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wilfriedhoujebek
Utrecht, NL
Immortal since Jan 6, 2008
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socialfiction
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I am a Crystalpunk from Bongo-Bongo Land, that is in DaDaFriCa.
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    From wilfriedhoujebek
    Summery Books Too Far Out...
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    Now playing SpaceCollective
    Where forward thinking terrestrials share ideas and information about the state of the species, their planet and the universe, living the lives of science fiction. Introduction
    Featuring Powers of Ten by Charles and Ray Eames, based on an idea by Kees Boeke.
    Your average 'alternative' 'underground' 'cult' summer booklist will name conservative corkers like William Gibson, Hunter S. Thompson, Ken Kesey, Aldous Huxley, Thomas Pynchon, Kathy Acker, Hubert S. Selby or Brett Easton Ellis. A 'real' underground list might add snotty punk-fashionistas like Stewart Home or Henry Rollins. But if you have read one book by Home you have read them all, his depth is as short as his hair, and the original line-up of Black Flag was superior to the one with our Macho Man Rollins. Ask yourself, does a book that stars Johnny Depp or Jack Nicholson when turned into celluloid really deserve to be called 'cult'? No of course not. Can a novel published by a commercial publisher and reprinted as a Penguin pocket be truly underground? Only rarely.

    Here is a list of books I can wholeheartedly recommend you to dive into this summer. They are all completely bonkers and they all start from first principles. The list has only eight titles but each of these books will stay with you for longer than your holiday sweetheart. Only two of them are fiction and this is no coincidence. Non-fiction is often less restrained and therefore more outrageous than the most 'daring' fiction. One can imagine only a few things, one can belief a whole lot more.

    The White Goddess - Robert Graves

    Graves' grammar of poetic myth works at so many levels at the same time that I can't keep track of them all. This is not a book, this is a neurosis you can borrow. Druidic power to the nerds.

    The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind - Julian Jaynes

    Never mind the bulky title. The theory of Jaynes seems preposterous at first: before man was conscious he would not stop and think when making a decision, instead he would literally hear a voice telling him what to do. When life became too complicated this faculty broke down, but not in an instant. Religion is a by-product of this neuro-catastrophe. Jaynes however knows to make use of historic material in such a way that in the course of his argument he becomes plausible! If you don't trust me on this, trust Daniel Dennett.

    The Ghost of Chance - William S. Burroughs

    Burroughs was a great admirer of Jaynes and here he uses the bicameral image of two dividing brain spheres as a metaphor for the divide between peaceful lemur on Madagascar and the war-mongering chimpanzee on the African mainland as a reminder that human evolution could have taken a better turn.

    Ancient Evenings - Norman Mailer

    This book, the only lengthy novel in this list, I first looked up because Burroughs referenced it as his inspiration for 'The Western Lands'. When I noticed it starts with my favourite Yeats quote I knew I needed to read this. Even though Burroughs could never have written it like this, at times it is more Burroughs then Burroughs himself. It is the autobiography of a Ka, the lowliest soul of the seven souls of the ancient Egyptians, which makes for unusual reading. Especially because Mailer uses an uncensored version of Egyptian mythology which, to put it mildly, differs from the version you get of it from the National Geographic. The Egyptians practised sex magic with the stamina of a bonobo. Mailer makes Aleister Crowley look like a prudish schoolboy. This is the boldest attempt to recreate a radically different mind from ours that I know of, and does so successfully. The novel as the creation of an artificial consciousness. At the same time it doubles as an All American Novel (yuk).

    The Mind in the Cave - David Lewis-Williams

    Palaeolithic Psychedelia anyone? Close your eyes, place a finger on both of your eyelids and press gently. What you see is the origin of all art, you only need to look at rock-art with a guide like Lewis-Williams to see it.

