Archive for July, 2009


July 29, 2009 Leave a comment

from “Queen Victoria’s Personal Spook, Psychic Legbreakers, Snakes and Catfood: An Interview with William Gibson and Tom Maddox”

TM: […] there’s a guy at Berkeley named Lakoff, George Lakoff. He’s a cognitive psychologist, and he’s testing a whole set of theories based on the notion that all knowledge is a “body” of knowledge, and that every single intellectual structure in the world is ultimately a piece of embodied spatial knowledge translated by metaphor into something else.

The essential thrust of Lakoff’s work has been the argument that metaphors are primarily a conceptual construction, and indeed are central to the development of thought. He says, “Our ordinary conceptual system, in terms of which we both think and act, is fundamentally metaphorical in nature.”

For Lakoff, the development of thought has been the process of developing better metaphors. The application of one domain of knowledge to another domain of knowledge offers new perceptions and understandings.

Machines for Generating Interpretation

July 29, 2009 Leave a comment

from “Queen Victoria’s Personal Spook, Psychic Legbreakers, Snakes and Catfood: An Interview with William Gibson and Tom Maddox”

TM: Asking Bill if this thesis about women’s bodies is true to his work is asking him to be the interpreter of his own text, in which case he’s just another interpreter. Now if you [ask] what he meant by something, well, that’s legit, but he can’t validate or invalidate a particular interpretation, and in fact, to ask him to validate or invalidate a particular interpretation is like asking him to betray the possibilities of his own work. Umberto Eco wrote a book called A Postscript to The Name of the Rose, in which he said that in writing his postscript he was betraying the novel. He said, if I wanted to write an interpretation, I wouldn’t have written a novel, which is a machine for generating interpretation.

Tinkerbell Effect

July 22, 2009 Leave a comment

from here

The Tinkerbell effect describes those things that exist only because people believe in them. The effect is named for Tinker Bell, the fairy in the play Peter Pan who is revived from near death by the belief of the audience.

from here

Social aspects of consensus reality

Singers, painters, writers, theorists and other individuals employing a number of means of action have attempted to oppose or undermine consensus reality while others have declared that they are “ignoring” it. For example, Salvador Dalí intended by his paranoiac-critical method to “systematize confusion thanks to a paranoia and active process of thought and so assist in discrediting completely the world of reality”.

Categories: belief

from Integral Reality

July 22, 2009 Leave a comment

from Jean Baudrillard – Integral reality

To turn any object into a piece of art you just have to make it useless.

To turn reality itself into an art object, you just need to make a useless function out of it.

Some interesting thoughts there, although of course we reject’s Baudrillard’s purely negative interpretation of art/sign/metaphor.

… ref for example Fictions of commodity culture:

In particular, Kellner detects a ‘technophobia’ and ‘nostalgia for face-to-face conversation’ in Baudrillard which is priveleged ‘over debased and abstract media communication’. Like many others, Kellner criticizes Baudrillard for his refusal to see ‘the possibility of “responsible” or “emancipatory” media communication’.

Categories: hyperreality

doing virtual reality

July 20, 2009 Leave a comment

“Someone told me that cyberspace was ‘everting.’ That was how she put it.”
“Sure. And once it everts, then there isn’t any cyberspace, is there? There never was, if you want to look at it that way. It was a way we had of looking where we were headed, a direction.”

We’re all doing VR every time we look at a screen. We have been for decades now. We just do it. We didn’t need the goggles, the gloves. It just happened. VR was an even more specific way we had of telling us where we were going. Without scaring us too much, right?” (William Gibson, Spook Country)

I suspect for much longer than decades, actually – and I don’t think it is just screens… I’m pretty sure we’re also “doing VR” every time we read a novel… Actually, we’ve probably been doing it as long as we’ve been telling each other stories…

In fact:
Want to Explore Virtual Reality? Try Reading a Book (from Kendra’s Psychology Blog)

In a recent edition of NPR’s All Things Considered, psychologist Jeff Zacks (…) discussed his new study exploring what happens in the brain when we read a book. In the study to be published in the journal Psychological Science, Zacks and lead researcher Nicole Speer utilized brain-imaging to look at what happens inside the brains of participants while they read. What they discovered is that as people read, the creation of vivid mental representations activated the same areas of the brain that process similar real life experiences.

