## The Humanities of Maths/Computer Science

Last month I took the exercise of tracking the history of the term AI. In the process I found myself meandering towards some of the histories of maths that govern AI’s present state of the art.

Most scientists believe that mathematics is part of the Sciences. I do not hold such a view, rather, I do consider it really a part of Philosophy, so still part of Humanities. In going through the history of mathematical structures present in computer science, I am struck at the thought of how mathematics is a deeply human enterprise. I know this is obvious to some, and though this truth is somewhat present in a small way at the back of my mind, it is only now that I am dealing with it personally. This personal exercise brought this truth home to me in a profound way and I am delighted in that discovery.

I am amazed how the use of history can inform how one does his/her maths. In my examination, history can tell us what a mathematician or computer scientist went through. We can learn the trial and errors they went through and their character of tenacity in “keeping the faith”. An example I can recommend worth studying is the struggle that Geoffrey Hinton went through on how he became the “grandfather of deep learning”. It was not only the story about the maths of neural network but also the story of how one’s passion and faith in an idea is benefitting society today.

## Sigmoid in the ANN

Just playing around with two-layer Artificial Neural Networks (ANNs) wherein the hidden activation function is a sigmoid of the form found below

The final output will be of the form

where is the result of the first layer and has the form

We will now show that there is an equivalent network that computes the same thing but using hyperbolic tangent *tanh*.

as the hidden function.

Proof:

It is known that see here

We now use this form of in and we can see that the same can be computed using *tanh*. Also, looking at the plot of these functions, it is not hard to see that they are a bijection of each other. QED

Note: Notations and idea inspired by C. Bishop. *Pattern Recognition and Machine Learning*, 2006

## When “AI” is “real” AI

I remember 20+ years ago. Twenty years ago, if you ever told anyone in IT, especially those in IT management that you were working in the field of AI, you would be given a skeptical look. They would not want to know you or what you do. Why? Because AI, 20 years ago was a failed promise. I remember an agent-oriented company in the USA even shied away from ever mentioning on their company website that they were using agent technology in their product, despite being a thoroughgoing supplier of an agent platform! AI used to be an irrelevant idea.

So after working for more than 20 years doing agent-related research, I sit in wonder and ask, what happened? Now, the AI label is being thrown around everywhere. Suddenly it is in vogue. People love it and praising it when 20 years ago, it was despised. What changed? Until you take a closer look…

When people talk about a product having “AI”, what they mean is that they have a product that can predict. Prediction is indeed a part of AI, but that is a very small part of it, it is not the sum of it all. In fact, it is not even the crucial part of it.

Will the real “AI” please stand up?

In the wider, classically and often cited AI book, the book of Stuart Russell and Peter Norvig, *Artificial Intelligence: A Modern Approach*, lists 4 approaches to AI:

- Acting Humanly
- Thinking Humanly
- Thinking Rationally
**Acting Rationally**

By the Russell-Norvig definition, something has AI if that* thing can operate autonomously, perceive their environment, persist over a prolonged period of time, adapt to change, and create and pursue goals*. In other words, Russell and Norvig, go for a rational agent. A rational agent acts in such a way that it achieves the best outcome or the best-expected outcome based on its goals. The ability to predict is a component of this rationality, definitely, but it is not the sum total of the agent’s being. By this definition then, having the ability to predict is not necessarily AI. Unless that predictive power lies inside an agent, then, only then we may say, there is AI there.

## R Closures and λ-calculus

What I like about R is that it takes its inspiration from Scheme. Being a functional programming language, R indeed supports the idea of *closures*. What are they? This is my attempt to unravel the mystery about closures.

First what closures are not. Some writers have confused this notion with that of algebraic closures. *Functional programming closures* have nothing to do with algebraic closures. Don’t you believe it if you get told it came from Group Theory. It does not. An algebraic closure is a property of an algebraic structure. Namely if and is an operation in , then . In other words the result of applying the operation on the members of , is also a member in . This says that is closed under the operation , whatever that operation may be.

Functional programming closures have something to do with how the language should handle free variables in relation to functions. Since functional programming takes its cue from lambda calculus, let us define what free variables are in this computational system. It is best done by an example below:

Consider . In this expression, is free as it is not controlled by the lambda symbol, but is bound because is enclosing that , as we read from left to right. This is where the functional programming (FP) closures come from. FP closures tell us how it will handle those free variables when they occur in a function definition. The way this is explained in FP is in the area of environments and R have those too. Simply put when a function is defined, the system remembers that state of the environment where and when that function is defined. In other words, it remembers the declarations made inside the function such as names of variables and nested functions declared inside it.

The best way I think this is illustrated is in the way FP closures mimic classes in OOP languages. Look at this code.

make_bal<- function (){ val <- 0 bal <- function (method){ add_method <- function(x){ val <<- val + x } get_method <- function() { val } if (method == "dep") { add_method } else { get_method } } bal }

In R, the label “function” acts as our lambda declaration. In line 2, ` val ` is a free variable because it is not defined as an argument of the function. In line 4, ` x ` is bound. It is defined as a parameter in the function definition of ` add_method`. However `val` is not accessible outside `make_bal` because it is defined inside it and so we could say it is a **“closed”** to the outside world. In line 5 we use the ` <<-` operator similar to `set!` in Scheme. That operator will hunt for `val` up the environment chain and will get the first one it finds which is in line 2.

So let us ask R to load our `make_bal`.

