Thursday, December 31, 2009

How we read?

Every moment of awareness is a pile of interpretations all insuperposition. A single state of mind is layered with harmonics of meaning - yet somehow remains one experience - Susan Blackmore

Reading and understanding language is a skill that most people take for granted. Processing language in the brain is very complex and entails many variables. Most language is processed in the left hemisphere and the right hemisphere processes visual and motor activities - States Stanislas Dehaene.

"When we look at a text photons are bouncing off those black squiggles and lines -- the letters in the particular sentence -- and colliding with a thin wall of flesh at the back of your eyeball. The photons contain just enough energy to activate sensory neurons, each of which is responsible for a particular plot of visual space on the hole image. The end result is that, as you stare at the letters, they become more than mere marks on a page. You begin to read "- Says .

Interesting Facts:
  • Seeing the letters is just the start of the reading process. Although our eyes are focused on the letters, we learn to ignore them. Instead, we perceive whole words, chunks of meaning. Once we become proficient at reading, the precise shape of the letters -- not to mention the arbitrariness of the spelling -- doesn't even matter, which is why we read word, WORD, and WoRd the same way.
  • Until now most assumed that when we read both eyes look at the same letter of a word concurrently. But it was found that our eyes look at different letters in the same word and then combine the different images through a process known as fusion. We were able to clearly show that we experience a single, very clear and crisp visual representation due to the merging of the two different images from each eye.
  • Language tends to be stored in the brain to be processed in audio format, so besides reading the text we automatically convert it to speach in our own heads. After that the process of making sense takes place.
  • Studies have shown that when a word is checked against the storehouse of words in the brain - whether it is a written word or a word-sound - only the main part of the word is checked first, and then the ending is processed separately. For example, 'sing', 'singing' and 'singer' would all be checked against the base word 'sing'.
  • Once we recognized the printed words we need to make sense out of them. Understanding how meaning arises from those words is of the most challenging tasks in cognitive sciences.
  • More on making sense and meanings can be found here and here.
  • There is an onging debate whether the new kind of reading experience provided by internet is benefitial or not. Some interesting articles are worth exploring: Is google making us stupid and How is google making us smarter. It would be interesting to incorporate the last scientific findings about how or brain reads in order to draw new and more accurate conclusions.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Greed is out, Empathy is in

When people do evil things, such as when they commit
genocides in Bosnia or Rwanda, we call them "animals." If
people do altruistic things, such as when they save another's
life or give generously to the poor, we attribute this to our
noble human morality. We call them "humane."

Based on his fieldwork and research on chimpanzees, bonobos, and capuchins Doctor Frans de Wall
said - "many animals are predisposed to take care of one another and come to other beings aid. Their strong similarity to human biology suggests that every person is destined to care for others.

"To effectively learn from others, apes need to see an actual fellow ape: Imitation requires identification with a body of flesh and blood. Recently we are beginning to realize how much human and animal cognition runs via the body. The body produces internal sensations and communicates with other bodies that construct social connections and an appreciation of the surrounding reality." - Waal stated.

Empathy is an automatic response, as old as mammalian maternal care. Mothers and children play games of clapping each other’s hands following a certain rhythm. These games involve imitating the other and synchronization among the two.

We are far from being isolated , indeed we are strongly interconnected, trough our bodies and emotions at a very high level. This might sound odd in the West, with it's tradition of individuality. Nevertheless Homo sapiens tends to be easily swayed in one emotional direction or another depending on his peers.

Waal thinks - "humans can be described as animals that need to work to keep selfish and aggressive urges under control, but also as animals that can engage in cooperative work. They are among the most aggressive primates, but they can also relate to each other properly. Many economists and politicians model human society based on the aggressive instincts mentioned before, even dough survival through cooperation is a frequent scenery. This suggests that there is a long evolutionary history of compromise and peaceful coexistence. It seems empathy is part of the survival package; human society depends on it as much as animal communities".

"The way our bodies—including mood, posture, and so on—are influenced by surrounding bodies is one of the mysteries of human existence. It’s also one of the most underestimated phenomena, especially in disciplines that consider humans as rational decision makers. Rather than individually weighing the pros and cons of our own actions, we occupy nodes within a tight network that connects all of us in both body and mind ". - Concluded Waal.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Narrative and Self Construction

Self-awareness can be thought as the to the capacity to become the object of one’s own attention where the individual actively identifies, processes, and stores information about the self. It includes the end result of this processing and the recopilation of—self-knowledge. It involves attention paid to one’s own mental states (such as perceptions, sensations, attitudes, intentions and emotions) and public self-characteristics (which include behaviors and general physical appearance).

According to Jonathan Adler "one of the most important and least recognized features of the human mind is inner speech which is sometimes refered to as self-talk". In adults, self-talk is described as "thinking" or “reflection”. Self-talk is a continuous narrative feature of the mind. We often "think" things silently to ourselves - have the conscious experience of having a certain thought. We also silently "say" things to ourselves trough our inner speech.

Inner speech facilitates self-awarnes because it creates a psychological distance between the self and the mental events it experiences—which facilitates self-observation— it can act as a problem-solving devise where the self represents the problem and self-information the solution, and can label aspects of one’s inner life that would otherwise be difficult to objectively perceive.

"Self-talk (thought) begins in children learning language, connecting words to their experiences and actions. Language skills develop slowly in a predetermined sequence that requires daily practice. The meaning of words and sentences develops as sounds are linked to experiences in real time. Children will talk to themselves as they play and learn. Their monologues begin with repeating words and statements they copy and extend to problem-solving and creative narratives that expand the range of linguistic ability." - explained Stephen Gislason.

