The color of writhium is a light titanium grey – the new new surface of the electric skin of the world. Each day more edges add to clouds of big data rumbling around in dark halls with blinking lights. The mistakes I’ve made and the memories mislaid. I know where to find them if I’m that keen. But the map of the surface is just writhium.
Last week I was running around like crazy, trying to get stuff done. So many things on at the same time, including organising things for work, managing builders at the house and my dear dad’s birthday. God bless him, he turned 95 and still in pretty good shape, but his memory had definitely been going or fading recently and I’d been out there to his flat quite a bit. Anyway I should have thought of it before, getting him a cake, some things to take around to his flat for instance. In the end I forgot the time and was late when i finally went over there. Even though I’d knocked on the door, he didn’t respond so using my own key, went in, and there he was, had gone to sleep in that hot afternoon, storms and things, with the cricket game still on the TV. Some days things just don’t go right. I didn’t wake him up,but put the cake on the table with some flowers I’d picked up. Nice mix of tulips, to remind him of the old days.
The mobile phone rang…
“Hello John, you there son”
“Yes dad, I’m here, how are you ?”
“Well, not too bad .. ahh… I’m in Alice Springs… I can’t get home ! How come you left me behind ?”
“What do you mean, Alice Springs, how on earth did you get to Alice, out there in the middle of nowhere.”
“Well… I really don’t know. Didn’t you bring me here …? It’s just too hot…. to stay here. They have air conditioning,… but it doesn’t …work”
“No… I didn’t take you to Alice Springs dad…. Who are you with then ?”
“I’m with Connie my sister,…. She is out here. She… lives here. But she must’ve gone out … gone out for a while.
Where are you then ?”
“Dad, I’m in Sydney. I never drove you to Alice Springs. It’s too bloody far anyway, why would i do that ?.. Besides, you can’t possibly be in Alice Springs, you couldn’t catch a flight and there’s no way you can drive there and you’re birthday was last week” – I said
“I don’t know how I got here, but I’m here now and I need to get back.” said dad, getting a bit louder.
Mate, how did he get to Alice Springs, I’m wondering. I look at the phone, it says “DAD” and the number of the call is right. He must have his phone with him. Who would have taken him to Alice ? The idea was crazy.
“Anyway” dad continued, “at least Connie remembered my birthday, which is more than I can say for you !!”
The phone was quiet for a bit.
“Dad, I’m sorry about your birthday, yes I did forget..” I said, feeling a bit like well, actually I hadn’t forgotten, but then he had been asleep at the time.
“Yes ! John !” he said, quite angry now
“What kind of flowers did Connie get you ?”
“Well she got me a nice chocolate cake !. I don’t know who got the flowers. A bunch of tulips.” he said
Ok.. then he thinks he is in Alice Springs with Connie, but actually he is in Sydney in his flat. Perfect. I got in the car and drove round to the flat, kept the phone on handsfree. I’ve never seen people buy tulips in Alice Springs, and it was no doubt the chocolate cake I’d taken around to his flat last week and more significantly Connie had died quite some time back.
“Dad, I’m coming around to see you” I’ll pick you up in my car and take you back home.
“OK Son. At least that’ll be something.. forgetting my birthday.”
It’s strange, I had to smile to myself at least, each of us now comfortable in our own imagined world. I knowing that he was in Sydney, and he, knowing that It was no problem for me to drive the 2700 kilometers through to the red center in the middle of nowhere – Alice Springs. Whereas I said I’d be round in 10 minutes, it would’ve actually taken 30 hours of continuous driving.
“Hey Dad, I’ll pick up some beers along the way, we can watch the cricket for a bit before we come home.”
“OK son, thanks. See you then.”
I flicked it off handsfree, knowing I’d be there in around ten. I knocked on the door of his flat, the TV still on, I went in, there was the cake, untouched, and the flowers, open and wilting in the heat. I walked over to the air conditioner, grabbed the control and turned it back on. That’ll get him back to Sydney I thought, with a smile.
We sat down together, got some beers, and checked the score on the cricket.. for old times sake.
OK Computer – I admit that i am writing this post today, inspired to write this down having seen all sorts of my colleagues come to grief after a few seconds of fun riding mechanical bulls. These bulls seem to be all the rage in Texas at least. I’ve just got back from there, and lets face it, felt a bit more than afraid of getting on one, putting myself in the hands of some kind of cowboy operator with a manual controller, with the crowd screaming:-
“Make it go faster”
And the poor guy falling off after around 3 seconds. Mechanical bull riding seems all about the embarrassment of novices rather than, actually having fun on the bull.. never mind. !
So this innovation is hypothetical, how would you create an unbeatable robot controller, which could not be beaten at arm wrestling, which was evenly matched in brain and brawn to it’s contestant, man or woman, with a beer in hand.
So innovation 11 is a cautious step down this pathway…
Mark I iRobot wrestler has a strong arm, a hand, and a controller managing the arm and it’s own winning strategy. The initial controller is just a proportional controller, or servo regulator, and has a strategy relating to the setpoint or angle of the arm from the vertical.
