Wednesday, April 29, 2009

On-line Dating

Given the large number of reports of relationships that initiate online there is now a need for understanding exactly how these relationships began. A study was conducted in order to explore and comprehend how this phenomenon works.

One hypothesis that stated that the body would be used to flirt with as frequently online as offline, was partly supported. However, it was found that individuals downplayed the importance of physical attractiveness online. Women flirted by displaying nonverbal signals (offline) or substitutes for nonverbal cues (online), more than men. In chat rooms men were more likely than women to initiate contact.

This study aimed to explore whether men and women flirt online in traditionally defined ways. While it is recognized here that there is a great range of flirting behaviors that social scientists ought to consider, this study limited its focus to the following: nonverbal behaviors,
such as smiling, gaze and touch; substitutes for nonverbal behaviors, such as emoticons (smiles, winks), acronyms (LOL ó laugh out loud), descriptions of physical attractiveness, descriptions of socioeconomic status, and initiating contact.

Body language can signal attraction without the obviousness of the spoken word. This ambiguity protects people from any humiliation if the person to whom they are signaling attraction does not share their sentiments. Some basic codes that are important to consider in flirting include kinetics, oculesics, physical appearance, olfactics, vocalics, proxemics (personal distance) and haptics (the use of touch). While individuals might be skilled at displaying these flirting signals in face-to-face encounters, the question is how are these traditional offline cues replicated online -- if at all?

While the current study does provide some evidence that we must consider the online presence of the body, it must not be ignored that it was found here that physical appearance does not play as important a role online as it does offline in the development of romantic relationships. Perhaps by minimizing this, individuals are able to maintain some anonymity, and being unidentifiable possibly creates more opportunities for individuals to open up.

The gender differences revealed were interesting. Despite the changes that the women's movement has brought about and the increased likelihood that women can
support themselves and their children, when it comes to initiating relationships women still
pay more attention to men resources than to their physical bodies. This appears to be evident across all media, including face-to-face, personal ads and, as this study has found, chat rooms. Despite the opportunities provided by the Internet to experiment with identity, this study suggests that gender roles are not transcended online.

The study demonstrates that women tend to flirt more than men both online and offline by emphasizing physical attributes. This study challenges the oft-touted claim by theorists that the Internet is a place where there is a meeting of minds, in absence of the body. Instead,
it is suggested here that researchers focus more on how the body is reconstructed on the Internet.

Friday, April 24, 2009

The art instinct

Although we humans recognize instinct when we see it in animals, often we're reluctant to see it in ourselves. We prefer to rest assured that we are above all that. We are not slaves to primitive impulses. Our free-willed choices are the result of careful rational deliberation. Yet, the human race has been subjected to the same evolutionary pressures as other animals, so the lack of instinct in humans would truly be odd. It is much more likely that the process of evolution — in both natural selection and sexual selection as described by Charles Darwin — has molded our brains with particular strengths, weakness, and proclivities. Let's call these traits "human nature."

According to the late Stephen Jay Gould, for example, — art is inconsequential to human survival and procreation, and hence cannot be explained by evolution. Art is one of the inexplicable byproducts of the large human brain, a spandrel of evolution, as Gould called them.

Unlike Gould, Dutton Argues that humankind's universal interest in art is the result of human evolution. We enjoy sex, grasp facial expressions, understand logic and spontaneously acquire language—all of which make it easier for us to survive and produce children. He thinks that the interest in art belongs on this list of evolutionary adaptations.

Dutton states that the type of painting that is preferred by most people around the globe is, of course, the landscape, and a very particular landscape — one with water, food sources, trees, hiding places, and a path to perhaps another source of food or comfort. It is, in short, the savanna, the home of our Pleistocene ancestors during the period in which we became recognizably human. Our preference for this environment is wired into our brains for "savannas contain more protein per square mile than any other landscape type" as well as offering protection from predators (quickly climb up the tree).

