My final project was born of my fascination with the agricultural and economic legacy of the English language. Why is society so seemingly fucked? Throughout the Spring semester I studied and explored a veritable buffet of concepts in energy, the Anthropocene, engineering ethics, and the future of "new media" and infrastructure, and of course electronic writing and reading as a sort of bas relief around human creativity in finding meaning in interpreting words expressed via the predictable/unpredictable results of programming logic, set in motion by human hand.
This panoply of dense topics inspired me to explore the ideas of materialism and physicalism. Which in turn inspired me to return to my old craft of screenwriting. I left film for ITP because I was sick of how manipulative and economically driven the medium and industry are. To quote Michael Corleone "Just as I thought I was out they pull me back in." So I decided to write an outline screenplay about a female-type cyborg who is seeded and raised in a host family as a control in a long-term study of human illogic and illogic in navigating decisions for the goal of total mutual benefit (in social and biodiversity spheres.) The things that make this screenplay tenable for me are:
- a) an interactive screenwriting formatted website which I would like to design to dynamically tag action and dialogue blocks, lines, or words with an associative or literal visual reference.
- b) a protagonist cyborg who realizes the only way to preserve and achieve her directive for mutual benefit is to destroy human language and this is what happens in the end - humanity is left to sort out their emotionally and materially determined future with humanity-wide aphasia.
- c) The story follows Semi, the cyborg character as she uses her creator-limited processes to help her human peers at home and a research university navigate decisions with logic, rather than emotion. Her talent is being able to project all possible paths of rigid bodies in vector space, as well as being able to use her understanding of human language interactions, behavioral psychology, and situational factors to do so. Much of the story structure is about how the human characters she encounters make poor social, ethical, material, and temporal decisions based on a misunderstanding of the nature of reality. For example, they constantly disregard her personhood when her advice for how they should act to ameliorate a poor decision stimulates a strong cognitive dissonance response. In many ways, I seek to use typical film drama as an instructive rage against emotions and the lies of language.
WHAT THE ABOVE HAS TO DO WITH MY GENERATED TEXT
In each of my classes, which were all extremely burdensome existentially speaking, I chose to use the second half of the semester to work on an aspect of world building. For my RWET project I wanted to explore ways in which I could begin to explore ways to use logic to generate my cyborg's non-cooperative, post-revelation dialogue with her creator and her frustration with their inability to discuss the real issues at hand - the nature of reality.
VERBS VERSUS NOUNS
Learning about TextBlob and NLTK inspired me to first approach my crackpot brand of physicalism from a very simple place. I decided to design and generate a "prototype" of the kind of conversation my cyborg, once she twigs to how shitty human language is at handling reality and representing the truth.
My central idea is: agricultural and colonial-enabled language has caused us to lose our innate animal understanding that everything is energy. Language, by way of weighting the concepts of property and labor as most important has divided our understanding of the nature of reality, which is bundles of energy flowing through points in space at varying levels of stability or excitation, into two concepts which are harder to immediately synthesize retrospectively: TIME and MATTER. Time is the economic measure of the energy we output for those who control the narrative. Matter is the justification of property-holding.
For the dialogue between Semi and her creator I made the simplistic organizational rule that:
- any time a question Semi's creator asks is noun heavy rather than parse his intended meaning she uncooperatively chooses to "assume" he wants to discuss "the illusion of matter, human economics and/or emotional content."
- any time a question Semi's creator asks a verb-heavy question she relates that to the concept of energy waves moving. She prefers any discussion which downplays the literal idea of physical, particles or quanta.
Nabokov's Lolita was the text I used to generate Semi's answers to Creator A's noun-heavy questions. I used n-gram analysis to try and distill the essence of what is "the matter" in such a linguistically stellar handling of dysfunctional, self-involved, destructive decision-making and culture.
I used Louis Debroglie's Particle-Wave Duality theory text for verb heavy questions. I also used n-gram analysis to get the most common phrases in his corpus. Debroglie was a contemporary of Einstein's whose 1924 PhD thesis postulated the wave nature of electrons and suggested all matter has wave properties.
Creator A's questions are randomly selected questions for a psychometrics battery for child trauma. As Wikipedia says: "Psychometrics is a field of study concerned with the theory and technique of psychological measurement concerned with objective measurement of skills, knowledge, abilities, attitudes, personality traits, and educational achievement." I wanted to create the impression that Creator A is debriefing Semi and I wanted to move the questioning beyond the Turing test references into something more deeply suggestive of the scenario.
Using Allison Parrish's RWET example code for n-gram analysis on the DeBroglie thesis text:
I used Python's TextBlob module to find noun phrases and verbs in the creator's questions. Some pseudo code stylings:
My n-gram analysis text-mash up lacked markov-chain sophistication. So it was a string of non-sensical preposition and conjunction phrases. In my reading performance I took the notes I got after my final presentation: I went with a bombastic oratory style which fit into my idea that Semi as a character is disdainful of human language. After my performance peers and audience members volunteered that they could feel Semi's attitude from my reading of the text- I think it had an interesting effect with the context-heavy framing of my text cut up/generation choices.