In other words, you are constructing a virtual reality of your own inside of your head every time you read.

According to Zacks, “We’re used to thinking that virtual reality is something that involves fancy computers, helmets and gadgets, but what these kind of data suggest is that language itself is a powerful form of virtual reality. That there’s an important sense in which when we tell each other stories that we can control the perceptual processes that are happening in each others brains.

The results indicated that specific actions in the story, such as performing a motor action, activated the relevant area of the brain associated with performing that action in real life.

from here

I love the idea of sharing New York City with people who are playing an Area/code virtual game as a result of which the city takes on new drama and urgency that completely involves them but remains invisible to me.

from here

In the book The Metaphysics of Virtual Reality, Michael Heim identifies seven different concepts of Virtual Reality: simulation, interaction, artificiality, immersion, telepresence, full-body immersion, and network communication.

Collective Intelligence

July 20, 2009 Leave a comment

Collective intelligence is a shared or group intelligence that emerges from the collaboration and competition of many individuals.

From Pór and Atlee’s point of view, maximizing collective intelligence relies on the ability of an organization to accept and develop “The Golden Suggestion”, which is any potentially useful input from any member. Groupthink often hampers collective intelligence by limiting input to a select few individuals or filtering potential Golden Suggestions without fully developing them to implementation.

Howard Bloom stresses the biological adaptations that have turned most of this earth’s living beings into components of what he calls “a learning machine”. And Peter Russell, Elisabet Sahtouris, and Barbara Marx Hubbard (originator of the term “conscious evolution”) are inspired by the visions of a noosphere — a transcendent, rapidly evolving collective intelligence — an informational cortex of the planet.


According to Don Tapscott and Anthony D. Williams, collective intelligence is mass collaboration. In order for this concept to happen, four principles need to exist. These are openness, peering, sharing and acting globally.

… However, in time people and companies began to loosen hold over these resources as they reap more benefits in doing so. Allowing others to share ideas and bid for franchising will enable products to gain significant improvement and scrutiny through collaboration.

This is a form of horizontal organization with the capacity to create information technology and physical products. … As quoted, “Peering succeeds because it leverages self-organization – a style of production that works more effectively than hierarchical management for certain tasks.”

… companies have realized that by limiting all their intellectual property, they are shutting out all possible opportunities. Sharing some has allowed them to expand their market and bring out products faster.

Acting Globally
… The influence of the Internet is widespread, therefore a globally integrated company would have no geographical boundaries but have global connections, allowing them to gain access to new markets, ideas and technology. …


July 18, 2009 Leave a comment

In case you missed it, the game theoretical problem known as the prisoner’s dilemma goes something like this:

Two suspects are arrested by the police. The police have insufficient evidence for a conviction, and, having separated both prisoners, visit each of them to offer the same deal. If one testifies (defects from the other) for the prosecution against the other and the other remains silent (cooperates with the other), the betrayer goes free and the silent accomplice receives the full 10-year sentence. If both remain silent, both prisoners are sentenced to only six months in jail for a minor charge. If each betrays the other, each receives a five-year sentence. Each prisoner must choose to betray the other or to remain silent. Each one is assured that the other would not know about the betrayal before the end of the investigation. How should the prisoners act?

Regardless of the other player’s choice, a player will always get the best payoff by defecting. However, if both players follow that logic, they both end up with the worst payoff, a Pareto suboptimal solution.

In the 70s and 80s, pursuing answers to the question ‘given all that, how and why do altruistic (cooperative) strategies develop and survive in nature (ie outside theory)?’, political scientist Robert Axelrod held several iterated prisoner’s dilemma tournaments, in which contributors wrote computer programs to play multiple rounds of PD.

The winning program was called TIT FOR TAT, which was also the simplest program submitted. Basically, TFT cooperates on the first round, and then does whatever the other player did the previous round.

Axelrod’s analysis in his book The Evolution of Cooperation presented 4 characteristics of the winning strategy TFT:
1. nice: don’t be the first to defect
2. provocable: retaliate (to avoid exploitation)
3. not envious: don’t be greedy
4. clear (not clever): don’t try to be too tricky

(It’s probably worth elaborating point #3: TFT can’t actually ever do better than the other player – the best it can ever do is tie. TFT actually won the tournaments not by winning any individual rounds but by coming in a strong second against all the other players. More on Axelrod’s analysis can be found here.)