About Me

!nversed Poignancy!

...I am an eclectic amalgamation of many seemingly paradoxical things. This can be exemplified in both my seemingly endless persistance on many topics and arguments, as well as my careful cautiousness on other topics and arguments. This is largely due to how astute I am of the topic: more knowledge, more persistant; less knowledge, obviously more cautious. I also have times of obsessive compulsions regarding certain things (mostly just my thoughts, however)...

Life and Death

!nversed Poignancy!

Life

An assembly

Possibly impossible

Perfectly interchangeable..

Death

That lives most upright

Beyond the unspoken

Neither a squiggle nor a quibble..

She and Me

!nversed Poignancy!

She

A daffodil

Tyrannizer of me

Breaking the colors of dusk!..

Me

The rising sun

Infringed with violations

The impurity in the salt..

Love and Poetry!

!nversed Poignancy!

Love

A puerile desire

Buried in the heart

Never leaves..

Poetry

Sentimentally melodramatic

Cursively recursive

My thoughts idiotic!

FaceBookadiction!

Scribbled by Bharath C On November 29, 2009 1 Thoughts have been Sprinkled!, Your Take?
Today I found an invitation to a Facebook group "We will not pay to use facebook, we're gone if that happens".

I guess this echos the sentiments of a generation that believes that it should get stuff for free. But really, can this really be so? Facebook, google, yahoo, etc can only survive given revenues that may be used to cover costs. Web portals with mounds of data are not easy to maintain.

On the other hand, people are concerned by the concentration of huge amounts of personal data, especially with the social networking sites. Who owns the data?

It briefly hit me that the P2P infrastructure may work reasonably well for social networking. The idea is for the network to be built up in overlapping pieces. Each indivdual stores his own information and those of his/her friends. The informing of others that information has changed may be done through a series of pings.

Naturally, a big issue is that of the storage and transfer of data. A LOT of data may have to be stored for each contact. Furthermore, one has to ask oneself to what extent does one desire to be a conduit for people to contact one's friends and how much bandwidth one is willing to dedicate to that end. Another is that of "closed cliques" being inaccessible to the world.

The latter problem would probably be solvable after some brief thought, but not the former. People are selfish by nature, and the amount of storage space and bandwidth demanded by such an application would be non-trivial.

Well then, is Facebook's current setup as near optimal as we expect? It's hard to move away from a central repository. It makes things so much easier. We can decentralize a little though... Who knows?

I used to believe that one day all human labour would be automated. Upon further reflection, I realize that I am wrong. The question of whether or not machines will someday replace all humans depends crucially on whether or not P is equal to NP. Jobs that will eventually be automated will be the ones that can be solved easily with an algorithm. In computer science parlance, these are problems in the computational complexity class P (solvable in polynomial time). For example, traditional travel agents have disappeared faster than bluefin tuna because their task is pretty simple to automate. However, not all travel agents will disappear. The ones that survive will be more like concierges that put together complex travel arrangements or require negotiating with many parties.

Eventually, the jobs that humans will hold (barring a collapse of civilization as we know it) will involve solving problems in the complexity class NP (or harder). That is not to say that machines won’t be doing some of these jobs, only that the advantage of machines over humans will not be as clear cut. While it is true that if we could fully reproduce a human and make it faster and bigger then it could do everything that a human could do better but as I blogged about before, I think it will be difficult to exactly reproduce humans. Additionally, for some very hard problems that don’t even have any good approximation schemes, blind luck will play an important role in coming up with solutions. Balancing different human centric priorities will also be important and that may be best left for humans to do. Even if it turns out that P=NP there could still be some jobs that humans can do like working on undecidable problems.

So what are some jobs that will be around in the NP economy? Well, I think mathematicians will still be employed. Theorems can be verified in polynomial time but there are no known algorithms in P to generate them. That is not to say that there won’t be robot mathematicians and mathematicians will certainly use automated theorem proving programs to help them (e.g. see here). However, I think the human touch will always have some use. Artists and comedians will also have jobs in the future. These are professions that require intimate knowledge of what it is like to be human . Again, there will be machine comics and artists but they won’t fully replace humans. I also think that craftsmen like carpenters, stone masons, basket weavers and so forth could also make a comeback. They will have to exhibit some exceptional artistry to survive but the demand for them could increase since some people will always long for the human touch in their furniture and houses.

