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March 19 version practical necromancy uva mar 22 2013

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Draft of my slides for my talk at the Scholarslab at the University of Virginia, March 22 2013

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March 19 version practical necromancy uva mar 22 2013

  1. 1. Practical Necromancy! Or How to raise the dead to predict the past Shawn Graham Carleton University Some rights reserved by Pedro Vezini @electricarchaeo
  2. 2. The Plan  The deep history of divination  Necromancy & Death  Simulation as modern divination  Nuclear War & Death  Use our powers for Some rights reserved by pasukaru76 good instead of evil  Practical Necromancy & Agent based models
  3. 3. The Restless Dead  Zombies  Bela Lugosi – White Zombie  Frankenstein’s Monster When you raise the dead, there’s usually trouble. Still from ‘I walked with a Brendon Thorne, Getty zombie!’ 1943
  4. 4. Sometimes, zombies can be more human than the humans.  Fido, 2006
  5. 5.  eHow, the font of all knowledge
  6. 6. Necromancy & Divination: responses to the original ‘problem space’:  How do you keep the world from ending? 2012 Movie – there goes New York!
  7. 7. How do we keep the world from ending?  Shamanism  Involves entering an altered state, induced through physical exertion or drugs  Allows the breeching of the barrier between the everday & spiritual worlds  Knowledge of the other world and being the intermediary between the two
  8. 8. Knossos
  9. 9. Games & Simulations as Purification  Etruscan Games  Roman Spectacles of Death Grotta della Scimia Corneto, about 500 B.C
  10. 10. Magicians & Priests  The priest is passive in letting signs, portents to signify what is to come (augury)  But the magician is active in dragging the spirits forward to tell the future (necromancy) (a bit like Humanities versus Digital Humanities, perhaps)
  11. 11. Oracles & Riddles
  12. 12. Games of Divination  I Ching – Book of Changes  http://www.ichingonline.net/index.php
  13. 13.  Riddles, Oracles:  They describe a world  They are something to be solved  They present challenge & difficulty  They join representation with puzzle  Games, Riddles, Oracles: represent the world, control the world, explore the world
  14. 14. Enough of riddles. Let’s get a straight answer.  Witch of Endor
  15. 15. Odysseus in the Underworld  Book XI – Nekuia  ("rite by which ghosts were called up and questioned about the future," i.e., necromancy.)  Circe: You need to talk to Tiresias  Odysseus: He’s dead.  Circe: Yes, you need to go to the underworld.  Odysseus: d’oh.  Makes a sacrifice of meat, milk, honey, wine, and water; gives blood to the shade of Tiresias  Also gives blood to shade of his mother, Anticlea.  And Agamemnon, and Minos, and Orion, and Tityos…. It’s busy, in the underworld.
  16. 16. Necromancy  Is about trying to control the future  This is a deep element to human modes of being  Unlike divination, the element of compulsion of other spirits and gods marks it out as something unholy  Unholy in its means, unholy in its Prof. Hix, of Unseen University prefers the aims and objects term, ‘Post Mortem Communnications’
  17. 17. Simulation is also regarded, especially by those in the humanities, as similarly evil  Marney & Tarbert, 2000. ‘Why Do Simulation? Towards a Working Epistemology for Practitioners of the Dark Arts' in Volume 3(4) http://jasss.soc.surrey.ac.uk/3/4/4.html (especially section 5).
  18. 18. Necromancy = Simulation  Scry the future  Predict the future  Non-human actors  Non-human actors  Messy / Hidden  Messy / Hidden  Left to professionals  Left to professionals  An act of compulsion  Forcing what we know through proper into computer conduct of processes, algortihmns chants, rituals, accoutr , equations ements
  19. 19. Modern necromancy  Simulations of death
  20. 20. And now, a brief detour into Science Fiction  Isaac Asimov, Foundation  Hari Seldon & Psychohistory
  21. 21. Practical Necromancy is not cliodynamics  Cliodynamics.info  Top-down vs bottom-up  Not about simulation, but about aggregate patterns Even if these patterns exist, doesn’t explain ‘why’
  22. 22. Simulation of individual interactions might, though.  Garbage in, garbage out or the problem of circularity
  23. 23. I object:  In the case of humans,  We don’t know all the variables  We don’t know how free will works  We don’t know how an individual will react  We don’t understand how individuals and society influence each other  Prediction then becomes limited to very stringent conditions  (ex: pedestrian flow)
