Reductionism

The video above shows Myrmegraph, a screen-based artwork by Scott Snibbe. The picture, by Victor Juhasz, is from The Mind’s I, a book by D. Hofstadter and D. Dennett.

From Snibbe’s page:

As you move the mouse over Myrmegraph’s screen, you release a stream of simulated ants and simulated pheromone: the chemicals ants use to communicate. These ants obey a simple set of rules to follow the pheromone gradients stored invisibly in the image. From moment to moment, ants can change their heading to better pursue the trail of pheromone; and, like real ants, they sometimes lose their way and wander off.

Among the four combinations of the form <building blocks><emergent structure>,

(1) nonsentient → nonsentient
(2) nonsentient → sentient
(3) sentient → nonsentient
(4) sentient → sentient,

the possibilities (1) and (3) do not cause much cognitive dissonance, and to some degree, one learns to live with (2), however uncomfortably. The possibility (4), though, is rather unfamiliar, and confusing/fascinating in its own unique way.

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