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Friday, November 21, 2008

The Human Cognome Project

The Human Cognome Project seeks to reverse engineer the human brain, paralleling in many ways the Human Genome Project and its success in deciphering the human genome. The HCP is a multidisciplinary undertaking, relevant to, among others: biology, neuroscience, psychology, cognitive science, artificial intelligence and philosophy of mind. Analytical techniques used in the Human Cognome Project include:
studying brain biology and chemistry in wet lab experiments,
studying brain structure using frozen/ chemically preserved tissue sample scanning and imaging,
studying brain activity and function using electroencephalography, neuroimaging and invasive probes (commonly wire or silicon),
studying brain development though the field of morphogenesis,
studying brain disease, injury and dysfunction through the fields of brain pathology, neurology and psychopharmacology, and
studying psychology relative to brain structure and function through neuropsychology
This is an incomplete list, which may never be able to satisfy certain standards for completeness. Sourced additions are welcome and you can help by expanding it.
The National Science Foundation (NSF) and other scientific research bodies have endorsed the Human Cognome Project.
Fundamental brain research as a primary enabler for creating augmented human intelligence and smarter-than-human strong artificial intelligence is recognized by many public figures, most notably entrepreneurs Ray Kurzweil, Jeff Hawkins, Bill Joy and Paul Allen, scientist Stephen Hawking, writer Arthur C. Clarke, and philosopher Max More.

Converging Technologies for Improving Human Performance

Converging Technologies for Improving Human Performance is a 2002 report commissioned by the U.S. National Science Foundation and Department of Commerce. The report contains descriptions and commentaries on the state of the science and technology of the combined fields of nanotechnology, biotechnology, information technology and cognitive science (NBIC) by major contributors to these fields. Potential uses of these technologies in improving health and overcoming disability are discussed in the report, as well as ongoing work on planned applications of human enhancement technologies in the military and in rationalization of the human-machine interface in industrial settings.

NBIC can refer to different subjects:
Nanotechnology, Biotechnology, Information technology and Cognitive science (see Emerging technologies)


F.M. Esfandiary changed his name to FM-2030 for two main reasons. Firstly, to reflect the hope and belief that he would live to celebrate his 100th birthday in 2030; Secondly, and more importantly, to break free of the widespread practice of naming conventions that are rooted in a collectivist mentality, and exist only as a relic of humankind's tribalistic past. Traditional names almost always stamp a label of collective identity - varying from gender, to nationality - on the individual, thereby existing as prima facie elements of thought processes in the human cultural fabric, that tend to degenerate into stereotyping, factionalism, and discrimination. In his own words, "Conventional names define a person's past: ancestry, ethnicity, nationality, religion. I am not who I was ten years ago and certainly not who I will be in twenty years. [...] The name 2030 reflects my conviction that the years around 2030 will be a magical time. In 2030 we will be ageless and everyone will have an excellent chance to live forever. 2030 is a dream and a goal."

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Point Counter Point

Point Counter Point, published in 1928, was Aldous Huxley's fourth novel. It is highly regarded: the Modern Library lists it in the top 100 novels of the 20th century.[1]
Consistent with Huxley's other novels, Point Counter Point has no overarching plot. Instead, the story is an intricate set of sub-plots revolving around several key characters each with a set of sub characters. Each character represents some aspect of life or is a stereotype of some sort from a rather vapid group in the twenties. The various character paths cross in varying circumstances. Much of the novel consists of deeply penetrating personality sketches and long intellectual conversations. When actions are described, Huxley analyzes every motive and internal emotion in detail, sometimes even jumping into a character's past to provide context. His characters decry the dangers of sacrificing humanity for intellectualism, and express concern about the staggering progress of science and technology. There are perhaps two main issues - the first is class and the reactions of people as the barriers break down. The second is sex where various possibilities and relationships are described. Philosophically, the entire book plays on the dichotomy between reason and passion. Huxley's "champion" of philosophical balance is the fictional character, Rampion, who was coincidentally inspired in Huxley by his encounters with D.H. Lawrence.

