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Considering Viv, Wolfram Language, Syntience, and the GBG

Wednesday, June 8th, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — expanding the computable to include qualitative ideation ]
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Let’s start with Viv. It looks pretty phenomenal:

That video is almost exactly a month old, and it’s pitched at “the universe of things” with a marked tilt towards e-commerce. Fair enough.

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It’s instructive to compare it with Wolfram Language, although here I’ve had to go with a video that’s a couple of years old:

Stephen Wolfram, the creator of both Mathematica and Wolfram Alpha, is focused on the world of numbers — and incidentally, that includes graphs of the sort I’ve been discussing in my series here On the felicities of graph-based game-board design, as you can see in the video above.

It will be interesting to see how the two of them — Viv and Wolfram — interact over time. After all, one of the purposes of these lines of development is to dissolve the “walled gardens” which serve as procrustean beds for current thinking about the nature and possibilities of the web. Do these two gardens open to each other? If so, why? If not, why not?

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I’ve talked enough for my purposes about AlphaGo and it’s narrowly focused though impressive recent triumph, and the wider picture behind it, as expressed by Monica Anderson — and tying the two together, we have this video from Monica’s timeline, Bob Hearn: AlphaGo and the New Era of Artificial Intelligence:

Bob Hearn: AlphaGo and the New Era of Artificial Intelligence from Monica Anderson on Vimeo.

Monica’s Syntience, it seems to be, is a remarkable probing of the possibilities before us.

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But I’m left asking — because Hermann Hesse in his Nobel-winning novel The Glass Bead Game prompts me to ask — what about the universe of concepts — and in particular for my personal tastes, the universe of musical, philosophical, religious and poetic concepts. What of the computational mapping of the imagination?

My question might well have large financial implications, but I’m asking it in a non-commercially and not only quantitative way. I believe it stands in relationship to these other endeavors, in fact, as pure mathematics stands in relation to physics, and hence also to chemistry, biology and more. And perhaps music stands in that relationship to mathematics? — but I digress.

If I’m right about the universe of concepts / Glass Bead Game project, it will be the most intellectually demanding, the least commercially obvious, and finally the most revelatory of these grand-sweep ideas..

From my POV, it’s also the one that can give the most value-add to human thinking in human minds, and to CT analysts, strategists, journos, educators, therapists, bright and playful kids — you name them all!

Seeing it in terms of counterpoint, as Hesse did — it’s the virtual music of ideas.

Sunday surprise: osprey! — & more..

Sunday, May 15th, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — elemental battles — one extraordinary nature video in slomo, and another with an interesting angle on threesidedness ]
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But first, by way of preamble..

Haniel Long Annie Dillard SPEC

I’ve told the tale of how I came to appreciate the power of DoubleQuotes by running across these two parallel quotes in the works of two writers I admire, Haniel Long and Annie Dillard, in DoubleQuotes — origins, while in Bobcat jumps shark.. I posted a photo of an encounter that strongly reminded me of the pair of them.

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You can therefore imagine how delighted i was this week to add this fourth entry into what is rapidly becoming a catalogue of fights-to-the-death between creatures of opposing elements:

The bird, as in Haniel Long’s tale, is an osprey, it’s battle is with a heavy fish — but in this case, it is the osprey that survives the encounter — and the slow motion video capture is simply astonishing.

Which reminds me..

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I have already posted three times on the subject of ternary logic and three player games — in Of games III: Rock, Paper, Tank, in Spectacularly non-obvious, I: Elkus on strategy & games, and in Spectacularly non-obvious, 2: threeness games — but had somehow omitted any mention of another spectacular wildlife video, this one capturing a three-cornered battle between buffalos, lions and a crocodile or two, which can be found on YouTube under the title Battle at Kruger:

With 77 million views and counting at the time I post this, it’s a video you may very well have seen before — and a terrific testament to the idea that sheer quantity may on occasion be indicative of real quality.

Of blood and song

Sunday, April 10th, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — what carves memory? blood is spilled, song carries grief and anger across centuries ]
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One hundred years ago, Irish blood was spilled in the Easter Uprising of 1916, as Sinéad O’Connor & The Chieftains call us to remember in The Foggy Dew:

As down the glen one Easter morn to a city fair rode I
There armed lines of marching men in squadrons passed me by
No pipe did hum no battle drum did sound it’s loud tattoo
But the Angelus bell o’er the Liffey swell rang out through the foggy dew

The bravest fell, and the Requiem bell rang mournfully and clear
For those who died that Easter-tide in the spring of the year
While the world did gaze in deep amaze at those fearless men but few
Who bore the fight that freedom’s light might shine through the foggy dew

While some may see in the Uprising a merely political fight, in song the religious element — Easter morn, the Angelus bell, the Requiem bell — add Catholic poignancy to memory.

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One hundred years.

Memory can linger long past a hundred years, as we in our rush to be the first into the future may forget. Let the Chieftains again remind us, with O’Sullivan’s March:

Donal Cam O’Sullivan Beare marched in 1602 — as Shakespeare was penning All’s Well That Ends Well and Othello?

A doff of the cap is due here to blog-friend Pundita , who pointed me in the direction of this post with her own Don’t ask me why, because..:

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Ah, but Pundita also deerves a bow for her most recent post, Can the griots lead us home? — wherein she pointed me to a music of great joy, that of Oumou Sangaré:

If you watch enough videos of Oumou singing (there must be a zillion of them posted to YouTube) you’ll see that in many of her performances she has a highly conversational way of singing. You feel as if she’s talking directly to you. Sometimes it’s as if she’s talking to you in the manner of a defense attorney making an argument to a judge; others as if she’s chatting about something over lunch with you.

