Analogies have problems themselves


Rodney Brooks AI Pioneer Interview
I came across this wonderful interview with Rodney Brooks a Professor at MIT.
He talks in this interview about biological systems and the interactions of robots with their environments.
I find this very interesting, this notion of feedback loops, especially. I’m glad that he references a rather disappointingly unknown W. Ross Ashby. Introduction to Cybernetics
I feel the most important notion of his, in this interview is one that troubles me.
The brain is a computer (or telephone exchange) these analogies have been around since the 12th century, but these are just that. Analogies. The human brain doesn’t compute in the same way a computer computes. Mathematica is a lot better at integrals than I am. So I feel his warning about analogies is very important, and also his ideas of a mathematical framework. He’s right, that Turing and Churchs early work (followed by Mc Carthy) led to theorems that could be explained to 19th century Mathematicians. Much like any theorems really – I’ve learned the ‘Hungarian Algorithm’ today. As I hopefully go onto do further work in Quantum Computation – I look forward to hearing ‘the brain is a Quantum Computer’ – and of course being slightly annoyed by this.


Athiesm and Secular Religion


As we move into an increasingly Secular age, the questions raised in this article by Alan de Botton Comte’s Secular Religion are very timely.
As someone with an avid interest in Philosophy and Religion, I find it very uplifting to notice that huge swaths of people are reading Hitchens, and there is renewed interest in even Papal texts. Perhaps this is a post September 11th thing, or perhaps there always was the market for these sorts of ideas, its just that in a TED World, these ideas are easier to access.
However the points raised by Comte in regards that we should see what the beautiful and useful parts of Religion are, are powerful, creative and tolerant. Words which we don’t associate with some of the polemicists in the ‘New Athiests’ camp. Learning compassion, morality, and extending our sphere of concern (a la Peter Singer to other parts of the world. For instance many of my Catholic family members and friends give money during Lent to the Third World. And some of the most efficiently organised charities are of a religious bent. There is more to life that Rationalism, the pursuit of Financial Reward and the pursuit of Romantic Love. There is Maritial Love, Brotherly Love, Empathy, Charity, Courage and Duty. If we live increasingly Secular Lives, this doesn’t mean that we need to live increasingly selfish or amoral lives. Nassim Nicholas Taleb makes the point in some of his writings on ‘Black Swans’ that Religion protected us from our Selfishness, Ignorance and Egotism. I don’t know how true that is, but I don’t know how else people develop wisdom and morality – essential things which we’ll need more of in the 21st century, without some sort of structured contemplation.

On Personal Branding


I’ll need to think about this some more, I’m partly worried that people talk a lot about Personal Branding. By people I mean those in the 18-30 bracket.
Is Hugh Mc Leods comment ‘While you were all worrying about personal branding, I was working this morning’ correct?
Is personal branding simply a blend of salemanship and high quality skills.
We surely can’t ignore the aspects of what the Psychologist Erikson termed ‘deliberate practice’.