Sumerian literature

Sumerian literature is the oldest literature in the world. The Sumerians invented the first writing system, beginning with cuneiform logograms, which evolved into a syllabary writing system. The Sumerian language remained in official and literary use in the Akkadian and Babylonian empires, even after the spoken language disappeared from the population; literacy was widespread, and the Sumerian texts that students copied heavily influence later Babylonian literature.
Sumerian literature has not been handed down to us directly, rather it has been rediscovered through archaeology. Nevertheless, the Akkadians and Babylonians borrowed much from the Sumerian literary heritage, and spread these traditions throughout the middle east, influencing much of the literature that followed in this region, including the Bible.

The Ultimate Goal: Harmony with Tao (Wu wei)

The goal for wu wei is to get out of your own way, so to speak. This is like when you are playing an instrument and if you start thinking about playing the instrument, then you will get in your own way and interfere with your own playing. It is aimless action, because if there was a goal that you need to aim at and hit, then you will develop anxiety about this goal. Zhuangzi made a point of this, where he writes about an archer who at first didn't have anything to aim at. When there was nothing to aim at, the archer was happy and content with his being. He was practicing wu wei. But, then he set up a target and "got in his own way." He was going against the Tao and the natural course of things by having to hit that goal.
A dramatic description of wu wei is found in chapter 2 of Zhuang Zi:
A fully achieved person is like a spirit! The great marshes could be set on fire, but she wouldn't feel hot. The rivers in China could all freeze over, but she wouldn't feel cold. Thunder could suddenly echo through the mountains, wind could cause a tsunami in the ocean, but she wouldn't be startled. A person like that could ride through the sky on the floating clouds, straddle the sun and moon, and travel beyond the four seas. Neither death nor life can cause changes within her, and there's little reason for her to even consider benefit or harm.[1]
This passage is metaphorical. To a Taoist, things arise dependently. The soul and body go together, because if there were no soul, there would be no body and if there were no body, there would be no soul. All these arise dependently like this (this is the meaning of the Yin-Yang symbol; if there were no yin, there would be no yang and if there were no yang, there would be no yin). A person who follows the principle of wu wei thus realizes how ridiculous it is to cling to good and to obsessively stay away from evil. By realizing how things arise dependently, a Taoist is able to accept the bad and is then able to have no goal to aim at. When Zhuangzi is saying a fully achieved person is like a spirit, he is saying that a fully achieved person has accepted the bad things in life and does not strive to get away from them and instead accepts them.

Entropy - Bad Religion lyrics

random blobs of power expressed as that which we all disregard, ordered states of nature on a scale that no one thinks about, don't speak to me of anarchy or peace of calm revolt, man, we're in a play of slow decay orchestrated by boltzmann, it's entropy, it's not a human issue, entropy, it's matter of course, entropy, enegery at all levels, entropy, from it you can not divorce and your pathetic moans of suffrage tend to lose all significance, extinction, degradation; the natural outcomes of our ordered lives, power, motivation; temporary fixtures for which we strive, something in our synapses assures us we're ok but in our desequilibrium we simply can not stay, it's entropy..., a stolid proposition from a man unkempt as i, my affectatious i can not rectify, but we are out of equilibrium unnaturally, a pang of conciousness at death and then you will agree

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Text Messages

I get some really awesome/hilarious text messages sometimes so I gonna post a few here before I delete them off my mobile.

1.) "Well. because you wear a nice hat in class, (it's my view). and you smile morethan before, and we all think the game was interesting" (Message from a student explaining why her and her friends thought I was 'cute' in class)

2.) "there is a bad guy in Heros, when he point somebody's forhead, he die. i just wish i have this power. when i point at cocoroach, they blast" (Friend in Beijing who hates cockroaches and loves the TV show "Heroes")

3.) "You are very lovely and interesting! I'm very happy!" (Message from a student named "Ivy")

4.) "Amy is arguing for lao tze over confucius with the taxi driver. I'm trying not to chunder and pulling on my 25 kuai cig." (Message from Slav, my English colleague/friend)

5.) "Me so hate japan, and so on" (Slav imitating a local resident)

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Three Musicians

Las Meninas

Las Meninas (Spanish for The Maids of Honour)[1] is a 1656 painting by Diego Velázquez (1599–1660), the leading artist of the Spanish Golden Age, in the Museo del Prado in Madrid. The work's complex and enigmatic composition raises questions about reality and illusion, and creates an uncertain relationship between the viewer and the figures depicted. Because of these complexities, Las Meninas has been one of the most widely analysed works in Western painting.

