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This is a series on the book Gödel, Escher, Bach: An eternal golden braid by Douglas Hofstadter.  

Earlier diaries are here

Today we will discuss Levels of description and computer systems pages 285-309.

If there are computer science experts out there, especially artificial intelligence experts, you  can help.  Musicians can also help with some of this.

From the overview

Various levels of seeing pictures, chessboards and computer systems are discussed.  The last of these is then examined in detail.  This involves describing machine languages, assembly languages, operating systems and so forth.  Then the discussion turns to composite systems of other types, such as sports teams, nuclei, atoms, the weather and so forth.  The question arises as to how many intermediate levels exist - or, indeed, whether any exist.

On p. 285, Hofstadter discusses seeing Shirley MacLaine on TV and ignoring the fact that the image is really pixels.  But if Shirley is acting that's yet another level.  Are pixels laughing? Is Shirley laughing? Or is the character she is playing laughing?  Maybe the author of the script is laughing?  That last sounds silly, but if we quote from a play, we credit the author, not the actors.

Later on 285-286, he notes that the best computer chess player isn't that good.  Times have changed!  The best computer programs are as good or better than any human - and they don't operate purely on look-ahead.

Later on 286, he notes that good human players don't look at every move - two things come to mind.  One is a quote from Jose Capablanca - a world chess champion and perhaps the best player ever.  He was asked how many moves he looked at before deciding, and he said "only one move - the right move".   But it can't be as simple as Hofstadter makes out, because sometimes the best move violates the principles.  No one who has played for a while looks at illegal moves .... but the best players sometimes find moves that seem totally wrong, but are brilliant.

There follows a long section on computers - can any computer expert out there comment on how this has changed?

On p 290, Hofstadter describes the excitement felt by the first computer programmers, who had to hard wire each problem.  This is brilliantly described in the novel Cryptonomicon which I recommend.

On p. 294, he describes briefly how kids learn language.  When my nephew was learning to speak, he would wander around, pointing at things, and saying "Ot's dis, mommy?".  For a long time, he used only 6 words: Mommy, Daddy, up, food, and "ot's dis".  Then he went to full sentences.

On p. 295, he talks about error messages.  These are still very confusing!

On p. 297, Hofstadter mentions how, in human speech, our message usually gets through, even with improper syntax; this doesn't often happen with computers!  But another thing that happens with humans and computers is that the message gets part-way through.  That is, the person you are talking to seems to understand, but doesn't.  Or, the computer program runs with no errors, but does the wrong thing.

I'm curious as to the current state of AI research, discussed in lots of places in this chapter, e.g. pages 298-299.  

And I'd like a musician's input on the ideas expressed on the bottom of p 299 - that different scales have different emotional content, and that enharmonic keys can feel differently.  What about transposition? If you transpose a piece, or a song, into a different key, do the emotions change?

On p. 301 ... I wonder what Hofstadter thinks of modern word processing and publishing?  Especially a tool like LaTeX?

On p. 302 he talks about the flexibility of our minds.  But can we make ourselves think differently?  If so, how come we aren't all really smart?

Originally posted to plf515 on Sun Apr 05, 2009 at 03:19 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

    •  Not a professional musician, but (7+ / 0-)

      I was raised in a musical household and play several different instruments. So, from my amateur-musician perspective I can tell you that YES, different scales have different emotional tones! And it does make a difference when you are transposing a piece of music; I describe it as some keys sound "brighter" than others.

      There is a distinct difference between major and minor keys, as well. We tend to hear songs written in minor keys as sad, dark or eerie.

      Does this book talk about the "formula" for Western music major scale? I would be interested to see how that relates.

      There is a local college course with the same name that sounds interesting. I didn't realize that this information was contained in just one book!

      •  Major vs. minor (7+ / 0-)

        is pretty clear, even to me.  But I don't hear a difference between (say) C major and G major.  

        As to E-flat being different from D-sharp - I don't see how that can happen!

        •  I'm not sure where the difference lies (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Ahianne, Nova Land, plf515

          but I do know that when I'm transposing (via capo on my guitar) a song to get it into a good voice-range for me that some keys just don't work. I can hear the original key of the song and the one that I'm transposing to has to 'fit' with the flavor of the song. Sorry I can't be more technical about it...I just know that my ear definitely detects a difference!

          And E-flat and D-sharp are the same pitch, but they need to be referred to differently in different scales in order to maintain consistent notation for key signatures and such. It would be too confusing to have a piece of music with flats AND sharps in the basic key signature!

        •  Certain composers have claimed (7+ / 0-)

          to be synesthetes, and associated different colors with different major keys: yellow for C, blue for Eb, etc.  I'm a bit skeptical of that myself, although I can definitely hear a change if you transpose a song into the 'wrong' key.  The problem is that you can go deeper or higher in pitch when transposing to the same key (e.g. starting from C can go down to F# or up to F#, and it's the same 'distance'), and I don't have perfect pitch so I hear everything relatively.

