Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Going endlessly to nowhere

Internet review of the podcast: "Starts out, "I have no presentation for today. Marvin Minsky will be back tomorrow" No teaching involved as far as I can measure. Students commenting and moderator/teacher is yeah/yeah.... No summary of subject; going endlessly to knowwhere."

Yes, this is the class I'm recommending. It's AWESOME!

Marvin Minsky is the prof. An AI pioneer who studied developmental psychology, mathematics and computer science.

The class is called "Society of Mind" a reference to Minsky's AI book from the 80s which describes his theories on higher mid level cognitive functions.

If you enjoy intelligent conversation about shooting pool and chord progressions in jam sessions as well as computer science applied to psychology this class is AWESOME.

Most college classes are linear and based on answers. This class is organized around questions. Subjects come and go based on the interest of the prof and the students. The patterns of subjects circle in on themselves and sometimes lead off into tangents.

Ultimately this class covers an amazing amount of ground. The prof describes the open questions he's thinking about. It feels like he takes you to the end of the road and drops you off. Maybe he points to some interesting landmarks. For example:

In one instance he describes Gutenberg's printing press as a device that has locked modernity into 2dimensional thinking.

This was an an exciting insight for me, as some one who has followed the advance of AR glasses and holograms with interest. Perhaps we are about to enter another profound paradigm shift of human consciousness that no one is tracking?

Monday, December 12, 2011

Gaming the System

I'm super excited about this MIT class on Game Design.

The audio is horrible but its fully worth your efforts. It covers cybernatics, game theory, and probability from the perspective of game design. And as a bonus the class offers enlightening insight into social sciences like politics and the economy (as social-cooperative competition).

Some of the highlights that the class has covered so far:

The future of warfare.

Also a brilliant game that illustrates the perils of gov. Essentially players first compete in rule writing, and the game is won before its even played.

Given the above, it's worth watching the below video on competitive AI systems for world dominance.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Bio Tech and “behavioral economics”

I've been teaching myself linguistics recently and tripped accross this random guest lecture: "Brain Optimization vs Biological Satisficing" which is philosophy professor Christopher Cherniak talking about electrical engineering and the human nervous system.

It's fully one of the most entertaining and informative lectures I've checked recently. He looks at human rationality from the perspective of limited resource optimization. Covering the philosophy of cats, how to get your pocket calculator to cough up floating point rounding errors (greater than an order of magnitude) and minimum-volume arbor model (why dendritic arborization in the brain follows the same laws of optimization that trees follow). In a nut shell - your body is optimized for wires, not tubes. WTF? Love this dude, both funny and profound. His power point slides can be found here:

On the subject of biotech. These Berkeley Bio 1A lectures are bomb. Molecular biology of photosynthesis, gene transcription, and homeostasis. It's hardcore but dope material. Enjoy:

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

How to be a Human 101

While most college classes offer insight thats useful in some oblique way or in some specific context - other classes offer info thats useful/central in daily life.

Along those lines, that Sapolsky class I recommended in an earlier blog is like a users guide to human biology.

Here is an awesome class on how to exist in human society. I swear everyone should fully check this class. As a bonus, the prof has a breezy attitude thats relatively entertaining.

"Social Psychology: Self and Society"

Warning this first lecture starts about 19 minutes in.

Friday, October 28, 2011

I heart NASA

Two of the best courses Ive checked lately have been from NASA.

The Standford class: "Astrobiology and Space Exploration" is awesome collection of lectured from NASA space biologists and SETI scientists that will completely change your perspective on reality.

It's kind of a giant leap, but I'm getting the perspective that everything that we can percieve is part of a giant metabolism.

MIT's "Aircraft Systems Engineering" covers one of the most advanced vehicles ever built: The Space Shuttle. Super impressive. Super inspirational.

After the Apollo moon walks, NASA had plans for two Skylabs, one space station orbiting earth and one space station orbing the moon, a moon base, and a manned mission to Mars in 1983. The space shuttle was originally designed to service this grand plan. SO what happened to all that? Nixon killed it to pay for the Viet Nam war...

Friday, September 2, 2011


Astro Teller - Chief innovation Officer of the Googles spouts off about managing innovation in a business setting. He offers insight for exciting innovation and killing it as fast as possible to save money. I found it really useful for parsing several dynamics related to my own work and its relationship to institutional structures.

One of the subjects Astro touchesd upon is the idea of lateral transfer of processes. If you are interested in the subject, flip back to my last blog post and check the last lecture from the Evolutionary Linguistics and Neuroscience class. It's a doozy.

On the subject of innovation, one of my favorite inspirational speakers is James Dyson. He is innovation personafied.

One aespect of innovation is being prepared to take advantage of chance discovery. Thus I recommend the Cambridge (Darwin college) 2008 lecture series on Serendipity.

I especially recommend the lecture from Richard Friend whose work has been applied to "development of polymer field effect transistors, light-emitting diodes, photovoltaic diodes, optically pumped lasing and directly printed polymer transistors. He pioneered the study of organic polymers and the electronic properties of molecular semiconductors. He is also one of the principal investigators in the new Cambridge-based Interdisciplinary Research Collaboration (IRC) on nanotechnology and co-founder of Cambridge Display Technology (CDT) and Plastic Logic."

