pilum

2013/08/28

Fiction and Reality | Zooinverse

Another part of artificial intelligence is pattern recognition. I am not an expert in this subject but as it seems this ability is a digital challenge.

For example there is a science project called Zooiverse. Every layman with a PC and an internet connection can contribute by deciphering ancient handwriting or categorizing craters according to their size simply by comparing them to samples. While this ability is pretty basic for the human brain it is a real challenge to information technology. I guess our species would never have survived if we couldn’t distinguish edible fruit to poisonous one.

Let’s go back to the question about fiction and reality. The “realistic” categorization of craters is based on pictures of planets none of us will ever see. The photos have been taken and sent down to earth by satellite.

As far as I am concerned I lost the grasp of fiction and reality and will rest my case with a (fictional) discussion of an astronomer and brain surgeon:

The astronomer scoffs: “I travelled the space and never saw an angel.” The brain surgeon responded: “I perform brain surgery and never found a single thought.”

Needless to say, that I believe more in thoughts than in angels. If I am right only the Gods know. And their reality is in the thoughts of every individual.

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If you want to read the previous articles about this subject please follow the link.

2013/08/21

Fiction and Reality | Siri Inc.

Siri is annoying. At least she is to me and I am quite happy that she can be deactivated. Siri is not some lady but just her voice. The voice of a speech recognition programme which belongs to Apple Incorporation. This application is built into the new generation of mobile devices.  Basically, she is a personal assistant who answers specific questions. Siri’s voice sounds very humanlike and she possesses a small part of artificial intelligence.

Her answers to the first few standard questions are quite reasonable. Moreover, she correctly executes the commands one normally enters via keypad; without contradiction. In case you come up with the idea to ask her taking a dictation harness yourself with a lot of patience. Siri is quickly overstrained hence you should only use very short phrases and never forget to say “done” if you want her to digitalize the text. And please remember: long and complicated phrases are too much for Siri’s attention span. Ooh, what would you say if your assistant (the human one) was a difficult to deal with?

 

But let’s be patient with Siri. After all she is just speech recognition software and belongs to specific field within information technology, known as “artificial intelligence”.

Computer games are as well based on this technology. Since a game comprises a finite number of possibilities – even if there are several millions – the can be programmed upfront. This means the system always knows what to do next. No doubt, a machine does routine jobs faster and more accurately that human beings ever will be able to. After all, we have some more things to take care of.

On the other hand languages have hardly any combinatory limits and it is very difficult to predict what the other person will say next.

As we see artificial intelligence has its limits which might as well have to do with the definition of what intelligence is.

To us intelligence real but still we miss a clear definition of the notion “intelligence”. But this lack does not hinder us to develop tests that score human intelligence with a simple number. Even though this number is – as I claim –virtual it has a palpable effect. The exclusive club “Mensa International” for example accepts individuals that passed the test with a score of 130. The observation of how some people fight to be affiliated makes me doubt the reality of their intelligence.

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If you want to read the previous articles about this subject please follow the link.

2013/07/31

Story 08 | 2013 | Fiction and Reality.

Filed under: story.english. — Tags: , , , — supernova @ 12:03 AM

Do you know Robert Langdon? You don’t? I am not impressed since this man is a respected historian and a Harvard professor.

If I ask the same question about Shakespeare you will feel insulted as you automatically think that I doubt your intelligence. Of course you know that Shakespeare was a great poet and playwright. Maybe you even know his birthplace.

I tell you something: You know Shakespeare as little as you know Robert Langdon. Just in case you – unlike me – are not crazy about these novels; Robert Langdon is a character created by Dan Brown who plays a chief part in four of Brown’s books. The film industry hired Tom Hanks to play this role.

Granted, there is some evidence for Shakespeare’s real existence. The church register in Stratford-upon-Avon mentions a person with this name and its graveyard hosts a tomb by the name of William Shakespeare. Until the present day theatres all over the world play “A midsummer night’s dream” or “Hamlet”. Still, we know nothing about the person William Shakespeare. His biographers are actually struggling to reconstruct his life.

