QuEST Weekly Meeting, November 6th

QUEST Topics Nov 6, 2009:
1.)  We need to revisit our types of Qualia discussion.  What are the functional characteristics (laws) of qualia and are they universal for all the types of qualia.
2.) This then leads us into the discussion on architecture and our definition of data, information and knowledge and the embodiment of the processing element we called an ‘Agent’.  The recent discussions have extended the concept to include what we call a Quest Agent.
3.) Mathematics of QUEST – return to the discussion of extending our idea of an ‘Agent’ to include the ‘query’ – and the implication to the mathematics – Theory of Knowledge – discuss the Wolpert formalism and mesh it with our needs for our architecture.
4.) Series of Articles from a recent Scientific American special issue on the Mind.
a.     Early risers crash faster – An hour and a half after waking, early birds and night owls were equally alert and showed no difference in attention-related brain activity. But after being awake for 10 and a half hours, night owls had grown more alert, performing better on a reactiontime task requiring sustained attention and showing increased activity in brain areas linked to attention. More important, these regions included the suprachiasmatic area, which is home to the body’s circadian clock. This area sends signals to boost alertness as the pressure to sleep mounts. Unlike night owls, early risers didn’t get this late-day lift. Peigneux says faster activation of sleep pressure appears to prevent early birds from fully benefiting from the circadian signal, as evening types do
b.    Empathy – feels good when someone pays attention to our concerns and our feelings—and it turns out such empathy is good for our health, too… patients of doctors who expressed such concern had a cold for one day fewer than patients whose physicians focused on just the facts… direct relation between a physician’s empathy level and his or her patient’s level of IL-8, a chemical that summons immune system cells to fight microbial bad guys
c.     Really cool article on illusions – fallacy arises from the flawed reasoning that we literally “see” a picture on the retina, as if we were scanning it with some inner eye… No such inner eye exists. *** this is why trying to create a Cartesean Theater with persistent sensing is silly ***… hold the page about nine to 12 inches away, you will see that the face on the right is frowning and the one on the left has a placid expression… about six or eight feet away, the ­expressions change. The left one now smiles, and the right one looks calm…The researchers began with normal photographs of three faces: one calm, one angry and one smiling. They filtered each face to obtain both high-pass (containing sharp, fine lines) and low-pass (blurred, so as to capture large-scale luminance variations) images. They then combined the high-pass calm face with the low-pass smiling face to obtain the left image. For the right image, they overlaid the high-pass frowning face with the low-pass calm face… figures are viewed close-up? And why do the expressions change when you move the page away? To answer these questions, we need to tell you two more things about visual processing. First, the image needs to be close for you to see the sharp features. Second, sharp features, when visible, “mask”—or deflect attention away from—the large-scale objects (low spatial frequencies)… Fergus Campbell and John Robson of the University of Cambridge: information from different spatial scales is extracted in parallel by various neural channels, which have wide ranges of receptive field sizes…early 1960s, when Leon Harmon, then working at Bell Laboratories, devised the famous Abraham Lincoln effect. Harmon produced the picture of Honest Abe by taking a regular picture and digitizing it into coarse pixels (picture elements). Even when viewed close-up, there is enough information in the blocky brightness variations to recognize Lincoln…Margaret Livingstone of Harvard Medical School made an intriguing observation; she cracked the da Vinci code, you might say. She noticed that when she looked directly at Mona Lisa’s mouth, the smile was not apparent (quite a disappointment). Yet as she moved her gaze away from the mouth, the smile appeared, beckoning her eyes back. Looking again at the mouth, she saw that the smile disappeared again. In fact, she noted, the elusive smile can be seen only when you look away from the mouth. You have to attend to it out of the corner of your eye, rather than fixating on it directly. Because of the unique shading (placement of low spatial frequencies) at the corners of the mouth, a smile is perceived only when the low spatial frequencies are dominant—that is, when you look indirectly at the masterpiece. *** really cool result – you have to attend to it – one of the laws of qualia Did you guys go to the web site and look at the mona lisa stuff AND the explanation – specifically I like the discussion on you don’t see the smile when you attend to the mouth versus when you look away it evokes a smile that draws you back to the mouth…My walk – away on this – when not looking at the mouth the low spatial frequency analysis of that part of your world model evokes a GIST and associated quale of smiling – you then scan over to the mouth and now focusing your high spatial frequency visual sensing on it you determine it isn’t smiling – since your world model knows that this is not what was expected it captures your interest – your prediction didn’t get confirmed – both when you look at it and when you just have it in the periphery you are ‘attending’ to it so it can become a quale… If Leonardo did this on purpose to exploit the niche of the qualiarization process in the cracks that is really cool – I relate this to our ‘look back tenet’ – the comic book ‘superman symbol at the Fairfield commons***
