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[…] Analogy is the core of all thinking. – This is the simple but unorthodox premise that Pulitzer Prize-winning author Douglas Hofstadter and French psychologist Emmanuel Sander defend in their new work. Hofstadter has been grappling with the mysteries of human thought for over thirty years. Now, with his trademark wit and special talent for making complex ideas vivid, he has partnered with Sander to put forth a highly novel perspective on cognition. We are constantly faced with a swirling and intermingling multitude of ill-defined situations. Our brain’s job is to try to make sense of this unpredictable, swarming chaos of stimuli. How does it do so? The ceaseless hail of input triggers analogies galore, helping us to pinpoint the essence of what is going on. Often this means the spontaneous evocation of words, sometimes idioms, sometimes the triggering of nameless, long-buried memories.
Why did two-year-old Camille proudly exclaim, “I undressed the banana!”? Why do people who hear a story often blurt out, “Exactly the same thing happened to me!” when it was a completely different event? How do we recognize an aggressive driver from a split-second glance in our rear-view mirror? What in a friend’s remark triggers the offhand reply, “That’s just sour grapes”? What did Albert Einstein see that made him suspect that light consists of particles when a century of research had driven the final nail in the coffin of that long-dead idea? The answer to all these questions, of course, is analogy-making – the meat and potatoes, the heart and soul, the fuel and fire, the gist and the crux, the lifeblood and the wellsprings of thought. Analogy-making, far from happening at rare intervals, occurs at all moments, defining thinking from top to toe, from the tiniest and most fleeting thoughts to the most creative scientific insights.
Like Gödel, Escher, Bach before it, Surfaces and Essences will profoundly enrich our understanding of our own minds. By plunging the reader into an extraordinary variety of colorful situations involving language, thought, and memory, by revealing bit by bit the constantly churning cognitive mechanisms normally completely hidden from view, and by discovering in them one central, invariant core – the incessant, unconscious quest for strong analogical links to past experiences – this book puts forth a radical and deeply surprising new vision of the act of thinking. […] intro to “Surfaces and Essences – Analogy as the fuel and fire of thinking” by Douglas Hofstadter and Emmanuel Sander, Basic Books, NY, 2013 [link] (to be released May 1, 2013).
Fig. – (Organizational Complexity trough History) Four forms behind the Organization and Evolution of all societies (David Ronfeldt TIMN). Each form also seems to be triggered by major societal changes in communications and language. Oral speech enabled tribes (T), the written word enabled institutions (I), the printed word fostered regional and global markets (M), and the electric (digital) word is empowering worldwide networks (N). [in David Ronfeldt, “Tribes, Institutions, Markets, Networks: A framework about Societal Evolution“, RAND Corporation, Document Number: P-7967, (1996). PDF link]
[…] Organizational complexity is defined as the amount of differentiation that exists within different elements constituting the organization. This is often operationalized as the number of different professional specializations that exist within the organization. For example, a school would be considered a less complex organization than a hospital, since a hospital requires a large diversity of professional specialties in order to function. Organizational complexity can also be observed via differentiation in structure, authority and locus of control, and attributes of personnel, products, and technologies. Contingency theory states that an organization structures itself and behaves in a particular manner as an attempt to fit with its environment. Thus organizations are more or less complex as a reaction to environmental complexity. An organization’s environment may be complex because it is turbulent, hostile, diverse, technologically complex, or restrictive. An organization may also be complex as a result of the complexity of its underlying technological core. For example, a nuclear power plant is likely to have a more complex organization than a standard power plant because the underlying technology is more difficult to understand and control. There are numerous consequences of environmental and organizational complexity. Organizational members, faced with overwhelming and/or complex decisions, omit, tolerate errors, queue, filter, abstract, use multiple channels, escape, and chunk in order to deal effectively with the complexity. At an organizational level, an organizational will respond to complexity by building barriers around its technical core; by smoothing input and output transactions; by planning and predicting; by segmenting itself and/or becoming decentralized; and by adopting rules.
Complexity science offers a broader view of organizational complexity – it maintains that all organizations are relatively complex, and that such complexity arises that complex behavior is not necessarily the result of complex action on the behalf of a single individual’s effort; rather, complex behavior of the whole can be the result of loosely coupled organizational members behaving in simple ways, acting on local information. Complexity science posits that most organizational behavior is the result of numerous events occurring over extended periods of time, rather than the result of some smaller number of critical incidents. […] in Dooley, K. (2002), “Organizational Complexity,” International Encyclopedia of Business and Management, M. Warner (ed.), London: Thompson Learning, p. 5013-5022. (PDF link)
The Internet has given us a glimpse of the power of networks. We are just beginning to realize how we can use networks as our primary form of living and working. David Ronfeldt has developed the TIMN framework to explain this – Tribal (T); Institutional (I); Markets (M); Networks (N). The TIMN framework shows how we have evolved as a civilization. It has not been a clean progression from one organizing mode to the next but rather each new form built upon and changed the previous mode. He sees the network form not as a modifier of previous forms, but a form in itself that can address issues that the three other forms could not address. This point is very important when it comes to things like implementing social business (a network mode) within corporations (institutional + market modes). Real network models (e.g. wirearchy) are new modes, not modifications of the old ones.
