Freitag, 14. August 2009

Leaving Writing Blogs to 200 Mio Blog Writers

"Don't waste other peoples time!" #iquotemyselfalot

There is nothing in particular that I feel I need to write about. I rather write comments on other peoples Blogs or, if there's really something that needs to be expressed by me ( 1:6.5 Billion People) - I'll write an article or a book in the future.

Saving you precious time.

Donnerstag, 13. August 2009

The Social Media Revolution


Montag, 13. Juli 2009

Stephen Wolfram - ANKS - Not a New Review -

A New Kind of Science A New Kind of Science by Stephen Wolfram

My rating: 2 of 5 stars
Wonderfully printed, easy to read, marvelous to look at, pretentious piece of quack.

It was hard to pass the Introduction and the first Chapter, when you hear the author praising himself, his own importance and why literally 'everybody' in science and why science itself is 'wrong' and did not 'see' what very self-aware author sees, but nobody else.

The book is a massive piece of rarely to find print. I was self-published by the author to assure the quality of the printing. It has many black-and-white Illustrations and pictures to accompany the text. The text, when it is not about self-praising, is rather easy to read and easy to understand for non-academics. So what is it about?

It talks about the 'big' picture in nature and science. Stephen Wolfram is a well known 'Wunderkind' in theoretical physics. He made his PhD in 1979 at the age of 20. In the mid-1980s he founded Wolfram Research Inc. and invented 'Mathematica' the leading software for technical computing and symbolic programming.

Wolframs main thesis of the book and the solution he offers are easy to understand:

"... very simple programs produce great complexity. For all it takes is that systems in nature operate like typical programs and then it follows that their behavior will often be complex. And the reason that such complexity is not usually seen in human artifacts is just that in building these we tend in effect to use programs that are specially chosen to give only behavior simple enough for us to be able to see that it will achieve the purposes we want" page 3

This is the crux of the book, there, luckily on page 3.

If you read the 12 Chapters (846 pages plus around 250 pages of notes and additional massive Index, than it is most likely, that you do it because you like an intellectual exercise or because you love books and don't mind the many times annoying voice.

I am not going to discuss the results of such a vast amount of research and work that went into proving and verifying his idea. There are plenty of scientists from his fellow theoretical physics to mathematicians and others that reviewed and challenged Wolfram's book over the past years. There is even a great discussion a the slashdot-forum that mocks the authors writing and is funny and hilarious to read for nerds like me. May reviews and articles are online and it is easy to find them, if you want to.

Beyond the Masters Voice, this is a lovely book to look at. An artifact in these times of trash-quality publishing. It is not a masterpiece of printing. You cannot compare it with bibliophile editions. But for science books, if you have seen a physical copy of it, it is more on the upside, which tells you where we are nowadays, when it comes to print.

There is a complete online-version of this book now available for free on the Wolfram Research Homepage. The whole thing. For the curious minds.

Unfortunately, somebody on Google buzz triggered the worst in me and made me write some sort of review/critique in 2010. I attach it here, since it found some readers.

disclosure: I am neither an academic, nor a scholar. Take my disappointing comments for what they are .

The main result (...) - that programs based on simple rules can produce behavior of great complexity - seems so fundamental that one might assume it must have been discovered long ago. But it was not, and it is useful to understand some of the reasons why it was not .” Wolfram ANKS page 42.

The premise of Wolfram’s book was to introduce to all of us “A New Kind of Science” - did he achieve that? Have we found out anything new or fundamentally different (as in ‘wrong’) with non-Wolfram “science”? Is his the underlying ‘principle’ - the one thing τι ὃ οὐ κινούμενον κινεῖ ("something which moves [other things] without [itself] being moved [by anything]" (Aristotle Metaphysics).

You mention Scott Aaronson's review of the book and that was the first review I have read. I felt grateful that somebody from Wolfram’s ‘crowd’ (on his level, way above mine) took the time and effort to debunk the pretentious ‘findings’. I lack that level of inside baseball. Keep reading, if you must.

