Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Genetic Algorithm Deathmatch

Seeing this Slashdot story on this use of machine learning in a computer game, made me wonder if anyone has tried to do anything like use genetic algorithms to control and evolve AI players in something like a Quake deathmatch?

Chuck a bunch together with random algorithms... the players that survive longer get duplicated and modified. The appealing thing about that is that the players would be in a fairly complex environment, which might help drive towards fairly complex behavior, and that it could be fully automated - the players, the selection and modification. The complexity of the environment includes the 3D environment, other AI players, their strageties, how they handle the various types of situations that come up, etc etc.

I'm not that interested in spending the time to seriously look into this but I did this google search, which seems to include a few such things, such as the work described in this paper.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

A Less Obvious Use of Logging Information

I think a lot of good things could come if applications kept more detailed logging information, as Jon Udell has talked a bit about recently. Imagining the sorts of uses such logging could be put to is difficult, however, I think, and this post is simply about one posisbility.

Temporal organisation of, and access to, of information seems to be pretty powerful. We seem to fairly good at associating things with a time period, or at least a position relative to other temporal items.

I was trying to find some things I'd written somehwere in all my PhD-related files, sometime mid-late last year, but there wasn't any easy way to find them because the temporal information in the system is too meagre.

Windows keeps the date of the last update to a file, but that is not very useful for this purpose. A simplified explanation of why is that even though the majority of the text in a file might have been written back then, I might have made some minor update or change to the file at any time since then, so the date of last update is not really a very good indicator of when text in the file was written.

What I need to be able to do is ask the system when the majortiy of the text (say 70% or more of it) in the file was last updated. Without going into all the sorts of technical issues, if you kept detailed logging information about changes to files, you could do this.

User Interface Principle: Operations Applicable to Representations in Any Context

Here's a user-interface principle: if you can do some operation X to some reprepresentation of some thing, A, in some context, then you should be able to do X to any other representation of A in any other context, unless there is a reason not to. My impression is that in most programs, which of the representations of an item you can perform an operation on is a fairly ad-hoc.

Here's an example of where I'd like such a design. I use Winamp (v5.04) to play MP3 files, and when you search for files, you can right click on an item in the results and choose to move that file to after the current song (being played) in the playlist. But if you right-click a file that's in the playlist itself, there's no option to move it to after the current song, which I often find frustrating.

I'm not up on writings on UI stuff, so I have no idea what might have been written about this kinda idea...

Causes Can be Effects

Causes can be effects

When you find the cause of an effect it's easy to think that's the end of the story, but we need to realise that that cause may itself be an effect of another cause... and so on. The most significant of the causes of an effect may be a number of steps back in this chain.

Monday, June 20, 2005

A Fair Perspective On Increasing Diversity of Choice?

Negative effects of change impinge on our consciousness and we are all prone to seeing this change as those negative effects, and the prior situation in a positive light -- as their absence. We do not compare the positives and negatives of the change against those of the prior situation. Virginia Postrel points out some thinking that's fallen into this trap with respect to the increasing diversity of choice in modern life. (via A&L Daily)

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Aim low and you shall achieve

Sunday, June 12, 2005

A Reciprocal Deal

When naturalistic methods of obtaining knowledge suggest a different view from religious ones, should they respect those views and not try to compete with them? Salmon Rusdie says that it might be fair to answer "yes" but only if there was a reciprocal deal, with a "yes" answer to the flip-side: should religious views respect the naturalistic ones and not try to compete with them?.

Monday, June 06, 2005

Showing Date of Most Recent Contents Modification

It would be good if Windows Explorer could, when it's listing the details of a folder, optionally show the time of the most recent update to the folder's contents. By the most recent update I mean the modification time for the most recently modified file within the folder's (transitive) contents. This way, when I’m backing up folders, I can easily tell whether any changes have been made within a folder since I last backed it up.

Another use for such a detail would be sorting folders based on how recently an update was made to them. I think this would be quite useful, as only a small majority of folders are that actively used, if my experience is anything to go by, and if you equate activity with relevance then such sorting would allow you to more easily focus on these relevant folders and ignore the less relevant ones.