The self exists and the intersection of our inner neural network and our external social network. That is a loose approximation of what Dr. Jeremy Holmes said in the opening plenary address to the 2008 American Group Psychotherapy Association's annual conference. The phrase has rattled around in my mind ever since, as I walk back and forth from my friends' house where I was staying, as I drifted off to sleep, and at other times when my mind wasn't otherwise activated. What does it mean?

I've always been interested in how artificial neural networks learn. In a simple model, input is fed in through the neural network. The inputs are multiplied by various factors until an end result is obtained. The predicted result is then compared with the actual result and changes are back propagated through the artificial neural network to adjust the factors in the network. I've often wondered if this process of back propagation could be applied to the online social networks we are in. Social networks often represent relationships as binary symmetrical values. Either two people trust each other, or they don't. Either two people are friends, or they are not. In reality, one person may trust the other more or less than they are trusted by the other. What if our online social networks gave us the ability to quantify such trusts? What if they used such information to predict friendships and ideas that would be interesting to us? What if they learned from our reaction to such predictions?

I've thought and written about this for years, but I just haven't been able to get anywhere with it. My mind wanders to Mr. Ramsey in Virginia Woolf's To The Lighthouse. Mr. Ramsey is a bright scholar, but he is stuck. He cannot get beyond R. These thoughts about the self existing at the intersection of our internal neural networks and our external social networks have brought back my thoughts about artificial neural networks and online social networks, but I feel stuck at R with them, along with Mr. Ramsey.

Random Stuff

Last night I had a fairly prosaic dream. I was using some sort of PDA which a friend grabbed to show me how to do something on, and he accidentally reset it, deleting all the data. The rest of the dream was about backing up various PDAs.

It has been an uneventful day as I read through emails that have piled up. I may have a few summary posts about them coming as well.

On top of that, I'm feeling particularly run down. Some of it may simply be recuperating from the trip, but I may have picked up a virus along the way. I've been coughing a lot and my throat is scratchy.

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Does Size Matter?

As I try to catch up on all the emails that have piled up in my in box while I was on the road, I was struck by an interesting juxtaposition.

From: Suren espiritu
Subj: Increasing your size and girth in just 1 simple step - GUARANTEED.

followed by,

From: Bill Clinton
Subj: What matters in this race

In just 24 hours, you closed the $1.3 million advertising gap with Obama this week. In response, their campaign has bought another $1.9 million worth of airtime.

For Hillary to win on March 4, we must close this gap -- and we have to do it quickly. We cannot let this race be decided by Obama's spending advantage on the air.

The email goes on to say, "So let's show the Obama campaign that they can't win this race just by throwing more money at it."

Um, how are they going to do this, by throwing more money at it? Maybe what matters in this race is size.

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This morning, I woke up in the midst of yet another strange dream. It seems like I have a lot to process from the AGPA conference. In this dream, I was part of a small group of people that were engaged in a war. It had overtones of the 1950s and the cold war. The enemy was ambiguous, unknown. It felt almost as if we were kids playing at war, or perhaps like the kids in Lord of the Flies, and I never saw the enemy. At night we all laid down in a circle around a roaring campfire, each of us facing outward to guard against whatever it was that was out there.

It was then that I noticed, not far away was a large safe house, which reinforced the feeling of being kids on some camping adventure. Beyond the house was the sea. It was dark and mysterious. There was no moon or stars in the sky. Yet the sea was inviting and I went for a swim, not knowing about the water I was getting into and staying close enough to shore to keep an eye on the house and the campfire, as well as watching for any of the enemy.

Immersed in this mysterious, deep dark see, I awoke before there was any sort of resolution.

I am sure that wiser people than I will come up with interpretations of what this is about.

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Questioning CNN's Patriotism

During the 2004 Republican National Convention, MSNBC had a poll asking if Rudy Giuliani’s speech reassured you or moved you to support President Bush, as if those were the only two choices. In response, I created this poll.

Recently, CNN took a page from this playbook and had a poll questioning Sen. Barack Obama’s patriotism. It seems like my poll questioning whether MSNBC has any journalistic integrity left could equally apply to CNN. Perhaps we should be asking if Wolf Blitzer has stopped beating his secret lover or if he is now, or ever has been, a member of the Communist party.

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