Quote for 12-31-15

“I hope that in this year to come, you make mistakes.

Because if you are making mistakes, then you are making new things, trying new things, learning, living, pushing yourself, changing yourself, changing your world. You’re doing things you’ve never done before, and more importantly, you’re Doing Something.

So that’s my wish for you, and all of us, and my wish for myself. Make New Mistakes. Make glorious, amazing mistakes. Make mistakes nobody’s ever made before. Don’t freeze, don’t stop, don’t worry that it isn’t good enough, or it isn’t perfect, whatever it is: art, or love, or work or family or life.

Whatever it is you’re scared of doing, Do it.

Make your mistakes, next year and forever.”

Neil Gaiman


Serial Podcast: Episode #9 -To be Supsected

New information is coming in about what maybe didn’t happen on January 13, 1999.  And while Adnan’s memory of that day is foggy at best, he does remember what happened next: being questioned, being arrested and, a little more than a year later, being sentenced to life in prison.

Quote for 12-29-15

“One cannot divine nor forecast the conditions that will make happiness; one only stumbles upon them by chance, in a lucky hour, at the world’s end, somewhere, and holds fast to the days, as to fortune or fame.”

Will Cather, Le Lavandou

TED Tuesday: A New Equation for Intelligence: Alex Wissner

Is there an equation for intelligence? Yes. It’s F = T ∇ Sτ. In a fascinating and informative talk, physicist and computer scientist Alex Wissner-Gross explains what in the world that means. (Filmed at TEDxBeaconStreet.)

Talk Transcript

00:11-Intelligence — what is it? If we take a look back at the history of how intelligence has been viewed, one seminal example has been Edsger Dijkstra’s famous quote that “the question of whether a machine can think is about as interesting as the question of whether a submarine can swim.” Now, Edsger Dijkstra, when he wrote this, intended it as a criticism of the early pioneers of computer science, like Alan Turing.However, if you take a look back and think about what have been the most empowering innovations that enabled us to build artificial machines that swim and artificial machines that [fly], you find that it was only through understanding the underlying physical mechanisms of swimming and flight that we were able to build these machines. And so, several years ago, I undertook a program to try to understand the fundamental physical mechanisms underlying intelligence.

01:23-Let’s take a step back. Let’s first begin with a thought experiment. Pretend that you’re an alien race that doesn’t know anything about Earth biology or Earth neuroscience or Earth intelligence, but you have amazing telescopes and you’re able to watch the Earth, and you have amazingly long lives, so you’re able to watch the Earth over millions, even billions of years. And you observe a really strange effect. You observe that, over the course of the millennia, Earth is continually bombarded with asteroids up until a point, and that at some point, corresponding roughly to our year, 2000 AD, asteroids that are on a collision course with the Earth that otherwise would have collided mysteriously get deflected or they detonate before they can hit the Earth. Now of course, as earthlings, we know the reason would be that we’re trying to save ourselves. We’re trying to prevent an impact. But if you’re an alien race who doesn’t know any of this, doesn’t have any concept of Earth intelligence, you’d be forced to put together a physical theory that explains how, up until a certain point in time, asteroids that would demolish the surface of a planet mysteriously stop doing that. And so I claim that this is the same question as understanding the physical nature of intelligence.

02:56-So in this program that I undertook several years ago, I looked at a variety of different threads across science, across a variety of disciplines, that were pointing, I think, towards a single, underlying mechanism for intelligence. In cosmology, for example, there have been a variety of different threads of evidence that our universe appears to be finely tuned for the development of intelligence, and, in particular, for the development of universal states that maximize the diversity of possible futures. In game play, for example, in Go — everyone remembers in 1997 when IBM’s Deep Blue beat Garry Kasparov at chess — fewer people are aware that in the past 10 years or so, the game of Go, arguably a much more challenging game because it has a much higher branching factor, has also started to succumb to computer game players for the same reason: the best techniques right now for computers playing Go are techniques that try to maximize future options during game play. Finally, in robotic motion planning, there have been a variety of recent techniques that have tried to take advantage of abilities of robots to maximize future freedom of action in order to accomplish complex tasks. And so, taking all of these different threads and putting them together, I asked, starting several years ago, is there an underlying mechanism for intelligence that we can factor out of all of these different threads? Is there a single equation for intelligence?