Researchers have found that the human brain has a natural affinity for narrative which is baed on inner speach. People tend to remember facts more accurately if they encounter them in a story rather than in a list. According to Harlene Anderson's the most influential/relevant component on the self is the narrative; The following propositions are based on her assumptions:

  • The self is formed, informed and reformed through story telling.
  • Therefore the self is a dynamic mosaic, a cloth woven of stories told - reader & writer of own lives.
  • An on-going self & other multi-faceted biography which is constructed, reconstructed through interaction & relationship (a being & becoming through language).
  • As humans we are interpretive beings.
  • We seek to make sense of daily experiences.
  • The stories we have about our lives are created by linking together certain events in a particular sequence across a certain time period and explain or make sense of them (plot).
  • Talk is action - “I” telling self and others who we are, where we come from and where we going.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Is information Physical?

"Information is inevitably tied to a physical representation. It can be carved on stone tablets, marked by a spin up or down, a hole punched in a card, or many other alternative physical phenomena. It is not just an abstract entity; it does not exist except through a physical embodiment. It is, therefore, tied to the laws of physics and the parts available to us in our real physical universe".- Rolf Landauer

According to Brian Hayes "There is a distinction between representation of information and information itself but both of these have always a physical form. Somehow, this increase of physical representations for information does not strengthen the conviction that information is subordinate to its physical representation. When we can write the same message in so many forms–everything from lines in the sand to holograms–the message itself begins to seem just as substantial as the physical medium, and perhaps more enduring".

The fact that the process of copying the bits of information is easier than capturing them, leads us to an argument from Rolf: "we can represent information in many physical forms: as packets of electric charge, as base pairs in a DNA molecule, as beads on an abacus. When we build machinery to process this information, we can also choose among many different computing technologies such as valves, transistors or even neurons".

We use numbers as representations of quantities, they are not pure information whatever that means. They make a reference to some quantity in a mind of an observer and that relation constitutes the information - the match between a physical instance of a symbol and the observers ability to connect that symbol to a certain quantity.

Some mathematical philosophy schools (Realists, Platonists and intuitionists) believed that mathematical concepts and propositions have meanings, and when we formalize the language of mathematics, these meanings are meant to be reflected in a more precise and more concise form. But according to the formalist school understanding mathematical object has no meaning; implying that all we have are marks and rules governing how these marks can be combined.

Haynes points at the fact that "There is a tendency to think of mathematics as a tool which somehow existed before and outside of our physical world. Mathematics, in turn, allowed the formulation of physical laws which then run the world. Nevertheless we emphasize that information handling has to be done in the real physical world, and the laws of physics exist as instructions for information handling in that real world. It, therefore, makes no sense to invoke operations, in the laws of physics, which are not executable, at least in principle, in our real physical world".

Here are two interesting riddles for you to think about:
  • How do you distinguish the concrete from the abstract when the word “concrete” is in fact an abstract concept? Or how do you distinguish the physical from the nonphysical with the nature of the word “physical” is in fact nonphysical?
  • How can we ask--not to mention answer--the question “What is information?” when the question itself is, in fact, pure information? - Bertrand Russell

Friday, December 4, 2009

No need to pay

According to Tom Foremski, as much as we complain about how expensive things are getting, we're surrounded by forces that are making them cheaper. Forty years ago, the principal nutritional problem in America was hunger; now it's obesity, for which we have the Green Revolution to thank. Forty years ago, charity was dominated by clothing drives for the poor. Now you can get a T-shirt for less than the price of a cup of coffee Also for toys, gadgets, and commodities of every sort. Even cocaine has pretty much never been cheaper (globalization works in mysterious ways).

It seems to be accurate the notion that Internet devalues everything it touches. Anything that can be converted or made digital. You should notice that we use the word devalue with a materialistic connotation and not in the cultural value sense and that we use the word internet to refer to a class of distributed technologies and applications. The truth is that as you take the friction out of the economic system pricing goes down; Internet remains the ultimate economic lubricant.

Internet made possible the following devaluations:

  • The price of a 10 song CD was around $20. Now If you use you can pay 10 cents per song for lifetime streaming rights.
  • The money spend on buying software application was possible to reduce due to the large percentage of or nearly free applications available online. This trend is likely to continue. Given that companies like Google plan to buy software companies and then offer those products online for free — this instantly devalues competing software applications.
  • Telephone communications are much cheaper today thanks to services such as Skype and other VOIP based products. It used to cost $2 a minute to make a transatlantic telephone call but now it’s only about 5 cents.
  • Public relations are being devalued because now fewer people can do the work of more people than before and small teams can do the work of the previously used large teams.

Internet allowed depriving from monetary value products and services such as:

  • Music by offering it for free (which ended up being really successful for musicians such as Trent Reznor, and the Radiohead band members).
  • Online games can be played for free because parts of the gaming industry are ad-supported.
  • Some newspapers like "The New York Times" since the year 2007 can be read for free (This reminds me of an aphorism from 1984: "Information wants to be free. Information also wants to be expensive ... That tension will not go away.")

According to Chris Anderson, the fact that money is not the only scarcity in the world becomes evident now. Chief among the others are your time and respect, two factors that we've always known about but have only recently been able to measure properly. The "attention economy" and "reputation economy" are too fuzzy to merit an academic department, but there's something real at the heart of both. Thanks to Google, we now have a handy way to convert from reputation (PageRank) to attention (traffic) to money (ads). Anything you can consistently convert to cash is a form of currency itself, and Google plays the role of central banker for these new economies.

There is, presumably, a limited supply of reputation and attention in the world at any point in time. These are the new scarcities — and the world of free exists mostly to acquire these valuable assets for the sake of a business model to be identified later. Free shifts the economy from a focus on only that which can be quantified in dollars and cents to a more realistic accounting of all the things we truly value today.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Art and Globalization

Modern artists had always positioned themselves as honest persons, indeed the single artist present itself as the only honest person in a world of hypocrisy and corruption. It is important to investigate how the production of trust and sincerity has functioned in modern times in order to elucidate the way it functions today.

