Sunday, November 10, 2013

My Interest in Artificial Intelligence and Expert Systems

It's funny how long I have been interested in some things. I started questioning, reading, and investigating the purpose of life in 8th grade, 1967. It was the same year I took my first computer programming class(1). And it was the year I wrote my first AI "conversational" computer program(2). I was heavily influenced by my love of science fiction, which was replete with robots. No doubt I was subliminally influenced, too, by my father's work and his co-workers at Carnegie-Mellon (then called Carnegie Tech). He and Herbert Simon published the book Organizations in 1958. I was four years old.

My interests were further fed and nurtured by the work being done at Stanford. I was there from 1976 to 1979 getting a bachelor's degree in economics and a master's degree in statistics. I also took many courses in the electrical engineering and computer science departments. I even turned down a job interview with Zilog Corporation after I toured their facilities with my digital electronics classmates. In those days, if you could say "555 chip," you were hired.

It wasn't until several years later, after graduating and spending a couple years forecasting California electric and gas consumption and inflation rates, that I got a job working for Crocker National Bank. I was the second statistician hired (Ron Osborn was the first) in a department that had only started a few years before at the insistence and under the guidance of Muzhir Gailani, Crocker's General Auditor.

I spent a few years learning the loan business and estimating lending risk, predicting loses, and recommending funding of the loan loss reserve account with monthly reports to the Board of Directors. It was my frustration at the failure of statistical modeling that pushed me into expert systems. Although statistical analysis was very successful at predicting consumer loan portfolio performance (a la Fair Isaac aka FICO score), the same methods failed miserably in the commercial loan portfolio. I searched for other methodologies and found expert systems.

At the same time, I became fascinated with a then-new non-parametric statistical technique called CART (Classification and Regression Trees) developed by Berkeley and Stanford professors Breiman, Friedman, Olshen, and Stone. I decided to merge the two technologies, expert systems and CART, and did a study of loan-making decisions that used CART on a data-set of decisions made by acknowledged loan experts. From the CART results, I built an expert system for evaluating business loan risk for "middle-market" companies with sales between $10 million and $500 million per year.

The work was so successful that we were planning on using it to do more statistical decision-making modeling, but fate had something else in store for me. Crocker Bank was bought by Wells Fargo. The work I was doing (along with the seven people I was supervising) was not of any value to Wells. I was fired and Portfolio Analysis was disbanded(3).

So that's when I figured I was being given a not-so-friendly push to go work for myself. I started a business with Wayne Johnson: Wally Industries dba WJM Technologies. We built expert systems for the banking industry. Though most of our great ideas fell on deaf ears, one, fraud detection of new customer accounts, was bought, first by Security Pacific Bank, then by none other than Wells Fargo!

Within four years our specialized hybrid expert system, known as Early Warning, was as good as anyone with 2-year's of fraud detection experience. Within six years our model was beating most of the experts. By 12 years, our system had been integrated into 90% of all risk decisions concerning new customer accounts. Early Warning had woven itself into the fabric of bank new account risk evaluation. But we long ago stopped calling it an expert system. It was a powerful, very intelligent, very fast, very knowledgeable tool that augmented the ability of its human handlers to catch crooks.

Through all this time, now 40-plus years, I have pondered the question of why we are here and what, if anything, that has to do with intelligence. Here are some questions I still find interesting: Is human intelligence the only kind of intelligence? Is intelligence generic? Is it stable and recognizable across cultures, planets, galaxies? Is there a definition of intelligence that would be universal in the same way as the laws of physics and chemistry? If there is such a universal definition of intelligence, is there any reason to believe that the human brain would be the best way to be intelligent? Is there any reason to believe that the human brain is even very good at intelligence? Wouldn't it be more likely that there are better implementations of intelligence than the one we call the human brain, in the same way that machines have replaced most physical labor?

Don't worry about right answers. The questions are where the action is! And don't forget to have fun. Play is a very successful way to increase innovation. Play reduces the perceived risk of failure and its associated perceived cost of being wrong. (Beware of ego ├╝ber alles!)


