Sunday, November 30, 2008

How to Create Jobs

Leave us alone!

Even the WSJ seems to be on board with what sounds like a very Keynsian plan to "Build infrastructure to create jobs and stimulate the economy." The press releases sound more and more perversely Atlas Shrugged-esque, with talk about creating a post called the "economy-czar" (at least colloquially) in addition to the nationalizations that have already occurred and the ones that are scheduled to occur in January. Who is John Galt?

Funny, as I was typing this I realized a totally unconscious parallel to my own personal plans. I've been talking for the past few weeks of getting my life ordered such that I can support myself on very little money, maybe take some time off to travel the continent. My romantic vision has me following the summer on my motorcycle, guitar strapped to my back, shipping my few necessary possessions from destination to destination in trunks. I'd finally have the time to read the stack of books I've compiled for myself, I could spend lots of time improving my musicianship, and I'd have the opportunity for adventure that a routine lifestyle doesn't offer. I'd also plan on developing some of my ideas on AI into more serious research projects.

To stay engauged and give it structure, I could plan my trip around different conferences that are happening accross the continent, as well as taking classes at universities where I stay for the quarter.

The parallel is that that's exactly the sort of thing the heroes of Atlas Shrugged did, though I didn't have the book consciously in mind at all when I was conceiving the plan. The men (and women) of the mind refused to shoulder the burden of the collapsing society and retired to private lives, living simply and pursuing their passions without the benefit of using societal infrastructure.

Rand wrote Atlas Shrugged, in part, to keep the scenario in it from becoming real. Ahh, well
... is it time to strike yet?


In all its forty-year old glory, here's my motorcycle. I took the handlebar extension and sissy-bar off, so it looks a little less chopper-ish. Next thing is to get the oldschool seat.
I rode it maybe 20 miles on the friday after thanksgiving, first time ever in traffic, and not legally. I was trying to do it all legit, but its tough playing by the rules, apparently. Because I bought it out of state I had to take it to the BMV to get it inspected in order to get a title and plates. My temporary plates expired, and all the trailer rental places were closed. Sheesh. So I just rode it up there anyway.

Anyway, the bomber jacket was a good investment for the purpose of riding in the cold. Its warm enough that I could probably ride through the winter if I were to get some leggings. Maybe some thigh-high striped knit leg warmers to go over my jeans.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Ron Paul

Ron Paul. Man, I would have liked to vote for him.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Great things to do on the weekend

In breif, this is how I've been spending my time this weekend: read Slaughterhouse Five, played guitar for about ten hours, heard Prokofiev's violin Concerto number one in D at the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, spent eight hours on a project for my Optimization Modeling class, read a few chapters of The Portrait of Dorian Gray.

Got a neat app for my phone makes it into an Ocarina, and connects to all the other people around the world playing it. I love both the visualization of music (though this isn't very complex) and the networked, global-sharing idea. Very cool to see and hear music being played by people all over the world... seems like an awesome next step would be to enable people to play together.

I spent a few hours writing some sci-fi as well. I think I'll start a separate blog and start posting bits of story line there.

I stopped by Lindsay's showing of a film at her art gallery, but it was too packed to get in.

I'm seriously considering offering my ideas on market ai mechanisms to the "call for papers" that was posted in Kurzweil AI.

So, what did all that guitar playing over the weekend accomplish? I should note that I got the two books I mentioned as audiobooks, so I was playing guitar while “reading.” Well,
I got an increased degree of mastery over the scales I’ve been learning, and I’m starting to have intuitive understanding of the note-structure of music. And I’m also gaining an appreciation for just how much there is to learn. In terms of things recognizable as songs, I learned ‘Hotel Yorba’ and ‘Little Ghost’, and relearned ‘Blue in the Face’ and ‘One More Cup of Coffee.’ I can even sing (poorly) over all of them! That’s something I’ve never been able to do before, and again I’ve got a lot of development ahead of me.

Office comedy: I’m sitting up in IS doing testing on our software, and a little while ago I overheard some IS folks talking condescendingly about non-IS people and how they “can’t read a data layer.” Just now I overheard the same person perplexed over how to expand a pivot table’s data in Excel. I would help, but it might upset the balance of geekery between IS and PC. Oh… man. Its terrible that that’s funny to me, in several ways.