d.    Limitations on multitasking – functional MRI, the researchers found that when people were juggling two assignments, their prefrontal cortex appeared to deal with the tasks one by one… With
training the prefrontal activation time became shorter, cranking up the speed of the mental conveyor belt by about 10 times. *** we would say we have pushed to the Libet soup the details here…
e.     Plasticity – researchers have electrically stimulated slices of disembodied hippocampus and seen how stimulation changes the structure of nearby neuron…implanting electrodes in live
rats, the group used a combination of functional MRI, electroencephalography (EEG) and microstimulation— triggering nerve cells with small doses of electric current—to trace in real time what happened to neuronal structures in the rats’ brains when neurons in the hippocampus were stimulated…learned that what we call neuronal plasticity isn’t exclusive to individual synapses or even the neurons where they contact but
rather occurs throughout the functional network in which synapses and neurons are embedded… findings could explain why new memories are at first dependent on the hippocampus but can eventually be recalled without triggering that part of the brain at all
f.       Reading minds – develop the ability to make inferences about what other people might be thinking, the hallmark of “theory of mind,” at age four…. acquisition of language plays a role in this process,
but so far it had been unclear whether social experience could substitute for it….Some of the participants had learned an early, rudimentary form of Nicaraguan sign language (NSL), whereas others were fluent in a more
sophisticated form of NSL that included mental state terms, such as “know” and “think.” Pyers and her team had all signers undergo a so called false-belief test in which signers looked at a sequence of pictures
showing two boys playing in a room and storing a toy underneath a bed… Those Nicaraguans with complex sign language skills were more likely to choose the first picture—indicating an understanding of false belief—than were those with less developed language skills…findings support the hypothesis that although an implicit understanding of other people’s knowledge and belief states develops early in life, advanced
language is needed “to unlock the ability to productively use it…
g.     Intention to act – Daniel M. Wegner of Harvard University amassed experimental evidence for a number of conscious sensations that accompany any willful action. The two most important are intention and agency. Prior to voluntary behavior lies a conscious intention. When you decide to lift your hand, this intention is followed by planning of the detailed movement and its execution. Subjectively, you experience a sensation of agency. You feel that you, not the person next to you, initiated this action and saw it through. If a friend were to take your hand and pull it above your head, you would feel your arm being dragged up, but you would not feel any sense of being responsible for it. The important insight here is that the consciously experienced feelings of intention and agency are no different, in principle, from any other consciously experienced sensations, such as the briny taste of chicken soup or the red color of a Ferrari…often our senses can be fooled—we see something that is not there. So it is with the sensation of intentionality and agency. Decades of psychology experiments—as well as careful observation of human nature that comes from a lifetime of living—reveal many instances where we think we caused something to happen, although we bear no responsibility for it; the converse also occurs, where we did do something but feel that something or somebody else must have been responsible…free will has some ontological reality or is entirely an illusion, as asserted forcefully by Weg­ner’s masterful monograph, does not invalidate the observation that voluntary actions are usually accompanied by subjective, ephemeral feelings that are nonetheless as real as anything else to the person who experiences them…neurosurgeon stimulates it with an electrode that passes pulses of current while the patient—who is awake and under local anesthesia to minimize discomfort—is asked to touch each finger successively with the thumb, count backwards or do some other simple task…medical team discovered that electrical stimulation of this adjacent region of cortex can, on occasion, give rise to an urge to move a limb. The patient reports that he or she feels a need to move the leg, elbow or arm.. comments (in French) such as “It felt like I wanted to move my foot. Not sure how to explain,” “I had a desire to move my right hand,” or “I had a desire to roll my tongue in my mouth.” In none of these cases did they actually carry out the movement to which they referred. But the external stimulation caused an unambiguous conscious feeling of wanting to move. And this feeling arose from within, without any prompting by the examiner and not during sham stimulation…