Another key point of this framework is that Tribes exist within Institutions, Markets and Networks. We never lose our affinity for community groups or family, but each mode brings new factors that influence our previous modes. For example, tribalism is alive and well in online social networks. It’s just not the same tribalism of several hundred years ago. Each transition also has its hazards. For instance, while tribal societies may result in nepotism, networked societies can lead to deception. Ronfeldt states that the initial tribal form informs the other modes and can have a profound influence as they evolve:
Balanced combination is apparently imperative: Each form (and its realm) builds on its predecessor(s). In the progression from T through T+I+M+N, the rise of a new form depends on the successes (and failures) achieved through the earlier forms. For a society to progress optimally through the addition of new forms, no single form should be allowed to dominate any other, and none should be suppressed or eliminated. A society’s potential to function well at a given stage, and to evolve to a higher level of complexity, depends on its ability to integrate these inherently contradictory forms into a well-functioning whole. A society can constrain its prospects for evolutionary growth by elevating a single form to primacy — as appears to be a tendency at times in market-mad America. [in David Ronfeldt, “Tribes, Institutions, Markets, Networks: A framework about Societal Evolution“, RAND Corporation, Document Number: P-7967, (1996). PDF link]
Finally, on these areas (far behind the strict topic of organizational topology and complex networks), let me add two books. One his from José Fonseca, a friend researcher I first met in 2001, during a joint interview for the Portuguese Idéias & Negócios Magazine, for his 5th anniversary (old link) embracing innovation in Portugal. His book entitled “Complexity & Innovation in Organizations” (above) was published in December that year, 2001 by Routledge. The other one is more recent and from Ralph Stacey, “Complexity and Organizational Reality: Uncertainty and the Need to Rethink Management After the Collapse of Investment Capitalism” (below), Routledge, 2010. Even if, Ralph as many other past seminal books on this topic. Both, have worked together at the Hertfordshire University.
[…] Swing music, also known as swing jazz or simply swing, is a form of jazz music that developed in the early 1930s and became a distinctive style by 1935 in the United States. Swing uses a strong rhythm section of double bass and drums as the anchor for a lead section of brass instruments such as trumpets and trombones, woodwinds including saxophones and clarinets, and sometimes stringed instruments such as violin and guitar, medium to fast tempos, and a “lilting” swing time rhythm. The name swing came from the phrase ‘swing feel’ where the emphasis is on the off-beat or weaker pulse in the music (unlike classic music). Swing bands usually featured soloists who would improvise on the melody over the arrangement. The danceable swing style of bandleaders such as Benny Goodman and Count Basie was the dominant form of American popular music from 1935 to 1945. The verb “to swing” is also used as a term of praise for playing that has a strong rhythmic “groove” or drive. […] from Wikipedia (link).
nota bene – tomorrow is Jazz day, isn’t it?!
[…] >… Chomsky says humans can make more output than they take in as input. There’s a gap he calls creativity […]
“Language is meaningless, thought is pointless, and we’re all gonna die. Hello, hi there!” […] New York director Annie Dorsen takes the famous television debate between the philosopher Michel Foucault and linguist and activist Noam Chomsky from the Seventies as inspiration and material for a dialogue between two specially developed chatbots: every evening, these computer programs designed to mimic human conversations perform a new – as it were, improvised – live text. “Hello Hi There” is a performance without people – a literal expression of post-humanism, and simultaneously an examination of what it means to be human. The piece goes inside the question of human nature and intelligence, both the organic and the artificial […] (from Annie Dorsen “Hello Hi There“, PS122, New York, NY, Jan. 2011)
(video) An excerpt from the Chomsky-Foucault debate which was aired on Dutch television in 1971. For more check, Noam Chomsky and Michel Foucault, “The Chomsky-Foucault Debate: On Human Nature” (New York: The New Press, 2006). [a full transcript is available here].
Fig. – Illusion created by Prof. Akiyoshi Kitaoka (Dep. of Psychology, Ritsumeikan Univ., Kyoto, Japan). If you don’t see any illusion at all, don’t worry. That’s exactly why this optical illusion is so great. The illusion is not there, or is it?! Meanwhile over his page, Akiyoshi warns: This page contains some works of “anomalous motion illusion”, which might make sensitive observers dizzy or sick. Should you feel dizzy, you had better leave this page immediately (more).
