Glass Bead Games, AI and the rest:

an Overview

Derek Robinson

If, instead of using the real world, one carefully creates a simpler, artificial world in which to study the high-level processes of perception, the problems become more tractable.

Douglas R. Hofstadter & the Fluid Analogies Research Group, in "Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies", 1995, p.190.

In this short article, Derek Robinson explores the possible uses of the Glass Bead Games, and of the HipBone Games in particular, as "simple, artificial worlds" which may provide a uniquely helpful basis for certain kinds of research in AI, the cognitive sciences, linguistics and philosophy, and describes the HipBone Games as "a 'toy universe' ready-made for AI researchers".

The HipBone Games of Charles Cameron were developed to be small and simple but non-trivial, and possibly even profound, minimally structured 'fields' wherein human wit may freely range and be observed at its play by the game's players and spectators. They are like little windows that open out onto certain crooks and corners and crannies of the mind, which otherwise might not be so readily suspected or seen.

A HipBone board is at outset empty, a matrix of possibilities, pregnant with incipient linkages between the board's loci. The board is just a set of nodes, connected by lines, forming an abstract geometrical pattern: TenStones, WaterBird, Tetraktys. As the game is played, the players in alternating moves populate the board's nodes with 'concepts', symbolic references to, well, anything at all really - its backdrop is the entire atlas, landscape, encyclopaedia of cultural forms.

Within the game's small compass, comprising less than a score of loci, we are given a model 'elaboratory' for investigating the analogical, poetic, creative potencies of the mind. A move in the game must simultaneously resolve or bridge the concepts already in play upon the board, while yet proposing further original, hitherto unexpressed (while latent and implicit) changes rung upon the central theme.The game form imposes the strict constraint that any move made must link adjoining nodes not just geometrically...but semantically, meaningfully, deliberately, playfully.

What governs a move in a HipBone game - the placement of a concept, a passage from a work of literature or a line from a song, an image recognizable by all or intensely personal, an idea from mathematics or the special sciences, an event or an individual from the pages of history or today's headlines, an allegorical symbol or emblem drawn from folk or fairy tales, from dreams, or from the sacred traditions of East or West, positioned onto a free node on the board, and thereby linked to the nodes and hence to the concepts already played - is simply salience, a sense for what is meet, a sensitivity to the opportunities afforded by a fertile analogy.

The nature of the connection can be virtually anything that anyone might consider to be a 'relation' - symmetry, mirroring, opposition; metonymy, metaphor, the 'figures' or 'tropes' of rhetoric; movements up, down, or across a categorical tree; puns, verbal or visual; euphemisms or spoonerisms; chains of cause and effect; syllogisms and enthymemes; allusions or cliches; allegories, archetypes; the arts of memory and of 'topics', altogether.

There has been increasing interest in categorization and the mechanisms of metaphor and analogical reasoning among people working in the cognitive sciences, in linguistics and philosophy - theorists like Douglas Hofstadter, Melanie Mitchell, George Lakoff, Mark Johnson, Mark Turner, Dierdre Gentner, David Gelernter, Roger Schank, Janet Kolodner, S. Kedar-Cabelli, Keith Holyoak and Paul Thagard, as well as many others active in the areas of neural networks, machine learning, fuzzy logic, and case-based reasoning. An archive of HipBone games can provide a wealth of examples of how analogy works, of what makes one analogy succeed where a different analogy might fail.

Here we have a 'toy universe' ready-made for AI researchers wishing to tackle the slippery slopes of analogy, metaphor, resemblance, the making and taking of meaning.

Go to:

HipBone Games articles sub-index

HipBone Welcome
HipBone Guided Tour
Invitation to the Games
Barebones HipBone Site Index
Annotated HipBone Site Index

Contact us:

Derek Robinson
HipBone Games

This article is copyright (c) Derek Robinson, 1997.

HipBone Games rules, boards, sample games and other materials are copyright (c) Charles Cameron 1995, 96. See Concerning Copyright for full copyright details.