I step up to the arm, have beer, see the lighted buttons, and plan to select “Right ARM” which is the hand I will use to wrestle the robot.
“Got any change mister ?” says the robot
“Sure”, I say
“Up for a challenge then… bet you can’t beat my arm !” says the robot.
“No worries mate, I wrestle tractors all the time, downunder. You have no chance.” I say.
I sit down, adjust my Akubra, and then just put in the money, select right arm fast, grab the arm and see what happens.
The robot arm instantly starts humming and pushes up to the vertical position. I let it, ‘cos I want to see what it does. So the arm is just sitting there at vertical. I push left, the restoring force on the arm increases directly proportional to the force I use to push it over. The more I push, the more the robot arm leans over, but the more force I have to apply to get it to lean over.
At about 45 degrees to the left, the robot says ” ah I see you are stronger than I thought, I must apply more effort. ”
“No worries I say, go for it ”
The robot arm strategy engine figures that its proportional gain may not be enough since I got it over to 45 degrees, and I challenged it with “No Worries Mate”, something the robot didn’t understand. But correctly guesses it had something to do with confidence, purely by the tone.
So suddenly the force increased and it had pushed my arm back to 22 degrees from centre.
I figured ok, proportional control being used here, because I can just keep on pushing and the robot can never win. I wondered what other tricks it had up it’s sleeve.
after 1 minute the robot says impatiently “Look buddy, I don’t have all day, so I am going to finish this off in about 30 seconds”
I quickly think, 30 seconds, the robot must be going to change the setpoint to 90 degrees against me. So I have 30 seconds to figure out how to defeat this.
I figure, since the robot is currently set to drive the arm to the vertical before the ‘coup de grace’ all I have to do it trick it into driving the arm my direction, and then suddenly I can win.
“Hey Robot, I exclaim, in 10 seconds you will be defeated!”
Before the robot has time to reply, I gradually relax my arm and the robot arm pushes it to vertical, right up in the middle, and at that point there is no force from either me or the robot. I suddenly pull the robot arm past vertical to the point where it is about 10 degrees from winning, I move fast so that the momentum of the arm moving helps move it further before the restoring force catches up. Since it is proportional control, and the robot hasn’t changed the setpoint, the robot controller immediately applies a restoring force to push the arm back to vertical, i.e. going my way, with full force. I suddenly reverse direction and both the robot controller and I are both pushing the arm at full force in my direction.
“Geronimo” I exclaim, the robot arm moves rapidly past vertical in my direction and the momentum of the heavy arm and my force push it over further and further until it hits the table.
“Uncle !” says the robot.. – who taught this thing language ? who the hell is “Uncle” ?
“Mate !.. see thats how it is done. Cheers “.
In proportional control, the controller generates an output or restoring force proportionally equal to the difference between the setpoint and the actual position multiplied by some gain factor.
Generally speaking proportional control is kind of ok, but depending on the disturbance pushing the controlled variable away from the setpoint, you will always have an error, since it is the error which creates the control output. No error, equals no output.
Global warming is a result of a set of complex feedback systems on a planetary scale. The earth has an extraordinary number in of feedback mechanisms and energy transfer systems that tend to balance energy storage worldwide, both in terms of oceanic heat, atmospheric heat and the heat in the more solid components of the earth. It is a relatively closed system with not much coming in and out except perhaps energy from the sun, black body radiation to space.
Models have been developed to simulate and forecast the rise of the heat capacity and temperature of the earth and it’s systems, and the local effects on sea level, and great work of many scientists is starting to reveal the uncomfortable truth that the globe is warming, and we, humans might just be associated with it’s cause. What science now tells us is that global warming is big in scale and has time factors relating to centuries, or many generations, rather than one or even a fraction of a generation.
Let’s say we readers and all few billions of us on the planet know, that we have a causal relationship to the rate of warming, and that as the planet warms further, our children are likely to suffer on mass as a result.
This knowledge is enough for us to be concerned, but not enough to change our behaviour. Our evolution is not that way inclined. We tend to change behaviour based on experience, and generally only if we believe a change in behaviour results in a fairly immediate observable impact on our lives and the lives of those around us.
Global warming is big, its’ long term, and for human endeavour to try to change the outcome for the better, we would all need to act. All people, towns, cities, states, countries, regions.
We have seen that classic governmental lines of control do not cause massive coordinated change in human behaviour worldwide. However we have also seen that social networking is universal, carried by the internet, and does provide some means of at least coordinating thought in the right direction.
We have seen evidence of global coordination with the rise of ‘earth hour’ which now travels around the planet, country by country, one day a year to promote reduction of power. The internet allows for this kind of coordination and action, whereby people can get some kind of feedback related to their behaviour.
Is it possible then, that with global internet availability, that this provides people with an opportunity to coordinate globally in terms of global requirements and resolutions. That the internet would provide at least a mechanism to allow like minded people to gather global support for a particular urgent behaviour.
There is a new campaign to make an immediate behavioural change in Australia, for a carbon tax. This is sponsored by a #sayyes campaign also as a tag on twitter. It remains to be seen whether it can get enough steam to cause a revolution, but it is on the Internet, and anyone, Australian or otherwise could have a say.