The dark musing below on “Blood Money and Money-Blood” was written while listening to really good Jazz at the Blue Wisp. I was feeling broody, and it occurred to me that musicians and artists are probably some of the only people who are outside of that paradigm. People who’s actions are fully internally motivated… but then the culture of music and art could be said to be a similar sort of organism, and they probably use their component people in ways that are similar to how business people are used by markets.

So it goes.

The Prokofiev concerto was a wonderful thing, and I feel really lucky to have been there for it. I only just discovered it at DRH’s recommendation earlier this spring (I think he talked about it in I Am A Strange Loop), and I’ve come to know it well over the summer. My iTunes count shows twenty two playings since spring, and my iPod probably has triple that. The serendipity is that I randomly flipped my radio on to the classical station on Thursday, and here was this ad for a piece being played just two days hence. It was moving and awe inspiring, the violinist was marvelously talented, and the music is achingly beautiful.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Another Slice of Happiness

Lindsay Nehls and John ____ opened the Freespace Project on at 639 Main Street on Friday; an incredibly awesome accomplishment. They've got a store front right in the heart of downtown, next to the Aronoff, and (perhaps even more notably) they had a huge turnout. The place was packed, and in evesdropping on conversations I noted a remarkable diversity. There were a lot of artists obviously, but I heard people talking about LSATS, corporate stuff, and so on. Its neat that they're able to draw on a diverse audience. 

 Heath and Dan performed a Bach guitar piece, which was wonderful and a strong reminder of how far I have to go before I can say I'm "good" at the instrument, 'cause they were awesome. They did a couple Neutral Milk Hotel songs and threw in a mandolin, another instrument I've been thinking it like to learn to play. Corey read some poetry, which was cool and weird. I'm unqualified to comment on poetry, so I won't.

They put a few big rolls of paper down and encouraged everyone there to make art. I (predictably) did some swirly colors, a few ambigrams (love/lust, Thought, and my TJMurphy/Extropian one), and a helix with its formula in Cartesian coordinates winding around it. Also made a three sided mobius strip out of clay.

Lindsay encouraged me to finish my sculpture project so she can show it, so on Saturday I got a bunch of foamcore and made a half-turn of the sculpture, optimistically hoping that she'll still show it if its made of foamcore rather than steel. I found a good solution to the problem of getting the rungs to stand at the right angle (and thus for the helix to have the right diameter); a string glued diagonally across the opening. Since each string is at slightly different tension, it makes a sort of melody when you run your finger down it.  

Saturday night I saw Rockn-Rolla, the new Guy Richie film. I didn't even know that there was such a movie coming out, but I started developing great expectations for it around 5 0'clock when Rachael came over and told me about it. Pretty badass, and good filmmaking. My emotions were effectively manipulated (I realize in retrospect); there were points in the movie that built up the awkwardness and uncomfortableness, and for a moment I thought it was just falling flat. Then, ahhh, turns out that was the setup for a joke, and the resolution of the awkward tension makes for… funniness.

Turns out I'm not the best film critic, I'm lacking vocabulary and points of comparison. I liked the movie, at any rate, and I feel like its automatically one of those movies that forever gets alluded to in banter. I also have serious trouble with over-suspending disbelief; EG I decided that I could be a rockn-rolla too for a few moments. I had similar thoughts after watching the Godfather. Illusions of… grandeur? Probably the wrong word, since one of the things I get from the Richie films is the arbitrary chance randomness of underworld people rising and falling. The characters are buffeted about by forces beyond their control, and they behave erratically enough to flummox the plans of the people trying to control them. And that's life for a lot of people, just bouncing from circumstance to circumstance, pretending to have control, and trying to find some way to enjoy it. A dark rumination, perhaps, but the first step to avoiding the trap is recognizing that you're in it (thanks Frank H_).

