Thoughts on… The X-mu Library (An Introduction)

OK, so one of the many outputs of my PhD Research and Development is a software library in the python programming language for what we call the “X-mu Approach” to Fuzzy Set Theory. I’ve released this library as free and open source software via github ( danieljohnlewis/xmu-python ), and I’ve started to build an online calculator… but I’m not quite ready to make that public quite yet (although if you’re up for testing it, then please do get in touch!)

Something is fuzzy when it has a graded membership… what I mean by this is that subjectively something can be categorised to a certain degree. So it might be “lightly raining” or “very heavily raining”, they are fuzzy terms, whereas “its either raining or its not” is what we call a binary term.

So, in traditional fuzzy. A membership function takes in a value (e.g. millimetres of rain per hour) and returns a value between 0 and 1, representing how much it is that term/category (e.g. “very heavy rain”). This value between 0 and 1 is called the membership value, or mu (well, the greek letter μ).

The X-mu (or X-μ) approach, does the opposite (or rather the “inverse”). Which gives us some neat things. It highlights what we call the interval nature of a fuzzy membership function, and when we take those intervals as symbolic/algebraic equations and push that through an algorithm we retain the full meaning of a fuzzy membership function all the way through that algorithm. We also see speed gains in comparison to traditional methods, purely because of the symbolic nature.

Anyway, I hope that I have discussed this reasonably – I started off quite simple, and got a little more technical at the end… but my purpose was to highlight that my X-mu library is available for perusal, and the online calculator for the X-mu approach can be tested (for people that contact me anyway).

This will be the first post of, probably, many about this library. I hope to show off the calculator a bit more in future posts. I also hope to give you a tutorial about downloading and using the library for yourselves. Then I hope to discuss the uses of the library – in things like data mining and robotics, etc.

In the meantime, if you have any questions then please do comment, or get in touch directly… its daniel [at] vanirsystems, and has a dot com at the end of it.

 

Thoughts on… belief

I’ve always attempted to make this blog an outlet for very rational thoughts, and I don’t intend to change that. However, I feel drawn to mention about a part of my life which is important to me, but may seem irrational to others.

I am ordained, currently as a deacon, but “in-training” for the priesthood. The ordination was into a small independent Church which has a very interesting history, and has members around the world. It can be classed as a Christian church, in that it follows the philosophies surrounding Christ. However, its theology is a little different from mainstream churches, and radically different from what we might call the fundamental/evangelical churches. The church that I am involved in is very liberal and inclusive, it is very open to ecumenical work and does not attempt to “convert”. However, it does have apostolic succession and does make use of ritual. Its theology could be classed as “gnostic” in that its members attempt to get to know the divine. The divine which is everything that we can perceive, it is not supernatural, but very natural. In this way, we approach theology with both belief and knowledge, and apply the tools of logic and scientific thought. Its members can engage with and build friendships with atheists and theists alike.

This part of me, which could be classed as spiritual beliefs and knowledge, is important to me. I value it greatly, and it permeates and intermingles with my political and ethical thoughts, and enriches my knowledge-base and altruistic tendencies. However, I am always worried about talking about to my friends and contacts in computer science / engineering / mathematics. The reason why I fear talking about it, is simply because I know that many class themselves as atheist, and I worry that they may discredit my work and opinion in other areas simply because I am involved in religious work.

On the one hand, how can I call myself Christian, when (for example) a large amount of loud Christians espouse a creationist viewpoint (whereas I follow a evolutionary perspective firmly found in science)? On the other hand, why do so many atheists seem to denounce all forms of religious belief when (for example) religion provides prayer and meditation to billions of people – which has been proven to improve cognitive function (e.g. here), not to mention the positive impact of societal/communal work that a local religious community can offer?

It is really tough. It also does not help when the big churches “just don’t get it” when it comes to issues such as equality of gender in the episcopate, or equality of differing sexualities. I think this is probably why I ended up in an independent church – it is small and distributed, it doesn’t have the silliness of bizarre traditions (e.g. we’ve had women bishops for many years, and we would be happy to marry same-sex couples), and it approaches theology and life really logically and sympathetically.

