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The Barahirion Factor

All right, since I'm just getting so few posts in my LJ, I clearly have not trolled enough. ;-)
I'd call this post "The Merlin Factor" or somesuch, but then it would be so trite and cliche.
Besides, barahirion could use the notoriety! ;-D

Did the Wright Brothers fly because they were bachelors?

One of my grad school professors and Ph.D. committee members was David E. Goldberg, the famous genetic algorithmist touted by the Whole Earth Review as "the man who taught computers to have sex" 1 and known for his many contributions to the fields of engineering and computer science (particularly intelligent systems). David is fond of quoting Gary Bradshaw's biography of the Wright Brothers, which considers the following theories for why these two bicycle mechanics from Ohio were able to acheive powered flight in four years (1899-1903), starting from scratch:


  • They were bicycle mechanics

  • It was part of the zeitgeist

  • They were bachelors

  • They were better inventors



Apropos of the third theory (which was put forth in a rather tongue-in-cheek fashion by both Dr. Bradshaw and Dr. Goldberg, a man with two young sons who are now teenagers): I came across and commented on this theory of "the mating mind" in auriam's journal today.


... the book we're reading for this class is The Mating Mind, by Geoffrey Miller, if anyone wants to look it up [...] his thesis is, to summarize it bluntly, that the human mind evolved to attract, impress, and woo potential mates, not simply for 'survival' reasons - in the past, it seems, evolutionary theory tried to explain things like art, music, performance (and, of course, science) as simply 'byproducts' of 'evolved intelligence', which was presumed to have evolved solely for doing things like catching game, avoiding predators, making survival adaptations like tools, group behavior, etc... but, so the new argument goes, the mind is primarily used by humans like the flamboyant peacock uses its tail, the bighorn sheep uses its, well, big horns, and the miserable human uses goth poetry - to impress others and attract mates, whether or not it's done consciously [...]

...I do remember that study earlier this year that surveyed 'major scientific contributions' and found that almost all of them were made before the scientist in question got married.. not sure, at present, whether it was looking over male or female scientists, but I'd wager it cuts both ways.. (more so for males, though, as in most species.. [...])



This theory suddenly evoked a fact I had learned years ago (in a neurobiology course I took in fall, 1996):

Male canaries that have reached sexual maturity can, in subsequent years, learn new song repertoires. Two telencephalic song control nuclei, the hyperstriatum ventrale, pars caudale, and nucleus robustus archistriatalis are, respectively, 99 and 76 percent larger in the spring, when male canaries are producing stable adult song, than in the fall, at the end of the molt and after several months of not singing. It is hypothesized that such fluctuations reflect an increase and then reduction in numbers of synapses and are related to the yearly ability to acquire new motor coordinations.

How embawwassing. Shrinking brains when they're knot thrying to meet grils!


So there you have it. Yes? No? Elves?
(FWIW, I don't believe the conjecture regarding the Wright Brothers for a second. :o)
Well, unless you want to talk about motivation as opposed to concentration or lack of distraction. Certainly, though, it cuts both ways.)
Edit, 06:30 CST: I'd like opinions from single, married, or otherwise attached people - and I believe there are some from each category reading this.

While we are on the subject of oddball academic celebrities:

Here's a story that came up in a discussion thread with hfx_ben today.

Karl Pribram is a well-known Austrian-born neuropsychologist (bio) who has been at Stanford for decades, and has often achieved notoriety for his controversial holonomic and quantum theories of mind/brain and consciousness.

At WCNN-1996 Dr. Pribram and I shared a taxi to the San Diego airport. It was a little after 0500, IIRC and not yet light - we were both sleepy and preoccupied. The driver asked us what we were there for. I replied that we had just attended a neural networks conference and the driver asked excitedly: "oh, you guys are, like, building the Terminator?"

