Augmentation

I’ve had a chance to encounter a service on the web called ‘tumblr.’ So far I like it.

Tumblr is a service that’s somewhere in between the constant microbursts of the twitter and full-scale blogging of the wordpress. Only more modern, not in sense of any aesthetic faux pas, but in sense of integration with the user, like being able to post animation/picture directly from one’s cell phone, rssing different services on the web and etc… More media centric friendfeed would also be a reasonably accurate description of the Tumblr service.

While I am somewhat tired of such deluge of ‘web 2.0’ applications that are practically everywhere these days, I do feel that the whole experience is a positive one. Some people might argue that broadcasting one’s own thoughts and lives are somehow ‘arrogant’ or something such because no one would care about their lives in the first place anyway… Well people who argue that point must not have many friends. 😛

Seriously though, I do not see services like twitter and Tumblr as a channel to reach out to people. Rather, such web applications are augmentations of modern human mind, something physical technology is hard pressed to catch up to. Augmentations of memories and visions one would encounter in the daily life, recording bit and pieces of ‘experiences’ that are separate from carefully mediated thoughts that permeate the decent portion of the web these days…

A rough continuum created to fill the vacuum left by the lack of physical technology of memories and experiences.

And when you tinker around with one of those services, you are tinkering with an augmentation service for your mind itself, albeit in crudely executed form that requires multiple intermediaries.

It is interesting how then the user’s lives get increasingly intermingled with the web, as the experience of the living stands next to the fantastic shapes and movements scrounged from the remotest corners of the infosphere.

Advertisements

A note- engine of creativity

Juergen Schmidhuber is supposedly working on an artificial scientist. I’ve come to a sudden realization that I am very interested in creating an artificial creator, or an engine of creativity, and that my interest in artificial life might have in fact been an interest in studying the origins of the trait we refer to as creativity.

It is rather curious. Will an artificial scientist be different from an artificial construct capable of demonstrating the trait we refer to as creativity? From what I am seeing, artificial scientist is an informational construct while an artificial creator is more of a physical system, thus the term engine of creativity.

Only known case of creativity exhibited in nature is us. If we ignore that the universe itself demonstrates ingenious and unexpected things through emergence, self organization and evolutionary principles, the only observed and somewhat-understood case of creativity in the universe are demonstrated by life-like systems. Would this somehow imply that only life-like systems can demonstrate traits of creativity? Would this mean that any artificial engine of creativity formed by human hand would have to be alive? Considered alive?

Musing

People love fantasies. They fantasize about things all the time. Act of shaping the most compelling traits of that fantasy in real world is called art. And the process that allows the conversion of idea to shape is called technology. Look at this.

Beauty may be in the eyes of the beholder, but I think this will definitely appear beautiful in the eyes of the majority. Now, this is merely a model. But sciences and technology might as well make this come true sooner that most people expect it.

What I find truly interesting, however, isn’t the shared trait between arts and sciences. That much had been obvious since the days of Leonardo Da Vinci, and the hints of the inseparable relationship between the two had been acknowledged even before then… Or rather, would it be correct to say that modern separation between arts and sciences is a freak accident of history that was given birth a few centuries ago at most? I guess we are all collectively reeling in from the aftershock of the events that happened centuries ago (and people ask why we should bother to learn history).

What I really find interesting, to an almost obsessive degree, is where the beginnings of arts and sciences came from. That is, what would drive bunch of complex systems of collections of molecular compounds to form ideas, worldview, beliefs, and etc… Whether you are a religious fundamentalist or a Dawkins-ian atheist, the fact is that most if not all of humanity have some capacity at aesthetic sensitivity that borders on mystical. Like any prudent scientist (to-be), I believe in things happening in front of my eyes rather than some abstract ideas floating in the clouds. It is a fact that people keep on creating and reacting to stuff, tries to keep themselves alive (though survival seem to take on varying degrees of priority in individuals), and are a system of molecules. So it should be reasonable to suspect that there is a method in nature to create systems of creativity out of components we already know about, using systematic pathways/algorithms that can be replicated.

