Wednesday, August 29, 2012

hey, you say i'm not smart?


the cambridge declaration only makes it formal: non-human animals exhibit consciousness.*
The neural substrates of emotions do not appear to be confined to cortical structures. In fact, subcortical neural networks aroused during affective states in humans are also critically important for generating emotional behaviors in animals. Artificial arousal of the same brain regions generates corresponding behavior and feeling states in both humans and non-human animals. Wherever in the brain one evokes instinctual emotional behaviors in non-human animals, many of the ensuing behaviors are consistent with experienced feeling states, including those internal states that are rewarding and punishing. Deep brain stimulation of these systems in humans can also generate similar affective states. (...) Evidence of near human-like levels of consciousness has been most dramatically observed in African grey parrots. Mammalian and avian emotional networks and cognitive microcircuitries appear to be far more homologous than previously thought. Moreover, certain species of birds have been found to exhibit neural sleep patterns similar to those of mammals, including REM sleep and, as was demonstrated in zebra finches, neurophysiological patterns, previously thought to require a mammalian neocortex. Magpies in articular have been shown to exhibit striking similarities to humans, great apes, dolphins, and elephants in studies of mirror self-recognition.



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*The group consists of cognitive scientists, neuropharmacologists, neurophysiologists, neuroanatomists, and computational neuroscientists -- all of whom were attending the Francis Crick Memorial Conference on Consciousness in Human and Non-Human Animals. The declaration was signed in the presence of Stephen Hawking, and included such signatories as Christof Koch, David Edelman, Edward Boyden, Philip Low, Irene Pepperberg, and many more.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

pauline boty's nightmare



check out ken russell's claustrophobic little short for BBC featuring pop artist pauline boty with score by electronic music pioneer delia derbshire. what does it mean today? more later.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

let's stop algebraic suffering in america!


aLfRedO tRifF

is algebra necessary? andrew hacker thinks not.
A typical American school day finds some six million high school students and two million college freshmen struggling with algebra. In both high school and college, all too many students are expected to fail. 
i will not get into the importance of algebra, which conveys a specific know-how of meta-numeric abstraction that pertains to operations and relations of all kinds in science, which is why algebra is an extension and generalization of arithmetic. 

functions? the hell with it. equations? what for? algebra is unbearably painful:
Why do we subject American students to this ordeal?
"ordeal"? is algebra difficult "in itself", anymore than, say, history? granted, if one hates history learning it can be an ordeal. but as any student knows, struggling has a necessary positive side. there 's nothing closer to loving math than struggling with it and getting it.

there is nothing "intrinsic" about algebra that makes it harder than any other subject. we see it that way because we've become math-challenged. why? math takes, well, effort, something many students (and teachers) today are not interested in for reasons they don't understand. 

hacker senses a dead end, but is not flexible enough to admit his math phobia has nothing to do with math.
It’s true that students in Finland, South Korea and Canada score better on mathematics tests. But it’s their perseverance, not their classroom algebra, that fits them for demanding jobs.  
algebra, history, philosophy; take any subject. discounting sheer aptitude, isn't it perseverance what makes a student score better at a given subject? following his own idea, what hacker should ask is why american students don't persevere. the reason our education sucks is not underfunded schools, not mediocre teachers, not archaic methodologies, not poor learning environments. it's mathematics!
The toll mathematics takes begins early. To our nation’s shame, one in four ninth graders fail to finish high school. In South Carolina, 34 percent fell away in 2008-9, according to national data released last year; for Nevada, it was 45 percent. Most of the educators I’ve talked with cite algebra as the major academic reason. 
who are these educators? (we'll never know). now we're ready for hacker's cuckoo case:

1. algebra is a required course in high school and college.
2. studying algebra is an "ordeal"
3. students suck at algebra.
4. students suck at algebra because of 2.
therefore, algebra shouldn't be a required course in high school and college.

care for one more? making math mandatory can actually hide & warp young talent:
Making mathematics mandatory prevents us from discovering and developing young talent. In the interest of maintaining rigor, we’re actually depleting our pool of brainpower.
no wonder american trails the world in math & science:
In general knowledge of mathematics, American 12th graders did better than those in only two countries, Cyprus and South Africa. Students in four countries, Italy, Russia, Lithuania and the Czech Republic, performed at the same level as those in the United States. Fourteen countries outperformed America, led by the Netherlands and Sweden. The results were similar for science. The advanced mathematics assessment was given to students who had taken or were taking precalculus, calculus or Advanced Placement calculus, and the advanced physics assessment to students who had either taken or were taking physics or Advanced Placement physics. In advanced math, 11 countries outperformed the United States and no country performed more poorly; in physics, 14 countries did better than the United States and none did worse.


at this point you realize hacker is not a subtle thinker.

hacker is not necessarily arguing that math is not an important subject. all he is saying is that it shouldn't be required. never mind that being a decisively important branch of human knowledge, a reliable educational system shouldn't leave it up to young students whether they take -or not- algebra. they hate it now, but  may love and/or need it tomorrow. what then? mathematics is a knowledge-cumulative enterprise, i.e, the more you know the more you're ready to know.

i don't doubt that at some point we'll hacker algebra (we're down that path already, which is why hacker's article appears in the new york times opinion section). here is the scenario: to make our students happy, we'll make math an elective. only science students and nerds will take it, but since math was -already- not required in high school, they will perform much worse than they do today. it doesn't matter. we will import chinese, korean, indian, finnish and russian mathematicians to do the hard work for us. having spent their youth miserably studying math and science, they will be more than eager to exchange their pain for our half-witted, self-induced, math-challenged limbo (all the way to the bank).