The current idea of “global art” is set along the lines of Coca-Cola and McDonald’s—the McDonaldization of the world. Given the experiences of the past, the West knows that, on one hand, these words are only to give them comfort, and, on the other hand, it is certain that the artists of many countries do not have sufficient knowledge and the means of entry to their domain. If with great difficulty, one or two of them do arrive with a pat or two on the back, they can be absorbed within their [Western] culture.

Besides under certain circumstances, blending cultures might be beneficial, but its disadvantages are obvious. The blending of cultures can only occur between two or a few cultures which are similar, presented to the world in a compatible and harmonious manner. A commanding, dominant culture does not blend well with a dependent, imitating culture. Rather, the former devours the latter.

History has demonstrated that whenever two or a few cultures have faced each other, be it in a peaceful, coexisting manner, or in a conflicting manner, new experiences occur; we call them “multi-cultural” experiences. Today, cultures are expected to resist being devoured by dominating cultures by focusing on their own special features. The efforts of the West are aimed at presenting the art of other peoples as the “symbol of collective identities” while ignoring the individual identities of “others,” that same individuality upon which Western art established itself and through which it attained an identity.

Nowadays art is becoming like any other commodity or product exported and imported worldwide. Small artists can take advantage of a larger platform to sell their works and if they succeed they they have the possibility to reach anyone, anywhere in the world.

Does the evolution of a new hybrid language and the globalization of English provide insights into trends in contemporary art? Will local creativity and regional distinctions be lost in the rush to a common global culture? Or will cultural hybridization and international cultural exchange add strength and help to increase creative expansion?

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Illusion of the self

Thomas Metzinger makes a provocative argument: "he states that there is no such thing as a self, that there never has been, that there never will be".

Many philosophers, including David Hume, in the Anglo Saxon universe have said that for a long time. Who am I? The physical body certainly exists, the organism exists, but organisms are not selves. "He does not deny that there is a self-y feeling. He says he certainly feel like someone, but there is no such thing. There is neither a non-physical thing in a realm beyond the brain or the physical world that we could call a self, but there's also no thing in the brain that we must necessary call a self".

Buddhist philosophy had that point 2,500 years ago. So the idea that, as philosophers say, the self is not a substance, that it is something that can stay and hold itself in existence, even if the body or the brain were to perish is not a very breathtaking and innovative idea.

Metzinger states that "what we see and hear, or what we feel and smell and taste, is only a small fraction of what actually exists out there. Our conscious model of reality is a low-dimensional projection of the inconceivably richer physical reality surrounding us and sustaining us. Our sensory organs are limited: They evolved for reasons of survival, not for depicting the enormous wealth and richness of reality in all its unfathomable depth". Therefore, the ongoing process of conscious experience is not so much an image of reality as a tunnel through reality.

He says that "the experience of looking, of being directed to one's own feelings or to one's sensory perceptions of the outside world, creates itself an image. There is nobody looking at the image, it's like the camera is part of the picture or the viewing is itself a part of the process of viewing".

According to him "the self – the feeling of being a mental me in charge of the physical body – is a module within consciousness activated by your brain’s neural processing. The self is categorically not some substantial, essential invariant entity, like a soul or a spirit. He emphasizes that there are no such things as substantial selves. That instead, the self is a phenomenal (that is, experiential) construct that disintegrates entirely when you fall into a dreamless sleep, to be reactivated (usually in attenuated form) when you dream, and that reappears nearly instantaneously when you awake in the morning". The self is put online only when needed, is a part of a larger phenomenal reality generated by the brain as it represents the world and you in it.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The in-descence of time

I am taking a break (as you probably already). I will probably be back in a couple of weeks.
Thanks for your patience.I am taking a break (as you probably noticed). I will probably be back in a couple of weeks. Thanks for your support.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Metaphor and the Mind

Philosophers have long wondered about the connection between metaphor and thought:
  • "We believe that we know something about the things themselves when we speak of trees, colors, and flowers, he wrote, and yet we possess nothing but metaphors for things, metaphors which correspond in no way to the original entities". - Niezche
  • "Inevitable clash of metaphors in all writing shows only too well that language may subvert or exceed an author's intended meaning". - Derrida
  • "A metaphor is often indispensable to express a concept (or meaning) for which words just do not exist in the language. Entire domains (spheres of knowledge such as anatomy and psychology) are mapped in other domains for lack of appropriate words". - Michel Breal
  • "Metaphors are markers of the roots of thought itself. They are the main mechanisms through which we comprehend abstract concepts and perform abstract reasoning. Abstract thought would be meaningless without bodily experience. People think with their brains and their brains are part of their bodies as well". - Lakoff and Johnson
  • "I think that metaphor really is a key to explaining thought and language. The human mind comes equipped with an ability to penetrate the cladding of sensory appearance and discern the abstract construction underneath - not always on demand, and not infallibly, but often enough and insightfully enough to shape the human condition. Our powers of analogy allow us to apply ancient neural structures to newfound subject matter, to discover hidden laws and systems in nature, and not least, to amplify the expressive power of language itself". - Steven Pinker
When we say someone is a warm person, we do not mean that they are running a fever. When we describe an issue as weighty, we have not actually used a scale to determine this. These phrases are metaphorical-they use concrete objects and qualities to describe abstractions like kindness or importance, we use them so often that we hardly notice them.

Nowadays cognitive scientists have begun to see the basic metaphors that we use all the time not just as turns of phrase, but as keys to the structure of thought. By taking these everyday metaphors as literally as possible, psychologists are upending traditional ideas of how we learn, reason, and make sense of the world around us.

