Monthly Archives: March 2014

Evolutionary algorithms

In computer technology, there’s a more and more common optimalisation technique called evolutionary algorithms. Problems or tasks of the world can be modeled and solved in a similar approach as mother nature solves her own ones. We all more or less understand the concepts of nature since elementary school. Let’s take a specie of some ancient fish-like creature for example. They live in swarms in the sea, being omnivores. We already know about natural selection. Those fish have to face predators, diseases, and environmental hazards. They live in a place where only the fittest can survive. Mostly the fittest breed only, in order to maintain their biological qualities. Furthermore, there’s always some mutation that helps later generations to adapt more to these circumstances. The least capable entites of the swarm die, while others breed and improve. They become more evasive to predators and diseases, and conquer the land to live on by becoming amphibious. All in all, they optimize a function: their quality of life. That’s a natural evolutionary algorithm. EAs of the computer world work the same way.

Let’s take the following task: we have an unexplored ocean bottom, and at its deepest point, we could access to a very valuable food source. We have a couple of robot fishes who have a limited range of vision, but they can instantly exchange information by using some long range radio communication. The initial setup is that we randomly drop our robots into the ocean, give each one a random direction to explore, and give them a set of rules, for example:

  • if you are close to another robot, keep your distance
  • if you see a deeper point than you are currently on, start swimming towards it
  • if you see another deeper point on your way, you can change direction, but don’t do any radical changes on your path
  • ask other robots about their exploration, and if any of your buddies found a point that is much more deeper than yours, you can change direction and swim towards him
  • if others ask you about you, report your depth
  • don’t turn back unless the value of that decision is assured by others

This is swarm intelligence in a nutshell. It can be modelled, programmed and executed on a computer. It work in a similar way like fish swarms and ant colonies. They optimize to some target function, like the quality of life, which can be described by level of safety, amount of available food, etc.. They work together. They collect information on their own but they share it with the community. They take advantage of global information in their own life. Eventually, the swarm’s quality of life will improve, just like in nature.

Swarm-Fish

Evolutionary algorithms are quite similar. They have a population of random starting entities, and a set of rules, but the entities are periodically modified. Let the task be to extract gold from a mine. The programmer plays the role of God, but he has limited amount of resources. Each robot can spend 100 energy to sensors, engines, storage capability, and power of its extractor drill. The programmer randomizes the values so there would be robots with different capabilities. For example one robot would have 25 units of energy for all, while another robot would have 50 units of energy for sensors and 50 for engines. The third one would have 50 units for storage and 50 for extraction power. The programmer lets all entities work for a while, than he measures their fitness. The first robot was capable to see nearby minerals, to move to it, to mine it, and to store it. The second robot was capable to see minerals from a larger distance, and it could move to it very quickly thanks to its engines, however, it had no drilling power and no storage space, so it failed in mineral collection. The third robot could mine mineral efficiently and store a large amout, however, it failed to sense it and to move near, since it had no energy spent on sensors and engine.

We usually have limited resources and many important factors to consider for successful execution of a task, as you could see in that example. Each factor participates in the task with a different amount of importance, for example if the mine is dark, perception is more important than movement, but if we mine diamond instead of gold, drilling power is more important than storage space. Each task has its own requirements but we don’t know the importance of those in the beginning. So, the programmer evaluates the “fitness” of all robots, the capability to achieve success in the task. After that, he can divide the population into two parts by fitness. The worse half of the robot population can be powered off thus saving energy for the better half. We also can examine robots of the better half and design new ones by their properties. For example, it there are two successful robots, one has 25 units of energy for all of the four attributes while another has (30, 20, 30, 20), we can design a robot with (27, 23, 27, 23) units of energy distributed to its subsystems. That new robot can perform better or worse, it will be evaluated in the next unit of time. It’s similar to natural selection. Those who perform bad, perish, and the strong transfer their genes to the next generation. Just as in nature, weak children can be born from strong parents, however, they will perish too. With this approach, if we let this system run for enough time, the population will became stronger and eventually approximate the perfect solution for a task.

We can’t be always sure that if we approached perfection close enough. Computer programmers usually just wait and see what happens. If the population has no more significant improvement after each unit of time, they just shut down the algorithm and work with the best entities they could discover during the process. That’s how many areas of our life work right now.

