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PR Beckman tweets on bridges and analogy

Sunday, January 25th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — cross-posted from Sembl — this post is for Cath Styles, who has been thinking bridges ]
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Pooh bridge

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My blog-friend PR Beckman, on a roll, has been tweeting Octavio Paz and Martin Esslin.

I’ve taken Beckman’s tweets out of 140 characters and put them back into paragraphs, and given a little more context to some of them, but greatly though I admire Octavio Paz and much though I have puzzled over the Theater of the Absurd, I wouldn’t have run across these particular passages if I hadn’t found them in my Twitter feed today. Important.

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Octavio Paz, Children of the Mire: Modern Poetry from Romanticism to the Avant-garde:

Analogy is the science of correspondences. It is, however, a science which exists only by virtue of differences. Precisely because this is not that, it is possible to extend a bridge between this and that. The bridge does not do away with distance: it is an intermediary; neither does it eliminate difrerences: it establishes a relation between different terms. Analogy is the metaphor in which otherness dreams of itself as unity, and difference projects itself illusively as identity. By means of analogy the confused landscape of plurality becomes ordered and intelligible. Analogy is the operation nby means of which, thanks to the play of similarities, we accept differences. Analogy does not elimiate differences: it redeems them, it makes their existence tolerable.

Martin Esslin, The Theatre of the Absurd, pp 419:

the Theatre of the Absurd is concerned essentially with the evocation of concrete poetic images designed to communicate to the audience the sense of perplexity that their authors feel when confronted with the human condition

and 428:

The realization that thinking in poetic images has its validity side by side with conceptual thought and the insistence on a clear recognition of the function and possibilities of each mode does not amount to a return to irrationalism; on the contrary, it opens the way to a truly rational attitude.

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Let me add a quote of my own choosing, this one from Winnie the Pooh:

Sometimes, if you stand on the bottom rail of a bridge and lean over to watch the river slipping slowly away beneath you, you will suddenly know everything there is to be known.

Illustration: Original, 1928 Illustration Of Pooh, Christopher Robin and Piglet Could Fetch Over $200K

Intelligence vs the Artificial

Friday, January 16th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — who believes that detours are the spice of life ]
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Craig Kaplan:

Craig Kaplan

Maurits Escher:

M Escher

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There’s a fasacinating article about Craig Kaplan and his work with tiling that I came across today, Crazy paving: the twisted world of parquet deformations — I highly recommend it to anyone interested in pattern — and I highly recommend anyone uninterested in pattern to get interested!

Kaplan himself is no stranger to Escher’s work, obviously enough — he’s even written a paper, Metamorphosis in Escher’s Art — the abstract reads:

M.C. Escher returned often to the themes of metamorphosis and deformation in his art, using a small set of pictorial devices to express this theme. I classify Escher’s various approaches to metamorphosis, and relate them to the works in which they appear. I also discuss the mathematical challenges that arise in attempting to formalize one of these devices so that it can be applied reliably.

I mean Kaplan no dishonor, then, when I say that his algorithmic tilings, as seen in the upper panel above, still necessarily lack something that his mentor’s images have, as seen in the lower panel — a quirky willingness to go beyond pattern into a deeper pattern, as when the turreted outcropping of a small Italian town on the Amalfi coast becomes a rook in the game of chess

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Comparing one with the other, I am reminded of the differences between quantitative and qualitative approaches to understanding, of SIGINT and HUMINT in terms of the types of intelligence collected — and at the philosophical limit, of the very notions of quantity and quality.

DoubleQuoting Andreessen with Turing

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron — counterintuitive insights are like eddies in group mind ]
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SPEC-DQ-Andreessen-Turing

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Adam Elkus said a while back that he wondered “if @pmarca and @hipbonegamer could team up for a double quote post.”

Well, I’m @hipbonegamer, and @pmarca is Marc Andreessen — and while we haven’t teamed up as such, the DoubleQuote above consists of a tweet from Marc two or three days ago, and a paragraph I ran across yesterday which seemed to echo Marc’s tweet from one of Alan Turing‘s posthumously published essays, and which is juxtaposed with Marc’s tweet as my response. Effectively, Marc made the first move on this two panel board, and I responded with the second — and that’s how this most basic form of my HipBone Games is played.

The degree of kinship between Marc’s tweet and Turing’s para is even stronger if you look up the link Marc offered in his tweet, which goes to a pre-pub paper by Jerker Denrell and Christina Fang titled Predicting the Next Big Thing: Success as a Signal of Poor Judgment, in which they suggest:

The explanation is that because extreme outcomes are very rare, managers who take into account all the available information are less likely to make such extreme predictions, whereas those who rely on heuristics and intuition are more likely to make extreme predictions. As such, if the outcome was in fact extreme, an individual who predicts accurately an extreme event is likely to be someone who relies on intuition, rather than someone who takes into account all available information. She is likely to be someone who raves about any new idea or product. However, such heuristics are unlikely to produce consistent success over a wide range of forecasts. Therefore, accurate predictions of an extreme event are likely to be an indication of poor overall forecasting ability, when judgment or forecasting ability is defined as the average level of forecast accuracy over a wide range of forecasts.

— and then goes on to demonstrate it:

Consistent with our model, both the experimental and field results demonstrate that in a dataset containing all predictions, an accurate prediction is an indication of good forecasting ability (i.e., high accuracy on all predictions). However, if we only consider extreme predictions, then an accurate prediction is in fact associated with poor forecasting ability.