To humans, the language ability is innate, even if the particular language a child first learns is cultural. Seemingly equally innate is the ability of children for make-believe, to construct worlds that mix fantasy (invisible teapot and teacups) with the real (tea always pours down, not up), and to keep the rules of these worlds separate and distinct. Also innate to most children (beginning at the age of 2 or so) is theory of mind — the ability to recognize that other people have internal lives similar to our own, but at the same times uniquely theirs. Consequently, perhaps the oldest art form is storytelling: What began undoubtedly with stories told around the campfire led eventually to more elaborate spoken narratives of legends, written narratives (the Iliad and Odyssey), plays, novels, film, and (much more recently) narrative-based videogames.

What's crucial is that these narratives (either historical, or partly historical, or purely fictional) help us survive. Stories give our brains an opportunity to work out contingencies of response to possible future events. (If a kitten jumps at everything that moves, it is better able to pounce on a real mouse when one shows up.) If we come upon a situation similar to one we once heard about in a story, we are much more likely to deal successfully with that situation and survive to pass on the "storytelling genes." Stories also provide examples of many kinds of people and how their minds work, and hence help us deal with others in social situations. Imaginative storytelling is one of the survival instincts that is packaged into human intelligence.

Dutton concludes that art is an inevitably intrinsic part of human nature, human intelligence, and (no one should be surprised) human sexuality.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Jean B. (Polaroid by doodles)

Seduction is what separates truth from meaning in discourse. Seduction always seduces in order to perpetuate seduction; it "is always its own end," "To seduce is to weaken. To seduce is to falter.... Everything is seduction and nothing but seduction,"

Baudrillard's philosophy centers on the twin concepts of "hyperreality" and "simulation." These terms refer to the virtual or unreal nature of contemporary culture in an age of mass communication and mass consumption. We live in a world dominated by simulated experience and feelings, Baudrillard believes, and have lost the capacity to comprehend reality as it really exists. We only experience prepared realities – edited war footage, meaningless acts of terrorism, the destruction of cultural values and the substitution of "referendum."

Twisted Society: We are living in a society of excrescence, meaning that which incessantly develops without being measurable against its own objectives.We live in an Information overload: era, so many messages and signals have been produced and transmitted that they will never find the time to acquire any meaning. Fortunately so for us! Fortunately, we ignore 99% of all information. The tiny amount that we nevertheless absorb already subjects us to perpetual electrocution. We are already liberated and vaporized in the same historical moment; there is no life anymore, but the information and the vital functions continue ... the current decade, in a certain way, will not take place, The silly sentimentality of yuppified peace & human rights movements is easy after the orgy but radical pessimism is what might save us

Media: the Situationists were WRONG & McLuhan was RIGHT -- We are no longer in the society of the spectacle, which the situationists talked about, nor in the specific types of alienation and repression which this implied. The medium itself is no longer identifiable as such, and the merging of the medium and the message (McLuhan) is the first great formula of this new age. There is no longer any medium in the literal sense: it is now intangible, diffuse and diffracted in the real, and it can no longer even be said that the latter is distorted by it,Thus we must think of the media as if they were, in outer orbit. Meaning thus implodes -- this is where simulation begins, the role of message is no longer information, but testing and polling, and finally control. The real is transformed by this process. It becomes the real for the real, fetish of the lost object -- no longer object of representation, but ecstasy of denegation and of its own ritual extermination: the hyperreal.... The hyperreal represents a much more advanced phase in the sense that even this contradiction between the real and the imaginary is effaced. The unreal is no longer that of dream or fantasy, of a beyond or a within, it is that of a hallucinatory resemblance of the real with itself. To exist from the crisis of representation, you have to lock the real up in pure repetition. The very definition of the real becomes: that of which it is possible to give an equivalent reproduction.... At the limit of this process of reproductibility, the real is not only what can be reproduced, but that which is always already reproduced. The hyperreal.

Obscenity begins when there is no more spectacle, no more stage, no more theater, no more illusion, when every-thing becomes immediately transparent, visible, exposed in the raw and inexorable light of of information and communication. We no longer partake of the drama of alienation, but are in the ecstasy of communication. Thus alienation gives way to obscene ecstasy. This obscenity is no longer sexual but rather cool and communicational; Simultaneously the subject has a need to speak and nothing to say -- to affirm his/her existence in the face of the disappearance of the subject and the hypervisibility of the obscene object: The need to speak, even if one has nothing to say, becomes more pressing when one has nothing to say, just as the will to live becomes more urgent when life has lost its meaning,

The simulacrum is never what hides the truth - it is truth that hides the fact that there is none. The simulacrum is true.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


Something like a manifesto of sorts (click for details)
Late to bed, the spirit of my time
is showing signs of mild agitation
with twitter bots and what’sitnots
and personal inflations.

