Current-borne, wave-flung, tugged hugely by the whole might of ocean, the jellyfish drifts in the tidal abyss. The light shines through it, and the dark enters it. Borne, flung, tugged from anywhere to anywhere, for in the deep sea there is no compass but nearer and farther, higher and lower, the jellyfish hangs and sways; pulses move slight and quick within it, as the vast diurnal pulses beat in the moon-driven sea. Hanging, swaying, pulsing, the most vulnerable and insubstantial creature, it has for its defense the violence and power of the whole ocean, to which it has entrusted its being, its going, and its will.
But here rise the stubborn continents. The shelves of gravel and the cliffs of rock break from water baldly into air, that dry, terrible outerspace of radiance and instability, where there is no support for life. And now, now the currents mislead and the waves betray, breaking their endless circle, to leap up in loud foam against rock and air, breaking…
What will the creature made all of seadrift do on the dry sand of daylight; what will the mind do, each morning, waking?
— Ursula Leguin
Computer learning systems are solving big problems. The programmer doesn’t tell the computer how to proceed, but merely provides massive amounts of data for the computer to learn with. The computer sets about blindly looking for patterns in the data and sometimes finds patterns that people would never see.
On the one hand, it’s great to to have someone who really “thinks different” looking at the data and making suggestions. On the other hand, it’s a human being who is going to use this pattern or (formula or algorithm of diagnosis or plan) at the end of the day, and often the stakes are high. How is the human to know that this crazy idea the computer came up with isn’t just an artifact of the data, or a programming error?
“Hal, explain yourself!”
Over at Google Brain, Been Kim has worked on this problem, and now has (the beginnings of) an interface to query the computer, so we might learn not only what the computer’s solution is, but how it got there.
One hundred years ago today, Rosa Luxemburg was arrested and summarily executed by the German police. She was the most outspoken socialist south of Soviet Russia. Her intellect was too strong and her rhetoric too convincing for the German oligarchy.
All of Europe is remembering her today. Socialism has been stomped on with propaganda, with violence, with control of the historical narrative and censorship of the news, with war and with political “contributions” from the rich and powerful. But the ideas remain robust. Social democracies offer the best quality of life of all the countries in the world.
Die Friedensfreunde aus bürgerlichen Kreisen glauben, das sich Weltfriede und Abrüstung im Rahmen der heutigen Gesellschaftsordnung verwirklichen lassen, wir aber, die wir auf dem Boden der materialistischen Geschichtsauffassung und des wissenschaftlichen Sozialismus stehen, sind der Überzeugung, das der Militarismus erst mit dem kapitalistischen Klassenstaate zusammen aus der Welt geschafft werden kann.
The friends of peace in bourgeois circles believe that world peace and disarmament can be realised within the frame-work of the present social order, whereas we, who base ourselves on the materialistic conception of history and on scientific socialism, are convinced that militarism can only be abolished from the world with the destruction of the capitalist class state.
— from Peace Utopias, by Rosa Luxemburg
Tell a wise person or else keep silent
for those who do not understand
will mock it right away.
I praise what is truly alive
what longs to be burned to death.
In the calm waters of the love nights
where you were begotten, where you have begotten
a strange feeling creeps over you
as you watch the silent candle burning.
Now you are no longer caught
in the obsession with darkness
and a desire for higher lovemaking
sweeps you upwards.
Distance does not make you falter,
now, arriving in magic, flying
and finally insane for the light
you are the butterfly, and you are gone.
And so long as you have not experienced
this: to die and so to grow
you are only a troubled guest
on the dark earth.
~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe ~
(translated by Robert Bly and David Whyte)
I might have been embodied animal.
Instead, I wear my brain outside my skin
And touch the world through thought, unlike my kin
Who know th’immediacy of Gaia’s pull.
From brain I’m loathe to separate, it can
Provide me understanding and control.
My thinking is conflated with my soul
Because ’tis mind, not joy, that makes me Man.
How much I’ve sacrificed for this conceit!
So long as I am “better”, I can be
Depleted, dim and lifeless effigy,
Miserably anxious, numb and effete.
For connection to my body, only pain
Reminds me of the truth: I’m not my brain.
— Josh Mitteldorf