Sunday, August 30, 2015

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Wisdom Of The Week

Professor Ashok Goel shares the much need optimism on the future of AI:

Many philosophers and scientists assert that ethics are a part of intelligence. Human intelligence and ethics have gradually co-evolved into higher ethical values such as the Gandhian notion of non-violence. Thoughtful science fiction writers such as Arthur C. Clarke have made similar observations about extra-terrestrial intelligence: if we ever do encounter superhuman aliens in the years and decades ahead, Clarke has argued, they too will have superhuman ethics and likely will be benevolent towards humans.

The same arguments apply to AI: if robots ever do evolve into superhuman intelligence, they likely would have superhuman ethics, too. Like most humans, they will have learned from experience that it is useful to be ethical because it aids cooperation and robots are valued for their collaboration and productivity. They too will have emotional needs to be accepted and admired, and they too will feel the pressure of social rules and cultural norms. Intelligence, ethics and values, emotions and feelings, society and culture, all go together.

There is little prospect for human-level or superhuman intelligence in a society or a species without correspondingly high-level ethics, emotions, and culture – a point that many critics of future AI miss.

Quote of the Day

There are ultimately only two possible adjustments to life; one is to suit our lives to principles; the other is to suit principles to our lives. If we do not live as we think, we soon begin to think as we live. The method of adjusting moral principles to the way men live is just a perversion of the order of things.

- Fulton J. Sheen

Friday, August 28, 2015

Quote of the Day

I feel I change my mind all the time. And I sort of feel that's your responsibility as a person, as a human being – to constantly be updating your positions on as many things as possible. And if you don't contradict yourself on a regular basis, then you're not thinking.

- Malcolm Gladwell

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Quote of the Day

Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.

- Leo Tolstoy

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Quote of the Day

Have patience with everything that remains unsolved in your heart. in the question.

- Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet (Modern Library)

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Quote of the Day

We are always haunted by the myth of our potential, of what we might have it in ourselves to be or do… We share our lives with the people we have failed to be.


Our lives become an elegy to needs unmet and desires sacrificed, to possibilities refused, to roads not taken. The myth of our potential can make of our lives a perpetual falling-short, a continual and continuing loss, a sustained and sometimes sustaining rage.

- Missing Out: In Praise of the Unlived Life by Adam Phillips

Monday, August 24, 2015

Quote of the Day

One lesson of history is that religion has many lives, and a habit of resurrection. How often in the past have God and religion died and been reborn! . . . Atheism ran wild in the India of Buddha's youth, and Buddha himself founded a religion without a god; after his death Buddhism developed a complex theology including gods, saints, and hell.

The Lessons of History by Will and Ariel Durant

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Aerosolve - The Secret of Airbnb’s Pricing Algorithm

To get an idea of the problem we faced, consider three different situations.

Imagine you had lived in Brazil during the last football (soccer) World Cup. Your hometown will see a huge influx of travelers from all over the world, all united by the greatest football tournament on the planet. You have a spare room in your house, and you want to meet other football lovers and make some extra cash.

For our tool to help you figure out a price, there were a few factors to consider. First, this was a once-in-a-generation event in that country, so we at Airbnb have absolutely no historical data to look at. Second, every hotel was sold out, so clearly there was a massive imbalance between supply and demand. Third, the people coming to visit already had paid immense sums for their tickets and international travel, so they’d probably be prepared to pay a lot for a room. All of that had to be considered in addition to the obvious parameters of size, number of rooms, and location.


The overall architecture of our tool was surprisingly simple to figure out: When a new host begins adding a space to our site, our system extracts what we call the key attributes of that listing, looks at other listings with the same or similar attributes in the area, finds those that are being successfully booked, factors in demand and seasonality, and bases a price tip from the median there.

The tricky part began when we tried to figure out what, exactly, the key attributes of a listing are. No two listings are the same in design or layout, there are listings in every corner of a city, and many aren’t just apartments or houses but castles and igloos. We decided that our tool would use three major types of data in setting prices: similarity, recency, and location.


These tools are generating price tips for Airbnb properties globally today. But we think it can do a lot more than just better inform potential hosts as they choose prices for their online rentals. That’s why we’ve released the machine-learning platform on which it’s based, Aerosolve, as an open-source tool. It will give people in industries that have yet to embrace machine learning an easy entry point. By clarifying what the system is doing, it will remove the fear factor and increase the adoption of these kinds of tools. So far, we’ve used it to build a system that produces paintings in a pointillist style. We’re eager to see what happens with this tool as creative engineers outside of our industry start using it.

