Thursday, February 21, 2008

Communicating Ideas is Too Hard!

I was reading Wikipedia today, and I wound up reading an article that I have read several times already, mostly because I want to understand the idea but I never do. It was about "Computational Complexity". Believe it or not, there is a mathematical way to measure how complicated a particular job or task is. Any task, not just computer tasks. Anything from washing clothes to building a rocket ship, long as the problem can be explained as a computer program (and anything the human mind is capable of understanding can be described as a program), then it can have it's complexity measured, and even classified into a paricular group of similar problems. And I was very frustrated to find that I didn't understand anything from this article.

I am not sure when it was that I first realized this, but I am certain there is not a single concept known to mankind that I could not also know, provided that I am wiling to spend the time trying to understand the idea. The problem is, even concepts that are fairly well known to other professionals in my field, like this computational complexity thing for instance, takes me such a very long time to understand when others seem to be able to understand it in half the time.

Once I spend like 90 minutes talking with one of my teachers about "bisimularity" (another computer related term) and didn't get anywhere. Yes, I live in Japan, and no it had nothing to do with the language barrier. Its just the guy couldn't answer the simplest questions -- why does anyone care about "bisimularity" at all, what is it used for, what kinds of problems does it solve, and how, and what do these equasions have to do with any of it? Sure, simple questions can have complex answers, but he could at least have given be an example. Now I know, but I had to read a couple of other text books and a few dozen other internet articles about the topic before I now am finally stating to understand what bismilarity is all about. If I could go back in time and explain it to myself I know exactly what I would say to myself to make myself understand. But I can't, and so far haven't been able to find a mentor who can expalin things to me in a way that I can understand.

I was thinking to myself today, really the reason I chose my line of research was because I am hoping to build some kind of companion -- maybe a database of facts, or a computer which can answer any question, anything to help me learn the answers to the hundreds of questions I have. I am kind of hoping to build a mechanical brain that knows more than humans just so I can ask it questions and have it explain the answers to me. I guess this is just because I have been a bit frustrated lately with how some of these questions I have, which are already well understood, where entire textbooks have been written on them explaining the concepts, I still don't know the answer to these questions. So I am hoping I can build a super-smart computer program that can read an entire textbook and immediately get it, and then exaplain it to me in a way that I understand. I am tired of asking people questions. It seems like the smarter someone is, the worse they are at explaining things. This is understandable. If you were to ask me a simple question about how a computer works, you would probably get a who bunch of unintelligible jargon and facts about computers without learning a thing about them. And it's like that with most smart people I know.

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