Bunflow is more tan than Caring Tan is

Algorithmically-generated designer colours (from post by Janelle Shane)

There is a lot of buzz about AI and the prospect that computers will soon be doing something hugely different than what they’re doing now. It’s apprehension of what Ray Kurzweil calls the singularity, except that people don’t call it that much anymore.[1]

Under the headline An AI invented a bunch of new paint colors that are hilariously wrong, Annalee Newtiz discusses the result of training neural networks on Sherwin-Williams decorator colour names. The original work was done by Janelle Shane, who recounted it in a Tumblr post.

Some whinging below the fold.

Continue reading “Bunflow is more tan than Caring Tan is”

Works of rock

I just finished reading Charles Bartel’s article “Rock as a Three-Value Tradition” (JAAC, Spring 2017) which develops on his 2013 post at Aesthetics for Birds.

“A concern for songs— however ontologically thin—and a concern for live performances—however ephemeral—is no less central to the rock tradition than recordings.”

Continue reading “Works of rock”

Useful for me now

[It is a mistake to give] an absolute meaning to the epithet useful, which, in truth, has no more meaning if taken by itself than the words high, low, right, and left. It simply designates a relationship and requires a complement: useful for this or that.

I am teaching Simone de Beauvoir’s Ethics of Ambiguity in my Existentialism class, and I’m struck again by what a great book it is. She elaborates the notion of Bad Faith with much greater clarity than Sartre. There are parts of the book that make me rethink myself and my present situation.

This is striking partly because of context: We spent weeks on Heidegger, who does phenomenology is the most abstract way and only has eyes for metaphysics. Then we spent weeks on Sartre, who dabbles in ethics and has some rich examples but never finds his way around to the ethical question. Sartre writes in Being&Nothingness (in a footnote!) that “the description of [authentic existence] has no place here.”

And now we’re discussing de Beauvoir, whose task is “to consider human life as a game that can be won or lost and to teach… the means of winning.”

Philosophy of emoji 😎

Over at Aesthetics for Birds, there’s a post about the philosophy of emoji. It’s mostly provocation, posing some issues, but it doesn’t make a direct connection to art. So, in the comments, I casually mention my work-in-progress paper on emoji art.

It’s a sufficiently cutting-edge topic that a number of the sources that the AfB article links to were not available when I finished my paper and sent it out scouting for rejection notices.

Philosophy of science under pluralism

First day of the Philosophy of science under pluralism conference at the Pittsburgh Center for Philosophy of Science. Saw lots of old friends, met lots of new ones, gave a talk on natural kinds.

Perhaps the winning quote of the day, from Stuart Glennan: “A lot of pluralism is just [that] you’re talking about different things.”

The picture was taken by Michela Massimi.

Words plotted thusly

Via Daily Nous, I came across a free set of text analysis tools by Voyant. You can paste in a passage or point it at some URLs, and it will chop it into words and phrases.

I let it chew on my book, and one of the products was this graph of word density:

word density

It looks all sciencey, like the kind of think that prop people might put on a screen in the background of a lab scene. It isn’t very informative, though. The curve has “species” dipping below zero, even though it occurs at least once in every segment.

I learned that “natural”, “kind”, and “kinds” make up about three percent of the words in the book. That three percent was, I suppose, the easiest part to write.



I just received a rejection notice from a journal. It was the kind of wordy but uninformative prose, filled with trivial but nonspecific detail, which strongly vibes form letter. The real give away was the salutation, which literally said “Dear Professor x”.

There’s an X-men joke to be made here, but instead… grumble, grumble.

Reheated cabbage about planets

Popular Science has a recent item about whether Pluto is a planet, prompted by a short paper from the NASA New Horizons team (Runyon, et al.). The paper argues for redefining ‘planet’. In the Popular Science article, Sara Chodosh tries to show “why this matters”. The back-and-forth about Pluto, she writes, is a sign that “we’re still learning”. But the problem is that the short paper doesn’t make any new arguments or reflect any new findings. Continue reading “Reheated cabbage about planets”