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Intelligence vs the Artificial

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

Craig Kaplan:

Craig Kaplan

Maurits Escher:

M Escher


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


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.

7 Responses to “Intelligence vs the Artificial”

  1. J.ScottShipman Says:

    Excellent, sir! I’ve a long overdue post on patterns and cognition—you’ve inspired me yet again!

  2. Charles Cameron Says:

    Thanks, Scott.
    I look forward to your piece!

  3. zen Says:

    And in HUMINT itself there’s plenty of distinctions.
    The kind of intel collected from deep cover clandestinity vs. Official diplo spies. In the former case, deep cover operations are often used:
    To avoid detection
    To avoid identification even when detected ( providing “plausible deniability” )
    To facilitate the commission of illicit acts or establish relationships under false pretenses
    To conduct covert surveillance
    To collect secret information of strategic significance (i.e. – espionage)
    To facilitate long term influence operations over years or decades.
    Clandestinity can yield different, sometimes unique intel not available through OSINT, liasioning, recruitment by diplo cover spies where the target is aware they are being recruited by a foreign power

  4. zen Says:

    Also this….
    Which I think is parochial. The CIA has capacity for special action not because it is necessary for the CIA but because it is useful for the United States to place these paramilitary capabilities in non-military hands for diplomatic, legal, political and redundancy reasons

  5. Charles Cameron Says:

    Hi Zen:
    I like Col. Lisagor’s comment that CIA has moved, as Charles Cogan puts it, from a ‘gathering’ to a ‘hunting’ culture”, and his own conclusion that “CIA should put the meat-eaters on a leaner diet and return to a ‘gatherer’ culture.
    Having said that, I must take issue with his version of Islamic history. He writes:

    A cursory knowledge of Islamic history provides an answer. The Prophet Muhammad was born in 570 and died in 632. Upon his death, succession of leadership moved through his direct descendants. This established the Abbasid Caliphate Dynasty. After the third succession, there emerged an opposition to direct inheritance of the leadership in preference to succession based upon a community with chosen leaders instead of the genealogical tradition of the Abbasids.

    I suggest he has things mixed up in terms of elective and familial succession.
    The transmission of power in the Islamic world is not an area in which I have much knowledge, but it seems to me that there are four ways in which the role of caliph may be acquired:
    by appointment by the previous caliph
    by election by suitable electors within the community
    by familial descent
    by force
    Of the four Rashidun Caliphs of the Sunni, Abu Bakr was elected, Umar was appointed by Aby Bakr, and Uthman and Aliwere elected.
    A Shia hadith says:

    I and `Ali are the fathers of this nation; whoever knows us very well also knows Allah, and whoever denies us also denies Allah, the Unique, the Mighty. And from `Ali’s descendants are my grandsons al-Hasan and al-Husayn, who are the masters of the youths of Paradise, and from al-Husayn’s descendants shall be nine: whoever obeys them obeys me, and whoever disobeys them also disobeys me; the ninth among them is their Qa’im and Mahdi.

    Thus the Sunni Rashidun caliphs were appointed or elected, while it was the Sunni Imams who had to be descendants of Ali, and thus of the Family of the Prophet (Ahl al-Bayt).
    Establishing a caliphate by force is obviously not a matter of descent, appointment or election, but the Islamic world tends to understand the importance of “powers that be” — so when force has been used and rulership established, if my reading is correct, authorities from Ibn Hanbal to Ibn Khaldun agree that the Caliph should be obeyed.

  6. Scott Says:

    I assume you’ve read Godel, Escher, Bach by Hofstadter? If not, I assure you that you might find it very interesting.

  7. Charles Cameron Says:

    Yes indeed, Scott, I know Godel, Escher, Bach, though there are parts of it I’ve browsed rather than read! And there are other works of his that deal directly with my interest in metaphor and analogy — fascinating guy!
    BTW, I have another Escher-related post coming up shortly.

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