    The Chinese Written Character as a Medium for Poetry - Ernest Fennolosa

    Edited by Ezra Pound, the most spectacular misunderstanding of language ever to be reprinted. It reads excellent and it gives us a language (Chinoiserie-Chinese) that does not exist in this world but should exist in a better world.

    Vehicles - Valentino Braitenberg

    I have read so much stuff relating to Cybernetics, AI, emergent systems and self-organization that I am totally saturated with it. The material itself is exciting but the professional obligation of science to be dull gets on my nerves. But this is an exception, wonderfully written and illustrated with funky little drawings. Vehicles is a tiny book but its size is deceptive. This introduction to synthetic psychology describes a number of simple responsive vehicles that with each new feature became aware of the world around them a good deal more. Each new vehicle is a new mind.

    The Coleridge Notebooks.

    Charles Lamb said he loved to lend his books to ‘Poet, Metaphysician, Bard’ Coleridge because he would return them with annotations more interesting then the book itself. Samuel Taylor Coleridge had a mind that was free, discursive, unruly and truly original. His notebooks record the flow of his thoughts as if you are sitting next to him. Every now and then I dip into this and always come out with some gem I never saw before. Get the Seamus Perry edition of this. Get a copy of the Road to Xanadu by Livingstone-Lowes for extra enjoyment.
    Fri, Jul 4, 2008  Permanent link

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    Four months ago I posted on spacecollective an essay in which I argued that the language researchers are teaching to great apes is producing a new literature. I have been going over this material many times since and am very to happy to announce that the latest version, much enlarged, is now available as a PDF booklet called "PrimatePoetics is Here". The blurb reads:

    Apes in the wild have language and it takes only a small leap of imagination to try to give them a second, human, language. For over forty years researchers have been trying to do this with increasingly good results. Our language, when it is passed on to a different species, becomes a new language. PrimatePoetics is born from the realization that this language should be appreciated in its own right, as the greatest revolution in literature since the invention of written Chinese 4000 years ago. 'PrimatePoetics is Here' is the first primer to this new field. It explains where it comes from, it gives an overview of the field on an ape-by-ape basis and closes with an extensive anthology of relevant scientific and artistic sources. But most of all 'PrimatePoetics is Here' hopes to give a feel for the outsider charm of the language of the apes.


    It can be downloaded at http://socialfiction.org. It is a long read, but I hope it is worth it. Do also check out the Everything About PrimatePoetics You Always Wanted to Know but Were Afraid to Ask.

    I look forward to your thoughts.

    The original post has been deleted.
    Sat, May 31, 2008  Permanent link

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    The following quote from Paul M. Churchland’s Matter and Consciousness, about chemical evolution and how things become from nothing, has been a long favourite of mine. Here it is:



    Consider a glass box, full of water with a constant heat source at one end, and a constant heat sink (something to absorb heat energy) at the other. Dissolved in the water is some nitrogen and some carbon dioxide. One end of the box will grow quite hot, but as fast as the fire pours energy into this end of the system, it is conducted away toward the cooler end and out again. The average temperature inside the box is therefore a constant.

    Consider the effect this will have on the thin soup inside the box. At the hot end of the box, the high-energy end, the molecules and atoms absorb this extra energy and are raised to excited states. As they drift around the system, these energized parts are free to form high-energy chemical bonds with each other, bonds that would have been statically impossible with the system in global equilibrium. A variety of complex compounds is therefore likely to form and to collect toward the cool end of the system, compounds of greater variety and greater complexity than could have been formed without the constant flux of heat energy. Collectively, carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen are capable of literally millions of different chemical combinations. With the heat flux turned on, this partially open or semiclosed system starts vigorously to explore these combinatorial possibilities.

    It is easy so see that some kind of competition is taking place inside the box. Some types of molecule are not very stable, and will tend to fall apart soon after formation. Other types are made of sterner stuff, and will hang around for awhile. Other types, though very unstable, may be formed very frequently, and so there will be quite a few of them in the system at any given time. Some types catalyze the formation of their own building blocks, thus enhancing further formation. Other types engage in mutually beneficial catalytic cycles, and form a symbiotic pair of prosperous types. In these ways and others, the various types of molecule compete for dominance of the liquid environment. Those types with high stability and/or high formation rates will form the largest populations.

