Sunday, 10 June 2018

Information theoretical approaches to Ecology in Music

Information theory provides an index of "surprise" in a system. It concerns the difference between what is anticipated and what is unexpected. So in a string of events which might read A, A, A, A, A there is a strong anticipation that the next event will be A. The Shannon formula reveals this because the probability of A in this string is 1, and log 1 is 0, thus making the degree of surprise 0. But if the string read A, A, A, A, Z then we get a much higher number: the probability of A is 4/5, and the probability of Z is 1/5, and their logs (base 2) are  -0.32192809488 and -2.32192809489. Multiply these by the probabilities we get:

(4/5 * -0.32192809488) + (1/5 * -2.32192809489) =

-0.25754247591 + -0.464385618978 = -0.721928094888

The problem with this approach is that it sees a sequence of characters as a single description of a phenomena that can be treated independently from any other phenomena. But nothing only has a single description. There are always multiple descriptions of this. This means that there are multiple dimensions of "surprise" which must be considered together when doing any kind of analysis - and each dimension of surprise constrains the surprising nature of other dimensions.

A musical equivalent to the A, A, A, A, A might be seen to be
But is this right? By simply calculating the entropy of the note C, this would give an entropy of 0. And so would this...
What if the Cs continued for hours (rather like the B-flats in Stockhausen's "Stimmung") - is that the same? No. 

A better way to think about this is to think about the interacting entropies of multiple descriptions of the notes. How many descriptions are there of the note C? Well, there are descriptions about the timbre, the rhythm, the volume, and so on. And these will vary over time, both from note to note, and from time t1 to time t2.. 

I've written a little routine in Python to pull apart the different dimensions in a MIDI file and analyse it in time segments for the interactions between the entropies of the different kinds of description (I'll put the code on GitHub once I've ironed-out the bugs!). 

Analysing the midi data produces entropies over time sections, which look a bit like this (using 2-second chunks):
These values for entropy for each of the dimensions can be plotted against one another (one of the beauties of entropy is that it normalises the "surprise" in anything - so sound can be compared to vision, for example). Then we can do more with the resulting comparative plots. For example, we can spot where the entropies move together - i.e. where it seems that one entropy is tied to another. Such behaviour might suggest that a new variable could be identified which combines the coupled values, and that the occurrence of that new variable can then be searched for and its entropy calculated. This overcomes the fundamental problem with Shannon in that it seems tied to a predefined set of  variables. 

Comparing the interaction of entropies in music can be a process of autonomous pattern recognition - rather like deep learning algorithms. But rather than explore patterns in a particular feature, it explores patterns in surprisal between different features: the principal value of Shannon's equations is that they are relational. 

The point of pursuing this in music is that there is something in music which is profoundly like social life: its continuous emergence, the ebb and flow of emotional tension, the emergence of new structure, the articulation of a profound coherence, and so on. David Bohm's comment that music allows us to apprehend an "implicate order" is striking. I realised only recently Bohm's thought and the cosmological thought of the composer Michael Tippett might be connected (Tippett only became aware of Bohm very late in his life, but expressed some interest in it). That's my own process of seeking cosmological order at work!

Saturday, 9 June 2018

Bolton VC George Holmes's Pay Rise: Why doesn't the yacht get rocked?

This week it emerged that the University of Bolton's VC awarded himself a pay increase of £30k (see https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-manchester-44382258) plus pension benefits which take his total to £295k (see https://www.theguardian.com/education/2018/jun/06/bolton-university-boss-given-66000-pay-rise-last-year). If this considerable financial reward was for "bringing embarrassing attention upon oneself as a leader of a university" then perhaps there could be some justification. After all, George Holmes has been in the press quite a lot over the last few years:



Under the perverse rationality of late capitalism, only the logic that permits the likes of Philip Green to get away with screwing BHS, the directors of Carillion to bring chaos to national infrastructure projects, or Donald Trump to become US president could excuse this. That this is a university which exists to serve the public good rubs salt in the wound. And it's a hell of a lot of money.

We live in astonishing times when it's not uncommon to hear executives talk about earning "only" £100k. "Only"? WTF! Holmes clearly thought he was earning "only" £220k, and so bumped his total package including pension benefits up to £295k. And whose money is it in the end? He's filling his pockets with cash his students will work for over the next 30 years. Who would say this doesn't stink?

