[NetBehaviour] analogy and AI poetry

Max Herman maxnmherman at hotmail.com
Fri Jul 23 17:42:30 CEST 2021


Hi Graziano,

Great information about Sonfist and natural intelligence, much appreciated!  I will review Time Landscape and Circle of Time for sure.

Time is so important, I am finding, in Leonardo's thinking and imagination.  Time was basic to Dante as well, as in his closing image of the Commedia when he says that his consciousness was moving like a connected wheel with the cosmos.  (Leonardo and Dante were both musicians in which time is of course of the essence.)  Time per se is something that still offers challenges to science and art today, and since natural intelligence has been around so many years longer than machine intelligence it almost certainly has some pointers to share.

In addition to Dante, Leonardo also read Ovid, who was so focused on time and processes.  Things are not as they seem in a snapshot, but have all kinds of past and future movement aligned and intertwined just like currents in a river.  Time destroys, but also creates, as Percy Shelley metaphorized as the wind:  "Destroyer and preserver, hear o hear!"

In Leonardo expert Martin Kemp's very interesting 2021 book about light as a theme in Dante and later painters from Giotto through Rubens and the Baroque, he cites the 14th century German philosopher Grosseteste as a kind of touchstone and closing argument about imagination:

"To understand something about the motion of the universe, you must merge the center and the poles, aiding yourself as best you can by your imagination [italics mine].  For example, if someone were on the earth but beneath the north pole [of the heavens] and someone else were actually at the north pole [of the heavens], then just as to the one on the earth it would appear that the pole is at the zenith [from that point], so to the one at the actual pole it would it appear that the centre is at the zenith [from that point].  And just as antipodes have the sky above, as do we, so to those who are at either pole the earth would appear to be at the zenith [from their point].  And at whichever [of these] anyone would be, they would believe themselves to be at the centre.  Therefore, merge these different imaginative [italics mine] pictures so that the centre is the zenith and vice versa.  Thereupon you will see -- through the intellect to which only learned ignorance [italics mine] is of help, that the world and its motion [italics mine] and shape cannot be apprehended.  For [the world] will appear as a wheel in a wheel and a sphere in a sphere -- having its circumference nowhere, as was stated."

Kemp blends Grosseteste's idea of "learned ignorance," which means something like "diligent observation that accepts its incompleteness," into the ideas of Godel and Heisenberg.  The uncertainty or incompleteness of the two 20th century scientists is compared to the medieval and Dantean motif of light that is so strong it overwhelms the senses so that what radiates it cannot be seen.

My education is not of the greatest, and never focused at all on art history, but from what little I know about literature words add a new dimension to this picture.  Dante of course worked to outline a relationship between words and vision; he sort of says that vision is the ultimate input, but words are necessary to help imagination turn the input into knowledge or truth.  I.e., the eyes can mislead us if we don't apply our imaginations and the humble state of "learned ignorance."  Words, of course, can also flat out lie and fabricate to the exclusion of more reality-focused words.  Hence some of the difficulties.

Leonardo had a very interesting approach: he believed that a visual image could be not just raw input data, but could be as imaginative as words in both input and output.  One example on which few disagree is his Last Supper, in which myriad details and convolutions from the textual narrative are captured in the visual forms and movement of the composition.  (It is my hypothesis that his most famous portrait is similarly "visuotextual" if that is a word, allegorically depicting his philosophy of the arts and sciences as Esperienza, and uses the visual imagination in all its nuances holistically with reference to textual material outside the image -- such as in his own notebooks as well as texts by other authors -- and interwoven with it while remaining differentiated rather than subsumed.

Calvino writes of Leonardo in Six Memos: "not just in science but also in philosophy, he was confident he could communicate better by means of painting and drawing.  Still he also felt an incessant need to write, to use writing to investigate the world in all its polymorphous manifestations and secrets, and also to give shape to his fantasies, emotions, and rancors -- as when he inveighs against men of letters, who were able only to repeat what they had read in the books of others, unlike those who were among the 'inventori e interpreti tra la natura e li omini' (inventors and interpreters between nature and humans).  He therefore wrote more and more.  With the passing of the years, he gave up painting and expressed himself through writing and drawing, as if following the thread of a single discourse in drawings and in words...."