So, I am torn. I have a few options. I could either (1) fully integrate my lives as both an applied computational intelligence researcher and an ordained person, getting the most value out of my belief and knowledge network and being happy but being in constant fear that some people may discredit my work. Or, (2) I could keep them separate and have separate lives, and continue to be frustrated at some of the things espoused by both the christian communities and the atheist communities. Or (3) I could carry on “as-is”, sort of having separate lives, but sometimes mentioning it carefully and after much consideration – but then never really being open and also being quite worried that people will misunderstand because I’ve not explained adequately enough.

Perhaps, what is most important is actually living a life of love towards humanity, and doing my best for the future of humanity. Living altruistically and ethically.

I’d be interested in reading your thoughts on this – particularly from those involved in computer science, and particularly from those who class themselves as atheists.

Once again, I’d like to highlight that I in no way wish the reader to convert to my belief system. That is certainly not my intention. From my perspective you can believe what you want, providing it doesn’t hurt yourself, me, or anybody else. Freedom! Equality! Community!

I will continue to think about this issue. However, in the meantime… Your thoughts?

Thoughts on… wearable technology

I haven’t “broadcasted” this widely yet, but I am a participant in the 1st Dress/Sense Competition (2014), which is taking place over three Saturdays (separated by two weeks each). The competition brings together computer scientists, electrical engineers / engineering designers, medics, fashion designers – most are university students (either undergraduate or postgraduate). It also brings in quite a few school children (the youngest being 12 years old). The idea of the competition is to bring these people together, forming small teams, to brain storm and create prototypes of wearable technology for the health reasons, and they have to be comfortable and fashionable. It could be for the purpose of diagnosis, or improving the wellbeing of sufferers of particular diseases, or anything else. It could be physical or psychological health, or both. There is a secondary aim, and that is to ensure costs of the item is minimal, allowing us to provide welfare for sufferers without excessive bills or taxes. We are therefore using things like the LilyPad Arduino.

This is exactly the kind of competition I like, it is co-operative rather than violently competitive, it has a grand vision for the benefit of humanity, and it brings together people of different ages and with different backgrounds to innovate.

We need more of this humanity co-operation in life, not just for healthcare innovation (or tech innovation in general) but for other areas too – politics, education, sustainable energy, urban living, rural living, everything! I want our prime ministers and our presidents to start talking about co-operation, start talking about true community, start publicly talking with those co-operating, and talking with those in communities, and start being part of co-operating communities themselves.

Anyway, I digress. I’m attending this competition to give my knowledge of computer science (particularly artificial intelligence, but probably also a lot of programming knowledge), along with my own personal interests in cardiac health and also future of humanity. We’ve already done one Saturday, and we are due to formulate teams and ideas in the next Saturday. I am enjoying it immensely.

Thoughts on… my postdoctoral position (late 2015 / early 2016)

I’ve been thinking about what happens after my PhD, I am due to complete it around October/November 2015. I would love to know for sure that I’ll be at X University doing Y research and Z teaching. As I am a strong believer in transparency and openness, I’d like to open up my careers search. Below you’ll find some details about me and what I am looking for, and if you can help me in any way then I would love to hear from you. Please contact:
danieljohnlewis [at] gmail [dot] com


 

Who (name): Daniel John Lewis
Who (current detail): Daniel is a PhD student in Engineering Mathematics (Intelligent Systems) at the University of Bristol, where he is researching a form of fuzzy data mining over hierarchical data sets. Due to complete PhD in October/November 2015. He has also received teaching experience while at the University of Bristol, and has assisted with “widening participation” programmes.
Who (background detail): Before beginning his PhD he worked for a non-profit on a Linked Open Data EU-funded project (LOD2). Before that he has had numerous positions in Semantic Web / Linked Data Consultancy and Web / Software development.
Who (other detail): He is also an events organiser (voluntary, e.g. Computational Intelligence Unconference), and has written technical documents for numerous online (e.g. IBM developerWorks) and print outlets (e.g. .net Magazine).
Who (languages spoken): English (mother-tongue), Italian (improving), Spanish (very basic)
Who (currently where): Bristol, England, United Kingdom.
Who (previously where): Oxfordshire, England, United Kingdom, and before that, Kent, England, United Kingdom.