          The enharmonic thing is a little trickier, because some instruments are perfectly enharmonic (there are no separate piano keys for Db and C#), while some are approximate (there are no frets on a violin) and it's conceivable that there's an almost incalculably small difference between the two notes.  In contect enharmonic notes can sound different, so a C# leading tone might sound different than a Db that's the 7th of a chord.

          Saint, n. A dead sinner revised and edited. - Ambrose Bierce

          by pico on Sun Apr 05, 2009 at 05:38:35 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Randy Newman pointed out (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          plf515, Neon Vincent

          that when Joe Cocker changed the key of "You Can Leave Your Hat On" he drastically changed the tone of the narrator from sleazy suggestion to a lurid demand. I agree. Keys matter. I'm sure a little research would turn up a great many examples. One interesting fact, doorbells, alarms and old fashioned telephone ringers and beepers were usually in B flat. That tone had an emotional impact on those that heard it. Still does.

          Fox is to News what Professional Wrestling is to Sports

          by kitebro on Sun Apr 05, 2009 at 08:45:25 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  Garrison Keillor... (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          plf515, Neon Vincent

 an appearance here in Seattle on a book tour, claimed that the Star-Spangled Banner is just about always performed in keys that are really difficult for anyone with "normal" vocal range to sing.  He had a pianist with him (or maybe got one to come on stage), and asked him to transpose it into a different key while the audience sang along.

          Lo and behold, it really was much easier to sing, with little or no strain at the top or bottom of the tune's range.  It was quite amazing.

          I don't have a clue what the "right" and "easy" keys were.  But there was a huge difference.

          grok the "edku" -- edscan's "revelation", 21 January 2009

          by N in Seattle on Sun Apr 05, 2009 at 12:02:01 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

        •  you won't hear the difference between (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          pico, plf515, Neon Vincent

          E-flat and D# on a keyboard instrument. You need something where intonation is an issue, like voice, winds, fretless strings, etc.

      •  a couple of factors (7+ / 0-)

        One factor is absolute pitch vs. relative pitch. Most people don't perceive absolute pitch ("perfect pitch"), but that capability is somewhat more common among musicians than the populace at large.

        Another factor, and one that I suspect is much more involved with difference in how different keys sound, is resonances in musical instruments. Almost all acoustic instruments produce much more sound at certain frequencies that at others. It could make a big difference to the effect of a certain key if one of the loudest resonances of your instrument is, say,  the fundamental vs. the major third.

        •  OK, I knew a little about overtones (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Ahianne, Nova Land, pico

          but I didn't realize that the overtones vary by the fundamental - I know they vary between instruments.  But in relative pitch, aren't the overtones the same from one note to another?

          •  resonances are absolute frequencies (4+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Ahianne, pico, plf515, Neon Vincent

            The resonances of an instrument are a consequence of their physical construction, including the dimensions of their elements. Any overtones of a note that fall near those resonant frequencies will be louder.

          •  Overtone patterns (4+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            nota bene, pico, plf515, Neon Vincent

            The overtone pattern is not completely uniform across the entire range of any instrument, and for some instruments the variation is considerable-- this is one of the charms of single-reed instruments (e.g., clarinet, saxophone) as well as the human voice.

            And you also have to factor in the properties of the human ear. Very high notes have many of their overtones outside the range of normal human hearing. Conversely, very low notes have too many overtones in the range of our greatest hearing acuity.

  •  'If so, how come we aren't all really smart?' (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    plf515, mamamorgaine

    Maybe we are?

    "After two years of episodic fits and starts, I finally got past the first three paragraphs."

    by GussieFN on Sun Apr 05, 2009 at 03:54:15 AM PDT

  •  can't follow today, do appreciate nt (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    plf515, davespicer, mamamorgaine
  •  Whazzat? (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ahianne, Nova Land, plf515

    This was my daughter's first word for a long while because it produced a different response every time she said it. Very useful! Then when learning to read she refused to sound out the words and wanted to be told "what word is that". She had a sight-word vocabulary of over 200 words by the age of four. But at 11 years old she still has difficulty sounding out new words!

  •  Funnily enough (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Dave in RI, plf515, Neon Vincent

    With the information overload in our society it looks like we are getting smarter. Gaining 3 IQ points on average per decade. Maybe its because we have to make choices what information is important to us to make decisions.

    I'll be more enthusiastic about encouraging thinking outside the box when there's evidence of any thinking going on inside it.~Terry Pratchett [-4.88. -6.97]

    by LaFeminista on Sun Apr 05, 2009 at 04:07:15 AM PDT

  •  Kukla, Fran and Ollie - on language (7+ / 0-)

    In the early sixties, there was a children's TV program that ran every afternoon in five minute segments.  Kukla and Ollie were puppets and Fran was a middle aged woman who had conversations with the other two characters.  Ollie made the brilliant discovery of how to translate the language of dolphins.  He finally got a dolphin, put it in the bathtub and recorded the sounds it made.  His discovery was that dolphins speak in 331/3 speed, but we hear it as 78 speed.  So, Ollie put the record on the record player, slowed it down to 331/3 and the dolphin said "Bonsais Monsieur."  A French dolphin...

