Mayer Spivack (1936 - 2011) is @MayerSpivack on Twitter. He was a consultant and advisor on organizational behavior, innovation, and learning, based near Boston, Massachusetts. He was also an artist working in a variety of media. All writing and artworks presented here are the original work and are the copyrighted property of Mayer Spivack. Nothing on this weblog is aggregated from other sources. Reasonable use involving copying with attribution, and limited sharing not for profit, are allowed. Your comments are invited. This blog is now maintained by his son, Nova Spivack. We look forward to hearing from you. Thank you for your interest.
Masahiro Hotta at Tohoku University in Japan has proposed an energy and information teleportation system, (Ref: arxiv.org/abs/1002.0200 Energy-Entanglement Relation for Quantum Energy Teleportation). His proposal, as I understand it, would be limited to a single instantiation event taking place in a single simultaneous pair of measurements, one in a laboratory, the other somewhere within the grand fluctuating universe.
To be useful beyond the laboratory we would need a constant seamless flow of such events. But how? Let us suppose that a locally observed smidgen, one part of a singlet (herein named Constance), is one part of a shared identity within a pair of entangled Siamese-twin-sister particles.
The internet, and within it
the blogosphere, are not legacy media. The internet races always into the
future trailing it’s comet’s tail, a short electric past, while blogs and
websites tumble into their own archives and disappear forever. Websites and
weblogs if not kept up (and paid up), lapse, leaving only limited traces to be traced
in future decades. What wisdoms, without durable printed pages, are we leaving
for upcoming generations to contemplate?
Bricks and mortar libraries
have tended to last for hundreds of years and sometimes far longer. Digital
information and digital storage devices are more fugitive do not survive as
well, nor migrate through generations with surety. Desert caves and tombs seem
to preserve information best, but let’s not go there.
Should we invent an overview
capture system within the internet that sends information-projectiles, skipping-stone
time-capsules, that repeatedly revisit our great grandchildren’s
computer-thingys to stir things up during their part of the Long Now? Like a
benign viral pandemic, it would mysteriously appear into whatever the internet has
then become at intervals of twelve years? How would we now know what is worth
preserving and set to fast forward? The question begs us to evaluate the worth
of what we are doing now. Most Twitter content and Utube afterimages would not make
the short list. Lose the spam and the list is over eighty percent shorter with
one click. The advertisements would fight for their lives and then be smothered
by the mute button. What would remain? What do we really care about?
Is intelligence is a basic feature of life? What do we mean when we speak or write about intelligence? There are at least a few working definitions, one is humans know it when they encounter it, as in the Turing test. Another is that human intelligence marks the top of a scale of animal intelligence. Casual language about intelligence usually confuses it with smartness, and is a competitive notion.
I wonder if intelligence is not a more profound aspect of all life, present in every living organism and at every scale. We may find a more useful idea of intelligence if we give intelligence some wiggle-room. I also wonder if intelligence is a fundamental property of life. Could any organism function without some level of intelligent or orderly information transfer and exchange within it's boundaries? Isn't information transfer and exchange a basic operation within intelligence? Perhaps an organelle or a virus does not aspire to the label highly intelligent, but it gets it's own job done.
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Artificial intelligence will never be intelligent in the human sense until we find a way of organizing machine process, storage and retrieval that is mediated by an emotion-emulating algorithm.
Information moving about within our brains, even what we believe to be pure logical thought and fact is attached to emotional preferences and dislikes (intellectual passions if you like), and these emotional tags or neurological links assist us in making efficient and meaningful use of the primary sensory chaos present in the unprocessed perceived environment. Emotion plus other data equals meaning, and meaning is everything in both thought and emotion, and in action or communication.
Comprehending what meaning means aught to be our main target as we pursue the grail of artificial intelligence. We can eventually understand and build an operational concept of meaning, but it will be difficult (or maybe impossible) if we only stick to the computer science worldview. The difficulty will be somewhat eased if computer scientists go to lunch with psychotherapists who teach and use psychodynamic theory.
In a simple mind experiment, think of an idea or a theory, perhaps some fact or strong belief you have been working with. Are you fond of it? Do you defend this belief or theory when colleagues challenge it’s validity in meetings? Your defense is not purely logical. It is also strongly emotional.
We are motivated by emotion first, logic second. We store away and remember our observations and scientific ideas with ‘tags’ that connect emotion to logical thought.
If computation is ever to be deeply companionable with humans, we must build computers that process data the way humans feel and think, this is not improbable. Because they exist together within the brain, emotions, logically, must be merely another quality or kind of information in the brain in the same way as are logical propositions.
Emotion is not a halo of irrational spiritual vapor hovering outside our brains. It is more likely central to the brain’s own deep logic. Perhaps emotion is a faster pathway to learning and remembering in animals, including humans, and will eventually provide the same functions within computer systems and their application programs.