Now, you may know that Pribram is a famous pacifist who decries defense funding at many of his invited talks and even after technical talks. At this point, though, we could both see the taxi driver getting ready to launch into an SF speculation-fest. Pribram looked at me for a second, blinked, and - turning back to the driver - replied in a dead-serious voice: "yes, like that". :-)

That's another one of those "oh, man, that was cool... I've got to become a university professor" moments. ;-)


In other news: Please welcome my new LJ friends csn, cretaceousrick, and jenlight. If you recently added me, please leave a comment and introduce yourself!

1 ... which is not only a sensationalistic non-sequitur, it's an anthropomorphic misrepresentation of what GAs do.

--
Banazîr

Comments

( 95 comments — Leave a comment )
andrewwyld
Jan. 14th, 2004 11:15 am (UTC)
Intriguing.  Actually, I think this is likely to be only part of the truth -- after all, long tails are a benefit in flight up to a certain point.  If long tails become attractive in consequence, this is likely to amplify the tendency to lengthen the tail by some orders of magnitude.

The difference with intelligence is that mere tail-lengthening is really quite simple to achieve, while intelligence is tremendously complex.  Certainly there could be a sexual selection value attached to intelligence, but it couldn't possibly be the initial cause -- the basic power of the mind would have to be present first.

There's another theory I've heard about intelligence -- that it relates to the ability to co-operate socially without being hoodwinked.  Essentially, co-operating is a great advantage -- it means we can, as a species, thrive to a far greater extent than we can alone.  Most species have a limited form of co-operation -- males frequently display for access to females and engage in a sort of ritual combat, as actual combat weakens both individuals and thus the tribe, group, or whatever (so fighting all the time is a bad plan) -- in other words, if a male can see he is obviously "weaker", he'll often back off.

Human co-operation is a lot more complex -- for example, humans will often actively aid one another, and so on.  The benefits are obvious, but so are the risks.  Essentially, some think that intelligence evolved as a "cheat-detector" -- enabling us to co-operate but without any individual being duped (at least most of the time).  The problem-solving benefits of intelligence then made it further desirable, and therefore, presumably, sexually desirable.

Aaaaanyway ....
banazir
Jan. 14th, 2004 11:26 am (UTC)
Social value of intelligence
The difference with intelligence is that mere tail-lengthening is really quite simple to achieve, while intelligence is tremendously complex. Certainly there could be a sexual selection value attached to intelligence, but it couldn't possibly be the initial cause -- the basic power of the mind would have to be present first
There you go!
My sentiments exactly.
This meta-level feedback is an intriguing concept, though (see below).

There's another theory I've heard about intelligence -- that it relates to the ability to co-operate socially without being hoodwinked.
I've heard this, too, though in primates it's got to have something to do with infanticide (which some large primates practice, but humans practice sporadically if at all). Why should a monkey bother to cooperate as a "mating beta" if the alpha will kill his children? Only if there is some less-than-total level of competition would this work, AFAICT. Please correct me if I've misapprehended.

Most species have a limited form of co-operation -- males frequently display for access to females and engage in a sort of ritual combat, as actual combat weakens both individuals and thus the tribe, group, or whatever (so fighting all the time is a bad plan) -- in other words, if a male can see he is bviously "weaker", he'll often back off.
Just so, but does this mean going to be a bigger fish in a smaller pond, or just surviving to wait in the wings?

Essentially, some think that intelligence evolved as a "cheat-detector" -- enabling us to co-operate but without any individual being duped (at least most of the time).
The versions I've heard use game-theoretic arguments (increasingly complex patterns of cheating and grudge-holding, necessitating intelligence to remember and reason about them).

The problem-solving benefits of intelligence then made it further desirable, and therefore, presumably, sexually desirable.
Aaaaanyway ....

Well, I agree with your speculation that there is probably something worth while about intelligence for its nonsexual "survivability" characteristics, in that it increases overall fitness. This would make the putative attractiveness of creativity a side effect. (I've really got to read Intervention again, is wot.)

Thanks for chipping in!

