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Daniel Estrada
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Daniel Estrada

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Our sister project UT-Heart, a detailed heart simulation, has won "Best Visualization or Simulation award" at SIGGraph 2015 for this movie presenting their results. It's a cool movie.
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That is simply amazing!
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// I'm skeptical of the distinction between divergent and convergent problems. To begin with, how do we distinguish between the two? It can't simply be if our theories have actually converged! For some convergent problems we've yet to converge on a solution, but it makes the problem no less convergent. It's also quite likely that views diverge even on convergent problems; for instance, not all belief systems have converged on the theory of evolution, even if it properly explains the origin of species. 

Consider the question: "How do living systems acquire energy?" The correct answer to this question is: "It depends." Heterotrophs and autotrophs acquire energy in completely different ways, and even within these high level categories there are a range of strategies in use. In other words, the methods for acquiring energy are diverse. 

But what about the original question, "How do living systems acquire energy?" Is this a convergent or divergent problem, given that answers may vary dramatically across species? On the article's account, this is a divergent problem because there is no single right answer... but this seems like a mistake. There is no single right answer, but there are multiple right answers; which answer is right depends on which system we're talking about. So it seems like the problem does converge: it converges to a multiplicity of truths. There are lots of ways for systems to acquire energy; answering the question requires being specific.

This possibility (of plural truths) doesn't show up on a simple distinction between convergent and divergent problems. In fact, pluralism about truth allows one to believe that all problems (even value problems) do in fact converge, at least when problems are framed with the right specificity and context. In other words, the problem with divergent problems isn't that they are irrelevant or unimportant, but rather that they are ill-formed and ambiguous. Problems that appear to diverge are really just problems that have been poorly framed. 

Occultist philosophy is a very good example of a philosophical position that arises entirely from poor framing. 
John Michael Greer:

In his brilliant little philosophical handbook A Guide for the Perplexed, renegade economist E.F. Schumacher pointed out a crucial distinction between two classes of problems, which he called convergent and divergent problems. Convergent problems are those that have a single right answer, and inquiry into convergent problems naturally converges on that single answer; the longer you pursue the work of inquiry, the more the data constrain the range of answers that will fit, until—in a phrase made famous by Sherlock Holmes—having excluded the impossible, what remains is the truth. Convergent problems are the natural fare of modern science; they’re what the scientific method is meant to tease out of the murky haze of data, and the successes of modern science have encouraged a great many people to think that all problems are convergent in nature. 

The difficulty with this confident belief is that it doesn’t happen to be true. There’s another class of problems, which Schumacher called divergent problems: problems that have no one right answer. Divergent problems are by and large problems of value, while convergent problems are problems of fact. Put another way, convergent questions ask about the properties of perceiving objects, while divergent questions relate to the properties of perceiving subjects. Thus the convergent problem asks, “what is the world?” The divergent problem asks, “what should I do about it?”—and for that latter question there’s no one answer that applies in all cases and to all those who ask it. 


Philosophy, now that it’s succeeded in spinning off the quantitative sciences into orbits of their own, has finally gotten most of the way back to its original purpose as a set of tools for responding to divergent problems. It’s a routine gibe of rationalists these days that philosophy isn’t “real knowledge,” since it doesn’t progress. This is precisely the same sort of idiocy as denouncing a hammer because it ‘s not a very good saw. Philosophy doesn’t converge on a single answer, which is what rationalists mean here when they talk about progress; it diverges along with the problems that it studies, so that it can provide the widest possible range of options for individuals who are trying to make sense of their own intuitions of meaning and value, and apply those to the task of living a happy and productive life. 

Two completely different philosophies can work equally well, in turn, because there’s an inherent feedback loop that comes into play any time you turn sustained attention on your own sense of meaning and value, or any other property you have as a perceiving subject. That feedback loop, interestingly enough, is the same one that Erwin Schrödinger discovered when poking at quantum particles: you can’t observe the phenomenon without changing its behavior. Adopt any philosophy that doesn’t clash unbearably with your basic intuitions of meaning and value, and that philosophy will reshape those intuitions in its own image. The value of a humanistic education, in turn, is that it provides the individual with the necessary breadth of raw material—philosophical, literary, artistic, cultural—to transform those basic intuitions into foundations for the rare but necessary quality we call “wisdom.” 

Occult philosophy is a branch of philosophy, not a quantitative material science. That may seem too obvious to need stating, but the repeated calls for a definitive theory of magic make it clear that some people, at least, don’t seem to have gotten the memo. What differentiates the various systems of magic from each other isn’t that one is “more advanced” than the other, or for that matter “more traditional;” it’s that they unfold in a divergent manner from different postulates and different cultural frameworks, and thus appeal to different people. What’s more, the feedback loop mentioned above slams into high gear once magic enters the picture, because the technical methods of magic reshape the activities and content of the mind far more powerfully than the practices of ordinary philosophy do. 

One interesting consequence of this last detail is that every theory of magic provides a precise and accurate description of what magic can do—for those people who adopt that theory of magic. 