Where’s the illusion, right? Well,… what if I just tell you that no blue at all is used over this picture! No matter how strongly you want to believe you are seeing blue and green spirals here, there is no blue color in this image. There is only green, red and orange. What you think is blue is actually green. Don’t worry, … you are not daltonic. I mean, I’m a little bit but, you could check this out through Paint Shop Pro or Photoshop, if you need an affirmation. Indeed, these are just “Vain speculation undeceived by the senses” (1670’s Scilla’s treatise) .
In fact, Relations here, between different colors (green, red and orange), are more important than each color by itself. Relations plus context are the key (more here over Generative Art, and here over Swarm Intelligence based Pattern Recognition). Through these relations, much probably using Gestalt‘s principles (the German word Gestalt could be translated into “configuration or pattern”), here Akiyoshi manages to emerge us the blue color over our perception. This does not cheat a computer of course, however could cheat our own eyes. In other areas the opposite could also be found. For instance, Humans can easily recognize a car over background trees (segment it, in just tiny lapses of a second), while this natural task could be extremely painful for computers over some cases (here is one example).
Born in Prague (inspired by 1890’s works of Christian von Ehrenfels, Austrian philosopher), then later absorbed by a great and tremendous intellectual period occurred from Germany back to Austria (Bauhaus), the Gestalt Laws of Organization have guided the study of how people perceive visual components as organized patterns or wholes, instead of many different parts. I would say that most certainly some Wertheimer’s gestaltic principles were used in here: Figure and Ground, Similarity, Proximity or Contiguity, Continuity, Closure, Area, and Symmetry (check Gestalt Theory of Visual Perception). We could see this happening also in other areas, … in Music for instance:
[…] Gestalt theory first arose in 1890 as a reaction to the prevalent psychological theory of the time – atomism. Atomism examined parts of things with the idea that these parts could then be put back together to make wholes. Atomists believed the nature of things to be absolute and not dependent on context. Gestalt theorists, on the other hand, were intrigued by the way our mind perceives wholes out of incomplete elements [1, 2]. “To the Gestaltists, things are affected by where they are and by what surrounds them…so that things are better described as “more than the sum of their parts.” [1, p. 49]. Gestaltists believed that context was very important in perception. An essay by Christian von Ehrenfels discussed this belief using a musical example. Take a 12 note melody. Play it in one key, say the key of C. Now change to another key, say the key of A flat. There might not be any notes the same in the two songs, yet a person listening to it knows that it is the same tune. It is the relationships between the notes that give us the tune, the whole, not which notes make up the tune. […], from “Gestalt Principles of Perception“, Bonnie Skaalid, Univ. of Saskatchewan, Canada, 1999.
Care for an contemporary example? Well, … the first thing that comes to my mind is DUB music genre. In fact, I do have several albums from different musicians over my house. Dub music evolved in Jamaica (1968) from early rastafarian instrumental reggae music and versions that incorporated fairly primitive reverbs and echo sound effects, being found by accident (engineer Byron Smith left the vocal track out by accident). Over decades, it inspired immense groups of musicians from well-known bands such as The Police, The Clash, UB40 up to reputed musicians such as Bill Laswell. Of course !, it was not far from what John Cage have made for the solo piano Music of Changes, to determine which notes should be used and when they should sound. In the fifty’s, Cage start it to use the mechanism of the I Ching (Chinese “Book of Changes”) in the composition of his music in order to provide a framework for his uses of chance.
Other most recent bands include, Leftfield, Massive Attack, Bauhaus, The Beastie Boys, Asian Dub Foundation, Underworld, Thievery Corporation, Gorillaz, Kruder & Dorfmeister, and DJ Spooky. But what is then so special about Dub? Well, one of this genre’s most striking features is the fact that some if not all musical sentences are incomplete. Those special sentences (Gestaltic, let me add), are normally followed by a pause. The most amazing thing however, is that us, Humans could perceive the entire sentence being formed on the back of our minds! So the music is not there, and at the same time, we are listening to two adjacent simultaneous melodies, as we were a composer. By just using relations among a few notes, we soon start to emerge a perception for the whole sentence, as if they were self-organizing! Being it extremely rhythmic, this often could lead us to a sweet soft state of overwhelming emotion, or exalted organic feel to the music .
As you will probably know by now, the same could happen over misplaced letters over an entire phrase. Even if some letters are not at their right proper place, at each word, we could still perceive the whole sentence meaning. Up to your gestaltic neurons to decipher.
Next time you go to a rave party (I never did, neither pretend to), do think about the title of this post, the figure above, as well as on all those great past musicians, along with – unfortunately – awkward current DJ’s, who pass on for hours strident music mixes without knowing at all what Gestalt is all about! Oh, … by the way, should you feel extremely dizzy, do follow Akiyoshi’s advice: If you start feeling unwell when using this website (rave party), immediately cover one eye with your hand and then leave the page (leave the party). Do not close your both eyes because that can make the attack worse!
Fig. – 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.