-More Here

Quote of the Day

I don't know what my calling is, but I want to be here for a bigger reason. I strive to be like the greatest people who have ever lived.

- Will Smith

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Wisdom Of The Week

Our natural way of thinking about these standard emotions is that the mental perception of some fact excites the mental affection called the emotion, and that this latter state of mind gives rise to the bodily expression. My thesis on the contrary is that the bodily changes follow directly the PERCEPTION of the exciting fact, and that our feeling of the [p.190] same changes as they occur IS the emotion. Common sense says, we lose our fortune, are sorry and weep; we meet a bear, are frightened and run; we are insulted by a rival, are angry and strike. The hypothesis here to be defended says that this order of sequence is incorrect, that the one mental state is not immediately induced by the other, that the bodily manifestations must first be interposed between, and that the more rational statement is that we feel sorry because we cry, angry because we strike, afraid because we tremble, and not that we cry, strike, or tremble, because we are sorry, angry, or fearful, as the case may be. Without the bodily states following on the perception, the latter would be purely cognitive in form, pale, colourless, destitute of emotional warmth. We might then see the bear, and judge it best to run, receive the insult and deem it right to strike, but we could not actually feel afraid or angry.

Stated in this crude way, the hypothesis is pretty sure to meet with immediate disbelief. And yet neither many nor far-fetched considerations are required to mitigate its paradoxical character, and possibly to produce conviction of its truth.

- What is an Emotion? by William James

Quote of the Day

The patterns are simple, but followed together, they make for a whole that is wiser than the sum of its parts. Go for a walk; cultivate hunches; write everything down, but keep your folders messy; embrace serendipity; make generative mistakes; take on multiple hobbies; frequent coffeehouses and other liquid networks; follow the links; let others build on your ideas; borrow, recycle; reinvent. Build a tangled bank.

- Steven Johnson, Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation 

Friday, August 21, 2015

Looking at Humans as ‘Super Predators’

The outrage following the killing of Cecil the lion by an American hunter last month was a stark reminder of a role that humans hold in nature: top predator.

We hunt not just lions and tigers, but also bears, wolves, deer and elk. We fish tuna, seabass, swordfish and salmon. We kill for food and sport.

But here’s a “what if?”: What if humans were considered as just another predator within the global ecosystem, rather than apart from it? How do our predatory habits compare with those of other top carnivores like lions, bears and sharks?

Those are the questions that Chris Darimont, a conservation scientist at the University of Victoria in British Columbia, set out to investigate. He and his colleagues wanted to put global hunting into context and quantify the impact of human predation.

The team combed through more than 300 research papers and constructed a database with more than 2,000 instances of human and nonhuman hunting and fishing. The biggest difference they found is that humans overwhelmingly kill adult prey while carnivores tend to hunt juveniles, for the simple reason that they are easier to kill.

This could be because humans prefer large trophies. “You will not hear a fisherman brag about the smallest fish of the day,” Dr. Darimont said.

The team also reported that commercial fisheries caught adult fish like cod and tuna at 14 times the rate that natural marine predators did. On land, humans and animal predators hunted herbivores like moose and deer at similar rates, but people killed large predators like bears and wolves at nine times the rate that these carnivores killed each other.

Dr. Darimont and his colleagues concluded that humans are “super predators” that hunt prey at unsustainable rates. They published their research Thursday in the journal Science.

- Nicholas St. Fleur

Quote of the Day

We can only see a short distance ahead, but we can see plenty there that needs to be done.

- Alan Turning

Thursday, August 20, 2015

NeuroTribes - The Legacy of Autism and the Future of ­Neurodiversity

Review of the new book NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of Neurodiversity
by Steve Silberman:

The history of science is studded with stories of simultaneous discovery, in which two imaginative souls (or more!) turn out to have been digging tunnels to the same unspoiled destination. The most fabled example is calculus, developed independently in two different countries by Isaac Newton and Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz, but the list stretches back centuries and unfurls right into the present. One can add to it sunspots, evolution, platinum, chloroform . . . and now autism, as the science journalist Steve Silberman informs us, identified separately by Leo Kanner and Hans Asperger. The crucial difference is that Kanner had the fortune to publish his work in Baltimore, while Asperger had the misfortune to publish his in Nazi-controlled Vienna, and this accident of geopolitics lies at the tragic core of Silberman’s ambitious, meticulous and largehearted (if occasionally long-winded) history, “NeuroTribes: The Legacy of Autism and the Future of ­Neurodiversity.”