5.) News:
a.     MIT Tech Review – 8 recent trends, online funeral; … life-casting… Services such as let you stream a live video from your cell to the world without the usual video hiccups and complex setup…. YouTube videos are static. They capture a fleeting moment, but not as it happens in real-time. Life-casting is the true expression of our own self-worth (ahem).; body will control video games… Project Natal, lets you perform dance movies or kick a ball, while a camera tracks your movements using infrared and shows the results on screen. A microphone can also capture voice commands… PlayStation Motion Controller, a wand that helps accomplish the same you-as-the-controller goal; leave your tape measure at home… uses satellites and aerial photographs to make roof measurements that are just as accurate as making the measurements in person… help contractors, insurance companies, and estimators avoid crawling up on roofs; content aggregator… and other services that help you find interesting stories and pictures. And plenty of sites — such as — let you share goofy videos…. aggregator for videos, photos, documents and Web sites, so you can not only store videos and photos but share them online…; business cards…iPhone apps – such as Beezcard and SnapDat – allow you to share contact details, but not everyone has an iPhone. A Swiss company has made the PokenZoo, a cute, inexpensive device you touch to another Poken to swap contacts…; chat with faceless minions… you can chat with complete strangers. AOL has provided this capability for eons (isn’t that what chat boards are all about?), but puts a random spin on it, pairing you safely and anonymously with an arbitrary total stranger.; gadgets will have gadgets…Cell-phone boosters have become popular in the past few years, purporting to improve coverage and signal quality. Most have added, oh, one bar at most. The zBoost ONE ( can boost your connection up three bars
b.    Mobile search – finding business (apps) – create the best applications to allow users to search for surrounding businesses and events from a mobile phone… service that lets people find their friends on the go, is now entering the crowded field… uses the GPS capability in many cellphones to figure out where a person is and show ads for nearby businesses…Loopt aims to distinguish itself by making its service comprehensive. It incorporates feeds from 20 sources, including listings and review services like Zagat, Citysearch and Eventful as well as content sites like DailyCandy, Thrillist and The Village Voice… Pulse produces a personalized and ever-changing list of recommendations based on where you are, the time of day and Loopt’s own data on where you and your friends have been… factors in more subjective factors, like which places are particularly popular with Loopt users at a given moment… strike a nice balance between purely algorithmic search and saying, “This is a brand-new and hot coffee shop that just opened in this city,’… Loopt gets some revenue from cellphone carriers, which include its service in their data plans or buy its technology to run their own location-based applications…pitch to advertisers is compelling, Mr. Altman said, because Pulse knows where someone is, what they are looking for and what they previously liked. Retailers like Jack in the Box, Target and Chili’s have already agreed to offer coupons on Pulse… Mobile coupons can get seven times as many responses as those in print or online because people do not need to write down a code or print the coupon…
c.     Brainman – socially awkward and often physically clumsy, but many are verbal prodigies, speaking in complex sentences at early ages, reading newspapers fluently by age 5 or 6 and acquiring expertise in some preferred topic — stegosaurs, clipper ships, Interstate highways — that will astonish adults and bore their playmates to tears…. once obscure diagnosis, given to more than four times as many boys as girls, has become increasingly common… growing prevalence of autism, which now affects about 1 percent of American children, according to federal data, can be attributed to Asperger’s and other mild forms of the disorder…. Nobody has been able to show consistent differences between what clinicians diagnose as Asperger’s syndrome and what they diagnose as mild autistic disorder… It’s not an evidence-based term. It may be something people would like to use to describe how they see themselves fitting into the spectrum…given diagnosis but also an array of other health problems that commonly accompany the disorder. For autism, this would most likely include anxiety, attention disorders, gastrointestinal problems, seizures and sensory differences like extreme sensitivity to noise…In “Embracing the Wide Sky” (Free Press, 2009), Daniel Tammet, a shy British math and linguistic savant, tells how he was able to learn enough Icelandic in a week to manage a television interview and how he could recite the value of pi to 22,514 decimal places by envisioning the digits “as a rolling numerical panorama” of colors, shapes and textures… plan was to define autism by two core elements — impaired social communication and repetitive behaviors or fixated interests — and to score each of those elements for severity…