Well, it turns out, quite a lot of powerful people - not least the governors of the university - seem completely oblivious to the outrageousness of this behaviour. Instead they talk of his "performance" - by which they mean that the university continues to raise cash from the living bodies of students who sign up for courses (but a high proportion of whom leave early), and whose indebtedness is managed by the government and sold-off to private companies who reward their shareholders (how many Vice Chancellors have shares in the companies dealing in student loan debt?)

Everyone knows that universities have governance problems these days (see https://www.timeshighereducation.com/features/hbos-and-london-met-case-studies-in-poor-governance/2004131.article, https://wonkhe.com/blogs/registrarism-university-governance-with-a-capital-g/). So what about the politicians? Theresa May threatened to sack Nadhim Zahawi, MP, for his attendance at the Presidents Club. Nobody questioned the position of Holmes after the university released a similar peculiar excuse (see https://www.timeshighereducation.com/news/bolton-v-c-felt-uncomfortable-attending-presidents-club-dinner). Who could? What if he was head of a primary school? How could he possibly have defended his presence, however 'shocked' he was? It seems that because we have turned universities into "businesses", the behaviour of their leaders is measured against the slimy behaviour of "captains of industry" rather than public servants. Let's turn schools into businesses too! Oh - we've done that, and indeed one of Holmes's professors at the University helped to establish an academy chain, Bright Tribe: https://www.theguardian.com/education/2016/mar/22/parent-governor-schools, which became involved in a number of failed schools projects where Holmes seemed to pop-up as a governor. That's not to mention the UTC set up on Bolton's Campus which received a damning report from the Education Funding Agency: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/financial-management-and-governance-review-bolton-utc. This criticised, among other things, a payment of £209,862 to Bright Tribe where there was "no evidence of a formal procurement exercise".

What networks of influence keep people like this safe even under conditions where most in such positions would be forced to resign?

The University, like others, has been courting figures within the establishment, national and local government. This might be defended as "academic work": but in the world of modern universities, with sky-high salaries of the bosses and high-stakes to match, nothing is what it seems any more: there is a point at which "academic work" becomes "political lobbying". These are not bad people, but one can't help wondering whether the sense of entitlement which characterises Holmes's behaviour is shared by a few of them. If Holmes isn't entitled to his wealth, then maybe there would be awkward questions raised about others... Or if a failed initiative pursued by Bolton University is closely tied to government policy (like University Technical Colleges), then forcing him to atone for his failure might compromise the government's reputation. So best not rock the yacht...

But the list of individuals and organisations who have had engagements with the University recently is interesting. Not a yacht-rocker among them!




Tuesday, 5 June 2018

Screens, Print and the Ever-changing lifeworld

I'm writing some music at the moment. I'm using self-publishing book tools provided by Blurb (http://blurb.co.uk) to help me focus on the always laborious process of studying and playing the written notes and gradually improving them. It seems to be working. My initial not-very-good-notes sit on my piano in a beautiful book. I play at them, cross things out, make adjustments, which I then feed into the score and will get to the stage when I produce the next printed version.

This process isn't the same as simply printing-off pages. The blurb book arrives a few days after ordering and it looks beautiful. The pages are bound together which mean that the ordering of the flow of the music is tied into the form of the book. In other words, the form of the book constrains the form of the music as I originally wrote it. The constraint is useful because it means that I have to work with what's there, chipping away bits and pieces.

On a computer screen anything is possible. Any mistake can be made, erased, remade, re-erased, etc. The computer presents unlimited possibilities. And that can be a problem in creative work. Unlimited possibilities = increased uncertainty in making decisions about what to do. The computer presents an ever-changing lifeworld.

As human beings (and indeed, as animals), we desire a manageably stable relationship with our ennvironment. It is this primal force which sits behind Lorenz's 'imprinting' and Bowlby's 'attachment'. It starts with proximity to the parent, and transforms into proximal relationships to objects such as toys and teddy bears, and later I think into attachments to ideas - where some of those ideas are our own creations. This primal force is something which is destabilised by computers - and particularly by the AI-driven social media which is ever-changing.

