Saturday, June 19, 2004
Stigmergy & Systems Science
After Gutenberg » Knowledge Ecosystem Persistence
J.C.Winnie: "I see that Jay Cross, citing George Por, poses an interesting question: How does a community's knowledge ecosystem persist?"
Countercultural Studies: Edward Sanders' 1968: A History in Verse
Alan Gilbert writes: "[...] 1968: A History in Verse is the product of what Sanders has spent over twenty years articulating as an "investigative poetry" (1976) and "a multi-decade research project" (1994). His book Chekhov, a life of the famous Russian writer in verse, is another recent example (1995); currently, Sanders is rumored to be working on a three volume verse history of the United States. This poetic approach to research and historiography involves saturating oneself in a particular topic through the extensive researching and cataloging of information related to it. One method Sanders recommends is the compilation of "data clusters" -- strips of information which can be shuffled around until an ideal configuration is created (1994: 244). 1968 is written this way, as separate strophes present accumulating details until data clusters are formed ..."
Michael Ventura + Michael Ventura + Michael Ventura
Ventura: The psyche is a city like New York or Rome or Calcutta; you'd need a Dante or a Breughel to picture it. It's like having all the TV channels on at once and feeding into each other, late night film noir and afternoon cartoons speaking each other's lines, while epic events like revolutions have the feel of family feuds. It's an inner world that reminds me of something Henry Adams wrote after he had contemplated the gargoyles and saints of Europe's cathedrals for perhaps longer than was good for him, a sentence at the end of Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres: "Truth, indeed, may not exist; science avers it to be only a relation; but what men took for truth stares one everywhere in the eye and begs for sympathy."
A Monster in Repose by Michael Ventura (The Austin Chronicle 3 May 2002)
"When we rhapsodize about the classic European cathedrals we speak mostly of their architecture and their marvelous stained glass. We tend to consider the gargoyles separately, parenthetically -- as though these monsters were merely, somehow, decorative. They are not. They are a part of religion, a part of humanity, even a part of God. You come to be redeemed, but it's possible you'll be devoured.
[...] The cathedral builders were modest and honest. Modest, in that they did not affix their names to the greatest structures of their civilization. Honest, in what they admitted in their building: You cannot have religion without monsters.
Walk into a church, holding your child by the hand ... whatever the doctrine, monsters are crawling upon the walls. They are a part of God -- so warned the cathedral sculptors. You may not see them perched at the top of the cathedral, but they see you."
A Hundred Years of Shadows by Michael Ventura (The Austin Chronicle 7 March 2003)
"[...] Not long before his death in 1910, the writer of War and Peace and Anna Karenina saw his first film. He was about 80 years old, a relic of another era, but he got the movies. He told a journalist: "You will see that this little clicking contraption with the revolving handle [the motion-picture camera of that day] will make a revolution in our life -- in the life of writers. It is a direct attack on the old methods of literary art. We shall have to adapt ourselves to the shadowy screen and the cold machine. A new form of writing will be necessary. I have thought of that and I can feel what is coming. But I rather like it. This swift change of scene, this blending of emotion and experience -- it is much better than the heavy, long-drawn-out kind of writing to which we are accustomed. It is closer to life. In life, too, changes and transitions flash by before our eyes, and emotions of the soul are like a hurricane. The cinema has divined the mystery of motion. And that is greatness."
[...] Maxim Gorky, saw his first films in 1896: the simple, short, beautifully shot demonstration-movies of the Lumière brothers, who had perfected the motion picture camera the year before. (The first moving pictures on celluloid were taken on the streets of London by William Friese-Greene in 1889.) Gorky captures how strange, enchanting, and utterly disorienting were the first experiences of people watching a screen:
"Last night I was in the Kingdom of Shadows ..."
[...] Gorky and Tolstoy, in their different ways, understood instantly the same thing: The motion picture, the Kingdom of Shadows, would transform consciousness. We would forget where we are, even who we are, and "strange imaginings" would "invade" us. Tolstoy saw cinema as a powerful entity in its own right, so powerful that it would not adapt to us: "We will have to adapt ourselves to the shadowy screen." "Entire cities," Gorky said, would be "cast into eternal sleep." We would become sleepwalkers, dreaming with eyes wide shut. The traditional, practical, and down-to-earth, would almost cease to count. Our appearance, our ambitions, our lovemaking, the very timbre of our voices (regional accents are dying out in America), would be dominated by what was manifested on the screen's Kingdom of Shadows. We would reflexively compare ourselves to ... fantasy. Dream life would become our concrete goal. "The pursuit of happiness" would come to mean: I want to live like a movie. (Which isn't exactly what Jefferson had in mind.)
I think of a haunting sentence Josef von Sternberg said late in his life, years after he directed his last film: "I believe the cinema was here from the beginning of the world."
Something there is, hidden in Nature from the beginning, that wants to transform waking life into dream, even into nightmare. Through the motion picture this Merlinesque force would be given a terrific, irresistible power.
The last shot of "The Great Train Robbery" is the same as the first: The cowboy draws his pistol and shoots us ..."
MSNBC - Moore defends incendiary film
Moore: "It [Fahrenheit 9/11] definitely has a point of view, that's absolutely correct. But I'm not a member of the Democratic Party. If you know anything about me, anybody who's followed me, I'm the anti-Democrat. I have railed against the Democrats for a long time. They have been a weak-kneed, wimpy party that hasn't stood up to the Republicans. They let the working people down across this country. I rallied against Clinton when he was in office. I didn't vote for him in '96. I didn't vote for Gore in 2000. This is not a partisan issue with me ..."
