Category Archives: Mathematics

The Evolution Of Good And Evil

As Joe Katzman says, it’s hard to know whether this should be comforting, or frightening:

Within fifty generations of this electronic evolution, co-operative societies of robots had formed – helping each other to find food and avoid poison. Even more amazing is the emergence of cheats and martyrs. Transistorized traitors emerged which wrongly identified poison zone as food, luring their trusting brethren to their doom before scooting off to silently charge in a food zone – presumably while using a mechanical claw to twirl a silicon carving of a handlebar moustache.

You might be upset by this result, scientific proof that those who say “Evil is utterly fundamental to human nature” actually understates the scope of the problem, there were also silicon souls on the side of the angels. Some robots advanced fearlessly into poison zones, flashing warning lights to keep other robots out of harms way.

This seems to be congruent with Axelrod’s work. I wonder if the successful ones use Tit for Tat?

So, do they have free will?

Freeman Dyson

There’s a very interesting (and long) profile over at New York Times magazine:

Dyson is well aware that “most consider me wrong about global warming.” That educated Americans tend to agree with the conclusion about global warming reached earlier this month at the International Scientific Conference on Climate Change in Copenhagen (“inaction is inexcusable”) only increases Dyson’s resistance. Dyson may be an Obama-loving, Bush-loathing liberal who has spent his life opposing American wars and fighting for the protection of natural resources, but he brooks no ideology and has a withering aversion to scientific consensus. The Nobel physics laureate Steven Weinberg admires Dyson’s physics — he says he thinks the Nobel committee fleeced him by not awarding his work on quantum electrodynamics with the prize — but Weinberg parts ways with his sensibility: “I have the sense that when consensus is forming like ice hardening on a lake, Dyson will do his best to chip at the ice.”

Dyson says he doesn’t want his legacy to be defined by climate change, but his dissension from the orthodoxy of global warming is significant because of his stature and his devotion to the integrity of science. Dyson has said he believes that the truths of science are so profoundly concealed that the only thing we can really be sure of is that much of what we expect to happen won’t come to pass. In “Infinite in All Directions,” he writes that nature’s laws “make the universe as interesting as possible.” This also happens to be a fine description of Dyson’s own relationship to science. In the words of Avishai Margalit, a philosopher at the Institute for Advanced Study, “He’s a consistent reminder of another possibility.” When Dyson joins the public conversation about climate change by expressing concern about the “enormous gaps in our knowledge, the sparseness of our observations and the superficiality of our theories,” these reservations come from a place of experience. Whatever else he is, Dyson is the good scientist; he asks the hard questions. He could also be a lonely prophet. Or, as he acknowledges, he could be dead wrong.

But he’s got a pretty good track record.

OK, Now An Open Office Problem

So, I’m trying to import my Perl-generated file as a CSV into Open Office. Apparently, if the data coming into a cell is of the form “D.D.D” where “Ds” are digits, it obviously and absolutely must be a date, and it converts the incoming cell to that format.

Well, no. I wanted it to be (for example) literally “1.3.5.” Really. No kidding. It’s not 01/03/05. But it won’t let me do it.

I don’t want to have to manually go in and change the format for each cell where this happens, and even if I did, there’s no obvious way to do it and retain the original info without manually retyping the number with a single quote in front. Is there an Open Office guru out there?

BTW, I really appreciate the help with the Perl problem. It was invaluable (which means, it was very useful, but I don’t know how to pay for it, or what it was worth to those providing it).

Perl Problem

I’m going crazy with a script. Here’s the code:

$parent = @line_elements[8];
$lower_req = @line_elements[1];
print DEBUG “BEGIN \$lower_req is $lower_req, \$parent is $parent, \$req_num is $req_num.\n”;
if ($req_num eq $parent) {
print DEBUG “\$req_num is $req_num, \$parent is $parent, got a match!\n”;
}

And here’s the output:

BEGIN $lower_req is “2.1.1”, $parent is “1.1”
, $req_num is “1.1”.
BEGIN $lower_req is “2.1.2”, $parent is “1.1”
, $req_num is “1.1”.
BEGIN $lower_req is “2.1.3”, $parent is “1.1”
, $req_num is “1.1”.
BEGIN $lower_req is “2.1.4”, $parent is “1.1”
, $req_num is “1.1”.
BEGIN $lower_req is “2.1.5”, $parent is “1.1”
, $req_num is “1.1”.

Note that in each case, that $req_num is equal to $parent, and the line should be repeated with the statement that a match was found. Can another pair of eyes tell me why it’s not?