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    nmw 20:46:50 on 2016/12/30 Permalink
    Tags: binary logic, , , , don't know, , , , human, , linguistics, , modal logic, modal verb, modal verbs, mode, modes, , natural science, , , , , , , , , , , three state logic, , , , ,   

    The Rationality of Uncertainty 

    When I was learning science in high school, I was mesmerized by the notion that scientific facts were true, myths were false, and there were still things that needed to be „figured out“. I was very impressed by the way computers were all about 1’s and 0’s (it wasn’t until much later that I learned computers didn’t actually divide truth and falsehood quite that neatly). Several years ago, I made a graphic image that shows the difference between the way it appears that humans think vs. the way it appears that computers think.

    Note that I didn’t label which side represents human thinking vs. computer thinking. What we usually experience when we use computers is either TRUE or FALSE – we are not normally aware that there is actually a „DON’T KNOW“ state in between those two extremes. About a decade ago, I was very adamant about three-state logics.

    Several decades ago, when I was just embarking on dissertation research (which was never finished, but that story is beyond the scope of this article), I was very adamant about something called „modal logic“ – a field in philosophy (and linguistics) which focuses on human modes of thought (such as „knowing“ vs. „believing“). Since humans often make references to such modes, I was hoping to unlock a hidden treasure behind such concepts. Yet they remain elusive to me to this day, even though I may quite often be heard to utter something like „I think…“ or „I believe…“ or indeed many such modes (usually using so-called „modal verbs“).

    I think the less room we allow for such modalities – the smaller the amount of space we make for cases in which we acknowledge that we really don’t know, the more likely we are to make mistakes / errors.

    Statisticians might be very cool to acknowledge „type 1“ and „type 2“ errors without even batting an eyelash, but for most regular folks it makes a world of difference whether we want X, whether we fear Y, whether we hope or wish or whatever.

    Such very human modes of thought are rampant in our everyday lives and thinking, yet they are not given very much (or even any) room in the computer world. When there is no room whatsoever for „maybe“, then I predict the algorithms processing the data will probably be wrong.

     
  • Profile photo of nmw

    nmw 17:48:26 on 2016/05/31 Permalink
    Tags: , , , , Bible, , , , , file, file name, file names, filename, filenames, files, graphical user interface, GUI, hardware, HCI, human, human-computer interaction, , , , , , , , text, , ,   

    The Ubiquity of the Text Box (excursus) 

    One of my favorite authors in the field of „search“ is John Battelle. Although he was not trained in the field of information science or information retrieval, his experience in the fields of journalism and publishing at the cusp of the so-called „information revolution“ apparently led him to learn many things sort of by osmosis.

    One of my favorite ideas of his is the way he talks about human-computer interaction. Initially, this was almost exclusively text-based. Then, he notes, with the advent of „graphical user interfaces“ (GUIs), computers became more and more instruments with which humans, would point at stuff. He has presented this idea quite often, I don’t even know which presentation I should refer, link or point to – which one I should index.

    In the early days of search, the book was ubiquitous. Indeed, several hundred years ago it almost seems as though each and every question could be answered with one single codex – and this codex was called „Bible“ (which means, essentially, „the books“). We have come a long way, baby. Today, we might say that online, the text box is king“ (Tom Paine, eat your heart out! 😉 ).

    Although computer manufacturers desparately try to limit the choices consumers have once they have acquired their machines with loads of previously installed (and usually highly sponsored) software, it will not be very long before the typical consumer is confronted with a text box in order to interact with his or her mish-mash of hardware and software. Even without typing out any text whatsoever, whenever a human presses on a button to take a picture or clicks on an icon to record an audio or video, the associated files are given a text-string filename by the gizmo machinery. All of the code running on each and every machine is written out in plain text somewhere. When computers write their own Bible, it is quite probable that they would start off with something like „In the beginning was the text, and it was human.“

    If humans ever asked an „artificially intelligent“ computer a question like „what is love?“ the computer would probably be very hard-pressed not to respond „a four-letter word“.

     
  • Profile photo of nmw

    nmw 15:36:22 on 2016/05/19 Permalink
    Tags: , , , cognizance, cognizant, , human, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , sapience, sapient, , , , , web sites, , ,   

    First Essay on Rational Media 

    I recently mentioned my new and improved „rational media“ concept… – now I want to begin to try to unpack that idea. Of course, it’s complicated.

    Let me start off with something simple: media (in general). What makes something „media“ (or a „medium“) is not the medium itself, but rather the way people use it. For example: A bottle is just a bottle and not yet a medium. If your concept of „bottle“ presupposes that it’s a medium (for transporting liquids), then you could also just call it an object. The object is not the medium.