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Our Father, part 1

Interpretation of ancient texts has always been difficult and ambigious, and proper transliteration of such a concise book as the Bible is a great challange even between the walls of the christian world. Why shouldn’t we take one more step in this mist by comparing the very essence of religions to common sense? I can deeply identify with the concept of unity, considering the core of all religions. We all are humans, with the basic desire to feel peace, happiness, and satisfaction, However, we choose different paths in order to reach them. Some of them are harder, some are more popular, but basically they intend to lead us to the same goal. If we subtract the religious side of Pope Francis’ announcment, a very valuable humanist statement remains:

Just do good, and we’ll find a meeting point.

Let’s try now to take off the bad marketing from christianity, and inspect its core without the layer of mud that ignorant people shoveled on it, just like they did with satanism. We should not doom it just because it has a couple of contradictions and vague chapters. I know a couple of enthusiastic christians who are actually happy and can live their life more fulfilled that way. Unless they start to evangelize by force, or harm other human beings in any level, all beliefs that helps to improve one’s quality of life, can be considered appropriate.

Imagine

First of all, why should any freethinker bother with prayers? Well, as it was explained in older posts, religion intends to fill holes of our mind/soul, and improve our quality of life. So, we might have a reason to rethink this tool of our life, starting from its core. But what’s the core of christianity? If I had to tell the Bible in one sentence, I’d chosen The Lord’s prayer (Matt 6:9).

Our Father,
who art in heaven,
hallowed be Thy name.
Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread
and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
Amen.

I’ve always felt myself uncomfortable with that prayer, and since I couldn’t agree with the cornerstone of christianity, I decided to drop it. I never was sure about where my prayers go, too. However, I encountered a linguistic challenge in my recent work that made me think about improper transliterations. Even this prayer, considered pure and valid, directly from the mouth of Jesus, can be a victim of accidental or intentional misinterpretations. But instead of deeply getting involved in aramic and ancient greek languages that I’m not competent in, let’s use common sense to interpret it.

There are a couple of sites already on the internet that interpret the Bible adjusted to the needs of a community. The first nazarene site gives a brief history of this prayer, with some origins, aramic and greek transliterations involved. At first sight, the nazarene transliteration is not more than another piece of new-age garbage. There is even a site that claims the nazarene version as the original intention of Jesus for the prayer. It might be true or not, but either way, the nazarene version is one step closer to common sense. So does the gnostic version:

O Giver of All Life,
Who Is in Heaven and in Earth,
In Whom We Live, Move,
And Have Our Being,
Holy Is Thy Name.
Thy Kingdom Come.
Thy Will Be Done.
In Earth, as it Is in Heaven.
Give Us this Day Our Daily Bread,
And Forgive Us, Our Trespasses
As We Forgive Those
Who Trespass Against Us.
Keep Us from Temptation.
Keep Us Ever Mindful of Thee.
For Thine Is the Kingdom,
And the Power, and the Glory,
Forever and Ever.
Amen.

To give a chance of understanding the prayer, let’s look it piece by piece.

Our Father. The term father makes the concept of existence of a supreme being a bit too antropomorph. The same problem like with the kids’ book of religion. God as a wise old man in the clouds. The nazarene version drops the term father and simply addresses the deity as giver of life, the creator, which is more acceptable while unifying God concepts of most religions. Its a huge step to be more rational, as it supposes existence of a supreme being that does not have to necessarily resemble to us. There is even a translation that like “Creator of the Universe who is (also) inside us”. If there’s a God, he/it does not have to be externalized. And that’s the point where this statement of many religions can be linked together. In pantheism, God is all around. God created everything, so we are part of it. In christianity, God (that old man) created Jesus as his son, so it seems logical that we are part of the family, created for his face, for his DNA if you like. Even such a teen-idol religion like wicca says God is in mother nature, but since we are also part of it, God is inside us too. Satanism says we don’t have to search for any gods, we can be our own.

