“We aren’t thinking about the lost time spent having to fight those issues.”
These researchers are providing a service to the community which comes at a cost. We need to be better at acknowledging this and providing support.
My labmate and I are heading to @CIFAR_News winter school on the neuroscience of consciousness and found a pepper robot in the wild (only one finger missing).
(I've never actually seen one practically put to use)
I was on a flight and the guy across the aisle from me clearly took a picture of the woman sitting next to him.
After the flight, I mentioned to him (in private) that I noticed he took a photo of her without her permission.
His response? "It's not even your problem".
I talk about what-you-see-is-what-you-get posting system for my #indieweb site and how it improved my post quality.
About two years ago I built a better content management system for posting images. To do this, I added a bulk uploader and an album generation system. The whole point of this was that I was trying to get away from using 3rd party image posting systems.
I wanted something which would:
Two years after making my album system, how did it work out?
Not so well. I don't really have more articles and albums. My blogroll from the last year looks like a glorified instagram page. I still let my photos rot on devices for a long period of time before posting them. In the past two years, I found myself posting a lot more directly through the twitter app---no PESOs---and letting images filter to my site using own your gram for most of my posts.
Part of this is just the nature of what I want to keep, and what I view as disposable when I'm creating content. That twitter thread that I commented on absent-mindedly isn't really something I'm interested in keeping.
Reflecting on the disposability of twitter posts a bit more deeply, there's probably a bunch of threads which I've posted which I do want to keep. Most common are conference threads which summarize events I'm at, or takes on other people's ideas. However, because these threads are mostly made for the consumption of other people and to start discussions, rather than storing thoughts for me to later reflect on, I've ended up prioritizing other people's ability to interact with the content, rather than my ability to maintain it.
It's easier for the average person to read through a twitter thread and respond to it, even if the quality of user experience on a thread of 15 tweets is substantially poorer than a single well formatted blog post. The fact is, if I were to syndicate articles to twitter, the number of people who engage with them would be way more limited than if I were to quote retweet with a thread commenting. It'd be less social and there would be fewer exchanges of ideas. Losing these articles to twitter's poorly formatted abyss feels frustrating, but I don't see a way around it right now. I guess all I can do is hope that with the twitter's poor responses to harassment, selective verification, and criticism regarding feature development lead people to jump ship towards federated systems which are more indie-friendly.
So I'm not posting albums as frequently as I would like. I'm not actually using the interface I built effectively. Why?
There's a saying in the indieweb community: manual until it hurts. Don't automate what you're doing until it's so painful that you're compelled to automate. It'll take time to maintain the code that's replacing your manual--software rots.
This is a very subjective principle. What hurts one person is painless to someone else. The problem with this ideology for me: I'm lazy. If it's not easy, it's agony.
Even though my posting interface was effective, using it was the user experience equivalent of fumbling through a dark room looking for a light swich.
This is what my posting interface used to look like.
One of the greatest challenges for me when I was producing albums and articles was the type-setting. While it became simple for me to place and organize images efficiently, the text alone was not enough to properly visualize what the outcome would be.
Is img_2325.jpg really the image you think it is? Are all the images bundled in your ablum oriented the way you want them to be?
Often I would post collections of images, be exceptionally proud of it, only to find out that some of the phtotos were placed incorrectly. I would go through iterative cycles of moving photos around, finding that one of them was still out of place, and then moving them again. This was all just too much effort.
Now I can see what I'm working on in real-time.
So what about these photos I have sitting around on my computer? They were unorganized, and going to waste. It's difficult sharing and enjoying a folder full of photos; no one wants to go through a folder full of photos. Since adding WYSIWYG, I've made more albums documenting my crafts, and I've actually gone and started adding old albums from years gone by.
The new interface was great, but it doesn't address one point: I'm not usually adding posts the day I take the photos. When I'm out and about I'm taking photos; I'm not posting them until I've edited them---something which I don't usually get around to until days later.
With articles, I don't really care what the date associated with the post is: the text is usually date-less and location-less. The association of date and time is secondary to the actual post. With albums, that isn't the case. The photos are almost always taken with respect to a location.
