Thinking about live journal style blogging

My goal for today is to engage in some almost live journal style blogging. You can expect a few updates to this post throughout the day. I am trying to disable my posts from sending out updates.  

Today started with two shots of espresso and some hash browned potatoes from yesterday.  

Things started off with a quick read of the weekend edition of Inside AI the newsletter from Rob May.  

Cancelling my Pandora subscription seemed reasonable earlier this week. The free version of the product has commercials, but that is ok, I guess.  

Today I’m writing using Microsoft Word Online. It only took a matter of moments before the simplified ribbon was turned off. Earlier today it seemed like a good idea to switch out from writing using Google Docs and swing back over to using Microsoft Word Online. We will see how long that swing lasts this time. My writing efforts tend to vacillate back and forth between the two different word processing platforms.

Well that plan to remove the linking for this post failed miserably. It turned out within the settings section a sharing section exists where I needed to remove links to Twitter, Google+, and Tumblr.  That was easy enough and now these posts should be running on radio silence.

Thinking about AI day 3

Notes from Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Just amount ago I typed the date at the top of this Google Doc. Outside of looking at the date on my phone and typing the actual date does not have all that much meaning anymore. Things start and things end from day to day. You could probably change the date and it would take me a fair amount of time to figure it out. Perhaps that is a sad commentary about the endless stream of things that are happening. Inside the digital world a greater and greater number of applications and systems are being setup based on the principles of artificial intelligence to create things. Taking a collection of tons of photographs and creating a set of rules based on the images to make a new image based on the patterns in the original stack is interesting. Taking this back to thinking about video games. We have been able to create randomized digital worlds that are highly complex and contain lot of customized elements.

This second paragraph was going to be pretty epic. I was going to write about the classes on Coursera that have had my attention recently. Unfortunately, I’m so tired at the moment that putting together some epic prose is just not happening at the moment. Sure that happens from time to time, but I was hoping to dig deep and write something insightful. Maybe tomorrow will be better. Just like the grass might be greener someplace else. Sometimes it seems like the grass might be greener anywhere that is not here. All of this relates back to how I’m thinking about AI at the moment. Most of the time when you are trying to chase down a solution to the very complex problem you are facing it might seem like a good idea to go after one of the shiny new technologies that appearing in AI implementations. Your solution is just an API away. That is the road that always looks the easy. Some of the more developed use cases that is probably the case. Unless you want to scan photographs to figure out if Peppercorn the dog is still a dog the technology might even seem to be getting fairly mature.

Tomorrow my efforts are going to be more targeted. I’m going to focus on the applied use of neural networks to solve problems. If that is something you are interested in understanding, then tomorrow just might be a highlight for you.

Thinking about AI Day 2

Notes from Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Yesterday was going to be pretty epic. It was the first day of trying to explain the world of artificial intelligence, machine learning, deep learning, and neural networks to people in a meaningful way. Yeah, I went back and read the prose from yesterday. It was a massive false start. In some ways that is sort of how artificial intelligence ended up changing things. Sometimes you end up trying to align the solution you have to real world problems. Other times you just face a really big challenge and figuring out how to do it requires thinking outside the box. A few of those examples might be pretty interesting to think about. Our friends at Google really wanted to organize information and figuring out how to crawl in internet was something that ended up being a definable and repeatable process. It is something that can be done and the steps are clear. Extending that to searching photographs, videos, and creating an accurate knowledge graph involves solving very different types of problems.

One of my favorite examples over the years has been how image classification systems including the one being used by Google Photos cannot tell if Peppercorn the Dog is in fact a dog or a cat. My guess is that most of the time if you had a reasonably good photograph you can successfully categorize the pet as a dog or a cat. A lot of my photographs are labeled Peppercorn the dog… that context clue should be enough to help classify my 13 year old Australian cattle dog as well a dog. I went through the trouble of helping the algorithm tag and classify Peppercorn as a pet in Google Photos. Strangely enough that did help the algorithm learn. Translating that categorization problem to understanding classifiers can help you figure out how hard it is to sort the world around us based on a given set of heuristics. Trying to setup a framework to figure out what are all the things in a photograph is really interesting. That is a challenge that a technology like Tensorflow could help with. Software like that helps by putting together a method to classify and identify things. Sure the way I go about that is based on the things I know and can figure out.

Peppercorn the Dog is not a cat…

Solving really hard problems like setting a self driving car or sorting my 10,000 digital photographs into albums take a certain type of technology. Finding the right technology solutions to solve really hard problems is where the fields of artificial intelligence, machine learning, deep learning, and neural networks are getting really interesting. That is really and understatement. My interest in the convergence of technology and modernity has been growing for years. Sometimes I spend hours just thinking about the intersection of technology and modernity. Perhaps that is why these inquiries into artificial intelligence are so timely.

