In a world… where there are nebulous words!

It occurs to me to write these down on a special occasion… Initially I was considering an optimization problem in a situation where localized optimization is essentially playing a zero sum game with an opponent who is much more powerful.

In this situation, even though we have big data, and even though we have deep learning, it still remains that there is bigger data and yet more sophistication else where. One of the challenges of the nascent big data and deep learning enabled AI industry is one of problem selection.

There are people who are trying to cure cancer and save lives. And there are people trying to trade stocks, win political campaigns, or engage in armed conflict (not that these are the same things) Their continued admonishments against AI are the people who fear the latter. I would imagine there may be very few who would oppose the prior.

That! That is the underlying restriction to the technology: what it can do for prior cause is practically restricted by what it does for the latter. The same applies to all tehnolgies of course. We’ve had internet, social media, a typical Californian would probably take a few minutes to recognize therebeing anything exceeding unusual about the potential downside of yet another meme…

Also, consider aliens, of the interstellar variety, one should always be mindful of our real  competition. There is likely a far greater intelligence out there. Let us not doubt, and let us certainly not delay the development of our own Big Intelligence as matter in due course of our kind’s progress.

Insurance, Universal Health, and BS (slight repeat)

I would not be the first one to point out that this is the way things are. Hospital bills are insanely high. The birthing of my child including the subsequent 11 days of hospital NICU (neonatal intensive care unit) stay at the Stanford Lucile Packard Children Hospital resulted in a combined bill for both mom and child of $157k. And let me say upfront the staff at LPCH worked very hard to make our stay comfortable. We learned a lot about taking care of the baby there from all the wonderful nurses and Dr.’s

$175k is a lot of money: With that money I could three(3) base Model S’s. Or I could pay off of some of my mortgage. Or pay off my parent’s mortgage. At my planned saving rate of about $20k a year, it would take me 8.5 years to accumulate that amount of money, just for a single incident of child-birth(not including continuing costs after the fact). Now, being an informed modern man, I appreciate the 99.99%(estimated) success rate of child-birth that this cost buys me. And indeed my child is healthy and alive, and she may very well not be if we had her in a wilder situation where the cost is less. The peace of mind that we have knowing that there is a machine and two nurses watching over the child during those tenuous times is very much worth it.

Now there are two issues of concern. One of them is that the entire process was not 100% pleasant, there were times when we wondered if the doctors/nurses/staff were picking on us because of our minority status or apparent lack of wealth or influence. Some staff were quite obnoxious, one even dropped his badge in an inconspicuous place in order to lift my wife’s cover to search for it. what a pervert!

Anyway, that’s not the problem. This $175k bill would have put me in debt for 8.5 years if I did not have an insurance. The insurance company negotiated a different price tier and then paid for about 95% of the negotiated fees to the LPCH. Without insurance company, I may have simply taken the child home after birth and watched her stop breathing and then eventually rush her body to the hospital. Without insurance, my wife would suffer from untreated back injury from the birthing process. Without insurance, I would not be able to take the baby to a dr. about the mucky eyes she has and eating/pooping/peeing issues and various growths and spots and all kinds of weird alien things baby produce. Life would not be life as I know it without the group comprehensive insurance provided by my employer.

Recalling just a mere 6 months prior to this, I was rejected for insurance by a large PPO because I checked a box that said I snored–due to a prior condition. I am a fairly healthy person in my mid 30’s and being rejected for health insurance was the last thing I expected… it kind of ended my consulting career.

Let’s think of health insurance in more detail. Insurance is a benefit, part of my compensation package, my employee give me for my service to the company. What this means is that I must work for an employee that provides group insurance in order to continue to receive this kind of benefit.

It would seem that the pressure and flow of money is as follows: medical cost is high, insanely high, to a point that it would appear an uninsured person cannot pay for basic care. Each individual is highly incentivized to work for large corporations that provide group health insurance, because if they don’t they cannot get health coverage and because the cost of health care is high, they cannot get health care. (oh, and also in the same breath, only spouse of a heterosexual marriage can benefit under group health insurance)

I personally appreciate the role of doctors play in society. They use their life’s time and energy to become good at treating people’s illnesses so that other people can live long and happy lives. I think the medical-industrial-complex that power advanced research in science and technology that produce advanced diagnostic tools (xray,mri, etc.) and drugs, and genetic therapy, and stem cell research, all these things trying to make people’s life better are great! It costs a lot of money and require a lot of resources: universities, hospitals, buildings, power/computing infrastructure, lots of smart people to achieve advancement. So an expensive drug, expensive test, if charged by original developer, is cost to pay for past and future research. Expensive doctor is to pay for his educational cost and to maintain his alertness, dedication to the unbiased professional medical treatment of his patients. I want them to make more money because I don’t want to have to wonder if my Jewish doctor treat Jewish children better than my child or if my Russian doctor treat his Russian patients differently from my wife. I want to receive good treatment and I believe that most doctors are paid above other people not only because of their unique skill sets but also because they rise above all that, ethically, and heal their patients any human patients to health.

