Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Psychology Of Luck

Jack Dikian

Jan 2004

A look at what people want, what they feel they never have enough of, and wonder whether they can make their own. We are talking about the simple concept of LUCK.

Work identifying characteristics of lucky people, the law of attraction, and descriptions citing how so called lucky people place emphasis and focus on the positive aspects of their life as - compared to people who consider themselves unlucky and are more likely to focus on negative thoughts and behaviors has been covered in the work of Marc Myers outlining myths about luck in his book How to Make Luck: 7 Secrets Lucky People Use to Succeed. There, a number of myths about luck is dispelled. For example, is good luck just another word for hard work and determination or can people improve their luck, by actively seeking to meet the “right” people.

I’m particularly interested in the question of whether people can influence good luck. Can people for example take some of the randomness out of being luck by taking a direct or a particular approach over certain life options.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Turing machines and mind

Jack Dikian

May 2001

This paper provides a review of the idealized model for mathematical calculations (Turing Machine) and our understating of neural level structures. The author also developed a Turing Machine emulator running on DEC's PDP11.


Briefly, Alan Turing, a British mathematician and cryptographer invented (or more accurately) described the Turing machine in 1937 as a tool for studying the computability of mathematical functions and serve as an idealized model for mathematical calculations. This can be regarded as the first computer, albeit, on paper. Alan Turning called this device an “a(utomatic)-machine”

A Turing machine can be thought of as an abstract system with an infinite line of cells (known as a tape) that consists of adjacent cells. Each cell contains a written symbol. The symbols (including blanks) that are allowed on the tape are finite in number and characterised by their own character-set. These determine the symbols that are allowed to be written/read on the tape.

The tape head or the active element is positioned over a cell and reads a symbol from a cell and may write a new symbol onto a cell. The active element can move to an adjacent cell, either to the left or to the right carrying a property known as a "state". Change to this state is known as the "color" of the active cell underneath it.

The Machinery

The machinery of this theoretical device is a list of "transitions" that, given a current state and a symbol under the head, dictates what should be written on the tape, what state the machine should enter, and whether the head should move left or right.

The Theory

Although it is composed of basic capabilities, Turing argued that this machine can perform any computation. That is, it could realize anything that results from state-transition-based operations. Later, Turing conceptualized the mind itself as a result of operations at the neural level, thus progressing discussion in artificial intelligence studies.

Turing's hypothesis (also known as Church's thesis) is a widely held belief that a function is computable if and only if it can be computed by a Turing machine. This implies that Turing machines can solve any problem that a modern computer routine can solve. There are problems that can not be solved by a Turing machine (e.g., the Halting Problem and see NP­Completeness); thus, these problems can not be solved by a modern computer program. Turing proved in 1936 that a general algorithm to solve the Halting problem for all possible program-input pairs cannot exist. It is said that the halting problem is un-decidable over Turing machines.

Turing machines that are able to simulate other Turing machines are known as Universal Turing Machines. A more mathematical interpretation with similar "universal" properties was developed by Alonzo Church whose work on Lambda calculus intertwined with Turing's in computations known as the Church-Turing thesis supporting the idea that these machines provide a precise definition of an algorithm.

Turing's hypothesis and human-mind connection

One way to know that a simple mechanism has the same computational capabilities as a Turing machine is to see if it can emulate a Turing machine. Indirectly, it shows that humans are also Turing machines since we can emulate them.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Using an emergent approach to identifying issues of concern

Jack Dikian


Using an emergent approach to identifying issues of concern

This paper examines a process of collecting and making meaning of information using an iterative approach based upon methods oriented in allowing information to emerge gradually as the study unfolds. As the study continues, the information and meaning is progressively refined.

Information is gathered by seeking general data at first and over time moving to the more specific. It may be that a number of passes is required to gain the required level of detail and understanding. Initial interviews, file reviews, and data gathering methods might be to establish broad context. As the series of interviews and other data collection methods progresses and the reviewer begins to gain a greater level of detail, evidence and understanding, subsequent discussions become more and more focused on validation of ideas and conclusions.

