[Humanist] 29.166 machines: reading, thinking, creating

Humanist Discussion Group willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk
Wed Jul 15 22:28:11 CEST 2015


                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 29, No. 166.
            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
                       www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist
                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org

  [1]   From:    Francois Lachance <lachance at chass.utoronto.ca>            (52)
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 29.162 machines and reading?

  [2]   From:    Tim Smithers <tim.smithers at cantab.net>                   (115)
        Subject: Re:  29.161 machines, machines everywhere

  [3]   From:    Anna Jordanous <a.k.jordanous at kent.ac.uk>                 (74)
        Subject: Re: Turing tests in creativity (short story, sonnet, and
                music competition)


--[1]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: Mon, 13 Jul 2015 20:39:49 -0400
        From: Francois Lachance <lachance at chass.utoronto.ca>
        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 29.162 machines and reading?
        In-Reply-To: <20150713203745.4AE5060BD at digitalhumanities.org>


Willard,

Reading this evening Robert Bringhurst's "A Piece of Bread, A Loaf of 
Vision: the Art of [Storyteller] Alice Kane" in _Everywhere Being is 
Dancing: twenty pieces of thinking_ I came across this passage which lifts 
the treatment of machine analogies into the domain of ecology of cultural 
production and reception. Bringhurst writes about the interface between 
written and oral stories. He does this by an appeal to simple machines.

<quote>
A book, like a bellows or a bicycle, is a simple kind of machine, for 
which the reader provides the motive power. At its best, a book is a 
fluent, organic machine, made from plant fiber, vegetable oils, and 
carbon, and from the delicate bones of letters, carved in two dimensions 
by microscopic motions of the hand. Even the best-made book is 
nevertheless like the bicycle, not like the body: the book is not alive. 
It may still be useful to the story -- as a dead tree can be useful to 
flickers and sapsuckers: as a place to nest and feed. But until the bird 
comes to the tree, or the reader who is a visionary listener comes to the 
book, nothing can happen.
  </quote>

I know that this bends the discussion away from its original premises and 
direction but I could not resist sharing the delectation of such a 
suggestive passage.

Francois Lachance, Scholar-at-large
http://www.chass.utoronto.ca/~lachance

to think is often to sort, to store and to shuffle: humble, embodied tasks

On Mon, 13 Jul 2015, Humanist Discussion Group wrote:

>                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 29, No. 162.
>            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
>                       www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist
>                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org
>
>
>
>        Date: Mon, 13 Jul 2015 11:38:03 -0400 (EDT)
>        From: lachance at chass.utoronto.ca
>        Subject: Re:  29.150 machines, machines everywhere?
>        In-Reply-To: <20150708222037.BD0812CFE at digitalhumanities.org>
>
> Willard,
>
> I found interesting in your post about Falkowski's Life's Engines
> (Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 29, No. 150.) that in the attempt to
> imagine the multicellular machines the appeal was to mechanisms (levers
> and gears). The invocation of Minsky had me wondering along more abstract
> lines. I was intrigued by the multiple. How does this image of complex
> behaviour arising out of the actions of automota jive with the humanist
> subject, the united self that reads texts? Does it require a new way of
> modeling the experience of reading?
>
> Francois Lachance
> Scholar-at-Large




--[2]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: Tue, 14 Jul 2015 12:02:03 +0200
        From: Tim Smithers <tim.smithers at cantab.net>
        Subject: Re:  29.161 machines, machines everywhere
        In-Reply-To: <20150713003234.C8B7560A5 at digitalhumanities.org>


Dear Hartmut and Willard,

As I read this last night ...

  Hacking the Humanities
  By ELIAS MUHANNA
  The New Yorker, 7 July, 2015
  <http://www.newyorker.com/culture/culture-desk/hacking-the-humanities?mbid=rss>

In particular, these sentences ...

  "We spent the rest of the semester developing an algorithm
   that could detect different types of rhetorical figures in
   a large corpus of poetry.  It flew through thousands of
   lines of verse like a drone over a wildlife habitat,
   snapping pictures of similes, allusions, and metatheses.
   ..."

I was taken back to your DH post, Hartmut, and your nice words
...

  "Thinking by analogy has of course its own dignity as a
   means of acquired creativity, if it is not a technique of
   creative writing to make familiar things look strange.
   ..."

A flying drone snapping pictures of similes, allusions, and
metatheses. Is this, I wonder, Elias Muhanna's way of making
familiar things look strange, or a way to grasp at an
understanding of what algorithms do with (lots of) poetry?  I
fear it is the latter.

