Another ageist trait…

When you hear an opinion or a viewpoint that you’re not sure about (you don’t quite disagree, but it goes against your intuition), do you consider the person’s age when trying to decide what to make of it? If the person is younger than you, you think he’s probably wrong because he doesn’t have enough “experience” or something. You’re also more comfortable arguing against him as you feel more secure about yourself in your relationship with him because you’re older. Even if you both disagree with each other, at least you’ll be the most “senior” in the argument.

If he’s older than you (and he doesn’t seem too crazy), you’re more likely to think twice about his opinion, he might just have something. After all, he has more “experience” or something. And even if you still disagree with him, you’re less likely to voice your opinion because he’s older than you, he would be the dominant “senior” guy in the argument. How could you ever sway his opinion? You feel less secure about yourself, or your opinions.

I keep writing in second person, but I don’t mean this necessarily applies to you, the reader, personally, whoever you are. I of course mean it in the general sense. I think it’s true for a lot of people, unfortunately. But we always “consider the source” so it’s a hard habit to break, it’s ingrained in our brain, in how we perceive the world. Yes, “consider the source” but don’t “consider the source’s age” if you can help it.

I feel like making this message the crux of a preachy Denzel Washington and Robert Redford film!

Stupid movie

One more exam left!

I tried watching the film Lions for Lambs last night, but it was atrocious. It was basically a bunch of people talking… nay, preaching to each other. Three ongoing conversations for the entire film. Three preachy conversations. Gimme a break. And I was trying to eat popcorn… I eventually had to switch to Hulu.

Beauty in the wind…

Today, the power flickered and our DirectTV signal went out for a bit, most likely due to the very strong winds we were having. And it made me think… we have all this technology around us all the time… televisions, computers, cell phones, game consoles… we dedicate our time to them so much. Yet, when that power flickered and the wind howled, I heard something… like a whisper reminding me that world is so much bigger, and if we dedicate too much of our time to technology, we might miss the natural beauty all around us! When did the sun and the sky become things we only see when walking between buildings and cars? When did the complex design of a tree become something we overlook because there’s something on TV? When did the wind become something we only remember when the DirectTV signal breaks? A small part of me thinks the wind did it on purpose…

Just kidding. I hate it when people really talk like that. Gimme a break. 😛

I especially hate it when people write like that and act totally different in person… at least be consistent!

Robot murder = ok

If we created a robot that had the intelligence of a human or greater, would it be ethically wrong to murder it? By which I mean, destroy its memory and central processing unit (for what are humans but a lump of volatile memory and neural connections?).

Problem is, how could we ever know that a robot is really conscious? We couldn’t. We don’t even know that other humans are conscious, but we tend to assume it. I think the assumption is hard wired into our brains, it’s how we see the world. That said, history has proven that it’s easy for one “race” of humans to see another as “less than equal” and perhaps even “not as human” … so I don’t think our species is hard wired to see everyone else as being just as conscious, perhaps that must be acquired through conscious thought and decision later on in life… or perhaps the opposite: the hard wiring perhaps can be rewired through conscious thought and decision…

But it doesn’t really matter. The point is, if robots are not given human characteristics that we feel we can relate to, it won’t matter how conscious or intelligent they are. Look at how many people fight for cute puppy rights, but not so many fight for slug rights. We can’t really know what it would be like to be either one, but we can certainly feel a much greater social connection with the cute puppy. Now what if the cute puppy’s brain was an algorithm running on a super computer? Would anyone fight to keep it running, keep it conscious? Of course not… when cute puppies become old sickly unresponsive dogs, we usually don’t even wait for them to die naturally.

Throughout history toy makers have always tried to make character toys sympathetic, even when stuffed. Robot toys will be no different. They’ll be so cute that microwaving their digital disk heads will eventually become a crime…

Meanwhile, there will be large groups of people who will be able to look beyond the cuddly faces and not see the central processing units as human enough to deserve any rights. We can’t know if any consciousness is emerging, so what’s the harm in murder?

And if a robot’s memory becomes non-volatile, can they even ever truly be murdered?

Just a stream-of-consciousness post, emerging from the neural connections…

Storm and exam

Couldn’t blog last night, I had a massive headache, didn’t feel well at all. To reflect my pain, I magically conjured up a huge thunderstorm that sent lightning blasting through the sky and made thunder shake the earth. Correlation = causation! It is really annoying to have a massive headache, but to have to miss the fun of a good powerful thunderstorm because of it just stinks.

Anyway, I had my first final exam this evening on operating systems. I have no idea how I did.

Three more exams to go! And they’re all hard.

Writing a book

Today I started writing a book on writing melodies. It’s nothing I expect to finish anytime soon, if I am able to finish at all. I am hoping it will aid me in my exploration of the subject of melodies, a subject I think many musical theorists just skim over (many modern composers don’t even seem to like them much!). Not that there aren’t some good books on melody already, but the few that there are don’t seem to approach the subject in the way I would have, and will… hopefully. But, again, it will just be an ongoing project.

In other book news, I’m only on page 174 of Pinker’s book The Stuff of Thought and now I have to return it to the library because a bunch of others have it on hold. So I ordered it online, bwa ha ha! I also ordered the book The Seven Basic Plots which I also need finish reading. It looks like I won’t finish reading most of my other books from the college library, such as Critical Mass and Out of Our Minds: Learning to be Creative, but oh well. I might try getting my hands on them later.