BUT, that fact is being exploited by large corporations. Only large corporations can afford group health insurance. Therefore only they have access to people who want health care. Fundamentally, there is nothing wrong with this. But practically it forces all health-conscious people to subscribe to corporate culture. We do not have a choice in how we contribute to society, but as long as we want to see a doctor when we need, we must be part of a large organization full-time.

Some additional aspects of this arrangement: If I had a serious prior condition that requires constant treatment, then I must be employed at a large company in order to survive with life. If there are any bias in corporate employment then the same bias would occur in availability of medical treatment. If I stop working or have never had insurance, I must work for a company because I will not be able to get insurance having a break in health coverage. I cannot leave the company for injustice or corruption immediately and in the duration of dispute, I may not be able to continue with insurance, and the interruption in coverage will result in the impossibility of my getting health insurance.

I have always been in favor of universal health care in America. This is not because I come from a faux-social/communist China. I am in favor of universal health care despite the fact that the medical super industry will not receive as much money from patients because the US government will surely negotiate an even better price than the private insurance companies. I am in favor of universal health care–for basic maintenance care–because health, along with wealth, is part of our pursuit of happiness. I do not believe one can be happy secured with his wealth but insecure with his health, and we should have the freedom to choose health independent of wealth. Health is life. Right of life means right of health, protection for right of life means protection for right of health–in fact protection to right of health should be on par with the right to secure one’s wealth. Health is happiness. Pursuit of happiness requires health. This is why I think universal health care–to a certain level–is a must. Even if it detracts slightly from advanced medical research.

Okay, moving on. A thought occur to me the other day on the way home from my health-coverage earning job in corporate America. I thought of the transitive action space(TAS) more. The TAS encodes actions between people, therefore should be thought of as only encompassing all endeavors regarding acting morally. Again, I justify this because the original thread of thought came form the golden and silver rules of ethics both of which directs us in how to act.

But clearly they have said more than that, for instance it has been said that one should “love thy neighbor as thy self.” Granted this a command in the TAS, but more action this is a feeling. Love is a feeling, is a state of mind that can occur without visible action in the TAS. Perhaps we should also mention the existence of transitive emotional space, TES. Subsets of TES instructs us about the moral ways to feel–whether we have control over feelings, and are they moral if we control the feeling rather than naturally feel, is an entirely different discussion. We can, in fact, specify the subspace of TES that is moral, the Bible sure does.

There are of course yet other instructions in morality that instructs us on how to “be”. “Be one with God,” “Be one with the universe,” “Being a higher being,” “Being enlightened”… and so on and so forth. Some argue that the being is creating an internal state, and therefore being moral is the moral motive force that enable us to act and feel morally. Some even stipulate that without a moral motive force a moral space in TAS is not moral. For instance, if I feed my baby with an intent driven by the perverted curiosity of seeing a grossly obese 1yr old, then the action of “feeding a baby” in TAS is entirely moral (possibly universally), but the being inside BS is immoral. Most would agree that the act is entirely immoral.

Therefore we should also seriously consider BS–Being Space that contain all the ways that we could be. The challenge of such a space is that BS is of much higher cardinality than TAS. In the real world, we can very likely specify countable discrete TAS for a certain self contained situation in which we have to make moral choices, where as I am not able to imagine the “enlightened” and “universe” beingness of BS–do they intersect? does one contain the other? What are the sets in TAS that corresponds to their intersections? Does intersection and containment make sense in the BS? How do I choice to be something BS? How do I be something in the BS?

Ultimately, the choice of TAS seem rightous at this stage of my investigation. And I beleive that even if BS is ultimately the only space where morality is true, that there is a TAS projection from BS that can be modeled. From time to time, we may need to point out the relation between a TAS set and BS but until I have the language to discuss it, BS shall remain mysterious and unexplained. Advertisement and no-WFH

Recently publicized a promotional video featuring ppl like Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Bill Gates of Micro$oft saying American schools should teach programming more.


