gusl: (Default)
Stolen from this comment:

What an awesome idea to think about!

Constrained languages make it easier to standardize communication (think semantic web vs. the free web), minimizing errors of interpretation. A familiar movie-plot-structure or song-rhythm tends to put the viewer at ease and confident. At this point, it's easy to switch into "flow"y automatic mode, focusing on the higher-level structure (i.e. the meaning rather than the words). By constantly demanding your attention (though not necessarily your focus), the task puts you in a trance-like state of consciousness.

This is kinda like how driving on a highway can be relaxing.

When the medium is free-form (at least in the time dimension), one's attention is free to shift around, and one is free to spend time on complex planning, etc... it is precisely this freedom that makes anxiety possible.

I would like to look at frontal lobe activation in structured vs unstructured tasks. If my hypothesis is correct (more frontal activation in unstructured tasks), this would explain autistic impairment in the latter.


Bluegrass seems like a very constrained form. Maybe this is my bias, since it's a style I know very well.

To test this hypothesis using information theory, I would try to show that the relevant features can be compressed quite efficiently.

If we had an MDL program for generating any tune over the space of bluegrass tunes (generating only the relevant features, let's say the kind of information that is in a MIDI file), the input necessary to generate any given tune would be rather small.
gusl: (Default)
I wish it were easier for me to publish a paper in a medium that invited readers to let me know whenever they read a statement that they have trouble with, e.g. by leaving a flag like:

* "I don't see how this follows!"
* "what does this mean?"

...without fear of seeming lazy or stupid.

or by:
* commenting in-line

Current media (PDF, PS, DOC, etc. and *even* wikis) make the above process hard.

How often do you email the author of a paper about small points, unclear details, typos? Why not more often?

A nice automatic way to do this would be to track the readers' eye-movements and facial expressions, possibly through a webcam. That way, authors could also assess which parts readers find interesting, surprising, and how much they agree. It can be frustrating for me when I write a blog entry about an important point, and people only make comments on the incidental details. This is a sign that they either didn't understand the main point, or that they don't find it interesting. I would like to know which of the above is the case.
gusl: (Default)
Human communication is really lossy... even when the two people use the same logic and the same architecture. Maybe the goal of my formalization dreams could be couched in terms of bridging this gap: even if we both understand and use the same "logic of common sense", neither of us speaks a language that can express it easily. Hopefully, one day, natural language will seamlessly use metaphors from mathematics & programming languages (see Sussman's "The Legacy of Computer Science"). Not the mathematics & programming languages of today, mind you, but formal structures matching the common sense logic that we use in everyday life (I think that planning formalisms come close to what I want).

Why is it so hard to express oneself musically? I can hear beautiful music in my head, but it takes lots of training to communicate it to others, and even then there's a bottleneck. I can easily "see" a picture that I can't paint in my mind's eye. I can automatically recognize a known person's face, but I can't easily give this information to someone else.
I believe that this bottleneck lies in the brain itself: it's what happens when we convert information from parallel to serial. Since our communication channels are serial, communicating such "parallel" information with others requires us to first convert it to serial.

New media can do a lot to relieve many of these constraints, but I think that some of these constraints are fundamental.

Could one make a business out of creating software to let people express themselves and/or communicate better? What about software for people who have communication disorders?

Btw, has anyone modeled the tip-of-the-tongue effect? This seems exactly like the kind of thing that would not exist if our brains were purely serial. While in some examples of recognition-is-easier-than-production tasks (see also one-way-functions), one may accept several possible false matches, this does not seem to be the case with the tip-of-the-tongue effect (only the right word will satisfy the person).

See also: Thinking the Unthinkable


Related to this issue of self-expression, I will soon become an emacs wiz.
gusl: (Default)
I think that LaTeX would be a good basis towards my dream of editors for arbitrary data structures, including deep, interactive structures that might have several different visualizations, or that might not even be visualizable all at once.

Can we somehow encode the "visual semantics" (plural) of these formats in such a way as to automatically generate WYSIWYG editors? How much can we automate the process of, given an arbitrary new structure, creating GUIs for editing it? I guess the question is "how much do different visualizations of different formats have in common?"
gusl: (Default)
Do you suffer from too many open windows, causing a clogged enviroment (visually clogging on the Desktop, as well as clogging your RAM)?
Here's a nice idea for an app, to help those treating themselves for Nerd ADD: create a way of quickly archiving windows and tabs, unclogging your system.

