lex Fridman podcast – talking with Jeffrey Shainline about Neuromorphic computing and optoelectronic intelligence

Yes I know that is the kind of thing I listen to!

In reality I had fallen asleep to this one but awoke about 2 hours in to hear this spot on description of my making pictures.

‘relatively simple building blocks connected in potentially simple but sometimes complicated ways and then emergent new behaviour that was hard to predict from those simple elements and that’s exactly what we are working with here.’

I have just listened to it again and now it seems a little bit less significant

he was talking about how to build something that replicates the human brain with its layers of connectivity


Here is a bit from my ‘statement’ for my first solo show:

“It all constitutes a search for the moment of (recognition?). And when I find it, there is always that small buzz of (pleasure?) which wants to be caught and made larger. It indicates that something is important and worth noticing. How much of this ‘small buzz of (pleasure?)’ is hardwired and how much culturally acquired (what is the difference?) is a different question. “

A friend who I had asked to read the statement and comment asked about this bit: ‘How much of this ‘small buzz of (pleasure?)’ is hardwired and how much culturally acquired (what is the difference?)’ in particular about ‘what is the difference?’ At first, I groaned and realised that my tendency to flaunt phrases to impress had been caught out. Then in trying to maintain face, I mentioned that the Lamark had proposed at one point that characteristics acquired during an organism’s lifetime could be passed on to the next generation. I understood that there was a conflict between Lamark’s ideas and Darwin’s. I understand Darwin’s theory to mean that an organism can only pass on characteristics which the organism was born with. My friend then mentioned some research she had seen recently that brought into doubt the belief that lifetime acquired characteristics can not be passed on to offspring and I believe I have also seen something similar.

So that could explain ‘How much of this ‘small buzz of (pleasure?)’ is hardwired and how much culturally acquired (what is the difference?). in that it might not be certain that the ‘buzz’ is hardwired and that it might arise from cultural experience. I think I am talking nonsense at this point so would merely want to say that it seems to me that something that is ‘hard-wired’ deserves more respect and is more ‘real’ that something that is culturally acquired. and perhaps this is only because hardwiring takes a very long time, lasts a very long time and is subject to laws that are objective and ‘natural’. Whereas culturation takes a shorter time, is contingent and subject to human direction.

then I heard Herbert Gintis speaking on ‘gene culture evolution’ :

 People have language because of gene culture evolution. Here’s how it goes. You have a little bit of communication and people care a lot about it because they need to communicate to figure out where to go to find the next profitable location for hunting and gathering. And so then we were people who have a little bit of ability to communicate, that gives rise to genetic changes that make people more capable of communicating verbally, and that leads to more cultural dependency because people use communication more in their deliberations, and so you have a circle of genes affect culture and then the culture promotes a more genetic behavior. And this is only true in humans really, because humans only… Only humans really have cumulative culture that is where from one generation to the next, you maintain a body of knowledge and pass it on, and animals, animals have culture, but they don’t have very much cumulative culture, if birds learn how to open milk bottles, one generation learns how to do it, after a while, they forget, it goes away. It’s not cumulative.

I don’t have the time or skill right now to think this through but it might pertain to my sentence ‘How much of this ‘small buzz of (pleasure?)’ is hardwired and how much culturally acquired (what is the difference?)’

The Aesthetics of Decay

Nothingness, Nostalgia, and the

Absence of Reason

Dylan Trigg

Among Europeans today there is no lack of those who are entitled to call themselves

homeless in a distinctive and honorable sense…for their fate is hard, their hopes are

uncertain; it is quite a feat to devise some comfort for them—but to what avail? We

children of the future, how could we be at home in this today? We feel disfavor for

all ideals that might lead one to feel at home in this fragile, broken time of transition;

as for ‘realities’ we do not believe they will last. The ice that still supports

people today has become very thin; the wind that brings the thaw is blowing; we

ourselves who are homeless constitute a force that breaks open ice and other all too

thin realities.