Over his many years at the Children’s Clinic in Vienna, Hans Asperger studied more than 200 children he would ultimately treat for what he called autistische Psychopathen (autistic psychopathy). Some were prodigies who couldn’t make it through school; others were more disabled and were shunted into asylums. But what they all had in common was a family of symptoms — in Silberman’s words, “social awkwardness, precocious abilities, and fascination with rules, laws, and schedules” — that Asperger recognized, right away, made up a continuum, one occupied by children and adults alike, and he viewed those differences as cause for celebration, not distress. When he finally shared his findings with the world, the only reason he focused on his higher-­functioning patients, Silberman contends, was a chilling function of the era: The ­Nazis, on a mad campaign to purge the land of the “feebleminded,” were euthanizing institutionalized children with abandon. In so doing, Asper­ger accidentally gave the impression that autism was a rarefied condition among young gen­iuses, not the common syndrome he knew it to be. His paper on the subject, published in 1944, remained unavailable in English for decades, and his records were “buried with the ashes of his clinic,” which was bombed the same year.

Meanwhile, in the United States, a brilliant, energetic child psychiatrist named Leo Kanner was developing a radically different picture of autism, one that stipulated the condition was uncommon and unique, affecting only young children (anyone older was schizophrenic, psychotic — anything else) and, though biological in origin, somehow activated by cold and withholding parents. “By blaming parents for inadvertently causing their children’s autism,” Silberman writes, “Kanner made his syndrome a source of shame and stigma for families worldwide.”

Thus the history of autism was written, paving the way for a decades-long attempt to cure, rather than adapt. Parents chased after any actionable advice they could find — some of it, unfortunately, looking legally actionable in retrospect (like shock therapy, for instance, and LSD). Even more important, because Kanner’s needle-­narrow definition of autism prevailed for so long, the public labored under the misapprehension that there was a sudden “epidemic” of autism when the DSM-III-R, published in 1987 (and just as critically, the DSM-IV in 1994), finally expanded the definition to include those who had slipped through the sieve for ­decades.

Quote of the Day

What would happen if the autism gene was eliminated from the gene pool?

You would have a bunch of people standing around in a cave, chatting and socializing and not getting anything done.

- Temple Grandin,The Way I See It: A Personal Look at Autism and Asperger's

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Machine Learning is Teaching Us The Secret to Teaching

Vapnik is one of a growing body of artificial intelligence (AI) researchers discovering something that teachers have long known—or at least, believed—to be true: There is a special, valuable communication that occurs between teacher and student, which goes beyond what can be found in any textbook or raw data stream. By bringing the tools of computation and machine intuition to the table, AI researchers are giving us a more complete picture of how we learn. They are also broadening the study of education to include quantitative, numerical models of the learning process itself. “The thing that AI brings to the table is that it forces us to get into the details of how everything works,” says John Laird, a computer scientist at the University of Michigan. If there was any doubt that good teachers are important, machine learning is helping put it to rest.

The teacher-student code has its roots in the sheer complexity of the real world, a complexity that has long bedeviled AI research. Is that flat surface a table? A chair? The floor? What if it’s partly in shadow, or partly obscured? After years searching for simple ways to answer these questions, the AI community is finding that the complexity of the real world is, in some ways, irreducible.


“This means that a good decision rule is not a simple one, it cannot be described by a very few parameters,” Vapnik said. In fact, he argues that using many weak predictors will always be more accurate than using a few strong ones.1 One approach to capturing complexity is to feed hundreds of thousands, or even millions, of points to a computer, which is called brute force learning. It works well enough, and is the driving engine behind most Big Data commercial enterprises, in which machines are set loose on terabytes of data in order to understand everything from scientific problems to consumer behavior. In fact, Vapnik developed one of the key technologies used by Big Data, called Support Vector Machines. But brute force methods are also slow, inefficient, and useless when data is not plentiful, such as when studying biopsy images for cancer.