Saturday, November 8, 2008



Machine Learning Vids

Speculations on the Future of Science

Pattern Recognition

The Emotion Machine

Out of Control

Engines of Creation

Nanotechnology fascinates me. I've read about half of this book so far (on-line) but I really prefer reading physical/traditional books so I don't think I'll finish this one until I own a physical copy.

Molecular Nanotechnology

Molecular nanotechnology (MNT) is the concept of engineering functional mechanical systems at the molecular scale.[1] An equivalent definition would be "machines at the molecular scale designed and built atom-by-atom". This is distinct from nanoscale materials. Based on Richard Feynman's vision of miniature factories using nanomachines to build complex products (including additional nanomachines), this advanced form of nanotechnology (or molecular manufacturing[2]) would make use of positionally-controlled mechanosynthesis guided by molecular machine systems. MNT would involve combining physical principles demonstrated by chemistry, other nanotechnologies, and the molecular machinery of life with the systems engineering principles found in modern macroscale factories. Its most well-known exposition is in the books of K. Eric Drexler, particularly Engines of Creation. Detailed theoretical investigation, sections 4.3 and 4.4 below, have investigated the feasibility of molecular nanotechnology, but the topic remains controversial.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Herodotus Quote

"For if anyone, no matter who, were given the opportunity of choosing from amongst all the nations in the world the beliefs which he thought best, he would inevitably, after careful consideration of their relative merits, choose those of his own country. Everyone without exception believes his own native customs, and the religion he was brought up in, to be the best"

Histories page 187

Update - April 2010

I'm currently reading the Introduction to Allan Bloom's, "The Closing of the American Mind" and I came across the following passage which I thought would be worth including with this entry/blog I posted in 2008:

...if the students were really to learn something of the minds of any of these non-Western cultures—which they do not—they would find that each and every one of these cultures is ethnocentric. All of them think their way is the best way, and all others are inferior. Herodotus tells us that the Persians thought that they were the best, that those nations bordering on them were next best, that those nations bordering on the nations bordering on them were third best, and so on, their worth declining as the concentric circles were farther from the Persian center. This is the very definition of ethnocentrism. Something like this is as ubiquitous as the prohibition against incest between mother and son.

Only in the Western nations, i.e., those influenced by Greek philosophy, is there some willingness to doubt the identification of the good with one's own way. One should conclude from the study of non-Western cultures that not only to prefer one's own way but to believe it best, superior to all others, is primary and even natural—exactly the opposite of what is intended by requiring students to study these cultures. What we are really doing is applying a Western prejudice—which we covertly
take to indicate the superiority of our culture—and deforming the evidence of those other cultures to attest to its validity. The scientific study of other cultures is almost exclusively a Western phenomenon, and in its origin was obviously connected with the search for new and better ways, or at least for validation of the hope that our own culture really is the better way, a validation for which there is no felt need in other cultures.

If we are to learn from those cultures, we must wonder whether such scientific study is a good idea. Consistency would seem to require professors of openness to respect the ethnocentrism or closedness they find everywhere else. However, in attacking ethnocentrism, what they actually do is to assert unawares the superiority of their scientific understanding and the inferiority of the other cultures which do not recognize it at the same time that they reject all such claims to superiority.