Mae-Wan Ho: The Organic Revolution in Science
[...] The universe of organisms
"In the aftermath of quantum theory, English philosopher Alfred North Whitehead declared that physics has to be entirely rewritten in terms of a general theory of the organism. On account of quantum superposition, non-local entanglement, and the mutual entanglement of the observer and observed, Newtonian mechanics is indeed merely a flat projection of organic reality. Inert objects with simple, definite locations in space and time do not exist. Instead, all nature is alive with process and happenings. The totality of all that happens is a pattern of flows and influences, now diverging from one locus, now converging towards another in such a way that "each volume of space, or each lapse of time includes in its essence aspects of all volumes of space, or of all lapses of time."
In Whitehead's organic universe, everything is an organism, from elementary particles such as photons and electrons to human beings and galaxies. An organism senses its environment as a whole because it is itself a coherent whole. More than that, it is a field of coherent activities, which draws on its experience of other organisms to make itself whole.
Think of each organism as an entity that is not really confined within the solid body we see, which just happens to be where its wave-function is most 'dense'. Instead, invisible quantum waves are spreading out from each one of us and permeating into all other organisms. At the same time, each of us has the waves of every other organism entangled within our own make-up. The realization and maintenance of self and other are completely intertwined."
ISSS (Toronto 2000) Roundtable: What are the principles of systems science?
Tom Mandel explores the Principle of Relationship:
As Ervin Laszlo writes in his latest book, "space does not separate us, it joins us."
Complexity in a system is a matter of viewpoint. Again a new perspective is at work, just as important is simplicity. Indeed, complexity is relative -- complementary to simplicity. Stewart and Cohen propose a development that goes like so -- from simplicity to complexity to simplexity to complicity (note the spelling). Picture the evolution of an embryo. The process of differentiation/integration develops from simple to complex and back to simple, but now part of something else acting complex.
Murray Gell-Mann, co-founder of the Santa Fe Institute has created a new science he calls Plectics, the study of the simple and complex. Systems do not necessarily unite. In most cases the interaction is integration. Compare epoxy with concrete. Epoxy unifies parts A and B. Concrete integrates parts A and B. [...]
But most interesting of all is the possibility that there is a general scheme which nature has been working with. If nature operates according to a single principle, then this principle would be interpenetrative. It is likely that nature "began" as a simple act, the simplest action, and has reiterated that same principle up till now. We would therefore be able to find it in all aspects of reality.
Bertalanffy thinks so, enough to quote Nicholas of Cusa citing the coincidentia oppositorum, but Bertalanffy wonders if this is an artifact of our "languageing" or [whether it] does in fact have a metaphysical reality. Salk thinks so, he says, "In order to understand anything we must have a sense of the fundamental connections which form the backdrop of all experience."
Edge: The Emergent Self
"Autopoiesis attempts to define the uniqueness of the emergence that produces life in its fundamental cellular form. It's specific to the cellular level. There's a circular or network process that engenders a paradox: a self-organizing network of biochemical reactions produces molecules, which do something specific and unique: they create a boundary, a membrane, which constrains the network that has produced the constituents of the membrane. This is a logical bootstrap, a loop: a network produces entities that create a boundary, which constrains the network that produced the boundary. This bootstrap is precisely what's unique about cells. A self-distinguishing entity exists when the bootstrap is completed. This entity has produced its own boundary. It doesn't require an external agent to notice it, or to say, "I'm here." It is, by itself, a self-distinction. It bootstraps itself out of a soup of chemistry and physics.
The idea arose, also at that time, that the local rules of autopoiesis might be simulated with cellular automata. At that time, few people had ever heard of cellular automata, an esoteric idea I picked up from John von Neumann -- one that would be made popular by the artificial-life people. Cellular automata are simple units that receive inputs from immediate neighbors and communicate their internal state to the same immediate neighbors.
In order to deal with the circular nature of the autopoiesis idea, I developed some bits of mathematics of self-reference, in an attempt to make sense out of the bootstrap -- the entity that produces its own boundary. The mathematics of self-reference involves creating formalisms to reflect the strange situation in which something produces A, which produces B, which produces A. That was 1974. Today, many colleagues call such ideas part of complexity theory.
The more recent wave of work in complexity illuminates my bootstrap idea, in that it's a nice way of talking about this funny, screwy logic where the snake bites its own tail and you can't discern a beginning. Forget the idea of a black box with inputs and outputs. Think in terms of loops. My early work on self-reference and autopoiesis followed from ideas developed by cyberneticists such as Warren McCulloch and Norbert Wiener, who were the first scientists to think in those terms. But early cybernetics is essentially concerned with feedback circuits, and the early cyberneticists fell short of recognizing the importance of circularity in the constitution of an identity. Their loops are still inside an input/output box. In several contemporary complex systems, the inputs and outputs are completely dependent on interactions within the system, and their richness comes from their internal connectedness. Give up the boxes, and work with the entire loopiness of the thing. For instance, it's impossible to build a nervous system that has very clear inputs and outputs.
The next area of significant work involves applying the logic of the emergent properties of circular structures to look at the nervous system. The consequence is a radical change in the received view of the brain. The nervous system is not an information-processing system, because, by definition, information-processing systems need clear inputs. The nervous system has internal, or operational, closure. The key question is how, on the basis of its ongoing internal dynamics, the brain configures or constitutes relevance from otherwise nonmeaningful interactions. You can see why I'm not really interested in the classical artificial-intelligence and information-processing metaphors of brain studies. The brain can't be understood as a computer, in any interesting sense, and I part company with the people who think that the brain does rely on symbolic representation."
