Friday 21 June 2013

Creativity - and its dark side II

The functional details described in the previous blog, Creativity - and its dark side I, can also be found on the larger scale. As we move from the individual to groups, to demographics, to society and beyond, affinity relationships between clusters and their latent and manifested versions can be identified too.

The larger scale does change the dynamics somewhat, if not in functional terms then certainly as far as their content is concerned. Instead of neurons we have people, the domains become demographics (ie, like-minded individuals), and the affinity relationships concern the ideas and concepts shared by their members. Communication does not occur via synapses but across the channels a society's infrastructure makes possible and which are used by the groups. Therefore what gets transmitted and how becomes once again a matter of affinities since such relationships in effect rely on the inherent nature of the former; that is to say, their functionalities.

How these interactions go through their paces is outlined below.

On the larger scale of wider society the variety of its members and the level at which the particular functionalities manifest become significant. The conscious is now the space of openly communicated ideas and concepts, the subconscious is found in the realm of the unstated, the hidden.

Just as in the single mind, the hidden is outside the direct control of regulatory processes but it still exists, takes part in information processing, and every now and then steps into the open. To what extent it is allowed to spread and so participate further in the explicit, depends on its neighbours and how their affinity potential is capable of interacting with a similar potential on the explicit's side.

The probabilities here follow similar comparative ranges to those on the small scale, and here they are influenced by the size of the population, the quality of infrastructure, and the quality and quantity of information as such.

The regulatory processes in the single mind, consisting of the conscious thought structures (TSs) with their affinities and relationships and honed through many years of exposure to society's mores and fashions, have their equivalent in the open. Here they are derived from our laws, regulations, and what is loosely called the zeitgeist. While they determine what is openly said and done, underneath their watch large-scale cognitive dynamics take place nevertheless. How well they are kept invisible is a matter of, once again, affinity relationships.

In this case however it is not the existent affinities which in the main define their visibility or otherwise, but the non-existent, latent ones. That is to say, the greater the number of such contact points between the visible and invisible clusters, the more hints can be expected for an observer to become aware of something more behind the immediate. Of course, like in any interaction between functional entities in a dynamic system, the outcome depends on their mutual relationship: the observer is as much part of the scenario as is the observed.

Descriptions, arguments, battles even, regarding the visible manifestations of the large-scale cognitive dynamics are conducted with the actor usually oblivious to the much larger realm of the unstated, and if someone should refer to them they leave themselves open to criticism - the aspect of intrusion being more decisive than any truth value.

Similarly, the dynamics resident in the single mind are also active. They inform the individual's response to any event, and in their aggregate form influence the ambience of wider society, or at the very least some part of it.

The overall ambience colours the wider space, which in turn evokes the affinities down to the small scale, which then become the source of further input to the wider space; the circle has closed.

The feedback loop creates the cultural continuum, and the smaller detail provides the elements for change. The lesser the potential for affinity relationships with the hidden, the fewer such agents of change there are. In terms of effect, censorship and/or lower intelligence (ie, more compact cognitive dynamics) lead to stagnation, to rigidity. Given the relationship between input and the creation of clusters, censorship, in other words paucity of information, makes for compact dynamics.

Conversely, their opposites create the framework for adaptability, progress, and so evolution. Both can be readily observed in the real. 

The two images represent a metaphor to the above. On the left is the original photo showing much detail (the ABC building during its construction at Southbank, Brisbane, Australia). On the right is the pixelated version. The mind is able to create a much more comprehensive 'story' from the first image, much less so from the second. As a consequence, the chance of anything else being related to the detailed content is considerably greater, giving rise to further TSs. Coarse TSs are far less fertile.

An example of the interplay between the conscious and the subconscious would be the concept of the 'demon lover', a conceptualisation of the hidden Eros seeking expression and so eloquently described in "Mad, Bad & Dangerous: The Demon Lover".

Where would Art be without our dark side?

Thursday 13 June 2013

Creativity - and its dark side I

The concept of creativity has always been surrounded by mystique. A thought that appears seemingly out of nowhere in often unrelated situations, and yet so welcome. Many people even ascribed its source to a god.

Still, under the perspective of cognitive dynamics it can be explained. And so, like much else in science, the previous mystery gets replaced by the awe before the sheer versatile complexity of nature.

