Monday, February 28, 2011

AI Hype, or, To MIT and Beyond!

Here in Fredericton, NB, hype about IT is part of the city plan.  It reverberates in the local campus, is amplified in the media, and so it goes.  Fuzzy neural net agents.  Evolving fuzzy neural net agents.

But seriously, what about M.I.T. ?   Engineering practical robots is still not enough.  The new claims seem to reflect a change in plan - late in life.  I say that because some of the staunchest advocates may now realize that they will not live to see mechanical minds.

The strategy now covers both integration of systems and strange admissions.  While there is no good reason to believe that evolution of smart organisms such as ants, bees, cuttlefish and octopus result from anything like integrating Java modules with Python modules except at the level of rhetorical tropes, the funding flows.

Consider M.I.T. itself.  If it is true that MIT abandoned LISP for JAVA as the programming language of choice - not multi-paradigm Oz or proven engineering languages such as FORTRAN, ADA or SMALLTALK .... not R or APL ... but betting on what future?

Here is a symptom: programming for artists at MIT.  At the institution with MediaLab, LOGO, CLU in its hstory, we get and the Java-bound Processing language.

What was a language for artists?  Quite possibly ICON or UNICON - both are languages not wedded to TRUE-FALSE logic but success and failure - what works and does not work.  Both are not hard-core AI languages: back-tracking behavior in ICON is as restricted as it is in Erlang.

Currently, an "artist" would download a 60+ MB zip of Processing replete with a complete Java JDK environent.  I recently installed Processing 1.2.1 only to be confronted with egregious bugs.  Their bug list is impressive.

What is worse, Processing, the language, was never needed: MIT had already produced Curl, the language (

Now we see an effort by James Resig to salvage Processing in JavaScript.  Not in Self or Self/Avocado or even Io, but in processingjs at

The fate of Processing in JavaScript will be that the one innovative idea in Processing will be lost.

Why are we not teaching artists a Smalltalk such as Pharo or introducing them to a project such as Cobalt?

Now this iis just computing for artists, not computing for business and he military.  Fact: the two robotc arms of the ISS are programmed in ADA.  But artists working on simulations for ISS training would start in what ... AcionScript?

As for innovation, the legendary internet is plagued by two truly bad ideas: Perl and PHP.  HTML5 does not resolve that.  Apple may have abandoned Java, but they are using a Smalltalk-cum-C++ in Objective-C which show no sign of evolving.  Will the Steve Jobs replacement embrace Scala.

Consider Scala.  Scala tries to take a lesson from business and from OOP:  embrace VM's and Traits.  But Traits some from Self, one of those languages ignored at MIT.  Traits emerged because some dicta of programming gurus were wrong and cannot be solved by AOP.

So what impedes the evolution of smart languages?  Tenure?  Take the most recent release of Squeak Smalltalk as 4.2   The Squeak folks embrace the idea that when a program starts it can be begin by consuming a script which can modify most any aspect of both the environment of the program and the program itself.  Any of us who worked in demanding IT industry projects can tell you that this is a compliance and governance non-starter.  What leaves the project leads - the academics - so out of touch that Squeak could 'evolve' in a way which imperils its survival in any real world niche?

Now to weave back to the hype at M.I.T.   One of the most important AI innovations of the 70's was not embraced at MIT.  The French company was absorbed by a large French corporation.  The gist of those ideas lives on in AI in Europe and in 1.4 Distributed Oz of the oz-mozart project.  In the first decade of the new millenium, major projects at large US corporations showed no glimmer of those ideas.  the result is dumb software tackling medical pricing in hospitals and dumb software tackling risk management in banks, insurers, governments ... and MIT?

After years of pursuing internal representations (a notion long debunked by mere philosophers and linguists) MIT AI has embraced 'leaving much of the information out there in the environment".  This idea of "invariants in the ecology" was championed decades ago by JJ Gibson.  It was old hat by 1964 in the work of French philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty.  MIT AI is slowly embracing "embodied intelligent behavior" - again old hat in the work of M M-P from his critique of the psychology of his day and his lessons from the early days of the neurology of brain traumas and military amputations.

