Making dreams out of noise
Hey friends, happy Monday!
(welcome to my weekly dispatch! You can sign up for these at https://thesephist.com or read it at https://linus.zone/latest 💌)
Apologies for my unplanned silence the last couple of weeks — I was busy coordinating a semi-sudden decision to move to New York! Balancing all of the details of that, combined with staying on top of regular work, kept me too busy to (1) write these regularly, but more importantly (2) have interesting enough thoughts to write about in these dispatches. I'm still traveling, so I'm not sure when we'll return to regularly scheduled newsletters yet, but hopefully soon.
Today I wanted to talk about dreams, noise, and meaning. In the Roam Research white paper, Conor writes:
Just as humans are incapable of generating random numbers, we struggle to consciously generate random ideas - to the point where actively trying to ‘think differently’ often seems to only further calcify existing patterns. Instead of attempting to brute-force creativity, the brain must be confronted with novel stimuli in order to reorganize its perception. Exposure to a certain amount of random ‘noise’ - drugs, dreams, meditation, Tarot readings, mistakes - can jolt thoughts out of well-tracked grooves and into entirely new areas of idea-space.
I'm interested in this idea of feeding creativity with a little bit of "noise", something that seeds inspiration but isn't intentionally directed. You can't really direct your creativity. You can only feed it. And the more your work involves divergent thinking, the more you benefit from having some portion of your "input" being a little bit random. This small amount of randomness, I find, helps make connections you otherwise wouldn't have made between disparate ideas.
I think this benefit of noise is the reason I really enjoy a little bit of chaos or a little bit of exploration in my creative input. Whether that randomness comes in the form of visits to an art gallery or moving to a new city, I'm not looking so much for raw, relevant information, but for a little bit of noise to add to my information diet.
If you build a basic computer vision model and feed it completely random noise, the model will try to find some semblance of meaning from it and generate completely novel images. At the risk of being a little too anthropomorphic, when we are inspired by randomness to connect old ideas into new ideas, we're also making dreams out of noise. Taking information or experiences that might normally feel random, and combining it with our own experiences to try to find some meaning from it.
Where can you find some noise to add to your creative input?
Here's what else I've been up to this week.
- I made some tiny changes to Klisp, my small Lisp interpreter written in Ink, that sped up execution by around 30%! I also fixed some bugs in Nightvale, my interactive computational notebook project based on Klisp.
- I closed some issues and made some documentation updates to Tabloid, my programming language that reads like Clickbait. For better or worse, Tabloid now has a third-party interpreter and some third-party... libraries. So... have fun with that?
I wrote three blogs while I was gone:
- Welcome to New York, on (obviously) moving to New York City
- Love, purpose, and creatorhood which is a kind of frank and honest reflection from me on my identity, and how to my detriment sometimes, the act of creating is attached to it.
- Controversy budget, on how to think about earned reputation and controversy
I also wrote about thinking about artists and artwork from the perspective of viral ideas, not creative people.
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Wishing you a happy and safe week ahead,