d.    China cyber efforts – authors state China is conducting a “long-term, sophisticated, computer network exploitation campaign.” The report documents the most sophisticated cyber spying yet attributed to Beijing: a months-long cyber reconnaissance effort directed against a single U.S.-based company, followed by a “multiday” intrusion where large amounts of data were compiled and extracted to an Internet protocol address in China…. According to the SANS Institute, a computer security firm, keystroke logs of intrusions on government computers leave “little doubt that the Chinese government” is behind the attacks…developing these capabilities since at least 2003, when the then-director of the PLA’s electronic warfare department, Dai Qingmin, proposed a comprehensive information warfare effort, including cyber attack, electronic attack and coordinated kinetic attacks in military operations. The PLA has specialized units and trained personnel to conduct these kinds of attacks, which require reconnaissance, mapping and targeting…Secretary Gates ordered in June the creation of a unified “United States Cyber Command” that began initial operations in October and will be fully operational by October 2010. Under this plan the National Security Agency was to function as the headquarters of the U.S. Cyber Command, with each of the military services putting together their own subordinate cyber commands…
e.     North Korea cyber efforts – North Korea has been identified as the source of high-profile cyberattacks in July that caused Web outages in South Korea and the United States… July attacks, in which floods of computers tried to connect to a single Web site at the same time to overwhelm the server, caused outages on prominent government-run sites in both countries. Affected sites include those of the White House and the South’s presidential Blue House…
f.       Electronic medical records – only 17 percent of U.S. doctors use electronic records. But the federal government has ambitious plans to create a network in which patient information is shared electronically among medical institutions… president has said that everyone will have an electronic health record by 2014… has never been a business case for health-information exchange. As a matter of fact, there has been a negative case: if you give away your information, you may lose it. You may lose the patient…Patients are suffering because necessary information is not available at the point of care. With robust health-­information exchange, there can be improved quality of care and improved care coördination. Today, the average 65-year-old with five chronic conditions has 14 doctors and is on multiple medications
g.     Augmented reality and print magazines – Hold Esquire’s December issue in front of a webcam, and an on-screen image of the magazine pops to life, letters flying off the cover. Shift and tilt the magazine, and the animation on the screen moves accordingly… Robert Downey Jr. emerges out of the on-screen page in 3-D, offering half-improvised shtick… Triggering the animation is a box just below Downey’s cover image, resembling a crossword puzzle and looking a little out of place. The magazine has printed about a half-dozen boxes inside the issue, each calling up a separate interactive feature, plus a couple of ads. The issue will be available nationally by Nov. 16… acknowledged the issue is costing more than usual to put together. The car maker Lexus is absorbing some of the expense by agreeing to buy space for two “augmented reality…On the page is Esquire’s regular men’s fashion spread, while on the screen, the model is pelted by a computer-animated snow storm. Granger gives the page a quarter rotation, the weather turns sunny and the model starts throwing on summer clothes…
h.    Treatment for macula degeneration – designed to slow the production of toxic byproducts in the eye by making it less sensitive to light are now being tested in patients with macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in people age 50 and older…no treatments are yet available for the dry form, which accounts for about 90 percent of cases. Some dry cases ultimately progress to the wet form, which accounts for a large part of AMD-related blindness. “If you can treat dry AMD, you can kill two birds with one stone,” both reducing early symptoms and preventing progression to the wet form… pool of evidence suggests that the build up of specific compounds in the eye can hasten the cellular damage that underlies the disease. These compounds accumulate in the photoreceptors–cells in the retina that detect light–during normal eye function as the light-sensitive pigments in these cells change conformation in response to photons….think these compounds are a burden for the retinal pigment epithelium, which is essential for the healthy function of the photoreceptors,” says Janet Sparrow, director of the Retinal Cell Biology Laboratory at Columbia University, in New York. “In age-related macular degeneration, particularly the dry form, these cells die, and the photoreceptors follow…reaction is vital for sight, researchers believe that slowing the cycle in the subset of photoreceptors responsible for night vision, known as rods, could slow damage without having a large impact on daytime vision. (Preliminary results suggest it can affect dark-adaptation–when our eyes adjust to low-light conditions.) “During the daytime, the rods are spinning like crazy, wasting vitamin A for no good use…second drug that acts by a slightly different mechanism is being evaluated for macular degeneration by Sirion Therapeutics, a Florida-based pharmaceutical company. The compound is a synthetic vitamin A derivative that is thought to reduce toxin buildup by binding to one of the proteins involved in the reaction. According to preliminary results from tests of the drug in patients with late-stage dry macular degeneration, it can slow the scarring that is characteristic of the disease by 45 percent…