I didn't have a way to change the associated date. Whatever time and day the post was made was the time and day associated with the post itself. This became a mental hurdle I had to jump over each time I wanted to make an album: I either had to rush the album out the door day-of, or make my piece with it being forever associated with a completely wrong time (I was never going to go in and edit it in my cms files by hand).
Maybe WYSWIG wasn't the biggest UX issue after all.
Adding a new feature is all well and good, but whether the feature's use stands the test of time is the only way to evaluate its quality. Often I find myself adding new functionality, only to remove it in a few months after sparse use. It's been roughly six months since I finished making my WYSIWG interface. I recently went adventuring during a conference in virginia and ended up making a number of posts chronicling the visit. It's been close to half a year since I made my Indie WYSIWG, and the improvement has been consistent and lasting.
What's the next step? Videos.
I'm sitting here hoping that confusion over pronunication of #NeurIPS turns into a wholesome meme where people pronounce it differently everytime they say it.
The neighborhood toy store where I grew up is now a vape store.
I guess communities do age with their residents.
I recently made a hat for Matt. I used some super-soft alpaca yarn that I picked up from an industrial-revolution era wool spinner located in Alberta. I managed to find a colour which was close to the alpaca logo he uses on his site to keep it on-brand.
The pattern I ended up using was a free japanese pattern. I wasn't quite sure how to read the ribbing section, so I used a slip-stick to give it a slightly elongated stitch to match the faux cabling.
Johannes and I had a some time before our flight left after the AAAI Fall Symposium Series to go check out some of the sights in D.C. We walked around the mall in the morning before the crowds descended and had a chance to take in the monuments with very few people around.
You often see the Vietnam War memorial in popular media, and for good reason: the Vietnam memorial is impactful.
I had never seen any depiction of the Korean War memorial: a lush statuary, rather than the typical neo-classical plaza.
The only way to experience the memorial is through a forest. To get to the inscription and the fountain you must emerge from cover into a clearing with a platoon of brass statues. The first statue seems to be waving you back.
The monument brings the environment to the statues.
There were a few wreathes laid down by the fountain, both with fresh flowers from Korean community organizations.
Oh hey, I found an obelisk.
My aunt took me out to Stoney Plain to hit up Jo's Yarn Garden: one of the best yarn stores in Alberta. As a thank-you I decided to make her a cabled tam.
I used some ice-blue yarn with a white heather that my cousin got for me from Iceland. I was looking for something simple, but with cabling to add some visual interest. I opted for the Bramble Beret, which felt appropriately Scottish.
I had a chance to walk around Washington for a few hours with Johannes.
We first visited the Lincoln Memorial, which was shockingly smaller than I had expected. You grow up seeing all these monuments in art and movies; when you finally see the real thing, it's a bit weird.
It's this uncanny valley that you wander into. You're so familiar with the monument as media short-hand for some idea, that the real monuments seem somehow incomplete. There's these grand larger-than-life expectations of iconic monuments, and then there's the reality of wandering up to the monument which looks largely the same as any other statue.
There's several minor monuments around the perimeter of the mall. This one was one of my favorites, because it's been transformed into a roundabout.
When I die, I want my legacy to be immortalized into a neo-classical traffic circle.
The MLK memorial was strange. It's much newer than I expected---completed in 2011. To get to the plaza, you emerge from between a mountain split in half into a plaza. The plaza is wide open space looking over a lake with what looks like the peak of the mountain hurled into the center.
When you approach the slab from the other side you're greeted with MLK's likeness looking off into the corner. The concept is neat. The statue itself seems a bit stern.
"Out of the mountain of despair, a stone of hope."
The Vietnam War Memorial is probably one of the most influential monuments on popular culture---It seems to be referenced the most. It's relevance makes sense: it's the most recent war monument. Many people have immediate family who fought in the war.
It's simply a chevron of names cut into the ground. What was truly interesting was the collection of volunteers manning the monument.
These volunteers seemed to predominantly be Vietnam vets. They stood around the monument, helping visitors find the names of loved-ones. They even had cards and a step-stool to take rubbings of the monument, allowing people to take the name home with them.
The Thomas Jefferson Memorial is almost feels more impressive than the Lincoln memorial.
