FPGA Genetic Algorithms and Random Thoughts

Posted by Chris on December 19th, 2007 filed in Uncategorized

I caught this blog entry, it’s essentially about how we misuse “random” when referring to the strange seeming ways people change focus in a conversation. This portion in particular caught my eye:
“To be fair, the mental leaps people are capable of making can be incredibly subtle and creative, even to the point at which the likeliness of anyone else duplicating the leap is nil, whether with or without the exact same set of information. Don’t call it random. Mental leaps are essential to progress.”

Immediately, for some (random?) reason I thought of the Damn Ineresting article I’d seen some time back about programming FPGAs (Field Programmable Gate Arrays) through generational genetic selection algorithms and the seemingly “random” ways that the final results seemed. It fit in the same way – un-understandable context switching and coming up with acceptable answers in ways not understood yet logical when one steps through them.

Totally neat stuff, and the reference is a perfect example of exactly what the original author is talking about! Also, typing this I think of one entry in the Jargon File (which everyone, I think, goes through a period of reading) talking about hacker personalities. Specifically:
“Although high general intelligence is common among hackers, it is not the sine qua non one might expect. Another trait is probably even more important: the ability to mentally absorb, retain, and reference large amounts of `meaningless’ detail, trusting to later experience to give it context and meaning. A person of merely average analytical intelligence who has this trait can become an effective hacker, but a creative genius who lacks it will swiftly find himself outdistanced by people who routinely upload the contents of thick reference manuals into their brains.”-Jargon File

Again, here is a statement about “randomness” being a good, and even desirable, thing. Flexability and the ability to jump around to a seemingly odd but stil tangentally related idea are *very* important in being able to be creative.

I was trying to work a link to the great hackers article by Paul Graham because I think it’s related somehow – but I can’t think of how it is. Must be a random connection…

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