Thursday, October 18, 2007

Mutating pictures and emergent systems

One of the key characteristics of the paradigm of emergence is that it favours selectional rather than instructional systems. The most famous selectional system is Darwin’s theory of evolution. In the twentieth century work on computers suggested many more applications - chaos theory, recursion in cybernetics etc etc. For a more concrete example of a selectionist approach, imagine your goal is to hit a bull’s-eye on a dartboard. If you favoured an instructional system, you would presumably have to build a very accurate dart trowing machine or practise until you perfected the perfect throw with one dart. A selectional system, on the other hand, launches a million darts in every direction so that the probability of one dart hitting the bull’s-eye is sufficiently high. Here is a good example of a selectionist approach to creating a picture. The site is called Mutating Pictures.

A population of 1,000 random pictures is selected. Users of the website select the fittest pictures to survive. The higher the rating for a pic the more mutated offspring it produces. The above picture represent a kind of before and after, illustrating the process of producing a face. I wonder how far this will go and how good the representation will get?