14.0550 Information, Knowledge, Emotion

From: by way of Willard McCarty (willard@lists.village.Virginia.EDU)
Date: 12/09/00

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                   Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 14, No. 550.
           Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
             Date: Sat, 09 Dec 2000 06:26:40 +0000
             From: "Osher Doctorow" <osher@ix.netcom.com>
             Subject: Information, Knowledge, Emotion
    From: Osher Doctorow osher@ix.netcom.com, Thurs. Dec. 7, 2000 11:17AM
    I read the interest Humanist story about the Berkeley "How much information
    is there?", and it fits in somewhat with my current interest in both
    knowledge and emotion.  Latent variable theory in
    psychological/measurement/educational testing theory has something close to
    the concept of knowledge, but not sufficiently well spelled out.  I think
    that the humanities' conception of knowledge is probably much deeper than
    the computer/engineering/mathematics conception of information/entropy,
    which is a type of concrete surface scratching ("tip of the iceberg") of
    knowledge.  Even in the physical sciences, there are now so many types of
    "noncommunicating" entropy (that is, the disciplines do not communicate)
    that it is quite remarkable.  I think that the "final word" on knowledge
    will probably not come until emotion is better understood.  It may seem
    old-fashioned to argue (as did Isaac Asimov) that humans have something
    beyond robots called emotion, although Asimov eventually gave one his robots
    (Giskard) telepathy and apparent emotional empathy.  Indeed, emotion is a
    two-edged sword which has usually gone the wrong way in history - when
    combined with ignorance, greed, narcissism, neurosis, psychosis, anger,
    blame, it seems to have produced nothing but tragedy and fear in history.
    Yet when all is said and done, I think that the British conception of "a
    little emotion" comes closest to the ideal.  It is something like a little
    salt or a little pepper or a little spice.  For example, there is currently
    an intellectual confrontation between the Simplicity and Complexity
    theorists in both physical and biological sciences (which of course do not
    communicate very well usually both in the latter and former cases).  If I
    referred to this as an Intellectual War, I would probably be accused of
    exaggeration.  Yet we need a little exaggeration sometimes, we need words
    that we can associate with more concrete events sometimes, especially when
    there is really something important going on.  It so happens that the
    simplest continuous type of probability (don't worry about the word
    continuous for now) is the uniform probability distribution (uniform for
    short).   It essentially says (roughly, but that is not bad) that everything
    has the same probability of occurring.  It has now been found, in one of the
    most "explosive" (emotion again?) research areas in probability/statistics,
    that the uniform probability ties in with brownian bridges, fractional
    brownian bridges, and fractal brownian bridges, which are based on random
    zigzag motion like that of dust particles in a glass of water, and that
    through these brownian bridges we are able to analyze how trends and
    processes (technically, "time series", etc.) become disrupted and even to
    predict when and where they get disrupted.  Most important of all, we can do
    this even with events which are highly
    dependent/related/influenced/influencing rather than
    independent/unrelated/uninfluenced/uninfluencing - which until very recently
    was "impossible".  My field of LBP (logic-based probability) leads directly
    to these results, and I can think of nothing that led me in this direction
    more than a combination of "a little emotion" and "a lot of non-mainstream
    research".   These results come from the Simplicity School.   The other
    school, the Complexity School, is allied with concrete computer-oriented
    Artificial Intelligence (AI) people and receives most of the publicity and
    many if not most of the research grants.  They are trying to build computers
    and computer programs which will imitate life and then hopefully go beyond
    it, although there are some variations in which computers go in a different
    direction.  Since their graphic programs show very concrete and colorful
    animation and their ingenuity at computers cannot be doubted, it is quite
    easy to be convinced that they are on the right track.  The wiser voices
    such as those of Professors Tripathi and McCarty, and the voices of the
    Simplicity School will, in my opinion, soon spill over massively into AI.
    Assuming that there will not be a prolonged economic battle for resources
    (always possible!), there is a basis for restrained optimism.
    Osher Doctorow
    Doctorow Consultants, West Los Angeles College, etc.

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