Upload Update

Like the narrator of William Gibson’s short story “The Winter Market”, I don’t think that mind uploads are the person whose brain they destroy. I’m not even sure that a living brain is the same person each day, or from moment to moment, but reassembling a similar pattern on the same substrate at least looks like continuity. Whether the Ship Of Theseus is the ship that Theseus’s sailed or not, a copy built next to it all in one go probably isn’t. But if the Ship Of Theseus burns, that copy is more like it than anything else that exists. Where the resemblance is many billions of bits strong, and there is no stronger resemblance extant, that’s a form of continuity of identity. Hopefully that of a portrait that captures the sitter’s personality rather than a vampire child.

The only fully uploaded neural connectome is that of the tiny C. elegans nematode worm. Not any particular worm, the worm as an organism. So there is no single identity for the upload to continue or to not continue. The connectome been downloaded into wheeled robots, where it bumbles around in a wormy manner. I’m working on using it to control the pen in a version of draw-something. It’s a different kind of neural art. Nematodes probably don’t have subjectivity, so hopefully this isn’t cruel. I don’t want to be the worm-torturing version of Roko’s Basilisk.

What if we are the worms in someone else’s art project, though? If the universe isn’t a simulation but rather an artwork this would render conceptual art nomination a priori correct and give human suffering the moral quality of crimes committed in the name of making art that do not pay for themselves with the resultant aesthetic achievement.

Neal Stephenson’s mind uploading novel “Fall, Or Dodge In Hell” deals in the ethics and aesthetics of mind uploading and its worlds. Less simulation, more simulacra. Reading it and encountering an uptick in transhumanist themes online and in meatspace has encouraged me to revisit my low-resolution “Uploads” project to make it very slightly higher resolution. I’m porting it to Kinect 2, improving its performance, and looking at better EEG options.

Following the themes of “Fall”, the uploads need a world to live in. At present they implicitly live through, but not on, Twitter. Maybe they can inhabit a simple VR environment. They also need to communicate with each other. Sad and other predetermined emotional reacts only, though. As local disk-based blobs of data they are in danger of being ephemeral. Content-addressable storage (IPFS) can help with that.

Blockchain security and permanence can evocatively address all of this as well – there are blockchain VR environments, communication systems, and data storage systems. There’s a fear of loss behind both mind uploading and blockchain systems. Finn Brunton’s excellent book “Digital Cash” draws out some more direct historical connections between the two.

But that’s another story.

Left Universal Basic Income

The Universal Basic Income proposed by the Left is different from that proposed by the Right. Rather than replacing the welfare state it is a supplement to it.

As Srnicek & Williams note in “Inventing The Future”, 2015 (p.297):

The conservative argument for a basic income – which must be avoided at all costs – is that it should simply replace the welfare state by providing a lump sum of money to every individual. In this scenario, the UBI would just become a vector of increased marketisation, transforming social services into private markets. Rather than being some aberration of neoliberalism, it would simply extend its essential gesture by creating new markets. By contrast, the demand made here is for UBI as a supplement to a revived welfare state.

In the footnote to this, they quote Alyssa Battistoni, “Alive in the Sunshine”, Jacobin 13, 2014 (p.4):

A UBI programme would ideally involve a transformation of the welfare state. Programmes that provide services must be kept and expanded – for example, healthcare, childcare, housing, public transport and internet access. All of these should be immediate goals of the left, not only for their inherent good but also because expanding public services is necessary for reducing overall energy consumption.

And in response to the question of why the rich should be given money as well as the poor, they respond (p.296):

As there would be no means-testing or other measures required to receive the UBI, it would break free of the disciplinary nature of welfare capitalism.

It is perfectly possible to disagree with any or all of this. That does however first require acknowledging it. And there’s a lot more where this came from…

The Entropy Man


D16 Hex Dice by Saharasav licensed Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International.

The Dice Man” by Luke Rhinehart is a 1971 novel about the moral consequences of making life-altering decisions using the roll of a die. The use of chance operations in art was common in mid-20th-Century avant-gardes but, reacting against his background in psychiatry, Rhinehart applied them to more consequential decision making.

We can use cryptographic hashes rather than dice as the source of entropy for aleatory, chance operations in art and decision making. The last hexadecimal digit (or digits, for wider ranges of values) can be quantized to the range of values we need: e.g. for a coin flip 0-7 is tails and 8-F is heads.

Private hashes can be the sha256 of a question, statement, or range of options. Or of entropy pulled from /dev/random or a hardware source. Combine these two approaches or use a timestamp to make answers specific to the occasion or time at which they are asked.

Public hashes can be Bitcoin’s block hashes, or the hash of a Bitcoin transaction. The transaction can be time locked or contain the question (etc.) encoded as a has to delay and/or allow proof or disclosure of its content.

Or we can use any of these methods as the decision making basis for computer based or handmade generative art, replacing software pseudo-random number generators with entropy deterministically derived from the existing content of the work or from external sources of “inspiration”.

It’s much more contemporary than a dice, although dice do make good sources of artisanal entropy.


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.

Evolving Philosophy

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.

Visual Applications

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.

Distance Over Time

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