Life, or Something Like It

I had a flash of insight today regarding the programming of simple artificial life experiments. The simplest would be a series of algorithms running in the background of an interface, with a series of readouts of statistics… how many are left, which generation they are on, all that general stuff. Adding a graphic representation of the data improves the life metaphor, allowing visible representations of the “creatures” to visibly interact with one another.

With fairly simple object-oriented programming the artificial life (AL) forms could be given rudimentary traits — aggression, speed, strength, reproduction, life span, etc., and be allowed to interact with one another. A sidebar could keep track of the averages in the population: average aggression, average age of the group, likelihood of breeding… and, based on random starting variables, after a few or a few hundred generations, evolution will have occurred.

With a little more programming mojo–but still in the realm of the simple–the ALife individuals could be made to “cannibalize” one another, and tests could be run to see what version of the life is most likely to succeed: that which is harmful or helpful.

The idea occurred to me while I was browsing the AI Depot .

In other news, I added three Flash mouse trailers to the tech section. Flash: I love it, I hate it.

Vocabulary

Did you know that the word athlon is from the Greek, meaning, essentially, “Athletic event”? That is where we get the words “biathlon”, triathlon”, “decathlon”, etc. I suppose, to be grammatically correct it would need to be “monathlon”. I discovered this bit of trivia at Forthright’s Phrontistery, a site chock-full of wonderful spoken-language information. In fact, I like it so much I am adding it to my permanent links list.

I am currently of the opinion that women are the best thing(s) ever to exist upon this planet, so here is my shout-out to that 51% of the planet who answer to XX. You’re the best!

A Lack of Energy

Didn’t have time to read more of The Meme Machine today. In fact, today was one of the least productive days I have had all year. Ha ha.

Right now this is still a static site. In order to make it a true blog I need to switch hosts, probably to ModWest. I want to redo this thing using xml/xslt, but in order to make it work in the 5.0 browsers on both PC and Mac I need to do the transformation on the server. ModWest supports PHP with the Sablotron XSLT parser, so this switch will probably take place before the end of winter.

Bleh. Too late at night to be creative.

Schrodinger’s God

Added a couple of links to the LINKS page. See if you can guess which ones.

Participated in a long discussion over at Something Awful a few days ago, concerning “The Worst Modern Religion”. To sum up the entire fourteen-page, two-hundred-post-plus shebang, I posted, on or around page nine, words to the effect that there are no arguments to be had, either for or against the the existence of God, which are not either self-referential, or self-contradictory, or both. In a weird inversion of the Schrodinger’s Cat problem, God neither exists nor doesn’t exist until we die.

Schrodinger’s God. Has a nice ring to it

The Meme Machine is turning out to be a damn fine read. What started out as a simple inquiry into the use of memetics in the manipulation of the Social/Information sphere is quickly branching out in several fascinating directions. The most compelling/disturbing option is probably the one which hints that memes, being essentially metaphors and therefore symbols, may exist at any point up and down the spectrum of consciousness (cf. Ken Wilber). Therefore it is possible that memetics could operate on the level of the Jungian Archetype/racial memory, with the very real effect that a meme, a product of the information sphere, could directly affect the physical body of the recipient. This idea was used to some effect in Snow Crash (Neal Stephenson), and may be witnessed in the occasional health-destroying nervous breakdowns of those who allow conscious mental stress to bleed over into unconscious/autonomous biological systems.

The flip side of this is the use of memes and memeplexes (memeplexi?) to essentially hard-wire behavior into individuals or groups. A suitable subtle, deep-reaching meme could cause changes in behavior which lead to changed in physical ability, either enhancements or regressions. While these changes would obviously not happen at the genetic level, they could easily be passed as viral information from generation to generation. Couple this to a shift in consensual reality and something resembling a cult may arise.

The use of memetics in conjunction with a deep understanding of levels of psychology could therefore be extremely powerful. One could develop the ability to directly access and manipulate the archetypal/symbolic core of a society.

Frightening

Now I need to grab yet another book:The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind. I am rapidly running out of room at my desk.

Memes on the Mind

Tech link works now.

Having read the first chapter of The Meme Machine, I am now adding The Memory Palace of Matteo Ricci to my list.

In brief: A meme is a unit of information, the mental version of a gene. Memes may be transmitted via communication and imitation, in essence “infecting” the recipient with this information, which may then be transferred to another, and so on. The method of transfer may be any medium. For purposes of my research I am focusing on direct, person to person, as biological viruses spread. Therefore, absent a hard medium such as a book, CD, or electronic file, memory is used instead.