Nietzsche (1974, p. 338)

can we still maintain that reason is the mechanism by which progress can be realized?

Despite the West’s fall into cultural pessimism, the sovereignty of reason has apparently resisted exhaustion.

Conflict invariably ensues when the principle, led by the claims of reason, exceeds its universality in relation

to a temporal present, so becoming distinctly fetid.

I think he is saying here for example the ideal of democracy is thrown into the limelight by some results of democratic votes and by the condition of ‘truth’ in the time of widespread access to means of dissemination of ideas – memes – formation of ‘belief groups’ – all the things that act against the finding of ‘truth’ given that ‘truth’ itself is hard to define and is mutable. taicbw

The divergence between universality and the temporal present is compounded as ideas are mistaken to

be intuitive, humanistic, or otherwise innate: terms which justifiably warrant suspicion. In the absence of such suspicion, the familiarity of reason prevents it from disbanding.

conflict between preformed principles like reason and on the ground contemporary events taicbw

Disillusionment and dogma

are the likely consequence as a society adjusts to the void between a static

principle and the mutable world in which that principle exists

reason resorts to defining itself negatively.

A lack of reason, led principally by “irrationalism,” generally, but imprecisely,

suggests anti-intellectual emotionalism and vague intuitionism.

If intuition is reactionary, then being overly exposed

to contextual circumstances, its judgment is said to be contingent

Reason, meanwhile, is said to derive from an atemporal and placeless

(non)environment in which context is subjugated by necessity.

the messy contingent present versus the timeless placeless principle (eg kant ‘disinterested delight’) taicbw

Through suppressing the particularity of context, aesthetic

universality is acquired at the expense of actual experience

Similarly, rational

progress is won as reactions and instincts, particular qualities, are suspended.

Precisely what this progress entails remains an obscurity

characterized by conceptual insecurity

Yet into this space of obscurity, a va-gue set of themes united by their commitment to the idea of permanency, be it political or philosophical, take precedence.


This book is an attack on the notion of rational progress which underlies those regimes

[he limits his use of the word ‘reason’ to “the mode of rationality as a homogenizing agent which defines and identifies the particular in accordance with a static prin-ciple already established in the past.” ]

he further says he does not attack methodological reason


The Next Biennial Should be Curated by a Machine

And especially in the field of curating, as well as

in the visual arts and in literature, we continue the useless fight against the individual,

against genius, against the assertion of the creative individual.

The claim of the isolated

performance is obviously ridiculous and funny, but powerful institutions and influential

people still hold on to the artificial and pathetic construction of super-individual –

primarily for economic and social reasons. The mismatch between

The pluralistic credo of Rimbaud, Apollinaire, and Lautréamont: ‘Poetry must be

made by all and not by one’, an even more radical credo is added here: Our reality is

imagined, developed, fed, curated, and subsequently collectively hallucinated by all of

us, humans, animals, and machines and the new networked organisms that are us! This

form of existence can never find a hardened shape. This will not smoothly merge with

the materialism and static requirements of the art genre and establishment. In contrast

to that, in times when personality, innovation, and vibe are in demand, ‘The Next

Biennial Should be Curated by a Machine’ should definitely not be underestimated

Should synthetic curating feel and look like synthetic curating? Human editing, the

human hand, and thinking in curatorial and in epileptic fits (occasions, exhibition,

crises, sensations) convulsively try to insert the idea of the individual, the human, to

add a relatable touch to products, evenst, fits or processes. This longing awoke during

Enlightenment, it was implanted as ideology, but could never fulfill the promise of

independence, self-reliance and freedom. Based on fragile collective hallucinations, on

fairy tales of the individual as an absolute, on radical negations of the collective and

obsolete reflexes of faith, it failed miserably while causing widespread and sustainable


The Arts are More than Aesthetics:

Brown, S., & Dissanayake, E. (2009). The arts are more than aesthetics: Neuroaesthetics as narrow aesthetics. In M. Skov & O. Vartanian (Eds.), Neuroaesthetics (pp. 43–57). Baywood Publishing Co. 

