Posts Tagged ‘ AI ’

Google Lite

I spent the ENTIRE day reworking my online presence at the heels of Google’s new  privacy policy implementation happening March 1st.  Thank God it’s a Leap Year!  I justify this procrastination by considering myself fairly savvy in these realms, or at least savvy in my connections with more savvy helpers like Sense and Reference and EFF.

Now,  I know I have not secured my everlasting privacy.  The internet is both permanently public in one sense (data is forever and no longer my own) , and publicly private in another (there is so much out there, my contributions are likely to go unnoticed anyway).  But my hope was to begin sorting out my online lives a little more clearly into basic camps of what I want to share and what I want to store.   I am also not giving up Google entirely.  I am keeping my Gmail account and the services for which I’ve used that email to register.  But in order to disassociate it from my daily searching and reading (that I prefer to keep somewhat private), I had to figure out a new browser, search engine, and reader.  So, here’s the end results and what I learned  in the process.

Google Bookmarks –> Evernote

I’ve always been uncomfortable with the public aspect (sharing) of bookmarks – which is why I never took full advantage of delicious.  But I had been hanging on to Google Bookmarks and justified Google knowing those bookmarks — well, Google knew my (and your) search history too– because until the recent privacy policy changes, Google kept that information separate and somewhat anonymized from its other personalized Google account features.  So, I hung on to Bookmarks even after losing its seemless functionality when Firefox force-upgraded some months back.  I had also (with the Firefox change) decided to try out Chrome, thinking it would integrate the Bookmarks more seamlessly. It did not, and I’ve just been living not exactly pleased the Chrome browser and Bookmarks since.   I decided to tackle finding a new bookmark service before dealing with search and my other Google accounts.

I had tried Evernote as a personal notetaking, to-do list keeper, and potential research ideas storage/organizer.  So, I decided to add my bookmarking there. Because I wanted to clean them up in the process,   I  manually reviewed, moved and tag-categorized over 150 sites.  I’m not totally jazzed with the default display, but I’m still learning and feel like there is plenty of flexibility.

Google Reader –> Netvibes

I took Sense and Reference’s suggestion for Netvibes as a reader alternative to Google Reader.  Along with a good take on what the Google privacy changes mean, you can see his full Google alternative recommendations here.  I like Netvibes both visually and organizationally.  And it seems, like Evernote, to have much more to explore.

Firefox and Chrome (Google Lite)

To take EFF’s recommendation to separate my search from my service, I had to really think through how I work in the day.  Ultimately, I went back to Firefox as my default browser and giving it my home page for work, my bookmarks, and my reader.  I kept Google Chrome, opening it to my Gmail, Twitter, and this blog (which I might reconsider — I’m blogging right now intentionally not yet signed into my Google accounts.).  Luckily, I have two screens so I can visually keep these browser universes separate.  Although, I’ll probably have to put a big post it note on the Chrome screen that reminds me DO NOT SEARCH IN GOOGLE CHROME!

Sidebar on dual monitors (in Ferris Bueller voice): “It is so choice. If you have the means, I highly recommend picking [another] one up.”

Google Search –> Duck Duck Go

I also took recommendation for a new search engine, trying out Duck Duck Go. It is very clean visually and also has a nifty Firfox plugin.  So far I also like the functionality and speed of the results.  Best of all,  it is not tracking my stuff.  See what I mean in a nutshell or in their  full privacy policy .

Google+ –> Facebook (for now)

Finally, I cancelled my Google+ account which wasn’t much of anything anyway. When it asked why I was deciding to leave, I should have said:  “Your algorithm can probably figure that one out.”

I’m sure I’ve got still got some blind spots in this whole thing.  So, please feel free to educate me, especially since next up is Facebook timeline .


the truth about reference

It’s been quite a month in my personal life, and no wonder  I never got back to filling out that last truthberry picking post.  I see some where I have no memory of what I found interesting at the time.  But, others, like Sheehan’s recent  ALA Techsource post on AI and reference,  are still relevent and worth building on, as other insights and starting points toward my big research interest  — the reapplication of the reference interview to interorganizational communication/information seeking — have come about since then.

