True Environmental, Financial and Cultural Sustainability

There seem to be two main uses of the term sustainability: environmental and financial. Since I am a touch of an idealist I think of sustainability in a broad scope. For something to be sustainable it has to be sustainable forever (or at least for the foreseeable future).

Environmental sustainability should be reserved for practises that stop future destruction of the environment, including biodiversity, even if every person on earth follows that practise. According to this definition, the use of oil for propulsion is not sustainable, nor is the consumption of animals for food. In short, the lifestyle of the average person in the “developed” world is not sustainable. This lifestyle has become the benchmark with which other nations measure their success. How can we expect them to lower their impact on the environment when we have had the benefit of 100+ years of unsustainable practises? Why should the emerging world not experience the kind of golden age that the first world has? Perhaps our golden age is coming to an end.

Read more

OOP notions for graphic design components.

I over heard some designers on the bus last night talking about having to create 70 designs for the same layout and how much of a pain it was. It reminded me of this idea I had back when I worked on a commercial design project, which was to have image files have a similar structure as OOP classes. Layers in each image could be class members, and therefore a new image derived from that image class would inherent the same layers. New layers could be added, but the changes in the parent layers would automatically be included in child layers. This could also apply to objects in vector files.

But really, I think there just needs to me more computational and generative design tools for these problems, rather than hand constructing each of 70 designs from the same layout…

The ownership of ideas and the “Unoriginal Genius”

The following was inspired by an interview on CBC Radio’s Spark with Marjorie Perloff.

When you write poetry you’re using words you did not invent (though you could) to convey some idea. Likely you also use phrases and sentence structures you did not invent. Further, you may be be using allegory and referring to stories and ideas you also did not invent. So where is the line between repetition and contribution? IP and copyright clearly make the point that a particular arrangement of form may be unique and attributable to one person (or corporation).

Read more

The Big Bang Singularity

If the universe started in a big bang, and the initial singularity had infinite density, then why are there clumps (planets, galaxies, stars, etc.) in the universe? Don’t clumps require a nonuniform distribution? Are infinite density and nonuniform distribution mutually exclusive?

Why scientific knowledge is not the same as Truth

Models always throw away information, and can only ever be approximations:
“Bonini’s paradox: models or simulations that explain the workings of complex systems are seemingly impossible to construct: As a model of a complex system becomes more complete, it becomes less understandable; for it to be more understandable it must be less complete and therefore less accurate. When the model becomes accurate, it is just as difficult to understand as the real-world processes it represents.”

The more we built models the more we realize what those models don’t explain. As knowledge increases, that which is not known also increases:
“Zeno’s paradoxes: “You will never reach point B from point A as you must always get half-way there, and half of the half, and half of that half, and so on…” (This is also a paradox of the infinite)”

(sourced from wikipedia)

The value of science is not in the truth value of its propositions, but in way scientific knowledge reflect how we conceptualize ourselves and our world.

City Planning and Theory of Creativity

I was thinking a few months ago, after seeing a lecture on urban planning, that it would be interesting for a scientist who studies creativity and an urban planner to collaborate. Literally grouping activities and people in such a way as to encourage creative production.

The Universality of 3D?

Seems to me “three dimensions” is simply a mathematical notion, defined as three directions which are separated by 90 degree angles. The 90 degrees mean that these dimensions are independent and that one can vary without effecting the others. This strikes me as a cultural construction, not an insight into reality. Why? Because there are many parallel “directions” in which the properties of objects can vary without effecting the others. What about colour or orientation for example?

I suppose the physicist would say that orientation is reduced to 3 dimensional movement if the object is considered a group of related objects moving through space, and the same for colour as the bouncing of light rays off of objects. So the solution seems to be to break objects into smaller and smaller units (sound familiar?) where these smaller and smaller units have nothing but positions in space and time. Regarding 9 dimensional space, it seems obvious that 9 is the number of dimensions required to satisfy the mathematical models to explain the phenomena in question. So how many dimensions are there really? Well, it depends on the level of abstraction in the model/description.

Free Will

I’ve been quite interested in notions of free will. Rather, I’m more interested in the degree to which choices are made as a result of external factors or internal factors, the latter of which are reducible to external factors in a deterministic, and materialist, world.

There seem to be only two options:
1. All actions result from external forces. The moment of the big bang determined every “choice” we will ever make.

2. Actions are the result of “random” and unpredictable interactions.

#2 does not make sense in a deterministic world anyhow, since it too would simply be the result of initial conditions.

Seems the only escape is to reject determinism, that gives us randomness, but what about free will? Maybe we must reject materialism also. There is also this old paper I wrote musing about signal, noise and consciousness:

Tools Made From Tools.

There is much discussion on the creative power of making your own tools, but what are tools made from, but other tools? What does this mean for the apparent increase of freedom in with the increase of depth of knowledge? For example the lower level the language, the more busy work the program needs to do, like managing memory. If you go right down to machine code the whole program appears to do little but manage memory, occluding the high level concept of what this program means and does. What is the appropriate level of abstraction (depth) of description for a particular project? Are some concepts ideally represented in machine code? Are other concepts clearest in OOP, or data-flow languages?

The Cost of Things…

I was just thinking about a conversation I had with Matthew Forsythe during Interactive Screen 1.0, in Banff. I had been thinking a while about the cost of the things we use, I don’t just mean material costs, but also ecological and geological cost. The problem of calculating the cost of a particular product is quite difficult because of the arbitrary horizon (scope) of the calculation.

For example, lets take a pencil, the obvious costs include the wood and graphite, the cost of producing those components could be included. What is the cost of mining the graphite? What about the logging of the wood? What about the people paid to mine and log? What about the equipment needed? Not only that, what about the cost of all the machines used in those processes? What about the machines used to make those machines? We could go even further, what is the cost (in time) of the growth of that wood? What is the geological cost of the production of graphite?

Calculating the “true” cost of anything becomes a problem akin to measuring the length of a coastline. The closer you move the horizon of measurement to “reality” the longer the coastline, and the greater the cost. Perhaps the cost of everything (in infinite quantity) is infinite. The whole history of the universe is required for anything/everything to exist. That is expensive.