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In 2019 I did 105 drawing livestreams (video #105 below). I am looking forward to 105 or more livestreams in 2020.
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A few days ago my collaborator Eirik Søvik and I published an article in the Philosophy journal Synthese, entitled "The ant colony as a test for scientific theories of consciousness". In the paper we discuss the confusing heterogeneity of "theories of consciousness", and reflect on how empirical behavioral ecological work on Ant colonies brings a new perspective to the question about consciousness in the universe. The abstract is below:
The appearance of consciousness in the universe remains one of the major mysteries unsolved by science or philosophy. Absent an agreed-upon definition of consciousness or even a convenient system to test theories of consciousness, a confusing heterogeneity of theories proliferate. In pursuit of clarifying this complicated discourse, we here interpret various frameworks for the scientific and philosophical study of consciousness through the lens of social insect evolutionary biology. To do so, we first discuss the notion of a forward test versus a reverse test, analogous to the normal and revolutionary phases of the scientific process. Contemporary theories of consciousness are forward tests for consciousness, in that they strive to become a means to classify the level of consciousness of arbitrary states and systems. Yet no such theory of consciousness has earned sufficient confidence such that it might be actually used as a forward test in ambiguous settings. What is needed now is thus a legitimate reverse test for theories of consciousness, to provide internal and external calibration of different frameworks. A reverse test for consciousness would ideally look like a method for referencing theories of consciousness to a tractable (and non-human) model system. We introduce the Ant Colony Test (ACT) as a rigorous reverse test for consciousness. We show that social insect colonies, though disaggregated collectives, fulfill many of the prerequisites for conscious awareness met by humans and honey bee workers. A long lineage of philosophically-neutral neurobehavioral, evolutionary, and ecological studies on social insect colonies can thus be redeployed for the study of consciousness in general. We suggest that the ACT can provide insight into the nature of consciousness, and highlight the ant colony as a model system for ethically performing clarifying experiments about consciousness.
Neurotypographical. [Neuro-typo-graphical], Adjective:
Describing a person who has Neurotypographia.
(in contrast with "Neurotypical" people).
Classical Diagnostic Symptoms:
- Bibliomania (love of reading & collecting books) and Graphomania (love of obsessive writing & drawing).
- Frequent production of automatic speech and automatic writing with distinctive style.
- Time dilation or contraction while producing and interpreting language.
- Strong sensitivity to certain sensory stimuli.
- Tendency to interpret meanings broadly (pan-semantica?) and produce artifacts with multiple interpretations.
- Choice of pen (or other media) alters thought dynamics.
- Manias and "conspiratorial thinking" are essentially always present, but can be productively channeled via discipline and education.
- Consistent cycling between introverted and extroverted phases.
- Acknowledgement, but not belief, of "New Age" ideation.
- Drive for integrative "big" ideas with universal scope.
- Individuals may be classified incorrectly under other DSM labels such as AD(H)D or otherwise.
Classical Prodromal Symptoms:
- Childhood fascination with stationary and office supplies, especially pen/pencil collecting. Sometimes excessive tape/glue/post-it use is also present.
- Delayed or poor handwriting as a child.
- Very early or late reading ability.
- Obsessions with Esoteric topics during childhood, such as: Alchemy, Egyptology, UFO's, alternative histories, famous mystics, the Occult, sex magick, NLP/persuasion, mind control, etc.
- Inexplicable Spiritual and/or Religious leanings.
- Passive roles in childhood trauma.
Note: the onset of Neurotypography can be catalyzed by consuming fontplays by other Neurotypographical thinkers such as: Marshall McLuhan, Rene Magritte, MC Escher, Buckminister Fuller, Ram Dass, etc.
If you or your child appear to be Neurotypographical, write on!
