I will start my response in reversed order. First, there might be a
misunderstanding with Annick regarding "belief" in "raw" data. For that
very reason I tried consistently to put the term "raw" in quotation marks
throughout the posts, furthermore my proposal was based on hypothetically
extremely large numbers of data, therefore the "raw" data could function as
approximately raw only when reaching the level of very, very big data.
Apologies if that was not clear enough.
Next, to the idea that I find crucial in Annick's response: "Isn't what we
call "innovation" today, just the short term answer to previous questions
…" Perhaps it is, as we discussed previously with Katerina. Undoubtedly the
very questions asked in the past are what made today's answers possible. If
innovation is just what is proposed here, then we should make sure we ask
the right questions for the future. It is hard though, to ask the right
question, entrapped as we are within cultural or economic systems that have
overgrown into complexity beyond human comprehension.
But since computational power is increasing and algorithms are improving we
can soon afford to run the data through machines which would hopefully give
rather unexpected results, surprising enough that we could shift our
limited perspective out of local obscurity into something that actually
raises new questions.
Next, to Annick's proposal discussing a Mediterranean topic in languages
spoken in the area – is that meant for each and every language? Imagine
reading this in my language - Slovenian, spoken by a tiny fraction of
Mediterranean population, but with just as impressive long history and rich
grammar. I doubt my posts would be better understood by participants in
English might not be the official language in all countries of the
Mediterranean rim but it is the second, third or fourth language for most
of us since childhood, thus whether we like it or not, its role in
Mediterranean culture cannot be dismissed as it presently already
contributes to its heritage. As Ken argues English is also currently the
language of academia, due to "massive investment in science by American,
British, and Australian universities." This investment includes head
hunting for scientific non-native English speaking talent around the globe
with an offer for citizenship and excellent research facilities, expecting
in return their eventual top tier academic awards and their research being
published first and foremost in English.
As much as English happens to make communication easier, different
languages would definitely enrich this discussion, or any other, with their
many intricate peculiarities and probably very soon artificial neural
networks will enable us to enjoy that too, through new modes of
communication, and with it new surprising gains and losses in
"translations." Translation here is in quotation marks as AI is already
quite unpredictable in developing its language learning methods. If Ken
proposes Mandarin might be the language Yasminers use in the future I truly
hope for a killer app in this respect – Mandarin is no piece of cake to
learn for average human – believe me, I tried.
Choice of language on the side, there are some other lost or loose points
in translations of my mind and I'm very glad Ken examines and challenges
every proposition thoroughly. As you say Ken: "Artists may make imaginative
propositions, but I have yet to see an artist make rigorous use of digital
neural nets to test and compare the outcomes of different parameters. It is
true that some scientific disciplines don't overlap. We already know this."
Perhaps it is nonetheless worth the emphasis: more than not overlapping,
scientific disciplines leave uncovered territories behind. There is an
"undisciplined zone" of unknown proportions, conceivably claimed only by
transdisciplinarians. We may know many interdisciplinarians borrowing
methods from one discipline or another, but who are the
transdisciplinarians, by broadest, far stretched definition, transcending
the methods of any scientific discipline?
Take a researcher on the brink of her significant scientific discovery, she
enters the zone where no previous method holds, she needs to carve her own
path as she advances, and rather than blindly relying on the existent
methodology, she is relying on her intuition. She works her way as a
prodigious artist does - all along transmuting the "methods". Whether she
is a scientist or an artist on the brink of her discovery is not the right
question to ask. These categories become obsolete when one enters the
If you entertain that thought, imagination plays a primary role. But of
course you expect more, we all, in fact, simply hope that the researcher
returns from the transdisciplinary into a disciplined mode of reasoning and
readjusts our current methods. You go further and draw a line: "It is
useful to distinguish between imaginary propositions and well argued
proposals. Imaginary propositions help us to understand why something is
important in terms of emotion, feeling, and ethics. In this sense,
imaginary futures explain "Why." Well argued proposals offer responsible
ways forward toward the world as we want it to be. In this sense, solid
proposals explain "How."
I wouldn't delineate it quite that way. The imaginary solutions are the
result of the ever changing approach, intuitive, but not necessarily, in
the common sense, ethical or emotional, they are rather breaking the
boundaries of the common sense, exposing the alien and uncommon in us. Most
importantly the imaginary is not a how-to generalized solution to a set of
problems but rather the know-how of action and reaction at every encounter
with the problem.
In short to answer your challenge: I haven't seen "an artist make rigorous
use of digital neural nets" either but already some researchers in AI seem
to just go with the flow, experimenting outside disciplines, inventing new
methods, allowing even their creations to invent their own methods, which
creators themselves already have a difficulty understanding. We have to try
and understand what these creations understand about us for so many
unsettling reasons, but we also want to understand what they understand out
of pure innocent curiosity.