Incidentally, it was reading this very passage (despite its imperfect historical accuracy) in Six Memos in early 2018 which got me on my Leonardo and Dante goose chase.  Was Leonardo in fact not only a poet, but a novelist of the encyclopedic form, a skilled practitioner of what today we could call a unified fabric of all known media with unlimited subject matter?  His writings in both translation and the original struck me as absolutely poetic, dramatic, allusive, and novelistic, in much the way many passages from Shakespeare are (amid the ample framework of medieval convention).  "Proving" such a self-awareness as an author so understood by Leonardo is another question, and is often dismissed as self-indulgent projection.  However, is the burden of proof rightfully placed upon the advocates of Leonardo's poetic skill and sensibility?  Why not on the far more ridiculous propositions that despite writing poetry, he had no poetic imagination; despite designing theatrical productions he had no dramatic imagination; despite writing thousands of pages of prose he had no ability to use style, nuance, subtext, metaphor, misdirection, or satire?  At the very least, it is indefensible for such a possibility to be ordained as not only unproven but unprovable; and if provable, at least the criteria of proof must be defined as clearly as the burden to be assigned.  (I find Ode I of the Convivio to be very close to proof enough that there are many levels happening at once, but not all perhaps would.)

Why place the burden thus on the less reductive hypothesis?  For the simplest of reasons: dearth of processing power, which is to say, imagination, and a felt fear of error.  Leonardo as a visual artist and scientist is complex enough, and if you add the layers of writer, poet, dramatist, and philosopher any rubric for labeling becomes disastrously incomplete (in the Godelian sense) and the material escapes any attempt at simple fencing.  It's kind of like keeping young children away from chapter books which cause them too-great upset.  This doesn't at all mean that such books can or should be sequestered forever; in fact, it is most plausible that Leonardo engineered his information in such a way that permanent sequestration would be computationally impossible just as all consequences in natural systems become apparent sooner or later.

Perhaps one can think of natural or organic intelligence as an analog network generated in physical space over billions of years, with inorganic electronic intelligence (setting aside the semantics of the word "intelligence") only the lastest fashion or garment of the day?  Of course there are legions of theory which claim all intelligence, information, and knowledge to be digital not analog and this, if correct, answers every single difficulty instantly.  But it may not be correct, and what if it isn't?  Then we may have veered somewhat off course as it were.  Perhaps there is plenty of time to get back on a better course, but perhaps there is no time left and only the course we are on can exist.

Desperately in need of brevity I wrote the following yesterday on my way back home to the city:

"Art should be like Nature."
The Garment is like Nature.
The Garment is then what
Art should be, and Art.

and:

"Esperienza is universal analogy."

To find a visual image alluding to what he has argued above, Calvino cites Leonardo's marvelous fragment (which he revised three times, much as a poet would):  "O quante volte fusti tu veduto in fra l'onde del gonfiato e grande oceano, a guisa di montagna quelle vincere e sopraffare, e col setoluto e nero dosso solcare le marine acque, e con superbo e grave andamento!"  This is both a scientific reflection on the origin of marine fossils at high elevations and a poetic invocation Calvino believes Leonardo "presented almost as a symbol of the solemn force of nature," which "gives us an inkling of how Leonardo's imagination worked."  Why "almost"?  I must again quote Calvino, who in his planning to give his remarks as a lecture to Harvard undergraduates in 1985 wrote "I leave you this image at the very end of my talk so that you may carry it in your memories as long as possible, in all its transparency and its mystery."

Thanks again for the great links and info!

Max






________________________________
From: NetBehaviour <netbehaviour-bounces at lists.netbehaviour.org> on behalf of Graziano Milano via NetBehaviour <netbehaviour at lists.netbehaviour.org>
Sent: Friday, July 23, 2021 7:12 AM
To: NetBehaviour for networked distributed creativity <netbehaviour at lists.netbehaviour.org>
Cc: Graziano Milano <grazmaster at googlemail.com>
Subject: Re: [NetBehaviour] analogy and AI poetry

Dear All,

Alan Sonfist’s Time Landscape was his first historical sculpture to introduce a key environmentalist idea of bringing nature back into the urban environment as part of Environmental Art. Another amazing artwork by Alan Sonfist is Circle of Time (1986-89) based in Florence, probably close to where Leonardo Da Vinci was born and grew up.

