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  #1  
Unread May 17th, 2006, 12:26 PM
James Brody James Brody is offline
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Default Emergent Networks and Fine Art

The Adapted Mind (1992) shared material on the evolutionary foundations of visual and spatial esthetics; Ed Wilson also talked about them in Consilience. We are drawn to arrangements similar to those of a savanna with a near, middle, and far planes and Japanese gardeners trim trees in shapes like that of an Acacia. Further, most of us sense comfort with images of water, sunrises, or sunsets and the sound of white noise and I suspect that a swimming fish has similar preferences both to a painter's audience and a motorcycle rider.

Africa, however, may not be the whole story or even its backbone. Dr. Wilson described the importance of a 20% redundancy factor in calligraphy, decorations, and paintings but couldn't account for it except to correlate it with CNS arousal. Emergent networks could be a clue not only to the 20% phenomenon but also to the victories of modernism. And Miller's points about the importance of sexual selection in art and Coe's resistance to them could be just a skirmish.
----------

I went to the mall on a rainy morning and passed an abstract painting, the kind that I would like to create, in the front window of an art store. (I remain as trained some 40 years ago: an abstract expressionist but a tidy, Apollonian one.) The composition showed three women sitting in a bar and I found a pattern: from left to right, light background became light foreground; dark background became dark foreground in the opposite direction. There were other emergent tricks discovered and exploited by the art world: we become watchful when darker tones and simpler forms alert our brainstem that something important happens. And consistent with Stu Kauffman's models from statistical physics, colors and values are often triangulated: one large anything is balanced by two smaller anythings of about the same hue or value.

Power laws describe collections in which one or two large events are accompanied by many small ones. Did the painting have this pattern? Perhaps. Can Seurat be captured by a log-log equation? Probably. Our CNS evolved twice by power relationships, once in phylogeny and again in ontogeny, and there may be a match between that kind of organization and the inputs that attract it.

We find a similar matching between receptor tuning and target characteristics. The sensitivity of a spider's hearing peaks about 500 Hz, the frequency made by a struggling fly. This matching may be no accident but not just for the obvious reasons. First, a power law organization suggests change over time and, in a very primitive way, reveals that it might be alive. (Trees, earthquakes, and madness have power characteristics and we pray to them.) Second, a power law organization lets minds predict major events (hubs) on the basis of a node: small events warn of larger ones. Even the Law of Effect might operate not only on the basis of random associations but also in a more powerful, less accidental way. And some visual and auditory sequences will just feel like home but for reasons that predate our time in Africa.

The next step? Collect computer-renderings of biological networks and adjust the physical size of the nodes in accord with their connectivity. Do the light-dark reversals, triangulate some of them, and toss in the brain-stem magnets. Could be a masters or doctoral project...and a way to make money, capture territory, and attract women. But that takes me back to Miller and Coe...

JimB

Copyright James Brody, all rights reserved, 2006
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  #2  
Unread May 28th, 2006, 05:12 PM
Margaret McGhee Margaret McGhee is offline
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Default Re: Emergent Networks and Fine Art

We all want so desperately to wrap our left brains around the mystery of life and the human mind. But, it's really a fools errand. You are much closer to reaching this goal by doing art than analysing it. We all so easily resort to our preferred means of coping with such a dangerous world, our wonderful logical western European brain-computer.

This was brought home to me very well recently when I watched another one of those Netflix films. This time it was the 2005 film Crash. From the jacket,
Quote:
A 26 hour period in the diverse metropolis of post-9/11 Los Angeles is the theme of this unflinching drama that challenges audiences to confront their prejudices. Lives combust when a Brentwood housewife and her districft attorney husband, a Persian shopkeeper, two cops, a pair of carjackers and a Korean couple all converge. Director Paul Haggis's gritty film stars Sandra Bullock, Brendan Fraser, Don Cheadle, Matt Dillon and Jennifer Esposito.
After seeing this film I was really hit with the absurdity of our feeble attempts to discuss things like ethnic prejudice in terms of how the human mind works. With all due respect to Steven Pinker, even though he's way ahead of me, both in his understanding of these things (analytically) and his ability to express it using words - a film like this, excellent art, is really the only way such a complex topic can be adequately approached.

