Sunday, May 31, 2015

Eight Hundred Years of the Magna Carta

The Magna Carta was signed on June 15, 1215, eight hundred years next month.  We in Texas look from our Texas Revolution to the American Revolution for inspiration,  Our country's founding fathers looked to the Magna Carta and the Glorious Revolution of 1688 for inspiration.  We need to remember the  importance of the Magna Carta as we map the future for Texas and America:  the importance of a government constrained by laws for the protection of our liberties.

The Wall Street Journal had a wonderful article about the Magna Carta that you can read by googling "Magna Carta: Eight Centuries of Liberty by Daniel Hannan."

Here are a few quotes from the lengthy article to whet your appetite: 

The idea of the law coming up from the people, rather than down from the government, is a peculiar feature of the Anglosphere.

America’s Founders ... saw parliamentary government not as an expression of majority rule but as a guarantor of individual freedom. How different was the Continental tradition, born 13 years later with the French Revolution, which saw elected assemblies as the embodiment of what Rousseau called the “general will” of the people.

In that difference, we may perhaps discern explanation of why the Anglosphere resisted the chronic bouts of authoritarianism to which most other Western countries were prone.

The defense of liberty is your job and mine. It is up to us to keep intact the freedoms we inherited from our parents and to pass them on securely to our children.

And who is Daniel Hannan?  Mr. Hannan is a British member of the European Parliament for the Conservative Party, a columnist for the Washington Examiner and the author of “Inventing Freedom: How the English-speaking Peoples Made the Modern World.”

A great Texas must be built upon the rule of law.  Texas needs great lawyers and statesmen.


Saturday, April 4, 2015

The Special Methods Software Project

I have suggested a number of projects that can contribute to software development and economic growth in the state of Texas.  I mentioned the  Special Methods Software Project when I laid out the Texas Software Initiative, but I did not define it then.  There are a number of specialty areas in computer science that can have economic impact, but are little studied and have limited use.  However, the impact of special methods can be significant.  Here is a short list of special topics.

  1. Artificial Intelligence and Expert Systems
  2. Autonomous Agents
  3. Cellular Automata Software
  4. Genetic Algorithms
  5. Complexity Theory

This list is not exclusive, and not be any means exhaustive, but it is a starting point for discussion.  Google's self-driving car is an example of an autonomous agent.  Some people think the Google car can reduce traffic jams and save lives by reducing the effects of bad driving.  Some people think it is part of a plan to replace truck drivers with robots, throwing more people out of work.  Software certainly has an impact on our society.

I can recommend a good book as a start into the field complexity:  Complexity: A Guided Tour by Melanie Mitchell.  I have read it from cover-to-cover and found it fascinating.  This book by Dr. Mitchell is intended for the general audience and I found it at the public library. 

Another book that is interesting, although a bit quirky, is The Sciences of the Artificial by Herbert Simon.  This book by Dr. Simon does not use advance math, so in a sense it is accessible to the general reader. On the other hand, you are getting access to the mind of a brilliant man.  This is a treat, but you must be patient and follow him where he goes. I like to hold a book in my hand, so it is nice to know you can buy a copy from  But if you are not sure about this book, you can peruse a PDF copy before buying a paperback copy.

Why take the time to be patient with Herbert Simon's book?  Let's consider just a few of his honors:
  1. Turing Award (1975)
  2. Nobel Prize in Economics (1978)
  3. von Neumann Theory Prize (1988)
Dr. Simon was is an intellectual heavyweight, but this is book is accessible.  Here is a quote from the preface to "The Sciences of the Artificial:" 
"... of particular relevance is the recent vigorous eruption of interest in complexity and complex systems. In the previous editions of this book I commented only briefly on the relation between general ideas about complexity and the particular hierarchic form of complexity with which the book is chiefly concerned. I now introduce a new chapter to remedy this deficit. It will appear that the devotees of complexity (among whom I count myself) are a rather motley crew, not at all unified in our views on reductionism. Various among us favor quite different tools for analyzing complexity and speak nowadays of "chaos," "adaptive systems," and "genetic algorithms." In the new chapter 7, "Alternative Views of  Complexity'' ("The Architecture of Complexity" having become chapter 8), I sort out these themes and draw out the implications of artificiality and hierarchy for complexity."

These specialty software topics are fascinating and can contribute economically to the state of Texas.

This post is part of the The Texas Software Initiative.