I don’t like it.


I don’t think programming is for everyone and that more programming is for social good or scientific advancement. It lowers cost of labor for all those people in the Advertisement, but it isn’t as good as it sounds.


As a person who completed a CS degree, I feel that computer language can be made much better so that there won’t be a “computer programming”


The day that I tried to teach my dad to program a for-loop in C and he turned around and teased me about forgetting the closed form expression for arithmetic series was the first time that I thought about how stupid this stuff I do is. It was the expression on my dad’s face… I remember it vividly… For it was then that I realize that I did not comprehend the sheer vulgarity of

for(int x=0;x<100;++x);

so primitive, so stupid.

The next time is when I read about Map-Reduce–sooo freaking cool. I think tomorrow I will find another way to think, another way to say, and another way to program.


I want to make a better programming language. a better computer. That would be better than community colleges teaching Fortran IMHO


Oh, and p.s.

I think Yahoo!’s new no-policy is nice. I think is real progress for protection of civil liberty in America. Technology companies insists on ownership and monitoring of its employees while working, and admittedly justified to do so. Therefore when Marissa Mayers decided to cancel all WFH, she made a call that will end monitoring of employees’ home networks–because if you don’t work from home, the company will have no cause to instrument any kind of monitoring of your home network.

I think this is a really forward thinking technology leader who care about her employees. I am buying myself some Yahoo! stocks in support of this bold move.

The Ethical Hiearchy III

Recall, from last time, this illustration of the Ethics Hierarchy overlaying capability sets in the space of all transitive actions:

gold versus silver 1

I should simplify terminology. The set labeled “Things I want” are “my desires”, “things Jesus wants me to do” is the Jesus way, “Things Confucius wants me to do” the Confucian way, “Things I can do” are “my strengths” and “Things can be done to me” are “my weaknesses”.


I should also like to begin referring to what I have been calling the Ethics Hierarchy as the Moral Hierarchy. My own postings exhibit cultural bias. I include more from eastern culture than western culture. Some comments I have received indicate that there are others out there who have looked at culture/art/literature comparisons with the opposite bias. The fact of matter is, this Moral Hierarchy itself does not imply absolute superiority of any kind. Relatively speaking, one is larger, contains more transitive actions, than the other, but bigger is not necessarily better. In fact, it is one of my hopes to understand how they are different. Reasonably speaking, I should not expect to find that one is superior to the other–quite the opposite, I feel that exhaustive investigation of this subject will reveal to us more about the way the world, humans, and our society are than about the rights and wrongs within their contexts. Because morals have cultural biases and ethics is the philosophical study of morals, I may switch back to Ethics Hierarchy when I wish to emphasize that I am trying to be objective.


Therefore, to continue, let us be fair, what is drawn are idealized sets and intersections. The Jesus way is actually one of many allowed sets of actions that has an inner-bound restriction of being bigger than the my desires. Under this prescription alone, one can do everything in the universe and still not violate the Golden rule. The Confucius set, similarly is one of many possible sets fully contained in my wants set. The Silver rule has a maximum outer bound, one can only do things within my wants. Under silver rule, one cannot do everything in the world.


Some extreme examples might be, for instance, a person that goes around slaughtering each person with a knife is allowed under one interpretation of the Jesus way, as long as he also does everything that he wants for that person. This can be quite arbitrary, say, the perpetrator wants to be fed carrot cake, then he feed everyone carrot cake and then knifes them. What’s worse is if the person is masochist, then he is forced to act as sadomasochist. If he wants to be fed carrot cake and knifed, then Jesus way requires that he _must_ both feed everyone carrot cake and knife them.


On the other extreme, suppose one tries to follow Taoist suggestion to do nothing, it easily fall within Confucian way without regard to the size of my desires. While the only way for a person to do only nothing under the Jesus way is for him to want nothing. This is impossible because follower of the ways of Jesus at least want to enter heaven, so trivially Jesus way is never empty and prevents follower from doing nothing.


It’s interesting to think of the possibilities. Let’s look at just the Confucian way. Set D is outside of my strengths, and it is outside of my weaknesses, however, because I desire it, it is within the Confucian way. Set A are things I desire, within my strength to do and outside of my weakness to receive. These are the things that I can only give and will never receive in kind. On the opposite end, set C are within my desires and weaknesses but not within my strengths. O is the set of my opportunities–these are the things I want but am not yet capable of receiving. Set B is a sweet spot. Here, not only are we within the ways of both Confucius and Jesus, we also desire to do so. This is a region to maximize, if we had the choice to do so.


gold versus silver 3


It should be pointed out that zone B contains only actions that we can reciprocate when receiving and receive reciprocation when giving–in kind–in other words, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth zone.


