Friday, December 25, 2009

Wikipedia Forever

I have just made a small contribution to Wikipedia.

Long time ago, when hand held calculators first came out I was a high school student. We had a physics teacher whose name was Şükrü Kapucu (*). He was a forward thinking charismatic man, a sharp intellectual, an unpretentious revolutionary, an unconventional thinker, an outspoken atheist, a gentleman and above all 'a man of enlightenment'. He played a grand role in shaping my identity, may he rest in peace.

Everyday Şükrü Kapucu used to engrave his trademark motto upon us, over and over again: "knowledge is universal". These words never came out of my mind. Today at this moment I still vividly recall with his own voice the very words of his "knowledge is universal".

'Knowledge is universal' means knowledge should be accessible to all. Yet we take it for granted. Providing universal knowledge is not entirely free. It takes a handful of men's determination and volunteer work to make it happen.

Today there is only one non-profit organisation that did the most to spread the knowledge universally, fulfilling my teacher's dream, and that is Wikipedia. There is not a day in my life passes that I don't use Wikipedia at least once a day.

Demand for free universal knowledge steadily grows. Spread of universal knowledge is essential for fighting against poverty, diseases, injustice and poverty. More African villages will connect to Internet than last year. As a non-profit organisation Wikipedia needs our contribution to run its services reliably and effectively.

So please consider donating by clicking the below picture.

Wikipedia Affiliate Button

(*) I came across this sweet poem (in Turkish) written by Aydın Kahraman for Şükrü Kapucu: http://www.siirdemeti.com/siir_a.asp?siirno=95508

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Talent Shows

This is from Susan Boyle web site

Simon Cowell has apologised to Susan Boyle for judging her on her appearance before she started singing on Britain’s Got Talent.

He told The Ellen DeGeneres Show that he was made to look stupid because of his preconceptions about the singer.

Cowell said: “I’m totally guilty, I’d be the first to admit that I judged her on the way that she looked and the way that she walked on stage.

“I was made to look very, very stupid in front of 200 million people. So if you’re watching, I apologise! I learnt a lesson from that.”

Mmm. And we should buy this Mr. Nasty, is that it?

I am sick and tired of morality bastardised in the hands of talent show hosts. Again the whole thing smells nothing but a publicity stunt.

Wikipedia says:

"In 2006, Cowell signed to two more record-breaking deals. In the USA, he agreed to remain as a judge on American Idol, earning £20 million ($33 million) per season for another five years. He also has a deal with FOX which allows his production company to broadcast Got Talent and American Inventor on other networks, but he may not appear on them. In the UK, he signed a "golden handcuffs" deal with ITV, worth approximately £6.5 million a year for three years, which gave ITV rights to his hit talent show The X Factor, a British singing talent show, and Grease Is The Word, a musical talent show to find the stars of a Grease production in London's West End."

This is how it works. You host a talent show, and you would know you reached a gold mine when you found a woman who weighs five tons with a bit of facial hair but with amazingly beautiful voice and remarkable singing talent. Then 'being the nasty judge' you somehow mention how repulsive the woman looks. Your comments of course spirals controversy and ratings sky rocket instantly: "Simon Cowell judged Susan Boyle's appearance..".

Then comes the apology stage. Mr. Nasty 'admits' he has made an 'error' in his judgement of elephant woman, and the rating-meter sky-rockets again.

Finale comes when people get bored shortly after the time the TV station and record companies decide to make a big makeover because public wonders if she'll look any better. After that the victim undergoes a serious overhaul (teeth are straightened, perhaps a few tonnes are lost with a handy Jenny Craig deal) the big girl starts to look slightly more pleasant (at least we can watch and listen her singing simultaneously now.) Yes by the time this happens Mr. Nasty's and pretty much everybody else's attention all of a sudden nose dive, except of course Mr. Nasty's bank account jumps up in the opposite direction.

Fairy tales always sell. Public loves the underdog and losers, they like the story of their rise but they hate to see them remain winners.

Don't get me wrong. Nothing is wrong with not being pretty. It is the exploitation of morality and eventual victimisation of reluctant hero that make my stomach upside down.

Not that I care to watch TV rubbish, but at least I am happy to record in my history that 'I am not stupid' and 'I am not buying it'.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

On Chrome OS

Google is going ahead with Chrome OS initiative.

In Bobtuse Bobservations blogger-friend Bob MacNeal quoted Google founder Sergey Brind's words:
We really focus on user needs rather than think about strategy relative to other companies...a web platform on stateless machines that are performant.
Nowadays it is hard not be impressed by anything that Google comes up with. Let me confess I am a big Google fan, I use free Google cloud services, Google search engine, GMail, iGoogle, Google Reader, Blogger (including this blog) to name a few. I appreciate Google's positive contributions in making information available to masses, and their support of open source movement.

However I question Google's capacity to adequately analyse and act upon political, ethical and philosophical consequences of their blunt cloud strategy and I see everyone in the same bandwagon. Nowadays we are like fireflies attracted to the light of Google, we go everywhere with them without much questioning. This seems wrong.

While openness of information and ease of access is a good thing for people, the right to own private information and protect it from preying eyes of abusive and oppressive regimes is an important human right we cannot and we should not neglect.

After all Google is a business and it has to act not necessarily in the interest of noble humanistic ideals but in the direction of its commercial interests. In 2006 Google bowed to Chinese Government to censor itself in China.

Today there are hundreds of millions of people around the world who suffer as minorities, they are being oppressed, silenced and discriminated against with regard to basic human rights.

How do we know cloud computing will not take us to Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four ? How do we know the cloud itself will not become the big brother?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Project Skeinforce

I am kicking off an ambitious fun project code named Skeinforce.

I set up the following blog for managing the project:

http://skeinforce.blogspot.com/

This means I will be writing less for Negative Matter.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Beast

If everything on Earth were rational, nothing would happen.
-Fyodor Dostoyevsky-

According to Sigmund Freud our ego's role is to control the fine balance between the super-ego (superconscious) and sub-ego (subconscious) realms.

The ego is the central hub of our consciousness, the gateway to success, failure, happiness, and misery.

Freud argued subconscious realm is driven by primal survival instincts most dominantly by sexual desires. Since reproduction is the ultimate goal of all species this seems a very plausible argument.

When we talk about "emotions" we talk about reflections or transformations of sexual instincts into the superconscious realm. While superconscious submits to the group unconditionally, subconscious resists against full submission. Subconscious strives to maintain a territory of selfish existence by aggression, and emotions reflect the borderline of that territory.

It is absurd to expect individuals to be deprived of emotions, what makes us 'us' is logic and emotions, without our emotional override we would become hopelessly and indecisively stuck in logical deadlocks.

However group pressure forces emotions to disguise themselves under subtle forms. Group pressure, often powerful and overwhelming, tries to keep emotions at bay in order to maintain group discipline and unity.