Soft Systems Methodology: Its Origins and Use in Librarianship
"Von Bertalanffy, Vickers, and Checkland all view human organizations as open, hierarchical systems, similar to those found in the life sciences. They assume the validity of the doctrine of emergence; that as systems grow more complex, properties emerge which cannot be explained in terms of simpler forms. To paraphrase Vickers, people in a crowd may behave like raindrops, but raindrops never behave like people. They are process oriented, in their approaches, and may involve several iterations of investigative processes."
Economist.com: Geography and the net (9 August 2001)
"Brewster Kahle unlocks the cellar door of a wooden building in San Francisco's Presidio Park. He steps inside, turns on the fluorescent lights to reveal a solid black wall of humming computers, and throws out his arm theatrically. "This", he says, "is the web." It is a seductive idea, but the web isn't really housed in a single San Francisco basement. Mr Kahle's racks of computers merely store archived copies of many of its pages which Alexa, his company, analyses to spot trends in usage. The real Internet, in contrast, is widely perceived as being everywhere, yet nowhere in particular. It is often likened to a cloud.
This perception has prompted much talk of the Internet's ability to cross borders, break down barriers and destroy distance. On the face of it, the Internet appears to make geography obsolete. But the reality is rather more complicated.
[...] To see just how little the Internet resembles a cloud, it is worth taking a look at where the Internet actually is. The answer, in short, is in cities. This is partly a historical accident, says Anthony Townsend, an urban planner at the Taub Urban Research Centre at New York University. He points out that the Internet's fibre-optic cables often piggyback on old infrastructure where a right-of-way has already been established: they are laid alongside railways and roads, or inside sewers. (Engineers installing fibre-optic cables in a New York building recently unearthed a set of pneumatic tubes, along which telegrams and mail used to be sent in the 19th century.) Building the Internet on top of existing infrastructure in this way merely reinforces real-world geography. Just as cities are often railway and shipping hubs, they are also the logical places to put network hubs and servers, the powerful computers that store and distribute data.
The signs are that the storage of information is going to become even more physically concentrated.
Mr Townsend notes that cities are, in a sense, vast information storage and retrieval systems, in which different districts and neighbourhoods are organised by activity or social group. A mobile Internet device, he suggests, will thus become a convenient way to probe local information and services."
MSNBC - Making the Ultimate Map by Steven Levy (Newsweek 7 June 2004)
When digital geography teams up with wireless technology and the Web, the world takes on some new dimensions ...
"Digital mapping is about to change our world by documenting the real world, then integrating that information into our computers, phones and lifestyles. Roll over, Mason and Dixon: spurred by space photography, global satellite positioning, mobile phones, search engines and new ways of marking information for the World Wide Web, the ancient art of cartography is now on the cutting edge."
deconstructor: The Ecology of Texts
"I've been thinking about books today, what they are and aren't, how my relationship to them is changing, etc. Two things sparked my imagination: a post by Jason Kottke contrasting the reading experiences of books vs. the web [Using the Memex (kottke.org)], and some interesting new tidbits I came across today about ... Jorge Luis Borges ...
In contrast with Jason's view of books as essentially discrete units ("self-contained"), here's a quotation from what is for me the definitive work on the nature of discourse in all its forms, especially books: The Archaeology of Knowledge, by Michel Foucault:
"The frontiers of a book are never clear-cut: beyond the title, the first lines, and the last full stop, beyond its internal configuration and its autonomous form, it is caught up in a system of references to other books, other texts, other sentences: it is a node within a network..."
On a related note, difficult-to-classify artist (designer/typographer/musician/performer) Elliott Peter Earls of The Apollo Program has described what he does as "replacing narrative coherence with referential density." For me the phrase referential density holds an abundance of meaning, and goes a long way towards describing the things about life that are most interesting."
The Miseducation of a Designer - Ali Madad et al
"The printed sheet overcomes space and time. The printed sheet, the infinity of the book, has to be overcome." El Lissitzky - The Electro-Library (1923)
A brief history of feedback control - by F.L. Lewis
"It is within the study of systems that feedback control theory has its place in the organization of human knowledge. Thus, the concept of a system as a dynamical entity with definite "inputs" and "outputs" joining it to other systems and to the environment was a key prerequisite for the further development of automatic control theory. The history of system theory requires an entire study on its own, but a brief sketch follows.
During the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, the work of A. Smith in economics [The Wealth of Nations, 1776], the discoveries of C.R. Darwin [On the Origin of Species By Means of Natural Selection, 1859], and other developments in politics, sociology, and elsewhere were having a great impact on the human consciousness. The study of Natural Philosophy was an outgrowth of the work of the Greek and Arab philosophers, and contributions were made by Nicholas of Cusa (1463), Leibniz, and others. The developments of the nineteenth century, flavored by the Industrial Revolution and an expanding sense of awareness in global geopolitics and in astronomy had a profound influence on this Natural Philosophy, causing it to change its personality.
By the early 1900's A.N. Whitehead , with his philosophy of "organic mechanism", L. von Bertalanffy , with his hierarchical principles of organization, and others had begun to speak of a "general system theory". In this context, the evolution of control theory could proceed."
headmap: magical associations can inhibit if they lack flexibility
"If it is desirable that an environment evoke rich, vivid images, it is also desirable that these images be communicable and adaptable to changing practical needs, and that there can develop new groupings, new meanings, new poetry. The objective might be an imageable environment which is at the same time open-ended."
