Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Narcissism II: Does it lead to the lack of new ideas?

Pretend that every single person you meet has a sign around his or her neck that says, "Make me feel important."

Although narcissistic individuals are generally perceived as arrogant and overly dominant, by showing their self-confidence, authority and other characteristics they tend to be seen as effective leaders. So they tend to emerge as leaders (such as Hitler). It was found that although narcissistic leaders are perceived as effective they actually inhibit information exchange between group members and thereby negatively affects group performance.

Some have the false belief that big ideas have migrated to the marketplace. There is a vast difference between profit-making inventions and intellectually challenging thoughts. Marketplace ideas may change the way we live, but they rarely transform the way we think.

We live in the Age of Information. Courtesy of the Internet, we seem to have immediate access to anything that anyone could ever want to know. We are certainly the most informed generation in history. We prefer knowing to thinking because knowing has more immediate value. It keeps us in the loop, keeps us connected to our friends. Ideas are too airy, too impractical, too much work for too little reward

The post-idea world emerged along the social networking world. Even though there are sites and blogs dedicated to ideas the most popular sites on the Web, are basically information exchanges, designed to feed the insatiable information hunger, without the kind of information that tends to generates ideas.

We have become information narcissists, so uninterested in anything outside ourselves and our friendship circles or in any tidbit we cannot share with those friends that if a Marx or a Nietzsche were suddenly to appear, blasting his ideas, no one would pay the slightest attention, certainly not the general media, which have learned to service our narcissism.

Amira made me realize the need to expand previous post.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Narcissistic Epidemic

Pretend that every single person you meet has a sign around his or her neck that says, "Make me feel important."

Cultural values had radically changed provoking an important modification in social and individual behavior. It started when people began to expose their private life in public and to provoke or participate in public scandals that were transmitted through mass media. This behavior allowed many of them to became public figures (famous persons). Being the center of attention became an important cultural value. Why they became famous had no importance at all.

The change in cultural values, along with the need to interact more with computers and less with humans (reducing empathy), was probably among the factors that triggered this epidemic.

Narcissistic personality disorder (NPD) is a personality disorder in which the individual is described as being excessively preoccupied with issues of personal adequacy, power, prestige and vanity.

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders DSM IV, a widely used manual for diagnosing mental disorders, defines narcissistic personality disorder as:

A pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration, and lack of empathy, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by five (or more) of the following:

1. Has a grandiose sense of self-importance

2. Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, brilliance, beauty, or ideal love

3. Believes that he or she is "special" and unique and can only be understood by, or should associate with, other special or high-status people

4. Requires excessive admiration

5. Has a sense of entitlement, i.e., unreasonable expectations of especially favorable treatment or automatic compliance with his or her expectations

6. Is interpersonally exploitative, i.e., takes advantage of others to achieve his or her own ends

7. Lacks empathy: is unwilling to recognize or identify with the feelings and needs of others

8. Is often envious of others or believes others are envious of him or her

9. Shows arrogant, haughty behaviors or attitudes

It has been decided, not so long ago, that narcissism should not be considered a personality disorders, the DSM-V will not include this condition.

Did it became too common to be classified as a mental illness? Probably It is not convenient for US reputation to have such a high percentage of mentally-ill people, therefore they removed this disorder along with 4 others. Nowadays most US citizens are considered as mentally healthy.

Narcissism is so pervasive that impacts core social values to the point of provoking irrational behaviors. Our culture is replete with examples of them which are symptoms and contributing factors to narcissism:

- Botox and tanning to fulfill unrealistic notions of physical beauty

- Greed and materialism with emphasis on extravagant homes

- Social networking (vacuous and/or inappropriate content: 25% of teen girls have appeared nude)

- Music lyrics (the average teen spends at least thirty minutes a day listening to songs describing degrading sex)

- "Hooking Up" (a convenient phrase for very casual sexual relationships)

- Loss of perspective between work and pay, value of a dollar, and value of earning for accomplishment


suRELY we shOuld
our sELF
wHO We are
who they aRe
who yoU are

exhibITionISm kILLs the cat, thoUGH...

By human being (An amazing one), A.K.A. nooshin azadi

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Processing visualization software

Two weekends ago I went to a city in the beach, to visit a friend, and she asked me if I was interested in participate in a workshop about art, technology and the earth. I always liked being around artist so I went. There a couple of artist I met introduced me to the works of John Maeda, and his disciples at the aesthetics and computational group at the MIT. They created Processing. This software is an open source programming language that was created by Ben Fry and Casey Reas. It was built for the electronic arts and visual design communities.

The following are some images that actually are being filled with lines and color as time pases, but I could not capture that effect in this blog, so I decided to show the stills. This forms are bases mainly in two simple numerical series: Fibonacci and Factorial.