The cult of individuals
are tending to the hive.
Sticky sweet opinions,
Youjizz masturbation drives,
dull the sporting will
against the new assimilation.

Resist the reasoned truth
Never will what you might learn
Belief is all that matters
In our infant global nation

All good things will bend
against the wind
and every end
is just an intermission
in the trend.

The populists will fall
to humankind
one place and time
and then
the vile scum will stand with us
as friends.


(thanks doodles)

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Art and science

In the early 1920s, Niels Bohr was struggling to reimagine the structure of matter. Previous generations of physicists had thought the inner space of an atom looked like a miniature solar system with the atomic nucleus as the sun and the whirring electrons as planets in orbit. This was the classical model.

But Bohr had spent time analyzing the radiation emitted by electrons, and he realized that science needed a new metaphor. The behavior of electrons seemed to defy every conventional explanation. As Bohr said, “When it comes to atoms, language can be used only as in poetry.” Ordinary words couldn’t capture the data.

The view of science as the sole mediator of everything depends upon one unstated assumption: While art cycles with the fashions, scientific knowledge is a linear ascent. The history of science is supposed to obey a simple equation: Time plus data equals understanding. One day, we believe, science will solve everything.

But the trajectory of science has proven to be a little more complicated. The more we know about reality—about its quantum mechanics and neural origins—the more palpable its paradoxes become. As Vladimir Nabokov, the novelist and lepidopterist, once put it, “The greater one’s science, the deeper the sense of mystery.”

The fundamental point is that modern science has made little progress toward any unified understanding of everything. Our unknowns have not dramatically receded. In many instances, the opposite has happened, so that our most fundamental sciences are bracketed by utter mystery. It’s not that we don’t have all the answers. It’s that we don’t even know the question.

How can the sciences overcome their present limitation? Science needs the arts for that. We need to find a place for the artist within the experimental process, to rediscover what Bohr observed when he looked at those cubist paintings. The current constraints of science make it clear that the breach between our two cultures is not merely an academic problem. It is a practical problem, and it holds back science’s theories. we need to bridge our cultural divide. By heeding the wisdom of the arts, science can gain the kinds of new insights and perspectives that are the seeds of scientific progress

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Joy and Happiness

Happiness is an expansion, a connection; is connecting with another person, with nature, with a situation. You feel joy when you're not really aware of yourself as distinct. The separateness that comes with all those other things like anger and fear, make you feel like you're a little isolated thing having an awful time.

When we think of happiness, children often come to mind; that the drive for happiness is one that motivates our daily actions, even in adulthood. It's one of the basic emotions that include anger and surprise. This drive for happiness impels you to seek out the things that make us feel good. Almost all the things that bring you joy now are things that brought you joy in your childhood. Every day there's something to discover in nature, and in culture, actually, but you knew as a child you really are discovering something every day. Then if you can bring that into your adult life; you wake up every day thinking there are things to learn and discover and to delight you with, then you're going to have a fair bit of joy in your life.

It is interesting to remember that emotions can be contagious, so you can be in a group and if the group is generally, you know positive, enthusiastic, those emotions can be contagious and if it's a fairly cynical group that can be contagious. And organizations are big social systems where they can create environments that facilitate and help people to increase their wellbeing or, in fact, can decrease it. And I think there's been far too little attention to that area so those are the types of things that I'm especially interested in, and understanding what creates a healthy environment where people are able to learn how to utilize their emotions in ways that benefit themselves and others. In my mind, in turn, it spreads back out into society.

