[ by Charles Cameron — Escher, Borges, simulating the future, wargames, A Pattern Language, Sembl ]
Ridiculous phrase, a library of windows. Unless you think, as I do, of books as windows onto different worlds, in which case it makes a whole lot of sense, and a decent library has more windows onto more profoundly different worlds than any physical room — and here we are getting into the territory of Jorge Luis Borges (links to Library of Babel) and Maurits Escher (image above).
And let me just state for the record that Godel Escher Bach could just as well have been Escher Carroll Borges, and that a comparison between the logics of Escher and Borges is one of the desiderata of our times.
That’s a Sembl move.
Let’s expand the concept of window to include the sort of inter-worldview glimpse that Haaretz describes today here:
Last week, in a small beit midrash (study hall) named after Rabbi Meir Kahane in Jerusalem’s Shmuel Hanavi neighborhood, an emergency meeting was convened to discuss instigating freedom of religion and worship on the Temple Mount. It was a closed meeting attended by representatives of the Temple Institute, HaTenu’ah LeChinun HaMikdash (the Movement to Rebuild the Holy Temple) and the Temple Mount Faithful, as well as two representatives of Women for the Mikdash, and others. The activists met to try to understand how they could overcome the authorities, who they believe are plotting against them, and return to the Temple Mount. At this meeting, Haaretz was offered a rare behind-the-scenes glimpse of the most ardent activists in the battle to Judaize the Temple Mount.
Here’s the meat of the post, as yet uncooked. Back in 2005, but brought to my attention today by Rex Brynen at Paxsims, is this piece from Strategy Page:
After eight years of effort, and spending over $300 million, the U.S. Army has officially received its new wargame (WARSIM) for training battalion, brigade, division, and as big as you want to get, commanders, and their staffs. Now even the most elaborate commercial wargame would not get $300 million for development, and eight years to create the system. But wargames for professional soldiers have different requirements, and a troublesome Department of Defense bureaucracy to deal with. First, the requirements. Commercial wargames shield the player from all the boring stuff (support functions, especially logistics.) But professional wargames must deal with these support activities, because in a real war, these are the things commanders spend most of their time tending too. …
WARSIM covers a lot of complex activities that a commander must deal with to achieve battlefield success. Besides logistics, there’s intelligence. Trying to figure out what the enemy is up to is, next to logistics, the commanders most time consuming chore.
— which in turn was referenced by Michael Peck writing in a Kotaku piece today titled Why It’s So Hard to Make a Game Out of the 21st Century:
Let’s build a game. Let’s make it a strategy game. We will realistically simulate global politics in the 2030s. Perhaps a sort of Civ or Supreme Ruler 2020-type system.
Where shall we start? How about something easy, like choosing the nations in the game? It’s simple enough to consult an atlas. We’ll start with Britain…but wait! Scotland is on the brink of declaring independence from the United Kingdom. Should Britain be a single power, or should England and Scotland be depicted as a separate nation? What about Belgium splitting into Flemish and Walloon states? And these are old, established European nations. How will states like Syria and Nigeria look in two decades? It was only a bit over 20 years ago that the Soviet Union appeared to be a unshakeable superpower that controlled Eastern Europe and Central Asia.
Let’s cook that meat, let’s make a meal of it.
Peck’s piece goes into many other ways in which predictive gaming isn’t terribly productive.
But it left me asking the question, what would I do with a game-sized budget, if my aim was to push military and intelligence towards greater insight.
And my answer would be to embed information in walls. In corridors…
To build windows at sparse and irregular intervals into the internal corridors that connect any given office in the Pentagon or three-letter agency — or my local preference (hush, I know it’s the Glorious Fourth tomorrow) MI-5 and -6 — through which analysts and decision makers can glimpse snippets of information.
Which can then fall into the deep well of memory.
It is deep within that well of half-forgotten knowledge, ST Coleridge tells us, that the “hooks-and-eyes of memory” link one thought with another to build a creative third.
A wall, then. I would build a wall embedded with facts and fancies, maps and illustrations, graphs and stats, film clips and news clips, anecdotes and quotes — even, perhaps, tiny alcoves here and there with books free for the taking, music CDs, DVDs of movies, old, new, celebrated, strange…
And I would be constantly shifting and rearranging the “views” from my windows, so that what was seen yesterday would not be what would be seen tomorrow — yet with a powerful index of words, topics, themes, memes, image contents, names of actors, newscasters, authors and so forth, so that what was once seem and dimly recalled could be recaptured.
The concept here is pretty much the exact opposite of having a huge black poster proclaiming Creativity Matters!
Don’t get me wrong, creativity does matter (get that poster and others here), but it “works in mysterious ways its wonders to perform” — and the way to entice it is to see things out of the corner of the eye…
The windows I’m looking for, therefore, offer glimpses you wouldn’t necessarily notice if you were deep in thought or conversation, and conversely, wouldn’t see twice and grow so familiarized to that they’d become irrelevant by repetition. They’d be glimpsed in passing, their esthetic would be that of Christopher Alexander’s Zen View, pattern 134 in his brilliant work — the closest we have to a Western I Ching — Pattern Language:
The idea, then, is to seed the memory with half-conscious concepts, patterns, facts and images, carefully selected and randomly presented — so that those hooks and eyes have the maximum chance of connecting some scrap of curious information with a pressing problem.
Which is how creativity tends to work.
That way each corridor becomes a game-board — but it is in the analyst’s focused mind that the game is played and won.
What you’d get, in effect, would be community-wide, ongoing free-form gameplay in complete alignment with the web-based game we’re currently developing at Sembl. Games of this genre will also have powerful application in conflict resolution.