[NKS in Antiquity] - A New Kind of Science: The NKS Forum
A New Kind of Science: The NKS Forum
NKS in Antiquity(Click here to view the original thread with full colors/images)
Posted by: Tara Krause
NKS in Antiquity
As an artist, I would like to follow-up the thread begun by Daniel Geisler on 10-27-04 in the NKS Way of Thinking, on whether NKS was experienced/known/found in antiquity.
We raised this issue during this NKS Summer School 2004 in Providence, with Stephen Wolfram and team’s comments on the seemingly class 2 mosaics by the Cosmati family in the Byzantine Period. We also discussed the fractal nature of Hokusai’s great wave woodcuts of the 1830’s and ‘40’s.
Right at the end of the institute, I found a seemingly class 3 random design on a Chinese porcelain and a class 2 nested Byzantine mosaic from the marble pavement in Cosmedin, Rome (See Owen Jones, The Grammar of Ornament, originally published in 1856, now republished 2001, p. 280 and p. 152 respectively).
The hunt for such patterns continues. If the rules represent natural processes both underlying as well as observable, why have we not seen them before in art? Specifically, class 4 intrigues me, as I began exploring my short film and etchings for NKS2003.
This fall, the hunt yielded two distinctly different findings:
• Photographs of Paleolithic rock art seem to appear to show a web of class 4-like finger fluting (intentional engravings) over the initial images. I found three examples of this. The first was the yellow stallion in the Apse of the Cave of Lascaux (c. 17,000 years ago in the Magdalenian era); and the second was another Magdalenian period carved image from the Bassess-Pyrenees in France. The last was the finger tracings of the Gargas and Cosquer caves.
• The Taoist taxonomy of Li patterns represent dynamic forms found in nature, considered as laws or principles and expounded on by Chu Hsi during the Sung dynasty (960-1279) and Ch’en Shun. See David Wade’s book, Li: Dynamic Form in Nature (Wodden Books, 2003). Many of his categories such as brechia and fracture are strikingly NKSesque if not Class 4 in appearance.
These two observations dovetailed with some experiments I did at NKS Summer 2004. [See
and my follow-on show, http://tarakrause.com/Dancing_Emergence_2004.htm] It also informs my on-going collaboration on music theatre with Katarina Mijkovic. I found that working in an abstract expressionistic mode with rhythm and music catalyzed a new visual vocabulary and expression of Class 4 and emergence, inspired by Rule 1599. This vocabulary could not be done by imposition such as a Baroque Caravaggisti technique. It also required fully body movement.
Interesting enough, one class of Paleolithic finger fluting has been theorized to result from lower body motion. The phenomena of finger flutings in the Rouffignac Cave were to have resulted from moving from the hips with bending, twisting and shifting weight on feet. Moreover, if I am permitted an artistic risk/leap, some experts have observed that the size of the handprint signatures in more than twenty caves throughout Italy, France and Spain point to women shamans and that this indicated a female shamanic role in the spiritual and creative life of the Paleolithic clans.
Even more intriguing are the theories of South African San Rock art expert Davis Lewis-Williams. His shamanistic art neuropsychological model holds that shamans created these microlithic abstract images from trance phosphenes or entopics (seen by the eye when eyelids are shut) while in an ASC (altered state of consciousness) mode. [My challenge to neuroscientists would be to take up the discussion thread of whether class 4 brain activity is involved in the creation of complex art.]
In Lascaux cave art, Mario Ruspoli stressed that these images have to seen as a whole and mused that perhaps in the flickering of the fire to the rhythm of drums, a shaman in the Lascaux engraved the figures as he told the story before his initiates, that the movements of his hand and the act of drawing combined in its meaning.
So when we ask the question of NKS Class 4 in antiquity, it may require two separate distinctions: Class 4 patterns as a result of a complex process, and representation of Class 4 patterns found in nature. What are the rules involved in creating complex art? Does it involve Class 4 brain activity?
I would welcome others such as neuroscientists and art historians to join in the discussion. The notion of NKS Class 4 art perhaps can be expanded from the conventional albeit excitingly experimental generative art domain to include the primal.
Posted by: Arun Kumar
Nice to find that NKS has attracted people from diverse backgrounds esp in arts. Please go ahead with your discussions. I'll soon join you in discussions; a new entrant you see.