The part that really captured my imagination was when he said that basic science frequently mistakes patterns for laws.

On the subject of innovation management, check this talk with Bill Porter (the guy who brought us E*Trade). He gives a straight talk about management styles and challanges. Autocratic management is the easiest, which is why its favored by corporation and the military. Leading via consensus in a self assembling organization is the hardest, which explains why many rock bands break up.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Biological Anthropology - humans are a small branch of fish

I strongly recommend this UC Berkeley "Special Topics in Biological Anthropology: Evolution of Brain and Language" class, taught by Terrence W. DEACON.

The guy teaching the class is far out.

"His 1997 book, The Symbolic Species: The Co-evolution of Language and the Brain is widely considered a seminal work in the subject of evolutionary cognition. His approach to semiotics, thoroughly described in the book, is fueled by a career-long interest in the ideas of the late 19th-century American philosopher, Charles Sanders Peirce. In it, he uses the metaphors of parasite and host to describe language and the brain, respectively, claiming that the structures of language have co-evolved to adapt to their brain hosts." (The lectures are avail on itunes.)

Here is a taste. A lecture that theorizes that human language is the result of de-evolution and redundancy. WTF? Yes, I'm not kidding - and a convincing arguement too (based on domestication dynamics). Enjoy - and if you like, the full course is filled with even more mind exploding information.

I also recommend this Animal Behavior class taught by Prof. Gerald Schneider, a hamster super-scientist from MIT. He's kind of a vivisectionist, but at the same time, you can tell he loves little critters. Kind of a disconnect, no?

I'm new to the field of Animal behavior and found it really helped digest the neuro-anatomy and behavior classes Ive been checking out lately. Social signaling + hierarchical and sequantial plasticity of behavior and just a few awesome concepts covered by this class. (these lectures are also avail on itunes -but the class power point slides and reading assignment pdfs are on MIT OCW)

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Consciousness and the Universe

I was inspired by the latest issue of The Journal of Cosmology. I love this zine. Its like science fiction written by peer reviewed scientists. Knowing that the speculation is relatively sound in terms of math and science makes it that much more enjoyable. Check the editors and the table of contents on the back issues. Its a feast of cool new brain teasers to play with.

The latest issue is devoted to "Consciousness and the Universe." I dont want to spoil it, but it starts off with a bang - looking at what we know about neaderthal and cro magnon religion. It then covers everything from Psychogenic Fugue states in the 19th century American Wilderness to the latest speculation about the consciousness of the universe (inter-stellar electromagnetic interaction that paralells properties of neurologic activity). So follow the above link.

Here are some interesting video lectures that are related to the subject.

This cogntitive consciousness course from Kihlstrom at Berkeley has lots of cool info about the scientific probe into mind/body issues. (The first 28:28 of this first lecture are admin stuff which you can skip.) He is biased about hypnotherapy, which is somewhat amusing. It has great info about subliminal messages and subconscious priming. So this class is a must for brain washers and neuromarketing fanatics.

This Stanford continuing education class in String Theory is awesome. You may want to have a basic understanding of particle physics before you step in, but im sure you will get your brain rotated if you just walk in off the street. Susskind runs you through all sorts of new mathmatical tools for understanding multi-dimensionality. Eventually these new tools will be applied to understanding the universe as evidence permits. In the mean time all these crazy approaches to understanding reality are liberating.

Here is an MIT cosmologist popping off about the multi-level multiverse. It's easier to understand which is both good and bad.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Life the Universe and Everything - self organizing chaos

You gotta appreciate the folks at Edge magazine for tackling the big questions.

Check out this lecture series (panel discussion) on the origins/nature of life. My fav is the astrobio expert who offers an expanded view on the definition of life and hints that we co-exist with a shadow biosphere of life that we fail to identify.

Also mind expanding is this lecture series (panel discussion) on the nature of the universe. One line of thought that captured my imagination was something about the sub atomic universe bubbling up and creating complexity (what we identify/catagorize as "randomness").

So what is an example of a system that thrives on complexity and chaos that bubbles up from the sub atomic level? Right now I'm watching this sick Yale lecture series on evolution.

I guess this falls into the categry of self organizing systems

"Game Theory" (I may have recommended this one before) is an attempt to understand self organizing human systems of behavior. Another nice Yale course.

Friday, April 1, 2011

cognitive illusions

To start off here's another dope Harvard lecture. It looks at morality and how primitive localization of group aggregation defense mechanism are ill suited for todays global culture.

Here is an interview with Nobel prize Princeton Psych prof Daniel Kahneman. It starts slow and gets more interesting. He describes designing the psych entrance test for Israeli army, and his research into decision making. Why political leaders choose aggression and choose not to cut losses etc.

If you watch teh above, you're probly wondering whats at the heart of Kahneman's work. Here's a link to his Nobel Prize acceptance speech - no embed but HFS! Free Nobel prize lectures on the net!

Yes its kind of boring... But cool, no?

If you want to get a more complete master class from Kahneman, Edge magazine has more vid and transcripts:

And on this subject, I recommend visiting this kickass page on wikipedia. It's a list of cognitive biases. If you better understand cognitive illusions (like optical illusions of decision making) then you might make better decisions, no?