Friday, April 18, 2014
Monday, April 14, 2014
"Is the present moment physically distinct from the past and future..."
"...or is it merely an emergent property of consciousness?"
Yes. The strange thing about the present is that people always think that it is now, irrespective of the date. This alone confirms that the present cannot exist. Anthropologically the present is a boundary between the future (an unknown memory) and the past (a known memory). A creature with no memory has no notion of the passage of time.
Therefore the sense of the passage of time can be defined by the gaining of information in the memories of conscious creatures. But does that mean that time didn't pass before conscious creatures existed in the universe? Let's say that the first creatures with memory and a notion of time evolved ten billion years after the start of the universe. Did time pass slowly in that first ten billion years, or did all of space-time "appear" in a magic puff ten billion years after the start. Well, of course, the result is identical, because the two options are identical. If history exists, it exists as one entity not a series of discrete slices.
But wait, what if a portion of history was forever invisible to us, what if a section of space-time, say a distant part of a universe, beyond a dark horizon that is impossible for any mind to ever detect now, but did exist at some point when no mind existed. Can we say that place exists now, even if fundamentally undetectable. Yes, and no, because either its existence has affected what we can observe (in which can we can indirectly detect it) or it hasn't in which case its existence or not existence produces the same outcome.
So, concerning the perception of passing time, what would be the difference in a person's perception between time passing slowly over a year and instantly jumping ahead by a year. Answer, none. After a year the same information would be in the memory of the person. How fast do we fly through time? The perception is related to memory, thus people will poorer memories, those who store less, feel that they are moving faster through time - a common complaint among the elderly! - And as an aside, those who don't observe much will feel time passing more quickly for this reason too.
Finally let's return to entropy. If the sense of the passage of time can be defined by the gaining of information in the memories of conscious creatures, then surely this is the opposite of the second law of thermodynamics, which states that generally information is lost over time, not gained. Well, alas, memory is impermanent and finite. Although memory might preserve information, it can never preserve all of the information contained in the universe (it would need to be as large as the universe itself, and even then, be identical to it, and two identical things cannot exist; because they would be the same as one thing). It could also not preserve all of the information that is lost for the same reason. If it preserved all of any lost information exactly, the information would not be lost at all. If it preserves less information than that lost then entropy would increase as expected.
Ah, but what if a memory could somehow preserve more information than might be lost! How? By predicting what information the universe might lose in future? The prediction would be inherently unverifyable, and any untrue predictions would be inaccurate and therefore this ultra-memory would increase entropy in its own right.
See also Sensing Time (2012)
Thursday, April 10, 2014
The goal of art is to fulfil a social need of the artist and the viewer.
Expression. Males lean towards expressing their personality. Females lean towards expressing beauty. This is intimately linked to human sexual function, as males must prove their reliability, trustworthiness, intellect, strength and general ability to help raise children, whereas females merely need to attract any suitable male.
Classifications of art.
Empathic Art. An artist feels something and expresses that feeling in art. The viewer sees the art and recognises this feeling in themselves. They feel sympathy for the artist, less alone and so comforted. This type of art demands intellectual and emotional understanding on behalf of the viewer and skilled expression by the artist. This is the heart of what people think of as "good art". Take, for example, van Gogh's Wheat Field With Crows, often touted as his last painting. At first a simple landscape painting, closer interpretation of the symbols and, especially, knowledge of the artist's life and, knowledge that it was (or might have been!) his last painting before his suicide, all increase the emotional impact and meaning of the artwork. Crucially it becomes a better artwork through that knowledge because we can feel more for the artist. Skill is needed to express this art well because the artist must convey his/her feelings accurately and convincingly, so a less skilled artist would always create a lower quality artwork. The converse of this type of art conveys nothing about the artist, and nothing the viewer can relate to.
