Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Brain reacts to fairness as it does to money and chocolate

In the study, subjects were asked whether they would accept or decline another person's offer to divide money in a particular way. If they declined, neither they nor the person making the offer would receive anything. Some of the offers were fair, such as receiving $5 out of $10 or $12, while others were unfair, such as receiving $5 out of $23.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Help wanted: Open sourcing a slipnet viewer

(This page will be updated with further details as soon as soon as possible)
Hello world!

After reading this fantastic book and playing with this, I think one good way to proceed is to open-source some parts of a FARG framework which are not its core, but are extremely useful and everyone could benefit from them.

I'm thinking first about a slipnet viewer. A java class that receives a list of nodes and links, and creates a nice view of the ongoing slipnet at any point in time. A node might consist of its activation levels and a bitmap to display inside the node (sometimes we may want to display something other than a string), while a link might include just the nodes it connects, (perhaps) a direction, and a string (to show up distances and for those with IS-A beliefs).

The class would get this information and create another bitmap, now with a beautiful view of the current slipnet: close nodes appear close to each other, distant nodes appear distant, and their activity levels are displayed. From my past life in combinatorial optimization, I have a hunch that this is NP-hard, so we may be resorting to some heuristic that works.

It should be in java, to run in everybody's machine, and also because everyone knows java and could either make a call to it from their own weirdo language or rewrite the code for their project.

In this initial stage, no windows or anything fancy should be done. Just get the data in and output a bitmap with the slipnet. But if our collaboration works, we could go bigger, triggering a window in a new thread and having a great display running in true parallel style. That would, I think, be a first step that everyone would benefit from.

This is small stuff, of course, but it's annoying to redo it everyday in every single project. It takes some time to do, and distracts from the core issues. Our productivity will rise. So, as Micheal Roberts once said, instead of having "obsessive geniuses" working under the basement, we should finally stop doing the same things over and over again. We should finally start collaborating like a small research group.

Or like a start-up company.

HP Upline: a disappointing bet

Here's the email I've received from HP's Upline program.

On Sat, Apr 19, 2008 at 12:46 AM, HP Upline Paypal Notifications wrote:

Dear HP Upline Service subscriber,

On Thursday, April 17th, HP suspended operation of the HP Upline Service. We fully anticipate that suspension of the Upline Service will be temporary and short in duration, and will notify you when the Upline Service is operational again.

Please accept our sincere apology for this unanticipated interruption of your access to the Upline Service. We appreciate your patience as we launch this new service, and are working hard to minimize inconvenience caused by this service interruption.

If you are a resident of the United States, your subscription will remain in effect and you will be able to continue using the Upline Service for the duration of your subscription period once the Upline Service is operational again. Thank you for your patience, and we look forward to providing you with the HP Upline Service.

If you are not a resident of the United States, we regretfully must inform you that the initial launch of the HP Upline Service was intended for United States residents only. Unfortunately, our filtering tools did not adequately screen for subscribers residing outside of the United States. We thank you for your early adoption of the Upline Service, and look forward to being able to provide the HP Upline Service to you when we launch it in your country of residence. Since the HP Upline Service is presently offered for use within the United States only, we will be discontinuing your current subscription. After we notify you that the Upline Service is operational again, you will have a limited period of time to access and download files that you have uploaded onto the HP Upline Service servers. After that time period, you will no longer have access to your present HP Upline Service account. If you would like to be contacted by us when the HP Upline Service is made available in your country of residence, please send us an email at We apologize for any inconvenience.


The HP Upline Team

And here's my response:
FROM: Alex Linhares
Dear Hulu provincians,
you should bear in mind that the web is international. --Alex Linhares

Well, what else could I say?

Thursday, April 17, 2008

This world is changing, brother...

...and the speed of change is accelerating... and I would like to invite readers in Rio de Janeiro to our Pangea day Broadcast.

Wahhabism is slowly going down and out...

Technology which costs thousands and takes years to develop goes for 50 bucks and is developed in 5 months...

The gigantic exodus toward cities and mega-cities might actually be a good thing...

The Pentagon might learn something from failure...

And this might be just a temporary fad, or a huge turning point...

