Monday, March 2, 2009

Cog Sci Project Idea

An idea springs forth from my new learnings! An integration of several high-falutin' things!

It seems that the Traveling Salesperson Problem can be applied to many different domains; the idea of minimizing the "cost" of connecting some set of things has broad application. Included are artificial neural networks, graph coloring, and whad'ya know... touring a bunch of cities.

How can the concept of "time value of money" be integrated into the TSP framework?
Perhaps if we're solving TSPs iteratively, and the parameters are changing?
For instance the, costs between any given vertices could change stochasticly (perhaps with an identifiable pattern (eg: cycle), perhaps not). The goal would be to find the set of TSP solutions that minimizes cost over time, given the uncertainty inherent in the changing connection costs. Further, the cost associated with implementing a TSP solution could be matched against the reward it brings to make a profit function. This, in turn, could be used over a series of iterations of the TSP (with the stochastic costs) to find an net present value.

I went further down the simulation road than I was intending there... ultimately I'm trying to tie the TSP framework back to forming abstractions (concepts) about the uncertain external world and strategies for acting on them. Here the TSP solution over time represents an uncertain (but hopefully useful) belief about the regular state of the domain. The NPV could then be interpreted as a measure of the value of that strategy, in other words how well the "concept" discovered captures the underlying structure of the environment.

I think that this idea may be generally applicable to agents on many levels; if so it would be a neat opportunity to integrate several feilds with some robust mathematical formalism.


I've been stressing hardcore because I thought I was way more crunched for time on my final projects than I am. As it turns out, the stress caused me to get ahead of the game, so my behind-ness isn't as awful as I momentarily thought it was. I got my extra credit for Regression analysis done just in time, and the presentation went well. Now I've got to get my proficiency up on the mathematical programming stuff, and try and learn Radiation Hybrid Mapping for the project there. Nose to the grindstone for the next three weeks!

Math, Sarcasm, Romance, and Language

[This somehow failed to get posted a week ago]

Dear Internet,

It seems I'm having the midlife crisis cliche twenty or so years ahead of schedule. I took up guitar, bought a motorcycle, left my girlfriend (for a while) to be a (mostly unsuccessful) philanderer, went back to school, realized how much I loved my X and Y'd her, quit my job, and am now trying to deliberately and purposefully design myself a lifestyle that I look forward to living.

Makes me wonder about the idea of a "midlife crisis" and the negative connotation it seems to have. It seems to be shorthand for "figuring out that your only obligations are the ones you choose to accept," and then acting on the realization. I suspect the reason that there's a negative connotation is that realization has negative consequences on those who depend on the realizer
An aside: I wonder what the root-similarity between the word Philanthropy and Philandery is? Are they related by the structure "giving x to everyone," where x a variable? I know I could look up the etymology instantly, but it makes me smile to let it hang. Maybe the relatively positive attitude towards male promiscuity is related linguistically to the idea of "giving" (it), which is viewed positively; while female promiscuity involves "taking" (it), which is viewed negatively.

Oh by the way I quit my job. My official reasons were: A) because I think the economy is headed for much worse times, and I think Toyota's no-layoff policy might be put to the test (since they're already abandoning it abroad), B) I want to focus on school, C) the buyout clears my debt, and unofficially D) I think I can find a more interesting thing to do with my waking hours and I don't feel like I need the money.

One thing I really do like about my job (and what I'm studying (Quantitative Analysis)) is the feeling of discovery and clarity that comes with finding insight and meaning in what first seems to be incomprehensible or inscrutable. I imagine walking into a room that's a tangle of brambles and thorns hiding gems; then blasting away a bunch of illusions, traps and obfuscations with carefully chosen words and symbols that are interpreted as instructions and executed by a powerful (but unintelligent) genie (the program). And in one fell swoop, meaning emerges from meaninglessness! Not usually "one fell swoop," though; that image belies all the experimentation and interpretation that underlies it. But the final swoop is singular and "fell," at any rate.
And... what's this? Ah, I think my sense of humor is returning. I've been observing that I've been unpleasantly humorless lately. Uncertainty must be stimulating.

Hmm! There's an interesting suggestion to reinterpret! Economy wonks talk about business being depressed because of uncertainty and lack of "consumer confidence..." but I think that there's a strong case to be made that there's no growth without uncertainty. Entreprenurialism is all about taking calculated risks, right? Perhaps the issue is with people's level of comfort with uncertainty. The risk-averse make no strides, just consume till they die.

With love,

Addendum: XKCD is one of the single greatest things to ever happen to me.