[NetBehaviour] analogy and AI poetry

Max Herman maxnmherman at hotmail.com
Fri Jul 16 17:29:35 CEST 2021

Hi Eryk,

Recently I started using "imaging" sometimes for "imagination" to get at the verbal/visual dynamic in Leonardo and Dante (as the earliest moderns, in a way).

I see Leonardo's painting Esperienza as a portrait of Experience which is akin to Imagination.  Also it is an Experiment -- an attempt, something ventured by some agency Leonardo had (if there is such a thing) -- just as imaging is improvisation in search of an effect sort of.

When I look at it, the painting, I see "imagination looking at imagination looking at imagination," a reference to the "experiment" or "Esperienza" of the lamp between two mirrors cited by Dante and repeated by Leonardo.  I also see a globe, an armillary sphere, and a clock among the rivers and mountains.

I see the point of Esperienza, then, to be saying "you have imagination too" but more than that, it induces the living of it -- by me, as by the autore, time being crossed in a way.  Leonardo made eye contact with those same eyes, which were in a way thus his as they become ours when we look, like an eternal golden braid.

Scouring and sticky-noting L's notebooks as I have been, using a lot of control-f and in Dante too, I do wonder what a computer crossmatching the word Esperienza from Leonardo and Dante and associating correlative visuals from both would find.  Allegorically though the word is a "clean slate" of sorts.

Nature reads its past and writes its future in the helpful water-like medium of time which giveth and taketh away.  Culture is similarly both geologic and erosive.  Esperienza incorporates this belief in the garment, with a bridge for input and finger as stylus, input output roughly, yet with human Esperienza "on the inside" and not a servant, not in the slightest except as a peer, despite being clothed.

Unfortunately or perhaps fortunately, Leonardo spelled out the correct answer not at all for us which must certainly have been on purpose.

Or at least I've convinced myself I see such things!  :)

All best,


From: NetBehaviour <netbehaviour-bounces at lists.netbehaviour.org> on behalf of Eryk Salvaggio via NetBehaviour <netbehaviour at lists.netbehaviour.org>
Sent: Friday, July 16, 2021 8:18 AM
To: NetBehaviour for networked distributed creativity <netbehaviour at lists.netbehaviour.org>
Cc: Eryk Salvaggio <eryk.salvaggio at gmail.com>
Subject: Re: [NetBehaviour] analogy and AI poetry

Max, Paul & all;

Thanks for all the thought-provoking links, everyone.

Sometimes there are shades of panic in the way I see AI art. It’s like the machine is getting deep into my psyche, colonizing the culture as data and spitting something out that barely resembles art or beauty or play. I think that reflects the weaponized ideology of broader data practices today: this is exactly what machine learning is doing, often to catastrophic results. And much of that comes from how we imagine the links between our imaginations and the machine’s “imagination.”

The machine’s "imagination" (whatever happens in "latent space," which seems to be the term we're using) is reaching to find patterns and relationships, even when such patterns and relationships may not exist. We hope that the way we take art into our minds is something different. But I don’t know for sure.

At the moment, I can only respond to this machine “imagination” in the same way that we find meaning within a human-produced painting, or poem, or film, or television advertisement. We imagine ourselves within those worlds. We do this within our private mental spaces, but we hand over some internal control to the artists, poets, or marketing agencies. When we do, our story and their stories become temporarily intertwined with something external. Whether we are being manipulated by poets or design houses, we know it was human, and trying to meet us.

With few exceptions, even the most alienating and experimental of these communication forms are shaped by that desire for human comprehension. Machines, in simulating art, do so without any desire to connect or reassure us. The machine is not concerned with being understood, because it doesn’t, and cannot, understand. It’s the cold indifference of a machine. In the distance between us and it, we project all that we fear from the Other: infallible, all-knowing, all-aware — and so we imagine the very things that make them so frightening. I am used to the sense that the screen is always there to take something from me, package it up, and offer it back through the recommendation of some distant system. So, I am also bringing that to my interactions with the system, in how I interpret (imagine) what it is doing. Generative art systems don't "do this," I do it to them.

The uncanniness — that close-but-not-quite-human quality of machine generated text and images — is a different way of intermingling imaginations because we imagine it to be different. The image quality is not so clear, and so the limits of the machine imagination intertwines with a human desire to be immersed. I can see my own imagination reaching, and how sometimes imagination fails, and unmasking that lie can be terrifying. (The Lacanian "Real," etc.)


On Wed, Jul 14, 2021 at 3:38 PM Paul Hertz via NetBehaviour <netbehaviour at lists.netbehaviour.org<mailto:netbehaviour at lists.netbehaviour.org>> wrote:
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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