Soft Writing: Optimizing for Creativity

    As a part of my being creative, I’ve tried to deliberately optimize my brain for creativity. This means that I try and get as close to my subconscious as possible. That’s hard and I should probably write a whole section on various techniques to do that.

    That’s not why I’m writing this entry.

    In artificial intelligence, one of the ways you can teach a computer to do something is by giving it a set of rules. Each rule has a weighted value to it, determining how much the computer has to follow the rule.

    An example of weighted values might be: You’re playing Unreal and the A.I. is chasing you, trying to kill you. The A.I. has a “Kill Player” rule set to a range of 10 - 30, based on your aggravation level. But it’s “Don’t Walk Through Walls” rule is set to 100. So, no matter how bad it may want to kill you, it’s never going to walk through a wall to do it, barring a glitch or bug.

    By the way, I’m not sure that’s how Epic Games programmed the Unreal A.I. It’s just a convenient, and if you’ve played Unreal, a rather visceral example.

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    ALGORITHM, or a portion of it, screened at INSTEDfest earlier this year. Robin Hanson One of the speakers there was talking about a possible future where strong A.I. exists. His versions has A.I. development based on copying the way humans work. 

    One of the posits to Hanson’s theoretical A.I. future was that the usefulness of human creative thinking has an upper limit, defined by duration, after which it becomes uncreative. 

    In humans this is due to neuroplasticity, or how easily we can form new neurological patterns which are required for new thoughts, memories, and ideas.

    In computers this problem manifests itself as what’s called code bloat. It’s also called code rot, depending on who you talk to. When a program is first written, it’s designed to do something. It’s usually designed to do that thing very well, with as little code written as efficiently as possible. However, as time passes, slowly features are added, making the program more and more complex. Eventually some of the features are no longer needed, but the code is so embedded in the fundamental architecture of the program that removing it becomes labor intensive to the point where it’s no longer useful to edit it out.

    That’s code bloat.

    The typical tech solution is to scrap all the old code and rewrite the program to do the new thing from scratch. That’s why your really old devices won’t run new programs, and vice versa. 

    That and hardware specific code.

    But I digress.

    In humans, we grow old. 

    We grow old because our cells are programmed by genetics to stop replicating after a certain number of cell generations. This is a good thing: with each cellular replication, the quality of the code decays. Each generation is further and further from the original. Eventually the quality of the original code is lost and the genetic code anomalies become hazardous to the body. 

    We call that cancer.

    Cancer is a set of cells that have varied enough from the original code that they are no longer copying what’s supposed to be there. The new organism doesn’t do the job of what was designed in the original. Eventually, the new organism replicates near a critical system and we die.

    To prevent this, our bodies have a safeguard. Cell generation limitation. We grow old.

    But we like to live at peak for as long as we can. At least, I do. I acknowledge the inevitability of my decay and death as I age. My vocation requires that I remain creative and original for as long as I possibly can.

    I think I solved Hanson’s age problem when it comes to A.I.. Add time as a subset of the weight of any rule: the longer the rule exists decrease its value. If the rule needs to be true, then the A.I. will constantly be adding weight to it. If the rule no longer needs to be true, it will naturally decay over time.

    This has me asking the question, as I optimize my own brain for creativity, it means I’m giving up something else that might be useful. 

    Conservation of energy and all that.

    I’ve been very creative my whole life. It made school very hard.

    I asked Memi how she thought. She said she thinks like everything is a stadium and all her thoughts and memories are the people in the seats. She focuses on the one thought or memory she needs. This makes her extraordinary at memorizing things, which is good since she was a bio major and works in the medical field.

    I don’t think anything like that. I think conceptually. I have a central concept and I can extrapolate in any direction. The entire universe of my mind is connected to itself. This is amazing for a coherent philosophy or ideology. It’s really crappy for memorizing. I can remember just about anything anyone does or says to me because as I listen, I place it in my contiguous universal understanding of reality.

    But a person’s name? That is just a word. It has no context. There’s no way for me to understand “Cogito ergo sum” and somehow extrapolate what someone or something has been arbitrarily labeled, which is what names are. Names for people? Names for parts of our bodies, names for just about anything? I’m not good at that.