 Much of what passes for the "programme" of AI at MIT is just rhetoric and most often relies on a variety of fallacies.  When in 1960 an infallible pope declared as dogma that Mary had been taken up physically into heaven as both body and soul, the faithful did not ask for clarification as to whether she had first died at the end of her days.  The dogma trades on words.  The terms of the trade at MIT are 'agent',' 'action', 'learn', 'adjust', 'adapt', 'integrate', 'system'.

The promise of neural net began with the mollusc slug.  What reason would a skeptic have to believe that such a project will evolve to build something on the order of a cuttlefish or octopus.  Just take the one example of the obsession with duplicating the hominid hand.  It ha taken years for someone to think outside of that box the 'gripper' as inflatable/deflatable bean-bag.  A mollusc might have evolved one of those (and might yet do so if the seas survive us.)  But.  What reason to think that such a cephalopod  would resemble anything like the proposed MIT AI strategy?

Take IBM's Watson strategy.  Not a robot and not "intlelligent" (expect no witticisms, sarcasm, tantrums, devious resistance, passive aggression ... ) - but needing to show an AI result, IBM abandons the one big strategy for a more evolutionary notion of let all try and go with the most promising in any one round.  Unlike warfare on the shifting battlefield along long battle lines, Jeopardy is polite repetition.

Dolphins evolved something akin to language and even a cross-species lingua franca.  Cuttlefish have, in their skin, evolved something like a mental image, which we, their homunculi-by-proxy, witness and which often confounds their dolphin predator - perhaps on occasion evoking delphine amazement, delphine amusement, a delphine tingle that travels down the spine.  No robot wil tingle all over when it realizes that THAT piece of 'coral' ain't no coral nor will it feel the grit of its teeth on cuttlebone.  No robot appears to have any prospect of evolving to tolerate the ammoniac taste of the giant squid as has the sperm whale.  Integrating taste sensors with vision sensors is not what occurred there.  Adopting common messaging protocols across progamming libraries of procedural languages is not what occurred there.

I can think of no way except embarrassment to move someone past the doctrine of the physical assumption.  Perhaps seriously thinking of Yeshua the healer helps the believer move one step towards atheism.  The AI faiths are much harder nuts to crack: a "physical assumption to heaven" is "adjusting action to environment" - which just sounds so sensible.  Just as heaven was once above.  Just as necrosis was once a mystery.  The bodies of the pure do not rot.  The robot  "solves the problem".  Language will not make it so.  The kingdom does not come in this lifetime.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Object Icon

Object Icon 2.5 is now available at as source code.

An internet search will reveal that the choice of name for this Icon language variant may be regettable.

Ralph Griswold had wanted to keep the name of the language intact, i.e., which precluded "Icon2".

'ICONUO' might have captured ICON+Objects+UNICODE but misses the key role of succeed/fail/retry logic and the role of co-expressions in Icon.

'ICOEXP' (pronounced Eye-Ko-eX-Pea ) appears an option for internet search.

The single word 'ObjectIcon' appears to be precluded legally already.  In addition, a Google search must quote, as in
  "Object Icon" programming language
in order to obtain a result.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

BBC's Vatican: less than Global Minds

The BBC's Duncan Kennedy had this report as journalism from Rome under the rubric Europe News:

"If the Big Bang was the start of everything, what came before it?"
That is one of the questions being posed by a new website being set up by the Vatican and Italy's scientific community. After centuries of mistrust between religion and science, the intention is to give the public a greater understanding of both sides. The website, which will be available in Italian and English, has information on everything from astronomy to theology, from space missions to philosophy and art. ...

It was my good fortune to hear his drivel about philosophical questions and cosmology.  Kennedy is unaware that there is a field of philosophy of physics and philosophy of science and philosophy of religion.  But, ah, yes, the web site is for the "public", which Kennedy also serves.

