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Given my propensity for seeing conflicts in sectarian terms

Sunday, June 12th, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — delicious irony in the twitter stream as a teaching tool re middle east ]
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Given my propensity for seeing conflicts in sectarian terms, it’s a breath of fresh air / splash of wet water for me to read Hayder al-Khoei, scion of the eminent al-Khoei family and Chatham House Fellow, tweeting on the subject of the English football hooliganism in Marseille over the last three days, which has included both bottle-throwing against French riot police and a running battle with a pack of Russian supporters brandishing knives:

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Al-Khoei‘s observations offer us a brilliant parody of the way western analysts, myself included, all too often write about events in the Middle East, and I admire his skill in delivering his reproof — but it’s also worth remarking that England as I understand it seems less and less interested in attendance at its established Protestant church, while France is notable for it’s official laïcité. Indeed, of the three nations involved in this circus, only the Russians appear to be experiencing quite a resurgence of Orthodoxy, coming after decades of official atheism.

Enfin:

The England v Russia match was a 1-1 draw. Game theorists would presumably call the event a zero-sum game, since the two sides do seem to have cancelled each other out — but in the larger context of sectarian rivalry, the entire three days have surely been lose-lose, while al-Khoei‘s wit is a win for us all.

Considering Viv, Wolfram Language, Syntience, and the GBG

Wednesday, June 8th, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — expanding the computable to include qualitative ideation ]
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Let’s start with Viv. It looks pretty phenomenal:

That video is almost exactly a month old, and it’s pitched at “the universe of things” with a marked tilt towards e-commerce. Fair enough.

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It’s instructive to compare it with Wolfram Language, although here I’ve had to go with a video that’s a couple of years old:

Stephen Wolfram, the creator of both Mathematica and Wolfram Alpha, is focused on the world of numbers — and incidentally, that includes graphs of the sort I’ve been discussing in my series here On the felicities of graph-based game-board design, as you can see in the video above.

It will be interesting to see how the two of them — Viv and Wolfram — interact over time. After all, one of the purposes of these lines of development is to dissolve the “walled gardens” which serve as procrustean beds for current thinking about the nature and possibilities of the web. Do these two gardens open to each other? If so, why? If not, why not?

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I’ve talked enough for my purposes about AlphaGo and it’s narrowly focused though impressive recent triumph, and the wider picture behind it, as expressed by Monica Anderson — and tying the two together, we have this video from Monica’s timeline, Bob Hearn: AlphaGo and the New Era of Artificial Intelligence:

Bob Hearn: AlphaGo and the New Era of Artificial Intelligence from Monica Anderson on Vimeo.

Monica’s Syntience, it seems to be, is a remarkable probing of the possibilities before us.

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But I’m left asking — because Hermann Hesse in his Nobel-winning novel The Glass Bead Game prompts me to ask — what about the universe of concepts — and in particular for my personal tastes, the universe of musical, philosophical, religious and poetic concepts. What of the computational mapping of the imagination?

My question might well have large financial implications, but I’m asking it in a non-commercially and not only quantitative way. I believe it stands in relationship to these other endeavors, in fact, as pure mathematics stands in relation to physics, and hence also to chemistry, biology and more. And perhaps music stands in that relationship to mathematics? — but I digress.

If I’m right about the universe of concepts / Glass Bead Game project, it will be the most intellectually demanding, the least commercially obvious, and finally the most revelatory of these grand-sweep ideas..

From my POV, it’s also the one that can give the most value-add to human thinking in human minds, and to CT analysts, strategists, journos, educators, therapists, bright and playful kids — you name them all!

Seeing it in terms of counterpoint, as Hesse did — it’s the virtual music of ideas.

On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: six

Thursday, May 19th, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — on the rich visual similarities between two diagrams from widely separated topic areas ]
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I don’t think we always appreciate just how similar graph-based mappings are to one another — or why the HipBone-Sembl Games are therefore so closely analogous to so many other graph-based mappings of the world around us:

ARPANET Washingmachine DQ tablet

This particular pairing of images struck me today when Mike Walker tweeted it the Arpanet map in quoting a World Economic Forum post — and the memory it called up was another image I found, who knows where, quite a few years ago, of the workings of a washing machine.

