Monday, December 29, 2003
I should be so Loki
Between the Ears - Silent Key
'The cards I left with were QSL cards. The functional message-carriers, the hard-copy proof of the urge to communicate. The need to log, record, jott things down.'
Epicurus's Hooked Atoms: Poincaré's extended Metaphor
"Poincaré describes habitual thinking as anchored in an inertial frame represented by the spatial metaphor of walls to which thoughts are hooked. He describes liberated thought as the product of entropic processes capable of spontaneous re-orderings once those thoughts are unhooked. Its hard to believe that he would stoop to such a conceit, but clearly, he characterizes the substance of thought in terms of the physics of reversible and irreversible systems. Clearly, Poincaré means to apply these physical references as tropes for thoughts swarming through the boundaries of conceptual systems. While he says that "My comparison is very crude, but I cannot well see how I could explain my thought in any other way" (Science and Method 62), he expects his readers to take this correspondence seriously. This tactic is especially fascinating since he implies that tropes constitute a linguistic limit to his ability to explain something crucial about his own thinking.
Moreover, he seems to ascribe to these entropic thought-swarms the capacity to self-organize in a way that would make the return of those atom-thoughts to their original positions on the walls impossible. These swarms may indeed overwhelm their containing structures, may even require the reorganization of the sedentary structures of the walls themselves." Martin Rosenberg
Work in Progress: Four Complications in Understanding the Evolutionary Process
"[...] The real problem for the evolutionist is not to explain the kinds of organisms that have actually ever existed. The real problem for the evolutionist is how it is that most kinds of potential and seemingly reasonable organisms have never existed. The problem is to explain the location of the empty spaces in the clustered assemblage of occupied points. It is easy to describe organisms that have never existed. There are snakes that live in the grass, but there are no grass-eating snakes. Birds perch in trees, yet, aside from a few exceptions, they do not eat all that greenery around them, but rather spend a great deal of energy searching for food. So why are there virtually no leaf-eating birds?" Richard C. Lewontin
Innovation in Natural, Experimental, and Applied Evolution
"The state space for a mathematical theory of innovation is necessarily infinite (otherwise all possibilities can be enumerated in advance). Researchers will explore, therefore, mathematical representations in which the state space itself is constructed dynamically as populations evolve upon it, e.g., through the combinatorial assembly of fundamental building blocks of rules or forms, embodied in generative construction rules.
A theme running through much if not all of the mathematical thinking on these matters is that of the topological structure of maps from one space to another. For example, the replicative process maps genotype to genotype; genotype is mapped to phenotype via development; phenotype is mapped to fitness via interactions with the environment, broadly construed. The underlying spaces support a natural notion of distance, e.g., the number of point-mutations from one genotype to another, so these maps can exhibit discontinuities, mapping points nearby in one space to points quite distant in another. These features are known in mathematics as bifurcations ..."
A Thousand Plateaus - Deleuze and Guattari
SPACE is central to D&G; it dominates much of the postmodern conversation. The "plateaus" of their title are borrowed from Gregory Bateson (STEPS TO AN ECOLOGY OF MIND. NY: Ballantine Books, 1972, p. 113). D&G say: Bateson "uses the term *plateau* for continuous regions of intensity constituted in such a way that they do not allow themselves to be interrupted by any external termination, any more than they allow themselves to build toward a climax.... A plateau is a piece of immanence. Every Body Without Organs is made up of plateaus. Every BwO is itself a plateau in communication with other plateaus on the plane of consistency. The BwO is a component of passage." (p.158)
BBC - Radio 3 - Silent Key
A lesser known history of radio via cards and collage. Silent Key is an audio-field diary investigation into the history of radio enthusiasts and short-wave hobbyists recorded and assembled by David Ellis. "It's also about making radio without a handbook."
Theoretically Thad is Compelling...
"In their seminal work A Thousand Plateaus, Deleuze and Guattari posit the argument that:
"Thought is not arborescent, and the brain is not a rooted or ramified matter. What are wrongly called 'dendrites' do not assure the connection of neurons in a continuous fabric. The discontinuity between cells, the role of axons, the functioning of the synapses, the existence of synaptic microfissures, the leap each message makes across these fissures, make the brain a multiplicity immersed in its plane of consistency or neuroglia, a whole uncertain, probabilistic system ("the uncertain nervous system"). Many people have a tree growing in their heads, but the brain itself is much more a grass than a tree. "The axon and the dendrite twist around each other like bindweed around brambles, with synapses at each of the thorns." The same goes for memory. Neurologists and psychophysiologists distinguish between long-term memory and short-term memory (on the order of a minute). The difference between them is not simply quantitative: short term memory is of the rhizome or the diagram type, and the long-term memory is arborescent and centralized (imprint, engram, tracing or photograph). Short term memory is in no way subject to a law of contiguity or immediacy to its object, it can act at a distance, come or return a long time after, but always under conditions of discontinuity, rupture, and multiplicity. Furthermore, the difference between the two kinds of memory is not that of two temporal modes of apprehending the same thing; they do not grasp the same thing, memory or idea. The splendor of the short-term Idea: one writes using short-term memory and thus short term ideas, even if one reads or re-reads using long term memory of long term concepts. Short-term memory includes forgetting as a process; it merges not with the instant but instead with the nervous, temporal, and the collective rhizome. Long-term memory (family, race, society or civilization) traces and translates, but what it translates continues to act in it, from a distance, off beat, in an "untimely" way, not instantaneously." (pp. 16)
There is much to unpack from the above argument, but I find the statement "short-term memory includes forgetting as a process" particularly relevant to my concerns about the psycho-somatic impact of wearable computing."
s t r a n g e a t t r a c t o r - A Cosmic Theophony - 18 June 2003
Featuring illustrated talks by Erik Davis and Ken Hollings and music from Jo Thomas.
