Sunday, May 31, 2009

Mental Models

Human perception is a result of interplays between past experiences, including one’s culture, and the interpretation of the perceived.
Two types of consciousness are considerable regarding perception: phenomenal (any occurrence that is observable) and psychological (not related to the external world).
Jay Wright Forrester defined mental model as: "The image of the world around us, which carry in our head, is just a model. Nobody in his head imagin all over the world, government or country. He has only selected concepts and relationships between them and those used to represent the real system".

Two mythological beings

Condillac conceived a marble statue in the likeness of the human body and inhabited by a soul that had never perceived or thought. He begins by conferring on his statue a single sense, perhaps the least complex of all-that of smell. A whiff of jasmine is the start of the statue's biography; for one moment there is nothing but this odor in the whole universe-or, to be more accurate, this odor is the universe, which a moment later will be the odor of a rose, then of a carnation.
In the statue's consciousness, once there is a single odor we have attention; once an odor lasts after the stimulus has ceased we have memory; once a present and a past impression occupy the statue's attention we have the ability to compare once the statue perceives likeness and unlikeness we have judgment; once the ability to compare and judgment occur a second time we have reflection; once a pleasant memory is more vivid than an unpleasant impression we have imagination. Once the faculty of understanding is born, the faculty of the will will be born: love and hate (attraction and repulsion), hope and fear. The consciousness of having passed through many states of mind will give the statue the abstract notion of numbers; the consciousness of being the odor of carnation and of having been the odor of jasmine, the notion of the I.
The author will then endow his hypothetical man with hearing, taste, sight, and finally, touch. This last sense will reveal to him that space exists and that in space he exists in a body; sounds, smells, and colors had been to him, before this stage, mere variations or modifications of his consciousness.

The other creature raised by the problem of consciousness is the "hypothetical animal" of Lotze. This being has in its skin but one movable sensitive point-at the extremity of an antenna. Its structure denies it, as is obvious, more than one perception at a time. Lotze argues that the ability to retract or extend its sensitive antenna will enable this all but the animal to discover the external world and distinguish a stationary from a moving object.

I wonder what would be the main differences between the 3 mental models: the human one, the Lotze hypotetical animal one and the Candillac statue one?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Metaphors everywhere?

Definition: the word metaphor itself is a metaphor, coming from a Greek word meaning to "transfer" or "carry across." metaphors "carry" meaning from one word, image, or idea to another.

Every new theory or invention needs to be sustained by a preexisting concept. This concept is used to conform the new metaphor that defines the novelty, Following some examples are presented.

The meme metaphor: Meme is similar to "idea," but not all ideas are memes. A passing idea which you do not communicate to others, or one which fails to take root in others, falls short of being a meme. The important part of the "meme about memes" is that memes are subject to adaptive evolutionary forces similar to those that select for genes. Heir variation is subject to selection in the environment provided by human minds, communication channels, and the vast collection of cooperating and competing memes that make up human culture. The analogy is remarkably close.

The Black Swan metaphor: Nassim Taleb said that from the knowledge management viewpoint, his book isn’t about what we know, or about what we know we don’t know, but rather is a book that focuses attention on the un- or ill-conceived, on what we don’t know we don’t know, Donald Rumsfeld’s famous “unknown unknowns.” and prepare and position ourselves for them, so that we live in a state that is more robust relative to their possible occurrence and impact.

The Stream metaphor: The Stream is what the Web is thinking and doing, right now. It's our collective stream of Consciousness. The Stream is the dynamic activity of the Web, unfolding over time. It is the conversations, the live streams of audio and video, the changes to Web sites that are happening, the ideas and trends -- the memes -- that are rippling across millions of Web pages, applications, and minds,

The Twitter metaphor: Twitter is like a huge cocktail party with:
Following and Followers: you can say you invited people to the party when you followed them. People who are not online now have not arrived at the party. But like all good parties, there are party crasher who also appear but were not invited.
Timeline: full of many individual conversations, and skimming the timeline is like walking through the room, eavesdropping on conversations as you walk past people.
Replies:. are like walking up to someone, and using their name to start a new conversation, or turning to include someone new by using their name.

