purplecat: Programming the Eniac Computer (computing)




Image of a Lego Rover on top of a giant abacus in front of a reproduction of the Manchester Baby (the first stored-program computer).
purplecat: Programming the Eniac Computer (programming)
At the end of half term I visited my parents for the weekend, ostensibly to help out with admin. About half way through Saturday my mother very firmly drove me to the centre of Oxford and left me outside the Bodleian with instructions to amuse myself at the Ada Lovelace exhibition.

Pictures under the Cut )
purplecat: Hand Drawn picture of a Toy Cat (ai)
We (meaning my research group) have recently become interested in "ethical autonomy". From our point-of-view our interest is quite prescribed. Having formalised the "rules of the air" and created autonomous programs that can be shown to obey them we then got faced with the issue of when you want a pilot to deliberately break the rules of the air because there is some compelling ethical reason to do so (one of the examples we look at is when another aircraft is failing to obey the rules of the air, potentially maliciously, by moving left to avoid a collision instead of moving right. If the autonomous pilot continues to move right then eventually the two planes will collide where a human pilot would have deduced the other aircraft was breaking the rules and eventually would have moved left instead, thus breaking the rules of the air but nevertheless taking the ethical course of action).

Since ethical autonomy is obviously part of a much wider set of concerns my boss got involved in organising a seminar on Legal, Ethical, and Social Autonomous Systems as part of a cross-disciplinary venture with the departments of Law, Psychology and Philosophy.

It was an interesting day. From my point of view the most useful part was meeting Kirsten Eder from Bristol. I knew quite a bit about her but we'd not met before. She's primarily a verification person and her talk looked at the potential certification processes for autonomous systems and pointed me in the direction of Runtime Verification which I suspect I shall have to tangle with at some point in the next few years.

There was a moment when one of the philosophers asserted that sex-bots were obviously unethical and I had to bite my tongue. I took the spur of the moment decision that arguing about the ethics of what would, presumably, be glorified vibrators with a philosopher while my boss was in the room was possibly not something I wanted to get involved in.

The most interesting ethical problem raised was that of anthropomorphic or otherwise lifelike robots. EPSRC have, it transpires, a set of roboticist principles which include the principle: "Robots are manufactured artefacts: the illusion of emotions and intent should not be used to exploit vulnerable users." The problem here is that there is genuine therapeutic interest in the use of robots that mimic pets to act as companions for the elderly, especially those with Alzheimers. While this is partially to compensate for the lack of money/people to provide genuine companionship, it's not at all clear-cut that the alternative should be rejected out of hand. Alan Winfield, who raised the issue and helped write EPSRC's set of principles, confessed that he was genuinely conflicted about the ethics here . In the later discussion we also strayed into whether the language of beliefs, desires and intentions used to describe cognitive agent programs, also carried with it the risk that people would over-anthropomorphise the program.
purplecat: Hand Drawn picture of a Toy Cat (Default)
100 Current Papers in Artificial Intelligence, Automated Reasoning and Agent Programming. Number 7

Sabine Glesner, Johannes Leitner, and Jan Olaf Blech. 2007. Coinductive Verification of Program Optimizations Using Similarity Relations. Electron. Notes Theor. Comput. Sci. 176, 3 (July 2007), 61-77. DOI=10.1016/j.entcs.2006.02.037 http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.entcs.2006.02.037

DOI: 10.1016/j.entcs.2006.02.037
Open Access?: Yes

Discussion )
purplecat: Hand Drawn picture of a Toy Cat (agents)
I spent the last week in Taiwan at AAMAS 2011 and thought I'd do my usual thing of randomly blogging about bits of various talks that peaked my interest.

Game Theory under the Cut )

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/41160.html.
purplecat: Hand Drawn picture of a Toy Cat (agents)
I spent the last week in Taiwan at AAMAS 2011 and thought I'd do my usual thing of randomly blogging about bits of various talks that peaked my interest.

Game Theory under the Cut )
purplecat: Hand Drawn picture of a Toy Cat (Default)
A lot of discussion has been going on on RJ Lipton's blog and he yesterday posted a summary of the progress in one week. On balance I'd say it doesn't look hopeful that Deolalikar's proof can be patched, but there's an interesting sociological process going on, especially for those of us with an interest in the nature of mathematical proof.

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/15933.html.
purplecat: Hand Drawn picture of a Toy Cat (Default)
A lot of discussion has been going on on RJ Lipton's blog and he yesterday posted a summary of the progress in one week. On balance I'd say it doesn't look hopeful that Deolalikar's proof can be patched, but there's an interesting sociological process going on, especially for those of us with an interest in the nature of mathematical proof.
purplecat: Programming the Eniac Computer (computing)
This is, in fact, incredibly exciting news. But I am at a loss about how to explain simply and clearly what it means or why it is exciting in a blog. However my best shot is:

A problem is solvable in Polynomial time (that's P) if, as you make the problem bigger, it doesn't take too much more time to solve (for a technical definition of "too much").

