DIARY 2002















Tue, Feb 26

<19:07> Opera 6.0 Beta 1 is blazingly fast. But I'm not sure if it's that or the 2.4.18-rc4 kernel, boosted with preempt-kernel and O(1) scheduler patches. :-)

This Monday's spiritual revelations did not take place at the meditation class. They happened around a lecture on Free Will by the physiologist Roger Carpenter. But first, some ideas of mine on free will:

Many have argued that free will and deterministic science are contradictory, which I agree with. But the solution is not what some people suggest, the introduction of chance elements in thought processes. For example Roger Penrose has looked for quantum uncertainties as the basis for non-deterministic thought processes. To me that is even more daunting than a deterministic brain: If there's a 'god playing dice' it doesn't bring us any closer to a free will that controls the physical processes. Unless the quantum world is the only gateway between the mind and the brain.. which so far is not a scientifically accessible question.

My long-term view has been that there is randomness in the human mind, which the logico-intellectual part can exploit; nothing fundamentally new can be created by pure logic, nor can pure randomness bring about anything sensible. But the intellect can pick out interesting bits from the entropy pool.

In the lecture were presented some interesting experimental results: there are deliberate mechanisms in the brain which introduce randomness in the processing of sensory data. The idea naturally extends to other cerebral functions, and Carpenter gave reminders of examples why it has survived evolution: unpredictable behaviour makes us harder to catch. This was neatly presented in a Bayesian probability framework. However, there is much determinism and learning in the brain as well, which is shown by the suppression of many silly behavioral traits that, in principle, could occur because of the random modification or prior probabilities.

Thus one of my initial ideas was strongly supported: the mind is a result of randomness and logic working together. But the question of free will is left unanswered. In fact Carpenter argued that, compared to the purely deterministic model, this brings us farther away from free will. But I'm not convinced in either direction.

The remaining problem is basically that of probabilities. In reality, an event in spacetime either occurs or it doesn't. Therefore probabilities have no meaning whatsoever, unless we accept the many-worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics. In the same sense, the question of free will is meaningless unless we can make the exactly same choice more than once. This made me think I should just forget about the problem, but that would be a step toward the denial of all philosophy...

Nevertheless, the proof for the random element makes me happier because it could kill all ideas of a determined, omniscient world view. But if you take my view on probabilities, nothing is solved because the 'randomness' in then brain is meaningless. The basic argument is baffled further by the finding, that the variations in question are in fact much stronger than thermal or quantum fluctuations, and therefore thought 'intentional' effects of the body.

The lecture also gave me the interesting idea, that perhaps the chance element observed in quantum mechanics is due to the randomness in our mind: we observe all eigenstates of a superposition at once, but because the rates of processing each input are randomized (the basic point of the lecture), the one that wins is undetermined with a probability based on its weight in the initial wavefunction! Which is rather neat - the only thing I don't like about it is the whole idea of probability...

In fact most of this thinking went on at Standard Tandoori where I joined Jaakko, despite having had dinner already. I had Vege Jalfrezi and didn't even sweat, but I guess it falls within the limits of probability.

We finished off the night at Live and Let Live on pints of porter. Later at home, while I was taking a shower (it had been raining, but not quite enough :-) my cafetiere had been smashed on the floor. This was probably due to thermal fluctuations, as I must have left it drying upside down in a rather unstable equilibrium. Cleaning up the shards was not fun. I could get a replacement glass easily, but perhaps this is a good excuse for a 'coffee break' (a break from coffee, that is :-).

Sun, Feb 24

<14:58> Another weekend, another movie. Disney's Atlantis started out in a fairly incoherent state with the usual bunch of eccentric characters messing about, but the plot was interesting enough and I watched on. All of this turned out quite important eventually as the foundation for later adventures was laid down. Despite the obligatory cliches of Disney cartoons, Atlantis stories and even The Matrix, the end half was worth waiting for. Of course it was a bit too straightforward for real suspense, as it was made accessible for the younger ones as well. Nevertheless it was definitely on the cool side of all Disney adventures.

With some info from Lauri, I'm now pretty sure that what I saw on Friday night was Jupiter passing behind Moon.

Sat, Feb 23

<16:41> Hey guys, I'm back to the Cambridge I knew ages ago, the international mixture of spontaneity. Which means, I'm alive again after a long time.

"If I'd known where I'll fall, I would have spread the straws there beforehand," said Jaakko at Stefan's birthday party without knowing how far that phrase would extend later.

We had planned the usual evening of Sauna, dinner and drinking starting at 6 pm, unfortunately when I arrived at parkside 18:02 Antti was there to inform that it was closed due to repairs. So we went straight off to Standard Tandoori for some nice, fulfilling Balti dinner. It was sheer luck that Jaakko turned up just as we were finishing - he hadn't been to Parkside yet - it was his usual place. He decided to skip dinner in favour of our company in the nearby pub.

As Antti went on to work in a bop around 9 pm, I joined Jaakko who was going to the birthday party of a friend, Stefan, of Caius. There was plenty of snack and food available and I almost regretted spending money on the Indian dinner, which is where Jaakko gave his solemn phrase regarding the unexpected in life.

He had to leave quite early and I got into discussions with Tobias from Germany, Paula from Spain and Cecilia from Manchester. With them I got into a Brazilian party at Anglia Polytechnic. Latin and house rhythms were mixed into a fun night of dance.