Environmental Art is a range of artistic practices encompassing both historical approaches to nature in art and more ecological and politically motivated types of works. More info about Environmental Art and artists involved in it is here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Environmental_art

The V&A Museum has in its collections five of Leonardo da Vinci's notebooks. On its website page – Leonardo da Vinci: Experience, Experiment, Design<http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/l/leonardo-da-vinci-experience-experiment-design/> – the V&A says that:

“For Leonardo, sight was the noblest and most certain sense. It provided access to 'experience', which shows us how nature works according to mathematical rules. Any knowledge that could not be certified by the eye was unreliable. He investigated the relationship of the eye to the brain. He proposed a system in which visual information was transmitted to the intellect via the receptor of impressions and the 'common sense', an area where all sensory inputs were coordinated.”

That's how our Naturalist Intelligence works and develops our creativity. Here our 9 Essential Skills of Naturalist Intelligence (And How They Help Us):

1. Observation
2. Pattern Recognition
3. Sensory Awareness
4. Empathy
5. Mental Clarity
6. Critical Thinking
7. Curiosity & Investigative Ability
8. Appreciation & Respect For Nature
9. Care-taking & Stewardship

More detailed info about these 9 Essential Skills of Naturalist Intelligence: https://nature-mentor.com/naturalist-intelligence-skills/

But our natural environment is now under threat as temperatures rise and pollution increases, wildfires, floods and extreme winds have battered many parts of the world in the last six months. You can see 50 photos of recent extreme weather around the world here:
https://www.theguardian.com/world/gallery/2021/jul/19/climate-crisis-weather-around-world-in-pictures-wildfires-floods-winds

That's really terrible as many people died and our natural environment is under threat.

Regards,
Graziano

On Tue, 20 Jul 2021 at 05:26, Alan Sondheim via NetBehaviour <netbehaviour at lists.netbehaviour.org<mailto:netbehaviour at lists.netbehaviour.org>> wrote:
I think you could find a lot of info on Sonfist's work. I don't think 'rewilding' was used at the time. It was a landscape reflecting earlier times when there was a different ecology. It's still there and quite beautiful, fenced off near NYU. You don't enter it.

Watching a lot of narrow boat and urban archeologists treading the English landscape, all those narrow corridors between, among fields, that seem intensely wild and elsewhere, amazing. And amazing, not trashed, unlike places, say in RI, where plastic and other garbage is often found, even parts of cars. There are still shorelines that look pristine but the ecology's deeply stressed.

I never thought of Sonfist as a research artist per se, but as someone, like another alan, Alan Saret, creating a kind of grace... even a possibility of becoming

- Alan

On Mon, Jul 19, 2021 at 4:21 PM Johannes Birringer via NetBehaviour <netbehaviour at lists.netbehaviour.org<mailto:netbehaviour at lists.netbehaviour.org>> wrote:

dear all,
after the floods i am catching up with this very interesting discussion on AI and other imaginary intelligences and Esperienza, but am trying to find a connection to Finsbury Park since Alan asked about it:

before leaving London to travel to southwest Germany and my valley studio, I spend an evening jogging with a friend on the Parkland Walk (south), starting at Finsbury Park, onto the footpath that leads through an amazing local nature reserve towards Highgate, and one can discover luscious plants, wildlife, birds, all sorts of insects ad critters, and interesting features like old railway platforms and bridges...... i was surprised as I imagined being in the middle of London but i was apparently in a kind of narrow forest area, not an urwald, but charming, leafy and obviously very popular (that June night there were innumerable joggers, flâneurs, lovers, dog walkers, bicyclists). Finsbury Park itself looked more orderly, louder, there were courts where young people were playing ball games to vibrant reggae music....

I don't know 'Time Landscape' and what Alan Sonfist  created in the Greenwich Village Park (did they plant a few hundred plants, trees, shrubs, grasses and flowers that were all found in Manhattan before the Dutch came in the 17th century? was that the concept of his "re-wilding"?).... I wonder how research artists re-think colonial matters, territories, and compost through plants and plant art (I am thinking of someone like Bartaku who recently presented his research on "Baroa belaobara: berryapple" at Aalto)... and also how we can re-think our relations to climate, earth, storms, droughts, hurricanes and floods (people here in the southwest of Germany were unprepared and had not imagined the force of nature)...... and since all of you made such wonderful comments here, on the imaginaries, the embodiments, and the machines, here is what my friend Bartaku writes on the choke berry:

>>
"Baroa belaobara: berryapple" speaks about an art practice that addresses a plant while following sudden signals at a plantation in Latvia. Through five passages the reader is spinning into a making_thinking constellation of bacteria, breath, bone china porcelain, ether, coincidence, sap, glass, semen, installation, soil, linen, ghost, light, anthocyanin, Aronia_Baroacentrism, brain reader, pigment, musicians, electricity, pH, leaky loops, play, protocol, pipette, gift intervention, DNA and mulberry paper.morphings of a plant´s name, its shape and of plant-art perception and cognition.

