What Neuroscience Says about Free Will

New research suggests it might be nothing more than a trick
May 7th, 2016

Via Scientific American: "In a classic paper published almost 20 years ago, the psychologists Dan Wegner and Thalia Wheatley made a revolutionary proposal: The experience of intentionally willing an action, they suggested, is often nothing more than a post hoc causal inference that our thoughts caused some behavior. The feeling itself, however, plays no causal role in producing that behavior. This could sometimes lead us to think we made a choice when we actually didn’t or think we made a different choice than we actually did.

But there’s a mystery here. Suppose, as Wegner and Wheatley propose, that we observe ourselves (unconsciously) perform some action, like picking out a box of cereal in the grocery store, and then only afterwards come to infer that we did this intentionally. If this is the true sequence of events, how could we be deceived into believing that we had intentionally made our choice before the consequences of this action were observed? This explanation for how we think of our agency would seem to require supernatural backwards causation, with our experience of conscious will being both a product and an apparent cause of behavior.

In a study just published in Psychological Science, Paul Bloom and I explore a radical—but non-magical—solution to this puzzle. Perhaps in the very moments that we experience a choice, our minds are rewriting history, fooling us into thinking that this choice—that was actually completed after its consequences were subconsciously perceived—was a choice that we had made all along."

Filed under: Wunderkammer



Language and thought are not the same thing

Evidence from neuroimaging and neurological patients
April 29th, 2016

Via National Center for Biotechnology Information: "Is thought possible without language? Individuals with global aphasia, who have almost no ability to understand or produce language, provide a powerful opportunity to find out. Surprisingly, despite their near-total loss of language, these individuals are nonetheless able to add and subtract, solve logic problems, think about another person's thoughts, appreciate music, and successfully navigate their environments. Further, neuroimaging studies show that healthy adults strongly engage the brain's language areas when they understand a sentence, but not when they perform other nonlinguistic tasks such as arithmetic, storing information in working memory, inhibiting prepotent responses, or listening to music. Together, these two complementary lines of evidence provide a clear answer: many aspects of thought engage distinct brain regions from, and do not depend on, language."

Filed under: Wunderkammer



Getting clients

Jason Fried’s 13 unconventional rules
April 25th, 2016

Via Medium: "Much like Ogilvy’s approach, Jason Fried’s rules are timeless and apply to selling anything. And like Ogilvy, not all that much has changed in the world of selling services to clients. [...]

1. Sell your service like a product by removing the barriers and unknowns about what you’re selling.
2. Make your portfolio about ideas not pretty pictures of your work.
3. Take a shot at being yourself.
4. Don’t try to act bigger than you are, if you’re a freelancer use the word “I” instead of “we”.
5. Write and sell with short 1-page proposals.
6. Think about what you can get away with NOT doing.
7. Get things done without worrying about layers of red-tape.
8. Hire yourself and be your own client.
9. Don’t rush away from client work until it’s clear it’s the right choice.
10. Get a solid budget before you create a proposal.
11. Don’t work with bad clients.
12. Know when to say no.
13. Hire your clients."

Filed under: Wunderkammer



The serendipitous brain

Study directed by Prof. Fabrizio Doricchi, Lasaponara and colleagues
April 8th, 2016

Via Elsevier: "Sometimes you accidently find something new or valuable, for example an interesting idea for a new study or money in the pocket of an old coat, when you are actively looking for something else. This is called serendipity. [...]

This shows that when one is actively looking for an event with loose probabilistic and temporal expectancies on its occurrence, the awareness of otherwise unnoticed events improves. This finding provides new insights on the attentional mechanisms behind the initial stages of serendipity."

Filed under: Wunderkammer



Romantic Agony of Modern Life

by Eva Illouz
April 3rd, 2016

Via brainpickings: "In the same way that at the end of the nineteenth century it was radical to claim that poverty was the result not of dubious morality or weak character, but of systematic economic exploitation, it is now urgent to claim not that the failures of our private lives are the result of weak psyches, but rather that the vagaries and miseries of our emotional life are shaped by institutional arrangements… What is wrong are not dysfunctional childhoods or insufficiently self-aware psyches, but the set of social and cultural tensions and contradictions that have come to structure modern selves and identities. [...]

Modernity sobered people up from the powerful but sweet delusions and illusions that had made the misery of their lives bearable. Devoid of these fantasies, we would lead our lives without commitment to higher principles and values, without the fervor and ecstasy of the sacred, without the heroism of saints, without the certainty and orderliness of divine commandments, but most of all without those fictions that console and beautify.