    •  George C. Scott discovered that, too. (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Nova Land, plf515, JFinNe, Neon Vincent

       And the results weren't always so good, you know.


      p.s. - don't you mean a French Daulphin?  ;0)

      "Unseen, in the background, Fate was quietly slipping the lead into the boxing-glove." -- P.G. Wodehouse (via Bertie Wooster)

      by BenGoshi on Sun Apr 05, 2009 at 04:15:31 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Another 'On language' (5+ / 0-)

      One of my little boys around age three was fascinated by a Spanish teaching program and he watched diligently every day.  The teacher spoke only in Spanish.  One day, the teacher held up a pistol and said "La pistola, la pistola," then gestured towards himself and said "Rrrrepeatan, Rrrrepeatan, estudiento."  My little boy would Rrrreapeatan, "the gun, the gun." (Please ignore or correct Spanish misspellings.)

      He always answered in English so I could never figure out why he was so interested in hearing it in Spanish, but it sure gave me a lot of laughs.

  •  This series -- always rec'd when I see it. (5+ / 0-)

     And as I say, I'm a fan of truly bright people.

     Would that this diary take the place of at least one piece of drek currently on The List (that, ironically, is a ranting, humorless, explosion of sneering put-downs about diaries that don't deserve to be on The List).  

     Time to put the coffee on.

     Thanks for this.


    "Unseen, in the background, Fate was quietly slipping the lead into the boxing-glove." -- P.G. Wodehouse (via Bertie Wooster)

    by BenGoshi on Sun Apr 05, 2009 at 04:12:41 AM PDT

  •  Abstraction (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    nota bene, plf515, Neon Vincent

    Abstraction is an innate skill and should be developed.  Mathematics mostly works within the abstraction and on occasion something meaningful to reality pops out and an airplane flies.  The arts bring a purposeful interpretation of an abstraction to reality which is then abstracted by those who consume it.  For clarification, music is not the instrument or voice, nor is the paint and canvas the scene.  And what you are reading is not exactly what I mean.

    We all abstract reality because we have limited processing ability and inputs.  With effective abstraction, complex systems become simplified and useful.  We don't calculate air-fuel ratios for our cars, nor do we concern ourselves with what goes on when we click a URL.  Each layer of abstraction on computers increased their usefulness and our understanding.  In this sense, the order of abstraction appearance is our history of understanding.

  •  Different Scales and Modes, Absolutely (9+ / 0-)

    Not just major and minor, but modes. The popular modality of much 60's music especially British Invasion was "mixolydian" which is the same as the familiar do-re-mi "major" mode, except that the last note (ti) is flattened into the minor key. The Monkees' "Last Train to Clarksville" and the Beatles' "Paperback Writer" have sections that are in the mixolydian mode. Lots of American folk and its ancestral Celtic music use this mode.

    Rewrite those songs in a common major key, or minor key, and everyone can tell the difference.

    With hip-hop and other contemporary music, there are different modes that have been popularized. I don't follow it, but I hear a lot of flatted 6ths for example and some flatted 2nds which remind me of Middle Eastern influence.

    But setting musical pieces into different keys, while keeping the same modality? As a lifelong musician I don't believe most people will find any emotional difference, even most of the few who can tell it's in a different key.

    Now, does the identical modality of say the ordinary major scale of "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" have a different feel if we play it in the key of C Major compared to say E Major?

    To me as a lifelong musician, absolutely not, and so I suspect also it has no effect on the vast majority of listeners. But to many especially with perfect pitch or a pitch sense that's very close, it does make a difference.

    "Enharmonic" is a technical term that refers to a very subtle artifact of fine details of tuning of classical instruments developed by Bach. We're talking barely 1% frequency difference in many cases.

    In order to allow classical instruments to play pieces in all different musical keys while having the scales sound essentially the same, Bach (I believe) discovered that we had to tune the 5th note of the major scale ("sol") very slightly flat so that in playing the 1st and the 5th notes together, there is a slow wa-wa effect of around 3 beats per second for the piano tuner setting up the middle octave, if I recall.

    This creates an "equal tempered" scale, and is a topic of great intensity to some musicologists and others who work with it. Anyway, it allows you to force the note C# to have the same identical frequency as D-flat, which would not be the case if all the notes were tuned to exact perfection.

    "Enharmonic" according to wiki is this artificial equivalence of C# with D-flat.

    But if you tuned a piano to absolute perfection starting for example in the key of C, you would find it hideous to transpose tunes into most other keys, because when you start on every note other than C, the relative intervals will be noticeably off, and the harmonies will all ring or beat annoyingly.

    The only way to allow transposition into all 12 keys that are recognized in western music is to force the 5th note to be very slighly flat, which also results in the 3rd and 6th major key notes being sharp. But these errors are identical in all 12 keys so most people grow up accustomed to them these days.