Therefore the ego acting as a 'safety valve' had to invent elaborate ways to hide but at the same time engage emotions. A subtly threatening short glance with eyes minutely narrowed or a tone in our voice skilfully marks our territory of existence.

Ultimately the group decides what is acceptable and what is not, so the ego has to adjust to a certain code of conduct when it comes to control emotions at bay.

The tension between the group and the individual interests is always there. The subconscious, constantly on alert to protect and expand selfish territory tests weaknesses of individuals or the group for exploitation, whereas the superconscious engaging actively with the group conforms to group protocol, forms alliances and strives to build confidence between the group and the individual.

In group protocol the term "someone being emotional" is used to mean decipherment and consequent exposure of someone's selfish intent.

There is no reason why a rival seeing the individual's emotions becoming highly visible to the group seizing the opportunity and counter assault with "you are being emotional" or in a more subtle form "lets not be emotional". This gives the rival a double advantage; while exposing his team mate's weakness, he seeks to strengthen his selfish status-quo and additionally he gains the group's confidence by seemingly caring for group interests.

We should distinguish between true (genuine) and false accusations of "being emotional". In its worst form some cunning individuals might even try to falsely accuse an individual of "being emotional" whereas there is no such evidence. The accused then taken by surprise and frustration of being falsely accused might become emotional in his response thereby validating the accuser's initially false claim. The attention quickly drifts from the deceptive accuser, the liar scores, and the innocent looses.

To the individual the accusation of "being emotional" (if genuine) means his assault is deciphered and failed. Regardless of the accusation is true or false, the best next move from the point of accused is not to become emotional in response and flee with "why don't we focus on our technical problem at hand" but at the same time marking the accuser in our memory as a formidable rival if his accusation was false. Liars require special attention. Knowing him will prepare us for a future warfare with him. But for now we should just admit withdrawal.

Some may see fighting with "could you please show me the evidence why you think I am being emotional?" would be a better move but in group's eyes this may seem our willingness to drag emotional warfare, so even though when we speak we show no physical signs of emotion, in itself our fair question will be seen as an emotional response from group's perspective.

Human beings are emotional creatures. Subtle as it may often seem there is always going to be an emotional warfare running at different levels in even deceivingly harmonious team environments.

Denial of selfish emotions and believing a fairyland version of comradeship would be a massive delusion with destructive consequences on individual's account. If we take a fully passive and humble approach and shutdown our emotional outlets completely then we would be self destroying ourselves. Submissive and pretentiously humble attitude would inevitably cause depression and self destruction. Whereas we are required to play the game with full prowess hence withdrawal would not help. In fact best ideas can only emerge through conflicts.

Being social animals should not mean to undermine the importance of our emotional psyche. We should simply acknowledge the beast within us and harness its power to our advantage. We should learn to establish sustainable and intelligent alliances between our superconscious and subconscious realms. Eventually such a mixed strategy will benefit both us and the group.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Quantum Teleportation

Assume that Alice and Bob share an entangled qubit AB. That is, Alice has one half, A, and Bob has the other half, B.



Let C denote the qubit Alice wishes to transmit to Bob.



First Alice entangles A with C.



Alice then applies a unitary operation on the qubits AC and measures the result to obtain two classical bits. In this process, the two qubits are destroyed. Bob's qubit, B, now contains information about C; however, the information is somewhat randomized. More specifically, Bob's qubit B is in one of four states uniformly chosen at random and Bob cannot obtain any information about C from his qubit.



Alice provides her two measured classical bits, which indicate which of the four states Bob possesses. Bob applies a unitary transformation which depends on the classical bits he obtains from Alice, transforming his qubit into an identical re-creation of the qubit C.

Note in this teleportation method classical bits are transferred at the speed of light, so teleportation takes time over large distances. For example if Alice and Bob are one light year apart, Bob can reconstruct C after one year.

Reference:
1) Quantum Teleportation - Wikipedia

Monday, November 9, 2009

Quantum Entanglement

If two electrons are initially vibrating in unison (a state called coherence) they can remain in wavelike synchronisation even if they are separated by a large distance.

The spins of each electron can be pointed up or down. Lets say that the total spin of the system is zero, so that if the spin of one electron is up, then you know automatically that the spin of the other electron is down.



According to the quantum theory, before you make a measurement, the electron is spinning neither up nor down but exists in a nether state where it is spinning both up and down simultaneously.




Once you make an observation, the wave function "collapses", leaving a particle in a definite state.



References:
1) Physics of the Impossible, Michio Kaku

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Diminishing Patience

I don't blame teenagers. When I was a teen being a 'fool' was the norm, so is today. We used to speed in dark quiet country roads with headlights turned off, we adored Converse ALL-STAR sneakers despite their discomfort and unbearable smell, we wore tight Levi's jeans despite our reproductive organs crushed in them to the point of becoming a castrato, we suckled 1 lt. Coke bottles after we played basketball all day.

I have been lucky that I survived all this frenzy of nonsense with 5 stitches on my lower chin from a bicycle race without brakes, and chronic gum disease due to suckling too much Coke. I now pay 200 AUD to my periodontist every 6 months. Most of this stuff was of course done in order to impress girls. Incapacity to follow tidal waves of hormonal commands thanks to the median moral code of 'modern civilised society' resulted in adolescent DNA miss-triggering in confusion in all sorts of directions. So no, I don't blame teens. They have every right to be fools.

Since I am now following a self imposed rehabilitation programme for treating my own bullshit I feel obliged to explain in logical terms why I hate "modern" mobile phone.

I must admit, for a long while I unfairly accused mobile phone manufacturers of a conspiracy by deliberately over-designing and overloading the device with non-essential features.

My main problem though is to do with SMS and its implications of overuse. SMS stands for "Short Message Service"1. A useful feature when first introduced, but turned into an unfortunate memetic6 accident in the evolution of human phenotype7. Today SMS acts like a virus to break communications between generations of human species.

Teens literally took SMS to an unprecedented level. They use SMS for many short messages, but not necessarily for sensible messages. Since teens' chronic bollocks of "not being understood" has never been addressed properly by their singlet wearing bear drinking fart-all-day-and-watch-reality-TV parents, somewhere along the line they discovered that they could use the mobile phone to develop their own language.

As a matter of fact "SMS teen language" is quite similar to the secret language I developed with Ali, my childhood friend. We developed a cryptic language from an alphabet of transposition cyphers2. Our aim was to send each other cryptic messages written on a piece of paper, on serious issues such as whether it is possible to have sex with the most beautiful girl in our neighbourhood.

So SMS provided privacy, convenience and lots of opportunities to establish foolish conversations between fools. Again I have no problems with this.

Drama starts when a baby boomer like me had to put up with a design destined for generation Y.

The number one problem is I have to pay for the features I never or hardly use, SMS, video, Internet, ring tones, you name it, all sorts of rubbish. It has now become a science to learn how to use the mobile phone to make a voice call, and how to respond to an incoming call out of the box. This is absurd, and I have every right to protest it to the extent of becoming grumpy.