The question then is whether or not there will be enough NP jobs to go around and whether or not everyone is able and willing to hold one. To some, an NP economy will be almost Utopian – everyone will have interesting jobs. However, there may be some people who simply don’t want or can’t do an NP job. What will happen to them? I think that will be a big (probably undecidable) problem that will face society in the not too distant future, provided we make it that far.

FreeWill Theory!

Scribbled by Bharath C On November 15, 2009 0 Thoughts have been Sprinkled!, Your Take?
Given that a materialistic theory of mind is becoming more and more mainstream, we must face the prospect of living our lives without free will. That is not to say that our lives will be predictable or even determined. Given what we know about dynamical systems, computer science and quantum mechanics it is almost certain that life is completely unpredictable and undetermined. However, there is no “you” or “me to make decisions about what we do. Results from neuroscience (e.g. Bill Newsome’s lab at Stanford) show that there are neurons in cortex that fire before a monkey makes a decision and the simulation of some of these neurons can influence a monkey’s choice. We too are at the mercy of our neurons.

So the question I have is once a large fraction of the population believes that free will does not exist, will that change society. Although this is a dynamical systems question where the belief of free will is some aspect of the state of the system and what I ask is how the system evolves subsequent to reaching a state of no belief in free will, I will address it using language that still connotes some sense of agency or directed action since it is more convenient to do so. However, keep in mind that everything I say is with respect to how society will evolve after it attains a state where there is no longer a belief in free will.

One possibility is that people will become more relaxed and not worry so much about the consequences of their actions since they have no control anyway. I doubt this will be the case because people are so hard wired biologically to believe in control of their actions that intellectual knowledge will not affect their day to day life. People will still feel regret and remorse, joy and sadness. So, I don’t think society will lapse into a hedonistic free-for-all for example.

I think it could change the legal system though. As I posted before, if there is no free will then it will become less useful to view crime in terms of intent and motive but rather on what should be done for maximum benefit to society, including the perpetrators welfare. However, the emotions governing fairness, revenge and vindication will still exist so people may still want to keep some aspect of punishment. This may end up in a political stalemate where some fraction of the population will insist on maintaining the need for retribution whereas the rest will simply view justice in terms of containment of defective machines.

Will it affect personal relationships? Will it take the bloom off of love and romance? Will people still treat one another in the same way as they do now? My sense is that people will still basically do what they do now although with a meta-level twist to it. Some may not take insults so personally. The knowledge of no free will may actually reinforce the notion that communication between people is important and desirable since people will be more attune to the fact that their words can impact a person’s behavior. How a person acts will depend on their internal states and the external inputs they receive. People may become more strategic in providing those inputs, something masterful manipulators already do today.

Will it make people more open to socialistic notions since a person is not responsible for their successes or failures? People are just cogs in a big machine rolling along after all. They have no control over how hard they work or how creative they are. Those things are just a combination of genetics and environment. Like in a restaurant where the waiters pool their tips together and share it equally, would people be more inclined to share the wealth of society? I have a feeling that this issue will remain as divided as it is today. So, my guess is that knowledge of no free will won’t affect our lives dramatically.

‘If you can’t win over her, kill her’- that’s what seems to be on the minds of people in love these days. In fact, it’s ignominious to identify them as lovers. People no longer seem to understand the sanctity of love.

Talking of love, the Taj Mahal should certainly light up your mind, now that it’s become the talk of the town. The sheer radiance of this marble-clad massive mausoleum basking under the sunlight or its sparkling reflection rippling through the adjacent Yamuna river by the moonlight are inspiring enough to make one fall in love. The Mughal Emperor Shah Jehan made this architecture over the tomb of his beloved wife Mumtaj Mahal to exhibit his eternal love for her.