Erik Davis, contributing editor to Wired magazine and author of the seminal Techgnosis, and Ken Hollings, author of Destroy All Monsters and regular contributor to The Wire magazine, considered the history, technology and meaning of the music of Outer (and Inner) Space.
The night's programme was an extension of Silent Key, a 45 minute radiogenic work 'assembled' by writer/producer David Ellis and broadcast on BBC Radio 3 on the 23rd of February 2003 for the series 'Between the Ears'. [The original programme] was described as "an audio-field diary investigation into a lesser known history of short-wave radio, Danny Kaye's anxious children's songs and 19th century table-rappers".
Tricksters on the Margins - Marshall Soules
"A Canada of Light (Coach House, 1993) is a passionate meditation on Canada as a "communication state." In it, author B.W. Powe argues for an inclusive and accommodating vision of the "discontinuous" Canadian identity:
"I believe that Canada has a hermetic past: its meanings are concealed in private whisperings and interrupted signals, in insoluble arguments about unity and misread messages, and in quiet resistances to the pressures to join into one supreme political system. I suggest that Canada has a discontinuous character. I mean that without a single purpose or predetermined historic goal -- no violent creation and imposition of a political myth or ideology -- Canadians have lived with, invited and responded to many stories, moods and visions, and many different kinds of people." (68-9)
Central to Powe's vision of the discontinuous national character is a recognition of our complex reliance on communication technologies -- "The only way we can live in this country is through advanced technologies of communication." And we are thus forced to live with the paradox that "these technologies do not solidify individual identity... Electricity scatters individual memory, conjuring ghosts and simulations." Communications technologies have forced -- and allowed -- us to accept this paradox into our national consciousness:
"... electronic technologies spur and excite questions, allow for multiple points of view, add to the strange feeling of fusion with world events and confusion about significance and intent. Communications technologies threaten us, summon us, immerse us: they appear to be capable of dehumanizing our lives and of enhancing our awareness, sending out images and reflections of ourselves everywhere." (67-8)
Powe thus takes his place within a tradition of Canadian media theorists who have articulated an evolving theory of communications and media which addresses not only the Canadian national character but, more significantly, also the role of the global citizen living in a media-saturated culture."
The Character of Loki by Johannes Persson [via Tons-o-Trickster!]
"Loki as the Provider is in many ways connected to his function of being a trickster/culture bringer. He does not only provide the Aesir (and hence mankind) in general with the net but he also provides three Aesir in particular with the attributes that constitute their functions in Dumézil's tripartite system: Tórr with the hammer, Ódin with the spear and Freyr with the golden boar."
BBC News: Magazine: The loser's guide to getting lucky
"Lucky people are more relaxed and open, and therefore see what is there
rather than just what they are looking for.
My research eventually revealed that lucky people generate good fortune via four principles.
They are skilled at creating and noticing chance opportunities, make lucky decisions by listening to their intuition, create self-fulfilling prophecies via positive expectations, and adopt a resilient attitude that transforms bad luck into good."
Professor Richard Wiseman - University of Hertfordshire
spiked: In defence of bad luck by John Adams
"A society that cannot accept the concept of luck is one that seeks to attach blame to every undesired outcome. Unless we can accept bad luck we are destined to be governed by a risk-blame-litigation-compensation culture that suffocates initiative."
The Psychology of Luck - Are you feeling lucky?
Why do some people lead happy successful lives whilst others face repeated failure and sadness? Why do some find their perfect partner whilst others stagger from one broken relationship to the next? What enables some people to have successful careers whilst apparently similar others find themselves trapped with jobs they detest?
Kenan Malik's paper 'In defence of human agency'
"[...] At the heart of the scientific methodology is its view of nature, and of natural organisms, as machines; not because ants or apes are inanimate, or because they work like watches or TVs, but because, like all machines, they lack self-consciousness, foresight and will. Animals are objects of natural forces, not potential subjects of their own destiny. They act out a drama, [they do] not create it.
Humans, however, are not disenchanted creatures. We possess - or believe we possess - purpose and agency, self-consciousness and will, qualities that science has expunged from the rest of nature. Uniquely among organisms, human beings are both objects of nature and subjects that can, to some extent at least, shape our own fate. We are biological beings, and under the purview of biological and physical laws. But we are also reflexive, rational, social beings, able to design ways of breaking the constraints of biological and physical laws. We are, in other words, both immanent in nature and transcendent to it.
The very development of the scientific method has exacerbated this paradox of being human ..."
Building my Zen Garden
Breaking the Second Law
In Nature, 23 July 2002, Ed Gerstner says:
In some ways thermodynamics is like gambling. The first law - that energy cannot be created - tells us 'you can't win'. The second says 'you can't even break even'.
In other words, there is nothing unusual about winning a single game of blackjack, but over many games the house always wins. If a player keeps playing, they must eventually lose. And in thermodynamics, you're not allowed to leave the casino ...
The first and second laws of thermodynamics are considered so fundamental that the United States Patent and Trademark Office will not consider patent applications that claim to violate them - unless a working model is provided with the application.
But violation of the second law of thermodynamics by small ensembles of particles within larger systems is not a new idea... In 1878, the physicist James Clerk Maxwell wrote in a book review for Nature: "The truth of the second law is ... a statistical, not a mathematical, truth, for it depends on the fact that the bodies we deal with consist of millions of molecules... Hence the second law of thermodynamics is continually being violated, and that to a considerable extent, in any sufficiently small group of molecules belonging to a real body."
For larger systems over normal periods of time, however, the second law of thermodynamics is absolutely rock solid.
Joseph Dillon Ford - Has the Arrow of Time Missed its Mark?
posted by Andrew 12/29/2003 05:26:00 PM