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Link to paper on Case Based Reasoning from Dr. Mills

October 23, 2009 Leave a comment

Link to Ramachandran paper

October 23, 2009 Leave a comment

Lifelike avatars

October 15, 2009 Leave a comment

LifeLike – EVL Lab Sets Out To Simulate Your (Evil) Twin

By News Account

Created May 18 2009 – 1:00am

Is “Multiplicity” your favorite movie?   Have you ever wished you could be in two places at once or create an evil twin (and name him Skippy)?   A research project called LifeLike is trying to bring that a little closer to reality.

Project LifeLike is a collaboration between the Electronic Visualization Laboratory (EVL) at the University of Illinois at Chicago, and the Intelligent Systems Laboratory (ISL) at the University of Central Florida and aims to create visualizations of people, or avatars, that are as realistic as possible. While their current results are far from perfect replications of a specific person, their work has advanced the field forward and opens up a host of possible applications in the not-too-distant future.

The EVL team, headed by Jason Leigh, an associate professor of computer science, is tasked with getting the visual aspects of the avatar just right. On the surface, this seems like a pretty straightforward task–anyone who has played a video game that features characters from movies or professional athletes is used to computer-generated images that look like real people.

A still image of a Project LifeLike avatar conversing with a person. Project LifeLike is a collaboration between the Intelligent Systems Laboratory (ISL) at the University of Central Florida (UCF) and the Electronic Visualization Laboratory (EVL) at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) that aims to create visualizations of people, or avatars, that are as realistic as possible. While their current results are far from perfect replications of a specific person, their work has advanced the field forward and opens up a host of possible applications in the not-too-distant future.  Credit: University of Chicago/University of Central Florida

But according to Leigh, it takes more than a good visual rendering to make an avatar truly seem like a human being. “Visual realism is tough,” Leigh said in a recent interview. “Research shows that over 70% of communication is non-verbal,” he said, and is dependent on subtle gestures, variations in a person’s voice and other variables.

To get these non-verbal aspects right, the EVL team has to take precise 3-D measurements of the person that Project LifeLike seeks to copy, capturing the way their face moves and other body language so the program can replicate those fine details later.

The ISL team, headed by electrical engineering professor Avelino Gonzalez, focuses on applying artificial intelligence capabilities to the avatars. This includes technologies that allow computers to recognize and correctly understand natural language as it is being spoken as well as automated knowledge update and refinement, a process that allows the computer to ‘learn’ information and data it receives and apply it independently. The end goal, Gonzalez says, is that a person conversing with the avatar will have the same level of comfort and interaction that they would have with an actual person. Gonzalez sees the aims of Project LifeLike as fundamental to the field of artificial intelligence.

An interview with Project LifeLike leaders Avelino Gonzalez of the University of Central Florida and Jason Leigh of the University of Illinois-Chicago. Project LifeLike is a collaboration between the Intelligent Systems Laboratory (ISL) at the University of Central Florida (UCF) and the Electronic Visualization Laboratory (EVL) at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) that aims to create visualizations of people, or avatars, that are as realistic as possible. While their current results are far from perfect replications of a specific person, their work has advanced the field forward and opens up a host of possible applications in the not-too-distant future.  Credit: National Science Foundation/University of Chicago/University of Central Florida

“We have applied artificial intelligence in many ways, but if you’re really going to implement it,” Gonzalez said in a recent interview, “the only way to do it is to do it though some sort of embodiment of a human, and that’s an avatar.”

The Project LifeLike team demonstrated the technology this past winter at NSF’s headquarters in Arlington, Va. The team gathered motion and visual information on a NSF staff member, and gave the avatar system information about an upcoming NSF proposal solicitation. Other people were able to sit and talk to the avatar, which could converse with the speaker and answer questions about the solicitation. Colleagues of the NSF staffer were instantly able to recognize who the avatar represented and commented that it captured some of the person’s mannerisms.

Gonzalez and Leigh believe this is just one possible application for this field. In the future, they believe, it may be possible for school children to interact with avatars of historical figures, or for job seekers to hone their interview skills by practicing with an avatar. While the technology may not be able to fill in for us yet, both researchers agree that in the coming decades, many of the ‘people’ we interact with won’t actually be people at all.

We would suggest it is a way for us to make Special K immortal – capturing a series of interviews with him (we need to work the axes of the qualia space to capture the variations we need in the interview) – then from that qualia level data base imbue an avatar that we will construct as done above in the univ of ill to make the avatar look like him –

Categories: News Stories, Think Pieces

Tribal Mentality

October 8, 2009 Leave a comment

It’s the Tribes, Stupid

Steven Pressfield

October 2006

© 2006 Steven Pressfield

Forget the Koran. Forget the ayatollahs and the imams. If we want to understand the enemy we’re fighting in Iraq, the magic word is “tribe.”

