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Generating Almost Gibberish
October 12, 2015

An interesting thing I saw today:

Kind of silly, but after some further thought, it would be interesting if you created a semantic and syntactic model of the world that was rich enough such that you could run a "parser" backwards and generate sentences that were both semantically and grammatically sound, and yet random... and then to use a probabilistic model to generate a second sentence based on the first, and so on and so forth, until you had written an entire page.

If your system was strong enough, then it might be the case that 1 out of 1,000,000 generate pages would be a bit creepy in terms of its sensibility, right?

As it stands, this 100% random approach comes off as 1% interesting and 99% "sigh".

Technology Stalled?
September 22, 2015

What I liked about this article most was the sentiment that there is a bias against taking the significant risks required to really push things to the next level. For the last number of years I have felt somewhat held back to really explore what seem to be quite deep and promising ideas. Admittedly, following those trails could lead to failure, but it seems well worth the risk given possible outcomes.

Incremental approaches do seem very wise. I don't want to knock incremental progress. But I think Peter Thiel is on to something here.

One theory is that as the world becomes more and more factored towards a "winner takes all" context, the more it makes sense to take big risks that have enormous potential payoffs. Conversely, the less it makes sense to have a bunch of conservative companies all making tepid incremental progress.

Designing a Human Language via Software
August 18, 2015

As I've studied language, one thing that starts to be appreciated is that languages are, in a sense, like an engineered/designed thing. And in that, there are all sorts of "parameters" of the design.

Let's think of written language as a means to render a semantic structure (which we'll model as a graph of nodes and edges) into a 2D sequence of characters. If you want to do that, you need to come up with a scheme for how you do that "translation"/encoding from the graph to the sequence of characters.

There are all sorts of choices you can make.

Take for example the basic clause, consisting of verb, subject, and object:

    Verb: Throw
      Thrower: Daniel
      ObjectThrown: Ball
    Occurred?: Yes
    OccurredInPast: Yes

Rendering this clause, we could choose the order Subject-Verb-Object, we could choose Verb-Subject-Object, etc, etc. Or, do we not restrict order and use some kind of system of affixes to indicate what is the subject, which is the object, etc.

How might we indicate that the event occurred in the past? Add a suffix to the verb? A prefix? Via a new word that comes before the verb? After the verb?

What letters should we use to denote the actual words? The English correspondences are only one option. If we were to invent our own lexicon, what's the best design there?

What comes to mind is that I wonder if one could design a computer program to invent a language. It would use a variety of scoring criteria to explore the possibility space. For example, we want to avoid ambiguity, so choices that lead to ambiguity are unwanted. We want to keep things compact, since that relates to the cost of producing and consuming language. Etc, etc.

An interesting area...

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