Monday, 4 January 2010

WEEK 2: What is digital (and related topics)

'The interpretation of a binary sequence into something meaningful'

This was the best thing I could think of. Data in the form of a sequence being translated possibly into networks in the form of pictures, sounds, games, messages etc. All things that hold some kind of importance to us.
"Very simply, 'analogue' is used to describe systems which operate using the principle of signals whose characteristic varies in proportion to some other function which they represent. An example is a gramophone record where the depth of the groove varies in exact proportion with the sound pressure level recorded. By contrast, 'digital' systems work on the principle of numerical representations and calculation."

1) PROBLEM SOLVING: Digital technologies offer a solution to problems relevant to our time and culture that are relative to modern culture and technology. Concerning communications to and from a mass audience across vast distances, the typical problems we might expect involving time and reliability are now easily avoidable if not void in some places with many people being able to access alternative ways to send messages, have real-time conversations and spread news and ideas. Technically, by making it easier for us to communicate, we have solved and important problem. Computers are also able to solve long complex problems and calculations making a cost and time effective alternative providing ourselves with more time to do other things that a computer can only assist in doing e.g. create and discover. 
There are things that computers are very unlikely to achieve, such as creation and abstract thought. But a possible argument against the statement 'COMPUTERS WILL NEVER BE ABLE TO CREATE' resides in the possibility that there is an underlying order (or law) to everything in the universe (the fabled and ever mysterious 'Theory of Everything'). If there is a universal physical law that we can discover, then in some way events are statistically predictable by some use of probability theory. If the likely-hood of an event can calculated (through probabilities) then it potentially can be done by a computer. No such thing can currently be proven and even though this topic is interesting this is that my priority. 

With regards to probability: Please visit blog entry on LE POMP: Monday, 9 November 2009

Probability and Patterns: Vagueness beyond your standard drunken memory is nothing more than fact


2) MAKING LINEAR TASKS EASIER GIVES US TIME TO MAKE, DISCOVER AND PLAY: If I want to find the answer to something I cant remember, the internet provides me with an instant and diverse solutions. This is exciting, because it means such a task can be done by a machine, giving me more time to be creative or interactive in a human way. However the down side lies in the risk that we could neglect our memory and leave things to be learnt in a way that is not thorough or substantial enough. We already rely heavily on the directories and operations of computers and the internet as a substitute for linear memorising and operations. 
This in its self has a good side because it connects us to each other. A practical example of the benefits of using computers is when they are used in scientific research in inaccessible areas such as Mars and Volcanoes- I personally dont see the point in manned space missions, our technology is not advanced enough for this to be cost/time effective and it is currently better suited for collecting and processing data needed to understand more about such physical environments before assessing how realistic, practical or culturally significant it might be to send folk into space (or into volcanoes.) 

*NOTE: Its our responsibility to take care of our memory and the parts of our brain that carry out linear tasks that a computer is more easily capable of processing. Its exists to be used and it makes sense not to let this perish at the expense of practicality- our processing capabilities on the whole (i.e. biologically) are far more advanced than those of any machine.

3) GLOBAL CONNECTION: We are potentially all able to be connected to each through the digital environment and all able to access information for free. This can only be a catalyst in our development and understanding of one another and problem solving.

4) TECHNOLOGY/ CAD/ MEDIA/ ART: There are things we can do with computers that we can not do alone. I mentioned Mars earlier as an example but consider things like laser scanning, satellite imaging, interpreting and/or detecting Infrared signals are a few things amongst many that require computer/digital assistance. 
Computers can also assist in design. CAD (Computer Aided Design) has revolutionized the world of art, design and commerce- with the emergence of digital arts. We can make interactive projected or online animations or games that depend on some kind of network or human action. We use layers, selecting  and mapping tools to assist design using programs such a those made by Adobe. Digital printing has opened up an immense variety of possibilities: Choice of printing methods, printable on many surfaces with many different finishes, production and prototyping is made easier, vector images can be lazer-cut into a variety of surfaces as well as 3D scanning, printing (rapid prototyping) aided by 3D modeling softwares.
The film industry is changing: Not only with the development of technologies in HD (High Definition) and more sophisticated but digital equipment is becoming more accessible, affordable and editing softwares are becoming increasingly user friendly. Digital environments appear to be democratising many creative processes. However many big movies and documentaries are still recorded on film, their is a certain currently irreplaceable aesthetic in the physical imprint of moving images on film that is vital to many creative film makers and directors. Some photographers would agree- but an excellent digital camera to a professional photographer or photo-journalist is indispensable. 

As a human, it is clear that there will always be an aesthetic and pleasure in all things human made and human done: i.e. communicating with people, walking through a park early in the morning on a sunny day, going to the pub etc. For most people these things are more satisfying in person, possible because sitting in front of a computer screen all day (no matter how interesting its content) is not what we have physically evolved to be able to deal with (yet?). 

There are things a human can do that remain impossible to computers/robots/programs, although through logic it may be possible to imitate these things. Will it ever be possible for computers to be capable of independent abstract thought or ideas that are inconclusive and/or contradictory? In a computer, a contradiction would perhaps result in a crash or a never ending loop, which made physically impossible to do even on an infinite time scale because the physical capacity of a processor. (Which is finite and will 'use itself up'). Computers work by translating numerical calculations that are in a sense like the 'arguments' of logic or PROOF.

Deductive logic can be proven incomplete. This proof was published in 1931 by Gödel; a good reference is Hofstader's Gödel, Escher, Bach. The key being ingrained in 'self-reference'. He proved that all mathematics (unless they are trivially limited) contain statements that are both true and false or neither true nor false. They are infact simply unprovable.

Take for example this 'self referencing' argument: "This statement is false."

"Note that if this statement is true, then it must be false. If the statement if false, then it must be true. So we have a chain of True » False » True » False ...."

The discussion we had during our meeting on Friday was very interesting, everyone has something to say about WHAT DIGITAL IS. Probably because in London and at Camberwell College of Arts, digital communication networks are very important to how we contact our tutors and each other. For many other people across the world this is the same.

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