Was “It” wrong?

Imagine a situation when the earth is going to be destroyed and you are selected to choose one thing that you would like to preserve. What would your answer be?

I would select the entire data bank of Google. Google’s data contains most of the billions of web pages that humanity has created in the past few years of its online existence. It also contains the data from Wikipedia. Thus we have a comprehensive record of how we lived, our technology, our thoughts, our tweets, our chat logs, our status messages, our culture, our way of life, our history, our geography, our daily news, even our genome, everything that made us human. Add to that the images from the web and from Picasa and videos from Youtube and you have a thorough knowledge about us. Perhaps a sufficiently advanced civilization could create a massive simulation of the life on Earth (perhaps using a Matryoshka brain). Thus rather than selecting a dear one or a valued object, by selecting Google’s data I am storing everything that we are.

This brings me to the question of whether there is any knowledge without an intelligence to understand it?

Also, are we just information? Our total existence, what we are, what we feel, our emotions, they are all just bits of information. If somebody writes a comprehensive story of my life, is it me? When I read about Andrei Bolkonsky (From War and Peace), is it the same as Andrei actually existing?

Brainiac was an Artificial Intelligence (Sentient?) on Krypton, the home planet of Superman. When Kal-El (Superman) was still a baby, Brainiac deduced that due to unstable inner core, planet Krypton would be destroyed. Brainiac realized that if he tells about the coming destruction to the inhabitants of the planet, they will ask him to compute a mean for averting the disaster or a way to protect the people. It (?) also realized that the Kryptonian civilization is just information. Thus it made a decision to protect the information by downloading all the data into its data bank and prepare the means to escape the disaster rather than “waste” precious computation cycles figuring out a way to save the planet. So it came to pass that by the time Jor-El (Father of Kal-El) figured out the impending disaster, it was too late and he could only save Kal-El by sending him on a solitary journey to Earth.

Was Brainiac wrong?

The Repellent

For my first post in the disassemble series I am going to look inside a simple All Out Mosquito Repellent.

The device appears to be working with its light glowing as seen in the below image.

Repellent1

But the device does not work as concluded by all the bite marks on my body and an absence of smell of the liquid. Note that in the image I have removed the bottle that contains the repellent liquid.Repellent2

The underside with the screws.

Opening up the device

Further disassembly

Going even further

So basically the device consists of a pair of aluminium rings separated by insulating material and a resistor. The resistor is color coded probably Red – Violet – Gold/brown – Blue — Which makes it either 2.7 ohms or 270 ohms with a tolerance of +/- 0.25% 🙁 The colors are not very visible. Its more likely to be 270 ohms.

What I dint get is what is that circularish, brownish object between and above the two aluminium rings. I don’t know its function.

Learnings from this experiment:

I need better tools. May be a plier and some other tools. Also some electrical measuring instruments like a multimeter. Also as I progress from electrical to electronic instruments, my knowledge would be woefully inadequate to deal with the complexity.

Information Age

Todays age is sometimes called Information Age. Somehow I feel that using that terminology for any period of time is incorrect. Every age is and was an Information Age. Information was priceless a thousands years ago as it is now. The only difference that I can see is that we are able to make sense of the information much more correctly and faster than ever before.

All our decision making depends on information. This relation between information and decision making presents some interesting points. Consider a simple game of Tetris. In our version of tetris we have only two types of blocks, a one square block (1s)and a two square block (2s). The pile at the bottom has two slots in which we can fit 1s (left slot) or 2s (right slot). While playing the Tetris we make the decision of where to put the shape that next comes in. Suppose you need to make the decision of where the incoming block goes without even knowing which block is the next one. We can either choose the left slot or the right slot and it will make no difference. Actually it does. Generally when we have to make a decision based on a yes/no information we assume that the probability is like a coin flip. Exactly 50%. Which is not always the case. Thus, it is possible that choosing the left slot all the time gets you a better result than 50%.

This is an example of decision making without information. The information we need to make the perfect decision is to know which is the next block. We make 1 bit of decision using 1 bit of information. Real life is not so simple, we make 1 bit of decision using a huge amount of information (e.g., hold or sell the stock). Now let us assume that we have a little more information about our Tetris game. We know which was the block that came in the previous round. It was a 1s. We also know that the probability of a 2s following a 1s is 0.9. Thus knowing that the previous block was 1s gives us a 90% surety that we can predict which the next one would be. This is not perfect but it is better than nothing.

Now suppose you have another kind of information with you. You have the source code of the algorithm that generates the block. Now you don’t have to worry about any probabilities, you can always know which the next block would be.

Thus we have a classification of information

  1. Useless information. Strictly speaking this is not information.
  2. Information that helps us make the decision with 100% certainty
  3. Information that helps us reduce the uncertainty in our decisions.
  4. And a Metainformation that helps us generate the information we need.

Thus not all information are created equal.

What do you call it when you make a decision without all the information or the Metainformation? You call it Risk. This is the basis of all the risk analysis and risk management principle. You do not have the adequate information and hence you prepare some bulshytt (Note that this word is different from the popular Bulshit) to try to help you make decision.

The reverse of this decision making process is also true. When you know a decision, it is quite possible that you can derive the information that led to the decision. This is true even when you do not take a decision. Absence of information is also an information.

Under a rational assumption, if we have 100% information we can make the correct decision and there is no involvement of subjectivity in it. This is rarely the case. This leads to what is called as Bounded Rationality in management parlance. That is we make decision with whatever information we have available to us at the moment.

Lets get to know Efficient Market hypothesis now. EMH or at least the stronger form of it asserts that market prices instantaneously reflects all the available information. There are countless ways in which this seems and is wrong. Technical Analysts believe in EMH but also believe that EMH does not affect the market instantaneously but instead happens in trends. This gives the Technical Analysts the tiny bit of time to get into the trend ahead of the others.

Information has a huge impact on how you become a Goldman Sachs. What if you accept EMH and have access to that self correcting process of the market a tiny moment of time ahead of others. Well, you earn millions out of it. This is called as Flash Trading.

In flash trading, exchanges gives you access to the trading information 30 milliseconds ahead of the general public. Thus if you have a sophisticated trading algorithm and access to this information, you can identify the pattern the market is taking to adjust itself to all the information that is available to it. So now you have access to the decisions that were made but may be not the information that resulted in it. You can utilize this “decisions information” and place your decisions into the queue and earn profit. Many markets have stopped allowing flash trading, but you never know what other avenue of information use is still open.

References :

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/24/business/24trading.html?_r=1

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flash_trading

http://ir.nasdaqomx.com/releasedetail.cfm?ReleaseID=401816