They also suggest that much of what we think of as abstract reasoning is in fact a sometimes awkward piggybacking onto the mental tools we have developed to govern our body’s interactions with its physical environment. Put another way, metaphors reveal the extent to which we think with our bodies. “The abstract way we think is really grounded in the concrete, bodily world much more than we thought” says John Bargh.

Several studies about the relation between body and metaphor have been done, in one of them subjects were asked to hold a cup of either iced or hot coffee, not knowing it was part of the study, then a few minutes later asked to rate the personality of a person who was described to them. The hot coffee group, it turned out, consistently described a warmer person--rating them as happier, more generous, and more caring - than the iced coffee group. The effect seems to run the other way also.

Research about “where metaphor is grounded” is also being performed. It shows that It is not grounded in logic, nor in literary theory. There is no purely literal language in terms of which metaphor may be evaluated and objectively assessed. In the fields ranging from cognitive psychology to social anthropology, metaphors are currently subject to extensive analysis, but the findings can only be partial, and relative to the discipline involved. What is becoming clearer is that metaphors - like linguistic theory - are rooted in the beliefs, practices and intentions of language users.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Comments about Meaning, Language and Music


1. Meaning is the human desire to "know" & "understand". Meanings are the concepts we build to see order where apparently there is none.

2. Realization is the meaning. This is true especially for poetry and all modern art.

3. Is Abstraction more real than nature? Is meaning individual, as opposed to collective?

4. If I look for the meaning of a word in a dictionary - I am given the meaning in terms of other words and if I don't know the meaning of them, I can look them up... to infinity.

5. Someone once told me the world itself is abstract, it's only the way we perceive it that makes it concrete.

6. All meaning is context dependent. Nothing has inherent meaning. Which leads me to think that meaning is in the relationship and interaction between things.

7. Our objective view on the world can only ever be subjective simply because we have to give meaning to everything because nothing is concrete; we bring it all into existence in our minds.

8. I always felt that worry was somehow a terrible mutation of anticipation.

Language and Music

9. I choose to believe in the theory enunciated by my beloved Laurie Anderson, in which "Language is a virus from outer space".

10. I still wonder what that first language was. and who invented spelling???

11. I believe in never-ending storage theory (were we have an unlimited memory). If we could know the whole of our minds, we could know the hole universe probably.

12. Language bgaen wehn i ievtnned it jsut now.

13. Sometimes I think it's not the world that is moving faster, it's me that is moving slower. In a relativistic universe, how do I tell the difference? (While talking about how fast language changes)

14. I don't need to know why. music makes me smile, cry, takes me back in time, builds dreams and wishes, drives creativity, lifts me up, takes me down. music just is...

15. Interesting that music can so emotionally charge us, and yet the very nature of music is basic mathematics.

Now try to match as many sentences as you can with their correct author, I should warn you that there are a couple that do not belong to signed comments.


Steve E, Rob Bryanton, tape, /t, Ariel, Shadow, Shubajjit, Lane Savant , Debora kay, human being , Medicated Lady, Janetk, Gingatao , paulandrewrussell ,tinkerbell the bipolar faery

Comments about Art and Science

We are not humans having a spiritual experience,
we are spirits having a human experience.

Pierre Chardin


  1. Ignorance is bliss.
  2. Knowledge, "...can't get no satisfaction!"
  1. About the tea party...Quantum physics teaches us that there's no good reason, or law, that stops the pouring tea from going up. And the broken egg can mend itself. Yeah, right.
  1. Define everything that a human being is in truth (not honesty) and all the other answers are verifiable through standard theorem, test and prove procedures.
  2. Until one understands the totality of "human" then no explanation to the question is possible because all of the components of the equation are not included.
  1. I can't see the forest because I am a tree. So when I fell, I fell in backwards. Heaven is within. Only Time will tell if I made a sound when I landed. Assume I did. I made a big bang, and a choir of angels roared in my behalf.

Science and Art

  1. I believe poetry is a more accurate description of the world than science because time is not linear. Science is based on linear causality across time, prose like this is linear. Time is not linear and poetry is how language escapes linearity.
  1. Numbers are a means to an end, art is an end in itself, it is meaning.
  1. i know...
  2. but it's not enough, i know
  3. i love...and it's not little, you know

  4. i'm standing on a dot
  5. but i can see
  6. infinity
  7. and
  8. beyond
  1. I believe art is also crucial for the well being of the brain. We have evolved over time from periods of intense physical activity, where the body was exercised continuously just to find and capture food, to leading sedentary lives. Thus,the effect of no exercise on the body can be clearly seen. As the body gets less exercise, the brain takes a more prominent role, 'thinking' instead of physically 'doing'.
  2. Art can occupy the brain when it needs its own exercise, when it isn't taking care of the physical aspects of the body's operation.
  3. Art is an outlet for the mind, as physical exertion is an outlet for pent up aggression.


  1. I think that art might replace the playing activity kids do everyday and grown ups stop doing, Art has pretty similar characteristics to playing, it is exploratory, it is fun, it involves discovering, it involves learning and creating, and so on.
  1. isn't strictly located in the brain..." well, the brain isn't strictly beautiful, either.
  1. There is no doubt that perception allows people to connect, and that I believe is our true nature.
  2. We are all connected in a sense yet granted the gift of our unique perceptions.
  1. Have you considered that the universe itself might be sentient and that the laws of physics are merely universal thought patterns? In this view, would reality be changeable or plastic as defined by universal thought?