The statue was placed in the centre of a circular room. Inscribed on the walls were a selection Jefferson's quotes.
Interestingly, there was this quote on constitutional inerrancy which I thought was strikingly poignant, especially with the discussion of restricting gun ownership in the wake of numerous mass shootings. I guess certain legislation gets enshrined as being beyond criticism, even against the intent of those who influenced it.
Johannes and I continued around the park, wandering around before grabbing a bite. As the morning shifted into the afternoon, the mall came alive with numerous charity events and political marches.
Before heading to lunch, we made an obligatory visit to the White House. Again, it was much smaller than I imagined it would be. I'm fairly certain it's smaller than the albertan provincial legislative buildings.
Examining the roof-line, there is a hint of grey concrete which seems out of place with the neo-classical mansion. There's what looks like a reinforced bunker on the top of the building. On closer inspection, there was someone standing on the roof with some kind of gun, surveying the surroundings.
People-watching in front of the White House is fascinating. A number of protestors were lining the pavement where tourists were taking photos. A man was pacing back and forth across the length of the White House Lawn with a sign imploring republicans to stand up to Trump.
When I was crossing the border, the homeland security officer gave me recommendations for Washington. One of them was Old Ebbit Grill.
This place is my aesthetic. It has a nice, quiet warmth to it. Wood paneling and dim lighting; hunter green velvet couches; walls mounted with trophies rumored to be shot by Teddy Roosevelt.
After lunch we wandered around town, spending the last couple of hours taking in the streets on the other side of the mall and lamenting the fact we didn't get to visit any of the Smithsonian museums during our trip.
New signs at the border crossing for #legalizationincanada at PET. There was even a can to bin your bud before the border 🚮
My favourite part of working on papers and proposals is comparing the feedback from different people. A lot of the time I get suggestions which are diametrically opposed. It's fun seeing what people disagree on and why.
I’ll see what I can do 😀. What time are you hosting it? I’m at GHC until the 28th.
I’d love to! When are you hosting it?
Phew, just landed in Houston for #ghc18 🛬. Sharing a lovely castle with my labmates 🌞
Really excited to head to my first #GHC2018 tomorrow! Does anyone have advice for how to make the most of it as a first-timer?
Watched Donnie Darko for the first time and it is fantastic and amazing
Went to the Edmonton story slam for the first time
Had espresso at transcend
Read a bunch of random epistemology and got Expressivism, pragmatism and Representationalism
Had excellent chats with visitors from DLR about robot constructivism
Prepped for my first Grace Hopper Con
Had dim sum
Managed to summarize my research proposal in one page!
Had a birthday dinner with my family at Bistro Praha
Some people asked to take a selfie with me and I am still confused by it
Went to Amii's inaugural monthly AI tech meetup and chatted with a bunch of people.
Moved into the Amii office downtown.
Worked on my Camera-ready copy of my AAAI fall symposium paper.
Wrote a proposal for the Distinguished Lecturer Series.
Watched Christopher Robin.
Read Weapons of Math Destruction.
Harvested what was left of my garden.
Finished the skull on my sweater.
This actually creeped me out the first time I saw it. There's this weird glorification of a guy who cares about Christine so much he taught her how to sing. Never mind the weird emotional manipulation, kidnapping, and torturing of her fiancee. I feel like this tweet captures the creepiness perfectly.
Tried to federate my indiewebsite so that I could interact with mastodon through it (unsuccessfully)
Rebuilt large chunks of my site---particularly the back-end---so that the posting interface is nicer and easier to test.
Hooked up webmentions again so that I can see webmentions as part of an ongoing effort to improve usability of federation.
in_reply_to again, so that I can send webmentions. This also lets me reply-tweet using brid.gy
Research proposals from different disciplines to figure out how I want to structure my candidacy document.
Bickhard's interactivism and process metaphysics
Anthony Chemero's take on representationalism
Important points about the value and importance of communication in research here.
Other additional factor to note:
I often see this expectation that the people doing outreach and community coordination will just magically be able to do that and produce the same amount of work as people who aren’t taking on these other tasks. Eventually it just becomes expected that some of the students will take on these projects alongside their research responsibilities.
