Last Thursday night Sylvia Nasar, author of A Beautiful Mind was on campus as part of a mental health awareness campaign put on by the graduate school. Given the sparse attendance in the large Rackham auditorium I’m not sure whether the awareness campaign is making much headway. The story of John Nash is an interesting one, to be sure, but I’m not sure it’s an encouraging one for graduate students. Nash, for those of you who don’t know, is the Nobel prize winning mathematician who infamously went crazy, schizophrenia to be precise, for thirty odd years after a meteoric rise to a pinnacle of the math world.
I just finished attending a presentation by Steven Bankes at the Complex Systems seminar. Bankes is a part of the Rand Information Sciences Group where he works on computer modeling and policy analysis. His speciality is exploratory modeling His talk basically called for a reframing of how academics use computer models to support decision making by policy leaders. According to Bankes policy leaders and academics are in two different cultures. The academics are concerned with rigorous model building and the policy leaders are just looking for enough robustness in the models to be able to see their own conceptions of the problem.
So another interesting talk at Friday’s ICOS meeting by Eugenia Cacciatori. She has been conducting a lengthy study of an English engineering firm that is adapting to a changing market. In the past the bidding process focused just on the design and construction of a building, now they are being asked to submit proposals that take into account the WLC, or whole-life cost of a building. This change is causing all sorts of confusion and conflict over who controls what information.
Knowledge maps are one of those knowledge management tools that seems perfect in theory but often ends up as a disappointment or a failure. The idea is to collect all of the experience and skills in an organization into a single map, which can be an online database, a directory, or some other repository. In most maps people rate themselves on the skills they posses. The maps usually take the form of a matrix or table listing skills along one dimension and people along the other.
Neil Johnson from Oxford visited Ann Arbor this week and today he gave a talk at the Complex Systems seminar series. He described some very interesting research that his group has been doing to model complex network/agent like systems, such as trading behavior or traffic patterns, guerrilla warfare, and relationship building. His Arxiv papers look very intriguing. It’s interesting to see how physicists have taken to sociometry and agent networks so enthusiastically.
On the tenth of January, I went to my first meeting of Eric Rabkin’s science fiction and fantasy discussion group. The book under discussion was Accelerando by Charles Stross. I first encountered Stross in Asimov’s SF magazine. In fact the novel Accelerando was serialized in Asimov’s. The first story I read was ‘Tourist’, now one of the early chapters in Accelerando. I was blown away. It was some of the best short SF I’d read in a long time.
The Small Things Loosely Connected student group had its kickoff meeting this afternoon. As Brian noted it was a good start to a very interesting endeavor. Michael Cohen mentioned that he had thought more student groups like STLC would have formed at SI before now. I was surprised by the same thing when I first arrived last fall. There are a couple of chapters for student professional organizations such as the ALA, SLA, SOCHI, SIMPLE, but no ad-hoc interest groups.
Last Friday I attended a seminar by Joanne Yates about the history of computing and information management in the insurance industry. The insurance industry has been one of the most technologically advanced over the last 100 years, investing in new information technologies at a rapid clip; they were one of the first industries to use computers after World War Two. But Yates argues that the technophilia goes back even further into the early twentieth century when the latest technology were punch-card tabulators.
One of my oldest friends, Eric House has decided to join the blogosphere, at the Saganaga Experience. I’m a little behind in sending him my congratulations, he started up back in December. Eric is a man of deep faith. I hope we can engage in some constructive dialogs over the coming years. Also in the news, his new daughter, Allison, recently celebrated her baptism back in Minneapolis. Best wishes to the family and here’s to a golden future for his daughter.
Well it’s a new year: 2006, and therefore it must be time to blow up the old site and put something else in place. I’m still using WordPress and have installed the latest version, 2.0, in a brand new instance. So everything from the past is gone, vanished for the moment into Google’s cache. I’m hoping to import past content soon, but time constrains everything. Not to mention the fact that I have the old posts only in a SQL form that is incompatible with the new 2.