Friday, October 31, 2008

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Operate at Your Highest Level of Effectiveness

I read an interview in Discover (Kushner, 2008) that had this
teaser at the top: ``The award-winning pioneer of green architecture
is on a campaign to save the planet, one building and community at a
time.'' This makes me roll my eyes. If you're trying to fix any big
problem by fixing one thing at a time, come on, face it: you'll
never save the planet. There are just too many buildings. Making a
big difference in this world requires making systematic changes to
the way things are done. 

Don't serve soup in the soup kitchen if you
can run the soup kitchen more effectively. Don't run the soup
kitchen if you can start new soup kitchens. Don't start new soup
kitchens if you can change national policy so that the disadvantaged
are helped across the board. When you think of it this way, trying
to fix hunger by feeding one hungry person at a time is
pretty senseless in a world with millions of hungry people. By the
time you've served lunch to the 150th person, the first one's ready
for dinner.

This is not to say that nobody should serve soup. We need people at
all levels. My point is that you need to be working the the level at
which you are most effective.


Kushner, D. (2008) The Discover interview: William McDonough. Discover, October, 66--70.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Jedi Can Be Biological Bigots

"Well, if droids could think, there'd be none of us here, would there?"

--Obi-Wan Kenobi, in Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones

"The ability to speak does not make you intelligent."

--Qui-Gon Jinn to Jar Jar Binks, in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace

Droids in the Star Wars Universe are intelligent by just about any current cognitive scientist's criteria.

And implying that a Gungan is unintelligent? Well, that's just bigotry, isn't it? As annoying as Jar Jar Binks is, to the viewers of Episode I as well as the Jedi in it, his speaking ability reveals an intelligence that 50 years of AI research has yet to surpass, and certainly qualifies him as an intelligent creature. Maybe not Einstein, but definitely intelligent in the broad sense.  

Monday, October 20, 2008

My Blog on Wordle

Wordle is a cool application that analyzes a corpus of text and graphically displays words common in it. I did it for this blog, resulting in the above image.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Painting Sold: Ghost Propaganda

I made a series of paintings a number of years ago based on the video game Pac-Man. I've been selling them over the years (there are still some for sale if you're interested.) The webpage is:

Recently I sold one called Ghost Propaganda (pictured). There's a great story behind this sale.

The man who bought it has a wife who was battling two kinds of cancer. He found the image of this painting on the web, printed it out, and stuck it on the wall of her hospital room. It served as a reminder to her to imagine Pac-Man eating away her cancer cells. Now she's in remission and he wanted to get her the painting for her birthday.

I'm not saying that my paintings cure cancer or anything, but it's very nice when your art means something to somebody. 

Thursday, October 02, 2008

DaviesGoel2008: New Paper

I have published a new paper in The Open Artificial Intelligence Journal

Davies, J. & Goel, A. K. (2008). Visuospatial re-representation in analogical reasoning. The Open Artificial Intelligence Journal. 2, 11--20.

You can read it at:

This paper is based on my dissertation research. I really like this paper because it goes into a lot of detail about the theory behind the AI program I made-- talking about the entire process of visual-rerepresentation and how it can be used in difficult problem solving.

It's an open access journal, which is not printed. To cover the costs, the author must pay (my grant covered it). This will be a growing trend, I hope, but the idea has its doubters.

Turns out the formatting was done really well, and they are using this paper ( as an example on the website ( of how to format papers. I should give thanks to my research assistant Heather Burch, who formatted the paper for me.