In the image, "Diversity of Thought" and "Diversity of Identity" are two complex vectors passing through a general "Diversity Space". We know from bio-social studies that each of these vectors are influenced by many factors and can be defined many ways. Ultimately all forms of diversity are manifested in a unique, embodied individual - an insight shared between Intersectionality and Liberalism (Individualism).
"Uni-versity" is the organizational structure that aims to prepare the naive, educate the ignorant, and research the barely-known. There is only one University - otherwise they would have called it something different.
"Di-versity" is the idea that differences exist among groups of objects that are similar enough to call a group, but dissimilar enough where differences can be seen. The "Di-" prefix reminds us that defining differences is always an act of bifurcation. The sooner we can realize that ideas and definitions exist as a consequence of opposition to one another, a more productive political discussion might emerge.
"Tri-versity" is a made-up word (aren't they all....), and seemed like the next logical step in the sequence. Perhaps a "tri-versity" is the group of people who are "tri-ing" to make things "better" (implying coordinated action that also includes a collective consensus on what "better" should be).
The first thought bubble emerging from the figure's mind is a loopy ring. A human child's first categories of the world are topological, not geometric (Jean Piaget *). This phase of evolutionary (species-level) and developmental (child-level) complexity is characterized by the inability to formalize topology beyond the immediate geometric forms found in nature.
The second thought bubble emerging from the figure's mind is the idea of a point. Defining a point implies defining the space the point exists within. Thus the innovation of the infinitesimal "point" relies upon the shadow-concept of a vast, or even infinite, "space". Think about it from the point of view of a RAM-limited verbally-combative chat bot: Without the "space" to make an argument (e.g. pass values into functions), how could it "make a point"?
The third thought bubble emerging from the figure's mind is a question: "Is the set of All points equidistant from some specified Point equivalent to a continuous 'Circle'?".
The fourth thought bubble is the following trilema: What is a Point? What is a Circle? What is a continuous line?
The fifth thought bubble is the obvious (to some) and esoteric (to most) next developmental stage of Geometry: Progressively more extreme abstractions to divine hypothesized or even merely possible types of relations among, for example, sets, categories, types, numbers, fields, networks, algebras, and grammars, and sentences and run on sentences and so on.
In the final panel, a compass traces out a circle (n.b. not a "Circle"). Experiments can reveal patterns that exist comfortably beyond the reach of theory. Seafarers we are, in this ocean of possible Geometries - the Compass is where we must find Direction. Each individual's compass is crafted by Evolution and tuned by local experience, leading to predictable temporal and spatial patterns of self-similarity of outcomes across idiosyncrasies. Chaotic systems, such as children, are apt to strongly diverge in their final logical stances when their axioms diverge only slightly (See: ZFC axiom of choice, or the Catholic "Great Schisms"). So how do we reconcile your compass and my compass, with your thought bubble and my thought bubbles? -- That so many humans can live together somewhat peacefully, is nothing short of a miracle.
Also see: Fuller, RB & Applewhite, EJ (1975). Synergetics; Explorations in the Geometry of Thinking.
When does text become art?
I think that there are two roads by which text can become art, sketched out below:
The first road by which text can become art is by containing beautiful content. For example, words from the dictionary could be used in a very specific order, with the outcome being a poem, a love letter, or "Ulysses". Here the focus is less on typography and more on the vaguely defined "content" of the text.
The second road by which text can become art is by emphasizing stylistic parameters, a science which I call "Fontplay". As any aspiring "fontplayer" will soon realize, aesthetic perturbations only make sense within an exceedingly limited portion of "content space", and vice-versa. Despite this seeming parity of mutual constraint between content and style, it is the exploration of "style space" that facilitates rapid exploration of "content space", and not the other way around. The implications of this are that the train of thought runs on (or through the country of?) style, not content. Rearranging post-it notes or making concept maps to generate new ideas are two good examples of how syntactic mutational processes can induce directed semantic evolutionary change.
Indeed, the Syntactic (style) road actually encompasses the Semantic (content) road. Here are some arguments why this might be the case.
