Lena and Imaging

Supervising a Ph.D. student in engineering who is working on imaging I came across (again) the Lena image that is used as a standard for image engineering. I must say that I thought the repeated use of that image distasteful, so I did some research and found The Rest of the Lenna Story. I’m not sure now what to think about the ongoing use of this. On the one hand it is now a standard of sorts which allows comparison among techniques. It has also become a part of the culture, for better or worse. On the other hand Playboy still owns copyright and students should be discouraged from using copyrighted materials, even when it is unlikely that they will be sued. Finally, it is distracting to have to look at images meant to titillate.

As with all these things, to complain would probably provoke the community into digging in its heels around censorship. Why doesn’t someone come up with a better image?

Latour; The Last Critique

Harper’s Magazine for April 2004 has reprinted an essay by Bruno Latour on “The Last Critique” that examines the role of critique. Latour starts by noting how “social construction” has been coopted by the right to undermine calls to deal with global warming. The right uses critical arguments to call good science into question in a way not anticipated by critical theorists. The problem is a general one with the left – what do we do when our methods are used against us? What do we do when criticism and dissent become reactionary?

What I don’t understand is Latour’s turn at the end to Turing. He sees in Turing’s paper on AI a way forward for critique.
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Robot by Moravec

Just finished Hans Moravec, Robot: Mere Machine to Transcendental Mind. The book starts with a short history of robots and AI. There is a chapter on the computing and the mind where he predicts that we need something like 100 million MIPs (and a comparable amount of memory) to match the human mind’s processing. He answers critics to the effect that AI was oversold by arguing that AI has been stagnant partly because they were not using fasther computers. He then extrapolates from advances in robotics to science fiction claims about transcendental minds. I have to admit I started skimming when he went off the deep end – he may know his science but he isn’t that good on the sci fi. The chapter reviewing Turing’s responses to claims that artificial minds would not be possible is a good review of the arguments, but the rest of the book is a poor version of Kurzweil’s Age of the Spiritual Machine. Read on for quotes…
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Open Source Knowledge

Could knowledge be open?

Wired has a good story in the Nov. 2003 issue about Wired 11.11: Open Source Everywhere. It charts some of the open projects other than source code projects like the Wikipedia and Stallman’s Project Gutenberg. These are mostly open publishing projects, but what would it mean to open the development of knowledge the way code developers do? Could we turn a project like TAPoR inside out so that all could see the workings of the project and participate?
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Whitaker’s Autopoiesis

How can Maturana’s theory of “autopoiesis” be applied to understanding computing?

Randall Whitaker has an extensive site on Autropoiesis that provides a background and discusses in depth many of the concepts. See Self-Organization, Autopoiesis, and Enterprises. Whitaker is interested in how autorpoietic theory can be applied to enterprise computing – groupwork, human factors, and information systesms.
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Maturana and Languaging

Are there alternatives to the piping model of communication?

Maturana and Varela’s Autopoiesis and Cognition has been suggested to me as an original work that crosses biology, cognitive science, and information theory (not to mention applications to philosophy and literary theory.) In a paper by Maturana called Biology of Language:The Epistemology of Reality he looks at “languaging” or the relationship of saying and observing.

They to understanding dialogue as more than just the piping of messages from one system to another is that we observe our own sayings (and writings) as we create them. There is a folding back of the message to the sender that recursively changes the sender and what is being sent as it is sent. In other words we listen to ourselves speak as we speak while simultaneously watching the reception in the other in order to manipulate the saying in real time.
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Deleuze and Interrupted Machines

What is a machine? Deleuze and Guattari in anti-oedipus come up with a suprising definition:

“A machine may be defined as a system of interruptions or breaks (coupures). .. Every machine, in the first place, is related to a continual material flow (hylĂ‹) that it cuts into.” (p. 36)

I can think of two ways to interpret this.

1. We can define a machine by its breakdown. A machine is utilitarian and thus is evident when it breaks down and stops serving a purpose. Then the transparency of the machine becomes evident – it doesn’t work and is thus no longer a machine (working.) Thus an organ that breaks down becomes evident in its machineness – its service to a goal. (By comparison to desiring machine D&G set up the “body without organs” or the “corps”.)

2. The machine is defined by its manipulation of a flow. The interruption or capacity to stop and start a flow is the most basic form of manipulation. All other interruptions come from the breaking of a flow into parts or segments. The interruption is the basic move in analysis – the breaking down of the continuous into components for synthesis into something new – in other words manipulation or interactivity.
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Overcome by Spam

Spam and porn are no longer an irritant on the net. They are changing the nature of the Internet from e-mail to blogs. They threaten to erode the fundamental glue of the Web – the link. If you link to an e-mail address or to a Web site that allows automated content through forms you threaten to destroy the end-points of your links. This blog has had not porn comments or junk links because it is unlinked – but if I provide links as a friend did on his blog, I run the risk of getting the wrong sorts of comments. So, the end of comments.

In short sporn swamps open dialogue on the net. It’s a fundamental pattern on the net – something like: if you are open to discussion you will be swamped by sporn.