Thoughts on… What will happen in 2015?

At this time of year, like many people, I tend to reflect on what has happened in the previous year, and what this year will bring. In the past I’ve blogged about my thoughts on what we might see as a community in the year ahead. Stay with me, as my (for want of a better word) “predictions,” tend to be a little different from the usual crystal ball blog posts out there on the web. Primarily because of my interests aren’t just in tech or science.

First of all, I want to say that this year is going to be a big one for me. I’ll be reaching 3 decades of age in the middle of the year. Beki and I will have been married 5 years this coming August. I’m also plan to fully complete my PhD in Artificial Intelligence & Data Mining (or more officially ” Engineering Mathematics (Intelligent Systems)”), and hope to have secured a postdoctoral position by the end of this year (please do let me know if you’re interested in employing me or working with me!). I’ll also progress from Journeyman to Freeman status in the City of London Livery “the Worshipful Company of Information Technologists.” We’ll also be running the second Computational Intelligence Unconference (CIUUK15), and I hope to start planning other unconferences in 2016. Finally, I’m also hoping to progress from Deacon to Priest in my very liberal (and Science-friendly!) independent church.

Enough about me though, on to the societal forecast…

Politics in 2015!

In the United Kingdom, over the past couple of years, we’ve rather unfortunately seen a rise in ring-wing politics in the form of the political party known as UKIP. This is largely due to distrust amongst the population of the main three political parties here (the Conservatives (“Tories”), the Liberal Democrats (“LibDems”) and the Labour Party), why is there distrust? Well we had two terms of a Labour office, which saw terrorism spread, wars occur, prices of oil and housing rise, and the destruction of main party socialism (i.e. the Labour Party slowly became less and less socialist). We then, in 2010, had an election result leading to a hung parliament, the Centre-Right Tories joined forces with the Centre-Left Radical LibDems. The result of that has been more things getting privatised, the excessive rise of university tuition fees, oil prices rising gradually (although more recently falling), various things being taxed, and various other things not being taxed, it has also destroyed the publics belief that the LibDems are leftward leaning at all. People in the UK are searching for another option. Many people, unfortunately, like to blame other people, and blame is what UKIP do best (they are a traditionalist and nationalist political party with a neoliberal economic perspective). So the right-wing UKIP has seen a rise in interest. This is bad news. However, we’ve also seen a rise in support for the Green Party (which is centre-left/left-wing), as well as the SNP in Scotland and Plaid Cymru in Wales (which are both centre-left), so perhaps not all is bad.

What does this have to do with 2015? Well it is General Election year here in the UK, where the population will go to the polls in May and vote for a new parliament. So here is my prediction…

Distrust in the three main political parties will continue to rise. This means that more people will begin to move away from what the three main political parties see as the “centre of politics”, to political ideologies at the extremities. As 2014 saw a significant rise in nationalist neoliberalist agenda of UKIP.  This year, 2015, there will be more hardcore socialists and communists coming to light. However, in order to combat the right wing, they will have to empathise. This empathy will come in the form of anti-authoritarianism and anti-statism, yes, we’ll start to see a rise in ideologies of anarcho-socialism, libertarian socialism, Trotskyism and anything that combines decentralisation with strong communal welfare. We just have to look at Spain and Green to see their rise in radical socialism (in the form of Podemos and Syriza respectively).

This might be slow, and it may not make a significant impact on the general election, but I suspect that by the end of the year it will be making more impact.

Politics and Technology

I would like to couple this with technology though, as something big is happening behind the scenes. This big thing originates from technology is now reaching every part of our lives, and actually making us live healthier and more sociable lives. It can be used as a force for good, and I think that gone are the times when people think tech is bad simply based on a perception of the masses watching television for endless amounts of hours. You just have to look at the CES 2015 exhibition happening at the moment, to see some wonderful things (including for sustainability of the natural environment! – e.g. the electric scooter “Gogoro” will attempt to make low pollution travel in urban areas). With this is a sense that technology really can help the welfare of humanity, this is good (because I believe it can!).

Coupled with this individualism (in otherwords libertarian) perspective living in a communal welfare system (in otherwords socialist), that I think is going to be on the rise, we will see technology fitting in very nicely indeed.

A few of organisations to look out for are:

There is one word to look out for, and this is a very positive word… techno-progressivism.

 

Technologies and Sciences

  • This year I think we will see very significant progress in terms of preventative medicine for cancer. I think this will at first involve analysing our bodies cheaply and easily before we have cancer. So that we can try to stop it in its tracks before we it even develops its early stages. I think this is likely to involve DNA and/or RNA analysis on a large scale.
  • Public and private organisations will shift from just green living, and especially from “greenwashing”, perspectives into a bright green evironmentalist perspective. With particular advances in bright green architecture, but obviously we’ve already seen advances in “smart lighting” and “smart heating,” and that will continue to see uptake by organisations as well as individuals.
  • The rise of privately-funded space project. Not just SpaceX, and other private organisations, but also home-builds. Think home-made quadcopter drones that can easily fly very high, maybe into space ;-)
  • At least one significant and highly publicised study on the positive results of meditation will be released. It would be great if this was related to the relation between meditation and the length of telomeres, which apparently there have been a few studies on already.
  • “Smart clothing” – I think we’ll start to see wearable technology on clothes in retail shops that you see on the high-street. Prices will be quite high at first, and totally unrepresentative to the cost it would be to make it at home, but it’ll begin to reach the masses.
  • There might be a co-operation between bitcoins (or another cryptocurrency) and credit unions. Which would be very neat!
  • I don’t think that computers will see superintelligence this year, but artificial intelligence tools and techniques will continue to be updated and improved… possibly with a bit more effort, and possibly making them a lot more polished.

 

These are just some thoughts. They are based on some insight, but it is all just for fun really, and I don’t in any way guarantee these things happening. Feel free to comment, or to get in touch directly.

Thank you for reading.

Daniel

Thoughts on… X-mu Fuzzy Applications: Wind Energy

So as part of a GW4 Alliance Collaboration between me (Daniel Lewis, at the University of Bristol) and Tibin Joseph (at Cardiff University), we have put our collective minds together and used the X-mu approach for current controllers in Wind Energy Farms. It is based on existing work which handles errors in auto-tuning current controllers for sending electricity from wind farms over long distances.

The result, so far, is a short report with some initial findings. The report is informal, and is accessible as a PDF via:

“Offshore Wind Energy Transmission with Multi Terminal High Voltage DC grids (MT-HVDC) and Fuzziness”

Web address: http://vanirsystems.com/static/GW4_Collab_FuzzyCurrents.pdf

The hope is that we can transform this initial report into a publishable piece, however your comments will be warmly received if you have any.

I’ll leave any further description for the time being, but please do continue to read this blog to keep updated – as I’ll be describing the X-mu method in more detail, and will have some tutorials uploaded shortly. I am sure that you can follow Tibin’s progress on the MEDOW project also.

Many thanks to Tibin, and also the GW4 Alliance.

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.