La Distinction

La Distinction, a sociological book by French sociologist Pierre Bourdieu (1930–2002), takes as its basis Bourdieu's empirical research carried out in 1963 and concluded in 1967/68. The original publication took place in 1979 in France. Richard Nice translated the work into English, and it appeared in the United States in 1984 under the title Distinction: A Social Critique of the Judgement of Taste. In 1998 the International Sociological Association voted it one of the ten most important sociological books of the 20th century.
In his often densely-worded prose, Bourdieu discussed how those in power define aesthetic concepts such as "taste". Using research, he shows how social class tends to determine a person's likes and interests, and how distinctions based on social class get reinforced in daily life. He observes that even when the subordinate classes may seem to have their own particular idea of 'good taste', "...[i]t must never be forgotten that the working-class 'aesthetic' is a dominated 'aesthetic' which is constantly obliged to define itself in terms of the dominant aesthetics..." (page 41)

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Illusions and Ambiguous Figures

Further Musings

The Paradigm shifts and lifts the obstacles from the past off the beaten path.
Anomalies are swept under the rug and forgotten.
Security is restored and temporarily maintained….yet questions remain.

We look ahead towards the unknown briefly
Then return to the daily grind
As if nothing happened.
Generations forget…..

Appearance and reality
Share a limited correspondence
Limited by sense perception
And mental deception
We only fool ourselves

Judging books by their covers
Has become the norm

Existence or Essence?
Past or Present?
Reality or Imagination?
Moving in quickly or with hesitation?

Eternal questions fill the airwaves
Cognitive transistors act as receptors

Information is intercepted and interpreted
From a subjective point of view
Results will vary because the truth can be scary.

Some ideas are related.
Some egos are inflated.

Some men have cognitive ‘eyes’
Some are completely blind

Standards of evidence differ
Who knows themselves?

Approaches differ
Is everything arbitrary?

Biological entities
Products of arbitraty conventions and traditions
Looking for something to live or die for.

Praising/Glorifying the rich
Ignoring the poor

Various systems interpreting phenomenon
Intelligent machines living on cybertron

Is there a pattern in the randomness of what we call reality?
There’s a fine line between genius and insanity.

People sleeping through earthquakes
People afraid to make mistakes

Fragile egos abound
What goes up must come down

Authority and power
Blend the sweet with the sour

Evolution evolves
Yet natures’ problems remain unsolved
Men wearing white coats guarantee resolve

People cling to their cause
But few of them pause
To take a second thought
Because it’s easier to be a robot

You’re not me and I’m not you
So, how can you tell me what I should do?
What works for you may not work for me
I want to sit down, you want to climb a tree.

Nature and nurture make us what we are.
So, how free are we?
And who can pretend to know?

It appears to be as random as a roll of the dice.
So, be sure to think twice before making judgement calls.
We’re cast into situations beyond our control.
And some of us are destined to fall.

So, is a hope a delusion or necessary for survival?
Pessimism results in religious revivals.

And society holds us libel for our actions
So, that’s a starting point

Let me ramble and gamble with the future.
Let me try something new.
Feels like it’s all be done before though.
Maybe I’ve bitten off more than I can chew.

I try to express myself through symbols and signs
I make sounds with my mouth to express what’s in my mind.

However, my attempts at communication remain limited.
I’m often misunderstood but sometimes complimented/resented.

How plausible is a technological singularity?
Some men of science support the notion
With the utmost sincerity.

The border between biology and tehcnology
Becomes grayer everyday
Which will eventually result in celebration or utter dismay.

Is this evolution’s solution? The next stage of progress?

Social issues in the People's Republic of China

Social issues in the People's Republic of China

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Social issues in the People's Republic of China in the 21st century are varied and wide-ranging, and are a combined result of the Chinese economic reforms set in place in the late 1970s, China's political and cultural history, and an immense population. Because of the vast number of social problems that exist in China today (not at all exclusive to the following list), China's government has faced considerable difficulty in trying to remedy the issues. Many of these issues are exposed by the Chinese media, while subjects that may contain politically sensitive issues may be censored. Some academics hold that China's fragile social balance, combined with a bubble economy makes China an extremely unstable country, while others argue China's societal trends have created a balance to sustain itself.

