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.