Sunday, May 26, 2013

AAAI 2014: Connecting Machine Learning and Human Intelligence

The AAAI Spring Symposia are a place for worldwide artificial intelligence, machine learning, and other computer scientists to present and discuss innovative theoretical research in a workshop-like environment. In 2013, some of the topics included: learning, autonomous systems, wellness, crowd computing, behavior change, and creativity.

Proposals are underway for 2014. Please indicate your opinion by voting at the poll at the top right for these potential topics:
  • My data identity: personal, social, universal 
  • Big data becomes personal: knowledge into meaning 
  • Wearable computing and digital affect: wellness, bioidentity, and intentionality 
  • Big data, wearable computing, and identity construction: knowledge becomes meaning 
  • Personalized knowledge generation: identity, intentionality, action, and wellness

Monday, May 20, 2013

Innovation in Epistemology

Rather than being a dusty old concept in philosophy, epistemology is a source of philosophical advance, and is perhaps shifting in some even more vibrant ways per the contemporary science and technology era of big data, information visualization, synthetic biology, biohacking, DIYscience, and the quantified self.

Epistemology (the study of knowledge) is one of the three main branches of philosophy, together with metaphysics (nature of reality), and aesthetics (nature of beauty). The study of knowledge remains one of the most dense and unresolved areas in philosophy. Some of the usual concerns of epistemology are: What is knowledge? How can knowledge be acquired? To what extent can any subject or entity be known? What are the limits of knowledge?

There are two main traditional theories as to how knowledge is obtained: either through the senses and perception (empiricism; e.g.; Locke’s “All ideas come from sensation”) or through reason (rationalism; e.g.; Descartes’ “I think therefore I am”).

There has been much movement in epistemology from the basic structure of this empiricism-rationalism debate. Both empiricism and rationalism seek common foundations upon which all other ideas are built (foundationalism). Foundationalism is problematic in several ways, two of the most basic are ‘what are these underlying foundations?’ and ‘how do these foundations connect to upstream ideas?’ Traditional/analytic philosophers propose coherentism as an alternative to foundationalism. Coherentism is the notion of it being more important that ideas make sense together and flow from one to the next than that they have immutable discernible foundations.

Continental philosophy too has a response to foundationalism and other aspects of the empiricst/rationalist debate. Gadamer enlarges the notion of epistemology, suggesting that discovering facts is just one of many edification activities; that man’s focus is self-betterment, a higher level than knowledge acquisition. Likewise Heidegger thinks that the higher-order engagement of man is beyond knowing facts and rather in understanding. Further that the circular structure of interpretation (the hermeneutic circle: acquiring new information and updating thoughts) is what makes knowledge possible. Rorty also calls for a larger, more holistic notion of epistemology that includes both conceptualization and the demonstration of practice.

Other new epistemologies also extend, reformulate and reinvigorate our understanding of epistemology and can be brought to bear on contemporary science and technology. Some of these alt.epistemologies are from the areas of social, feminist, queer, decolonial, and Eastern philosophy.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Pluralist Narratives in Digital Art and Philosophy

Much of contemporary human endeavor involves both art and technology. Objects are both technologized and aesthetically designed. Apple forever changed the expectation of high-quality technology and design in objects. Information visualization, 3-D printing, personal data, video games, and de novo biological design (e.g.; proteins, other molecules, synthetic biology) are some examples of the strong linkage between technology and aesthetic design.

Artists, scientists, and individuals alike are exploring these new venues of information, software, personal data, biology, and virtual reality for discovery and creative expression. Online tools facilitate the process and compress the required learning curves for proficiency.

As a result, there is a shift away from the institutional production of knowledge to include the more democratized production of art, science, technology, objects, and knowledge by individuals and crowds. This helps to enact change at three levels: a greater range of interesting and useful objects and technologies coming into existence; more fulfillment and expression of human creative potential; and new kinds of knowledge and meaning-making narratives about the world.

Sunday, May 05, 2013

Friendship 2.0

The new mindfulness extends to every area of life. Communication and romantic relationships often exist now on much improved ground compared to even a few years ago. Now friendship is under the spotlight.

The new idea is becoming more active instead of passive with regard to friendships: learning and acknowledging that friendships are a dynamic process that needs deliberate focus and ongoing tending. At least two new genre-pioneering books are on the scene: Friendships Don’t Just Happen! and The Friendship Fix. The books are aimed at women, but have broadly applicable themes. The attendant friendship development meetup groups, workshops, and conferences are already popping up to help hone the new skillset.

Some obvious Friendship 2.0 things to examine and sync with friends and potential friends are your and their friendship rules. These are your potentially unconscious rules for how you think a friend should behave. Just like with unexamined relationship rules, friendship rules are likely to differ and could cause conflict. Stating expectations is one way to communicate intent and boundaries. The books suggest determining what is most important to you in a friendship – for example, sharing values, experiences, or interests. The more kinds of points of overlap (if possible), the better; but one cannot be overly perfectionist about the criteria list either. There are different steps to follow in identifying and cultivating friendships. Overall, Friendship 2.0 has an exciting esprit of empowerment and possibility for experiencing more fun and life fulfillment through friendships.

An obvious critique might be ‘Is Friendship 2.0 YASFSM (Yet another San Francisco Social Movement)?’ San Francisco is not just the home of technology innovation, but also social innovation. Numerous social movements, if not spawned in San Francisco have been taken up, popularized, and made more acceptable in the Bay Area. A few of these include: co-working, co-housing, hackathons, biohacking, DIY science, unconferences, polyamory, homosexuality, lesbianism, bisexuality, transgenderism, queer theory, happiness, calming tech, persuasive tech, spiritual intelligence, and mindfulness. Shifting models in romantic relationships, longevity, and the mobile fungible lives of the modern individual suggest that Friendship 2.0 could just be starting as a deeply relevant social concept.