Towards the end there was more space on the floor. I can't remember how it started but suddenly we were playing football with empty beer cans while clubbing on. At first it was me, Paula, Cecilia and Louis (a friend of Tobias) but a few others joined it as well. It was one of those moments which felt like living in a movie, lasting something like half an hour.

Chilled out with quiet chatting at Tobias's place nearby. As I walked home around 3 am, there was a bright star almost on top of the unlit part of Moon. It vanished in a few minutes. So perhaps it was a real star, hiding behind the moon, or a satellite rendered invisible when moving closer to the bright side of Moon.

Mon, Feb 18

<22:34> Cold outside - to British Standards, that is. Well offset by the warm glow of meditation inside. Yes. It is Monday.

Sun, Feb 17

<00:30> This diary has lately been looking like a movie review journal, so it probably makes sense that I, reluctantly, add my comments on Labyrinth that I watched on Friday night. Lauri had access to a nice number of DivXs and while I'm reading LotR it felt right to watch some fantasy, but this "George Lucas's Muppet Show" doesn't quite cut it. It's technically interesting at some points, and there's even the Matrix philosophy at the final scenes, but something's wrong. Perhaps it's David Bowie who (along with his 80s music) would probably do much better in a cyberpunkish setting than this naïve fantasy. Not simply being a children's story doesn't justify my opinion - having recently read The Hobbit - so it could well be the inconsistency introduced by Mr. Bowie. My advice - if you have other fantasy/adventure films at hand, don't choose Labyrinth.



3 * (20 min, 100,000 DEM) == One little jool of a movie.

It's quite minimalist. A small core team behind, with the same people responsible for scriptwriting, music, directing, acting. Some points remind of school play productions. Except that those few people are genii.

I got interested in this a while ago when hearing the soundtrack at Rend's place. It's sheer tekno. Then last summer I noticed the film on a list of essential Cyberpunk. The music works together with the action, it's like an extended music video, except much more.

Not that deep is it. Still I was in a rather meditative state when watching it last night. A compact piece of art doesn't try and be everything at once. Which is why 'Lola runs' works.

Tue, Feb 12

<16:10> Every Monday I died, and every Monday I was born again. Babies don't sleep this well.

Mon, Feb 11

<12:18> Last night, Roberta and Apostolo asked me to join them for a film which was already on my list.

'The Others' was advertised as a pure psychological thriller with no splatter, so my expectations were high. From the beginning it was clear that this was a minimalist, stylish piece of cinematography. It wasn't quite as dark as my favourite horror so far, Ring, because of some slight humorous overtones. It's horrifying in itself that the Hollywood horror is full of clichés, here it was only used as a very subtle way to lighten up the atmosphere, keep up the spirits.

There was plenty of food for thought. I had certain predictions about what was really going on, and they underwent major turnovers twice. This is not your typical mansion horror story, but then again it's the noughties after Fight Club and The Matrix and you deserve something clever. In this reference frame it is a very satisfactory piece, though maybe not the grand masterpiece of all times.

More on the philosophical side, this is one of the few good stories that make you question the notion of death as something negative and miserable. Another of this kind I remember is Pet Sematary with the key quote "Sometimes death is a better alternative". The Others put this idea very differently; what if you do a 'Matrix inversion' of the usual encounter between the living and the dead...

<21:46> Already decided that the G1 would be my first and last CCD camera, I found this invention truly awesome. I like the fact that you can replace complex computations by basic physical phenomena, and achieve better overall performance. It's a CMOS image sensor that captures all of RBG in one pixel.

Sun, Feb 10

Finished reading There and back again.

Did some tracking with SoundTracker (the new Linux version) on a 1993 piece of mine. It was inspired by Dynablaster and having now played the game, the song sounded horribly wrong in some places. Now I've found the problems but I'm leaving it for a while, because the elements would work much better in a larger project...

Read a nice article about an 84-year old Irishman who loves clubbing. There is still hope in the world, among the prejudice and conditioning.

<20:27> Dinner with Apostolo and other friends. He had made vegetable soup which reminded me of my experiments back when living in Kuopio. After the food, Roberta had a nice surprise of Fazermints which a friend of hers had brought from Tampere :-)

Thu, Feb 7

<02:51> Summary of nice things happened on Wednesday until now:

Now sipping Ardbeg while reading There and back again.

An interesting note: last night I recalled that Wednesday would be by late grandfather's birthday (I'm not 100% sure) so I had expected the unexpected. Kewl.

Mon, Feb 4

<23:20> A nice weekend is over, after interesting and deep discussions of life and economics over some excellent whisky. Friday it was the Sauna event and Saturday I skipped the drum n' bass for a more quiet evening as Jussi and Jo were here.

Last night, Requiem for a Dream. I've got exactly two things to say about the film: (1) The music was great! A techno sync I've recently only encountered in Dancer in the Dark. (2) It carried the message "drugs don't work". Even though I felt deep blue and almost sick during watching, after the 15-min walk home I was empty and I kept wondering what the director Aronofsky had wanted to say. The message is quite obvious: if you're stupid and mess around with hard drugs, things go badly. No need to put that in a movie form. I should rather have watched Ring (shown before this) because at least it was Scary and left you thinking.

Now I'm back from the meditation class, having again skipped Ninjutsu for that. Can't help it, this is my 'support group'. The reference is of course to Fight Club which we watched on Saturday. Now it made even more sense than before, and I sensed more deeply the connections to my philosophy. The problem with this, we discussed, that it's a rather OTT action film and the philosophy may seem too detached, to be seriously adopted.

Risto A. Paju