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Sunday, September 19, 2004

The Local Maxima

Words always fascinate me. So do concepts as well as the link between the two. Once again, I can't resist the temptation to quote another dialog from The Matrix:

Neo: I just have never...
Rama-Kandra: ...heard a program speak of love?
Neo: It's a... human emotion.
Rama-Kandra: No, it is a word. What matters is the connection the word implies. I see that you are in love. Can you tell me what you would give to hold on to that connection?
Neo: Anything.
Rama-Kandra: Then perhaps the reason you're here is not so different from the reason I'm here.

In the last semester at FAST, we had a course on Artificial Intelligence. Though the words "Artificial" and "Intelligence" are themselves so deep and combining them gives an exotic meaning, there were many other exciting ideas within this course.

One of these ideas, introduced to us by the lecturer, Vaqar Khamisani, is that of searching for the Local Maxima. In simple terms, it's like finding a mountain which has the highest peak in the vicinity and climbing that peak. Once you reach there and look around, you might feel that you have reached at the top. But, have you? Isn't there some other mountain higher than this? Would you go on and search for that other mountain or would you become satisfied with what you have?

OK. The mountain example is not so good because everyone knows that The Everest is the highest peak. How about finding the best birthday greeting card in the world? Would you ever try doing that or would you be satisfied with the best birthday greeting card within a shop? Most people will say that they have bought the best card while they actually have found merely a local maxima.

I personally believe that there is nothing wrong with being a local maxima for some time and then one should look for a local maxima somewhere else. But there is no need to be a global maxima - it would require lots and lots of effort and the result won't be equally rewarding. Of course, if you would like to be a global maxima in 3D, why don't add the dimension of time, which after all is the 4th dimension?

Combing back to the present situation, I have found a local maxima in Dependable Computer Systems at Chalmers University of Technology. He is Danko Ilik and he would be really surprised if he reads this :)

To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And be opposing end them? To die: to sleep;
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to, 'tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish'd. To die, to sleep;
To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub;
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause: there's the respect
That makes calamity of so long life;

(Hamlet by William Shakespeare)