Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Politicians Meet AI

A few of us independently minded were somewhat tongue in cheek on board with Singularity for President. My twitter feeds (thekirbster, 4DsolutionsPDX) will show some evidence of my supporting that campaign.  More than a serious religion, this meme was a dig at the relevance of the usual suspects, pointing instead to a kind of black hole in Cyberia.

Uber and Lyft drivers are these days told to love their jobs while they can, as the big bad driverless car is just around the corner. Behind these autonomous vehicles lurk another set of memes, stitched together in a kind of marketing hype science fiction, whereby a form of "artificial intelligence" (AI) might threaten just about any job (as in "livelihood").

I'm not about to discount the power of our learning to co-habitate with our machines.  We needed some serious steam pressure to activate the industrial age, leading to dirty coal fired furnaces and soot everywhere. We gradually got it down to just greenhouse gases, saving the ozone layer (fingers crossed) but now starting to literally cook.

The hope is we might do a lot less polluting commuting and enjoy our electronics a lot more, thereby giving the planet a chance to cool.  We're proving we can sustain some pretty serious viewing habits, when it comes to staring at screens.  I'm not saying we've properly balanced that sedentary lifestyle with the outdoorsy more camp-like experience we'll need to stay competent outside of densely urban areas.  Simply walking over rough terrain takes talent.

However getting to these lifestyle places requires something other than the passing and enforcement of laws.  People think in terms of "making rules" when a more useful shoptalk would involve "playing games" (which have rules).  Game playing is where social media come in, and with the design and evolution of social media, comes what we might call "social engineers" except that sounds ominous.

Americans have frightened themselves with the word "social" and therefore even "sociality" and "sociology" have a scary ring.  Combine "social" with "engineering" and you get "Russian hacker" or worse, but then we think of Facebook and Google and remember Steve Jobs and Bill Gates.

We've had our revenge of the nerds, or geeks inheriting the earth (Bible off by a letter or two) -- world domination they called it.  Now we're back in the realm of politics and at a higher level than many attain.  A picture emerges of politicians up and down a ladder, along with PR people, marketers, all social engineers of various stripes. Some learn to code.

The new blend of technology with socially-savvy meme-makers, puts the lawyer shoptalks in a new context. Engineering has come into its own more and we have the "code is law" meme.

What better way to write games than in software?  What better way to self govern than with the assistance of free open source?  With respect to traditional politicking, AI represents this new face, or interface, this API.  Welcome then, to this world of AI.

So yeah, you might be out of a job as well, mister would-be ruler, given we're using these Ouija Boards (these social media) more and more.  Accelerating acceleration, Toffler called it.  We need our self-governing tools simply to keep up.  The center of gravity has shifted to social media, radio and television included.  Politicians have become actors in a new kind of theater.  We're seeing that all the time now, on Singularity TV.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Family Reunions


Pat Kenworthy, my late wife's cousin, has let us know about the passing away of her mother, Dawn's Aunt Betty, at the age of ninety two.

Around the same time, I learned of my brother-in-law Sam's grave illness, sparking a family reunion over here. I'll be driving over the mountain once Tara arrives. Sam is in hospice.

I've been reading Arnold Mindell (The Shaman's Body: A New Shamanism for Transforming Health, Relationships, and the Community Paperback, November 30, 1993).  He's still a Carlos Castaneda fan whereas many grew disillusioned with his undermining of the literal truth about the spirit world, through his anthropology books, about his relationship with his own sense of wisdom (Don Juan).

Thanks to Bob Bornemann of Esozone for turning me cluing me re the above lecture, worth watching if you're doing Jungian studies, a long time theme in these blogs.  Thanks to Alex as well.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Composing Functions

The code below shows a way of teaching operator overloading in Python, and about lambda.

Function type objects do not ordinarily multiply, leaving it up to the developer to ascribe meaning to said operation.  We might use it for "compose" such that (F * G)(x) == F(G(x)).

The __call__ method invokes the original function, while Compose wraps the function inside the type that knows how to multiply and therefore power.

At the end, decorator syntax is introduced.  I explain decorator syntax in more detail in this Youtube.

