Swung by the old workplace to talk about backups and data store management - need to hang onto huge datasets from past experiments creates interesting challenges, particularly as these sets keep growing. We recently filled another 6 terabytes of RAID storage.. oy. Cognitive burden of "are we ready to archive this experimental data yet?" is housekeeping that's hard to do in a group that doesn't have a fulltime sysadmin.
On the way out, I chatted with a researcher on the state of psychology - apparently my research interests are not necessarily that far off from being approachable but they are likely to be very difficult to make concrete enough to do interesting research. It's an interesting enough problem that the field will have to do it at some point, as it's tied to the heart of neuroplausible hard AI (as well as understanding human learning). The challenge is how to turn it into simple tractable problems that don't amount to studies of separate problem domains - if I really want to understand inter-domain reasoning and domain construction, I'd need to be thinking about the kind of experiments that could regularise domain mastery among participants and measure how they bring these things to the table in new domain - either relying on concurrent verbal protocols or cognitive models with very good imaging evidence would be appropriate, and each would have challenges (I'm extending this a bit beyond my conversation with him).
Before I left, I was reminded that he's from Belgium, and we talked a bit about the future of Belgium (for those of you who don't follow world politics, look into this - it's interesting stuff) - I never thought of the status of Brussels as being what keeps that country together (my formal reading on the topic suggested it would just become a third region), but it makes sense. It was also good to get the perspective of someone who has on-the-ground knowledge - as I've often stated, it's hard to get the breadth of perspective from even the best sampling from current events journals. We also talked a bit about the future of the United States, shaky foundations of our economy and issues with our educational and political systems.
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I have a letter to finish writing. The feel of pen on paper is nice.