Most of the people think that joy decreases with age but there's an emerging set of research that's showing that with aging the part of that regulates negative emotions actually becomes better able to do it, and, in a sense, takes the brakes off the positive emotions. So they end up being less anxious, less neurotic and so on (this is in normal ageing). And the question of course has been 'why would that happen?' And up until now a lot of neuroscience research hasn't addressed this question because they say, 'well surely evolution hasn't selected for something that would improve function after the productive years', that evolution would only select for something in the years when children can be produced. Who knows? Maybe it happens because our ancestors used to live longer than we do.

Happiness is a strange notion for scientists. What is the psychological state called "happiness" for? It can't be that natural selection designed us to feel good all the time out of sheer good will. Presumably our brain circuits for happiness motivate us to accomplish things that enhance biological fitness. With that simple insight one can make some sense of some of the puzzles of happiness that wise men and women have noted for thousands of years. For example, directly pursuing happiness is often a recipe for unhappiness, because our sense of happiness is always calibrated with respect to other people.

Perhaps we can make sense of this by putting ourselves in the shoes of the fictitious engineer behind natural selection. What should the circuit for happiness be doing? Presumably it would be assessing how well you're doing in your current struggle in life, whether you should change your life and try to achieve something different, or whether you should be content with what you're achieved so far, for example, when you are well-fed, comfortable, with a mate, in a situation likely to result in children and so on. But how could a brain be designed in advance to assess that? There's no absolute standard for well-being. A Paleolithic hunter-gatherer should not have fretted that he had no running shoes or central heating or penicillin. How can a brain know whether there is something worth striving for? Well, it can look around and see how well off other people are. If they can achieve something, maybe so can you. Other people anchor your well-being scale and tell you what you can reasonably hope to achieve.

Saturday, April 11, 2009


Jealousy is seen as a negative force. It's the main fuel for crimes of passion and is linked with brutality, including domestic violence, and even murder. But the great psychologist Sigmund Freud believed that it's not only normal, it's actually desirable to feel jealous. And like all other emotions it's developed to give us the best guess at what's happening in our lives.

The thinking is that the emotions systems developed to give us instant solutions to commonly experienced problems in our environment. That meant that very quickly the whole body could respond. So it's not just a thought thing but that literally the emotions play an important role in coordinating the internal functions; heart rate, respiration, muscle tension and the like. So these developed really to give us very instant kinds of solutions to commonly experienced – either threats or opportunities – in our environment; things that related to surviving in comfortable ways.

People are at their healthiest and at their happiest when they're involved in satisfying relationships; whether we're talking about childhood or we're talking about adulthood. Engaging in satisfying relationships is associated with all kinds of wonderful things; lower cardiovascular threat, greater immune system response, greater wellbeing. And so what jealousy does is it alerts you and impels you to the threat that your relationship is going to be lost. I like to call jealousy a social emotion as opposed to kind of a more basic emotion. And most of us accept the view that we have basic emotions like anger and fear that impel us to flee a danger or to attack a conflict. Social emotions are emotions that you're going to see in social species like humans, and what they do is help us navigate our social landscape, much as more basic emotions help us navigate the physical one.

The main point about jealousy is it's not just about, is my partner having sex with someone, or is my partner saying 'I love you' to someone – because that only happens in terms of romantic relationships at a certain stage of one's life. It's really about protecting valued relationships at all stages of life, because you have to be successful as a child in protecting relationships to reach sexual maturity. And then you have to be able to form relationships with romantic partners as well as with other individuals to help you succeed in life, and it's the grand total of that that I think makes you lead a very adaptive life, both in terms of propagating your genetic material, but also in terms of having a life well lived.

All humans at kind of a very innate level have the capacity to feel jealous, and will feel it when they sense that the relationship is being threatened, but that's the integral part. What determines when you feel that your relationship is being threatened, that varies a lot by cultural, by social learning, by past experiences. So think about your friends, you co-workers. Some individuals may react incredibly jealously when their partner simply smiles at someone else, and other people that doesn't bother them at all. And I think that is related to how the actions by their partner make them feel about themselves. Some people who have different secure levels of attachment may be more or less jealous by a certain act. And some cultures allow certain interactions between men and women that other cultures proscribe, and I think as we grow through our lives we're constantly tuning our threat detection mechanisms, so to speak, based on our past experiences and based on our culture.

