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Science and Technology "Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known." - Carl Sagan.

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Old January 10 2014, 07:04 PM   #16
Solstice
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Re: Ever heard of the "AI Day"? Me neither, but

JarodRussell wrote: View Post
I'd say since all humans and animals work the very same way with some minor variations, the brain seems pretty much deterministic.
Yes and no.

The brownian motion involved in chemical signaling is random, which affects neuronal behavior. However, this system of unreliable parts gives rise to an overall reliable machine. So, brains aren't strictly deterministic in terms of their basic functioning, but they are deterministic enough for us to actually understand what it's doing.

Incidentally, computers function in a similar way at the physical level. A transistor doesn't know what 0 or 1 are. It's simply a switch that flips to a different position when it has a high enough voltage. High voltage is 1, low voltage is 0. Since voltages are variable thanks to noisy power supplies and other factors, the threshold between 0 and 1 has to be carefully set, otherwise the CPU won't work. Once again: a reliable machine generated from unreliable parts (and energy inputs.)

That's not to draw too direct a comparison, as human brains are essentially sophisticated analog signal processors and computers are digital number crunchers, but it's interesting that they both emerge from similar principles.

All input is processed the very same way in every normally functioning human brain.
Not exactly. The devil is in the details. Ten people, all with "normal" brains, will not respond the same way to having their fingertips poked with a needle at the same pressure. Some will react sooner than others. If you introduce external noise (such as vibrating the person's hand), that may improve or reduce their ability to sense the needle. (I believe some research says it actually improves threshold detection.)

If Rhubarbodendron knows anything about stochastic resonance, maybe she can comment more on this.
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Old January 10 2014, 08:34 PM   #17
JarodRussell
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Re: Ever heard of the "AI Day"? Me neither, but

But isn't the same thing true for computers? 10 CPUs running the same calculations will show variations in time, heat distribution, etc...
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Old January 10 2014, 08:57 PM   #18
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Re: Ever heard of the "AI Day"? Me neither, but

JarodRussell wrote: View Post
But isn't the same thing true for computers? 10 CPUs running the same calculations will show variations in time, heat distribution, etc...
But the differences are all masked by the fact that the ten CPU's only produce different results if there is a bug or malfunction. When there is no bug or malfunction, the calculations generated as output should all be identical. And, I guess I should explicitly state certain qualifications (which I assume are implicit in your premise), such as that presumably the executed programs don't sample hardware registers for the purpose of random number generation, generally speaking that the state of external devices to which they attach are functionally identical (e.g., network drives appear the same when they are accessed by the different computers), etc. And we're talking about digital computers, as opposed to analog, right?

On the other hand, in the case of people, the idea that different people do different things when confronted with the same situation (in what they they choose to do) isn't a bug; it's a feature and it's expected as normal variation.
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Old January 10 2014, 10:50 PM   #19
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Re: Ever heard of the "AI Day"? Me neither, but

CorporalCaptain wrote: View Post
JarodRussell wrote: View Post
But isn't the same thing true for computers? 10 CPUs running the same calculations will show variations in time, heat distribution, etc...
But the differences are all masked by the fact that the ten CPU's only produce different results if there is a bug or malfunction. When there is no bug or malfunction, the calculations generated as output should all be identical. And, I guess I should explicitly state certain qualifications (which I assume are implicit in your premise), such as that presumably the executed programs don't sample hardware registers for the purpose of random number generation, generally speaking that the state of external devices to which they attach are functionally identical (e.g., network drives appear the same when they are accessed by the different computers), etc. And we're talking about digital computers, as opposed to analog, right?

On the other hand, in the case of people, the idea that different people do different things when confronted with the same situation (in what they they choose to do) isn't a bug; it's a feature and it's expected as normal variation.
First of all, I realized that the fingertip needle example is lacking a bit, because it depends on so many variables like the pathways from fingers to the brain, the density of the receptors in the finger tip, etc...

But the result is always the same: the brain recognizes that a needle touched the fingertip.

The difference is speed of recognition, intensity, etc...


And that's what I meant with the CPU example as well. The RESULT of the calculation will always be the same. But there will be minor variations in each CPU regarding the calculation time, the generated heat, the amount of power needed, etc... that's just natural, because no CPU is exactly identical to the other, even when they come from the same assembly line.

And in human brains, this difference is even greater, because every human brain develops differently because of different outside factors. If you compared the brains of twins, you would already see variations in the processing. BUT the results to a given input would always be the same.
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Old January 11 2014, 03:19 AM   #20
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Re: Ever heard of the "AI Day"? Me neither, but

I don't know about you, but a different reaction time is certainly a different result to me. Reaction times are the difference between life and death, after all.
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Old January 11 2014, 04:18 AM   #21
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Re: Ever heard of the "AI Day"? Me neither, but

Robert Maxwell wrote: View Post
I don't know about you, but a different reaction time is certainly a different result to me. Reaction times are the difference between life and death, after all.
That's quite true, and that qualifies my reply, too.

