julia_ferraioli's blog

Games...again.

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A long time ago, in a galaxy not too far from here, Lindsay Gold brought up the game of "Spore" which is to be released by Electronic Arts in the fourth quarter of this year. I thought that I'd continue that conversation with a new post and a couple of new links. A quick review: Spore is a computer game modeled on evolution, except that there is human interaction. You guide a "spore" (yes, I know that the term is inaccurate) through evolution. As you go along, you can add features to yourself, and your technology progresses as well. You can even acheive space flight! So for those of you interested, here are a couple links:

Curiosity

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It hit me Monday while sitting in class about how much of it is based simply on perspective. Emergent phenomena could be all around us, but are we too jaded to see most of it? Do we accept it as commonplace and something to be expected simply because we've seen it so much? Sometimes, when I'm feeling particularly philosophical, I look around me and see something that I've seen a thousand times and think, isn't that amazing? This happens the most with trees, I suppose. I still can't get over how complex, but simple, they are. When I think of emergence, I feel like I have to "change my glasses" (not that I wear them) and put on something that makes the world fresh again. Something that gives me back that sense of wonder that we all had when we were children.

a train of thought

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So I just wrote this long entry, and accidentally deleted it. I'll try to replicate it as much as I can! I was thinking about the role of computers in emergent phenomena, and how we've been looking at them. For instance, in the game of life or go or sim games, we use computers to simulate phenomena based on predetermined rules. But these are just simulations. The computer is doing the work, but beyond that, it really isn't doing anything. Even when we were looking at cellular automata, we followed a ruleset, key word being "ruleset". A specific set of rules that determine how the pattern is going to emerge. But again, they computer doesn't really do anything except the background work. It speeds the process up.

patterns and more patterns

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I have always had problems with defining a term without using the term itself. Unpredictable order emerging out of chaos. While technically not the same meaning, it still confuses the issue. I was looking at several resources for entries on emergence, and of course my first choice was the entry in Wikipedia. It is a rather in-depth article, and an interesting read. In my research this summer, I was working with different machine learning algorithms that were dependent on user-generated constraints. The user would group data together by some sort of vague, unformed criteria, and the program would infer the user's intentions. The results were often quite surprising, as the user might not even be aware of how they were sorting information until the computer analyzed it. Unexpected patterns would arise. Not really sure if this qualifies as emergence, but as I was sitting in class on Monday, I kept thinking of that experience and the surprise that followed.