They get burnt out. They stop. The community goes through an outreach drought.
This happens a lot with minority students in STEM get tapped to do community outreach. It’s all good if you’re interested in community building, but you shouldn’t feel obligated to work on these issues. The effort should be recognized as coming at the expense of research.
Moreover, people leading diversity initiatives shouldn't feel entitled to minority student's time when it comes to contributing to diversity projects just because they're a minority. Too many times I see people working on these sorts of projects getting shoe-horned into the roles because they're in an under-represented group.
Even if students are interested in diversity projects, it becomes a balancing act in maintaining their academic reputation: the more they work on these community and diversity building initiatives, the less of a serious scientist they are to some people---even if they're a wildly talented researcher. This is a massive shame that holds the whole community back.
This tweet hits way too close to home. The number of people who would waltz into my CS dept's facebook page asking for free labour while being secretive about the project in question was obscene.
This, of course, was coupled with an attitude of being entitled to the CS student's time and resources. These people were providing the poor students with a lucrative business opportunity after all 🙄.
Test in-reply-to over twitter using brid.gy
Test for tooting.
Someone recommended that I read about process philosophy, so I checked it out. Here's a collection of my notes on what process philosophy is and how it relates to approaches to knowledge in Reinforcement Learning.
Traditional western philosophy is obsessed with describing reality from a set of static components. These components have dynamic features which are treated as secondary or derivative to the static individuals; they are ontologically derivative, or secondary to the actual components--i.e., their existence is secondary and dependent on the physical nature (Seibt, 2018). This core research programme is substance metaphysics, the study of the nature of being which originates from substances.
Process philosophy starts by upending this approach to metaphysics--this study of existence of reality. reality and existence are thought to be the behavior of a dynamic system (Seibt, 2018). Interactivism is a branch of process philosophy which broadly concerns itself with the interaction of agents (Bickhard, 2000); Interactivism considers it self to be a descendant of genetic epistemology (Piaget and Duckworth, 1970), also known as constructivism.
The majority of PK's contact with interactivism is through epistemology, as PK approaches do not have metaphysical commitments. PK particularly concerns itself with epistemological commitments. When we strip interactivism of it's metaphysical commitments and evaluate it from an epistemological perspective, it is not clear what the core contribution or insight of Interactivism is, as many other branches of pragmatism make the same assertions.
Two core commitments of of interactivism are pragmatism and fallibility. Under a pragmatic approach to knowledge, conceptual content is evaluated by action. A fallible and pragmatic approach to knowledge is present in many historical and modern approaches to epistemology--including, pragmatism (Pierce, ), enactivism (Noe, 2004), and inferentialism (Brandom, 2009)--to list a non-exhaustive sample of alternative epistemologies.
From an interactivist perspective, knowledge is:
"constituted as goal-oriented interactive competence, and representation is a functional aspect of such competence: interactions and interactive systems that are not appropriate to an environment, that are not sensitive to that environment and to its potentialities, will not be competent in that environment.'' - Bickhard and Richie (1983) p. 5
Again, this approach not terribly different from enactivist approaches knowledge. However, Interactivism does make the specification of knowledge being both goal-oriented and interactive: two core components of a predictive knowledge paradigm (Sutton, 2009). Their argument that competency is related to knowledgability--or judging the knowledge of an agent by its actions--is compatible with PK and more broadly pragmatism in general.
"The interactive claim is that such interactive sensitivity, such ability to take into account an environment, its potentialities, and its challenges, is the fundamental form of representation... Such [representations] will be in terms of the internal course and outcomes of some interactions, which may in tern be useful in determining the course of other interactions.''- Bickhard and Richie (1983) p. 5
Interactivism is clearly compatible with PK, as General Value Functions (GVFs)--a core method of specifying predictions used in PK--satisfy interactivism's specification of representation: anticipation of the dynamics of an agent's environment in terms of it's behaviour. This description of representing the environment in terms of anticipating the dynamics on a low level mirrors nexting (Modayil, 2014; Gilbert, 2009), and other sensorimotor approaches to knowledge, such as enactivist approaches. From an enactivist perspective, there may be high-level representations which are not in sensorimotor terms--taking a weaker stance than PK--however; these are secondary to and derivative of low-level dynamic representations.
