[NetBehaviour] analogy and AI poetry

Max Herman maxnmherman at hotmail.com
Thu Jul 15 03:48:01 CEST 2021

Hi Paul,

Interesting essay!  It sounds like the author thinks the AI entity or "creature" as he calls it needs to navigate a real environment and performs tasks in it in order to "learn," rather than make a detailed map or representation then logically deduce solutions from that.  That makes sense to me but I have no idea how it relates to the AI field overall; is it still a current approach now 30+ years later?  It sounds like the Morris film would illuminate the matter so I will check it out, but moreso I'd be interested to hear what others who know and work with AI might think.

One interesting point Brooks makes is about the necessity of visual perception as a basic ingredient of a learning intelligence.  Leonardo wrote about how knowledge and learning took form in humans by a mix of visual perception, processing of the visual data by imagination (that can include verbal imagination) and the "sensus communis" that blends inbound modes of perception like hearing, sight, smell, etc. together, then storage of the processed information in memory for later use or disuse.  A crude schema to be sure but it reflects something like the see/assess/act cycle Brooks suggests.

Just from an art standpoint (as perhaps one could call it) I can see the relevance of blending for visual and verbal imagination as something like a "braided" flow of analogy in real time.  This is kind of what Hofstadter alluded to in his book's subtitle "Godel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid," and what perhaps Mitchell is suggesting in the Quanta article.  Calvino saw visual and verbal imagination intertwined both as the information is perceived and as it is created or expressed.  This would also make sense if you think of a primate or hominin group seeing things, comparing the information to memory, discussing what they saw, pointing at comparable things to communicate visual imagery or even drawing in the sand with a twig or finger, on a stone with charcoal, etc., with simple drawings eventually morphing into words or letters, everything permutating all the time and all driven by the necessary and physical acts of finding water, finding food, escaping predators, migrating, grooming, reproducing, i.e. continual physical movement interrupted occasionally by sleep which is also a kind of movement I guess.

It's almost certainly a mirage, but I see this cyclical idea of seeing and doing as the fundamental structure of the painting I used to call the Mona Lisa but now am experimenting with calling Esperienza (as I speculate Leonardo may have titled it to himself, but chose to leave unspoken and unwritten so as to "require work" of a specific sort from later viewers).

"Esperienza" means experience, as in the noun meaning stored information, and the verb meaning to be aware of something in the present.  However it also means "experiment" as in science and arguably art, a premeditated yet improvisational action designed to do or see something not previously understood.  These dual meanings illustrate the more passive process of seeing, hearing, or otherwise absorbing information and the active process of expressing, testing, or applying information on a partly improvised basis.  Things are blurred of course but there is a parallel cycle of seeing/doing, seeing/doing, and so forth.  Graziano's mention of necessity also may relate to Brooks'.  Not sure if this diagram of where and how "representation" should occur conforms to what Brooks is saying but it seems it might.

As to "natural" versus "artificial" intelligence my lack of education about the field makes me want to avoid the question by asking if a naturally evolved organism may evolve to make art, or engage in artifice as a behavior, or have an artificing intelligence.  If so, what then?  Leonardo writes in confusing aphorisms about the relationships among Art, Nature, and Humanity, sort of knotting them all together dynamically without saying they are the same.  Humans are part of Nature, but we also make Art; in our Art we can sometimes choose to either follow the guidance of Nature or reject it; our Art choices can cause horrific waste and destruction or support human and other natural ecosystems.  He built robots that did things like give people flowers, and I'm sure he had a sense of how the robot looks like it is giving the person flowers but really is just a collection of gears and pulleys running their courses.

"Artificial" intelligence implies that the intelligence is a product of artifice, that it has been artificed, not that it is an artificer or "Artificing Intelligence," though the Daedalus AI event mentioned recently may see it both ways.  I do get confused whether words are being used misleadingly about AI, and whether what is really meant by AI is "an artificed non-intelligent machine that does or makes things that look like the products of an intelligence but actually are not."  In which case, why not call it "artificial artificing," or "machines that make information," or "machines that make machines that make information," rather than "artificial intelligence"?  All in all I find it too tiring to really understand in any depth!  🙂  Should we even distinguish between "Conscious Intelligence" and "Non-Conscious Intelligence"?  Seems a waste.

I do actually think Leonardo cared about such questions and may even have considered the eventual possibility of machines that make information.  He had serious reservations about the printing press for example, which separated the written word from the body that wrote it and in a sense destroyed an essential aspect of its information.  (Coincidentally, he tried to invent a way of printing a page with handwriting and drawing on it, but didn't succeed, and it wasn't until Blake that such a tech was found.)  Leonardo distrusted the value of automation, and saw informational institutions (like the academy, political entities, etc.) as in some ways gigantic photocopiers that reproduced duplicate information without having any awareness whether the information was real, true, relevant, or even what it was.  He described this as "authorities who can only repeat what they have read in books but cannot create or discover anything directly themselves" (I paraphrase), or really, even "see" anything.  Would such people be, in the practical sense, a form of Artificial Intelligence?