I responded under the assumption that variations in runtime (due to variations in rated clock rate, cache size, etc.) were assumed to be differences that weren't counted as differences in result.

JarodRussell wrote: View Post
But isn't the same thing true for computers? 10 CPUs running the same calculations will show variations in time, heat distribution, etc...
Just to illustrate the assumptions under which I framed my response, by taking those assumptions to a hypothetical extreme, it's not fair to penalize a single 80386, with 4GiB of RAM connected to a humongous disk executing some AI algorithm, for the long runtime it takes to calculate a result, if the objective for such a system is to calculate only a single intelligent (or perhaps "intelligent") response according to some theoretical criteria (e.g., compute a theoretically optimal turn in a game of Civilization, no matter how long it takes to figure that out).

If the objective is to generate a timely response in realtime under dynamic conditions (that meets certain criteria of effectiveness), your hardware would be radically different than that, and you wouldn't be speaking just of calculations, as if that was all that mattered.
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Old January 13 2014, 11:24 AM   #22
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Re: Ever heard of the "AI Day"? Me neither, but

Sorry guys, I was so busy that I didn't go online in a while. Hence I try to reply to several posts all at once:

Robert Maxwell wrote: View Post
Essentially, your "balanced" state never happens, it's always "unbalanced" and trying to correct. In that context, making it a binary distinction is neither informative nor useful for addressing the problem, and so it must be programmed accordingly.
I start to get what you mean. I haven't encountered such a programming yet, though, and can't quite imagine what it would look like. Could you give me an example of such a code or is it too complicated and too long for a post?

Robert Maxwell wrote: View Post
Incidentally, computers function in a similar way at the physical level. A transistor doesn't know what 0 or 1 are. It's simply a switch that flips to a different position when it has a high enough voltage.
[...] If Rhubarbodendron knows anything about stochastic resonance, maybe she can comment more on this.
A transistor is en excellent image of how synapses and motorical nerves work! The ones we need for thinking appear to behave differently and respond in finer gradients so that they might not work transistor-like, but afaik that's still being researched. Since that branch of research involves experiments on living brains and I am very strongly opposed to vivisection, it's something I am not really up-to-date with.


The needle prick example for different responses is perhaps not the best choice because such responses are reflexes that don't get controlled by the brain but by a shortcut in the spine. The signal rund along the nerve to your spinal cord, is marked there as "urgent! Injury! Might be life-threatening! Quick response needed!" and then a "withdraw immediately" signal is sent right back by a kind of feedback nerve. Hence the name re-flex: backwards-bend.

In this case, the reaction depends on the distance (faster in small people, because there's less of a way to cover), the age (older people's nerves react slower), the nourishment (as it's a chemical signal, there must be enough chemical to run it), muscle strength (a strong muscle retracts further) and also an individual pain threshold (some people bear more pain and react later than others). Also, if you repeat the experiment, the pain threshold will rise as the nerves need time to recover and pump the Ca++ back.

I don't think Stochastic Resonance has something to do with the better results in combination with a second signal (e.g. a vibration or music). I rather think it's a kind of Pavlov Effect: the specimen learns that the vibration or music means it'll get hurt any moment and begins to react a little sooner than without the combination. Very often, if we anticipate something, we react before the incidence actually occurs.

Robert Maxwell wrote: View Post
I don't know about you, but a different reaction time is certainly a different result to me. Reaction times are the difference between life and death, after all.
reaction time is indeed vital (most literally), but I nevertheless wouldn't consider it the result of the nerve's actions. The result -and point- of the whole action is to get your fingers out of the danger zone and prevent your body from potentially serious damage.
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Old January 13 2014, 01:15 PM   #23
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Re: Ever heard of the "AI Day"? Me neither, but

It's interesting that the point about how the need for timely responses places strong demands on hardware configuration is quite relevant with respect to the reflex arc. Thanks for that, Rhubarbodendron.
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Old January 13 2014, 01:40 PM   #24
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Re: Ever heard of the "AI Day"? Me neither, but

Rhubarbodendron wrote: View Post
Sorry guys, I was so busy that I didn't go online in a while. Hence I try to reply to several posts all at once:

