The STEMpunk Project: Tenth Month’s Progress

There isn’t much to report on for December. As 2016 drew to a close and the snows began to fall in earnest I continued reading the excellent “Artificial Intelligence: A Modern Approach”, delightedly learning about ontological engineering, knowledge base construction, and truth maintenance systems, among other things.

These are topics of particular interest to me because I’m fascinated by the process of taking a complex problem domain, breaking it up into orthogonal primitives, cataloging possible actions, and then using the resulting system to guide decisions and discover new things. Even just trying to decide what counts as a primitive is a fascinating and challenging task, but I have a hunch that we’re just beginning to uncover how powerful these tools can be.

In fact, long before I know enough to write the preceding two paragraphs I played around with developing a theoretical note-taking system I called ‘hyperscript’, in which the world is decomposed into agents, arenas, actions, and objects. My goal was to have a compact way of representing nested conditionals like ‘if girlfriend.forgets(milk) then I.get(milk) unless milk.at(myBrother’sHouse)’, and so on.

(Any programmer will see the obvious influence of the dabbling I’ve done in javascript and python.)

Though I’m a competent adult capable of managing the basic day-to-day of living, I find I do sometimes fall victim to implicasia when there are too many balls in the air and some unexpected change causes me to miss an optimal solution (like just checking if there’s any milk at my brother’s house instead of running all the way to the store). Hyperscript was meant to help avoid that.

Alas, I never pushed this project very far because it became apparent that getting a system like this to outperform simply jotting notes down would take a lot of work, and there are plenty of other ways to squeeze 1% more productivity into my days than inventing what amounts to a hand-written programming language!

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As it stands I’m hoping — hoping — to get through AIMA by the end of January, and then starting on an AI programming course in February. Book writing should commence by spring, if I can get all the ancillary research done.

As always, thanks for reading. I hope your 2017 is a productive and happy one.

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