Zone U in this graph points out an area of the an-eye-for-an-eye-a-tooth-for-a-tooth zone that is outside of my own desire and therefore not recommended by either Confucius, but is allowable by the Jesus way.


Let’s backtrack and admire the an-eye-for-an-eye-a-tooth-for-a-tooth zone T in its full glory


gold versus silver 2


Wow! It does exists!

With Higher Knowledge Come Higher Responsibility

The other day, at work, (and by now you know I work for a Japanese Automotive Electronics company), we talked about autonomous cars for consumes. Since everyone is either technology freak or car freak the discussion was pretty intense.


I explained to every one the ethical issue surrounding autonomous cars that may be not be completely resolved or resolvable by technology.


The matter is this: an autonomous car will with absolute certainty be faced with a situation where it has to choose between two actions each will be killing a different person. Suppose two person suddenly dash in front of the car to the left and to the right, and suppose that the car is moving too fast to stop. it can veer to avoid one person with certainty. But which will it choose?


Another scenario: the car can brake very hard and avoid killing a pedestrian, but in the process it will have killed the passenger because the car is mechanically able to endure much higher de-acceleration than its occupants.


The legal problem also, if I configure the car, or if some car company configure the car to always protect its owner (rational), that I the owner, the designer, the manufacturer is then liable to be sued for killing people?


“But your honor, the car swerved!! I had nothing to do with it”


Okay, so the people who want autonomous cars (myself partially included), will say that with better equipment, high-speed video/audio recording and black-boxes, there might be far fewer arguments about who was responsible for accidents. But there are some things in our current law that are absolute. If a car hits a person inside the cross walk, the car is always responsible. If the car is rear-ended the car in arrear will be responsible. What will happen to these absolute laws that are in many circumstances unreasonable but serve to protect the safety of the population?


And finally, even if, and I believe it will, autonomous vehicles reduce death to 1% or less of today’s vehicle related death rate, that 1% where two person dash in front of the car, and the car has to choose, what then? Why is this so hard?


One of the big problems is informed decision is hard. The car, given today’s technology, machine learning technology for object detection, vision algorithms, radar, laser range scanner, eeg/ekg, EMR technologies can pretty reliably detect with plenty of time to choose which one to save, that there are two person dashing infront of the car one to the left, one to the right, velocity, estimated trajectory, mass, the certainty of these estimate and the margins of error (where else could each person likely be by the time we collide, etc.)

The reason human get away with killing in this situation is that we do not have the speed and ability. It is beyond our control–until we programmed a computer to do it, and then we are suddenly faced with choice that we never had to make before: kill left, kill right or maim both? or risk killing both? or kill myself to completely avoid  their injury?

Hmm, let’s see, What would Confucius allow? What would Jesus insist? Well, I don’t want to be killed, so don’t kill other people. I would want other people to save me so I would want to brake an save both crazy people. Hmm, I guess it really depends on the person’s desire. One would say a more moral person may not wish for another moral entity to suffer in exchange for his own sake, as well to exchange another’s life for his own. But by and large most people would ask the car to save himself no matter which place he is in.

The moral problem arise in that we are not in any of those three situations. We are in the autonomous car’s designer’s shoes. We are in Asimov’s shoes. What should we write as the laws of autonomous vehicles? When we know that at some point, the car will know almost certainly that it must kill/damage/disrupt someone/thing, and knows exactly which wire to send electric signal down to to choose which person. What should we tell the car to do?

Because soon the car will be looking at that scenario in slow-mo… with 10ms to decide and then 250ms seconds to turn the steering wheel left or right and apply brakes.

So, as you can see, the mere knowledge of morality and capability to choose encumber us with the responsibility of behaving morally. Because I know it’s wrong, I must not do wrong. Another person may think that the root of this evil is the fact that I know of this moral dilemma and that I have gained the speed to travel fast or gained the speed to determine people’s fate.

I wonder if the are right that those things are works of devil and that the absolute best moral thing to do is just to stay away from them? I should consider this carefully. What if I find that it is wrong for me to live? or wrong for me to blog about morality? What if it is found that internet is not moral? or god forbid that it is immoral to have stereo audio in cars? Because I already of the ability to terminate any one of them–at least for myself.