On the one hand, we talk about voting for this epitome of immortal love to bring it into the new Seven Wonders of the World, and on the other hand we hear about people resorting to killing their love in desperation. Well indeed, love has diverse definitions; that’s the parody of life. Anyway, the news channels are making big business either way!

Cases of people slaying down their own fiancĂ©es have increased multi-fold. It’s almost become an everyday episode. It was barely a couple of months from now when this 24-year-old software professional Kaushambi Layek, a TCS employee was murdered by her boyfriend at a suburban hotel in Mumbai. And now it’s this girl, Sushma Nikam who was brutally stabbed to death by her ‘lover’ on the busy streets of Thane amidst all the passers-by rushing to their workplaces. But despite their busy schedules, the otherwise-always-on-their-toes Mumbaikars did find the time to watch the ‘tamasha’, though they refrained from coming forward to the victim’s rescue. Due respect to the one lady who lent a helping hand – laudable! (I think everyone should start wearing ‘choodiyan’, if that makes one brave!) The victim was stabbed 21 times by the attacker in broad daylight, and that’s precisely the kind of social situation where we prefer to stay mum and stand as oblivious onlookers. Well, no one can be blamed. The sight would have been gruesome enough for anybody to think of taking instantaneous action. Picture ourselves witnessing such cruelty. We never know how we would react given the same circumstances - terrified…petrified…mortified…stupefied? A real situation is not an ideal situation! But people will be people – great talkers, little doers, especially when it comes to condemning each others’ doings. And the Press will be Press, when it comes to dramatizing the audience's reactions to add some spice to their hottest selling news!

Anyway, returning to my point, I was mentioning the different dimensions of love, or is this a typical case of pure love versus lust? ClichĂ© as it may sound, but that’s the fact! Desire - want – get – acquire, these are the thoughts occupying people’s minds. Whoever said, one should learn to give in love. Forget giving one’s own life, even that’s an offence punishable by law! But taking away someone else’s life? This only confirms that we show no concern for anybody but our own selves. Self contentment is all that matters and we can stoop to any level to acquire that, though that may account to somebody else’s grief.

Can we still call ourselves humans or are we turning into callous and cold-blooded creatures, heartless hooligans? All said and done, one thing is confirmed – ‘All’s fair in love and war’, and people seem to have taken that a bit too literally. When this was phrased, little would the author have expected that there would be a phase, where love would lose its face following this very adage. And with many more ‘lovely’ centuries to go, even God might not be able to answer where mankind would lie and where humanity would be…

Money YenoM!

Scribbled by Bharath C On November 08, 2009 0 Thoughts have been Sprinkled!, Your Take?

I do hope Professor Armin Falk of the University of Bonn was paid exactly what it was worth for this study showing that money, or even the thought of it, can makes us high.

It's hard to put a price on such knowledge but it does provide great value for headline-generators such as myself.

"Money like a drug," the Herald headline begins and it's an apposite analogy for the times, as governments around the world inject cash into the banking system while everyone else is suffering from withdrawal (or maybe 'non-withdrawal' is better) syndromes.

Back to the study itself, which, according to the Herald story, suggests "that the human brain is innately susceptible to the illusion of wealth that money can bring".

At its core, Falk's study supports the notion that most people are distracted by headline numbers and pretty crappy at applying simple maths to reality.

But as this story on US website Portfolio.com demonstrates, sometimes investment professionals are pretty crappy at applying reality to mathematics.

You may be sick of reading about credit default swaps and collateralised debt obligations - the financial instruments copping the blame for our current little financial crisis - but the article (originally published in 'Wired' magazine) is particularly illuminating about the way financial types measure risk and how the beauty of a single formula blinded many to the ugly - statistically speaking - real world.

"They think they can model just a few years' worth of data and come up with probabilities for things that may happen only once every 10,000 years," the Wired story concludes. "Then people invest on the basis of those probabilities, without stopping to wonder whether the numbers make any sense at all."

Now that's a real money illusion

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