A problem is solvable in Non-deterministic Polynomial time (that's NP) if as you make the problem bigger it doesn't take too much time to check whether a solution is correct. That is you can check the solution in polynomial time. However you do need to have a solution to check first.

No one really knows if P = NP, i.e. whether if you can check a solution in polynomial time then there is a procedure for generating that solution that is also polynomial time. Mostly people have suspected that P doesn't equal NP, and an awful lot of computer security is based on this assumption. It's been an open problem in computer science and mathematics for decades and, pretty much, has been the major open question for that whole time.

Anyway a proof that P != NP was unveiled on Friday though, as I say, it's yet to be checked.

Nature discusses the proof.

Tetris, incidentally, is NP-hard, as are many puzzles and solitaire games that humans find challenging yet fun.

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/15812.html.
purplecat: Programming the Eniac Computer (computing)
This is, in fact, incredibly exciting news. But I am at a loss about how to explain simply and clearly what it means or why it is exciting in a blog. However my best shot is:

A problem is solvable in Polynomial time (that's P) if, as you make the problem bigger, it doesn't take too much more time to solve (for a technical definition of "too much").

A problem is solvable in Non-deterministic Polynomial time (that's NP) if as you make the problem bigger it doesn't take too much time to check whether a solution is correct. That is you can check the solution in polynomial time. However you do need to have a solution to check first.

No one really knows if P = NP, i.e. whether if you can check a solution in polynomial time then there is a procedure for generating that solution that is also polynomial time. Mostly people have suspected that P doesn't equal NP, and an awful lot of computer security is based on this assumption. It's been an open problem in computer science and mathematics for decades and, pretty much, has been the major open question for that whole time.

Anyway a proof that P != NP was unveiled on Friday though, as I say, it's yet to be checked.

Nature discusses the proof.

Tetris, incidentally, is NP-hard, as are many puzzles and solitaire games that humans find challenging yet fun.

BCS EGM

Jun. 10th, 2010 11:35 am
purplecat: (academia)
The British Computing Society (although I learn it is now BCS The Chartered Institute for IT) is having an EGM. I am asked to vote on my lack of confidence (or otherwise) in the BCS trustees, chief executive and multi-million pound transformation programme. I am also asked to vote on a special resolution to change the constitution and make triggering EGMs more difficult. I have been sent a glossy, though somewhat vague, brochure by the BCS which purports to explain why I should have every confidence in its Trustee Board, Chief Executive and modernisation plans.

tl;dr, largely to try and work out my own thinking on the subject )

This entry was originally posted at http://purplecat.dreamwidth.org/7688.html.

BCS EGM

Jun. 10th, 2010 11:35 am
purplecat: (academia)
The British Computing Society (although I learn it is now BCS The Chartered Institute for IT) is having an EGM. I am asked to vote on my lack of confidence (or otherwise) in the BCS trustees, chief executive and multi-million pound transformation programme. I am also asked to vote on a special resolution to change the constitution and make triggering EGMs more difficult. I have been sent a glossy, though somewhat vague, brochure by the BCS which purports to explain why I should have every confidence in its Trustee Board, Chief Executive and modernisation plans.

tl;dr, largely to try and work out my own thinking on the subject )
purplecat: Programming the Eniac Computer (computing)
How would the UK IT industry run if there were suddenly no men?
Mammoth Screen are an independent television drama production company and they are currently developing a new idea for an ITV television drama series for which they need to undertake some detailed research before the screenwriter can get started.
The project is going to explore the question of how the UK would function if society underwent a sudden demographic change whereby there were no men: only women. Whilst this is obviously a hypothetical scenario, they are hoping to take current research and expertise on demographic breakdown to create an informed and realistic picture of how Britain might work in such conditions.
One area they are investigating is how employment in key areas of infrastructure is divided between the sexes e.g. given that the majority of long haul lorry drivers are male, would petrol forecourts dry up and would supermarket shelves go empty if men were taken out of society?
Similarly, would the national grid fail because the majority of its operating engineers are male, or does it work on a fairly automated basis?
Another area they are looking into is the sociological, emotional and psychological side of how people would cope in the aftermath of such a traumatic and shocking change to their lives. They're hoping to take studies and research from other recent scenarios where society has been faced with trauma or sudden loss of men to create a picture of how the characters in our drama might respond.
With regards to the IT industry, what they would love to know is how you think women would cope with the increased amount of pressure at work as there are so few women in technological services. Do you think some areas of technology would collapse altogether due to lack of staff?
They are also interested to know if there's anything else that leaps out at you after reading the premise of the show.
They are looking for your input asap as the writer would like to start work on the screenplay within the next month or so.


I can't help thinking this idea could work but is more likely to be the most horrendous sexist drivel.

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