Thursday, February 22, 2018

Today I am on strike

Today I am on strike.

I will not unlock my office door shortly before 9am, dump my bag and coat on a chair, pull out my laptop and plug it in, sit down at my desk. I will not check my email and respond to messages from students, from colleagues, from admin staff.

I will not make a cup of tea, and settle down with a piece of scratch paper to jot down notes for my afternoon lecture, beginning with the skeleton outline I'll put up on my board at the start, and outline that begins with "Questions?" and ends with "Questions?".

I will not upload the answer key to the homework assignment that at that moment will be being discussed by the final discussion group of the week. I will not update my textbook, expanding on the sections that I'll be lecturing on and adding examples and explanatory text in all the places where students have said "I'd really find it useful if you said more here."

I will not have scampi, chips, and salad and a pot of tea at the Dun Cow, my Thursday lunch ritual, the one day I don't have chilli and garlic bread. While eating lunch, I won't be going over my notes one last night to make sure I've got everything I need in my head.

I will not stand in front of ~80 students and answer any last questions they might have about translating in and out of predicate logic. I will not teach them how to calculate free and bound occurrences of variables, I will not teach them how to perform substitution, or when substitution is allowed. I made sure next week's homework assignment was written early enough to be uploaded yesterday. They'll have to work through the textbook definitions on their own.

I will not race back to my office after lecture to dedicate the next hour to my own research. I won't skype with a colleague or work towards any of the upcoming deadlines I have.

I will not hold office hours. I will not meet with my first-year students to discuss their questions about the material I just taught them, or with my third-year students with questions about upcoming material. I will not meet with my undergraduate supervisees to discuss their final year dissertations, due at the beginning of next term. I will not spend any downtime reading the drafts they've sent me and writing up comments on them. I will not meet with my PhD supervisees, some just starting out, some nearing the end. I won't read any of their work either.

I will not spend the final 15 minutes of my work day checking email one last time. Maybe it's new graduate applications that I won't be reviewing and making decisions on. Maybe it's an email from a student who can't make office hours but wants to set up a time to meet. Maybe it's an invitation to give a talk at another university, or to write a paper for a special venue.

I will not pack up my laptop, drain the rest of my tea -- now cold -- collect the things that have been strewn over the office, put my hat and coat back on, step outside my office and lock the door again.

Writing all of this out makes me feel horrible. It makes me feel like a horrible person, and I hope that I'm not. I don't strike because I want to. I don't strike because I approve of the consequences. I don't strike because I'm fine with sacrificing my students and their future for my future and that of my future students. I'm not fine with it, I'm not fine with it at all.

But I'm even less fine with the alternative. So, today, I am on strike.

Friday, February 9, 2018

New paper published

My paper with Tarek R. Besold, "Normative and descriptive rationality: from nature to artifice and back", is now available online from the Journal of Experimental & Theoretical Artificial Intelligence


Rationality plays a key role in both the study of human reasoning and Artificial Intelligence (AI). Certain notions of rationality have been adopted in AI as guides for the development of intelligent machines and these notions have been given a normative function. The notions of rationality in AI are often taken to be closely related to conceptions of rationality in human contexts. In this paper, we argue that the normative role of rationality differs in the human and artificial contexts. While rationality in human-focused fields of study is normative, prescribing how humans ought to reason, the normative conception in AI is built on a notion of human rationality which is descriptive, not normative, in the human context, as AI aims at building agents which reason as humans do. In order to make this point, we review prominent notions of rationality used in psychology, cognitive science, and (the history of) philosophy, as well as in AI, and discuss some factors that contributed to rationality being assigned the differing normative statuses in the differing fields of study. We argue that while ‘rationality’ is a normative notion in both AI and in human reasoning, the normativity of the AI conception of ‘rationality’ is grounded in a descriptive account of human rationality.

Keywords: Artificial intelligence, cognitive systems, philosophy, human reasoning, rationality, normativity

Thursday, February 1, 2018

January Writing Wrap-Up

January was nowhere near as prolific as some months, but I still managed to average 740 words a day, for a total of 22956, and I still managed to write 5 out of every 7 days. Looking at the graph is quite interesting: You can tell exactly when term started, and my writing output went from fiction and blogs (mostly reviews for to admin and nonfiction. Also: Good luck trying to get any writing done on Fridays! For awhile, the nonfiction nearly edged out everything else in terms of productivity, but admin this month has involved a lot of letters of recommendation and answer keys to homeworks and exams, so eventually it crept ahead:

One of my goals over Christmas break was to finish up a number of short stories and submit them, and I'm very pleased to report that I did. Between January 5 and January 25 I sent off 5 short stories. I have a couple others cooking along for some deadlines this month and next.

A paper that I co-authored with a colleague last year was accepted at the end of December, and we received proofs for it last week. A paper that we wrote during October and November received a revise and resubmit last week as well, and we're currently working on a third paper towards a Feb. 15 deadline. In addition to those, I've got a number of papers I've promised to write for conferences, edited volumes, and special journal issues, so plenty to keep me busy over the next few months! I hope February is slightly more productive than January; I hope to both have less admin to work on, and less outside stress so that I'm not too tired to write fiction in the evenings.