    The typical result of such a process is that the system soon displays a great many instances of a fairly small variety of distinct types of complex, energy-storing molecules. (Which types, from the millions of types possible, actually come to dominate the system is dependent on and highly sensitive to the initial make-up of the soup, and to the flux level.) The system displays an order, and a complexity, and an unbalanced energy distribution that would be unthinkable without the flux of energy through the system. The flux pumps the system. It forces the system away from its initial chaos, and towards the many forms of order and complexity of which it is capable. What was improbable has become inevitable.


    Practical applications?!


    Miller-Urey experiment


    Hydrothermal vents
    Tue, Apr 15, 2008  Permanent link

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    Fruit Flies
    When drunk male Fruit Flies become hypersexual and fuck with everyone, other males included. Not too different from humans.


    Elephant on LSD
    Somewhat of a celebrity case (and a crime!)

    In 1962, three men at the University of Oklahoma, lead by the idiosyncratic, CIA-collaborator Louis Jolyon "Jolly" West, injected LSD into an elephant for the first time. Their stated intent was to determine if LSD would induce "musth", a naturally occurring condition in which elephants become violent and uncontrollable. After a series of events, the elephant died.





    Spiders


    Spider on LSD


    Spider on Mescaline


    Spider on hash


    spider on caffeine
    Thu, Jan 24, 2008  Permanent link

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    As an emblem of order, the crystal symbolizes objects created by adding self to self in order to grow into inescapable perfection. This idealism is a form of fascism in the disguise of chemistry. A crystal does not exist in a vacuum, but in a real, messy, world and this is what allows it to shine. Alien molecules distort its pattern of tessellation, psychical forces set bounds to the limits of its size and shape. Crystals, in other words, evolve and those that are stable can adapt even further, not in size but in organisation. Complexity is useless in itself. Evolution makes possible the growth shapes seemingly impossible to achieve without engineering.



    Graham Cairns-Smith was the first to postulate that the basis of life was to be sought in the replication of RNA by crystals. Each crystal grows according to a fixed pattern, when it becomes to big it falls apart. The separated pieces both remain the original shape as they go their separate ways. In this way a template for growth can survive while its bearers have a limited life .
    http://originoflife.net/



    In the lower right corner, moving into the centre, the marbles have perfectly tessellated. Perfect here meaning that they are most optimally filling the plane. But some event must have prevented them from continuing this pattern. We see the pattern return elsewhere (it is after all caused not by outside forces but out of its own structural necessity), but aligned in different directions. The resulting fault-line memorizes the upset. By shape, size and location, crystals can be used to read the environment in which they grew.



    A gemstone jewellers nightmare: 6 ways in which fluids and other material (allowing for crystals inside crystals) can be included in a crystal.
    http://www.ruby-sapphire.com/r-s-bk-ch5.htm



    DNA-tiles can be engineered to self-assemble into built-in shapes, like for instance Sierpinski triangles. But this shape is also the answer to a calculation, a Sierpinski triangle is after all something which can be generated with an algorithm.
    http://biology.plosjournals.org/perlserv/?request=get-document&doi=10.1371/journal.pbio.0020424&ct=1




    Gordon Pask designed electro-chemical computers (iron-crystals in a acidic bath under current) in which the computer could grow its own functions and components. The thing would not just grow for as long as it could, it would also get rid of its branches when the need arose.
    http://homepage.mac.com/cariani/CarianiWebsite/PaskPaper.html



    Organic and inorganic are not opposites but two sides of a continuum, and right in the middle where these 2 branches meet reside viruses. Their behaviour seems lifelike to us, but chemically they are (just?) very large crystals. This picture of an infected cell shows the truth of this: orderly aligned viruses belong to the party of the crystal. Or as Samuel Butler wrote in 1880: "The only thing of which I am sure, is that the distinction between the organic and inorganic is arbitrary; that it is more coherent with our other ideas, and therefore more acceptable, to start with every molecule as a living thing, and then deduce death as the breaking up of an association or corporation, than to start with inanimate molecules and smuggle life into them."



