Saturday Talks: Poetry, AI, Possible Worlds


I spent a lovely afternoon/evening attending talks. First I went to poetshouse to see a poetry reading/discussion between Bernadette Mayer and Stacy Szymaszek.  Poets house is amazing. You can go there for free and read their massive collection of poetry and journals and look at the hudson – ahhhh.

Bernadette Mayer is one of my poetic heroes. She has a great list of writing prompts, and Stacy’s poem Journal of Ugly Sites is actually a reaction to one of the prompts.   I particularly like Mayer’s Midwinter day.  It is about the life of a mom and poet and woman, told through dream logic or through dream interpretation and it was written in one day!

She had to prepare before hand in order to be able to write the poem in a day. She had to practice recalling her dreams, and take notes of the best sellers at the bookstore.  This notion of prep made an impact on me.  The only think where practice is elevated to an art form is in something like music – and I think of Bach and The Well Tempered Clavier.

There was a discussion between Bernadette and Stacy on poetry and editing. Both seemed somewhat against it. That when you put the word on the page it is sacred. And then someone referenced poe who said a poem should be completed in one sitting.  These are interesting constraints. This places poetry someplace between performance and artifact  – probably where it belongs.  If we want to maybe distinguish poetry from fiction writing or other types of writing is this activity – the process of writing poetry and the performative aspect that probably distinguishes it.

I was really attracted to the idea of poetic prep, especially with these daily python poetic practices I have been doing.  I feel like I have a ton of poetic. Tons of old notebooks and notecards and sheaves of paper, fragments here and there. How do you turn this into a poem? What is the other preparation? Do I need to prepare my mind, by meditating, or looking at art or nature, or inner work?  In reading about Bernadette’s prep involving dreams I was thinking about alchemy. I just read a book about alchemy and painting, I love the chemical wedding of christian rosenkreutz , which is about alchemy, and I’m reading Jung’s work on alchemy.  My shrink made some comment to me the other day about internal alchemy and transformation (because I asked him to open the window, which he obliged).  What is internal transformation as alchemy?

Anyway, Paolo Javier, a fantastic poet (I also took a workshop with him a while back) is running the programming. This year the theme is epic poetry, and the programming is epic. April 17 is briggsflatts – one of my favorite poems/poets, then Jordan Abel who wrote Injun – such good stuff.

After I met my old and dear friend Mira in red hook and we went to pioneer works to watch some old white dudes blow hot air.  This is not entirely fair.  The talk made me really appreciate David Chalmers, and want to investigate his work more. He began the talk with something that really speaks to my idea of conscious computation: Possible Minds. If we imagine all the billions of people that have existing and even all the living creatures that have existed that represents only a small percentage of the space of possible minds. Now that we have AI and computation we can fill out this space.

I suppose we could also expand this to possible bodies. Evolution has supplied us with a small subset of possible bodies and then now we can use technology and AI to expand that space. The set is bounded but the elements are infinite.

So a few questions… Why is this interesting? Why should we flesh out possible minds? Or possible bodies?  It is as if we have moved from a world of euclidian geometry where parallel lines never intersect to non-euclidian geometries. Where the old rules do not apply – the concept of the conscious and the unconscious perhaps can be reformulated and different types of information processing – the conscious language and the unconscious images. Or different structures of reasoning, aristotelean logic versus poetic logic (homophones etc).

There was also an interesting point brought up by a biologist on the nature of evolution = but no one addressed it.

In any case, my question is this – Most fields of science are spun out from philosophy – except the theory of computation which comes out of math. Now you can maybe say that some philosophy comes out of math or geometry (like protagoras or plato’s divided line stuff). But lets say that the theory of computation is one of the few fields not influenced by philosophy. I feel like this is why we have such issues with concepts such as AI or cyber ethics because there is this philosophical lacuna at the center of the theory of computation.

I wonder what would a theory of computation look like if it came out of philosophy. What philosophical question does the theory of computation answer?

First it seems that it would be logic, or how to reason properly, but computation is about change and solving problems and construction of contexts. I have no idea…

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