Dan Brown did what most writers do. He equipped his protagonist with a biography and some personal features. At least it is known that Langdon suffers from claustrophobia and wears a Mickey Mouse watch. Do you know if Shakespeare avoided small rooms or if he wore jewelry? I mean straight from the horse’s mouth. Well, I don’t.

To make things worse I have to admit that I am in trouble when it comes to the definition of reality. When I think of Shakespeare or of Langdon the level of their reality appears to be the same. Apparently, even things we cannot see or touch can be genuine. At least I consider my thoughts reality; even if they deal with imaginary professors.

In the course of the following weeks I will claim that reality and fiction seem to overlap or at least that we cannot tell them apart as easily and clearly as one typically thinks. And we will see how much this is a fact in information technology.

Talk to you next Wednesday.

2013/07/24

Praise the Power

Power is quite a newsworthy subject with a bad reputation. This seems very unfair to me as I believe that power is something extremely positive. The word «power» translated to French becomes «pouvoir» which in this language means as well «to be able to». To be enabled to do something is positive to begin with. The contrary would be disabled which in most cases poses a problem or at least a challenge.

So what is the problem with the power? From my point of view it is because most people think about power along with its misuse. Looking at the news this is hardly a surprise. In Bangladesh more than 1000 sewers died in their factory when it caught fire simply for the fact that their boss forced them to work, despite the terrible condition of the building. Some vultures bring about the downfall of former successful companies while political leaders have to face court trials due to obscure love affairs. Around here Ruby and the former Italian president make a good example. Of course the trail seems to fit the idea of justice but it takes forever to get there.

Misuse of power seems to be linked to greed and an overly strong need for admiration. This raises the question if power normally goes to the wrong people.

I guess not. Much more I suspect that it is like it always is. The black sheep are the most visible ones and make the best headlines. For this reason most of us do not know a «decent potentate».

Moreover, power requires a lot of responsibility. The latter is something of which people can and should only accept a limited amount. I think the responsible ones do not strive for more power than they can carry while the other ones keep the tabloids busy.

Since responsibility has a good reputation we are coming back to the positive aspects of power. At least in some parts of the world we are not only responsible for our actions but hold as well the power of ourselves.

2013/07/17

Philosophy 4 | Philosophy in IT Projects?

Granted, the question what exactly Plato or Aristotle should do in an IT Project is justified.

Despite their genius I would not want any of them to work on the project plan nor did I appreciate the German philosopher Immanuel Kant writing the business case.

At the very beginning I mentioned that philosophy teaches us to think and that its students have to deal with various theories and logic.

Basics

Pondering this for a while one comes inevitably to the conclusion that these are skills which come in handy in any field. Many philosophers therefore see their discipline rather as a fundament of other arts and sciences than as a science on its own.

Controlling a text based on logic is nothing else than making an analysis by reading very carefully. A project analysis requires the interviewer to listen attentively and to find the central theme in it. The same is valid for the reading of the project documents. And every project manager who has to deal with various companies or departments within his or her project knows the pain of competing theories.

Project rescue comprises even more theories; the ones guessing the responsible factors that got the project out of kilter.

In order to filter the relevant statements one has to ask the right questions. And as I stated before: Philosophy is highly apt to asking questions.

Entertainment

If you feel well entertained by our newsletters it might well have to do with philosophy that emphasizes rhetoric, also known as «eloquence». :-)

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This is the last article about philosophy for the time being. If you would like to read the previous articles please follow these links.

 

2013/07/10

Philosophy 3 | What Makes Philosophy Difficult?

A close look – I should rather say a close read – reveals the difficulties of philosophy.

There are many reasons. This is my list:

Language

Let’s start with the German philosophers. If one shares their mother-tongue – like I do – one should think that this makes things easier. Totally wrong! Not only is the content of some authors’ texts challenging even the language of many of these works sounds clumsy and stiff. On the other hand there are philosophers holding a high opinion about the cadence of their prose but seem to forget about the content.