Kevin Lynch - The Image of the City (MIT Press, 1960, page 139)
The Violets: "A Cosmological Reading of a Cosmology"
"Alfred North Whitehead has an established and central position in the history of American poetry, and the American poet who has made the most profound use of Whitehead's thought is Charles Olson." Robin Blaser
Robert Creeley - Preface to 'Charles Olson' by Tom Clark
"One time at Black Mountain he [Charles Olson] said to me, "I need a college to think with," meaning, I understood, that he wanted the multiplicity of instance, all particular and active, not the discrete or isolating possibilities of a chosen few. "Come into the world," he said, "Take a big bite." It was poetry that could move with the necessary syntax and speed, to 'be here' coincident with recognition, a locating act. Just as Pound's Cantos proved a first time record of human thought so sustained for almost half a century, Olson then moved the art to an exceptional capacity for thinking itself. Given Olson's 'methodology,' a favorite term, poetry had no longer a simply literary or cultural practice. It became, rather, a primary activity and resource for what can be called "historical geography," as Duncan McNaughton notes, adding then with significant emphasis taken from Olson's characteristic friend, the geographer, Carl Sauer, that "nothing whatever is outside the consideration of historical geography."
How needs one say it? A tracking of the earth in time? A place? Olson loved John Smith's curious phrase, "History is the memory of time." Equally he prized the sense of history which he got from Herodotus as against the abstracting Thucydides ..."
in situ: Lived Space in Architecture and Cinema by Juhani Pallasmaa
"Lived space resembles the structures of dream and the unconscious, organized independently of the boundaries of physical space and time. Lived space is always a combination of external space and inner mental space, actuality and mental projection. In experiencing lived space, memory and dream, fear and desire, value and meaning, fuse with the actual perception. Lived space is space that is inseparably integrated with the subject's concurrent life situation. We do not live separately in material and mental worlds; these experiential dimensions are fully intertwined. Neither do we live in an objective world. We live in mental worlds, in which the experienced, remembered and imagined, as well as the past, present and future are inseparably intermixed. 'Who are we, who is each one of us, if not a combinatoria of experiences, information, books we have read, things imagined?,' Italo Calvino asks, and continues: 'Each life is an encyclopedia, a library, an inventory of objects, a series of styles, and everything can be constantly shuffled and reordered in every way conceivable.'"
Jacques Lacan: "The best image to sum up the unconscious is Baltimore in the early morning."
Lewis Mumford: "In the city, time becomes visible."
"In the world of Charles Darwin, evolution was particulate; it contained and traced the history of fins, claws, wings, and teeth. The Darwinian circle was immersed in the study of the response of the individual organism to its environment, and the selective impact of the environment upon its creatures. By contrast, just as biological evolution had brought the magic of the endlessly new in organic form, so the evolving brain, through speech, had literally created a superorganic structure unimaginable until its emergence.
Alfred Russel Wallace, Darwin's contemporary, perceived that with the emergence of the human brain, man had, to a previously inconceivable degree, passed out of the domain of the particulate evolution of biological organs and had entered upon what we may call history."
Loren Eiseley - The Invisible Pyramid (Rupert Hart-Davis, 1971, pages 18-19)
The Nature of Time by Humberto Maturana
"Evolution and design, the course of nature and man's intervention in it, are notions that seem to clash in the dualistic view taken by Western thought. Human action is usually set off against all other movement in the universe. Or if it is recognized as an expression of life at large, the latter is viewed by conventional Western science as a specific, rare, and, in the end, futile process which pushes uphill against the broad stream washing downhill toward increasing randomness and entropy. In such a dualistic view, human life finds its meaning in the margin left between the attitudes of Promethean rebellion and devout fatalism.
Recent breakthroughs in physical science, in particular in the field of nonequilibrium thermodynamics, point the way toward overcoming the duality of older models.
[...] Physical systems, human systems, mind systems ... mutate toward new dynamic regimes whenever they become stifled by the debris of past entropy production."
Erich Jantsch - Design for Evolution: Self-Organization and Planning in the Life of Human Systems (George Braziller, 1975, pages xvi-xvii)
Usability News - Excerpt: Toward a Critical Practice in Design
Malcolm McCullough: "Good design is felt to be communicative. Arguments for design as a liberal art assert that it is principally a communication discipline. Arguments for the importance of artifacts assert that much of this communication is tacit. Cultural expression uses genres and their formal types as a means, not an end. Content is participatory; it is something you do, or perceive, and not simply information you receive."
BookBlog: Topic is a pheromone [vide Ants and Jane Jacobs]
Adina Levin: "Topics serve as pheromones -- people are drawn together by the "smell" of a common interest. It takes an entirely different set of skills to shape those interests into shared meanings, to weave the individuals into a group, to build those shared interests into shared artifacts and actions."
Howard S. Becker - Studying the New Media
"[...] The "impact" approach improperly treats the public as an inert mass which doesn't do anything on its own, but rather just reacts to what is presented to it by powerful (usually commercial) organizations and the representatives of dominant social strata. In some ways, this is a very old theoretical position. The studies of the effects of movies treated moviegoers as passive receptacles who, bombarded by the movies' bad messages, would use them as models for their own lives and thus come to a bad end. The position got a theoretical boost from the Frankfurt School, which developed the image of the mass society, whose puppet members reacted to what the rulers of the society gave them, material which supported and justified the ruling social and political regime.
The image of an inert, passive mass audience is a gross empirical error."
Susan Stepney reviews Stewart & Cohen's 'Figments of Reality'
"This extremely well-written book lucidly weaves together themes of self-organising complexity, co-evolution, cultural capital, and an explanation style that takes into account external 'complicity' as well as internal 'reductionist' ideas. It develops some of the authors' earlier ideas, in particular in The Collapse of Chaos. Stewart and Cohen take the view that in order to explain (human) intelligence, we need to understand its co-evolution with culture.
