Monday, January 24, 2011

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Technological convergence and Julian Assange's hairstyle.

Sad to see The Economist on the wrong side of History, yet once again. DDOS do not come from terrorists; that statement is as foolish as the US asking wikleaks to "return" the documents---perhaps wikileaks should send them the link so they can get their docs returned?

Nobody said anything bad about wikileaks when it was all about Kenya. If this was about a leak about NK's clumsy governmental affairs, it would be cheered by all. But since the focus is on the US's dna, password and credit card stealing from the UN SecGen, now, despite claims that the leaks are only gossip, it has become a hot topic---Hillary might eventually have to step down, as clumsily as Rumsfeld.

At any rate, this is NOT about Assange, this is NOT about the USA, this is not about WIKILEAKS---at all.

This is about a point in history in which technological convergence has enabled constant surveillance of everything. Has anyone noticed the thousands of startups trying out every possible permutation and combination of ideas and technologies? It was only a matter of time before someone came up with the combination:

i) secure channels + ii) wiki + iii) leaks from whistleblowers.

the wiki part is irrelevant---it can be changed to "forums", or "torrents", or "votes", or many other publishing tools. So really the combination of i) and iii) is what is changing History; yet nobody looks at it from the long-term view; everyone's too concerned about Assange's hairstyle.

Historically, the convergence of i) and iii) was inevitable.

Assange, the name Wikileaks, and the US cables are just accidents of History. History put us on a path that would inevitably create something of the sort. Ideas i) and iii) were bound to meet and stay joined, with a force as strong as two oxygen atoms.

And there's no going back, like it or not. There were dozens of wikileaks mirrors 20 days ago. Today, there are thousands. Shut down wikileaks, and watch Openleaks, DiggLeaks, GodKnowsWhatURLLeaks come up the next day.

Good luck fighting against Historical convergence.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Kuranta-Bothata Study

For many years I've felt that authors, referees, and editors--that's everyone, by the way--involved with scientific publishing have a bias against "weird" (third-world) names. That you are more likely to get published and/or to be cited if your name is Pratt (rather than Onwubulu). Frank Sinatra used to complain that his problem was having the "Sinatra" name, and that a name like "Pratt" would make life smoother for him. People I've met in the North say that this is ridiculous and preposterous, people I've met in the South say it's not only obvious, but just part of life.

So why not design an experiment? Here's what we did: We got a scientific paper with 6000+ words. The paper had no authors or addresses, but there was a manipulation: on the first page, there was mention that the work had been funded by an African-sounding agency or an European-sounding one. "This work has been generously supported by grant 26/110.790/2009 from the High Scientific Council of the Kuranta-Bothata Province." The imaginary European "province" was from the Dutch: "Welgesteld-Tijdschrift".

So there. Two words in a paper with 6.142 words. Can these two words change the perception of the entire paper?

Yes it can. While we're still crunching the statistics (we've just finished collecting the data from potential evaluators yesterday); the average scores for questions like "is this paper publishable", "would you cite it?", and "Should it receive additional funding?" are definitely very different.

Besides the obvious fact that one could criticize the external validity of any study of this sort, it seems, rather sadly, that people on the South are right about this issue and prejudice rules the land.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Searching for the Harmonious Society

(excuse the rampant blogus interruptus, but well, we've been busy)

Today is a day of darkness. Google's out of China, redirecting to Hong Kong, now with improved uncensored entertainment!!1!11

Two giants that fiercely battle for world dominance, each at its own sphere, have finally met, and are at a clash. This can end "well", in the sense that no more news (or escalation) takes place. In due course, Google is completely blocked in Mainland, and loses marketshare in the skyrocketing superpower (this reminds me of companies like Pepsi-Cola, that were the all-singing, all-dancing friends of the apartheid regime in South Africa. When Mandela was finally freed, companies like Coca-Cola, who stood the course and avoided S.A. like the plague, never stood a chance in that market.)

But market share for Google is the least of the worries. This thing in the worst case could cast a long shadow.

The next step in the tit-for-tat game is, most likely, the Chinese completely blocking access to all Google sites and services in the mainland, and turning a blind eye to the scientific and industrial communities that recently said "they'd go blind without google". There are easy circumventions, as my Iranian friends will tell--or anyone with one hour to spare will discover (proxies and tor and vpns the most obvious ones).

What comes after that is anyone's guess. What happens to the people"dissidents"/"terrorists" whose emails the Chinese were hacking? What happens to Google employees in the mainland? Shouldn't they be arrested to serve as an example?

Hong Kong is semi-independent, so what happens there? Does China ignore Google's FUIMREDIRECTING message or does China force a strong hand in .hk? The British were smart enough to insert Article 5 when giving up HK, and Google is fully hiding behind that loophole. But will China stay put, ridiculed by an American Corporation? Seems unlikely, if you consider that the Hawks in China (and in America) must be salivating all over this.