Position wanted: Research position or Research+Teaching positions
To start: End of 2015 / Beginning of 2016
Location type wanted: A University or a Research institute. Public or private. I am only currently interested in university / research institute positions, and not for-profit business.
Location wanted: United Kingdom (preferably South England or South Wales), elsewhere in the European Union (preferably Italy or Italian-speaking Switzerland), or in the USA (preferably California), but open to other suggestions
Department wanted: Open to ideas, but could be Computer Science, Mathematics, Philosophy or Psychology
Research wanted: Can come with own ideas, or happy to work on existing ideas. Would be good to focus on Data Mining and/or Artificial Intelligence and/or Artificial General Intelligence. Preferably including the use of fuzzy set theory / fuzzy logic, would also be open to belief function research. Would also be happy to partake in research into Digital Humanities, Robotics and/or Smart Cities. Also happy to use my knowledge of Semantic Web / Linked Data.
Teaching: Would be happy to teach/lecture things relating to computer science, particularly artificial intelligence, logic and/or programming (primarily Python and/or C).

For more details about Daniel please visit his LinkedIn profile ( @danieljohnlewis ), and if you can assist with his search for a postdoctoral university position then get in touch via email. His personal email is:
danieljohnlewis [at] gmail [dot] com

(
Replacing the [at] with @, and the [dot] with .
This is for spam deterrence.
)

Thoughts on… mind hacking (part 2)

The following is a continuation of my previous post on “Thoughts on… mind hacking

I should highlight that I feel it is important to avoid greed and avoid being taken over by ego.

Greed is defined by the OED as:

Inordinate or insatiate longing, esp. for wealth; avaricious or covetous desire

and ego is defined by the OED as:

That which is symbolized by the pronoun I; the conscious thinking subject, as opposed to the non-ego or object

The question is, by attempting to reach our maximum potential are we giving into greed? I don’t think we are. I think if we reach our maximum potential, and want more, then I think that would be classed as greed. But just wanting to reach our maximum potential is not greed. There is a caveat though, it must be done for the primary reason of selflessness.

Giving oneself for the greater good is the ultimate goal. Of course, we are only human, and we are largely imperfect. The process of attempting to make oneself better, trying to reach maximum potential is crucial for trying to become an agent of the greater good. This means sometimes we need to pamper ourselves, this means we should try to work towards mental and physical sub-goals. This means doing the things we like to do (even if they are illogical/irrational). The goal must be for the good of the many, the goal must be altruistic living.

Its important to see ourselves as individuals within interconnected local and interconnected global societies. The well-being of ourselves has an impact on the well-being of others. The well-being of others has an impact on ourselves. When I say “others” I should also include nature and technology, as we are interconnected with nature and those things which are man-made, and so the well-being of nature and technology, are also important.

 

Thoughts on… mind hacking

I am a firm believer in improving oneself in order to improve society. If we all imagine ourselves as bricks within a superstructure, we can imagine a grand building (i.e. society) if we are all well polished and strong stones, or a building which might collapse if too many of the bricks are weak.

This is why I’ve been getting into what might be called “mind hacking” (otherwise known as “brain hacking”). Mind hacking is a push for improvement in ones thinking and ones brain capabilities. I do so with a flavour typical to my lifestyle, so every working day I begin with the Northumbria Community Morning Prayer with Finans lectionary, then Yoga, then a couple of things on Lift, then Memorado Brain Training, then Italian Language Learning on Duolingo. I am also watching my diet more than I used to, and trying to take in more body and mind friendly foods/drinks.

I’ve also been trying to understand my own personality and psychology, and how it relates to friends, family and local/global community.

I think the key, at least for me, is to live intentionally/intensionally. I mean this from two perspectives, the first is living with intent (even if that intent is quite vague), and the second is living with detail as in the philosophical meaning of intensional. Essentially, understanding the logic and rational, and really meaning to do well even if it may sometimes seem irrational.

