Adonis Diaries

Archive for September 19th, 2010

Do you know Bolivia is located?  It is in Latin America with Capital La Paz at over 3,000 meters of altitude and bordered by five States.  There is this region at high altitude (5,000 meters) called Yungas with this city named Coroico rich in biodiversity of insects such as scarabs, butterfly, bees, and many other kinds of endangered species.

Traffickers of rare, endangered, and colorful insects living in restricted environment are called “Chinitos” or little Chinese (not necessarily from China but from Asia and Japan) visit these regions twice a year between February and May and carry their loads of insects.  The traffickers hire the local peasants to setting up traps of nets of gaze.

Primo among the insects are giant yellow butterflies spotted blue (10 cm long) and scientifically named “Agrias amydon boliviensis”; they are sold $2,000 apiece and bought for $10.  A plastic box (30*30 cm) may hold 100 butterflies.  Between two to three boxes are shipped every week to the USA, Canada, Japan, Germany, and Asia.

Bees named “Eulaema” of metallic color and specialized in pollinating orchids are very much in demand.  Peruvians buy scarabs in abundance.

This traffic generates $250,000 for local peasants (or one dollars for every insect on average). Only in 2009 did the Bolivian government decreed an environmental protection law #1333 with prison terms up to two years.  The problem is that there is no specialized police force or institutions to monitor and supervise this illegal traffic.

Am I biased? What are your cognitive models?

There is an interesting story behind these questions; the effort of answering as many as you can will generate satisfaction.

We function and decide along cognitive models of what we think we know of facts and reality.

1) You had an excellent grade on one of the courses.  What is the main reason?

You are very intelligent; you studied hard; the course was pretty easy; the teacher was good in explaining the subject matter; the school environment is conducive to learning; the teaching method was appropriate to your temperament; your close community is supportive to learning.

2) You believe that your girl friend’s mental capabilities are below your mental potential.  Is it because:

She asks many detailed questions that you consider should be taken for granted; she has this habit of going frequently on tangents instead of focusing on the main subject of the conversation; she is convinced that girls’ trump card is elegance and style; she is never satisfied how she looks;  she is always one hour late for the date;  she just starts dressing up and bathing on the date schedule and thus unable to plan ahead;  she is not logical or rational in her thinking…

I don’t believe my girlfriend is less smarter than me but I don’t know why;

I have facts that my girlfriend is smarter than me.

3) You are convinced of the “evolution” theory of mankind.  Why? Because:

I read the original book of Darwin and he convinced me; I read commentaries of scientists that I value their judgement and I got convinced; I observed mechanism of evolution; I read scientific peer-reviewed studies on that topic; I am a scientist working in that field; I don’t believe in The BOOK or religious Books describing creation of mankind and species; I don’t see any other alternatives but evolution;

I don’t believe in evolution but I don’t know why;

I believe in evolution but I am not convinced.

4)  Small commercial airplanes are far more dangerous for traveling short distances (300 miles) than cars. I agree because:

the only consequences in crashes is certain death; I have no control over planes; weather conditions affect the maneuvering of airplanes far more than cars; there is a heavy density of birds at low altitudes; there is no co-pilots in small commercial planes;

I disagree.

5)  Your schoolmate closest friend had a much better grade than you on one of the courses.  What is the main reason?

Is he more intelligent than you?  He studied harder; the teacher is biased to him and favor your friend;  your friend’s parents have strong connection with the administration; he is more relaxed in the school environment; his close community is more supportive to learning.

6)  People of developing countries are evidently less smart and not endowed with mental capabilities as people in developed nations.  Because:

their brain size is smaller; they failed so far to reaching a social stage of development that is compatible with modern social standards; they are still in the tribal stage; they allow foreigners to exploit their resources; their leaders are willing to sell anything for bribes; civil wars are rampant in developing countries; political structures are unstable; democracy is lacking; Christianity is not predominant;

I disagree based on the above premises or observations but I believe the initial statesman;

The statesman is wrongly formulated and biased but it cannot be disproved;

The statement is not “politically correct” and thus it is wrong;

I have no opinion and care less;

I have facts to the contrary to the statesman.

7)  In general, women are less capable of running big businesses or holding important political positions.  The reasons are:

Women are rarely found in high positions; physical handicaps during pregnancy are not conducive to persistent work in becoming expert; women are emotionally less strong than men in critical events;  women get bogged down in details; the temperament of women is less focused on business targets;

This is wrong statement;

The question is biased in its formulation;

Women are more capable than men in running big businesses and controlling personnel.

