Category Archives: Self Improvement

CIUUK15 Update

I’ve just sent out a message (similar to what is below) to our Computational Intelligence Unconference UK 2015 attendees…

At the time of writing we have 109 days to go (event is on 15th August 2015), we have 100 people already registered (our capacity is over 200) – 7 of which have given us some crowdfunding,  we have 5 speakers already confirmed (with much more time and space for additional talks/workshops). A very big thank you to those who have registered, and if you haven’t registered yet, then go do it now (website: http://ciunconference.org/uk/2015 )

But we need help! Here is how you might be able to help:

(1) Social Networking: We need help to get the word out about the event. If you have a twitter, facebook, linkedin or other social network account then it would be great if you could advertise the event. You can use our official Short-URL bit.ly/ciuuk15 and our official tag #CIUUK15

(2) Sponsorship: We are in urgent need of sponsorship. We’ve got to raise funds to cover the cost of the venue and the food & drink. We are doing our best to keep costs down and get the best deals. Ideally we need a few corporate sponsors, and preferably quite soon, however smaller organisations and personal donations will be very welcome (including crowdfunding offers). If you work for an organisation who could offer some sponsorship in return for marketing/advertising and bespoke audience-engagement, or if you could personally offer to cover the costs of attendance (which is roughly £60 a head), then please let me know as soon as possible. Even if you have a contact in a related company which might be interested in helping us out, then let them know and let me know. I will reiterate, we are non-profit, and are entirely organised by volunteers, and all incomings will go straight into venue/catering costs. The event is heavily dependent on the generosity of our sponsors and volunteers.

(3) Meet-ups/Hackathons: We have a seminar room, and we’re keen on having guest meet-ups and guest hackathons use the space for an hour or two each. So, if you lead or are a part of a (related) meet-up or hackathon, then please get in touch.

(4) Tutorials/Workshops: The same seminar room could also be used by a business or organisation for a tutorial/seminar/workshop. However, we may ask for a donation if the business is for-profit. Feel free to email me to find out more.

(5) Talks: We are also in need of more talks. Short talks and Long talks. If it’s a talk by a business then the business might also want to think about helping to sponsor the event. If its a talk from a personal perspective, or a very technical perspective, then the talk can be done freely (libre et gratis).

(6) Volunteering: We will need on the day volunteers. Volunteers will help manage the rooms and the microphones, and will help give out the badges/lanyards at start. We also need people to: bring cameras (still and moving); to help live tweet the event; and to blog before/during/after the event.

Contact me now if you can help. My email address is:
daniel [at] ciunconference [dot] org

More information about the event is on our website:
http://ciunconference.org/uk/2015
Kings College, London - 15th August 2015 – 10:00-18:00

On behalf of the organisation team, thank you for your interest, thank you (in advance) for your help, and to those of you attending, I look forward to seeing you on the 15th August 2015.

Daniel Lewis
* Chief Co-organiser of the Computational Intelligence Unconference UK 2015
* Founder & Chair of the Computational Intelligence Unconference Association (a Non-profit Unincorporated Association)
- Email: daniel [at] ciunconference [dot] org

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… 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… progress and tolerance

This morning I have been looking at the news, particularly focusing on computing, engineering and health. Some of the news pieces come from sources such as the IEEE Spectrum and the h+ Magazine.

We are really living in very exciting times… where machines and medicines are beginning to solve some of the toughest problems that humanity faces, and has faced for some time – long term physical disease, debilitating mental disease, “disabilities”, longevity problems, genetic problems, general “health & safety”

Meanwhile, there is an increasing level of hatred:

  • in Europe we’re seeing communities becoming increasingly harsh towards immigration,
  • in Eastern Europe and Russia we’re seeing increasing tension about nationality,
  • there is continued conflict in the middle east, and some arabian and african countries,
  • we’re seeing more and more hatred between fundamentalist atheists and the fundamentalist religious, in both directions! – and a loss of a voice for those in the middle!
  • we’re seeing people become quite vocal against people in same-sex relationships and marriages, or those that have a different gender or are transgender
  • more tension between “democratic countries” and “communist countries”/”ex-communist countries”
  • democratic countries are starting to move towards more authoritarian structures, and less democratic.