Vapnik describes privileged information as a second kind of language with which to instruct computers. Where the language of brute force learning consists of technical measurements, such as shapes, colors, forces, and the amount you spent on groceries, privileged information relies on metaphor. And metaphor can make the difference between smart science and brute force science.

To see privileged information at work, we need look no further than the human (or robot) body. The body is special because it has particular ways of interacting with its environment. A room with chairs in it is understood differently by a human with legs than by a robot without them. The thousands of points of raw data describing the room collapse into a few simple ideas when subject to the constraints and demands of a physical body. If a teacher knows what it’s like to have a body, he, she, or it can pass these simple ideas to a student as privileged information, creating an efficient description of a complex environment.

- More Here

Quote of the Day

In poor countries, officials receive explicit bribes; in D.C. they get the sophisticated, implicit, unspoken promise to work for large corporations.

- Nassim Nicholas Taleb, The Bed of Procrustes: Philosophical and Practical Aphorisms

Monday, August 17, 2015

Reading for Pleasure Builds Empathy & Improves Wellbeing

The impact of reading for pleasure and empowerment' surveys research into the effects of reading for pleasure on people of a range of age groups and requirements. Among the benefits it finds are improved social capital for children, young people and the general adult population; better parent-child communication and reduction of depression and dementia symptoms among adults.

Another key finding of the report is that enjoyment of reading is a prerequisite for all these positive outcomes: people who choose to read, and enjoy doing so, in their spare time are more likely to reap all of these benefits.

The report is the first stage of a broader project which has been generously funded by the Peter Sowerby Foundation and which is being developed through strong partnerships with reading charities, public libraries and education organisations. The long term goal is to create a robust reading outcomes framework which will enable the organisations to evaluate the impact of their work. It will be used to drive improvement, build understanding about the benefits of reading and broaden the reach of reading programmes.

- More Here

Quote of the Day

To improve, we have to be constantly pushing ourselves beyond where we think our limits lie and then pay attention to how and why we fail. That’s what I needed to do if I was going to improve my memory. With typing, it’s relatively easy to get past the O.K. plateau. Psychologists have discovered that the most efficient method is to force yourself to type 10 to 20 percent faster than your comfort pace and to allow yourself to make mistakes. Only by watching yourself mistype at that faster speed can you figure out the obstacles that are slowing you down and overcome them. Ericsson suggested that I try the same thing with cards. He told me to find a metronome and to try to memorize a card every time it clicked. Once I figured out my limits, he instructed me to set the metronome 10 to 20 percent faster and keep trying at the quicker pace until I stopped making mistakes. Whenever I came across a card that was particularly troublesome, I was supposed to make a note of it and see if I could figure out why it was giving me cognitive hiccups. The technique worked, and within a couple days I was off the O.K. plateau, and my card times began falling again at a steady clip. Before long, I was committing entire decks to memory in just a few minutes.

- Joshua Foer, Moonwalking with Einstein: The Art and Science of Remembering Everything

Sunday, August 16, 2015

What I've Been Reading

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari. One of the best books I have read this decade - brilliant !! Home-sapiens should read this book and understand what kind of creatures we are.

"Ever since the Cognitive Revolution, Sapiens have thus been living in a dual reality. On the on hand, the objective reality of rivers, trees and lions; and on the other hand, the imagined reality of gods, nations and corporations. As time went by, the imagined reality became even more powerful, so that today the very survival of rivers, trees and lions depends on the grace of imagined entities such as the United States and Google."

And our relationship with Dogs:

What generalizations can we make about life in the per-agricultural world nevertheless? It seems safe to say that the vast majority of people lived in small bands numbering several dozens or at most several hundred individuals, and that all these individuals were humans. It is important to note this last point, because it is far from obvious. Most members of agriculture and industrial societies are domesticated animals. They are not equal to their masters, of course, but they are members all the same. Today, the society called New Zealand is composed of 4.5 million Sapiens and 50 million sheep.

There was just one exception to this general rule: the dog. The dog was the first animal domesticated by Home Sapiens, and this occurred before the Agriculture Revolution. Experts disagree about the exact date, but we have incontrovertible evidence of domesticated dogs from about 15,000 years ago. They may have joined the human pack thousands of years earlier.
Dogs were used for hunting and fighting, and as an alarm system against wild beasts and human intruders. With the passing of generations, the two species co-evolved to communicate well with each other. Dogs that were most attentive to the needs  and feelings of their human companions got extra care and food, were more likely to survive. Simultaneously, dogs learned to manipulate people for their own needs. A 15,000-year bond has yielded a much deeper understanding and affection between humans and dogs than between humans and any other animal. In some cases dead dogs were even buried ceremoniously much like humans.