(1) We were told it was the first time in the country that 8th-graders were being taught computer programming, something thought to be perhaps too complicated for 13-year-olds. We started on an Olivetti 101 and moved up to programming in Quicktran using a Teletype Model 33 ASR teleprinter, with tape reader and punch, transmitting to a remote time-share computer at 100 baud, a blazing 10 characters per second! Got my mug, along with my "El Scepter" class teammates, Howard Royster and Bob Davis on the front page of the Daily Pilot, too!

(2) Don't get excited. It was just a bunch of "if-then-else" statements driven by answers to questions asked by the computer so that it seemed like the computer was having a conversation with you. The program included the computer asking "you got any pot?" Hey, it was the '60's.

(3) This was in stark contrast to the promotion and "blank check" I was given when Crocker was earlier rescued by Midland Bank of England. When Midland came in and saw how our forecasts of Crocker's losses were the closest of any other forecasts in the bank (even though we only forecasted half the losses Crocker experienced), I was promoted to Vice President and Manager of Portfolio Analysis and given four more positions to fill, doubling the size of our team.

Friday, September 06, 2013

The right to bear arms and freedom

The idea that "the right to bear arms" has anything to do with "independence" is a funny meme. Where is the freedom in "I'll shoot you if you don't let me do this"? Real freedom comes from the commitment to be free, the choice not to be the coerced, the choice to stand for something knowing someone else may disagree.

Now, I'm not saying that physical persuasion isn't fun and satisfying. I'm just saying that having a bigger gun isn't freedom, it's just (trigger) finger-pointing. Who is the victim, the person who is shot or the person who shoots? Is it my fear of death that persuades me that I will kill someone who threatens to kill me? Is it my fear of harm that motivates me to risk my life defending those I love? How is being afraid going to make me free?

But then again, freedom is greatly overrated. Fear has been a more powerful meme than love when it comes to survival. Fear has gotten us through about 2 billion years. Love is relatively new and has not proven itself as a successful strategy. Certainly I would like to believe the meme "love conquers all," but there is so little evidence that in fact love conquers bigger guns.

Perhaps love is just a passing phase, an aberration, a mutated meme that will die because those that believe in it are so easily killed. Would I be willing to die, to love my enemy instead of killing him? I doubt it. But perhaps loving my enemy would transform my enemy to choose love over fear, in which case I may be killed by the bigger gun, but the meme jumps to a new host, like a flea abandoning a dead dog for anything warm that passes by. Ah, so many strange

On decision-making and causality

There is the study of individuals, made up of organisms (blood cells, skin cells, brain cells, etc.) that looks at behaviors that seem independent of the coming and going of the organisms (blood cells come and go, but there is something that remains, that we recognize as being there even if every cell is replaced).

There is the study of organizations (combinations of individuals) that looks at behaviors that seem independent of the coming and going of the individuals.

Most of our interest is inspired by our use of past behaviors to explain present behaviors and predict future behaviors (causality). These interests depend on a belief that decisions are better if they consider the potential consequences of the potential choices.

(Is causality a better belief system than other belief systems? How? Why?)

What are the limitations of believing in causality? Are there circumstances where causality would NOT be a better decision-making process?

For example, I make decisions. How I make decisions is complicated, but the process runs something like this: (1) I perceive that I have different paths I might follow, (2) I believe that at least one of these paths might be better than the others, (3) I believe that I might be able to predict the consequences of choosing the potential paths, (4) I believe that I might be able to predict the value of choosing the potential paths, (5) I believe that my choice should
be based on the valule of the potential paths, (6) I choose the path to follow.

In this process, there are many assumptions (more, I am sure, than those I have just listed). One of the assumptions is causality. In fact, I suspect the perception of the different paths is dictated by my assumption of causality being a good end. I believe the concept of rational decision-making and the concept of causality are isomorphic, one-in-the-same.