I noticed that Dave Elder-Vass wrote about our 'attachment' to online services (although he never mentions Bowlby) in his recent "Profit and Gift in the Digital Economy". His instinct is right, but what he calls attachment is I suspect a clinging-on to some kind of stability. Facebook is like Lorenz's wire-frame "mother": as it changes, we are compelled to follow. But as we do so, we are taken back to that primal stage of imprinting when we were babies. In adult life, however, we learn to create our own environment with concepts, artefacts and tools. Higher learning is an important stage of development in enabling us to do this.

The important point is that the adult life of declaring new concepts and ideas entails acts of communication which connect something inside us (a psychodynamic process) to something in our environment (a communicative process). The balance between the inner process and the outer process is a sign of health in the individual's relation to the world. So what if the communicative dimension is replaced with a constant stream of visual disruptions which demand the maintenance of proximity towards them? How do these inner world phenomena get expressed? How is the balance between inside and outside maintained?

I think the answer is, it isn't. There's something stupid about the way that the continually shifting phenomena of the online world mean that the outer world stability which is necessary for personal growth is never allowed to form. The reason is partly to do with the corporate business models of the social media companies: they need an ever increasing range of transactions with their customers in order to justify their existence and maintain their value. This corporate model necessitates damaging the mental health of users by destabilising their lifeworld. The obsession with social media may be a kind of PTSD: might we see lawsuits in the future???

So what of print and my music writing? My book of  notes arrives a few days after I ordered it, and it stays with me. I continually glance through it, thinking about changes and improvements, and scribbling all over it. But the book is stable. It becomes my attachment object, and since it is stable, I can coordinate the flow between my inner processes and my outer processes.

I encouraged a friend who is currently writing-up their PhD thesis to send their draft document to blurb to get it printed: "You need multiple descriptions of the thing you are working on in order to focus and develop your ideas". He did it, and it seems that his experience is very similar to my own.

There's something important about print. As the internet becomes ever-more controlled by government and corporations, I wouldn't be surprised to see what is efffectively the 3d printing of books become a major activity in the near future. People often talk about Stewart Brand's "Whole Earth Catalogue" of the 1960s as being a proto-internet. But maybe the book itself is about to find a new lease of life for the sake of everyone's sanity!



Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Synthetic and Analytic Approaches to Technology and the Future of Education

Most research in almost all domains today has the form of a synthesis. Attempts are made to establish coherence between current knowledge, manifest phenomena, available theories and prevailing methodologies. Whether one is trying to reconcile relativity theory with quantum mechanics, or the secrets of epigenesis, or one is trying to find out what the future of education holds, it's the same story. In the case of physics, the manifest phenomena are produced by experiments designed with the available models (the immensely complicated "standard model"). Experiments tend to confirm the model - which might mean it's right, but might not tell us how something more fundamental is going on, from where we might look at things differently.

Major scientific breakthroughs rarely follow the synthetic path. We call them "Copernican" because they don't. We call them that because somebody comes along and asks an analytical question, not a synthetic one. They ask "What simple origin could be producing this complexity of theory, phenomena and methods?" Copernicus realised we were looking down the wrong end of the telescope, as did Galileo, Newton, Einstein and quite a few others.

My colleague in Liverpool, Peter Rowlands, has drawn the relationship between synthetic and analytic science like this (from the perspective of physics). I find it a powerful diagram:



So what of the future of education? The synthetic approach is to seek the manifest phenomena, use the available methodologies, assess the current knowledge and try to fit it with available theories. In education, of course, none of this is coherent: there is no coherent theory, there is no agreed methodology (although there are some which have become normatively established - largely through PhD programmes), and where reporting manifest phenomena, all education can seem to manage is responses to questionnaires and interviews, and test scores. Is a synthetic approach going to work? I doubt it. It will tell us what we already know.