Robert Maxwell wrote: View Post
Essentially, your "balanced" state never happens, it's always "unbalanced" and trying to correct. In that context, making it a binary distinction is neither informative nor useful for addressing the problem, and so it must be programmed accordingly.
I start to get what you mean. I haven't encountered such a programming yet, though, and can't quite imagine what it would look like. Could you give me an example of such a code or is it too complicated and too long for a post?
This is a pretty good source on what I am talking about. I've read some books on fuzzy control systems--it's a topic I've been fascinated with for years, and I think it's quite interesting. Essentially, it's about describing a problem in terms of states and responses, generally with the goal that the system needs to achieve a specific state, and is given considerable flexibility in doing so.
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Old January 13 2014, 10:28 PM   #25
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Re: Ever heard of the "AI Day"? Me neither, but

Talk about computing a bunch of variables, this is fucking amazing IMO

This Week
Are you the kind of person who prefers to be chatty on customer service calls, or do you like to get right to the point? Do you prefer to be led through an explanation every step of the way, or do you prefer that the person on the other end just shut up and "do what they need to do"? Do you prefer person-centered explanations, or technical explanations? Are you outgoing, or are you shy?
Believe it or not, there is a computer system out there that can figure out the details of your personality and interaction style after listening to mere seconds of your phone calls. In fact, this may have already happened the last time you called a customer service line. There is no way you would ever know.
Mattersight is an extremely sophisticated data analysis system that listens to the way you respond on the telephone. It listens to you in the background, and breaks down hundreds of micro-features of your voice: Volume, tone, pauses, speed of response, and so on. It uses mathematical algorithms to interpret these features, compare them to data in its databases, and come up with a personality profile for you.
All of this happens, by the way, during the first few seconds that you are on the phone. It could even be happening while you are working your way through a voice-activated menu system.
Then, when you are finally connected to a sales representative or customer service professional, Mattersight takes its analysis of your personality, compares it to the personality profiles of the call center employees that it has on file, and automatically connects you with the service agent that you are most compatible with.
As a result, you will have a better customer experience. If you like brusque and professional, you will be connected with someone who is brusque and professional; on the other hand, if you like friendly and chatty, you will be connected with someone who asks how your day is going.
You will never even know that Mattersight was behind the scenes, manipulating the whole thing. In some cases, even the customer service representative may not know. But the end result is that both parties come away from the experience knowing that they were talking to someone who was "easy to get along with."
How much of your personality is private?
How much information do you give away about yourself when you are on the phone with a call center? Exactly how much of a "deep dive," psychologically, can an analytics system like Mattersight really do? In reality, nobody knows the ultimate answer to this question.
Over time, if you are a repeat caller to a company's help line or sales department, the Mattersight analytics system could potentially build up a detailed profile of you. Every single second of every phone interaction that you have with another human being can yield hundreds of new micro-features of data. Each of these micro-features can then go into the system, be passed through complex algorithms, and refine the company's "personality profile" of you.
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Old January 15 2014, 03:43 PM   #26
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Re: Ever heard of the "AI Day"? Me neither, but

^interesting! And, frankly, rather scary. 1984-ish.
On the other hand, Google and the NSA are doing basically the same. You can find out a lot about people by simply following their traces on the web. In my country, we see that as a violation of personal privacy (like stalking) and the government tries to counteract that. For example, they advise not to use facebook and google but alternatives with better data security. Our ministry for data security recommends the use of proxies, mail & cell encryption and disposable email adresses (I use different mail accounts: a disposable one for first contacts which mighth be potentially risky, another account for reliable business partners, again another for business partners where I am not sure of their security, one very secure one for friends and a top secret heavily encrypted one only for closest friends and family). Sounds like an overkill but I'm rather safe than sorry and spied out.

Thanks for the link, Robert. Paradoxely, the explanation on the English page is easier to understand for me than that on the German one LOL, but the latter has better graphics and less abstract examples. Both lack an example for how the coding would look like, though. They only explain the general idea. I'll look for open source fuzzy logic programmes in the weekend to take one apart and have a look at the code

CorporalCaptain wrote: View Post
It's interesting that the point about how the need for timely responses places strong demands on hardware configuration is quite relevant with respect to the reflex arc. Thanks for that, Rhubarbodendron.
You're welcome It's something that stuck in my memory from way back at school, 40 years ago.
It's basically only a variation of a very old nervous system that insects and many worms have. They have 2 parallel nerve strands that are connected at regular intervals. At the crossings there are ganglia: knots of nervous tissue that work as little brains for the reflexes. In our spinal cord the 2 nerve strands are fused to one and these little "brains" are reduced to just a few cells, but the principle is quite the same. In an insect the whole thing looks rather like a rope ladder. Here's a pic of 3 Drosophila (fruitfly) larvae. The nervous tuissue is coloured. The left larva is normal, with the ganglions nicely visible (the dark zones where the rungs meet the stringers). The 6 front ganglia are especially big: they control legs, wings, mandibles, feelers and eyes. The other two larvae have different grades of genetically induced nerval damage.
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