So far the daily routine seems to be going well. I wouldn’t advocate it to everybody (and I certainly wouldn’t want to push my religious beliefs onto anyone)… but for me, I think the mind hacking is going ok, and I am seeing improvements in my focus and mental skills.

 

[UPDATE] I’ve uploaded a “part 2″ to this blog post [/UPDATE]

Thoughts on… conformity

“Eh! Put your shoes on mate,” an adolescent shouted as he and his “friends” walk near me. This is as I sit on a bench in a green and luscious public park on a sunny day at the beginning of Autumn in South West England.

I say nothing in response and act as if I did not hear what the lad vociferated. My feet being away from the sight of the majority of those in the park, and my feet also being clean and my nails being in reasonably good condition, they were not in an offensive state. I sit pondering why a young person wants me to conform, urging me to don footwear. Are we raising these people to exhibit obedience to the societal norms, even to the point of enmity? So that nobody considers the (ir)rationality of some forms of social convention, while they are applauded for challenging the out-of-the-ordinary not only by their associates but also by authority.

Of course challenging a law breaker or an enemy of human rights & liberties, is, in my eyes a positive idea. However, what doesn’t make sense is the challenging of a person when they have their natural feet exposed in a natural park, feeling the natural and alive grass between their toes, and the warming sun falling comfortably on their skin.

Is my act of footnakedness really so irrational?

Why should my barefootedness be banned?

I wonder whether we (as in all of society) are teaching (both in the classroom and at home) with too much authoritarian rule, that much of the current young generation is having trouble thinking “outside of the box”.

My point is… conformity to the norm does not necessarily equate to conformity to what is natural and/or best. We need to be maximising happiness for as many as possible, while protecting human rights & liberties. This is one direction that humanity will truly be able to progress.

[p.s. this is a true story, written on paper very soon after it happened on 17th September 2014]

MIRI: Machine Intelligence Research Institute

MIRIx Bristol – October 2014

This invite is about MIRIx, a set of local events affiliated to the Machine Intelligence Research Institute (based in California) – one of the worlds best known research organisations of “Friendly AI“. I am the volunteer organiser for “MIRIx Bristol”, and I’d like to get our first meeting off the ground. MIRIx will be held at the University of Bristol in South West of the United Kingdom.

We are planning to have our first meeting in October 2014 (date to be confirmed), and if the reader is interested in attending, then please do send an email to me. We will have to vet applications for attendence. This is partly due to security, as the event will be held on university premises, and partly because numbers will be limited.

Although the event is likely to be made up largely of University of Bristol staff and students, we may well have visitors from outside of the university – particularly those who are involved in Friendly AI research  / MIRI / “Less Wrong” Community.

We will be talking about the combination of Probability and Logic, in particular we will discuss the paper:
“Definability of Truth in Probabilistic Logic” by Christiano, Yudkowsky, Herreshoff, Barasz

We will also discuss work on Bayesian Logic Networks by the famous Stuart Russell.

We are hoping to have snacks and drink available (for free, thanks to sponsorship). However, this is to be confirmed.

This blog post will be updated when the date is confirmed and when the food & drink sponsorship is confirmed. Thank you for your patience.

Thoughts on… communication online

As I prepare to take part in the exclusive GW4 “Communication for Collaboration” course for postgraduate researchers, I am thinking about communication online.

I would firstly like to reiterate that the views that I express on this blog, and via my social networking accounts are my own views – and do not (necessarily) represent those views of any past, present or future organisations of which I have worked, collaborated or been a member. Whether they be employers, clients, educational bodies, religious/political/other bodies. Where I put opinions online is entirely time sensitive, and therefore my opinion is very highly likely to change and evolve as I experience new things, plus it is entirely dependent on mood at that particular time (I am, after all, human). None of my opinions are set in stone, and they are certainly never meant to offend. I have a huge amount of love to give to humanity, and I try to show tolerance for other views whenever possible (providing they do not harm peoples human rights or physical being).