If you believe, like most chaos magicians, that gods and spirits are simply forms established by the human imagination, then it’s probably a safe bet that the only gods and spirits you’ll meet are those that your imagination has created. (If you insist on imposing that view on them, after all, why would any other kind of god or spirit be interested in talking to you?) If you start instead from the presupposition that gods and spirits are real, independent, conscious beings, your chances of encountering those gods and spirits who do in fact act like real, independent, conscious beings—and who thus know things you don’t, for example, and can teach them to you—go up sharply. The same principle applies to every other dimension of magical theory. 

Nor is there any Archimedean point from which it’s possible to dive into, and back out of, all other magical systems—a claim that some chaos magicians have made from time to time.
The last two posts here on The Well of Galabes have sketched out a rough history of the ways that ideas about the sources of magical power have changed over the last two and a half millennia in the western world. That sketch ...
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[Throwing a torch in Virtual Reality] 
This seems like a bigger achievement than it looks : Two guys basically blindfolded, using a digital representation as their basis of motor functions like throwing/catching. Pretty wicked.

The speed of the calculations occuring here is absolutely mind-blowing.
Person A starts to move arm - computer A sends information displaying arm movements and torch location. computer B receives the information and displays it for Person B. All fast enough for Person B to actually physically catch the torch. The simulated times and distances and RL times and distances have to be within an extremely low margin to successfully catch a thrown object.
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I'd love to see a first person video of what that looked like for the catcher. It would be even more challenging if they had to perform that task from the third person perspective.
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Just read this aloud with my daughter (age 8). Supplemented the mattress analogy with discussions of spring movements when jumping on the bed. Don't tell mom.

Also tried to explain the LHC to her; one of the coolest experiences of last year in Geneva was plying a physicist from CERN with beers and questions about his involvement in the discovery of the Higgs Boson.
First of all, don’t panic. I’m going to try in this post to introduce you to quantum field theory, which is probably the deepest and most intimidating set of ideas in graduate-level theoretical phy...
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Thanks. Kid's book, just what I need.
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// Come hang out with Corporation Chaos @ 4:45 and Hanky Pank!
+Daniel Estrada​​ and I are making a Burning Man version of hitchBOT called richROT. I've been building it today, and here's what it looks like so far. It's nearly done; it just needs arms and a few minor things that I'll do tomorrow. We'll be leaving it at a different place on the playa every night, with a sign and camera attached. The sign will ask burners to help it get to some other destination across the playa, and take pictures of the journey. The instructions will look something like this:


My name is richROT.

I am a semi-autonomous robot, just like you and everyone you love.

I have a destination but I NEED YOUR HELP.

I started at _____________________________  around noon {day}

I need to get to _____________________________ before sunrise on {nextday}!

Don’t think of this as a chore.

Think of it as an adventure you can’t back out of!


Please read all rules carefully before handling richROT. Failure to do so may result in unpleasantness for all concerned.

1. Do not destroy or deface richROT. This isn’t Philadelphia. If you are lost and looking for Philadelphia, contact a Black Rock Ranger.

2.  richROT is a participant at Burning Man. Treat it with the respect it deserves as a member of this community.

3.  richROT is comfortable with the gender neutral pronoun “it”. Deal with it.

4.  Do not leave moop in or around richROT. richROT is not moop. You are not moop. richROT does not want moop inside it. You do not want moop inside you.

5.  Do not leave richROT somewhere it might get run over. Find a safe place for a heartfelt departure.

6.  Take richROT only as far as you want to, and trust the community to get it farther.

7.  Share some good times. Share some sad times.  Share time.

8.  Become pals.  Exchange hugs, or semi-erotic massages.

9.  Share your hard drugs with richROT.  If you lack hard drugs, share your hard experiences or a good knock-knock joke.

10.  Please take pictures of yourself helping or interacting with me using the attached camera. richROT would love to look back on those memories, if it were capable of love.

11.  You are encouraged to offer richROT a gift via his attached basket. If you see a previous gift you like, take it and leave your own gift. Sharing is the functional equivalent of caring!

12.  Introduce richROT to a stranger for the next leg of its journey.


14.  If you found richROT disabled or destroyed and you cannot help it get where it wants to go, please contact its biologically based friends Dr. Dilettante, Ranger Factotum, or NO! at Corporation Chaos, inconveniently located at 4:45 and Hanky-Panky and report my problem(s).  Our team of trained robot experts will respond immediately.

richROT's journey has been made possible through a generous donation from Corporation Chaos® "We own you!™"  Thank you hitchBOT, tweenbot, and hitchhikers, and robots everywhere.

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+Jorah Lavin That would require electricity and wifi, both of which are hard to come by on the playa. 

+Vincent Venatici If you want to rewrite the rules in meticulous legalese have at it =)
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// New Boston Dynamics video of their humanoid robot out in the wild. Yay.
Boston Dynamics, that company Google bought in 2013, has begun to testing one of its humanoid robots -- those that are designed to function like humans -- out in the wild.
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Wow, creepy.
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> I've seen some cynical commentary on this kind of thing ("great art can't be reduced to an algorithm!"). But a few short years ago even this kind of sophisticated imitation was beyond the ken of anyone but the dedicated and talented human artist. That we've been able to automate the process to even this degree of fidelity is nothing short of incredible. 