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Jonathan Jones' osteopathic redunditis


You might think it's arrogance or snobbery that leads me to criticize a work of art, and maybe it is – but I'm still right.  Jonathan Jones

aLfRedO tRiFf

A piece by critic Jonathan Jones in the guardian entitled "art criticism is not a democracy." He opens with a blunt statement:
The reason so much average or absolutely awful art gets promoted is that no one seems to understand what criticism is; if nothing is properly criticised, mediocrity triumphs. A critic is basically an arrogant bastard who says "this is good, this is bad" without necessarily being able to explain why. At least, not instantly. The truth is, we feel this stuff in our bones. And we're innately convinced we're right.
With bragging jocosity, the critic flaunts that no one seems to understand what criticism is, which is why art is so awful. A lack of proper criticism brings forth mediocrity. Now a profound thought: a critic is an arrogant bastard & the reason you read him is that he boasts.

Jones renders truth engrafted & osteopathic!

Dig his epistemic lemma: when you are right you know you're right. 

Soon enough Jones is high on rendunditis:
Critics are born, not made. I don't know why I became convinced that I had more to say about art than other people, and an opinion that mattered more than most. But I did decide that – and persuaded others to listen.
Not difficult to be "convinced" if you believe it a priori, which is precisely why you have much more to say than regular folk. "Persuaded"? Not the right word. Persuasion entails fine argumentation, not brazen platitudes.

The hell, an opinionated bastard sticks to his defiance.
Of course, by being so blunt, I run the risk of vilification. I will be seen as a vapid snob, elitist, etc. But I am no more guilty of these traits than anyone else who sets themselves up as a professional critic; I'm just trying to be honest. 
We get that bluntness is a virtue. But there is a bit of a problem. Saying "I'm just trying to be honest" is a bit strange -since honesty cannot be buttressed with self-averments.

Don't let the circularity of self-doubt cloud your unfailing critical clairvoyance.

After all the critic's ballsy drumming above, comes a valley of anxiety (in red) followed by suspicious remorse? (in blue).
So, I'm sorry, but this is the deal. I don't believe my views on film or TV or music are worth anything special. But I do believe –actually I know– that my instinct for what is valuable in art is unusually sure.
So, what's the verdict?

In self-grandstanding jonesian: dickheady, hyperactive & redundant with lots of flummery fun.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

artblicity reigns!

atRifF

art (and why not, politics) is less about seeing and more about building "perceptions."

at mbourbaki we make a distinction between plain seeing -physiological & epistemic for using your eyes- and "perception," a market category.

market category? you would ask. the market-as-world created by the market. it's here that old categories begin to implode.

can one say today that there is really "seeing" without arthoodication?

how is information processed? information is dimensionless, it doesn't depend upon a particular measure. one would think that the more informed one is the better one's predictive power. but this is not the case, which brings us to a pervasive redundancy:  

the more information you have, the more ignorant you feel. factor all the random market/fluctuations (the "noise" of the system at any given time by all arthoodication manipulations). distorted enough?    

check out how this art's service provides advice to future writers. the post is entitled "how to pitch an exhibition review to a magazine."
(...) you may have been thinking about introducing new elements into your art career: curating, teaching, marketing, assisting, installing or documenting exhibitions, scholarly work, or even coaching. If thinking critically is your thing – and you’re passionate about communicating those thoughts to others – I’m guessing that writing about art for magazines is near the top of your expanded to-do list.

the writer groups "critical thinking" & "communicating." the former is a buzzword. isn't "critical thinking" thinking? are you telling me that "thinking" was not -or never- "critical" before discovering it? in other words, "thinking" becomes "critical" when it discovers it (as if you become smart when you think it). bunk.

what the "critical thinking" booster does is to give a hand to "communicating," a new mode of art-perception that we call artblicity. now you're ready for this genuine legerdemain:
It’s not always necessary –or possible– to visit an exhibition before pitching a review. You can often glean themes, curatorial statements, and helpful images from the artist, gallery, or museum’s website. As a rough guide, write a 50-word pitch covering the show’s title, dates, and location, and outline your approach to the review. Mention any theories, art historical comparisons, or other elements you’ll draw out. By keeping the pitch concise and organised, you’ll show the editor that you can write, and that you’re aware of what she’s looking for. I tend also to include a 50-word biography tailored to the magazine’s style, which may include my educational background, current research interests or experience relevant to the review at hand, and location.
first, reviewing an exhibit without the actual in situ presence of the writer, amounts to a phenomenon of artblicity/telepathy called critics' picks. a questionable practice that subordinates "seeing" to "communicating." next, the writer's "mention any theories" admonition really means "any art/platitude buttressed by pseudo-theoretical comparisons will pass the smell test."

this is the artmarket's new modus operandus: artblicity propagated as normal.

artblicity reigns!

Monday, August 6, 2012

democracy = publicity = democraty


atRifF

we proclaim the following syllogism:

democracy cannot exist without culture
culture cannot exist without the finance and consumption of entertainment
entertainment cannot exist without the presentation & codification of publicity

therefore, democracy cannot exist without publicity 


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the democracy/publicity binity will be called democraty
art under democraty will be referred to as artblicity