Secondly, I’d like to highlight how I use particular social networking tools – i.e. how I treat them, and for what purpose:

  • LinkedIn –  My LinkedIn account is very formal. I try to make it professional, yet it represents both my academic side, and my business side. Any status updates that I do on here will usually be academic and/or business orientated.
  • Twitter – My twitter account is my informal professional/academic outlet. Sometimes it involves communication with others which may highlight some opinion/belief (including religious or political views) that I have at that particular time.
  • Facebook – My facebook account is for my personal thoughts and ramblings.  It is often opinion/belief-based, sometimes about work, sometimes about my political views at the time. It is a chance to socialise.
  • Google+ – I have a few Google+ accounts at the time of writing. I use them simply to interact with Hangouts, I rarely post status updates on it. When I do post things on it, it’ll either be informally, or will be relating to some event that I am taking part in, or organising.
  • Academia.edu – My academia.edu account is a kind of informal academic outlet, its mostly links to my papers on publishers websites (e.g. Springer and IEEE).
  • Google Scholar – My google scholar account is a formal academic outlet. It is largely automatically generated, therefore very formal and very academic.
  • Blog – My “Thoughts…” blog, I try to make informal, yet quite rational. I try to express my beliefs and opinions on it, at that particular time of writing, logically/rationally but with expressiveness. It is primarily orientated to my academic and professional interests.

No doubt I probably have a few other accounts on various social networking tools, but they don’t take up a huge amount of my attention at the moment.

You see, we are all multifaceted, and different tools are useful for different facets. I, like all of us, are still exploring how technology and humanity co-exist, and that relationship will evolve over time. Shaping our lives (as it has done for many thousands of years). Hopefully, by our own monitoring of our thoughts and believes, we can improve ourselves for the betterment of humanity as a whole.

We are all foundation stones in this superstructure we call human society. Improve yourself, help others improve, and society will become a stronger edifice.

Thoughts on… truth

Didier Dubois and Henri Prade wrote the following quote in a 1988 book entitled Non-standard  Logics for Automated Reasoning:

A degree of truth is not a degree of uncertainty about truth.

This is a very important quote, and gets right to the matter I’d like to highlight. It distinguishes those problems with truth which are answered by two distinct, but related theories.

To answer the question of “a degree of uncertainty about truth”, something known as “Probabilistic Logic” was created. This merged together classical forms of logic, with its propositions and predicates, with Bayesian (or Bayesian-style) probability theory. It puts probability theory in a subjective perspective, and assigns probabilities to rules and statements, without the need for a frequency-based possible-worlds probability calculation.

As Didier and Henri rightly point out however, this really should not be confused with “a degree of truth”. For a degree of truth, fuzzy theory (i.e. fuzzy set theory and fuzzy logic) holds the solution. Fuzzy theory allows an object or statement to have a degree of membership of a set or a particular scenario.

For example “John is tall”. Tall is a vague concept, and “John” has a degree of truth of belonging to the vague “tall” concept. This is how fuzzy set theory, and matches our human way of thinking about tallness.

From a probabilistic logic perspective we would need to ask “what is the probability that John is Tall?”, which is quite a different question.

Of course, this is an area which has, for some reason, been a thorn in the fuzzy theorists side. There are many more probability theorists in this world at the moment, than there are fuzzy theorists. Once you start working with probability theory, it is easy to apply it to everything, even if it doesn’t quite fit. There are also some strong believers of probability theory, often labelled “Bayesians”, which attempt to assert that fuzzy set theory and fuzzy logic is somehow weak because the models can be “made-up” by experts instead of generated through statistics. Many fuzzy theorists have argued back, saying that its flexible model is actually a strength and not a weakness.

My own (current) research draws heavily from fuzzy set theory, but it (i.e. my current research) also has an element of probability theory as it implements data mining algorithms such as association rule mining and sequence pattern mining, which have a statistical element. I’m keen to investigate some more areas of the overlap between fuzzy and probability theories, as I consider them both to have a place (as do most other fuzzy theorists in fact). Of particular interest is the relationship of Fuzzy Formal Concept Lattices and Credal Networks. (Credal Networks are (and I simplify here) Bayesian Networks with added imprecision).

Let me know your thoughts on the above, and whether you have any hints or tips on the above. Feel free to email me or post a message in the comments box on this blog post.