To make things worse according to second law of thermodynamics the battery eventually becomes flat and can no longer be charged and we are forced to take our grim trip to a store to face the mobile phone sales person. This is a man usually in his twenties and there is no way of understanding what he is talking about. You just give in, say "give me the damn phone kid", sign the contract and hastily get out of the store only shortly after to realise that the new version is designed to drive you mad. The half-Chinese, half-English manual is written in the smallest possible font just to mean "your time is over grandpa" and to push baby boomers into a mass suicide. The phone now has full of traps. Any wrong key pressed will take you to a web site the service provider designed to charge you from accidental hits.

The number two problem is to do with the generation gap. Cliche it may sound, I have always admired the fact that we had "the generation gap". Baby boomers have all sorts of darn things to worry about in terms of feeling themselves useless, for example occupying public toilets much longer than their fair share thanks to an unfortunate mutation on genes controlling the prostate function somewhere back in the evolution of human males.

So by engaging communications with teens it might occur to boomers that they are in fact useful and they are now paying their debt to a larger group they belong to for being pain in the ass, this is something their DNA put together so we should not resist against it3. Unfortunately with SMS the generation gap turned into a "generation black hole", SMS sitting in the event horizon8.

The implications of a "generation black hole" could be far worse than one might think.

Today's teens in alarming rates read less, exercise less, watch reality TV, hyper-click every link they see on the Internet, develop attention deficit and anxiety disorders at a very early age thanks to SMS, MySpace, Facebook, MSN messaging, Twitter, and Red Bull. To a large extent they do not bother at all to communicate with older generations.

This is in contrast to older generations who also hated the conversation with their parents but nevertheless used to put some effort to maintain the communications started usually by their parents. Perhaps they had less distracting stuff surrounding and bombarding their attention span and they did not have choice.

Historically maintaining the virtue of "patience" has always been a problem in teen generations. Again I cannot blame them for this. We society as a whole is guilty of creating a culture of "diminishing patience". Our society feeds on anxiety and attention deficit disorder.

Exponential advances in technology, globalisation of former state economies and shareholder greed are pushing "the pace of life" to warp speed levels in a frenzy of mutual positive feedback loops. And there are many indicators to support this. Take rock music for example which died in 70's.

There are no longer groups like Led Zeppelin or Pink Floyd spending a year on an album, and teens who are biting their nails off for the release -usually a masterpiece- and eventually rushing into a store, appreciating its eternal flavours on a precious vinyl record. Today music, including other art forms became disposable like toilet paper. Diminishing patience is to blame.

Diminishing patience inflicts older generations too4. Today hyper-clicking5 on the Internet created a culture in which it is no longer possible to construct complex, intelligent, sustained and meaningful conversations.

We might have a chance though. Rising sea levels may push our species to slow down. We might go back to drawing board and create new memes, or bend old ones to prevent an environmental catastrophe. For that we would need patience and the virtue of "listening". We need to slow down, and re-learn "listening" and "reading" each other.

(1) SMS
(2) Transposition Cipher
(3) Passing on the wisdom
(4) Why do we need to rush -inspiration from Carl Honore-
(5) Hyper clicking
(6) Meme, memetic
(7) Phenotype
(8) Event horizon of a black hole

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Hyper-clicking

According to a study made by James A. Evans, Department of Sociology, University of Chicago, today scientists and scholars tend to search electronically and follow hyperlinks rather than browse or peruse.

Traditionally the forced browsing of print archives may have stretched scientists and scholars to anchor findings deeply into past and present scholarship. Today however searching online is more efficient and following hyperlinks quickly puts researchers in touch with prevailing opinion, but this may accelerate consensus and narrow the range of findings and ideas built upon.

These remarks show just one unpleasant aspect of a pandemic induced by overuse of hyperlinks, what I call hyper-clicking. We are simply lured by the power of hyperlinks, inclined to follow them wherever we see them without in depth questioning.

Even scarier the path we follow from one hyperlink to another is statistically the most probable one, the links we are exposed to are simply the most popular ones. Hyper-clicking often acts like a double-edged sword, not only we rapidly diverge from our original intent, we also converge to a direction not dictated by our freewill but by popular opinion.

Hyper-clicking narrows down options rather than multiplying them, our intention of finding answers is channeled into popular choice. We become a zombie like victim of populist ignorance. Misused this way the Internet becomes nothing more than a giant billboard on which the choices are narrowed down by popular demand and alternative thoughts are hidden somewhere like fine prints no one wants to read.

To combat hyper-clicking I suggest:
  • First and foremost learn to slow down. Get back into the habit of "read more, follow less". Finish the article you started reading. Imagine yourself in a long train journey and you have no choice. Rediscover the wisdom in boredom.
  • Question objectivity of content providers before blindly following the links offered by them. Ask yourself about their original intention, the reliability of information they provide, and their syndicates.
  • From time to time refine your favourite site list, remove the sites you think offer less or no value for you.
  • Beware of RSS-entropy, regularly clean up RSS feeds you no longer benefit from.
  • Use more than one search engine (examples: Google, Bing, and Wolfram).

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Embrace the change in you

In a 1982 interview, Foucault remarked "When people say, 'Well, you thought this a few years ago and now you say something else,' my answer is… 'Well, do you think I have worked hard all those years to say the same thing and not to be changed?'" He refused to identify himself as a philosopher, historian, structuralist, or Marxist, maintaining that
"The main interest in life and work is to become someone else that you were not in the beginning."
Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy categorises integrity as follows:
  1. integrity as the integration of self
  2. integrity as maintenance of identity
  3. integrity as standing for something
  4. integrity as moral purpose
  5. integrity as a virtue.
In the light of Foucault's remarks I came to think that we should question the usefulness of maintaining integrity without reason.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Mobile

Every time my mobile phone can no longer be charged, I end up "upgrading" to the next worse model. Mobile phone manufacturers do their best to drive me crazy. I know I would end up with an over-designed junk, a hyper-loaded teenage toy, which would be far worse than the previous model.

Is this too impossible?


A low cost two-color touch screen with scroll function, a translator to translate numbers to names (I don't care how this can be achieved, but I am sure one day human race will get rid of alphabetical non-sense on keys), a simple keypad with just numbers (like an old phone), a simple three line screen with names, an OK button to select or lock/sleep when pressed long enough. The machine will remember the last person talked and positions the cursor to that when wakes up.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Forgetful Loops

Consider a software algorithm that builds a tree in a computer program. Typically when you build a tree you would have a recursive loop in which tree nodes are created and connected. The loop will have an entry and an exit point.



You might also recycle the same tree builder algorithm to build a parallel tree, an almost identical tree with only its target context being different. For example tree1 is supposed to be an observer of explorer style representation, whereas tree2 observes a column based representation. So the nodes of each tree might have a different type, their properties are determined and their behavior are dictated by the context they live in.



Let us now assume that we are living in a universe UR.

