26 Jul 2015
I’ve been working on something inspired by Orphan Drift/CCRU’s hyperstitional mythology for a while. Autoloa (named for but not patterned after the Vodoun spirits that entered cyberculture via William Gibson) generates small pantheons of possible spirits. It’s working but very unfinished. I’ve decided to develop it further in public.
You can follow its progress on its blog or via its source code repository at github or gitlab.
21 Jul 2015
Word2Vec is a word vector system that has received attention for the way that mathematical operations on the vectors it generates give meaningful results.
To take an example from an article on Word2Vec:
vec(“king”) – vec(“man”) + vec(“woman”) =~ vec(“queen”)
Training Word2Vec works best with large quantities of text as a single corpus. I’m interested in mis-using it with smaller copora.
Reasoning Over Philosophy
If we can add and subtract vectors generated from different corpora, we can generate vectors for different philosophers’ ouvres (or phases) and compare them.
We can then add and subtract the same concepts from different philosophers corpora, standard corpora and poisoned/flavoured corpora to examine them and to extend/develop them.
We can use Wordnet to abstract the texts if there’s insufficient overlap. We can also project texts through Wordnet in various ways (e.g. find antonyms or tangentially related concepts) and use the results to create new vectors for comparison.
We can use word2vec mathematical statements normatively as tests for generated corpora. For each statement, when the vectors resulting from processing a corpus satisfies that statement (i.e. X - Y = Z, within the specified tolerance) the corpus passes that test.
We can specify the properties of a desired philosophy as these tests.
To generate a text that passes the test, start with a source text (for example either the collected translated works of Gilles Deleuze or the collected lyrics of Taylor Swift). While it doesn’t pass all of the specified tests, mutate the text and run them again. If the new version passes more tests, keep it. If not, discard it.
This will be very processor intensive, it’s a task for a compute cluster. Random word substitution will take an impractical amount of time. A more genetic approach, walking through conceptual space and informed by the words used in the tests, will still take a long time but may be practical. Even if not the results should be interesting.
We can extend these uses to visual bag-of-words representations of images, reasoning over and generating artistic styles and genres. If visual representations are unusable for this we can use verbal descriptions of artworks from press releases, art journalism, or other references.
We can combine visual and verbal representations to try to capture semantic and aesthetic features together.
18 Jul 2015
To #accelerate creativity, look at historical precedents.
The creative games and systems of Surrealism and the OULIPO provide ways of breaking out of aesthetic constraints and finding new subjects or ways of working.
“A Book Of Surrealist Games” provides a list of games. It notes (p49) -
…automatic drawing is a sort of accelerated or intensified doodling…
The “Oulipo Compendium” describes the creative strategies and constraints of the Institute de ‘Pataphysique’s experimental literature project
Systems for exploring conceptual spaces don’t have to be as all-encompassing as TRIZ.
Edward de Bono’s creativity techniques aren’t without their critics but the best can be very productive. His “Six Thinking Hats” system and “Lateral Thinking” tools are well worth investigating.
Brian Eno and Peter Scmidt’s card deck of creative provocations “Oblique Strategies” can be used when you need to get through a creative block. A version is available online.
This raises the issue of whether analogue or digital techniques are better for creativity. The obvious answer is that ECONERR
08 Jul 2015
This is the shiny new Jekyll-based version of the site.
I’ve restored some of the older missing images, but unfortunately comments are not working yet.
02 May 2015
"Change for the machines." - Synners, Pat Cadigan
Theodor Adorno regarded the occult as a politically quiescent denial of alienation through a regression to animism.
"Occultism is a reflex-action to the subjectification of all meaning, the complement of reification. If; to the living, objective reality seems deaf as never before, they try to elicit meaning from it by saying abracadabra. Meaning is attributed indiscriminately to the next worst thing: the rationality of the real, no longer quite convincing, is replaced by hopping tables and rays from heaps of earth."
- Theses Against Occultism, Theodor Adorno
And this is true, although as always it would be wrong to attribute a more general feature of human psychology uniquely to a single religion.
The Baudrillardian Disneyland of religion is the cargo cult, in which Melanesian islanders re-enact the long-ago observed activities of departed American troops in order to cause the vehicles that delivered wartime supplies to return. To the outside observer it is obvious that both the occult and cargo cults fall foul of the distinction between correlation and causation.
The occult, like philosophy, suffers from the semantic fallacy. This is the equivalent of the pathetic fallacy for meaning, the projection of cognitive structures of logical rather than emotional significance onto the external environment. Magick extends this with the adolescent male power fantasy of imposing one’s will directly on reality, of reducing the amount of work one has to do to get what one deserves. In this it resembles economics.
Modern economics uses statistics to model reality. Samples are drawn from populations, and various tests are used to ensure that conclusions about these samples accurately represent the wider population. Policy based on these conclusions can then be applied to the general population safe in the knowledge that they will almost certainly only be wrong a specified percentage of the time. Statistics is the state religion of economics, bringing revelation and absolution back from the numeric plane.
In “Qabbala 101”, Nick Land describes the assumptions of Kabbalic gematria. It is possible to detect a signal from outside the system from traces within the system. And this can be done using mathematics to find the contingent numeric properties of words, by counting their length or by mappings of their consonants to numeric values. In this way the text can refer outside the text. Get the numbers right and you get your cargo or impose your will. To an outside observer the obvious problem with gematria is that there are lies, damn lies and statistics.
The popularity of cryptocurrencies represents in no small part a reaction to the financial crisis and austerity. That reaction takes the form of a retreat from conventional economic and political action, and represents at least an economic occult. A de-supernaturalised magic (like a de-supernaturalised economics…) has a cognitive remainder. It is a means of modulating human experience and affecting human behaviour. Belief in imaginary entities, whether thoughtforms or money, is not necessary for them to have effect.
Without the coercive power of the state backing them, cryptocurrencies’ re-enactment of the rituals of fiat currency amount to cargo cults. In their attempt to circumvent the work of economics and banking they resemble magick. But in their use of mathematics they resemble the Kabbalah. Accounts and transactions in Bitcoin are represented and protected using cryptographic hashes, a way of using mathematics to both conceal the content of and prove the identity of a piece of information. This takes place in the blockchain, a data structure built and validated by machines across the Bitcoin network. The blockchain is a fiat currency hors-texte, a monetary outside.
The Bitcoin protocol that constructs the blockchain is a set of meaningful actions that are the embodiment and amplification of human intent. It is a ritual. As with copyright in AI, the benefit of intent accrues to its human initiator. This isn’t the first time a massively distributed electronic ritual has taken place, the Dalai Lama pointed out in the 1990s that having Avalokitesvara’s mantra on your hard disk is like having a prayer wheel on your computer. In the case of Bitcoin this ritual consists of the endless mathematical and network operations that build the blockchain.
This is why Bitcoin is magic. Get the numbers right and you can signal outside the system. Get the numbers right and you can map the results back onto society from the numeric plane. Get the numbers right and you will receive the cargo you ordered. It’s a ritual to transform society.
Via Netbehaviour, last year.