Val, Walking man, Uncle Tree, Scribulus, Squires, Stu, Human Being, Rick

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Music Function

Making music is one of our most basic instincts. There’s a reason we refer to music as the “universal language”; there has been no known human culture without music. Dancing and music came before agriculture, and possibly even before language. Bone flutes were found in Europe dating back 53,000 years ago.

Music has the ability to change the emotional and physical status of people, whether they are in bad moods, good moods, or sad moods. Music can also make people feel the suspense or excitement while watching a movie.

Music is part of the complex organism that is the human being and emotional expression is a very great part of that. I would prefer to say that music is a unique way of knowing the world, which goes along with other ways of knowing the world: visual, linguistic, phonetic, psychological, and mathematical.

Music is utterly entwined with notions of memory, of emotion, of identity, of relationship with place and time; of relationship with other human beings, with all living and inanimate objects, relations with the heavens, with the gods, people's ways of interpreting their worlds or their cosmologies in their own particular ways, very culturally specific ways.

Different types of music directly trigger different emotions. While happiness causes you to breathe faster, sadness causes a rise in blood pressure and temperature and a slower pulse. Faster music played in a major key caused the same physical reactions associated with happiness, and slower music played in a minor key resulted in those associated with sadness.

We may wonder what is the utility that music provides to humanity, and if there is one indeed. There are tree main theories that try to explain this mystery:
  1. Music evolved through sexual selection - Charles Darwin
  2. Music allowed for social cohesion on a larger scale than was available to more primitive primates, which create and enforce group ties through the physical process of mutual grooming - Robin Dumbar
  3. The enjoyment of music is just a “happy accident,” a by-product of mental mechanisms that evolved for other purposes - Steven Pinker
What is music for? How does it work? What can it teach us? We feel there must be answers to such questions, but they tend to be scattered throughout a wide range of different areas of study, from acoustics to music history, from psychology to composition. This makes the answers very difficult to find.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Internet, English and Language

In many languages, Greek and Latin roots constitute an important part of the scientific vocabulary. This is especially true for the terms referring to fields of science. For example, the equivalent words for mathematics, physics, chemistry, geology, and genealogy are roughly the same in many languages. As for computer science, numerous words in many languages are from American English, and the vocabulary can evolve very quickly. An exception to this trend is the word referring to computer science itself, which in many European languages is roughly the same as the English informatics: German: Informatik; French: informatique; Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese: informática; Polish: informatyka.

We live in the age of information. It pours upon us from the pages of newspapers and magazines, radio loudspeakers, tv and computer screens. The main part of this information has the form of natural language texts. Even in the area of computers, a larger part of the information they manipulate nowadays has the form of a text. It looks as if a personal computer has mainly turned into a tool to create, proofread, store, manage, and search for text documents.
Our ancestors invented natural language many thousands of years ago for the needs of a developing human society. Modern natural languages are developing according to their own laws, in each epoch being an adequate tool for human communication, for expressing human feelings, thoughts, and actions.

For the last two centuries, humanity has successfully coped with the automation of many tasks using mechanical and electrical devices, and these devices faithfully serve people in their everyday life. In the second half of the twentieth century, human attention has turned to the automation of natural language processing. People now want assistance not only in mechanical, but also in intellectual efforts.

We need resources for NLP, the problem is that most of them are in English (such as sentiWordNet and General Enquirer), and only just a few in the other languages. Lexical and ontological resources are fundamental for NLP. This puts non-English speakers in a serious disadvantage.

The most-used language on the Internet according to Wikipedia is English. Although the total number of native English speakers in the world is about 322 millions, which is only around one fifth of the total internet users; the amount of English web content approaches 80%.

Generally speaking, when a language has got the position of a universal language, the position tends to be affirmed and extended by itself. Since "everyone" knows and uses English, people are almost forced to learn English and use it, and learn it better.

Besides the importance of the Internet grows rapidly in all fields of human life, including not only research and education but also marketing and trade as well as entertainment and hobbies. This implies that it becomes more and more important to know how to use Internet services and, as a part of this, to read and write English.

But English is changing fast too. There is no area of the culture that collision's more intensely than that, for the web has changed English more radically than any invention since paper, and much faster. According to Paul Payack, who runs the Global Language Monitor, "there are currently 988,974 words in the English language, with thousands more emerging every month". By his calculation, English will adopt its one millionth word in late November. To put that statistic another way, for every French word, there are now ten in English.

So far from debasing the language, the rapid expansion of English on the web may be enriching the mother tongue. Like Latin, it has developed different forms that bear little relation to one another: a speaker of Hinglish (Hindi-English) would have little to say to a Chinglish speaker. But while the root of Latin took centuries to grow its linguistic branches, modern non-standard English is evolving at fabulous speed. The language of the internet itself, the cyberisms that were once the preserve of a few web boffins, has simultaneous expanded into a new argot of words and idioms: Ancient or Classic Geek has given way to Modern Geek.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

The evolution of religion

For those who are looking toward the future and are spiritually inclined, it is often difficult to find a path or practice that makes deep sense. It’s difficult to find a spiritual path that has a truly contemporary orientation—one that doesn’t compel us to embrace ancient belief structures that may no longer be relevant to our time.

As the world evolves, as knowledge grows, and as life conditions change, we change. For religion to remain relevant and effective as a source of spiritual guidance and support for billions of people, it too must change.

Today, the world’s great religions find themselves at a critical juncture. Adhering to values and beliefs that are often thousands of years old, they are finding it increasingly difficult to provide the spiritual guidance and moral authority necessary to face the challenges of modern society. So the question is: Can the great religious traditions of the world reinvent themselves in order to address the needs and hopes of a complex, materialistic, and increasingly secular twenty-first-century world?