So what of an analytical approach to education. Where would we start? The starting point is to speculate that there must be a simple originating principle behind the rapidly increasing complexity that we find ourselves in - something behind the babel of theories, interviews, methods. Freud saw it in terms of psychodynamics; John Bowlby saw it in terms of attachment; Gordon Pask saw it in terms of conversation; Maturana and Varela saw it in terms of what they call "structural coupling"; Beer saw it in terms of "variety"; Piaget saw it in terms of assimilation and accommodation. And these principles are not limited to explain social phenomena: they are connected to the explanation of physical phenomena too (particularly in the case of Beer, Maturana and Pask)

Analytic approaches are good at predicting the future. One of the most powerful analytic approaches to the future of technology is contained in Winograd and Flores's Understanding Computers and Cognition. There are no interviews, and their methods are a combination of critique of the status quo, and the seeking of a coherence between philosophy, speech act theory and cybernetics. But their predictions were right where so many others were pointing in the opposite direction. Edgar Morin's Seven Complex Lessons of Education for the Future (see unesdoc.unesco.org/images/0011/001177/117740eo.pdf) is another example. He too is well ahead of his time - even if the book is less than practical.

It's interesting that the concentration of scientific effort on synthesis can in a large part be attributed to the current practices of scientific publication. In order to get past peer-review, in order to play the citation game, etc, one has to synthesise knowledge. The citation is the mark of synthesis. An important step in moving towards a more analytic frame is to break the hold that publishers have on academic activity.

Saturday, 26 May 2018

Individuation and Higher Learning in Vladivostok (Paper for the Philosophy of Higher Education Conference)

Of all the things I am doing at the moment, a radical educational experiment in Russia has been by far the best. Weirdly, myself and Seb Fiedler have had to travel to the other side of the planet to do something different. I'm going to San Francisco in a couple of weeks for a conference on biosemiotics, but it struck me that in the 60s, to do something radical, people went to California to escape the stiffness of the establishment. Now, the establishment is definitely in California (it's defined by California!)... so we fly 14 hours in the other direction... to Vladivostok! Not as warm in climate, but just as warm in terms of the people there. And when I think of the trouble that Russians have to go to to get a visa to come and see me in the UK (they have to fly 9 hours from Vladivostok to Moscow), it puts my 10 hour flight to San Francisco in perspective.

It's taken a while for me to articulate what the plan was in Russia. As I've written before, it's a course on systems thinking, but really, we are aiming to use technology to oil the connections between the inner world of learners and the outer world of communication. It's pretty much what psychotherapists do. Which leads me to think that Higher Learning is really about "Individuation" in a Jungian sense.

My 18-year old daughter, who is eschewing university (at least for now) in disgust at it simply being "more school for which we have the privilege of paying" (she's quite right),  has been pointing to the rise in mental health problems at University. "But they're doing this to their students!" She may be right. But we don't understand how or why. Except that I think it's got something to do with talking and listening.

The technological explosion of the last few years has exposed us to vastly increased variety in sensual stimulation which reaches our minds, but the experience of increased variety is rarely talked about. Instead we may talk about Trump or cute kittens and giggle, but never talk about what is actually happening to us. So a lot is going in and not enough is being intelligently exchanged in discourse to maintain a balance between the inner psychodynamic mechanism and social mechanisms. Internet porn is probably the most obvious example of where this is happening, but really it's everything from fake news to constant social media checking. AI may help alleviate the problem by facilitating deeper human connections between people, or it may exacerbate it. Either way, we have to wake up to what is happening, because AI is going to make it bigger.

The human result is unmanaged uncertainty in the psychodynamic process - which is a recipe for varieties of psychological problems. This Russian course is constructed to use the rich stimulation of the web - particularly in terms of the vast array of resources from all subjects - to get people talking about deeper mechanisms underpinning life and experience. It's a bit like an updated version of Marion Milner's "A Life of One's Own". From a technological point of view, it's simple. From a human perspective, it's been fascinating and rewarding.

Uncertainty, Objects and Technology in Education: Inverting the relation between content, process and conversation in a complex world

Mark William Johnson, University of Liverpool
Sebastian H.D. Fiedler, University of Hamburg, 
Svetlana Rodriguez Arciniegas, Far Eastern Federal University 
Maria Kirilina, Far Eastern Federal University