We really have two tips of the iceberg of a hugely pervasive language of node-and-edge-based graphs here.

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Previous posts in this series:

  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: preliminaries
  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: two dazzlers
  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: three
  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: four
  • On the felicities of graph-based game-board design: five
  • Related posts, overlapping with those above:

  • Graph-types 1: sample graphs and boards
  • Graph-types 2: towards a universal graphical mapping language
  • I expect there’s more but that’s what a quick scan brought up.

    That a world-mapping should include our assumptions

    Friday, May 13th, 2016

    [ by Charles Cameron — Lorenz’ butterfly : tornado :: Fukushima’s rat : earthquake? + Brussles metro attack ]
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    Brussels map
    Brussels metro & tramway map

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    For every unintended consequence, there’s an assumption that was assumed and thus overlooked, forgotten, unfairly assigned to oblivion, amirite? Sometimes we’re fortunate, and a pattern emerges that can then be written into checklists, and repeat unintended consequences subsequently averted, if we heed the checklists, ahem.

    Consider this stunning paragraph, from a Union of concerned Scientists‘ 2013 piece titled Fission Stories #133: Mayflies, and Squirrels, and Rats, …:

    Fukushima Daiichi recently received worldwide media attention when another power outage once again interrupted cooling of the water in the Unit4 spent fuel pool for several hours. The culprits in 2011 were an earthquake that knocked out the normal supply of electricity to the cooling system and a tsunami that disabled the backup power source. This time, a rat was the culprit. It chewed through the insulation on an electrical cable, exposing wires that shorted out and stopped the cooling system. It was also the rat’s final meal as the event also electrocuted the guilty party.

    Part of what’s so conceptually audacious here is the implicit risk equation, okay, perhaps I should call it the implicit risk approximation:

    earthquake = rat

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    Take the Brussels metro attack: in my less-than-graphically-ideal mapping below, the left hand column shows what was intanded by the police to be the order of events as they initiated them in response to the airport attack a little earlier:

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    while the two centered annotations in red indicate the unverified assumption that interfered with the sequence of events as intended by the police, and the right hand column shows what actually transpired.

    Exceopt that the situation was wildly more complex than that — a point not germane to my argument here, but elaborated upon in today’s WaPo article, The email that was supposed to prevent the Brussels metro attack was sent to the wrong address. Which see.

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    Getting back to Fukushima, the earthquake and the rat, perhaps we can now take the title of Edward Lorenz‘ remarable paper that gave us the term “butterfly effect” — Predictability: Does the Flap of a Butterfly’s Wings in Brazil Set Off a Tornado in Texas? — out of the realm of speculation, and into the realm of improbable yet actualized comparables, by rephrasing it thus: Predictability: Does the Bite of a Rat’s Teeth in Fukushima Have Comparable Effect to an Earthquake in Fukushima?

    Oh, and just because something is predictable doesn’t mean it’s predicted — and just because something is predicted doesn’t mean the prediction will be heard or heeded.

    And that’s an anticipable consequence of the way we are.

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    In the matter of Quixote:

    I have this quixotic wish to see a map of global dependencies — it’s something I’ve thought about ever since Don Beck told me “Y2K is like a lightning bolt: when it strikes and lights up the sky, we will see the contours of our social systems” — and I’ve talked about it here before, in eg Mapping our interdependencies and vulnerabilities [with a glance at Y2K].

    It’s a windmill, agreed — a glorious windmill! — and indeed, combining all our potential assumptions about even one single Belgian metro station in the course of just one particular morning and adding them to a map — or a checklist — would be another.

    Tilting at windmills, however, is one of the great games of the imagination, frowned upon by all the righteously serious among us, well-suited to poets — and having the potential to help us avoid those damned unintended consequences.

    The diplexity of complomacy in the Muddle East

    Thursday, February 11th, 2016

    [ bu Charles Cameron — paging Jackson Pollock ]
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    Liz Sly has the overview:

    Karl Sharro provides the specifics:

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    For “Muddle East” — hat-tip Ralph Birnbaum.


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