Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 14, No. 550. Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London <http://www.princeton.edu/~mccarty/humanist/> <http://www.kcl.ac.uk/humanities/cch/humanist/> Date: Sat, 09 Dec 2000 06:26:40 +0000 From: "Osher Doctorow" <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: Information, Knowledge, Emotion From: Osher Doctorow email@example.com, Thurs. Dec. 7, 2000 11:17AM I read the interest Humanist story about the Berkeley "How much information is there?", and it fits in somewhat with my current interest in both knowledge and emotion. Latent variable theory in psychological/measurement/educational testing theory has something close to the concept of knowledge, but not sufficiently well spelled out. I think that the humanities' conception of knowledge is probably much deeper than the computer/engineering/mathematics conception of information/entropy, which is a type of concrete surface scratching ("tip of the iceberg") of knowledge. Even in the physical sciences, there are now so many types of "noncommunicating" entropy (that is, the disciplines do not communicate) that it is quite remarkable. I think that the "final word" on knowledge will probably not come until emotion is better understood. It may seem old-fashioned to argue (as did Isaac Asimov) that humans have something beyond robots called emotion, although Asimov eventually gave one his robots (Giskard) telepathy and apparent emotional empathy. Indeed, emotion is a two-edged sword which has usually gone the wrong way in history - when combined with ignorance, greed, narcissism, neurosis, psychosis, anger, blame, it seems to have produced nothing but tragedy and fear in history. Yet when all is said and done, I think that the British conception of "a little emotion" comes closest to the ideal. It is something like a little salt or a little pepper or a little spice. For example, there is currently an intellectual confrontation between the Simplicity and Complexity theorists in both physical and biological sciences (which of course do not communicate very well usually both in the latter and former cases). If I referred to this as an Intellectual War, I would probably be accused of exaggeration. Yet we need a little exaggeration sometimes, we need words that we can associate with more concrete events sometimes, especially when there is really something important going on. It so happens that the simplest continuous type of probability (don't worry about the word continuous for now) is the uniform probability distribution (uniform for short). It essentially says (roughly, but that is not bad) that everything has the same probability of occurring. It has now been found, in one of the most "explosive" (emotion again?) research areas in probability/statistics, that the uniform probability ties in with brownian bridges, fractional brownian bridges, and fractal brownian bridges, which are based on random zigzag motion like that of dust particles in a glass of water, and that through these brownian bridges we are able to analyze how trends and processes (technically, "time series", etc.) become disrupted and even to predict when and where they get disrupted. Most important of all, we can do this even with events which are highly dependent/related/influenced/influencing rather than independent/unrelated/uninfluenced/uninfluencing - which until very recently was "impossible". My field of LBP (logic-based probability) leads directly to these results, and I can think of nothing that led me in this direction more than a combination of "a little emotion" and "a lot of non-mainstream research". These results come from the Simplicity School. The other school, the Complexity School, is allied with concrete computer-oriented Artificial Intelligence (AI) people and receives most of the publicity and many if not most of the research grants. They are trying to build computers and computer programs which will imitate life and then hopefully go beyond it, although there are some variations in which computers go in a different direction. Since their graphic programs show very concrete and colorful animation and their ingenuity at computers cannot be doubted, it is quite easy to be convinced that they are on the right track. The wiser voices such as those of Professors Tripathi and McCarty, and the voices of the Simplicity School will, in my opinion, soon spill over massively into AI. Assuming that there will not be a prolonged economic battle for resources (always possible!), there is a basis for restrained optimism. Osher Doctorow Doctorow Consultants, West Los Angeles College, etc.
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