Emergence

Event type: Conference

Date: 2006-10-19

This was a session shared by Brian Eno and Will Wright in which they talked about emergence and generativity. Below are my notes; more photos are available from my Flickr account. There are a number of quotes in here that are absolutely fabulous.

Brian Eno – What Darwin did for Natural History, we now need to do for culture. What is it that changes people’s minds? Culture. (Religion also does / used to do this.)

Had an amazing experience with a iece of music by Reich – “It’s gonna rain“. The lessons are:
You don’t need much material.
You don’t need much composing – you just need someone to set things in motion.
The real composing happens in the brain of the audience.

Culture objects are things made by artists that give you (the experiencer) the opportunity to create something (an experience)

Will Wright – If you ask a class of second graders:
How many people can dance?
How many people can draw?
How many people can sing?
They will all say yes. If you ask these same questions in a college classroom, they will all say no. Perhaps education teaches us what we can’t do.

The lesson of the Sims is – People love making content.

A computer game is a compiler that builds a model in the head of the player.

Drake’s equation is a model for thinking about the different levels at which generativity can happen.

Within Spore, an entire planet including species, buildings, and everything, is stored in about 80k. A species costs about 3k.

When players play their own games, the computer “learns” how their species work. This gets downloaded for asynchronous play by others, so that all the planets and species that a player encounters are actually content generated by other players. The computer plays the other species just as the player would have.

Discussion section:

BE – Generative is very economical.
WW – In both science and culture there’s a change from examining things from top down to bottom up. Millions of people make stuff with low cost, high power tools that bubble up in a Darwinian process.
BE – There is a battle between high art (the single great master) and low art. There is a suspicion or resentment of low art by the high art folks.
WW – Increases in communication have increased the speed of the feedback loop, which increases the power of selection process.
BE – To release something is to set it free from your own excuses.
WW – The education model of theory, theory, theory protects people from failure. This is the opposite of the apprenticeship model, in which a person builds 100 crappy chairs and then finally builds a good one. This is why adults (who have been through education) won’t push a button on a game without reading the manual, but young kids have no issues with just going crazy.
WW – There’s a sweet spot between accessibility and power of tools… [mix this with massive selection effects and we’ve got something].
WW – SimEarth was a great simulation but an awful game. We want toys to be toys.
BE – Managing the Commons talks about the Hatterites(sp?) – who believe that communities work best when they’re limited to about 150.
Grooming, Gossip, and the Evolution of Language also examines the effects of scale on human groups.
Sense of honor and sense of shame cease to operate once you pass a certain number of people.
WW – Most successful online groups peak out between 120 – 150
WW – Architecture gives you a set of rules, but no meta-set of rules for what order to apply them in, or how to apply them
WW – The best laid plans of mice and men turn into non-linear systems.

One thought on “Opening Session at Pop!Tech

  1. I meant to say thanks a couple of weeks ago when you spoke with my class about learning objects. It is always interesting to hear from somebody who’s work you’ve read. Also, it is great to see that you’re using WordPress. Huge plus on that. Pretty big minus on the fact that when I choose to leave a comment, the link doesn’t take you right down to the comment area. That kind of thing drives me crazy! My version of k2 (Ben Gray’s Unsleepable) has the lovely anchor feature.

    Anyways, I wasn’t writing just to talk about anchor links. I’m also writing because I disagree with your parenthetical response to Brian Eno (is it that Brian Eno?). Religion still informs culture. I don’t think there’s a ‘used to’ about it. On the surface the world seems secular. That’s because mass media (rightly so in my mind) is largely secular. But compared to similarly ‘modern’ countries, we in the U.S. are quite religious. Quite the paradox.

    Oh, and you owe me a milkshake.

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