For me, an important thing the Humanities have to teach many
of us scientists and engineers, is that to know and understand
something well, we don't have to draw on our knowledge and
understanding of the machines we build and the ways they work,
by analogy or more directly.  The machines we use don't have
to provide the concepts we use to build our knowledge and
understanding of things: cognition may not actually be
computation of some kind, for example.  Machines and
mechanisms are not the only, and often aren't the best basis
for understanding things, even of understanding machines.

In the Digital Humanities, digital machines and
devices--machine that do (programed) computation--may well
serve as powerful and sharp instruments of investigation and
scholarship, but it's hard to see that the digital ways of
knowing and understanding that come with these kinds of
machines provide better forms of knowing and understanding in
the Humanities.  They already don't in the sciences and
engineerings, I would say.

So, I'm very much with you, Hartmut, when you say

  "We must invent a new language and and a new way of
   thinking to comprehend the system nature and ourselves have
   created so that we may survive.  If we may survive.  The
   current situation within and around Europe is a lesson to
   learn from."

Best regards,

Tim

Donostia / San Sebastián 
The Basque Country

> On 13 Jul 2015, at 02:32, Humanist Discussion Group <willard.mccarty at mccarty.org.uk> wrote:
> 
>                 Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 29, No. 161.
>            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
>                       www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist
>                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org
> 
> 
> 
>        Date: Sun, 12 Jul 2015 17:17:00 +0200
>        From: "Dr. Hartmut Krech" <kr538 at zfn.uni-bremen.de>
>        Subject: Re: [Humanist] 29.158 machines, machines everywhere
>        In-Reply-To: <20150711203850.B876E2F4C at digitalhumanities.org>
> 
> 
> Dear Willard
> 
> As Tim Smithers has already pointed out, "Nature is not an Engineer, or a
> Designer": "Calling some Naturally evolved thing a machine, or engine,
> doesn't make it one. So, appearing to say that Nature built things are
> machines, can be, and is, confusing."
> 
> Thinking by analogy has of course its own dignity as a means of acquired
> creativity, if it is not a technique of creative writing to make familiar
> things look strange. There may have been too much thinking by analogy in
> Postmodern writing, and never must we cede trying not to fall victim to the
> words we are using, but can we ever escape from the language we are speaking
> and not lose its meaning for us and for those who are trying to understand
> us?
> 
> From its beginning as a technical term that is defined and reflected upon,
> mechanics in the meaning of "design" (from the same root as "to make") has
> been used in opposition to autopoetic nature. As Pseudo-Aristotle writes in
> the introduction to his Mechanica: "One marvels at things that happen
> according to nature, to the extent the cause is unknown, and at things
> happening contrary to nature, done through art for the advantage of
> humanity. Nature, so far as our benefit is concerned, often works just the
> opposite to it. [...] So whenever it is necessary to do something counter to
> nature, it presents perplexity on account of the difficulty, and art
> [techne] is required. We call that part of art solving such perplexity a
> mechane." (tr. Thomas N. Winter
> http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/classicsfacpub/68/).
> 
> When Siegfried Giedion began to write his seminal "Mechanization takes
> Command, a contribution to anonymous history" in 1941, he was convinced that
> "[t]he coming period has to reinstate basic human values. [...] It has to
> bridge the gap that, since the onset of mechanization, has split our modes
> of thinking from our modes of feeling." (1948, v) Giedion's conclusion of
> "Man in equipoise" or "Man in a dynamic equilibrium" may be as relevant
> today as ever. To think of computers within the humanities as "machines" (as
> Willard has tentatively suggested), introduces difficulties that miss the
> problem. Computers are man-made and man is part of nature. Little within a
> human body is a machine, apart from a pacemaker perhaps. We must invent a
> new language and and a new way of thinking to comprehend the system nature
> and ourselves have created so that we may survive. If we may survive. The
> current situation within and around Europe is a lesson to learn from.
> 
> Best regards
> Hartmut
> 
> Dr. Hartmut Krech
> http://ww3.de/krech




--[3]------------------------------------------------------------------------
        Date: Wed, 15 Jul 2015 17:21:34 +0100
        From: Anna Jordanous <a.k.jordanous at kent.ac.uk>
        Subject: Re: Turing tests in creativity (short story, sonnet, and music competition)
        In-Reply-To: <mailman.3.1436608802.27680.humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org>


It is interesting to see Allen Riddell's announcement about software and creativity, particularly seeing that there is a competitive element involved.

There has been consideration of whether the Turing test is appropriate for assessing software that is designed to be creative. Most notably, Alison Pease and Simon Colton have concluded that a Turing-test-style evaluation of creative software encourages the software makers to embrace pastiche and focus on more trivial surface elements of the creative process, rather than tackling deeper issues [1].