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Monetizing 2010's social networks

Mike Arrington is proposing a new, mostly phone-based, social network. It's really a great reading. The basic idea is that you could browse people on the go--and find out who's around you in a restaurant or other places. You would broadcast your profile and receive broadcasts of other people's profiles. With privacy settings, of course. I wrote about this on newsvine back in 2006.

There are 2 types of comments in techcrunch: “absurd!” or “awesome!”

I would bet that there is a strong correlation to the commenter’s age.

The people that say absurd! fall into some camps:
(i) "girls will never use it"
(ii) "only übergeeks will use it"
(iii) "are you a lunatic? What about government oversight?"
(iv) "there's no way to monetize it. Ads on a small phone screen?!?"
(v) "Don't you think we are getting geeker and geeker all the time? Don't you think we are looking more and more at screens all the time?"

These objections are wrong, and Micheal is absolutely right. This is a game changer, and is a huge billion dollar thing. I wrote about this in 2006 (back when I thought newsvine was going somewhere).

Here are my views on the objections people have placed there:

To those concerned with government oversight: That’s a serious issue, but the way to handle it is to guarantee users that no government entity of any kind can be allowed as a “business”, and no info will be sent to them, unless users explicitly agree. They might make fake profiles of users, but they won't be able to communicate with you. No email, phone, or other info should be broadcast (unless someone is really adventurous).

Why girls will use it: Girls will broadcast only minimum info; a photo and a name or even a nickname. But they will stalk the guys, looking at the photos, and videos, and resume, to find out who he is. To the ones that they like, they may enable their full profiles. To women, if I've learned anything about them at all, it is that it is more important to know who a guy is than his looks alone. Today, they look around and see only “random” guys, so appearance is the only factor once you're in a restaurant. Now, if you’re broadcasting info that shows that you have a future, girls take notice.

Why everyone will use it, not just übergeeks.

Ever heard that beautiful quote, “the future is unevenly distributed”?

These people are reasoning: this has no value for me, so I don’t want it.

But this is like email was in 1992. I had an account, but nobody had, so its value was zero. Take away my email(s) now and I can’t communicate. Early adopters will be geeks, as always, but soon the network effects will kick in and the value will increase rapidly (for everyone, including grandma). So these guys who are saying they’ll never use it are in for a kick when they’re standing on a line for 20 minutes and some server tells: “your luggage has been found, Mr Arrington”. “How, if he wasn’t even in this bloody lost luggage complaint line we’re standing?” “Well, he was broadcasting his info to our system (which is on the network and is the way to finance it).” So your phone picks up that you’re on a luggage complaint system, you click on it and fill up a form. The old fellows look like penguins on a line. And you get to be served first. Then they finally ‘get it’. The thing has value. Of course, we are getting geeker and geeker all the time. We will be looking at screens more and more. Yet, life will be smoother.

the iPhone is now the only phone where the user interface could be smooth, without having to press a precise sequence of 50 buttons to browse people around. But perhaps android will be another, and perhaps the other phone companies can catch up to it in some years.

About facebook: it should obviously get in on this right now or become MySpace face the consequences. But facebook should first change to include the many dimensions a person has.

* I have a PhD in computer science, and I’m working on computational cognitive models. I might want to meet people with similar pursuits; but that’s only part of someone’s dimensions;
* I am crazy about Hôtel Costes, or about In Search of Sunrise
* I am an associate member of the club of rome, and I would certainly like to meet fellow members if/when we are close by.
* I am a professor of management science, I might want to broadcast that info in some places, and not others
* I am an entrepreneur, and I’d like to meet other similar creatures (or broadcast that info) to stalking Venture Capitalists.

Facebook only offers one dimension; and that is a serious shortcoming; because you want to select the specific info that will be broadcast. You don’t want to broadcast your funny drunk party picts or serious business info everywhere (in a random bar here in Rio you could actually be kidnapped). But you might do it in a high-profile scenario.

Now, here’s how to monetize it: free for users; & businesses pay a relatively small fee. This could be attractive to businesses because they could attract people, by broadcasting their existence, bookmarking people and offering discounts and automatic self-serve.

Jeffreys has commented on how to monetize: “How do you monetize it? When you walk past a store with a sale you might be interested in, it tells you. Like Amazon’s recommendation engine. Most of the time you’ll ignore it, but it will alert you to something you want to buy often enough to pay for itself.”

