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More twitter gratitude: once and future cars, Mozart and more

Monday, October 20th, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron -- it's been a long and wonderful day with my younger son, I'm getting sleepy, midnight approaches, and my leaps are getting longer and looser -- g'night! ]
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Flintstones Jetsons cars

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Today was my day to discover Digital Tonto, aka Greg Satell: cause for rejoicing. I can seldom retrace more than a few of my online steps, it’s a nimble dance we do here on the net, but somehow i wound up reading three of his pages before clicking myself off on another leap of faith & inquiry…

How The Future Is Really Built is great on Einstein, Wittgenstein, and all them ‘steins.

The Visceral Abstract begins with this killer paragraph:

Last week, Paul Broun, a US Congressman on the Science, Space and Technology Committee, asserted that evolution, embryology and big bang theory are “lies straight from the pit of hell.” A recent Gallup survey suggests that 46% of Americans agree with him.

Why 140 Characters Are Better Than A Flying Car brought me a image of the Jetson’s car, and I started thinking about the Flinstones, and soon I saw at the “once and future” automotive image at the top of this post.

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Okay, let me take off on a tangent here. Digital Tonto writes:

Does a banker with a multimillion-dollar bonus really represent a greater contribution than Tim Berners-Lee or Linus Torvalds?

As for myself, I am biased in favor of Tim Berners-Lee. In the same post, DT also quotes the much tougher to read Martin Heidegger:

However hard and bitter, however hampering and threatening the lack of houses remains, the real plight of dwelling does not lie merely in a lack of houses. The real plight of dwelling is indeed older than the world wars with their destruction, older also than the increase of the earth’s population and the condition of the industrial workers. The real dwelling plight lies in this, that mortals ever search anew for the nature of dwelling, that they must ever learn to dwell.

I believe the difference between “houses” and “dwelling” is a pretty fundamental one, close kin to the difference between denotation and connotation, or the time as pronounced by a mechanical clock, perhaps, and the time uttered by an impassioned, urgent human voice — thing and life, metronome and heartbeat, quantity and quality.

And that’s the great koan again, right there: quantity and quality.

Which brings me by my own leap of logic to Cornelius Castoriadis, and a quote I’ve dropped before:

Philosophers almost always start by saying: “I want to see what being is, what reality is. Now, here is a table. What does this table show to me as characteristic of a real being?” No philosopher ever started by saying: “I want to see what being is, what reality is. Now, here is my memory of my dream of last night. What does this show to me as characteristic of a real being?” No philosopher ever starts by saying “Let the Mozart’s Requiem be a paradigm of being, let us start from that.” Why could we not start by positing a dream, a poem, a symphony as paradigmatic of the fullness of being and by seeing in the physical world a deficient mode of being, instead of looking at things the other way round, instead of seeing in the imaginary — that is, human — mode of existence, a deficient or secondary mode of being?

[ aha, Scott -- the Mozart Requiem! It's already Monday where you are, so I'll just drop in a link to the video this time... ]

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BTW, I’m assisting noted futurist Jamais Cascio editing a book on privacy, currently in prospectus mode, and invite any ZP readers with an interest in the matter, to comment below.

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Sunday Surprise: Beethoven’s trousers, stockings & Missa Solemnis

Sunday, October 19th, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron -- a DoubleQuote in words from the NYRB with one of the last and greatest Beethoven works -- while I polish up the rest of my posts for the day ]
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beet-cover-mk
Beethoven’s britches imagined by Mark Kitaoka for Dallas Symphony Orchestra Beethoven Festival Marketing Dept

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In The Beethoven Mystery Case, Leo Carey writes:

Nine hundred and thirty pages into Jan Swafford’s new biography of Beethoven, there is an interesting juxtaposition. After the composer died, in March 1827, his funeral was “one of the grandest Vienna ever put on for a commoner.” Schools were closed. Some 10,000 people crowded into the courtyard of the building where he had lived, then followed the coffin to the local parish church—not, as Swafford has it, to St. Stephen’s Cathedral. (Among the torchbearers was Franz Schubert.) Franz Grillparzer, the leading Viennese writer of the day, wrote a funeral oration. But later that year, when Beethoven’s effects were auctioned off, a lifetime’s worth of manuscripts and sketchbooks fetched prices that Swafford calls “pathetic.” Beethoven’s late masterpiece the Missa Solemnis went for just seven florins. By comparison, his old trousers and stockings sold for six florins.

The “wild” DoubleQuote implicit in those last two sentences:

  • Trousers and stockings, six florins
  • Manuscript of the Missa Solemnis, seven florins
  • One underlying theme here is the familiar one of quantitative vs qualitative evaluations. Another has to do with the slow arrival of great thought among those unprepared for it.