Despite they say it slightly differently, all statements have the same core: we are here, we exist, and we are somehow related to creation. We got a life to live from someone or something, and all we need to do is to be aware of it. The different styles how religions introduce God is just an adjustment for all people to have their desired level of understanding. Satanists don’t need to rely on any external lifeforms for security, inspiration or making moral decisions. Some of us still consider our parents as the safe haven of our stormy life, and even if any of them passed away, we still need to fill that hole with a kind, caring old man, like the christian god. But why is God concept important at all? Because it gives us a basic awareness of existence. We have a chance to live, think, and feel. I don’t really understand quantum phisics, but I can feel satisfied by having beliefs about it, while I don’t claim competence and I let real scientists reserarch. Science looks for the answer for existence for a long time, but until it finds it, beliefs can be useful, even inspirational for the research, as long as we don’t get stuck in false statements claimed to be the ultimate answers. All in all, the deity concept is practical, be it outside or inside us, it fulfills its function, and we shouldn’t let it tear us apart just because of the colorfulness of religions. There is about 20% of our world that has “other” religion from the most popular ones. They are not atheists since they believe in the deity, but they don’t share the common definitions for it. Perharps they could be the perfect scientists, looking for the creation of life, extraterrestial civilization and such, since they are open-minded yet not bound to a specific, separate model that we all should avoid.

Tigers strike back

On one of the last posts I explained my point of view about animals going extinct. I’m still not convinced they are needed to keep, however, I’ve found this Frozen Ark project in a Stephen Hawking documentary mini-series called Brave new world.

Besides many other interesting topics of today’s science, it describes two movements aiming to conservate our species by collecting blood samples from endangered animals and seeds of all available plants. I consider that as a smart move, since it’s a way to store all DNA that might be important for our survival in the future. With the help of cloning, we will be able to recreate whichever species we want. I still think they go extinct not by accident, but by purpose of evolution though, just like dinosaurs.

And as I can see, we are only one step from making artificial meat, which would solve the problem of starvation and the moral side of killing animals. Good news for today.

Some more dramatic sci-fis to come

Black Mirror. Actually it is not a series, but six individual stories by the same author. From each of them, a future unfolds, filled with challenges of our possible technology to be. Interesting episodes.

Black-Mirror-15-Million-Merits

Her. A drama about a man fell in love with his hyper-intelligent operating system Samantha. A very interesting implementation about one of the most important questions of information technology. Where is the boundary between human and computer? The film resembles to a X-files episode where there were robot companions available for order, and I’m pretty sure there are many other pieces of art on that topic. I just realized even the above mentioned Black Mirror series contains an episode on it.

HER

Enjoy.

Rule 9: Do not harm young children

The aspect I introduced in the last post about better not having children, might suggest I hate them. Actually, I don’t. And I feel sad when I think about what they learn from books of christian religion, since I find it inappropriate for the goal of living a satisfactory life later. The other day I came across a book of religion for children starting primary school. The frontpage contains a portrait of Jesus. The first page gives the youngling a basic concept about christianity, summarized in the following list:

  • God exists
  • God loves us
  • God takes care of us
  • Praying is the method of talking to God
  • We can express love and gratitude by praying
  • God listens to our prayers and feels happy about it

On the next couple of pages, the author gives advices about how to behave, goals for being a children worthy for the love of God. Illustrations are mainly about young children that the reader can identify himself with, and drawings of the trinity in the clouds. God, as the father aspect, looks like Santa Claus dressed as Aristotle, the son is Jesus, and the holy spirit is a pidgeon as usual. The rest of the pages are mainly giving details about how to and what to pray.

This pretty much sums up everything I don’t like about christianity, and leaves me with a sad feeling if I imagine a child having no principles of religion getting introduced to this. As satanism claims, we all have holes inside that we must fill with something. Some of us needs the idea of a supreme, non-physical kingdom of pure perfection and security, and that’s okay like that. Atheists can live with the feeling of being alone, while many other people can’t, so they escape to religion. It is more than comforting to suppose there is a wise old man who watches our every clumsy step, takes care of us, gives advice, and helps us on our faithful life by his mighty presence in general. It is good to feel ourselves so important that even an omniscient, omnipotent god exposes his own son to suffering as a human life form, just for helping us with that. It is heartwarming to know that there is a non-physical conscious concentration of pure goodness somewhere out there, and it even inspires, helps and protects us. And there is nothing wrong with that, as long as our religion helps us to live our lives better. I could not, however, by being a christian.