One click would take the window out of your RAM and put it on the HD, in files such as "things to read later"... which get processed later according to each person's organizational system (in the case of browser windows, instead of archiving the pages, you could simply save the link 90% of the time; and the "things to read later" could be just an RSS feed).

Would it be easy to create Firefox extension where you can put these buttons in the toolbar, next to the red "x" at the right-hand corner? Each button would correspond to a file in which to archive the current window.

One can always "archive" these links into, but it requires you to click "post", type the tag, click "save", and THEN close the window/tab... and all this while waiting for stuff to load, for each tab/window that you want to close.
gusl: (Default)
This week, I had the pleasure of chatting with [ profile] metaeducat10n for the first time.

[00:53] metaeducation: When people bitch about how hard it is to write those analysis tools, they overlook the idea that if the tools were written to have allowed the user to enter the information in a structured form in the first would make the intractable problems disappear entirely
[00:54] GusLacerda: yup, I agree very much
[00:54] GusLacerda: but they say "our users shouldn't have to learn programming!"
[00:55] GusLacerda: ultimately, though, there's no getting around that.... you need to be a "programmer" in order to express certain things
[00:55] GusLacerda: but I digress
[00:57] metaeducation: Yes, I wish schools focused on teaching people clearer expression. Math classes as they are don't have a lot of value. People will become interested in sine and cosine if they have more fundamental knowledge.
[00:57] metaeducation: A lot of that knowledge is on what it means to formalize something
[00:58] metaeducation: Being clear to a computer isn't just about programming--it's about being clear to yourself, and others.
[00:58] metaeducation: A computer is just a good straight-man
[00:58] GusLacerda: yes!
[00:58] GusLacerda: exactly

Related thoughts of mine:
* "Computer Science" is actually a very natural thing: while many people think of computers as a contingent product of western culture, just like any other technology, Computer Science is actually about universal mathematical patterns: real computers provide merely an embodiment of this. This is why computer science is not about computers.
* the main goal of programming languages should be to express human thoughts as directly and naturally as possible. If a simple thought can only be expressed by a complex program, then there is something wrong with the language.

Required plug: Sussman - The Legacy of Computer Science, whose message is that the main contribution of CS to civilization isn't technological, but cultural. Knowledge of formal concepts makes us powerful. Creating words for such concepts makes them easy to access.
gusl: (Default)

How hard would it be to create a unified format and language that translates (both ways) between any pair of formats / media?
Could we extend RSS for such a purpose?

The advantage is that current filtering is format-based: i.e. all your email is in one place, all your voice mail in another, whereas it would be much better for things to be subject-based or project-based (i.e. bills to pay in one screen, university-related research in another screen, etc) in a goal-subgoal tree.

An analogous problem is that windows in Windows tend to be grouped by application. This is (poorly) solved in Unix, by using several Desktops.


LJ notification should work in terms of a blog-wide RSS: for any new comment in my blog, make an RSS entry, and set up an RSS->email agent to notify when comments were made. Also, for any reply directed to me, or any new comments in a thread that I choose to subscribe should become items in the RSS. Likewise, a smart (possibly collaborative) filter could deliver interesting blog entries.

I'd like to make a bot to handle all my LJ notification for me. This seems quite feasible... if perhaps inefficient without LJ's collaboration.


Btw, what about these ideas?
phone call
* leave a voice mail as an MP3 (I know of no VoIP service that supports this)
* email -> voice mail (voice synthesizer)
gusl: (Default)
This morning I woke up pissed off because Windows rebooted overnight, forever erasing some notes I had. This motivated me to refine my ongoing manifesto, so it could be LJed. The ideas here are obvious, but it looks like they have escaped pretty much EVERYBODY who ever designed large computing systems.

I used to dream of starting a system from scratch, and writing all my programs for my system, so that over time it would develop into an optimized environment for its user (i.e. me). For a while, I had faith that Linux with all its open-source goodness, had done that most of the work for me, and all I would have to do was implement my ideas. Unfortunately, I never became well-versed enough with the system to find out if that was going to be possible. A year or two ago, I ran into the TUNES website, and realized that I wasn't the only one with a dream. In fact, these guys have been way ahead of me for a long time. Anyway, I think it's a good idea to write down *MY REASONS* for wanting a different approach to human-serving cybernetic systems (i.e. personal computers).

See how it could be...  )


gusl: (Default)

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