On May 2, 1519, a great mind was extinguished. Leonardo da Vinci, polymath and true genius of the Renaissance left this world. Recognized as unique and special in his own time as well as our own, Leonardo’s paintings were highly sought after and his skills in engineering and hydrodynamics placed him in a category apart from his fellow artists. His private notebooks on scientific, anatomical, and engineering studies reveal a gifted endlessly enquiring mind that has caught the imagination of today’s scholars in many disciplines.
“Leonardo da Vinci, Inventing the Future” takes place on October 18-19, 2019, at UCLA’s California NanoSystems Institute.
Noel G. Boyle (Professor of Medicine/Cardiology, UCLA)
Massimo Ciavolella (Professor of Italian and Comparative Literature, UCLA)
Morteza Gharib (Professor of Aeronautics and Bioinspired Engineering, Caltech)
Victoria Vesna (Professor of Design and Media Arts; Director, Art|Sci Center, UCLA)
Francis Wells (Cardiac Surgeon, Royal Papworth Hospital and Cambridge University, UK)
This conference is jointly presented by the UCLA Center for Medieval & Renaissance Studies, UCLA Cardiac Arrhythmia Center – David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, UCLA Art I Science Center, and Caltech.
Rather than simply celebrating Leonardo’s life, works, and scholarship, this conference approaches Leonardo’s influence in a novel way, musing on how Leonardo himself might have reflected on this auspicious anniversary. His desire for new knowledge and understanding would have driven him to look forwards rather than back.
To that end, this conference takes as its starting point four foci of Leonardo’s work—Flight, the Heart, Robotics & Artificial Intelligence, and the Environment—and looks into the future and what may be waiting for mankind as our knowledge and impulse to explore the unknown unfolds over time.
The conference will be accompanied by an exhibition of relevant facsimiles of Leonardo’s drawings matched with photographs of contemporary dissections and modern artistic works from the Department of Artistic Anatomy of the Academy of Fine Arts in Venice. Items from the Elmer Belt Library of Vinciana in the UCLA Library Special Collections will also be on display. Additionally, a film on the life of Leonardo will be shown courtesy of the Italian Cultural Institute of Los Angeles.
Our hope is that through this innovative program we will use the inspiration and example of Leonardo to re-ignite the enthusiasm for research and challenge in this generation and the next, and to develop the most distinguishing of human features, the enquiring and challenging mind.
Each piece had a different sound, as does each square, on the board. Zura learned rapidly to recognise the sounds andwas able to beat three people in chess games, just by listening to the sounds of their and his moves.
To our knowledge this is the first time that data sonification has been used to win chess; beyond this it demonstrates our claim that you can hear things you cannot see in the data. This proof of concept will serve us well as we expand our data sonification to various applications.
Our business applications work is led by UTDallas Judd Bradbury; he has demonstrated that business students are able to hear key information in the data, that they cannot notice in the data visualisation. He has applied this to stock market data, opinion polls as well as more specific business data.
In the audience this evening will by Dr Gagan Wig of the Center for Vital Longevity.; he will be playing chess against the blinded grandmaster. Gagan was the leader of our team, with funding from DARPA and the O’Donnell family of dallas, that initiated the project at UTDallas. In that case we demonstrated that one could sonifify fMRI data on human brains. And that you could distiguish the brain connectome of an older healthy adult compared to a young healthy adult just by listening to the data.
We would like to acknowledge the crucial contributions of the numerous members of the ArtSciLab Transdisciplinary team including: Tim Perkis, Andrew Blanton, Cassini Nazir, Kristen Duepree, Shruti Ayloo, Vina Somareddy, Anvit Srivastav, Michela Chan, Neil Savalia, Paul Fishwick, Mihai Nadin, Frank Dufour, Carlos Aiken, Adnan Syed, Linda Anderson, Jacob Hunwick, Kathy Gresham-Lancaster and others in the UTD ATEC ArtSciLab.
We note that the performance this evening is a benefit for the for the Vogel Alcove homes for homeless children. Sadly Dallas one of the richest cities on the planet, has a growing and unacceptable number of homeless people.
The Data Stethoscope software has immediate applications for partially sighted people and will allow users to hear information in the data that they cannot see.