The Metaphor cognitive function metaphor: Pinker sees human intelligence itself as consisting of a repertoire of concepts -- such as objects, space, time, causation and intention -- which are useful in a social, knowledge-intensive species, whose evolution you can well imagine, and a process of metaphorical abstraction that allows us to bleach these concepts of their original conceptual content -- space, time and force -- and apply them to new abstract domains, therefore allowing a species that evolved to deal with rocks and tools and animals to conceptualize mathematics, physics, law and other abstract domains.
He said that verbs, for example – to cause, to make, to go – can be seen as an alphabet of the basic concepts with which we’re born. He said we comprehend more complexity through metaphor – or simple comparisons. We weren’t born with ideas about physics, chess and love affairs, but probably with a smaller stock of ideas like cause and go and make and goal, and metaphor allows us to co-opt simple concrete thoughts to deal with complex abstract situations.

"The logic of the emotional mind is associative; it takes elements that symbolize a reality, or trigger a memory of it, to be the same as that reality. That is why similes, metaphors and images speak directly to the emotional mind. ... If the emotional mind follows this logic and it's rules, with one element standing for another, things need not necessarily be defined by their objective identity: what matters is how they are perceived; things are as they seem. ... Indeed, in emotional life, identities can be like a hologram in the sense that a single part evokes a whole. " - Goleman

Wednesday, May 20, 2009


The Stream is composed by streams which are real time, rapidly changing, flowing, dynamic streams of information — that we as users and participants can dip in and out of and whether we participate in them or simply observe we are a part of this flow.

Borthwich on streams
"They start with this stream of data getting published, republished, annotated and co-opt’d across a myriad of sites and tools. The social component is complex — consider where its happening. The facile view is to say its Twitter, Facebook or FriendFeed — pick your favorite service. But its much more than that because all these sites are, to varying degrees, becoming open and distributed. Its blogs, storage sites, boards or moderation tools (ie: disqus) — a whole site can emerge around an issue — become relevant for a week and then drawn in the flow. This web Is still under construction but we are back in the dark room trying to understand the dimensions and contours of something new, or even how to map and outline its borders".

Spivak on streams
"If the Internet is our collective nervous system, and the Web is our collective brain, then the Stream is our collective mind. The nervous system and the brain are like the underlying hardware and software, but the mind is what the system is actually thinking in real-time. These three layers are interconnected, yet are distinctly different aspects, of our emerging and increasingly awakened planetary intelligence. The Stream is what the Web is thinking and doing, right now. It's our collective stream of consciousness".

-I don't think a stream has a uni dimensional sequence structure filled with pieces of information that people share and use to interact with each other, I think it is more complex than that. Maybe streams have a two dimensional structure with a spiral-shape. This structure starts at the information located farthest from the spiral center. As the stream evolves its contents are located in sequential order starting from the outer layers and moving toward the inner ones. The stream evolves towards better communication and interaction among it's participants. The closer the stream content is to the center the closer people are to truly understand each other and to increased interaction quality.

-An fMRI scanner should be developed for the new "collective brain". It should be able to measure the activity in the brain or spinal cord (the nervous system is formed by both of them).

-Maybe having an online identity used for participating in social bookmarking, blogs, streams and other kinds of social networks is an attempt to stop being an anonymous web user and become a famous one. Streams are new but humans have still the same nature which demands most of them to be engaged in the most frivolous possible activities including, being famous.

-The stream content appears to be coherent information, because it is contained and generated in a unique and particular stream; but usually a stream is filled with a bunch of unrelated information inserted there by loosely related people with very few interest in common and that rarely communicate with each other. Nevertheless it is possible that we still do not understand the 'global mind' deep enough and don't have enough context information to understand the coherence contained in most of these streams.

-It seems we are mainly passive consumers of information. Why not search for the Buddhist/Hinduist understanding of human existence? Therefore choose the streams that fit our desires, needs and wants in life. It's not a question of being able to consume an ever increasing amount of stream chatter. It's a question about being able to create and recreate reality together with other individual minds that are beneficial to all humans.

-Since the new kind of being called "collective mind" should be taking care of it needs to be tought to practice meditation in order to be balanced, compassionate, and wise.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Perception according to "The tao of Pooh"

The Vinegar Tasters painting is the most popular painting related to taoism. It was made even more famous when the book "Tao of Pooh" mentioned this piece of art.

Three men are standing around a vat of vinegar. Each one has dipped his finger into the vinegar and has tasted it. The expression on each man's face shows his individual reaction. The vinegar they are sampling represents the Essence of Life. The three masters are Confucius, Buddha, and Lao Zi. The first has a sour look on his face, the second wears a bitter expression, but the third man is smiling.

