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Image – The frontispiece of William King Gregory’s two-volume Evolution Emerging. Gregory, 1951, Evolution Emerging: A Survey of Changing Patterns from Primeval Life to Man, vol. 2, p. 757; fig. 20.33; [courtesy of Mary DeJong, Mai Qaraman, and the American Museum of Natural History].

Darwin by Peter Greenaway (1993) – Although British director Peter Greenaway is best known for feature films like The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and Her Lover, Prospero’s Books, and The Pillow Book, he has also completed several highly respected projects for television, including this 53-minute exploration (now free) of the life and work of Charles Darwin. Darwin is structured around 18 separate tableaux, each focusing on another chapter in the naturalist’s life, and each consisting of just one long uninterrupted shot. Other than the narrator’s voice-over, there is no dialogue.

Drawing (Pedigree of Man, 1879) – Ernst Haeckel‘s “tree of life”, Darwin‘s metaphorical description of the pattern of universal common descent made literal by his greatest popularizer in the German scientific world. This is the English version of Ernst Haeckel‘s tree from the The Evolution of Man (published 1879), one of several depictions of a tree of life by Haeckel. “Man” is at the crown of the tree; for Haeckel, as for many early evolutionists, humans were considered the pinnacle of evolution.

Short animated film – Полигон, 1979 | Polygon (Based on the story by Sever Gansovsky) | Director: Anatoly Petrov | Studio: Soyuzmultfilm.

I believe that understanding intelligence involves understanding how knowledge is acquired, represented, and stored; how intelligence behaviour is generated and learned; how motives, and emotions, and priorities are developed and used; how sensory signals are transformed into symbols; how symbols are manipulated to perform logic, to reason about the past, and plan for the future; and how the mechanisms of intelligence produce the phenomena of illusion, belief, hope, fear, and dreams – and yes even kindness and love. To understand these functions at a fundamental level, I believe, would be a scientific achievement on the scale of nuclear physics, relativity, and molecular genetics.” – James Albus, in response to Henry Hexmoor, Feb. 13, 1995.

Self-regulation or Homeostasis (from Greek: ὅμοιος, homoios, “similar”; and ἵστημι, histēmi, “standing still”); defined by Claude Bernard and later by Walter Bradford Cannon in 1929 + 1932[1]) is the property of a system, either open or closed, that regulates its internal environment and tends to maintain a stable, constant condition. Typically used to refer to a living organism, the concept came from that of milieu interieur that was created by Claude Bernard and published in 1865. Multiple dynamic equilibrium adjustment and regulation mechanisms make homeostasis possible. [Wikipedia entry on Homeostasis.]

In the years leading up to the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, several of its animation studios were releasing  experimental short films based off short stories penned by prominent, American science fiction authors (Soviet Sci-Fi Animation in the 1980’s – source: Polygon is one of those short films, … leaving us with a multiplicity of  ‘things‘ we all should think about. From mind-machine interaction [1] up to emotion analysis and his use on Artificial Intelligence [2]. But instead, here’s just one of those things. The famous Peter Salovey keynote address on Emotional Intelligence [pdf link]:

[…] The old view, the traditional view of emotion is that is passion (emotion) and reason (thinking) are on opposite ends of the spectrum. They are antithetical. When one is feeling emotional, one’s thinking is in chaos. One’s thinking is haphazard. One’s thinking is immature. This is an idea of Daycart and many others. You can see this idea in all kinds of philosophical statements like this one. “Rule your feelings, or your feelings will rule you.” If you took a class in psychology in North America in 1940’s or 1950’s, the way in which emotion would have been defined in your psychology textbook would be this way. “Emotions are a disorganized response“, note the word disorganized. Or, “Emotions are acute disturbances…” or, my favorite, “Emotions cause a complete loss of cerebral control and contain no trace of conscious purpose“. If this really were emotion, what emotions are all about, one would try to stamp out emotions. One would try never to have an emotional experience. Why have a complete loss of cerebral control? The new view of emotions says no, emotions are adaptive. That is, that they help us. They are functional. They organize our thinking. They help us know what to pay attention to, and they motivate behaviour. This idea was suggested in the 1940’s but rejected at the time by Robert Leeper when he argued that we have emotions to because they arouse us, pay attention to something. They sustain our attention, and they motivate or direct our behaviour.

This change from the old view of emotion as haphazard and chaotic to the new view of emotions as functional and adaptive and helpful in some ways has come about because psychology and other social sciences have rediscovered Charles Darwin. Darwin would have argued in his book the expression of emotion in men and animals that our emotional system is an intelligent system. He would not have used the world or phrase, intelligent system, but that is what he described when he argued that our emotional system we have evolved it, because it helps us survive by energizing behaviours required for survival. That is making it easier to run away when we are afraid. It is easier to run away from the predator. When we are angry, it is easier to fight someone that is blocking our goal. When we are happy, it is easier to cooperate. Also our emotions signal information to other members of our species. So if an animal bares its teeth, shows its teeth, when angry, it signals an intention that I am angry and I am going to bite you, and the other animal can change its behaviour and this helps both animals survive. Smiling of joy is supposed to signal that it is safe to approach me. The frown of sorrow or tears of sorrow means that I need to be taken care of. The wide eyes of fear show that I need to run away, or actually, we all need to run away. Darwin argued that this is an intelligent system. This is providing information. This is communicating knowledge. We have evolved this system, because it helps us survive. […]

[1] Peter A. Hancock, “Mind, Machine and Morality – Toward a Philosophy of Human-Technology Symbiosis“, Ashgate Press, USA (2009).

[2] Marvin Minsky, “The Emotion Machine: Common sense Thinking, Artificial Intelligence, and the Future of the Human Mind“, Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-7432-7663-9, (2006).

