28 January 2009

Problem Solving with Darwin

Genetic Algorithms are a way of solving problems by mimicking the same processes mother nature uses. They use the same combination of selection, recombination and mutation to evolve a solution to a problem.
[AI Junkie Genetic Algorithm Tutorial]

Claudia Schiffer has still not shown herself. I'm beginning to believe that the Law of Attraction is nothing but a farce. They certainly had me fooled, but as George Bush once said: "There's an old saying in Tennessee — I know it's in Texas, probably in Tennessee — that says: Fool me once, shame on — shame on you. Fool me — you can't get fooled again." Something about the shoe being on the other foot in your mouth now.

George Bush, George W Bush
George Bush. Living proof that mutation is random and we're definitely not intelligently designed.

If the Law of Attraction is not a good problem solving strategy - and that's a big if, I mean the Law of Attraction seems so plausible, especially when you critically evaluate its claims - then what is? This depends largely on the kind of problems you want to solve.

What kind of problems can you solve with the Law of Attraction?

I'm convinced that the Law of Attraction is not a solution, but a symptom of far greater problems bubbling below the surface. Regardless, most people who employ the Law of Attraction wrestle with questions posed by an existential crisis, unrequited love, dashed dreams, shattered hopes, a quarter-life crisis, a mid-life crisis or the ponies they didn't get for Christmas. While ponies posing questions, or a grown man wrestling with a pony might be amusing to some (especially those who produce or purchase snuff films), humorous charades are not part of the solution I had in mind.

These problems have some of the following characteristics in common:
  • The search space is incredibly large, clearly misunderstood or overwhelmingly complex.

  • It is difficult to employ expert knowledge to narrow the search space. Dr Phil is not going to help beyond asking you how you feel about it.

  • A mathematical analysis is unavailable. Q: What should I study? A: 42. Doesn't make sense, does it?

  • More traditional search methods for solutions to the problems have failed.

Fortunately, mother nature has already solved problems of this kind for millions of years. Darwin described some of her methods accurately and the field of computer science took his description and encoded it as a simple algorithm that helps to solve problems of this nature.

A Genetic Algorithm in Pseudocode

  1. Generate an initial population.

  2. Determine the fitness of each candidate in the population.

  3. Wash, rinse and repeat these steps until a sufficient solution is found:
    1. Select the candidates with the highest rating for reproduction.

    2. Breed a new generation through crossover and mutation.

    3. Discard the worst ranking members of the population.

That might seem like Geek to you, and in fact it is. Rest assured, I will help cast light on the subject by giving you a walkthrough illustrating how you can use mother nature's own problem solving algorithm to solve your problems. Not all your problems. That rash is not going to go away with this. Sorry.

A Walkthrough to Illustrate Problem Solving with Darwin

Given a perplexing problem: What should you study?
  1. Generate an initial population. In this instance, you can write down a list of fields you have ever considered in your life. If you can't think of twenty, get a brochure from a tertiary institute and randomly write down a list of courses from it. You can pick any number, but don't make the initial number too small.

  2. Determine the fitness of each candidate in the population. The way you determine the fitness of each course is up to you. It is however important to attach a numerical value to each course. You can give each course a rating on a scale of one to ten, for instance.

  3. Repeat these steps until you have only one item left on your list:
    1. Select the candidates with the highest rating for reproduction. This means you pick all the ones closest to ten for breeding.

    2. Breed a new generation through crossover and mutation. Crossover means you take properties of one course and combine it with properties of another course and see if there is such a course in the brochure. You'd rather take that course than the other two and give it a higher rating (plus one, unless it is already ten, then its rating just stays at ten).

      Mutation means you alter a course slightly. Suggest you had biochemistry as a course. Now you slightly alter it to become anatomy and physiology. Of course, this is subjective. If you'd still prefer to rather do biochemistry than anatomy and physiology, then rather keep biochemistry and discard the mutation. That's one advantage you have over mother nature: you can design your population intelligently.

      How do you choose when to mutate and when to crossover? This is also subjective. You could mutate every third course on your list, unless it is one you already feel strongly attached to, then just mutate the one immediately after it. You could crossover every item divisible by four and its immediate predecessor. You could decide to only mutate one round, and only crossover the next round. You can be as random as you like - it works for mother nature - but don't alter your population too much during each round. Mother nature doesn't condone bootstrapping.

    3. Discard the worst ranking members of the population. In our example, just delete one item from the list after each round. If you arrive at a scenario where all the lowest ranking items have a similar number, pick the course you like the least and delete it. If you can't decide, flip a coin.

Does This Really Work?

Surprisingly, yes it does. The list of applications for genetic algorithms on Wikipedia contains among others:
  • Training artificial neural networks when pre-classified training examples are not readily obtainable

  • Scheduling applications, including job-shop scheduling.

