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Wednesday, September 26, 2018
Wednesday, September 5, 2018
In a Zen garden, a young monk was doing his morning shift — cleaning the backyard. He asked old master for inspection after cleaning almost every corner. Old master looked around the garden, complained, ‘’this is quite boring.’’ He then shook a cherry tree nearby, raised a smile as the petals fell down the ground.
This fable is a metaphor. In an AI-filled society, many jobs, just like young monk’s role can be replaced by AI. What’s left for human? It may be old master’s job which is more of artistic, imaginative stuffs.
Modern society typically consists of two key components — “professionalism” based on the division of labor, and ‘’standardization’’ based on automation. A professional’s brain is more of a ‘’container’’ to store knowledge. Expert says anything if you repeat it over 10,000 times you will excel at it. But if we program our brain in this way, the chances of being creative are limited. Being productive and being creative are basically on the opposite track. As we all know, the huge advantage of AI is to lift up the heavy burden of repetitive modules and take over most of the specialist-type jobs, so we will be able to release more creativity after being used as machines for too long due to the constraint of technology.
Let’s take a look at the key ingredient of creativity — imagination.
Imagination — the edge of human over AI
Albert Einstein said, ‘’knowledge is limited, imagination encircles the world’’.
What is imagination exactly? Professor K. Michael Hays of Harvard Graduate School of Design has explained this in the course The Architectural Imagination, “…imagination creates its image. The image isn’t there until the imagination produces it.”[ref]
So imagination is about ‘’unknown world’’, something “generated from nothing”, it’s geared towards future. AI is based on data, no data, no AI. But data is something pre-existed, it’s about past. We can argue AI has ability to predict, but prediction is still different from imagination. Prediction is based on evidence, historical records, which are scientific and objective, yet imagination is something subjective, it flows like water.
Oscar awards winner anime director Hayao Miyazaki said he often didn’t use screenplay [ref.1]. Mostly he only has a very vague scene in his mind and might keep painting until he feels he has created the ‘’world’’. Miyazaki’s works, full of spontaneous creative flow, are illogic and largely based on imagination, which not just makes his works hardly to be replicated, but difficult to be replaced by AI as well. Miyazaki’s methodology, more like an experiment, actually indicates sort of direction of our future work. He also addressed he ‘’tried to dig deep into the well of his subconscious by not using logic.’’[ref.1].
The Economist magazine said data was the new oil [ref.2]. But data is the powerful analytical tool to help us understand any given situations; it is still divergent from creative assets. There may be one day AI will have conscious, but before that, when the economy moves forward from ‘’heavy’’ to ‘’light’’, we might really need to tap into our ‘’invisible territory’’ — imagination.
Deep Layer of Imagination
Apart from the creative meaning, imagination also has deep liaison with building a more empathic culture in any democratic world where individual right is top priority. It will be more significant in the upcoming AI society, as AI’s behavior pattern is actually in line with human behavior due to designers are the instigators.
J.K.Rowling expressed her thoughts in the commencement speech [ref. 3] at Harvard University, “…In its arguably most transformative and revelatory capacity, it (imagination) is the power that enables us to empathize with humans whose experience we have never shared.”
Her opinion suggests a solution for us who have been stuck in the matrix of data and may have to live with ‘’the lack of empathy in technology design’’ [ref. 4], illustrated by an extreme example such as Facebook’s ‘’Your Year in Review’’ two years ago, in which Facebook published the photo of a user’s dead daughter[ref.4].
If a person has very narrow life experience and has never touched the hardship of life, one cannot expect him or her to empathize with people. Such ability may come from first-hand experience, but most of time, it can be acquired through second hand life experience, i.e. reading more great books, etc., which unlocks our imagination to the life we have not connected. This can also be part of reason why we particularly need liberal arts in the age of algorithms.
Martha Nussbaum said the positive impact of arts and particularly literature would be ‘’cultivating the powers of the imagination which, in turn, contribute to the kind of judgment and sensitivity needed by responsible citizens’’ [ref. 5]. She also argued that, ‘’narrative imagination is not uncritical, as her end goal of narrative imagination is to judge the other, BUT after understanding their point of view in their local context’’ [ref. 6]. While J.K. Rowling emphasizes the imagination was the pathway to be compassionate and empathic, Nussbaum said it was also effective the other way around — ‘’compassion and empathy are central to developing narrative imagination.’’[ref. 6].
Put it simply, narrative imagination will help us put ourselves in others’ shoes; even just a small amount of imagination may increase our understanding to each other.