--
Banazir
(no subject) - gondhir - Jan. 14th, 2004 02:40 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - andrewwyld - Jan. 14th, 2004 02:58 pm (UTC) - Expand
In a way... - banazir - Jan. 14th, 2004 07:39 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - gondhir - Jan. 14th, 2004 07:46 pm (UTC) - Expand
Maul competition - banazir - Jan. 14th, 2004 09:28 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - hfx_ben - Jan. 15th, 2004 04:21 am (UTC) - Expand
Natural selection in action - banazir - Jan. 15th, 2004 07:17 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Natural selection in action - hfx_ben - Jan. 15th, 2004 04:39 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - carida_46 - Jan. 15th, 2004 06:22 am (UTC) - Expand
Are yew ready fro some football? - banazir - Jan. 15th, 2004 06:23 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Are yew ready fro some football? - carida_46 - Jan. 15th, 2004 06:28 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Are yew ready fro some football? - banazir - Jan. 15th, 2004 07:59 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Are yew ready fro some football? - carida_46 - Jan. 16th, 2004 06:35 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Are yew ready fro some football? - banazir - Jan. 16th, 2004 07:49 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - zaimoni - Jan. 14th, 2004 03:59 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - andrewwyld - Jan. 14th, 2004 04:03 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - zaimoni - Jan. 14th, 2004 06:44 pm (UTC) - Expand
istari_ala
Jan. 14th, 2004 12:14 pm (UTC)
I'd like opinions from married and single people

Hey, what about the rest of us?
banazir
Jan. 14th, 2004 12:31 pm (UTC)
Single and non-single people
I'd like opinions from married and single people
Hey, what about the rest of us?
Sorry, I meant "married, coupled, and single people".
I didn't mean to exclude nazone, as I'm looking for lal perspectives.

--
Banazir
(as you can see, I am in some need of sleep)
(no subject) - hfx_ben - Jan. 15th, 2004 04:20 am (UTC) - Expand
Telling wot - banazir - Jan. 15th, 2004 04:50 am (UTC) - Expand
jenlight
Jan. 14th, 2004 03:05 pm (UTC)
Hey there. I know it's nice to say something when you befriend someone, but I am bad at that. I have a talent for stuttering in my text.
Anyway, hfx_ben recommended you to me and I checked you out and thought I ought to add you.

So, Hi. =]

banazir
Jan. 14th, 2004 07:35 pm (UTC)
Welcome, Dr. Awkward
Hey there. I know it's nice to say something when you befriend someone, but I am bad at that. I have a talent for stuttering in my text.
Hey, no problem! I just wanted to say hi. Welcome again.
I've added you back; feel free to chime in anytime so we can get to know you (all memes and quizzes are optional - just so you know that I do them now and then).

Why is your LJ nick jenlight?

Anyway, hfx_ben recommended you to me and I checked you out and thought I ought to add you.
Hehe, that hfx_ben has a penchant for recommendations, is wot.

--
Banazir
Re: Welcome, Dr. Awkward - jenlight - Jan. 14th, 2004 08:43 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Welcome, Dr. Awkward - hfx_ben - Jan. 15th, 2004 04:08 am (UTC) - Expand
yahvah
Jan. 14th, 2004 05:06 pm (UTC)
How embawwassing. Shrinking brains when they're knot thrying to meet grils!

Good Lord, Bill. You and I are thinking similar thoughts or something. Just last night, I was refreshing my knowledge of basic Neuroscience (I read that entire textbook for fun - primarily because about three years ago I had an intense interest to understand how the brain stores memories). As I was refreshing, I was once again lamenting my current situation, and I thought of how at this moment my brain does not have a whole lot of action potential. In fact, I haven't been learning much at all lately.

This is related because, being the pervert that I am, I was once again pondering the polysemy of that phrase action potential. I've always had it in my mind that the more I prune the knowledge my head contains, the more "action potential" I'll have with regards to dating. ;-) It's clear that there are plenty of women out there that enjoy a man who can discourse at length (whether the man is full of shit or not is, of course, a different story). Ultimately I read the Neuroscience textbook so I could move on to Pulsed Neural Networks - mostly because I knew that this would help me to come to a better understanding of how the mind stores memories. Ultimately it didn't give me the understanding I still seek, but that's primarily due to my lack of formal training in a lot of the mathematics involved.