Computer technology has changed education and the world in a remark- ably short time and nobody seems to be certain exactly what’s just happened. There has been an increase in uncertainty in educational practice as people try to decide on what tools to use, confusion about institutional purpose coupled with managerialism, metricisation and financialisation which has left scholars of higher education expressing concern about the state of universities and higher learning (Brown 2010; Collini 2017; Barnett 1990). In the face of market de- mands, university has become more like school. Defenses of ‘higher learning’ to provide necessary ‘unsettling’(Barnett 1990) through presenting ‘troublesome knowledge’(Meyer and Land 2006) giving students ‘epistemic access’ (Morrow 2009), or providing opportunities for personal transformation or individuation (Mezirow 1991) do not appear to have had mainstream impact on pedagogic practice. Such distinctions themselves raise questions about the status of the ancient academy in the face of a new world of communications technology which works in very different ways to the university’s slow rhythms, and students appear unwilling to be ‘troubled’ once they see themselves as customers. This is not the first time in history when humans have been faced with technical changes that render existing social structures no longer fit for purpose. The computer and its communication networks have disrupted the most basic foun- dation of human activity: the way we talk to each other. Our institutions of higher education have yet to find an effective way of reorganising themselves in response.

We present an argument based on information-theoretical analysis concerning the relationship between uncertainty in education and technological development. We argue that technological development creates uncertainty in the environment of existing institutions, and that social change which sometimes follows technological development is a reaction to this increasing uncertainty. We contend that the institution of education is in a positive feedback loop with environmental uncertainty, which it is exacerbating with its current use of tech- nology. This position, we argue, distinguishes itself from technological determinist arguments about the social effects of technology, whilst also avoiding the often equally problematic social constructivist position (Feenberg and Callon 2010; Smith 2010). Technology does not determine social change, but creates uncer- tainty by increasing the variety of options for acting.

According to the information theory of Shannon (Shannon and Weaver 1949) an increase in the number of options increases the maximum entropy of choice, so the selection problem of choosing a particular option to pursue becomes more difficult. Institutions - and the people within them - have to adapt to this increased uncertainty: some- times by attenuating the technological possibilities (i.e. with new regulations to banish particular technologies), or sometimes by exploiting some aspects of a technology to reinforce existing institutional structures (e.g. the LMS’s ampli- fication of the classroom). Recent developments in higher education have seen both of these reactions.

While the ancient academy developed its structures to manage a once stable environment of uncertainty concerning science and knowledge, the technologically- driven explosion of uncertainty renders its structures ineffective. In a sea of uncertainty, psychoanalytical and sociological work suggests that intersubjec- tive engagement through conversation can still provide effective management of personal uncertainty through what Schutz calls the ‘pure we-relation’ (Schutz 1974), Luhmann calls ‘double-contingency’ (Luhmann 1996) and Freudian psy- choanalysis characterises as a ‘talking therapy’ (Freud 2016). The ‘tuning-in’ to the inner-worlds of each other through conversation remains the most powerful mechanism to address uncertainty at the interface between the psyche and in the social environment. Such a personalisation of uncertainty management how- ever, presents challenges to formal structures and practices in education which are tied to curricula and rigid assessment schemes.

The search for new ways of exploiting technology in organised learning con- versations which do not contribute to the uncertainty feedback-loop is urgent since the pace of technologically-driven uncertainty is not going to slow. We report on an experiment at the Far Eastern Federal University in Russia where technical artefacts have been used in conjunction with activity coordination tools and flexible assessment strategies to put learner intersubjective engage- ment centre-stage and create a virtuous cycle between what we call, following Luhmann (Luhmann 1996), the management of ‘psychic uncertainty’ and ‘social uncertainty’.

Figure 1 shows a schematic diagram drawing on the cybernetics of Stafford Beer (Beer 1995) of the experiment’s uncertainty management approach, where each individual ‘self’ or ‘Ego’ has both structure and uncertainty (contained in the large lower box) which are kept in balance by a process which is similar to Freud’s concept of ‘primary’ and ‘secondary’ process (Ehrenzweig 1968). This psychic uncertainty, which we relate to the Freudian ‘Id’, is managed by a meta- system (at the top): in this case, the individual’s ‘Superego’. The metasystem helps to determine communicative utterances, assisted by the presence of me- diating technological artefacts. A virtuous cycle is theoretically possible where effective management of psychic uncertainty leads to powerful communications which in turn benefit psychic processes.