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    For free, courtesy of YouTube, something I believe is worth just a little more than a suit of clothes .. Sir John Eliot Gardiner brings you the Missa Solemnis.

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    Happily or sadly, our AIs still lack the creative leap

    Saturday, October 11th, 2014

    [ by Charles Cameron -- on one current comparative advantage of being human, and calling for the design of a ReSearch Engine ]
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    You may not like hymns — or thrash metal. Facebook, whose market value topped $100 billion about a year ago, “thought” that if I liked this video:

    I might also like this “related video”:

    State of the art! Big Data! Analogical thinking!

    Seems like the algorithm didn’t listen to the music, it just decided “King of Heaven” and “in Heaven, King” were pretty similar as word-groups go.

    Actually, their reasoning is not that bad, once you think about it in DoubleQuotes terms — they’ve stumbled on an “opposite” rather than a “similar” — but as we’ve seen with such examples as Oxford and Cambridge, or the Army / Navy game, opposites and similars aren’t so dissimilar after all.

    Sadly, when it comes to musical tastes, opposites don’t necessarily work too well, and similars would in this case have been preferable.

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    But the issue is human cognition and the attempts of computer scientists to match it — and specifically, to match and even surpass our analogical powers.

    As I wrote in WikiLeaks: Critical Foreign Dependencies, in an online chat session with David Gelernter years ago, I said:

    My own hunch is that an aesthetic sense is *the great sorting principle*, that it has to do with pattern recognition, and specifically the recognition of isomorphisms, parallelisms in deep structure. So an AI that recognized deep isomorphisms across wide topic distances would be the ideal web navigator, as an I that recognizes deep isomorphisms across wide topic distances is a creative mind. It would also be playing Hesse’s Bead Game, no?

    to which he responded:

    Hipbone, I think basically, that’s exactly right. I wrote a book about this issue of what you call recognizing isomorphisms in widely different domains, a tremendously important issue in how the human mind works.

    From my POV, the human mind recognizing a rich correspondence between two rich insights, perhaps even from widely separate domains, is the very essence of creativity — isn’t that what the Taniyama-Shimura conjecture – and thus the eventual proof of Fermat’s last theorem – was all about?

    My brief chat with Gelernter dates to 1998, his book The Muse in the Machine: Computerizing the Poetry of Human Thought, to 1994. On pp. 2-3, he writes:

    Reasoning is one big part of human thought, and thought science has reasoning decently under control. Philosophers and psychologists understand it and computers, up to a point, can fake it. But there is one other big piece of the picture, which goes by many names: creativity, intuition, insight, metaphoric thinking, “holistic thinking”; all these tricks boil down at base to drawing analogies. Inventing a new analogy — hitching two thoughts together, sometimes two superficially unrelated thoughts — brings about a new metaphor and, it is generally agreed, drives creativity as well. Studies (and intuition) suggest that creativity hinges on seeing an old problem in a new way, and this so-called “restructuring” process boils down at base to the discovery of new analogies. How analogical thinking works is the great unsolved problem, the unknowable longitude, of thought science. “It is striking that,” as the philosopher Jerry Fodor remarks, “while everybody thinks analogical reasoning is an important ingredient in all sorts of cognitive achievements that we prize, nobody knows anything about how it works” — not even, Fodor adds (twisting the knife) in an “in the glass darkly sort of way” (1983, 107)

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    For a comparable, consider this NYT evaluation of another tricky issue for AI — Brainy, Yes, but Far From Handy:

    The correlation between highly evolved artificial intelligence and physical ineptness even has a name: Moravec’s paradox, after the robotics pioneer Hans Moravec, who wrote in 1988, “It is comparatively easy to make computers exhibit adult-level performance on intelligence tests or playing checkers, and difficult or impossible to give them the skills of a 1-year-old when it comes to perception and mobility.”

    Brainy the current AI’s may be, and even beginning to manage physical agility — but mentally agile?

    If they still can’t tell that a taste for classic hymns does not correlate closely with a taste for German thrash, they’re not agile enough for the HipBone / Sembl style of games..

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    Derek Robinson wrote a piece about my HipBone Games and AI back in the 1990s. It’s succinct, it’s relevant.

    Here’s how I see these matters: I am calling for the development of a ReSearch Engine, with the HipBone Games, Sembl and DoubleQuotes as devices to be used in its construction.