Peter Savastano said "Part of the problem is that religious authorities, unable to appreciate the value of metaphor, allegory and symbol, insist on literal and historicist interpretations of doctrine and dogma. For example, within my own tradition as much as I marvel at the doctrine of the Holy Trinity, I simply have no personal experience of One God in Three Distinct Persons, even though I spend a great deal of time meditating on the Trinity in my own personal spiritual life. As one Catholic priest friend recently put it, 'The Trinity. That was a fourth-century answer to a fourth-century problem'".

"I encounter more and more people who identify themselves as “spiritual but not religious.” What exactly does this category of self-identity mean? Perhaps anthropology can offer some clues. Anthropologists of religion recognize that there is a universal human capacity to wonder at the mysteries of life and death, and a need to make sense of or find meaning in the strange circumstances we find ourselves in. Drawing on the insights of the anthropology of religion, it seems it is universally common for human beings to strive to make meaning of the mysteries of birth, life, death, and the cosmos". - Savastano reflected.

The religious landscape of the future is likely to see a greater capacity for ambiguity. Along with globalization and rapid technological advancement comes increasing complexity. As a result of this complexity the human capacity for spirituality can no longer be met now or in the future by a one-size-fits-all approach to religion.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Award Nomination

First of all I want to thank Val for the nomination, it is an honor that is was you the one who proposed me for it. I want you to know that I deeply admire you as a human being, as a writer, and as a thinker.
Here are the rules for the award:
1. Thank the person who nominated you for this award.
2. Copy the logo and place it on your blog.
3. Link to the person who nominated you for this award.
4. Name 7 things about yourself that people might find interesting.
5. Nominate 7 Kreativ Bloggers.
6. Post links to the 7 blogs you nominate.
7. Leave a comment on each of the blogs letting them know they have been nominated

Here are 7 things about me you might find interesting:
1. At dinner my dad made me multiply 2 2 digits numbers without using a pencil or any kind of aid for it.
2. The first time I drove a car, with a legal driver's license, I smashed it again a parked van with it´s owner inside.
3. I can never remember people's name, I have been at the same work for 6 months and I know just half of the names (they are around 70), Including some that I have in charge.
4. I have waking up early, and need to work almost 11 hours a day.
5. I took at most 5 sunbaths in my hole life
6. I started reading mystery novels at the age of 11 and at 12 I was reading only sci-fi texts.
7. I deeply hate playing computer games

Here are the nominees (in no particular order):
1. a collection of thoughts: poetry, Buddhism, art, philosophy
2. Uncle Tree's House: poetry, life thoughts, religion, strength
3. Thus Sparke the Crow ....:art, poetry, illusions, moments
4. The Walking man: poetry, discipline, short stories, human rights
5. codepo(): programming, art, code poetry, visual art, HTML design
6. Thoughts on Thoughts: neuroscience, consciousness, perception, skeptical
7. Options associated for a better word: Community creation, art, writer, thinker

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

How do we make our choices?

Do you think your mind is capable of independent judgment and largely directs the course of your life? Do you think that most of your decisions in life have been the product of your rational, conscious self? Do you believe you are in control of your life? Do you cherish ideas such as self-expression, a sense of autonomy and a distinct, self-authored identity? Probably most of the people will answers yes; besides given the pervasive culture we live in, that reinforces all these ideas, it would be odd for a person to provide a negative reply .

When it comes to building the physical world, we kind of understand our limitations. We build steps. And we build these things that not everybody can use obviously. (Laughter) We understand our limitations. And we build around it. But for some reason when it comes to the mental world, when we design things like healthcare and retirement and stockmarkets, we somehow forget the idea that we are limited. I think that if we understood our cognitive limitations in the same way that we understand our physical limitations, even though they don't stare us in the face in the same way, we could design a better world.

We value things more when we pay a higher price for them. The Bayer aspirin and the Rolex watch seem valuable because of how much they cost, not because they're better in practical terms than a generic aspirin or a Timex. Relativity distorts reality. We might be earning 10 times more money than we earned for the same work a decade ago, but we're convinced that we're underpaid if the people around us are earning more.

Dan Ariely states "Consumers make numerous decisions on a daily basis. Therefore by understanding the underlying mechanisms that drive the particular choices consumers make is invaluable". His goal is to argue and demonstrate that individuals sometimes make decisions according to preset rules and not their preferences, and that such a decision making mechanism may lead them to make decisions that don’t always maximize their utilities.

The more our minds are befuddled by falsehood, misperceptions and illusions – the less able we will be to determine correct courses of action and make wise decisions. Our view of reality is like a map with which to negotiate the terrain of life. If the map is true and accurate, we will generally know where we are, and if we have decided where we want to go, we will generally know how to get there. If the map is false and inaccurate, we generally will be lost.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Madly in Love

Expressions like 'madly in love', 'crazy for you' and 'lovesick' may be more accurate than we think. When we fall in love, our brains experience an explosion of powerful chemicals. Some scientists compare the initial stages of love to mental illnesses like obsessive compulsive disorder and mania, the manic phase of manic depression.

Helen Fisher, believes we evolved three systems related to matters of the heart: the first deals with lust, the second with romantic love – also known as attraction, obsessive love or 'being in love' – and the third with attachment. Fisher's theory is that the three systems motivate us, respectively, to mate, focus our attention on a particular partner, and stick with that partner long enough to look after the children we may have.

Fisher discusses many of the feelings of intense romantic love, saying it begins as the beloved takes on "special meaning." Then you focus intensely on him or her. People can list what they don't like about a sweetheart, but they sweep these things aside and focus on what they adore. Intense energy, elation, mood swings, emotional dependence, separation anxiety, possessiveness, physical reactions including a pounding heart, shortness of breath, and craving, Fisher reports, are all central to this feeling. But the most important one is obsessive thinking.