One way of comprehending our universe is thinking of it as a gigantic Hilbert Space. A vector-space that represents the state-spaces of quantum mechanical systems is also a Hilbert Space.

Think about every atomic particle that makes you, they have a certain position and momentum at any given time, i.e. they can be represented as vectors. And when I say 'at any given time' I mean the time of our vector space. Together with other quantum mechanical systems, such as the coffee mug, the earth, the sun, the milky way galaxy and so on, we are all part of one big vector space.

Another way of visualizing our universe is thinking it as a space-time sheet or fabric, on which every vector stays on the same fabric, moving in random directions and changing their magnitude all the time.

Returning back to our tree building problem, there is no reason why you would not build parallel trees by running the tree-builder algorithm sequentially, so you build the tree1 first followed by the tree2 and so forth.

After all our program runs in the realm of our universe, in the same space-time fabric. So the loops building these trees would occupy different localities on our universe's space-time since they are built at different times, nevertheless they lie on the same sheet of space-time.

Suppose now that there is a glitch in your program so that while executing the first loop to build tree1, the program suddenly switches its context, enters into the second loop and starts building tree2.



You may be surprised to find that when the program finishes building the second tree, and returns control to the loop of tree1, instead of the iteration continues where it left, it might leave the loop prematurely with tree1 left incomplete.

Suppose also that the glitch causing your program to suddenly leave the first loop at the first place is not avoidable. This also implies that your trees are NOT built sequentially contrary to your intention (design).

The only way to fix this software problem is to SAVE the loop's iterator prior to leaving the first loop, and RESTORE it back when the control is returned prior to the loop iterator is incremented.

The loop needs memory of where it left prior to making the jerky switch, otherwise it fails to restore itself.

This is a remarkably common pattern in mathematics, theoretical physics and literature no matter how speculative its representation might turn out to be.  Think about wormholes, multiverses, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, The Magician's Nephew, and The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe.

The loop is like consciousness. Suddenly leaving the realm of loop1 is like entering into a shortcut, a wormhole and finding yourself in the realm of loop2, a different consciousness in a different universe.

However there is one crucial difference. In literature we are biased to think that the heroes maintain their consciousness. They remember other realms when they return. This gives the audience a comforting cozy feeling.

I tend to think though there seems no need to remember your previous conscious presence in one realm or the other. All you need is a functioning anchor when you return. You might pretty much succeed as a forgetful loop provided that your anchor works.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Consolations of Philosophy

I finished reading The Consolations of Philosophy, by Alain De Botton, a contemporary philosopher.

De Botton takes us to a journey in the garden of philosophy and gives us consolations for unpopularity (Socrates), not having enough money (Epicurus), frustration (Seneca), inadequacy (Montaigne), a broken heart (Schopenhauer), and difficulties (Nietzsche) buy looking at tragic life stories of these great philosophers. Ironically each one of these men witnessed the drama of integrity of their philosophy tested upon them.

I would like to quote my favourite passages from this fantastic book:
"Yet there is a danger that Socrates' death will disuse us for the wrong reasons. It may foster a sentimental belief in a secure connection between being hated by the majority and being right…We may be neither geniuses nor saints. We may simply be privileging the stance of defiance over good reasons for it, childishly trusting that we are never so right as when others tell us we are wrong.This was not Socrates' intention. It would be as naïve to hold that unpopularity is synonymous with truth as to believe that it is synonymous with error. The validity of an idea or action is determined not by whether it is widely believed or widely reviled but by whether it obeys the rules of logic. It is not because an argument is denounced by a majority that it is wrong nor, for those drawn to heroic defiance, that it is right.The philosopher offered us a way out of two powerful delusions: that we should always or never listen to the dictates of public opinion.To follow his (Socrates') example, we will best be rewarded if we strive instead to listen always the dictates of reason."

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Apple Keynote and The Rise of Self

Today I watched the 2009 Apple Keynote. People cheered and applauded thin and frail Steve Jobs for minutes who had undergone a liver transplant surgery last year. I have great respect for the guy, and I adore Mac computers (I own one).

The IPod touch, IPhone and IShuffle look sexier, more powerful, cheaper and sleeker than ever.  It is impossible to suppress your urge to have one of those toys.

Steve Jobs also mentioned a new feature called Home Sharing. It is now possible to share movies and music on up to five computers in your family computer network.

I can't help thinking though isn't it somehow sad to imagine a family of five, who hardly wait to finish their dinner to run into their room and start playing with their toys in their secluded own little virtual world? Can we call these people a family any more? Is a virtual family a family?

Where is the wisdom of learning something intimate from your father in a cold night over a cup of tea, rather than gazing at Wikipedia? Where is the charm of listening to stories just before midnight about mysterious family members who did something strange and who passed away long ago. How about funny stories about how your dad and mum met, and deliciously funny visualisation of them as teenagers? Do we have to bury these things with technology? Is this what we call progress?

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Human Skin

Natural Selection does not produce perfection. If your genes are good enough your offsprings will make it to the next generation. This is obvious in the populations around us. Individuals may have genes for genetic diseases, or they may not have genes to survive adverse conditions. No population or organism is perfectly adapted.

Dr. Nina G. Jablonski, who heads the anthropology department at Pennsylvania State University said:
"There was a tremendous takeoff in human evolution about two million years ago when primates who could no longer be called apes appeared in the savannahs of East Africa. These early humans ran long distances in open areas. In order to survive in the equatorial sun, they needed to cool their brains. Early humans evolved an increased number of sweat glands for that purpose, which in turn permitted their brain size to expand. As soon as we developed larger brains, our planning capacity increased, and this allowed people to disperse out of Africa. There’s fossil evidence of humans appearing in Central Asia around this time.."
"Skin color is what regulates our body’s reaction to the sun and its rays. Dark skin evolved to protect the body from excessive sun rays. Light skin evolved when people migrated away from the Equator and needed to make vitamin D in their skin. To do that, they had to lose pigment. Repeatedly over history, many people moved dark to light and light to dark. That shows that color is not a permanent trait."
This illustrates neither darker nor lighter skin coloured populations are perfectly adapted to climate variations in different parts of the world. In winter an African American living in Northern USA must expose her skin to sun rays for much longer periods in order to have adequate vitamin D absorption. Similarly lighter skin coloured individuals who live in sunny climates are less protected against harmful UV radiation due to their skin's increased light absorption capability.

References:
evolution.berkeley.edu
nina.jablonski.nytimes.interview.2007
nina.jablonski.ted.video

Friday, September 4, 2009

Security and Evolution

In software development there seems to be an inherent 'arms race' around security. External predator software to breach software's security holes is in constant 'arms race' with the software's capacity to repel them. This kind of tense relationship recalls eternal struggle between prays and predators in nature. The pray develop a defense mechanism and survive better and longer say with a camouflage, then the predator develops a counter-measure and the arms race continues indefinitely (people will always attack browsers, browser vendors will always have to deal with them).