04:36-And the answer, I believe, is yes. [“F = T ∇ Sτ”] What you’re seeing is probably the closest equivalent to an E = mc² for intelligence that I’ve seen. So what you’re seeing here is a statement of correspondencethat intelligence is a force, F, that acts so as to maximize future freedom of action. It acts to maximize future freedom of action, or keep options open, with some strength T, with the diversity of possible accessible futures, S, up to some future time horizon, tau. In short, intelligence doesn’t like to get trapped. Intelligence tries to maximize future freedom of action and keep options open. And so, given this one equation, it’s natural to ask, so what can you do with this? How predictive is it? Does it predict human-level intelligence? Does it predict artificial intelligence? So I’m going to show you now a video that will, I think, demonstrate some of the amazing applications of just this single equation.

05:45-(Video) Narrator: Recent research in cosmology has suggested that universes that produce more disorder, or “entropy,” over their lifetimes should tend to have more favorable conditions for the existence of intelligent beings such as ourselves. But what if that tentative cosmological connectionbetween entropy and intelligence hints at a deeper relationship? What if intelligent behavior doesn’t just correlate with the production of long-term entropy, but actually emerges directly from it? To find out, we developed a software engine called Entropica, designed to maximize the production of long-term entropyof any system that it finds itself in. Amazingly, Entropica was able to pass multiple animal intelligence tests, play human games, and even earn money trading stocks, all without being instructed to do so.Here are some examples of Entropica in action.

06:33-Just like a human standing upright without falling over, here we see Entropica automatically balancing a pole using a cart. This behavior is remarkable in part because we never gave Entropica a goal. It simply decided on its own to balance the pole. This balancing ability will have appliactions for humanoid robotics and human assistive technologies. Just as some animals can use objects in their environments as tools to reach into narrow spaces, here we see that Entropica, again on its own initiative, was able to move a large disk representing an animal around so as to cause a small disk, representing a tool, to reach into a confined space holding a third disk and release the third disk from its initially fixed position.This tool use ability will have applications for smart manufacturing and agriculture. In addition, just as some other animals are able to cooperate by pulling opposite ends of a rope at the same time to release food, here we see that Entropica is able to accomplish a model version of that task. This cooperative ability has interesting implications for economic planning and a variety of other fields.

07:37-Entropica is broadly applicable to a variety of domains. For example, here we see it successfully playing a game of pong against itself, illustrating its potential for gaming. Here we see Entropica orchestratingnew connections on a social network where friends are constantly falling out of touch and successfully keeping the network well connected. This same network orchestration ability also has applications in health care, energy, and intelligence. Here we see Entropica directing the paths of a fleet of ships,successfully discovering and utilizing the Panama Canal to globally extend its reach from the Atlantic to the Pacific. By the same token, Entropica is broadly applicable to problems in autonomous defense, logistics and transportation.

08:25-Finally, here we see Entropica spontaneously discovering and executing a buy-low, sell-high strategy on a simulated range traded stock, successfully growing assets under management exponentially. This risk management ability will have broad applications in finance and insurance.

08:45-Alex Wissner-Gross: So what you’ve just seen is that a variety of signature human intelligent cognitive behaviors such as tool use and walking upright and social cooperation all follow from a single equation,which drives a system to maximize its future freedom of action.

09:06-Now, there’s a profound irony here. Going back to the beginning of the usage of the term robot, the play “RUR,” there was always a concept that if we developed machine intelligence, there would be a cybernetic revolt. The machines would rise up against us. One major consequence of this work is that maybe all of these decades, we’ve had the whole concept of cybernetic revolt in reverse. It’s not that machines first become intelligent and then megalomaniacal and try to take over the world. It’s quite the opposite, that the urge to take control of all possible futures is a more fundamental principle than that of intelligence, that general intelligence may in fact emerge directly from this sort of control-grabbing, rather than vice versa.

10:09-Another important consequence is goal seeking. I’m often asked, how does the ability to seek goalsfollow from this sort of framework? And the answer is, the ability to seek goals will follow directly from this in the following sense: just like you would travel through a tunnel, a bottleneck in your future path space, in order to achieve many other diverse objectives later on, or just like you would invest in a financial security, reducing your short-term liquidity in order to increase your wealth over the long term,goal seeking emerges directly from a long-term drive to increase future freedom of action.

10:51-Finally, Richard Feynman, famous physicist, once wrote that if human civilization were destroyed and you could pass only a single concept on to our descendants to help them rebuild civilization, that concept should be that all matter around us is made out of tiny elements that attract each other when they’re far apart but repel each other when they’re close together. My equivalent of that statement to pass on to descendants to help them build artificial intelligences or to help them understand human intelligence, is the following: Intelligence should be viewed as a physical process that tries to maximize future freedom of action and avoid constraints in its own future.