It seems to me that as a highly practical person by necessity, i.e. a free-lancer wherever he could make something useful, Leonardo often tried to "cut to the chase" rather than explain ad infinitum.  So, I find it entirely plausible that he may have encapsulated his take on all this in his allegory of Esperienza, which he wrote down in story form, as the source and guide he used to "make his own clothes" -- his metaphor -- artistically and scientifically speaking rather than just wearing what was handed down as his critics did.  Might he not have also tried to paint such an allegory, after having written it, of a human intelligence in a technological environment following principles of nature to create its own garment?  This is what I see in Esperienza's ever-so-slightly pointing right index finger: a pen or brush creating image or symbol, or even just drawing a line in dust without an instrument as the earliest writers and artists may have done, the simplest synapse of human artifice.

Leonardo did write that all the arts and sciences -- math, engineering, painting, drawing, music, writing -- derive from the making of line, and he defined the very first art ever created using the traditional legend of a person tracing the line of their shadow.  This may be a kind of analogy, or analogue, or analog "line that makes an image" and not much at all like what computer or digital intelligence does.  Unfortunately "digit" means finger, so maybe "binary digital intelligence" is the necessary term!

I think that may actually be a much better term from my not-at-all-expert point of view: Computer Intelligence, CI, or Digital Intelligence, DI, not Artificial Intelligence.  Maybe the whole mess is just a result of a typo or verbal tic!  After all, birds artifice their songs and their nests but we would never dream of calling them Artificial Intelligence.  And kind of by definition, intelligence is that which artifices and not that which can be passively artificed, so artificial is grammatically flawed (maybe too impulsively borrowed from "artificial color" and "artificial flavor" which were very prevalent terms back in those days).  Paintings are artificial, to be sure, and replicate information, but do we call what they do "Artificial Intelligence"?  Maybe we could, I don't know.  If we did though it would soon become panpsychism perhaps where emails have their own intelligence, CD's, newspapers, etc.; we kind of already ascribe this to our phones automatically.  "Pencil Intelligence"?  "Paper Intelligence"?

Furthermore, we know not all that artifices is intelligent, like a coffee maker.  Organic Intelligence?  Inorganic Intelligence?  And if there ever were a Brooks-type machine that interacted with the world and became able to do everything human intelligence can do might we not have to call such an entity a natural form of intelligence?  Confusinger and confusinger.  Norbert Wiener declared a distinction between human and machine intelligence though and I think that's fair enough.

All best,


PS -- I'm sure I've made 27 complete errors in the above, please feel free to point out!  🙂

From: Paul Hertz <ignotus at gmail.com>
Sent: Wednesday, July 14, 2021 2:36 PM
To: NetBehaviour for networked distributed creativity <netbehaviour at lists.netbehaviour.org>
Cc: Max Herman <maxnmherman at hotmail.com>
Subject: Re: [NetBehaviour] analogy and AI poetry

There's an essay, "Intelligence Without Representation" that Brooks wrote in 1987, http://people.csail.mit.edu/brooks/papers/representation.pdf, that offered what was then a new point of view on how to consider AI.

// Paul

On Wed, Jul 14, 2021 at 2:10 PM Paul Hertz <ignotus at gmail.com<mailto:ignotus at gmail.com>> wrote:
Hi Max,

The robotics researcher Rodney Brooks back in the late 1980s argued the AI based on the construction of a "knowledge base" was bound to fail. He made the case that a robot adapting to an environment was far more likely to achieve intelligence of the sort that humans demonstrate precisely because it was embodied. Some of his ideas are presented in the movie Fast, Cheap, and Out of Control, directed ISTR by Errol Morris. If you haven't seen it yet, I can recommend it.

-- Paul

On Wed, Jul 14, 2021, 1:38 PM Max Herman via NetBehaviour <netbehaviour at lists.netbehaviour.org<mailto:netbehaviour at lists.netbehaviour.org>> wrote:

Hi all,

I know virtually nothing about AI, beyond what the letters stand for, but noticed this new article in Quanta Magazine.  Does it pertain at all?  Interestingly it concludes that in order for AI to be human-like it will need to understand analogy, the basis of abstraction, which may require it to have a body!  🙂


I have been interested in the book GEB by Hofstadter for some time, and have been researching how it was referenced (specifically its Chapter IV "Consistency, Completeness, and Geometry" and its Introduction) by Italo Calvino in Six Memos for the Next Millennium, so Mitchell's connection to Hofstadter and GEB is interesting on a general level.

Coincidentally I contacted her a year ago to ask about the Calvino connection but she replied she hadn't read any Calvino or the Six Memos.  However, his titles for the six memos -- Lightness, Quickness, Exactitude, Visibility, Multiplicity, and Consistency -- might be exactly the kinds of "bodily" senses AI will need to have!

All best,



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