Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Michael Donaghy Reads..

and you can buy the cd too

Friday, November 25, 2005

Milestone books in the Philosophy of Mind

Amazing list...

Thursday, November 24, 2005

Beliefs: Brian Goodwin - Nature is Culture

Nature Is Culture.

I believe that nature and culture can now be understood as one unified process, not two distinct domains separated by some property of humans such as written or spoken language, consciousness, or ethics. Although there is no proof of this, and no consensus in the scientific community or in the humanities, the revelations of the past few years provide a foundation for both empirical and conceptual work that I believe will lead to a coherent, unified perspective on the process in which we and nature are engaged. This is not a take-over of the humanities by science, but a genuine fusion of the two based on clear articulations of basic concepts such as meaning and wholeness in natural and cultural processes, with implications for scientific studies, their applications in technology and their expression in the arts.
For me this vision has arisen primarily through developments in biology, which occupies the middle ground between culture and the physical world. The key conceptual changes have arisen from complexity theory through detailed studies of the networks of interactions between components within organisms, and between them in ecosystems. When the genome projects made it clear that we are unable to make sense of the information in DNA, attention necessarily shifted to understanding how organisms use this in making themselves with forms that allow them to survive and reproduce in particular habitats. The focus shifted from the hereditary material to its organised context, the living cell, so that organisms as agencies with a distinctive kind of organisation returned to the biological foreground.
Examination of the self-referential networks that regulate gene activities in organisms, that carry out the diverse functions and constructions within cells through protein-protein interactions (the proteome), and the sequences of metabolic transformations that make up the metabolome, have revealed that they all have distinctive properties of self-similar, fractal structure governed by power-law relationships. These properties are similar to the structure of languages, which are also self-referential networks described by power-laws, as discovered years ago by G.K. Zipf. A conclusion is that organisms use proto-languages to make sense of both their inherited history (written in DNA and its molecular modifications) and their external contexts (the environment) in the process of making themselves as functional agencies. Organisms thus become participants in cultures with histories that have meaning, expressed in the forms (morphologies and behaviours) distinctive to their species. This is of course embodied or tacit meaning, which cognitive scientists now recognise as primary in human culture also.
Understanding species as cultures that have experienced 3.7 billion years of adaptive evolution on earth makes it clear that they are repositories of meaningful knowledge and experience about effective living that we urgently need to learn about in human culture. Here is a source of deep wisdom about living in participation with others that is energy and resource efficient, that recycles everything, produces forms that are simultaneously functional and beautiful, and is continuously innovative and creative. We can now proceed with a holistic science that is unified with the arts and humanities and has at its foundation the principles that arise from a naturalistic ethic based on an extended science that includes qualities as well as quantities within the domain of knowledge.
There is plenty of work to do in articulating this unified perspective, from detailed empirical studies of the ways in which organisms achieve their states of coherence and adaptability to the application of these principles in the organic design of all human artefacts, from energy-generating devices and communication systems to cars and factories. The goal is to make human culture as integrated with natural process as the rest of the living realm so that we enhance the quality of the planet instead of degrading it. This will require a rethinking of evolution in terms of the intrinsic agency with meaning that is embodied in the life cycles of different species, understood as natural cultures. Integrating biology and culture with physical principles will be something of a challenge, but there are already many indications of how this can be achieved, without losing the thread of language and meaning that runs through living nature. The emphasis on wholeness that lies at the heart of quantum mechanics and its extensions in quantum gravity, together with the subtle order revealed as quantum coherence, is already stimulating a rethinking of the nature of wholeness, coherence and robust adaptability in organisms as well as quality of life in cultures. Furthermore, the self-similar, fractal patterns that arise in physical systems during phase transitions, when new order is coming into being, have the same characteristics as the patterns observed in organismic and cultural networks involved in generating order and meaning. The unified vision of a creative and meaningful cosmic process seems to be on the agenda as a replacement for the meaningless mechanical cosmos that has dominated Western scientific thought and cultural life for a few hundred years.