    In solo instruments, and in conventional music, it's basically not detectable.

    But it is a big deal in certain kinds of music where particular harmonies accentuate it. Barbershop quartet harmony, and the wildness of various ethnic instruments like bagpipes that use a drone, will sound really bad (or for many listeners, "worse") if they use the classical equal-tempered tuning.

    The more natural tuning or intonation does give those styles and instruments a significant emotional effect. Personally I'm more inclined to pan the classical equal temperament and regard the other tunings (there are MANY) as normal or natural.

    But relating this to intellectual mind or philosophies etc. seems to me --and I live with this stuff as the fabric of my emotional life-- totally pointless.

    Music is nothing more than speech-play. If we look at all the leading-voice instruments around the world of classical and folk: violins, flutes, trumpets, bells, bagpipes, electric guitars, saxes, you name it --basically, they're all baby-machines. Mainly we build machines that speak like babies, and we back them up with simple supporting lines from machines that sound like men, women and heartbeats.

    Even though music is my main passion, it seems to me possible to over-think the intellectuality of music.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Sun Apr 05, 2009 at 06:44:53 AM PDT

    •  Equal temperament is interesting (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      nota bene, Ahianne, Neon Vincent

      and is necessary because the twelfth root of two doesn't mesh exactly with the 5th root of 1.5.  That is, if you divide an octave into 12 intervals, each has to be 1.05946 times the previous to make the octave double.  But this doesn't work out evenly for the fourth or fifth or any other tones.


      1.498 is not 1.5
      1.33484 is not 1.3333

      •  put another way (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        plf515, Neon Vincent

        if we start with a frequency (say A=440Hz) and double it (go up an octave) seven times, we end up at 56,320 (way, way out of audible range, but we don't need to worry about that now). If we start at 440 and go up by fifths (instead of multiplying by two, we multiply by 1.5) 12 times, we get 57,088.388..., which is close to 56,320, but not nearly close enough.

        Turns out that without ET, the circle of fifths is really more like a spiral, or actually more like this. (That picture makes my head hurt...)

    •  Don't get hung up on "keys." (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Dave in RI, plf515, Neon Vincent, budr
      1. The score is not the piece of music.

      Gregory Bateson called this "eating the menu instead of the dinner." Mistaking metaphor for reality is what he called "an error of logical type." Just because X maps to Y through some transformation does not mean that X is Y.

      1. "Keys" are simply artifacts of equal-tempered tuning, which is a Western convention for classical music.


      Not just major and minor, but modes. The popular modality of much 60's music especially British Invasion was "mixolydian" which is the same as the familiar do-re-mi "major" mode, except that the last note (ti) is flattened into the minor key. The Monkees' "Last Train to Clarksville" and the Beatles' "Paperback Writer" have sections that are in the mixolydian mode. Lots of American folk and its ancestral Celtic music use this mode.

      Rewrite those songs in a common major key, or minor key, and everyone can tell the difference.

      Well, all this means is that there are more "modes" than there are Western classical keys to easily express them.

      You can't "rewrite" a modal song -- that is, the sung/played performance -- into a "major" or "minor" key, by definition. You can find a key signature that's close  and use flats and sharps as "accidentals" to express the original song; you can try fooling someone by removing the accidentals and having them play it. But that's NOT "rewriting the song" -- it's distorting the representation contained in the score.

      Sign me: Music Degree'd Electronic Music Composin' Punk Rocker from the Old School Analog Days.

    •  temperament (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      plf515, Neon Vincent

      is one of those things I almost wish I'd never gotten intrigued by. Like legislation and sausage, most people are probably better off being ignorant of the totally inelegant mathematics underlying the study of temperaments.

  •  My two cents' on the characters of different keys (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Ahianne, plf515, Neon Vincent

    Under earlier intonation systems (e.g., mean-tone temperament), different keys would have different innate characters as pitch relationships are not completely symmetrical. Under equal temperament (which has been in general use since the late 18th century), these asymmetries are eliminated.

    What remains is the fact that the different functions of the scale (e.g., tonic, dominant, mediant, et al.) are higher or lower in different keys. And there's no doubt that composers choose different keys at least in part according to where these key notes sit in the registers of the various instruments/voices being composed for. For example the duet from the Prologue of Götterdämmerung is undoubtedly written to give the soprano a high C at the end. And I'm not a big fan of transposing songs for similar reasons. Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and Christa Ludwig did a recording of Wolf's Italienishces Liederbuch sometime in the 80's. They're two of my favorite singers, but they're lower voices to begin with and this was late in their careers so the downward transpositions that they needed to take gave the whole collection a dark quality that is quite at odds with the emotional character of this brilliant set.

    That said, I'm skeptical of assigning an innate emotional character to specific keys. That doesn't mean that keys don't have traditional emotional associations that composers may draw on.

  •  you've got email... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    plf515, Neon Vincent

    thanks for being patient.