Hit Run for the demo, output appears below.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Wanderers 2017.06.13

WILPF on UN Nuke Ban

That's June 13, a Tuesday night. Carol of WILPF (my mom) updated us on the UN Nuclear Weapons Ban Treaty, slowly making its way to passing, by enough of a majority to warrant the ratification phase, wherein each nation takes a copy home to debate about.

But will they debate? Some pundits only mock the UN as some globalist nonsense they never agreed to, and they're right, they had no direct exercise of veto power.  People made this stuff up.  The UN framework.  They didn't ask us about ketchup either.  So many of them, only one of me.

The New York Times has given it some serious press.  It fits, it's news.  I operated the laptop (the olde Air) while Carol talked, mostly flashing up Wikipedia pages on the various treaties we went over: non-proliferation; comprehensive test ban; arms trade; and now this new one, with most nations supportive.

The discussion was lively, with our currently youngest attending member reassuring us there'd be other ways humans could commit mass suicide even without their beloved atom bombs.  As anyone who watched Wonder Woman recently well remembers, we have our gases and simple diseases.  "We" being collective humanity, some of whom we can't completely explain.

I helped field questions as Carol is hard of hearing, and I could repeat from up close.  She had a lot of information about the history leading up to this point.  She has a lot of perspective.  I invited her to bring up the Kellog-Briand pact, but by that time we were pretty think tanked.

My day was somewhat complicated in that I'm immersed in preparing a next lecture series, printed textbook, while plowing through a Coursera Mooc.  Dr. Harris I think it is does an excellent job guiding us through his Internet of Things world.  I'm talking to my Arduino.

At the same time, I'm bouncing down to the viewing room monitor and immersing myself in Gettysburg, a dramatic reenactment of a deciding battle in the US Civil War, a defining chapter in the region's history.  The topic is more than I want to dive into in the context of talking about Carol's presentation.

The conversation twisted and turned.  As projector operator, I could jump to my Photostream with recent pictures of a Little Red Riding Hood looking character, our friend and former house guest Lindsey Walker of Nepal, Oregon, Georgia, Florida (reverse chrono).  On her way to Corvallis.

Don reported on Steve Mastin's health and promised to post where we might visit him, given the weeks of recuperation he'll need following a medical intervention.  I think I know the place.  Not where Tom Connolly was, but a similar facility.

Gettysburg came to me from Glenn Stockton as a two-sided DVD and as of this writing I'm still on the Last Day. I've listened to a long commentary track full of illuminating insights from several perspectives (historian, director, cinematographer).

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Lo and Behold (movie review)

This documentary by Werner Herzog examines the birth and evolution of the Internet from several angles.

The very first ARPA net Internet box, today enshrined as a museum piece at UCLA, was designed to be robust, yet its first communication on October 29, 1969, with Stanford, glitched on the letter G.  The first string being sent, character by character, was "LOG" but only got as far as "LO," giving us the Lo in Lo and Behold.

We've become highly dependent on our digital telecommunications networks, out to satellites. However these networks are poorly shielded against electromagnetic storms caused by either the Sun or by humans themselves, a frequently suicidal species (homicidal against itself).  Our way of life is always at risk.

Herzog also takes up serious downsides that have come with Internet technology:  addiction, new forms of illness, new threats.

Werner is a highly respected movie maker and parleys his reputation for access to some of the core gurus of our Internet age.  Great talking heads.

"Have the monks stopped praying?  They all seem to be tweeting."

Are tweets the new prayers?

Thursday, June 08, 2017

Media Sphere

Morning in America

I'm joining much of the North American polity this morning, though most need to work, in viewing Congress deliberate, in the presence of private citizen Comey, formerly FBI Director, regarding what's up with the Russia investigation, which no one has any doubts about being real (and serious).

To that end, on the advice of various parties, I made myself a Bloody Mary (aka Headless Chicken), which in these parts is an accepted breakfast drink, even if alcoholic.  You'll find some good ones at Beaches, at PDX International, starting around 6 AM (I was sipping by about then too, and making a cheese, spinach omelette).

Per ritual, we're supposed to use Russian vodka, for irony, but I didn't have any handy and went for the Swedish brand, Svedka, I found in my downstairs closet awhile back.  Never opened.  I bought the tomato cocktail mix at the OLCC store on Hawthorne & SE 47th (Asylum District), McIlyenny Co Tobasco brand. Also by ritual we're supposed to chuckle "covfefe" or maybe use that as a toast.