It is also ARL stat collection time.   I serve on team monitoring a shared email account for e-resources troubleshooting questions (think of it as a distance cousin of virtual reference) and annually question whether I am supposed to count these as reference transactions.  For your information, ARL defines a reference transaction as:

…an information contact that involves the knowledge, use, recommendations, interpretation, or instruction in the use of one or more information sources by a member of the library staff. The term includes information and referral service. Information sources include (a) printed and non-printed material; (b) machine-readable databases (including computer-assisted instruction); (c) the library’s own catalogs and other holdings records; (d) other libraries and institutions through communication or referral; and (e) persons both inside and outside the library. When a staff member uses information gained from previous use of information sources to answer a question, the transaction is reported as a reference transaction even if the source is not consulted again.

I’ve always held, and our head of reference agrees, that we should count them.  But as distance cousins, the majority of questions we get are referrals from the real reference folks who are, thus, already counting them.  This year we may have more transaction to count as we have begun putting our face (our email address) out there a little to assist more directly with things like persistent linking, when resources are on order (and not yet available), and when we know there are likely to be problems with e-resources.  The latter two actually pick up the slack for what our ERM ought to be doing for us —  but that’s another post.  So, what I ultimately mean to point out here, is two-fold:

1) technical services libraries are increasingly access service librarians (our email troubleshooting group  is a concrete example).

2) as a result (and in addition to our counting transactions in this new role), we ought to look at the ARL definition above more closely.

Garden Libraries - The Imaginarium Garden (courtesy of Southfield Public Library, Southfield, MI)

My guess is traditional reference or public services librarians translate these transactions primary as a service to users wherever they are — as in “the library as place” and that place is inside and outside the library (in the Union, dorms, faculty offices, or even via email, IM, social media).  By seeking these reference stats of their colleagues, traditional reference librarians do concede that they aren’t the only transactors with our users.   But, I wonder how many interpret that definition to apply to transactions with people inside the library who work there?  This internal reference transaction among colleagues, I argue, is an activity technical services librarians have long been doing but perhaps not historically thought of as a reference transaction. Some examples of this I’ve thought of might be when we are helping reference staff to answer more technical questions (maybe we should count these twice!), when we help a subject liaison by pulling together reports for collection management, and maybe even when problem solving organizationally and seeking information about each others’ workflows in order to put a bigger picture together.

As for and how to go about answering my research question, this leads me back to Sheehan’s post and whether a direct reapplication of the theory behind the reference interview is the way to go, or whether so much changed both in reference (going virtual) and technical services (going reference) that a new theory is needed.  In addition to my own fascination with AI, the post connects to a debate about 2.0 vs. f2f communication that has stalled me in starting my research.  The post, specifically, led me to ask this question: has the stigma of ‘why’ questions in the reference interview (see Dervin & Dewedney, 1986) diminished as a result of more open sharing in social media?  Or is it (as Sheehan seems to point to) precisely because it’s online that this openness in social media occurs, but the f2f human interaction still requires the finesse of something like neutral questioning?

Other questions I’ve mulled over, related to the ARL stats definition, are whether there are too fundamental of differences in the reference transaction (and the use of reference interview skills) when the players are our working peers than when between librarians and students, faculty, or community users.   I’d be interested to know what you think and suggestions you may have for methodological starting points.

Comments below or emails to atruthbrarian[at]gmail[dot]com are welcome.

Dervin, B., & Dewdney, P. (1986). Neutral questioning: A new approach to the reference interview. Reference Quarterly25 (4), 506-513.

truthberry picking (to be continued…)

Just a place marker for my post on the berries from ALA Direct this week


Getting Hacked

So, some more AI for you.  An interesting article reviewing Belfiore’s  book, The Department of Mad Scientist showing how incremental and present the process is of merging human and computer.  From cruise control to artificial limbs in wounded veterans the implications are as scary to me as they were when I journaled about them back in my 2003 LIS courses.  What I had not considered then was the implication of hacking.   Another article talked about antivirus companies were getting into the cellphone/iphone market.  Belfiore is making us think about the similar risks to the devices that become part of us, that our own bodies would be at risk of cyber attack.  That idea really hacks me off (pun intended).  Perhaps what is the most frightening is that I find some of these ideas are pretty cool too.