At the end thanks for all the references, they'll make an interesting read.
On Wed, May 24, 2017 at 1:25 PM, Ken Friedman <firstname.lastname@example.org
> Dear Živa,
> Thanks for your note. I have a few brief thoughts.
> 1) We can learn a great deal from fiction and fictional propositions. I am
> a great reader of Ursula LeGuin's work — both her science fiction (the
> Hainish novels) and her fantasy (the Earthsea cycle). What makes LeGuin's
> work so impressive is that she attributes deep motives that we can
> understand to creatures that are in some ways similar to us, and in some
> ways different. Then she places them in a serious setting in which they
> face challenges, and allows us to see how the actions of these very "real"
> imaginary characters unfolds.
> I am aware of the direction in which we are now headed. It's not just
> William Gibson who portrays the world. So do Neal Stephenson, and many
> more. Most recently, Emmi Itäranta's Memory of Water and Emily St. John
> Mandel's Station Eleven show us the consequence of these worlds.
> No one has been very good at showing us ways beyond these problems in
> fiction. There have been some responsible attempts in real life through the
> work of people like Elinor Ostrom and Jørgen Randers, but there is more to
> be done.
> 2) It is useful to distinguish between imaginary propositions and well
> argued proposals. Imaginary propositions help us to understand why
> something is important in terms of emotion, feeling, and ethics. In this
> sense, imaginary futures explain "Why." Well argued proposals offer
> responsible ways forward toward the world as we want it to be. In this
> sense, solid proposals explain "How."
> 3) The geological record of the planet, and the pre-human and human
> records of anthropology, archaeology, and history have a lot to tell us. So
> do the scientific literatures of the natural and social sciences.
> Well argued proposals require reasoned argument from evidence. A great
> deal of what I've been reading in art-science lacks evidence. To the degree
> that imaginative propositions help us to think about what we want the world
> to be, much of this is interesting. But it does not help to show "how" to
> achieve that world.
> A great deal of the serious work in art-science involves physical science,
> technology, biotechnology, computer science and the like. In these areas,
> it is possible for artists to make things that work.
> My background is in the social and behavioral sciences. It is far harder
> to change the complex sociotechnical systems that constitute our real and
> very problematic world.
> Since this conversation began, I spent some time reading some of the book
> chapters and articles in which Yasminers propose mechanisms for social
> change. These were imaginative propositions that had little hope of success
> in reality. The key missing element was an argument from evidence.
> There are two ways to consider evidence — and its absence. The science
> writer and New York Times columnist Michael Shermer developed a Baloney
> Detection Kit not long ago for examine evidence and arguments — including
> flawed evidence and faulty arguments. Two smart students at High Tech Media
> Arts in San Diego name Deanna and Skylar turned this into a charming
> Unfortunately, the kit and the sandwich overlooked the one kind of missing
> evidence that we see in a great many discussions by people with a PhD,
> including some people who work as professors.
> This is the art of pretending to offer evidence by citing real books and
> articles in a way that makes it impossible for anyone to locate the
> supposed evidence within the cited documents.
> I was amused and irked in reading one book chapter in a new art-science
> book that supposedly creates a substantive argument based on responsible
> evidence while it did no such thing. Nearly every reference was a loose or
> sloppy reference to a serious book or article, but the author of the book
> did not point to anything the cited sources actually stated, nor did the
> author show where in the cited documents I could find the assertions
> supporting the claims in the article I was reading. It would have taken me
> several days of work to read through nearly 15,000 pages of source material
> to uncover the truth or falsity of claims. To offer an exaggerated version
> of what I read, it was something like:
> "Giraffe (2000) argues that human beings emerged from caves to begin the
> agricultural revolution (Zebra 1989). This left us living in cities
> (Antelope 2014) where we necessarily aggregate in marketplaces (Baboon
> 2008). According to Fox (2003) we can regenerate the social atmosphere by
> encouraging local festivals to reduce capital intensity and market churn
> (Hedgehog 2010)."
> It may or may not be the case that any of these worthy authors made the
> stated claims. Since I'd have to read thousands of pages to find out, there
> is no possible way to test the claims of the author I read. I must either
> accept the author on faith or discard the whole thing. Worse yet, the
> author fails to make a clear argument in the chapter itself. On many
> points, the author points to an external source as though the cited source
> can make the argument on behalf of the author. It's like saying that an
> author can stack up a set of books and articles on one side of a scale to
> prove the conclusion on the other.
> As the editor of an interdisciplinary journal of design, economics, and
> innovation, I put together a small guide to reference and citation that
> shows authors how to use cited sources responsibly.