Evolution is explained using the mathematical idea of phase spaces, here the 'phase spaces of the possible'. Evolution progresses in directions constrained by its phase space, much as the behaviour of a dynamical system evolves in accordance with its phase space. The crucial ingredient, though, is that the phase space is determined by the existing system, and as the system evolves, so does the phase space. So the rules of the game change as evolution progresses. Some evolutionary changes make small 'private' changes to the phase space; the more interesting ones make qualitative, 'public' changes, opening up whole new regions of possibility not available before. For example, early bacteria produced a toxic by-product, oxygen; the new oxygen-rich atmosphere allowed whole new kinds of organisms to evolve. But the most interesting change in the rules of the game from our human perspective was the ability to pass on 'cultural capital' to the next generation, so that each new generation does not have to start from scratch: yolk in eggs, a nest as a protected environment, learning survival tricks from the troupe, and, eventually, being able to tap in to all of the 'extelligence' of human culture."
Stuart A. Umpleby - The Cybernetics of Conceptual Systems - July 8, 1994
"The cybernetics of conceptual systems would be compatible with a "second order game theory," which would go beyond developing strategies to win a struggle with groups composed as they are and instead seek to persuade people to change their conceptualization of the game itself. The meta-game is to change conceptions of the game. The assumption would be that the purposes, motivations, and conceptions of both "allies" and "opponents" can change."
Wired 4.07: From Bauhaus to Koolhaas - July 1996
Heron: Where do you see the future of architecture going?
Koolhaas: With globalization, we all have more or less the same future, but Asia and Africa feel much more new. I've been doing research in China recently, investigating cities that emerge suddenly, in eight years or so, seemingly out of nothing. These places are much more vigorous and representative of the future. There, building something new is a daily pleasure and a daily occurence.
Heron: You're doing a big project in China now, aren't you?
Koolhaas: Yes. Its working title is City of Exacerbated Differences. It is in the Pearl River Delta. It's not a single city but a region inhabited by a cluster of very diverse cities such as Hong Kong, Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Guangdong, Zhuhai, and Macau. Together, they may represent a new model of the megalopolis in the sense that their coexistence, their functioning, their legitimacy is determined by their extreme mutual difference.
If in a continuous city a traveler
Rod McLaren: Quotes from and a couple of notes on Calvino's 'Hermit in Paris', in the autobiographic collection of the same name:
"Occasionally I decide spontaneously to set totally imaginary stories in New York, a city in which I have lived only a few months in my life: who knows why, perhaps because New York is the simplest city, at least for me, the epitome of a city, a kind of prototype of a city, as far as its topography, its visual appearance, its society is concerned. Whereas Paris has huge depth, so much behind it, so many meanings."
Paris (and perhaps other old-European cities?) as a sedimentary accretion of so many literary references that it's hard to write anything new without feeling the heavy burden of (literary) history. On the other hand, New York as a template, a machine for generating city-stories (remember that Umberto Eco picked the NYC phone directory as his book on Desert Island Discs for exactly this reason: he could use the list of names as a computer for generating all possible stories)....
Lacan's Baltimore Lecture
"[...] Many people talk nowadays about messages everywhere, inside the organism a hormone is a message, a beam of light to obtain teleguidance to a plane or from a satellite is a message, and so on; but the message in language is absolutely different. The message, our message, in all cases comes from the Other by which I understand "from the place of the Other."
[...] If thought is a natural process, then the unconscious is without difficulty. But the unconscious has nothing to do with instinct or primitive knowledge or preparation of thought in some underground. It is a thinking with words, with thoughts that escape your vigilance, your state of watchfulness. The question of vigilance is important. It is as if a demon plays a game with your watchfulness."
Invisible Cities: Final Exchange of Marco and the Khan - Italo Calvino
The Great Khan's atlas contains also the maps of the promised lands visited in thought but not yet discovered or founded: New Atlantis, Utopia, the City of the Sun, Oceana, Tamoé, New Harmony, New Lanark, Icaria.
Kublai asked Marco: "You, who go about exploring and who see signs, can tell me toward which of these futures the favoring winds are driving us."
"For these ports I could not draw a route on the map or set a date for the landing. At times all I need is a brief glimpse, an opening in the midst of an incongruous landscape, a glint of lights in the fog, the dialogue of two passersby meeting in the crowd, and I think that, setting out from there, I will put together, piece by piece, the perfect city, made of fragments mixed with the rest, of instants separated by intervals, of signals one sends out, not knowing who receives them. If I tell you that the city toward which my journey tends is discontinuous in space and time, now scattered, now more condensed, you must not believe the search for it can stop. Perhaps while we speak, it is rising, scattered, within the confines of your empire; you can hunt for it, but only in the way I have said."
Already the Great Khan was leafing through his atlas, over the maps of the cities that menace in nightmares and maledictions: Enoch, Babylon, Yahooland, Butua, Brave New World.
He said: "It is all useless, if the last landing place can only be the infernal city, and it is there that, in ever-narrowing circles, the current is drawing us."
And Polo said: "The inferno of the living is not something that will be; if there is one, it is what is already here, the inferno where we live every day, that we form by being together. There are two ways to escape suffering it. The first is easy for many: accept the inferno and become such a part of it that you can no longer see it. The second is risky and demands constant vigilance and apprehension: seek and learn to recognize who and what, in the midst of the inferno, are not inferno, then make them endure, give them space."
Emergent Ontologies: A lecture by Gregory Ulmer (August 2000)
I'm going to begin again with Walter Benjamin, from 'One-Way Street'.
"Fools lament the decay of criticism, for its day is long past. Criticism is a matter of correct distancing, it was at home in a world where perspectives and prospects counted, and where it was still possible to take a standpoint. Now things press too closely on human society. The innocent eye has become a lie, perhaps the naive mode of expression, sheer incompetence. Today, the most real, the mercantile gaze into the heart of things is the advertisement. It abolishes the space where contemplation moved and all but hits us between the eyes, with things such as a car growing to gigantic proportion, careening at us out of a film screen. Just as the film does not present furniture and facades in completed forms for critical inspection, its insistent jerky nearness alone being sensational, the genuine advertisement hurtles things at us with the tempo of a good film. What in the end makes advertisement so superior to criticism is not what the moving red neon sign says, but the fiery pool reflecting it in the asphalt."
