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Art, Technology and the Progressive Hand of Human Imagination

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Imagination and creativity are the parts of our personal conscious lives most able to manifest themselves in the objective world around us. The variety of tools, both physical and cognitive, we use to channel those creative urges is truly astounding.

The 'real world' is processed by the human senses and given metaphorical substance as the content of our conscious minds. In this space, several hundred thousand years ago, metaphors manipulated to perceive the objective world around us suddenly took on an entirely new character. These metaphors began to examine themselves.

There are many theories surrounding this internal reanalysing of our metaphoric brain-states. The emergence of language may have caused it, or maybe it was the other way round and language actually came from it's early evolution. What we now label 'art' first appeared around this time in the form of simple ornaments (such as bones threaded onto twine) and the infamous cave paintings conjured up by modern man to represent homosapien's early self awareness. However this conscious self perception emerged though, and under what circumstances, I am not directly concerned with today. I want to talk about how this imaginative capacity came to formalise human society, technology, language and, in self referenced simulacrum, creativity itself.

In a recent post I talked about how language, or more specifically the semantic references it formulates, can be understood as a powerful tool we wield. I want to stretch this idea a little further because it will give basis to a leap of imagination I want to make later. Steady yourselves...

Language has come to be the natural manifestation of our consciousness. Many revered scientists and philosophers of mind, such as the ever vigilant Daniel Dennet, would take this idea further suggesting that consciousness is not possible without language. Others go further still...

In his book 'The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind', Julian Jaynes outlines a theory that consciousness as we not know it did not manifest itself fully until only 4000 years ago! Up until this time mankind had followed the hallucinatory voices of the 'Gods', which emerged from the right temporal lobe of our brains, issuing commands which resulted in external behaviour we may equate with consciousness, but which internally required no concept of a 'self' to function. This theory is indeed fascinating (although a little outdated) because it further suggests that the emergence of consciousness can be traced to the metaphorisation of this internal voice. Written language allowed to to analyse and externalise our self awareness up until the point where the voices of the Gods were not needed to give us access to our inner metaphoric reference.

Could it be the case that with each new tool we create our inner metaphoric space, or self aware referenced consciousness, is given greater depth of identity with reality? Spoken language allowed us simulate the world and thus analyse it internally. Written language, in this conception, gave us the ability to compartmentalise the 'self' and in doing so opened the selves of external agents (i.e. other people) to our understanding of the universe.

I believe that it is on this path from consciousness through metaphor and most importantly imagination that we truly gain access to fundamental reality. The tools we manipulate to realise this consciousness (through the vague sequence I just outlined) better outline our world and ourselves within it.

So far so good.

Now it comes to the methods used, the tools wielded, to achieve this effect. Language is powerful indeed, but no-one would claim it is perfect (see Wittgenstein and Russell for a run down of why). On a more simple level think of the poem. A self contained entity of conscious imagination realised through the tool of language to expose a certain aspect of the author's inner life. The poem in a sense can be thought of as creative consciousness almost materialised in the real world. Other consciousnesses can access it, through spoken and written language, and they themselves will internalise that poem, all be it in a different way to that intended (if a particular intention existed at all). The poem is a way to share a slice of consciousness which goes deeper than a simple sentence or paragraph of text. Music too can be understood in this sense. A whole series of tools has been created to manifest the inner life of the musician. All the way from harmonic structure, musical annotation right up to the mouth piece on their saxophone. The outcome, in a sense, is THEIR CONSCIOUS MIND MADE REAL!

Amazing stuff if you ask me.

So now the conceptual leap I warned you about before.

Here goes...

Modern technology is coming to a stage where it can access our consciousnesses most directly. I am not talking here about implants on the front of your brain (although I am sure that will come at some point in the future), no, I am talking about artificial intelligence (AI) and the way it can manipulate referents in a way the human brain could never dream of doing.

