Reappointment Application - 2005

The following is the 4th item and last item in the submission for reappointment to the University of Aizu. It was submitted on the 10th of February, and for the next week some changes can be made to the submission and in particular the 4th item below Future plan for research and education. Review and comments to this part of the reappointment application including personal comments regrading the future plan for research and education submission would be appreciated and maybe submitted as foot notes to the submission. The body of the text has been double spaced for the purpose of peer review.

Thanks in advance

Carl and Jody... :-))

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4. Future plan for research and education

(1) Plan of Education

The Computer Arts Laboratory of the University of Aizu is a unique place where basic and applied computer research and many other disparate disciplines can exist and coalesce to provide a flexible, collaborative framework of academic study called the Digital Arts. Under a Digital Arts framework, a person is encouraged to create, organize and coordinate their own track of academic study in collaboration with others whenever possible. The Computer Arts Laboratory has been fortunate to be involved in international, collaborative research with various universities such as West Virginia University, University of California Los Angeles, Warwick University of the UK, and the MIT Media Lab's Center for Bits to Atom. All or most of the digital research, education and development is done under the basic ethics of digital freedom, human rights and environmental sustainability, which are the three provisions of the Common Good Public License Agreement.
In regard to education, we must come to recognize that age differences in technology fluency are now more important than geographical differences and are causing immense social discontinuities (Alvin Toffler). Educational institutions have yet to grasp and respond to the cyber generation gap. The young person who is immersed in the digital environs of cellphones, PCs, access to the Internet, and the highly interactive virtual worlds of games, oft referred to as Cyberspace (William Gibson, 1984), could aptly be called a digital native. The older person who did not have this immersive exposure when young could be called a digital immigrant. Immersion in video or highly interactive virtual worlds over a period of time has been shown by comparative measurements to irreversibly change the structure of the brain due to its neural plasticity (Marc Prensky). Thus we have reason to say that a digital native and a digital immigrant have very different empirical knowledge bases, like trying to have a conversation with someone who does not speak your language or understand your culture.

This is the academic imperative - to redefine the foundations of the current educational systems and support the invention of new social structures that are in keeping with the almost limitless informational space based on the use of digital materials. New dimensionalities of digital information requiring indexing systems and digital data structures that are yet to be invented are the order of the day. Personal fabrication systems (MIT, Neil Gershenfeld) are the knowledge testing portals for the future, and they are of vital importance to the Digital Arts framework of a just in time system of knowledge and learning in the digital age.

The applied research and education in the Computer Arts Lab is a "hands on" approach based on the practice of "the arts" of applied and theoretical sciences as it may have been practiced during the European Renaissance. A high level of literacy in the use and mastery of digital devices, artful and skillful manipulation of digital materials and processes for the creation of digital objects, inclusive of any or all "the arts" such as in the practice of architecture, manufacturing engineering, materials and process engineering, is a prerequisite to research for under-graduate and graduate students in the Computer Arts Lab.

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(2) Research Plan

The immediate technological goals of the research presented in this submission for reappointment are two fold. One is the creation of unique multi-dimensional, intangible digital objects that represent all of the physical qualities of tangible objects. The second is the development of independent, robust data structures for the purpose of their long term digital conservation. This is a multi-disciplinary task requiring the knowledge of tangible materials and processes (e.g. materials of the stone, bronze, iron ages, etc.) in order to be properly represented by the almost intangible materials of the digital age.

Interestingly, perhaps one of the most important results of the research is the development of pragmatic, ethical agreements required to create long term, trusted digital data repositories. While the research is attempting to form the basic technological framework for digital modeling and simulation in the future, at the same time it is creating the foundations of an enlightened and coherent set of ethics to deal with the difficult questions we are already asking in relation to nano technology, genetics, ubiquitous information and copyright, and so on.

If we take a historical view, we might consider the advent of digital implicit objects as a means of defining static or dynamic events or objects in the real or imaginary world as parallel to the invention of writing.

Just as the development of the printed book had a profound and dramatic effect on education and forms the past foundations of academia and scientific thought, we should expect no less of an effect on educational and organizational structures of today by the development of personal fabrication systems. In an international meeting last month at Boston's MIT Center for Bits to Atoms, it was recognized that the development of implicit objects and their implementation in interactive immerse real-time environments under the Common Good Public License was a critical element to continue the development of personal fabrication systems world wide.

