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.
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.
I suspect these two tweets, taken as indicators, support the idea that some at least of those who travel to foreign lands for purposes of fighting do so because adventure is a potent lure. I further suspect that biker and gang codes of honor / shame fit well with the codes of honor / shame prominent in the ME — but I’d need anthropological backup for such a claim, and currently lack the resources to pursue it.
And I suspect there’s a lateral tie in here with the work of Dr Bunker and others on Mexican narcocultura.
There’s a fair amount of gaming leaking into the blogging I read these days.
Col. Pat Lang at Sic Semper Tyrannis is hosting an IS/Coalition War Game [1, 2, 3], while over at PAXsims, Rex Brynen is hosting the “game developer’s diary” of Alex Langer, a McGill undergraduate who is “designing a wargame of the current Syrian civil war as a course project” [1, 2].
Both efforts are of interest, but what the PAXsims venture makes clear to me is that I have been using my Zenpundit blogging as, among other things, a “game developer’s diary” for my own game thinking, and in particular for my thoughts about the DoubleQuotes format as a playful / serious analytic tool.
Both playful and serious, because all fresh thinking requires the application of a playful spirit to serious ends — an approach illustrated by the image of Palestinian and Israeli kids on the White House basketball court at the head of this post, by the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra put together by Edward Said and Daniel Barenboim — and enshrined in the Florentine Renaissance motto “iocari serio et studiosissime” — which Marsilio Ficino, the genius behind the Florentine Renaissance, named as the core practice of Pythagoras, Socrates and Plato – “joking seriously and playing assiduously” in Edgar Wind‘s translation.
Ficino also said, “the task of Magic consists in comparing things to one another”, as quoted by Mircea Eliade in his Foreword to Ioan Couliano‘s great book, Eros and Magic in the Renaissance.
That’s precisely what my own games do, expressed in Renaissance terms, and my DoubleQuotes in particular.
In terms of theorizing about them, one point I may not have emphasized enough is that the quality of a given DoubleQuote (or move in a HipBone or Sembl game) is dependent on the aesthetics of the juxtaposition.
Let me give you a simple example, not taken from my own work but from a “DoubleQuote in the Wild” — the header illustration to a recent FP post, The Activists Assad Hates Most Are Now Obama’s Problem. FP could have used any two photos of Obama and Assad, photos of Obama on the phone in the Oval Office, say, or Assad against the background of the Syrian flag — but they chose two images that showed the two men in near-identical poses, and it’s that near-identity which gives force to the juxtaposition:
Likewise, I could have chosen any one of a flock of quotes to illustrate British and American forces entering Baghdad in 1917 and 2003 respectively — but the most effective way to make the point was via two quotes that very closely paralleled each other:
That too is fundamentally an aesthetic choice — a choice that favors the simple elegance of the tightest available symmetry.
[ by Charles Cameron -- a deep look into IS / Daesh from Amsterdam ]
This video contains some of the most fine-grained analysis of IS / Daesh and the situation in Iraq / Syria that I have seen so far:
Eye-witness report from the frontline by Ghaith Abdul-Ahad [0:7:00]
Discussion on the appeal of IS to foreign fighters by Shiraz Maher [0:22:15]
Implications for Western foreign policy by prof. Edwin Bakker [0:37:36]
Panel discussion on Western foreign policy, moderated by Ernesto Braam [0:53:15]
Audience Q&A moderated by Ernesto Braam [1:02:40]
The detailed description of the mix of local interests present in IS / Daesh provided by Ghaith Abdul-Ahad in his initial presentation is very impressive indeed, as are his comments around 1.32.30 about the fifty or so factions working under the IS / Daesh name and umbrella..
On another tack, one particular phrase he used [0.16.45] caught my attention:
This is a new breed of militias .. the Shia al-Qaida.
I recommend the entire 2 hour presentation.
A few further comments…
To my ear, this was one of the key remarks from Ghaith Abdul-Ahad during the Q&A:
The more you bomb, the more you radicalize.
His remarks from abound the 1.08.00 minute mark up to that quote less than a minute later are chilling in the extreme.
There’s an interesting question raised from the gallery at about the 1.16.30 mark, asking how US or European citizens volunteering to fight with the IDF differ from citizens of the same nations volunteering to fight in one branch or other of the jihad. Aren’t both of them instances of youth traveling to the Middle East to fight?
Dr Bakker responds to this question at around 1.29.20 with a story about an uncle of his who fought in the Spanish Civil War. FWIW I imagine that this is an extremely touchy question, and would welcome ZP comments..
And here’s a key Q&A remark from Shiraz Maher around 1.22.30:
What should a de-rad program look like? … Some kind of deal needs to be struck: some form of pardon, in return for cooperation, cooperation that leads to active intelligenve, that leads to us gaining a better insight about the threat…
I’m particularly interested in this video because I hold a high opinion of Dr Edwin Bakker of Leiden University, having followed his Terrorism and CT Coursera course three times now, the last two times as a TA.
I recommend his comments here, his analytic work in general, and his Coursera class in particular.
Interestingly enough for my own purposes, Dr Bakker’s final slide juxtaposed these two images, one from Zhitomar in the Ukraine, the other drom IS / Daesh in Syria, to good effect — in what regular readers here will recognise is essentially a DoubleQuote in the Wild:
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.
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.
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?
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)
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..
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.
Zenpundit is a blog dedicated to exploring the intersections of foreign policy, history, military theory, national security,strategic thinking, futurism, cognition and a number of other esoteric pursuits.