The computer program is capable of analysing ALL ASPECTS of its 'sensory input'. Whereas our conscious perception of the world is but the tip of a sensory iceberg, the processing space of the computer computes every aspect of the datum contained in its metaphorical, inner 'mental' space. The computer is not conscious, at least not as we are, but in terms of raw power this is to its advantage. The possibilities of this tool, when manipulated by our inner conscious imaginations, is truly awe inspiring. I hand you over now to Will Wright, author of the upcoming, universe building computer game 'Spore' and manipulator of all manner of inner creative type programming coolness:

"More games now include features that let players invent some aspect of their virtual world, from characters to cars. And more games entice players to become creative partners in world building, letting them mod its overall look and feel. The online communities that form around these imaginative activities are some of the most vibrant on the Web. For these players, games are not just entertainment but a vehicle for self-expression.

Games have the potential to subsume almost all other forms of entertainment media. They can tell us stories, offer us music, give us challenges, allow us to communicate and interact with others, encourage us to make things, connect us to new communities, and let us play. Unlike most other forms of media, games are inherently malleable. Player mods are just the first step down this path.
Soon games will start to build simple models of us, the players. They will learn what we like to do, what we're good at, what interests and challenges us. They will observe us. They will record the decisions we make, consider how we solve problems, and evaluate how skilled we are in various circumstances. Over time, these games will become able to modify themselves to better "fit" each individual. They will adjust their difficulty on the fly, bring in new content, and create story lines. Much of this original material will be created by other players, and the system will move it to those it determines will enjoy it most.
Games are evolving to entertain, educate, and engage us individually. These personalized games will reflect who we are and what we enjoy, much as our choice of books and music does now. They will allow us to express ourselves, meet others, and create things that we can only dimly imagine. They will enable us to share and combine these creations, to build vast playgrounds. And more than ever, games will be a visible, external amplification of the human imagination."
- link to full article
Consciousness, it seems to me, is about to take a step towards its greatest horizon of realisation. The ability of human tools to formalise our imaginative minds has finally grown to maturity. Could we be seeing, in the birth of virtual internet realms, artificially conceived computer game algorithms and mentally manipulated interactive entertainment systems, a new era of consciousness realisation about to dawn?

What would happen if an AI routine was so complicated, so intricate in its connection to your conscious and possibly subconscious mind, that it was capable of realising your metaphorical mental space IN ITS ENTIRETY!? They'd be no need for the inferior, out dated tools we express our inner selves with at the moment. In the digital universes spawned by these superior systems humankind will for the first time witness their reality at its most fundamental level. The middle men of sense organ, brain process, inner metaphor, semantic referent and physically wielded tool will be out of a job.

The realities our imaginations will create will begin to exceed the depth of detail we now perceive in the objective world around us. In a sense, consciousness in the concept I have just outlined, IS reality. Creativity IS the universe. And perhaps, in my most outlandish mental leap to date, the true nature of reality can be better understood. If, in the future, virtual realities directly given form by our imaginative conscious minds can attain even greater depth of realisation than the entity we now label 'the real world', what then is the difference between reality and consciousness in the first place?

All is consciousness; there has only ever been consciousness; there will only ever be consciousness. But now, at the dawn of a digital, simulated future, human creativity will for the first time in the history of this universe come to manipulate that consciousness like the primeval clay we originally evolved from. I am not saying that we will come to be the Gods over this reality. Because to be honest, this reality is nothing compared to the realities about to be simulated in the virtual realms of human imagination.

Put that in your digital pipe and smoke it...
Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution...


Thanks to Multipolarity Memes!
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Blogger Zaigham said...

Un-Fucking-believable... Who are you?...How do you do that?...Teach me, please!

May 09, 2006 8:45 AM    

Anonymous Anonymous said...

what if they invent this conciousness-absorbing machine that through it, you become one with all other conciousness.An absorbtion into the whole of eternal bliss. All that singularity bullshit, does it have a whit of truth?

May 20, 2006 4:38 AM    

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Simply great!!! I created my own hand-galleries a few years ago (as a part of my psychological research), by fact: the internet provides quite a lot of handy-art! Thanks, Martijn.

August 19, 2006 1:12 PM    

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