Magic, the controlled ordering of patterns, is the perfect UX for Math, the science of patterns.
“As it turns out, you have to shuffle seven times before a deck becomes truly scrambled. Not only that, the cards become mixed in a highly unusual way: The amount of randomness in the deck does not increase smoothly. The first few shuffles do little to disturb the original order, and even after six shuffles, you can still pick out distinctly non-random patches. But right around the seventh shuffle something remarkable happens. Shuffling hits its tipping point, and the cards rapidly decay into chaos.”
I went to a most unusual and inspiring concert last night at Carnegie Hall, and have to say that it is one that will stay with me the rest of my life.
Thomas Adès (composer, pianist) and Ian Bostridge (tenor) performed works by Adès, Schubert, Schumann, Liszt, Dowland, Kurtag.
Adès is a composer and superb pianist, so he comfortably experiments with different points of view on traditional works, with the result that every work is made brand new because of his innovative ear. Was that truly Liszt? Yes! But from an interpretive angle that I had never considered … or ever heard.
Bostridge is an artist whose voice is like a bottomless glass. There is no limit or end to the creative texture that he can produce, and from very deep inside him. I was on the edge of my seat all night attending to the paths that he opened up with each successive phrase.
Together, this truly great collaboration, made paradoxically, a lasting, ephemeral work of the highest art last night.
Afterwards the concert made me think long and hard about the forces of innovation and creativity. They are not the same, yet are deeply connected. They do not reside in isolation, but move both within and between people. Innovation and creativity rest clearly on a foundation of craft, artisanship, dedication, exploration, connection, investigation.
The performance by Adès and Bostridge was physical, living proof of this as they each embodied, threw back and forth between them, and played effortlessly with the most powerful forces in the universe.
11/29/2011: NY Times review that captures the musical detail.
John Baldessari is a painter whose works I return to frequently. He always makes me think, and not only about painting. After sharing this painting with friends over the years, I realized only recently that this is also a description about my relationship to software development. As I look back at the trends in my work, the core reason for developing any of the companies, products or algorithms that I have created in the past was to embody the most recent understanding of a burning question.
Early in my career, I was deeply intrigued by image processing in the human visual system. How do we see what we see and make sense of it? Cognitive processing of the visible world is quite a miraculous phenomenon. At the time, large scale image database retrieval was the particular burning issue that occupied my every creative moment. At the birth of digital imaging there was the creation of a method to encode an image for storage and display. But that very representational scheme did not account for the time when there would be massive quantities of image files that needed to be found, all more or less named nnnn.jpg.
My burning, primary daily question was: “How do people search for images?” This created a number of sub-questions all hanging off the first. Once a result set is gathered, how do users continue the filtering process until a final selection is made. What representational model, metadata and methods need to be in place for the most flexible downstream retrieval? Is it possible to create image metadata with “bounce”, meaning, can you shift the task point of view (i.e., throw the query ball from a different direction) on a single representation and still get a relevant result set.
These burning issues eventually were only partially resolved in a variety of patents, companies and products over the years: eMotion, PictureQuest, Picture Network International, ClearView Networks, and a host of others. In painting terms, these were the “group exhibitions” I was a part of, since there are very few “one man exhibitions” in software.
When I talk to my tech friends I always inquire about what they are working on, hoping to hear what they are “really” working on. I may now start asking them more bluntly, what are you exhaustively studying in order to build your product … and when will your group exhibition open?