All our talk about emotions and synapses and morality and cognition - is just so much crap really. It dosn't even come close to the real thing. In fact, it degrades whatever real knowing of these things is available to us and probably keeps us further from whatever truths there are.

I think you should paint some pictures. I'd probably learn more from one or two of those than from arguing over who's silly words are closer than someone else's - to describing things that are simply not available to that part of our minds to start with. And I should certainly stop criticizing your maddening unexplained metaphors. With those you are surely on a better track to knowing something about this universe than my own overly-analysed and effete prose.

Before any of us try to intelligently discuss ethnic prejudice here I suggest we all try to see this film. Aside from the pleasure of seeing really good art, maybe we'll be able to make some sense to each other on this topic. The only knowing of these things that makes any difference is ultimately in our emotional selves.

Suggestion: If you do watch it, do it when you are fully awake and focused. Things are happening on many different levels that required my full attention to appreciate.

Margaret
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  #3  
Unread May 29th, 2006, 07:58 AM
Carey N Carey N is offline
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Default Re: Emergent Networks and Fine Art

Quote:
Originally Posted by Margaret
All our talk about emotions and synapses and morality and cognition - is just so much crap really. It dosn't even come close to the real thing. In fact, it degrades whatever real knowing of these things is available to us and probably keeps us further from whatever truths there are.
Speak for yourself, Margaret.

Just because a phenomenon is staggeringly complex does not mean that it can't be approached from a scientific perspective . . . history is laden with examples in which seemingly impossible-to-explain systems were deemed the works of God (the Ultimate cop-out), but then later incorporated into a mechanistic framwork (e.g. the solar system, life on earth, etc.). This is effectively what you're saying about our brains: they're so complicated, that trying to understand them bottom-up is a dead end. Someone, someday, will prove you wrong on this point.
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  #4  
Unread May 29th, 2006, 09:34 AM
Fred H. Fred H. is offline
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Default Re: Emergent Networks and Fine Art

Quote:
MM: After seeing this film [Crash] I was really hit with the absurdity of our feeble attempts to discuss things like ethnic prejudice in terms of how the human mind works. With all due respect to Steven Pinker, even though he's way ahead of me, both in his understanding of these things (analytically) and his ability to express it using words - a film like this, excellent art, is really the only way such a complex topic can be adequately approached.
At times the stories in Crash felt somewhat contrived to me, although I’m inclined to agree with what seemed to be its premise—that all races, all ideologies, all of us, no matter how fair-minded we may be convinced we are, automatically/instinctively infer things about others based on “race.” As far as the movie being “excellent art,” I thought it was mediocre at best (albeit rather emotional at times), the various incidents in the story merely portraying the obvious—that we all have an innate propensity (our evolved biology) to instinctively, subconsciously, automatically infer things about others based on “race.”

Surprise, surprise . . . but only to those who lack a basic appreciation for the biology of our primitive, subcortical emotional/motivational neural systems; and/or to those that believe in blank slates; and/or to those that believe that human differences result primarily from environment/culture.

Although I missed it, I suspect that the Ang Lee’s Brokeback may have been a better example of how a “complex topic [cowboys in love?] can be adequately approached.”
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  #5  
Unread May 29th, 2006, 11:57 AM
Fred H. Fred H. is offline
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Quote:
[Carey to MM:] Just because a phenomenon is staggeringly complex does not mean that it can't be approached from a scientific perspective . . . history is laden with examples in which seemingly impossible-to-explain systems were deemed the works of God (the Ultimate cop-out), but then later incorporated into a mechanistic framwork (e.g. the solar system, life on earth, etc.).
Not to take MM’s side on this issue, but let’s face it Carey, whereas the evolution of the solar system is superbly explained and predicted by Newton’s and Einstein’s equations (along with all the science/evidence for the Big Bang), the explanation for the evolution of life by “natural selection” and “random mutations” is much ado about nothing—a circular explanation that merely substitutes God with natural selection/random mutations.

