Older blog entries for cdent (starting at number 492)


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Syndicated 2012-07-28 17:01:31 (Updated 2012-07-28 17:02:33) from cdent

The Usefulness of Useless Knowledge - Brain Pickings

Out of this useless activity there come discoveries which may well prove of infinitely more importance to the human mind and to the human spirit than the accomplishment of the useful ends for which the schools were founded.
The Usefulness of Useless Knowledge - Brain Pickings

This kind of serendipity is what I care about. Not the pursuit of solutions, but the pursuit of discovery.

Syndicated 2012-07-28 12:54:58 from cdent

This is for everyone

timbl live tweeted from the Olympics opening ceremony:

This is for everyone

It was the culmination of a long montage on the advancements and power of communication in recent history.

I suspect that it was meant as a statement of hope, a kind of blessing, but to me it was warning: "Don't blow it."

Don't let the corporates have it, this is for everyone.

Syndicated 2012-07-27 21:19:54 from cdent


Infinite probability is good, not bad. Meaningless disorder to be challenged, not feared. Language maps a boundless world of objects and sensations and combinations onto a finite space. The world changes, always mixing the static with the ephemeral, and we know that language changes, not just from edition to edition of the Oxford English Dictionary but from one moment to the next, and from person to the next. Everyone's language is different. We can be overwhelmed or we can be emboldened.

Syndicated 2012-07-27 20:11:24 from cdent


"The more we 'communicate' the way we do, the more we create a hellish world," wrote the Parisian philosopher also a historian of cybernetics Jean-Pierre Dupuy

I take "hell" in its theological sense, i.e., a place which is void of grace the undeserved, unnecessary, surprising, unforeseen. A paradox is at work here: ours is a world about which we pretend to have more and more information but which seems to us increasingly devoid of meaning.

Syndicated 2012-07-27 19:58:21 from cdent


It is a symptom of omniscience. It is what the critic Alex Ross calls the Infinite Playlist, and he sees how mixed is the blessing: "anxiety in place of fulfillment, an addictive cycle of craving and malaise. No sooner has one experience begun than the thought of what else is out there intrudes." The embarrassment of riches. Another reminder that information is not knowledge, and knowledge is not wisdom.

Syndicated 2012-07-27 19:36:25 from cdent


There is a whiff of nostalgia in this sort of warning, along with an undeniable truth: that in the pursuit of knowledge, slower can be better. Exploring the crowded stacks of musty libraries has its own rewards. Reading even browsing an old book can yield sustenance denied by a database search. Patience is a virtue. Gluttony a sin.

Syndicated 2012-07-27 19:33:01 from cdent


In every case, Bennett found, heat dissipation occurs only when information is erased. Erasure is the irreversible logical operation. When the head on a Turing machine erases one square of the tape, or when an electronic computer clears a capacitor, a bit is lost, and then heat must be dissipated. In Szilárd's thought experiment, the demon does not incur an entropy cost when it observes of chooses a molecule. The payback comes at the moment of clearing the record, when the demon erases one observation to make room for the next.

Forgetting takes work.

Syndicated 2012-07-27 19:30:12 from cdent


The telegraph could, of course, save many keystrokes infinitely many, in the long run by simply sending the messge "π." But this is a cheat. It presumes knowledge previously shared by the sender and the receiver. The sense has to recognize this special sequence to begin with, and then the receiver has to know what π is, and how to look up its decimal expansion, or else how to compute it. In effect, they have to share a code book.

Syndicated 2012-07-27 19:22:40 from cdent


For Kolmogorov, these ideas belonged not only to probability theory but also to physics. To measure complexity of an orderly crystal or a helter-skelter box of gas, one could measure the shortest algorithm needed to describe the state of the crystal or gas. Once again entropy was the key.

Syndicated 2012-07-27 19:18:53 from cdent

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