8)  You have got a pretty lousy grade.  The main reason is:

You have no inclination for the subject matter; you had urgent problems to taking care of; the teacher lacked the vocation; the classroom is crowded; the schedule for the course didn’t match the top performance period in your circadian body cycle.

A few subjective cognitive models we use to deciding without enough facts are the following:

One:  We rely on simple heuristic strategies to avoiding complex computational judgement.  This model is called “Attribute substitution

Two:  We tend not to acknowledge our biases in judgement and think that we are better than average in feeling the correct attitude; thus, we have “Bias blind spots“.

Three:  We tend to attribute to our strong imaginative power pieces of memory that we have registered and had forgotten.  The phenomena of False memory syndrome, Recovery memory therapies through hypnosis…and plagiarism are within the category of Cryptomnesia models.

Four: We tend to extend positive outcomes as relevant to our internal capabilities and potentials while negative outcomes are attributed to external factors.  This “self-serving bias” is reversed when judging another person’s outcomes (grade results for example).

Five:  We tend to ask more money for items we own than we are willing to pay for as market value.  This “endowment effect” is related to our aversion to loss and sticking to the status quo biases.

Six: We search for bad actions and behavior of the victims based on our model of “Just-World phenomenon“.  Somehow, the victim must have been bad to get this outcome.

Seven:  “I can quit addiction at any time I decide to” is within the “Restraint bias” model and illusion of control when we will anything.

Eight:  We tend to under-estimate task duration that is unknown to us.  We use the “planning fallacy” model.

Nine: We estimate based on our most vivid memories.  This is the “Availability heuristic” cognitive model.

Ten:  We search for facts that support our hypothesis instead of the way around.  We use the “Confirmation bias” model.

Send me more questions and option answers that generate examples of our subjective cognitive models

Bacteria running supercomputers?

Apparently, you should not worry when using future computers that will be run by “smart” bacteria.

Bacteria are different from microbes because their life span is pretty short, they don’t occupy much space, and can develop new faculties to compete for nourishment. That last characteristic of bacteria of being excellent in the competition struggle is worrisome to me:  I have seen its effect among mankind and feel that it would be wiser for me to purchase a traditional and less performing computer.

How smart bacteria can develop to be? 

Laura Grabowski, at the university of Texas-Pan American of Edinburg (USA), is experimenting with how far bacteria can become intelligent.  She placed a colony of bacteria in an environment poor in food.  A hundred generations afterward (mind you that bacteria do not live long) somehow a single bacteria decided to descend to the lower box rich in food.  In an environment of plenty, a new colony of bacteria expanded greatly; with new faculties.

The smarter bacteria can learn to follow computer instructions such as direction to finding food and a weird instruction “Redo what you have done the latest time“.  I think that Robert Pennock of Michigan State University at Lansing (MSU) went overboard when he said: “Bacteria developed memory quicker than mankind.  Following instructions requires a form of intelligence capable of evaluating situations, realizing we had taken the wrong route, and then reconsidering available data” (again, recall that bacteria have short life span, and a million generations of bacteria would not need 100,000 years as mankind).  Ask a member of mankind to recall details of yesterday; he won’t remember much of interest:  the work is boring as usual and he had no desires what-so-ever to do anything, and thus, cannot remember worthwhile details.

For example, Ryo Taniuchi in the university of Tokyo has taught E. coli bacteria to successfully playing “Sudoku” of 9 columns and 9 lines with 81 types of bacteria.  The bacteria were using parallel calculus to filling all the cells simultaneously, a task impossible by man, using simple rules.

The limiting factor is that there is a limit for the quantity of ADN to be inserted in the bacteria genome.

Martyn Amos said: “Take a colony of ants: an individual ant is not useful, but if you get million ants to come together they are capable of very rich and very complex collective behaviors.”

Laura Grabowski stated: “these organisms are in an environment having to face precise obstacles that demand a form of memory to navigate in.  At least a short-term memory must have developed to performing orientation problems.  In general, researchers prefer to endow computer with complex intelligence; I opted for the alternative of reproducing artificial intelligence by developing faculties with simple organisms that had only the faculty of procreation.”

To demonstrate the feasibility of her alternative, Laura Grabowski taught “smarter” bacteria to moving toward light sources.  These bacteria were introduced into the robot Roomba (a vacuum cleaner) and followed an algorithm of instructions guiding bacteria toward lighted sources.

Smart bacteria are called Avidians in reference to the computer Avida of MSU were these organism live and auto-replicate according to computer instructions. “Avidians are wonderful evolving domestic animals” said Ben Kerr of University of Washington at Seattle.




September 2010

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