Trying to write a brief history of artificial intelligence

Notes from Sunday, September 30, 2018

My big plan for the month of October is pretty simple. It all centers around a simple enough proposition. That proposition includes just one question. As a question it seems to be pretty decent on the surface. My question remains, “Would it be possible to explain the current state of artificial intelligence in 30 days by writing 500 words a day?” Sure some of the days will probably go a little bit over the 500 word guidepost, but that is really just an arbitrary setting in the march toward explaining things. Overall this exercise will help generate a roughly 15,000 word essay explaining the current state of artificial intelligence. Tomorrow should kick start things with an introductory essay on the subject and I will probably try to sketch out the first few topics.

Notes from Monday, October 1, 2018

Programming a computer opens the door to executing some definable and repeatable tasks. Programs are all about doing something. Some of that something often happens within a set of rules. A of programs have been built to do something based on a set of instructions. People have been building video games that help execute a set of rules within a definable and generally repeatable user experience for years. Any brief history of artificial intelligence could start with and end with understanding computer games. Figuring out how to develop a program that can compete and ultimately execute strategy is the basic framework I have used to describe artificial intelligence. For me it is about figuring out if a program can figure out what is next. Being able to make a move or execute a strategy within computer games has gotten more complex. Games in general have gotten a lot more complex. Self generating worlds full of highly complex storylines are a far cry from playing tic-tac-toe, checkers, chess, or go. We have entered a new age within the development of artificial intelligence. Computer programs can now be written that capable of playing through old Nintendo games.

For me any history of artificial intelligence is about what is possible. It could be something like the OpenAI bot beating competition level human Dota 2 players. Getting to a point where a piece of software could engage in more than simply completing a set of definable and repeatable tasks took some time. Building out the frameworks to accomplish that type of coding took some time to flush out and develop. Right now we are really watching the turning point in people executing ideas related to artificial intelligence. We really did initially see a world full of artificial intelligence drawn out in works of science fiction. That went on for some time until people figured out how write computer code that wrote computer code. For me that is the key element of the turning point we are seeing today. Getting to a point where a program can iterate or create something new based on the original code will push things forward very rapidly.

That start to writing a brief history of artificial intelligence was more or less a false start. I’m going to need to try again tomorrow and hopeful do a better job. Maybe the basic premise of using video games to tell the story of artificial intelligence was flawed. Digging into milestones and technical achievements might be a better way, but it just does not focus on and tell a cohesive story. I think somewhere within the history of video games is a story that also could be a brief history of artificial intelligence.

A little bit of writing about writing

I’m still not sold on the Gutenberg editor that WordPress has rolled out recently. Writing in a word processing application is the way I go about my efforts. That is pretty much the way I put words on the pages. From that blank sheet full of possibilities to this post full of middling and otherwise disappointing prose. Today was a day that lacked any clear clarity or purpose. It was a day that just sort of happened. For a lot of folks on a lot of different days that tends to happen. You just put one foot in front of the other and muddle through from start to finish. Right now I’m supposed to be working on taking the, “End-to-End Machine Learning with TensorFlow on GCP,” course on Coursera. That is the first course in the Advanced Machine Learning with TensorFlow on Google Cloud Platform specialization they just started offering. I’m not sure exactly what is stopping me from finishing my first course tonight. It could just be the dragging march toward a bedtime that will be here before I know it or it could be something else.

Writing 500 words on the same topic for 30 days

This sentence was written after all of the rest today. For some reason it seemed like a good idea to revisit the beginning at the end of my writing session. That is in part related to some editing and review.

Nels at the end of the day

Something seems to be lurking around in the edges of my consideration. Maybe it is driving me toward accepting a new challenge to write 500 words on the same topics for 30 days. That is a real and interesting thought exercise. Seriously it is a very challenging thing to take on. Saying something original on the same topic 30 times does not seem trivial. Stacking up that many new and original thoughts along the way to providing a useful trajectory could be interesting. It could be something that might help me push just beyond the edge of what is possible. Maybe that possibility is enough to make taking on the challenge something that should be done. Given that this new challenge might help along the journey to writing 1,000,000 words in the same year. Maybe it is a building block that will help build a big writing year. That might very well be the case. October could be the month where that exercise kicks off and gets going.

Taking 15 minutes at the end of the day to engage in the creation of prose can take things a variety of different directions. We spend a ton of time and energy thinking about both the past and the future. A lot less of our time and energy is spent on understanding the nature of the moment that is occuring right now. Everything that is happening right now is obviously between the future and the past. It is something else. It is the moment where taking action is possible. It is a moment that is separate from any thoughts about how to take action, the merits of taking action, or even debates about what other actions might possibility do. An entire book could be spent tearing down and building up being present in the moment. So much of that defines where things are going and what perfect possible futures exist.

Maybe this week will be the week that helps center things and move things forward. Bringing all of my thoughts together and building something seems so possible. At the same time, that door opening to possibility remains elusive. I have to do a bunch of training sessions this weekend that required a bunch of reading and watching videos. During the course of working on that training it seemed like a good idea to format all of my USB drives. It was pretty easy to use the Webroot utility that permanently deletes content. That exercise was completed before a quick format to remove any title on the drives. It has been some time since I needed to use a USB drive. Devices like that used to be an important part of managing a computer and files. Now the cloud has defeated the need for most of my USB drives. In some ways they are just not as useful as they used to be a decade ago.

