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Monthly Archives: June 2007

Links 29-6-07

Quote #198

A man goes to the doctor. Says he’s depressed. He says life seems harsh and cruel. Says he feels all alone in a threatening world where what lies ahead is vague and uncertain. The doctor says “The treatment is simple. The great clown Pagliacci is in town tonight. Go and see him, that should pick you up.” The man bursts into tears. He says “But doctor… I am Pagliacci.”

Alan Moore, Watchmen

When they’re gone, they’re gone

Eon announces demolition of Sheffield’s Cooling Towers. Go press release:

Unless you do something big and bold soon in the regeneration of Sheffield, no-one will care. Literally, no-one outside the city will care. No-one will care about a city with the same shops as everywhere else, the same flats as everywhere else, the same cafes as everywhere else, but slightly uglier buildings.

Full text here if the hyperlink works

Intentionality facade

In the pub on friday night Dan showed me his boids – virtual creatures that evolve in a virtual world according to a genetic algorithm (yes, these are the sorts of friends I have!). He told me that when he made mistakes in the code, the boids seems to evolve to take advantage of it. So there was a bug that meant that predator boids moved quicker when they were with other predator boids. What happened was that the boids exploited this bug and learnt to hunt in packs.

What I found was interesting was my reaction to this – “Cripes!” I thought “How the hell did they work out how to do that?!”. Even though, as a programmer, I knew exactly how much intelligence and autonomy these boids had (none). Even though, as a dyed-in-the-wool evolutionist, I could understand the directionless-logic of a genetic algorithm, some part of me leaped at the chance to ascribe intention to those little coloured triangles as they floated around the screen. Despite years of thinking about evolution, despite knowing that an evolutionary algorithm was an undirected process, that no boid made any decisions, that all that happened was that those boids which had some simple rule that made them associate with other boids moved faster and this made them more likely to be reproduced in the next ‘generation’ and that this meant that pack-like behaviour became more prevalent – despite all this, my instinct was still to ask “Why did they decide to hunt in packs and how did they see it would work”.

It made me realise just how alien the logic of evolution is, that someone like me who is theologically and intellectually predisposed to want to understand it still fails to grasp it instinctively.

Reed Elsevier to exit the defence exhibitions sector

“Reed Elsevier announced today that it is to exit the defence exhibitions sector. This portfolio of five shows is part of Reed Elsevier’s global Business division and represents around 0.5% of group annual turnover. ”

http://www.reed-elsevier.com/

aka. We won!

Update Reed press release

Reed Elsevier CEO Crispin Davis:

“Our defence shows are quality businesses which have performed well in recent years. Nonetheless, it has become increasingly clear that growing numbers of important customers and authors have very real concerns about our involvement in the defence exhibitions business.

“We have listened closely to these concerns and this has led us to conclude that the defence shows are no longer compatible with Reed Elsevier’s position as a leading publisher of scientific, medical, legal and business content.”

Update 2: Lancet editorial on this

Update 3: Coverage in the Times and the Guardian