Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Economic tectonics

The balance is shifting, readjusting as China et al appeal to let their economies expand, and (interestingly) Qatar follow Sweden in switching away from the Dollar to the Euro. Japan claims it's strong enough to cope with a stronger yen...

I realised last night that there's no way our "own" economy can be sustained in the light of all this. Consumers (aka the "general public") are being used in the very same way as both city workers and natural resources - all are having their maximum "output" sucked out of them until they break, at which point they become discarded in favour of the next. That kind of usage just doesn't last very long (10 years?), especially with less jobs around (if such is the case) and less ability to get paid as much for the same job (very much the case, i suspect... sorry, no refs).

Climate change is supposed to be the killer, but global economies may force a lot of us to seek cheap, sustainable lifestyles long before that.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Mish Mash

Leaping deftly into the realm of remix, Scribe took his trusty Soundtracker and Audacity to render ...

Von Hat

Mostly the product of Sigur Ros's "Von" (from the album of the same name) and Joe H's "Breathe", with sprinklings of samples nicked from the Internet and Astral Projection musings.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Sprituality in the Public Mind

Pleased to see some debate on spirituality make it onto the BBC News homepage. The (ok, "my") question is - how do get such debate honestly into the mainstream consciousness?

Pure faith - in a God or Gods, or in scientific progress (or in anything else) - is simply a way of avoiding the questions that scare us most*. Pure faith is a way of removing responsibility for ourselves and our thoughts on to an external party - a deity in one case, or "progress" in the other...

Coming to terms with a lack of spirituality means coming to terms with ourselves - the ability to look into our own psyche. This isn't easy. But nor do we do anything to make it easier - in fact, most of our activities make it much, much harder. The promotion of "Success" (with a capital S) to the highest good carries with it the fear of failure.

Failure is nothing to be afraid of. Perhaps a "better" society would be one in which this is understood. But then, it's easy to criticise...

* The scary questions are not those such as "why are we here?" either. The questions that scare us are the ones along the line of "what if I don't like me?"

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Stupid economist

Gambling 'major boost to economy': "I'm an economist, and what I'm saying is that this has been massively good for the economy in terms of productivity, and it'll create a lot of jobs as the casinos come through and it'll create a massive amount of inward investment."

Seeing that economy is king these days, perhaps exploitation of the vulnerable is the way forwards to a future of prosperity...

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

"pants like a dog"

Am I descending to youTube links? Hell yeah. But when Bush gets outquestoned by a student, it's worth it. Political discussion is dead! Long live political discussion, etc. (Oh, the irony, using net video links to indulge in political discussion...)

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Thought Paradigms

I've heard it said (somewhere, ages ago) that intelligence isn't a case of learning things, but rather one of merely knowing a diverse enough range of things, and finding the similarities between them. I like this, but haven't thought much about it.

Now, though, it strikes me that to get from one (learning things) to the other (linking things) is possibly a "fundamental" jump in how we approach a subject.

In the first instance, the "things" we learn are isolated, and context-dependent - they have their own causes, their own effects, and their own "space". Thus, learning a bunch of things as a "concept" is learning just a collection of things. They link up, but only amongst themselves, within the context we learnt them in.

To find the similarities, though, requires a further step. It involves looking not at the things themselves so much as the bonds that tie them together. In other words, it is a jump from "absolute" (a collection of contextual "things") to "relative" (a collection of links). In network theory, this could possibly be mapped as the difference between nodes/vertices and edges/links.

Once you start looking at, and remembering, the relative pattern involved in concepts, pattern matching becomes a much easier task. For instance, if concept 1 is represented as two nodes and a joiner "A + B" and concept 2 a different set, dealing with different things related in a different way - "C x D" - we can learn them in two ways.

Firstly, we can place the priority on the nodes, the "things", such that we note them down as "A and B (with an addition)" and "C and D (with a multiplication)". (The concepts aren't mathematical, I'm just using mathematical notation to indicate homogoneity vs heterogeneity.)

Secondly, we can prioritise the relationship, so we note "An addition (of A and B)" and "A multiplication (of C and D)". Things are still heterogenous, but the important bit is that we can only (or we tend to) compare the parts outside of the brackets. If a concept related to similar things, we would have "A + B" and "A x B", and the former way of learning might have "an advantage".

But if we change the concepts to be "A x B" and "C x D" then all of a sudden the priorities we place on the construction of those concepts makes a big difference to what we can infer from them.

i.e. "A multiplication (of A and B)" vs "A multiplication (of C and D)". Here, now, the unbracketed part is now homogenous, forming a link between the two concepts that deal with different "absolute things", but share something in terms of relationship. This, then, may be the finding of similarity some people espouse intelligence to hold.

The mathematical notation is a little confusing. A good example would be the ability to learn languages - if you grow up with more than one language, then it's probably easier to learn another language later on in life than if you only grew up with one. Why? Because you're not concentrating on the words (the "things"), but what's linking those words - thought. Learning a new language then involves recognising and mirroring the new language's relations in terms of thought and concepts rather than mapping one word to another.

Maybe there's some research out there on this. Whichever, it certainly needs more investigation...

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Straw, eggs and Rice

This BBC article made me laugh, not just because I can imagine similar, uh, "protest" tactics being used next time someone like Condoleeza Rice visits the UK (is egg-throwing to be considered an "exercise in democracy"?*), but for this quote:

"But US officials say Mr Chavez is causing instability in the region with his fiery anti-Bush rhetoric and autocratic style of leadership."

Replace "Chavez" with "the Bush administration", and "anti-Bush" with "anti-Islam/Iran/enemy of the day" and it still makes complete sense! "Politics is blind", to try to coin a phrase.

* Quote from this article which is worth checking out to see just how much of a twat Jack Straw is. While Rice manages to handle the protests with quite some civility, Straw just sneers and claims he could organise more people. He doesn't really get it, does he. Maybe it should be "politicians are stoopid", rather than "politics is blind"...

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Quick Update

Things have been a bit quiet round here (and on Into the Machine) recently. In proper "OMG l00k wot i did 2day!!1" style, here's what I been up to this week...

  • Got 2 essays to write for Uni. One's on the differences in profiling (i.e. providing a profile about yourself, vs having a profile constructed "about" you a la supermarket loyalty cards), the other's on scientific risk vs progress... Both proving to be pretty interesting.

  • Found a new obsession with Lomography, and old cameras. See Flickr widget on right hand side for some results.

  • Afore-mentioned intrique with old cameras has led to far too much time spent on ebay. However, a useful perl script has started to emerge from it, to build up a profile of people's bidding habits...

  • Afore-mentioned fascination with Flickr has led to a small Perl script to chirp images from any number of Flickr RSS feeds, for use with xscreensaver.

  • My girlfriend has roller boots :)