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Junk Code

The human genome contains three billion base pairs, the DNA letters in which the code of life is written. Yet only a tiny proportion of these letters -no more than 2 per cent- are actually used to write our 21,500 or so genes. The remainder, which makes none of the proteins that drive the chemical reactions of life, has long been something of a mystery. Its apparent lack of function has led it to be dubbed 'junk DNA'.

Much of our junk DNA has origins that have been relatively simple to establish. A very large part of it belonged originally to viruses, which have incorporated their own genetic codes into our genome in order to reproduce.

The legacy of our viral ancestors can also be seen in so-called retrotransposons. These repetitive chunks of DNA, which were originally deposited by viruses, have the ability to copy themselves into the human genome again and again, using an enzyme called transcriptase.

In some ways, the continued presence of this junk DNA is not surprising: DNA is 'selfish', and will replicate itself regardless of utility to its host organism. But for it to withstand natural selection, some of it must surely be functional.

Software made by humans is like synthetic DNA. Remarkably junk code also exists in software systems made by us. In fact in evolutionary design methodologies such as Scrum it seems more likely that imperfect code being copied to incoming generations of software.

Scrum sprints typically follow a short 4-6 week iteration pattern. In Scrum the focus is on delivery, therefore junk code may get more chance of being copied compared to quality focused methodologies.

I don't think however junk code makes evolutionary methodologies less successful. The advantages of being agile has more survival value than less adaptive quality driven methodologies.

Consider this real life example:

Sprint1 in Project P ends, the architect A approaches the developer D.

A- Hey.. Something drew my attention, you guys hard-coded the magic-token in your module. Whereas there is a common function in our library which you should have used to retrieve the magic-token. How come this happened?

D- Oh. We've just cut and pasted the code from project Q. They also used the hard coded magic-token.

A- Ahh. I see. Damn. They should have used the library too. I wonder how we may clean up this mess.

D- I can fix this easily now in project P.

A- No, wait.. Fix it in the next sprint. I'll talk to other teams see if I can get them fix their code too.

As you probably guessed the hard-coded magic-token in this example is junk code. Like Junk DNA it possesses a powerful intrinsic ability to get itself copied into other projects/sprints i.e. other generations of code (perhaps because people find it more reassuring to use magic-tokens than using functions returning them). It seems despite A's intention to clean up the code once and for all, in practice it may be logistically not viable and quite expensive to clean up dozens of other projects' code across all versions from this viral but relatively harmless junk code. So it is likely that the fix will only be made in project P (provided that it is remembered in sprint2), and the viral code will continue to survive.

Evolutionary design in software systems is remarkably similar to evolution by natural selection. More importantly in software projects aiming at perfect design would almost certainly limit software's adaptive power and consequently diminish its competitive value.

References:
50 Genetic Ideas, Mark Henderson
Parasitism, Wikipedia
Agile Software Development, Wikipedia
Agile/Scrum Development, Wikipedia

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Imperfect Design

Is there such a thing called perfect design?

Time and time again the global software industry failed to deliver designs that worked in good order, delivered on time and within budget. Many projects failed either because they performed poorly, did not meet user expectations or they could not catch up with technological momentum.

There are historical reasons why software engineering projects failed more often than other types of engineering projects. In the past thirty years immense market demand on software as a result of exponential growth of cheaper synthetic memory availability (Moore's Law) created an avalanche effect known as the PC revolution. The tidal wave effects of the PC Revolution was immense and widespread. It did not stop at households. The collapse of the Mainframe Computer and consequent emergence of vast IP networks in the corporate landscape quickly followed. On top of that the Internet Revolution that emerged in the last two decades pushed competition to unprecedented levels.

Historical developments aside software engineering is also very different by its nature. Most notably software engineering blueprints are thousands sometimes millions of lines of code that can easily be erroneously constructed or ill-configured, inducing defects with much less chance of being detected due to difficulties of human brain comprehending code as opposed to say a suspension bridge blueprint. In addition there are vast number of mathematical possibilities in which you can construct a software program. It is like infinitely many and sometimes irregular ways of cutting a jigsaw puzzle, then recycling the pieces to make more puzzles.

So software engineering is a difficult discipline. Due to the factors we described above standard development and management practices of other engineering disciplines did not work out well when applied to software development. This led to emergence of the Open Source movement, and more dynamic development methodologies such as XP (eXtreme Programming) and Agile in the past decade or so.

What is common in these novel practices is that products are collaboratively, adaptively and continuously designed, developed and deployed in iterative cycles. Design evolves over time similar to biological evolution of species by Natural Selection.

In Nature no species is perfect at any given time. In successive and many generations species simply adapt to changing conditions or fail to adapt and become extinct. There is no perfection that warrants indefinite survival but a continuum of struggle we call survival by adaptation. There is no concept of an upfront design or designer yet alone a perfect one, in fact there is no beginning or end in the design process, design evolves indefinitely so long as it survives Nature's scrutiny.

Similarly in many Open Source projects there is no centralized vision of design (akin to Blind Watchmaker analogy). The design evolves by itself without a designer. Everyday thousands of coders worldwide collaborate on different parts of hundreds of software products similar to gene coalitions established within our cells. There is no seek for perfection, akin to the fact that perfection does not exist in Mother Nature. Resources can be deployed and utilized more efficiently by allowing mistakes rather than chasing an impossible Platonic vision of perfect design. In return product versions are released at a much faster rate with greater chance of seizing survival opportunities when they are exposed to users' scrutiny. This process is called Evolutionary Design.

To show my point lets look at Mother Nature's design process and see how imperfect it can be. The following is one of countless examples of faulty designs we inherit from our vertebrate lineage.

In this extract from The Blind Watchmaker, Richard Dawkins talks about how imperfect our eyes are from design perspective. Somewhere along the evolution of vertebrates a group of genes might have been copied in error but in a way not enough to jeopardize emergence of our species millions of years later.

"My second example of an evolutionary progression ... concerns the retina of our eyes (and all other vertebrates). Like any nerve, the optic nerve is a trunk cable, a bundle of separate 'insulated' wires, in this case about three million of them. Each of the three million wires leads from one cell in the retina to the brain. You can think of them as the wires leading from a bank of three million photocells (actually three million relay stations gathering information from an even larger number of photocells) to the computer that is to process the information in the brain. They are gathered together from all over the retina into a single bundle, which is the optic nerve for that eye.

Any engineer would naturally assume that the photocells would point towards the light, with their wires leading backwards towards the brain. He would laugh at any suggestion that the photocells might point away from the light, with their wires departing on the side nearest the light. Yet this is exactly what happens in all vertebrate retinas. Each photocell is, in effect, wired in backwards, with its wire sticking out on the side nearest the light. The wire has to travel over the surface of the retina, to a point where it dives through a hole in the retina (the so-called 'blind spot') to join the optic nerve. This means that the light, instead of being granted an unrestricted passage to the photocells, has to pass through a forest of connecting wires, presumably suffering at least some attenuation and distortion (actually probably not much but, still, it is the principle of the thing that would offend any tidy-minded engineer!)."
Evolutionary Design will continue to change the software engineering practice in a profound way. We will see fitter and better products emerging, satisfying complex and varying needs of demanding consumers.

