Saturday, August 27, 2011

What am I reading, - and even more important, when am I reading it?

Were there ever days when I had the time to indulge myself with my nose in a book and the world far away?

Of course there were - just not lately....

Nevertheless I came across Marvin Minsky once more in my travels on the net and was moved to get two of his books, - 'The Emotion Machine' (Commonsense thinking, artificial intelligence, and the future of the human mind)  and 'The Society of Mind' (270 brilliantly original essays the mind works).

I am hoping that these essays are short one or two pagers, as I can only stand so much brilliance at one time before I get confused and my mind wanders off on different paths.

Neither of these two books is hot off the press, - The Society was written in 1985, and the Emotion Machine was published in 2006.

I open the Society of Mind randomly, and here is an essay on The Roots of Intention.  (pge 196)

I read the foreword.....

The wind blows where it will, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know whence it comes or whither it goes;  so it is with every one who is born of the Spirit.    St. John

Marvin Minsky takes these words and applies them to language and words we utter with no conscious sense of where they come from or how they influence our further thoughts and what we might do as a consequence of them.

I mull this over and have to acknowledge that I probably never know exactly what words I will use to express an idea, or, in fact where either the idea or the words come from.  Marvin Minsky questions whether ideas evolve from two or more partial states of mind, or between signals that represent these states, which leads one into his theory of the Society of Mind.  Minsky contends that " there is no difference between humans and machines, because, he believes, humans are machines whose brains are made up of many semi-autonomous but unintelligent 'agents'  (who mistakenly consider themselves intelligent individuals" 

Now that gives me something to think about, or if his theory is correct it will set the cat amongst the pigeons in the brain that contains all these semi-autonomous agents.  

Because the 'words we think seem to hover in some insubstantial interface'. and we have no idea of the origin of them, or the destinations  they lead us to, or the action or accomplishments which might result,  they have a certain magical quality.  Does that explain some people's love of words?  Are they equipped with the right signals and crossings that are found within the brain? 

I do not mean to sound facetious, - I would really like to know but it appears that there has been little advanced work on Minsky's theories in the last couple of decades.  It is said that he has disturbed many of his co-researchers by insisting that what we think of as consciousness or self awareness is actually a myth - a convenient fallacy which allows us to function as a society.

There is a rather lengthy video of a talk given by Melvin Minsky here, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  He is a most pleasant and down-to-earth fellow and his talk is peppered with many pithy asides and humourous comments.  If you have an hour to spare do listen, and tell me what you think!

Thursday, August 25, 2011

She has taken to wandering the corridors, continuously, - shuffling in her blue slippers and speaking in whispers, - a long journey that she seems compelled to make, around and around, her hand following the railing, her blue eyes bent to the floor.

Her caregiver urges me to find a place to sit and settle with her, and so we sit in a quiet corner,  hand in hand, my arms around her shoulder, and I talk of the days of our long, long friendship.  Her eyes brighten.  She breathes a question that I strain to catch, and I tell her of our move, and of Charles, whose friendship with her husband was so close.  She tells me in broken phrases how she longs to join him....  We talk a little of her family, - of the girls, who come to visit when they can, and of the son she leans upon, and waits for through the long hours of each day.

We sit for a while without talking, silently, but I am surrounded by the love that her friendship has brought me over the last sixty years.  And it has come to this, for her.....

When it is time for me to leave we seek out the Caregiver and he walks a little with her while I punch the buttons that release me into the world she no longer inhabits.  I am in tears as I drive home, and when I tell Charles of her distress his voice thickens and tears spring to his eyes as well, as he remembers his promise to her husband to watch out for her.

Who can protect from this most dreadful disease that steals, as you watch, the precious talents of living learned so eagerly in childhood.

I pray for her to soon realize her heart's desire, as my heart breaks.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

ABC Wednesday
August 24th, 2011

Let's hear it for the formal letter F

F is for Alfred William Finch, who was born to English parents in 1854.  

His parents had moved to Belgium. where "Willy" was born and trained at the Academie Royale des Beaux-Arts in Brussels.  He became a founding member of Les XX, a group of twenty Belgian painters, designers and sculptors who rebelled against the prevailing artistic standards and outmoded academism

He changed his own painting to the Pointillist and Neo Impressionist style, and became one of the leading representatives of his style in Belgium, along with Theo van Rysselberghe. 

The Cliffs at South Foreland in the Finnish National Gallery at Helsinki

Box at the Theatre in the Belgium Art Museum

Landscape Sunset at the Turku Art Museum in Finland

Eventually  he determined that he could not make a living as a painter and moved to Finland in 1897 at the invitation of Count Louis Sparre to become a Ceramist in the Iris Ceramics factory, but when the factory closed he went back to painting.

The Pointillist style of painting, though laborious and difficult, lends an amazing sense of movement to the painted landscape.

For more great F's visit here at Mrs. Nesbitt's ABC Wednesday.