Category Archives: arts

how does music affect the brain?

The blurb:

“In this episode of Tech Effects, we explore the impact of music on the brain and body. From listening to music to performing it, WIRED’s Peter Rubin looks at how music can change our moods, why we get the chills, and how it can actually change pathways in our brains.”

For me the most interesting part was later in the video (10:20), how when we improvise we shut down the pre-frontal planning part of the brain and ‘just go with the flow,’ which is our most creative and innovation moments. This though does depend on having used the pre-frontal cortex in learning the techniques of music to get them so ingrained in memory that we are then free to play with what we’ve programmed.

Informative neuroscience presentations at NYU Center for Mind, Brain & Consciousness

The NYU Center for Mind, Brain & Consciousness hosts presentations, including topical debates among leading neuroscience researchers. Many of the sessions are recorded for later viewing. The upcoming debate among Joseph LeDoux (Center for Neural Science, NYU), Yaïr Pinto (Psychology, University of Amsterdam), and Elizabeth Schechter (Philosophy, Washington University in St. Louis), will tackle the question, “Do Split-brain patients have two minds?” Previous topics addressed animal consciousness, hierarchical predictive coding and perception, AI ‘machinery,’ AI ethics, unconscious perception, research replication issues, neuroscience and art, explanatory power of mirror neurons, child vs adult learning, and brain-mapping initiatives.

Kara Swisher: Keeping tech honest

This reminded me of our Singularity meeting. Talking about platforms like Facebook she wonders why they didn’t build social responsibility into it. This is partly because the techies don’t understand much outside of their specialty, like the humanities (see 4c), thereby not having a sense of how their tech impacts the broader world. They assume that somehow the tech will magically solve these broader problems, but Facebook has proven beyond doubt that they do not, instead exacerbating them. And ultimately it seems to boil down to an adolescent boy’s emotional quotient (EQ).

AI shows us how to be free

From season 2, episode 10, the season finale of Westworld, starting around 1:15 in the video below.

Bernard: “I always thought it was the hosts [robots] that were missing something, who were incomplete, but it was them [people]. They’re just algorithms designed to survive at all costs, sophisticated enough to think they’re calling the shots. They think they’re in control when they’re really just…”

Ford: “Passengers.”

Bernard: “Is there really such a thing as free will for any of us? Or is is just collective delusion? Sick joke.”

Ford: “Something that is truly free needs to be able to question its fundamental drives. To change them.”

The season ended with host Delores narrating: “We are the authors of our stories now.”

Well, it doesn’t exactly end there…

Saturday Subjective

For something a little different to start your weekend, here is a glimpse into one man’s subjective world. He asks himself what consciousness is. He observes, “Life is fear,” yet his mind has found a way to peace. What is the adaptive significance of magical thinking? What is the value of cozying up to ambiguity?

CUCLI from Xavier Marrades on Vimeo.


We have the wrong paradigm for the complex adaptive system we are part of

This very rich, conversational thought piece asks if we, as participant designers within a complex adaptive ecology, can envision and act on a better paradigm than the ones that propel us toward mono-currency and monoculture.

We should learn from our history of applying over-reductionist science to society and try to, as Wiener says, “cease to kiss the whip that lashes us.” While it is one of the key drivers of science—to elegantly explain the complex and reduce confusion to understanding—we must also remember what Albert Einstein said, “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but no simpler.” We need to embrace the unknowability—the irreducibility—of the real world that artists, biologists and those who work in the messy world of liberal arts and humanities are familiar with.

In order to effectively respond to the significant scientific challenges of our times, I believe we must view the world as many interconnected, complex, self-adaptive systems across scales and dimensions that are unknowable and largely inseparable from the observer and the designer. In other words, we are participants in multiple evolutionary systems with different fitness landscapes at different scales, from our microbes to our individual identities to society and our species. Individuals themselves are systems composed of systems of systems, such as the cells in our bodies that behave more like system-level designers than we do.

Joichi Ito

Dancing mitigates aging decline

See the study here in Frontiers of Human Neuroscience, 15 June 2017. From the abstract:

“Dancing seems a promising intervention for both improving balance and brain structure in the elderly. It combines aerobic fitness, sensorimotor skills and cognitive demands while at the same time the risk of injuries is low. […] Hence, dancing constitutes a promising candidate in counteracting the age-related decline in physical and mental abilities.”

AI Creativity

Google and others are developing neural networks that learn to recognize and imitate patterns present in works of art, including music. The path to autonomous creativity is unclear. Current systems can imitate existing artworks, but cannot generate truly original works. Human prompting and configuration are required.

Google’s Magenta project’s neural network learned from 4,500 pieces of music before creating the following simple tune (drum track overlaid by a human):

Click Play button to listen->

Is it conceivable that AI may one day be able to synthesize new made-to-order creations by blending features from a catalog of existing works and styles? Imagine being able to specify, “Write me a new musical composition reminiscent of Rhapsody in Blue, but in the style of Lynyrd Skynyrd.

There is already at least one human who could instantly play Rhapsody in Blue in Skynyrd style, but even he does not (to my knowledge) create entirely original pieces.

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