And we are proud to announce the publication of our Grey Paper which provides the theoretical taxonomy for the ways we will be sonifying the data from the digital chess board- this is part of our initiative with the dallas esports industry , in this case echess
We carry our artmaking and performances as part of our research methodology- we will be analysing the performance to see what innovations resulted that will be useful for the business community and others that are beginning to use our data stethoscope software
Ways of Listening for Information: A Vague Taxonomy of Sonification Techniques
Authored by Scot Greshman-Lancaster (with co-authors Sharath Chandra Ram and Roger Malina), this paper discusses a rough taxonomy of data sonification methods. It summarizes the discoveries and results of ongoing in-depth exploration in this area of research, and uses some of the ArtSciLab’s own modules based on this taxonomy to allow listeners of data and users of machines to make better, faster decisions and help distribute these techniques on a larger scale.
Announcing Re-Imagining Chess: Nine Evenings Reunion 3 Oct 5 2011
Nine Evenings Three: Theater and Engineering
GOOD MOVES: A group exhibition and auction dedicated to the game of chess September 6—October 5, 2019 Press Release The Power Station, Dallas is proud to present ‘Good Moves’, an exhibition dedicated to the game of chess. ‘Good Moves’ features artist made chess sets and other chess related artworks, that further develop the aesthetic legacy of the game, while collectively serving a worthy purpose. All works included in ‘Good Moves’ are to be auctioned at the close of the exhibition to endow a chess program at Vogel Alcove*, a Dallas-based, non-profit organization on a mission to help young children overcome the lasting and traumatic effects of homelessness. The auction is open. Attendance at the oct 5 performance is free
The Re-Imagining Chess performance led by the UTD ArtSciLab will be Saturday October 5th at the Power Station Gallery, Dallas ,
These are the result of three years of consultation and ideation among the 50 faculty and 1500 students of the school. The co-design has been carried out together with other schools in the university and the university administration, as well as our local community of for profit, non-profit, civic organizations, schools and other communities of practice.
The four pillars of this proposed taxonomy of excellence for ATEC are:
Ethics, Technology and Community Engagement
Innovative demonstration of emerging technologies
Creative Technologies Research
As with all taxonomies there is no best taxonomy, but many good ones depending on the context. Other organizations have other ways of framing their values and ideas about what excellence could be. These are not intended to be slogans, but rather thinking tools, open to critique and evolution. In the ArtSciLab we are currently using Terry Irwin’s Transition Design Methods:
And in particular we use artmaking as a research method to improve our data sonification software, Data Stethoscope. We have developed new ways of converting data into sound https://artscilab.atec.io/projects/data-stethoscope for general use in helping people make quicker and better decisions.
DataStethoscope allows you to hear information in the data that cannot be easily visualised.
Our ArtSciLab collaborators and members would be interested in your critiques and divergent thoughts- email to firstname.lastname@example.org
One comment that came in was that the “Designing Culture”, in the singular, went against one of our lab’s explicit values of heterogeneity. Heterogeneous groups will come up with different ideas, often better ones, than homogeneous ones. We need more than one culture.
If this sounds terribly academic, we are going through preparations for the art performance as a research method for Data Stethosope https://artscilab.atec.io/projects/data-stethoscope and we hope to address how we contribute to each of the four pillars of ATEC.
On October 5, Saturday in Dallas, Texas we will be performing an interactive multimedia performance, which hopefully demonstrates how we practice how we theorize. It is entitled:
A group exhibition and auction dedicated to the game of chessSeptember 6—October 5, 2019 Press Release The Power Station is proud to present ‘Good Moves’, an exhibition dedicated to the game of chess. ‘Good Moves’ features artist made chess sets and other chess related artworks, that further develop the aesthetic legacy of the game, while collectively serving a worthy purpose. All works included in ‘Good Moves’ are to be auctioned at the close of the exhibition to endow a chess program at Vogel Alcove*, a Dallas-based, non-profit organization on a mission to help young children overcome the lasting and traumatic effects of homelessness. The auction is open.
Zura will be playing blindfolded against members of the audience. Each move and board position will be converted to sound using techniques of data sonification based on the ArtSciLab Taxonomy of DataSonification . ( we can provide this white paper on request) .One possible application of this innovative demonstration of emerging technologies will be to help humans that are differently abled in their vision cognitive and observational skills; we hope to use these approaches on our new esports research on cyber-athletes.
The ArtSciLab Data Stethoscope project ( https://atec.utdallas.edu/content/data-stethoscope/), initially funded or supported by DARPA, Microsoft, the Edith O Donnell Foundation and others, is now in experimental trials in applications ranging from business analytics to medical diagnostic imaging. Yes we are looking for funding.
I appreciate your mentioning of my education work with displaced Indo-Chinese refugee communities (Khmer and Sino-Khmer) on the Thai-Cambodian border.
First of all, the very words: ‘designing culture(s)’ makes my hair stand up on end as the phrase reeks of a kind of ‘hybris’(hubris ?) which only people who don’t know the meaning (and history) of the meaning of words (etymology) could possibly come up with.