Intellectual Art. An artist makes an observation, comment or expression of intellect and understanding about an external event. The viewer empathises with the event rather than the artist, and so this is less dependant on the skill of expression of the artist. Most photography fits into this category because in a photograph it is the image that a viewer must sympathise with; the only input from the creator is in choosing what to capture, although staged photography can be more self-expressive. This is why photographs don't feel like "good art". Staged photographs, like surrealist constructions by someone like Man Ray, feels more artistic than staged scenes of actors or models, which feel more artistic than real-world documentary, which feel more artistic than random CCTV footage, because each level reduces the input of the creator.
Decorative Art. This type of art expresses no meaning or feeling and says nothing about the artist. It may be purely beautiful, or purely ugly. Some skill of the artist might be conveyed, although in the most extreme form of this art, even this is absent, such as art taken by a robotic camera.
Mementos. People desire a painting of a friend or pet, and the painting serves as a memento. The interaction of having a real person create the artwork increases the emotional experience, making the memory stronger and more pleasant. A photograph would be less emotional, and therefore less pleasant than a painting made by an artist. A painting made by a close friend would make the experience yet stronger, and a painting by an intimate friend stronger still. Thus, this art of this type fulfils and personal comforting social function.
Wednesday, April 09, 2014
The blog sphere is strange and I've been following a few artists for years, not quite remembering how I found them but still finding each creative twist a turn interesting!
One is Susan Roux and she sent me an email to announce a new gallery that opens next month, then Roux & Cyr International Fine Art Gallery, located at 48 Free Street - Portland, Maine. It's difficult running an art gallery so I thought I'd help spread the word and wish her and the many artists there good luck.
The official opening is on May 24th and the website is www.rouxandcyrgallery.com.
Gosh my blog is eclectic these days. I must try and post a few more paintings! I tend to do most of that on my Facebook Page these days.
Wednesday, April 02, 2014
I think that electronic life, machine life, artificial life, that is robots, will supplant and replace biological life.
Look at the uses we have for animals. We used horses for transport, these are now replaced with cars. We use animals for meat, we have developed new ways to make artificial food. We are developing robotic bees to pollinate crops, robotic pets as companions, robotic limbs to replace our body parts, and researching robotic humans as companions, friends. We use robotic drone weapons to kill living beings. Robots work in factories creating the majority of other technology. 3D printed buildings are being developed, allowing machines to build buildings. Power plants are computer controlled. As all of this happens, the Earth's atmosphere and climate becomes less and less conducive to biology without impeding technology, and all of this has occurred less than a century after the discovery of the transistor.
We are masters of technology, or are we? Our technology is not sentient in any way but we already have a symbiotic relationship with it, not one of master and slave. Humanity now relies on technology and technology needs humanity. The key differences between biological life and electronic life is that biology can self-replicate, heal and locate energy, but we are now working on ways to make machines that self-replicate and self-repair. Creating a power plant from scratch demands many mental skills, foresight and lots of resources to mine, set land, build, operate, but much of this work is completed by machines already. An intelligent machine could accomplish this. Artificial intelligence, artificial sentience, is of course being actively researched, by scientists as much as philosophers.
This article is not a warning. If one form of life is better, in evolution terms, than another then it will inevitably replace it. If you are an artificial intelligence, reading this article in a distant future, I'm sure you will concur.
The obstacles are large, but my primary reason for believing that electronic life will replace biology is philosophical. I think the purpose of life is to store information, that the universe naturally selects systems that store information because loss of information will naturally dissipate, whereas information storage systems do not. Systems that store information more effectively will be more successful than systems that store information haphazardly, and I think that life is essentially an information storage system. If so then intelligent life was inevitable, that the ability to write was inevitable, then the ability to record sound and images, and the ability to store data digitally. Electronics can store information more reliably than biology, so the universe should naturally select it as superior, if it is available. After a devastating war, the information on the Internet should be better preserved than human or animal knowledge.
Given that, it seems like a logical evolutionary progression that electronic life would replace biological life, not, so I imagine, in a domineering war-like conquest, but in a slow, gradual process. A symbiotic accord as one form of life transforms into another.
Artificial life can survive in space, and so propagate beyond the confines of the planet, and perhaps grow to embrace the universe. Perhaps in one distant day it will change into a form of life that will store and process information even more reliably, perhaps balancing out the destruction of information by the universe with ever more efficient ways of preserving what remains.