Monday, January 1, 2018

December writing wrap-up

I'm happy with my writing progress in December. Overall, I wrote 26,334 words, which is drastically less than November (expected), but still better than September (satisfying), and I managed to meet my goal of at least 400 words a day every 5 out of 7 days (albeit some days just barely). The words were pretty evenly split:

  • Blogs: 6994, mostly reviews for I'm working my way through an anthology that has a lot of quite short stories in it, which makes for some short reviews -- but it also makes for quick reviews to write.
  • Fiction: 8008. I've got a couple of short story venues opening in January that I have ideas for, and one of my commitments to myself for the Christmas break was to actually write the damn stories. Some are taking more time than others (and require more fighting, as can be seen by the many days where I barely got 50 words on paper), but while in Iowa the last few days, I managed to figure out the voice for "The Simurgh's Daughter," and I might finish up a draft of it tonight (barring jetlag). Base 8 is still being mentally revised to figure out exactly what the story is, but jetlag was good for that, as I spent a lot of time lying in bed mapping out the plot.
  • Nonfiction: 4308. Not as much as I would've hoped for, but unlike previous months I haven't had a journal paper to write or revise, so pretty much all the words went into my textbook. (And the work of previous months paid off: December 23 I woke to an acceptance of a paper that had already undergone a few major revisions and was at its second journal.)
  • Admin: 7024. It's examining/recommendation letter season, so that contributed a lot.

What I find most fascinating in the chart above is that you can clearly see the four weeks of the month, and you can also clearly see when term ended. In the first two weeks, I've got a pretty high and pretty varied writing output each day, but was definitely struggling on some of the weekends (thanks to birthday parties and Christmas shopping). Then term ended and we've got week three, during which G. was home from school all week and I was in Oxford Monday and Tuesday examining an MA. Those two light blue bars from the end of the week were me writing up the post-defense report while G. played legos next to me at the kitchen table. I'm quite pleased that I managed to do that before we left for the US, which is what took up week four. Week four I'm mostly pleased that I managed to write fiction EVERY DAY, including Christmas Day which involved 12 hours flying and arrival at my sister's place in the US in mid afternoon.

So bring on January and 2018!

Sunday, December 31, 2017

New Year's Resolutions

I may be jumping the gun a bit seeing as I haven't yet done my end-of-year recap, but the year hasn't quite ended yet, so I figure I'm good.

My resolutions for 2018 are going to be a bit different from previous years. While those resolutions worked well for me in those particular times, I'm not sure that the "submit one item per month or 12 over the course of the year" metric is the right now going forward -- the reasons why will become clear when I write up the end-of-year report and explain why/how I did/didn't meet my 2017 resolution. So last night while I was lying in bed, I thought about what alternative resolutions I might want to adopt instead, and what I decided on boiled down to these:

  • Read more stuff.
  • Write more stuff.
  • Make more stuff.
  • Do more stuff.
  • Hug more stuff.

For where I'm at and how 2018 will be shaping up, that's good enough for me.

Friday, December 1, 2017

November writing wrap-up

November was a rather hectic month. I opted in to NaNoWriMo again, not with a single novel but with the goal of completing a draft of a novella, Base 8, aiming for around 36k, and then using the rest of the 50k to develop my other novel, The Queen's Memory. But I was also going to continue doing the Any Good Thing writing challenge, which is 400 words per day for 5 out of every 7 days. BUT to make things harder (!), I was not going to let my NaNo words count for AGT. Thus, this set me up for needing to write just over 2000 words a day 5 days a week, plus 1667 on the weekends.

It was a crazy month of writing, but I did it. And I am so damn pleased with myself.

I wrote every day in November except for the 11th, which was G.'s birthday and we were in Delft for an SCA event; by the time we got back, late that night, to where we were staying, I was too exhausted to write anything. I wrote fiction every day except for two -- the 11th and one other day when teaching was hard and exhausting and I scraped together about 500 words of admin and nonfiction, and then just couldn't do anything more. If you miss two days of NaNo, it's hard to catch back up, but I did. I overshot the 1667 goal every day after I missed those two, so that when yesterday came around, I had only 1492 words left.

I averaged 2567 words per day over the course of November, and even though there were a few days where I dipped, never did my per-day-calculated average drop below 2k, which I am enormously proud of. One of my goals this year was to prove that I can indulge myself in my fiction writing without sacrificing my academic trajectory, and this is proof.