Why so much hatred in the world? Is there a link between good technological/scientific progress, and intolerance? Or is it simply as we become more globally orientated, that we also find that we have more conflicting beliefs?

Fortunately, I am sure that the readers of this blog will know the need for tolerance within a truly free society, and, of course, empathy is also an important human characteristic.

Unfortunately, I doubt that the message of the necessity of tolerance and empathy will reach the masses.

We, as individuals, should feel the need to:

  1. Improve ourselves, so that we can be the best we can, and to effectively serve humanity.
  2. Improve humanity through sharing the need for tolerance and empathy, and establishing communities.

Of course, “we are only human,” and we fail. In fact we fail quite a lot. However, we should have each other there, to be able to pick each other up and progress, for our own sake and for the sake of humanity. Without unity, the fall is quite a big, and always ends in pain.

This post is not intended to be political in any way, it does, however, highlight some of my own philosophical perspectives. The primary point of this post is to highlight that we have good technological and scientific progress, and I hope that there should now be an urge to improve humanity to match that progress. Do you agree?

Thoughts on… formality

The following is entirely based on observation…

Formality is an interesting one isn’t it? We, as humans, seem to resort to formal speech when we meet somebody new, or when we talk about business. But why?

It comes naturally to my mind that rapport can be built between two people if they match their tone of language, style of dress, and even breathing rates. This would lead on to the indication that those who have particular styles or ways-of-life, seemingly manage to connect quite naturally and are able to work together successfully. This is magnified when the people involved also share particular areas of knowledge and interest.

Formality, in this context, is about taking a particular form. It seems to me that “formality” is often associated with business environments. These environments require wearing a particular type of dress, “formal wear”, indicating a two or three piece suit, or some other kind of office wear. These environments also seem to bring out a type of language from people which is quite foreign from their day-to-day speech. This language, when fully employed, sometimes comes out in a robotic fashion.

As humans are naturally beings which are both intuitive and logical, both emotional and rational, it seems very odd to me that we would try to remove all forms of the intuitive and emotional, from speech, whether that speech is “day-to-day” or “formal”.

Surely it would be better if we tried to transact conversation however rapport would guide us. Providing (and advocating) a careful balance of tolerance and personal belief. Why enforce, or try to enforce, conformities on those to whom it does not come naturally?

I would imagine that both the enforcement of conformity (authoritarian method), and the truly open rapport method (anti-authoritarian method), could lead to what we call tribalism. Tribalism has its pros and cons. One of the largest “con” is hatred between tribes, another large “con” is that it is extremely difficult to build bridges between tribes. So if we were to implement the anti-authoritarian method of non-formality.

Such a topic also makes me think about the use of language. Is it truly ethical to enforce a particular style of language? Granted we have to actually teach the next generations how to use the language that we use in order that we can pass down concepts and history, but why are neologisms so frowned upon? Why are subtle modifications in language structure so frowned upon? Just by looking into the history of the English language you’ll find that it has changed quite a bit in the last 100 years, and is basically unrecognisable if you go back 1000 years. We even have regional differences – for example, I bet that it would annoy quite a few people to hear what is spoken in Bristol as “Warez ee to?”, which means “where is he?”, not only is the word “where” seemingly merged with the word “is”, but the “h” is dropped in “he”, and the word “to” is appended, which to some is more seemingly problematic than the word “at” which would sometimes be added in various other regions of the world. My point is to perhaps let it be, and let language evolve. In some cases regional dialects are not “new”, but have history longer than the authorised bibles.

One problem does come to mind though, which is learning a language. In which case it is useful to have a common basis.