Constant comparison of gathered information is key to this process

Information gathered from one group of staff can be compared with information gathered from another. Information can be compared with stated expectations as well as good practice in any one field. Information comparison can lead the reviewer to seek exceptions, and further explanations in order to better understand the situation as illustrated above.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Systemic consultations for challenging behaviour


Journal of Intellectual Disability Research

© 2008 The Authors. Journal Compilation © 2008 Blackwell Publishing Ltd

Systemic consultations for challenging behaviour: Beyond mediator and ecological analayis L. Whatson , J. Dikian, K. Brearley, L. Mora, A. Hansson & P. Rhodes


People with intellectual disability who present with challenging behaviours are often identified as the presenting problem. The aim of this project is to define a clinical process for enhancing behaviour assessment such that factors that constrain or enable positive change within the family or service system are identified. Hence, the system, rather the person with the disability, is the focus of change. Systems theory underpins this process which is applied in a reflecting team format.


Staff supporting people with intellectual disability are invited to present their views on the presenting issues to a reflect- ing team (the Systemic Consultation Clinic). Reflecting team members view these issues through a variety of therapeutic lenses by asking ‘curious questions’ in order to explore emerging themes and develop hypotheses. Hypothesizing more broadly can suggest novel areas of investigation and action. This project integrates systemic ideas with more traditional behaviour assessment methodologies, such as ecologi- cal and mediator analyses.


Initial feedback from clinic partici- pants suggests that the Systemic Consultation process adds value to existing behaviour assessment methodologies. Conclusion: This initial feedback is promising. It highlights the need to develop a more rigor- ous research methodology to evaluate and implement this process.

© 2008 The Authors. Journal Compilation © 2008 Blackwell Publishing Ltd

Friday, March 12, 2010

An examination of CogState and the brief computerised test battery

Jack Dikian


March, 2003

This paper presents the study of CogState and the brief computerized cognitive test battery it offers in a range of distinct cognitive functions. The tests use novel visual and verbal stimuli to ensure assessments are culture-neutral and not limited by a subject’s level of education, ethnicity or socio-economic background.

Whilst these tests can and are used to determine the effect of drugs, devices and other interventions in cognition in many different conditions, diseases and disorders, our application of test batteries involved otherwise healthy volunteers in the workplace.

The attraction of CogState is in its ability to be used in significantly less invasive methods than existing methods of drug, alcohol, and fatigue assessments and at the same time minimizing practice or learning effects by participants. An examination of criterion and construct validity of the brief computerized cognitive test battery is compared to more conventional cognitive test battery and the degree of sensitivity to the effects of alcohol, fatigue and certain types of drugs.

Tests begin by taking a baseline measurement from a subject who is then periodically re-tested in order to detect cognitive change in a number of domains including; psychomotor function and speed of processing, visual attention, executive function and social-emotional cognition.

Scientific Literature

Fredrickson A, Snyder PJ, Cromer C, Thomas E , Lewis M, Maruff P. (in press) The use of effect sizes to characterise the nature of cognitive change in psychopharmacological studies: An example with scopolamine. Human Psychopharmacol.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Action Research In a Nutshell

Jack Dikian


The aim of this short review is to provide a brief look at both Action Research and Grounded Theory as a research method in our consultation research work. Comparing the two allows us to increase our insight into both. Combining the two allows us to tap some of the advantages of both. Importantly, it gives us a very high level understanding of these methods.

Action research in a nutshell

  1. From Kurt Lewin (1946) onward many descriptions of action research refer to its cyclic or spiral nature. The labels used differ from person to person.
    • For Stephen Kemmis and Robin McTaggart each cycle consists of: “plan - act and observe - reflect”.
    • Ernie Stringer (1999) chooses the deceptively simple labels “look - think - act”.
    • These and other descriptions can be compared to the experiential learning cycle of David Kolb (1986): “concrete experience - reflective observation – abstract generalisation - active experimentation”.