“... it’s validity depends on how it is formulated.” Scott Aaronson, p. 99

What poisoned my experience with the whole book is his tone, not the more or less interesting, already ‘well-known’ phenomena that may or may not apply to the degree he thinks are true. Wolfram goes after everything and everybody. There is a well known tradition in Western Philosophy (which used to include all of ‘Science’) to make “scientifick” (rhetorical) statements like: “ (1) This is what my predecessors found out. (2) They were all wrong. (3) This is how the world works according to my body of work.”

Umberto Eco wrote in 1995 a book about the “The Search for the Perfect Language (The Making of Europe)” Eco, a linguistic professor and true “semiologist” (not the Dan Brown “DaVinci-Code, Langdon sort), explores the old European idea and cultural origins of a ‘universal language’, a concept that touches many of the aspects Wolfram is trying to get at, in his own way.

The “theory of science”, the underlying ‘grammar’ we all want to rely upon, is always - implicitly tainted with our suggestions, presumptions, inaccuracies - and personal idiosyncrasies ... even (and especially) in science! Mathematical models don’t suddenly ‘appear’ out of the blue. They all went through a process that has a ‘historic’ element or string to it. Think of non-coding functional RNA, or junk-DNA - that really isn’t junk after all, as we now know . We used to call that junk-DNA, since we did not know what it was good for. Wolfram goes to the Cellular Automata model to explain the world. His ‘simple programs’ are not really simple, they are not well understood. ‘Translating’ the idea of a cellular automaton in ‘machine instructions of a computer’ is problematic in a very fundamental, philosophical sense. "Traduttore, traditore." (The word ‘translate’ means ‘to betray’).

True, since Leibniz we constructed many interesting mathematical problems and found very accurate descriptions for natural phenomenas - but also always reflecting the ‘Zeitgeist’, the technology ‘du jour’, on which we create the models of the world every time new. Why is Wolfram’s computation as a framework for explaining the phenomenon of universality so different from La Mettrie?

Maybe it is my personal lack of imagination, but seeing him inventing ‘A New Kind of..’ LEGO bricks and trying to explain all complexity, classical physics, quantum mechanics, and mathematical phenomena through ‘his’ idea of LEGOs (you can also read λόγος logos) reminds me very much of the Stoa and less of a more serious - less broad - underlying principle of all nature.

But things are not that simple. And he is mixing (deliberately?) theory and experimental outcome, again and again in his book.

In Chapter 11 Wolfram returns to discussing cellular automata, Turing machines, register machines, etc...

The main point (...) is that essentially all of these various kinds of systems - despite their great differences in underlying structure - can ultimately be made to emulate each other. This is a very remarkable result (...) In a sense its most important consequence is that it implies that from a computational point of view a very wide variety of systems, with very different underlying structures, are at some level fundamentally equivalent. For one might have thought that every different kind of system that we discussed (...) would be able to perform completely different kinds of computations. But what we have discovered here is that this is not the case. And instead it has turned out that essentially every single one of these systems is ultimately capable of exactly the same kinds of computations. And among other things, this means that it really does make sense to discuss the notion of computation in purely abstract terms, without referring to any specific type of system. For we now know that it ultimately does not matter what kind of system we use: in the end essentially any kind of system can be programmed to perform the same computations. And so if we study computation at an abstract level, we can expect that the results we get will apply to a very wide range of actual systems .” Wolfram, ANKS, page 674.

I would love to leave you alone with this passage. I would love to not mention Kant’s “Kritik der Reinen Vernunft” 1781 (Immanuel Kant - Critique of Pure Reason ) where Kant distinguishes between ‘Synthetic’ and ‘Analytic Judgement’. Wolfram is doing nothing less but justifying his ‘experiments’ by proposing to not make a difference anymore between theoretical (abstract) automatons and computational results of the physical kind he did, because all are in the end ‘nothing else but’ his kind of universal cellular automatons.