Music and Language

"Words make you think a thought.
Music makes you feel a feeling.
A song makes you feel a thought. "

The tendency of people to enjoy music is as much of a puzzle as the question of why we have music. If there is a beneficial effect, it's as much of a puzzle why it has that beneficial effect, as why it exists.

Maybe music arised because we have acquired technologies to excite our pleasure circuitry. The pleasure circuitry has an adaptive explanation. The intelligence that manipulates the sound to bring about certain effects has an adaptive explanation. But you put them together and you get a species that in a biologist's sense, misapplies its intelligence to infiltrate motivational circuitry and short-circuit it. We have figured out how to amuse or titillate ourselves with artificial stimuli that don't themselves enhance fitness.

To be fair, there are other strands of the arts and humanities, sometimes brushed aside in the 20th century, that resonate quite well with the arguments that I've been making. Many artists and scholars have pointed out that ultimately art depends on human nature. The aesthetic and emotional reactions that we have to works of art depend on how our brain is put together. Art works because it appeals to certain faculties of the mind. Music depends on details of the auditory system, painting and sculpture on the visual system. Poetry and literature depend on language. And the insights we hope to take away from great works of art depend on their ability to explore the eternal conflicts in the human condition, like those between men and women and self and society. Some theoreticians of literature have suggested that we appreciate tragedy and great works of fiction because they explore the combinations of human conflicts and these are just the themes that scientific fields like evolutionary psychology, behavioral genetics and social psychology try to understand.

There are many similarities between music and ordinary language. Description and analysis of these similarities fall into two main areas, syntax and semantics.

F. Lerdahl and R. Jackendoff's wrote "A Generative theory of Tonal Music". They developed an account of "M-grammar" or musical grammar, the rules for assigning analysis ("structural descriptions") for incoming musical strings. They describe various basic analytical rules of four main types: metrical, grouping, time-span, and prolongational. The theory has a good deal of complexity, as it includes ways in which the rules interact and various ways of ordering musical representations according to their level of abstraction.
A key part of the generative theory of musical grammar is that there are certain schemas of pitch relationships that define the western tonal system. In essence, you must have these schemas "in your head" in order to be able to process and understand tonal music. Schemas are employed in actual music perception, that is, we hypothesize schemas to remember and anticipate meaning. A schema can be described as "a general large, complex unit of knowledge... a template, network, or list... something that helps us chunk information."

There are to fundamental analogies:
1.The grasp of meaning is the explanandum for a semantics of either natural language or music: The structural explanation of music is supposed to explain our "musical understanding"--the way music sounds to an experienced listener. This is the musics' "meaning" to us and the underlying structural account should explain why we have such experience.
2.The postulation of grammatical structures is guided by an appeal to semantic considerations. That is, the account of structures in musical "grammar" ultimately aims to account for our experiences of meaning in certain of our "feelings" about music, such as our feeling of beat strength in 4/4 time or of "tensions" and "relaxations" in music.
Because of these analogies, we can provide a more precise account of music's resemblance to natural language: listeners with the relevant knowledge can't help but understand incoming strings; listeners can be mistaken about what certain phrases mean; and the work communicates a meaning.

Nowadays we use language to transmit our knowledge, desires, frustrations etc. Language is an extremely complex structured system that allows us to exchange information between humans beings. Probably music developed before it for the same purposes that language did but failed to evolve satisfactorily and was replaced by our current form of communication.

Thursday, April 9, 2009


Facebook growth rate — doubling in size in just eight months — suggests Facebook is rapidly becoming the Web’s dominant social ecosystem and an essential personal and business networking tool in much of the wired world.

On Facebook, there's a new way you communicate - through the stream. Every time you log into your home page you see a running timeline or stream of the information being shared by your friends and the other things you're connected with. The more people share, the more you see in the stream and the more you learn about your connections. This stream doesn't have a reciprocal /direct way of communication. When you interact with a story in the stream, commenting on a piece of conntent you liked, the person sharing it becomes part of your active network.