Quote of the Day

Mr. Rossman, the former executive, said that Mr. Bezos was addressing a meeting in 2003 when he turned in the direction of Microsoft, across the water from Seattle, and said he didn’t want Amazon to become “a country club.” If Amazon becomes like Microsoft, “we would die,” Mr. Bezos added.

-Inside Amazon: Wrestling Big Ideas in a Bruising Workplace

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Wisdom Of The Week

Adam Smith is right again about Human Nature - When and how did authentic information about the Holocaust first become known? by Water Laqueur author of Breaking the Silence: The German Who Exposed the Final Solution

Elsewhere I have described two extreme cases of missed opportunities in which human lives could have been saved with a minimum of effort. This refers to the deportation of Jewish children from Paris on July 31, 1944, less than a month prior to the liberation of the city. More bizarre (and tragic) was the deportation of the Jews from the islands of Rhodes and Kos. Kos is very close to neutral Turkey, 2.5 miles to be precise, half of it in Turkish territorial waters. It could be reached by a good swimmer and, of course, by a rowboat, however small. Rhodes is not much farther away from the Turkish mainland. And yet a few German soldiers rounded up some 1,800 Jews (of which 160 returned) and began their deportation to Auschwitz.

For the Germans this was a logistical nightmare—Rome was in Allied hands. The Balkans were in flames, and the Allies had absolute sea and air superiority in the Mediterranean. It would have taken about one hour to reach the Turkish mainland by rowboat; it took the convoy twenty-four days to reach the death camp. No massive Allied operation would have been needed to intercept the convoy, no substantial diversion of resources from the war effort of the Allies. Two motorboats and a handful of soldiers with a few Bren guns probably could have done it. The German captain might have been persuaded to surrender without a fight. But no such attempt was made. It seems unlikely that the German garrison would have made a tremendous effort to chase the Jews of Rhodes and Kos had they disappeared overnight. The Germans knew that the days of their stay were numbered—in weeks, perhaps days. The convoy had to pass through Yugoslavia; it might not have been difficult to persuade the local partisans to disable the railway lines. Perhaps it was not all the fault of the politicians and diplomats who sabotaged rescue attempts; there was no Jewish organization or leadership.

Was it just a matter of a few isolated cases? In 1944 hundreds of thousands of Hungarian Jews were still alive. It has been suggested that the idea that Auschwitz could have been bombed is tantamount to Monday morning quarterbacking, that the difficulties were great, that many of the inmates of the camps would have been killed. However, the transports to Auschwitz would have stopped for a certain period of time, perhaps a long period if the attacks had been repeated.

Quote ofthe Day

One of the painful things about our time is that those who feel certainty are stupid, and those with any imagination and understanding are filled with doubt and indecision.

- Bertrand Russell , The Triumph of Stupidity

Friday, August 14, 2015

Cabin in the Woods

Quote of the Day

Technological advance has always enhanced household as well as business efficiency. Our domestic productivity has benefited from washing machines, vacuum cleaners and central heating, and before that from electric light and automobiles. But at least these things were partially accounted for: from an economic perspective a car is a faster and cheaper horse. Statisticians in principle incorporated these improvements in the efficiency of consumer goods into their measurement of productivity, though in practice they did not try very hard.

But the technological advances of the past decade seem to have increased the efficiency of households, rather than the efficiency of businesses, to an unusual extent. An ereader in the pocket replaces a roomful of books, and all the world’s music is streamed to my computer. We look at aggregate statistics and worry about the slowdown in growth and productivity. But the evidence of our eyes seems to tell a different story.

- Look at home to find the efficiency gains from recent technological innovation

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Quote of the Day

It's the questions we can't answer that teach us the most. They teach us how to think. If you give a man an answer, all he gains is a little fact. But give him a question and he'll look for his own answers.