I would insist, a Turing machine is a theoretical device. Turing machines do not ‘behave’. They do not ‘translate/interact or compute’ into similar systems concepts - no matter how similar they are. On the other hand, ‘systematic computer experiments’ do ‘behave’. Most of them according to their authors. Furthermore - another basic/poor thought of mine: ‘Cellular automata’ as a theoretical concept unequals ‘cellular automaton programs’ as in ‘executed by compilers’. The results of actual physical computation - as accurate and as many digits long they may be - are NOT comparable to results as in ‘ideas’. Ask the hardware engineers, who spend their lives designing CPUs or the poor souls who try to ‘predict race conditions’ in their massively parallel programs. You mix theory and the physical world, you end up with weird math. Ask for that your theoretical physics and quantum physics department. Combining those two parts and introducing them into your ‘little’ world, of innocent cellular automatons is turning the concept upside down - it results in unpredictable complexity.

Especially the last chapter, proposing a “Principle of Computational Equivalence” is nuts, and has no basis - again, according to my humble brain-cells. The Church-Turing thesis is an abstract model in the classic Popper sense. But Wolfram goes into ‘metaphysical’ territory (not in Aristotle’s or Kant’s sense, but in today’s lingo - beyond the grounds of classical and/or quantum physics. Do I have to paint graphs and cite peoples work of the past 100 years to ‘debunk’ his ‘thesis’? I cannot.

If you assemble LEGO bricks long enough with a set of simple rules, you are able to ‘see’ some things you might not have anticipated. You may ‘see’ a bigger pattern. You may experience ‘gravity’ etc... - yes, I am polemic and simplistic. There is nothing ‘new’ about my method. I do not see anything new neither in Wolfram’s findings (described at length with nice pictures) in ANKS. Oh, and did I mention his pretentious tone?

Sorry for the length, grammar/spelling and lack of more elaborate, better versed English.July 19, 2010

View all my reviews >>

Freitag, 26. Juni 2009

Holly Miranda, Marques Toliver

Holly Miranda, Marques Toliver

How many artists do you know who write their own newsletter to their fans? I don't know many. Actually I know only one, and that's Holly Miranda. 

After her Tour with her Band Members (incl. Marques Toliver) and AA Bondy she is finally back home and had some time to upload pictures from the tour and write a newsletter.

She will perfom in New York on July 25th @ 92y tribeca with Joan As Police Woman! She wrote "(holy crow.. seriously)".

So, if you are in NYC or in Jersey or Upper NY or ANYWHERE in America, go and GET YOUR TICKETS NOW!

It's $ 15 bucks, which is ridiculous! That's as much as a parking tip in L.A. or a 2 frappuchinos.

Don't miss it, because I sadly have to. Sucks to live so far away...

Montag, 8. Juni 2009

European Union in a Nutshell

European Union in a Nutshell

What you might want to know about Europe but never dared to ask

In short.

Think of the United States, Canada and Mexico deciding, that they want to expand their relationship beyond a trade relation.

They want to 'harmonize' their laws so trading, working and living between the three countries would be almost like moving from one US-State to another.

I know, this sounds frightening to many ears and it actually is.

The 25 Countries that have joined the European Union are souveraign States. They still have their own Constitutions, their own gouvernments and laws.

All countries are sending a part of their GNP to the EU Budget, proportional to their overall GNP. 

Beyond that national level the European Union created to branches of Meta-Government if you will. The European Parliament is elected every 4 years and they have the right to create laws and debate them while the European Commission (two seats for each country) is the 'Administration' of Europe. Both of them have no real power, still. The top level of 'European Government' are the 'Ministers' (Secretary's of State and Finance) who are making the final decisions if something will pass the European Level of legislation. If they approve the law each country has to apply these european laws on a national level. Sound's complicated? Yes, it is. And it can be tidious. There are laws that decide the size and weight of bananas and tomatos. These rules have to be applied in each country and the real trick is, they have to be in accordance to national laws and constitutions.