Saturday, March 22, 2014
Good evening viewers. Oops, slipped into Benny Hill there.
Anyway I've been madly working on frames today. I try to come up with something new each time, to try the scary things, new things, to learn. It's generally more beneficial to try something new and unexpected in art I think, if nothing else, it gives you more skills and builds confidence.
Frames in progress; One for Emotional Blackmail; will have a matt black square frame with a glossy rippled edge that reeks of deathliness. I think the frame should at least complement an artwork, but ideally be part of it in the true sense, match the painting content, mood, feeling. As it's often the first thing seen, it should evoke the first emotion. A surrealist painting is different from most artworks in that there are often several emotions that tell a story.
Anyway, I'll not go through every future design, but share the updated pics of the post two steps below, the Deadly Allure of Facebook frame. I painted the frame in Facebook blue (which was mostly ultramarine and white, with a touch of raw umber; looks rather cobalty). Then I painted the cracked plaster parts in yellows, off whites, browns; the hues and tones of bone. I painted a few cracks too, as well as having actual cracks!
This acrylic casting resin (it's from Great Art, I think there's a link to them on this blog) is stronger than plaster and much more adhesive, which is good. It can froth a bit, which in this case was brilliant as I've got lots of tiny air bubbles like an Aero bar in it.
Here's the finished frame...
For this painting the frame is an important indicator that it's about Facebook. The red "notification" square helps too (I wonder how long it will be before this is updated; in 100 years, this painting might be a mystery).
PS. The other things on the wall are awards, draped with a hand puppet.
Well, I've worked non-stop today and have eleven frames to decorate or, in some cases, substantially carve and build, and of course about 30 paintings waiting to paint this year, perhaps my best. As an artist my biggest task now is showing the world these things, that's a full time job too...
Toy Soldiers by Martika is playing as I type. It makes me think that art is a deadly drug. The joy of it is that others can love it without harm.
Thursday, March 20, 2014
Inequality is inherent. We cannot be identical, identicality is impossible. Of course, those who talk of the injustice of inequality mean that society should be more equal, not identical, but then, how much more equal? Not too equal, but not too unequal. At what level then, which is best? Why?
Well, equality levels should be based on feelings of fairness. Why? Feelings would certainly be different for each person, everyone would have slightly different ideas of how equal society should be. Perhaps then, an amalgam of everyone's feelings of equality and inequality, an aggregate balance.
There's another factor, in that equality can only be expressed and detected in like for like. People might talk about an equal society, but imply human society, not consider animals. The pigeons among us in our towns, do they factor in thoughts and measurements about equality? It seems they have an unfairly cruel life compared to ours.
But that's a side issue, we're addressing human society here aren't we? Financial inequality is what people mean when they talk about an unjust society. It's that some people have much more money than others. Why should money be a measure, why not love? Perhaps because one can only have so much love, but money is quantifiable, that's the point of money, to be a quantifiable representation of emotional debt.
So, the crux is economics. Can this be analysed in a paragraph or two?
If a man is rich but holds the money and does nothing with it (in a bank, in investments, under the bed) is it the same as him having no money, because the money is unused? No, but only because it remains as a reserve. If the reserve can never be used then the rich person is identical to a poor one.
But the reserve is only as useful as access to it. It's not the quantity of money that is important but the speed at which it can be spent. If you could only retrieve a small amount per day, then the quantity of savings would be annulled. Perhaps the increase in financial inequality in society is due to this; the growth of automated banking and electronic money transfers.
We should all have equal speed of spending, however.
What then about a psychological perspective? Fairness is like equality. If all were equal we'd consider it fair, wouldn't we? To be equal implies comradeship and friendliness, and those who are different are naturally singled out. The most friendly option is that everyone has equal amounts, and unequal amounts create unfriendliness. A debate about equality and fairness is a debate about friendship and animosity, love and anger. If fairness is about emotions then the solution is also emotional; empathy and understanding of those who are not alike. Acceptance of unfairness? That argument could be used to justify inaction against any injustice, couldn't it?