There are other forms of decision-making (flipping a coin, faith). And often even rational decisions are not the best decisions in the short term (because of the many possibilities of poor perception, poor memory, poor analysis, poor execution, and poor perception of the results), or in the long term (because of poor survival of the observer, poor survival of the understanding of the process, poor survival of the belief in the value of the result, etc.).

I struggle with choices that I believe impact myself in a different direction than will impact others. The "others" can be over time (from the present to the future) and the "others"can be over space (from one other person to every other person). My choices are complicated by their impact over time and space beyond my capacity to evaluate the outcomes of my choices.

I am interested in the different ways I might perceive the universe given different assumptions. What if causality were not important? What if faith were more important? What if my efforts to save my children's and their children's lives caused other children their lives? If I wanted to make decisions that were better based on their contribution to the survival of the human species, how would I do this? What tools would I need? What perceptions? What process? How would the process survive? How would the evaluation of the process survive? How would the improvement of the process survive?

If I want an idea to survive my lifetime, what should I do?
If we want an idea to survive our lifetimes, what should we do?
If the human species wants an idea to survive beyond the lifetime of the species, what should the species do?

There is no meaning to the existance of meaning beyond existance.

The meaning of existance is the existance of meaning.

What is the study of beliefs that exist across time and space? Beliefs that are beyond the existance of the human species, decision processes that have been and will be (for a long time) beyond the capactiy of the human species to control?

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Buddha and the end of suffering...

The Buddha was committed to ending suffering. What if suffering is what makes us human? What if suffering is the consequence of imagining the world different than it is? What if my belief that I can make choices that will change my world causes me to suffer because I am a social animal and often take responsibility for things I cannot control?

Is the premise of ending suffering also an illusion? Isn't a belief that is based on Siddhartha's life experience an attachment to his perspective? Does his desire to share this perspective with others lead to his own suffering?

One, Two, Many, All

The one versus a one.
The two versus a two.
The many versus a many.
The all versus an all.

"The one" versus "a one"...
This is a way of looking at the bias that results from my own perception. Given an event, I take my reaction (perspective of "the one") and compare it with my expectation of the reaction by another person (perspective of "a one").

For example:

Event: Someone I love tells me she does not love me.
The one: I feel hurt. I feel inadequate. I feel rejected. I feel exposed and vulnerable.
A one: He feels hurt. He feels inadequate. He feels rejected. He feels exposed and vulnerable.

"The couple" versus "a couple"...
Harder for me to understand, this is a way of looking at the bias that results from a couple's own perception. A couple might be two friends, two lovers, two people committed to each other, a married couple, etc. Given an event, we take our reaction (perspective of "the two") and compare it with our expectation of the reaction by another couple (perspective of "a two").

Event: I do not trust my partner with the truth about our relationship.
The couple: We don't talk about certain subjects. We feel less intimate because we are withholding thoughts. We avoid asking how we feel about topics that are withheld.
A couple: The don't talk about certain subjects. They feel less intimate because they are withholding thoughts. They avoid asking how they feel about topics that are withheld.

"The many" versus "a many"...
Somehow easier for me to understand, this is a way of looking at the bias that results from a collective's perception. The collective could be a family, a community, a culture, etc. Given an event, we take our collective's reaction (perspective of "the many") and compare it with our expectation of the reaction by another collective (perspective of "a many").

For example:

Event: Members from my collective are killed by members of another collective.
The many: We are outraged. We demand revenge. We band together out of fear. We feel the collective is threatened.
A many: They are angry. They are misunderstanding. They are threatened. They are motivated to extract revenge. They want acknowledgment. They want recompense.

"The all" versus "an all"...
At the limit, there is no difference between the perspective of "the all" (everyone) and "an all" (everyone). At this level of awareness, everybody perceives everything the same way. Conflicts may still occur comparing events between what is with what might be.

Event: We are changing our planet.
The all: We don't think this is a problem.
An all: Who speaks for the unborn?