The elected politicians in the European Parliament have no real power. They debate and nobody in Europe really cares about them or listens to what they say. That is why they are the prey of lobby groups. While K-Street style lobbying is still a small plant in Europe and not very well understood, many interest groups have learned over the years how to play them. The biggest part of the Budget for the European Union still goes to subsidizing agriculture. The farmers all over Europe have learned how to make themselves heard by politicians.

European Elections are not important to the citizens in Europe. Only a small minority feels the need to go and vote. Less than at any national or local election. 

This is why so many obscure groups and individuals see their chance to get a well paid job and secure themselves and their parties a revenue of income. 

All these small groups either build a coalition that is reminiscent of their national parties (Netherlands Social Democrats, with Austrian Social Democrats) and 90 seats are filled with nutheads. Most of them have radical, silly or hideous agendas. They are trying to get a couple 100.000 votes in their country to get them their seat in Brussels. 

Since the influence of the European Parliament none the less is growing continuously on the one hand but the National States are still strong and will not give more power to the EU soon.

Here is a link to the Website of the European Union and the recent Election results:

unposted follow-up comment for flickr-thread on "Do you like to hear when you suck?"

on flickr and photography

I started a thread on in the group "Flickr Central" one evening, because a certain question occurred to me. Do you like to hear when you suck? Honestly? (no troll)

Here is a follow up I did not post on the thread.

I want to resent the idea that everyone who goes into a shop and buys any camera is a 'Photographer'.

I have no problem with people being able to click on everything they see, or make as much pictures of their babies, dogs and cats or trying to be creative.

I don't care if people run around through cities and make snapshots of everything in their way, never taking the time to really 'see' the things infront of them, to 'understand' them. Their choice. (of course, sometimes the 'right moment' dominates everything, granted - I am not talking about these). 

There are always several angles to photography, every path is valid.

Some people love baby pictures, because they love babies. The see cute babies in pictures and say: "that's a great picture"

Only cranky scruffy old chaps like me would feel the urge to open their mouth and object by saying: "This is not really a great picture"

I had friends who are professional 'old school' photographers. They used to think about and prepare for weeks and months for a shooting or sometimes even for 'one' shot.

And afterwards the result was still unknown because they of course had to go to the dark room, working for hours.

Photography was an undisputed 'art'-form as well as it was craftsmanship.

Depending on your own possibilites and capabilites people can or cannot do 'these' sort of pictures. I want to think that professional photography is still in it's own league. It takes years. It takes maybe decades to reach a point. And sometimes you even loose your craft.

I wish people would be willing  to see beyond the amazing technology inside the modern cameras and judge the result on the simple question: "What did 'you' (actually) do, to make this photo look so amazing?" 

I never bought a camera in my life, because I know, I am not a photographer.  Don't think, this would make my arguments less valid. I do love the old Hasselblads and Leicas etc...

Mittwoch, 3. Juni 2009

30 years of not writing.

30 years of not writing. 

What? Bragging with creating nothing? 

Exactly. No academic papers, research papers, new canonical works of literature and philosophical castles, secret software killer-apps. Intentionally not.

Still with me? 

Some people never climb from being avid readers for decades, Bookoholics, reading everything from Chaucer, Malory, Shakespeare to Jane Austen, Henry James, James Joyce (in English) to Pushkin and Tolstoy, Gorki, Dostoyevski (in Russian and translations), to Goethe, Heine, Mann-Brothers, Musil (in German), Proust, Stendhal, Voltaire, Balzac (in French + translations), to prescription labels, legal texts (for fun) etc. etc. - I hope you guess the idea. I intentionally left out the ancient Greek and Latin philosophers and the rest of the bunch coming after them. I'll come back to that soon.