These different versions might be summarised as a two element cycle which alternates between action and critical reflection. In turn, critical reflection can be subdivided into analysis of what has happened, and planning for the next action. A collaborative mindset is seen by many as a core characteristic. That is, Action Research is participatory.

  1. Action Research bears a strong resemblance to what many practitioners already do - they plan before action. To some extent they notice afterwards what has or hasn’t worked. Action Research benefits from much more careful and systematic and critical planning and review than is common with practitioners.
  1. The cyclic process confers a valuable flexibility. It isn’t necessary for the action researcher to have a precise research question or a precise research methodology before beginning a research study. Both the research process and the understanding it yields can be refined gradually over time. In other words action research is an emergent process with a dual cycle: an action cycle integrated with a research cycle.

Grounded theory

Since grounded theory originated in the work of Barney Glaser and Alselm Strauss (1967) its purpose has been to develop theories which are grounded in the data: which fit the data, which work in practice, and are relevant to the researched situation. It does this by using a particular process for analysing the data. (The description which follows is based on a number of works by Glaser, especially 1992, 1998 and 2001. Although the work of Anselm Strauss and Juliet Corbin, 1990, 1998, is better known, Glaser’s more grounded approach compares more easily to action research.)

  • As data are collected, for example by interviews, the researcher;
  • Takes notes on the content of the interviews (or other data collection methods)
  • Codes and sorts the data into categories, and the properties of those categories, which are relevant to the concerns of the people in the situation being researched.
  • Memos or writes notes on the possible links between categories.

These four activities; data-collection, note-taking, coding and memoing are carried on simultaneously. In time, a core category emerges. This is a category which is of central concern to the people in the situation, and to which many other categories are linked. After a time no further categories emerge. At this point data collection and analysis cease. The memos are sorted and the theory is written up. In other words, the theory is built progressively as the study proceeds. As further information is collected it is compared to the emerging theory. The theory is refined to take account of the additional information.

Emergent processes

Initially, descriptions of action research and grounded theory might lead to the conclusion that they are very different. Action research is action oriented and usually participative. In grounded theory the researcher alone does the theorising. The actions are left to the people in the research situation. Action research is usually described in terms of the relationship between researcher and participants, or as a cycle. Grounded theory is described more in terms of the different operations carried out. The cyclic nature is left implicit. From the description above, however, the emergent nature of both action research and grounded theory is evident. Both use an iterative approach. The understanding of the situation emerges gradually as the study unfolds. Further, the research process is also progressively refined.

Combining the two

It has been suggested in the work of Bob Dick (2003) that in some ways action research and grounded theory are complementary. They can be combined in a number of ways. Whatever methodology is used for data collection and analysis – this can be reviewed and refined using overarching action research cycles. When there is uncertainty of the methodology to use, action research cycles allow researchers to begin collecting information. As understanding of the research situation grows researchers are better able to make an appropriate choice of methodology. Action research can then be the meta-methodology, for example, in a grounded theory study. Alternatively, elements of action research can be embedded in a grounded theory study.


Carr, Wilfred, and Kemmis, Stephen (1983) becoming critical: knowing through action research.Geelong: Deakin University Press.

Checkland, Peter, and Holwell, Sue (1998) Information, systems, and information systems: making sense of the field. Chichester, UK: Wiley.

Glaser, Barney G. (1982) Basics of grounded theory analysis: emergence vs forcing.

Mill Valley, Ca.: Sociology Press.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

I am Lying - Liar Paradox

Epimenides Or Liar Paradox

Jack Dikian

Dec, 2004

A Review of Douglas R. Hofstadter’s "Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid". Penguin Books 1980, ISBN0-14-005579-1.

What can Kurt Godel a mathematician, M.C. Escher an artist and Johann Sebastian Bach the famous composer have in common? Intending to write an essay about Godel’s theorem, Hofstadter gradually expanded to include Bach and Escher until finally he realized that the works of these men were in essence "shadows cast in different directions by some central theme". The book tries to reconstruct this central theme.