> account<-make_bal() > account("get")() [1] 0 > account("dep")(50) > account("get")() [1] 50 > account("dep")(50) > account("get")() [1] 100 > withdraw<-account("dep") > withdraw(-50) > account("get")() [1] 50

In 1, we define a function from it, and call it ` account`. In 2, we check that `val` is starting at 0. In 4, we made a deposit of 50. Each time we make a deposit, our balance increases as seen in line 8. Finally we can define a function called `withdraw` provided the amount we pass is always negative and as can be seen when we call it in line 13, the balance has been reduced by the amount we took out of our balance.

One can see that in an FP like R, the notion of classes will not be missed because closures handle that need.

As usually happens in computer science, computer scientists borrow notions from mathematics and this use of the term “closures” is one of them. Then also as it usually happens, it produces negative consequences, rather than clarify sometimes it confuses people in the process. It would have been better had computer scientists chosen a different term.

Credits: Andy Balaam’s Scheme Closure.

## Calling Excel from R in a Mac OS X Environment

I am one of those who often need to flip between Excel or R depending on the needs of the client. Calling Excel in R is not that trivial so here are some notes on how to do that. So let’s say that you have an Excel VBA program that you want to take over after R has done its job.

You use the *system2* command in R like so

*> system2(“/Applications/Microsoft\ Excel.app/Contents/MacOS/Microsoft\ Excel”, c(“/Users/Extranosky/Temp/VehicleRepair.xlsm”))*

The second argument should not have spaces in its file or directory name. I have not had success in passing a file name to be opened by Excel in this platform that had spaces in its directory.

This command will call up Excel open up the file as an argument and hopefully you got an open event in that VBA so things can be done seamlessly and automatically.

## An example of how math messes up your mind

In this post I will show an example of how mathematics can be very mysterious. I showed this to what might be classified as “first year in maths” students and they came out of class perplexed, as if their mind had to hit the reset button and reboot.

*Theorem: Let be the set of natural numbers and the set of integers. We have and *.

This means that though is a subset of , the size of is equal to the size of . In technical language the cardinality of the natural numbers is equal to the cardinality of the integers, What duh?

Proof:

a.) , this is trivial because the natural numbers are just the positive integers in . So every element of is found in .

b.) In order to show that the size of the two sets are equal we need to establish a bijective function from one set to the other. That is a function which is both surjective and injective. Another way of saying this is to say that we need a function that is onto and at the same time one-to-one from one set to the other. Obtaining such a function proves that the size of both sets are the same.

We will just get the one suggested by wikipaedia: We let

with when and only when and ,

else when and only when .

1.) is one-to-one, i.e. injective. Let , then we have two cases, either or . The first case we have , . On the other hand, if the second is the case then again this .

2.) is onto, i.e. surjective. Let then is positive and either even or odd. If even and positive, then in general for some integer ,(the property of even numbers). Since is an integer, then it is an integer in and so that and choose . On the other hand, if is positive and odd, then for some integer (property of odd numbers) and has to be positive since is positive, i.e., and so we have . So in both cases we have seen that for every , we have found a matching .

How can a subset have the same size as it's superset? If this does not boggle your mind, perhaps you missed the point. The reason for this is that we have here two infinite sets, and this mystery only happens when infinity is involved. Now some mathematicians are not happy with this that is why they do not believe in infinite sets. It seems infinity is just a concept that has no matching physical reality and we can be indifferent with it. I suggest the concept of infinity is a metaphysical concept. So can one can reason that it is a concept that exists just in our mind and is not "real". Just like unicorns or fairies? I do not think so. There is no reason for us to believe in unicorns and in fact not all civilisations believe in the mythical horse. However the concept of infinity is different. It is because the concept per se is a necessity. The mind requires it when presented with the nature of numbers. For is it not true that the set of natural numbers is infinite? We can conceive it and by force of nature admit it. It is a necessary truth so in that sense infinite sets are real and transcends material physicality.

## Why real numbers are not.

Have you ever encountered mathematicians who do not believe in “real numbers”? Well there are some, mainly those who come form a computer science ideology. I am starting to understand why they do not think real numbers are real or useful as a concept. Firstly what do we mean by a real number? It comes from looking at the number line as a continuum. It is treating the number line consisting of infinite number of points. For example the numbers between 0 and 1 – there are infinite “real numbers” there.

Take an example of a so called real number . It is written as 3.141592653589793… Now notice the ellipses in the number. They are there to say that the decimals after the last 3 as printed is infinitely long. So people think that a real number can be represented by those dot dot dot and so the real numbers have unending decimal series. In actuality the symbol is the limit of that series of decimals once considered.

Now I can appreciate why A/Prof. N. Wildberger insists the need for something to be written down, and we will explain the reason why later. If you think for a moment, we are not capable of writing a real number down. Those dot dot dots are a semantic idea to signify to us that the digits following goes into an infinite series. That is not really writing a number down. Why do we need to be able to write something down with finality?

Well it is because we can put the process of writing into an algorithm. We can put it into a function. So imagine again . The fact that we can not write the number down with completion means we can not put that generation of the numbers into an algorithm that will stop. It can not and we won’t let it stop precisely because the number of decimals in the tail end is infinite. So an algorithm that goes into an infinite loop, making it useless. Since we can not locate precisely where is in the continuum line we can not even have a function to compute it. In a sense the digits following are not decidable.

From a computer science point of view, the algorithm must terminate and if it does not, then the function is undefined at that point. The problem stems from the idea of infinity of points present in the number line. Yet in practice we can not really even locate real numbers in the number line. You can have the function stop at the 100th position of but that is not itself. This is the best we can do but that number is not exactly rather it is “something like or close to “.

So real numbers are unreal, man.