Camera sensor

Cameras as sensors


I am reading Program Earth  and I think I mentioned this before. But one of the things that I realized from reading the book that is perhaps obvious is that cameras are sensors and photographs are data they are not images.

What does this mean and it is this an important distinction?

A camera, both the original model based on emulsification and the contemporary version based on pixels are sensors. They are indirectly capturing the world, and only by creating additional machine (the dark room/photoshop) can we create and view the product of that sensor. This is different than a painter painting a picture which is a direct action.  A painter takes paint and puts it on a surface.   He does not create a machine or framework to create a picture.

When I take a picture I decide all sorts of meta details about the picture, what is included and excluded, what is the light or color space.  The details are provided as probably light.  When I paint a picture I create the details (in addition to the meta details).

Now what does this mean? I have no idea.  Most practically it means that cameras and photographs can be used in different ways since they are sensors. What ways are those I am not sure – but I suspect they can be used cybernetically since that is what sensors can do that non-sensors cannot.

Aesthetically, what does this mean? I do not know either.

But Photographs are not images they are sensors, however I still maintain leggings are pants.

Anatomy of Arbor Vitae

Health Protocol


I have been sick with a cold practically all autumn.  I have been very interested in the idea of food as medicine, so when Arbor Vitae  was holding their free student clinic I went for a checkup.

I told them my symptoms and they looked at my tongue and felt my pulses. This is something I am familiar with since I did acupuncture in order to get pregnant with my first child and believe strongly in the model of Chinese medicine and acupuncture in general well being and maintaining equilibrium.

In any case, a few days later I received an email back with my “Health Protocol.”  It was basically gave me a list of procedures to follow.  Drink  a gallon of oat bark and nettle infused water a day. Drink a cup of golden ashwagandha tea at night.

To me this was an interesting use of the word protocol. I always thought of protocol as a structure without content.  But this protocol was all about content. Why is that? I thought of my favorite us of the world protocol – C3PO and the protocol droid.

Why is C3PO a protocol droid? Because he knows how to communicate. And it is goal oriented communication. He is not communicating to pass the time, or for pleasure – but to get something done! For C3PO, communication is not just about knowing grammar but around knowing the words to use to communicate effectively. A protocol is at its core about interfaces and about goals.

This health protocol was about getting food to communicate with my body. It was about getting my body to do certain things (not get a cold/have more energy etc). The health protocol was a list of ways that food could communicate with my body to do certain things. Now I am going to go and make my tinctures.

Costa, Lorenzo; Argonauts

Journeys to Rescue a Spirit


I have been reading a bunch of mythology books over break. One of the books was a commentary and reinterpretation of the story of The Argonauts.  This is the story of Jason and the golden fleece among other things, if that jogs any memories.

The commentary mentioned that the story of the Argonauts is in part a story of rescuing a spirit.  The argonauts are bringing the body of a dead man home.  This idea idea of spirit retrieval or soul retrieval also appears in many of my readings in psychology (generally Jungian inspired).  We could think of psychology as a type of soul retrieval and the unconscious as a sort of underworld.

People say the moderns (or us) have psychology and the ancients had mythology. I really don’t know what this means. It sounds good though. I would love to unpack it  in a later blog post.  But this relationship between psychology and mythology is nothing new -after all one of the founding theories of psychology – the Oedipal complex is from greek mythology.

What most interests me here is the notion of a journey. What kinds of journeys can we go on. There is the Hero’s Journey – this is the most famous- but it is about the person going on the journey or the transformative effect of the journey. The journey transforms those that go on it into a hero – whatever that is – the archetype of a well integrated adult in the specific society we are talking about.

But what kinds of journeys can we go on? This to me is more interesting. The journey itself instead of the transformation at the end of the journey. And to say that the journey transforms one in to a hero, is kind of empty of meaning – since it is so culturally specific.

Focusing on the kind of journey opens up the journey to people who are shut out of the hero journey such as women or other subalterns.  I cannot believe I found a good use for the term subaltern.

Here we have a journey to find a soul, there are journeys to slay a beast (over come fears), there are journeys to find a treasure (maybe find purpose), journeys to find a home, journeys to return to a home.  I’m sure someone has made a taxonomy of journeys, but what sorts of journeys are available today that were not available in the time of the argonauts – or are journeys universal?




Merry Christmas.  Joulupukki may be the origin of Santa.  It seems that Santa is not St Nick or Christian. Was there ever any doubt??  A friend told me it goes back to the Saami, the native Finns, who dressed in red and white and would give people red and white magic mushrooms on the solstice. Ahh the flying reindeers now make sense.