Hell, everything evolves—is the fact that life evolves over time supposed to be some sort of revelation? OK, maybe it was a bit of a leap for Darwin since the groupthink back then seemed to imply that life was formed in a several day period; but beyond that, what does evolution by natural selection/random mutations actually tell us or predict? It’s a circular explanation telling us, essentially, that the fittest traits/individuals survive and reproduce; otherwise, after all, if they weren’t the fittest, they’d not have survived . . . and beyond that, the explanation doesn’t really tell us how/why life started, nor does it really predict where life’s going, and it certainly doesn’t explain how/why we see human consciousness . . . although it seems to have spawned shit-loads of scientific sounding just so stories and textbooks.
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  #6  
Unread May 29th, 2006, 01:34 PM
Carey N Carey N is offline
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Default Re: Emergent Networks and Fine Art

Quote:
Originally Posted by Fred
. . . a circular explanation that merely substitutes God with natural selection/random mutations.
Regarding circularity, I think you are confused as to the nature of evolutionary biology, but I've explicated this point before and will only refer you back to that discussion.

On substituting God with mutation/natural selection . . . yes, that's the whole point. Before Darwin, most were of the mind that biological entities were so complex that they could not possiblly have arisen by any other means than design by an intelligent agent (speaking of circularity . . . that's gotta be the biggest monster of a circular statement in the history of humanity: humans are too complex to have arisen by virtue of a blind mechanistic process; therefore, a human-like intelligence must have built them!). Darwin's contribution was critical because it allowed us to consider that complex living things could arise by virtue of a simple algorithm, and so took the mysticism out of natural philosophy.

My point to Margaret was that even though some phenomena, like human consciousness or racial discrimination, are so mind-bogglingly complex that they seem impossible to explain in cold, hard scientific terms, that doesn't mean that it isn't possible. Perhaps it's a long way off, but eventually we will do it (it may require different tool sets than the ones we're currently using, but it will happen).
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  #7  
Unread May 29th, 2006, 05:16 PM
Fred H. Fred H. is offline
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Default Re: Emergent Networks and Fine Art

Quote:
Carey: My point to Margaret was that even though some phenomena, like human consciousness or racial discrimination, are so mind-bogglingly complex that they seem impossible to explain in cold, hard scientific terms, that doesn't mean that it isn't possible.
Well, I suppose one could argue that “discrimination” is not terribly “rational,” but is it really so mind-boggling when understood in terms of evolution and primitive subcortical emotional/motivational circuitry? OTOH, human consciousness, unconstrained by Godel’s Incompleteness Theorem no less, supposedly arising “by virtue of a simple algorithm” . . . well now, that’s mind-boggling, not to mention unattainable based on what we actually know, understand, and can prove.

And I’m not saying that “God did it”—I’m merely stating what’s obvious, that your so-called “simple algorithm” is nothing more than a belief. As noted in that thread you referenced (and I thought I more or less won that argument), even Dawkins, Darwinian atheism’s high priest, when asked,” "What do you believe is true even though you cannot prove it?” acknowledged:
Quote:
I believe that all life, all intelligence, all creativity and all 'design' anywhere in the universe, is the direct or indirect product of Darwinian natural selection. It follows that design comes late in the universe, after a period of Darwinian evolution. Design cannot precede evolution and therefore cannot underlie the universe.
A veritable Apostle’s Creed for Darwinian atheists, the true believers.
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  #8  
Unread May 29th, 2006, 08:31 PM
Carey N Carey N is offline
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Default Re: Emergent Networks and Fine Art

You didn't win that argument . . . I stopped participating because you weren't responding to what I was writing. I argued against the point that evolutionism is a "belief", in the sense that it is supported by an overwhelming abundance of facts. I also explained why it appears that evolutionary biology is circular upon superficial glance, and why that is not truly the case. Evol. biol. is a form of history that invokes non-circular processes to explain past events and current patterns (and, in certain contexts, to make predictions . . . but there's an inherent limit to predicive power in evolution because contingency - stuff that can't be predicted - often plays a big role). But, again . . . you prefer to respond only to specific phrases within my posts, rather than to their entire meaning.