What is creativity? It is a constant drive to do stuff. Is that enough? Not really. Simply being active isn’t good enough… Creativity is a drive to do stuff in coherent manner. Thermodynamic work with coherence, which I might even call ‘memory’ though it might be too hasty at this point. Would this mean that a metabolic engine with capacity for coherent action (memory?) on the system-wide level contains innate ability to create? Like bacterium? Localized complex chain reaction with proper coherence eventually leads to self-replication? So would this mean that the human capacity for arts is in some deep level related to the capacity to procreate in minimally life-like systems?… Then what would be the concept of beauty? And why/how would human beings pursue aesthetics/ideas outside of the necessity for survival?

It’s fun to do a bit of musing like this. Yet it always get frustrating at the end, because I know in my heart that there’s no way to test all this physically. Or is there?

All I can do at the moment is to sit here and wait for my muse.

Sketch-Creativity and origin of creativity

I’ve been listening to Amy Tan’s talk on TED titled ‘Where does Creativity Hide?’

Interesting stuff. I didn’t have enough time to mull over it properly yet, but listening to her gave me a few thoughts on the issue of the origin of creativity, an issue I am very passionate about.

It is relatively simple matter to simulate the process of creativity, I think. Plenty of mathematical constructs and randomly generated ‘events’ linked together has the resemblance of pure creative output, and despite some number of conflicts and arguments for and against such ‘engines of creation’, I do believe that what we do might in essence be not so much different from the simulated behaviors of such random patterns and mechanization.

However, the real problem, at least for me, lies in the issue of the origin of creativity rather than the process of it. Human beings are not machines or algorithms specifically designed to be creative. In fact, human beings as molecular machines might not have been built for anything (and everything, in that sense), for evolution tend to be quite blind in such matters of directionality in nature (there are theories and viewpoints arguing otherwise). I will not even look at the possibility that the wellspring of creativity emerges from some spiritual source, instead approaching the problem from purely materialistic and reproducible viewpoint.

As physio-chemical complex dissipative systems, what drives human beings to create and innovate throughout their duration of activity, i.e. life? What kind of mechanism underlies this strange anomaly emerging from entangled soups contained within chunks of chemicals? Even more, how would we be able to replicate such behavior using less than usual components? This, ladies and gentlemen, is the question of the ages, the true question toward the question of creativity.

This, I believe, is the true crossroad between the arts and the sceinces, the significance of artificial life in science, society, industries, and the zenith where the artificial intelligence becomes simple intelligence.

More to follow.

The singularity and the legacy of the world- Sketch

I’ve been reading up on quite a bit of transhumanist literature recently, both arguments for and against it. I must say, I’m beginning to think that the biggest hurdle to any kind of transhumanist and historical/technological singularity ideas is the shallow naivety of the transhumanism/singularity proponents themselves.

Technology will not magically fix the ailing of the world, and the nature of intelligence and consciousness will take much longer to understand fully; it is only that we will be capable of simulating such characteristics using artificial medium. Electric networks certainly catalyzed some great changes for the system of the world, but in the end it was merely catalyzing of the potential already there. The human network and corresponding complex system of human-nodes and social-economic-cultural links were already put in place long time ago, to the extent that we classify such trait as a fundamental part of humanity as organisms. This also means that simple increase in technological capacity will not be enough to surpass the nature of the human network itself, only speed the process already in place.

Mind you, I am very enthusiastic about the future potential of humanity. And I do certainly believe that some sort of chapter-opening change of human civilization will take place sometime soon, not necessarily while I’m alive (I’m 21 by the way) but definitely soon when viewed from the scales of world history. I am simply becoming increasingly skeptical of the kind of change expected to take place by the transhumanist community at large (if there can be such a thing). Massive information processing and storage ability does not translate into intellectual capacity without human input. There simply aren’t enough scientific evidence to support such a claim. The very idea that some sort of external intelligence engine would be able to fix the world’s problems is a vague notion that makes me want to question the degree of understanding possessed by some of the more radical supporters of transhumanism regarding matters of intelligence, brain physiology, and complex system dynamics. Certain degree of performance boost in brain capacities will definitely change the face of human civilization. Artificial intelligence in its ideal form will transform everyone’s lives. There is no doubt about that. I am just very irked about the underlying notion that such advances would be the singular answer to the singular problem of the world. Does anyone remember the concept of legacy anymore? I suggest you to find and read Jaron Lanier‘s essay on irreducible complexity (I’ve read it in a book) if you don’t know what I am talking about.