Did Martin Luther want to design or re-design culture? Probably not. or maybe yes, depending on what you mean by culture (and the Catholic church).
Did Claudius (aka Julian the Apostate) want to design or re-design culture? Maybe yes, maybe no, again, it depends what you mean by culture. In this case, antiquity and Christianity were already a hybrid Culture with a capital ‘C’.
Probably, if you want to “design or re-design” culture’, you have to try to influence and have control of institutions (Kuhn, et. Al).
Did Martin Luther King ‘re-design’ culture? Probably yes, but not for long and certainly not without the assist of Lyndon B. Johnson.
When I found myself in a refugee camp in a Thai border area no-man’s land with a displaced Cambodian population of some 80.000 persons, locked into a space of perhaps 25 football fields, certainly, whatever the meaning of ‘culture’ may be, the Cambodian refugees knew what it meant: Cambodian language schools, Cambodian Buddhist temples, etc.
It seems to me that what some people think of when they speak of ‘designing culture’ is basically about designing gadgets (which may change a culture, to be sure): the steam engine, stone age tools, bronze age tools, gun powder, digitalisation, etc.
If Francisco Pizarro in 1532 hadn’t brought his guns, horses and his roman catholic spanish culture to Peru, the Aztecs might have had a better chance to keep on designing ‘their own culture’ as they saw fit. Whoever survived Pizarro’s visit was only able to pass on a crude re-semblance of what they had before.
In the USA, the modern pre-occupation with ‘culture’ began with Franz Boas, Ruth Benedict and Margaret Meade, et. al. They introduced the terms and the academic disciplines of ‘cultural anthropology’ and ‘social anthropology’ in the US. They redefined ‘culture’ both with a small and a big ‘C for most Americans, especially those persons who are now in the Seventies.
Was puberty a testosterone-driven biological given for all human beings? No, said Margaret Meade, after studying Samoan teenagers. Did she change the nature-nurture debate. Yes. Did she change the culture? Who knows? Probably some sexual mores. Cultural change may take a very long time, and then again, maybe not. Institutions and governments in power often manage quick changes. See the reformation, but then again, there came the ‘restoration’, depending who was next in power.
There is an interesting article by Louis Menand in the August 26th 2019 issue of the New Yorker on the subject of ‘culture’ and the US culture wars. It’s a review of Charles King’s new book ‘Gods of the Upper Air’.
According to my taste, we should bake smaller ‘muffins’ in our discussion of designing or re-designing ‘culture’ or ‘the history of ideas, etc.’
Making a ‘contribution to knowledge’ used to be a good-enough purpose in academia. I think we should keep it that way
When I arrived at UT Dallas, Dennis Kratz infected me with the idea of ‘hard humanities’; how do we take all the knowledge from the arts, humanities and design, and apply this to improve our societies functioning, but also to improve science and engineering themselves.
This is a call to action to critics,
and more importantly generative critiquers and noticers of all types. Hybrids
and Amphibians between the disciplines welcome.
The proposition is this: Science is
in trouble, we must redesign it; and Artists, Designers and Humanists must be
co designers of this redesign with STEM professionals.
Redesign the social embeddings
The current social organization of science is an accident of
WW II and the success of physicist and engineers helping win the war. We must
re embed science in society through open science, networked science. As
sociologist Helga Nowotny said: we need a socially robust science that
prioritizes science to enable improved societies. Historian Robert Ilbert
called for rehumanising the “inhuman sciences” ( in reference to the French
term “sciences humaines” for the humanities.
2.) Redesign the
scientific methods: The methods have always evolved, improved,
changed. In contrast to Kuhn’s concept of paradigm shifts, we call rather for
transition design as advocated by Terry Irwin. Newton would not recognize what
we consider scientific validation in many cases today. Computer simulations now
have the status of hypotheses and are difficult to falsify, with the use of
‘consensus’ between different simulations as proof. And similarly we have very
different ideas of causality today; it is not conceptually possible to write an
equation of climate change; there is no A causes B, but A can cause B if C
didn’t happen before and if D happens several times……Phenomena “emerge” from
Free ourselves from the
implicit bias created by having only human “beings” create scientific theories
Astronomers now know that most of the universe does not emit light of any kind (the infamous dark energy and dark matter of unknown nature). For the first time in human history we now have other ‘messengers’ from the cosmos, such as gravitational waves from orbiting black holes. We have been studying the decoration on the universe, not its underlying structures that determine its evolution. Our science is deeply implicitly biased by the use of the human senses and brains. Curiosity used to be a Christian sin, now it is an atheist’s virtue. AI Beings are now developing hypotheses of their own through deep learning techniques. Cognition is embodied; different beings have different embodiment. Will the science developed by AI Beings overlap with that developed by HumansH
On aug 11 we discussed some of the ideas expressed above during a dinner party at No 17 Rue Emile Dunois. Those present were Wolf Rainer, Annick Bureaud, Dorothea Marciak, Jeff Berner, Jouette Travis and in interaction by phone with Bronac Ferran and Liliane Lijn. I was made uncomfortable by their critiques which included:
1.a: the provocation expresses the implicit bias that it is
the scientific method that needs improving to save our kind of life on earth.