    When one person uses the object to deliver something to someone (whether a liquid or a message or whatever), then that object becomes a medium. Why does this matter?

    It matters because that is what the common notion of a „website“ is. When most people talk about websites, they are not actually referring to web sites, but rather the HTML code, the software running on the server, the database, even the wires and cables, the computer being used to display what the user sees, and a lot of other stuff. In the end, they mean what they see when they enter the website’s address (i.e., the web site) into the browser’s location bar. Many people don’t even know what a web browser is, let alone a location bar. Ask 10 people at Times Square what a location bar is, and I bet the majority will look at you kind of funny.

    Long story short: A website is no more a medium than some random object made out of glass. Only when people visit a web site (i.e., a location on the web) with the appropriate technology (e.g. a smartphone, laptop, computer, etc. with some sort of „web browser“ software installed) does a website become a medium.

    So what is „rational media“? Media are rational if/when there is some kind of rational thought process involved when the user decides to visit a certain web site (i.e., location). Here’s a simple example: A user wants to know what the weather will be like today or tomorrow, and therefore they visit weather.com. Or they want to know what people are twittering about, and therefore they visit twitter.com. When they give such instructions to a web browser, then that results in them seeing something on their screen, and they usually call whatever they see „the website“.

    It is important to note that the way I use „rational“ is different than the way the term has often been used in the past. The way the term has been used for many millennia, people often think it has to do with a particular kind of logic – or that there is such a thing as being irrational. The way I use the term, there is no such thing as being irrational – instead: every kind of thinking is rational in its own way.

    Sometimes people say something like „I wasn’t thinking“. This is probably false. What probably happens in such cases, is that people think without being aware of what they are thinking. In the tradition of Freud, psychologists often refer to this as „unconscious“ thinking. Indeed: suggestions which appeal to such thinking are commonly used in advertising.

    Is acting upon enticing or seductive suggestions irrational? I feel it is no more irrational than smiling or hugging or kissing someone. Many such behaviors are also ways of thinking which are sort of „hard coded“ into our mental apparatus. We may not feel we are thinking or behaving rationally, but I think it is more straightforward to consider such motivations to be simply a different kind of rationality… – perhaps nature‘s rationality?

    Does this mean that all media are rational media – sort of like all of nature is natural? Maybe it does – I am not sure yet. At the moment, I feel it is sufficient to say that there are different kinds of rationality. I do feel that in order to be rational, there has to be (at the very least) some sort of decision involved (and perhaps even that such decisions must be made by humans, animals or similar „living“ and/or „cognizant“ beings). I can also imagine a situation in which a nit-picker might be inclined to segment this sort of rationality from that sort of rationality with a fine-toothed comb, and thereby come to the conclusion that there is no such thing as a ridiculous thought.

     
  • Profile photo of nmw

    nmw 17:52:23 on 2015/02/12 Permalink
    Tags: , , human, , , instinct, instinctive, instincts, , , Jung, , , , , , role, roles, , ,   

    Intermission 

    I feel I need to tie up some loose ends from the previous post.

    There are two phenomena that I seem to have kind of mashed up (at least that’s what I think). Both of these are from my very novice understand ing of C.G. Jung’s ideas.

    On the one hand there is instinct, and on the other is unconscious. I am not sure if I mashed up these ideas, or whether C.G. Jung did that — but I want to take them apart (because I think it’s important to keep them separate).

    Intermission

    Instinct is rather plain and simple: it’s like a hard-wired program — there’s no changing it (and I also believe there’s no denying it’s existence). When we are born, we begin to breathe — instinctively. We also searched for our mother’s breast — instinctively. Our mother’s breast gave us milk — again: instinctively.

    Denying this is perhaps possible, but I also feel it’s ridiculous.

    On the other hand, I am not so certain about the “unconscious” … and even less so about a “collective unconscious” being in everyone’s psyche as an instinctive hardware configuration.  As I said in the previous post, I feel that a large part of these more-or-less nebulous ideas are written into the human record — and that could involve many different kinds of writing, including a vast mythological oeuvre handed down from one generation to the next, or “actual” writing (e.g. literary works), or writing in the form of buildings or other artefacts with specific purposes (e.g. a hospital, an ambulance, a courthouse, a judge’s hammer, a church, an altar, etc.). Much of my thinking along these lines is indebted to a book called “The Social Construction of Reality” (cf. this wikipedia.org page)

     
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