Anyway, I have digressed quite a bit from my original topic. So I’ll end the post here.

Thoughts on… the art of memory, and art of brain work

What follows is largely a rambling of my current thoughts of art of memory/brain work. I don’t claim to be very knowledgeable on the subject, and certainly would not claim to be even remotely an expert on psychology or neuroscience – if there are readers of this post who are in the field, then I’d be more than happy to hear from you about this subject.

As every day passes I find myself treating my body and mind, not as me, but as a vessel for ‘me’. What do I mean by this? Well, if I see my body and my mind as a carrier for myself, then I could potentially treat such entities as mechanical devices. Mechanical devices have components, which can either be enhanced or replaced. When we think of machinery these days, we usually think of the materialistic technology (e.g. mobile phones, computers, televisions, cars and planes, and even things like prosthetics and robotics). This need not be so, machinery could also be biological, or even psychological.

So if we take our bodies, then exercise and diet are obviously two key parameters improving and enhancing it (or conversely degrading it!). However, we don’t often think of ways to improve our own minds. Granted when you go to school, college and university, then you do improve your knowledge, your “key skills” and your learning/researching abilities. You can also keep your mind active through the use of crosswords and other puzzles (e.g. Sudoku). There have also been “Brain Training” games that have appeared over the last decade or so, which improve mathematical, logical and visual capability… but is this enough?

In order to analyse whether this is “enough”, we need to consider the types of brain work, here are some of the areas that immediately come to my mind (and no doubt there are others)…

  1. Memory
  2. Mathematics
  3. Logics
  4. Creativity
  5. Language
  6. Sensory stimulation
  7. Hand-Eye Co-ordination (or to put it in mechanical terms: Actuator-Sensor Co-ordination)

It is “memory” that has particularly been on my mind recently, partly because I’ve had to memorise various things recently. So we usually get the distinction between:

  1. Long Term Memory
  2. Short Term Memory
  3. Also, sometimes, Muscle Memory

I’d like to think of slightly different categories for memory (there are probably more, and I could probably clarify them better than I have here, but…):

  1. Sequential Memory – where things (e.g. words, or symbols) are memorised in order, and they must be kept in order so as to maintain semantic and pragmatic integrity. Usually used for memorising scripts.
  2. Rule Memory – where A is associated with B, through some kind of rule or relation. Usually used for memorising concepts, or mathematics. Also an important concept for (Pavlovian) teaching/learning.
  3. Loci Memory (or Method of Loci), where concepts are stored sequentially or rule-based, against more memorable locations. Sometimes known as the “Memory Palace”
  4. Muscle Memory. Repetition can be associated to concepts, or more usually sequences. Consider the act of memorising a script, one word follows another, if it does so regularly then the physical act of moving ones mouth, can actually begin to materialise itself as a muscle memory without it entering into the sequential memory of the mind.

So I think that its quite important to exercise all these areas. Through both “order” (i.e. repetition of the usual), and “chaos” (i.e. unexpected memorisation which goes against what you’ve memorised). When exercising the memory, I find that it is usually both the memory itself AND the process of memorisation, that are important.

With memory exercised, I would say that other areas can then begin to become enhanced. Mathematics (arithmetic in particular) and Logic (and Sets), are key. Then its also important to get enough visual stimulation. Once visual stimulation occurs, then our connection between the visual, and our ability to manipulate the world, can begin to be improved (i.e. hand-eye co-ordination / Actuator-Sensor co-ordination). With Actuator-Sensor co-ordination exercised, we begin to see that communication is important, and so we can use our actuators to stimulate other peoples sensors, through the use of language and creativity. If we’re receiving language and creativity, then we make new memories, and the whole process of brain enhancement begins again.

Although far from a formalised and scientific method, I think that the above informal formula would be beneficial, and over the last few months I’ve tried to implement it (with a bit of success). We just have to treat our bodies and minds like the beautiful vessels that they are, and we will begin to see the benefits into the long term, both individually and in society.