On the other hand today software engineers must come into terms with the concept of imperfect design or design without a designer. This is a completely novel mindset that developers need to understand and adapt. In the Evolutionary Design era catching up adaptation cycles and focusing on delivery is far more important than chasing up an ideal design that warrants failure.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Bad players

Every team's nightmare. Bad players.

Categorically they;
  • Think they know it all
  • Think they know the best
  • Think they are more intelligent than anybody around them
  • Think they are undervalued
  • Think there is one perfect solution to all types of problems
  • Think they can do a much better job if the whole thing is left to them
  • Think not knowing is a sign of weakness
  • Think asking questions is a sign of weakness
  • Think admitting mistakes is a sign of weakness
  • Think teaching people what they know is foolish and a sign of weakness
  • Think hiding problems is the right thing to do unless someone asks for them
  • Think being part of a team can not be fun, it is just an unpleasant burden
  • Think the team's goals are not more important than their personal agenda
  • Feel no sympathy for people who do not know as much as they do
  • Feel no obligation to share their knowledge with people who do not know
  • Think being a good team player is not going to help them being more competitive
  • Think being a loner and staying as a specialist will make them special
  • Think teamwork is the biggest threat to their existence
  • ...
The list goes on and on.

The bottom line is these people are wrong on all accounts we listed above.

What they maintain is a massive delusion about the world around them and about themselves.

Contrary to the impression they want to give about themselves these people are extremely vulnerable. That is why they are so defensive and alert to protect their individual position.

What bad players are missing is that fundamentally being a good team player is not a foolish and altruistic behavior as it seems, on the contrary it is the smartest and the most selfish behavior one could master dictated by our genes ever since human species tripled their brain size in the last two million years. Most of the elaborate complexity our brains has to deal with is about being social. Our species survived and became intelligent because we managed to exploit our social capacity better with bigger brains, not just because we were successful individual hunters or gatherers, but because we could harness the social environment to our advantage.

Good team players are good team players because they have a sharper realization and awareness of their selfish interests. In the long run they know they will benefit more from being a good team player than being a poor player. In the long run good team players always win.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Addiction

Does it occur to you that as we once narrowly escaped from becoming couch potatoes while we were moronically zapping the tv remote control, since then we turned into e-zappers, the web browser replaced our tv, and the mouse replaced our remote control.

I thought I had made a smart move when I stopped watching tv and hooked into Internet instead. But to my agony nothing has changed much, I am constantly letting myself to the tide of my childish alter ego's curiosity, let my index finger makes semi-conscious decisions as I move from one hyperlink to another.

This is a huge problem as it brings no sense of achievement or completeness. Everything is cut half, nothing is finished, no article, no blog post is read to the end. There is ephemeral joy of addiction while I am e-zapping, but a sense of emptiness and loss of self when I get up and switch myself off from the virtual world.

There is something completely wrong about the way I use the Internet and I am going to change it. I believe there is a certain limit in the information load that we can comfortably cope with. At times we need space and focus to do our own number. Sometimes I tend to think that Internet is a monster, an information over-loader that needs to be harnessed by our consciousness before we let it to take over our ego.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Why do we still have to rush?

Suddenly it stroke me, supposedly we live in an age of prosperity, technological marvels, more automation, yet why do we still have to rush? We have cars, automatic teller machines, automatic washing machines, dishwashers, internet banking, yet why do we still have to rush madly at work and in our personal lives. Shouldn't we be using more time for ourselves by now?

What is the point of this rush culture? Why do we have to pay the bill in exchange of our health, by suffering from stress related disorders, such as anxiety, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes that no other species on this planet suffers from? Which generation will have the guts to change this foolish race?

It turns out that the more we create time, the faster we devour it. The capitalism's principle requirement, material growth relies on more production and more consumption in less time. Yet strangely we don't need the surplus, we don't need to be fat, we don't need big cars, most of the wealth that we managed to build and cost us our health and happiness during our lives, will be wasted when we die.

In Nature no creature can survive on wastage, the Nature's economy is merciless, you cannot survive if you are fat or you are inefficient in using your resources. Yet we humans are different. With our enormous cerebral cortex we learned that we can get away with wasting or creating surplus and live on that. We are the sole foolish victims of this system of extravaganza, this enormous charade of meaningless consumption that enables us to pity on ourselves. We madly produce, consume or waste materials that we don't need, and in due process we miss the point of life completely.

Incidentally I came across a video of journalist Carl Honore in TED, he talks about the slow movement. It is a cultural revolution against the notion that faster is always better. Carl Honore believes the Western world's emphasis on speed erodes health, productivity and quality of life.

Below, find Carl Honore's praise of slowness:

Interstitial Fragment Processor

Today I watched a TED video from an artist named Golan Levin who makes art that looks back to you. I found a particular work of him he called Interstitial Fragment Processor interesting because it directly relates to negative spaces, the central theme of this blog.





http://www.flong.com/projects/ifp


Sunday, July 26, 2009

Beta is Reality

I have just posted the following response to Andrew Keen's article It's Time to Bust the Beta Cult in the Internet Evolution.

Beta is Reality

Should there be such a thing called finished product?

The era of software products designed behind closed doors without dynamic user involvement is over.

a) It costs too much to develop a finished product, especially for startups, yet alone I argue that the concept of finished product is an illusion, products are never finished, and should not be finished.

b) It is too risky to ignore user feedback during development. The chances are you will be increasingly drifted away from user satisfaction. There is no way you would know what users want unless you design your product with them.

c) Increasingly users want to get involved once they experience the satisfaction of being listened. User profiles are changing, the era of passive user is over.

This is in fact what I call the evolutionary design, a concept akin to natural selection we observe in biological systems. The product evolves based on its survival value; its ability to adopt changing user requirements. In fact there is no up-front designer. Users become the nature, and they themselves design the product by selecting the fittest, fittest in terms of giving them the best satisfaction score.

The design by natural selection does not need to be perfect or completely bug free. Take the evolution of human eye for example, which is a strikingly good example to bad design, if there were an up-front designer.

"The vertebrate eye, is built "backwards and upside down", requiring "photons of light to travel through the cornea, lens, aquaeous fluid, blood vessels, ganglion cells, amacrine cells, horizontal cells, and bipolar cells before they reach the light-sensitive rods and cones that transduce the light signal into neural impulses – which are then sent to the visual cortex at the back of the brain for processing into meaningful patterns." This reduction in efficiency may be countered by the formation of a reflective layer, the tapetum, behind the retina. Light which is not absorbed by the retina on the first pass may bounce back and be detected.", ref. Wikipedia.