Only he serves cold porridge.

Kennedy appears ignorant that in my own lifetime Hoyle and Gamow's beginning of astro-biology was such an offence to the harmless Lutherans of Sweden that a Nobel was out of the question.  And nothing as changed for atheists in Catholic countries.

Suppose Kennedy had asked what parallel existed between String Theory and the doctrine of the Trinity or between dark matter and the Physical Ascension of Mary?  We have a clear idea of what might cause String Theory to topple - but will the Vatican revisit the triumph of the mystery of the Triune-God over the heresies of the "philosophical" early Christians?  We know what may alter the calculation of the amount of dark matter surrounding the Milky Way, but did the feces and urine of Mary also physically ascend to heaven?  The parasites in her intestines?  The dogma of Pope Pius in 1960 came at a time when even the relation between nuclear membrane and cellular membrane in the somatic cell was not yet well understood.  But what could cause that pious dogma to be revised?  Is there an equivalent discussion to that in 1960 of the endoplasmic reticulum?  How does bad theology cease to be dogma in the one true Church?

What counts as "philosophical" for the paid BBC reporter is what counts as "sophomoric" elsewhere.

Kennedy's priest mentions Einstein, but not Weyl.  Hermann Weyl had philosophic concerns that did not lead him to the Christian soul or the Christian God of his native northern Germany.  What could have brought Weyl, Gamow or Hoyle home to the One True Church?  Not that BBC broadcast or this BBC web posting.

Science does not have all the answers - but it can defend a few assertions, such as the importance of condoms.  Social and medical science can make a strong case against the celibacy of priests.  Ethics can make a strong case for female priests.

The core issue for me is whether a non-reductionist, non-materialist atheist such as myself could ever by evidence and argument alone convince a believer in the soul that evolved embodied mind is a biological-social-linguistic fact and that individual minds end with their respective biological lives.  End of story.  A Weyl, perhaps.  A Pope Pius, no.  And among the philosophers courting the Vatican: Charles Taylor, no; Alasdair MacIntyre, well, time is running out there.

Note:  The Vatican has been active in observational astronomy for many years - which is why facts are important (but only if your theory is not a dogma.)  In mathematical physics, Georges Lemaître was both a priest and the author of the Big Bang.  But he was also an artillery officer in WWI - something which Bertrand Russell was not.  I take more issue with the use of heavy field artillery as morally unjustifiable in any infantry conflict between France and Germany ( as much so as aerial bombardment, machine guns and poison gas  ) than with his being ordained as a priest and continuing in that confession.  Note that after that war, conscientious objectors in pious Canada lost their right to vote - they might as easily have lost the right to study at universities.  With argument, vote was restored, mustard gas banned.  But the dogma of the Trinity stands untouched in Italy (see the fate of Bernard Bolzano, centuries after Bruno.) COBE may have backed  Georges Lemaître over Fred Hoyle, but the facts and theory did nothing to legitimate the views of either - not the Jesuits' God and not Hoyle's "a bit of God ... operating in all of us".

Friday, February 18, 2011

Squeak Smalltalk 4.2

Squeak Smalltalk 4.2 is now available at as a single bundle "app".

I find the more conventional IDE to be to my liking - a click on a menubar selection opens a window.  On my Windows box this gave a much more conventional feel which, for better or worse, is now the common desktop look and likely an aid both to productivity and to ease of adoption.

This version is designed to be compatible with the coming "Cog" VM so additional performance improvements can be expected soon.

The main alternative 'squeak' is now where Traits from Self have been brought into Smalltalk as an alternative to AOP and Mixins.  The awaited Pharo 1.2  is expected soon.

Both Squeak and Pharo are compatible with the Seaside 3.0 web application framework.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Faber and Faber poetry page layouts

For all his faults and flaws, Seamus Heaney, "Opened Ground", 1998, did not deserve the orphans and widows of his publisher.

Time and again a stanza is broken only to end on a partial page.