So we need to work with the fiery pool.
John Banville - Bloomsday, Bloody Bloomsday
"[...] Joyce liked to boast that "Ulysses" was so detailed a portrait of Dublin that if the city were to be destroyed -- an eventuality that in his darker moments of Hibernophobia he would probably have welcomed -- it could be rebuilt brick by brick, using his book as a model. In his essay "The Precession of Simulacra," the French savant Jean Baudrillard recalls the story by Jorge Luis Borges in which the Empire's cartographers spend years drawing up a map so detailed that when it is done it covers exactly the territory of the Empire, and imperial decline is plotted by the fraying of the map until only a few shreds remain. If we were to revive the fable today in our media-dominated world, Baudrillard suggests, the map would have engendered the Empire [...]
Dublin, even well into the 1960's, when I came to live there, was in many respects still the city that Joyce had known and that he celebrated with maniacal exactitude in "Ulysses." All now is changed. True, most of the streets and many of the buildings through which Joyce's characters circulate on their way to eternity are still in existence, but the heart of the place is a transplant from Silicon Valley by way of the poppy fields of Afghanistan: Ireland is the world's largest exporter of computer software, and its capital city is a serious importer of the hardest of hard drugs. Where now is the "real" Dublin?"
Howard S. Becker - Calvino as Urbanologist
"The city of Fedora, for instance, preserves its multiple possible futures as tiny crystal globes in a museum. This reminds us that every city will do something with its possible futures."
BBC News Magazine: What the Victorians can teach us about city life
"[...] In his new book Building Jerusalem: The Rise and Fall of the Victorian City, historian Tristram Hunt ... celebrates the architects, sewer-constructors and local politicians who transformed Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham, Leeds, Bradford and Glasgow into "Venices of the north" in the 19th Century. Indeed, he thinks these Victorian characters can teach us a thing or two about civic pride, city life and intellectual creativity.
[...] Hunt doesn't only pay tribute to the architects who left permanent marks on our cityscapes, but also to the unsung developers of the Victorian age. He hails engineer Sir Joseph Bazalgette, who developed a scheme to build an underground network linking together London's 1,000 miles of street-level sewers.
Bazalgette's sewage system took 12 years to complete and it totally transformed London, doing a great deal to combat the spread of disease and allowing Londoners to breathe easier. In 1861, The Observer described it as "the most extensive and wonderful work of modern times".
As Hunt says, developing and building sewers may not be as glamorous as erecting a Gothic-style cathedral, but cities cannot function well without an efficient waste disposal system."
Big Brother's global controversy - BBC News 18 June 2004
Caroline Westbrook reports: The French equivalent of Big Brother, known as Loft Story, landed in hot water after protestors against the show besieged the location three times in one week and tried to invade the studio. Police had to use tear gas to repel the activists, who complained that "trash TV turns people into idiots".
Book Review: E-topia
"Since new technological systems are complex social constructions, we must understand our emerging options, choose our ends carefully, and build well. Our job is to design the future we want, not to predict its predetermined path."
William J. Mitchell
[City of Bits] 3.7. Brains / Artificial Intelligence
"Long ago the urban theorist Kevin Lynch pointed out the fundamental relationship between human cognition and urban form -- the importance of the learned mental maps that knowledgeable locals carry about inside their skulls. These mental maps, together with the landmarks and edges that provide orientation within the urban fabric, are what make a city seem familiar and comprehensible. But for us artificially intelligent cyborgs, the ability to navigate through the streets and gain access to a city's resources isn't all in our heads. Increasingly, we rely on our electronic extensions -- smart vehicles and hand-held devices, together with the invisible landmarks provided by electronic positioning systems -- to orient us in the urban fabric, to capture and process knowledge of our surroundings, and to get us to where we want to go."
How to recapture cities' civic pride [via cityofsound]
"[Dr Tristram Hunt] ... said the early 19th century industrial revolution sucked millions from the countryside into cities, shattered the human bonds of rural life and caused intolerable squalor. Unpaved streets ran with sewage, rickets and deficiency diseases were rife. The life chances of a slum dweller in early Victorian Glasgow or Liverpool were the lowest since the Black Death. But the cities also forced through religious tolerance, a wider franchise, and repeal of the corn laws. Gradually their nonconformist business elites improved public health and evolved traditions of voluntary activity, local pride and artistic patronage.
The amazing Victorian Gothic of Manchester town hall and magnificent buildings elsewhere celebrated a modern renaissance city state. Later, cities also bred the spirit of municipal socialism, which ran gas, water and electricity more cheaply than private companies ..."
Largest Prime Number discovered - BBC News 7 June 2004
Dr David Whitehouse: "A scientist has used his computer to find the largest prime number found so far -- written out, it would stretch for 25 kilometres. Primes are important to encryption and could lead to uncrackable codes. The new figure, identified by Josh Findley, contains 7,235,733 digits, and would take someone the best part of six weeks to write out longhand. Mr Findley was taking part in a mass computer project known as the Great Internet Mersenne Prime Search (Gimps).
Mr Findley used his home computer and free software as part of an international grid of 240,000 networked computers."
Man who cracked computer engima - The Scotsman 8 June 2004
Andrew Hodges: "Turing was fascinated by the concept of creating a mathematical machine to represent thought processes, and it was the "Turing Machine" which became the foundation of the modern theories of computer science. He also envisaged a "Universal Turing Machine" - one machine for all possible tasks - which embodied the essential principle of the computer.