    The ReSearch Engine’s purpose would be to learn from humanly identified analogies — gleaned from repeated playings of the HipBone, Sembl and DoubleQuotes games — to recognize deep and richly textured analogies across the breadth of human cultures, following the principle laid out above:

    deep isomorphisms across wide topic distances

    Such an Engine could hopefully provide us with the links of associative links that at the moment are glimpsed in moments of genius (think: Taniyama‘s conjecture of 1956 connecting the mathematical realm of elliptic curves and that of modular forms), which then take years to be ironed out and brought to fruition (think: Wiles‘ proof of the Taniyama–Shimura–Weil conjecture, along the way to his proof of Fermat’s Last Theorem, 1993).

    The successful design of such an Engine would be a — hmmm– singular event.

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    New Post at The Chicago Progressive

    Sunday, September 28th, 2014

    [by Mark Safranski, a.k.a. "zen"]

    Musician, producer, professor and friend of mine, Joe Tortorici has a brand new e-zine start-up on the arts and social  commentary, The Chicago Progressive.  I will be contributing short ( 500 words or less) posts on national security.

    Granted, I am not a political “progressive”, being more of a cranky realist-libertarian, Boydian, conservative pragmatist, but the important problems in national security today are substantively less Democrat vs. Republican than Smart vs. Dumb. The bipartisan strategic track record since 1991 is less than impressive and since 2001, extremely poor.  We can do better  and that will start with conversations across political lines that are usually impossible on domestic issues but were of critical importance in past foreign policy successes.

    Here was my piece:

    AMERICA’S STRATEGY  TO BATTLE ISIS

    President Obama’s strategy against the genocidal ISIS “caliphate” in Iraq and Syria has been the subject of much criticism, some of it informed, much of it not, from pundits on both the Left and Right. Translating foreign policy goals into an effective military strategy is always the most difficult task for an administration and historically, short of WWII, American presidents generally find crafting strategy for a limited war to be very hard, and fighting a foreign insurgency the hardest of all.

    The President’s strategy, a cautious effort at hedging and balancing competing U.S. priorities, has clear pros and cons. First, the positives:

    • Risk in blood and treasure are deliberately minimized by reliance on airpower, trainers, aid and proxies instead of masses of American soldiers. This is not Iraq 2003 Redux;
    • America is playing to its strengths—targeted firepower, intelligence sharing, training and arming local fighters—against a fast-moving, elusive, insurgency;
    • Minimal intervention means American allies like the Iraqi government are forced to actually fight in their own defense against ISIS and work out their political problems instead of passing the buck to the U.S.;
    • One proxy, the Kurdish Peshmerga, are highly motivated to fight, and do, in relatively well-disciplined units;
    • ISIS is a strategically isolated and a morally abominable enemy without real allies, not an underdog or object of world sympathy.

    Now for the cons:

    Read the rest here

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    Anyone at State any good at nasheeds?

    Saturday, September 27th, 2014

    [ by Charles Cameron -- how AQ messages potential ISers -- as usual, when there's an overlap between divergent ideas, I start thinking ]
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    Brubeck Berlin

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    I was reading, once again, today about the US social media campaign in a WAPo piece, Digital War Takes Shape on Websites Over ISIS:

    Along with its surprising military success, the Islamic State group has demonstrated a skill and sophistication with social media previously unseen in extremist groups.

    And just as the United States has begun an aggressive air campaign against the militants, Richard A. Stengel, the under secretary of state for public diplomacy, believes the United States has no choice but to counter their propaganda with a forceful online response.

    “Sending a jazz trio to Budapest is not really what we want to do in 2014,” said Mr. Stengel, referring to the soft-edged cultural diplomacy that sent musicians like Dave Brubeck on tours of Eastern-bloc capitals to counter communism during the Cold War. “We have to be tougher, we have to be harder, particularly in the information space, and we have to hit back.”

    Then I came across this quote from Thomas Joscelyn at LWJ, inder the header Analysis: Al Qaeda attempts to undermine new Islamic State with old video of Osama bin Laden:

    Al Qaeda’s senior leaders have not directly addressed the Islamic State’s claim to rule over a caliphate stretching across large portions of Iraq and Syria. Instead, they have sought to undermine the Islamic State’s ideological legitimacy in a variety of more subtle ways.

    Subtle, I like subtle. My question, as I juxtapose AQ’s approach with that of Richard Stengel at State, is whether there’s anything we can learn from our AQ adversaries about social messaging as CVE?

    Maybe there is, maybe there isn’t — but “know your enemy” is a significant aphorism, and the juxtaposition of approaches is surely worth considering.

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    Just for the record:

    I’ve said it before — I don’t really put much stock in solo “leading indicators” — I take much sharper notice when there are two indicators with a significant associative link or overlap between them.

    And I’m not seriously suggesting the State Dept should be recording anasheed.

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