A single musical theme can be played against itself (by say having ’copies’ of the theme played by various participating voices) to create what is known as a canon. Songs such as "Frere Jacques" or "Row, Row, Row Your Boat" are examples of canons. "Frere Jacque" for example, enters in the first voice and after a fixed time delay, a ’copy’ of it enters, in not necessarily the same key. After the same fixed time delay in the second voice, the third voice enters carrying the theme, and so on. In order for the theme to work (as a canon theme), each of the notes must be able to serve as a dual (or triple, or quadruple) role: The notes must be part of a melody as well as part of a harmonization of the same melody. When there are three canonical voices, for instance, each note of the theme must act in two distinct harmonic ways, as well as melodically. Thus, each note in a canon has more than one musical meaning. The human brain will (well!) automatically figure out the appropriate meaning, by referring to context.

However, ’copies’ of the theme can be staggered not only in time, but also in pitch. The first voice might sing the theme starting on C, and the second voice overlapping the first voice, might sing the identical theme starting five notes higher, on G. It is also possible that speeds of the different voices might not be equal. That is, the second voice might sing twice as quickly, or twice as slow, as the first voice. The former is called diminution, the latter augmentation (since the theme seems to shrink or to expand). To complicate matters, it is also possible to invert the theme which means the second voice jumps down wherever the first theme jumps up, by exactly the same number of semitones.

Bach was especially fond of inversions, and they show up often in his work. Finally, the most esoteric of ’copies’ is the retrograde copy. This is where the theme is played backwards in time. It should be noted at this point that all the copies mentioned preserve all information in the original theme. The original theme is fully recoverable from any of the copies. The book is in fact full of "information preserving transformations" or isomorphisms. A fugue is like a canon, in that it is based on the theme which gets played in different voices and different keys, speeds, directions etc.

However, the notion of fugue is much less rigid than that of canon, and consequently it allows for more emotional and artistic expressions. Hofstader introduces us to the notion of "Strange Loops" for the first time by giving us an example of one of Bach’s musical offerings to the king called "Canon per Tonos". This theme has three voices with the lower of the voices singing in C minor. This is the key of the canon as a whole. What makes this theme different however is that when it concludes, or, rather, seems to conclude, it is no longer in the key of C minor, but now is in D minor. Bach has somehow changed keys right under the listener’s ear. It is also so constructed that the "ending" ties smoothly onto the beginning again only this time one key higher. After exactly six such modulations, the original key of C minor is restored. Hofstadter uses this as an example to illustrate the concept which he calls "strange loops". Here he says "The strange loop phenomenon occurs whenever, by moving upwards, or downwards through the level of some hierarchical system, we unexpectedly find ourselves right back where we started.". Strange loops occur over and over again in this book.

For many years, mathematicians were among the first admirers of Escher’s drawings. Hofstadter explains how one of the most powerful visual realizations of the notion of strange loops are presented in the work of Escher. Many of the drawings have their origins in paradox, illusions, or double meaning. However, strange loops are the most recurrent themes in Escher’s work. Escher’s 1961 lithograph "Waterfall" is compared to Bach’s "Canon per Tonos". The Waterfall is an illustration of a six-step endlessly falling loop. The concept of "Loop Tightness" is introduced by comparing it to levels in the strange loop. For example, both Bach’s "Canon per Tonos" and Escher’s "Waterfall" are six-step strange loops. As the loop is "tightened", the example of the "Drawing Hands" is illustrated~ here each of the two hands draws the other: a two-step strange loop.

Finally, the tightest of all strange loops is realized in "Print Gallery". This is a picture of a picture which contains itself. Hofstadter asks; Or is it a picture of a gallery which contains itself? Or of a town which contains itself? Intuition senses that there is something mathematical involved in both Bach’s and Escher’s works. In fact, just as the Bach and Escher loops appeal to the very simple and ancient intuitions - a musical scale, a stair case - so the discovery, by Godel of strange loops in mathematical systems. Godel’s discovery (in its absolutely barest form) involves the translation of an ancient paradox in philosophy into mathematical terms.