Such sobering up is nowhere more apparent than in the realm of love, which for several centuries in the history of Western Europe had been governed by the ideals of chivalry, gallantry, and romanticism. The male ideal of chivalry had one cardinal stipulation: to defend the weak with courage and loyalty. The weakness of women was thus contained in a cultural system in which it was acknowledged and glorified because it transfigured male power and female frailty into lovable qualities… Women’s social inferiority could thus be traded for men’s absolute devotion in love, which in turn served as the very site of display and exercise of their masculinity, prowess, and honor. More: women’s dispossession of economic and political rights was accompanied (and presumably compensated) by the reassurance that in love they were not only protected by men but also superior to them. It is therefore unsurprising that love has been historically so powerfully seductive to women; it promised them the moral status and dignity they were otherwise denied in society and it glorified their social fate: taking care of and loving others, as mothers, wives, and lovers. Thus, historically, love was highly seductive precisely because it concealed as it beautified the deep inequalities at the heart of gender relationships."

Filed under: Wunderkammer



New master's degree program

Form und Forschung, Master of Music
March 15th, 2016

In close collaboration with my inspired colleague Prof. Julian Rohrhuber we created the amazing Form und Forschung master's degree program at the Institute For Music And Media. Deadline to submit your application is 15 April.

Via Institute For Music And Media: "Following the principle of the unity of research and teaching, the Form und Forschung master’s degree program combines aesthetic, technical and theoretical approaches. The program benefits from the unique academic situation at the Institute for Music and Media: the multiple facets of time-based art, such as composition, performance, and algorithmic art forms, have been established here for many years.


IMM students autonomously develop their own stance, and learn to integrate it with a range of artistic, technological, economic, scientific and cultural contexts. Graduates of the Form und Forschung master’s degree program are ideally prepared to shape, influence, advance and even anticipate developments in the 21st century.


Musicality is not attached to musical instruments exclusively – it includes many aspects of artistic and scholarly work. That is not least of all the reason why this degree program is generally open to graduates from all disciplines.
It is therefore particularly appropriate for those who are interested in the diversity of media forms, schools of thought and topics. The institution of a Musikhochschule is ideally suited for promoting exchange among interests and abilities in different domains.

Student projects play a vital part in this exchange. In the course of their studies, students learn to re-conceptualize their proposed project on the basis of critical and differentiated feedback and to bring it to fruition at a high level through collaboration with other students. They carry out their project in one of two areas of focus – Artistic Research or Time-Based Form – both of which open up completely new perspectives in the environment of a state conservatory."

The fabulous flyer was designed by Double Standards, Berlin.

Filed under: Projects > Research



3900 Pages of Paul Klee’s Personal Notebooks

Presenting his Bauhaus teachings (1921-1931)
March 5th, 2016

Via open culture: "Paul Klee led an artistic life that spanned the 19th and 20th centuries, but he kept his aesthetic sensibility tuned to the future. Because of that, much of the Swiss-German Bauhaus-associated painter’s work, which at its most distinctive defines its own category of abstraction, still exudes a vitality today.
And he left behind not just those 9,000 pieces of art (not counting the hand puppets he made for his son), but plenty of writings as well, the best known of which came out in English as Paul Klee Notebooks, two volumes (The Thinking Eye and The Nature of Nature) collecting the artist’s essays on modern art and the lectures he gave at the Bauhaus schools in the 1920s. [...]

More recently, the Zentrum Paul Klee made available online almost all 3,900 pages of Klee’s personal notebooks, which he used as the source for his Bauhaus teaching between 1921 and 1931. If you can’t read German, his extensively detailed textual theorizing on the mechanics of art (especially the use of color, with which he struggled before returning from a 1914 trip to Tunisia declaring, 'Color and I are one. I am a painter') may not immediately resonate with you. But his copious illustrations of all these observations and principles, in their vividness, clarity, and reflection of a truly active mind, can still captivate anybody — just as his paintings do."

Filed under: People



It’s all there for you now! Go forth!

Cornelius Cardew’s Treatise (1963-67)
March 3rd, 2016

Via The Hum: "Treatise, which was composed between 1963 and 1967, is considered to be Cornelius Cardew’s greatest achievement. It’s also a total head-fuck for anyone who attempts to approach it. It’s a 193 page graphic score with no instruction – completely in the hands of the conductor and musicians who interpret it. Whatever you make of the music that grows from it, Treatise is an undeniable thing of aesthetic beauty. The work is rarely realized in its totality. Performers tend to focus on distinct passages. It can be performed by a single player, or by as large an ensemble as possible. There is no indication of preferred instrumentation or duration. Because the work bears no description beyond itself, there is little to say about it. Wanting to share it, I’ve included three realizations focused on pages 1-14, 57-58, and 140-165, by separate ensembles respectively. I’ve also included a series of images which depict the score in its totality, an image of the original bound score made by Cadrew, and scans of the each of its entire 193 pages. I hope you enjoy."