To Confucius, life seemed rather sour. He believed that the present was out step with the past, and that the government of man on earth was out of harmony with the Way of Heaven, the government of, the universe. Therefore, he emphasized reverence for the Ancestors, as well as for the ancient rituals and ceremonies in which the emperor, as the Son of Heaven, acted as intermediary between limitless heaven and limited earth. Under Confucianism, the use of precisely measured court music, prescribed steps, actions, and phrases all added up to an extremely complex system of rituals, each used for a particular purpose at a particular time. A saying was recorded about Confucius: "If the mat was not straight, the Master would not sit."

To Buddha, life on earth was bitter, filled with attachments and desires that led to suffering. The world was seen as a setter of traps, a generator of illusions. In order to find peace, the Buddhist considered it necessary to transcend "the world of dust" and reach Nirvana, literally a state of "no wind." the devout Buddhist often saw the way to Nirvana interrupted all the same by the bitter wind of everyday existence.

To Lao Zi, the harmony that naturally existed between heaven and earth from the very beginning could be found by anyone at any time, but not by following the rules of the Confucianists. As he stated, "earth was in essence a reflection of heaven, run by the same laws - not by the laws of men. These laws affected not only the spinning of distant planets, but the activities of the birds in the forest and the fish in the sea. According to him, the more man interfered with the natural balance produced and governed by the universal laws, the further away the harmony retreated into the distance. The more forcing, the more trouble. Whether heavy or light, wet or dry, fast or slow, everything had its own nature already within it, which could not be violated without causing difficulties. When abstract and arbitrary rules were imposed from the outside, struggle was inevitable. Only then did life become sour.

To Lao, the world was not a setter of traps but a teacher of valuable lessons. Its lessons needed to be learned, just as its laws needed to be followed; then all would go well. Rather than turn away from "the world of dust," he advised others to "join the dust of the world." What he saw operating behind everything in heaven and earth he called Tao, "the Way".

Vinegar certainly have an unpleasant taste, as the expressions on the faces of the other two men indicate. But, through working in harmony with life's circumstances, Taoist understanding changes what others may perceive as negative into something positive. From the Taoist point of view, sourness and bitterness come from the interfering and unappreciative mind. Life itself, when understood and utilized for what it is, is sweet.

Friday, May 8, 2009

My uncle and me

My uncle, also known as Mr tree, selected a bunch of letters, spaces and punctuation marks in order to form a queue of characters. He didn't like the sequence that was formed so he added a couple of vowels, extracted a colon and scrambled all the symbols several times. After he posted the results people started witting to him asking for advice (they asked about how to get inspired, the best moment for witting, how to know when a poem is finished, how to be sure if a word is good, and many other things). Uncle had no idea what to tell them but he did not want to disappoint them either so he decided to write the following:The shady side of gray

Dr. Peter Turney expanded and reflected about the entry I called "Differences in the aesthetics between math and art". His text is thought provoking and enlightening at the same time. If you liked my previous post I strongly recommend that you to read this: Differences in the aesthetics between math and art

The great poet and periodist Ryann Manning intreviewed me, you can check it here:Interview

Thursday, May 7, 2009


No-one knows what money is, which seems odd. We know about strange things like quarks and quasars. But not about money. Everybody claimed wisdom, starting with Economists and ending with academics. Money is 'nothing but numbers', a 'measure', a 'means', a 'liberator', 'money is, what money does'. In fact, money can be anything we believe it to be.

Theories about money are plentiful and can fit any circumstance.They are comforting to us, but fundamentally unreliable. Experience suggests that having confidence and trust in our understanding of money is important for our well being. But our current 'wisdom' oftentimes engenders faith at the expense of the truth.

Say to people, "money is power" and few will disagree. It's our everyday experience of it. It transforms our needs and wants into comfort and satisfaction. That's akin to magic. There is a sense of the sacred about money. It has 'other-worldly' qualities. Money can be also considered as metaphysical; existing outside of our consciousness. like time.

-Money is so involved with what we are as beings, and who we are as people, that it remains a 'fuzzy' idea.
-Money determines the price of everything because it knows the value of nothing.
-Price is to Money as weight is to gravity. They are both mundane measures of profound powers.
-Money is not a limited resource. Its not like coal or oil, wheat or cotton, guns or diamonds; its a force.
-By being able of appropriating all objects desired, money is thus the object of eminent possession. The universality of its property is the omnipotence of its being. It is therefore regarded as omnipotent.

The growth of commerce subverted the power relationships in society. Money is seen as something negative because it corrodes social bonds. When hiring servants became possible, the demand for their services and the desire for money, drove (mainly) young women from their family, to serve others. They stopped working for free, and chose to sell their work to the rich.