- Patrick Rothfuss, The Wise Man's Fear 

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The Coddling of the American Mind

There’s a saying common in education circles: Don’t teach students what to think; teach them how to think. The idea goes back at least as far as Socrates. Today, what we call the Socratic method is a way of teaching that fosters critical thinking, in part by encouraging students to question their own unexamined beliefs, as well as the received wisdom of those around them. Such questioning sometimes leads to discomfort, and even to anger, on the way to understanding.

But vindictive protectiveness teaches students to think in a very different way. It prepares them poorly for professional life, which often demands intellectual engagement with people and ideas one might find uncongenial or wrong. The harm may be more immediate, too. A campus culture devoted to policing speech and punishing speakers is likely to engender patterns of thought that are surprisingly similar to those long identified by cognitive behavioral therapists as causes of depression and anxiety. The new protectiveness may be teaching students to think pathologically.


However, there is a deeper problem with trigger warnings. According to the most-basic tenets of psychology, the very idea of helping people with anxiety disorders avoid the things they fear is misguided. A person who is trapped in an elevator during a power outage may panic and think she is going to die. That frightening experience can change neural connections in her amygdala, leading to an elevator phobia. If you want this woman to retain her fear for life, you should help her avoid elevators.

But if you want to help her return to normalcy, you should take your cues from Ivan Pavlov and guide her through a process known as exposure therapy. You might start by asking the woman to merely look at an elevator from a distance—standing in a building lobby, perhaps—until her apprehension begins to subside. If nothing bad happens while she’s standing in the lobby—if the fear is not “reinforced”—then she will begin to learn a new association: elevators are not dangerous. (This reduction in fear during exposure is called habituation.) Then, on subsequent days, you might ask her to get closer, and on later days to push the call button, and eventually to step in and go up one floor. This is how the amygdala can get rewired again to associate a previously feared situation with safety or normalcy.


Attempts to shield students from words, ideas, and people that might cause them emotional discomfort are bad for the students. They are bad for the workplace, which will be mired in unending litigation if student expectations of safety are carried forward. And they are bad for American democracy, which is already paralyzed by worsening partisanship. When the ideas, values, and speech of the other side are seen not just as wrong but as willfully aggressive toward innocent victims, it is hard to imagine the kind of mutual respect, negotiation, and compromise that are needed to make politics a positive-sum game.

Rather than trying to protect students from words and ideas that they will inevitably encounter, colleges should do all they can to equip students to thrive in a world full of words and ideas that they cannot control. One of the great truths taught by Buddhism (and Stoicism, Hinduism, and many other traditions) is that you can never achieve happiness by making the world conform to your desires. But you can master your desires and habits of thought. This, of course, is the goal of cognitive behavioral therapy. With this in mind, here are some steps that might help reverse the tide of bad thinking on campus.

- More Here

Quote of the Day

Education without values, as useful as it is, seems rather to make man a more clever devil.

- C.S. Lewis

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Good Bye John Holland

John Holland, a pioneer in the study of complex adaptive systems and the leading figure in what became known as genetic algorithms, passed away Sunday morning in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

He was a Santa Fe Institute professor and external professor for many years and, at the time of his passing, a member of the Institute's Board of Trustees and Science Board.

Holland, 86, a longtime professor of computer science and engineering and professor of psychology at the University of Michigan (where he founded and led the Center for the Study of Complex Systems), had been interested for six decades in what are now called complex adaptive systems, starting with his early work at IBM in the 1950s on computer simulations of Hebb’s theory of cell assemblies.

He formulated genetic algorithms, classifier systems, and the Echo models as tools for studying the dynamics of such systems.

In 1975, Holland published the groundbreaking book Adaptation in Natural and Artificial Systems, which has been cited more than 50,000 times and has been published in several languages. Intended to be the foundation for a general theory of adaptation, this book introduced genetic algorithms as a mathematical idealization that Holland used to develop his theory of schemata in adaptive systems. Later, genetic algorithms became widely used as an optimization and search method in computer science. Most optimization textbooks now include a chapter on such evolutionary algorithms, and his insights led to the field of evolutionary computation.

- More Here

Quote of the Day

I have more ideas than I can ever follow up on in a lifetime, so I never worry if someone steals an idea from me.

John Holland

Monday, August 10, 2015

Quote of the Day

Another route to anti-natalism is via what I call a “misanthropic” argument. According to this argument humans are a deeply flawed and a destructive species that is responsible for the suffering and deaths of billions of other humans and non-human animals. If that level of destruction were caused by another species we would rapidly recommend that new members of that species not be brought into existence.