In the experiment, technological artefacts (videos, pictures) other objects (shells, rocks, trash, artworks) and visiting experts (artists) were mashed-up in unusual combinations to stimulate conversation through coordinated activities. The process is designed to reflect the lived experience of exposure to a rich variety of online phenomena, but to bring the psychodynamic effects of this into conscious experience and conversation. We report on the results of a 3-day pilot with 30 participants.
In conclusion, we argue that the full force of technology’s threat to education and society has yet to be felt. The nature of this threat is not automation of hu- man action; the threat lies in the pathological reaction of human institutions to uncertainty created by new technology. A good society manages its uncertainty. The conversational inversion of uncertainty management of the kind we report presents an opportunity to explore the ways technological artifacts - whether videos, AI, or Virtual Reality - can be used to drive a virtuous personal and convivial uncertainty management process.


References
Barnett, Ronald (1990). The Idea Of Higher Education. en. Google-Books-ID: eTjlAAAAQBAJ. McGraw-Hill Education (UK). isbn: 978-0-335-09420-2.
Beer, Stafford (1995). Platform for Change. English. 1 edition. Chichester ; New
York: Wiley. isbn: 978-0-471-94840-7.
Brown, Roger, ed. (2010). Higher Education and the Market. English. New York, NY: Routledge. isbn: 978-0-415-99169-8.
Collini, Stefan (2017). Speaking of Universities. English. London ; New York:
Verso. isbn: 978-1-78663-139-8.
Ehrenzweig, A. (1968). The Hidden Order of Art. Weidenfeld and Nicolson. Feenberg, Andrew and Michel Callon (2010). Between Reason and Experience:
Essays in Technology and Modernity. English. New edition. Cambridge, Mass: The MIT Press. isbn: 978-0-262-51425-5.
Freud, Sigmund (2016). Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis. English. Cre-
ateSpace Independent Publishing Platform. isbn: 978-1-5375-4930-9.
Luhmann, Niklas (1996). Social Systems. isbn: 978-0-8047-2625-2.
Meyer, Jan and Ray Land (2006). Overcoming Barriers to Student Understand- ing: Threshold Concepts and Troublesome Knowledge. en. Google-Books-ID: RCUVmm05qmcC. Routledge. isbn: 978-1-134-18995-3.
Mezirow (1991). Transformative Dimensions. English. 1 edition. San Francisco:
John Wiley & Sons. isbn: 978-1-55542-339-1.
Morrow, W. (2009). Bounds of democracy: epistemological access in higher ed- ucation. HSRC Press. url: http://repository.hsrc.ac.za/handle/20. 500.11910/4739.
Schutz, A. (1974). Collected Papers I. The Problem of Social Reality: Problem
of Social Reality v. 1. English. 1972 edition. Hague ; Boston: Springer. isbn: 978-90-247-5089-4.
Shannon, Claude E. and Warren Weaver (1949). The Mathematical Theory of Communication. English. Urbana: University of Illinois Press. isbn: 978-0- 252-72548-7.
Smith, Christian (2010). What Is a Person?: Rethinking Humanity, Social Life, and the Moral Good from the Person Up. English. Chicago, Ill.; London: University of Chicago Press. isbn: 978-0-226-76594-5.

Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Do Cells Sing to Each other? - Some thoughts on biology, physics and educational theory

This is the abstract from my paper which I'll be presenting at the Biosemiotics gathering in Berkeley in June (see http://biosemiotics.life). This is a fascinating group of scientists from all fields. The next wave of educational theory will come from renewed focus on the current state of biology and physics.

At the moment in education, we are stuck with what biology thought in the 1920s - not that it was all wrong, of course - but we certainly know more now. Physics is connected to biology, and our understanding of quantum mechanics and its relation to relativity is particularly important, with some significant work going on there (some of it in Liverpool). Of course, the quantum thing is also critically important given that this will underpin the next wave of technology.

I think a renewed scientific focus will help clarify some of the confusion surrounding neuroscience's role in education (neuroscience is biology, after all), and also some of the problems which have crept in with half-baked philosophical speculation (sociomateriality, etc) which has become dogmatic. Speculation should be encouraged. Unfortunately education has a habit of turning speculation into dogma.



Do Cells Sing to Each Other?