She also think that romantic love is a very strong drive, stronger than lust, as people are more likely to commit suicide or homicide when rejected by someone they love than when their sexual overtures fail.

A good example of this kind of behavior can be found in Shakespeare´s Romeo and Juliet:
"Romeo Montague and Juliet Capulet, of the houses of Montague and Capulet, were enemies. The story starts with members of the Capulet family, quarreling with members of the Montague. This turns into a big fight. That night, Romeo and Juliet meet at a party in the Capulet mansion, and instantly fell in love. Later that night they met in the Capulet's orchard, and plan to be married the next morning. Their union was made, but soon ruined, as Romeo was banished from Verona due to the dispute. After he leaves, Juliet learns she is to marry another man. She was devastated. The two lovers made a plan. But they both end up killing themselves because both thought that the other was already death"

But the main characteristics of romantic love is craving: an intense desire to be with a particular person, not just sexually, but emotionally. It would be nice to go to bed with them, but you would prefer them to call you on the telephone, to invite you out or to tell you that they love you. The other main characteristic is motivation. The motor in your brain begins to crank, and you want this person.

Love is a very powerful emotion, and some say that love drives you to do dumb things, some people say that love hurts and some time it does. Love causes odd tremendous feelings deep within us. It causes jealousy and hate, and drives even the most amazing people to do the craziest most unbelievable stuff.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Opinion Mining and Sentiment Analysis

Textual information in the world can be broadly categorized into two main types: facts and opinions. Facts are objective expressions about entities, events and their properties. Opinions are usually subjective expressions that describe people’s sentiments, oppinions or feelings toward entities, events and their properties.

This area has grown in part as a recation to a surge of interest in opinions as a first-class kind of object of analysis, along with the huge increase in the web textual content, mainly produced by social network users.

Subjective information analysis systems answer questions about feelings and opinions. A crucialstep towards this goal is identifying the words and phrases that express opinions in text. The simplest algorithms work by scanning keywords to categorize a statement as positive or negative, based on a simple binary analysis (“love” is good, “hate” is bad). But that approach fails to capture the subtleties that bring human language to life: irony, sarcasm, slang and other idiomatic expressions. Reliable sentiment analysis requires parsing many linguistic shades of gray.

More sofisticated analysis used include the following tools:

Part of speech taggers:
they identify whether a world that belongs to a sentence is a noun, verb, adverb, etc.. It was found in many researches that adjectives are important indicators of subjectivities and opinions. Thus, adjectives have been treated as special features.
Opinion words and phrases: Opinion words are words that are commonly used to express positive or negative sentiments. For example, beautiful and wonderful are positive opinion words, and negative opinion ones include horrible and terrible. Although many opinion words are adjectives and adverbs; some nouns (rubbish and junk) and verbs (hate and like) can also indicate opinion. Besides, there are also opinion phrases and idioms, like “cost someone a leg.”
Negation: They are important because their presentece often change the opinion orientation. For example, the sentence “I don’t like this camera” is negative. However, negation words must be handled with care because not all occurrences of such words mean negation. For example, “not” in “not only … but also” doesn't change the orientation.
Syntactic dependency: a tree is built from the analized sentence in order to represent it. here we can see "John hit the ball" as an example.
For casual web surfers, simpler incarnations of sentiment analysis are sprouting up in the form of lightweight tools like TweetSentiments and Twitteratr. These sites allow users to take the pulse of Twitter users about particular topics. But the accuracy of their results are not very comparer to the precission Opinion Mining researchers obtained so far (between 70% and 80% of correctly classified sentences of texts).

My favourite application of this kind was made many years ago, long before the hype, by Jonathan Harris, it was WeFeelFine. This application has a very simple opinion mining processing method, but I think, he was able to see what the future mainstream applications will be like before most of us did; he also realized the importance of a good and flexible data visiualization.

Some of the challenges sentiment ming presents include ansewring the following questions:

1. What makes an opinion positive or negative?
2. How can we rank opinions according to their strength?
3. Can we define an objective measure for ranking opinions?
4. How does the context change the polarity and strength of an opinion and how can we take it into consideration?

In order to keep exploring this topics I would recomend you to read Peter Turney's papers and blog and also Maite Taboada's papers and webpage.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Art and the brain according to Zeki

A work of art is a product of the brain, a work of literature is a product of the brain and one can learn a great deal about the limits and the possibilities of brain organisation by looking at these works. Professor Zeki thinks that neuroscientist have anything to teach the humanist or the artist, that Cezanne's drawing would improve by knowing how the brain works. Implying that neurscoientist have a great deal to learn from artist, but don't have that much to teach them.

One of the primordial functions of the brain is to acquire knowledge, but the making of sense of this world; of the impulses that we are getting all day long which are often in a chaotic state, is a primordial function of the brain. Let us say portrait painting, a great portrait is one which gives you knowledge of a certain character, of certain characteristics of that character, and hence becomes applicable not to just one person but applicable to many characters of that time. For example you could paint arrogance, or resigned resentment, in the late self portrait of Rembrandt there is this resigned resentment at failing powers, and this is applicable to many people. It is knowledge about the character that it gives you.

The characteristic of an efficient knowledge-acquiring system, faced with permanent change, is its capacity to abstract, to emphasize the general at the expense of the particular. Abstraction, which arguably is a characteristic of every one of the many different visual areas of the brain, frees the brain from enslavement to the particular and from the imperfections of the memory system.

An interesting thing Lichenstein said is that science is often considered to be for learning whereas art is for pleasure. And people don't realise that you learn a great deal from art as well. If you want to learn something about human nature, let us say about arrogance, would you be better off reading Corielanus by Shakespeare or studying textbooks of psychology? Probably you would benefit from both, enormously.

