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Leonardo da Vinci used to throw paint filled sponges at walls and then force himself to make sense out of the resulting irregular shapes in relation to a problem he was interested in. For example: he might be thinking about transportation and say "well this looks like a horse drawing a carriage ..." and then use it as a basis to come up with new ideas. By forcing his brain to make connections between totally unrelated things it enhanced his creativity (or at least that was the intention.)

What comes to mind for this Hacker News Simulator is the modern equivalent of da Vinci's sponges: an ink blot which you can use to come up with completely new and novel ideas by forcing unexpected connections. And because the topics here are in some way related to hacker news the result could be filling in enough blanks to produce something newsworthy (i.e. an actual good idea instead of a garbled markov chain.)




For a while I ran a Markov chain blog poster that drew on my own notes and posts on a site I ran for a while. A phrase in one of those posts ("Only a matter of seeing simple data structures and designing lightweight tools that can cross the galaxy") actually led to a chain of association that has spawned a five-year research thread. This technique can actually work.


That's really interesting, hadn't heard that before. A big difference here though is that the software is making (the appearance of) very specific logical connections itself -- with the ink sponges, you're creating a vague image that is open to human interpretation.


Some of the software-generated "logical connections" are not quite logical though, and require a little massaging/tweaking (human interpretation) in order to make sense. This process can result in interesting new logical connections.


Is that da Vinci method a bit like interpreting I Ching hexagrams? Put some randomness in, add some constraints, and interpret it to your current context. Should be a similar creativity enhancer.


Kind of off topic, but I have been looking at I Ching hexagrams as design patterns for life. Each hexagram represents a state you can be in. You can transition from one state to any other state, but there are consequences. The consequences are described in the transitions of the moving lines.

To make the most sense of this, it helps to read Richard Wilhelm's translation and annotations of the I Ching. If you don't read German, then Cary Banes's translation of Wilhelm's translation is pretty much the only one out there. Unfortunately still under copyright (ha ha... on 5000 year old document). But it is widely pirated on the web.

I often wonder if the random "predictions" of the I Ching were originally just a way of studying. There are 4096 different transitions to look at, and approaching them systematically would be painful in the extreme.

I've spend some time to see if the transitions actually make sense and from what I can tell, they do (modulus my ability to fool myself into seeing reason in things that have no actual reason). I wish I had enough patience to actually study it ;-)


Any LdV biography you could recommend?


"The Science of Leonardo" by Fritjof Capra is easy to read and a good intro. Martin Kemp's "Leonardo da Vinci" is a bit scattered but has great visuals. But most interesting is Leonardo's own "Notebooks."




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