Neuroaesthetics as Narrow Aesthetics

Steven Brown and Ellen Dissanayake

BUT tremendous ambiguities inherent in the terms “aesthetics” and “art,” ones that limit a proper understanding of human art


It is only during the last two centuries that the terms “Art” (with an implied

capital A, connoting an independent realm of prestigious and revelatory works)

and “aesthetics” (as a unique, and even reverential, mode of attention toward such

works) have taken on their present elitist meanings and become unavoidably intertwined

(Davies, 2006; Shiner, 2001

Evolutionary aesthetics investigates

sensory preferences in animals and humans that promote selective attention and

positive emotional responses toward objects in the environment that lead to adaptive

decision making and problem solving (Orians, 2001). Objects perceived in this

manner are considered to be beautiful (Thornhill, 1998).

Although workers in evolutionary aesthetics do not overtly adhere to the elitist

philosophical connotations of aesthetics, some nevertheless write as though their

findings are applicable to an understanding of human responses to art and beauty

(e.g., Thornhill, 1998).

we suggest that present-day neuroaesthetics is limited in three

important respects by a narrow, culture-bound sense of aesthetics/art

FIRST Neuroaesthetics, like evolutionary aesthetics and

other scientific notions of aesthetics, is predicated on a class of emotions whose

biological function is to generate an appraisal of the properties of objects


for assessing a wide variety of objects

important for biological survival, as in evolutionary aesthetics, where they include

landscapes, food quality, the appearance and behaviors of conspecifics,

So the aesthetic data used in neuroaesthetics apply to a fat bigger category of objects than art objects

‘Strictly speaking, it is this broad area—not works of art alone—that defines the

domain of neuroaesthetics’

As presently

conceived, neuroaesthetics has no way of distinguishing art from nonart.

we present a view of art as a behavior of “artification,” a neologism that allows us to

think of art as an activity, in other words as something that people do (to “artify”).


……..The realm of human experience of the arts is far wider than aesthetic response to individual features……..

A focus on such responses and preferences, even in individual artworks, reduces the arts to the level of receiver psychology and social functionlessness, as presupposed in many philosophical approaches to the fine arts based on Enlightenment principles.’

…..complex behaviours eg making art include an aesthetic dimension but they are not reducible to the aesthetic dimension……..

THIRD ……….art deals with the emotions so a neuroaesthiec study of art needs a basilisks of a theory of emotion. BUT th BET theory of emotion is inadequate to cope with emotions produced by art and saestheric response………..

………..art is a fuzzy category – mixed up with eurocentric conceptions……


a comprehensive scientific understanding

of art must include its manifestations in all human cultures


…..art in other cultures is not the ‘disinterested’ thing that is western fine art and also may not be connected with beauty………

A foray into

the arts of non-Western cultures not only compels us to confront art practices that

are removed from the “disinterested” aesthetic practices of Western fine art, but also

forces us to consider the arts as behaviors that may have no necessary connection

with beauty (Dissanayake, 2007

……art in premodern society is ritual:…….



ceremonies, as behavioral manifestations of cognitive belief systems about the

way the world works (Alcorta & Sosis, 2005), have some common characteristics.

They are performed at times of perceived uncertainty, when individuals and groups

wish to influence the outcomes of circumstances that they perceive as vital to their

livelihood and survival (Dissanayake 1992, in press; Rappaport, 1999; Turner,

1969). They are typically multimodal, combining singing, instrument playing,

dancing, literary language, dramatic spectacle, and the decoration of bodies, surroundings,

and paraphernalia. In addition, they are typically participative: even

when an audience observes specialists performing, they join in by clapping, moving,

shouting, singing, and so forth. As John Chernoff, a scholar of West African

drumming, has observed: “the most fundamental aesthetic in Africa is that without

participation, there is no meaning” (Chernoff, 1979, p. 23).

