Embodying the machine

Sunday 28 August 2022, 00:00

There's an idea in neuroscience that the brain maintains what is basically a 3D model of the body - the "body schema" - and that when we use tools, they become part of that schema. Claimed evidence for this concept includes studies where people were asked to perform a task with a tool, like picking up an object with a gripper like a pair of tongs, and then measurements afterward suggested their body schema had changed. For instance, the person's response time and the way they moved when picking up an object without a tool might change in a way that suggested their internal estimate of the length of their arms had increased; or their perception of the distance between two touches on their forearm might increase, as if they were at some deep level measuring against an estimated forearm length that had increased.

Bad enough to qualify

Sunday 21 August 2022, 00:00

Today is the Queen's Plate, a horse race here in Toronto that is considered a big enough deal to be reported in the general news media, and it had me thinking about a peculiarity of horse racing: the qualifications to enter a race are usually backward compared to human sports. Whereas human athletes need to be good enough to qualify for an event, horses need to be not too good.

The recipe for watering down a goal

Sunday 14 August 2022, 00:00

The overlapping circles of "life coaching," "mindfulness," and certain fluffy religions, have a highly-developed technology for achieving personal goals, and it works well - provided you're willing to follow the recipe.

What nobody else will do

Sunday 7 August 2022, 00:00

Somebody asked whether there's a purpose to my life (or that of whoever cared to answer) - on Twitter, where my profile description currently consists the the three words "Anchorite, apostate, asteroid."

I don't think there is. I used to think there was, but it's been some years since that fell apart for me. However, it's interesting what's left.

Shaping Hint

Sunday 31 July 2022, 17:00

This is the output from one of my text-generation AI experiments. I started with the GPT-J 6B model, and fine-tuned it on about 200,000 words of my own fiction writing (about half of that being the text of Shining Path). It took about 36 hours to fine-tune the model on my 12-core desktop PC, notably not using GPU computation, and then maybe 12 hours or so to generate this text under human supervision.

The fourth help

Sunday 31 July 2022, 00:00

I've written before about three very different actions that all end up being called "helping" someone. It recently occurred to me that there's a fourth important one as well.

Visible ontologies

Sunday 24 July 2022, 00:00

Web services expose their underlying data models throughout their interfaces, much more so than we might expect, and they're all different. Two services that seem to be direct competitors will have importantly different ontologies of the data, and this affects all aspects of how they feel to users.


Sunday 22 May 2022, 14:46

When I was a child I always wanted to invent games. As I got older I became more and more disheartened by the number of my games that were never actually played, and in fact the larger pattern of my work going unused has been an issue for me throughout my life. But Spywar was one of my most successful childhood games.


Thursday 16 December 2021, 13:02


これは「TeX & LaTeX Advent Calendar 2021」の17日目の記事です。 (16日目はCareleSmith9さん18日目はSpark Hiroさんです。) 悪い日本語でごめんなさい。 練習ので、一年に一つの記事を書いています。 早く流暢になりますかな?

Scarcity, abundance, and lost careers

Monday 29 November 2021, 09:42

How should institutions make hiring and promotion decisions, in theory? How do institutions make such decisions, in actual practice? What happens, and what should happen, when someone's career is interrupted? Is it possible to restore an interrupted career, and should that be done? What happens to institutions when society overproduces, or underproduces, elite individuals? This article looks at ways to understand these questions, starting from an historical episode.