Perhaps, if we keep our minds open this avenue of investigation may also lead to a better understanding of the mysterious process of human thought and emotion.
Fear, isolation, and a sense of numbing helplessness characterize the nursing home, the mental hospital and other institutional experiences for the majority of inmates. To enter a hospital, especially a mental hospital or a nursing home, either as a visitor or a patient, is to encounter an environment that has no equal in barrenness anywhere in our culture except for the prisoner's cell.
These environments may be described as dis-integrated or degraded because they lack wholeness; they are incomplete. Because the ordinary everyday settings for behavior are missing, they cannot adequately support the great range of human activities and behaviors that are associated with everyday life and particularly with the recovery process. Most institutions force inmates to ‘kill time’ without purpose. More typically and destructively, institutional environments may further impair the patients' faith in their own competence to take care of themselves and live normal independent lives. Prolonged institutionalization or hospitalization, especially in a mental hospital, nursing home, or prison may seriously impair the inmate’s mental health, as individual’s responsibilities and social behaviors fall away.
Psychiatry and psychology in particular, and medicine in general, all lack a clear vision or theory of mental health and ‘wellness’, as distinct from illness, that could inform and enrich the lives of patients in their care. Since the earliest records of institutional mental health treatment there have been relatively few reform revolutions during which the quality of the patients' experience, their environment, and their care were given enriching humane attention.
Comparisons among four birds, their early development and behavioral determinants.
ALEX, our finest feathered colleague in the Laboratory of Cognitive Scientist Dr. Irene Pepperberg has died before his work, or hers, was completed. He was somewhat of an avian guru, a teacher, who participated in the Rival-Model learning method, ultimately developing clear human speech. He helped us answer many important questions about cognition and learning in general. He left Dr. Peppergerg and the rest of us who knew him and followed his progress with even more questions about the still largely unexplored animal-to-human interface.
Following the death of ALEX it seems the right moment to sum up some of my own informal observations about the linguistic and emotional language behavior of our own grays in the light of recent Rival-Model Learning discoveries.
ALEX, early years and environment:
ALEX was raised in Dr. Pepperberg’s laboratory, surrounded by students and researchers who kept him busy, interacting nearly all day as they explored his cognitive abilities, and as he learned to use human language. His was a formal, academic society. He lived a life of protocols, affection, repetition of protocols, affection, rest, and he slept alone, retiring gratefully (or so he seemed to indicate) to his cage at night. He did this work five days or more per week for thirty years.
There were also times when he visited friends with Dr. Pepperberg for days at a time. There were hours spent in the care of avian veterinarian Dr. Marjorie McMillan. , and many hospital days in Chicago, There were times he was interviewed in the company of strangers in small rooms or many in large auditoriums; he did not often disappoint.
He befriended Alan Alda, and it appears that ALEX impressed him, but more to the point ALEX made Alda laugh. That Alda laugh—that easy accepting sound—that accompanies so much of what he does, expresses his curiosity, and his pleasure in discovery. ALEX seems to have provided him with all of this in each meeting. Documented evidence of ALDA’s intelligent use of human language can be found on the Discovery Channel, and on video.
Nashi, early years and environment:
Nashi, my own African Grey Parrot is the same species (Psittacus erithacus) as ALEX, but she has had a different kind educational history, physical setting and social environment. Nashi’s life has not only been unlike ALEX’s, but also quite different from the lives of most domestically raised African Gray Parrots, and radically different from her conspecifics in wild flocks.
It has been a guiding principle in our learning, drummed into our brains during primary school years, that one cannot compare apples and oranges because they are different (despite similarities obvious to any schoolchild), and that ‘never the twain shall meet’— that because of these differences they can never be usefully compared or combined. Soon we will all know that it has always been a lie. The twain shall be tied together by Twine.
Today, within minutes after I received my notice that Twine was being demoed At the Web 2.0 conference on Friday, October 19, ’07, I entered the search terms (Twine, radar,) into Google. What I got were eight references to today’s Radar Network’s announcement of the pioneering product Twine, along with an overwhelming number of references to all sorts of things I don’t want to bother with from nubs of string to space-aliens. Google brought me far too many irrelevant pages-full-of-pages, signifying nothing. Google regurgitated the whole hairball including some few useful threads that were not always up front, or even within the first few pages.
That problem, and others, have been addressed by the new product, ‘Twine’, developed by Nova Spivack and his team at Radar Networks. Twine will accomplish at least three grand feats.
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My library, wedged into cardboard boxes since a flood in the studio nearly a year ago, is at last released onto new shelves. Each book was acquired to answer, at a moment of question or desire, a need to telescopically reach beyond my own vision or understanding. Despite being carefully grouped and labeled in boxes they had become mysterious and weighty, not merely heavy. They stacked up like obligations that waited silently for more comfort, order restored, fresher air, light and freedom. And the relief of a reader.