Islam is not our opponent in Baghdad or Fallouja. We delude ourselves if we believe the foe is a religion. The enemy is tribalism articulated in terms of religion.

For two years I’ve been researching a book about Alexander the Great’s counter-guerrilla campaign in Afghanistan, 330-327 B.C. What struck me most powerfully is that that war is a dead ringer for the ones we’re fighting today – even though Alexander was pre-Christian and his enemies were pre-Islamic.

In other words, the clash of East and West is at bottom not about religion. It’s about two different ways of being in the world. Those ways haven’t changed in 2300 years. They are polar antagonists, incompatible and irreconcilable.

The West is modern and rational; its constituent unit is the nation. The East is ancient and visceral; its constituent unit is the tribe.

What is a tribe anyway?

The tribe is the most ancient form of social organization. It arose from the hunter-gatherer clans of pre-history. A tribe is small. It consists of personal, face-to-face relationships, often of blood. A tribe is cohesive. Its structure is hierarchical. It has a leader and a rigid set of norms and customs that defines each individual’s role. Like a hunting band, the tribe knows who’s the top dog and knows how to follow orders. What makes Islam so powerful in the world today is that its all-embracing discipline and order overlay the tribal mind-set so perfectly. Islam delivers the certainty and security that the tribe used to. It permits the tribal way to survive and thrive in a post-tribal and super-tribal world.

Am I knocking tribalism? Not at all. In many ways I think people are happier in a tribal universe. Consider the appeal of post-apocalyptic movies like The Road Warrior or The Day After Tomorrow. Modern life is tough. Who can fault us if now and then we entertain the idea of going back to the simple life?

The people we’re fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan live that life 24/7/365 and they’ve been living it for the past ten thousand years. They like it. It’s who they are. They’re not going to change.

How do you combat a tribal enemy?

Step one is to recognize that that enemy is tribal. We in the West may flatter ourselves that democracy is taking root in Iraq when we see news footage of blue-ink thumbs and beaming faces emerging from polls. What’s really happening has nothing to do with democracy. What’s happening is the tribal chief has passed the word and everybody is voting exactly as he told them to.

What is the nature of the tribe? What can sociology tell us about its attributes?

The tribe respects power.

Saddam Hussein understood this. So did Tito, Stalin, Hitler. So will the next strong man who ultimately stabilizes Iraq.

The tribe must have a chief. It demands a leader. With a top dog, every underdog knows his place. He feels secure. He can provide security for this family. The tribe needs a Tony Soprano. It needs a Godfather.

The U.S. blew it in Iraq the first week after occupying Baghdad. Capt. Nate Fick of the Recon Marines tells the story of that brief interlude when U.S. forces were still respected, just before the looting started. Capt. Fick went in that interval to the local headman in his area of responsibility in Baghdad; he asked what he needed. The chief replied, “Clean water, electricity, and as many statues of George W. Bush as you can give us.”

The tribe needs a boss. Alexander understood this. Unlike the U.S., the Macedonians knew how to conquer a country. When Alexander took Babylon in 333 B.C., he let the people know he was the man. They accepted this. They welcomed it. Life could go on.

When we Americans declared in essence to the Iraqis, “Here, folks, you’re free now; set up your own government,” they looked at us as if we were crazy. The tribal mind doesn’t want freedom; it wants security. Order. It wants a New Boss. The Iraqis lost all respect for us then. They saw us as naive, as fools. They saw that we could be beaten.

The tribe is a warrior; its foundation is warrior pride.

The heart of every tribal male is that of a warrior. Even the most wretched youth in a Palestinian refugee camp sees himself as a knight of Islam. The Pathan code of nangwali prescribes three virtues – nang, pride; badal, revenge; melmastia, hospitality. These guys are Apaches.

What the warrior craves before all else is respect. Respect from his own people, and, even more, from his enemy. When we of the West understand this, as Alexander did, we’ll have taken the first step toward solving the unsolvable.

The tribe places no value on freedom.

The tribe is the most primitive form of social organization. In the conditions under which the tribe evolved, survival was everything. Cohesion meant the difference between starving and eating. The tribe enforces conformity by every means possible – wives, mothers, and daughters add the whip hand to keep the warriors in line. Freedom is a luxury the tribe can’t afford. The tribesman’s priority is respect within the tribe, to belong, to be judged a man.