Charity is a way to transfer that force to others about whom we feel guilty. sometimes we feel guilty because we feel responsible for their plight, and sometimes we feel guilty just because we have stuff and they don't. But by transferring ownership of the 'money-force' through charity, we make it harder for them to understand their own relationship with money. We cannot bear to see their suffering, their otherness, so we give away our power to make them more like us - except not quite as good. Charity is always more about the giver than the receiver. Charitable exchange sustains social imbalance in a way that commercial exchange does not. Charity is a quicksand that pulls the poor further into poverty with each donation.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Differences in the aesthetics between math and art

Difference #1:
Mathematical truths are discovered Artistic truths are mediated.

Difference #2:
Mathematicians generally agree on what is mathematically correct. Artists generally have no idea what is artistically correct.

Difference #3:
Math illuminates the supportive skeletal structure of thought whereas Art illuminates the metaphoric wind, which blows through that structure.

Difference #4:
Science reveals the body of "God" and Art reveals "God's" mind -- or is it the converse?

Difference #5:
Pure Mathematics has no expression for metaphor however; it does provide us a structure that can be used for it.

Difference #6:
In general, the mathematician is not interested in finding truths through nonsense as opposed to the artist who is.

Difference #7:
The goal of art is to go beyond language. Mathematics is a language to describe what is beyond us.

Difference #8:
Artists have an insouciant tendency to get lost in their imagination Mathematicians have an attentive tendency to map their imagination

Difference #9:
A mathematical theory seems to come in a flash of intuition before the final product is rigorously constructed.
An artistic theory seems to come much after the artwork that has been constructed in a flash of intuition.

Difference #10:
Mathematical creations are not unique in the sense that they could be discovered by anyone.
Artistic creations are uniquely invented by individuals.

Difference #11:
Mathematics, among other things, is a language.
Art, among other things, uses language.

Difference #12:
In science one tries to tell people, in such a way as to be understood by everyone, something that no one ever knew before. But in poetry, it’s the exact opposite. —Paul Dirac

Please feel free to add any other difference you can think of, and also to question the proposed ones.

This thoughts where originally written by Kaz Maslanka, in his blog called Mathematical poetry.

On-line Dating II

Internet dating is proving a much more successful way to find long-term romance and friendship for thousands of people than was previously thought, new research shows. A new study of online dating site members has found that when couples who had built up a significant relationship by e-mailing or chatting online met for the first time, 94 per cent went on to see each other again.

Old-fashioned romance isn’t dead, however: among the survey’s findings were that exchanging gifts was the best way to ensure commitment in the relationship.

Dr Gavin, with Dr Adrian Scott of the University of Bath and Dr Jill Duffield of the University of the West of England, carried out an online survey of 229 people, aged 18 to 65, who have used UK internet dating sites, asking them about their main relationship that they had had online. Dr Gavin’s paper will be read at an international psychology conference next month.

The research showed that:

• 94 per cent of those surveyed saw their ‘e-partner’ again after first meeting them, and the relationships lasted for an average of at least seven months, with 18 per cent of them lasting over a year.

• men online were significantly more likely to be committed to the relationship than women and were more dependent on their ‘e-partner’.

• the more the couple engaged in simultaneous online chat before meeting rather than simply e-mailing one another, the more they were found to depend on one another emotionally and the more they understood one another.

• those who exchanged gifts before meeting had a more committed and deeper relationship.

• the more the couple talked on the telephone before they met, the deeper the relationship.

Dr Gavin, of the University of Bath's Psychology Department, and his co-authors, found that people using the internet rarely used webcams, which allow computer users to see one another, because they preferred the greater anonymity of writing and using the telephone.

“This study shows that online dating can work for many people, leading to a successful meeting for almost everyone we surveyed,” said Dr Gavin.

“Given that the most successful relationships lasted at least seven months, and in some case over a year, it seems that these relationships have a similar level of success as ones formed in more conventional ways.

“We found that men tend to be more committed to the online relationships than women, possibly because the anonymity of writing gives them a chance to express their emotions more readily than in real life.

“We also found that people are shying away from using webcams because they feel it’s important not see their partners for some time – there is something special about text-based relationships.”

Dr Gavin believes that the reason that using the telephone and online chatting indicates a deeper relationship is that these are methods of simultaneous communication, whereas e-mails are more formal.

Of the relationships, 39 per cent were still going on at the time of the survey, and of these 24 per cent had been going for at least a year, and eight per cent for at least two years. Of the relationships that had already ended at the time of the survey, 14 per cent had lasted over a year, and four per cent had lasted over two years.

PD: Thanks to taxi driver for his post re-on-line-dating