    "The cure for bullshit is fieldwork."
    --Robert Bates, Department of Government; Harvard University

    by papicek on Sun Apr 05, 2009 at 09:13:43 AM PDT

  •  Keys and mood (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Dave in RI, pico, plf515, Neon Vincent

    ...different scales have different emotional content...

    I've given some thought to this over the years. There is the blanket statement that "minor keys sound sad, and major keys sound happy." This isn't always true, but it generally is. On the other hand, the majority of the Beatles' "She's Leaving Home" is in a major key, with mostly major chords. The Doors' "Light My Fire" is largely minor, with the chorus being major.

    Most of us would say that "She's Leaving Home" is sad, or at least poignant. "Light My Fire" is a celebration of lust or love, and so most people would equate the mood as happy. There are other emotions apart from mere happiness or sadness though. Mystery and yearning can be expressed with minor scales and chords; despair or even outright anger can be expressed using happy-sounding chords.

    One of my favorite songs is "Gaucho" by Steely Dan. The song sounds like an early 1980s television commercial, and yet the narrator of the piece is ripping apart his subject. Lines like "you're a nasty schoolboy with no place to go / try again tomorrow" are downright mean -- and the whole time the ebullient underpinning of music is actually comical.

    and that enharmonic keys can feel differently

    I assume that you mean: ...keys can feel different. Yes, this is true, but mostly for the player of a song, and typically moreso for instrumentalists than for vocalists. Now, if seeing the notes on a page represented differently as they would be when changing key signatures (say, from D-flat to C-sharp) then this could potentially affect an entire performance, by a soloist or a group.

    What about transposition? If you transpose a piece, or a song, into a different key, do the emotions change?

    It is theoretically possible that changing the key signature can affect the outcome of its perception. The question can be best-answered by listening to the same song played by two different artists. However, unless you hear the two versions one after another, a skilled producer and artist or group can mask the impact of such a key change.

    For instance, listen to "Like a Virgin" by Madonna, and then listen to Weird Al Yankovic's "Like a Surgeon." Yankovic had to transpose the song to fit his vocal range, but most people would still recognize the song, and would in their minds order all of the scales and chords to correspond with the original.

    The one group of people who might have difficulty with this is that populated by those with perfect pitch. Such people are total freaks, and should never be paid attention to. (I'm really just being extremely sarcastic here.) But I have a tough time understanding perfect pitch myself, and although I have excellent relative pitch, I would hate to have to recognize frequencies. It would drive me absolutely nuts to have to endure, for example, hearing Anthony Keidis on "Under the Bridge." I can deal with it only because his lack of pitch correctness only bothers me a little bit.

    About me

    I've played piano for over 25 years, and have sung for about thirty years. I have composed about 500 songs over the last twenty years, and have a degree in music business. I am an expert in MIDI and computer sequencing, and have written technical manuals for music software and hardware, including Kurzweil and Cakewalk products.

    Remember -- this election was NEVER about Obama -- it was about YOU.

    by SammyJames on Sun Apr 05, 2009 at 09:16:39 AM PDT

    •  Gaucho ... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      plf515, Neon Vincent

      ... one of my favorites, too. (Whole album, actually.) Found your observation about the disconnect between its tune and lyrics interesting. I think the effect of that disconnect enhances the message's tone, which is sarcastic, scolding, mocking.  

      •  That album is great. (0+ / 0-)

        I miss it. I used to own it on CD, but I lost it somewhere along the way. I might try to find it at a used CD store sometime.

        Steely Dan,and that album in particular, are often overlooked. The production on that disc, by the way, was realized by a former nuclear power plant engineer, Roger Nichols. He also used a mainframe computer to analyze the drummer's playing, and then using the input to play back samples (!!!) of drums. This was back in 1980-81, close to thirty years before Celemony Melodyne revolutionized music by letting you do the same thing with a PC.

        Wonders will never cease.

        Remember -- this election was NEVER about Obama -- it was about YOU.

        by SammyJames on Tue Apr 07, 2009 at 09:59:03 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  - On Intelligence - (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    plf515, Neon Vincent

    I read a book a few years ago, "On Intelligence" ... which postulated that our brain is a "hierarchical" database/machine .... I would disagree, and say that it is a "Relational" database/machine ... we identify relationships between bits of data .... and hierarchy might be one type of "relationship" but it is hardly the only one ... Also, of note, is the observation that brain-memory-cells store all memory/sensory input identically ... ie, an imaginary memory and a sound memory and a smell memory are all identical, as far as the brain-cells are concerned.

    How about this question ....

    Is there a consciousness that pervades the net?

    I must confess to you all that I (all-too-often) seriously get the distinct impression that there is ...

    What is the meaning/significance of the profound and strangely numerous occurrences of uncanny synchronicity that seem to permeate ... but this is hardly limited to the net, eh? Hmmm ....

    Has anyone read Heinlein's The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress?

    And, speaking of AI ...