Filed under: Visual Music



The Third Brain in Autism

by Dr. Rajalakshmi Kandaswamy, Autism Expert
February 17th, 2016

"The day science begins to study non-physical phenomena; it will make more progress in one decade than in all the previous centuries of its existence." – Nikola Tesla

Via Journal of Neurology and Neurobiology:
"The First Brain - The Brain Occupying the Space in the Skull
All of us are familiar with the general presence and functioning of this brain as a receiver of information which then gets processed.

The Second Brain - The brain in the gut
It has been proven that the very same cells and neural network that is present in the brain in the skull is present in the gut as well and releases the same neurotransmitters as the brain in the skull. Not just that, about 90 percent of the bers in the primary visceral nerve, the vagus, carry information from the gut to the brain and not the other way around.

The Third Brain - The Global Brain
This is connected to the neural network that extends from each being on this planet beyond the con nes of the skull and the anatomy of the gut. It is inter-dimensional in nature and contains all frequencies of energies (low and high) and their corresponding information. […]

Every human being is born with the three brains described above, but Autistic Beings are more connected and more in-tune with all three simultaneously. But make no mistake – most autistic beings are not necessarily aware of the existence or their connection to these three brains beyond their volitional control although they are accessing information from all three to varying degrees almost all the time.

One of the manifestations of being tuned-in to this third brain is Telepathy."

Filed under: Wunderkammer



Everyone on Earth is actually your cousin

it's all relative
January 24th, 2016

Via Quartz: "So in this frenzy of procreation we’re all a part of, what’s the deal with our relation to the other people on this Earth today?
The simplest way to think about it is that every stranger in the world is a cousin of yours, and the only question is how distant a cousin they are. The degree of cousin (first, second, etc.) is just a way of referring to how far you have to go back before you get to a common ancestor. For first cousins, you only have to go back two generations to hit your common grandparents. For second cousins, you have to go back three generations to your common great-grandparents. For fifth cousins, you’d have to go back six generations until you arrive at your common pair of great-great-great-great-grandparents."

Filed under: Wunderkammer



End of 2015

Ten out of ten
31st December, 2015

Book I spend a good part of my summer break reading Infinite Jest. The first 300+ pages were tough but once Madame Psychosis was introduced the book had me. I can't remember any other book that made me laughed so hard I cried. It's themes evolve around addiction, entertainment and competition. Critics called it a profound study of the postmodern condition and I consider it a must-read if you want to get a grip on the times we are living in.

Cycling This year I did three day trips on my bike through Cologne with a group of friends. Guided tours by Frank Dommert from the infamous a-musik record store, who showed us parts of the city which I have never heard of. I organized he first one to celebrated my fiftieth birthday. It was the first day of spring, blue skies, and I couldn't have asked for more – including perfect company plus a yellow glowing canola field.

Exercise Looking myself in the eye with all my respect, and saying "My dear" [Meine Gute] did implode my concept of the Other and the Self. Try it.

Film A summer flu opened the opportunity to watch many Ozu Yasujirō films. Amazing grace with just one 50mm lens.

Lake Learned about a secret, forbidden lake and spent many wonderful hours there during this hot summer. To compensate for breaking the law I collected the garbage of other humans.

Law and Order Spent a day at court to experience myself as part of the people when the judge said, "in the name of the people". Totally recommended experience. One judge even asked us if we would have ruled the same way.

Let’s plays Discovered a new addiction and learned that computer games evolved into an inspiring, original and independent genre. For instance, check out Stanley’s parable.

Quote Love is that condition in which the happiness of another person is essential to your own.  –Robert A. Heinlein in Stranger in a Strange Land

Reality check I teached a masterclass, and won’t say where because when I asked the 50+ students none of them had ever heard about John Cage. Whoa. Guess this is telling me in a polite way that I am getting older.

Resource The over 300 talks from the Aruna Ratanagiri Buddhist Monastery in the north of England are an enormous well of deep insides, contemporary pointing, and great humour. Highly recommended for everyday life, and beyond.

So, here we are... And what is next?

Filed under: Wunderkammer



Consciousness or awareness is non-algorithmic

Quantum systems can also rapidly solve perception problems
December 6th, 2015

By James A. Donald: "Animals, including very simple animals, can rapidly and effortlessly perceive objects, whereas computers take nonpolynomial time to do this by all known algorithms [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6]. Our persistent inability to emulate perception gives reason to doubt the current paradigm and to look for an alternative paradigm.

