Composing Systems for Advancing Advancing

The Glanville Memorial Lecture


  • Bill Seaman Department of Art, Art History & Visual Studies; C0-director Emergence Lab, Media Arts and Sciences; Computational Media Arts and Cultures; Duke University


Second-Order Cybernetics; Ranulph Glanville; Composing; Neosentience; Insight Engine 2.0; Recombinant Informatics; Interactive Generative System; Natural Language API


Composing Systems for Advancing Advancing


This paper points to the creation and interfacing of networks of differing generative systems, for the advancement of knowledge production. Can we compose a set of creative approaches to “intelligent” generative systems— meta-meaning systems that explore human intelligence working in concert with Artificial Intelligence, to advance the fields of both human and artificial Intelligence in the creation of an even higher-order intelligent system of systems, to explore extremely complex problem sets?

In my book The Architecture of Ideas / The Life and Work of Ranulph Glanville, Cybernetician, I point to the fact that Ranulph decided late in his life to change his use of the term observer, to the poetic term composer. We are the composers of thoughts that lead to a constructivist (von Glassersfeld) understanding of the world. Ranulph sought to empower advances in Cybernetics, and relatedly to other fields like the system sciences, as well as the arts and design, functioning as one of the creator/articulators of Second Order Cybernetics. He sought to define advances in approaches to design by articulating a cybernetic set of systematic concepts and ways of living “in cybernetic circles”— coming to research and know the world through creative cybernetic design practices. It must be noted that his definition of design, arising out of composing, also meant that one composed everything via thought, this included the practice of science itself. Conversation with the self and others is central to this process of composing. Interestingly, in this way design trumped science or it at least functioned as part of an active methodology central to the scientific method. One goes through a second-order process of conversation (circular causality) with the self, often functioning in concert with interactive machinic systems and others, as it relates to a given area of research— to design experiments, and perhaps develops new ways to systematically approach new forms of knowledge production.

 My approach has been to research and author systems that promote the generative bridging of disciplinary practices through new forms of creative code authorship— expressive interactive visualization (and later sonification and hapticization), as well as multi-modal understanding of context in both the human and the machine.

I have sought to enfold a series of differing foci though the development of generative systems, empowering disciplinary cross-pollination. In particular, I am interested in Neosentience[1] (my coin), a new form of AI that is inspired by mind/brain/body/environment relationality, enfolding shared language use and self-observation — meta-level systems. The central notion is to define the entailment structures that are at operation in the body, leading to human sentience. One then abstracts this via biomimetics and bio-abstraction in the creation of new forms of AI and situated robotics. Central is the team-based authorship of an interactive research system including the development of a new transdisciplinary search engine and network of visualization systems (Insight Engine 2.0) — a generative interactive 3d environment functioning in concert with a natural language API; and a new set of concepts exploring Recombinant Poetics and Recombinant Informatics; as well as the exploration of a transdisciplinary series of topics conceptual bridging — bisociation (Koestler – The Act Of Creation) and Poly-association (my term). I am thus seeking to explore composing systems for advancing transdisciplinary insight through conversation with the self and the knowledge of others, enfolding the focused employment of intelligent machinic systems in this conversation. The network of goals includes composing systems for advancing transdisciplinary insights, and in particular authoring systems that point toward composing a higher order system.


[1] Bill Seaman and Otto Rössler (2011) Neosentience / The Benevolence Engine, Intellect, Bristol, UK; Chicago, USA