This is best explained in fictional form. To understand this, you must have read the excerpt on the LifeXene website.
On Tuesday, at the meeting of the five, Ann explained what the younger couple would be asked to do, with a system of slightly deferred rewards for Harold, plus his continued use of the house for free, something of value. They were to take over the matching project and make it work, reporting to them regularly, but being very independent.
“Remember, you are working for us. You are here to do our bidding, so you must figure out what our bidding would be, and do it, as the old line goes”, Drake said.
“Harold, you’d like such general instructions, wouldn’t you”? Well, we shall put Alberta in charge and hold her responsible if you screw up”, Sally added.
“Exactly. Will you undertake this burden, Alberta?”, Ann asked.
“Yes, Ann, with pleasure. And he shall do my bidding, before yours, so that we both may do yours. This matching problem will be dealt with very expediently.”
“I am sure it will be. We have no doubt of Harold’s brilliancy or your competency. You make a wonderful couple and we are so happy to know you.”
“Thank you, Ann. We are both happy to know the three of you, whatever you are.”
“Tut, no gossiping now.”
And so the baton was officially passed. Harold and and Alberta would take on the matching problem. In fact Harold had four months of classes left this year, plus exams, so he would be busy for a while, but his kind of brilliance required only short periods of time to flash brightly. He would flash brightly in the evenings, claim his reward, then go to sleep. Alberta would labor during the day, doing matching project stuff with a growing army of volunteers. Tuesday evenings, the trio would meet with the couple for a progress report.
Meanwhile, the trio met again to seek an entirely different issue or problem to address. Drake proposed an economic one, with a solution. “We are all quite skilled in mathematics at the graduate school level, so we know that linearity is almost essential to the solution of any large complicated system. Nonlinearities can and must be isolated. We can surely figure out how to isolate the nonlinearities and linearize the economic systems so as to get the world’s economies under control.”
“Well, Drakie, yes, I conceive that to be possible”, Sally commented. “Be we can’t do it. Not that we couldn’t do the math, but that nobody would pay any attention to us if we did. We could never get our work implemented.”
“You know, guys, this is interesting. I agree with Sal, this is possibly something that could be done. But we could not do it. So, do we just abandon the idea? Surely this is a thing that needs to be given to Alberta. It is an entry in some matching problem. Item: one very good idea, seeks person with great credibility to implement it. Give it away, Drake. Let Albie find it a home, a person to take it on and make it happen. What do you say?”
“Yes, Ann, yes, Sally, you are both right. We can’t do it, someone should. Thank you both for your vote of confidence in the idea itself. I will write it up and give it to Alberta as an example of another kind of thing that should be matched to people, see if she and the husband can find a way to do so.”
“Good, Drake. I’d like to see what happens.”
“Let’s meta that one once more, Drake”, Ann commented. “The idea that ideas are to be matched with people really does have power, so now we have one other idea for Albie to work on and could go a long way with it. Let’s add any spare ideas Tech Fantasies comes up with, and request more from anyone we meet, getting an idea-to-person matching thing up and running soon. It could have real wings.”
“Any others in your hot little noggin, Drake? Sally?”
“Oh, just another matching thing. A quicky, not a big issue, not the issue of the evening, just something I’ll remember to tell the Albie girl tomorrow. There seems to be a lot of matching ideas, it seems very central. Let’s keep a list of them, and advertise for more. People may not realize the power and generality of matching. Now, let’s forget matching, and try for something completely different. Credit to Drake, his linearization of economics was such an idea, no matching. Thanks, Drake. But what about an idea for tonight, a biggie?”
“You don’t have one yourself, Sally?”
“No, not really. A comment. We may be overemphasizing ideas here. It should be an issue, first and foremost, not a solution. Drake promoted an idea, a solution, rather than an issue, though the underlying problem was rather obvious. The matching idea was also a solution aimed at a rather obvious problem. But we should look for issues, first. Some are severe, and apparently intractable, like drugs, so intractable that I hesitate to mention them. We were seeking tractable problems.”
“Believe it or not, Sally, dear, we have a solution to the drug problem, without recognizing it. May I attempt to walk you through it, ladies?”
“Please”, Ann asked, Sally nodding, interested.
“Evidence suggests that every single good, true, honest, reliable, compatible social relationship a person has serves to reduce the chance of that person starting to use drugs or becoming addicted to drugs, even to some limited extent if those people themselves are users, but most especially if they are not. Surround a person with good friends, a lover or spouse, co-workers, a mentor, and other good social relationships, and that person will stay off drugs or not get addicted. Now, should a person be addicted, it is very hard to get off drugs unless a person has the help of a few such good social relationships willing to put in long hours during the individual’s time of withdrawal. And once off drugs, the temptations for re-addiction are everywhere and are hard to resist, unless there are good friends and other relationships around to help. All this is obvious, is it not? It is proven in the drug research literature. So we already have the solution. We can use matching to pull our society out of the abyss of the drug problem.”
“Damn”, Sally said, “I think the man is right.”
“You’re biased, but he’s right.”