  • Selection of optimal mathematical model to describe biological systems.

  • Plant floor layout.

  • Optimisation of data compression systems, for example using wavelets.

  • Linguistic analysis.

  • Electronic circuit design.

  • Container loading optimization.

  • Automated design of sophisticated trading systems in the financial sector.

  • Automated design of industrial equipment.

Some Useful Links

22 January 2009

What has the Dalai Lama ever done for you?

The Lama has no formal schooling in the fields of political science, diplomacy or international law. You ask the Lama why Tibet should be independent, and he can't give you any valid reason. He has a monastic education and holds what is roughly the equivalent of a doctorate in Buddhism. The best he can do is claim that according to the ethics of the Yellow Hat Sect, Tibet should be independent from China. China has the Seventeen Point Agreement for the Peaceful Liberation of Tibet. Liberation here referring to the liberation of Tibet from (British, Indian and other foreign) imperialist forces and thus returning to Chinese rule.

The popular belief is that China invaded a fully autonomous state in the fifties. However, there is much debate over the exact nature of the sovereignty of Tibet. Upon closer investigation, this commonly held belief seems short-sighted.

Technically Tibet has only made any attempt to claim independence from China between 1913 to 1959, and even then Tibet failed to negotiate independence from China (China has never accepted the complete independence of Tibet, only other "imperialist" nations have). In other words, Tibet has never been able to proclaim its independence from China through either diplomatic nor military means. Tibet has no legitimate reason to claim that its independence was threatened by a the big bad Chinese regime (because its independence never existed) and flying all over the world rallying support from Western countries is not improving its relationship with China - China being the only nation in a position to grant Tibet independence.

Tibet has been part of China from the Yuang dynasty (1271 – 1368). Viewed in this light, the period of 1913 - 1959, during which Tibet tried to claim independence, becomes immaterial. Certainly not material enough to use as a basis for sovereignty on any legal grounds.

Within the Asian continent, there are many independent states. Granted, the People's Republic of China is not always happy with this arrangement, but why isn't Tibet following a similar route? That seems reasonable to me, instead of the Oprah Winfrey cult of personality celebrity populist angle that the Dalai Lama is attempting. China does not care about the West and right now, the West needs China economically. The way to put pressure on China is not by shaking hands with the likes of Sarkozy, who is a populist scoundrel (also not that clear on the separation of the church and state himself).

Seems like the Lama is using the "enemies of my enemy are my friends" approach without really being concerned with whom he is dealing, as long as they don't like China. The Lama has not done a single thing that proves to me that he should enjoy respect. He's like PETA in that regard.

If Tibet deserves independence from China, then surely South Ossetia and Abkhazia deserve independence from Georgia too? Why isn't the West rallying behind their cause? They're in a far more clear-cut situation than Tibet, yet the West (America in particular) does not rally behind them when they try to claim their independence from Georgia, mainly because the Russians are. Oh, and South Ossetia and Abkhazia don't have a charming old man in a tunic shaking hands with world leaders rallying for their independence.

I hate the Dalai Lama because he appeals to people's emotions and spirituality and does not rely on reason to better the position of Tibet. He is nothing but a theocrat. If L Ron Hubbard declared Scientologists independent from the rest of the world, how seriously would you take him? Why does the Lama deserve better treatment?

If hate is a strong emotion to apply to someone you don't personally know, then surely the opposite emotion of love is just as strong to apply to someone you don't personally know. Seems to me that it is irrational to claim that the Lama is wise, kind and a spiritual leader worthy of our affection with his sage advice and guidance offered to us when he can't solve his own problems.

Comparing the Dalai Lama with Vladimir Putin

The Dalai Lama

Dalai Lama of Tibet, Tenzin Gaytzo
The 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatzo, has been defending his outmoded theocratic system from the confounds of an Indian monastery and Oprah Winfrey's talk show couch.
  • He appears to have eyesight problems.

  • He gets CIA backing, because the Lama has never held a job in his life.

  • He writes self-help books, aimed at disarming you from your most precious weapon - your mind.

  • He is a fan of Marxism. Probably because he expects it to support bums like himself. Maybe the Lama should visit Cuba sometime?

  • He has nothing whatsoever to do with the noble llama. A llama has practical use.

That's all there is to him, really.

Vladimir Putin

Vladimir Putin in a TU-160 Bomber
Prime minister of Russia, Vladimir Putin. Where do we begin?
  • A former member of the KGB, Putin graduated from the International Law branch of the Law Department of the Leningrad State University in 1975. He wrote his final thesis on international law.

  • Putin was actually elected as the president of Russia. Despite his KGB intelligence background (which may or may not jeopardise the legitimacy of his appointment), it is worth noting that Russian people actually voted for him. He does not claim to have some divine right to rule.