Posted by: Daniel Geisler
I agree with Arun Kumar, your posting is a nice change of pace from the usual analytical posting on NKS Forum. For anyone interested in a complex systems approach to neurological issues I highly recommend Neurodynamics of Personality by Jim Grigsby and David Stevens. I’ve never really thought about neurology in terms of cellular automata in large part because neural networks form a branch of dynamics originally created to study neurological phenomena. There is an amazing connection between AI and dynamics; I was reading Ray Kurzweil review of NKS and I noticed that I was coming to a list of types of dynamical systems, but when I read the list I realizing Kurzweil was talking about AI not dynamics. This is not unlike Wolfram’s idea of computational equivalence between different dynamical systems.
That doesn’t mean that you can’t talk about what type of cellular automata would be required to model the human brain. The answer to your question is simple; any higher-level cognitive process enters the realm of computational universality and therefore must be modeled by class 4 cellular automata. My understanding is that class 3 type neurological behaviors exists as part of ambient background needed to keep different neurological systems in sync and provides a kind of neurodynamical substrate necessary for the more complex neural behavior to operate on. I think that humans in large part can be defined as the biological implementation of robust universal computation.
I believe that complex systems can provide an invaluable perspective to anthropology. Consider the question of what happened to the Neanderthals. Many anthropologists think that the primary evolutionary activity of the last million years has been the expansion of computational capacity. I think a nice correspondence can be drawn between the evolutionary biological pressures that hominids have been undergoing over that last million years and the evolutionary pressures exerted by the market place in computers over the last decade. In case you haven’t heard, Intel in now focusing its future plans on multicore CPUs, placing multiple CPUs on a single piece of silicon instead of creating larger monolithic chips. This same trend has already overtaken the supercomputer industry. If you look at the list of the 500 most powerful supercomputers, you will see that they all embody a massive multiprocessor architecture. So in the new few years our supercomputers will consist of arrays of arrays of CPUs.
So what does that have to do with hominid evolution? I would argue that evolutionary pressures for greater computational power tend to resolve themselves into to main paths, monolithic and distributed computation. This same scenario has played out many times over since the birth of life on our planet. It was only evolutionarily effective for cells to increase to a certain size before their innate complexity became problematic; they were unable to compete with collections of simpler and thus more robust cells. I suspect the same thing was true with Homo neanderthalensis and Homo sapiens. Homo neanderthalensis were physically significantly more powerful than Homo sapiens and their brain size was roughly a quarter greater than our own. At first it seems more reasonable that they would have become the dominant species, but the configuration of our larynx and tongue is far superior for producing speech. It appears that not long before Homo neanderthalensis became extinct that they were developing vocal apparatus much more similar to our own. Last year it was discovered that Homo neanderthalensis reached physical maturity at thirteen. This is consistent with a hominid species that has less transference of knowledge than Homo sapiens. It has been shown though mathematically models that Homo sapiens would only need a small competitive edge over Homo neanderthalensis in order to displace them.
Maybe cultural anthropology is nothing more than the study of hominid virtualization. Ray Kurzweil’s web site is a great place to learn about the possible impacts that technology may have on human evolution, but before we use our technology to change what it is to be human I think it would be nice to first understand what it is to be human.
Posted by: Jesse Nochella
Nice thread going here. I should reply some more when I have something substantial. But for now, just questions; Particularly about information on trance phospehnes / entopics.
I've looked for such information several times on the internet. All I ever get is either artwork or recreational forum chat. Academic courses in psychology from what I hear only seem to ever cover such related subjects as optical illusions. There seems to be no real information on entopics whatsoever anywhere, and I consider it a very interesting course of study. I want to see if I can create some of the same effects with live-input cellular automata
Does anybody know anything/anywhere that I can turn in learning about the mechanisms of this stuff?
Posted by: Tara Krause
You're absolutely right in searching for more rigor in this. It 'd be great to find more scientific references for the subject, and even, neuroscientists joining us in the discussion.
Below are some anthropology sources:
D. Lewis-Williams: Mind in the Cave: Consciousness and the Origins of Arts. WW Norton (2004)
M. Ruspoli: The Cave of Lascaux. Harry N. Abrams, New York (1987)
R. Heizer and M. Baumhoof: Prehistoric Rock Art of Nevada and Eastern California.. Berkley University Press (1962)
M. Winkelman: Shamanism: The Neural Ecology of Consciousness and Healing. Bergin & Garvey (2000)
And there is a relatively new field:
R. Joseph, (ed): NeuroTheology: Brain, Science, Spirituality, Religious Experience. San Jose University Press (2003)
Hope this helps,
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