Wednesday, January 28, 2009

from the february 2009 issue of harper's magazine.

By chance, of course

By Wendell Berry. His essay “Faustian Economics”appeared in the May issue of Harper’s Magazine.
while attending the annual convocation of cause theorists and bigbangists at the local provincial research university, the mad farmer intercedes from the back row

“Chance” is a poor word among
the mazes of causes and effects, the last
stand of these all-explainers who,
backed up to the first and final Why,
reply, “By chance, of course!” As if
that tied up ignorance with a ribbon.
In the beginning something by chance
existed that would bang and by chance
it banged, obedient to the by-chance
previously existing laws of existence
and banging, from which the rest proceeds
by logic of cause and effect also
previously existing by chance? Well,
when all that happened who was there?
Did the chance that made the bang then make
the Bomb, and there was no choice, no help?
Prove to me that chance did ever
make a sycamore tree, a yellow-
throated warbler nesting and singing
high up among the white limbs
and the golden leaf-light, and a man
to love the tree, the bird, the song
his life long, and by his love to save
them, so far, from all the machines.
By chance? Prove it, then, and I
by chance will kiss your ass.

Sunday, January 18, 2009


now back to my fascination with evolving ourselves into extinction...i heard an interesting show on kuow the other day about "swarming." ('re researching swarming instincts and how to translate that into robots. seriously.

Scalable sWarms of Autonomous Robots and Mobile Sensors (SWARMS) project. The SWARMS project brings together experts in artificial intelligence, control theory, robotics, systems engineering and biology with the goal of understanding swarming behaviors in nature and applications of biologically-inspired models of swarm behaviors to large networked groups of autonomous vehicles. Our main goal is to develop a framework and methodology for the analysis of swarming behavior in biology and the synthesis of bio-inspired swarming behavior for engineered systems. We will be interested in such questions as: Can large numbers of autonomously functioning vehicles be reliably deployed in the form of a “swarm” to carry out a prescribed mission and to respond as a group to high-level management commands? Can such a group successfully function in a potentially hostile environment, without a designated leader, with limited communications between its members, and/or with different and potentially dynamically changing “roles” for its members? What can we learn about how to organize these teams from biological groupings such as insect swarms, bird flocks, and fish schools? Is there a hierarchy of “compatible” models appropriate to swarming/schooling/flocking which is rich enough to explain these behaviors at various “resolutions” ranging from aggregate characterizations of emergent behavior to detailed descriptions which model individual vehicle dynamics?
Vijay KumarUniversity of Pennsylvania.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009