  • Putin is a Judo champion.

  • He can fly planes, shoot guns and rescue scared pansies from the gaping jaws of lions, tigers and bears.

Who would you rather have fighting for your independence?

11 January 2009

Liberty Essay Competition

I managed to hoard a bunch of Entrecard credits which I don't intend to use. You can win all my Entrecard credits by entering this life threatening competition.

Necro Files Liberty Essay Competition
This is the image that will appear on your entry page, along with a link back to this page. See the competition terms for more information.

Win Entrecard credits by entering my Liberty Essay Competition

Obviously, this competition is aimed at fellow citizens of the blogosphere. You can win all my entrecard credits (currently about 1600, after transfer tax) by following these easy steps:
  1. Subscribe to my feed. You may subscribe via RSS or via email, whichever you prefer. You can find the subscribe widget to the right of the page.

  2. Write an essay about liberty. Specifically, this is an essay with the topic 'What does Libertarianism mean to me?'. You could be critical or favourable towards Libertarianism, as long as you follow the rules of an intellectually honest debate. You will be penalised for logical fallacies like ad hominem arguments, straw man arguments or failing to carry the burden of proof. The essay should be at least 250 words long. It could be longer if you wish. You may even do several posts on Libertarianism, arguing your stance. You do need to cite your sources! Wikipedia is more than adequate as a source.

  3. Copy the following code to your essay:

    You may place it at the top or at the bottom, as long as the link back to my post appears somewhere in your essay.

  4. Post your essay on your blog. This is how you qualify for entry.

  5. Leave me a comment on this post. Please remember to enter your URL so I may see your entry for review.

  6. Promote your post. Despite rating your entry on content, I will also consider the amount of diggs and stumbles your post managed to get. Remember to promote your post!

  7. Don't miss the deadline. The deadline is 31 May, the date that South Africa gained independence from British rule. You may enter as many times as you wish, as long as you follow all the rules.

Some helpful links

If you have never heard of Libertarianism before, but would still like to enter, here are some helpful links:

Of course you may use any credible sources for your essay, as long as they are publicly available. Link to them from your blog.

Thank you and good luck! May the best woman win!

04 January 2009

The Devil's Nightmare DVD Review


Italian horror. Enough said.


Delightfully cheap and playfully morbid tale about a group of tourists who are forced to overnight at a haunted castle. Seven tourists are exploited according to their tastes for the seven deadly sins by a succubus with Nazi connections. The succubus also has a very poor attitude towards crafting monograms on her victims.

Devil's Nightmare dvd cover


Perhaps it is possible to find a deadly sin for each of Dr Timothy Leary's seven tongues of god?
  1. Lust answers The Awareness Question. How does man know? Through his body, his senses and his sensual experiences.

  2. Gluttony answers The Life Question. What is life? That which is sustained by consumption of one kind or another. No food, no life. Lots of food, lots of life?

  3. Greed answers The Ultimate Escape Question. How do I get out of here? By clinging to my surroundings. By avoiding anything except my surroundings. A kind of Zen escapement - escaping by not escaping at all.

  4. Sloth is an answer to The Human Being Question. Who is man? Ruler of the earth, crown of creation. Let someone else do it for me. Let the rich share their wealth with the poor.

  5. Wrath is an answer to The Ultimate Power Question. What is the basic energy of the universe? Anger is a release of energy and could be a vulgar display of power.

  6. Envy is an attempt to answer The Emotional Question. What should I feel about it? Resentment and jealousy, because there are haves and have nots.

  7. Pride is an answer to The Ego Question. Who am I? Perhaps this is based on legacy or class. An appeal to authority - your own authority.

Yet when you think about it, gluttony and greed are very similar. As is sloth. Those are all excessively selfish modes of behaviour, rooted in an irrational means of acting in your self-interest. Envy and pride could also be seen as two sides of the same coin, if you consider that envy is a reaction to bruised pride. That basically leaves us with greed, wrath and pride. What a poorly constructed list of sins.

The Devil's Nightmare is one of my top 10 favourite horror films to date. This is mostly because of the cinematography, which is usually exemplary in European films. Lots of lesbian love, buckets of blood and some truly cheesy moments compensate for some of the worst Nazi costumes I've ever seen on film.

Yes, you read that right: lesbian love scenes that almost put the GRRR in tiger, baby! The plot follows the oh-no-it-isn't-what-I'd-thought-oh-yes-it-is-what-I'd-thought-after-all format, which must've been a novelty in the seventies.


Jean Brismeé.


Erika Blank, Colette Emmaneulle, Daniel Emilfork, Ivana Novak, Jean Servais.


horror review necro files devil's nightmare skulls

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