Alas, since you've attended some Neural Networks conferences, maybe you have some opinions on the Pulsed Neural Networks?
zaimoni
Jan. 14th, 2004 08:58 pm (UTC)
Grossberg's ART neural network models are the only neural network models I know of that predicted neurophysiology features before they were discovered. I would be reading up on those if I wanted to understand how the mind stores memories.
Adaptive Resonance Theory (ART) - banazir - Jan. 14th, 2004 09:37 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Adaptive Resonance Theory (ART) - hfx_ben - Jan. 15th, 2004 04:28 am (UTC) - Expand
Hebbian Learning - banazir - Jan. 15th, 2004 04:36 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - yahvah - Jan. 14th, 2004 11:02 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - zaimoni - Jan. 15th, 2004 12:06 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - yahvah - Jan. 15th, 2004 12:17 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - zaimoni - Jan. 15th, 2004 05:55 am (UTC) - Expand
CiteSeer, PS, PDF, and distillation - banazir - Jan. 15th, 2004 07:04 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: CiteSeer, PS, PDF, and distillation - zaimoni - Jan. 15th, 2004 07:26 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: CiteSeer, PS, PDF, and distillation - banazir - Jan. 29th, 2004 07:43 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: CiteSeer, PS, PDF, and distillation - zaimoni - Jan. 29th, 2004 08:41 am (UTC) - Expand
E-mail addiction - banazir - Jan. 29th, 2004 08:59 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: E-mail addiction - zaimoni - Jan. 29th, 2004 09:28 am (UTC) - Expand
Wireless: opportunity cost - banazir - Jan. 31st, 2004 09:01 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Wireless: opportunity cost - zaimoni - Jan. 31st, 2004 10:22 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Wireless: opportunity cost - banazir - Feb. 12th, 2004 10:35 pm (UTC) - Expand
Re: Wireless: opportunity cost - zaimoni - Feb. 13th, 2004 01:13 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Wireless: opportunity cost - banazir - Apr. 21st, 2004 08:44 pm (UTC) - Expand
EMP analysis - zaimoni - Apr. 22nd, 2004 12:27 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: EMP analysis - zaimoni - Apr. 23rd, 2004 12:38 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: EMP analysis - banazir - May. 23rd, 2004 02:38 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: EMP analysis - zaimoni - May. 23rd, 2004 07:30 am (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
banazir
Jan. 15th, 2004 03:14 am (UTC)
Re: In the immortal words of Keanu, "Whoa..."
When was this book written?</i>
Some time between 1993 and 1996, IIRC.

I thought the Zeitgeist was definitely done away with after Karl Popper?
I don't know, I'm jsut a humble CS; I'm just looking through this and the Hegel stuff you sent me. Maybe, but I don't think so (ataleast the modernist view is still vert munch alive in tronkiedom). But I'm curious: why do you feel the Zeitgeist is debunkt?

Mia --- will read the whole thread... eventually...
You want to?
Are yew one of those nihilist psotmodernists?
A deconnie in teunc form?
Or just a lasochist (masochist who "laso" reads along)?
Acos I've gonten liek 200 psots in the last 4 days adn it be speeding up! I get a headache just thinking about it. I dunno how prolifics such as azurelunatic, angelislington, and hfx_ben can keep up. Craaaaaazy.