1) All books can ultimately be restyled in a different font, but it doesn't even make sense to ask if a font could be rebooked into a different meaning. Thus books (content) represent only one possible generalization of font (style).
2) Borges's Library of Babel contained an infinity of texts, differing from one another in their symbolic content. So if the set of all possible rearranged books in a certain font set is infinite, shouldn't the set of all possible content-by-font combinations then be transfinite?
3) John 1:1.
So perhaps the relationship between Content and Style is less like two parallel roads and more like a bike lane going down the median divider of a communication freeway. The bike traffic (message content) is surrounded on all sides by the car traffic (message style). Despite Newton's Laws, crashes between cars and bikes are usually more painful for the bike rider. In other words, illegible font or off-putting style can destroy the content of a text, but no aberration of content may ever sully an artistic style.
Allow me to briefly explain a simple scheme for the optimal development, elaboration, and maintenance of a decentralized system. Such decentralized systems include, but are not limited to: cryptocurrencies, academic research groups, and ant colonies.
In this organizational model, there are 4 stages placed around a clock. The clock symbolizes the fact that all organization is explicitly temporal - no logistical plan occurs save for the passage of time. The points around the clock are also the cardinal directions of a compass, symbolizing the orientation and direction of the project. The big and little hands of the clock are always rotating through the 4 stages. The little hand moves rapidly and repeatedly overpasses the slowly-moving big hand. The little hand represents the focus of each individual worker or subunit, the big hand represents the focus of the organization as a whole. If I could have represented a second- or day-hand in this drawing, I would have done so. Thus the following 4 stages are meant to be followed as a spatio-temporal fractal, not a "road map" (ugh). The 4 stages are:
1. Explore Options.
2. Design a System.
3. Evaluate Progress.
4. Fine-tune Parameters.
In the first stage ("Explore Options"), the individual or collective undergoes a process to discover what is possible. Individuals might do this on paper, small groups sometimes use brainstorming. In this stage, larger groups have the advantage of diverse and heterogeneous membership, allowing improved exploration of option-space In the second stage ("Design a System"), a quantitative yet flexible plan is decided upon. This is a challenging phase that seeks to integrate personal and collective ethical stances with socio-economic constraints. The third stage ("Evaluate Progress") is an ongoing proactive observation of self-function. Ideally the mechanisms of evaluation will have been prominently enshrined in the plan in the second stage. The fourth stage ("Fine-tune Parameters") involves updating, not reconstructing, aspects of the previous plan. Think "Evolution is a tinker, not an inventor" -- if things are truly terrible and really require reconstruction, then you can bring it up the next time we are all at stage 2.
The little hand moves through all these stages quickly, perhaps over the course of the day. In the morning, what can I do today? At lunch, how will I do it? At dinner, how well did I do? At night time, what will I do differently tomorow?
The big hand sweeps a slower circle through the stages. In the case of a human organization, theses stages might look like: What is the niche in the market that we are best able to fill, How will we fill this niche in the next 3 years, How will we know how well we are doing, and What kind of updates should we apply to our system to improve success?
In summary, the four fractal stages of decentralized optimization:
1. Explore Options. -- Outrospection
2. Design a System -- Revolution.
3. Evaluate Progress -- Introspection
4. Fine-tune Parameters -- Evolution
p.s. This drawing is Ethereum-centric because cryptocurrencies are exciting areas to explore many of these ideas about distributed socio-economic systems. Especially Ethereum, no? Inquire within.
Def. 1, noun: A flow dynamic characterized by intense spirals, eddies, and turbulence.
Def. 2, verb: To agitate or chaotically mix a contained fluid, as a means to stir.
Def. 1, noun: An aggregate, often complicated or with multiple parts.
Def. 2,: adj., Difficult to understand.
Def. 3, verb: To combine, amalgamate, or bring together multiple entities, especially when the new structure has new properties.