More generally, there is a lot of research going on around the question of how/whether/if a computer can be creative. For example, can software ‘generate artistic products’, as in the call below? If so, how? and what does this help us discover about our own creativity?

Computational creativity is a burgeoning field that crosses AI, psychology, philosophy and a number of other disciplines in the arts and in design. I’m sure that DH people would have a lot to contribute to this area of research. (I remember that Willard McCarty posed some questions about creative computing on this list a while back, though I can’t seem to find the particular email from Willard now. )

Those who may be interested to explore further: I refer you to http://computationalcreativity.net/  http://computationalcreativity.net/  as a good ‘portal’ for information. There is also an annual international conference series in this area, see http://computationalcreativity.net/home/conferences/  http://computationalcreativity.net/home/conferences/  . 
[This year, I noticed that this conference (ICCC’15) neatly interlinked with DH2015, being held on the same days as DH but in almost opposite timezones (as the #iccc15 twitter feed quietened down, the #dh2015 tags started to fly in, and vice versa).]

Perhaps this is an appropriate time to mention that I’ve also written a couple of blog posts about Computational Creativity and its research, which you can read at http://www.creativitypost.com/authors/list/148/Ajordanous  http://www.creativitypost.com/authors/list/148/Ajordanous

anna

[1] Pease, A., and Colton, S. 2011. On impact and evaluation in computational creativity: A discussion of the Turing test and an alternative proposal. In Proc. AISB symp. on AI and Philosophy.
Available at https://scholar.google.co.uk/citations?view_op=view_citation&hl=en&user=6g0XkjAAAAAJ&citation_for_view=6g0XkjAAAAAJ:UeHWp8X0CEIC <https://scholar.google.co.uk/citations?view_op=view_citation&hl=en&user=6g0XkjAAAAAJ&citation_for_view=6g0XkjAAAAAJ:UeHWp8X0CEIC>

—
Dr Anna Jordanous
Lecturer & School Representative for Equality, Diversity and Inclusivity (EDI)
School of Computing
Room M3-13, Medway Building
University of Kent
(Medway campus)
Chatham Maritime
Kent ME4 4AG
 
Tel: +44 (0)1634 202990
Email: a.k.jordanous at kent.ac.uk <mailto:a.k.jordanous at kent.ac.uk>
Web: http://www.cs.kent.ac.uk/people/staff/akj22/  http://www.cs.kent.ac.uk/people/staff/akj22/

> On 11 Jul 2015, at 11:00, humanist-request at lists.digitalhumanities.org wrote:
> 
>                Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 29, No. 157.
>            Department of Digital Humanities, King's College London
>                       www.digitalhumanities.org/humanist
>                Submit to: humanist at lists.digitalhumanities.org
> 
> 
> 
>        Date: Thu, 9 Jul 2015 17:52:29 -0400
>        From: allen.riddell at dartmouth.edu
>        Subject: Turing tests in creativity (short story, sonnet, and music competition)
> 
> 
> The Neukom Institute at Dartmouth College is sponsoring a competition
> designed to encourage the composition of software that generates
> creative works (e.g., short stories, sonnets, and music):
> 
> ----
> 
> The Neukom Institute for Computational Science at Dartmouth College is
> pleased to announce the first annual Neukom Institute Prizes in
> Computational Arts. These competitions aim to inspire innovations in
> computational methods that generate artistic products, such as
> literary, musical, and visual art.
> 
> https://math.dartmouth.edu/~turingtests/
> 
> - The "DigiLit" prize competition encourages the creation of algorithms
>  able to produce a "human-level" short story of the kind that might be
>  intended for a short story collection produced in a well-regarded MfA
>  program or a piece for The New Yorker. The prize seeks to reward
>  algorithms that could, for example, write stories for a creative
>  writing class in which students are asked to submit a new short story
>  each day.
> 
> - PoetiX is a completion in computer-generated sonnet writing. While,
>  there are many forms of sonnet, for the purposes of the prize we are
>  considering only '??traditional'? sonnets: fourteen line poems, in iambic
>  pentameter, in either 'Shakesperean'? or '?Petrarchan'? form. The former
>  is further characterized by an ???abab cdcd efef gg??? rhyme scheme, and
>  the latter as an octet of rhyme scheme ???abba abba??? followed by a
>  sestet with no fixed form. 
> 
> - "AlgoRhythms" "AlgoRhythms" is a dance music Turing test for live
>  DJ-ing, co-sponsored with Dartmouth College's Program in Digital
>  Musics. We will find out whether we can tell the difference between
>  humans and machines when it comes to selecting the music we want to
>  hear and move to.
> 
> Submission deadline TBA (likely late 2015).





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