“Why do I need a mouse?” [a veteran] asked. “Why can’t I plug my arm right into a USB port?”

Looks like have a new e-book to read!

Journal 09-18-03

Watched the Hollywood version of Solaris to my regret.  I started the Tsarkovsky version sometime last year, but wasn’t able to finish it.  That one seems really interesting and much more deep. But, I suppose this version wasn’t a total loss.  In fact, I think it brought up some interesting and relevant issues.   The basic idea is quite similar to Kurzweil’s proposal that it will possible to have computers that will be just like us, exceeding our intelligence and perhaps even biological functions.  Kurzweil belived that this will be our creation.  But, in the movie, it is believed to be created by artificial intelligence called Solaris.  Now, perhaps Kurzweil believes that Solaris is what we humans will in fact achieve, in that Solaris is not purely a mystical but a technological and a product of natural law, thought that law hasn’t been discovered on earth or explained [in this movie].  The doctor in the film is able to figure out the biology of it and combat it.

So in more detail about how this possibility presents itself:  It seems like Solaris reads human minds (including emotion) and then creates “visitors” based on that.  At first it seems to be solely based on memory, therefore in the main character’s case, since his visitor was dead, the existence of this visitor is limited to what the person remembers.  This also means the immortality of the visitor comes to the same point.  As the visitor said: “I’m suicidal because that’s how you remember me”.  But [the visitor] doesn’t ever die and instead seemed to go through a reverse process towards resurrection.  The amin character isn’t convinced that we are predetermined to repeat our past.  He believes he can pick up where he mistakenly left off (the fight before her suicide)and start anew, make changes.  The problem is, that even if it were possible, the future is created based only on HIS version of everything.  At the end of the film the thing that bothered him the most was the thought the he had remembered it wrong.  Remembered her according to his version of her.

That is the key!  At another point in the film debate of the existence of God obviously comes up.  And he characteristically believes that there can be no God, that our lives are just mathematics and logic.  She disagrees, naturally, mentioning that proof of God is awareness of mortality.  It doesn’t get debated any further.  But, while she (in remade-post-death-Solaris-form) is able to remember, to have accurate memories and emotions, she is also aware that she has not experienced it.  This is because it is HIS memory and not hers, which ended when she died (stopped being uniquely created and capable of creating memories).  She is not real because she can’t die in this form.  It is not just logic and memories and mathematics. There is more.

The ending didn’t quite sell me.  It is the same scene from the beginning before he goes to Solaris.  The events are repeated with minor changes.  1) Her picture is on the fridge (a point of contention: in Solaris he thought it odd that there are no pictures in his house since she died) 2) his cut doesn’t bleed, though he puts it under the faucet as if it were [as he remembered it].  He eventually sees that she is actually there. She convinces him that this time it is real, all our sins are forgiven.   It is very vague and lacking depth.  It’s the difference between the ultimate state of human reality being 1) a perfect world as we imagine it with pictures on the wall and getting to be with your wife and all your sins are forgiven (though you never worried or cared about it in the first place) and 2) sins are forgiven as ultimate freedom and individuality.  That was the key statement, actually, it was the only statement she made so the rest of it just didn’t provide the substance to back it up.  But to define more clearly the vague point:  she was real and he was real and they had nothing to do with it.  It wasn’t just the sum of their parts, but merely the idea that they are real.

**I’m going to have to watch this again tonight and fill this in – I think.**

Journal 09-17-03

A classmate wrote on the discussion list:

The biggest flaw with Kurzweil is that he uses the term spiritual .  I think he did this more for shock value than anything else.  He doesn’t equate spiritual with any sort of what I would consider spiritual, but rather use it as a synonym for conscience.  That is certainly not the connotation that one associates with spiritual.