Turing's originality lay in seeing the relevance of mathematical logic to a problem originally seen as one of physics. He made a bridge between thought and action, which crossed conventional boundaries."
Primes, the zeta function and 'Li'
A webpage by Matthew Watkins dedicated to the 'Li-ness' of the distribution of primes, and of the (intimately related) Riemann zeta function.
Greatest maths problem 'solved' - BBC News 10 June 2004
Dr David Whitehouse: "A mathematician at Purdue University in the US claims to have proved the Riemann Hypothesis - called the greatest unsolved problem in maths. The hypothesis concerns prime numbers and has stumped the world's mathematicians for more than 150 years.
Now, Professor Louis De Branges de Bourcia has posted a 23-page paper on the internet detailing his attempt at a proof."
Groups, Graphs, and Erdös Numbers - Ivars Peterson
"In general, mathematical research is a remarkably social process. Colleagues meet constantly to compare notes, discuss problems, look for hints, and work on proofs together. The abundance of conferences, symposia, workshops, colloquia, seminars, and other gatherings devoted to mathematical topics attests to a strong desire for interaction. Electronic communication speeds and facilitates such interaction worldwide.
Perhaps more than any other mathematician in modern times, Paul Erdös (1913–1996) epitomized the strength and breadth of mathematical collaboration. Because he had no permanent home and no particular job, Erdös simply traveled from one mathematical center to another, sometimes seeking new collaborators and sometimes continuing a work in progress. His well-being was the collective responsibility of mathematicians throughout the world.
At the time of his death of a heart attack in 1996, Erdös had more than 1,500 published papers to his credit. His interests were mainly in number theory and combinatorics, though they ranged into topology and other areas of mathematics. He was fascinated by relationships among numbers, and numbers served as raw materials for many of his conjectures, questions, and proofs.
What's astonishing, however, is the extent to which Erdös worked with other mathematicians to produce joint papers. Collaboration on such a scale had never been seen before in mathematics, and it has now entered the folklore of the mathematical community.
Of course, there's a characteristically mathematical way to describe this webbiness -- a quantity called the Erdös number."
Paulos reviews Paul Erdös, John Nash books
"Schechter and Hoffman ably describe a number of Erdös' theorems and ideas but, given his wandering lifestyle and his eclectic mathematical interests, the notions of random graphs and phase transitions might be deemed typical. Imagine a country with thousands of isolated cities and a crazy highway commissioner who picks a pair of cities at random and connects them with a road and then picks another pair at random and builds another road. He repeats this procedure and after a while small clusters of cities form that are interconnected. The size of these clusters grows slowly until the number of roads approaches half the number of cities. Suddenly, with the addition of a few more roads, the isolated clusters become interconnected and coalesce to form an immense cluster that includes almost all the cities. The abrupt way this interconnectedness comes about is an instance of a phase transition. It also hints at another of Erdös' preoccupations, Ramsey theory, one of whose primary lessons is that order of some sort is almost inevitable in large structures."
Ramsey theory - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Ramsey theory, named for Frank P. Ramsey, is a branch of mathematics that studies the conditions under which order must appear. Problems in Ramsey theory typically ask a question of the form: how many elements of some structure must there be to guarantee that a particular property will hold? An oft-quoted slogan for the subject is "complete disorder is impossible".
Ramsey Theory -- from MathWorld
"The mathematical study of combinatorial objects in which a certain degree of order must occur as the scale of the object becomes large. Ramsey theory is named after Frank Plumpton Ramsey, who did seminal work in this area before his untimely death at age 26 in 1930. The theory was subsequently developed extensively by Erdös." Eric W. Weisstein
"The idea underlying Ramsey theory is that complete disorder is an impossibility. The appearance of disorder is really a matter of scale. In general, Ramsey theorists seek the smallest "universe" that's guaranteed to contain a certain object." Paul Hoffman
Modelling Selforganization and Innovation Processes in Networks
Abstract: "In this paper we develop a theory to describe innovation processes in a network of interacting units. We introduce a stochastic picture that allows for the clarification of the role of fluctuations for the survival of innovations in such a non-linear system. We refer to the theory of complex networks and introduce the notion of sensitive networks. Sensitive networks are networks in which the introduction or the removal of a node/vertex dramatically changes the dynamic structure of the system. As an application we consider interaction networks of firms and technologies and describe technological innovation as a specific dynamic process. Random graph theory, percolation, master equation formalism and the theory of birth and death processes are the mathematical instruments used in this paper."
Ingrid Hartmann-Sonntag, Andrea Scharnhorst, & Werner Ebeling
Graph theory - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Graph theory is the branch of mathematics that examines the properties of graphs.
Informally, a graph is a set of objects called vertices (or nodes) connected by links called edges (or arcs). Typically, a graph is depicted as a set of dots (i.e., vertices) connected by lines (i.e., edges).
[...] Structures that can be represented as graphs are ubiquitous, and many problems of practical interest can be formulated as questions about certain graphs. Various networks are conveniently described by means of graphs. For example, the link structure of Wikipedia could be represented by a directed graph: the vertices are the articles in Wikipedia and there's a directed edge from article A to article B if and only if A contains a link to B. Directed graphs are also used to represent finite state machines. The development of algorithms to handle graphs is therefore of major interest in computer science. [...]
"Determinism, like the Queen of England, reigns - but does not govern." Michael Berry
Study of proteins offers insights into organization of biological networks
Research into the many-sided interactions of proteins in yeast cells is revealing that such networks may have something in common with other kinds of systems, from the World Wide Web to the country's electric-power grid.