The cultural heritage preservation research and the development of implicit objects for that purpose are the results of an interdisciplinary Digital Arts project in support of Aizu history initiated by Drs. Janet and James Goodwin in 1995. This research is looking beyond the end of the current Digital Age to the Quantum Age of Singularities described by Vernor Vinge (1986, SDSU Center for Computing) to ask how Function Representation (F-rep), A. Pasko et al. (2000), can be used to create a system that functionally defines dynamic objects and their environmental settings so that they can be abstracted from their physical form and embodied in robust, long term digital archives. The results of the research demonstrate the transformation of form and function from the tangible "its" of each of the original wooden parts forming the unique temple of Sazaedo in the Aizu region of Japan -- indeed a virtual pilgrimage of its time! -- to the intangible "bits" that precisely define and archive each of the wooden parts and their placement in such a manner as to record the construction processes.

The theoretical foundations for the digital preservation research lies in seminal studies of physical systems by Leo Szilard introducing the bit as a unit of information about the location of a gas molecule (1929), Claude Shannon showing that encoding information digitally can create a threshold allowing for perfect communication over a noisy channel (1948), by John von Neumann (1952), and Shmuel Winograd and Jack Cowan (1963), extending this result to prove that reliable digital computation can be done by unreliable analog components, and by John von Neumann (1957) on self-reproducing machines. The origins for the research critical to the digital representation of physical objects both fixed and dynamic are found in the sentinel works by A. Pasko and V. Adzhiev (2000) on Function-based shape modeling, i.e.

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the mathematical framework and specialized language of Function Representation (or F-rep) that can be used to define the geometric, volumetric and physical properties of an object by a single real continuous function of point coordinates as F(X) >= 0, thus providing a common method for the mathematical description of static or dynamic objects of mixed materials based on continuous functions that can be said to have n-ary dimensions and attributes where F(x1, x2, x3, ..., xn) >= 0 is limited only by the computational resources available. It would appear, but is yet to be fully confirmed by this research, that any dynamic or physical aspect of our current understanding of a natural object can be digitally represented with F-rep methods.

Perhaps the most important, provocative underlying principle to achieving long term digital preservation is that computational equivalence can be found in nature or that is to say nature can compute. Provocative or not, there has been many previous indications that this could be true, e.g. Fibonacci number series, The Mandelbrot and Julia Fractal Sets, Lindenmayer Systems. If nature can compute, therefore it would follow that nature can also be represented and understood by using the language of computation, an insight that was pioneered by Rolf Landauer's (1961) explanation of the origin of physical dissipation in logical erasure - the paradigm that digital information not only represents the physical but is physical, where the erasure of one bit of information always increases the thermal dynamic entropy of the world. This is a bridge underlying the theory of information science and perhaps to understanding the concepts concerning the unique intangible existence of digital materials and processes and the underlying first principles concerning their use -- the pragmatic requirement for ethical agreements in research.

Furthermore, important to this research are the computational intense studies on chaos and the wider issues of complexity which show that the dissipation of energy creates order from chaos and the confirmation that nature can compute, demonstrated by a simple Cellular Automata Rule number 110, which gives rise to complexity from arbitrary input, thus setting forth the Principle of Computational Equivalence by S. Wolfram (2002) -- that is to say nature's simple rules can compute and nature's computations produce self emergent complex programs of exponential evolutionary growth as explained by the Law of Accelerating Returns, Ray Kurzweil ( 2001). John Archibald Wheeler (1989) described the aim of understanding nature or nature understanding itself as using the language of computation to go from "its to bits," meaning that the natural world is most fundamentally understood and inclusively understands itself as a manifestation of digital information. This work serves as a provocative underlying philosophical principle in the quest to digitally preserve the local Aizu temples through applied research first by meeting the research goals of equivalence between the tangible atoms of the natural "its" and the intangible binary existence of digital "bits" opening the way for the possibility of the temples eternal existence meeting the secondary goal of long term digital preservation. Thus digital preservation using Constructive Modeling can be understood as the abstraction and application of logical descriptions of the construction and functions of physical objects. This effort starts with studies of transduction at the interface between digital and physical systems, includes investigation of quantum and classical mechanisms for manipulating information, and encompasses the development of generalized principles for organizing these resources into scalable, "fungible" systems based on architectural F-rep data structures. Ultimately, these activities are leading towards a design practice for Avogadro - scale engineering that can bring rigor to the Constructive Modeling of enormously complex systems requiring only implicit F-rep objects providing specifications for their volumetric configuration, shape and function.