In two days with an assistant who loves books they were released and placed in stacks. I have never been able to scan a conventional bookcase, as in the stacks of a library or bookstore without neck-twisting that made me have to leave unsatisfied. My bookstore and library ventures have never been leisurely browses but are either a dyslexic, efficient and purposeful mission, or a quick impulsive raid. So my own shelves carry their books flat, with the text on their spines arrayed so I can read them. Each shelf is a paragraph of ideas. Each book is an individual treasure. I have abandoned those I would not lend out or read again except for reference texts. In this small library their spines and my own are untwisted.
Touching and remembering these books whose contents have nourished my mind, the information having passed from their pages into my brain’s cells, was a neural re-gathering, a reunion of associations. Now that I am old enough to forget even my own thoughts unless typed-down immediately (I am intentionally filling magnetic memory as a prosthesis that will support failed biological memory later) there is more surprise and delight in the sight of an old familiar but forgotten book-cover, or the handwritten note of an author.
Books must be categorized but ideas should not. Neither books nor ideas fit easily into classifications, they merge into each other suggestively, breaking through the bookends. A book on child development is also a book about the sensory world of the classroom and it’s physical environment, but that may only be one of it’s syncretic connections to many other books. The whole library, mine, yours and worldwide, is a single networking of human ideas present and past, a record of what we are and who we are likely to become again. We do not know it’s whole value unless we keep re-reading.
Human brains and minds appear to be inherently capable of at least two quite different kinds of processes and reasoning, The first kind, the one we have come to regard as normal, is predominantly linear and logical. The second process is more non-linear. It is often labeled “sloppy,” disorganized, and is considered by many as slow to learn. In school it does appear to be inefficient when compared to the linear. It is called learning disabled, and specifically often diagnosed as dyslexia, dyscalculia, and attention deficit disorder.
While these non-linear processes, may be responsible for some of the disadvantages within the ‘learning disabled’ brain, they may also underlie certain creative advantages in those same brains and minds. Ideally all brains would be able to utilize both types of processes as required, employing a balancing act that keeps the mind on track. But brains differ—some are weighted toward one process, some to the other. In extreme circumstances, a brain may be uni-modal. Most healthy minds are to some degree bi-modal, but are prioritized for one or the other modality. We may advance education by recognizing that if we provide support in both modalities, we bring the potentials of both groups, and both modalities in each person to a higher level, with subsequent benefits to the whole classroom, to each individual student and to society.
The brain has no hard edges; neither does information. There are no gray interior walls to prevent ideas from wandering across the boundaries between and among fields. Many paths of curiosity lead to intellectual, artistic and scientific questioning, and onward to understanding. For many of us and for our children, these curious pathways are barred by signs that say: “Private Property—Do Not Enter Without Permission”). In the words of a song: “We have to be carefully taught.”
REFLECTIONS OF REALITY: Some Notes On Archetypal Place And Syncretic Process: Proper Nouns:
The mind hides its deepest structure. We cannot remove it from our thoughts to see or know nature (or our own nature) 'clearly', for the structure holds our thoughts together. When things make sense, they make this particular structural sense. We cannot isolate this structure for examination because without the foundation, the building of our mind collapses in upon itself. It’s presence is so pervasive and we are so embedded in it, that if we were able to remove these deep foundations, we would cease to exist as the individuals who entered upon this quest. However much we become aware of structure, our very awareness is based upon our own ontological self-creation of structure. A frame fabricated to support what has been learned; it is the lens, the language, the embedded concepts and the constant and dependable floor of our lives. I have read numerous neurological case-histories that present patients who have memory loss of various kinds and degrees. In some cases the report asserts that amnesia is nearly complete. The observer fails to mention, almost universally, that the patient retained language, knew how to sit in a chair, and when asked to name the president, did not reply: “what’s a name?”—“what is a president?”—“what is what?”.
I have a longtime friend who thinks in seven levels at once. He is not admired for this ability, instead, most people find his conversation confusing; he skips around from subject to subject, changes times of reference, sensory modalities, and other dimensions of normal conversation. His discussion drifts, we are soon in a sea of ideas, lost. I ask: “what were we talking about?” He looks at me as if I were simple. Have I been inattentive? I am unsure and confused, after half an hour, I think I am losing my mind.
When first my consciousness surfaced this morning from the night-long swim through sleep, I directed my attention to remembering a photograph of a woman who has been traveling much too long, someone I love, whose photograph I have looked at often, and with serious consideration during the writing of these essays.