    This looks like a snowflake but it is not. These tracks are made by a bacteria looking for food: under extreme stress bacteria start to behave like crystals. Or it least that is how it looks to us.



    Few people realize that when John von Neumann invented the cellular automata, he did not invent the name (CA). He talked about granular lattice theory and (aha!) crystal automata. Von Neumann’s 26 state universal constructor remains an enigma, but the genre has only one star: John Conway’s Game of Life. As shown Life is capable of self-reproduction and many things more.


    Note: All these images and the stories behind them have been important to Crystalpunk. To my shame I can’t locate all sources of pictures used. In some cased because I did not keep track of them at the time, in others because the original page is gone.

    Sun, Jan 13, 2008  Permanent link

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    This manifesto is a few years old. In the years since Crystalpunk has organized workshops, and events as well as written a lot of texts and code that hopes to explain the vision. This is still the most basic text Crystalpunk has to explain what we are trying to do and I think it might be of interest to the readers of SpaceCollective.



    THE CRYSTALPUNK MANIFESTO
    Inorganic Strategies / Crystalline Tactics

    "I do not like that presumptuous Philosophy which in its rage of explanation allows no xyz, no symbol representative of the vast Terra Incognita of Knowledge, for the Facts and Agencies of Mind and matter reserved for future Explorers." - Samuel Taylor Coleridge



    Self-Assembly

    Without prior warning, while reading or while watching television or while doing the dishes or while wandering about or while drinking beer or while doing nothing at all, it might happen that something breaks free and takes over ordinary vision like the O'clock cuckoo can take over the clock. Is it moving? Is it static? It is impossible to tell. The mind automatically tries to fill in the blanks when confronted with fragments part of a larger sequence of images and this crystalpunk manifesto is such Coleridgian extrapolation from incomplete data generated by my brain into the modus operandi of a future crystalpunk movement rocking the cradle of consensus reality.

    Asteroids from Inner Space

    At the beat of some neural matter reaching temporary boiling-point a black rectangle launches itself into a formless clutter of other black rectangles: a silent, miniscule and abstract explosion impossible to stop and impossible to accelerate. At the speed of one rectangle at a time, a hybrid conceptual structure is shaping inside of me, slowly gaining enough mass to become a tangible sensation. These images are not caused by invading Etruscan demons, nor am I hooked on some mind-expanding drugs; what I see, and seeing is for want of a better word, is a ricochet of the symbolic representations of crystal growth studied in fierce, exhausting, daylong sessions behind a computer screen.

    The First Flash

    Last summer while browsing for nothing in particular I bumped into a copy of the survivalist-hippie classic The Last Whole Earth Catalogue that somehow ended up in the bargain-bin of a second-hand bookstore, useless to the shop-owner who liked it but couldn't sell it to his dull customers. Among many other goodies (a book called Cybernetic Serendipity and one eski diagram from Ted Nelson's Xanadu come to mind) it contained the picture of a home-grown salt-crystal on a string. It struck me there and then that growing crystals is the new punk-rock, that crystals are to a future breed of crystalpunks what the electric guitar is to ordinary punks: a cleansing of the slate, a general rebooting of popular culture. Revolutions produce nothing but noise at first, but slowly, while control over the instruments continues to grow, music starts to emerge, music which isn't caught up in empty exercises of style, punk allowed instinct to amplify natural rhythms lost in prevailing grand theories of yesterday and the cultural hegemony of artistic specialisation. The programmability of crystals; chaos evolving into complex physical structures hands-off, are properties to be explored in kitchen sinks and garages the world over. But the mineral world is not the only realm where crystals self-organise with aggressive carelessness, the mind too sings its tune as Thomas Carlyle discovered a long time ago:

