Ellipsis

I have been crazy busy at work. A project which we started this past Thursday needs to be finished tomorrow night. This will not be a problem. I am just that good.

Nothing new to report of the memetics front, other than this: Have you ever noticed that when you develop an interest in something, that something seems to pop up all over the place? I am reading The Cassini Division by Ken MacLeod, wherein memetic viruses are used as a kind of instant post-hypnotic suggestion to either frighten enemies or keep servants in line. And get this: They seem to be transmitted by ‘swirling patterns’ on the hulls of ships, or in visual broadcasts. Could they be using archetypal symbols to cause this effect?

In other news my two Hofstader books ( Metamagical Themas and Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies ) have arrived. I started reading FCCA yesterday.

The chapter titled “To Seek Whence Cometh a Sequence” explores the methods by which patterns are recognized, and the processes we use to extend those patterns beyond the information we are given. The idea being, I suppose, that what humans and computers consider meaningful are not at all the same thing. If I see a sequence {1,2,3,5,7,11,13} I know from experience that these are prime numbers. A computer doesn’t care if they are prime numbers. It won’t discover that they are primes unless we ask it to test the sequence for the possibility that they are primes.

And that is the fundamental conceptual stumbling block in building a thinking machine. Computers don’t out of habit, attach significance to symbols. Things are not “interesting”. They don’t have subconscious biases toward recognizing familiar patterns.

Or maybe they do. What do I know?

Geek Overload

I just returned from Astronomical ConFusion. I have books, and great memories, and great stories, and I am too tired to go into detail right now. So I will leave you with a joke I heard, which is the Best Joke of the Year, right now:

“So an Irishman walks out of a bar.”

Math Anxiety

After two days of being STUPID I fixed the math on the flocking experiment and now have bugs facing the direction they are flying. Aren’t they cute? When they get in formation, imagine Ride of the Valkyries playing in the background.

In two days I and a group of friends are off to the Astronomical ConFusion science fiction convention in Warren, Michigan. This will be my second Con; the first was WindyCon in Chicago in November of 2000. As we were drinking breakfast on that Sunday, the lovely and talented Christian summed up the entirety of geekdom as follows:

“You look at these people, and you see that some of them, this is the one time a year they get to cut loose and be freaks, no judgement, just a weekend of good fun. Then there are those people, you look at them and you just know, they will spend the rest of their lives pumping gas in a crushed velvet cape and pointy ears.”

Mmmmmmmyep.

I dove into the memetics book again today, discovered some interesting things, but I am too tired to think about it right now. Maybe I will post something tomorrow while I’m cleaning off my prosthetic Klingon forehead.

Playing Catch-up

You know, sometimes I feel I am developing a good understanding of programming, and the kind of thought necessary to develop AI and Alife. Then I come across a site like this , and I realize how little I actually know about Artificial Intelligence, Artificial Life, and now Artificial Evolution.

I haven’t had much time to work on my personal projects the last few days, and I will probably have even less time over the next few weeks. Such is the nature of internet work. Several months of little or nothing to do, followed by two months of frantic activity. At least I get to work on cool projects.

The flocking experiment I posted Sunday needs a lot of work. The math is all wrong, and, while the effect is interesting, it is not at all what it should be.

I ordered two more books for my library… Metamagical Themas: Questing for the Essence of Mind and Pattern and Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies : Computer Models of the Fundamental Mechanisms of Thought , both by Douglas Hofstader, whose brain is Very Big.

Also in the Big Brain department is Golan Levin who makes math beautiful.

Peer Pressure

I have created life.

Well, maybe not created , and maybe not life, per se. I have made a flash movie which duplicates extremely simple swarming behavior in a group of organisms (read: dots). Basically they move toward the median X and Y coordinates of the swarm. This causes an amusing effect when they reach the maximum or minimum x and y boundaries of their “world”. I posted the movie here.

Flash. I still love it, and I still hate it.

update 11:30pm

Another one with rudimentary flocking behavior .

Life, or Something Like It

I had a flash of insight today regarding the programming of simple artificial life experiments. The simplest would be a series of algorithms running in the background of an interface, with a series of readouts of statistics… how many are left, which generation they are on, all that general stuff. Adding a graphic representation of the data improves the life metaphor, allowing visible representations of the “creatures” to visibly interact with one another.

With fairly simple object-oriented programming the artificial life (AL) forms could be given rudimentary traits — aggression, speed, strength, reproduction, life span, etc., and be allowed to interact with one another. A sidebar could keep track of the averages in the population: average aggression, average age of the group, likelihood of breeding… and, based on random starting variables, after a few or a few hundred generations, evolution will have occurred.

With a little more programming mojo–but still in the realm of the simple–the ALife individuals could be made to “cannibalize” one another, and tests could be run to see what version of the life is most likely to succeed: that which is harmful or helpful.

The idea occurred to me while I was browsing the AI Depot .

In other news, I added three Flash mouse trailers to the tech section. Flash: I love it, I hate it.