Annick pointed out that in spite of the stated reliance on combining
transdisciplinary ways of knowing, somehow it was still posited that improved
science was the ‘best method’. There is no logical demonstration of this point
1 b. Best methods. When Mauricio Mejia and I presented a paper
at ISEA in Colombia, our colleague Rejane Spitz responded vehemently that there
were no such things as ‘best methods’ in transdisciplinary methods, but many
good ones whose efficacy was context dependent. That the use of the term ’best
methods’ reflected the scientific bias that scientific ‘truths’ we the same any
where in the universe, or indeed in any location in human society. There is no
such thing as French scientifique equations and Colombian scientific equations.
But what if what needs improving is inter-personal relations ? yes one can be
thoughtful and methodical but who has demonstrated that the scientific method
is the best our only method to improve the ways we individuals interact with
each other ?
C The queen of the sciences. Wolf Rainer remarked that in spite of my interest in rethinking ideas of causality in complex systems, there was still an implication that what was needed was ‘better and improved mathematics’. Scientists tendency to put mathematics on the throne as the queen of the sciences, discarded other methods of modelling, in Paul Fishwick’s use of the term. Paul has advocated the need for ‘aesthetic computing’ methods that draw on the arts, design, social “sciences” and humanities to improve computer science. Maybe mathematics is not the only ‘queen’ that needs improving to enable human survival.
1.d The assertion in
the provocation that we need to free science from the bias of the way that
humans think, and bring in AI beings and their kind of science was contested.
Or at least we need to be clear that we want humans to survive on earth, and
that maybe ‘human science’ rather than “AI science’ should be favored because
there is an explicit objective of ensuring human survival and not necessarily
the survival of AI beings.
1.e Which immediately was attacked by Annick. This way of speaking separates ‘humans’ from the rest of the symbiotic, cybernetic system of organisms and materials ( eg Latour’s emphasis on actor network theory) to understand science making. Humans cannot exist without the microbiome etc etc. Which takes us back to Roy Ascott’s call for ‘moist’ reality. My call to make the sciences more ‘humanistic’ was a contradiction in terms and logical sense.
We welcome further
critiques , and maybe suggestions on how to rethink the framework on how to
enable the survival of organic life on earth ( while admitting that non organic
life forms are also viable). In the mean term I will keep working on improving
science itself. Send an email to email@example.com
முதல் மடல்: ‘அ’ முதல் அமெரிக்காவரை. முதலாவது ‘விசா வில்லங்கம்”. எப்படியெப்படி தப்பு பண்ணலாம் ? விசா பெறுவதில் எத்தனை எத்தனை வில்லங்கம், முட்டுச் சந்து, உதவிக் கரங்கள், எளிமையான தீர்வுகள் ? உரையாடுகிறார்கள் கௌதம் ஷர்மா-ஆதவன் சிபி ! விசா வழிகாட்டும் வாட்சாப் குழுக்கள், தூதரகம் முன் நிற்கும் அனகோண்டா க்யூ வரிசை, ஒற்றை மனிதனாக கண்டம்விட்டு கண்டம் தாவி அமெரிக்கா சென்று சேரும் கொடுமையான முதல் அனுபவம் … எங்களில் எவரும் நண்பர்கள், முகம் தெரியாத முன்னாள் மாணவர்கள் துணையின்றி இந்த பதட்டக் கடலை தாண்டவில்லை. டென்ஷனாக இருக்கிறதா ? எங்களுக்கும் இருந்தது. அதை எப்படிக் கடந்தோம் என்பதுதான் இந்த முதல் காதையின் மய்யக் கரு.
It is not often a book just makes me happy. As I read this book on a transatlantic flight, I leafed back and forth trying to make sense of this mixture of fact and speculation and just plain lack of closure. Kauffman has been on my radar for decades, and was one of the people who alerted me to the end of physics as the queen of the sciences. Its primacy for the last 70 years was an accident of history, particularly of WWI, rather than of logic, or the methods, we call scientific at the moment.