Sally pondered for a moment. “OK, we need an attempt to map out the territory. Certain areas that I had not imagined having anything to do with matching seem capable of attack with it. I think we need to map out the territory, then look at problem area, see which might succumb to matching, and which might not.”
“That, Sally, me dear, is a problem. Mapping out the territory? Wow. Big problem. I hardly know where I might begin. Wow.”
“Use a book, Drake”, Ann suggested, “Uh, ‘The UN something Guide to something Problems’, whatever, there’ve been lots of books that have attempted to delineate social problems.”
“There have? Now you tell us!”
“Internet, now!”, Sally commanded, and for the next two hours they did online research using two computers, while Sally made notes with pen and paper, made comments, looked over people’s shoulders, and came up with a lot of good ideas to try. By they end they had printouts of long lists of known problem areas of different kinds, which they would at least think about in the next week.
“Alright, the conclusions are simple”, Ann said next week, “quite simple. We can have a management and human relations and similar effect of huge importance in all areas of human endeavor, but not a substantive one in most. We can manage research into viruses, I’m sure, and in so doing, make it much much better, but we cannot actually do virus research. In most things, that is all we can do, management, but the matching paradigm will manage the socks off things. However there are many areas where matching can have substantive effect by itself, beyond just managing the research. Beyond matching, there are areas yet to be identified. To identify them is a matching problem, or more correctly a search and match problem. We need to find a series of problems and assign them to methods, using various search and match algorithms. We can do a lot of that by methods similar to those the gang in the house are working on.”
“Yes, Sally and I thrashed this one out and came to the same conclusions, roughly. We need to put together some problem and method locating schemes, automated and expert driven, using databases, and then get some mechanisms up and running for working on them. Can do. No doubt, can do. Sal and I will dabble a bit, get the gang to chip in. Are you with us, Annie, dear?”
“Absolutely. This takes priority. This is the meta of all metas. This covers all the other things we have been wanting to pursue. Search, assign, file, match, automated and with experts, lots of in and out, open source, make it public, on the Internet, as a resource, free. OK?”
“Yes, on the net, yes. Free, of course, to bring in lots of people to volunteer a little in search of whatever they might need. Good. I am game to put in time. You might need to toss in a buck, Annie.”
“I know. Let me worry about that. OK, let’s everyone prepare our presentation for the other two on Tuesday, so we sound like we know what we are doing. We do, of course, but we must also sound like it.”
“Drake is like that, Ann. Sounds like he knows what he’s doing. He can talk the talk. Now, as we have discovered, it was not all talk, and more like running than walking.”
Ann need not have concerned herself about appearances. Actually, the trio impressed the hell out of Alberta and Harold every week. They had never seen such a massive accumulation of intellectual ability. Harold was brilliant, but a bit half-baked, and only half-way through a bachelor’s degree, while all three of those people had master’s degrees. Alberta had a highschool graduation certificate and two years of junior college, but was more useful than Harold since she was wickedly competent and could use a computer and most popular software packages.
However if it came to software, Sally, Drake and Ann were skilled programmers and each had written a lot of software, which they could plan and write quickly and easily, as they demonstrated quite often. Tuesday’s session on the problem and method search and match database for the Internet left Alberta and Harold quite gasping for breath. After the trio had left, Harold almost jumped up and down with excitement over the majestic cleverness of the idea, and was so thrilled with it he almost forgot to ask Alberta for sex. Almost
“Think about it,l Al. All over the world, people have problems. All over the world, people have methods, techniques for solving problems. We try to accumulate them here by putting up an Internet site and offering various problem and solution exchange mechanisms, then put them in a database, which at first will just allow searches, but then we involve matching, and ultimately match people’s skills and their abilities to the problems that need solving, so that the people as a resource can take their methods to the problems and solve them, spreading them around the world. It could change everything. Amazing! Say. You sure look sexy tonight, Albie. Wanna go to bed?”
The development of this vision would happen though the efforts of over a hundred volunteers from the software industry, who liked to write code and liked having an excuse to write code for someone other than their nominal boss. Most of these were software nerds who had recently gotten laid, uh, matched, through questionnaires and processing done by Technological Fantasies, so they were in a charitable mood. So it wouldn’t take long to get started, a few weeks but not long at all. Getting things to work right would take a bit longer.
Basically, each idea, problem, or human asset needed to be given a descriptor or profile, something a matching algorithm could work on.
“We’ve been successful with people only because we factored out vanity and delusion”, Ann explained to Alberta. “Literally factored it out, in the mathematical sense of the term.”
Sally explained further. “Our original questionnaire was naive, because we asked people to describe themselves and the people they wanted. When we looked over the data, it became obvious that people were vain or self-deprecating to some extent. Also, they were modest in their requests or too demanding. Instead of writing better questionnaires, we chose to use mathematical analysis to show us when people how and why people were responding the way they did. There were actually more than one component to vanity, but let’s ignore that and just say that we found what you might call the vanity factor. We were then able to throw that factor away.”
“This is an area of applied mathematics appropriately called factor analysis, since it factors the data into independent components, called factors. The verb to factor describes the process of extracting things, nouns, called factors”, Drake explained.