I don't brag about this. Every fellow reader get's it and knows the addiction. And if you have not been such an excessive book worm I applaud you! There is nothing to be intimidated or jealous about. Au contraire, I am jealous of all the people who have not poisoned their heads from early years on, with tons of books. But books were the only joy I had for a long time. They were my escape route during a couple of years, when I had to adopt to a new country, a new language, being part of a school but not 100% accepted. And the same books became the troublesome source for problems in high school and later on. 

You see, I somehow stumbled over a non-fiction book, disguised as a fictional text when I was ten. It was something we had to read for school. Friedrich Nietzsche's "Also sprach Zarathustra". This was a very controversial book in post-war German high-schools, because Nietzsche and especially this book of his. The Nazis incorporated his work, brutally mishandled and forged by Friedrich's sister Elizabeth, who loved the attention of Adolf Hitler and the Nazis. My interest in this book was childish and naive. I did not understand it. But I was intrigued.

From Nietzsche I came to Plato from Plato to Socrates, from Socrates to the pre-socratic philosophers and in between to Hegel and Hume and Kant and Aristotle and to the "Frankfurter Schule" (Horkheimer/Adorno) which led me to Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels and straight back to Hegel, Fichte, Schelling... I could ramble on and on. Everything is connected. Once you take a jump into these waters, you should never expect to come out alive on the shore ever. I mean this literally.

Philosophy, the understanding of 'us' human beings and the world around us, how it is build, how it works, what this all means can be a lifelong journey, and for me it started very early. Probably too early and in the wrong environment, without having people around me to ask or talk about it. So I became a loner as a teenager.

Now, religion would be a solution, you might say. For all the souls that come from families that belong to a certain religion or a religious group or a sect, it is all laid out for you, before you know it. You grow into the believes of your parents and grandparents. You either accept it when you are a teenager or you start to question their believes and try to separate yourself from them. Both ways, it's a possibility.

I grew up with my single mother. She was a 'loosley' Greek Orthodox. In the sixties, when I was born, a single woman having a child was not suitable to be blessed by the church. I was not baptized. I had neither the privilege nor the burden to be connected to 'a' religion. I was a free mind. I had the opportunity to choose. And I chose the hard way: figuring out how this all works, not accepting easy answers. 

At the age of maybe 12-13 I started to also read books about science and scientific methods. 

It blended along with my studies in philosophy, because logical thinking and methods of verification and deduction have been discussed throughout the last 2500 years - even if in western Europe, the catholic church wanted their version of the truth and their take on Aristotle through Thomas Aquinas and Augustine of Hippo (St. Augustine) to be predominant: Christian aristotelian logic = ok. Giordano Bruni's or Galileo's = not so much.

We, in the West, cannot imagine how it was to live the hard life in medieval Europe, full of hard work, diseases and repressions. People in african states, in poor countries are living this nightmare right now. 

My interest in school education was close to zero. I did not get from school what I wanted. Higher education was not an option for me. My mother was poor. She could not help me. She had to work too hard to put food on the table. And also, she could barely read or write, but this is another story I will tell another time. It should be even more inspiring.

After I left school and started a job-training and later poorly paid jobs, mostly in retail. I spend all my free time concentrating on all the interesting subjects I could think of. Between 16-20,22 I had my 'phase'. I was on a roll. Catching up and establishing the groundwork that will put me in trouble for years to come. I established a rebellious attitude. I had some college friends and entertained them with my borrowed or own ideas, satirical rants, outrageous comments - it was obvious, the first book is in the making. So much 'talent' needed to be spread. 

I discovered the works of Jacques Derrida and found a mutual soul. Through his writing I read all the books he read. I have read them before. I understood them better afterwards. I was intrigued by the misreadings and misunderstanding in the academic community about his work. It was not so obvious to them as it was to me. The ethical aspects of his work were laid out from his early work on. The connection between him and Deleuze, Lacan and most important to me, with Emmanuel Levinas were amongst the most pleasurable moments in my reading life.

