Mamikon's Psychic Computer Program?
Mamikon's Attractor Puzzle
Here's an old joke about a hypothetical employment ad:
You know where to apply.
Now here's a bigger question: Is it possible for a computer program to read your mind?
Mathematician extraordinaire Mamikon Mnatsakanian has written a seemingly simple computer animation that's a contender for the next big breakthrough in Artificial Intelligence. Or is it? You be the judge.
Here's what to do. First, burn some incense. The Computer Gods prefer Sandalwood. Put your fingertips on your temples, while chanting, "Om."
This will prime your Subconscious, and clear away any negative vibrations in your immediate surroundings.
The animation starts out with a picture of a dark chocolate cake. Mentally concentrate on a randomly chosen point on the cake. Next click the mouse anywhere on the page. The program will divide the cake into two unequal parts.
The amazing thing is that most of the time, the point that you've chosen will be within the bigger slice, which will be your piece. The Computer Gods will have to be content with the smaller piece. Here's a LINK to Mamikon's animation. Go ahead, take it for a test-drive.
The Force will be with you when you've concentrated sufficiently hard.
To quote Mamikon,
"In other words, your chosen point attracts mostly a bigger slice."
You can even make a game out of it. You and a Doubting Thomas friend can divvy up a small bag of unshelled almonds into two equal portions. Each time you 'attract' the larger piece, you win an almond from Thomas' pile. When you fail, Thomas wins the almond from your pile. At the end of one hour of play, see who has the larger pile of almonds.
Do you think that it's possible for a computer that's not in physical contact with you to read your innermost thoughts?
Wet Blanket Larry's take
We silly humans are genetically programmed to perceive patterns, because of the inherent survival value of this ability. The flip side is that our conclusion-jumping tendencies can lead to false positives. Sometimes we see non-existent patterns in random processes, and draw sweeping conclusions from them.
The classic example is 'seeing' faces in clouds. We tend to see that which we want to see, or expect to see. Centuries ago, lonely sailors looked at Dugongs and Manatees, but they 'saw' mermaids instead. Wishful thinking is similar to a more general phenomenon that psychologists call confirmation bias.
We take notice of that which is consistent with strongly held beliefs, and we pooh-pooh the anomalies. This is true even in the physical sciences--especially in Global Warming 'studies'.
Natural geologic processes have carved out an impressive array of shapes and patterns, some of which are best appreciated when flying overhead in an airplane. The aerial view of the Badlands Guardian (aka the Earth Face) in SE Alberta is particularly striking. Click HERE for the picture.
What are the odds against that happening from natural causes? Unfortunately this question cannot be answered. We don't have enough information to do a calculation, or even to write a tautology, like the Drake Equation of which ET buffs are so fond.
We theoretical scientists have a built-in bias that favors simple, natural explanations over complex ones. This principle is enshrined in Occams Razor.
But if it makes one happy, it's still possible to believe that the Badlands Guardian was deliberately created by Timelords from Gallifrey.
Mamikon's computer animation exploits another human foible as well. Most of us have notoriously poor intuitions for probabilities. I've noticed an increase in the number of shootings reported in the media recently. Does this mean that gun violence in the USA is increasing dramatically, and that we've got to "do something" about evil firearms?
Actually, firearm homicides in the USA have been declining for some time. In general, the dramatic pictures painted by the infotainment media may or may not correspond to reality.
If we want to grok the truth about murder trends, we need to ignore the scary headlines, and to look at the actual statistics instead. And for people without a mathematical background, interpreting the statistics is sometimes easier said than done.
Many people are content with this famous Mark Twain quote.
There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics.
Anyway, Mamikon's counter-intuitive Attractor animation randomly slices the cake into two unequal pieces. By the luck of the draw, you have a greater-than-even chance of landing on the larger piece. For all of the above reasons, we're inclined to see a cause-and-effect relationship that does not exist.
On the other hand, it would be quite remarkable if your chosen point landed on the smaller slice more than half the time. Then Mamikon's simple animation could qualify as a psychic computer program. The other explanation for this hypothetical scenario is that you have impressive psychic abilities.
Although Mamikon comes from Armenia, he has a very Irish sense of humor. When he is pulling your leg, he pulls hard! That said, Mamikon is one of the most honorable people I know. His intention in the Attractor puzzle is to foster nonstandard thinking on the part of his readers. Mamikon feels that depriving his readers of the passionate purple pleasure of self-guided discovery, would not be very sporting.
On the other hand, my position is quite different. I feel the need to add something to Mamikon's brilliant puzzle, in order to make this hub my very own. And there's only one way for me to do that. They don't call me Wet Blanket Larry for nothing!
Copyright 2012 and 2013 by Larry Fields