MIT's Poverty Action Lab

The objective is to improve the effectiveness of poverty programs by providing policy makers with clear scientific results that help shape successful policies to combat poverty. The Lab works with NGOs, international organizations, and others to evaluate programs and disseminate the results of high quality research. We work on issues as diverse as boosting girls' attendance at school, improving the output of farmers in sub-Saharan Africa, racial bias in employment in the US, and the role of women political leaders in India.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Turing's Cathedral - or the nature of knowledge

We can divide the computational universe into three sectors: computable problems; non-computable problems (that can be given a finite, exact description but have no effective procedure to deliver a definite result); and, finally, questions whose answers are, in principle, computable, but that, in practice, we are unable to ask in unambiguous language that computers can understand.

We do most of our computing in the first sector, but we do most of our living (and thinking) in the third. In the real world, most of the time, finding an answer is easier than defining the question. It's easier to draw something that looks like a cat, for instance, than to describe what, exactly, makes something look like a cat. A child scribbles indiscriminately, and eventually something appears that resembles a cat. A solution finds the problem, not the other way around. The world starts making sense, and the meaningless scribbles (and a huge number of neurons) are left behind.


My visit to Google? Despite the whimsical furniture and other toys, I felt I was entering a 14th-century cathedral — not in the 14th century but in the 12th century, while it was being built. Everyone was busy carving one stone here and another stone there, with some invisible architect getting everything to fit. The mood was playful, yet there was a palpable reverence in the air. "We are not scanning all those books to be read by people," explained one of my hosts after my talk. "We are scanning them to be read by an AI."

Make Poverty History, Vote for Trade Justice

Grow your own table: Kurzweil, Venter, Brooks in an Edge Discussion

If you go back 50 years, our industrial infrastructure was coal and steel. And in the last 50 years it's been transformed into an information industrial infrastructure. This engineering, at the molecular level, at the genetic level, of cells, is going to change the way we do production of a lot of stuff over the next 50 years. Right now you grow a tree, you cut it down, and build a table. 50 years from now we should just grow the table. That's just a matter of time — and if we take Ray's point it'll only be 15 years rather than 50 — but I'm being a little conservative here. There's some stuff to work out, but it's just a matter of working through the details. We've seen broad strokes how to do that.

Complexity by Murray Gell-Man

Any entity in the world around us, such as an individual human being, owes its existence not only to the simple fundamental law of physics and the boundary condition on the early universe but also to the outcomes of an inconceivably long sequence of probabilistic events, each of which could have turned out differently.

Monday, November 21, 2005


The material world is not causally closed, and consciousness influences its evolution.
Matter and minds complement each other..

Friday, November 18, 2005

David Berman Interview

If you were cool in high school
you didn’t ask too many questions.
You could tell who’d been to last night’s big metal concert by the new
t-shirts in the hallways.
You didn’t have to ask and that’s what cool was:
the ability to deduce,
to know without asking.
And the pressure to simulate coolness
means not asking when you don’t know,
which is why kids grow ever more stupid”

AT&T Labs speaking voice

You type and it speaks.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Aphorisms from Adagia (mostly) Wallace Stevens

To give a sense of the freshness or vividness of life is a valid purpose for poetry.

The poet makes silk dresses out of worms

It is life that we are trying to get at in poetry.

Accuracy of observation is the equivalent of accuracy of thinking.

A poem is a meteor.

A new meaning is the equivalent of a new word.

In poetry at least the imagination must not detach itself from reality.

All poetry is experimental poetry.

We say, also, that poetry is an instrument of the will to percieve the innumerable accords, whether of the imagination or of reality, that make life a thing different from what it would be without such insights.

One reads poetry with one’s neerves.

Sentimentality is a failure of feeling.

All of our ideas come from the natural world: Trees=umbrellas.

It is not everyday that the world arranges itself into a poem.

A poet looks at the world somewhat as a man looks at a woman.

The poet is the priest of the invisible.

The acquisitions of poetry are fortuitous: trouvailles. (Hence, its disorder).

A poem should stimulate the sense of living and of being alive.