The sciences of complexity have been one way that sciences are being redesigned, at least in its methods , if not its social embedding. However, the Santa Fe Institute, where Kauffman worked for a while, is indeed a new kind of research institute embedded in open society that treats the arts and sciences as combined ways of knowing. New ideas about causality are emerging and being applied, he argues. In Kauffman’s phrase we must face the fact that some phenomena, including life forms, are ‘unprestatable”. One of the stimuli for his current line of thinking is the work of Mael Motevil and Matteo Mossio on “constraint closure”
Read it again so it makes sense: un pre-state-able. Not unpredictable. Unprestatable. Not the same idea.
This book is almost an exemplar of Edward Said’s ideas on the ‘late style’ of older `creatives´ (Kauffman announces he is 79). There is no closure here on the nature of life and the scientific explanations of its development on earth and elsewhere in the universe. He states, very accurately, that there are xx billion places in the universe where what we call life, or self-organizing systems, must have originated. The discovery, using astro-physics, that there are more planets than stars in the universe shifts our gaze and that the search for life, like our own, is profoundly mistaken. There are billions of life forms, but none will be like our own and of a kind we can converse with and most will not be on planets (my conclusion).
In the closing sections, Kauffman extends the discussion to the evolution of the economy. As with life, the economy, he argues, is another example of the emergence of the ‘adjacent possibles’ enabled by the phenomenon of auto-poesis through constraint closure. He concludes: “To think that this (life or the economy) is a Newtonian-Laplacian machine, derivable in some way from set of axioms, seems deeply wrong. Life, and we among it, is so rich in its inheritance and prospects that we can. I think, be captured by no entailing laws”. In his words the future of life, and the economy, are ‘Unprestatable”.
But read this book and you might get wise, and wisely mad , realizing that the real world isn’t satisfied by physics. Or as we are doing in the UTDallas ArtSciLab try and develop the artscience methods that successfully combine various ways of knowing needed to understand the world at different scales of time, size, and complexity. Like Kauffman I am convinced that physics works enough of the time that it is worth funding; too bad it took astronomere 100,000 years to figure out most of the universe didnt emit light of any kind. For the key problems of climate change and the redesign of our human cultures and economic methods we must go way beyond physics, and in other ways one of which Kauffman elaborates. But this is needed also to understand all three undeniable biggies that Kaufmann enumerates: the origin of the universe, of life forms and of consciousness.
A book that made Roger sad.
The Universe Speaks in Numbers: How modern math reveals nature’s deepest secrets.
Graham Farmelo. Basic Books.Hachette. USA. ISBN 9781541673922.
By coincidence, serendipity, or some higher mathematical logic (or constraint closure ?), I started this passionate book by Graham Farmelo. He goes into the deep end of the age-old disputes on the roles and natures of mathematics in helping us understand the world around and in us. It would be great to have Farmelo and Kauffman arm-wrestle on the three undeniable biggies cited above. Why mathematics can or should inform our understanding of phenomena, simple and complex, is presumably un-prestatable in Kauffman neologism. Farmelo in exquisite detail takes us through the debates on whether mathematics is the queen of the sciences or whether one stupid fact can derail the most beautiful mathematics. The book culminates in the work of the large hadron collider, the unresolved debates about string theory. He ends on a pacifist note: “As we have seen in the relatively recent past it has become clearer than ever that physicists have not one but two ways of improving their fundamental of how nature works: by collecting data from experiments and by discovering the mathematics that best describes the underlying order of the cosmos. The Universe is whispering its secrets to us in stereo.”
This made me deeply unhappy. Here we go again with false dichotomies that the artscience researchers are struggling to dispel. First he takes sides on the age old argument on whether mathematics is a human invention or a discovery of absolute truth. I don’t think this argument has been resolved; what is clear from Sarukkai’s ethics of curiosity argument is that the way mathematics develops is totally, lets say –largely, conditioned by human curiosity. The inevitable conclusion is that mathematics in extraterrestrial species will overlap but not be identical to human invented or discovered mathematics. In addition there are other ways than mathematics and experiment that humans try to make sense of the worlds around them. Kauffman would argue that the processes of evolution result in “successful” beings that reason in certain ways and not others, and I would argue that current mathematics knowledge is an ‘accident’ of the evolutionary path that our reasoning species have taken. Mike Punt and I argued endlessly about these issues in the special issue of Leonardo Reviews Quarterly (http://www.trans-techresearch.net/publications/lrq/ ) where http://malina.diatrope.com/2012/05/28/is-there-role-for-the-sublime-in-artscience-today/ I argued about the un-knowables ( eg what happens inside a black hole), the un-observables, un-translateables and I would now also use Kaufman’s concept of ‘un-prestatables’) and how the way our bodies and minds are constructed, shapes, and constrains our thinking processes so fundamentally that I just don’t see how the mathematics vs experiment can be resolved through this false thinking dichotomy. We need to combine multiple ways of ‘knowing’ or ‘making sense’ of ourselves and the worlds we are part of, not just two. I have never seen a mathematical proof that there can only be two ways of knowing Mr Farmelo !