Since genetic drift is a given fact, mutation of the meme must occur, but this mutation can be lessened by using tools, “mnemonics”, to build associations between the meme in its original form and information already stored in the recipient. For instance: nursery rhymes. We may forget what every billboard said on the way to work, but we remember, to a large degree, every nursery rhyme we learned as small children. Adding simple rhythm and melody to information gives it immediate context, therefore it is more likely to be retained.

Question: to what extent is this tool knowingly put to use in the world around us? Jingles on the radio come to mind. “Na-bis-co!”. “By MEN-in!” Short, catchy tunes, three notes, four beats, mathematically precise, the tune inseparable from the message. Ergo, via viral transmission, a meme. Nabisco and Mennin have been introduced into the bio/data/memory sphere.

Hypothesis: Bastardization of Occam’s Razor: (1)simple answer is better, easier to understand, easier to slip in to borderline subconscious. As in childhood songs, etc.etc. Even “alphabet song” is sung to rhyme and meter.(2) Moments of decreased conscious/ increased subconscious activity (hypnotism??) Witness the song which awakens us in the morning, which remains, half-heard and half-remembered throughout the day, popping up to annoy us during moments of mental distraction.

Conclusion: Melody and rhythm have been used for thousands of years as mnemonic devices. Christian churches use song/chants to teach. (Did any of the OT rhyme in the original Greek? Does the Nag Hammadi rhyme in Aramaic?) A huge number of Chinese aphorisms/folk wisdom sayings rhyme. Also in the west: “Red sky at night, sailor’s delight/Red in the morning, sailors take warning”. The power of a meme is directly related to medium. Next question: which is more powerful, context or medium?

In With the New

I am putting together my first reading list of the year. The theme, I think, is Social Patterns in the Infosphere. Here is a short list:

Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge by Edward O. Wilson
Godel, Escher, Bach by Dougles R. Hofstadter
The Meme Machine by Susan Blackmore
Flesh Machine by the Critical Art Ensemble
Eye to Eye, by Ken Wilber

I am not sure what I am looking for, exactly, but somehow, I think these books point to it. And most likely to other books.

Out With the Old

Well, one link is up, and coincidentally, it is the link to the links. More to come. There is always more.

Dinner first, either Ethiopian or Indian, then on to the party. Three days gone of the four day weekend.

I just picked up The Meme Machine. Will post a review when I have had enough of it.

In just under 24 hours the new year will be here, and I will be celebrating with a 16-year Port Ellen (1980-Islay) single-malt scotch. Last year it was a 14-year Clynelish (19??-Highland), which made it from January 1 to the end of May, when someone stole the bottle. And it still had three shots left! It was my first cask-strength scotch, which I only discovered after the fact is usually drunk with water, rather than at the full 120+ proof. Still, it was one of the best I have ever had. My review of the Port Ellen will be up in a few days.

Hello

Less than half-way through a four-day weekend — the second in two weeks — and outside is gray and white and quiet. As of this weekend the house next door is completely vacant; the for-rent sign in the first floor window has a twin upstairs

I discovered Kurzweil AI a few days ago. It is a fascinating site, making good use of The Brain for navigating its complex store of information. Quite the site.

Tomorrow is the last day of the year. My new years resolutions have grown progressively more vague or subtle since I left college. “Get a job” changed to “Learn more about Buddhism”, then to “Reduce the amount of mediocrity in my life”. That was last year. I have (I feel) done a good job of being less mediocre; I take better care of myself. I have mad skillz in the web development department. I am much less likely to kill someone for looking at me funny.

Looking back on the personal stresses of last year, I see that I need to do something with the way I use time. I waste a lot of it on unnecessary activities, so the necessary activities get short shrift. Yeah… that’s a suitably vague New Years resolution: make better use of my time. And I bet it never even gets off the ground.

By the by, none of the links are hooked up yet.

A Moment

Have come to realize that I need to dig out the old math books from high school. Have also come to realize that I need to spend less time playing Diablo and more time studying JavaScript. The sacrifices we make for our chosen professions.

If you have not been to Billy’s, Roberta Bradley on Monday night is an extraordinary thing. That voice, coming from someone of that talent, who has chosen to stay here in Grand Rapids, gives me hope for myself. It is the spirit, the intent, with which we approach work, as much as the talent. Love of what we do must be apparent in everything we do.