I can accept an argument that placing one’s self into a situation where there is no moral choice is immoral. The autonomous car makers will insist that car drive carefully so that it will never be faced with 2 people in said situation. But somehow, science, technology–human inquiry–may find a way to inform us that that is just delusional, that it is provably impossible to avoid crazy human. 😉 back to square-one I suppose.



The problem with Transitivity

Transitive Action Space is fairly concise space containing all those actions that are divalent. These actions are the first class of actions that we consider because it occurs most frequent in interpersonal relationships. Also because the Golden Rule and Silver Rule of ethics both syntactically refer to precisely this class of actions.

Linguists have long thought of this issue and discuss the concept of valency of verbs. monovalent verbs are intransitive, transitive verbs are divalent… Other verbs are more expressive and some has multiple valencies: do and have both can be monovalent, divalent and trivalent.

The example given in wikipedia is the following American southerner statement:

I am having myself some dinner.

“I”, “myself” and “dinner” are the parameters of “have”, which in this case is trivalent.

The interesting fact about this is that the first two np’s associated with this verb are covariant (vaguely speaking). And by this I mean

He is having himself some dinner.

She is having herself some dinner.

They are having themselves some dinner.

and so on and so forth. The first two vary together. I can never have, for example

I am having themselves some dinner…

it just wouldn’t make any sense.

We should let this sink in a second. First of all there are multivalent verbs beyond transitive verbs. Second of all, some verbs may have restriction on them regarding some or all of their np’s when used in an actual sentence.

do is the other multivalent verb.

I am doing myself a favor.

Again trivalent, however in this case covariant np’s are not required.

I am doing him a favor.

I am doing her a favor.

I am doing them a favor.


In fact, not to be vulgar but these are the things that came to mind as I think about this:

I am shitting myself a bucket of golden coins.

I am making myself a bucket of golden coins.

I am shaking myself a headache.

I am driving him nuts.

I am driving him home.

ahha, so we have a pattern. These are still transitive verbs, but their third np parameterizes the content of the action or indicate a byproduct of the action.

I can shit you a bucket of gold.

To me, you the object of the action, the receiver and gold is the content of the action. I am straining but not seeing my doing anything to gold using you. similar pattern apply to the other of the previous sentences.

I’d like to include these trivalent verbs in the transitive action space by adding the additional noun phrase into the verb forming verb-np super-verbs that can be applied to the parameters of previously defined Transitive Action Space (i.e. you and me).

(shitting gold)

(making gold coin)

(shaking (out) a headache)

(driving nuts)

(driving home)

are included as trivalent transitive actions.

The Ethics Hierarchy and More Diagramming

I recently learned of the Chomsky hierarchy(aka the Chomsky–Schützenberger hierarchy). It would appear to me that what I have discovered also forms a hierarchy of various ethical maxims. Also, I should mention we have added Laozi‘s 无为 advocating minimized interference both in governance as well as personal improvements. At first glance, it seems very nice that the transitive action space for these maxims fall into proper subset relationships. But as we shall see, this naïve hierarchy only begin to illustrate the relative situation of these maxims in the world.

 Ethical Hiearchy

We have not considered the possibility that I am not able to do some things to others and others may not be able to do some things to me. Let us redraw the Ethics Hierarchy but introduce additional capability regions in the transitive action space. Oh, and we have also introduced color to enhance readability of the picture.

gold versus silver 1 Why is this interesting? Well for one thing we are at a stage where Venn diagram can actually separate all the regions that we are interested in. A second reason is that it makes us realized that the containment relationship visualization using grammar school Venn diagrams that my dad pointed me to was only just the beginning of our exploration. We can draw more circles and see that our world have distinctive sections with different shades of meaning, benefit and possibilities.

For instance, one thing this graph points out is that there are things that Confucius or Jesus recommends us to do that we cannot actually do to others.It also shows us that there are things that we desire that in reality we cannot receive, however we can perform the act onto others. The graph also points out that there are the region of actions space within our desires that others can never give to us.

Lastly from looking at this picture, it seems that actions within realm of possibility that are not recommended by the Jesus action set is small. On the other hand, the actions that Confucius recommend that are not possible is also small. From freehand drawing it would appear that the completely impossible actions inside the Confucius action set is small relative to all Confucius’s recommendations, and similarly the completely possible actions outside of the Jesus set is small compared to the whole Jesus set.