“The next step is the inverse, which could be called data synthesis or data reconstruction. It recreates the original data with one or more of the factors removed or modified. But in fact, both factor analysis and data reconstruction are covered by the one term factor analysis. Using those techniques we quite literally factored out vanity and other biases.”
“I see”, Alberta claimed.
“No you don’t, pardon, my dear, but you could not possibly, it is a mathematical concept of great subtlety”, Harold said.
As so often before Drake felt a strong urge to strangle the rodent. How dare he treat his own wife that way?
Ignoring Harold, Alberta tried to show that yes, she did see. “I suppose it is like ignoring the inconvenient fact that the earth is a sphere, by finding a way of projecting it onto a flat surface, so you can make maps to put in the glove compartment of your car.”
“Aargh, no, it is not at all like that”, Sally insisted. “I wouldn’t even dare to drag topology into this. Factor analysis per se attempts to project something from a higher dimensional space onto a lower dimensional one. Damn, that’s hard to put into layman’s terms, isn’t it, Ann.”
“Let me try”, Drake said. “Plato wrote about it thousands of years ago. He imagined a deep cave with a torch or something providing the only light. Creatures of some sort moving in front of the light cast shadows on a wall of the cave. From a distance away, we see the shadows, and imagine them to be the creatures. What we are seeing, however, are only projections of something with higher dimensions on something flat. Got that?”
“Now. To entertain their kids, parents often carefully arrange their fingers so that the shadow they cast looks like a bunny rabbit or a crocodile. The kids giggle with pleasure when they recognize the animals. In their heads, the kids are doing the opposite process, looking at the shadow and imagining the three dimensional creature which created it. It works best when the shadow crocodile opens and closes its jaws, frightening the bunny rabbit.”
“Isn’t that method 154 in ‘200 Easy Ways to Get Laid'”, Harold asked. “Amuse the children so the poor single mother will see you as a kind, warm person, worthy of his own amusement.”
“No, that was method 156”, Drake mumbled.
“Oh, you too have read this book? Did you succeed in obtaining the pleasures of the delightful Sally with its aid?”
“No, no, I have my own ways, some far beyond the reach of mere mortals who need such a book.”
Sally agreed. “Godlike, only Drake could have succeeded in my case.”
“Yes, it would not be too much of an exaggeration to say that Drake wrote the book on ways to get laid”, Ann said with a smile, teasing Harold by making him think she was just teasing him.
“Moving on from this disappointing discussion that someone such as myself would actually need to be sneaky, let’s consider the shadow world a bit more. I don’t suppose you ever saw the original cover illustration for the book, Goedel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid by Douglas Hofstadter, which came out in 1979. It shows a carving, illuminated with light from three directions, which cast shadows on a corner — two walls and a ceiling. The shadow on one wall looks like a G, on the other, a B, and on the ceiling an E, or something like that, I’ve probably mixed up the order.”
Ann and Sally nodded, remembering the fad for that book. Ann continued Drake’s argument.
“That object, which cast those three different shadows is a fine example of an ambiguous object. Just what we don’t want. The ideal question and answer pair gives us some completely unambiguous information. That seems hard, but it’s actually pretty easy. The cover picture of that book does it. As well as the three orthogonal projections, shadows, it also shows us two oblique views of the object, from which we can see what seem to be three different faces of what seems to be an object like a wooden cube someone shaped with with a scroll saw. From those oblique view we reconstruct in our minds an actual object, which may or may not exist, and may not even be possible.”
“I am getting an insight here”, Harold told everyone, hold up his hand in a gesture that said “wait”, squinting as if trying to look at something small, and giving the impression of deep thought.
“It is exactly like what architects, engineers and artists do!”, he exclaimed. “An architect dreams up something and makes a sketch, or describes it to an engineer, who in turn produces what you call orthogonal projections. A front view, called a front elevation for some reason, similar side views, and what is called a plan view, from overhead, though the other views are also part of the building plans. Those plans are then given to an artist, who draws or paints an artist’s impression, which is always an oblique view, from which you can see the roof, front and one side.”
“Exactly”, Drake agreed. “The artist’s impression is then shown to the architect, who then either sends the engineer back to the drawing board, or shows it to the customer, who sends the architect back to the drawing board. In rare cases, the customer is actually satisfied, at least until people try to live and work in the building. ‘Twas ever thus. In software engineering we call that the software life cycle, or more accurately the endless cycle of death and reincarnation. What did the Buddhist monk say to the hot dog vendor?”
“Make me one with everything!”, Sally answered.
“Do you understand what these people are saying, Alberta?”
“Rarely, Harold, rarely, but unlike you, I am modest enough to admit it.”
Ann smiled at them. “It’s not so hard. The customers, the people wanting spouses, describe themselves and state what kind of person they want. They do a terrible job of both, but we can factor out the nonsense. We can do the same thing for matching ideas to people or ideas to ideas. We ask for brief statements of ideas or problems, and brief suggestions of people or organizations who might solve them. Two people are slightly similar if they have the same skills or are interested in the same ideas, or problems. Two ideas or problems are slightly similar if the suggested people to solve them are similar.”