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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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Are DoubleQuotes supposed to be new? 2 – further rumblings

Thursday, October 9th, 2014

[ by Charles Cameron -- including an update on Sembl, the soon to be released web-playable game I'm involved with]
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Credit: http://www.nikonusa.com/en/Learn-And-Explore/Article/h20zakgu/how-to-photograph-a-solar-eclipse.html

Credit: http://www.nikonusa.com/en/Learn-And-Explore/Article/h20zakgu/how-to-photograph-a-solar-eclipse.html

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In my earlier post, Are DoubleQuotes supposed to be new? 1 – Musashi & Zimmeman, I wrote:

DoubleQuotes are as old as time and space, as old as Sun and Moon, as old as the constellation and star sign Gemini, as old as Cain and Abel, as old as Castor and Pollux who brought us the Art of Memory, and as new as Will McCants of Brookings reporting on the apocalyptic strain in the Daesh / IS “caliphate”.

Here, I’d like to pick up on that paragraph, and lesh out sdome of the details///

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Time and space:

Time and space, stillness and motion, particle and wave, potential and kinetic energy, active and passive, creative and receptive, day and night, hot and cold, sun and moon, oranges and lemons — the human tendency to understand the world around us in pairs is basic to our nature, perhaps the earliest human cognitive skill — self and other being the archetypal example of differentiation.

Sun and Moon:

In the case of sun ansd moon, there’s a further sense to the pairing. As this photo of an eclipse of the sun shows –

eclipse

— the sun and moon subtend the same angle at the eye:

The image shown in Figure 1 at the start of this unit (repeated above), was taken during a total eclipse of the Sun, in which the Moon blocked out light from the Sun’s photosphere, enabling the chromosphere and the corona to be seen. This happens because of a remarkable coincidence. The Sun is very much bigger than the Moon – about 400 times bigger in diameter – but it is also very much further away, by almost exactly the same factor. This means that the Sun and the Moon appear the same size in the sky: that is, the Sun and the Moon have the same angular size.

Coincidence? Or not?

We can even make a DoubleQuote of the answers given to that question by Dr Jason Lisle in his Splendor of God’s Creation (upper panel, below)…

SPEC DQ sun moon

and Caleb Scharf, a blogger for Scientific American (lower panel, above).

One could see a sort of lunar calendrical DoubleQuote in the relatively rare juxtaposition of Yom Kippur and Eid al-Adha just a few days ago.

There are also DoubleQuotes to be found in scripture, in the “chiastic” arrangements favored by the Psalmist, in which the same statement is repeated in different words, with the order of contents reversed — here are two such doubtlets, from Psalm 33.6 and Psalm 19.1 respectively, once again addressing the very nature of creation in terms of “the heavens”:

  • By the word of the Lord were the heavens made, and all the host of them by the breath of His mouth.
  • The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.
  • And even the pagans knew that much, as the story of Simonides the poet shows ..

    Gemini, the Twins, Castor and Pollux:

    What interests me about twins is that they embody the archtype of division and separation in human form, two that are so nearly one that both their differences and similarities are worthy of deep study — and capture our awed attention by their sameness-in-difference.

    And Castor and Pollux? I’ve told the story before, but will tell it again. In Frances Yates‘ words:

    At a banquet given by a nobleman of Thessaly named Scopas, the poet Simonides of Ceos chanted a lyric poem in honour of his host but including a passage in praise of Castor and Pollux. Scopas meanly told the poet that he would only pay him halfthe sum agreed upon for the panegyric and that he must obtain the balance from the twin gods to whom he had devoted half the poem. A little later, a message was brought in to Simonides that two young men were waiting outside who wished to see him. He rose from the banquet and went out but could find no one. During his absence the roof of the banqueting hall fell in, crushing Scopas and all the guests to death beneath the ruins; the corpses were so mangled that the relatives who came to take them away for burial were unable to identify them. But Simonides remembered the places at which they had been sitting at the table and was therefore able to indicate to the relatives which were their dead. The invisible callers, Castor and Pollux, had handsomely paid for their share in the panegyric by drawing Simonides away from the banquet just before the crash. And this experience suggested to the poet the principles of the art of memory of which he is said to have been the inventor. Noting that it was through his memory of the places at which the guests had been sitting that he had been able to identify the bodies, he realised that orderly arrangement is essential for good memory.