Boost our imagination
The pity is our education system does not favor imagination as much as knowledge. Our system is rather a ‘’knowledge center’’ than an engine for imagination. Einstein even has cynical view on formal education that ‘’the only thing that interferes with my learning is my education.’’ We have to admit knowledge is predominantly something explaining the existing things. And our advantage is definitely not about turning ourselves into ‘’walking library’’. Einstein has encouraged us that ‘’imagination is more important than knowledge…Imagination is everything, it’s the preview of life’s coming attractions…’’.
Agatha Christie, whose best-selling books sales was only behind Shakespeare and Bible, also confessed that her success had largely been benefited from her life without formal education. None of her ‘’unused ideas’’ recorded in 73 notebooks ‘’depended on expert knowledge or an expensive education’’ [ref.7].
People might think, ‘’these are genius’’. But what if we just CHOOSE to be banal due to the limitation of education? And the real challenge is, do we still have opportunity to be banal in the upcoming AI world as our ‘’assistants’’ are way too smarter than us?
Whether or not current education gets in the way of our future, people may have individual take. Not everyone needs to create a timeless IP or a strong brand through imagination; however, everyone does have FREE access to explore the infinite resources — imagination — to do something positive.
Putting all the possible dystopian scenarios aside, even we have ‘’safety net’’[ref.8] to cover basic income in the future, the real thrive to human race is primarily depending on how well we boost our imagination, after all we were born to be creators, not consumers.
1. Ref — https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=35&v=Mmo7f4R-i1c
2. Ref — 1 — http://www.midnighteye.com/interviews/hayao-miyazaki/
3. Ref — 2 — https://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21721656-data-economy-demands-new-approach-antitrust-rules-worlds-most-valuable-resource
4. Ref -3 — https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UibfDUPJAEU
5. Ref -4 — https://www.newyorker.com/business/currency/silicon-valley-has-an-empathy-vacuum
6. Ref — 5 — https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1744-7984.2008.00138.x
7. Ref — 6 — http://fed.wiki.org/journal.hapgood.net/narrative-imagination/maha.uk.fedwikihappening.net/narrative-imagination
8. Ref — 7 — https://www.irishtimes.com/culture/books/the-secrets-of-agatha-christie-s-success-1.2820812
9. Ref — 8 — http://www.worldbank.org/en/topic/safetynets
Friday, August 31, 2018
Sunday, February 11, 2018
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Monday, September 4, 2017
Wednesday, August 30, 2017
Waking up in the midnight due to a strong coffee, then I tried to read the news on my twitter account. CNN’s news about people forming a human chain to save a man trapped in floodwaters really put a smile on my face. Then I fell back to sleep again, peacefully…
Hero story is still the best bedtime story, particularly for cynic adult. So if I want a sweet sleep every night, I need everyday hero.
Sunday, August 27, 2017
This round-up is based on my ‘’artist talk’’ session held in NACC on Aug 11, 2017. It is just the elaboration of the outlines covered during the artist talk session. Last year I read a pocket book, Is Christianity a Hoax, which is a very interesting topic, so I borrowed its title to apply here.
Great style is a great disguise –
For an artist, the ability is much more important than the style. I believe ‘’form follows function’’, or ‘’form follows content’’. If so, an artist is not supposed to be restricted by any style. Actually, ‘’style’’ is the label mostly used by other people to analyze your works. It might show up very naturally but we’d better not to ‘’design” the style. Great style is just a great disguise. A real artist is an actor or an actress, when he or she finished a film (the art project), just like took off a disguise. Perhaps in the previous film, he or she played a role as a drug dealer, but then in the upcoming film, his or her role will be a cop. We can say either the ‘’drug dealer’’ or the ‘’cop’’ is just the ‘’style’’ of the creation.
People may argue that lots of excellent artists or actors/actresses are well known for a particular ‘’style’’ throughout the history of art/film. That is the truth, but I think that is mainly because of commercial reason, that by sticking to a particularly ‘’style’’ it might be easy for one to stand out from the market, but I also think the great artists or actors/actresses can master various ‘’style’’; and that ability to ‘’switch between different styles’’ is vital.
We live in an era that ‘’specialist’’ dominates the world, but back to Renaissance time, many artists are also excellent scientists, musicians, etc., Compared with modern artists, old masters have strong ability to control a great deal of variety.
Is it necessary to have artist’s statement? –
Language is so powerful that it might be used to manipulate people’s mind. A typical example of powerful language is the leading question or suggestive question on the court. Attorneys are busy with identifying and objecting to these types of questions on the court. Although here we are talking about art, which has nothing to do with justice, or even right or wrong, the subtle influence of language could not be underestimated.