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute investigators report that "hub" proteins – highly connected proteins that bind to many other proteins in the cell – can be divided into two general groups: "party" hubs, which interact with most of their partner proteins all at once, and "date" hubs, which bind to their partners at different times or locations.
[...] Analyzing data generated by gene-chip technology, investigators found that some hubs are active at the same time as their partners – like bulbs in a flashing sign – while others are active at different times – like bulbs blinking on a Christmas tree. They dubbed the first group "party" hubs and the second group "date" hubs.
When party hubs were taken out of the mix, there was very little effect on the number of protein connections within the cell. When date hubs were removed, however, connection length rose sharply, meaning it takes more "hops" to move between nodes.
Connections: Decyphering the Grammar of Mind, Music and Math
"Gradually over repeated hearings, without the use of a dictionary or any reference to the world outside, music shows how it is to be understood. The listener begins to hear patterns, repeated motifs and changes in meter and realizes that something is happening, that sounds have punctuation, that phrases are being manipulated, transformed and recombined.
Gradually, the listener gains a form of knowledge without ever referring to anything outside the music. Sounds create their own context. They begin to make sense. Similar processes with varying richness and power take place in all forms of music, which is why it is much easier to understand another culture's music than another culture's language.
Nothing else is quite like this self-contained, self-teaching world. Music may be the ultimate self-revealing code; it can be comprehended in a locked room. This is one reason that connections with mathematics are so profound. Though math requires reference to the world, it too proceeds by noting similarities and variations in patterns, in contemplating the structure of abstract systems, in finding the ways its elements are manipulated, connected and transformed. Mathematics is done the way music is understood."
New Scientist: AI and A-Life: There's an ant in my phone...
Would you let ants run the digital superhighways of the future? Even if they were smart little programs and getting smarter all the time? Mark Ward wonders ...
Kevin Kelly - The algorithmic genius of ants
"A group of researchers in Milan, Italy, have come up with a few new varieties of evolution and learning. Their methods fill a few holes in Ackley's proposed "space of all possible types of computation." Because they were inspired by the collective behavior of ant colonies, the Milan group call their searches "Ant Algorithms."
Ants have distributed parallel systems all figured out. Ants are the history of social organization and the future of computers. A colony may contain a million workers and hundreds of queens, and the entire mass of them can build a city while only dimly aware of one another. Ants can swarm over a field and find the choicest food in it as if the swarm were a large compound eye. They weave vegetation together in coordinated parallel rows, and collectively keep their nest at a steady temperature, although not a single ant has ever lived who knows how to regulate temperature."
Collective Intelligence in Social Insects
Introduction & Self-Organisation
"It wasn't so long ago that the waggledance of the honey bee, the nest-building of the social wasp, and the construction of the termite mound were considered a somewhat magical aspect of nature. How could these seemingly uncommunicative, certainly very simple creatures be responsible for such epic feats of organisation and creativity? Over the last fifty years biologists have unravelled many of the mysteries surrounding social insects, and the last decade has seen an explosion of research in fields variously referred to as Collective Intelligence, Swarm Intelligence and emergent behaviour. Even more recently the swarm paradigm has been applied to a broader range of studies, opening up new ways of thinking about theoretical biology, economics and philosophy. It turns out that not only might we, as multi-cellular organisms, be composed of swarms, but so could our societies, economies and perhaps even our minds. In this essay I will outline three of the most promising areas of social insect-inspired AI: ant-based search algorithms, Particle Swarm Optimisation and swarm robotics, and hopefully provide an insight into how these studies have grown out of a small niche of A-life research into an all-encompassing new way of thinking."
Google + Blogger = Stigmergy
Matt Webb: Imagine, searching at Google, and then:
* this trail is highly followed
* do you only want to see what people suggest, or where people went?
* here's a worn track in the interweb. Follow the Google Pixie!
* this trail is uncommon, but made by someone we see (by your weblog) that you value
Or, more succinctly, stigmergy.
"It is possible to arrange a series of nodes to form a related structure. They can be linked together by close juxtaposition or by allowing them to be intervisible [...]
They may be put in some common relation to a path or edge, joined by a short linking element, or related by an echo of some characteristic from one to the other."
Kevin Lynch - The Image of the City (MIT Press, 1960, page 103)
"We have already seen the usefulness of what Grassé calls "stigmergy" for the solution of a general type of complex problem by a not-so-complex organism, the Argentine ant. But these ants don't live to solve problems (unlike the numerous robotic and computational ants designed in their image), they solve problems to live -- so what happens after the problem, when the food source is depleted? The articulated path is no longer a solution, but an initial condition; the autocatalytic mechanism no longer a bridge, but a prison. Once again, the answer lies between the ants, in the pheromone-ground. When the food disappears, the ants will not emit pheromone and, over time, the pheromone already on the ground will evaporate, leaving them free to explore.
Stigmergy, in this instance, operates as a kind of distributed memory within the landscape, capable of both remembering and forgetting. It suggests that we should not only speak of the ants in isolation (as individuals) or the colony in abstract (as a group of individuals), but instead, of the ant-pheromone pheromone-ground, as a peculiar kind of organism."
Definitions of stigmergy
Istvan Karsai: "Grassé coined the term stigmergy (previous work directs and triggers new building actions) to describe a mechanism of decentralized pathways of information flow in social insects. In general, all kinds of multi-agent groups require coordination for their effort and it seems that stigmergy is a very powerful means to coordinate activity over great spans of time and space in a wide variety of systems. In a situation in which many individuals contribute to a collective effort, such as building a nest, stimuli provided by the emerging structure itself can provide a rich source of information ..."
The Ants are Blogging
Ross Mayfield: "Perhaps each blog post is a possible path (a meme)."
posted by Andrew 6/19/2004 06:14:00 PM