    And if orderly arrangement is essential, and symmetry perhaps the most ordely of arrangements, then the twinnings of ideas we call DoubleQuotes fall honorably under the patronage of Castor and Pollux.

    Finally, here’s an up to the minute DoubleQuote in the wild, in the form of a tweet from a respected analyst:

    Will McCants:

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    For a quick update on how the Sembl web-playable variant on my HipBone Games with emphasis on visual moves is coming along, see Cath Styles‘ latest video:

    Sembl for peace from Catherine Styles on Vimeo.

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    DoubleQuotes in the Wild: Iraq Redux?

    Friday, August 8th, 2014

    [ by Charles Cameron -- noted in passing, hat tip to Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, who retweeted this from Leo Shane III ]
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    Of course, a weak (IMO) argument might be made that “fighting another war in Iraq” involves putting troops on the ground again, not “airstrikes to stop genocide” alone — but at a simple, verbal level I don’t buy it.

    So there’s a disconnect, sure — but it’s the kind of disconnect that calls attention to itself — pretty much a statement and its negation. And from a DoubleQuotes / HipBone / Sembl point of view, that’s an intense form of connection, closer for instance than many types of kinship, or cause and effect:

    Opposites are closely coupled.

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    Locked horns: reading the abstract news

    Sunday, June 1st, 2014

    [ by Charles Cameron -- pattern recognition in news media, also polarization, Swiss cows, and klezmer ]
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    Berkane & Bergamote, two Heren cows, lock horns for the title of 'queen' in Grimetz, Switzerland

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    It’s fairly extraordinary what happens when you scan a news item or op-ed piece in search of those remarks that are abstractions from the particular topic of the piece. I was struck by this today when I read:

    A tradition of vigorous, nuanced debate is increasingly being boiled down to a binary choice of worldviews.

    I mean, how many other topics in the same newspaper that day might that sentence have been slipped into without causing an eyebrow to lift?

    Of similar interest, perhaps, and from the same piece:

    ultimately, a big tent does have parameters

    That doesn’t strike me as quite as open an insight, but maybe that’s just because “big tent” has more speciic resonance. And then there was:

    Both views are completely valid, but they can be conflicting

    That one intrigues me because on the face of it, it’s a contradiction: maybe a little set theory, expressed in the form of slightly different wording, could resolve it.

    Here’s one more, still from the same piece, with a touch of zen to it — or is that psychotherapy?

    By looking at ourselves, we can be better people

    And this one, forgive me, is simply chilling:

    are you now or have you ever been … ?

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    So, “big tent” and all, are we talking about the US Congress here?

    Actually, those quotes all come from a Washington Post piece by Marc Fisher titled For Jewish groups, a stand-off between open debate and support of Israel — but that’s pretty much beside my point.

    The thing is, as SI Hyakawa pointed out, good writing tends to be writing that moves up and down the “ladder of abstraction” from intimate details (“my cow Bessie” — or “Berkane” or “Bergamote” in this instance) to broad-sweep analysis (“13% of livestock in the region”), because details (and anecdotes) evoke emotion while statistics and abstractions ensure that the wider picture is not omitted from the telling.

    WHich is why, among other things, in a world of think tanks and white papers which favor analytics and statictics almost to the exclusion of details and emotions, my own analytic tradecraft, as expressed in the HipBone Games and Sembl Thinking projects, favors quotes and anecdotes as highly as facts and stats.