I am not sure if this is the case – but a quick google shows articles about this from the NY Times and NPR.

The idea of gift giving in general is fantastic – so lets just have more festivals where we have to give gifts.


Playing with AWS Sumerian


I have been playing with aws sumerian. Yet another Kokowa killer.  It is a platform for creating user generated 3D/VR/AR worlds. Why did amazon release this? Probably because they want to make money hosting these assets.

I am creating a mantra app. Here you chant a mantra and depending on what you are chanting the environment changes. It is part of my conscious computation initiative.

Ideally I would use machine learning to determine how to change the world according to a mantra, but I am just setting the mapping manually.  Ideally multiple people can chant in the same space so it is not just the type of sound but the intensity and the coherence – its an experiment.

Ashwagandha from

Health Protocol


A few weeks ago I went over to the free herbal clinic at Arbor Vitae and got an herbal protocol. It involves ashwagandha tea, and nettle tea and oak bark and some other things.  It has changed my bedtime protocol – in that I now spend some time boiling water and create creating infusions.

I got some of my plants from Flower Power in the East Village of NYC. The rest I got from the farmers market in Union Square. But why is this called a protocol?

I normally think of a protocol as a template – a procedure or rule set. In this interpretation the protocol is independent of the particulars of the protocol. Like TCP/IP is a protocol -you must use a particular structure when sending a packet  – but you can send anything you like -as long as you use the structure.

Meanwhile my health protocol was about the particulars. I should not replace ashwagandha with say lions mane. Why is this called a protocol??

Shakespeare sonnets from

Poetry and Code – Clojure


I was googling my interviewer, Eric, for Recurse Center and I found out that we have a common interest – electronic poetry.   I watched a youtube video he presented on clojure and poetry and generating (and read aiweirdness a bloggerthat he collaborated with). This is an area I am very interested in. There are a bunch of people in this field and I will probably post more on this topic.  But – let me meditate on one thing Eric says:

poems are emotive programs and programs are poems for the machine

So what is a poem vs a program? I am interested in the concept that  poem is a program. That it generates something – an emotion.  That it has to be “interpreted” or “compiled” the source code of the poem does not reveal how it works – for it to work you must hear it or read it.  Is this different from prose? Prose tells a story, and perhaps it also make you feel an emotion, but prose does not need this additional “interpretation/compilation.” The text of prose is much more explicit. This is a bit reductionist but poems uses words primarily to TRANSFORM or DO, where as prose uses words to COMMUNICATE.  You could argue against these points of view but I am going to stick with them.

Always when talk about this I think of AJ Ayers and performative speech. Speech that does something – like ‘Now I pronounce you man and wife’ or ‘Let this water turn to wine’  Here this transformation is has a place in objective reality not only subjective psychology  (as in the case with a poem).

What about the idea that a program is a poem for a computer.   This is interesting. What is prose for a computer? Would it be a data set? Would it be a protocol?  Perhaps a protocol – perhaps it would be the output of a program.  This is a good question what is prose for a computer? And is a program poetry or prose or something else.

I always thought of a program as performative -it does something.  A poetic program would not always do the same thing.  It would do different things based on system (perhaps data) it runs on.  I think a good analogy of poem as program is when people no longer write computer programs but set variable weights and have machine learning programs write programs.


A marble head of Socrates in the Louvre

Epistemology and Ethics


Further editing my conversation for Transmediale, I was thinking about what does it mean to make a decision based on the future.    I originally drew a parallel to augery and divination.  But is this really correct? How do I know what to do? I am going look at the entrails of birds and reading those signs I will determine what to do.  This is not really about telling the future, but looking for predictive signs and pattern matching. Now if I were to go to to the delphic oracle and ask what to do, the oracle may be able to look into the future. Likewise, if I am practice astrology I can look up future astrological charts and use this to tell the future. Perhaps this last example is closest to predicting the future from looking into the future.

So what happens in a simulation. I have a model of the world or problem and I run through the problem – I execute the problem.  Now not all the aspects of the model are isomorphic with the world, so there will be some error associated with the results. Also there may be unknown variables, or incorrect assumptions. But the model will attempt to predict the future by executing a program like the world.