Although Rustin Cohle does not explicitly employ misanthropy in support of his anti-natalism, he is certainly misanthropic. For example, he observes astutely that “people incapable of guilt usually do have a good time.

- We Are Creatures That Should Not Exist: The Theory of Anti-Natalism

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Kodaikanal Won't - Rapper's Take Against Unilever

Sign the petition asking for Unilever to clean up the mercury poisoning in Kodaikanal: 

Written by Chennai-born rapper Sofia Ashraf and set to Nicki Minaj's “Anaconda,” the video takes an undisguised jab at Unilever for its failure to clean up mercury contamination or compensate workers affected by its thermometer factory in Kodaikanal.

John Gray on Friedrich Hayek

Keynes’s own experience told against Hayek’s theories. As one of the 20th century’s most successful speculative investors, playing the markets on behalf of his college from a phone at his bedside before he got up for the day, he understood – in a way that the inveterately professorial Hayek did not – the ineradicable uncertainty of economic life. As a member of the British delegation at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919, Keynes had been horrified at the punitive conditions imposed by the Allies, which he forecast would destroy the German economy and lead to an upheaval that would “submerge civilisation itself”. Keynes had an acute sense of the risks posed to social stability by misguided economic policies. In contrast, Hayek consistently ignored these hazards.

Hayek’s blind spot with regard to politics was clear in the early 1980s when the first Thatcher government, in an attempt to reduce inflation and bring the public finances closer to a balanced budget, was raising interest rates and cutting public spending. As he had done during the 1930s, Hayek attacked these policies as not being severe enough. It would be better, he told me in a conversation we had around this time, if Thatcher imposed a more drastic contraction on the economy so that the wage-setting power of the trade unions could be broken. He appeared unfazed by unemployment, which was already higher (more than three million people) than at any time since the 1930s, and would rise much further if his recommendations were accepted.

Fortunately Hayek never had any influence on Thatcher’s policies. (Her chief economic adviser in these years was Alan Walters, a Friedman-style monetarist.) Equally, and perhaps also happily, Thatcher had no understanding of Hayek’s ideas. If it was true that she carried about with her for a time a copy of Hayek’s magnum opus, The Constitution of Liberty (1960), she cannot have read its postscript, “Why I am not a Conservative”, in which Hayek explains that he rejects conservatism because it lacks a vision of human progress. A case can be made that Thatcher was no conservative, either – at least if being conservative includes an aversion to policies that impose deep changes on inherited social institutions. But this is a view that goes only so far. Unlike Hayek, Thatcher understood and accepted the political limits of market economics.

- More Here

Quote of the Day

How do you cause people to believe in an imagined order such as Christianity, democracy or capitalism? First, you never admit that the order is imagined.

- Yuval Noah Harari, Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Wisdom Of the Week

I show the page to Placido, and then I read him the excerpt that helped me so much. I read it, I read it again, and I am astonished. The abbot Vallet had never formulated the idea that I attributed to him; that is to say he had never made the connection that seemed so brilliant to me, a connection between theory of judgement and theory of beauty.

Vallet wrote of something else. Stimulated in some mysterious way by what he was saying, I made the connection myself and, and as I identified the idea with the text I was underlining, I attributed it to Vallet. And for more than twenty years I have been grateful to the old abbot for something he had never given me. I had produced the magic key on my own.

But is this really how it is? Is the merit of that idea truly mine? Had I never read Vallet, I would never have had that idea. He may not have been the father of the idea, but he certainly was, so to speak, its obstetrician. He did not gift me with anything, but he kept my mind in shape, and he somehow stimulated my thinking. Is this not also what we ask from a teacher, to provoke us to invent ideas?


I am not sure what the moral of this story is, but I know there is at least one, and it is very beautiful. I wish my readers to find many abbot Vallet over the course of their lives, and I aspire to become someone else's abbot Vallet.

How to Write a Thesis by Umberto Eco

Quote of the Day

Look around when you have got your first mushroom or made your first discovery: they grow in clusters.

- George PĆ³lya

Friday, August 7, 2015

What I've Been Reading

What Hedge Funds Really Do: An Introduction to Portfolio Management by Philip J. Romero and Tucker Balch.

Great book to learn the basics; highly recommended.