You can’t sell “freedom” to tribesmen any more than you can sell “democracy.” He doesn’t want it. It violates his code. It threatens everything he stands for.

The tribe is bound to the land.

I just read an article about Ariel Sharon (a tribal leader if there ever was one.) The interviewer was describing how, as Sharon crossed a certain stretch of Israeli real estate, he pointed out with great emotion the hills where the Biblical character Abigail lived out her story. In other words, to the tribesman the land isn’t for sale; it’s been rendered sacred by the sagas of ancestors. The tribe will paint the stones red with its own blood before letting itself be evicted from the land.

The tribe cannot be negotiated with.

Tribes deal in absolutes. Their standards of honor cannot be compromised. Crush the tribe in one century, it will rise again a thousand years from now. We’re seeing this now in a Middle East where the Crusades happened yesterday. When the tribe negotiates, it is always a sham – a stalling tactic meant to mitigate temporary weakness. Do we believe Iran is really “coming to the table?” As soon as the tribe regains power, it will abrogate every treaty and every pact.

The tribe has no honor except within its own sphere, deriving justice for its own people. Its code is Us versus Them. The outsider is a gentile, an infidel, a devil.

These are just a few of the characteristics of the tribal mind. Now: what to do about this?

How to deal with the tribal mind.

You can’t make deals with a tribal foe; they won’t be honored. You can’t buy them; they’ll take your money and despise you. The tribe can’t be reasoned with. Its mind is not rational, it’s instinctive. The tribe is not modern but primitive. The tribe thinks from the stem of its brain, not the cortex. Its code is of warrior pride, not of Enlightenment reason.

To deal successfully with the tribe, a negotiator of the West must first grant it its pride and honor. The tribe’s males must be addressed as warriors; its women must be treated with respect. The tribe must be left to its own land, to govern as it deems best.

If you want to get out of a tribal war, you must find a scenario by which the tribe can declare itself victorious. The tribal mind is canny; it knows when it’s whipped. But its warrior pride is so fierce, it cannot admit this. The tribe has to be allowed its face.

How Alexander got out of a quagmire.

It took Alexander three years, but he finally got a handle on the tribal mind. (Perhaps because so many of his own Macedonians were basically tribal.) Alexander produced peace by marrying the daughter of his most powerful enemy, the princess Roxane. The tribe understands such an act. This is respect. This is honor.

Alexander made the tribesmen his equals. He acknowledged their warrior honor. When he and his army marched out to their next conquest, Alexander took the bravest of his former enemies with him as his Companions. They rode at his side in stations of honor; they dined at his shoulder in the royal pavilion. (Of course he also beat the living hell out of the Afghans for three years prior, and when he took off he left a fifth of his army to garrison the place.)

The outlook for the U.S. in Iraq

In the end, unless we’re ready to treat them they way we did Geronimo, the tribe is unbeatable. They’re just too crazy. They’re not like us. Tolerance and open-mindedness are not virtues to them; they’re signs of weakness. The tribe is too rigid to bend, and it can’t be negotiated with.

Perhaps in the end, our leaders, like Alexander, will figure some way to bring the tribal foe around. More likely in my opinion, they’ll arrive at the same conclusion as did Lord Roberts, the legendary British general. Lord Roberts fought (and defeated militarily) tribesmen in two bloody wars in Afghanistan in the 19th century. His conclusion: get out. Lord Roberts’ axiom was that the farther away British forces remained from the tribesmen, the more likely the tribesmen were to feel warmly toward them; the closer he got, the more they hated him and the more stubbornly and implacably they fought against him.


Steven Pressfield is the best-selling author of Gates of Fire, The Virtues of War, and the recently published The Afghan Campaign.

Categories: Think Pieces

New take on Turing and CAPTCHA’s

September 3, 2009 Leave a comment

As we continue to formulate ideas for a new think piece on ‘What Turing meant to say’, we wanted to make sure the background work by Turing was available for everyone to review.  Please find the attached pdf of his 1950 paper, ‘Computing Machinery and Intelligence’, below.

Turing1950

Non-physics based representations CA ppt

August 28, 2009 Leave a comment

From Capt Amerika, a collection of recent thoughts addressing the difference between subjective and objective representations.

Note:  Updated to reflect changes that were projected at Aug 28th QUEST meeting.

Non physics based representations v2

Presentation from Dr. Carl

August 28, 2009 Leave a comment

Powerpoint that addresses what is unique in human minds when compared to animal minds.

Key_Ingredients_of_the_Human_Mind

Categories: Think Pieces