    "As in some chemical mixture, that had stood long evaporating, but would not crystallise, instantly when the wire or other fixed substance is introduced, crystallisation commences, and rapidly proceeds till the whole is finished, so was it with the editors mind... Form rose out of void solution and discontinuity; like united with like in definite arrangement: and soon either in actual vision and possession, or in fixed reasonable hope, the image of the whole enterprise had shaped itself, so to speak, into a solid mass. "

    Romancing the Stone

    In all of history the crystal is perhaps the most overloaded symbol; used by writers, prophets, medicine-man and orators of all times to express in one clear psychogeonamic object otherworldliness. Novalis, poet and student of mining, held the crystal to be a dark, soul-eating parasite transforming the human heart into the dead cold of a stone; some believe it to be an early apocalyptic warning against the cyborg. The sentiment is easily understood; is it, after all, not true that it is with more than just amazement we listen to the stories about that Indian sect that refuses to eat anything organic and, consequently, rather suck on amethyst for the rest of their life than touch organic matter, even when it is as profane as centipede-excrement. Mineral cults evoke in us absolute horror and disgust, suggesting crystal-phobia lurking at the deep of our instincts. Crystalpunks are challenging the basic conditions of their humanity. But at least one standard metaphorical use of the crystal, that of the crystal as object of utopian perfection, as pure geometrical-molecular-ethnicity, in most cases turns out to be a chemical fiction. One of the most interesting qualities of crystals is their ability to encapsulate alien particles. Crystals too produce noise, as one flaw entered during packing distorts tessellation for ever after.

    The Crystal XYZ

    Crystals can reproduce, but unlike organic reproduction it is an unintentional process, hardcoded in chemical properties, not by means of interpretation of code as in DNA. To help understand the powers crystalpunks will learn to harness, some software was written as an aid to map the bright prospects of DIY crystal growth basement laboratories. These models are by no means a scientific correct simulation of crystallisation as they know nothing about molecule-bonding and all that shit. So what do I see? Each simulation starts at n=0 with crystalline agents and their solvent in total confusion. For each step the bipolar compounds in the system move. When crystalline entities, symbolised by black rectangles, meet their kin they pack into a crystal; the solvent, symbolised by transparent circles, break the crystal when touching it. Or variations on this principle. While this universe ages (n=n+1) dispersed crystalline agents beget shape, packed in such way that the solvent can't break it. The system is stable when all crystals are packed and only a change in rule can tear it apart. As writing code goes, it takes hours of close attention to fix minor bugs and while wrapping this up, the even more patient work of comparing different rules to their output can commence. The abnormal input of these computer images has distorted ordinary memory-packing and now this black rectangular matter is humming along with some grey matter going Harry Houdini on me.

    The Origins of [the Game of] Life

    Crystal-phobia is an ironic phenomena in relation to Graham Cairns-Smith's theory (made popular in his book '7 Clues to the Origin of Life') that primeval life forms were replicated by crystals before evolution replaced it by DNA. The 'Game of Life', the famous Conway program with its sublime simplified representation of organic reproduction: black rectangles living, dying and being born in a graceful dance orchestrated by simple rules, remains to haunt those who once fell in love with it. One of the theorised implications of Life is that it should be possible to program this rectangle-matter into a fully functional computer. One ingredient to do this, is to isolate all rectangle-configurations that are stable and which therefore can be part of a deterministic, man-made, system: the micro-domain as a rectangle-clockwork. My crystalpunk software, (a party with a lot of noise, booze and sugar-coated Goethite to suck on, was held to commemorate its beta-release) borrows the aesthetics from Life, but the resemblance doesn't end at the GUI. Even though a different abstraction of reality is on show, a reality founded on the interaction between hostile compounds, the same sort of order as in Life can be witnessed, the same gliders, pumps and shooters are possible. The major difference is the self-organisation of large, open, pyramid shaped crystals perfectly adapted to not obstruct the solvent but rather to, you could interpret, process it. These crystaltrons, a word picked up for its nice sci-fi pseudo-brain-science patina, are filters, easily engineered to have special capabilities, for instance to emit a pulse after a certain threshold of particles have passed it. The crystalline computer can program itself.