Through a method of play as in improvisational music, a meshy constellation comes to be with a mixture of entities playing along. The leaky loops of making/thinking include micro- and photobiologists, bio-, solar and fake labs, clay, a brain reader, ceramists,artists, designers, herbalists, alchemists,chance, a JMW Turner painting, joyful accidents, re-enactments, hand-painted photovoltaics, microbes and their fluorescent pigments and plantations....The focus of the narration is on experiences with detailed accounts of the applied protocols for in vitro plant and microbial growth,dye-sensitised solar cells and ceramix, as well as for invented gifts and imaginary solutions....
>>

https://aaltodoc.aalto.fi/handle/123456789/107574

we live in restless times, dear compostists, so:  Unruhig bleiben!

regards
Johannes Birringer
Schmelz, Saarland



________________________________________
From: NetBehaviour <netbehaviour-bounces at lists.netbehaviour.org<mailto:netbehaviour-bounces at lists.netbehaviour.org>> on behalf of Alan Sondheim via NetBehaviour <netbehaviour at lists.netbehaviour.org<mailto:netbehaviour at lists.netbehaviour.org>>
Sent: 16 July 2021 19:32
To: NetBehaviour for networked distributed creativity


NI sounds cool but the video sounds more like a typical advertisement; every ad I see here for medicines for example uses similar rhetoric.
NI isn't going to work unless it's accompanied by something that will stop, say, the Bransons from spending money on useless egoistic space travel and investing hard cash in working to transform the planet.
Otherwise, NI ends up being as rhetorical as so much of the ecological claims of the 60's on.
I wonder if re: Finsbury park, there will be any attempt at rewilding part of it? In other words, like Alan Sonfist worked on years ago, fencing an area off, letting it be/bee?

Best, Alan

On Fri, Jul 16, 2021 at 10:21 AM Graziano Milano via NetBehaviour <netbehaviour at lists.netbehaviour.org<mailto:netbehaviour at lists.netbehaviour.org><mailto:netbehaviour at lists.netbehaviour.org<mailto:netbehaviour at lists.netbehaviour.org>>> wrote:
Hi Eryk & all,

Here is the other video by the The Centre4NI:
The secret to innovation is NI (why biology will save us)<https://vimeo.com/501683043>

The Centre4NI<https://www.centre4ni.com> says on its website that:
“Natural Intelligence is the intelligence that is as old as time. It knows what works, what lasts and what contributes to the future of life on Earth. It is the driver behind 3.8 billion years of continuous innovation, adaptation and, ultimately, regeneration. It is what enables nature to survive and thrive – despite limited resources and endless change and disruption. Tapping into NI is how we shift from tragedy to prosperity and build businesses, organisations and institutions that foster a healthier, wealthier and more viable future.”

They could add that "Natural Intelligence has also built and will carry on building our artistic human creativity because as Da Vinci said Nature is the source of all true knowledge."

Graziano


On Fri, 16 Jul 2021 at 14:20, Eryk Salvaggio via NetBehaviour <netbehaviour at lists.netbehaviour.org<mailto:netbehaviour at lists.netbehaviour.org><mailto:netbehaviour at lists.netbehaviour.org<mailto:netbehaviour at lists.netbehaviour.org>>> wrote:
>
> 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.)
>
>
> -e.
>
>
>
>
> On Wed, Jul 14, 2021 at 3:38 PM Paul Hertz via NetBehaviour <netbehaviour at lists.netbehaviour.org<mailto:netbehaviour at lists.netbehaviour.org><mailto: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><mailto: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><mailto: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!
>>>>
>>>> https://www.quantamagazine.org/melanie-mitchell-trains-ai-to-think-with-analogies-20210714/?mc_cid=362710ae88&mc_eid=df8a5187d9
>>>>
>>>> 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,
>>>>
>>>> Max
>>>>
>>>> https://www.etymonline.com/word/analogy
>>>> https://www.etymonline.com/word/analogue
>>>>
>>>>
>>>> _______________________________________________
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>>
>>
>> --
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