The statement, "This statement is false", is usually considered a fair demonstration of the Epimenides Paradox. If you tentatively think it is tree, then it immediately backfires on you and makes you think it is false, but once you decide it is false, a similar backfiring returns you to the idea that it must be true. The Epimenides paradox is a onestep strange loop, like Escher’s Print Gallery. But how does it have to do with mathematics? That is what Godel discovered.

Godel’s idea was to use mathematical reasoning in explaining mathematical reasoning itself. This notion of making mathematics "introspective" proved to be enormously powerful. Godel’s greatest work resulted in "Godel’s Incompleteness Theorem". Godel’s theorem appears as proposition VI is his 1931 paper "On Formally Undecidable Propositions in Principia Mathematica and Related Systems I" It states: To ever w-consistent recursive class k of formulae there corresponds recursive class-sign r, such that neither v Gen r nor Neg(v Gen r) belongs to Fig(k) (where v is the free variable of r). This was actually presented in German, and you may feel that it might as well be in German anyway. Another attempt; A paraphrase in "English":- All consistent axiomatic formulations of number theory include undecidable propositions.

The proof of Godel’s incompleteness theorem hinges upon the writing of a self referential mathamatical statement, in the same way as the Epimenidies paradox is a self-referential statement of language. But where it is very simple to talk about language in language, it is not at all easy to see how a statement about numbers can talk about itself. The difficulity arises when we consider that mathematical statements (Number theoretical) are about properties of whole numbers. Whole numbers are not statements, nor are their properties. A statement of number theory is not about a statement of number theory; it just is a statement of number theory. Godel had the insight that a statement of number theory could be about a statement of number theory, if only numbers could somehow stand for statements. The idea of a code was therefore emerging. In the Godel code, usually called "Godel-Numbering", numbers are made to stand for symbols and sequence of symbols. Each statment of number theory, being a sequence of specialized symbols, acquires a Godel number, something like a telephone number, by which it can be referred to. This coding scheme allows statements of number theory to be understood on two different levels. As a statement of number theory, and also as statements about statements of number theory. Godel finally transplanted the Epimenidies paradox to the statement:

"This statement of number theory does not have any proof"

or more correctly,

"This statement of number theory does not have any proof in the system of Principia Mathematica"

where is the Epimenides statement creates a paradox since it is neither true or false, the Godel sentence is unprovable inside P.M but true. Hofstadter proceeds to place Godel’s work in its historic background. Russell’s, Grelling’s, Whitehead’s and Hilberts works are touched on.

I know of no better explanation than this book presents of what Godel achieved and of the implications of his revolutionary discovery. That discovery concerns in particular recursion, self-reference and endless regress, and Hofstadter weaves the three themes mirrored in the art of Escher and the music of Bach. Each chapter is preceded by a kind of prelude which early in the book takes the form of a "Dialogue" between Achilles and the Tortoise (from Zeno of Elea). Almost all concepts are presented twice. Firstly, metaphorically in the Dialogue, yielding visual images. These then serve, during the reading of the following chapter, intuitive background for a more serious and abstract presentations of the same concept. Each Dialogue is patterned on a composition by Bach. For example, if the composition has three voices, so does the corresponding conversation. If the composition has a theme that is turned upside down or played backwards, so does the particular conversation. Each dialogue states, in a comic way (Lots of word play), the themes that will be further explored in the chapter that follows.