    Algorithmic Dreaming

    Could there be a connection to dreaming here, after all dreaming is the moment the mind generates quasi-perception hands-off, like a crystal growing. Rereading the literature about automatic writing, an interesting tradition amidst poetic theory at large, the parallel becomes obvious. Automatic writing is a conscious and paradoxical effort to tap into the screensaver-mode of the mind; interfacing it directly while self-assembling language, crystallizing on the paper, words like Rorschach test, traditional meaning evaporating like ink soaked-up in blotting paper. The dubious credibility of its practitioners notwithstanding, it is interesting that, during automatic writing sessions, the writer by no means writes in a language she speaks, indeed the language does not have to exist at all. It has been pointed out that all automatic writing tends to resemble each other and you might say that this is caused by all minds obeying to the same logic, just as salt-crystals all look roughly the same and for now we assert as conceptual kludge that growing crystals equals tectonic somnambulism.

    CrystalPunk Cartographies of Juxtaposed Realities

    On-screen and off-screen, in physical matter and in neural matter: crystals operate as synaptic agents of self-organised control, remixing pre-existing fragments of the world; if you can see them, they are successful. False memories can be replaced by genuine ones, separate realms of reality can be flattened and brought to uniform size and blended into one whole presupposed by its parts. The mind can emulate the screen can emulate the laws of nature and feed them back to you. Crystalpunks are those wildstyle geniuses learning how to program crystalline molecules, pixels and neurons simultaneously. Listen to this carefully! Mind and matter can be synthesised in one noisy stroke and the crystalpunk movement is here to prove it, we have crystal-pistols and we are not afraid to use them.

    Sun, Jan 13, 2008  Permanent link

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    Quote from George Steiner, the greatest evolutionist in language. Found in Extraterritorial.



    Bees dance exact messages to each other as to the direction, amount, and quality of honey to be found. Dolphins pipe signals of warning and summons. It may be that the trills and whistles of birds convey rudimentary meaning. Meaning, in fact, is the essence, the underlying structure of natural forms. Colours, sequences, odours, regularities, or salient anomalies of shape and event, all are informant. Almost every phenomenon can be ‘read’ and classed as a statement. It signals danger or solicitation. Lack or availability of nourishment; it points towards or away from other significant structures. Living beings, above elementary units, dispose of a large, manifold range of articulation: postures, gestures, colourations, tonalities, secretions, facial mien. Separately or in conjunction, these communicate a message, a unit or unit cluster of focused information. Life proceeds amid an incessant network of signals, to sort out from the random flux those literally vital to oneself and one’s specie, and to decode the pertinent signal with sufficient speed and accuracy. An organism failing to do so, either because its receptors are blunted or because it ‘misreads’, will perish. A marmot dies when it misread – i.e. fails to decode accurately – the message of tint, odour, or texture which differentiates the statement of identity of a venomous mushroom from that of a edible variety.



    In the message-flight of the bee, the exact angle matters; each beck and volte in our courtship minuet of the moor-hen is an expression of coded meaning; very probably, a pointer can ‘read’ accurately hundreds of gradations of smell. Long before man, the planet was many-hued, loud and odorous with statement and reply. We know of fossils of organic structures three thousand million years old. The development of specific information codes, of signal systems through which emitter and receiver could formulate and exchange messages of identity, need, and sexual correlation, cannot be much younger. Where there is multi-cellular life, where different phyla coexist and compete, there is, there has to be, the articulation of meaning. Only the inert is mute. Only total death has no statement to make.

