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.
  • – My 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.

CI Unconference UK 2014 – Organisers Report

The following post was originally posted at:


Computational Intelligence Unconference UK 2014 on Saturday 26th July 2014 at BT Centre, Newgate Street London

CI Unconference UK 2014:

Organisers Report

Report Written on Monday 28th July 2014 by Daniel Lewis

 In short, the day went incredibly well, and I would consider it to be a success.

The talks were of very high quality, and when they were given to our attendees the talks became high quality discussions.  This was largely due to a good amount of questions and comments from the group, and also the time-cushions between talks that I had scheduled. Thank you to the speakers!  Talks were split over two rooms, with longer talks and large-group discussions happening in the 170-seater “Auditorium”, and shorter talks and smaller-group discussions happening in the 40-seater “Media Suite”. We also had Damien and Viktoriya give demonstrations during lunchtime of the Micro Python kit. Also, Andrew Vladimirov gave demonstrations through the whole afternoon of his brain monitoring and brain stimulation devices. Both demonstrations received much attention, and a good amount of dialogue.

Some videos, and a good amount of still photos, were taken of the day, and will be available to find via this years event website (along with slides from the talks). The event was supported by the volunteers, and a big thank you from all attendees go to: Beki, Marcelo, Dennis, Steve, Cathy and Abi. The event was also live-documented by attendees via twitter with the hash-tag #CIUUK14. I suspect that blog posts and other forms of report will appear online in due course.

The venue was sponsored by the BT Innovate and Design Team (based at Adastral Park, Martlesham Heath (near Ipswich), Suffolk), and was hosted at the BT Centre at 81 Newgate Street, London. On behalf of all the attendees I thank BT for helping us get the unconference running, from those that sponsored the event, to the production team, the AV team and the reception & security teams. A special mention to Rebecca, Monika, Nick and Nick, who helped us a huge amount on the day itself.

The food and drink was sponsored by:

  • Gold Sponsors – Storybricks,
  • Silver Sponsors – RecSys, EF and Oxford University Press,
  • Bronze Sponsors – futuretext and The Human Memome Project

and was provided by the BT Centre Catering team. A big thank you to all of our sponsors on behalf of all of the attendees.

However, there are a few lessons learned. 

Attendance rate. We had approximately 180 people attend, with most attending the entire day (10am – 6pm). Although this is a very healthy number and turned-out to be a good number, it is approximately a 45% no-show rate from our original 325 bookings. Such a high no-show rate is usual when free tickets are involved. However, we will be looking to investigate how we might get a lower no-show rate next year. This might involve either a two-tier ticketing system (for waged a very-low ticket price and unwaged/students at no ticket price), or a donations-based ticket approach where an attendee decides how much they pay based on how much they can afford and how much they think it will be worth. Of course revenue from these methods would go straight into the event itself, and the event would retain its completely non-profit status.

Scheduling. One thing that seemed to be quite essential was that many attendees seemed to expect a printed copy of the schedule. Although this is quite understandable, it is a little worrying as the nature of unconference is quite free-flowing, and we had moved some of the talks to up to 15 minutes earlier during the day, and actually scheduled in a tea & coffee break which did not exist prior to the day. We will ensure that in the future we have printed copies of the schedule, however, we’ll have to ensure somehow that attendees are aware of changes as they happen.

Temperature. We are aware that the temperature of the Media Suite got quite high, I personally spoke to the events production manager at the BT Centre about this, and the cooling system was at full power. Unfortunately it got too warm simply because the room being at (or possibly above) maximum capacity at times, also with people using laptops and mobile devices, and the temperature from outside (it was a very hot summers day outside!).

Video. Many people, both attendees and some who could not attend, wished to have videos of all talks (and some wanted video of the demonstrations). Unfortunately we had not arranged this fully, this was simply a matter of human error. That said, we managed to arrange for two people to come in last minute to video the talks. One turned up (Jamie (thank you!)), and one did not. We could have organised for the BT Centre to bring somebody in to record the auditorium talks with their equipment, however, this would have cost quite a large amount of money for which we did not have the sponsorship.

Lunch. We had ordered sandwiches for 200 people, and we had approximately 160 attendees wanting lunch. The sandwiches all disappeared within 15 minutes. We also had several bowls of fruit, which largely disappeared quite quickly. Nobody mentioned to me that there was not enough lunch, although I suspect that it was quite simple and some attendees may have still been quite hungry. The cost of the lunch, the tea and coffee in the morning and afternoon, and the labour equated to 1212 GBP (which is inclusive of VAT). This was a “haggled-down” price in order to achieve 100% funding. If we are to have a better lunch, we will need to receive more sponsorship, or investigate other forms of revenue. We are, of course, thankful for the food and drink we did receive, and a big thanks go (again) to the sponsors listed earlier in this report.

We have started to think about next year. 

We would like to organise another CI Unconference in Summer 2015, in London (UK). However, I’d like to put together an organisation team, as collectively we can do more than just a single (or couple of) individual(s) organising everything. If you, dear reader, would like to help out, then please let me know. We will also need sponsors, speakers, and on-the-day volunteers. We also need to think about venues. If you can help with any of this, please do email me with CI Unconference UK 2015 in the subject. I will be part of such an organisation team, however, it will become increasingly more important as I am due to finish my PhD in late 2015!