The first item on the list, God exists, is giving the child a feeling of security. Someone is out there, who looks like his grandfather, and takes care of him. God is the joker card. He is everything. He helps, he protects, even if something wrong happens, he is totally in control of the situation, he only teaches us by his misterious ways, sometimes by ways of suffering. This belief is helpful and not at the same time. It helps people to get over on loss of family members, to get through depressive stages of life, even to behave correctly. However, it is not necessarily needed, and it even seems harmful as many of us grow up using this same image of God over time, and the more we antropomorphize God, the more we’ll defend our own image of him instead of trying to understand other people. Children are taught to believe in Jesus, as an aspect of God itself, while islam considers him only as a prophet. These, usually small differences of the wrapping often lead to irreconcilable and violent disagreements between representatives of different religions. According to the Bible, Jesus advised to follow him, not to worship him. And what are most christians doing nowadays? They worship Jesus as if he were God itself, instead of only a wise man. They build churches and decorate with the crucifix, the symbol of human cruelty, and focus on his suffering thus raising guilt in themselves. The teachings of Jesus has little presence in his death, it has far more in his life. Most of his statements can, and should be looked in a modern point of view instead of cry-praying ourselves in churches, or confess our sins that we don’t really regret, and will be doing the same way next week. However, Pope Francis (I just can’t stop to mention him enough times) discovered that christianity should focus on joy, not on suffering. If this will ever change in a proper way, I’m pretty sure he will be involved in it.

wtf_jesus

Okay, I already have pointed out what I don’t like about christianity, but gave no advice how to do it better. If I were responsible for the teaching of christian religion in primary schools, I’d take christianity, without the father figure, the overcanonized, overworshipped Jesus, the suffering Jesus, the suffering saints, and at least half of the liturgy. I’d also take out the emphasization of guilt, and the separation of the supreme entity. I’d add some principles of satanism, like “live and let live”, and the pursuit of feeling well. I’d teach religion for kids in a pantheistic and deistic way. There would be no heaven, no hell, no omnipotent grandparents. What would this whole thing being called? Ethics, maybe. Since I believe we are intelligent enough for being capable of living without the concept of divine control. We are intelligent enough to decide what’s right and wrong, and don’t need to ask supreme beings on it. We even can get over the loss of a family member without God. It might be harder, and might be unnecessary to take that way, but instead of teaching a kid for religion before he can decide what to believe in, seems inappropriate to me. Religion is intended to teach us to live an emotionally satisfactory life. Ask yourself a question: does my religion help me to feel better, to live better? It should.

jesus(1)

To breed or not to breed

One of the most powerful topics that can radically divide people’s oppinion. Everyone of the modern world meets with the question at some point of his life: Do I want children? If so, am I ready for it? And even if I think it’s right for me, will my choice fulfill my expectations? I’ve talked with three of my acquintances about that.

Baby-Pictures-Download-Free-Wallpapers-1024x819

The first one is a hard working, middle-class family father with 3 daughters. He told me I can forget about my own free time from the birth of the first child. With three children, they have no solitude, nor spontaneous intimate occasions. However, he is happy with it and claims it’s worth the efforts. “Imagine that you are 10 years older, in your late thirties. You work hard, yet you have experienced all the benefits of being young, being free and wild. You have money for whatever you want, and you have no irrealistic needs. What’s the next step? It is making a child.” – he told. “All days are different thanks to the three girls, and they give you a sensation of love that’s not comparable to anything from your life before”.

The second father I asked has 4 daughters and zero wives for now. They have been living a stormy marriage, and none of their daughters was planned, they only were undertaken. My friend was fleeing from his marital problems by making children that kept him busy. He is on a similar oppinion than the first man. He says almost none of us are preparred for a child, even though we all think so. However, he said being a father is the ultimate emotional stage for a man, literally reproducing you and giving a change to correct mistakes of your parents. But I doubt that. If we all had corrected the mistakes of our parents, all kids would live a dream life for centuries now. I’m also not sure if I could do better than my parents, nor do I want to try. This friend of mine is seeking for his next wife, and he even wants more children when he finds the right woman for it.