i.       NSA cyber security data center – facility to provide intelligence and warnings related to cybersecurity threats, cybersecurity support to defense and civilian agency networks, and technical assistance to the Department of Homeland Security…Camp Williams, a National Guard training center 26 miles south of Salt Lake City, which was chosen for its access to cheap power, communications infrastructure, and availability of space, Gaffney said. The complex will comprise up to 1.5 million square feet of building space on 120 to 200 acres…
j.       Screening and mammography – raises questions about the be… women over 40 should keep having mammograms every year, because seven studies have shown that the test decreases the risk of death…statement also said mammography can “miss cancers that need treatment, and in some cases finds disease that does not need treatment.” In other words, the test may lead to some women being treated, and being exposed to serious side effects, for cancers that would not have killed them. Some researchers estimate that as many as one-third of cancers picked up by screening would not be fatal even if left untreated. But right now, nobody knows which ones…agreed that research was badly needed to figure out how to tell dangerous tumors from the so-called indolent ones…Dr. Esserman described breast cancers as slow, medium or fast in growth rate and aggressiveness, and said screening seemed to be good at finding the slow ones, which probably didn’t need treatment, but might not catch the aggressive and deadly types before they began to spread…women over 70 or 75 can stop being screened, because no studies have shown that it helps them. If they do develop breast cancer, she said, it is likely to be a slow-growing type that will not kill them…evidence was also lacking for a benefit in screening women from 40 to 50 — unless they have a strong family history of breast cancer or a mutation in a gene called BRCA, which greatly increases the risk…50 to 70, Dr. Esserman said, the story is different. In that age range, there is good evidence that screening can reduce the risk of death from breast cancer by 20 percent to 30 percent… One risk factor is having dense breast tissue, which is a double threat: cancer is more likely and harder to detect, because X-rays do not penetrate this tissue as well as they pass through fat… Other risk factors include taking hormones…Some recommend no screening for women under 50 or over 70, and some advise mammograms only every other year. In European countries that screen every other year, she said, the breast cancer death rates are no higher than in the United States… some researchers say that the benefits of yearly screening far outweigh the risks, and that if women skip it, gains against breast cancer — death rates have declined in recent years — could be undone… The bottom line is that if an individual woman wants to reduce her odds of dying of breast cancer (by at least 24 percent, which is no small effect), then she should follow the current screening guidelines….Even if it were true that 1 in 3 cancers found by mammography would not become fatal (a figure that Dr. Norton questions), there is no sure way to tell which those a…emphasizes that finding tumors when small, which mammograms can do, increases the odds that the patient will be able to avoid mastectomy and chemotherapy… have misled the public into thinking that screening could prevent cancer. “It’s a giant misconception…
                        k.     Swarms of UAVs – U.S. Navy is developing unmanned fighting vehicles that network together and operate in “swarms… American officials credit the use of Predator aircraft, which are armed with guided missiles, with eliminating a growing number of senior terrorist leaders who were beyond the reach of ground forces in Afghanistan and Pakistan…. now, these unmanned aircraft are talking to each other… demonstration last week, the U.S. Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) linked unmanned drones, including air and ground vehicles, into unmanned squadrons with a single person helming all six vehicles… demo involved smaller, Tier 2 craft, the sort of planes that NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration use as hurricane hunters… Instead of six guys controlling six UAVs, you’ve got one guy controlling six…Esposito said swarming algorithms “are driven by digital pheromone-based maps of the area in which the swarms are operating. This is similar to the reasoning used by insects, which was the inspiration for the swarming concept… Department of Defense’s Unmanned Systems Roadmap calls for advances in precisely this type of autonomous operation and connectivity… Force has 7,000 UAVs, he noted, and the military needs to start thinking about midair collisions, interaction, saving intel, and so on…

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