I had this thought too, though more vaguely.  One of Kurzweil’s critic’s arguments focused, sort of, on this aspect.  Basically, this critic was saying that to use the word spiritual is to give it a lesser meaning or a watered down version of what spirituality means.  But, I tend to agree with my classmate’s more concrete statement that the word spiritual should be thrown out altogether.  It is simply the incorrect term to use and perhaps he DID use it for the controversial effect.

A funny conversation on what makes humans human.  My friend was wondering what it is that causes us to be bored. Do computers become bored?  Is boredom a chemical state of the brain?  I thought this was an interestingly depressing case for humanity.

Although, another case I’ve heard before is the idea of memory.  I think this one Kurzweil would be more enthusiastic about making a case for (that it is memory where computers exceed humanity).  But  how do you determine why my version or memory of something varies from another, though it is the same event being remembered?

**reminds me of a THIS AMERICAN LIFE episode clip**

What frustrates me (among the MANY things that do) is that [my attempt to defend humanity] seems to all amount to distinctions that really can’t be defined, at least not by science.   I believe it is quite clear by faith.  However, a scientific faith is sort of implied and one of Kurzweil’s critics points out this “promissory evidence’ as a weakness.  This is similar to allowing that because Kurzweil’s theory makes sense (to him) and he may have some to it from a theory that is actually credible, this does not make the result credible or the promissory result credible.

Journal 09-15-03

Having Mountain of Silence open while reading Kurzweil has been of great comfort.  It clears my head and reminds me that there is beauty in humanity.  One question that a person in this book asks Fr. Maximos is, “Who is more useful to society: a doctor or a monk?”  Fr. Maximos begins by saying that the question itself is flawed.  At least, he says, “It is characteristics of a modern way of thinking…an activist orientation tot the world”.  That orientation is that people are worthy based on their usefulness instead of who they are, instead of their humanity (if I were referring back to Kurzweil’s arguments).  Fr. Maximos even goes on to say that if we don’t view people first and foremost on who they are”…we run the risk of turning people into machines that produce useful things” (my emphasis).  He also comments on how this type of attitude toward ourselves– and I would add toward others, as well — often leads to psychological problems.

So, I think this is true and even think it follows to Kurzweil’s entire basis.  It is a modern way of thinking, which doesn’t [necessarily] mean it is right.  Another author, Ken Wilbur, claims we can know reality in three ways: eye of the senses (empirical science), eye of reason (philosophy, logic, math), and eye of contemplation (systematic and disciplines spiritual practice to open up the intuitive & spiritual faculties of self)  **unknown source, perhaps Ken Wilber? He goes on to attribute the Western trend to an imbalanced reality toward sense and reason and  away from contemplation.  I think Kurzweil would begin to argue that the eye of contemplation will be within the capabilities of this spiritual machines given the words: systematic and disciplines spiritual practice.  This gives spiritual virtually no meaning at all.  Thus in the  remaining part which defines a bit more of what spirituality is  (open up, intuitive, self) Kurzweil would lose ground.

His modern thought has allowed for viewing humanity in mechanical terms to the extreme.  And I would say that even his critics are victim to the same., as much as they argue the various points of his theory to refute it.  Denton states that “there is no longer any doubt that many biological phenomena are  indeed mechanical and that organisms are analogous to machines at least to some degere”.  The last part (analagous) I can handle, but hwy isn’t it the other way around?  Machines didn’t create biology, so how is it that biology can be described so firmly and coldly as “indeed mechanical”.  Isn’t it rather that we invented machines to do the work we want to do better and thus that machines are more biological?  Did I just say that?  Oh, context, context!  What I mean is the context out of which ideas are brought.  We create machines out of a model of biology, out of a model of ourselves.  Technology, combined with flawed/modern thought process (that thinking of ourselves in terms of usefulness alone) got us to the point of seeing these machines as human-like and allowing that ther inverse is true — that we, as humans, are machine-like.  These are both true, but do not imply a merging of the two, unless you think like Kurzweil.  And you can’t make me!

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