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The counterintuitive nature of this prediction is delighful in its own right — there’s a sense in which “going against the tide” of what appears obvious is part of a wider pattern that includes knots in a plank and eddies in a stream, close cousins to von Kármán’s vortex streets. And I suspect it’s that built-in paradox that we perceive as “counterintuitive” that caught the eye and attention of Turing, Denrell and Fang, Marc Andreessen and myself. Once again, form, ie pattern, is the indicator of interest.

So this DQ is for Marc and Adam, raising a toast to Alan Turing, in playful spirit and with season’s greetings.

An English game

Wednesday, December 10th, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron — image and Sotheby’s cataloguing via Michael Robinson ]
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Carl Jung told his friend Sir Laurens van der Post:

One of the most striking testimonies to the quality of the English spirit is the English love of sport and games in a classical sense and their genius for inventing games.

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Exempli gratia:

Pooh Stcks

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Catalog entry:

Shepard, E.H.
“FOR A LONG TIME THEY LOOKED AT THE RIVER BENEATH THEM…”

Illustration for Chapter six of ‘The House at Pooh Corner,’ the episode “in which Pooh invents a new game and Eeyore joins in.” The game is ‘Poohsticks.’ Sold this morning: £314,500 (US$492,727)

Shepard, Ernest H. (10 December 1879 – 24 March 1976)
188 by 148mm, original ink drawing,
signed “EHShepard” lower left.

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For those who don’t know the game, here’s the relevant excerpt from The House at Pooh Corner:

Pooh had just come to the bridge; and not looking where he was going, he tripped over something, and the fir-cone jerked out of his paw into the river. ‘Bother,’ said Pooh, as it floated slowly under the bridge, and he went back to get another fir-cone which had a rhyme to it. But then he thought that he would just look at the river instead, because it was a peaceful sort of day, so he lay down and looked at it, and it slipped slowly away beneath him, and suddenly, there was his fir-cone slipping away too.

‘That’s funny,’ said Pooh. ‘I dropped it on the other side,’ said Pooh, ‘and it came out on this side! I wonder if it would do it again?’ And he went back for some more fir-cones. It did. It kept on doing it. Then he dropped two in at once, and leant over the bridge to see which of them would come out first; and one of them did; but as they were both the same size, he didn’t know if it was the one which he wanted to win, or the other one. So the next time he dropped one big one and one little one, and the big one came out first, which was what he had said it would do, and the little one came out last, which was what he had said it would do, so he had won twice … and when he went home for tea, he had won thirty-six and lost twenty-eight, which meant that he was – that he had – well, you take twenty-eight from thirty-six, and that’s what he was. Instead of the other way round.

And that was the beginning of the game called Poohsticks, which Pooh invented, and which he and his friends used to play on the edge of the Forest. But they played with sticks instead of fir-cones, because they were easier to mark.’

The Art of Future War?

Sunday, November 23rd, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron — coloring outside the lines of the challenge ]
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http://www.desura.com/mods/dune-wars/images/new-soldier-and-infantry-units
Civ4 Dune mod, “Worm attack”, from Desura

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I’m all in favor of the Atlantic Council‘s Art of Future War Project:

It is a moment to seek out new voices and ideas from artists who can range much farther out into the future. Artists are adept at making sense of disorder while also having the ability to introduce a compelling chaos into the status quo. In other words, they are ideally suited to exploring the future of warfare. Writers, directors and producers and other artists bring to bear observations derived from wholly different experiences in the creative world. They can ask different kinds of questions that will challenge assumptions and conventional ways of tackling some of today’s toughest national security problems. Importantly, they can also help forge connections with some of most creative people in the public and private sectors who otherwise struggle to find avenues for their best ideas.

That’s excellent, and as a poet and game designer with a keen interest in war and peace, I hope to contribute.

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Funny, though, their first challenge looks, to my eyes, just a little bit back to the future:

The Art of Future Warfare project’s first challenge seeks journalistic written accounts akin to a front-page news story describing the outbreak of a future great-power conflict.

Why would we want to produce something “akin to a front-page news story” at a time when news stories are already more web-page than front-page, and perhaps even tweet before they’re breaking news?

In any case, the good people at Art of Future War offered some clues to those who might want to take up their challenge, and I took their encouragement seriously —

The historical creative cues included below are intended to inspire, not bound, creativity.

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Their first clue did indeed inspire me, though not to write anything akin to a front-page news story, “between 1,500 and 2,500 words long”. The clue they gave was the Washington Times lede I’ve reproduced in the upper panel below —

SPEC DQ slomo death

while the lower panel contains the quote their clue led me to, by an associative leap of the kind artists are prone to — drawing on the vivid imagery of Peter Brook‘s play, The Mahabharata, which I had the good fortune to see in Los Angeles, a decade or three ago.

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My own leap backwards — to an ancient and indeed originally oral epic, the Mahabharata, rather than to century-old newsprint — won’t win me the challenge, since it doesn’t answer to the rules, nor will it provide useful hints as to what war will look like a decade from now.

The sage Vyasa, who wrote the Mahabharata at the dictation of the god Ganesh, might have been able to predict the future of war — I certainly cannot.

What I can do, and hope to have done, is to suggest that the whole of human culture has a bearing on war and how we understand it.

James Aho‘s Religious Mythology and the Art of War should be on every strategist’s reading list, as should Frank Herbert‘s Dune (see gamer’s mod image at the top of this page), JAB van Buitenen‘s Bhagavadigita in the Mahabharata and Brigadier SK Malik‘s The Qur’anic Concept of War — and Akira Kurasawa‘s Kagemusha on the DVD shelf, too:

There, I have managed to contribute something useful after all.


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