Anyway, I have my first exam on Friday, so school’s not over yet! 🙁

Ray tracing shots

Below is a little slideshow showing screenshots from the ray tracer I had to program as a final project for my computer graphics class, which ended yesterday (exam next week!). Of course we didn’t have to program the ray tracer from scratch; much of the functionality was provided. And my end results were certainly not the most amazing in the class… though some students clearly had no clue what was going on…

Anyway, I worked on that long enough to start seeing ray tracing pics in my head as I went to sleep last night.

Tonight I’ll probably see Mario Kart Wii in my head as I’ve been playing that all day. It’s quite addicting, and I like playing with the Wiimote more than the finger joysticks other consoles have. But I really hate those banana peels.

I Am Legend review

I saw I Am Legend not long ago, which was fun. I’d give it a 5 out of 10. I think the film makers did an excellent job of making it engaging, especially since there’s only one character for much of the film. They also did a great job of making the first zombie scenes quite suspenseful. I didn’t really like the ending though. The story writers broke one of my “good story” commandments. I thought the alternate ending better, but still not good enough…

I hope my dog doesn’t become a zombie dog!

(I know they weren’t really “zombies” as they weren’t undead, but they fit the “monster” role in the story, so the word “zombie” fits, in my opinion.)

Anyway, today was the last day of classes, now I’ve got exams to study for… and then hopefully a life. Maybe.

The final night of homework

I’ll probably be up late tonight working on my final homework assignment! And then… final exams. Blagh.

The homework basically involves programming a ray tracer. The professor actually provided a good chunk of the code, but we have to edit it and add on to it by programming it to antialias the final image with adaptive ray tracing. Allow me to explain:

You see, ray tracing involves creating an image by sending off “rays” of light. Each ray sent represents a pixel on the screen, so basically all you have to determine is a pixel’s color. When you send off a ray, you basically have to trace its path to where it intersects with something, if anything. Then, if you want some reflections, you trace where that ray bounces to and what it intersects with next. In the real world, rays can bounce off objects countless times, but in the computer world, since the computer has to compute it all, you’ll have to set a limit.

Just plain ray tracing pixel by pixel will give very jagged edges on objects because the process is very quantized. That is, you’re only sending off rays at discrete distances from one another. But jagged edges look artificial to us, so adaptive ray tracing solves this by firing off more than one ray for certain pixels. If the final colors between two rays are very different, you fire off some more arrays between them and basically change the shade of the pixel. This smooths the edges.

This is of course hardly anything new. While computers have gotten faster, most ray tracing graphics still must be prerendered, no realtime graphics here! These ray tracing ideas have been in practice since before I was born… some principles in computer science don’t vanish quickly…

Sorry, I had little else to blog about… I’ll post screen shots of my wonderful work tomorrow. Maybe.

Here’s an assignment!

One of the things I hate most about the method of formal education is, of course, the giving of assignments. I think if I had ever studied music formally I would have loathed having to write a piece in a certain style, or figure out harmonies for a given melody, or, what seems to be a favorite, “write a piece using only this given motif, because that’s what Beethoven did a lot.”


Though I would have loathed such assignments, I’m sure I would have learned quite a lot from them, and could probably put that knowledge to good use afterwards. So the question then becomes: is the suffering through the assignment worth the practice gained? In my opinion… no! Otherwise I would have of course pursued a formal study of music.

I think what would have made me hate such assignments so much is not only my disinterest, but the psychological suffering of feeling I’m not in control, that I’m not doing the assignment for me. If the assignment was optional or ungraded, I feel in much greater control… but then I’m probably less likely to do the assignment in the first place, especially if I’m not interested.

Why does a teacher give them?

I honestly believe many assignments are just busy work. Students get them for so long, and when they become teachers they easily get into the habit of giving it (even if they hated it themselves). In this sense, some teachers really don’t put a whole lot of thought into the assignment giving, they just do it because it’s what they’re used to, it’s what everyone else is doing.

They might even do it because on some subconscious level they like the power they have. That might sound absurd, but imagine for a second what it would be like if you were giving assignments. When I was really young, I wasted my poor brother’s time by making him go to my school, in which I was the teacher. I have no idea what I taught, I don’t think I really knew much (my how things have changed!) but it was just plain fun to be in charge and to make worksheets and plan out what someone has to do (perhaps that joy remains in my attraction to game designing, and writing, and composing… I’m dictating in a way what someone else is going to experience for at least a few minutes in their life… in a small way it is a bit of power).

Anyway, at that age, teaching seemed a very attractive job, one of power. You basically get to tell everyone what to do without having to pay them! And you’re in a higher position. You’re not just everyone’s friend sharing with them knowledge and experience on a common interest; in the teacher-student relationship, the teacher is the one with the higher status. And I do believe some people are really attracted to getting that status and set themselves up as teachers not so much because of their interests in a certain subject, but because of that psychological attraction to that higher status and that power… though, of course, this is something that no teacher would admit (just like I won’t admit why I blog… oh no, just kidding); teachers often have very romantic reasons for why they teach, about how much they care about education and inspiration and other people and the future and stuff, and I’m sure that’s true for plenty of teachers. But no teacher says “I got out of college and couldn’t really think of anything else to do, but I knew how schools worked…”


Obviously I like power too; as I said, feeling I’m in control over what I’m doing is one of the reasons I hate assigments so much. My ideal way of learning (besides books and the Internet) is talking to someone with similar interests non-formally. We both have equal status and the only assignments I do are the ones I give and choose to do myself. That said, I think there are certainly some excellent “mentors” … by which I mean more “non-professional teachers” who are somewhere between the teacher-student and friend-friend relationship. They might give assignments, but they won’t grade you, and you’ll have a say in the nature of the assignment… but they are unfortunately most rare.

I could blather on about the subject, but I won’t because I have an assigment to do…