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October 20, 2002

First Post

Just to clear out a little backlog of random thoughts...

1) My brain was making demands for getting homework done. Essentialy, in order to get anything done, I was blackmailed into fetching M&M's... do other people's brains work this way, with such a disconnect between the part of you that wants to do something and the part that actually does it?

2) The Mountain Dew lid said "for comments or questions, call ######etc." Do they have cool questions? Do you get to pick whether you get a comment or a question?

3) Would ranch dressing and jerk sauce make a good chicken topping? Mix before applying or after?

4) It occurs to me that getting computers to recognize emotion is functionally equivalent to getting computers to recognize "art".

October 21, 2002

Wcalc 1.5.1

I released a new version of Wcalc today - earlier today, anyway. Just fixed a few small issues, recompiled it to work with the library changes in MacOS X 10.2, and so forth. Nothing really big. Anyway, I was waiting until Monday to post it to VersionTracker (under the perhaps mistaken thought that if there was a problem with it that I’d missed that needed to be fixed before I released it, it would show up before I posted it to VT). I checked VT before going to bed, and what did I see? SOMEONE HAD POSTED IT!!

WOOHOO!!! People use my software! Not only that - but there are (at the moment) TWO brand new reviews of it - BOTH giving Wcalc five stars! Yowza! (Forgive me, these are the first new reviews in more than six months.) I’m so excited!

Brief Chapter 1 Thoughts

They talk about intonation… A good example is the scene in Three Men and a Baby where he’s reading a wrestling magazine to the baby.

Also, it talks a lot about physical states representing emotional states, and gives (at one point) the example of someone who’s feet sweat when they’re nervous. However, it seems to me that whether someone’s feet sweats or not should not be something that we’re trying to figure out. Really, it’s irrelevant to my model of that person’s internal state. The robots should be autonomous and it seems fairly pointless to be able to determine someone’s emotional state if the only way we can do it is by hooking the person up to complicated sensors. It seems more practical to be able to (or to try to) model emotional states by non-tactile means.

October 22, 2002

Woke Up This Morning...

Woke up wondering what in the world am I doing at this university, and what in the world convinced the admissions people to let me in - much less pay me to attend. It just doesn't make sense.

Spent today and yesterday listening to Jim (yesterday) and Dan (today) at lunch presenting their papers that they're submitting for Flairs. Thursday will be Paul's turn. Jim's paper is about defining an interface to make layered (aka. hybrid) agent architectures easier (hybrid meaning that the agent has a reactive layer, to handle moment-to-moment activity, and one or more planning/deliberative layers, to produce more intelligent-looking behavior). Dan was talking about his master's thesis work, which is a teaching program/environment that detects or tries to detect student's proficiency and modifies the presentation of the material and the pace of the material to compensate for how well the student is learning the material.

The other thing I did today was release Wcalc under the GPL. SourceForge hasn't merged my existing CVS tree into the project yet, but the webpage is up, and the files (and source) are available for download. At some point, I should comment the code a little better - probably before making much headway with improvements, and hopefully *after* SourceForge starts hosting the CVS tree.

Now, I'm going to open a savings account, and, with luck, get a haircut.

October 29, 2002

I had two Epiphanies

Two. And perhaps they seem obvious in retrospect.

The first is about women and relationships. For me, anyway, I have realized that there is one hard and fast rule that must never, ever, ever be ignored (if it is, things will not work out, period). The rule is this: talking should be natural and unstoppable. Let me explain. I have several friends with whom I have discovered I can talk about essentially anything for arbitrary lengths of time - like gasses (read: hot air) we can fill any length of time with fascinating idle chatter without trying or even thinking about it. We just talk. (and talk, and talk, and talk…) This, I have realized, is absolutely necessary. I used to think that the secret was in the comfortable silence. Boy, was I dead wrong. The secret is in the neverending chatter. Remind me to keep this in mind for any and all future romantic interests. (Slap me severely, if necessary.)