Theories

Language and Theory are often hard to separate. If someone develops a theory which is very new and therefore is far away from other people’s thinking he or she has to use unusual notions to describe it. Again we will refer to Plato. In his time there was no mathematical language since he was just about to develop this abstract theory. For this reason the respective text is really hard to understand althoughthe content is ingenious. And of course there are always theories which seem more plausible to the reader than others.

Logic

Philosophy students have to accomplish a course in logic in order to understand propositional logic. The course itself is important but as I find boring. And if one applies those rules the result is often against our intuition. Even content without any sense can formally make a correct result.

Make a Choice

As stated before philosophers started writing about 2500 years ago. Of course this opulence is as priceless as it is unmanageable. Even the reading of the so called standard works is beyond an ordinary study. I escaped from sheer desperation by concentrating on certain questions and epochs. This makes no universal genius but at least one is more or less savvy about some subjects.

Patience

To me the greatest challenge is patience. Sometimes one is looking for ages to advance with their writings and it really requires a lot of persistence to justify our own hypothesis. But the worst are authors writing in an overblown style since this prevents me from concentrating on the content. This goes so far that a professor once «awarded» me the attribute «style driven».

Speaking of patience; I really requested a lot of it from you, dear Reader. After all I still owe you an explanation about the usage of philosophy in the course of an IT project. I will catch up on it next Wednesday. That is a promise.

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If you would like to read the previous articles about this subject please follow these links:

2013/07/03

Philosophy 2 | The Mathematics of Philosophy

Some time ago a lawyer uttered that the study of philosophy could not be very hard. As a reaction on my puzzled look she completed: «Well it is not as difficult as mathematics is».

The writer is no mathematician and has (unfortunately) not much to say about it.

But what can be said is that originally all mathematicians were philosophers. This clear distinction between the disciplines appeared only very late. The first mathematicians we know about are the Pythagoreans, a group of philosophers who existed in the 6th century BC and followed famous Pythagoras. Remember his theorem? For the Pythagoreans numbers were not just signs that described an amount but they were real beings with qualities and it was important to the world that they were proportional.

Plato, one of the most influential philosophers who lived in the 4th century BC created a mathematical system which is described in his dialog «Timaeus». It seems to be very practical as the cathedral of Chartres is proportioned according to it. Plato’s mathematics was the standard until Isaac Newton’s «Mathematical Principles» that appeared in 1687. Not only that the original title of Newton’s work was «Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica», he studied theology and in his time was referred to as a philosopher.

It Would Be Wonderful

Even Johannes Kepler who is considered one of the greatest astronomers and mathematicians brooded over the so called platonic solids. Kepler thought that the world consisted of such solid figures.

I understand little of mathematics but I have a great deal of sympathy for Kepler’s theory.  At least we would have a binding answer about what the world is made of; I could stop writing about philosophy and care for geometry.

Well, so far this theory has not been proven and I will keep studying philosophy. Next week we will discuss why philosophy can be difficult at times. Talk to you next Wednesday.

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If you would like to read the previous article about this subject please follow this link:

 

2013/06/26

Story 07 | 2013 | Philosophy 1

Since several weeks ago we have been talking about social media, change management and growth. To give all these business subjects a break we will publish some articles about philosophy.

What Philosophy Is Not

It seems a good idea to start with the explanation of what philosophy is NOT.

Since I hold a university degree in philosophy people often assume that I was a good dialog partner. Maybe I am but this has certainly nothing to do with philosophy.

I am not exactly crazy about this comment as I always hear it as a form of equation which says «Philosophy = making associations». Believe me nothing is farther away from philosophy than that. I will explain this more detailed in a minute.

 

Another thing philosophy can unfortunately not do is giving absolute truths and answers to the great questions concerning the meaning of life or its origin. The ones who are looking for everlasting and absolute answers are better off in the theological faculty.

So What Is Philosophy?