In our ArtSciLab, https://atec.utdallas.edu/content/artscilab/?portfolioCats=125%2C126%2C127%2C128%2C129%2C130, we are struggling with what we mean by ‘transdisciplinary’ approaches to making sense. Fundamental to our thinking is that there are multiple ways of making sense that range from the cognitive sciences reading of signals emitted by our brain structures, to the phenomenological, to the purely mathematical to the messy, contextually experimental to many others.
So I am now confronted by the ‘fact’ that I have here compared and contrasted TWO books, why “two” (and why both by men of the human species). As I have argued elsewhere false dichotomies of the kind that Farmelo farms are one unprestatable consequence of our being a species that is bilaterally symmetric (thanks Stelarc, obviously if we were three handed we would be obsessed with tri-symmetrical structures).
As Einstein said, I paraphrase: our ideas are as independent of the nature and shape of our bodies, as our clothes are.
Yes, the sciences are in desperate need of redesigning. The scientific method is evolving, for example with the emergence of AI beings that reason, and the social embedding of science is becoming more ‘robust’ as Nowotny argues with the open science , co working and artscience movements. I forget what its called when you are both happy and unhappy at the same time, ambivalent ( why not tri-valent). But we all function on the spectrum of wisdom and madness and in between, and beyond to make sense, so we can survive due to our own individual constraint closures.
Reviews and critiques by; Sharath Chandra Ram, Isabel Meirelles, Wolf Rainer
Albert-Laszlo Barabasi, in this new book, provides unusual and compelling evidence on the patterns that underlie common sense of ‘success’. He chooses to call these insights “laws”, with formulas ; I will question those descriptors later in the review. But as an astronomer, and observational scientist, I resonate deeply with the way he collects his data, analyses patterns and then develops tools to frame an understanding of how those patterns emerge. Yes, if you want to both excel and succeed, read this book.
One caveat, from my background in astronomy, is that as a profession we invested a huge amount of time over the centuries looking at patterns of stars, moving stars, and later morphology of galaxies. Some of these patterns turned out to be irrelevant to understanding the underlying structures; constellations for instance, or the study of the moon and planets to explicate human behaviors. And during my own professional career we learned, thanks to Vera Rubin and many others, that dark matter, which does not emit light, was dominant in explaining the structure and evolution of galaxies. The patterns and morphologies that astronomers were obsessed with were relevant but not fundamental. Similarly my colleagues including Saul Perlmutter, found compelling evidence that the universe is expanding at an accelerated rate due to an unknown ‘dark energy’. Not a common sense result, at least at the time I was getting my education
This background made me a skeptical reader of Barabasi’s claim to have found the ‘formulas’ and “laws’ for individual human and group success. The self help industry is littered with unsubstantiated claims; be careful when searching on line for the laws of success !.But for me Barabasi reframes our thinking about all these questions, brings to bear his expertise in complex network science and data science to create guidelines on how to convert performance into success; both terms he defines clearly, in fields as separate as jazz performers and nobel prize winning biologists. And the book is peppered with fascinating vignettes, such as the mistaken identity incident that transformed Einstein from an excellent scientist to a successful world renowned one. But other exemplars of these laws include why an average basketball player can transform a team into a superteam, and how a smart coach can spot what the average player can bring to group success.
Let me list Barabasi five laws:
Performance drives success, but when performance can’t be measured, networks drive success.
Performance is bounded but success is unbounded.
Previous success x fitness = future success.
While team success requires diversity and balance, a single individual will receive credit for the groups achievements.
With persistence success can come at any time.