    Because I can take basically any point in the continuum of what I’ve learned and extrapolate any other point, that also allows me to extrapolate points that don’t yet exist. In other words, it allows me to be creative, but in a highly logical and structured context. And that tends to be the kind of stories I tell, strongly based in realism and very logically consistent.

    The question I’m always asking, though, is how do I continue to keep the neuroplasticity and perhaps make it even stronger?

    I think I do this by allowing myself to occasionally violate an established logical structure, but within a safe confine. I mentioned this in an earlier post. I allow myself cognitive dissonance. I allow myself to think two contradictory thoughts, while exploring which one might be true.

    That, for me, is what this “Development” phase is really about. I go with “Drought”. Then I let Drought go and move on to “Intelligence”. Then, I let Intelligence go and move back to Drought. Then, I let drought go and move on to “Beta”, which is where I am now.

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    I moved from Squarespace back to my old web hosting company Dreamhost. Squarespace is awesome and I’ve got nothing but praise for them. However, they’re considerably more expensive than Dreamhost. Plus, Dreamhost allows me to host an unlimited number of domain names and separate sites, while Squarespace makes me pay for each site.

    I’d kept Dreamhost while using Squarespace because I directed my registrar to Dreamhost’s name servers, which I would then redirect to whatever location on the web I wanted. Squarespace doesn’t let me do that either.

    To Squarespace’s amazing credit, which may be funny to you in a moment, I paid them for a year, in advance. When I decided to cancel my subscription, they prorated what I’d already used for this year and then refunded me the difference. I’ve never had a web company do that.

    If you need a web hosting company, if you’ve only got one URL you want to host, if you need A LOT of bandwidth, if you don’t want to spend a lot of time redesigning your site to get it the way you want it, I highly recommend Squarespace. Even their customer service is amazing!

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    Most of the work about switching back to Dreamhost is migrating all the old pages back. I keep each and ever page I write in a rich text file that allows me to embed links in the text. I then copy the rich text to the posting section of whatever site engine and post from there.

    I’ve written quite a few posts over the years. Each of them needs to be re-read and reposted on the new site.

    The cool thing about most site engines is that they allow me to schedule when a post goes live. This is what that feature is designed to do. 

    But, there’s a hack. 

    If you set the date for a date that has passed, then it looks like the post was put up on that past date. So, when I copy/past my page from the text from the .rtf file and repost it on my Wordpress site (that’s the site engine I use with Dreamhost), I date the post for the date it was originally posted, using that hack.

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    I’m still working on Beta. Before I can really get into the structure of it, which I have a pretty clear idea what that’s gonna be, I have to figure out who the main character is. I know she’s going to be ethnic, but her ethnicity isn’t going to affect how she was raised. She’ll have been raised as though she was the daughter of a rich white man, instead of being the daughter of a rich ethnic man. 

    There may be subtle differences, but it certainly won’t look like the radically ethnic movies or shows Hollywood generally makes.

    For some reason, Hollywood likes to create a show that appeals to what’s called the 4 quadrants: Male/Female/Young/Old. They don’t even consider race. That usually means that it’s going to appeal to as broad an audience as possible because the more people who like it, the more money it’s gonna make.

    The weird thing about 4 quadrant thinking is that race isn’t even a factor.

    Until it is.

    Then, you’ll see movies about black families where everyone in it is black, and it’s entirely about black culture and designed to appeal to a black audience. I’m not against black movies. It makes sense since there’s way more white movies than black. But, I think it would be better to show a diverse world. 

    Movies are propaganda and I can show the world close to the way it is, so it’s relatable, but with changes toward the way I want it to be. I want to live in a world where my neighbors are every possible ethnicity. I’ve learned so much from talking to my Indian (India) friends, from my black friends, from my Kenyan friends, from my Chinese friends, from my Japanese wife, from my Latino friends. 

    I love learning and seeing new ways of thinking and viewing the world. I think that makes me a better person. I want more of that. 

    So I’m going to make it.