The second epiphany is of a somewhat lesser (or greater) magnitude, in a completely different vein: email. As many people may (or may not) know, I maintain my own email server for my own purposes (since I don’t own a domainname (at the moment), I don’t have “cool” email addresses, but it is sufficient for what I need right now). I realized that I can track my spam. Or at least, future spam. I realized that I can create customized email addresses for everyone who asks for one for me very easily and quickly, with little to no overhead on my own part. For example, when/if Apple needs to know my email address, I can give them This is of course an alias for my own account on the machine, BUT, it TAGS the email. Now, if I ever get spam sent to kyle-apple, I KNOW WHO LEAKED IT! And I can do the same for kyle-yahoo, kyle-ibm, kyle-slashdot, etc. Oooo, the power! … ok, so it’s partly pure curiosity as to who is giving out my email address, but you gotta admit, it’s pretty cool! (I was thinking about some of the email systems where you can create a time-sensitive email address easily… and I could do that with a shell script and the at demon, but usually you want something slightly more permanent).

Now I just have to figure out who all has my email address!

Part 1 Retrospective

I finished reading part 1.

This chapter brings up some very interesting thoughts, and some big challenges to how I thought emotion recognition “aught” to be done. I originally thought that computers should work the way we do - recognizing what little emotion we can recognize simply by nontactile means. This, of course, is very limiting and with the increasing ubiquity and portability of computers, not necessarily required (hey, if we can cheat, lets! Movies are only 32 frames a second, after all).

In particular, the chapter raises the problems of culture, gender, age, and knowledge of the observer (read: inhibition) — essentially, to sum all of these, context — in affecting how people express emotions and how to interpret what is eventually expressed. The solution the chapter proposes is similar to how voice recognition has made it’s life easier - by focusing on a single person, training it to recognize a single person’s emotions.

Then the chapter noted how cognition futzes with our emotions. For example, the person who’s hot and irritable gets hit in the back of the legs really hard. Upon turning around, feeling all mad, he discovers it was a woman in a wheelchair who lost control, and doesn’t feel mad anymore. The chapter introduces the idea of primary and secondary emotions, or as I like to think of them, tier one and tier two emotions. Tier one emotions are the knee-jerk “emotions” - fear, quick anger, startle, etc. Tier two emotions are the ones that come only with a little bit of thought - grief, slow anger, sorrow, contentment, etc.

It occurred to me, thinking about the question of “why have emotions” that perhaps there are two different reasons, depending on the tier. Tier one seems to obviously be some sort of cognitive shortcut (as it happens without cognitive intervention, as a result of physical somatic responses), to help in survival instincts. Tier two, however, seems more tied to learning than anything else (there was an example in the book of a man who could not experience tier two emotions, and as a result could not learn from his mistakes). Of course, this learning introduces the deadening effect (if you are exposed to a given stimulus too much) and the possibility for emotional detachment - something which doesn’t seem so possible with the primary emotions. Think of, for example, the emotions you are able to suppress when giving a scholarly presentation, and which emotions you would not be able to suppress.

As far as emotion detection goes, I noted from one of their examples that the subtleties involved in emotional perception really make all the difference. For example, something as minute as a person’s gait, or something akin to a quick twinkle in their eye may completely invert our perception of the person’s emotional state.

Then a fair bit of the chapter was devoted to things that seemed ancillary, like the observations that positive emotions help creativity, and the observations that willfull emotional expression and pure emotional expression take different routes through the brain (e.g. brain damage patients who can smile at a joke, but not on command, and vice versa). One interesting conclusion they didn’t specifically state but seems obvious is that sympathy seems to stem from the way we remember things - we remember happy memories easier when in a good mood, and vice versa, thus, when a friend is in trouble we can more easily think of times when we were in trouble.

October 30, 2002

An Old Thought About Truth and Logic

A while back, I signed my email with the following quote:

You can only find truth with logic if you have already found truth without it.--G. K. Chesterton

Jim raised the point with me, pointing out that it's a bit of a religious argument there. And at the time, I didn't have much of a defense. I was thinking about it just now, and realized that it depends on your timescale to a certain extent. Thinking of the human mind as a complex machine, are you using logic when you decide on Truth? Certainly at the lowest level, things are logically making sense - this molecule triggers that reaction and that reaction produces this other chemical which spreads and so forth, but that's certainly not the logic Chesterton refers to. I think my response would be that at some point, even in the most rigorous logical exercises, we make a deductive leap. This leap, if the thing we are leaping to is at all important (read: nontrivial) is quite likely (possibly required to be) not a direct result of logic at all, but a "gut" feeling that we later justify with logic. Perhaps?

About October 2002

This page contains all entries posted to Kyle in October 2002. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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