1 Socio-economic imbalances
2 Population
3 Social safety net
4 Government and law
5 Crime
6 Social unrest
7 Health care
8 Elitism and discrimination
9 Environment
10 Education
11 Morality
12 Loss of culture
13 See also
14 References

Socio-economic imbalances
Rural-urban disparity and the wealth gap
Coastal-hinterland imbalance
Digital divide

Male-female ratio disparity from sex-selective abortion and other problems associated from the One-child policy
Uncontrollable flow of mass migration

Social safety net
Lack of pension system; Social insurance virtually non-existent
Lack of benefits for the retired

Government and law
Lack of democratic practice and power invested in citizenry
Government's abuse of power (滥用职权)
Useless positions in civil service and redundant government agencies
Corruption (nepotism, cronyism, wasting public funds, bribery etc.)
Face projects (面子工程), including building useless roads, buildings, and huge government squares
government-commerce relationships (官商勾结)
Lack of the rule of law
Corruption of the legal system (司法制度腐败)
Fusion and unclear definition on the powers of the government and judiciary

Corporate irregularity
Re-emergence of organized crime
Gambling and prostitution
Growth of pornographic industry
Personal safety risks (especially in public places such as train stations)
Massive counterfeiting
Corporate scandals (includes corruption in professional sports)
Increased instances of fraud and scams (including people claiming supernatural powers, cure illnesses, change names for better luck, etc.)

Social unrest
Media censorship
Challenges to authority
Protests against local government/businesses and ensuing persecution

Health care
Corruption (lack of healthcare cover, hospital overcrowding and low wages prompt doctors to seek additional monetary incentive from patients)
Lack of modern equipment in majority of rural areas
Privatization and double standards
Uncontrolled spread of AIDS and STDs

Elitism and discrimination
Regional elitism (particularly in Beijing and Shanghai)
Discrimination against women (although since the Mao-era the status of women gained significant ground)
Emergence of new class system

Sacrificing environmental needs for economic gain (includes Three Gorges Dam project)
Urban industrial pollution
Uncontrolled and unsustainable rise in urban vehicle use

Competitiveness in schools (includes bribery to get into best schools)
Overt emphasis on exams (especially Gaokao, the university entrance exams)
Parental and peer pressure on youth
Lack of creativity and self-critical thinking
Lack of physical education
Rural-urban inequality
Lack of job opportunities after graduation
Lack of strong relationship between state-funded research and the private sector, e.g. poor commercialization and technology transfer of university research
Lack of critical scholarship and monitoring of research quality
Lack of multi-lingual abilities to compete in the globalized economy

Norm that social competitiveness should be considered above all else
Loss of traditional Confucianism morals and beliefs
Inflexible ideologies taught in public
Money worship

Loss of culture
New generation of Chinese embracing anything Western (pop music, western clothing, going to Starbucks, etc.), thus losing Chinese culture
Buddhism becoming commercialized
Suppression of religion


Eric Drexler is the man!

Ray Kurzweil Reader -- Brilliant!!

"What the future will bring" by Ray Kurzweil

Who will rule the 21st Century?

