terça-feira, março 27, 2018

Superstrings vs. The Brain: "Incognito - The Secret Lives of the Brain" by David Eagleman



"Experimentation and transformation in both art and science spring from the same root - to understand, to encapsulate the world. This is why I've ever found reductionism (and scientism) drearily limiting and worthily pompous - that utilitarian speculation over what art 'is for', that misapprehension of art as a kind of elaborate trickery, only readable in the light of neuroscience or physics. The best writers of fiction, artists, composers and scientists are, I've long felt, the ones who see the 'divide' as porous, and are open to findings in both great spheres of endeavour and experimentation."

In "Incognito: The Secret Lives of the Brain" by David Eagleman


I've experienced significant creative leaps in shorter timelines than 4 weeks I think because over many years I've become increasingly adept at recognising and leveraging useful elements and catalysts. However I also agree that deep, long-term immersion in a creative problem, descending into disillusion and the chaotic abyss and then often out of failure or accident finding a new path based on hard won knowledge and insight - is where real invention and deeper epiphanies reside. The first time I experienced the creative process at this depth was after months of investigation and it was life changing - not in terms of the creative result so much but because of my first hand experience of the creative journey itself. Sometimes, even Steven King takes thirty years to write a book. Often only a year or two. Sometimes he manages to pop one out in a couple of weeks. Some of his best-loved stories came about that way, inspired by events that would hardly be remarked upon by someone trained out of their natural creative instincts. Odd-beat thing happens, go home, drink a lot, do some cooking, and write compulsively until story done in a fortnight. It takes dedication. Temporarily obliterating the mind in the best of Hunter S. Thompson style is by no means a mandatory requirement, but Steven King shows us that for certain kinds of unputdownable stories it may play a key, amplifying part. And no one should be complaining.

I think anyone inspired to creativity through writing (rather than musical or dance languages, say), even Steven King himself, has to marvel in disbelief at the output of Isaac Asimov. He was a total Boss.

Witten aptly writes about consciousness in a way I absolutely can't. He distinguishes the brain's working from consciousness itself, so it's worth listening to Witten on this:

Witten: "Consciousness … I tend to believe that consciousness will be a mystery."

Q "Remain a mystery?"

Witten: "Yes, that’s what I tend to believe. That’s what I tend to believe. I tend to think that the workings of the conscious brain will be elucidated to a large extent, so I tend to believe that biologists and perhaps physicists contributing will understand much better how the brain works but why something that we call consciousness goes with those workings, I think will remain mysterious, perhaps I’m mistaken. I’ll have a much easier time imagining how we’d understand the Big Bang, though we can’t do it now, than I can imagine understanding consciousness."

Q: "Understanding superstring is easy compared to understanding how your brains are working…"

Witten: "When you say understanding how the brain is working, um, I think understanding the functioning of the brain is a very exciting problem on which there will probably be a lot of progress in the next few decades, that’s not out of reach. But I think there’s probably a level of mystery that will remain about why the brain has functionings we can see. Um, it creates consciousness or whatever we want to call it. How it functions in the way that a conscious being functions will become clearer but what it is we are experiencing when we experience consciousness I see as being remaining a mystery."


This is an interesting area and Eagleman's take on the nature of consciousness, AI, and creativity is quite impressive. Purely anecdotally, as someone who spends about half my working time in highly focused logical pursuits (IT) and the other half in the creative domain (Creating/Making Stuff), I sometimes find that spending a lot of time in one domain can have an adverse effect on the other, if only for a short time. It's not quite as simple as that of course. There is creativity involved in the IT work and any art is typically a combination of creativity and practical application.

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