Saturday, April 14, 2007

How to Catch a lion

Problem: To catch a lion in the Sahara desert

Reading Lion Catching Theory developed so far, I tried to come up with a few
methods of my own based on theoretical computer science.

The PCP method:
Ask an experienced (but untrustworthy) hunter to deliver the lion in a cage.
Convert the lion into a PCP. Now it is enough to stick 3 random fingers in the
cage and have them bitten off to be reasonably sure it is a lion.

The Conditonal Probabilites method:
We start by standing in the middle of the Sahara. At each phase, we either take a step to the right or a step to the left depending on which one will increase or at least preserve our success probability. Since it is possible to safely catch a lion in the Sahara with odds of at least one to a trillion, assuming the lion does not move while we are calculating, we are guaranteed to end up with a lion in the cage.

The arithmetization method:
The lion's action range in the Sahara: {Running fast, Eating a Lion hunter}
can be thought of as embedded into a larger range.
Now we can extend the lion from the Sahara to the entire southern hemisphere.
Going south enough the lion is slow and indifferent in the cold climate and can be easily catched.


I hope everybody is now convinced that it requires at least an MSc in theoretical computer science to safely travel around the world.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Math lecture psyhcology when an alien finds himself in a lecture on western culture

Lecturer: "So Cancer is a terrible problem. Many people die from
cancer around the ages of 50 and 60".

Alien: "Oh, so humans are normally immortal?"

Lecturer: "No."

Alien (thinking to himself): That was a dumb question. Everybody here
must think I'm an idiot. I guess I don't have the necassary background for this lecture so I should just shut up and not waste everybody's time.

Lecturer: "Here's an example of someone who's built a happy life: A good career, three beatiful kids, a great house".

Alien: Maybe this isn't as complicated as I thought. There's just a threshold
of achievement you have to get to without getting a disease or being killed and after that you've made it.

Alien: "So is this example tight?"

Lecturer: "Well no, some people have made it with just two beatiful kids
and a great appartment in a fancy part of the city"

Alien: "Oh, so is it known what's the exact lower bound of achievement you need to get immunity from disease?"

Lecturer: "What do you mean? There's no immunity from disease!"

Alien: Damn! I was so presumptious to think I was following. I 've made an
idiot of myself again and wasted more time for everybody! There's probably an advanced course I'm missing on how time stops the minute you've made enough kids and enough money. So, maybe he means you're never immortal as time passes but since time stops for you it doesn't matter-or something complicated like that. In anycase, I really shouldn't interrupt again as I don't have the necassary background on methods in popular western cultre for achieving peace and happinness





p.s- Anybody reading this Blog is encouraged to leave comments, I'm getting lonley here:)...


Sunday, March 04, 2007

Vipassana

Hey, I just returned from my third Vipassana course (see http://www.dhamma.org/ for details)

What is Vipassana? For the basic facts and a clear explanation see the link above. Here are some less clear\self-contained and more personal thoughts: Vipassana is an exploration of reality with the object of understanding it better. To understand reality better not for the purpose gaining knowledge but for the practical purpose of living better. The approach is that our suffering comes from a misunderstanding of reality. Reality is never bad in itself. We only precieve it as bad and as a result struggle against our illusion trying to make it go away. And struggling against an illusion, when you think about it, is exactly what gives that illusion more substance. When practicing Vipassana, this is experienced in the most concrete form. When your mind gets tense, resisting what it feels, say, a pain in the leg. That feeling becomes more and more 'real', more and more solidified. On the other hand, when you simply take the approach of 'OK , this is what I am feeling, this is the current reality', these solidified feelings start to dissolve (though not necassarily right away). As you become more gentle with your current experience your current experience becomes more gentle with you. This progresses up to a stage where the entire body is felt as nothing more than subtle vibrations-no solidity anywhere (just to make it clear- I haven't gotten there yet..).
The emphasis here is on the practical significance. When you experience the body as something fluid and changing rather than something fixed and solid your attachment to the body and the sensations that run through it automatically decreases. You don't make as many futile attempts to hold
on to things after you clearly see that they are simply not stable in their basic nature. On the other hand, you are less worried about things that you don't like since you realize that they are also fluid and are going to change.
We've talked so far about the body and its sensations but an important idea an Vipassana is that everything comes down to the body. Everything is experienced eventually through the body. And therefore, by working with your body and your reactions to the body sensations, you can change your behaviour patterns regarding external situations more effectively than you could have ever done by directly working with the external situation. By the way, even a thought in this context, is an 'external situation' to some extent. As even in this case there is a sensation in the body accompanying the thought and that sensation is the actual experience you're directly reacting to rather than the abstract thought.
After seeing what I have written so far, I'd like to stress again-for a clear simple explanation see the link above.