    I have not until now used the word language.
    Wed, Jan 9, 2008  Permanent link

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    Here is the question: can we think without language? A recent piece on Cognitive Daily (one of the many fabulous blogs at scienceblogs.com) mentions an experiment that tries to tackle this classic problem.

    Gary Lupyan's experiment measures to what degree language helps us to categorize similar objects. (Its says 'to think' but is that really the proper word for the mental activity needed in this test?) It shows that recognizing minute differences in novel objects is easier to learn when words, invented for the purpose, are available to help form conceptual groups. But the final differences between people being given words and those who were left in a void, can hardly be called impressive. Conclusion: You do not need languange to think, but it helps.
    Here are some snippets from CognitiveDaily



    "Each object is different, but they all share similar features. We might be tempted to invent just one new word to describe the entire set of objects. Closer inspection reveals that the eight objects on the left share some features which distinguish them from the objects on the right. If we invent one word, "leebish" to categorize the objects on the left, and another, "grecious," to categorize those on the right, will people be better at distinguishing between the two types of objects?"

    "Lupyan's team showed the objects to 48 college students, asking them to imagine that these objects were aliens from a faraway planet. The students themselves were "explorers," studying these aliens. Their job was to figure out which aliens were approachable, and which should be avoided. "




    "The students who saw the labels learned the difference between approachable and unapproachable aliens significantly faster than students who didn't see the labels — even though the labels gave them no information that wasn't available in the unlabeled condition. During the testing session, 8 new aliens that hadn't been seen before (but were clearly members of one of the categories) were introduced. Once again, the students who had seen the labels performed significantly better (no labels were present during the testing session). "
    Tue, Jan 8, 2008  Permanent link

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    To pry from the cold dead hands of chaos the first animalcules of “the hundred-gated cathedral of the mind” (Herman Hesse)! To play with sticks, shells and stones, rolling them in the cup of your hand, throwing them to the ground and picking them up again, comparing, sorting and aligning them, because it pleasures the hand and satisfies the eye! To cultivate intricate relationships between found objects, on chequered boards of every shape and size imaginable, is to be carnally invaded by the little minds! To find that the brouhaha evoked by these ideogrammatic alphabetine scribbles are scarring new moods and associations into the vellum of the palimpsest of your brain! To release the invisible forces of language, and to park the underdeveloped mind in the garage box of higher awareness! To push the tabula rasa uphill, across the land of manual skill and over the summit of symbolic processing, into an Alamut of pure gnostic well being! To hike through these spectacular inner landscapes like a mountain goat! To discover what games are buried inside you! To become hooked to a game a little more each time you find that you have refined your skill of adding tantalizing zing to the patterns and combinatorics on the board! To become native to a game: learning to read, write and think in its dialect as if it were your first language; a language expressed by position and movement, communicated wordlessly to any observer able to learn to recognize the repertoire of actions displayed! To play the game and to be played by the game! To know that mind control originated with the invention of abstract games: the occupation theme of Weiqi is not confined to the occupation of board space alone; the game itself occupies the mind, tweaks the neural network to make it fire in its image, new thoughts and intuitions pop-up in your head: the Chinese army, its commanders educated by this game, has always been known to be better than anybody else in surrounding the enemy! To sense that the ‘war’ of a game is only an oily film floating on top of the surface of a great cooperative expedition towards tumultuous beauty and sublime dangers! To live a hundred years for every minute of gameplay! To make a game out of everything, the game itself included! To keep Free the Game Libre! To be the unacknowledged legislator of the game by making the rules instead of following them! To be the John Mandeville of Chinese Checkers, the Marco Polo of Havannah or the Ernest Fenollosa of Blokus ("a new world is only a new Mind" (William Carlos Williams) and a good game is more real than what is really real!)! To declare the rules anew, or to cheat in the name of ludopoetic justice, when those dullards who spoil every party with their obscurantist obsessions, start secluding themselves from the patzers in Castellian orders of increased professionalization (the ‘professional’ the Crystalpunk anti-type)! To instigate psycholudological revolt each time a game is declared more equal than others by the mandarins of mental sports: Image Chess is not superior to European Draughts, Weiqi is not more civilized than Xiangqi! To ridicule those who play to win as an end in itself: what does losing mean to Crystalpunks like us? To want to be the B E S T means being stupid and shallow, only dunces mistake the value for the coin and nobody wants to marry slappers like that! To cry despair over the boardological blackguardism of the enumerating classes, in whose book abstract board games are not games at all but mathematical problems to be solved in the in vitro womb of a database! To keep the game of mental skill tactile: thick black Bakelite tokens wins over cheap plastics fiches like Chinese wins over Esperanto! To curse the architectural profession, as it was one of theirs who invented Scrabble (word games are a tautological monstrosity, like a ‘free slave’): when the dictionary can provide the answer, the question must be wrong! To live in tents like the Mongolian hordes who are our kind of Chinese! To live slow and sustainable, free from the Red Queen's race of careerism, inside self-wrought works of ‘non-retinal art’ (Marcel Duchamp), fully submerged in the tempestuous enfolding of a game! To use the same small set of counters over and over again to create an impractically large number of unique things (Image Chess has more legal positions than the universe has atoms, but there are more Chesses than Image Chess has legal positions)! To live inside the game, with one’s whole being so as to become it, is the sole aim!

