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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: Rhizome.org). 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).

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Kitaoka colour illusion

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!

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

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