Why I don't write...

This all still does not explain, why I did not write a thing. Or, if I wrote them, why they do not exist anymore. It is best explained by Torquato Accetto's (1641) "Della dissimulazione onesta" (The Honorable Concealment). The small text is about the discourse of truth versus lying. Is it appropriate to lie ever. It became a popular topic in the Renaissance. From Erasmus from Rotterdam to Machiavelli, to Baldassare Castigliones "Buch vom Hofmann" wertete die Verstellung geradezu als Pflicht höfischen Benehmens. 

Torquato Accetto discusses something so obviously wrong in a way and with the clarity and subtle melancholy that Shakespeare's young Hamlet was not capable to grasp. These are the thoughts of an old, wise man, who saw the atrocities and horrors of his lifetime. If you can find the book, read it. He suggested to sheet the truths of bitter life with a veil of dark concealment. He basically praises Concealment as a legitimate way of disguising the horrors in life. The beauty we see is just the disguise of death and decay. Thinking about the text, yes, it is evocative of of Baudelaire's "Les Fleurs du mal" in tone, but with the bitterness of Italian medieval.

...nor 'create' other things.

And alongside with this philosophical essay, I also indulged in the subversive thinking, subversiveness as an 'act', or more precise 'action'. My meek artistic endeavors of whom there is nothing for you to find anymore (all destroyed and lost) were probably good enough for a certain career path. But I never was interested in 'career' when it came to Art. I am rigorous as a fundamentalist neoevangelical Christian when it comes to the topic of 'Art' and it's biggest Nemesis the 'Art-Market'. 

I perfectly understand, my beloved Renaissance painters where all slaves of commerce. They had to work for a living, satisfying their customers: Dukes, Kings, and the of course, the Church. I studied them. I understand them. I have learned the difference in the color of eggs and how they affect the secret paint they were mixing together. 

But I am still uncomfortable with 'art' as a 'subject' of commerce. Art has to be free. It has to brake boundaries. It must offend to mean something. It needs to be more than something rich people and banks can grace themselves with, showing of the works of the impressionists and others, who one's were seen as hobos and would never be allowed to step into one of these banks, even only to go to the bathroom. I know precisely what I am talking about. Art as decoration, ornamental, as an emotional 'feel-good' accessory deserves my contempt. I cannot help it. There are beautiful ornamental works in arabic and persian culture, or even by contemporary Designers. But the 'idea' of 'art' is about something else. Art is serious business. "If art has nothing to do with life, than we don't need art" Ai Weiwei  

So I decided not to play along in the attention-seeking market, knowing I will never be a part of the circus, either the academic circus ("Philosopher? You don't publish, you are a nobody") the book-circus ("You're a writer? How many did you sell?") or an 'artist' ("Damien Hirst shocks the art-market")

I decided to keep things to myself. Most notes for books on philosophical topics or well advanced chapters of novels, short stories, essays are burnt, destroyed. All the good stuff, were I put more than just a couple of minutes into it is destroyed and/or lost by accident (I kept a map of best things from 20 years and it was destroyed - a true moment of enlightenment).

You did not, because you cannot, because you have not enough talent, endurance, strength

Valid arguments. I will not defend myself. I feel no need to. You are free to think what you want. I am not offended by any of it. I feed my self-esteem through other sources, closer to me. Tiny, gentle interactions with people around me. There is of course more to this. Things unspoken, words kept back. Topics unexplored, other unexplained. The sound of my voice, you cannot hear. The movement in my face and the glimpse in my eyes, not referred to in this 'text' that is no text. I became good in 'letting go'; of thoughts, work, people...

So, if you wonder, who is this guy? Here was a glimpse of me. Probably still not explaining what makes me tick. But I don't like to talk about myself anyways and this will be the longest self-indulgent piece ever, only to satisfy the curiosity of a few, who still care (which is humbling and flattering at the same time). I appreciate the comfort of strangers. In real life or online.