Mark William Johnson, University of Liverpool



David Bohm considered that:

“in listening to music, one is directly perceiving an implicate order” (Bohm 2002)

Whilst remaining controversial, the wide-ranging nature of Bohm’s theory of implicate and explicate order presents an imaginative opportunity to connect to other scholarly considerations of music and communication (notably by Langer (Langer  1990)  and  Schutz  (Schu¨tz  1951))  and  consider  that  Bohm’s  insight might extend to cellular communication as well as physics. This paper consid- ers whether a process of “directly perceiving an implicate order” might be a mechanism in cellular communication, and how such a process might be artic- ulated with reference to ways of describing musical communication.

Central to Bohm’s approach is the acknowledgement of multiplicity of de- scription: what we think of as single descriptions like “a chair” or “a message” are, he contends, multiplicities. Fourier analysis of music reveals multiplicities which are both synchronic and diachronic, as shown in the spectral sound image below:




Each synchronic (vertical) level of the sound spectrum can be considered redundant: overtones add to the richness of the sound, but the essential function of a tone is preserved by the context. Diachronically, melody and harmony describe different aspects of the same thing, but both synchronic and diachronic aspects together form a coherence, which in Bohm’s physical theory, he saw as a symmetry.

I suggest a logical characterisation of this drawing using McCulloch’s model of perception (McCulloch 1945). In McCulloch’s work, perception is a coherence between multiple excitations of ‘drome’ circuits which configure each other, producing a syn-drome. McCulloch illustrates his idea with a diagram of the inter-connected circuits where each dromic excitation can either stimulate or attenuate every other level. I argue that this is comparable to the synchronic structure produced in music frequency analysis. In arguing this, I suggest that McCulloch’s dromic diagram can be drawn with different circuits representing basic categories of music (e.g. rhythm, melody, harmony, tonality)







Beyond basic categories like this, in music there are emergent categories as articulations of tonal and thematic structure unfold. In McCulloch’s diagram, this emergence can be represented with new dromic cycles interfering with ex- isting ones.
To explore this logical idea, experiments can be constructed which examine music for the Shannon entropy of its different aspects. Each feature can be treated as an ‘alphabet’ with an emergent entropy, where each aspect’s change in entropy affects every other aspect. The resonances from McCulloch’s loops can be re-represented empirically by plotting the changes in entropy over time from one description/alphabet to another. In doing so, we can investigate at what point (and by what mechanism) new alphabets are introduced, and secondly, by what mechanism do existing recognised aspects disappear. Using evidence of such analysis on a variety of music, I suggest that new categories emerge when the relative entropy between descriptions is coordinated in some way such that the correlation acquires some new label.
Is cellular communication like this? Is there a similar dance between multi- ple redundant descriptions? Musical coordination occurs in a context of aware- ness of multiple descriptions and self-awareness of participation in descriptions. Sometimes multiple descriptions of the environment present ambiguity and un- certainty. If awareness of self and ambiguity is a function of the symmetry between different descriptions of reality then cellular development might be di- rected in ways which address resonant symmetries within and between cells. A mechanism similar to this has been suggested by Torday (John S. Torday 2012). Emergent categories in the development of symmetries may then break apart those symmetries (creating a broken symmetry in a similar way to Deacon’s autocell (Deacon 2012)), just as a musical development will arrive at a cadence for something new to take shape.



References

Bohm, David (2002). Wholeness and the Implicate Order. English. 1 edition.

London ; New York: Routledge. isbn: 978-0-415-28979-5.

Deacon, Terrence W. (2012). Incomplete Nature: How Mind Emerged from Mat- ter. English. 1 edition. New York: W. W. Norton & Company. isbn: 978-0- 393-04991-6.

John S. Torday (2012). Evolutionary Biology: Cell-Cell Communication and Complex Disease. Wiley-Blackwell.

Langer, Sk (1990). Philosophy in a New Key: Study in the Symbolism of Rea- son, Rite and Art. English. 3rd Revised edition edition. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press. isbn: 978-0-674-66503-3.

McCulloch, Warren S. (1945). “A heterarchy of values determined by the topol- ogy of nervous nets”. en. In: The bulletin of mathematical biophysics 7.2, pp. 89–93. issn: 0007-4985, 1522-9602. doi: 10 . 1007 / BF02478457. url:

https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/BF02478457.

Schu¨tz,  Alfred  (1951).  “MAKING  MUSIC  TOGETHER:  A  Study  in  Social Relationship”. In: Social Research 1, p. 76. issn: 0037783X.