What is Biosemiotics?

At #8 in my Biosemiotics Series, this video is a little belated, but worth the wait.

Why do biologists refer to a something excreted by one cell and taken up by another as a signal?  Doesn’t this invest the cell with intentionality that it doesn’t really have? Why don’t biologists just refer to the process of chemical exchange as simply a chemical reaction?

A molecule passed between cells is called a “signal,” if it sets off a response that is ultimately good for both cells and/or the body they’re part of. So a signal has a function for survival and maintenance, and the cells have been evoloved by natural selection to process signals. A chemical in the body that does not have this kind of effect is not a signal.

Biosemiosis offers real explanatory power for science. It explains why people believe things that aren’t true. It explains why we can have allergic reactions to neutral things. It explains how life first emerged. It explains how meaningless things can acquire new meanings. It explains how creativity is possible. It explains why AI fails compared to Biological intelligence when it comes to adapting to contexts.

Advertisements

Terrordise, a finalist Filmmatic Comedy Screenplay competition

My political comedy screenplay Terrordise, about a high-security gated community in Dallas, has won yet another award. I am proud to be a finalist in Filmmatic Comedy Screenplay Awards.

Somebody make the damn movie already! It’s hysterical fiction. And too likely to become true if we don’t learn how to laught at our current stupidity.  Read more about Terrordise.

Should we let Artificial Intelligence decide for us?

“AI, Stereotyping on Steroids and Alan Turing’s Biological Turn,” by V. N. Alexander, in The Democratization of Artificial Intelligence

The fact that AI has not yet passed a Turing Test has not prevented it from being sold to the public as a superior kind of intelligence capable of handling vast amounts of data and therefore capable of making “evidence-based” decisions about human behavior. There is no basis for this claim. AI uses advanced statistics to fine-tune generalizations; it is a glorified actuary table, not an intelligent agent. At the time of his death in 1952, Alan Turing was exploring the differences between biological intelligence and his initial conception of AI. This paper focuses on those differences and sets limits on the uses to which current AI can legitimately be put.

“Winter Flies” Published in the Antioch Review

What makes a story a story? What makes narrated events meaningful?

I’ve been working on a collection of short stories called Chance that Mimics Choice. This first story written for the collection, “Winter Flies” is included in the latest issue of the Antioch Review.  This story is one of four about a scientist named Meno whose mind gives things and events meanings, sometimes just by putting them side by side or noting a coincidental similarity between two things, and this is how he stumbles on new discoveries and becomes successful, despite his rather sloppy approach to thinking. In short, he overcomes what in Plato is described as “Meno’s Paradox”: Continue reading

Victoria Alexander receives Fulbright U.S. Scholar Award to Russia

I am very excited to have the opportunity to do research this spring at ITMO University in St Petersburg, Vladimir Nabokov’s home and Cyber Capital of Russia.

ITMO — which stands for Information Technologies, Mechanics and Optics — has recently launched a Digital Humanities Lab where I will be working with graduate students on “The Poetics of Science.” The idea is to bring the tools of the arts into science and the inspiration of science into the arts.  Nabokov famously argued that neither art nor science can be done well without the other. One of the projects I hope to be undertaking in my time there is working with programmers to design a digital simulation of butterfly wing pattern development to test Nabokov’s theory of insect mimicry.  Using non-linear mathematical techniques first developed by Alan Turing, we may be able to use our digital imaginations to discover what kinds of designs nature would be capable of creating in the absence of natural selection.

Continue reading

June 1st, Book Club, Locus Amoenus Pleasant Valley Library

On Saturday, June 1st at 12PM,  Victoria Alexander will lead a discussion about her novel Locus Amoenus at

Pleasant Valley Free Library
3 Maggiacomo Lane
Pleasant Valley, New York 12569

The event is hosted by the Dutchess County Libertarian Party. Listen to the first chapter of the audiobook, read by Ben Jorgensen, below.

RSVP https://www.facebook.com/events/354188491875892/

Futuretech Podcast

 

“In biosemiotics, we say that the human ability to interpret signs—which is the ability to think really, to think creatively and adaptively and learn new things—didn’t just emerge with animals; rudimentary sign reading emerged in the simplest forms of life with single-celled organisms,” says Victoria Alexander, biosemiotician, Director of Dactyl Foundation, Fulbright specialist, and author of The Biologist’s Mistress: Rethinking Self-Organization in Art, Literature, and Nature. Continue reading