Last edited by Carey N; May 30th, 2006 at 06:05 AM.
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  #9  
Unread May 30th, 2006, 09:12 AM
Fred H. Fred H. is offline
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Default Re: Emergent Networks and Fine Art

The bottom line is that Dawkins acknowledges that all life, all intelligence, all creativity and all 'design' anywhere in the universe, being the direct or indirect product of Darwinian natural selection, is something he believe to be true even though he cannot prove it.

IOW, Darwinian natural selection is something that you and Dawkins believe is true, but can’t prove it; whereas I see it as being a circular explanation, that ultimately doesn’t really explain all that much, for the obvious fact that life “evolves.”
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  #10  
Unread May 30th, 2006, 09:59 AM
Carey N Carey N is offline
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Default Re: Emergent Networks and Fine Art

Quote:
Originally Posted by Fred
whereas I see [natural selection] as being a circular explanation, that ultimately doesn’t really explain all that much, for the obvious fact that life “evolves.”
Well, you see it wrong, my friend. Evolutionism is a belief because Richard Dawkins says so? Give me a break - if I were to tell you that such-and-such were true because Dawkins says so, without actually substantiating my argument, you would readily rip me a new one.

PLEASE, Fred, go read an intro textbook on evolutionary biology and then come back to tell me that you still believe that it "doesn't explain all that much" - I'm going to provide you here with one example illustrating that you are mistaken. I encourage you to find out about others, which are abundant and all very interesting.

************************************************** **********

Parasitoid wasps lay their eggs inside the bodies of other animals, often caterpillars of some kind. The eggs hatch and then consume their hosts from within before emerging to pupate and metamorphose into an adult (BTW . . . explain to me why a benevolent Intelligence would ever put together such an arrangement). As you may or may not know, wasps possess an unusual mechanism of sex determination (haplodiploidy) - when a mother allows one of her eggs to be fertilized by a sperm, the egg developes into a diploid female offspring. When a mother lays an unfertilized egg, it develops into a haploid male. Thus, these wasps have relatively precise control over the sex of their individual progeny.

Crucially, in parasitoid wasps, females benefit more from larger body size than males (due to the demands of egg production, finding hosts in which to lay eggs, etc.). Adult body size in these insects is directly related to the amount of food available during the early part of their lives - i.e., when they were inside their unfortunate caterpillar hosts. Because 1) females benefit more from larger adult body size than males; 2) a given mother wasp can roughly predict the amount of food available to her offspring (by gauging the size of the larvae into which she is laying eggs); and 3) mother wasps have control over the sex of individual offspring; it was PREDICTED that mother waps will preferentially lay female offspring in larger host larvae, and male offspring in smaller host larvae. This prediction relies completely upon the paradigm of evolution driven by differential reproductive success: mother wasps that bias the sex ratio of their offspring toward females when laying eggs into large hosts will have more grand-children in the long run than mother wasps that do not do this, leading to the fixation of sex ratio bias behavior. Some famous experiments by Charnov in the 1980's, and an abundance of work thereafter, confirmed that this is the case. In many instances, there is not only a qulitative but also a quantitative match between predicted sex ratio bias and that observed under experimental conditions.

The above example illustrates that evolutionism 1) explains not just that life evolved, but also how and why it evolved, and 2) makes testable predictions . . . two things that you have repeatedly denied out of a lack of understanding of natural selection, and a lack of reading experience in this field of science. So, Fred, give it a rest until you can come back and dish out an argument, rather than a statement of personal conviction, on this matter.
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