There are a few gems in the interactivism manifesto. For instance, a criticism of the spectator of knowledge: the theory of knowledge which holds that observation is purely reception, that the mind is passive in perception, and that knowing is related to a passive beholding. These commitments are fundamentally incompatible with PK (Kearney, 2018), a fact which is evident when you consider that GVFs are explicitly encoded in terms of behaviour through the policy parameter π (White, 2015). See (Noe, 2004) for in-depth discussion.
Much of the manifesto is a dig at what I interpret as conceptual platonsim, which is often described by (Bickhard, 1983) as encodingism. Encodings are mental correspondence which captures the structure of what is being represented. Canonical examples include painting and sculptures--items which are representations of some real, physical entity, but are not exact copies. From an artificial intelligence perspective, representations could be symbolic entities with particular properties in a knowledge base, or learned kernels which represent some feature--e.g. a facial feature.
As Bickhard presents it, encodingism can be split into strong and weak versions. Strong encodingism takes encodings to be all of mental representation. Weak encodingism suggests that encodings exist, but there are are other independent forms of representation which are necessary and independent. See (Bickhard, 1983) for further discussion.
Interactivism rejects encodingism, stating that representation is functional: encodings represent only insofar as the representation has a function for an agent. In this sense, this interactivism takes a functionalist (Levin, 2018) approach to conceptual content, similar to inferentialism and interactivism.
Representations are insufficient on their own as a description of conceptual content, as they require an agent to interpret the representation. This is similiar to Piaget's assertion that if knowledge were really a copy of the world, one would have to understand the world already to construct a mental copy (Piaget, 1970), as Bickhard points out.
The second criticism of encodings is that representations must be representations of something. If an encoding which represents something is logically independent of all other encodings, answering the question "what does this encoding represent?" can only be "whatever it represents". To specify the encoding in terms of some other representation is to specify it in terms of reducible form which is prior to it, making it dependent on other encodings. In short, encodings cannot be a basic irreducible form of representation, as it is uncertain how to connect the representation to what it is representing.
Interestingly, this seems like an anti-representationalist approach which simply does not go the whole way. An alternative to representation as the origin of understanding and awareness is expression (Forester, 2018), as outlined by Brandom (Brandom, 20019). Instead of considering interactive sensitivity representation of the environment, we can think of these sensitivities or predictions in terms of their relationships. Rather than evaluating conceptual content and understanding representations in terms of what they are representing, we can evaluate conceptual content by the act; we may understand the conceptual content of an agent by their ability to apply concepts and the relation between them.
This anti-representationalist approach also supports a view of perception and awareness which mirrors the interactivist account of awareness. Interactivism asserts that perception and awareness are emergent concepts which arise from the processes of a system. If we take an expressive approach to understanding and conceptual content, then perception and awareness can be explained in terms of being able to anticipate and apply concepts.
The interactivist criticism of encodings has been applied to machine intelligence---criticising methods such as CYC for, similar to Ring's arguments criticism of the same ontology and call for grounding knowledge in sensorimotor experience (Ring, 2016). However, instead of such projects being doomed due to lack of grounded, sensorimotor experience, the encoding criticism dooms CYC for attempting to capture correspondences between mental representations and the environment, rather than the dynamics.
Similarly, these arguments can be rephrased not as arguments against encoding, but rather as arguments against representation.
One of my favorite parts of @edmfolkfest is the @ckuaradio tent with their live broadcasts. Had a chance to listen to @shakeygraves perform some songs acoustic and talk about songwriting. Dozens of people were huddled in the rain and mud to listen to Alberta public radio! #publicradio #livemusic #indie
Trying to keep dry on the last day of folk fest. Trying.
One tarp up and one tarp to the right of the golden tarp!
Recovering from DLRL summer school by scrambling for tarp space at the Canmore Folk Fest 🎻 🎶
Sights from DLLS & RLSS 2018 in Toronto.
This year I went to DLSS and RLSS in Toronto. The introductory talks were probably the best intro to neural nets talks I'd seen: the talks were tight and intuitive without having to water down the technical details.