--
Banazir
(i thot psotmodernists didn't go "squeeeeeee!")
Re: In the immortal words of Keanu, "Whoa..." - hfx_ben - Jan. 15th, 2004 04:40 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: In the immortal words of Keanu, "Whoa..." - banazir - Jan. 15th, 2004 07:10 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: In the immortal words of Keanu, "Whoa..." - hfx_ben - Jan. 15th, 2004 04:45 pm (UTC) - Expand
Tea Bane? - banazir - Jan. 16th, 2004 09:46 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: Tea Bane? - hfx_ben - Jan. 16th, 2004 02:51 pm (UTC) - Expand
All your hit are belong to us - banazir - Jan. 17th, 2004 11:41 am (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
Tall, dark, adn handsome Nazgul? - banazir - Jan. 15th, 2004 05:57 pm (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
Re: Tall, dark, adn handsome Nazgul? - banazir - Jan. 15th, 2004 08:09 pm (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
Cornflakes - banazir - Jan. 15th, 2004 10:10 pm (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
Cereals - banazir - Jan. 15th, 2004 10:14 pm (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
Never! - banazir - Jan. 15th, 2004 10:23 pm (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
Knot the bose of meeee - banazir - Jan. 15th, 2004 11:31 pm (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
Zeitgeist, or knot - banazir - Jan. 15th, 2004 05:58 pm (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
Re: Zeitgeist, or knot - banazir - Jan. 15th, 2004 07:35 pm (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
Re: Zeitgeist, or knot - banazir - Jan. 16th, 2004 07:44 am (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
Formulaic Mythology - banazir - Jan. 17th, 2004 11:39 am (UTC) - Expand
csn
Jan. 15th, 2004 01:00 am (UTC)
Greetings. I'm fascinated by some of the topics you discuss here, as well as down below (neural networks, neuroscience).

Well, let's see: My name is Nick, I'm an overthinking, absurdist/existentialist aikidokia practicing, guitar playing student at Harvey Mudd College with a whole lot of interests and passion for life and sushi. We'll go from there.
banazir
Jan. 15th, 2004 01:10 am (UTC)
Greetings. I'm fascinated by some of the topics you discuss here, as well as down below (neural networks, neuroscience).
Very good!

Well, let's see: My name is Nick, I'm an overthinking, absurdist/existentialist aikidokia practicing, guitar playing student at Harvey Mudd College with a whole lot of interests and passion for life and sushi. We'll go from there.
Sounds interesting. I really need to learn how to play my guitar, is wot.
Pleased to meet you.

--
Banazir
csn
Jan. 15th, 2004 01:16 am (UTC)
Also..What's up with that CTY stuff you were part of? I was looking at it and it seems like a strange, elitist cult. Hm, I never did any programs like that when I was a kid. Sometimes I wish I had..but then,

I looked at their syllabus.. existentialism and the absurdity of human existence to 7th graders??? You've got to be kidding me. THAT'S an example of absurdity.
banazir
Jan. 15th, 2004 02:01 am (UTC)
CTY
Also..What's up with that CTY stuff you were part of? I was looking at it and it seems like a strange, elitist cult. Hm, I never did any programs like that when I was a kid.
Long story short: CTY was founded some 20+ years ago by Dr. Julian Stanley as an outgrowth of a program from about 30 years ago. It started with the center for the Study of Mathematically Precocious Youth (SMPY). When I was at JHU-CTY in 1986-1987 there were just 5 or 6 programs:


  • Mathematics

  • Automata Theory

  • Creative Writing

  • Etymologies



I took Algebra II, College Algebra, Analytical Geometry, and Trigonometry there, in a 14-month period.

Some time later I will write a more detailed post about the ramifications of this.

Sometimes I wish I had..but then, I looked at their syllabus.. existentialism and the absurdity of human existence to 7th graders??? You've got to be kidding me. THAT'S an example of absurdity.

Well, I don't know about the philosophy courses.
Etymologies and high school math were very effectively taught, though. And CTY is definitely a fellowship, possibly a cult, but I wouldn't call it elitist in the usual sense. Obviously, there's the "whizkids who thinkknow they can do anything" effect, but we're also very tight-knit. The cameraderie never wears off for most of us.

