Monday, April 29, 2013

By the Numbers 17/52

And April's almost done

Net Cash: -$97.25
I reverted to form on eating takeaway in the later part of the week due to some bad planning on the groceries front (if you're going to run out of food on the day before ANZAC day, don't think you can get your groceries home delivered on ANZAC day), plus I went out and saw a movie on Saturday
Jobs Applied for: 0

Net Calories: 1166 Calories
A positive no. A consequence of eating too much takeaway during the week (it doesn't help that they make it cheaper to get a meal than just one item by itself, but I should have known better).
Weight: 96 kg
Fitocracy points: 590
At least I walked to and from the cinemas on Saturday.

Bike riding: 289km
Books read: 0
I've all most finished How to Win Friends and Influence People
Games played: Glory to Rome and Tichu

Sunday, April 21, 2013

By the Numbers 16/52

Another week down.

Net Cash: $197.45
Jobs Applied for: 0
Successful Interviews: 0
So after a few delays at work, they final told me that they'd decided to appoint no one to the position I applied for, and also that I might be better suited in a slightly different role, which I suppose is at least more constructive feedback than any of the other job application this year.

Net Calories: -2431 Calories
I noticed a trend this week. If I don't get enough sleep I eat more. I should try to get by on more than 5 hours sleep.
Weight: 95kg
Fitocracy Points: 1361
Fitocracy level: 9
The arbitrary no increases again, hooray!

Bike riding: 360km
Books read: 0
Games Played: 4, two plays of Dominion base and intrigue, and two new games, Discworld and Twilight Struggle (note to self: If you're going to replay the entire cold war, expect it to take a while)

Monday, April 15, 2013

By The Numbers 15/52

Here we go again

Net Cash: $163.03
Not bad, but about half of the surplus comes from gifts, so it's not too sustainable, but I spent more than usual as well, so it probably balances out. If I'd given in too temptation, this would have been a very big negative number, but I've decided my current computer will have to do for now.
Jobs Applied for: 1
Interviews Attended: 1
A new field! Now, I don't think I gave them the answers they were wanting to hear so I'm not too optomistic, but I should find out how I went today (it was for a different position at my current work).

Net Calories: -2583
Yeah, eating a packet of mint slices on Sunday probably wasn't the best lunch
Weight: 96kg
It's going down again. Yay!
Fitocracy points: 243
I'd forgotten about some exercise I did early in the week and was thinking this was going to be a terrible week for exercise, but instead it's just ok.
Fitocracy level: 8

Years lived: 32
I'm older! Yay! If I use hexadecimal I'm only 20
Bike riding: 214km
I caught the bus in to work a few times this week to avoid traffic and weather.
Books read: 0
Still plodding through How to Win Friends and Influence People. After that I have two very interesting books to read, The Physics of Wall Street and Scepticism and the Possibility of Knowledge.
Darts: nope
Games Played: 6
Glory to Rome x3, Eminent Domain x2, and Dominion

Things done
Worked on the jigsaw puzzle, read a bit, went to Critical Mass, got a haircut, did some cleaning around the house, exercised on Monday, walked to and from the bus stop on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday (although I forgot my go card on Friday, so the return trip was in the morning and then followed by riding the bike into work).

Again I haven't really lived up to what I'm trying with this section.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

The Human Mind is a Chinese Room

The following is an essay I wrote as part of an Introduction to Philosophy course I finished recently on Coursera that I felt like sharing more generally. 

Could a computer have a mind?

In the debate over can a computer have a mind, one of the most well known arguments for the negative is Searle's Chinese Room Argument. To make his case, Searle asks us to consider a man locked in a room. In the room with the man are some pens, some paper, and a large book. From time to time, the man will receive a piece of paper with some symbols on it which the man will look up in the book and then copy some other symbols onto a blank piece of paper and send that out of the room. Unknown to the man, the symbols are words in Chinese and the book is telling him what to say in Chinese. Searle claims that since the man is just following instructions based on the symbols and not their meaning he doesn't understand Chinese, and since any computer program would also just be following instructions based on the symbols, it too can not understand Chinese. That is, a computer can operate on a syntactic level, but it can not operate on a semantic level, and thus can't be said to have a mind.

I disagree with conclusion, and to explain why I wish to present a counter example, namely the human brain. The human brain is made up of around 86 billion neurons. Each individual neuron is functionally very simple. It receives electrical impulses from other neurons and from time to time based on the received impulses it will send out an electrical impulse to other neurons, who go on to do the same thing. Now for an individual neuron all of these electrical impulses only have syntactic information. Either there is an impulse or there isn't, that's all. It might have originated with a pain receptor in your foot after stepping on a nail, or in a photoreceptor in your eye when you look at a red rose, but to a neuron it's just an electrical impulse with no semantic information associated with it.At this functional level, a neuron is very similar to a circuit in a computer, various electrical inputs are received, and based on that, a certain output is made. From this we can see that a neuron operates on a syntactic level, and not on a semantic level.

So what happens when we start grouping together neurons? For a moment, let us go back to Searle's Room, and this time instead of just one person, we have two people, each with their own book, receiving and writing symbols and passing them between each other as their books instruct to achieve the same outcome. Again, everything is happening on a syntactic level so no semantic understanding occurs. If we continue to add more people to the room each with their own book of instructions, nothing changes to move us from the syntactic to semantic level. So if we remain operating on a syntactic level by adding more people to the room, we will also remain at the syntactic level by adding more neurons to a brain. So a human brain (and indeed any other creatures brain) must operate at a syntactic level and not a semantic level.
But the human brain does operate on a semantic level. We know a rose would smell as sweet by any other name. Semantics are who we are, it's how we think.

We can come to either one of two conclusions. We could look at Searle's claim that a system that operates on a syntactic level can not also operate on a semantic level and say "well, the human brain does that, why cant something else?", or if we concede that yes, the human brain only operates at a syntactic level, then the question is "If the human brain operates only on a syntactic level and we say people have minds, why can't something else that only operates syntactic level also have a mind?" In either case, Searle's argument does not provide a reason to believe that a computer can not have a mind.

Monday, April 08, 2013

By The Numbers 14/52

I'm a bit late this week as I stayed over at my uncle's as my mother is staying there while she's in town. I'm now doing this while at work, so will need to come back a bit later to fill in some blanks.

Net cash: $191.30
Jobs Applied for: 0
I'm working on an application for different job at my current work, but am uncertain as I've applied for this role twice before and each time I've had a crash on my bike just after applying, so there's a certain irrational fear associated with it.

Net Calories: -3809 Calories
An ok week but hurt by a few overindulgences along the way seem not to have had too big an impact
Weight: 97kg
Fitocracy Points: 347
So much lower than last week, but still my 2nd best result for the year
Fitocracy level: 8

Bike Riding: 339 km
Darts: let's call it a miss this week
Books read: 0, but I have been churning through Race for the Iron Throne, a political analysis of A Game of Thrones, which also has a lot of interesting history as well
Games Played: 0
BGG stats not withstanding, as I entered a bunch of online plays of games in bulk the other day. I've decided online plays of games against other people I will keep track of, but not if I just play against an AI.

Things done
A big fail on the three things a day this week. However, things done last week include starting a jigsaw puzzle,  exercised once, visited Mum while she's in town, and procrastination. As always, I will try to do better next week