  24. 24. …it’s at this point in the talk that heart palpitations normally occur.  This limitation is actually a strength, and is what makes this ‘practical necromancy’ http://stackoverflow.com/questions/234075/what-is-your- best-programmer-joke
  25. 25. Instead, create some zombies  And see how they interact!
  26. 26.  Simulate how you believe some aspect of the past worked, at the level of individuals.  Not the past but rather, a way of testing the consequences of your story about the past  Practical Necromancy is probabilistic historiography
  27. 27. Wait, how does that work again?  And thus can sweep the  We create simulacra, entire behavior zombies, empty husks space, the entire realm representing past actors of possible outcomes given this understanding  We give them rules to be interpreted given local  ...and map what did conditions occur (as best as we understand it) against the predictions of the  We watch what emerges model.
  28. 28. Next part: the practical & grounded reasons for doing all this. • What they are  Agent Based Models: • How they work the basics • Usefulness for  My own research history/archaeology • Making our assumptions about how the past works *explicit*
  29. 29. Complex = Complicated
  30. 30. Complexity & the problem of levels
  31. 31. And what do we model?
  32. 32. Agent models: your own personal Groundhog Day
  33. 33. Characteristics of an ‘agent- based’ model
  34. 34. The ‘environment’
  35. 35. A Simple Model to Get Us Started  Have you heard the news? (see Journal of Mediterranean Archaeology 19.1 for details)
  36. 36. The Antonine Itineraries as Network A limite id est a vallo Praetorio usque mpm clvi A Bremenio Vindomora viiii Vinovia xviiii Cataractoni xxii Isurium xxiiii Eburacum, leg. vi victrix, xvii Derventione vii Delgovicia xiii Praetorio xxv
  37. 37. Reanimate: just add agents!
  38. 38. The model code: to go ask romans [ pass-the-word ; if somebody here hasn’t heard the idea, tell them! move-forward ; then follow the route of the itinerary to somewhere else ] update-plots ; plot the percentage who have now heard the idea if everyone-heard-it = 100% [stop] ; if everyone has heard it, stop the simulation set ticks ticks + 1 ; update the clock. end
  39. 39. An Agent Based Exploration of the Antonine Itineraries  http://www.graeworks.net/abm/itineraries.html
  40. 40. Interpretation Internal Dynamicsof Provincial Information Diffusion 1 " "r pr s nts the initia numbe of time s ps to ge the t tion tiona of Time S ps me s ge to 1 % of the popula te te l r 0 P opor l r s a Iberia 1 e e e Britain Italy 0.1 Three Gauls 1 21 41 61 81 101 121 %Who Have Heard the Message
  41. 41. So what did my zombies demonstrate? ‘prove’ is too strong a word The patterns of interaction, rather than the interactions themselves , are necessary parts of any explanation . Network topologies matter. (one of Meeks’ pillars of DH is network analysis: but SNA is static. We need to reanimate them too!)
  42. 42. PatronWorld A Rather More Complex Model Where patterns of interactions again are the key
  43. 43. Why doesn't it all collapse?
  44. 44. Begin with something fundamental  Salutatio : the morning greeting of a patron by his clients  And then to process to the forum, being seen, and seeing in turn, who is following whom
  45. 45. Networks derived from central Italian brick stamp data
  46. 46.  http://www.graeworks.net/abm/PatronWorld.html
  47. 47. When Digital Romans Go Bad
  48. 48. When Digital Romans Go Bad Oppression Deaths Model runs where violence emerged
  49. 49. Take Aways  Network topology matters  Model at the lowest practical level  Identify one crucial aspect and model that  Your model encodes your beliefs about the world: the process is the rhetoric
  50. 50. So where I am now: Economic Zombies who Generate Networks
  51. 51. Practical Necromancy, eh?  Divination & simulation have deep roots  Computation actually lets us get rather good at it, in some domains  Even in complex systems – especially human ones – simulation can be useful  Create zombies, give them simple rules based on our own mental models about the past  Thus we simulate not the past, but a historiography  Rigorous, explicit, open to critique and extension  Look me up on Figshare.com
  52. 52. Final Word to Phil Connors: I am a God.