I believe in singularity-esque future, and all the good things it will bring. I also believe in reasonable ideas and sound scientific basis for reality, something some people seem to be forgetting in their rush to live forever.

Twilight bones

Thinking of Olin Levi Warner’s Twilight.

The sky outside my room-size balcony is in the thoughtful shade of blue. The field of trees extending into the horizons are shimmering in the last rays of the sun, already sinking into the other end of the land. I can see thin lining of clouds turning violet just above the tree line.

I love the twilight. This is my favorite time of the day, neither light nor dark, everything feels so calm, and everything feels as if they are thinking. At this time everything seem to regain their true shape, lost and twisted during all the happenings of the day, and will be lost in the opaque obscurity of the night. In this hour, something seem to reach out to my being beyond the veil of the world, scattering strange, indescribable feelings. It’s a feeling that reminds me of all the beautiful things I’ve ever seen in my life.

In this hour, I feel like I’m truly alive, and the mysteries of the universe brushes silently against my windowsill.

I wonder how the ancestors of human beings felt at times like this. Does the impression of the world surpass the ability to articulate it? Is there some primordial phenomena purely composed of ‘feeling’ without involvement of intellect or consciousness? If so, can we understand the phenomena of the holy moment (anyone remember the Waking Life?) as innate to all complex and cognizant life-like systems? What is a cat thinking when she stares into the deepening twilight? Did my languageless ape ancestor stare into the twilight with a piece of bone in his hand, surrounded by indescribable feeling like I have?

People can teach art and science separately, but that doesn’t mean they reside in different worlds. Someday we will be able to explain beauty to our children without any nonsense.

Universal knowledge

There is an interesting notion behind some of the more network oriented mathematical researches these days, regarding possible existence of universal characteristic available to all network centric systems regardless of their physical implementation. For some odd reason I find myself coming back to such thought often in recent years, though I’m not really sure why I would pay any more attention to this fascinating subject than say, chaos in life-like system.  Regardless of the reason, if I can’t help but to think about the subject I might as well do a little musing.

How about if I apply the methods of the network-link based thinking to a bit of epistemology? The structure of the human knowledge is fundamentally network oriented in that knowledge rarely if ever come without direct reason taking the form of knowledge. In order to broaden one’s knowledge one must know something first, and from there on the individual case of knowledge is built up, one thing leading to the other and the other depending on the truth of another knowledge which plays out in complex web of positive and negative feedback like any other decent complex system in nature. What if there is a certain characteristic that the structure of knowledge must take through the virtue of taking the mathematical form of complex network? What if it is possible to arrive at previously ignored possibilities of the world simply by searching for certain structural phenomena within the knowledge network itself instead of going through every single link within the network like we do right now? Even more, what if there is a pattern that all valid structure of knowledge must follow? What if there is a way to ‘know’ the structure of the knowledge itself without being aware of all the individual components forming the knowledge network?

If there is any valid point in this musing, the implications would be quite interesting. The impact such theory of knowledge would have on the nature of artificial intelligence/life studies and natural complex systems research would be most interesting, and quite a few educators would have something to think about. They might finally begin to treat learning as a development of interface to the universal structure of knowledge instead of some twisted weeding out process to erudite the gifted (which is a process most obvious in poorer schools of the inner city area, with richer private schools taking a bit more ‘democratic’ approach, strangely enough).

All this is nothing more than talk, of course. At the moment there is no way to support such claim of universal network-centric structure of knowledge in any academic detail. There are a few interesting historical cues that might suggest in thinking such a thing, like the prevalence of the Jungian collective unconscious in many forms throughout the history, or some of the things believed by Rudolf Steiner’s Anthroposophy movement, though both are not quite rigorous enough to lend credit to a full fledged academic research of scientific nature.

Regardless of the truth of such complex system based dispositions, mathematical phenomena seem to be getting ever closer to the structure of the real world. Maybe it is a sign of the future to come.