December 29, 2007

webb, 2007

a massive "brain dump" from matt webb. here are a few key passages.

on cars:
So what are the emergent properties of flocking cars? I think we'll need a certain kind of maths to model it, and that is what I was thinking about. It'll be a bit like signal processing: we'll look at the distances between successive cars, and monitor the pressure waves that move along that pipe. There will be standing waves causes by junctions, and the police will introduce special cars to act as signal dampers or oscillation providers, used to break up clots of cars. Having all the cars on the same rule system worries me, because the failure modes of homogeneous populations are nasty. We'll need a way of parameterising the rules so that different cars all behave slightly differently, so that traffic itself becomes an ultrastable system, responding to an accident by simply shifting the internal population of rules to change the equilibrium and flock around the grit instead of locking up entirely.
on internet:
So what does phenotropics mean for the Web? Firstly it means that our browsers should become pattern recognition machines. They should look at the structure of every page they render, and develop artificial proteins to bind to common features. Once features are found (say, an hCalendar microformat), scripting can occur. And other features will be deduced: plain text dates 'upgraded' to microformats on the fly. By giving the browser better senses - say, a copy of WordNet and the capability of term extraction - other structures can be detected and bound to.
on vending machines:
Vending machines on the street sell mixed smoothies. Each machine is populated with a selection of 8 from dozens of base fruit smoothies. There are 10 options on the machine, representing different mixes of the 8 fruit flavours. Genetic algorithms are used to evolve the smoothies towards the optimum flavours for that neighbourhood, based on what sells. Variety is introduced by having wild-card base flavours in that 8th slot. Sometimes you take a detour on the way to work to help out training a machine to produce your favourite cocktail.


it's worth a read.

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