My favorite novelist, Vladimir Nabokov, is also my favorite evolutionary theorist. There is a fine line between art and science. In this beautiful coffee-table book, edited by Stephen Blackwell and Kurt Johnson, I have an essay called, “Chance, Nature’s Practical Jokes and the ‘Non-utilitarian Delights’ of Insect Mimicry.”
Fine Lines: Vladimir Nabokov’s Scientific Art hit the bookstores this week. So far it’s been favorably reviewed in The New Yorker and the Washington Post.
Artificial intelligence is all the rage these days. Case in point: while I was watching football this past weekend, there were two television commercials in heavy circulation during the games that featured AI avatars—Siri and Watson—having life-like conversations with actors.
As you may know, I have a few opinions about the prospects and limitations of AI. Recently, I had an email chat with novelist and philosopher of science Victoria Alexander about AI, art, and chance. Alexander’s work focuses on the uses of chance in nature and in fiction and the changing conceptions of chance in science, religion, and art. What follows has been lightly edited for clarity. Continue reading →
Prior to the city’s grand fireworks show Friday night, author Victoria Alexander will visit the Book Bower nearby to sign copies of her novel, “Locus Amoenus.”
Her fifth novel, this speculative fiction brings Shakespeare into the post-9/11 world, weaving “an emotionally powerful geopolitical drama,” according to reviews online.
Leading character, Hamlet, now 18, is “beginning to suspect that something is rotten in the United States of America, when health, happiness and freedom are traded for cheap Walmart goods, Paxil, endless war, standard curriculum, and environmental degradation,” according to one book review. Continue reading →
NY LASER, a Leonardo Education and Art Forum (LEAF) Rendezvous Event
What: Wine + discussion
Where: LevyArts: RSVP for info email@example.com
When: Saturday, April 12th from 4:00 – 7:00 pm
NYC LASER is a series of lectures and presentations on art and science projects, organized on behalf of Leonardo/ISAST’s LEAF initiative (Leonardo Education and Art Forum). Former LEAF Chairs Ellen Levy and Patricia Olynyk co-organize these presentations, and Ellen Levy hosts them on behalf of the Institute for Doctoral Studies in the Visual Arts. There will be three feature presentations by Victoria N. Alexander, Lillian Ball, and Norman Ballard.
Victoria N. Alexander is director and co-founder of Dactyl Foundation, whose mission is to “bring the arts into the sciences and the sciences into the arts.” She earned her Ph.D. in English at CUNY Grad and her dissertation research focused on teleology, evolutionary theory, and complexity science at the Santa Fe Institute. She is a novelist (Smoking Hopes, Naked Singularity, Trixie and Locus Amœnus) and is on the editorial boards of Biosemiotics journal (Springer Press) and Meaning Systems book series (Fordham UP). Alexander’s talk will address the creative process from a biosemiotic perspective and is based on her 2011 book The Biologist’s Mistress: Rethinking Self-Organization in Art, Literature and Nature.
Lillian Ball Lillian Ball is an ecological artist and environmental activist working primarily on water issues. A multidisciplinary background in anthropology, ethnographic film, and sculpture informs her work. She has exhibited internationally and her awards include a John-Simon Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship and a National Endowment for the Arts Grant. Her recent WATERWASH® public art project series combines stormwater remediation, wetland restoration, and educational outreach in a creative concept that can be adapted to coastal situations worldwide. Lillian will discuss transforming scientific data collected on WATERWASH by Drexel University Environmental Engineering Department into a reflective artwork.
Norman Ballard is an award winning innovator in the use of Laser technology and motion control ‘rayography’ as an artistic medium in the visual and performing arts. His presentation ‘Laser: The Ecology of a New Medium’, will reflect on his exploration of the emergent path of this technology and its ongoing cultural assimilation. He will discuss his breakthrough work over the past 3 decades driving the ascendancy of the laser medium into galleries and collections of fine art museums worldwide, as well as its extension to his current position as Development Coordinator for Production Automation at the Metropolitan Opera supporting its current Production Department Renovation and Technology Upgrade initiative.
Teleology is the study of the purposes of action, development and existence. Its practitioners believe nature is purposeful. An ancient and enduring form of inquiry that has been out-of-fashion among educated people for centuries, teleology’s slow, steady decline as a scientific discipline began in the 17th century with the birth of modern empiricism and continued to plummet apace with the rise of the Enlightenment, Darwinism, and quantum mechanics. Nature is not purposeful, it was said, and those who continued to think it was were primarily spiritualists, artists, or madmen, who credited the guidance of gods, muses, or fate. Continue reading →
As the new millennium began, I, bravely or naïvely, committed myself to this discredited branch of philosophy, officially submitting “teleological narratives” as my dissertation topic. Although I was working on a doctorate in English at City University New York (CUNY) Graduate School, I needed a scientific advisor on my dissertation committee because teleology and biological self-organization are so entwined. Continue reading →
Telos is otherwise known as final cause, one of four causes identified by Aristotle’s natural philosophy: Material cause describes how the physical properties of matter determine what a thing is and how it will react with other things. For example, an ivory ball will roll differently than a wooden ball, as the density and weight of the material determines how much resistance it has. Efficient cause describes how the agent (person, animal, or even a moving object like a billiard ball) acting on something determines what happens. For example, the pool player, the cue stick or ball hitting another ball at rest is the efficient cause of the latter’s moving. Formal cause describes how the “blueprint” or the natural laws of form determine what can be. Some forms are physically impossible; others are very probable. Experienced pool players have learned that certain types of moves can be expected to result in certain types of outcomes, and they may apply their knowledge of geometry to their game. Final cause describes how the “end,” or the function something ultimately serves, determines what happens or how something develops. The ball was struck so that the pool player might win the game and further develop his abilities and reputation. Continue reading →