The beta paradigm represents evolutionary generations. Each generation, i.e. each beta life cycle changes the product's survival value, sometimes towards the extinction end, other times towards the selection end, and the reality is you would never know up-front whether your product be extinct or survive in x years time. Except that users (the nature) will survive even if it means they may end up selecting and using a different product, not yours which might have become extinct.

Therefore it seems to me that the evolutionary design (hence the beta concept) in software systems is here to stay. We humans have discovered and learned the power of natural selection in the past 150 years, why shouldn't we enjoy exploiting and using that power in commerce and in other areas of human ingenuity.

Finally, I am also thinking Beta as a meme, ie. "a postulated unit or element of cultural ideas, symbols or practices, and is transmitted from one mind to another through speech, gestures, rituals, or other imitable phenomena.", ref. Wikipedia.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Poincaré's Great Topological Papers

Henri Poincaré had learned of non-Euclidean geometry from Beltrami who first noticed that hyperbolic geometry was a constant curvature geometry in which the curvature is negative. Beltrami pointed out that a surface called the pseudosphere carried such geometry. He also discovered the disk model and realized that Riemann's conception of geometry provided the link that united the two conceptions. Poincaré worked out the details and discovered more models. Moreover, Poincaré did not stop at two dimensions. He extended this work to higher dimensional geometries. Here he is, in his own words, describing his model of three-dimensional hyperbolic space:


"Suppose, for example, a world enclosed in a large sphere and subject to the following laws: The temperature is not uniform; it is greatest at the centre, and gradually decreases as we move towards the circumference of the sphere, where it is absolute zero. The law of this temperature is as follows: If R be the radius of the sphere, and r is the distance of the point considered from the centre, the absolute temperature will be proportional to R2-r2. Further, I shall suppose that in this world all bodies have the same coefficient of dilatation so that the linear dilatation of any body is proportional to its absolute temperature. Finally, I shall suppose that a body transported from one point to another of different temperature is instantaneously in thermal equilibrium with its new environment. There is nothing in these hypotheses either contradictory or unimaginable. A moving object will become smaller and smaller as it approaches the circumference of the sphere. Let us observe, in the first place, that although from the point of view of our ordinary geometry this world is finite, to its inhabitants it will appear infinite. As they approach the surface of the sphere they become colder, and at the same time smaller and smaller. The steps they take are therefore also smaller and smaller, so that they can never reach the boundary of the sphere. If to us geometry is only the study of laws according to which invariable solids move, to these imaginary beings it will be the study of laws of motion deformed by the differences of temperature alluded to..

Let us make another hypothesis: suppose that light passes through media of different refractive indices, such as the index of refraction is in R2-r2. Under these conditions it is clear that the rays of light will no longer be rectilinear, but circular.... If they [the beings in such a world] construct a geometry, it will not be like ours, which is the study of movements of our invariable solids; it will be the study of the changes of position which they will have thus distinguished, and will be 'non-Euclidean displacements', and this will be non-Euclidean geometry. So that beings like ourselves, educated in such a world, will not have the same geometry as ours."
from The Poincaré Conjecture Donal O'Shea

Saturday, July 11, 2009

The Poincaré Conjecture

I've been reading this fascinating book "The Poincaré Conjecture - in search of the shape of the Universe" by Donal O'Shea.


In mathematics, the Poincaré conjecture is a theorem about the characterization of the three-dimensional sphere among three-dimensional manifolds.

In mathematics, more specifically in differential geometry and topology, a manifold is a mathematical space that on a small enough scale resembles the Euclidean space of a certain dimension, called the dimension of the manifold.

Around 300 BC, the Greek mathematician Euclid undertook a study of relationships among distances and angles, first in a plane (an idealized flat surface) and then in space. An example of such a relationship is that the sum of the angles in a triangle is always 180 degrees. Today these relationships are known as two- and three-dimensional Euclidean geometry. This is the type of geometry we learn in the high school.

The Poincaré conjecture concerns a space that locally looks like ordinary three dimensional space but is connected, finite in size, and lacks any boundary (a closed 3-manifold). The Poincaré conjecture claims that if such a space has the additional property that each loop in the space can be continuously tightened to a point, then it is just a three-dimensional sphere.





A sphere can be represented by a collection of two dimensional maps; therefore a sphere is a two dimensional manifold.


An important scientific application of 3-manifolds is in physical cosmology, as models for the Shape of the Universe – the surface of the earth is locally approximately flat – it is roughly a 2-manifold, and globally the surface of the earth is a sphere. The universe, likewise, looks locally approximately like 3-dimensional Euclidean space, so the universe may be modeled as a 3-manifold, and one may ask which 3-manifold it is. More precisely, the universe is better described as 4-dimensional space-time, so this description is of a 3-dimensional spatial section.

Our genetic code allows us to see in 3 spatial dimensions. Most animals possess perspective vision evolved to enable them estimating distance, a vital tool for survival to avoid predators and approach prays in great efficiency. Simply said we have no provisions to see more than 3 spatial dimensions, therefore we have difficulty comprehending concepts such as 4-dimensional space-time. We have trouble picturing the shape of the universe as a whole.

It is not possible to get outside the universe. This is an important difference between the Earth and the universe. A rocket can leave the surface of the Earth, and we can look at the Earth from outside it. Since we see in three dimensions and since the surface of the Earth is two-dimensional, we can see our planet is bending in a third dimension and visualize its whole shape easily. However even if we could get outside the universe in an attempt to see what shape it had, since the universe is three-dimensional, we would need to be able to see in at least four dimensions to visualize the universe as a whole.

The conjecture in question is a claim made by the mathematician Henri Poincaré over 100 years ago. He said that all four dimensional spaces in which a loop in that space can be narrowed to a point are four-dimensional spheres -- there are no other possible shapes for the universe.

Until 2002, no one had been able to prove or disprove this claim. The framework for this book was the announcement by Russian mathematician Grigori Perelman that he had proven it.

If I travel on a 2-dimensional manifold or surface like Earth, I will always come back to the same point. There are no edges that I would fall. The proof of Poincaré Conjecture supported the idea of Universe is finite (a closed 3-manifold) and has no boundaries. So if I traverse the universe in one direction I will always come back to where I started.

I will have more posts on the shape of the universe, so stay tuned.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

The Pythagorean theorem

The Pythagorean theorem is named after the Greek mathematician Pythagoras, who by tradition is credited with its discovery and proof, although it is often argued that knowledge of the theory predates him. (There is much evidence that Babylonian mathematicians understood the principle, if not the mathematical significance.)


An elegant proof of Pythagorean theorem can be found in Roger Penrose's popular science classic "The Road to Reality - A Complete Guide to the Laws of the Universe". His proof suits perfectly to the central theme of this blog; "Negative Matter", in other words the ability to see and transform negative spaces in order to convey further "meaning" into positive spaces.


First consider the pattern illustrated below. It is composed entirely of squares of two different sizes. It is 'obvious' that this pattern can be continued indefinitely, and the entire Euclidean plane can be covered in this repeating way with no gaps or overlaps by squares of these two sizes.



