If you're going to make a digital microfiche scanner to use with a computer, you should at least be kind enough to make it work at a high enough resolution to actually read the text!
Bartlett Publishing has just launched a project called Evolving Algorithms to determine the limits and requirements of evolutionary algorithms in computer science.
This project is essentially created to be a little like Avida, except with a much narrower focus. Avida attempts to be several things at once, and winds up not being very good at any of them. It attempts to model biology by making the organism self-replicating and using lots of biology metaphors in its production, it attempts to model cost theory through its use of environmental limits, and it attempts to model the possibility of evolution by mutating programs and seeing if they can evolve new algorithms de novo.
The problem is that it doesn't do any of these things well. Despite the fact that Avida is a Turing-complete system, it can't even detect the evolution of an algorithm that requires those constructs! The only construct that requires looping is the copy loop, and that is precoded in the original organism! So, for instance, it can't even in theory give selection value to, say, a factorial function. I was greatly disappointed when I found this out. Likewise, it doesn't model biological cost theory well, because it gives an inordinate fitness advantage to new functions (for a good model of cost theory, see Mendel's Accountant).
Don't get me wrong, Avida was a great system to spur interest in this field. This program probably wouldn't exist without Avida - we probably wouldn't have thought of it on our own. However, the problem is that many view Avida as being able to answer their questions (which it generally can't - especially on cost theory or evolvability) instead of simply being the first iteration of a dynamic series of research questions.
So, what we would like to research are the prerequisites for evolving new algorithms, not just logic functions. Therefore, we are starting this project in order to determine what is required in order to do this. We are chucking cost theory, non-teleology. We know we are including teleologial concepts into evolution, because the question we want to answer is, in order to solve problem X, what prerequisites are required in order to construct a solution?
Therefore, the new project will have an easily-modifiable instruction set, a more flexible machine model, and a probably more teleological method of defining fit/unfit organisms.
Again, the new project is at http://code.google.com/p/evolving-algorithms/
This is the first post of a series on the book Moral Politics: How Liberals and Conservatives Think. I am blogging as I read, so parts of this may wind up being different than where the author is ultimately going. In any case, the discussions in Moral Politics provide a good springboard for discussions.
The main idea in Moral Politics is to identify how conservatives and liberals process their political beliefs cognitively, and what the difference is. This is not problematic, per se, except that I think that the author is overgeneralizing the words we use to describe politics to the way we really think about politics, and along the way is missing some important distinctions.
The fundamental thesis is that conservatives think in terms of a "Strict Father" morality - one that is based on discipline and self-reliance, while the liberals think in terms of a "Nurturing Parent" morality - one that is based on mutual respect and providing for others' needs.
Now, there are several causes for our political beliefs. I think the three most important are:
Now, when communicating with others (i.e. rhetoric), the most important thing is to establish a common frame of reference. If I were communicating with physicists, I might try using analogies from the laws of thermodynamics. If I am communicating with computer scientists, I might use analogies related to data gathering or representation. However, in all these cases, the analogies are used to explain the ideology using a common reference point, not as a substitute for the ideology.
The fundamental problem with Moral Politics seems to be that the author is approaching rhetoric as being able to identify the fundamental causes of politics. I think that is fundamentally erroneous.
The reason why family is often used as a metaphor for political action is that everyone is the product of some sort of family. Therefore, the most inclusive type of analogy that can be used is that of family. The author seems to want to be using family structure as the core of political belief, and then specifying the branches and alternatives as modifiers within the scope of the notion of family structure. Instead, while the examination of family morality rhetoric may be interesting and useful, I think that thinking of it as fundamental is a non-starter. This is more useful information if you want to know how to convince a group of people to believe in your political ideology - you need to know what sorts of analogies make sense to them - but it is not quite so useful in determining either the source of an ideology nor whether or not it should be followed.
The real difference between conservatives and liberals in America is secular verses theistic models of government. And, interestingly, you actually find that as far as generative models go, liberals are closer to libertarians thaneither one is to conservatives. But we'll save that for later.
Obama's pilgrimage abroad points to a larger truth: In the midst of a bitter political year, a loose bipartisan consensus on the Mideast may be emerging. And, irony of ironies, the consensus, seemingly embraced by Obama, seems closer to Bush's views than to those of the antiwar activists who propelled the Illinois senator to the nomination.
Very interesting indeed.
One thing that should be discussed more is the limits of science's epistemology. Filling in the gaps for us is this post at CreationSafaris.
Clearly science seems “on to something” because of its practical successes in medicine, electronics and the space program, but even then, how much of the success is due to trial and error? How much is due to practical engineering? How much do we assume is true simply because it works according to the best theories of the day? One only need look at history to see many examples of practical success using theories we now believe are wrong.
The fact is, science does not even account for a small amount of the whole of knowledge. The problem is that we fail to recognize it, and speak using scientific categories even when they are inappropriate, and it makes us forget that there is more in life than the scientific.
I shelved this under politics because the political arena is becoming so science-oriented. Whether or not one has "scientific" views (whatever those are) seems to be what the media judges you on in many cases. But the fact is that there is a lot more that goes into knowledge than just science, and even more that goes into decision-making. Making science an idol has clouded our ability to see its limitations.
I've always wanted to do a book on secular mythology. Secular types often think of religion as being mythology and secularism being a "myth-free" religion. But the funny thing is that the mythologies that grow in the secular world tend to be much more often third-hand, and largely false stories that get repeated over and over for the propoganda effect. A few quick examples:
As usual, Glenn Beck hits it right on the money.
Here is a masterful piece on the relationship of the right and left in science and politics. I don't have time to comment on it at the moment, but it is a good read and worthy of discussion.
However, I do think it misses some big opportunities to speak to the difference between worshipping science and scientists (which moves it out of the realm of science, actually) and having a critical understanding of science, which is more true to the scientific enterprise itself than the worship of science, scientists, or even the body of knowledge produced by the scientific enterprise.
One of the most dangerous yet tempting philosophies is reductionism. Reductionism is a general concept which says that all reality must reduce to one or a few principles. Physics, for instance, is the best example. Within physics there is a constant drive to reduce all of physics to one or a few laws in operation which govern everything else. Please note that while the examples we will use are based in physics, this concept extends beyond physics to a great many fields, which we will cover in later postings.
There are two things I don't like about reductionism:
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