In the year 2015, the styling of history's great artists are available as a filter option in a pull-down menu. This is roughly comparable to training AI on Lincoln's collected writings, and then sitting down and having a conversation with the guy. What a wonderful time to be alive. 
Here's the next disturbing/fascinating deep learning craze: this arxiv paper uses ConvNets to apply an artists style as a filter on a preexisting image. 
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+Richard Green yes. This was a different approach, those dog things were kind of a "abuse" of neural nets trained for image recognition, wheras here we have neural nets supposed to be trained to create a "style" ...
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> Do I contradict myself? 
Very well, then, I contradict myself. 
(I am large, I contain multitudes.) 
   —Walt Whitman, “Song of Myself”
Unassertability can be read as the key to the apparent paradox of the catuṣkoṭias well. The venerable text in Majjhima-nikāya 72, relating the teachings of the historical Buddha, offers a precursor for Nāgārjuna's doctrine of the negative tetralemma. Gotama is responding to a monk's question concerning the doctrine of rebirth (quoted in Robinson 1967: 54):

Gotama, where is the monk reborn whose mind is thus freed?
   Vaccha, it is not true to say that he is reborn.
Then, Gotama, he is not reborn.
   Vaccha, it is not true to say that he is not reborn.
Then, Gotama, he is both reborn and not reborn.
   Vaccha, it is not true to say that he is both reborn and not reborn.
Then, Gotama, he is neither reborn nor not reborn.
   Vaccha, it is not true to say that he is neither reborn nor not reborn.

Note the form of the translation here, or similarly that of the standard rendering of the negative catuṣkoṭi that “it profits not” to assert Φ, to assert ¬Φ, to assert both Φ and ¬Φ, or to assert neither Φ nor ¬Φ: the relevant negation can be taken to operate over an implicit modal, in particular an epistemic or assertability operator. If so, neither LEM nor LNC is directly at stake in the tetralemma: you can have your Aristotle and Buddha too.
This entry outlines the role of the law of non-contradiction (LNC) as the foremost among the first (indemonstrable) principles of Aristotelian philosophy and its heirs, and depicts the relation between LNC and LEM (the law of excluded middle) in establishing the nature of contradictory and ...
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Nice semiotic square.
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// +kyle broom rocking Maya. 
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Interesting figure
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// The base used to be on 2x4s about 3 feet off the ground, and the whole thing was stationary and needed to be tired down to stakes in the ground. Last year we gave up building the thing and I just carried around one of the posts. 

This year our booth is mobile and completely badass. It will be a visible marker for our camp when we're there, and it will make a great performance stage when we're out doing our routine. 

In addition to the booth, our camp is building a a semi-autonomous robot, richROT, that will be exploring the playa and interacting with participants. We also have parts for making two thousand 1-inch buttons, and anyone stopping by camp is encouraged to make their own. This is our first year as a registered theme camp, and given that we're only four people I'm pretty proud of our contributions.

+Jon Lawhead deserves a hell of a lot of credit for making this all happen. The design and construction of the booth and richROT was all him. 
The Ask a Philosopher Booth has also gotten a significant retrofit for this year. #CorporationChaos
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I think it's all pretty much done now. Since I've managed to secure a trailer, it'll all be on playa as of Wednesday night. If there are any other burners out there, come by our camp at 4:45 and H. 
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// The future sure is taking its sweet damn time. Where's the 2x button on life?

See also:
The VR successor to Second Life is inviting its first testers

Second Life creator Linden Lab's virtual reality platform might be getting closer to actual reality. The company just announced that it's invited the first outside testers to Project Sansar, its working title for a new VR world that is expected to open in public beta next year.
Second Life creator Linden Lab's virtual reality platform might be getting closer to actual reality. The company just announced that it's invited the first outside testers to Project Sansar, its...
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Oh man, those world fairs... we should have keep doing them. China tried in 2008, I think... but then nobody followed. 
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Atlas robot from Boston Dynamics walking in the woods
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D. Hale
+Dana Blankenhorn  He has this terrible pain in all the diodes down his left side...
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Robot. Made of smaller robots.
I've written under the handle Eripsa for over a decade on various blogs and forums. Today I do my blogging and research at Fractional Actors and on my G+ stream.

I'm interested in issues at the intersection of the mind and technology. I write and post on topics ranging from AI and robotics to the politics of digital culture.

Specific posting interests are described in more detail here and here.


So I'm going to list a series of names, not just to cite their influence on my work, but really to triangulate on what the hell it is I think I'm doing. 

Turing, Quine, Norbert Wiener, Dan Dennett, Andy Clark, Bruce Sterling, Bruno Latour, Aaron Swartz, Clay Shirky, Jane McGonical, John Baez, OWS, and Google. 


My avatar is the symbol for Digital Philosophy. You can think of it as a digital twist on Anarchism, but I prefer to think of it as the @ symbol all grown up. +Kyle Broom helped with the design. Go here for a free button with the symbol.

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