Who Will Rule the 21st Century?
Jack Welch
Straight-line extrapolation shows that China and India, with their faster growth rates, will eventually catch up to the U.S. in terms of pure economic size. But America has a final competitive advantage: its confluence of bright, hungry entrepreneurs and flush, eager investors; and its stable, highly adaptable system.
Originally published in Business Week magazine on July 2, 2007. Reprinted with permission.
We’re neither economic forecasters nor political prognosticators by trade, but you don’t have to be either to see that right now the U.S. holds a robust lead in the race for hegemony. Our economy is five times as large as China’s and 15 times larger than India’s, with about one-fourth the population of either nation. That gives the U.S. a real advantage in providing education, health care, and national security—plus all the other stuff that makes a country thrive. But “right now” doesn’t mean forever. All you need is a ruler to draw the straight-line extrapolation showing that China and India, with their faster growth rates, will eventually catch up to the U.S. in terms of pure economic size. For China, that would occur as early as 2045; for India, the date would be some 20 years later. Which is why you so often hear experts predicting that, by midcentury, the U.S. will be trailing the two new world superpowers. We'd say: Not so fast. Straight-line calculations about the U.S., China, and India are just that. They assume all three national will enjoy smooth upward rides. No recessions, no banking breakdowns, not political crisis, no disruptive social uprisings. Unlikely? For sure! With China's massive experiment combining communism and capitalism, India's entrenched bureaucracy and corruption, and America's long term entitlement obligations, it is far more probable that growth trajectories will zig and zag more than zoom. Further, straight-line calculations do not take into account relationships with other parts of the world, such as the Middle East, where changing alliances could have economic repercussions.Given that reality, then, what general scenario would you bet on for the next 50 years? Would it be America’s 3% annual growth or China and India at 8%? We’d take the U.S. for a simple yet incontrovertible reason. Its system—the sum of all its parts—works, and when it breaks, it bounces back fast. Don’t worry; we’re not breaking into The Star-Spangled Banner. We just believe U.S. economic dominance isn’t a function of how long the nation has been leading the pack. It’s about how America operates as a country. We’re talking, mainly, about freedom and stability. Political parties disagree, often vehemently, but the government never stops running. Generally speaking, the U.S. justice system is fair, and health care, while inconsistent in delivery, is widely available. And even though secondary education in America gets roundly knocked, we have without doubt the best system of higher education, turning out the world’s most skilled, innovative science and engineering PhDs. America has a final competitive advantage as powerful as it is unique: its confluence of bright, hungry entrepreneurs and flush, eager investors. Yes, China and India have ambitious people who dream of building their own companies, and, increasingly, more are getting the chance. (The U.S. venture firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers just opened offices in Shanghai and Beijing.) But neither China nor India comes close to the U.S. in terms of this “killer app,” and it will take years of venture capital flowing in before the Chinese let go of a rote approach to work and truly embrace entrepreneurial innovation. China has other challenges as well. Aside from its risky social experiment, it has an economy in which less than a quarter of its people truly participate, and its one-child policy is exacerbating the problems of an already aging population. India, meanwhile, will continue to struggle with its overwhelming number of have-nots and its aforementioned corruption. True, India is a democracy, but a democracy muddled by a profusion of divergent political parties. Now, we’re not saying the U.S. system is perfect or its economy invulnerable. If not dealt with, entitlements like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid will create a budget deficit that will explode over the next 20 years. How America handles that problem via tax and spending policies will determine the strength of its growth engine. Fortunately, our stable, highly adaptable system has conquered enough major problems—from the Depression to the Cold War—in the past that there is more reason for optimism than despair. In the end, we’d make the case that American economic leadership will be with us for most, if not all, of the century. It will by no means “rule,” as it did at the turn of the 21st century. But it will remain ahead until other nations develop a total economic and social system that works as well. There’s a lot more to the world’s economic future than a straight-line extrapolation can tell you.

MIT OpenCourseWare

MIT OpenCourseWare (OCW) is a web-based publication of virtually all MIT course content. OCW is open and available to the world and is a permanent MIT activity.

MIT OpenCourseWare is a free publication of MIT course materials that reflects almost all the undergraduate and graduate subjects taught at MIT.

Sunday, November 2, 2008


Using I've actually found some other foreign teachers here in Wang Cheng (Changsha).


Wo hen gao xing!


Recently, I received a job offer from Tianjin University which is located in Tianjin city and is right next to Beijing.

It would pretty much be the same gig as what I have here but for more money AND it's really close to Beijing which means I could go there on weekends.

I probably won't accept a new job until towards the end of November because this is the time when schools will be looking for teachers for the new semester.

Suzhou, Ningbo and Shanghai are still cities I am interested in but Tianjin wouldn't be too bad either....I think it would definetly be an improvement over Changsha.

I really just want to work for a school that has a lot of foreign teachers and foreign students so that I can have more of a social life.