Note: The expanding perspective from "the one" to "a one" to "the couple" to "a couple" to "the many" to "a many" to "the all" to "an all" illustrates the declining role of individual emotion and the increasing role of everyone's emotion. As the number of participants increases, emotion moves towards a blended emotion (some sort of average?).

This poses the question of what is so valuable about individual perspectives that we have evolved with strong biases based on individual emotional response? One explanation would be that the successful strategy of human diversity as a mechanism to protect us from extinction from unanticipated events has tended to encourage some level of different perception in individuals, couples, and collectives.

Is it possible that our emotional reaction to events is the mechanism that amplifies our unique perspective, exaggerating our individual perceptual bias, thereby perpetuating the successful strategy of diversity?

Emotions are a process...

What are emotions? Why do we have them? Why do we share them?

What value is there for me to have emotions? To share emotions?

What value is there to others from me sharing my emotions?

What value is there to the human species to have emotion? To share emotion?

Are emotions a relic of the past, or are they the key to the future?

What would the world be like if no one shared emotions? If no one had emotions?

Emotions are a process that protects and builds the bias of the perspective of an individual.

Emotions for and by self, another, and others

There are internal emotions for self-monitoring (from-myself-to-myself emotions).

There are external emotions for monitoring by another (from-myself-to-another-self emotions).

There are external emotions for monitoring by others (from-myself-to-other-selves emotions).

Are there external emotions that are other selves monitoring myself, another self, other selves?

Are there internal emotions that are "all selves" monitoring "all selves"?

Perhaps the word "monitoring" is best reserved for reactive emotions. What word would describe pro-active emotions? Pro-active emotions are those that require forethought and are expressions of anticipated reactions.

The expression of internal emotions, and the recognition by another of the expressed internal emotion, was the start of inter-selves communication.
Note: There are also disciplined emotions, emotions altered by consideration, whether over time (motivated by an anticipated future) or over space (motivated by a consideration of more than myself).

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Question on the big bang and other wonderings


I am a trained statistician, which gives me a way of looking at events a
little differently. In general, I see things as distributions instead of
events. It's just like In physics where I was taught that the
temperature of a volume of liquid measures the average of a distribution
of energies of so many atoms.

I was lying in bed this morning, thinking, imagining... Well, you know
how I can imagine. So I ended up thinking about how "messy" complex
systems were, and how the "big bang" would be no different. Yet when I
have seen reference to the process of the "big bang", the events seem to
be uniformly distributed, as if everything went from state "A" to state
"B" to state "C" smoothly.

So, I was wondering, what if the "big bang" wasn't just one "big bang",
but a series of "bangs". For example, what if there was a process that
caused the "big bang" that had many "little bangs" along the way,
similar to the way I have heard we now hypothesize that planets were
formed by many collisions of units of mass.

So what, you might ask. Well, the idea leads me to all sorts of
interesting states of our universe:

1. What if the big bang was actually a series of big bangs? And being
messy, like physical processes really are, there was a certain amount of
mass (and all states of sub-atomic particles) that did not "get back" in
time for the next big bang. Would this process create a distribution of
all sorts of states of matter, sub-atomic particles to heavier molecules
in the universe?

2. Would there be sub-atomic particles unable to change if they were in
deep-enough "space" that "space" as we know it, "matter" as we know it,
did not exist? If so, what would the effect of these things be on the
part of the universe where space or matter existed?

3. Even if there were only one "big bang" (the last one so far), why
wouldn't there "stuff" that was sent so "far" so "fast" that it got
orphaned at the edge of the universe, unable to resolve into anything
because there is nothing there? Would this be a possible explanation for
"dark matter"?

OK. I know I'm just a 58-year-old 10-year-old! And the universe still
fascinates me, enough to take up my morning lounging in bed. But the
idea of using a more statistical, distribution oriented model of the
universe still seems more likely to explain anomalies that one might
only expect to find in the remote tails of distribution functions. Let's
just say, statistics opens the door to many unlikely possibilities in a
universe that is large enough and exists long enough to be very, very,
very diverse.