Here is a hunting song:

Pundita notes:

I think the ability to set up a very personal communication through song is the mark of a real griot, although after watching about 50 of her videos I think Oumou represents a tradition that I suspect goes back much earlier even than the griot clans — to a time when certain people in a tribe were interlocutors between humans and natural forces and helped settle disputes between members of tribes, and did so through the power of their voices to project a wide range of emotions.

Mali, at a time of violent upheaval — yet such joy in dance and song:

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We have statistics for which nations suffer the most losses in war and terror, which export the most weapons, which nations invade, and which are invaded — but what of joy?

Years ago, in a book that sank like a stone, I suggested the concept of a Subtle National Product. King Jigme Singye Wangchuck of Bhutan apparently beat me to it, when he declared in the 1970s:

Gross National Happiness is more important than Gross National Product.

His Majesty came up with the idea first, I now see and gladly admit — but I still prefer my own pohrasing!

Joy, it seems to me, isn;t easily quantified, although Bhutan does have an Index:

Bhiutan Gross Natiuonal Happiness

Here are some conparative stats across nations, ethnicities and faiths I’d be interested in:

  • deaths in warfare, civilian, irregular, and military
  • numbers of children pressed into war
  • numbers of those maimed, displaced and or grossly mentally disturbed by war
  • depth of grief, as meaaured in forms of keening and ululation
  • degree of exuberance, as found in music and dance, popular and professional
  • ritual solemnity and grandeur, on religious and state occasions
  • quantity of written poetry bought or borrowed from libraries
  • size of audiences for spoken poetry readings
  • number of poets (in particular) imprisoned for their writings
  • Qualitative equivalents of these values would also be of interest, though even harder to obtain and verify in any objective manner..

    Across the great divide

    Friday, April 8th, 2016

    [ by Charles Cameron — philosophy during a bank heist — and its implications in terms of military doctrine ]
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    tactical

    mental

    Two screenshots in sequence from the Denzel Washington movie, Inside Man, bring me back to the philosophical fissures and fusions between mind and brain, subjective and objective, quantitative and qualitative, man half-angel and half-beast — in a law enforcement context.

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    When one side has reached the limits of its material strength, it can always add to its military efforts by mobilizing all possible moral strength.

    I often need to talk about this. As material, for Clausewitz, is the counterpart to moral, what for TRADOC is the counterpart to Human Terrain?

    Churchill’s oratory, American might

    Thursday, February 25th, 2016

    [ by Charles Cameron — some thoughts on Churchill while prepping a post re Cole Bunzel’s new paper ]
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    Let’s pre-amble around a bit, before we get to Cole Bunzel‘s important new paper, The Kingdom and the Caliphate: Duel of the Islamic States in my next post: the issue of oratory vs force is significant in its own right.

    I’ve just been watching a couple of films about Winston Churchill, and wondering how much of Britain’s survival of the Nazi enemy in World War II was the result of materiel and how much of morale. My father was the gunnery officer of a light cruiser covering the Murmansk convoys, so I appreciate the importance of logistics, both trans-Atlantic and trans-Arctic. But then there’s morale, about which von Clausewitz says:

    Essentially, war is fghtiing, for fighting is the only effective principle in the manifold activities designated as war. Fighting, in turn, is a trial of moral and physical forces through the medium of the latter. Naturally moral strength must not be excluded, for psychological forces exert a decisive in?uence on the elements involved in war.

    and:

    One might say that the physical seem little more than the wooden hilt, while the moral factors are the precious metal, the real weapons, the finely honed blade.

    As between the material and the immaterial, then — and notice how the word immaterial has come to have the pejorative meaning, irrelevant — Clausewitz gives greater importance to the immaterial, the psychological.

    So — how do we measure the impact of Winston Churchill’s oratory, as a morale-multiplier, to compare it with that of the output of US aircraft factories just prior to and during the war — 100,000 aircraft, I am told, to include “the Army Lockheed P-38 Lightning, P-39 Airacobra, Curtiss P-40 Warhawk, P-47 Thunderbolt, North American P-51 Mustang, Northrop P-61 Black Widow, and the Navy F2A Buffalo, F4F Wildcat, F4U Corsair, and F6F Hellcat fighters.

    Against those immense and measurable figures, let us set just three of Churchill’s speeches from the summer of 1940:

    Behind us gather a group of shattered states and bludgeoned races: the Czechs, the Poles, the Danes, the Norwegians, the Belgians, the Dutch — upon all of whom a long night of barbarism will descend, unbroken even by a star of hope, unless we conquer, as conquer we must, as conquer we shall.

    Even though large tracts of Europe and many old and famous States have fallen or may fall into the grip of the Gestapo and all the odious apparatus of Nazi rule, we shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, We shall fight on the seas and oceans, We shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island whatever the cost may be, We shall fight on the beaches, We shall fight on the landing grounds, We shall fight in the fields and in the streets, We shall fight in the hills; We shall never surrender.

    Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, “This was their finest hour.”

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    The materiel and the morale, the qantitative and the qualitative, the measurable and the immeasurable — here’s the great koan around which it would seem much of my thought revolves.

    In amy next post, I’ll turn to Cole Bunzel’s report for the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, which triggered these reflections with the words:

    Saudi Arabia, home to Islam’s holiest places and one-quarter of the world’s known oil reserves

    If that isn’t a powerful superposition of the immaterial and material worlds in one short phrase, I don’t know what is.


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