--
Banazir
Re: CTY - gondhir - Jan. 15th, 2004 02:04 am (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
Re: CTY - banazir - Jan. 15th, 2004 02:13 am (UTC) - Expand
(Deleted comment)
Re: as the softrat says - banazir - Jan. 15th, 2004 02:19 am (UTC) - Expand
It's knot a cult! No, rilly! - banazir - Jan. 15th, 2004 02:08 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: It's knot a cult! No, rilly! - gondhir - Jan. 15th, 2004 02:10 am (UTC) - Expand
Re: It's knot a cult! No, rilly! - banazir - Jan. 15th, 2004 02:37 am (UTC) - Expand
hfx_ben
Jan. 15th, 2004 04:04 am (UTC)
~~~ @ jenlight, who has been a Friend since late May, '03. (see Fans of )

A number of species manifest altruism to the point of caring for / raising others' kids, no? So actual sexual reproduction is "one of" a number of aims, if a special priority; what's "adaptive" is highly complex.
If we all set out to invent airplanes ... but of course that's not how it works. And it isn't merely about taking charge, or being autonomous ...

IMHO it's about not giving into entropy, whatever the situation we happen to be thrown into. [googled throwness, anyone?]

*ting!* midnight
banazir
Jan. 15th, 2004 04:47 am (UTC)
Wired to mate?
~~~ @ drawkward, who has been a Friend since late May, '03.
Cllo.

A number of species manifest altruism to the point of caring for / raising others' kids, no? So actual sexual reproduction is "one of" a number of aims, if a special priority; what's "adaptive" is highly complex.
There you go; it would seem to give the lie to evolved intelligence as a way for primates to coexist in a sustainable fashion, though. I personally like andrewwyld's take better, that from the standpoint of fitness, there have to be more important and pressing matters such as procuring food and shelter. (Case in point: please do let us know how the house-hunt goes.)

If we all set out to invent airplanes ... but of course that's not how it works. And it isn't merely about taking charge, or being autonomous ...
All true.
But none of this says anything about being preeminently "wired to mate".

IMHO it's about not giving into entropy, whatever the situation we happen to be thrown into. [googled throwness, anyone?]
I wouldn't have thought of it without you suggesting it!

--
Banazir
scionofgrace
Jan. 15th, 2004 06:54 pm (UTC)
So there you have it. Yes? No? Elves?

Elves.

lol I think there may be some truth to that theory, that it is a part of who we are to try to do things solely to impress people, whether we know it or not, but to say EVERY artistic and scientific endeavour is undertaken as a (conscious or unconcsious) attempt to attract mates is going a bit far.

Case in point: the sheer rapturous joy I get from performing a good concert is more likely to come when I'm NOT thinking about impressing anybody. Also, the amount of time I spend writing or drawing is for my own pleasure, to the point where I'm embarressed to show much of my work to anyone else.

(I am unattached in the relationship department)

I'd write more, but I'm supposed to be doing my homwork...
banazir
Jan. 15th, 2004 07:15 pm (UTC)
Are you not entertained?
Elves.
OMG!1!!!
An on-topic reply!
And a thoughtful one, even.

lol I think there may be some truth to that theory, that it is a part of who we are to try to do things solely to impress people, whether we know it or not, but to say EVERY artistic and scientific endeavour is undertaken as a (conscious or unconcsious) attempt to attract mates is going a bit far.
Precisely. That is what I was getting at, and what I think andrewwyld is saying as well. gondhir's conjecture that there are some social events (spectator sports being a good example) that are contrived to be "displays" is also a good one. Are yew knot entertained?

Ovid wrote something about the sheer "rising blood" of the arena having aphrodisiacal qualities, particularly for women. I don't know if I buy that, but you have to wonder why some females would deign to go to a horror flick as a date movie.

[better performance as vocalist when not thinking about impressing anyone; writing/drawing for own pleasure]
Just so.

(I am unattached in the relationship department)
I'd write more, but I'm supposed to be doing my homwork...

Moi aussi, on both counts.

Thanks for your thoughtful remarks!

--
Banazir
( 95 comments — Leave a comment )

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