For the last three days, I've been huddled in a cross-country (multi-timezone) session on Python3, what is it and how does it work.  Although European in origin, we don't say it's Russian in particular, given Guido is Dutch.  Yes, Python is popular among Russian hackers. My days in Moscow were pre Python. I'd like to get back now that we have this computer language in common.

I have an Ornery class on Repl.it (ignore modal window -- or sign up for a free scratch space) where I show how the puppet strings are connected, square brackets to __getitem__, curved parentheses to __call__, etc. I use my Permutation class for the same purpose: to show off Python's __ribs__ (the "stack of special names" grammar).

That immersive process, run in East Coast time, is over now, and I'm at liberty to join the Media Sphere this morning for some live, if tightly scripted, events.

OK, lets get back to the session.  I've heard all the opening Q&A, but there's still stuff to get.

Oh yeah, I'm watching through CBS News through digital broadcast. I also have the app.

Wearing my anthropology hat, I think a lot of these stormy seas have to do with ethnic clashes betwixt a highly oiled business machine mindset, and that of a government built around more transparency, even open source principles.  But then tightly controlled, private enterprises gobble up open source, and even contribute back.  Meaning I'm seeing a lot of complex merging here, the formation of new alloys (hybrid cultures).
Covfefe!

Sunday, June 04, 2017

Learning to Code

I'm back to code school teaching Monday morning. This next one is immersive, for adults, but not a boot camp.

In code school lingo, boot camp is about putting in full days at the school, assuming brick and mortar, not virtual. PDX Code Guild hosts those.  These run for several weeks, say twelve to sixteen.

However, many courses of study, from MOOCs (massive open online courses) to community college, are less intensive than boot camp, yet still immersive.

These code school boot camps don't seriously involve boots, unless someone happens to wear them. I suppose there's a pun in there somewhere, regarding self-booting computers, but that'd seem lame.

Teaching a computer language is not unlike teaching a human language, including music.  We sing a music called "ordinary speech" and don't call it singing.  Then we have other forms of singing, notated using musical notation in some cases, not that there's just one such notation.

Likewise computer languages notate what the computer will do, the programmer being less a player (the computer plays itself) than a composer.  To program is to compose.  Sometimes the movies get it wrong and show some hacker typing lines of code at almost superhuman speed.

On the contrary, programming tends to be a halting activity, with frequent breaks to pace, draw on a white board, consult documentation, doodle, sketch.  And right, there are many flavors of programming.

Python, one of these computer languages, has a grammar and vocabulary, like J does, another language I've studied (J is a close relative of APL's).  Python inherits from ABC, with an emphasis on the C (inside joke, in the sense of CPython, not to be confused with Cython, nor Jython).

We grow in our awareness of Python through (0) its keywords and the grammatical structures they form (1) its special names, sometimes known as magic names (2) its core builtins, standard library and 3rd party modules (namespaces).

Namespaces build out the vocabulary, but in your core Python, you get the full grammar, a way of fitting puzzle pieces together.  Then it's just a matter of adding pieces, while continuing to use the same grammar.

Because of this difference between grammar and vocabulary, also real in human languages, it's possible to talk about mastering basic Python in three days of immersive hands on study.  That's not a lie.

People thinking one could never learn to play a musical instrument that quickly are correct: developing those reflexes takes a lot longer.  Music is played against time, at a fixed rate, and that's more like dance.

Programming is slow, with lots of "thinking about" and pausing, so it's the analogy that was maybe misleading.  You don't have to memorize all that much either, to master the grammar.

A vocabulary is like a shop talk.  Think how long it takes to develop familiarity with a tool set, such as for maintaining and repairing bicycles.  The heart surgeon has a tool set.  These are shop talks.  In learning Python, we're not learning to be bicycle mechanics or surgeons.

A computer language may have magic in it somehow, but that doesn't put it outside the natural limitations we're used to among human beings.  Step one in becoming a programmer is maybe setting aside certain stereotypes and misconceptions that only make the prospect seem more daunting than it is.