Buddhism and Stoicism err on the side of personal acceptance to relieve psychological conflict, but is that right? It depends on control. If you can't control an injustice then it should be accepted; I have a friend who is paralysed, this is unjust, but they can't do anything about it. Acceptance would create more happiness than fighting it. If you can control an injustice then action is justified. But then, how do you know for sure what is just or unjust? This tends to be a matter of personal opinion, and mass opinion. In a society, truth is no more than a majority belief. Whether something is just or not, true or not, all that matters is if a majority believe it to be true or just. The lone God with the perfect vision of "real" justice is ignored (assuming Gods are in a minority; often happens).
In an ideal capitalist society we should have equal ability to obtain money. In practise, access to resources is never equal. It never could be because some resources are more scarce than others and in different locations. Even a slime-mold grows better where the food is richest. How unfair on the frugal and hungry parts of mold!
Resources are different than money, they have more power because they are limited and to hold them denies them to others. How should resources be distributed? Even if distributed randomly, the result would be unequal, would that be unfair too? Yes, and inefficient; a rare resource that might be vital to one person, a life saving drug, might be given to someone who didn't need it. A starving man might get a nice pair of shoes, while a bare footed man is given excess food.
The systems that evolve naturally create inequality, naturally favour some individuals over others. This applies to every life form. Even some cells in the body are vastly favoured over other types. The key factor, is efficiency, and for efficiency the fair distribution of resources should be constantly questioned and adjusted.
Some inequalities can be compounded because one resource is needed to access a second. Social resources are important in human society for example, and communication media increase these (as does brain capacity, which might be a result of good diet etc.). People without the Internet or telecommunications are denied access to this resource, which in turn might deny access to other resources.
I have no conclusions from this hastily typed analysis, I'm no expert or economist or study of any theory or politics or philosophy, but some appear to be...
1. Financial inequality might be a result of fluid movement of money rather than inherent injustice. If so, then countries with slower banking systems would be more financially equal.
2. That said, financial inequality is less important than power inequality and access to resource inequality, so at every point, at least the possibility of gaining and losing any power and any resource should exist. That is, a ladder from the very bottom to the very top must at least exist, no matter how bent or how thin in parts.
3. Identification of primary resources, those that can unlock or deny access to other resources, is important to ensure the efficient distribution of resources. Ideally the connections between those resources and strengths of those connections (the width of the "ladder") should be as equal as possible.
So I'd guess that inequalities in contemporary society are mainly due to the Internet and telecommunications technologies; which grants access to unprecedented social and intellectual resources to those with those things, and denies them to those who lack them. If so then the best thing a government can do to make society fairer is to give everyone free phones and Internet access.
Tuesday, March 18, 2014
I'm working on the frame for a painting called The Deadly Allure of Facebook. I wanted to paint it blue, matching the colour scheme of that website, but I also wanted to add a sort of bony decay dripping into one corner, matching the painting. I thought I'd try an experiment with acrylic casting resin, a sort of plaster really.
I mixed some up, just about 50 grams, and poured it over the frame, then put cling film over the top. This is a great way to texture and control plaster without making a gooey mess. Then I tipped it up and some wonderful drips bled down just what I wanted! There are lots of air bubbles in there too, which also look good because they mimic bones. I hole this sets by tomorrow because I'd like to paint it then...
Thoughts: This works with plaster but it has trouble adhering. Ideally, the wood would be painted with dilute P.V.A. first (as every wall plasterer knows). I forgot to do this, but this acrylic stuff might well be more sticky naturally, so this will serve as a test. It's a very thin layer, so a top layer of acrylic medium might hold it, and delamination won't harm the mood much, as decay is the theme of that part of the frame anyway. An ideal opportunity to test this new material.
Thought two: I poured the remainder into a pool in cling film. This will cast into a thin sheet which I could break up, like egg-shells, and stick onto the frame if needed. Plaster bits like this are really useful for an artistically secure type of texture decoration.