    (There is every reason to assume that abstract board games paved the way for the subsequent (derivative) invention of that number-crunching plaything, the computer. It is one of psycholudology's little ironies that computers are mainly used to play games, while at the other end of the spectrum they are employed to find for each traditional board game the secret zahir that will force it to fall apart as ‘solved’. Even though the optimism of the 1950ties has waned and there is nobody left who believes a computer beating the worldchampion chess to constitute an act of intelligence, we are however stuck with the heritage of thinking about games (and language, and thinking) in terms of their computability. You can't mention Weiqi in educated society without someone uttering that meaningless factotum of science's continuing inability to come up with a program that will beat its best human players, as if that implies some special quality in that game. We know from chess that part of being grandmasterly good is to posses the freak faculty to instantly recall every game you ever played or studied: to be a top player you have to be a human computer, so no wonder real computers, the real idiot savants, have beaten ‘us’ at it in the end. Weiqi is arguably a shade deeper than chess, but ultimately all board games, when regarded in this way, are to computers what the sky is to the birds. Let them have it. The real meaning of a game is elsewhere and infinitely more interesting.

    Playing against a much better player in serious rivalry will teach you nothing because the moves of the other appear to you indistinguishable from the glossolalia of the possessed.



    To play a game is to answer a question with a question on a move-by-move basis. The challenge is in the construction of worthwhile dialogs by finding the right mixture of unobtrusive yet stimulating ‘answerable questions’ and ‘questions worth answering’. We are after highly personalized style not after the stalemated non-conversation between liability-negating lawyers (let them demons play Scrabble!). A friend asked the young Wystan Auden if he had ever written poetry. He hadn't, but much later, in recognition of the power of a good question to reveal what mirrors fail to reflect, W.H. recalled: "I knew that very moment what I wanted to do". A good question is angelic, as if you are being interviewed by someone who already knows for each question what your answer will be, even implying it with more eloquence than you could ever muster, but in a gentle, revealing, liberating way.

    To play like you are building a castle in the air is the sole aim! To feel like you are Oscar Wilde’s equal for the duration of a game! To play intoxicated! To be intoxicated by playing! To play like you are reading a book! To play like you are writing a book! To understand how to play a bittersweet symphony and a melancholic verse! To play with friends or to play as a friend! To bring language to the point where the verbs ‘to play’ and ‘to share’ become equivalent!)

    Sun, Jan 6, 2008  Permanent link

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