Hope at list this encourages people to experiment with art and technology, considering that I did never perform any kind of plastic artwork before.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Artificial Intelligence and Humanity II

Technological advance
Nowadays chatterbots perform much better on the Turing test than they used to. Maybe not because they are getting better at imitating human chats; but because this skill has deteriorated in humans due to its restricted use. The ability to chat trough a computer can be replaced, partly, by intelligent computer programs.
Current text editors include the following functionalities: predictive algorithms that recommend the following word to be written. Spell check validation showing several alternatives to replace the misspelled word by the option chosen by the user. Automatic syntax validation, alerting the user by underlying the wrong sentence and pointing to the defective segment; it also allows the computer to correct the sentence by itself when desired by the user. Automatically replace words that are constantly repeated by a suggested synonym. These tools tend to make us dependent of the program utilities to be able to chat correctly.
Humans no longer need to have several skills because they can be performed by computers, many of these tasks can be done faster and with a higher degree of accuracy. These skills include the abilities to execute math calculations, translating a text from one language to another, the organization of large amounts of data, finding the quickest or shortest path to go from one place to another, etc. This allows us to develop other abilities which tend to be less repetitive and more creative.
Differences between humans and computers
Dorian Cole compares the "I am" statement pronounced by a human to the traditional first words of a computer program: "Hello World." A computer presents an output to human beings through an interface so that people know that it is working. The computer responds to external programs. One could hang a sign on a window saying, "Hello World," and we would see it as an imitation of the task performed by the computer program. But interpreting a sign that says, "I am," would be a difficult task.
Computers are able to change their main processing structure. They are also able to modify by themselves their software structure, which is the part that indicates what procedures they should follow. Since their creation they have been meliorating in an exponential way which makes them immensely more powerful than when they appeared. Human brains aren’t able to self-improve neither to modify themselves in such a radical way machines can. We can progress only in small increments. We can improve ourselves by learning, practice, hone our skills and acquire knowledge. Also new discoveries can increase our ability to make further discoveries. Anyway our brains today are much the same as they were ten thousand years ago.
The myth of the scientific method as the only approach to reality will become completely obsolete without loss to man's interaction with this world. The path to understanding has to be prepared by a lineal but also mysterious approach of hunches and intuitions in addition to direct perceptions and sensations.
The right hemisphere was presumed to be more “primitive” than the left because the latest deals with language, math, perform tasks in a logical and sequential order and is more specialized than the other. The right brain was also wrongly labeled as "primitive" because left brain abilities where considered more valuable. The right hemisphere process music, body language, works in a more intuitive way, and approaches things as a hole. Notice that no education system thought children to dance with the same determination they thought them mathematics. Education was mainly focused in training the left hemisphere; by better educating, valuating, rewarding and nurturing those abilities. They used to train students in order to develop skills similar to computers.
According to Brian Christian many people consider the history of AI a dehumanizing process; however it can also be considered as the opposite. We build these algorithms and computers imitating what we know about us, leveraging all the understanding of ourselves that we have. Subsequently we can see where they make a mistake. That error always has something new to teach us about who we are.
The inhuman gave us an appetite for the human; Computers and education helped us understand our need to change the priorities of the brain areas we focus in. We might have already seen the high-water mark of the left hemisphere bias; and started our return to a more balanced view of the brain and the mind.
This new level of understanding bring us real benefits including increased drive towards invention and creativity and increased positive emotions and enhancing our mental states.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Artificial Intelligence and Humanity I

This post was based and inspired on the writings of Brian Christian

Turing test

The objective of the Turing test, created by Alan Turing in the year 1950, consists in evaluating during small conversations, if computers could imitate humans. The test incited the creation of Chatterbots such as ELIZA, launched on 1966. Later on the Loebner prize was created, offering a monetary award for the first chatterbot that could pass the test, this competition still takes place once a year.

The classic Turing test consists in one room with judges that make questions for 5 minutes to computers or to humans that are in a second room. After conversations take place judges reveal which chats they think they had with chatterbots and which with humans. The chatterbot that is considered the best is the one that fools the higher percentage of judges. Turing believed that the test would have been passed by the year 2000; far from his prediction a new record that was able to deceive only 30% of the judges was recently achieved.


The principal question Turing wanted to solve with this test end up generating lots of controversy because it derivated mainly in three others "Can machines think?", "Are machines intelligent?", "Do machines have a conscience?" Lots of arguments where stated in favor and against them (including the ones that follow), but no unanimous conclusion was reached:

  • How we could tell if a machine was intelligent. After all, mankind has tried to define intelligence for ages and had made little progress except to decide that whatever it is, we've got it.
  • How do you know if the machine actually understands what it is doing, seeing, or saying? A particularly strange side effect of being a conscious being is that you can never truly know that someone other than you is conscious.
  • Not until a machine can write a sonnet or compose a concerto because of thoughts and emotions felt, and not by the chance fall of symbols, could we agree that machine equals brain-that is not only to write it but know that it had written. Neither until they can feel an emotion (Jefferson).
  • Computers can’t originate anything we explicitly tell them to do (Lovelace).
My preferred theory concludes that machines can't think; I argue that thinking cannot be separated from feelings (Damasio) and that it also includes an intuitive component.
Questions and thoughts
  • Do things have an essence, and if so is it possible to describe it? (Like Plato did in the Allegory of the Cave)?
  • What makes something to be something? We guide ourselves mostly by external appearances and actions. But indeed I think the evaluation would be more accurate if we compare that something internal structure and organization.
  • Can we extend the meaning of consciousness? By adding an exception to inanimate objects that does not include the act of thinking, emotions, intuition or any other aspect of the brain, in this case being conscious would mean only to have knowledge of their own existence.
  • Our brains consider that a certain entity is or is not something often by doing lots of assumptions. Instead we could assign a degree of credibility of what we think the entity is.