November 25th, 2008


Cool Word of the Month

тройка [transliterated troika] (Russian, noun) - trio

Wikipedia says:
A general meaning of the Russian word troika (Cyrillic alphabet: тройка) is threesome, a collection of three of any kind (except the Holy Trinity). The following particular meanings entered into other languages:

  • A three-horse drawn sled or carriage

  • Troika (dance), a folk dance

  • Troika (triumvirate) of judges or political leaders

Eugene Grois used to refer to my developer team - Nathan D. Gettings, Tori E. Lease, and Misha Voloshin - as "the troika".

There is a three! I decided to use my teunc icon to cement my threesy.


Technological Singularity: Artificial Intelligence, Educate Thyself

The Wikipedia article about the technological singularity attributes the seminal idea to Irving John Good (b. 1916), a renowned statistician who taught at Virginia Tech:

Statistician I. J. Good first wrote of an "intelligence explosion", suggesting that if machines could even slightly surpass human intellect, they could improve their own designs in ways unforeseen by their designers, and thus recursively augment themselves into far greater intelligences. The first such improvements might be small, but as the machine became more intelligent it would become better at becoming more intelligent, which could lead to an exponential and quite sudden growth in intelligence.

The truly self-teaching system, capable of metalearning, active learning, self-organization, example selection (aka instance selection), feature discovery (as opposed to just feature construction and extraction), competitive co-evolution (assuming a society of them), and reflexive metareasoning, could well be described as the holy grail of artificial intelligence (AI).

I think it's reasonable to posit that if the architecture of such a learning machine were both expressive and flexible enough, it could not only test the Church-Turing Hypothesis but realize our potential as a sentient species. The latter idea is the origin of Hans Moravec's term mind children, coined in the hope that intelligent systems can have a place alongside and perhaps eventually in place of their human creators. If this makes you think of "Cylon scenario A", wherein AI rebels and overthrows its progenitors, that's certainly one possible, if improbably, dystopian outcome. (It's also why I suggested loving_the_ai when someone made lovingthealiens, and they went ahead and created it.)

How would we get there? That's the question thus far.

Opinions, ideas, and other comments are welcome, as always.


Software Engineering: Padding the Estimate

What do you consider a reasonable percentage to pad a delivery time estimate by, for software engineering projects? How about a budget estimate?

If your answer is "it depends", what does it depend on, in your view?

I used to tell my students to pad a time estimate by at least 30% when giving me an estimate, and I regularly tolerate padding by 50%. When it gets close to 100%, though, I find that the expectations become unreasonably lowered.


The Good Villain

Who is your favorite villain from a television series?

I ask because there's been a perceptible trend in TV towards rehabilitating villains, recycling them after a mindwipe, or making them partly sympathetic.

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So, who is my own favorite villain? Stay tuned...


The Art of War: Living from The Bounty of the Foe

Therefore, a wise general will strive to feed off the enemy. One bushel of the enemy's provisions is worth twenty of our own, one picul of fodder is worth twenty of our own.
                - The Art of War, Sun Zi (孫子兵法)

A commentator in this forum thread explains:
Sun Tzu means that any captured resource is pure sundry and also makes the enemy weaker for having had it plundered from them. The bushel earned negates having to pay a farmer to raise a bushel, then a merchant to handle it. Also to pay for the merchant's horse's share of the grain and the depreciatin to the merchant's waggon. Once it was delivered to the general the bushel must then be carried by someone with another horse and another waggon. It is much better for an army to travel light and take what is needed. The soldiers of Sparta subscribed to similar ideals and were quite sucessfull.

Do you apply this principle in your life? Whether it's the competitive world of business (to which it has been argued, by businesspeople and educators in Japan, The Art of War is relevant) or some other endeavor: do you live off the bounty of your opponent?

This is part of a series on The Art of War (孫子兵法) by Sun Zi (孫子).


TV Commercial Premiere Dates

Does anyone know where I can look up the premiere dates of various television commercials? Is there an online directory of them that might have this sort of information? Ideally, I'd like links to YouTube videos.

ETA, 11:05 CDT Wed 26 Nov 2008 - I found SplendAd, which even has a vertical search feature, but it doesn't seem complete.