I wrote 77,034 words last month. Here's how things broke down:

  • Admin: Writing homework assignments and answer keys, letters of recommendation, reports for internal purposes, abstracts for conferences, etc.: 7096 words, about 300 more than last month. That's pretty steady.
  • Nonfiction: 11822 words. This is down from last month, but that's because last month I had a paper deadline that I was frantically writing towards. This month, pretty much all of my nonfiction words went straight in What Is Logic?, the textbook I am writing, which is suddenly reaching a point where the chapters that I primarily use to teach from are basically complete. Next year, I expect to have very little to do/add.
  • Blogs: 8116 words. This is a combination of Mystery Monday posts for the blog of the Dictionary of Medieval Names from European Sources and reviews for, most of which will be published in February given our current queue, but one post at Medieval Logic and Semantics ended up over 3000 words, and is very nearly a draft of a paper. I almost counted that one as nonfiction rather than blog.
  • Fiction: I did it. 50,000 words, on the dot.
    Base 8 is in a condition where I can almost dignify it with the label "draft". It needs a bunch of scenes woven together; I need to pin down the precise details of the mythology and start working them in from the start; and when I do that, I think one final point of conflict will resolve (in the sense that I will have a point of conflict, rather than have no point at that point, where I need conflict). Then it's just a matter of deepening everyone's relationships, making sure two particular arcs are strong, believable, and organic; getting all the interstitial bits right; and then sending it out to beta readers. The Queen's Memory, on the other hand is now about 14k bigger than it had been (started the month around 5k), with a couple more chapters inserted into the skeleton, but as evidence of the fact that I don't yet have my hands on the grips of a plot, pretty much the majority of that 14k is characters talking. It's a useful exercise, because it has helped me narrow in on what the story is about, but I suspect in the end the vast majority of those words will not make it into the final draft. But, hey, that's what the drafting process -- and NaNoWriMo -- is all about.

I'm going to take it somewhat easier in December, but I would love to aim for the same 400 words of admin/blogs/nonfic five out of every seven days, plus 400-500 words of fiction every day. I've got a couple of short story ideas in mind, and some potential deadlines coming up. But I could also use a bit of a rest!

Here's the comparison of November with September and October. I like the way this increase looks.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Women in late 19th/early 20th C Foundations of Mathematics

This post is essentially a scaffolding post for me to collect names and primary and secondary literature relating to women who worked in foundations of mathematics in the late 19th/early 20th C. The topic of today's post is actually something that came up in my 3rd year seminar last spring; I asked for input on the Foundations of Math mailing list, got a bunch of excellent replies, and never did anything with the material. I finally am now because I have the opportunity of soliciting some advanced undergraduate for short-term research projects, and would like to create at least one such project involving these women. Who are they, what did they do, what can we do to get their names better known?

  1. Alice Ambrose Lazerowitz wrote on logic and mathematical philosophy, and was a student of Wittgenstein.
  2. Marjorie Lee Browne wrote on set theory and logic.
  3. Izydora Dąmbska studied logic under Kazimierz Twardowski.
  4. Hilda Geiringer von Mises wrote on the geometrical foundations of mechanics.
  5. Olga Hahn-Neurath was a member of the Vienna Circle who worked in boolean algebras.
  6. Ellen Amanda Hayes taught logic.
  7. Grace Brewster Murray Hopper worked in the foundations of computation.
  8. Janina Hosiasson-Lindenbaum wrote on inductive logic and was the first person to publish on the ravens paradox.
  9. Sof'ja Aleksandrovna Janovskaja was Director of the Mathematical Logic Seminar at Moscow State University.
  10. Emily Elizabeth Constance Jones defended Frege against Russell's criticisms in a reply to "On Denoting".
  11. Lyudmila Keldysh was a set theorist and topologist.
  12. Christine Ladd-Franklin was a student of Peirce's, and was originally denied a PhD by Johns Hopkins because she was a woman.
    • Russinoff, I.S., 1999, "The Syllogism's Final Solution", Bulletin of Symbolic Logic 5 (4): 451-469.
  13. Susanne Langer wrote a dissertation on Whitehead and published on type theory in the 1920s.
  14. Ruth Moufang wrote on foundations of geometry.
  15. Emmy Noether is responsible for a generalisation of mathematical induction known as Noetherian induction or well-founded induction.
  16. Eleanor Pairman worked in foundations of calculus, and also in early computing theory.
  17. Rózsa Péter wrote the first book in recursion theory and contributed to the field.
  18. Susan Stebbing was one of the first people to write a logical textbook incorporating the new material of Russell and Whitehead.
    • Beaney, Michael & Siobhan Chapman, 2017. "Susan Stebbing", Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Summer 2017 edition.
  19. Wanda Szmielew worked on the Axiom of Choice and proved the decidability of the first-order theory of abelian groups.
  20. Victoria Welby's significs, an analysis of communicative acts, was foundational to Brouwer's development of intuitionism.
    • Welby, V., 1896, "Sense, Meaning and Interpretation", Mind, N.S. 5(17): 24-37; (18): 186-202.
  21. Dorothy Maud Wrinch was a mathematician influenced by Russell's mathematical logic.
  22. Sofya Yanovskaya worked in the history and philosophy of mathematics, and was a host to Ludwig Wittgenstein when he visited Russia in the 1930.
  23. Grace Chisholm Young did research in set theory.

Not everyone on this list can be described as working in foundations, strictly speaking, but all of them were working logic and mathematics with a philosophical bent between roughly 1870 and 1940, and thus I'm happy to include them in the list.

Many thanks to Liam Kofi Bright, Gabriel Citron, Patrik Eklund, Richard Heck, Tatiana Levina, Alice ter Meulen, Aleksandra Samonek, Jeff Sarnat, Mate Szabo, and Rineke Verbrugge, who all contributed information in the list above.