Posts Tagged ‘Artificial Intelligence’

Book review by African American Literature Book Club

February 10, 2010

Please see: 

for a review of  The Monkeybars of Life.

Can the Race Track or The Lottery be beaten?

November 21, 2009

These and other questions about gambling are explored in The Monkeybars of Life.

In chapter-1, Ernest DuPree tells a group of speculators:  “The Daily Racing Form is all that’s needed to review each horse’s past performances and then to reduce the Value-Field to no more than three contenders. Once these contenders are identified, you only need to wait for the odds to be in your favor and then you bet all contenders. The spread guarantees a return on your money most of the time.”

Moving around the table, Ernest continued, “Now, don’t be mistaken – handicapping horse races is like gambling. You are guaranteed to lose some time. Most people lose most of the time. Some fools lose all the time. A few people win most of the time. Nobody wins all the time. But a black man who knows what he’s doing, can make just as much money as anybody on any day or night at the track.”

Back at the head of the table, Ernest flipped the chart page and drew a huge dollar sign and a percentage sign. “Right here, tonight, I’m going to show you how you can minimize your losses and maximize your wins. You can start taking notes if you want.””

In chapter-7 Douglas begs Nate to write a computer program for the illegal lottery.
“What about a TRS-80 Model-II?” Douglas asked.
“What about it?”
“Could you do the numbers program on it?”
Nate rolled his eyes at the ceiling. “Doug, any computer can crunch numbers. But, it would take a very long time for some of them to run a program like the one you want.”
Douglas poured more coffee. “Think about what it would mean. We’d have enough money to do whatever we want.”
Douglas spoke softly, “You could finish your Gamma engine.”
“Douglas. Douglas!” Nate grabbed his brother’s arm, “You have got to get it through your head that, even if we find patterns in the past, it won’t mean they will be the same in the future.”
Douglas looked his brother in the eyes, “And you’ve got to get it through your head that I KNOW patterns repeat every year. I’ve seen it too many times.”

When Douglas showed up with an old Radio Shack computer, Nate got started programming the numbers project. The work went fast since he had already thought the project through. He created an input screen for the user to specify what dates to be analyzed. The program, then, sorted all the numbers that came out during the time period and displayed the frequency of their occurrence.

For weeks, two of Douglas’ girlfriends had been recording lotto numbers onto diskettes. So, Nate and Douglas tested the program with the data they had. The results convinced Douglas that the program could not make predictions; his disappointment was obvious.

“Nate, what would it take for a program to make predictions? And don’t say it’s impossible; they do it with the weather every day.”
Nate laughed, “Okay, there are neural-network programs that can find patterns and make predictions. But their results are only a probability – not a certainty.”
Douglas’s eyes bulged behind his glasses. “How much is the cheapest one of those programs?”
“There’s one called BrainMaker that sells for $200”, Nate said “But it might take weeks to run it on that old Radio Shack computer.”
Douglas put his hand on Nate’s shoulder, “You just tell me what you need and I’ll find a way to get it.”
Nate wrote the name of the software company, and then said, “And the fastest PC you can get.”

Why I wrote The Monkeybars of Life

November 18, 2009

I’m often asked why I wrote The Monkeybars of Life and why it has so many pages.  I felt it was time to tell the story of some of the extraordinary people I’ve known and some of the unbelievable situations we’ve encountered. There are three themes explored in the book (1) innate creativity, (2) creativity in the workplace, and (3) estranged fatherhood. 

In chapter-3  Nate LaChae says:   “Some friends came over and they brought an African student with them. I asked him whether he felt there would ever be an African space program. When he said he didn’t think so, I asked why not. then I went OFF when he said he felt the White Man had something special in his head that allowed him to invent things and go to the moon.

The reason I was so upset is that I believe the greatness of our race will not be in the USA. It will be in Africa one day. And to hear that African student say what he said just set me off. I got up and said “Anybody that fills a thirty-five story rocket with liquid oxygen and hydrogen can go to the moon.” I told him the laws of physics work the same for everybody. Then I told him not to ever think or say what he said again. Even I was surprised at how I went off. But we’ll never even try things with the kind of thinking he had. I just want to show that God doesn’t play favorites.”

At another point, in chapter-3, Nate relates a High School  experience: “I remember how I made my first science fair rocket by soldering tin cans together. And I’ll never forget there was a kid named Rob Strom who exhibited right next to me at the fair. He had gotten permission to run his experiment at a real nuclear reactor lab. I won a third prize that year and he won a first prize. I never got over the fact that he had access to such equipment to compete with.”

In chapter-4 Nate struggles with being separated from his family and attempts to have an alternate family. “Maybe this is the way life really is, Nate thought as he sipped his wine. I had a stepfather and my mother and father didn’t know their real Dads either. I guess, we’re suppose to take care of the kids under our roof – wherever we are. I hope my kids’ stepfather is doing his job like I am.”

In chapter-5   Nate takes on more mundane projects at work and still encounters  resistance and disbelief. He is told by the IT department manager: “Who the hell do you think you’re fooling with all this talk about AI? Even at Carnige-Mellon, it took us two years to get our Expert System running and we had the resources. You can’t possibly accomplish even half the goals in that contract using HP-Basic. That’s why I’m not wasting my time with your silly project.”