The third one I spoke with was my own mother. First I asked her why has she had decided to have a child, and if she regrets having one, having me. Even though I knew even if I was a disappointment to her, she wouldn’t tell me, but we use to have honest conversations and I really hoped she can prescind. She could. She explained when she entered in her thirties, her parents were putting her under pressure and were coninuosly asking her when will they have a grandchild, and this was one of the reasons why she decided to have one. The other reason was her selfishness, She hoped to be loved, with love she was craving for through all her life. I don’t accuse her for it, since without her decision I wouldn’t even have been born, and I don’t agree with the antinatalists who claim that being born is a pain, and forcing someone to be born is the primordial sin. My mother told me she does not regret any moment, however she described the early years in a similar way than the two men before. She counted on the help of her parents, which she was never given of, and had a hard time on raising me respect to time, money and emotional energy. I dramatically changed her life, in a way that can’t be undone. She said she wouldn’t revert it, but this last statement is barely reliable. Even while talking with strangers, many people simply won’t admit that they made a mistake by having children. That’s like buyer’s remorse. When you buy a macbook, you won’t ever admit if you feel to have mistaken, since it was expensive and classy, something you should be unconditionally proud of.

The above mentioned philosophical school declares that existence is negative since we can experience pain and pleasure, but pain is a more dominant and lasting feeling. Not being born is considered neutral, thus desired, since non-existence involves no pain and no pleasure. They even have a radical group, the Human Extinction Movement, whose primary intention is in their name. However, I agree with some principles of anti-natalism, like we should not increase the current overpopulation crysis, and if we would having a child so badly, we should took the way of adoption instead of creating another human to a planet that already has too many. Some of us can’t imagine that because of their irrational adherence of reproducing of one’s own blood and flesh, which is nothing but a narcistic thought about one’s genome to be superior to any other being’s.

I even found groups of people who share the soft anti-natalistic point of view, namely, the childfree. They call themselves child-free to indicate their state doen’t imply a negative charge like the term “childless” does. They are free of children, free of burden, free of obligation. I found this childfree guy’s blog first. It hasn’t been updated for half a year now, and its author seemed to have serious depression in the last couple of posts, even mentioned suicide. That would be a double-edged example if such a happy, childfree man really killed himself, but even if he did so, it was not related to his choice of not having children. A study on lifehacker also proves couples are happier who have no children.

You could say it’s hard, even might be impossible and unreliable to form an oppinion on something one haven’t experienced. I agree with that, and I’m pretty sure that my attitude might gradually change over time in many areas of life. One of my friends told me I’m just afraid of being a father, but I don’t think it’s the situation here. Having a child raises similar feelings in me like having a bowl of spinach. I don’t remember eating a full bowl ever, but I remember tasting it. I even tasted it more times, just to make sure it was not a prejudice. I’ve always found its taste disgusting. And I don’t fear eating it, I just don’t want to if I can choose. I’m seeing former classmates of mine, posting images of being pregnant or ones of their newborn babies. And others just celebrate it. When I see something like that, it makes me think about their future. The future of that child that arrived into phisical existence that even a quarter century is not enough to get used to. The future of the girl, who just made an irreversible choice. She might be satisfied with her choice though, even if I can’t imagine that right now. Some of us might crave for that lifestyle. They are not compulsorily the same people who might be able to do it responsibly though.

If there were any politician who would give his name to it, we should bind childmaking to a license. Many of us just copulate and don’t think further than the orgasm they reach, thus making a darker world with unwanted children. Even Pope Francis admitted that abortion is not a sin any longer, God bless that man, lol. You might ask how would one get license to breed. Well, it should be based on intelligence, health and financial stability of each of the parents. If the two parent candidates would have proof they can raise children and it’s not harmful to the current society, they were let to make one. Yess, that’s more dictatoric than figures of our history ever were, but would be desireable since people of this Earth obviously lack self-control and responsibility. At overpopulated countries, there would be no permission for the people to breed. At all. They could adopt though, or emigrate to a country where they might get better “breeder rating” respect to that country’s social situation. And what would we do with people who make children without permission? We might take their child, adopt it to someone, and send them to prison for life! This concept would also assure the progress of our biological evolution, since only the intelligent would reproduce.

Finally, take the poll if you mind, providing some local statistics here.