Poetry is a renovation of experience. Originality is an escape from repetition.

Poetry is, (and should be,) for the poet, a source of pleasure and satisfaction, not a source of honors.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

The PBS' Top Tips for Poetry Readers by Simon Armitage

Here's a Poetry Testing Kit. It can't produce a precise result in terms of a poem being good or bad - it's more of a finger-in-the-wind, rule-of-thumb job, that might tell you why you like a poem (or why you don't). Remember, the reading of poetry is not an exact science: it does not require the wearing of protective glasses and need not be carried out under strict laboratory conditions.

Monday, November 14, 2005

How to Clean Anything

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Change Blindness

As the image flickers do you notice any changes?

Go to

for the bigger picture.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Mona Hatoum, 51st Venice Biennial 2005

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Nesse on Happiness

Just adjust your goals to what is
possible, be satisfied with who you are and what you have,
and happiness will be yours. It is wise advice with an
increasingly strong scientific foundation. Occasionally
someone is able to follow it, usually with good effect. Some
follow the established middle way of Buddhism, striving to
transcend the tangles of desire that are seen as the origins of
all suffering. However, most of us muddle on, trying to do
things in life, some feasible, some grand, others mundane,
some successful, others sources of constant frustration, and
some that lead to abject failure after huge efforts. The
effects of discrete successes or failures on mood are strong,
but not as strong as efforts that are steadily productive or
increasingly ineffective despite great effort. It is important
to recognize that only some of the goals in question are tangible,
such as getting a job or buying a house. Success for
many other goals, such as winning the golf tournament,
being chosen as the beauty queen or the valedictorian, or
having higher social status than others in a group, depends
on winning a zero-sum game with escalating competition.
Other goals that influence our states of mind are more elusive
yet. How may people spend their lives trying to get their
mothers finally to love them, to get a spouse to want to have
sex again, to stop a child from taking drugs, or trying to
control their own habits? In such desperate enterprises that
cannot be given up are the seeds of intense dissatisfaction
that often precede serious depression.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005


Economic utility of writing transcendently great poem

OK, let’s shift gears. Suppose I have written a transcendently great poem. Yet it very complex, and not very accessible. That said, a fair number people take great pleasure in it. However, this pleasure is swamped by the disutility caused to people who, before reading my poem, had thought that they were potentially great poets, but now are made to despair by the realization that they will never attain the heights of my poetic accomplishment.

Have I done a good or bad thing by writing my poem? Obviously: a good thing. The poem is transcendently great! It’s aesthetic value has next to nothing to do with its effect on net utility. Why care if it makes some people feel bad in comparison? Well, there is no reason to care.
- - [Technorati] Poemanias Technorati cosmos for Poemanias Wed, 09 Mar 2005 09:48:55 GMT 474652 2 3 Technorati v1.0 - Technorati logo 60 - Mike Snider's Formal Blog and Sonnetarium: "Poemanias" ... Via Poemanias , I've found this tribute site to Michael Donaghy, surely one of the best poets of the late 20th century in English. There's video, audio, and links to poems and transcripts of talks. I met Michael only briefly ...
Mike Snider's Formal Blog and Sonnetarium View Technorati Cosmos
Mon, 07 Mar 2005 21:39:33 GMT 2005-03-07 20:34:58 GMT
- Silliman's Blog: "Edward Farrelly" ... Amanda Drew Joseph Duemer Cliff Duffy Jilly Dybka E Martin Edmond kari edwards Stuart Eglin AnnMarie Eldon Scott Esposito Steve Evans F Roberta Fallon & Libby Rosof (Philly Artblog) Edward Farrelly Rona Fernandez Caterina Fake Ryan Fitzpatrick Jim Flanagan Flarf Debby Florence Juan Jose Flores Paul Ford William Fox Gina Franco Suzanne Frischkorn G Jeannine Hall Gailey C.P. ...
Silliman's Blog View Technorati Cosmos
Mon, 07 Mar 2005 15:48:43 GMT 2005-03-07 14:50:46 GMT