One way of looking at art history, in Zeki’s terms, is as the progression of the human brain’s understanding of its own capacity for visual perception. You can see this in artists work "When an artist says: ‘How can I make a great portrait?’" Zeki observes, "what they really mean is ‘how can I represent this particular face on canvas so that it allows the brain to generalize its concept of faces and therefore becomes a great portrait?’" This desire can be tested experimentally; some cells in the brain will only "fire" with excitement when presented with particular views of the face. The greatest portrait painters have, through experiment, intuition, and skill, discovered the rules of this visual grammar.

When we study, the capacity to evaluate something that's beautiful, you are actually interacting with the work of art. and you're deciding whether it's nice or not. Zeki emphasizes that they haven't located beauty, which is another common misapprehension, they just located the neural activity that corresponds with the appreciation of particular works of art. Meaning that beauty isn't strictly located in the brain; nevertheless the brain is an enabling system for you to appreciate beauty.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Generation dumb

Generation Dumb consists of anyone born roughly between 1978 and 1996. Numbering 70 million in the U.S. and due to surpass the boomers in sheer numbers by 2010, Gen Dumb is rapidly becoming a force to be reckoned with. And a lot of people are courageously trying. In the past year, on top of countless stories regarding the increased engagement of young people in this year’s presidential campaigns, major media outlets from the New York Times to Newsweek to 60 Minutes have put this generation under the microscope with unprecedented scientific scrutiny. A number of scholarly, stat-packed books have been published as well, and their authors have become the media’s favorite go-to persons to explain to bewildered parents, teachers, and employers what, exactly, is up with us.

Some have noticed an interesting trend: Observers tend to either love us or hate us. They’re either held aloft as the bright, tech-savvy, shining hope of humanity or dismissed as hopelessly narcissistic ignoramuses whose every posted YouTube comment should make them all bow their heads in shame. The truth, is more complicated than either extreme. They aren’t simply Gen Dumb, and they aren’t the messianic millennials either. They are Gen Y, a genuinely puzzling cultural variable, like Gen X before them, that has yet to be defined.

The way Bauerlein sees it, something new and disastrous has happened youth with the arrival of the instant gratification go-go-go digital age. The result is, essentially, a collective loss of context and history, a neglect of "enduring ideas and conflicts." Survey after painstakingly recounted survey reveals what most of us already suspect: that young people know virtually nothing about history and politics. And no wonder. They have developed a "brazen disregard of books and reading". Things were not supposed to be this way. After all, "never have the opportunities for education, learning, political action, and cultural activity been greater", But somehow the much-ballyhooed advances of this brave new world have not only failed to materialize -- they've actually made us dumber.

Friedman offered one of the most optimistic appraisals of this generation that I’d ever encountered. Describing it as an impressive and admirably “quiet” generation—due to both our silent determination to not let post-9/11 terrorism fears curtail our sense of freedom and our preference for keyboard-clicking internet activism over more vocal social engagements.

I don’t doubt the authenticity of Gen Y’s idealism and inspiration. Yet I do worry that as long as it remains circumscribed by the spheres of their narcissism, its real potential will never be revealed. The question is: Do they have what it takes to burst their bubbles? Can they finally get over themselves and start participating in life so fully, so unreservedly, that they remove any doubt as to where they really stand?

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Meaning II

First, we need to examine “meaning” itself, and expose a mistake, a very basic mistake, in how many people think about it. To say that some event means something without at least some implicit understanding of who it means something to is to express an incomplete idea, no different than sentence fragments declaring that “Went to the bank” or “Exploded.” Without first specifying a particular subject and/or object, the very idea of meaning is incoherent.

Nature is concrete reality, we presume, something more real than abstraction. But if nature is more real than abstraction, what use is abstraction? Perhaps it is the case that abstraction is more real than "nature". Perhaps abstraction can be used to extend what is effortlessly given to us. Perhaps abstraction can be employed to usefully transform what is now presented to us without effort as the object. Maybe we can perceive with our (collectively-expanded) imagination levels of reality that are hidden, not so much from our senses, as by our senses.

We think we live in the "objective" world, but we do not. The objective world is something that has been conjured up for us recently - absurdly recently, from the perspective of evolutionary biology - by the processes of science operating over a span of five centuries (or, perhaps, to give the Greeks their due, over the last thirty centuries). This does not mean that the objective world is not real, even though theories about its nature are in constant flux. What it does mean is that the environment of human beings might well be regarded as "spiritual," as well as "material."

Now if we give a closer look at reading, because it may be fundamental, about how the brain gives meaning to letters on a page has been fundamentally a mystery. Two new studies fill in some details on how the brains of proficient readers handle words. One of the studies, suggests that a visual-processing area of the brain recognizes common words as whole units. Another study, reveals that the brain operates two fast parallel systems for reading, linking visual recognition of words to speech.

Chaging the angle if we look at it from the traditional targets of scientific inquiry that are available to sensory analysis, localized in time and space, and simultaneously accessible to the individual experience of multiple observers (at least under carefully controlled conditions). Meaning, which can vary dramatically between observers, does not reveal itself in any such straightforward manner. It is therefore not clear that it can be addressed scientifically, even in principle. At least this is the classical argument. But what if meaning could be construed as a stable emergent consequence of the interaction of subjects, objects, elements or situations, conceived of from a more abstract point of reference than that commonly utilized?

"We work to maintain and extend the boundaries of the stories which regulate our social existence, our individual goals, and our emotions, and to extend the boundaries of the stories which we embody and represent abstractly. Such stories have an integrity, at least in principle, which enables them to "make sense" of our past and present and to structure those actions that take us into the future. Our stories are "true" to the extent that they allow us to utilize the wisdom we have generated in the course of our experience" - Says Jordan Peterson.