Vocabulary

Did you know that the word athlon is from the Greek, meaning, essentially, “Athletic event”? That is where we get the words “biathlon”, triathlon”, “decathlon”, etc. I suppose, to be grammatically correct it would need to be “monathlon”. I discovered this bit of trivia at Forthright’s Phrontistery, a site chock-full of wonderful spoken-language information. In fact, I like it so much I am adding it to my permanent links list.

I am currently of the opinion that women are the best thing(s) ever to exist upon this planet, so here is my shout-out to that 51% of the planet who answer to XX. You’re the best!

A Lack of Energy

Didn’t have time to read more of The Meme Machine today. In fact, today was one of the least productive days I have had all year. Ha ha.

Right now this is still a static site. In order to make it a true blog I need to switch hosts, probably to ModWest. I want to redo this thing using xml/xslt, but in order to make it work in the 5.0 browsers on both PC and Mac I need to do the transformation on the server. ModWest supports PHP with the Sablotron XSLT parser, so this switch will probably take place before the end of winter.

Bleh. Too late at night to be creative.

Schrodinger’s God

Added a couple of links to the LINKS page. See if you can guess which ones.

Participated in a long discussion over at Something Awful a few days ago, concerning “The Worst Modern Religion”. To sum up the entire fourteen-page, two-hundred-post-plus shebang, I posted, on or around page nine, words to the effect that there are no arguments to be had, either for or against the the existence of God, which are not either self-referential, or self-contradictory, or both. In a weird inversion of the Schrodinger’s Cat problem, God neither exists nor doesn’t exist until we die.

Schrodinger’s God. Has a nice ring to it

The Meme Machine is turning out to be a damn fine read. What started out as a simple inquiry into the use of memetics in the manipulation of the Social/Information sphere is quickly branching out in several fascinating directions. The most compelling/disturbing option is probably the one which hints that memes, being essentially metaphors and therefore symbols, may exist at any point up and down the spectrum of consciousness (cf. Ken Wilber). Therefore it is possible that memetics could operate on the level of the Jungian Archetype/racial memory, with the very real effect that a meme, a product of the information sphere, could directly affect the physical body of the recipient. This idea was used to some effect in Snow Crash (Neal Stephenson), and may be witnessed in the occasional health-destroying nervous breakdowns of those who allow conscious mental stress to bleed over into unconscious/autonomous biological systems.

The flip side of this is the use of memes and memeplexes (memeplexi?) to essentially hard-wire behavior into individuals or groups. A suitable subtle, deep-reaching meme could cause changes in behavior which lead to changed in physical ability, either enhancements or regressions. While these changes would obviously not happen at the genetic level, they could easily be passed as viral information from generation to generation. Couple this to a shift in consensual reality and something resembling a cult may arise.

The use of memetics in conjunction with a deep understanding of levels of psychology could therefore be extremely powerful. One could develop the ability to directly access and manipulate the archetypal/symbolic core of a society.

Frightening

Now I need to grab yet another book:The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind. I am rapidly running out of room at my desk.

Memes on the Mind

Tech link works now.

Having read the first chapter of The Meme Machine, I am now adding The Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci to my list.

In brief: A meme is a unit of information, the mental version of a gene. Memes may be transmitted via communication and imitation, in essence “infecting” the recipient with this information, which may then be transferred to another, and so on. The method of transfer may be any medium. For purposes of my research I am focusing on direct, person to person, as biological viruses spread. Therefore, absent a hard medium such as a book, CD, or electronic file, memory is used instead.

Since genetic drift is a given fact, mutation of the meme must occur, but this mutation can be lessened by using tools, “mnemonics”, to build associations between the meme in its original form and information already stored in the recipient. For instance: nursery rhymes. We may forget what every billboard said on the way to work, but we remember, to a large degree, every nursery rhyme we learned as small children. Adding simple rhythm and melody to information gives it immediate context, therefore it is more likely to be retained.

Question: to what extent is this tool knowingly put to use in the world around us? Jingles on the radio come to mind. “Na-bis-co!”. “By MEN-in!” Short, catchy tunes, three notes, four beats, mathematically precise, the tune inseparable from the message. Ergo, via viral transmission, a meme. Nabisco and Mennin have been introduced into the bio/data/memory sphere.

Hypothesis: Bastardization of Occam’s Razor: (1)simple answer is better, easier to understand, easier to slip in to borderline subconscious. As in childhood songs, etc.etc. Even “alphabet song” is sung to rhyme and meter.(2) Moments of decreased conscious/ increased subconscious activity (hypnotism??) Witness the song which awakens us in the morning, which remains, half-heard and half-remembered throughout the day, popping up to annoy us during moments of mental distraction.

Conclusion: Melody and rhythm have been used for thousands of years as mnemonic devices. Christian churches use song/chants to teach. (Did any of the OT rhyme in the original Greek? Does the Nag Hammadi rhyme in Aramaic?) A huge number of Chinese aphorisms/folk wisdom sayings rhyme. Also in the west: “Red sky at night, sailor’s delight/Red in the morning, sailors take warning”. The power of a meme is directly related to medium. Next question: which is more powerful, context or medium?