……the arts in ceremonial contexts have very many functions identity feasibility life cycles, relief of stress foster cooperation maintain social harmony etc etc…..

………so they question a neuroaesthetic approach to art….

…….they suggest instead a not in of the arts as ‘things that people do’……..

We suggest that it is profitable to consider the arts not as objects (paintings,

songs), qualities of objects (beauty, consonance), cues to sensory-cognitive preferences,

or passive registrations of sensory/cognitive stimuli, but as behaviors of

artification—things that people do. Over several decades, one of us [ED] has gradually

refined such a concept (Dissanayake, 1988, 1992, 2000, in press). Artification

(originally called “making special”) refers to the universally observed penchant

of human individuals (and groups) to “make ordinary reality extraordinary”

(Dissanayake, 1992, p. 49).

ritualisation as part of art

…..ritualisation and artification……….

Briefly, ritualized

behaviors are communicative displays that take ordinary, unremarkable behaviors

drawn from everyday life (e.g., preening, nest building, pecking for food) and use

them in an altered manner and novel context in order to communicate something

entirely different from their original source

…altered by a)simplified – formalised stereotyped or patterned b)repeated c) exaggerated d) elaborated e) manipulation of expectation

These alterations or operations

serve to attract attention to and sustain interest in the new message, which is often

concerned with aggression or courtship.

……….they make the point that artification (the things enumerated above) has not only an aesthetic effect but also a cognitive one………

mainly to generate a new signification for something compared with

its ordinary meaning or use. For example, ornamentation of objects like weapons or

vessels is a way of giving them special power: the placement of a crucifix in a new

church is a way of sanctifying and protecting it, and the utterance of special texts like

prayers or incantations is a way of making contact with remote deities. Hence, the

emphases that underlie the “alterations” of artification involve not only changes

in context or performance properties such as repetition and exaggeration but include

cognitive changes in the signification and function of an object or event. Arts

behaviors are among the most important mechanisms that link ritual practices with

cognitive belief systems

note that interactions between mother and child rely on features of ratification mothers

….diss says that this coordinated dibasic behaviour evolved because od ‘the obstetric dilemma’ of 2 million years ago with bipedalism = narrower pelvis conflicted with enlarged brains and skulls……..


(2000; in press) suggests that human sensitivity to and competence for the operations

of artification originated phylogenetically in evolved interactions between ancestral

mothers and their immature infants.

…..need for a theory of emotion……

……….brown/diss define emotions….:

responses to events or objects in the environment,

driven by appraisals of goodness or badness

strongly tied to goaldriven

motivational states important for survival,

….also focus and BET….


……….four foci outcomes objects agency social interaction

2) Objects. The second category deals with valenced reactions to the aspects of

objects and events. Importantly for this volume, it is this category that comprises the

aesthetic emotions, spanning the range from liking/attraction to disliking/disgust.

This is also the category that is invoked when people discuss preferences and taste.

Hence, feelings of aesthetic attraction, whether for a face, a food item, a melody, or a

building, fall into this category, as do negative-valenced counterparts such as hate

and disgust. Regarding neuroaesthetics, it is telling that the basic emotion theory

does not contain a positive-valenced aesthetic term (e.g., attraction, liking, love),

only the negative-valenced emotion of disgust.

Aesthetic emotions are unquestionably an integral part of the arts, but they are

neither necessary nor sufficient to characterize them. Thus, a narrow focus on

aesthetic responses is ultimately a distraction from the larger picture of what the arts

are about. Finally, to the extent that the arts are perceived as rewarding, this is not so

only because artworks are appealing objects. There is a wide variety of rewarding

emotions that occur when people create and experience art apart from simply

object-based emotions, including the pleasure of social communion and the moral

zeal of common cause.