The book is packed with examples of strange loops, loops that exemplify the self reference that is one of the book’s central themes. For example consider the following impossibility:-

The following sentence is false
The preceding sentence is true

Taken together, the sentences have the same effect as the original Epimenides paradox (or reminiscent of Drawing Hands), yet separately, they are harmless. Nevertheless, we who see the "picture" or statement as a whole can escape the paradox by "Jumping" out of the "system" to view it from a meta- level, just as we can escape the traditional paradox of logic by jumping into a meta-language. Hofstadter introduces modem mathematical logic, computability theory, Feynman diagrams for particles that travel backward in time, Fermat’s last theorm, Turing machines, computer chess, computer music, expert system on the simulation of Natural languages, molecular biology and many other fascinating topics. The book’s discussion of artificial intelligence is also stimulating. Does the human brain obey formal rules of logic? He believes no computer will ever do all a human brain can do until it somehow reproduces that hardware°

Formal systems are discussed and the reader is urged to work out a puzzle to gain familiarity with formal systems in general. Fundamental notions such as "theorem", "rule", "inference" etc are introduced. The idea of recursion is presented in various contexts. These include musical patterns, linguistic patterns, mathematical functions, computer algorithms etc. The proceeding Dialogue ("Little Harmonic Labyrinth") to the section on recursion is about stories within stories. The frame or outer story is left open, instead of finishing as expected, thus leaving the reader dangling without resolution.

A discussion of how meaning is split among coded messages is found with examples including strands of DNA and undeciphered inscriptions on ancient tablets. The relationship of intelligence to "absolute" meaning is postulated. In the proceeding Dialogue, Achilles and the Tortoise try to resolve the question, "which contains more information ~ a record, or the phonograph which plays it". A chapter discusses the ideas of Zen Buddhism. Hofstadter suggests that in a way, Zen ideas bear a metaphorical resemblance to some contemporary ideas in the philosophy of mathematics. Godel’s theorem is visited. Brains and Thought is the title of chapter XI. Here, the question "How can thoughts be supported by the hardware of the brain" is asked. An overview of the large and small scale structure of the brain is given. The relationship between neural activity and concept is discussed.

The Church-Turing thesis, which relates mental activity to computation, is presented in several ways. These are analysed in view of their implications for simulating human thought mechanically. A discussion of the famous "Turing test" opens a chapter on Artificial Intelligence. A Dialogue is found where the idea of how we unconsciously organize thoughts so that we can imagine hypothetical variants on the real world all the time makes the subject matter. The book closes with a wild dialogue which is simultaneously patterned after Bach’s six-part Ricecar and the story of how Bach came to write his musical offering. In his dialogue, the computer pioneers Turning and Babbage improvise at the keyboard of a flexible computer called a "smart-stupid" which can be as smart or as stupid as the programmer wants. Turning produces on his computer screen a simulation of Babbage. Babbage however, is seen looking at the screen of his own "smart-stupid", on which he has conjured up a simulation of Turning. Each man insists he is the real and the other is no more than a proposed program. An effort is made to resolve the debate by playing the Turning game, which was proposed by Turning as a way to distinguish a human being from a computer program. At this point Hofstader himself walks into the scene and convinces Turing, Baggage and all the others that they are creatures of his own imagination.

SYSTEMGRAMS - Beyond Genograms

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Managing Ethically - Making Tough Choices

Jack Dikian


Feb, 2003

Tough choices, typically are those that pit one right value against another. That’s true in every walk of life – corporate professional, personal, civic, international, educational, religious, and the rest
(Kidder, 1995)

The really tough choices, then, don’t centre upon right versus wrong. They involve right versus right. They are genuine dilemmas precisely because each side is firmly rooted in . . . core values.
(Kidder, 1995)

One of the most frequently discussed tensions in decision making involving people is deciding whether to support decisions which promote the good of the group or community as against the rights of the individual and vice versa.

Other decisions in which choices can be influenced by considerations for either ‘compassion’ or ‘strictly following the rules’. Compassion encompasses looking at the individual circumstance and making a decision that puts care and concern for the individual above all rules and policies, if these should be contrary. Rules or policies provide guidelines for leaders on how to make decisions.

This paper looks at a number of tension situations or cases that reflect the complexity of many tension situations where the determination of which choice to make is not always clear.