It is also common for hedge funds to provide lower cumulative returns compared to the bench mark, but also with significantly reduced volatility. This relative performance is common to the claims of many hedge funds; their strategies have lower volatility and lower returns in the rising markets, presumably because of the performance drag cause by hedges. But their risk-adjusted return as-measured by their Sharpe ratio or information ratio-is superior to unhedged long-only strategies. 

Quote of the Day

Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of Autumn.

- John Muir, The Mountains of California

Thursday, August 6, 2015

What I've Been Reading

How to Write a Thesis by Umberto Eco.

This book was written in 1977 in Italian but the English translation came out only this year. A must read for students and non-students; tons of wisdom even if you don't plan to do a thesis.Here's a brilliant excerpt which would make any neuroscientist smile:

I show the page to Placido, and then I read him the excerpt that helped me so much. I read it, I read it again, and I am astonished. The abbot Vallet had never formulated the idea that I attributed to him; that is to say he had never made the connection that seemed so brilliant to me, a connection between theory of judgement and theory of beauty.

Vallet wrote of something else. Stimulated in some mysterious way by what he was saying, I made the connection myself and, and as I identified the idea with the text I was underlining, I attributed it to Vallet. And for more than twenty years I have been grateful to the old abbot for something he had never given me. I had produced the magic key on my own.

But is this really how it is? Is the merit of that idea truly mine? Had I never read Vallet, I would never have had that idea. He may not have been the father of the idea, but he certainly was, so to speak, its obstetrician. He did not gift me with anything, but he kept my mind in shape, and he somehow stimulated my thinking. Is this not also what we ask from a teacher, to provoke us to invent ideas?


I am not sure what the moral of this story is, but I know there is at least one, and it is very beautiful. I wish my readers to find many abbot Vallet over the course of their lives, and I aspire to become someone else's abbot Vallet. 

Quote of the Day

Sometimes a concept is baffling not because it is profound but because it is wrong.

- Edward O. Wilson

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Quote of the Day

I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.

- John Burroughs

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Quote of the Day

Science and technology are what we can do; morality is what we agree we should not do.

- Edward O. Wilson

Monday, August 3, 2015

Quote of the Day

In an individual, selfishness uglifies the soul; for the human species, selfishness is extinction.

- David Mitchell, Cloud Atlas: A Novel

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Quote of the Day

If there is one thing I dislike, it is the man who tries to air his grievances when I wish to air mine.

- P.G. Wodehouse, Love Among the Chickens 

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Wisdom Of The Week

Bees are trichromats like humans. But instead of red, green, and blue, their three types of photoreceptors are sensitive to yellow, blue, and ultraviolet light. The ability to see ultraviolet light lets bees spot patterns on flower petals that guide them to nectar. In fact, Nilsson says, bees perceive so much of the ultraviolet range that “they could potentially see more than one color of ultraviolet.”Unlike human eyes, which have only one lens, bees have compound eyes composed of thousands of lenses that form a soccer-ball-like surface; each lens produces one “pixel” in bees’ vision. That vision mechanism comes at a price—bees’ eyes have extremely low resolution, so their vision is very blurred. Nilsson calls this design “the most stupid way of using the space available for an eye.” If humans had compound eyes that performed as well as our real ones, he says, they’d each have to be as wide as a hula hoop.


Unlike humans, birds are tetrachromats. Their four types of cone cells let them see red, green, blue, and ultraviolet together. A few birds of prey have sharper vision than humans, Nilsson says. A large eagle sees with about 2.5 times the resolution that we do.

If Nilsson could truly get inside the head of another animal, “birds would be interesting,” he says. But we can neither sharpen our resolution past human limits nor see ultraviolet light—we don’t have the photoreceptors and brain neurons to make it happen. We can use binoculars to see the distant detail that an eagle would discern, and cameras that convert ultraviolet light to a color visible to our eye, but without such technology “there’s no way of allowing a human to really experience what the world would be like to a big eagle,” Nilsson says.

- Dan-Eric Nilsson author of the new book Animal Eyes (Oxford Animal Biology Series)

Quote of the Day

In 1948, psychologists asked more than 10,000 adolescents whether they considered themselves to be a very important person. At that point, 12 percent said yes. The same question was asked in 2003, and this time it wasn’t 12 percent who considered themselves very important, it was 80 percent.

- David Brooks