I am reminded of (early Plato) Socrates and all those damn dialogues – where everything boils down to well if you just knew what X is you would be X. Like if you just knew what justice was you/we would be just.  This is sort of essentialist or idealist – fits in nicely with Plato’s theory of Forms.  It also conflates ethics to epistemology.  We would act if we only knew more. (This completely ignores the unconscious but lets roll with it).

Now what is the assumption with simulation. We would know what to do if only we knew how everything would work out in the future -or how everything would go.

Again ethics is reduced to epistemology, but it is not a knowledge of something, but a knowledge of the future or a knowledge through computation. It is a knowledge through doing.  I am not sure yet we have a language yet to discuss this

Kant and the Imagination


When I started editing the option that Thomas selected for our Transmediale talk, I immediately started thinking about more talk proposals that I had to resist including in my write up.  So I am including them here.

The first involves Kant and the categorical imperative. The categorical imperative is a way to determine the right way to act in a particular situation.

to decide how to know the right way to act. response to the question -how do I know what to do.  I take a maxim and I universalize it and if I am able to universalize it then it is a imperative – I must act this way. (I think radical evil is when I always chose not to act according to the categorical imperative but I dont remember)

So — I am considering stealing candy from a baby – I create a maxim like “dont steal a hershey kiss from my little brother”. I universalize it to “Never steal candy from a baby or never steal candy from anyone.”

The first thing I realized is that this is an act of the imagination. Kant is a psychologist. We must use our imagination – a non-rational faculty in order to realize the hyper rational categorical imperative.   When I use my imagination to universalize my maxims, I do not necessarily have to use images, but I use empathy perhaps to understand how someone else might feel in different scenarios.

The second thing I realized is that we could easily create computer simulations to universalize the maxims in different scenarios.  This would remove the quality of the imagination in creation of the universal imperative.  Does this matter?  Although Kant might not agree, I would argue the imaginative faculty involved in determining whether a maxim were universalizable is important in becoming an ethical person – or perhaps performing a truly ethical action.   If I act according to the result of the decision of a computer simulation – that is an action but it is an ethical action? Does it make me an ethical person.

Plato, Pythagoras, and Solon; fresco in St. George’s Church, Suceava, Romania, sixteenth century

Three Proposals for a Transmediale Discussion


I am going to be in conversation (remotely) with Thomas Moynihan at Transmediale.   I was supposed to propose something about technology and philosophy and here were the options I sent over to Thomas. He selected one, the others I may  expand upon at a later date.

1) Augury in the 21 century

Since the caves of Lascaux, humans have attempted to predict and influence the future. Today we have scenario planning and future studies that are supported by the methodology of simulation and empowered by computation.   In the past, there was a symbolic relationships between the world and the instruments of prediction e.g, bones in a certain formation meant rain was coming. Today prediction is a two step process, data collection, world building, and interpretation/selection. The bones and their environment (ie milieu) report data points that are reduced to quantitative values. These values are used to along with the perturbations of variables to construct a variety of worlds. We then pick the most likely of worlds as our prediction.  [THIS last sentence would want to rework – it is not phenomenological – but I cant think of the world I want to use, I also feel like I might want to talk about Simondon and his notion of the relationship between magic, aesthetics, science and ethics]

What is the relationship between the simulations of today and the folk practices of divination, and what can we learn from an archaeology of prediction?

2) Modalities of Data Visualization

Data visualization of often the end result of a simulation or some sort of numerical analysis, and used either for informative or aesthetic purposes.

When we engage in data visualization, we are engaging in data mapping. All these mappings are contingent since there is nothing in the data that forces the visualization to be a certain way: why a dot and not a line, or example. In the face of this radical contingency, how can we engage in data visualization or data mapping in a rigorous way?  One criterion that moves beyond modalities of necessary and contingent is coherence or incoherence, and this also has some history in the work of philosophers of science such as  Carnap. So perhaps a better visualization is which is more coherent and encompasses more variables.

How can we create a robust framework to ground data visualization, and data mapping in general?


3) Hypothetical Ethics

Most people would agree that we have a responsibility to clean an oil spill that we cause. How about if we run a simulation that predicts with 70% probability robots will create too many paperclip and thus destroy the world. Is it our responsibility to prevent this? The Nicomachean Ethics does not  have section on how to take responsibility for probabilistic future events. Neither does Kant’s  moral imperative address this issue.  I posit we are in new ethical territory created by computational simulation, and we need a new framework for understanding how we ought to act, taking into considerations notions of risk, probability, and simulation robustness.

What are the new rules of actions in regards to probabilistic future events predicted by a computer simulation?