I also have some initial ideas of running CI Unconferences in the USA and elsewhere in Europe. A few of the attendees of the UK 2014 unconference have given me a few suggestions, but I’d like to get some interest from those in USA and Europe, to see if it would be worth doing. If you are interested then please do let me know by sending me an email with CI Unconference USA/Europe in the subject.

Finally, I am keen to find out if there are success stories from the CI Unconference UK 2014. The best way to do this is for attendees (particularly those who hadn’t met before the event) to stay in contact with each other. I would be keen to find out if new projects have been started because of the event. Or, if somebody got a job or a new contract because of the event. Or, perhaps you learnt something which will change the way that you work. Or anything else, personal, academic or professional! Send me an email, or maybe tweet it with the hash-tag #CIUUK14.

To conclude, this years event was incredibly successful, and I look forward to working with you all on making the next one bigger and better.

Daniel Lewis


Thoughts on… making a future

The problems that we have today, for example seemingly endless loops of recession and conflict, are caused by what has happened in the past. It seems that we are having many problems today, than we did in yesteryear. However, we also have it better than ever before – new scientific and engineering advances are improving life and health of humanity and the planet.

It seems to me very odd that many people, and my thoughts are primarily on Europe at the moment, want to revert to some kind of ultra-traditionalist and tribal culture – where greed, injustice, inequality and conflict are commonplace.

So here are the principles I think might solve many of the problems that exist today:

  1. We should communicate and collaborate more, not less. Toleration is crucial for this, particularly of differing opinions and cultural differences. Working together for the purpose of the future. In this, I would propose a worldwide network of communities. I would also propose that Love, Communication, Collaboration and Toleration should be taught in schools, and should be prevalent in news outlets.
  2. Consensus and direct democracy need to become more prevalent, particularly when combined with some pre-existing human rights constitution. We also need a lot more grassroots efforts.
  3. Remove authority from governments. Governments are supposed to work for the people they represent, if they are imposing and limiting humanity, then they are clearly not doing their job. They work for you!
  4. Tie the economy to the environment. No matter whether our community wishes to use a capitalist, a socialist or a communist implementation, we need to tie our processes to the environment. Our products and our energy come from the planet, so if we’re using techniques which damage the earth for the future, then that has a negative value to the community.
  5. Improve news, and take responsibility. We should, as individuals, be getting objective news, about important subjects which relate to the future. We, as humanity, need to know how to live more sustainably and self-reliant. We need to know about environmental issues, and not about the latest celebrity hiccups. We need news outlets to be objective, not full of bias, and we need news outlets not to be afraid of governments because they are being objective. Once news is improved, then we as the populous can take responsibility, and can start to act, rather than relying on governments or businesses to “sort it out”.
  6. Trust developments in science and engineering, in fact push for more progress, and have a greater say in what would be useful for humanity and the environment now and in the future. If rationality and intuition agree, then this is probably the best solution for progress into the future.
  7. If we can use science and engineering to get rid of “toil”, we can end slavery, we can end injustice, we could even end boredom. The workplace could become a joyful place, and productivity would increase. This means, for example, an initial acceptance of robotics – it might be that robots seem to “take jobs” at first, but it does mean productivity would increase, and other jobs begin to open that are less toilful.
  8. As time advances here on planet earth, we get a greater probability of existential risk – i.e. where humanity ends. We need to work out how to get off the planet, and become a multi-planetary humanity (or at least have communities in space). That way if one community dies, then humanity has a higher probability of continuing into the future.
  9. Think global, act local. Think multi-planetary, act global. (Recurring Microcosmic-Macrocosmic relationships)

These are just some initial thoughts. My beliefs on the above may change in the future, and no intention of aggravation, usurpation or mutiny is intended. I present them here in full tolerance of differing opinions, and I would be happy to declare myself incorrect if found to be so.

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?

Website Standardisation – Political Party Websites

I have very strong political views which are based around tolerance, harmony, community, equality and freedom. However, I will usually try my best to refrain from discussion of politics on my blog. That said, I’m making a slight deviation, as the following is technology based.

I’ve made a comparison of the main UK political parties websites, and their adherence to web standards.  The results were found thanks to W3C Validator, and are correct as of about 9am on 2nd May 2014.

* LibDems ( ), HTML5: 42 Errors, 16 warning(s)
* Labour ( ), HTML5: 5 Errors, 1 warning(s)
* Conservatives ( ), HTML5: 10 Errors, 1 warning(s)
* Green Party ( ), HTML5: 6 Errors, 1 warning(s)
* UKIP ( ), XHTML 1.0 Transitional: 158 Errors and 178 warning(s)
* Plaid Cymru ( ), XHTML 1.0 Transitional: 33 Errors, 7 warning(s)
* Scottish National Party ( ), XHTML 1.0 Strict: 4 Errors

Come on developers and designers of these websites, get your act together! Political parties, you need to get your act together even more so!

That is all…

( Original post appeared on a facebook post, and on twitter tweet)