It is hardly a quirk of language that some words are used as multiple parts of speech. Actually, I think that this linguistic fluidity speaks directly to the core cognitive processes that underlie our use of language. Perhaps syntax-level fluidity in speech ("word-part play") reflects a deeper and more fundamental sort of creativity than the mere rearragement of socially-acceptable word-modules. In the above Figure, two polysemous words ("Vortex" and "Complex") are juxtaposed to explore this idea. In the space between the two words, there is an emergent combination.....Vorplex.....
The task of the semantic innovator is coercive, fitting words together into a long linear jig-saw puzzle called "this sentence". The semantic innovator is like a parent trying to corral a group of unruly children into a very well-structured minivan. Whereas the syntactic innovator, at the risk of incomprehensibility, delves into the subconscious basement of language, emerging from the dark with glittering new speech forms and word-relations. The task of the syntactic innovator is similar to the work of a basic scientist - their work is obvious to the point of being esoteric, so crucial that lay people hardly understand its relevance. Why is the Government not funding theoretical adverb research like they used to? Won't someone speak up for hyphenated-adjectives and the civil rights of conjunctions and grammatical strange loops and run-on sentences?!?
Over longer timescales, this syntax-semantics bifurcation is a perfect example of "plus ça change, the more they stay the same". Imperceptible syntactic "mutations" within a language accumulate, and eventually produce new languages that can be partially translated into one another or even admixed together (as in the previous sentence). This is contrasted by semantic "mutations", which can apparently coexist perfectly as long as the basic structure of their language remains common and unchanged. If you believe such a thing as "meaning" exists, then maybe we only divine the "content" of a text when we understand it from multiple perspectives, or in multiple languages (though do see Boris Buden for a dissenting opinion).
Using new combination of words to convey semantic content is like changing the picture on your desktop background to reflect your current state. Using new syntactic forms is like modifying your operating system to both reflect your current state, as well as allow new classes of future modifications. In closing, if you find yourself needing to express some idea soon, you might want to:
Think outside of the. sentence
See on flickr @ https://www.flickr.com/photos/daniel_friedman/37000701326/in/dateposted/
The term "prelationship" describes something complementary to the idea of "relationship", for which I can find no adequate extant English word. While "relationship" summarizes the meaningful interactions between two people during the time that they know one another, "prelationship" summarizes the interactions that one acquires before entering into a "relationship" with someone else. Prelationship is a usually-unintentional period where people integrate their separately-ongoing love-experiences into individualized narrative about what kinds of "relationships" they want or deserve. "Prelationship" is to "Relationship" as Foreplay is to Sex.
A "relationship" can last one entire moment, night, year, or life; it begins at introductions and ends when one of the partners dies to the other. In contrast, a prelationship occurs in the evolutionary, embryological, and psychological interval between the Big Bang and introductions. Thus Prelationship must die when Relationship is born. The vibrancy of an individual's self-prelationship is what allows for a loving, consensual, and resonating relationship with someone else.
With whom are you prelating right now?
How do Ants work together?
1. There is no leader -- all decisions are made in an entirely distributed fashion. The queen lays eggs and plays no commanding or centralized role in the behavior of the colony.
2. Form and function are one -- ants make decisions based upon their experience of their environment, and their behavior changes their environment. Thus individual behavior (function) is dynamically in feedback with the structure of the ecosystem or nest (form).
How do ants find food?
1. It depends on the ecology -- where food sources are bonanza-like, you expect to see trail pheromone recruitment (like the Argentine ants). However when food sources are scattered and sparse, like the seeds sought after by red harvester ants, you do not see trail pheromone recruitment.
2. You have to lose it to find it -- if ants never followed trails, they wouldn't get anywhere together. But if ants never deviated from trails, they would never find anything new. There is a balance to be struck between the new and the old.
This image was created in google slides, for a Stanford program focused on science/art outreach.