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    One of the specific art acts discussed in that WaPo piece is The Shondes‘ klezmer rock punk song, I Watched the Temple Fall [lyrics, YouTube ]. Here’s what the band has to say about the song:

    We wrote “I Watched the Temple Fall” because we were thinking a lot about what Jews put our faith in, and where that faith really lives. We’d been talking about Abraham Joshua Heschel’s notion of Judaism as a religion of time, not space, and thinking about how that related to Zionism. Confining ideas into spaces (temples, states, what have you) can falsely polarize us and take us away from the big, important stuff. We wanted to write a song that clearly said, “Look, it might be devastating to face, but the state of Israel commits actions daily that violate the basic tenets of Judaism.

    Rock, punk, and klezmer I don’t know much about, but Heschel‘s book The Sabbath is one that has moved me profoundly, and reading this particular statement made me wonder what David Ronfeldt might find of interest for his Space-Time-Action (STA) theory in the song, or in Heschel’s thought.

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    Well, we began this post — about the attractions of abstraction — with an image of two Swiss cows named Berkane and Bergamote locking horns in a championship fight — here’s some klezmer from Itzhak Perlman — again, see, I’m climbing back down the ladder of abstraction to the level of the individual — to round things out:

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    Sunday surprise 23: a narrative form without conflict

    Monday, April 28th, 2014

    [ by Charles Cameron -- a friend's blogpost, a taste of still eating oranges -- and the eyes of beautiful women considered as weaponry, in a Zen story, backed up by a verse from a celebrated Indian treatise on advaita ]
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    Image

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    I like to get cross-blog discussions going, so what I’ll post here as this week’s Sunday surprise is my response to two paragraphs my friend Bill Benzon quoted on his New Savanna blog under the title Is conflict necessary to plot? from a longer piece at Still Eating Oranges titled The significance of plot without conflict — followed by a zen tale.

    Here’s the Still Eating Oranges intro to the form known as kishotenketsu which so intrigued Bill Benzon:

    The necessity of conflict is preached as a kind of dogma by contemporary writers’ workshops and Internet “guides” to writing. A plot without conflict is considered dull; some even go so far as to call it impossible. This has influenced not only fiction, but writing in general — arguably even philosophy. Yet, is there any truth to this belief? Does plot necessarily hinge on conflict? No. Such claims are a product of the West’s insularity. For countless centuries, Chinese and Japanese writers have used a plot structure that does not have conflict “built in”, so to speak. Rather, it relies on exposition and contrast to generate interest. This structure is known as kishotenketsu.

    Kishotenketsu contains four acts: introduction, development, twist and reconciliation. The basics of the story—characters, setting, etc. — are established in the first act and developed in the second. No major changes occur until the third act, in which a new, often surprising element is introduced. The third act is the core of the plot, and it may be thought of as a kind of structural non sequitur. The fourth act draws a conclusion from the contrast between the first two “straight” acts and the disconnected third, thereby reconciling them into a coherent whole.

    And here, from Paul Reps’ celebrated little book, Zen Flesh, Zen Bones, is one of the 101 Zen Stories with which Reps’ anthology begins:

    How to Write a Chinese Poem:

    A well-known Japanese poet was asked how to compose a Chinese poem.

    “The usual Chinese poem is four lines,” he explains. “The first line contains the initial phase; the second line, the continuation of that phase; the third line turns from this subject and begins a new one; and the fourth line brings the first three lines together. A popular Japanese song illustrates this:

    Two daughters of a silk merchant live in Kyoto.
    The elder is twenty, the younger, eighteen.
    A soldier may kill with his sword.
    But these girls slay men with their eyes.

    Which reminds me irresistibly — in the HipBone-Sembl manner — of a quote from Shankaracharya‘s classic work, Vivekachudamani, or The Crest Jewel of Discrimination:

    Who is the greatest hero? He who is not terror-stricken by the arrows which shoot from the eyes of a beautiful girl.

    Wry grin: I am clearly no hero — but even here in Shankara’s aphorism, we are still and ever in the realm of narrative.

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