same meme-sets to an extent. But each view has a subset of modifiers whose job it is not to inform content, but to adjust emotional response.

In time, as the Dialog cools down, these seemingly unimportant value modifiers are exposed and become quasi expressions of the Dialog Proper, a distraction, an obfuscation. When enough value modifiers are exploited, the Dialog Proper ceases to exist with us.

-There is never any single argument that can or should persuade them all. Rather than a single group conversion, what occurs is an increasing shift in the distribution of professional allegiances. (p158)

Yet , we may continue to engage in the Dialog, not fully realizing its absorption into the cultural vortex; that which feeds on our contentious debates today, and tomorrow spits out predictive discoveries, benign policy stipulations, and pop-music lyrics.

Google Earth Glitch Art Gallery

In 1962, Thomas Kuhn wrote Structures of Scientific Revolution, wherein he surveyed the paradigm shifts that occur in the scientific discipline: A complex process, no doubt. Though Kuhn’s Structures deals specifically with Science, there are to be found in his work prescient thoughts as they relate to the coding, transmission and distortion of ideas by the general public. The same expressions, explanations, descriptions and observations presented by Kuhn in the arena of Science, remain useful still in the greater mess of the public psyche.

-Thomas S. Kuhn. The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. 1962.
second edition 1970, International Encyclopedia of Unified Science, volume 2, number2

Google Earth Glitch Art Gallery

Our Blue Marble 3-2013

Google Earth Glitch Art Gallery
Semantics Lugubrious
Cultivorous exploitation of low-density, value modifying narrative agents in the “distortion” of meme-set reconfiguration [via the cultural vortex]

Google Earth Glitch Art, via Vice

Charlie Behrens –  short film –  Algorithmic Architecture

Deep sea 'mushroom' may be new branch of life - BBC News - Sep 2014

Wednesday, August 7, 2013


AKA The Food Network

Aldrich's Organoleptic Properties Index

There is only one chemical used to make the flavor of bacon.

This is "bacon", surrounded by all the other flavors that use that same chemical-flavor.

To put it another way: the chemical that is used to make 'bacon flavor' is also used to make 'vanilla', 'jasmine', and 'clove', among others (including whiskey, which for some reason is not showing up).

Take a minute to play with this network graph - a compendium of flavors and fragrances and the relationships between them, using Aldrich's catalog of over 1000 chemicals.

(check out a youtube tutorial on how to use the network graphs if it seems too confusing)

Aldrich's Organoleptic Properties Index

Monday, July 1, 2013

Quantum Language

Until it Means Nothing
...a democratic term, to avoid damning soon as it begins to mean anything to anyone, they'll change it. "The idea seems to be: use an expression as long as it doesn't mean anything to anyone."
-Flowers for Algernon, Daniel Keyes, 1959, p106

Our ambiguous world of words
May 31, 2013

Ambiguity in language poses the greatest challenge when it comes to training a computer to understand the written word.

Although words with multiple meanings give English a linguistic richness, they can also create ambiguity: drawing a gun could mean pulling out a firearm or illustrating a weapon.

We can navigate through this potential confusion because our brain takes into account the context surrounding words and sentences, but, for computers, so-called lexical ambiguity poses a major challenge.

"Computers are hopeless at disambiguation"

"It turns out that there are interesting links between quantum physics, quantum computing and linguistics," said Clark. "In the same way that quantum mechanics seeks to explain what happens when two quantum entities combine, Mehrnoosh and I wanted to understand what happens to the meaning of a phrase or sentence when two words or phrases combine."

The 'distributional' approach to language modeling focuses on the meanings of the words themselves, and the principle that meanings of words can be worked out by considering the contexts in which words appear in text. "We build up a geometric space, or a cloud, in which the meanings of words sit. Their position in the cloud is determined by the sorts of words you find in their context. So, if you were to do this for dog and cat, you would see many of the same words in the cloud – pet, vet, food – because dog and cat often occur in similar contexts."

Dr. Stephem Clark, the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and the European Research Council, Bob Coecke, Professor of Quantum Foundations, Logics and Structures at the University of Oxford, and Dr Mehrnoosh Sadrzadeh, Queen Mary (University of London), who works on the applications of logic to computer science and linguistics.

Small differences in how a technology is defined can make a big difference in how the public feels about it
March 11, 2013

Even small tweaks in how scientists describe scientific breakthroughs can significantly change how the public perceives their work, a new study indicates. Researchers found that showing individuals different definitions of nanotechnology led to differences in how strongly the subjects supported this emerging area of science and in their motivation to learn more about it.

Participants in the University of Wisconsin-Madison study were given one of three definitions, each of which framed nanotechnology differently.

The researchers found that if the definition highlighted nanotechnology's useful applications, readers were more likely to support nanotechnology but weren't motivated to gather more information. If the definition focused on risks and benefits, readers were more interested in learning more but less likely to support nanotechnology.

"Changing the definition did not change the attitudes toward the technology for those who had a college degree in science," Brossard says. "It did, however, make a difference among those who have a college degree in a non-science-related field and those who do not have a college degree. And different definitions impacted these groups' motivation to learn more in different ways."
-Dominique Brossard, UW-Madison professor of life sciences communication.
This work appears in the Journal of Nanoparticle Research, provided by the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University
May 10, 2013

As an 11-year-old, he had been fascinated by the flame on the end of a candle. When he asked his teacher what a flame was, she replied only: “Oxidation.” That answer meant nothing to him. In his editorial, Alda challenged scientists to do a better job of explaining a flame to an 11-year-old.

“Our aspiration is to become the first university in the nation to offer training in communications to all of our science and health graduate students”

“Alan’s insight is at the heart of our approach, which uses improvisation, story-telling and clear, vivid language to help scientists share the beauty and meaning of their work.”

On Social Contagion

aka The Clap

Clapping reveals applause is a 'social contagion'
Rebecca Morelle, BBC, 18 June 2013

The quality of a performance does not drive the amount of applause an audience gives, a study suggests.

Instead scientists have found that clapping is contagious, and the length of an ovation is influenced by how other members of the crowd behave.

They say it takes a few people to start clapping for applause to spread through a group, and then just one or two individuals to stop for it to die out.

"The pressure comes from the volume of clapping in the room rather than what your neighbour sitting next to you is doing," explained Dr Richard Mann, from the University of Uppsala.

"You have this social pressure to start (clapping), but once you've started there's an equally strong social pressure not to stop, until someone initiates that stopping."

The Swedish study is published in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface.

Emotional response to climate change influences whether we seek or avoid further information May 15, 2013

Yang says, "Our key variables of interest were 'information seeking' and 'information avoidance.'

Those who had negative feelings toward climate change – feelings marked by states of fear, depression, anxiety, etc., – actively sought more information about climate change. They also saw climate change as having serious risks, and considered their current knowledge about it insufficient.

Those driven by a positive affect toward climate change – an emotional state marked by hopefulness, excitement, happiness, etc. – actively avoided exposure to additional information on the issue. They also said climate change presented little risk to nature and humans, and they viewed their knowledge about climate change as sufficient.

Our social environment has the potential to strongly influence whether we seek or avoid climate change information. This, the researchers say, may be because we are most often around people who agree with us about important issues, reinforce our perception of risk and support or discourage further action.

The study, "What, Me Worry? The Role of Affect in Information Seeking and Avoidance" was conducted by Z. Janet Yang, PhD, assistant professor of communication at UB, and Lee Ann Kahlor, PhD, associate professor of public relations and advertising at UT Austin. It was published in the April 2013 issue of the journal Science Communication.