EVOL-ution Stencil Art work by KrieBeL (source on flickr)

It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change“. Charles Darwin (On the Origin of Species, Nov. 1859)

At his final chapter Charles Darwin (On the Origin of Species, Nov. 1859) reviews points from earlier chapters, and he concludes by hoping that his theory might produce revolutionary changes in many fields of natural history. Although he avoids the controversial topic of human origins in the rest of the book so as not to prejudice readers against his theory, here he ventures a cautious hint that psychology would be put on a new foundation and that “Light will be thrown on the origin of man“. Darwin ends with a passage that became well known and much quoted:

[…] It is interesting to contemplate an entangled bank, clothed with many plants of many kinds, with birds singing on the bushes, with various insects flitting about, and with worms crawling through the damp earth, and to reflect that these elaborately constructed forms, so different from each other, and dependent on each other in so complex a manner, have all been produced by laws acting around us … Thus, from the war of nature, from famine and death, the most exalted object which we are capable of conceiving, namely, the production of the higher animals, directly follows. There is grandeur in this view of life, with its several powers, having been originally breathed into a few forms or into one; and that, whilst this planet has gone cycling on according to the fixed law of gravity, from so simple a beginning endless forms most beautiful and most wonderful have been, and are being, evolved […]. Charles Darwin, On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life, Nov. 1859. [passage from ]

No one really knows what a meme is, nevertheless when a good one comes around, everybody recognizes it!

No one really knows what a meme is, nevertheless when a good one comes around, everybody recognizes it…!

[graphic tag cloud via Wordle]

(via Wikipedia Meme Transmission) Life-forms can transmit information both vertically (from parent to child, via replication of genes) and horizontally (through viruses and other means). Memes can replicate vertically or horizontally within a single biological generation. They may also lie dormant for long periods of time. Memes spread by the behaviors that they generate in their hosts. Imitation counts as an important characteristic in the propagation of memes. Imitation often involves the copying of an observed behaviour of another individual, but memes may transmit from one individual to another through a copy recorded in an inanimate source, such as a book or a musical score. Researchers have observed memetic copying in just a few species on Earth, including hominids, dolphins and birds (which learn how to sing by imitating their parents or neighbors).

Some commentators have likened the transmission of memes to the spread of contagions. Social contagions such as fads, hysterias and copycat suicides exemplify memes seen as the contagious imitation of ideas. Observers distinguish the contagious imitation of memes from instinctively contagious phenomena such as yawning and laughing, which they consider innate (rather than socially learned) behaviors.

Aaron Lynch described seven general patterns of meme transmission, or “thought contagion”:

  1. Quantity of parenthood: an idea which influences the number of children one has. Children respond particularly receptively to the ideas of their parents, and thus ideas which directly or indirectly encourage a higher birthrate will replicate themselves at a higher rate than those that discourage higher birthrates.
  2. Efficiency of parenthood: an idea which increases the proportion of children who will adopt ideas of their parents. Cultural separatism exemplifies one practice in which one can expect a higher rate of meme-replication — because the meme for separation creates a barrier from exposure to competing ideas.
  3. Proselytic: ideas generally passed to others beyond one’s own children. Ideas that encourage the proselytism of a meme, as seen in many religious or political movements, can replicate memes horizontally through a given generation, spreading more rapidly than parent-to-child meme-transmissions do.
  4. Preservational: ideas which influence those that hold them to continue to hold them for a long time. Ideas which encourage longevity in their hosts, or leave their hosts particularly resistant to abandoning or replacing these ideas, enhance the preservability of memes and afford protection from the competition or proselytism of other memes.
  5. Adversative: ideas which influence those that hold them to attack or sabotage competing ideas and/or those that hold them. Adversative replication can give an advantage in meme transmission when the meme itself encourages aggression against other memes.
  6. Cognitive: ideas perceived as cogent by most in the population who encounter them. Cognitively transmitted memes depend heavily on a cluster of other ideas and cognitive traits already widely held in the population, and thus usually spread more passively than other forms of meme transmission. Memes spread in cognitive transmission do not count as self-replicating.
  7. Motivational: ideas that people adopt because they perceive some self-interest in adopting them. Strictly speaking, motivationally transmitted memes do not self-propagate, but this mode of transmission often occurs in association with memes self-replicated in the efficiency parental, proselytic and preservational modes.

In their book Made to Stick, Chip and Dan Heath describe characteristics of an idea that make it “sticky” (i.e. memorable or interesting).

Note: I personally recommend Cosma ShaliziMemes” web entry. Center for the Study of Complex Systems,  University of Michigan (26 September 1997).

Scilla's Treatise 1670Fig. – The famous frontispiece from Scilla’s treatise of 1670 defending the organic nature of fossils. The solid young man, representing the truth of sensory experi­ence, shows a fossil sea urchin in his right hand to a wraithlike figure represent­ing the former style of speculative thinking. With his left hand, the solid figure points to other fossils found in Sicily. The text proclaims: “Vain speculation un­deceived by the senses.” (from, Stephen Jay Gould, “The Structure Of Evolutionary Theory”, The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press”, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 2002).

Exaptation: 1. The use of a biological structure or function for a purpose other than that for which it initially evolved. 2. An evolutionary process in which a given adaptation is first naturally selected for, and subsequently used by the organism for something other than its original, intended purpose. 3. Exaptations – Features (such as feathers) that evolved by selection for one purpose (such as warmth) and were later adapted to a new purpose (such as flight). [more]. Exaptive: to show exaptation – featuring it.

[...] People should learn how to play Lego with their minds. Concepts are building bricks [...] V. Ramos, 2002.

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