Coming back from this third course, I am becoming more and more convinced that this technique of meditation is the key to making a real change for good both in my personal life and in humanity.
Looking at human history and things going on currently, it is obvious how much a deep change is required. It also becomes clear that no external solution will work. Going through history we see how solving this or that political\military crisis or external injustice just relieves a symptom (which is also good ofcourse), and a little later another external manifestation of the collective insanity begins.
It becomes clearer that a deep inner change in the minds of humans is the only real lasting solution.
I have always been frustrated by how westerm pshycology seems so
ineffective in making a real change in the deep level of the mind.
It seemed that suffering and unhappiness in my life were caused by
conditioning accumalated from an early age and it seemed that this conditioning is rooted deep and cannot be accessed or changed.
In this respect, I feel that Vipassana is truly different. Straight away from
the beginning, it enables you to go to the deep levels of the mind and make changes there, and a small change at the depth of the mind manifests itself
in countless ways in your external life.

So I guess the bottom line is that we will either reach a critical mass of humans who will make this change in themselves or blow up the planet-either way it's going to be quiet:)

p.s-I'd like to stress that I do not think that Vipassana is the only way someone can improve himself. I also think that maybe some people are simply not as screwed up as others to begin with(just to make it clear- I don't see myself as one of those people:) )

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Concepts- another mind mechanism for running away from reality

Studying logic we are given examples of things that cannot be coneptaulized.
For example, there is a town. There is a barber in the town. The barber cuts the hair of every person in town that does not cut his own hair. If you try to make sense of this you get into a problem: If the barber cuts his own hair, then he is one of the people in town that cuts his own hair, therefore he does not cut his own hair. If he does not cut his own hair, then he is one of the people in town that doesn't cut his own hair. So he does cut his own hair.
When exposed to this sort of idea, alot of people, including me, inately feel that there is something 'cool' going on here, something 'Deep'. It 'strikes a chord'. I think this is so because this sort of struggle of trying to conceptualize something that 'gets ruined' when you try to concetpualize it is an intrinsic part of our interaction with reality.
For a brief moment, I have a direct experience of reality. Immediatly the mind comes in 'OK, so the reality of this moment is such and such, has the following characterstics, experiencing it feels like this, ect..' . And a brief moment later, I am not in direct contact with reality anymore. The mind has interepreted and labeled it , and now I am experiencing the mind's approximation of reality instead.
It seems that, in a similar fashion to the beloved self-referential pardoxes, you cannot run away from this: You can say "I'm not going to interpret, I'm not going to label, I'm just going to experience". But the mind can label\interpret this statement itself! Just like it can create an approximated state of "Looking at a tree", and take you away from reality while looking at a tree. It can created an aprroximated state of 'Not labeling-just Experiencing'.
These approximated states happen inside your head. In the world of concepts and thoughts. Every time you have a direct expereince the mind creates a
concept that approximates the state and takes you away from reality into the world of concepts.
Sorry, next statement not self-contained:
Reminds me, of how in Gedel's theorem, adding the problematic unprovable statement as an axiom just creates a system where there is another unprovable statement.
Similarly, when finding something that is outside the world of thoughts and concepts, the mind immediatly creates a new concept.

Assuming this is the case. How do you get out of this? Can you get out of this gradually, by practicing awerness and meditation, or does it have to be an intense experience that suddenly happens? These issues are very much on my mind lately.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Can we choose in what to succeed?

I've changed my view of this lately. I used to have the opinion that you can set your mind to anything, and since your mind is powerful, you can achieve anything. But lately, I'm doubting the part about being able to set your mind to anything. It seems to me now, that a basic part of you, is already prewired with a certain direction and goal. So if you try to set yourself in another direction, it'll be like setting part of the sails east while the big sail is still set west, which will work partially and produce limited results. Any opinions?

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Hi! I am a computer science postdoc. For some reason google is not finding my new homepage so I added a link from this profile