One chilling way this could go is for China to retaliate (disproportionally, as is its wont--that's a state that cures your drug addiction with a bullet on your head) towards some visible corporation in Taiwan. Or, less likely, to strike with its sinister pit-bull. North Korea, who has been duly serving its duty as a buffer between China's and America's (giant) spheres of influence will be let loose to do something nasty in the coming months, with full knowledge and approval from the mainland.

Economically, Shanghai and other Chinese hotspots can suffer from productivity deceleration and perhaps even decreased productivity. Imagine living for a month without anything google provides. (Apple may now move its phone to bing, mentioning concerns about services like maps and search and so forth).

Make no mistake. These are Google and China; two entities whose sole purpose is utter and complete world domination. One wants to become the next British Empire, the next USSR, the next America. China is holding upwards of 2 Trillion greenbacks. The other side not only has the backing of potus, but can stand on its own, given it knows everything about everyone. (Everything. About Everyone. It matches that picture you took ages ago in Aruba against the other faces, and saves it somewhere. Senator McCarthy would have loved to peek inside google's brains.) Between China and Google, in an information age, it's a real puzzle to find out which is more powerful.

A word from our sponsors: All of this censorship in China is provided by Cisco, "the leading supplier of networking equipment and network management for the Internet." Ironically, they advertise for "Borderless Networks".

But hey, what do I know? I think governments everywhere are scared of the bottom-up empowerment that recent tech has brought; I've read too many history books, my greatest fears concern inflation on the US and/or a Chinese attack on the US currency (see here for a precedent). I actually invest in gold for christ's sake. My tin-foil hat collection is growing bigger by the week.

At any rate, a day the google page goes dark is a day the search for the harmonious society becomes harder.

Monday, September 14, 2009

New papers submitted

We've just finished wrapping up some old papirus, and they're off to the journals! It's always a soothing experience before the insults arrive. Here are the papers:

Entanglement of perception and reasoning in a combinatorial game

We conduct a new variation of the classic chess reconstruction experiments,analyzing 25 types of possible reconstruction errors of grandmasters, masters, and beginners.The differences between the errors conducted in poor, intermediate, and strategically perfectreconstructions provide insights concerning the encoding of experts. The results obtained shedclear light into the debate concerning the importance of abstract thought (i.e., forward search)versus perceptual processes (i.e., pattern recognition). We claim that a clear solution to thisdebate is ultimately unfeasible, as our experiments demonstrate high entanglement ofperception and reasoning. Our results provide additional evidence that analogy is central tostrategic thought in chess.

The emergence of choice: Decision-making and strategic thinking through analogies

Consider the chess game: When faced with a complex scenario, how does understanding arise in one’s mind? How does one integrate disparate cues into a global, meaningful whole? How do players avoid the combinatorial explosion? How are abstract ideas represented? The purpose of this paper is to propose a new computational model of human chess cognition. We suggest that analogies and abstract roles are crucial to understanding a chess scenario. We present a proof-of-concept model, in the form of a computational architecture, which may be able to account for many crucial aspects of human play, such as (i) concentration of attention to relevant aspects, (ii) how humans may avoid the combinatorial explosion, (iii) perception of similarity at a strategic level, (iv) a state of meaningful anticipation over how a global scenario may evolve, and (v) the architecture’s choice as an emergent phenomenon from the actions of subcognitive processes.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Questioning Chase and Simon’s (1973) “Perception in Chess”: The “Experience Recognition” Hypothesis

We have a new paper to come out, and here's the info. Please drop us a message should you be interested. It should come out soon in But while it's scheduled, it isn't redirecting yet.

Questioning Chase and Simon’s (1973) “Perception in Chess”: The “Experience Recognition” Hypothesis

By Alexandre Linhares & Anna Elizabeth T.A. Freitas, to appear in New Ideas in Psychology.

Abstract. Pattern recognition lies at the heart of the cognitive science endeavor. In this paper, we provide some criticism of this notion, using studies of chess as an example. The game of chess is, as significant evidence shows, a game of abstractions: pressures; force; open files and ranks; time; tightness of defense; old strategies rapidly adapted to new situations. These ideas do not arise on current computational models, which apply brute force by rote-memorization. In this paper we assess the computational models of CHREST and CHUMP, and argue that chess chunks must contain semantic information. This argument leads to a new and contrasting claim, as we propose that key conclusions of Chase and Simon’s (1973) influential study stemmed from a non-sequitur. In the concluding section, we propose a shift in philosophy, from “pattern recognition” to a framework of “experience recognition”.