Orders of noise

Cow tools

In this panel of The Far Side comic strip Garry Larson depicts a cow and its tools. The Image is titled cow tools. According to the author the joke is that cows are not as familiar with tool use to the degree humans or some other animals are, resulting in their tools looking crude and primitive. The readers, when presented with this joke did not see the obvious answer and attempted to find a deeper meaning. Many wrote to the publisher asking for clarification, all they got was the response from the author already mentioned in the second sentence of this paragraph. They saw this comic in a newspaper, which meant that the author had to come up with it, draw it in detail, and then the entire editing staff would have to be cool with it. This being a newspaper strip implied importance and a deeper meaning that everyone involved in the process was able to see, so they looked for it, some even finding what they believed to be one.

Give orange me give eat orange me eat orange give me eat orange give me you

Koko the gorilla.jpg

Koko was a gorilla that was taught how to communicate using English. Gorillas do not have the vocal cords necessary to replicate human speech. Gorillas do have dexterous hands. Koko was taught a very simplified and abstracted version of sign language. Most people working with it on a daily basis were not familiar with this method of communication. The people around her who were able to understand and speak to her often interpreted the things she signed under the impression she was trying to convey meaningful information. The chosen communication method was limited to a small number of different symbols, sentences were often short, there was no sentence structure to learn. Given a sequence of these symbols it is inevitable that one of them will be able to be interpreted as a meaningful sentence relating to the current situation. Koko communicating with others was not rigorously documented, most videos released to the public were curated, some even heavily edited.

Nim was a chimp that was also taught how to communicate using sign language. Nim communicating with others was rigorously documented. Most word combinations were primitive requests that were reinforced with positive actions from caretakers. Most of them lacked structure. Other combinations were nonsense. The longest recorded sentence from Nim is the title of this section of the document.

This part of the document is a retelling of a good video.

Very cool work of art

You find a work of art that you like. You try to understand what makes it so good. You find out that actually a small part of it has a deeper meaning ignored by many people, after talking online you find out that this is actually a common fan theory. Wow, this sure is cool, you think to yourself. You proceed to analyze the rest of the very cool artwork trying to find parallels to things that happened in the authors life, other themes mentioned in the book and other already uncovered interpretations.

TV static

Look at the clouds. Once in a while one of them will appear to look like something you recognize. Neat. Stare at a static or moving image of tv static. If it is stationary you might sometimes pick out the random pixels arranging themselves into lines, sometimes figures, sometimes entire objects if you squint hard enough. If it is moving your mind will eventually start seeing things as well. Neat. Slap some noise reduction filter on a recording of white noise. Listen. You might pick up a voice saying a few words you cant comprehend at first. Listen closer, again and again. It will make sense eventually. Neat.

Superstitions and patterns

  • Don’t eat from a knife or you will be angry.
  • Stop and sit down before you start out on a journey if you want it to be successful.
  • If you spill salt you will have an unpleasant argument in your family.
  • Knock on the wood to get rid of the evil eye.
  • Do not sit on or pass anything across the doorstep.

Humans have always been good at seeing patterns in data.

Humans have always had superstitions.

Sometimes there is no cause to the pattern, yet it is there. If you look long enough and hard enough you will see data in any pattern. You might even see proof of a grand plan in the locations of Woolworths stores.


Orders of noise

This is not a commonly recognized term.(editors note: yes there is, its called low & high entropy noise, sorry for being wrong) I however find it useful when talking about the topic

The lower the order of noise the less capable you are of predicting its output given similar input conditions.

Low order noise are things like a jumble of letters, white noise, tv static. Similar input values (time/ position on screen/ position in text) do not produce similar results and make prediction of the future impossible.

Highest order noise is not noise at all. It is homogenous. All input values produce the same output. A sustained pure tone, a flat color screen are highest order noise.

Between these two extremes we find the interesting stuff. A text composed of complete words is higher order than a jumble of letters. A text composed of unrelated sentences is higher still. A story composed of seemingly unrelated plot points is higher still. When asked to generate images loosely based on a prompt ai tends to generate images that are noise of a very high order (but not as high as an actual real world image would be). Texts and stories generated by past gen ai also have similar qualities. Another decent source of low order noise texts is translating lorem ipsum passages.

Output noise

What happens when you give the viewer some ai generated cow tools presented in a way that would suggest some sort of meaning contained within? They usually find that meaning. The more invested they are - the harder they will try to find a meaning in noise. This is not bad content either. When you stare into the noise you can’t help but see yourself. If nothing was originally intended by the author - everything you got out of it was an amalgamation of your own thoughts. Kind of reminds me of the countless variations of the phrase “art is a mirror”.

Small tangent about my mom :)

I got a tattoo a few days ago of a weird shape titled “This” in Russian. The author of the original drawing created it in a way where it was ambiguous and up to the viewers interpretation. The final tattoo is also intentionally ambiguous and up to interpretation.

After finding out about it and its lack of meaning my mother came up with the idea that it was actually symbolic of me being non binary and my identity being similarly hard to pin down and up to the interpretation of whoever i was interacting with. I did not have this interpretation in mind. That however does not make this interpretation any less awesome!

Inspiration from noise

Some people might be put off by the idea of publishing or consuming high level noise the same way as with any other type of content. I am one of them.

Another way of utilizing noise in your creative process is by drawing inspiration from it. If you look at a jumble of words or images you are likely to see some patterns in them. This is similar to the process of brainstorming ideas. Except instead of asking yourself and your teammates to generate noise, you get it from a less human source. A big difference is that while brainstorming the ideas that circulate are usually adjacent to the core theme of discussion. That means more sensible ideas but less variety.

After you find something in the noise that sparks a thought somewhere in your brain - stop and follow it. Where does it lead you, is it any good?

I believe the thoughts in my head flow in a mostly logical way. If I only consider variations close to the original problem - they are unable to leave the space where I started and flow towards one of the few local maximums I already know about, confirming my biases and previous solutions. If instead I plop my flow of thoughts at a completely unrelated concept sparked by the things I saw in the noise - the flow will cover a much larger surface of possibility space as they try to find their way back to the topic being discussed while following the various associations and connections in my head.

Another good thing about finding inspiration in noise is that the idea is 100% your creation! You got inspired by your own brain and connections inside of it. By following your thoughts you changed the random input into something only you could have come up with.

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