11:36-Thank you very much.


19 changes to make in your 20s to set yourself up for lifelong success

Originally written by Shana Lebowitz and published on Business Insider

How you spend your 20s is hugely important for determining who you’ll become — personally and professionally — in the future.

In fact, one psychologist calls this time period the “defining decade,” since it sets the stage for the rest of your life.

We understand that might sound intimidating. To reduce some of the pressure, we put together a road map of sorts based on severalQuora threads on how to make the most of your 20s.

Find out what you should start (and stop) doing in your 20s to lay the foundation for lifelong success.

1. Start writing down your goals.

Toward the end of his 20s, Quora user Dirk Hooper started envisioning his ideal lifestyle five, 10, and 20 years down the road.

To ensure that he wasn’t just fantasizing, he wrote down what he hoped to achieve and how he might get there.

“The act of writing your goals and dreams do[es] a couple of things for you,” Hooper writes. “It forces you to nail down what’s really in your mind, and it gives you a tangible record that you can refer to over time.”

There’s research to back up Hooper’s theory. In one study, college students were instructed to write down a path toward achieving their future goals. Unsurprisingly, many of those goals involved finishing their education. Results showed that students who completed the writing exercise were more likely to stay in school than those who didn’t do the exercise.

2. Start letting go of your ego.

A number of Quora users mentioned some variation on the idea that you shouldn’t let pride or vanity get in your way, and should stay open to alternate viewpoints.

Michael Elijah writes: “Learn how to kill your ego. It blinds and fetters us from possibility and progress. Learn how to burst your bubble with simple questions [such] as, ‘What if things aren’t what they seem to be?’ and vitally, ‘What if I am wrong?'”

3. Start reading a lot.

After college, Hooper realized there was still a lot he didn’t know.

“So, I became a voracious reader,” he said. “I engaged in a campaign to educate myself on any subject that inspired me. One book led to another. Over the years I’ve learned 10 times more than I ever learned in high school or college.”

We’re not advocating autodidactism over formal education, but reading is a great way to learn more about topics that aren’t necessarily covered in class. Get started with this list of 30 books to read before turning 30.

4. Stop trying to live someone else’s life.
It’s tempting to use other people’s expectations and values as the yardsticks by which you measure your own accomplishments. But doing so can prevent you from ever feeling truly fulfilled.

Here’s Franklin Veaux:

“If there’s one thing you can do that will help more than anything else, it’s this: Live life on your own terms. Don’t do things because you think you ‘should.’ Don’t do what other people tell you to do. Don’t do what society expects you to do. Don’t sit around waiting to start living your life. This life belongs to you and to nobody else. You will not get a chance to do it again. Live it on your terms.”
5. Stop feeling bad about the past.
In response to the question, “What should one do in their 20s to avoid regrets in their 30s and 40s?” several Quora users suggested that regret isn’t a particularly healthy mindset.

Writes Jayesh Lalwani:

There are two kinds of people in the world: People who live their lives looking back, and people who live their lives looking forward.

You can recognize people who live their lives looking back by their heavy use of shoulda-woulda-coulda. I should have taken that job. I could have gone to that college. I would have married the girl. I could have been a contender. These people are constantly looking for things to regret. To them, life is a series of failures, and every future opportunity is a chance to [mess] up.

You can recognize people who live their lives looking forward by their heavy use of shall-will-can. I shall get that job. I can go to college. I will take care of my family. I can, will and shall be a champion. These people are constantly looking for challenges to beat. To them, life is a promise of unrealized wins, and every past failure is a lesson.

Meanwhile, journalist Kathryn Schulz suggests that we can expect to have some regrets, and shouldn’t feel bad about having them.

“The point isn’t to live without any regrets, the point is to not hate ourselves for having them,” she says in her TED Talk. “We need to learn to love the flawed, imperfect things that we create, and to forgive ourselves for creating them. Regret doesn’t remind us that we did badly — it reminds us that we know we can do better.”

6. Start showing loved ones you care.
“If you really care about a certain someone, make it a habit to show it,” says Christian Svanes Kolding.

“Little gestures, kind words. It’s not about constant contact, but more about finding mutual ways to share your life with the people you care most about. … And if you have a partner, show your love. Take nothing for granted. Life happens.”

7. Start taking care of your health.
“The simplest and most important action you can take is to protect your health,” writes Andrew Solmssen. “Once it’s gone, it’s really hard to bring back. Most people in their 40s and beyond would trade money for health.”