First reaction as I read was “hmm nothing new here, Sounds like common sense”. But as I read, the more and more I became convinced that this book was reframing the way I think about the ArtSciLab ( https://artscilab.atec.io/ ) at UTDallas. Cassini Nazir and I co-direct this lab as part of a network of labs in ATEC School at UTDallas . In this lab we have emerging professionals from the “arts” and “sciences” working together, in a designed heterogeneous collaboration lab ; and the performance and success criteria for each of the different professions could not be more different – from the unquantifiable performance criteria in some of the arts, to the citation driven metrics of performance in many of the sciences. Our difficulties in translating performance into success in these transdisciplinary practices has led me to joke that astronomy had been so easy. With its well defined performance and success criteria that a whole community of practice shares, there is a perhaps a ‘formula’ for success in astronomy.
Alex Topete in the ArtSciLab is now leading our HERMES project to collect data on the structures and methods of inter and transdisciplinary research labs, and translate this into ‘apprenticeship’ training. We hope the HERMES approach will help us develop similar ‘common sense’ on how to help our colleagues both perform well and also succeed in their chosen hybrid professions that are often excluded from the silo structures of our institutions. Barabasi’s previous books were already part of our apprenticeship reading, but this book is fundamental and will reshape our approaches.
Let me finish with a few reflexions, not criticisms, of this excellent book.
First, I find the use of the words ‘formula’ and ‘law’ problematic, perhaps because of the way these words are used popularly. Barabasi’s use is very specific, they are the formalisms that can be used to predictably describe the patterns in the data that he and others have found. So far so good. But if there is any take home message that I have taken from the sciences of complexity, it is that we need many ideas of causality and be careful about our implicit biases. Not only the A causes B implication of Barabasi’s third law. Whether in understanding the emerging structures in the Universe or the health of ecologies, or human well-being, we know that emerging behaviors often arise from low level rules of interaction, as well as the implication of network morphologies, not necessarily from ‘laws’ of the systemic behaviour And in many systems (eg climate change) you can model the systems extrapolate future behaviour and develop equations that describe well the data collected in the past, but future behaviour maybe be disrupted by causalities that are of the kind A causes B, if C didn’t happen and D happened 100 years ago. Never mind the impact of sporadic events such as unusual solar cycles, asteroid impact or out of the ordinary volcanic eruptions. Kathryn Hayles has usefully complexified the differences between prediction and retrodiction; Barabasi, I think, with the use of the words ‘law’ and ‘formula’ may mislead some readers. The laws of success as explicated by Barabasi are in a different epistemological framework than the Newtonian laws of gravity. This in my view complexifies how one can translate these laws into daily practice.
The other reflection concerns the sociology of human behavior in institutions. A book that influenced my thinking and practice is Randall Collins book “ The Sociology of Philosophies: A Global Theory of Intellectual Change”. One of the take home messages of the book is that the history of successful ideas is often dominated by ‘office politics’ rather than the excellence of the ideas or individuals. Collins studies schools of philosophy over the millennia in China, Asia, Japan, the West and finds, like Barabasi, patterns that seem to replicate, though in a less data driven quantifiable way than does Barabasi. For instance the common situation of personal disagreement between a PhD advisor and an excellent PhD students leads the student to leave rather than continue to collaborate; the student leads a new school of philosophy that is more successful than that of his mentor. Another example would be the current discussions of how the careers of many young professionals have been strongly influenced by sexual and or psychological harassment in institutions that are historically reticent to punish excellent acadmeic performers for poor or criminal personal behaviors on campus. Barabasi does discuss many examples of what I am calling ‘office politics’, but maybe there is a possible 6th law.
Certainly as part of the community of practice, including our ArtSciLab, that is trying to create research that bridges the arts and sciences, sometimes called STEM to STEAM, we face these issues. We are well aware how office politics has negatively influenced the success of some of our most brilliant colleagues. Sometimes the social structure of institutions is “incompatible” with the success of certain excellent ideas because the way incentives, such as promotion and tenure, function to reinforce ‘silo-ed’ thinking. As a result, our community of practice is still marked by intellectual and geographic migrants, “geniuses’ who have often been abandoned and forgotten. The innovation and creativity research community, including the science of team science area that Barabasi develops, is fast moving as we seek to translate and combine “sciences” with “arts” into useful medical practices and other social outcomes.