Penrose[7] and many others [8, 9, 10] argue from practical considerations, Godel’s theorem, and on philosophical grounds, that consciousness or awareness is non-algorithmic and so cannot be generated by a system that can be described by classical physics, such as a conventional computer, but could perhaps be generated by a system requiring a quantum (Hilbert space) description. Penrose suspects that aspects of quantum physics not yet understood might be needed to explain consciousness. In this paper we shall see that only known quantum physics is needed to explain perception.

Bialek[11, 12] and Frolich[13] suggested on very different grounds that cells process information using quantum mechanical processes. Frolich suggested a class of mechanisms that might enable them to do this despite the high temperature and large size of biological membranes and macromolecules. Deutch[14] showed that quantum systems can solve some problems that computers cannot solve in polynomial time, but he did not show that quantum systems could solve perception problems. Penrose[7] conjectured that some areas where animals are superior to computers are of this class, but did not find any examples. Bialek[15] argued that perception is inherently non-polynomial if done algorithmically, and therefore neurons must be doing something remarkable, but he did not show that quantum mechanics would enable them to do this.

This paper will show that quantum systems can also rapidly solve perception problems, closing the gap between Bialek’s argument and Deutch’s result, and demonstrating Penrose’s conjecture. This result supports the idea that animals perceive by processing sensory information quantum mechanically in hilbert spaces corresponding to many strongly coupled degrees of freedom."

Filed under: Wunderkammer



Why do we forget names?

by Tom Stafford
December 3rd, 2015

Via Mind Hacks: "First, you should repeat any name said to you. Practice is one of the golden rules of learning: more practice makes stronger memories. In addition, when you use someone’s name you are linking it to yourself, in the physical act of saying it, but also to the current topic of the conversation in your memory (“So, James, just what is it about fishing that makes you love it so much?”).

Second, you should try to link the name you have just learnt to something you already know. It doesn’t matter if the link is completely silly, it is just important that you find some connection to help the name stick in memory. For example, maybe the guy is called James, and your high school buddy was called James, and although this guy is wearing a blue shirt, high school James only ever wore black, so he’d never wear blue. It’s a silly made up association, but it can help you remember.

Finally, you need to try to link their name to something else about them. If it was me I’d grab the first thing to come to mind to bridge between the name and something I’ve learnt about them. For example, James is a sort of biblical name, you get the King James bible after all, and James begins with J, just like Jonah in the bible who was swallowed by the whale, and this James likes fishing, but I bet he prefers catching them to being caught by them.

It doesn’t matter if the links you make are outlandish or weird. You don’t have to tell anyone. In fact, probably it is best if you don’t tell anyone, especially your new friend! But the links will help create a web of association in your memory, and that web will stop their name falling out of your mind when it is time to introduce them to someone else."

Filed under: Wunderkammer



Life is different for people who think in metaphors

A proclivity for metaphors has real consequences
December 1st, 2015

Via British Psychological Society: "Some people are literal minded – they think in black and white whereas others colour their worlds with metaphor. A new paper published recently in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology reports on the first standardised measure of this difference, and it shows that having a proclivity for metaphors has real consequences, affecting how people respond to the world around them and even how they interact with others. [...]

Remember, too, that metaphors are supposed to illuminate, particularly when it comes to abstract concepts that can be hard to pin down, like the subtleties of emotions. In another experiment, Fetterman’s team measured participants’ ability to correctly judge most people’s typical emotional response in different situations, such as when something unpleasant was happening that couldn’t be stopped. In this example, the correct response was distressed. Crucially, people who scored highly in metaphoric thinking style tended to perform better at this task. This suggests their colourful thinking style actually gave them greater insight into emotions."

Filed under: Wunderkammer

Talk @ Goethe Institute

A Perfect Match? On The Alliance Of Sound And Visuals
21st November, 2015

Jörg Süßenbach, head of the music devision at Goethe Institute Germany, invited me to give a talk on on the relationship between sound and visuals on 28 November 2015 for a congregation of international Goethe Institute members in Darmstadt.
The delegation will be in Darmstadt to attend the cresc Biennale 2015 which is focused on the topic of Images of Sound.

Filed under: Talks & Workshops

Talk @ MSD / Münster School of Design

A Perfect Match? On the Alliance of Sound and Visuals
19th November, 2015

On 20 November 2015 I will be giving a presentation at the Münster School of Design of Münster University of Applied Sciences on the historical development of my discipline Visual Music and will be focusing on the significance of the close interrelation between sound and images. I initiated the Visual Music major concentration at the Institute of Music and Media (IMM) of the Robert Schumann School of Music and Media and am also the founder and editor-in-chief of the important Visual Music Archive online forum.
Prof. Nina Juric and Prof. Gregor Kuschmirz are hosting the event, both alumni of the Filmakademie Baden-Württemberg who majored in Motion Design, a concentration I have been responsible for since 1998.

Filed under: Talks & Workshops