Facebook management is acting like a group of cult leaders intent on changing the rest of us into more social, less private people than we might want to be ... Isn't there a lot more to human connection than one liner status updates, photos posted online, "thumbs up" and the other relatively mechanistic interactions that people have on Facebook? What's the end result of all these magical connections through relatively shallow communication? Advertising! ... That's the highlight of all this - formerly free-thinking individuals [using] Facebook to turn themselves into players in an advertisement.

One important question is whether we will have a much more radically distributed capacity to create knowledge, information and culture, and participate in the creation of knowledge, information and culture, or whether we will have a replicated and only slightly different industrial structure to information and knowledge production. We are now in a much more permeable and fluid society and a much more permeable cultural environment where the difference between producers and consumers is much more blurred.

Human beings are also undergoing transmutations into electronic avatars on the realtime social network; therefore the ability to automatically track and analyze their "movements" and "relationships" becomes an increasingly attractive value-mining opportunity. This opportunity exists today, but what's required to exploit it is the connection of the rich data collected on avatars' activities with data collected on various salient economic variables. Such a connection of datasets would allow much more precise estimates of the economic value of, for example, "friends" and "followers" in the context of both consumer markets and labor markets and, in turn, the ability to better measure, incentivize, and in general manipulate interactions on the so-called social graph.

But the mayor treat these kind of social network present is preventing human beings from becoming fully developed: A computer is a logical machine; our human brain has both a logical and a creative and/or emotional side. If we unduly stimulate the logical side and deprive the creative-emotional side (or the converse) the deprived functions atrophy. That influences our personality. We should try not to become a binary person; otherwise we will loose some of the valuable resources we have (like the ability to write a poem), our social skills will deteriorate and probably our human friends will vanish.

Monday, April 6, 2009


People are fascinated by language. An enormous amount has been discovered about language in linguistics, in computer science, in psychology, in philosophy. Also it bears on human evolution, on political rhetoric, on the enjoyment of poetry and fiction, on the organization of the brain. Language plays such a role in our lives, even sexuality, as we see in the language of swearing.

Language drives thought in the sense that you acquire a lot of your thoughts from other people through language, but thought is not the same thing as language. Stretches of sound that we call sentences have meanings and those meanings themselves are part of a huge database of our understanding of the world and reality and ourselves. Language is just a tip of the iceberg of what's going on in the mind. With language we can identify two sentences that have the same meaning, we can identify a single sentence that has two meanings; In order for a given sentence to have two meanings there have to be meanings that are separate from the sentences themselves, and we often know that words can be inadequate to the thoughts that we have. We struggle to put our thoughts into words.

Language help us express our intentions with the words we say. probably because language has to do two things at once; it has to transmit content, a promise, a proposition, a command; and at the same time it's got to ratify or change a relationship type because people aren't just modems downloading information into each other's brains. We always have a social relationship with the person we're talking to and the content of our conversation can affect that relationship.

Metaphors are a fundamental part of language, It's hard to find a passage of everyday speech that doesn't contain them. For all of the brilliant abstraction that the human mind is capable of—philosophy and law and science and government and so on—is it all a cooping of mental structures that are concrete and physical; and is metaphor a fundamental mechanism that allows us to apply Stone Age ways of thinking to abstract subject matters?

I often ask myself the question: does language save us from ourselves, in effect, in our instinctual ways? And the more I think about the answer I approach the following solutions: Yes, and not just language but what language reveals. That is, the metaphor that we see in language I think is like analogical thinking that we put into scientific understanding. The combinatorial rules that we see in language are like the combinatorial rules that build up complicated thoughts. So it's not just that we negotiate these new social arrangements and new knowledge via language, which of course we do, but in addition language gives us a hint as to what's going on beneath language, which has to be at least as complicated as language.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Semantic Search and Ontologies

What is Ontology?It Depends on What the Meaning of "Is" Is.
It is ironic that the word "ontology", which has to do with making clear and explicit statements about entities in a particular domain, has so many conflicting definitions. I'll offer two general ones.