Exercising is especially crucial at this juncture in your life. If you start early, you’ll establish the habit for decades to come, which will be especially beneficial in your late 30s when you start losing muscle mass. Just remember to choose physical activities you really love, since you’re less likely to continue exercising if you dislike your workouts.

8. Start saving for retirement.

“Spend less than you earn and put money in an IRA,” says Paul Richard. “Compounding does amazing things and you will be able to retire when you want, instead of working forever.”

Richard is right: The earlier you start saving for your golden years, the more time your money has to accrue interest.
9. Start asking questions.
“By asking questions, you’re getting different perspectives from different people,” writes Brian Austin. “To a greater or lesser extent, all of our lives are enriched by sharing the thoughts and ideas of others.”

Scientists say this kind of curiosity and knowledge-seeking can strengthen your personal relationships because you spend time listening, and boost your performance at work because you always want to learn and improve.

10. Start flossing.
It’s “disheartening how many sit in dental chairs for hours later in life forking over thousands,” writes Madeleine Gallay.

According to the American Dental Association, you should floss at least once a day to help remove plaque from the areas between your teeth where your toothbrush can’t reach. Otherwise, you run the risk of gum disease and cavities.
11. Start practicing mindfulness.
Mindfulness is about becoming more aware of your thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surroundings. Experts say it can help you perform better at work because it allows you to deal with stress in a more healthy way.

Lauren Ramesbottom recommends cultivating mindfulness by setting aside a certain period of time every day or week for quiet meditation or reflection:

“This could be anything from writing in a journal, to listening to quiet music in the dark in your room, focused deep breathing or doing yoga. Anything that allows you to separate yourself from the daily trials of life … and have an open conversation with yourself in regards to how you’re feeling.”

12. Start learning how to read a scientific paper.
“Learn a bit about medicine, including how to read a scientific paper,” says Austin Schopper. “This will not only help you learn to take care of yourself better, but will also insulate you from con artists and frauds trying to sell you ‘detox’ remedies and miracle cures.”

Over at The Huffington Post, Jennifer Raff, Ph.D., a professor of physical anthropology, offers nonscientists a (nonscary) guide for reading and understanding a scientific paper.
13. Start learning how to cook.
“Learn how to prepare a meal for more than just you,” Schopper says.

You might live alone now, but chances are at some point, you’ll be cohabiting with a significant other and/or kids — and this skill will come in handy. Plus, cooking most of your meals at home saves money and tends to be healthier than dining out.

14. Start getting involved in meaningful causes.
Consider joining a Meetup or another group of people who are interested in similar political and cultural issues.

“You will never have this much energy, health this great, or this much disposable time again in your life,” writes Heidi McDonald. “Make the most of it. This is your best chance to make a difference in the world.
15. Start following current events.
“Chances are,” McDonald writes, if you keep up with the latest news, “you’ll find your passion, whether that’s a cause you’re interested in or a niche you believe you can fill.”

Moreover, you’ll be better able to make small talk if you’ve got a few hot topics on hand.

16. Start traveling.
“Don’t be a tourist but a traveler,” says Shrey Garg. “This will help increase your vision and make you realize how big and small the world is at the same time.”

Over at US News, Claire Volkman advises going beyond the landmarks and discovering the cafes, stores, and parks that exist off the beaten path. You may also want to consider renting a home instead of a hotel in a neighborhood far from tourist attractions.

17. Start taking alone time.
Garv Suri recommends spending half an hour every day in solitude.

Make sure you don’t have your phone with you: Researchers say humans need true solitude, away from texts and Twitter, in order to understand their own behavior and experiences.

18. Start conducting weekly reviews.
“One great habit is a weekly review to look back at the past week and lay out the one coming up,” says Curt Beavers. “Use these three questions:

1. What went well last week? (Celebrate and continue these.)

2. What didn’t go well? (Stop, overcome, or remove these from your plate.)

3. Based on the answers above, what changes do I need to make to make this week better?”
19. Start appreciating failure.
Here’s Arpit Sethi’s advice to a 22-year-old who wants to know the best way to invest time: “Fail. Merely out of our teens this is the best thing that can contribute in the making of an adult. The more we fail, the more we learn.”

99U’s Sarah Rapp interviewed Tim Harford, author of “Adapt: Why Success Always Starts With Failure,” and learned that failing productively involves trying lots of new things, failing in a safe space, and being prepared to ditch your plan if it’s just not working out.