The publishers do not know that when a page will be a few lines short, either to increase the spacing between stanzas or to suppress the page number (if it is at the foot) or replace that number with a simple arrow or to place a discrete arrow in the right margin or ...

Anything of that sort must be better than these fractured verses.

Perhaps it could be offered as what one gains by purchasing the hard-covers edition (electronic publishing from smart markup rather than mere SGML should not have a problem in providing for that luxury.)

Cannot they not see that this manner of lazy page layout is as flawed as perverting the order of stanzas?

Not as bad, of course, as U Cal Press placing the titles of at least one poem on every page with no bracket style to indicate "here it ends" or "here it begins" - as though the page is not before the reader.  Poetry is not fiction in paragraphs; poems are not pages of fiction.

And yet so much careful attention to wrappers, dust covers, jackets, ...

The Faber and Faber does also mis-number the preceding roman numeral pages in adding an extra blank page (appreciated by me for my notes) in doing the gathering for the bookbinding.  Page -I and page 0 may be quite fitting for the funereal in Heaney.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Blue Brain, BBC and Global Minds: gullibility and hyperbole.

In both GB and Europe the high-blown claims for what we may learn from computer neo-cortex simulators continue to be propagated by the web entertainment journalists at BBC.  Here is a quote from web BBC:
The scientists say the project could lead, for example, to new ideas on how psychiatric disorders develop - illnesses such as autism, schizophrenia, and depression.
Here are my last few tweets at this point:

rshifflet G. Robert Shiplett
Brain simulator advocates do not propose to explain why some people ignore principled objections to their research proposals or faith or

rshifflet G. Robert Shiplett
Why not claim that your neo-cortex simulator may explain _________ (here you fill in the blank with any apparent dichotomy in behaviour.)

rshifflet G. Robert Shiplett
computer brain simulator builders claim that all they need is more money; theorists of AOP, stateful Traits, co-routines needed more time...

rshifflet G. Robert Shiplett
computer neo-cortex simulators suggest may explain schizophrenia - but why not explain 'tendency to exaggerate' or 'obsessed with computer'?

But before I stop mocking hyperbole in CS at let me ask this: why is neither project working with the Vienna Freud society?  If fuzzy neural nets are to learn to "emulate mind" from Freudian fanatics, why would not at least one of these projects have done the same?

What if both tried? One could use ego | id | super-ego and one could use eros | thanatos.  Both could ignore cathexis, catharsis, resistance, introjection, repression ....

We could have a race to explain why most victims of bi-polar disorders are not cured by meditation alone or why schizophrenia [ here take your pick: strikes more at 19 than 13 or is so seldom violent paranoid or has SEEMED to have no single neural correlates.]

And by all means, do send more money.  Those who are busy squaring the circle or building perpetual motion machines are also sometimes starved for cash.  Perhaps if they were using millions of parts or drawing millions of lines they would get the attention of BBC "Tech".

But why the claim to explain schizophrenia?  Why not atheism?  Paedophilia?  Witches?

What would really matter is to explain why most schizophrenics are not violent paranoiacs.  Or not obsessed with building computer traffic simulators for crowds approaching the Roman Coliseum or wondering why "arena' would be used to name a building in which ice hockey is played - or being amused by really bad puns.

Yes, explain inveterate punning - it causes more annoyance to more people than schizophrenia.  Believe me.  Or I'll hold my breath until my brain turns blue.  Unless you pay up ...  Explain the willingness to take bribes, to turn a blind eye, and if nothing else, propose to explain the need to mock, to mock cruelly, to perseverate, to perdure in follies, to exaggerate, to fib.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

signature, catchword and fuzzy neural networks: the hypebole of emulating mind

There is a fracture in which might give pause in any enthusiasm about the coming singularity or the use of AI by emergency management planners

While reading a rebound hardcover Fulke Greville on Philip Sidney I was struck by the word on an orphan line at the end of each page: that word matched the first word on the next verso or the next recto page.

This typographic practice in page layout is related to the task of gathering in bookbinding.  It's only role as an aid to the reader is that it may have helped ensure that pagination of the book is correct.