Another thought. The 68-year-old that I am was of course encouraged by Barabasi’s 5th Law: Success can come at any time. He analyses in depths the age at which celebrated figures did their outstanding work; yes, most do this before their 30s. But he complexifies this with examples and data of how on the tail of this distribution there are many examples of successful and exceptional achievements in later years. He illustrates this work with the way John Fenn carried out his ground-breaking work in his sixties and received the Nobel prize in his later 80s. He develops the idea of the “‘Q’factor”, the ability to translate ideas into discoveries and quantifies a number of common sense ideas. But more importantly he develops the idea of how to develop ones ‘Q’ factor, through collaboration methodologies, a fundamental concept in the UT Dallas ArtSciLab. And his discussion ties in nicely with Edward Said’s ideals in his book “On Late Style” and the SOTA (Students Older than Average) being led by Linda Anderson in our ArtSciLab. Michael Punt introduced me to this line of argument as part of the COGNOVO program, on cognitive innovation, at the University of Plymouth. The idea that the brain and body have multiple ‘modes of operations , and that these ‘modes’ can be altered, or their use modified by experience or by age or other factors. The popular press on toggling between “quick thinking’ and “slow thinking’, or “thing small” and “think big” ties into this in some way. Said’s ideas helb reshape the way we think about involving older professionals in innovation work.
Said’s full book is at: https://www.penguinrandomhouse.com/books/159782/on-late-style-by-edward-w-said/9780375726330/ and I note in passing that it feeds into my colleague Nina Czegledy’s insistence that in transdisciplinar work we need to invent new mechanisms of inter-generational communication and collaboration. This hallmark of the community of Practice that uses the Leonardo SAST and OLATS organisations for part of their professional needs, as Nina discovered as she led our 50th anniversary ‘village’ birthday parties.
In conclusion we will be adding Barabasi’s new book to our transdisciplinary apprenticeship source material.
Disclaimer. I have met Barabasi a few times during my career. As he explains before becoming a successful scientist, he tried to be a sculptor. This hybrid interest has led him to talk at a Leonardo art-science event in Prague. Later I reached out to Barabasi when I was recruited at UT Dallas to ask if he had recommendations for emerging professionals that I might help recruit. This led to the UTD hiring of historian Max Schich. Max Schich and Isabel Meirelles went on to lead the influential Arts, Humanities and Complex Network symposia at the network science conferences. When Max Schich, an art historian, arrived in Dallas, he published an article in Science which now has an Altmetrics score of nearly 500, and his YouTube video has 1.5 million downloads, yes 1.5 million; certainly a measure of success for an art historian! For me, this anecdote exemplifies Barabasi’s practice over the decades, and illustrates well the laws and formulas Barabasi now proposes in his book under review here: The Formula: The Universal Laws of Success, Little Brown –
2018. I apologise for referring frequently to how I found the ideas of Barabasi’s book applicable to our ArtSciLab and would be interested in if other transdisciplinary researchers find the ideas applicable in their case.
It is with sadness that we inform you of the passing of Dr James Carter. Among other discoveries, Carter examined thousands of samples of moon dust that were brought back to earth and was the expert on how minerals were formed on the moon. Because of the very different history of the moon and the earth, he was able to discover new forms of minerals.
On last Friday we were privileged to have Carter speak to the ATEC ArtSciLab Watering Hole Seminar about his unfinished research projects. He electrified the audience, aged 16 to 70 about some minerals with strange forms that were still unexplained; he generously offered to share the data with the artists and scientists in the audience. We proposed to collaborate with him to understand the mysterious minerals shaped like small rectangular pillars , with spherical forms on top of them; using artscience collaboration. I hope they will be named after him once their formation and nature is understood. And new building structures and sculpures are made that are inspired by these un explained extraterrestial minerals
Here is a photos of James Carter taken at the salon at the home of Linda Anderson after the watering hole; the night before he died.
Watch this space- on october 5 saturday 2019 in dallas texas
On october 5 you are invited to the experimental multimedia AI assisted performance:
RE-IMAGINING CHESS at the Dallas Power Station :http://powerstationdallas.com/ as part of the Good Moves Art Exhibit. There is a public auction open to benefit the Vogel Alcove for homeless children in dallas. Texas grand master chess champion Zurabi Javakhadze will be playing blindfolded with members of the audience aided by data sonification of the chess moves using data stethoscope software developed by the artscilab. oh yes – new versions with sound will be up too-this is just to tease you..you will have to come to the performance to hear the live music and data sonification. AI software is used to assist the blinded chess player. we are also looking for blind chess players to play against the texas grandmaster chess player and encourage you to buy the artworks in the on line auction.
“What would science look like if we started again?
The idea of Octopus is
to create a single place for all scientific research to be published… freely
open to all to read and language agnostic.
Instead of publishing ‘papers’, the unit of publication will be smaller: a piece in the chain from problem -> hypothesis -> method/protocol -> data -> analysis -> interpretation -> real world application. “
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org if you have started publishing on Octopus , we are watching how Octopus develops to see if we could adopt some of Octopus’ good practices for our own Experimental Publi-shing and Curate-ing Projects. These include http://arteca.mit.edu,
which is publishing multi-lingually and multi-modally