Friday, April 18, 2014

The Role of the Artist

The true artist is a painter, and a sculptor, an actor, a singer, a writer of tales, poet, music composer, songwriter and lyricist, a film director, cameraman, set-designer, fashion designer, make-up artist, hair stylist, photographer, sound effects artist, dancer, entrepreneur, cook, gardener, architect, perfumer, comedian, lover, dramatist and engineer.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Perception of the Passage of Time

From Wikipedia:

"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.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Classifications of Art

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

Roux & Cyr

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

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

Evolution Towards Electronic Life

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.