While these sentiments may be important to her and myself, they are also important to my subject. I have been motivated to regard this image, to find charming details, new discoveries, to memorize it. I know this photograph. I have searched it almost microscopically for meaning. I also know other photographs, for there are many photographs that I admire as art, that I have examined carefully. This one is not art, only a snapshot. Before opening my eyes I readied myself to observe the experience of remembering this photograph. It happens fast. First there is no photo, then as I become aware that I intend to remember it, it is there in memory. But what has “appeared”, and where is it? What kind of representation am I examining so earnestly? Can I actually see it “in my minds eye”?
Publishing a web-log has shifted some gears in my mind— from neutral into first gear. It has also put me in touch with an audience that I have not had in forty years. Even one serious reader can make that happen.
I think that no one can be a writer unless they first love reading wonderful writing by others. That is not a sufficient criterion by itself, but it does ensure an occasional artistic warmth and generosity among otherwise often crusty competitors. Necessary for the ‘natural’ or real writer is a compulsive need to remember and refine, by means of ‘writing it down’, thoughts that come in waves, often in storms of waves, threatening to swamp and drown one another in foamy confusion leaving nothing on the beach for the next day. Writing, my own included, is therefore narcissistically not very generous (that is not to imply it is un-generous), and self-inventing. What can save a sinner like me are intellectually and artistically generous friends who are fine writers and who will ungrudgingly read one’s work. So for the first time, when I write, I imagine the eye and mind of one who will read and comprehend, whereas before I always wrote into the abstracted impersonal void. I never imagined an audience. Maybe my writing will become simpler and more personal for this favor—and personal writing demands more courage than writing impersonally.
I am not Gregor Samsa, but as I awoke this morning from complicated dreams I found my chin and chest transformed into a bed for a black cat.
My chin and chest belong to cats at the beginning and end of the day. However, what made this morning unusual was that I had gone to sleep after reading the first half of the wonderful prose, recently published in The New Yorker, of Gabriel Garcia Marquez entitled “personal History, The Challenge” (Oct. 6 2003, pg. 100, [as in “One Hundred Years Of Solitude”—this, in the New Yorker, could not be accidental].
Marquez, in his fantastic and real meditations is always more accurate about human experience than most psychology, because as he states in his article, he… “realized that my two great defects were the two greatest defects possible: the clumsiness of my writing and my ignorance of the human heart.” And so he made a lifelong project to become infinitely graceful dancing in this mysterious fog that drifts only at the mind’s “heart”. I share his first “defect”, my only similarity with this great writer and thinker, and I am now revealing the extent of my struggle with the second. In the case of G. Marquez, both defects are corrected.
Definitions of the term syncretic loosely extracted from the Random House Dictionary of the English language give us the following understanding: “Syn-cre-tism...1. the attempted reconciliation or union of different or opposing principles, practices, or parties, as in philosophy or religion. 2. Gram. The merging, as by historical change in a language, of two or more categories in a specified environment into one...”
In a series of posts, beginning with this one, I will publish thoughts and essays on syncretic and associative learning that I call "Breaking Boundaries". This writing will explore how meaning and creative process germinate and bloom in the mind. I offer the proposition that syncretic association is a mental process essential to both art and science, and suggest that it is the means by which our associative minds seek meaning in a world of disorganized raw information. Until we have detected some order within the chaos of raw experience, and have begun to form patterns that are significant to our understanding of that experience, we have only made simple percepts that are without meaning. I am exploring how the detection of pattern and order—the finding-out of cognizable features (that may be inherent in the fractal ‘raw’ experience of nature)—are synonymous with the detection and invention of meaning, and how they, together, may constitute the organic process of our creativity.
The Alex Foundation- Home page Irene Pepperberg studies cognitive process, teaching and learning in birds. She is problably the most recognized researcher on avian cognition in the world. Alex, her now famous long-time research subject and 'collaborator' recently died at half his life expectancy. Now Wart and Griffin are her collaborators. They are saying and doing things we used to believe that only small children, great apes, and dolphins could do. Her brilliant work deserves better funding.
Tai Chi Chen style Taiji quan- Instruction Marin Spivack is a masterful Teacher of Tai Chi in Salem, Massachusetts; Chen style Instruction in authentic Taiji martial arts, Qi cultivation, Tai Chi DVD videos. Chen Zhaokui Martial Arts Research Association, North America. He is also a composer, a saxophonist, and he is my son.
Minding the Planet Nova is a cognitive scientist and high-tech entrepreneur working on technologies that overcome our information overload. He has founded companies and is now developing interactive internet software, TWINE, that we all need. His thinking covers a great range. He is my Son.
Marin Spivack & Milo Francis | Amie Street Marin Spivack is a Composer, virtuoso saxophonist, Teacher of Tai Chi in Salem, Massachusetts; Chen style Instruction in authentic Taiji martial arts, Qi cultivation, Tai Chi DVD videos. Chen Zhaokui Martial Arts Research Association, North America. He is my son.