If we mark the centres of the larger squares, they form the vertices of another system of squares, at somewhat greater size than either, but tilted at an angle to the original ones.


Instead of taking the centres of the two large squares of the original pattern, we may choose any other point, together with its set of corresponding points throughout the pattern. The new pattern of tilted squares is just the same as before but moved along across either vertices without rotation (i.e. by means of motion referred as translation). For simplicity lets choose our starting point to be one of the corners in the original pattern.


It should be clear that the area of the tilted square must be equal to the sum of the areas of the two smaller squares. The small square at the top-left has a small triangular portion outside the tilted square, which is identical to the one inside, if we move along the vertex of tilted square. A similar observation can be made about larger triangles, proving our assertion.

Moreover it is evident that the edge-length of the large tilted square is the hypotenuse of a right-angled triangle whose two other sides have lengths equal to those of the smaller squares. We have thus established the Pythagorean theorem:: the square on the hypotenuse is equal to the sum of the squares on the other two sides.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Ockham's Razor


Pluralitas non est ponenda sine necessitate
Plurality is not to be posited without necessity
William of Ockham (c. 1288 - c. 1348)
I like simple designs. Simplicity makes us humans happy, often unknowingly. But what does 'simple' mean anyway?

Simple is less, and less is more. If you can do with less why waste your energy and resources. Simple is elegant, and elegant is desirable.


Less is more. Why so? A bird's egg is simply round, smooth and slippery, no awkward angles. Difficult to capture intact and transport by predators. Optimised for smooth delivery, comfortable resting, and even temperature distribution. Space efficient for internal layout and external storage at the same time. i.e. 'do more with less'. A good example of natural selection favoring minimalism.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

WaveDeck

My nephew Aksel Çoruh, who works as an architect in Rotterdam recently mentioned me;
" a book by Dutch urban planner Adrian Geuze (West 8 Landscape Architects), in which he writes about the notion of the ' void' as a sea of potential in spatial planning strategies. His designs and interventions in the city are known to take the viewpoint of trying to elicit public interaction with spaces, and form beds of potential where people, dwellers, and visitors alike become momentary participants in an urban (mini-) drama."
Then Aksel kindly provided their web site:


West8 designed a dramatic urban deck that they call WaveDeck. This is interesting because a wave shaped deck automatically creates a wave shaped space as well. One fills the other one and vice versa. Neither side of the wave is more important than the other side.

Waves possess spatial and reassuring harmony and continuity. So I would imagine people observing, standing or walking on the WaveDeck must be experiencing a certain sense of visual music. Music is by definition harmonic combinations of sound waves. There is no real reason why music can not be played visually. WaveDeck I guess works around this principle.

What about Edvard Munch's The Scream. In this painting we can't help but see the sound of scream:

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Software Entropy

One of the common reasons why software bugs are not fixed is:
"The developers often don't have time or it is not economical to fix all non-severe bugs."
Bugs scattered across software systems cause "software entropy" to increase (a term that I coined.) Therefore disorderedness of any isolated software system increases over time, similar to physical systems.

On the other hand what makes a software company survive is selling "orderly behaving" products. But competitive market forces and aggressive Sales pressures may increase organizational tendency not to fix bugs. This behavior in turn may lead to software entropy to increase in an exponential rate.

Therefore the size of the backlog of Support department may start to increase exponentially rather than logarithmically. In those circumstances increase in software entropy may result in "customer dissatisfaction" which may eventually lead to sales to decrease.

Therefore there must be a balancing act between Sales and Support. Development resources must be shared and utilized in a way to keep software entropy increase in a logarithmic but controllable and stable fashion if not decrease.

This is similar to "clean house" analogy. If you don't clean up, air and maintain your house regularly, say once every two weeks, it would become more difficult to keep up with entropy. Dust and mold will cumulate. Certain mechanical devices will rust away, or start to malfunction, more dust-mite colonies will flourish, the air will become stuffy and unhealthy. If you leave your house for 20 years, the chances are you may need to rebuild the interiors, i.e. start from scratch.

Software business is no different, negligence of balancing out software entropy may bring catastrophic consequences. And at some "no return" point the business may fail all together if not acted early enough.

Bugs

A software bug is the common term used to describe an error, flaw, mistake, failure, or fault in a computer program that prevents it from behaving as intended (e.g., producing an incorrect or unexpected result). Most bugs arise from mistakes and errors made by people in either a program's source code or its design.
...
There are various reasons for not fixing bugs:
  • The developers often don't have time or it is not economical to fix all non-severe bugs.
  • The bug could be fixed in a new version or patch that is not yet released.
  • The changes to the code required to fix the bug would be large, and would bring with them the chance of introducing other bugs into the system.
  • Users may be relying on the undocumented, buggy behavior; it may introduce a breaking change.
  • It's "not a bug". A misunderstanding has arisen between expected and provided behavior
Given the above, it is often considered impossible to write completely bug-free software of any real complexity. So bugs are categorized by severity, and low-severity non-critical bugs are tolerated, as they do not affect the proper operation of the system for most users.
Wikipedia Software Bug



Second Law of Thermodynamics

Since energy is conserved, why does energy have to be fed to a car to keep it from stopping? Since energy is conserved, why does hot soup cool and ice-cream melt? Why does smoke fill up a room rather than crowding into one corner? Why do re-chargeable batteries eventually die? Why do machines eventually fail?
...
There are many equivalent statements of the second law of thermodynamics: Isolated systems inevitably become less organised; the usable energy in an isolated system is constantly decreasing; a system naturally attempts to distribute its energy equally among all of its parts; mechanical energy, on average, degrades into heat; heat naturally flows from hot places to cold, equalizing temperatures; isolated machines cannot remain in perpetual motion; entropy (disorder), on average, increases. These statements all express the second law of thermodynamics. Physicists believe that it is the second law of thermodynamics that defines the direction of time, that distinguishes the past from the future.
Great Ideas in Physics, Alan Lightman

Negative Matter

Years back I attended a drawing course. One day we were painting still life. There was a vase and a green bottle on a table top, in the corner of our class. Our instructor told something about seeing and drawing negative spaces, and he added that Degas drew and painted like that.

I listened to him and tried to focus on what "we are not supposed to see", the shape of the space between the wall and the vase, and the green bottle, and shapes of the shades reflected and competing with each other on the bottle and so forth. In the end what I ended up with was amazingly truthful, powerful and beautiful despite its simplicity.

There is something about seeing the "negative matter", the stuff that is seemingly uninteresting but without it we are unable to make connections and "make sense" of our "positive universe".

We are almost brainwashed to think positively. Whereas I feel like there is an ultimate sense of truthfulness and accompanying beauty about negativity .

In this blog I shall be pursuing the negative matter. I'll talk about engineering, philosophy, physics, software, marketing, evolution, design, consciousness, politics etc. At times I will attempt to see negative forgotten spaces in order to make sense of positive matter and other times to reshape it.