The term 'gathering' has no link in the bookbinding article and the term 'catchword' is missing from the relevant articles.

The article on 'catchword' has no relevant "See Also" or other helpful link for a webcrawl.

Now what if I deliberately refrain from correcting this oversight?  The current hyperbole concerning melding the social web with the data web might be tamed by more enthusiasts reading Cornelius Ryan's "A Bridge Too Far" with an eye to presuppositions [not following an order and Van Zwangen's 15th at the Schelde; Montgomery's innovation, chance, bad luck, logistics, failure, intention, compliance, risk, emergency management, command,collaboration,messaging,trust,folly,enthusiasm,slaughter.]

Then there is the idea that science is more fundamentally theory of error and measure than else [ but with a strategy for peers to expose liars, lies and frauds as much as falsehoods and fallacies.]

What measure shall we apply to this 'fracture' in wikipedia, this missing branch, failure to connect, and the attendant misinformation such as the quote selected for use in the 'catchword' article?  Unintended misinformation recalled as explanation.  Hmmm ...

Trivia: how to detect in Google Books the last book published in which catchwords were employed by the printer and bookbinder?  Error?  Metric?  Estimate?

Inspired by hyperbole concerning fuzzy neural nets and 'holistic' computational 'ecosystems' in pseudo-computer science at [ or, from simple glaucoma to wartime responses to unforeseeable emergencies as documented by Ryan for the Arnhem glider airborne debacle risk, the unexpected Ardennes counter-attack and the 2010-2011 "Jeopardy" inclusive or multi-paradigm strategy of IBM's "Watson".]

Communication.  Logistics. Innovation. Improvisation.  False belief.  Risk.  Evidential value.  Connections.

Ivor Winters: the canon and Fulke Greville

Note: the canons of page layout

Innovation: the IBM "Jeopardy" meta-program strategy for "Watson" versus Watson Research and Winchester drives and Bell Labs "escape of COBOL" versus microwave background radiation.  C.P. Snow on innovation in bi-plane tail slide and bombing civilians up to and including Wuerzburg [Würzburg].

Of interest: signature and foliation in differential geometry; confer: jet bundles and the space-time metric; Hermann Weyl

ObjectIcon, branching, success, failure, design strategies, text analysis, neglected options, co-routines, green threads.  The cable ferry on the Rhine.  Antwerp. Self and Strongtalk stranded or suppressed at Sun. Actor and Io.

Google Blogspot blogger labels or tagging limit: 200 characters and 20 tags.  Gloss.  Annotation. Pull quote.  See more text. Detail.  Map.

Compare this 'fracture' to noticing a distracting river on a text web page upon changing the magnification or 'zoom'.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Cisco hyperbole and other foolishness

A recent web ad by Cisco asserts that robot interfaces are part of "pure research".

A Cisco vice-president in a long-running ad on MSNBC claims that the next generation will be able to see whatever they want, wherever they want.  Will that generation be living on another planet?  Apparently you don't need to know much history to predict the future.

Then there is the CNN headline to report that new planets have been found "in the Milky Way".  Did they really think that we are spotting star wobbles in another galaxy?  In the Andromeda Galaxy? The Whirlpool Galaxy?

You might as well report that more species of salt-water fish have been found - and that they live in the ocean.  Or that more craters have been found on the moon - and that they are on the surface.  Or that you don't need to know much to be licensed as a journalist under the law proposed in Quebec ...

Subverting a popular uprising: the role of goon squads in Bucharest [the miners]

The Bucharest Lesson: bus in the goons [miners, in that case] and have a "revolution" in which the ruling apparatus remains unchanged and a farce of representative democracy.

That lesson was not lost on the Egyptian masters of the goon squad system.

And invoke respect for the father [the Prime Minister, Ahmed Shafiq, handling a journalist "scrum" today in Cairo (src: Nile TV interpreter).]

We need a new term for "police riot": a "goon riot".

June 15. 1990, The New York Times.