The term "ontology" comes from the field of philosophy that is concerned with the study of being or existence. In philosophy, one can talk about an ontology as a theory of the nature of existence (e.g., Aristotle's ontology offers primitive categories, such as substance and quality, which were presumed to account for All That Is). In computer and information science, ontology is a technical term denoting an artifact that is designed for a purpose, which is to enable the modeling of knowledge about some domain, real or imagined

The term had been adopted by early Artificial Intelligence (AI) researchers, who recognized the applicability of the work from mathematical logic and argued that AI researchers could create new ontologies as computational models that enable certain kinds of automated reasoning. In the 1980's the AI community came to use the term ontology to refer to both a theory of a modeled world and a component of knowledge systems.

Categorization and classification are the act of organizing a collection of entities, whether things or concepts, into related groups. And then there's ontological classification or categorization, which is organizing a set of entities into groups, based on their essences and possible relations.

Now, anyone who deals with categorization for a living will tell you they can never get a perfect system. In working classification systems, success is not "Did we get the ideal arrangement?" but rather "How close did we come, and on what measures?" The idea of a perfect scheme is simply a Platonic ideal.

Ontological classification works well in some places, of course. You need a card catalog if you are managing a physical library. You need a hierarchy to manage a file system. So what you want to know, when thinking about how to organize anything, is whether that kind of classification is a good strategy.

When Does Ontological Classification Work Well?
Domain: small corpus, formal categories, stable entities, restricted entities, clear edges
Participants: expert catalogers, authoritative judgment, coordinated users, expert users
When Does Ontological Classification fail?
Domain: big corpus, informal categories, unstable and unrestricted entities, unclear edges
Participants: uncoordinated users, amateur users, naive catalogers, no authority

The list of factors making ontology a bad fit is, also, an almost perfect description of the Web; largest corpus, most naive users, no global authority, and so on. The more you push in the direction of scale, fluidity, flexibility, the harder it becomes to handle the expense of starting a cataloging system and the hassle of maintaining it.

Rigid structures will evidentely fail in tasks such as the "semantic search" one. Non-predefined structures that emerge from the context and also have the hability to evolve are needed to succed in that kind of tasks.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Buddists and Scientists

The Dalai Lama said Buddhists and scientists have something in common -- they both seek to dispel ignorance with knowledge, gained from experimentation and investigation. They are both trying to find reality.

"There is much work to be done to integrate the various fragments of life and its general understanding through interdisciplinary inquiry, and no one intellectual discipline alone can fulfill this need," said Tenzin Priyadarshi, the future Institute's director.

The Dalai Lama's stated that "Up to now, science mainly dealt with external things, while the Buddhist tradition is to analyze and investigate our inner world and to transform it. There is potential in working together,"

"Human values do not have a place in science, at least not yet. Beauty or meaning does not exist for science. Strictly speaking, science does not have a worldview, only a small, partial view. But science is universal. It can be shared across many countries, many cultures, and it has the possibility for growth. For 400 years, science has been accumulating, growing, and modifying its own principles by its own power. Buddhism can help provide a more integrated view of things to it".

"For Buddhists, the basic attitude is that you should remain skeptical at the beginning. This skeptical attitude automatically brings up questions. Questions bring clearer answers, or investigation. Therefore, Buddhist thinking relies more on investigation rather than on faith. I feel that that attitude is very, very helpful in communicating with scientists. Buddhist ethical discourse often speaks about wrong views as constituting a negative state of mind. There are two kinds of wrong views: One exaggerates what is actually there.The other denies what is actually there. So both absolutism and nihilism are seen as wrong views."

As much as the Dalai Lama enjoys dabbling in science, he has a greater purpose: to alleviate suffering. Buddhism has an extensive toolkit of techniques intended to reduce misery and perfect humanity through quieting the mind and cultivating compassion. The Dalai Lama wants to extract these methods from their religious context and ground them in the science of the brain in the hope that they will be widely adopted.

"I'm seeking scientific backing or findings in order to help everybody have a happy mind," also said the Dalai Lama. "Everybody is making an effort for material comfort but not as much effort to be happy." He said he hopes that by studying the minds and bodies of Buddhist monks and other saddhus (ascetic holy men) who, through meditation techniques, have developed extraordinary control over their mental and physical processes, scientists will be able to help all of humanity to achieve a happy mind.