Here’s some building on top of that: the device NEVER, NEVER, distracts you. It receives your info, and bookmarks you, but never sends you an email or call or anything spam-like. If you want to know why, read "on intelligence".

Suppose you’re an owner of a restaurant. You pay to access the service as a business. They some smoking hot girls come in, and you bookmark them as interesting for your place. Then, on slow, empty days, you have all these cooks and waiters you’re paying for, but no customers: you send out, to 40 chicks, an offer for $50 dollars, valid for 1 hour. If you have bookmarked hundreds of prospects, people will start appearing. And people in a restaurant attract more people.

But nobody should ever be bothered personally. Instead, they should have their own offers page: They go in that page and see offers for free drinks at place X, 80% discount (at an empty restaurant), 50% discount at an empty hotel, or 70% discount at an empty seat on a flight to New York. All of these offers have an expiration time. So you can take it, think about it for a while, or leave it.

WHY THIS IS ENORMOUSLY VALUABLE: because once a plane has took off, then each empty seat costs a load of money, but gets no revenue--basically, that's money down the drain. Businesses have excess capacity, and price flexibility helps in balancing that capacity with actual demand–an incredible economic incentive for businesses to pay something like $1000/year, or $1/customer bookmark/year, or maybe $1/100 offers, or more. So, in the long run, the winning network will be getting buckloads of money from thousands of businesses small and large, without annoying anyone.

And businesses will be happy: The problem of managing capacity, utilization or operation levels, and demand, will be minimized for businesses that jump in. Life will be smoother for businesses (better yield management), and for people (great personalized offers, no intruding ads).

This is one of the most promising ideas right now. In the long run, there will be only one social network people actually log in, and that network will be the one in which they can browse people. On the go.

By the way, there are many more ideas, and I would be considering your job offers now. See you soon, Zillionaires!

Saturday, April 5, 2008

What is a relation?

Each relation has some elements, each element usually has a role within that relation. Moreover, there is a function, which takes this elements and creates new elements. A relation finds items of certain kinds (their roles), and creates other items of certain kinds, maybe even with a particular value

For example, in NUMBO:
Multiplication: item1 (operand) item2 (operand) item3 (result)

SUCESSOR: item1 (letter_value) item2 (Letter_Value) Alphabetic_Distance(Item1,Item2)=1 (number);

CHESS: Attack: item1(piece) item2(piece) move_distance(item1,item2)=1(number) (attacker in item1) (attacked in item2)

This is why I've found the quote from DeMorgan so sinister.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Decision, Intuition & Perception

So here's the presentation I've done in FGV today. Unfortunately, we didn't get it on tape, so no sound. I hope it may still be of some value for those interested.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

That's some massively parallel temperature right there, Dude!

I've been thinking about massively parallel FARG, distributed temperature, and distributed coderacks:

Now, whenever a codelet is about to change something up, why add it to the global, central, unique, coderack? I don’t see a good reason here, besides the “that’s what we’ve always done” one. If a codelet is about to change some structures in STM, why not have (i) a list (or a set, or a collection, etc.) of structures under question & (ii) create a list-subordinated coderack on the fly? Instead of throwing codelets into a central repository, they go directly to the places in which they were deemed necessary. There are multiple repositories for codelets, multiple coderacks.

I argued that I liked the idea because (i) it enables parallelism of the true variety, (ii) it helps us to solve the stale codelets issue, and (iii) programming can (in principle) be done gradually, still in simulated parallel.

Now, I was wrong about temperature all along. Here's a new idea:

Imagine that each of the coderacks has the following behavior: Get a RANDOM codelet, then run it.

That's massively parallel temperature right there. Have a nice day. Thanks for stopping by.

Unconvinced? Think about this: some coderacks will start to become really small (as Abhijit pointed out in the comments previously), with one or two codelets, then being emptied and destroyed. That means that at that particular point (or thing) in STM, temperature is really low. However, other coderacks will be full of stuff waiting to run; which means that there, temperature is running high. Distributed temperature with high randomness in hot spots, low randomness in cool spots.

Maybe this has to be coupled with some information about concepts, but I'm not sure anymore. I think that it just might be one of those wonderful, marvelous, emergent effects we take so much pleasure in playing with.