The number of people cramming in for the summer school was surprising. It's really great to see how interest in Reinforcement Learning has picked up in recent years.
Being back in Toronto for the summer means that I had I had the chance to wander around kensington market again. This time, sans persistent summer flu. With a few fellow students in tow, Anna and I hit up Yarns Untangled, the first LYS I ever visited. We picked up needles and yarn to teach some people how to knit while sharing a pitcher of beer on the patio across the street.
Against my better judgement, I picked up a few indie-dyed skeins of yarn. One from lichen and lace---a dyer on the east coast---and one from fiesty fibers---a local Torontonian who happened to be having a trunk sale while we were in town.
Who knows what the skeins will end up being. I suppose I can always teach myself how to knit socks.
Having the chance to hit up local yarn stores with active communities reminds me of what I'm missing out on in Edmonton. YU felt like a community hub. People would would gather on their couches, chatting with each other while they worked on whatever project they were carrying with them.
While I was waiting for a few people I sat myself down next two a couple of women and felt right at home chatting with them about how they originally started knitting and what they were currently working on. It's really refreshing to have these spaces which people can come into and join without any introduction: it's really healthy to have these communities where people can just feel at home.
I have no regrets about wandering into Little Pebbles to have Japanese dessert before meeting with some of the other students for brunch. I had this little matcha tiramisu which was carefully constructed in this little box which reminded me of sake drinking vessels. Interestingly, instead of a brandy base, at the bottom of the tiramisu was a bit of red bean paste to sweeten and balance out the earthy matcha flavours.
The whole place was bright and funky without being overwhelmingly ornate. It was an unusual and pleasant surprise to see the little signs up on the tables which politely notified people that they had to put their electronics away during peak hours--an attempt to foster community and conversation.
When wandering around the city I found a whole bunch of cute ceramics, which make me regret not having kept up with pottery after highschool. Maybe I'll need to eventually fix that and take a course at Edmonton's city arts centre.
The closest coffee shop to where I was staying was Hopper. It was a cute little place with great snacks and even better espresso. In spite of being fairly spartan in terms of quantity of furniture, what they had was really funky---i.e., campbell's soup can tables.
I finally managed to try goldstruck--a place I wanted to visit while I was interning in Toronto, but never quite had the chance to. They definitely themed the place appropriately. Walking down the stairs into the sub-terrainian coffeeshop, you're greeted by the warm glow of industrial lighting and mining-inspired decor. Even the bathroom has these massive wooden barn-doors which slide open.
Of course, my favourite little cafe was sorry: a little gem that's tucked away in a corner, unapologetically making great espresso and pastries.
Happy Canada day 🇨🇦
Red means fast
I went to see @alvvaysband at the starlight room last week. The serendipitous highlight for me was getting to see @thisisfrankierose. They were in a few playlists that I used to listen to in highschool, but lost their music when my harddrive died. Im getting crazy nostalgia after finding them all over again.
Meanwhile in the BLINC lab: a bag of San Franciscan street lizards 🦎
I am unreasonably excited about this Grace Hopper sticker my lab-mate gave to me.
More progress on my fisherman sweater! I don’t like seaming, so I followed @bygumbygolly’s instructions for modifying patters for set in sleeves. Just two sleeves to go!
Doing some late-night adventuring though the buildings downtown 🌵
WE PULLED OUR GOALIE #WheresTheGoalie
Pulling the goalie worked!
We are not doing well.
Pretending I’m at hockey night in Scotland 🏴 but I’m really just in Edmonton 🤷🏼♀️ there is a shortage of wine and cheese and commentary from @jammy_stuff
Napping away while I’m coding 🐕
There are some crazy ice sculptures at @iceonwhyte. It’s one of three international competitive ice sculpting competitions in Canada and all of the sculptures were made in 35 hours.
I found the best little tea place in Edmonton. It’s a wholesale tea store and the only place where you can get good Taiwanese oolong. 🍵
This week for blinc lab Monday movie madness is “2001: A Space Odyssey” 🎥 🍿
Failed attempt at eggs Benedict 🍳
We projected blade runner onto the lab whiteboard. 🤖