On Sunday, Dad and I got my motorcycle working! Turns out the problems were: a faulty sparkplug, leaving the key in the ignition drains the battery (and makes it look like there's some major electrical problem), and me not understanding how the fuel petcock works (lol; petcock). The diagnosis and fixing process was therapeutic, its fun to work on a machine that's both simple enough to fix and mysterious enough to be surprising. We poked around, took things apart, cleaned stuff, put it back together, trying to start it between each tinkering. At some point it fired up and ran, to which our reaction was something like: "Um, ok… so why did that work?" I suspect that's what "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" is all about.

Dad's assessment of "a fuel problem" turned out to be true.  There was, in fact, no fuel at all flowing into the cylinders after it ran for a minuet or two because the carburetor float chambers were emptied and the fuel petcock was off. Simple fix, yes, but it took taking the carburetors apart before we realized it. Not immediately obvious when the apparent problem is "not starting" and there're a bunch of other possible causes.

I rode it around the neighborhood, the thing's got some serious power. I never really opened it up, but it pulls pretty hard with just a little bit of gas. Death on Wheels! I realized the merit of effective gloves when I went inside, my fingers were so cold it felt like someone hit each one of my fingernails with a hammer. Ah, if only I had brought it up there sooner!

Friday, November 7, 2008


Check it out: I was gonna go get an SG, but when I went to guitar
center and played a bunch of nice ones, I realized that I'm not good
enough to be able to tell the difference between a cheap guitar and a
quality one. So, I came home, painted my pickguard black, did some
flames, and soldered everything back together on my old guitar. Wonder
of wonders, it does actually sound better now (though that may have
some thing to do with the noise gate I bought for the amp). Looks way
better, though, eh?

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Smashing Pumpkins in Cleveland

The Smashing Pumpkins have had a special place in my heart for a long time. Siamese Dream was on of the first two cd’s I ever owned (the other was the Black album), and over the years I’ve found new ways to relate to their music. The duality of ecstatic happiness and overwhelming sadness is the feeling their music expresses most clearly to me, plus the recognition of the transience of those things. It moves me, in other words.

With that said, I still gained a new appreciation for them at their Cleveland show on Saturday. I never really recognized how awesome a guitarist Billy Corgan is; I’d always focused on the emotivness of his voice, but it turns out he’s a shredmaster also. Its obvious now that I go back and listen to the albums, but I had to see it in person to really make the connection.

There’s really no band that’s a close comparison to them, and I guess for that reason I’d never mentally associated them with heavy metal (that, plus the large number of non-metal songs they do). But they really do metal heavy. I love that deep, dark, driving rhythm…

Monday, November 3, 2008

Further Market-based-AI ideas

A friend commented on my post about about research ideas for market mechanisms in AI. He brought up a couple of excellent points. Here's my reply, which I feel's worth posting:


Excellent question! I've not done much thinking along the lines of inter-agent efficiencies; that will definitely be fertile ground to develop. On the specific question of which agents a given agent interacts with and how those links are established: I agree, your "case 1" wouldn't allow the kind of dynamic flexibility that a market or a mind needs.

To extend the metaphor, one approach to the second case might be to expand the role of the "investor" agents. One of their functions (and methods of earning a return) could be to "fund" new "start-up" agents. There might be a process where agents are generated spontaneously, each of which proposes a set of connections and a transformation. The investor agents could evaluate the proposals and select a few to give a big boost of activation (eg: funding). The unselected ones struggle on, probably failing quickly; the selected ones get to compete on more equal footing with the existing agents.

That could be called the "entrepreneur" method of new connections, another might be the "sales call." Existing agents could propose connections with others, and they would be evaluated by the receiving agent. They might go through a process of "trial shipments," which would determine whether or not the connection lasts. The other side of this scenario would be the "RFQ" model, where an existing agent requests a connection with another (really the same thing, just reversing the supplier/customer relationship).

Hmm. That could get tough to implement pretty quickly, eh? Designing an artificial economy sounds pretty unachievable (for the same reason that "designing" a real economy is unachievable), but hopefully the system could "self-assemble" if the agents could be designed simply enough and market-oriented enough.

Its come to my attention that Opencog (Goertzle's project) is using the "artificial economy" model for attention allocation; I'll have to read up on how they're approaching it.

Im also quite sure that there's been work done on agent based artificial economies outside of the AI feild, so I need to look into that too.