    Who's a fan of TSCC - Terminator: Sarah Conner Chronicles

    Dudes/Dudettes ... if you're not, you should be, it's the best show on TV today !

    ~we study the old to understand the new~from one thing know ten thousand~to see things truly one must see what is in the light and what lies hidden in shadow~

    by ArthurPoet on Sun Apr 05, 2009 at 10:07:09 AM PDT

  •  ~ On 'smarts' .... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    nota bene, plf515

    On p. 302 he talks about the flexibility of our minds.  But can we make ourselves think differently?  If so, how come we aren't all really smart?

    You see, the flaw with this question, is that it is based upon a fundamentally incorrect notion, which is exemplified by .... the unspoken/assumed/presumed premise ... (which is, that we all agree upon) ...

    ... WHAT IS SMART?

    I mean .... there are various and virtually infinite types of "smart" .... so, I assert, we ARE ALL smart, in one way, or another ... it just takes a certain type of smarts to be able to see and recognize another type of "smart" ...

    See ... aint I smart, mom, for seeing this?

    ~we study the old to understand the new~from one thing know ten thousand~to see things truly one must see what is in the light and what lies hidden in shadow~

    by ArthurPoet on Sun Apr 05, 2009 at 10:20:33 AM PDT

    •  This is one subject I know something about (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      nota bene, Maudlin, ArthurPoet

      since my PhD is in psychometrics.

      But, when it comes to defining "intelligence" there is very little agreement.  There isn't even agreement on whether it is one thing, or multiple things; and, among those who think it is multiple things, there is disagreement as to how many, and what they are.

      However, there are two ways (at least two!) to make this more precise.  Wouldn't people in a particular field want to be 'smarter' at it?  Wouldn't physicists want to be more like Feynman or Einstein than they are?  Wouldn't a musician want to be more like Mozart?

      The other way is to note that IQ, for all its faults (and it's got faults!) does seem to correlate, roughly, with what most people seem to think of as 'smart'.  

      •  I'd rather be more like Bach. (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        plf515, ArthurPoet

        Wouldn't a musician want to be more like Mozart?

        Both were musical geniuses, but Bach was a master of both melody and harmony, especially considering the constraints on musical composition at the time.

        A fool and your money are soon partying.

        by Maudlin on Sun Apr 05, 2009 at 01:00:30 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Even this ... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        does not, from my perspective, have any real "universal" default standard to compare ...

        However, there are two ways (at least two!) to make this more precise.  Wouldn't people in a particular field want to be 'smarter' at it?  Wouldn't physicists want to be more like Feynman or Einstein than they are?  Wouldn't a musician want to be more like Mozart?

        Because, all "fields" are arbitrary distinctions ... and as much as many/most might revere Feynman or Einstein, these figures are transitory/arbitrary ... I honestly see zero standards as having any credence whatsoever, other than, as people's personal subjective preference ... without any universality at all ... for numerous reasons, not the least of which, just because someone thinks they "want" to be a thing in a field, does not mean that this is actually where their true passion --> brilliance --> genius lies ...

        ~we study the old to understand the new~from one thing know ten thousand~to see things truly one must see what is in the light and what lies hidden in shadow~

        by ArthurPoet on Sun Apr 05, 2009 at 01:21:04 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  I happen to have been blessed with perfect pitch, (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    so hearing a tune I'm used to hearing in a particular key played in another key would bother me.  For example, I would know if McCartney sang Michelle a half step up from the original, and it just wouldn't feel right.  As another example, playing Beethoven's Eroica Symphony in F (or any other key) as opposed to E flat would be plain wrong.

    From what I can remember from a modal counterpoint class taken many moons ago, composers used different modes to evoke different emotions.  All I can remember, though, is that Dorian mode was used to put people in a fightin'mood.  Modes, however, are different from transpositions in that each mode has its unique pattern of half steps and whole steps between notes.

    Sorry I haven't read the book, so I can't give a more informed opinion.

    A fool and your money are soon partying.

    by Maudlin on Sun Apr 05, 2009 at 10:23:00 AM PDT

  •  A Frenchman,Greek&Pollack are sittng in heaven... (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Dave in RI, plf515

    And the Frenchman says ...
    "What do you think is the most important invention or discovery for humanity?

    "Do you think it is fire?"

    And then he offers ...
    "I think it is WINE, the elixir of life's pleasures!"

    And the Greek guy says ....
    "Come on, you are obviously WRONG, the most important invention for mankind is THE WHEEL, obviously!"

    And the Pollock says ...
    "You are BOTH WRONG, the most important invention for humanity is THE THERMOS!"

    And the Frenchman and the Greek look at the Pollack quizzically ....

    "Well," the Pollock says ...
    "When you put hot water in it, it stays hot!"

    They respond ... "Okay .... ?"

    "And when you put cold water in it, it stays cold?"

    They respond ... "Okay .... ?"

    And then the Pollock says ...
    "Well ... HOW DOES IT KNOW?"