Even the answer to the questions what philosophy can accomplish is not absolute but my personal opinion. Knowing that etymologically philosophy stems from the Greek notion «philosophia» which means love of wisdom is not of much help.

Philosophy is a discipline which tries to find answers to the fundamental problems of mankind concerning life itself, nature, mind etc. Often philosophy refers to other sciences and arts without being a part of them but rather serving as their base. The occidental philosophy alone makes the student read against 2600 years of tradition. Please note that this excludes all the oriental wisdom. This makes it obvious that there are several theories for every question one can think of. And of course nobody – no matter how long they studied philosophy – can give definite answers.

But we can ask better questions!

My answer to the question what philosophy can accomplish is that it teaches us to think. Far be it from me to allege that all the others cannot think straight. What I really want to say is the following: When trying to understand a classical philosopher we have slip into his shoes, considering the time and circumstances and follow his thoughts in order to really grasp his theory. Philosophy is much about logic but not about association.

Within the next weeks you will learn about the link between mathematics and philosophy, the difficulties of the latter and why it is useful for project management and rescue. Talk to you next Wednesday

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The monthly story is available as a pdf file on our website.

2013/06/19

Risk Management

In the course of the last three weeks we were discussing the subjects of growth and risk. Just like a project requires planning the growth of a company must be planned and a strategy has to be chosen. Of course the strategy depends on the field in which an enterprise works but the financial aspects must be considered, too.

Budget plays a chief role in every project. Therefore we find it amazing how often risks to do not appear in it. Still, experience taught us so.

According to the definition of the standard PRINCE2, risks are uncertainties with two aspects. An uncertain event with a potentially negative impact is a threat, while its twin which might have a positive effect is called an opportunity.

How To Deal With Risks?

Risks can be treated in different ways. We can accept, mitigate, avoid or insure them. But what we never ever must do is ignoring them. All possible risks have to be listed and assessed. You are probably already about to fall asleep by reading once more that the cost of a risk insurance is the result of the factors probability and severity.

In order to decide how to deal with a risk, it is indispensable to evaluate it. «Evaluation» means to establish how much of money each incident would cost. To really do this the project manager needs a team of experts who have the knowledge to assess the risks. Only if the management has a clear picture of these risk costs they can decide if the company can afford the acceptance of a thread or if the financial impact is too severe and they prefer looking for a different solution.

The «positive risks» – meaning the opportunities – should be shared with other departments in order to exploit them.

Professional risk management prevents projects from the need to be rescued. We happily support you.

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For the time being this is the last article about growth and risk. In case you’d like to read the previous articles about this subject, please click on the links below:

 

2013/06/12

Growth 3 | Risks.

Now we have been talking about economic growth for quite a while which made some points pretty clear.

Independently of the growth scenario an enterprise chooses they all bear certain risks. Employing more people – at least in most industrialised countries – imposes certain legal constraints and social responsibility on the employer which are more perilous than the construction of a new factory. Even companies that dismiss staff in order to save money and to increase their profit run a risk. Maybe they fired too many employees or the wrong ones so the service level is now lower than their clients are used to. In this case they will possibly buy from the competitors. The same can be said about outsourcing. Companies typically think it is enough to pay the bills to change an entire culture overnight.

Inventions often take some time to become known and successful on the market and we all know that a software update can put a device out of order with no more than a mouse-click.

Now?

Should risks prevent enterprises from growth and development? «No, of course not»! I can hear you saying.

The very influential German philosopher Friedrich Schelling defined nature as relentless movement. Even though we already established that the comparison between economic growth and nature does not work out we daresay that the result of not moving forward is stagnation; in the best case.

So, how do we deal with risks? We evaluate and categorise them with an appropriate risk management. We happily support you there. How we will explain to you next week.

By the way: pilum put their faith in innovation. We are still the only ones around here offering specialized services for project rescue.

Talk to you next Wednesday.

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In case you’d like to read the previous articles about this subject, please click on the links below:

 

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