To aid the understanding what follows, it may help the reader to go through the FAQs page  on the Otoom website for a primer, particularly on functionalities, abstractions, affinities and latency; they appear in that order. Not the full story by far, but it's a start.

State Law building, 50 Ann St, Brisbane, Australia. Its nickname is "Gotham City tower". Is that rendition a creative interpretation?

If there are thought structures (TSs) which define the content of a representative complex within the neurons (which is the result of some input), then, given the existence of ongoing dynamics, the non-existence of a cluster of TSs that could have been evoked is due to other TSs having been more influential.

The first question is, could the same input have been responsible for both - the existent TSs as well as the absent ones?

Since the emergence of a cluster is a function not only of input but also of the affinity relationships active within the functional scope of that neighbourhood, a certain input could indeed eventually create a cluster in one area but not in another.

The entire system is composed of neurons that are highly interconnected. It follows that outside the existent cluster there had been an insufficient effect from the input - in other words, there is latency but no instantiation of a re-representation. While the latency (ie, the non-instantiation) ensures non-representative clusters along the current timeline, it equally ensures the potential for a cumulative effect of affinities which at any given time lead to the formation of some other TS complex.

TSs of course not only occur in the grey matter of our brains but also in its white counterpart. Or, to put this another way, they are not only part of our conscious thought processes but they are also part of our subconscious.

Which leads to the next question: is it possible for latent structures to be a source of conscious thought?

For affinities to come into being they need an abundance of functional elements (the neurons in the wetware, the nodes in the computer program); they need connectivity; and they need the 'right' input, meaning input that represents a pattern, ie is not random. White matter fulfils the first condition (there are more neurons than in the grey matter) and it also possesses a high degree of connectivity. Which leaves us with the input.

The functional space of conscious TSs does not lend itself to random input, or any random data stream for that matter. There is also the distinct probability of potentially affinitive clusters. After all, the information content there has been derived from our subconscious via affinities in the first place.

The answer rests on the degree of variance within the conscious TSs such that an affinity event lies within the probability envelope of the subconscious TSs. Conscious TSs are more configured (since they rely on instantiated representative content) and hence possess less latency. Subconscious TSs on the other hand reside within a larger volume, have more latency, and in their ongoing dynamics are not restricted to preconfigured clusters.

If we take the affinities to be members of a set, and the conscious and subconscious clusters to be two particular sets, with the latter (B) being considerably larger than the former (A), we can express the issue as follows: what is more likely, one or more members of A occurring in B, or one or more members of B occurring in A?

In terms of probabilities the first scenario is more likely, provided we assume a finite and set pool from which all members of both sets are drawn. Although that assumption may seem rather inappropriate based on our analogy, it becomes less so once we consider that (a), the system is a dynamic one in which all information is a candidate for dispersal throughout the system on a continuing basis, and (b), the affinities (latent or otherwise) constitute the re-representative, ie processed, content of such input, that is to say, they have evolved under the same overall conditions and are subject to the same rules of complex, dynamic systems. In other words, we do have that pool from our analogy, except in our case the pool holds functionalities.

While realisations from latent affinities are not a certainty (after all, we are dealing with probabilities all the way through the process), these probabilities do not, cannot, have a zero value due to their very nature. Make the timeline long enough and some affinity relationship between a latent subconscious cluster and its conscious equivalent can develop. On the higher level of mental perception (ie, our human interpretation) there would be a train of thought suddenly being 'interrupted' by a seemingly new idea - except that the label 'new' only comes from our perception.

The latter excludes the subconscious by definition. So the idea is not 'new' at all; rather, it has been waiting in the wings all along, as it were. Hence creativity, the name given to that seemingly mysterious appearance of a novel idea, takes it mystery from the limited scope of our conscious thoughts, keeping all the other cognitive processes hidden from view. Yet they do exist, and under the right circumstances they pop into our awareness.

And the dark side? Because thoughts so suddenly appearing in our consciousness start their formation in the subconscious where our will to invite or suppress does not apply, we have no control over their presence. Our social constraints hold no sway, and still they are the children of nature; our nature.

To paraphrase Angela Carter, unbidden they come.

Creativity - and its dark side II