    ~we study the old to understand the new~from one thing know ten thousand~to see things truly one must see what is in the light and what lies hidden in shadow~

    by ArthurPoet on Sun Apr 05, 2009 at 10:38:59 AM PDT

    •  A very good friend of mine... (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      plf515, ArthurPoet

      ... now deceased, told me this one years ago. Didn't include the nationalities, though.

      •  Well, being 1/4 Polish, myself ... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        ... I figure I can repeat it, the way I heard it ... since I never took offense whenever I heard Polish jokes growing up in NYC ~

        I most certainly don't mean any offense (to my grandmother) or one of my best friends, who is 100% Polish. But, now that you mention this, I might amend the version the next time I tell it, or if I am in mixed company, and there are Polish people present, I might just ... tell it slowly! :P

        ~we study the old to understand the new~from one thing know ten thousand~to see things truly one must see what is in the light and what lies hidden in shadow~

        by ArthurPoet on Sun Apr 05, 2009 at 11:31:55 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Sorry to hear about your friend's passing. n/t (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        ~we study the old to understand the new~from one thing know ten thousand~to see things truly one must see what is in the light and what lies hidden in shadow~

        by ArthurPoet on Sun Apr 05, 2009 at 11:32:31 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Brain function and lies (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    This chapter brought to mind this application for looking at human language at a lower level. I wonder if this approach to lie detection will be much more accurate than the old sweat/blood pressure method. Seems that too much goes into making a lie -- intent, knowledge of subject, understanding of others' knowledge of subject, etc.   -- to allow a direct mapping between deceptive words and brain activity. Other confusing inputs can include misunderstandings, different definitions of what a lie is, different opinions about the importance of a lie, and so on.    

  •  re: scales (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Maudlin, pico, plf515

    Programming in different languages is like composing pieces in different keys, particularly if you work at the keyboard. If you have learned or written pieces in many keys, each key will have its own special emotional aura. Also, certain kinds of figurations "lie in the hand" in one key but are awkward in another. So you are channeled by your choice of key. In some ways, even enharmonic keys, such as C-sharp and D-flat, are quite distinct in feeling. This shows how a notational system can play a significant role in shaping the final product.

    Oh man. That's why I love this book, there's so much to unpack in every paragraph.

    It's believed that, in the days before equal temperament became near-universal in Western music (which contrary to popular belief was after Bach's time), different keys were regarded as having different characters than others. Naturally, nobody agreed on which was specifically happiest or saddest or whatever. And the choice of key may have been influenced by the instruments being used, which would have responded to different patterns of frequencies idiosyncratically. (As you can guess, this is a huge subject in musicology.)

    Now that we have equal temperament (ET), where the errors in the circle of fifths are equally distributed among all keys, most people are unlikely to hear different keys as having specifically different characters. If I play a tune in E Major, and then play the same tune in A Major, you'll hear a difference in timbre because the notes themselves will be transposed up or down, but any expressive difference will likely be a matter of subtlety and not a change from one emotion to a wholly different one.

    That being said, different scales definitely have different characters. (A scale is a general pattern of intervals, like major or minor. A key is a specific scale that begins and ends in a specific place. Looking at your computer keyboard for a moment, a key would be A-S-E-F-G-Y-J. A scale would be the pattern of distances between those buttons, which could be "transposed" to a different starting point, for example Z-X-D-V-B-H-N. Extending the analogy, the QWERTY keyboard would be equal temperament....)

    Anyway, major scales generally sound happy, minor scales generally sound dark. The other scales most commonly used are derived from medieval church modes, in turn derived (not terribly well) from Greek sources. They show up a lot in rock music and in modern practice, they're used just like alterations of the major and minor system. (Phrygian is darker than minor and shows up in metal a lot, Dorian is somewhat lighter than minor since it has a major IV chord, Mixolydian is a mellower major, and Lydian is sort of more-major-than-major because it has a fourth degree raised by a step. The verses of the REM song "Man on the Moon"--where he's singing yeah yeah yeah--go back and forth between major I and major II, which is the characteristic sound of Lydian.)

    So yes, your choice of key is crucial. Hofstadter attributes this to notation, but I would say that it's rather about symmetry but that's not to say that Hofstadter is wrong to bring up notation in that context.

    Re: "lie in the hand"--musicians must acquire muscle memory to perform technically difficult music, which is why learning an instrument takes so damn long. I usually describe this to people as walking in thru your front door in the dark, setting down your things on a table you can't see but know is there, and reflexively flipping the light switch without thinking about it. This is based on memory alone and not our usual visual references. Simiarly, a good musician ought to be able to play his instrument with his eyes closed. And yes, some patterns that would be awkward in one key are natural in another. For example, striking DM7--D-F#-A-C#--with one hand on a keyboard requires a lot more hand tension than CM7--C-E-G-B. Same pattern, different articulation. By analogy, singers sometimes choose to transpose tunes to a different key--higher or lower, depending--in order to make the song fit more naturally within their range.