No need for an answer. Just wanted somebody to talk to.

Love always,

PS: I still remember the time in 8th grade math (with Miss ???, who
married the PE teacher and became Mrs. Norton) when I brought to her
attention a book I found that said something like, "given enough time,
everything WILL happen, even that clock jumping off the wall as if on
its own". I've never stopped seeing clocks jumping off walls ever since!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Ideas that came to me early this morning

I woke up on 2/15/2013 at 2:15am and lay in bed thinking about some ideas,,,

1. Use a "fish-eye" lens (180-360 deg view) into a cell phone to watch over me at night when I am sleeping (intruders, mosquitoes, etc.)
 1a. Uses "differencing" video to monitor only significant changes
 1b. Warns me when it sees a mosquito. Shows me where it is in real time (follows it even though I can't see it.)

2. GPS and sidereal time based on sun's location
 2a. Give cell phone ability to know where "level=horizon" is
 2b. Give cell phone ability to know where "north=magnetic" is
 2c. Give cell phone ability to know date

3. Put fish-eye lens and transmitter into a "marble" or "grain of sand"
 3a. Throw a handful of sand into the air or into another room and each camera sends it's portion of a 3-d live image of the area within view of the sand.
 3b. Drop sand from a plane towards the ground and have a 3-d real-time image of where everybody / everything is before / during someone / something's arrival or for future reference
 3c. Powered by little solar collectors and/or little batteries.

4. If the Earth's magnetic field is generated from its metallic liquid center
 4a. Can we monitor the magnetic field and infer the movement of the liquid center?
  4a1. If we can monitor the liquid center, can we use that information as a GPS system?
 4b. Does the movement of the liquid center correlate to the timing of earthquakes (like a wave under a floating hardened surface might cracks)?
 4c. Do the changes in the earth's magnetic polarity correspond to earth impacts significant enough to disturb the magnetic flow similar to the striking of a magnet can cause the magnet to reverse polarity.
 4ca. Does the manner in which a magnetic material is struck predict the chances of a change in polarity?

5. Is there a frequency of electromagnetic radiation that facilitates or contributes / cancels out the firing of neurons in the brain?
 5a. Several transmitters on a person's head (fixed dots) could be controlled to emit enough energy at just the right time so that the resultant of all the transmitters occurred at the specific location of a particular neuron, enough to trigger the neuron.

6. "Bluetooth"-like "hearing aid" ear implants give a rising and falling tone based on the position of recognized features of a person's head to guide their head to look at something being monitored by a fish-eye-like lens (related to "1" above)
 6a. The alarm for an intruder (person, mosquito) could be silent and only heard by the person wearing the receiving ear implants with tones used to guide the person to look in the direction of the intruder.
 6b. Ability to put a "monitor dot" on a doorknob to be awakened when the knob is turned
 6c. Ability to "sense" if someone is in the field of view of the cell-phone / hand-held assistant / reality enhancing device, like putting it around a corner to see what's there

7. Ability to infer sun's location based on monitoring movement of shadows (don't need to be able to see the sun to know it's position).

8. Ability to build a 3-d virtual version of the real-time world within view of "seesand"=collections of cameras the size of grains of sand communicating through a network made up of all the individual "dotcams".
 8a. What would the world be like if there were large areas (everywhere?) of "seesand" and anyone could use this observation network to experience those areas as virtual real-time 3-d worlds?
 8b. What if someone knew who was using the network from what point of view so that he could "see" all the people who were experiencing the virtual world? (Visitors might be represented by "ghost" images of heads with eyes looking around.

9. Build a team of virtual players that play any of the 3-d real-time war game videos.
 9a. The v-team players communicate over the same "audio" channel built for real people.
 9b. The v-team players coordinate at "bullet time".

10. Encrypt the network transmissions of the "seesand" so that they appear to be white noise and are undetectable by transmission frequency monitors.

11. Build radio transmitters that encrypt their messages by changing the transmission frequency in an algorithmic way.