I got some Pedalboard Mounting Tape

My guitar pedal board

Writing every day is about taking the time to write. Today my choice of words are going to be related to something I worked on today. This week a package arrived with some Power-Grip Pedalboard Mounting Tape. It seems to be better than velcro, but sort of does the same thing. My new Boss BCB-60 pedal board has been great. Pedals have been put in place. They have power that does not come from 9-volt batteries. It is very easy to pack them up now and put them away when necessary. Getting all the pedals setup was pretty easy. It took me a bit to try different orders and combinations. I found one that works. That pretty much set up the possibility of using the mounting take to position all the pedals in a more permanent way.

My guitar pedal board
My guitar pedal board

Getting things set up was fun. Each pedal needed to be checked to ensure the battery leads were not touching metal. I watched a video on YouTube the other day where somebody wrapped the leads in electrical tape to prevent shorting or noise in the pedal chain. That was pretty easy to do with each of my pedals. Every cable connection was checked and every power cable connection was examined. Pretty much the entire pedalboard chain from guitar to amplifier was checked out for any potential issues. All of this effort did reduce the howl in the chain, but it did not completely get rid of it. My current guitar amplifier does not have an effects loop. That means the pedal chain between the guitar and amp needs to be clean enough to be playable. Sometimes a bad configuration or a bad pedal will create such a howl that it is off putting. Thankfully that was not the case this time around. Things worked and that is great news.

A day off from adulting

Entering the time of was easy enough. Taking it was the hard part. Over the years it just gets harder. You can pretty much accept that as a part of life, the universe, and work. Most of the time adulting gets in the way of the things that captivated us, that inspired us, that dared us to imagine a world beyond what we could see or feel. That really was the essence of the possible. It was the glimpse beyond the edge of what was possible. Something about that just stuck with me. Years ago the need to strive beyond the edge of what was possible went from concept to reality. It was a palpable feeling that drove a certain type of single minded purpose that was not entirely healthy. Maybe it was just as unhealthy as struggling to adhere to taking a day off from adulting. That is where this story starts. It starts at the edge of what is possible. It starts with taking a day off from adulting.

Ok. Maybe those two shots of espresso did not hurt things. A little jolt of caffeine was just enough to get things going and in this case the going had to get moving in the next thirty minutes or this window was going to close. That is how things work these days. Windows of time open and you have to figure out how to cultivate any seed of creativity that you might have. Sure that might sound simplistic, but waiting for some type of inspiration to strike and hoping you have a window of time open seems like a recipe for intellectual disaster. All of that adulting pretty much builds up into a wall of responsibility that prevents on demand creative sessions.

Anyway today was going to be about taking a day off from adulting. It was going to be about setting aside that wall of responsibility and just digging into something meaningful and lasting. Sure those are some high expectations for a single creative sessions, but if you don’t aim for making a dent in the universe why bother preparing your lance to ride at full tilt anyway. Striking fear in the heart of a row of windmills might seem just as impossible as making a dent in the universe, but daring to dream big just makes the journey more interesting.

Writing a bit on my Pixel 2 XL

Tonight was one of those nights. Things were happening and the day had come and gone. All things build to this time of the night. It takes a bit to get everybody ready for bed. Routines exist and those are part of the pattern. Our now 1 year old puppy Captain Pickles does not really prepare for the end of the day. That dog just runs amuck until it is time to take a nap. You can imagine that is pretty much like it sounds. A lot of running and puppy style behaviors followed by hours of very still sleep. My cup of coffee is still somewhat warm. I’m not going to microwave it tonight. Finishing it before it gets cold enough to require that is a major part of my motivation to keep going. This post is being written in the WordPress Android application. I’m not entirely sure if this interface is checking my spelling. Things could have gone horribly wrong.

I’ll probably drop this post into a Google Doc later and see what happens. Writing with this Logitech K780 is getting easier each time. The keyboard itself is heavy enough and the keys are pretty well spread out. It is probably big enough to make it difficult to use as a traveling keyboard, but it works great at the house.

Those 15 minutes of effort

Today just might be the day that things get back on track. Those 15 minutes of effort are what it takes to center my thoughts. At the end of the day or sometimes at the beginning sitting down and writing for 15 minutes is the key to unlocking a solid path forward. Striving forward on some type of useful path is really the essence of an unfolding perfect possible future. Writing for a few minutes and getting centered is important. You really do have to figure out the path forward and begin taking that first step along the path.

Next week has to be marked with decision. It has to be full of decision points that push things forward. Maybe that is just enough to help move beyond cleaning up my office and thinking about writing. One of my recent plans was to try to use just my Pixel 2 XL smartphone to write for a week. It seems that the format that did spart a few words tonight was my ASUS Chromebook C101P. Next month Google is going to release some new hardware. Maybe a new tablet or a Pixelbook will entice me to replace this device. Chasing the bleeding edge of technology is not the best use of my time and resources, but for some reason it always seems to be the thing that I end up focusing on time and time again.