    As for enharmonic keys sounding different, well....that all depends on the instrument. On the keyboard, not really. On a wind instrument, a fretless stringed instrument, or a voice, sometimes it can make a difference.

    Hopefully that made things simpler and not more complicated.... ;)

    •  left out something (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Maudlin, pico, plf515

      re: "errors in the circle of fifths"--the fact that (3/2)^12 almost but doesn't quite equal 2^7 has been a source of unending woe and confusion to musicians and composers for centuries.

      Put another way, seven octaves do not precisely equal twelve fifths. (An octave is the frequency ratio 2 to 1; a fifth is the ratio 3 to 2.)

      Equal temperament lets us stop worrying about all that crap and get back to making music by spreading that error around to all intervals equally, so that it never stands out. The drawback is that every interval is slightly out of tune, but anybody brought up in a culture that uses ET doesn't notice.

  •  One of the most difficult things for an AI ... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    ... to do, is to determine a qualitative value judgments ~

    Is position A better than position B?

    Now, if there are quantitative deterministic characteristics that can be weighed, the AI computer can produce a judgment, but all too often, in real life, this is difficult, or virtually impossible ... and in the chess domain, there are aspects of play that have made this very difficult, without exploring every permutation of a chain/combination of moves ... until the end result is evaluated to determine if it reached a winning conclusion .... a piece advantage, a positional advantage, or a tempo advantage ... but what is "tempo" and the value of pieces can be transcended by positional advantages, or with "Passed Pawns" ... wherein the pawn is suddenly of far greater value, in the end game ... so valuations can change over time .... from one quality to another .... so, this notion of "shifting priorities" is also difficult to incorporate into an AI .... at what point does a priority shift, and how does/can a AI determine when to change its priorities, unless, again, there is a quantitative determinant that the AI can apply ....

    Now, in as far as the broader domain of AI is concerned, outside of a chess board, it is not merely a value judgment of whether A is better than B, one must first be able to correctly determine exactly what A or B really is. I remember reading somewhere that even one of the most sophisticated AI Robotics machines today took about 6 hours to determine that a thing in front of it was a cockroach ... kinda hard for this AI to deal with a threat in the jungle of whether the cockroach is dangerous if it took 6 hours to even know that it was a cockroach to begin with .... but, the correct identification of an item, even if this is achieved with great accuracy and speed, does not equate to the challenge of identifying a qualitative assessment of whether choice/item A is superior to choice/item B ...

    This reminds me of an ancient Chinese proverb ....

    Once upon a time there was this little old man,
    who lived in a hut, in a small village, and the only
    thing of value he owned was a fine black stallion horse,

    and one day the fine black stallion horse ran away, and all
    the village folk came up to the little old man and said,
    "Oh! How bad!"

    and the little old man said,
    "Oh Really!
    What is good?
    And what is bad?
    And how do you know?"

    and then,
    the next day from over the hill came running
    his fine black stallion horse, and following it,
    was a whole herd of horses,

    and they came running all the way into the village
    right up to the little old man's hut and stopped
    right there in front of it,

    and all the village folk came up
    to the little old man and said,
    "Oh! How good!"

    and the little old man replied,
    "Oh Really!
    What is good?
    And what is bad?
    And how do you know?"

    ~we study the old to understand the new~from one thing know ten thousand~to see things truly one must see what is in the light and what lies hidden in shadow~

    by ArthurPoet on Thu Apr 09, 2009 at 11:59:32 AM PDT

    •  They have got chess quite well (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      figured out, at least to the extent that the best programs play better than the best humans.  Not sure if you could ever say they have chess 'solved' in the sense that a simple game like tic-tac-toe can be solved.

      The best Scrabble programs play almost as well as the best humans.  It's very close.

      OTOH, AFAIK, the best go programs are still pretty poor; and there are no good bridge programs.

      •  RE Chess ... my point was, (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        ... that the challenge was in determining a value judgment based upon discrete variables, or a lack there-of, since this is what it could/can not "natively/inherently" do. The early chess programs relied upon a dictionary of known chess games played by chess masters, etc, and certain relatively limited rules, regarding piece exchanges, and some "controlling the center" positional rules, etc ... but to illustrate the weakness, 20 years ago, I had CHESSMASTER2100, and using the less common "English Opening" (wherein it's dictionary of positions/moves was very limited) and resorting to a strategy of piece exchanges, that resulted in me having a "passed pawn" I was able to beat the game 100% of the time, without fail ..... Now, the evolution with "Deep Blue/Deep Thought" was simply the adding of raw processing power that would evaluate every possible/reasonable move/combination ... in other words, the advances in this field were in raw CPU processing power, through massive concurrent multi-processors ... so this was really less about AI, and more about advances in distributed processor technology research.

        ~we study the old to understand the new~from one thing know ten thousand~to see things truly one must see what is in the light and what lies hidden in shadow~

        by ArthurPoet on Fri Apr 10, 2009 at 09:36:17 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

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