Editor's Notes

  • Towards an Experiential Analysis of ShamanismLarry G. Peters and Douglass Price-Williams American Ethnologist , Vol. 7, No. 3 (Aug., 1980), pp. 397-418 Published by: Wiley on behalf of the American Anthropological AssociationArticle Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org.proxy.library.carleton.ca/stable/643675
  • Knossos – Minoan Crete. Plan here is from the middle minoan phase, more or less towards the end of the 2ndmillenium BC. Around the Agean, influence of this site, this place, seems to imply that not only was this a site of political/economic importance, but also of cosmological importance: that its very layout replicates the way the Minoans see the world. Also important in later dark age mythmaking, and for explaining the rise of Athens.Jeffrey Soles, pointing to the architectural play of light and shadow throughout the various levels of Knossos argues that this maze-like structure was all part of the ecstatic journey, and ties shamanism directly to the agonies of sport & game in this location. Story of Theseus & Minotaur an account that explains the way the world is the way it is.
  • Herodotus on Etruscan’s coming to Italy: “In the reign of Atys son of Menes there was a great scarcity of food in all Lydia. For a while the Lydians bore this with patience; but soon, when the famine continued, they looked for remedies, and various plans were suggested. It was then that they invented the games of dice, knucklebones, and ball, and all the other games of pastime, except for checkers, which the Lydians do not claim to have invented. Then, using their discovery to forget all about the famine, they would play every other day, all day, so that they would not have to eat... This was their way of life for eighteen years. Since the famine still did not end, however, but grew worse, the king at last divided the people into two groups and made them draw lots, so that one should stay and the other leave the country’.--- I think Herodotus misses the import of the games: not as a pasttime, but as a way of trying to control, predict, solve, or otherwise intercede with the divine, to resolve the famine.***Gladiatorial games – emerge from Etruscan funeral games, games that celebrate life by confronting death directly.Games become ritualized ways of cleansing Roman society of elements that were considered ‘noxii’, ie, that have transgressed social boundaries (which ultimately are founded in Roman cosmologies and cosmogeny)-’noxii’ were denied funeral rites, thus condemning them to everlasting wandering; but at the same time, these kinds of ghosts could haunt the living. Thus those who died in the games tossed into the Tiber, rather than buried, so that the city could be cleansed of them in their entirety.Gladiatorial games recreated society (not just in seating arrangments, but also in how people lived & died).The professional, married, and socially established gladiators were pitted against the noxii, the passive, condemned torture victims, in the midday games (pp. 91-95). The gladiators would make a paradoxical elite (pp. 79-90), with collegia at their disposal to ensure them a funerary ritual. Kyle takes advantage of this to destroy, following the example of others, certain myths still held in high esteem, such as the idea that beasts would have eaten the torture victims, or that legions of Christians were thrown to lions ("Compared to pagan victims, relatively few Christians actually died in arenas" [pp. 19, 186, 243]). The elaboration of the bloody spectacles and the increased refinement of their cruelty as the very image of imperial Rome in the "Holly-woodian" vision are aptly linked to political terror, the growing social rift, religious persecutions, and the threats on the frontiers of the Empire (pp. 99-101). Imperial society closes off and separates, in an increasingly impermeable and institutionalized manner, the privileged orders (honestiores) and all the others (humiliores), weakened and without protection outside the patronage of the greats. It reflects the authoritarian drift of a regime that is turning to domination. This is why the stereotype of the "bad emperor" such as Commodius (pp. 224-28), who is condemned by memory, is that he mixes up the order of things. He causes the privileged classes to suffer the same fate as the victims and plays at being a gladiator himself.
  • The difference between simulation & gaming
  • Delphi: riddles generated through ‘interpretation’ of prophetess.Riddle: ancient literary form; appears on cuneiform texts even. ‘a short lyric poem that poses a question, the answer to which lies hidden in hints’. The true riddle is not merely enigmatic; it actually poses a question (a real one, although it need not be explicit) that is to be answered by the reader or listener – the riddlee.‘I tremble at each breath of airAnd yet can heaviest burders bear. [implicit: who am I? – water]
  • It’s a collection of texts that, depending on dice throws, get combined and read in particular ways. (Because this is essentially a number of yes-or-no answers, the book can be easily coded onto a computer or represented mechanically. In which case, it’s not really a ‘book’ at all, but a machine for producing riddles.
  • Major difference between a priest & a magician, in antiquity?Element of control, compulsionPredict the future
  • -Need to have truly random digits in order to simulate the yields of atomic bombs-spurs the generation of digital computers-but in order to work out which variables affect the simulation in which way, you have to feed the simulation the same random numbers (the same probability) . So, at each point they needed a random number, they grabbed the same sequence from this book. These books of truly random numbers were funded almost entirely by the US Atomic Commission or the US Military (and you can still buy it from Amazon).Modern simulation is also divination, & has that same concern with deathModern simulation & simulation technology: first and foremost, predicting the outcomes of nuclear blasts, warSecondly, the weather.What a 10% chance of rain really means...
  • “Psychohistory is a fictional science in Isaac Asimov's Foundation universe which combines history, sociology, etc., and mathematical statistics to make general predictions about the future behavior of very large groups of people, such as the Galactic Empire. It was first introduced in the five short stories (1942–1944) which would later be collected as the 1951 novel Foundation.”(Thank you, Wikipedia).For ‘psychohistory’ to work:that the population whose behaviour was modeled should be sufficiently largethat the population should remain in ignorance of the results of the application of psychohistorical analyses
  • …rather like Turchin’scliodynamics. This is all top-down analysis. Practical necromancy is rather bottom up
  • Our simulations can only do what we program them to doSo they are only simulations of how we believe the world worksIn some cases, like weather, our beliefs and reality match quite well, and we know much about how the variables intersectBut because starting conditions strongly affect how things transpire, we forecast from multiple runs with slightly different starting conditions
  • Direction of simulation is misplaced.Do not try to simulate the future.
  • Forecast a range of possible outcomes. In this way, we test our understanding of how the past works.Thus enabling a probabilistic, Bayesian approach to historiography
  • For the archaeologist, for the historian, the strength of agent based modeling is that it allows us to explore the unintended consequences inherent in the stories we tell about the past.This isn’t easy.(but it can be done. And compared to actually raising the dead, it is indeed practical).
  • Developing a laboratory that allows for different kinds of economic conditions to be modeled, different understandings of the Roman economy to be modeled, which generate networks. Then: I look at all of these resulting networks, mapped against archaeological networks. Aiming for sufficient, not necessary. Trying to reduce the phase space I am looking for, narrowing down the options of those things that are contingent, and those which are inevitable.
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