> IMHO, a great deal of what I'm seeing in the way of argumentation is a
> magic act, using smoke and mirrors to distract the audience from any
> reasonable argument while pretending to offer evidence in the form of
> citations to real documents that readers can't use.
> 4) There is a difference between imagining possible futures and running
> simulations. We need both. But it is not reasonable to suggest that Gibson,
> LeGuin, Itäranta, Stephenson, and St. John Mandel are running simulations.
> They are not, no more than Mary Shelley was running a simulation when she
> wrote Frankenstein or Isaac Asimov was running a simulation when he wrote
> the Foundation Trilogy.
> I hope that I don't sound terribly stupid here, but I cannot see how
> artists "propose alternative parameters that run through the digital neural
> nets." Artists may make imaginative propositions, but I have yet to see an
> artist make rigorous use of digital neural nets to test and compare the
> outcomes of different parameters. It is true that some scientific
> disciplines don't overlap. We already know this.
> At the same time, the principles of consilience and the relationships of
> physical law place limits on what we can do and what we can hope to
> achieve. We know a great deal less about social and behavioral forces, than
> we do about physical law, and we particularly know a great deal less about
> economics — but no one can demonstrate a way past entropy.
> If someone has been running simulations in the way that climate scientists
> and economists run simulations to test multiple parameters, I'd be curious
> to see what they did and what they learned.
> But I want to read the evidence for myself. I do not want to see a series
> of careless references to a stack of books by a zoo full of authors. If
> we're going to treat the interaction of art and science seriously, it is
> also important to recognize the responsibility to provide evidence in a
> responsible way. This involves more than argumentative claims. And it must
> allow readers to find Exhibit A, Exhibit B, Exhibit C, and so on without
> spending a month to read slowly through all the supposed documents to which
> the citing author refers.
> 5) As a brief footnote to Annick's comment on English, the answer is
> In the years just before the first millennium, and for much of the
> millennium and a half after, Latin was the universal language of
> scholarship and argument. Those of you who lived in lands bordering the
> Mediterranean would have been speaking one of your own languages — or at
> least the language of the empire that conquered your land. In those days,
> theology was the queen of the sciences and law the common language of
> courts and empires. For many people, universities were wrapped around the
> higher faculties of theology and law, so Latin worked well.
> For a time, Arabic was also a central language around half the
> Mediterranean, and most of the best scientists and mathematicians used
> Following the Humboldt university reforms, German became the language of
> science. The reason is simple: the world's great universities of science
> were located in Germany, and many of the best journals were published in
> The massive investment in science by American, British, and Australian
> universities saw the language of science and scholarship shift to English
> from the 1950s on. And that is why people who work in science speak
> English, even when they talk about the Mediterranean.
> Don't worry, though. Nothing lasts for ever — not Rome, not the British
> Empire, and not English.
> Over the past fifty years, North American universities have generally
> been among the world's best — they trained many of the world's scientists
> and scholars, while their graduates and researchers took a massive share of
> the Nobel Prizes, the Fields Medals, and the other top science awards.
> Given the current political climate in the United States, American
> universities are struggling to survive at this level.
> China, on the other hand, is making massive investments in science,
> education, and research, while extending economic soft power through the
> One Belt,One Road initiative.
> Fifty years from now, Yasminers may well be discussing the Mediterranean
> in Chinese.
> > On May 22, 2017, at 6:13 PM, Ziva Ljubec <email@example.com> wrote:
> > Ken,
> > thank you for "taking the risk" in a quite complicated debate. Katerina
> > I have pointed towards implications of economic and cultural game and
> > whether innovation is rather renovation at all costs, in order to feed
> > narrative of future abundance, in order to keep the unsustainable present
> > actions seem as if reasonably serving a sustainable future.
> > You are asking "what kind of world we really want — and what it is that
> > want to contribute to in the art/science conversation," partly in
> > to Salvatore's proposal which, as briefly noted before, is quite
> > reminiscent of Gibson's dystopian novels. But the fact is, this is where
> > our current economic model is heading, and as you are well aware, it is
> > impossible to just simply turn it off and reach utopia instead.
> > To escape the blinding narratives, post- or pre- modern, I proposed an
> > ideally impartial point of view, a multiplicity of viewpoints from which
> > run as many simulations as possible. In this sense science is not to be
> > challenged, just for the sake of being challenged, as you expressed your
> > concerns. The involvement of the artist in science here is to propose
> > alternative parameters that run through the digital neural nets,
> > that could be overlooked in scientific disciplines that don't overlap,
> > crucial parameters that an artist as a DEW radar spots from a
> > distance.Through digital neural nets we just might be able to see the
> > potential of our world more clearly.
> > Živa Ljubec
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