Creation by subtraction

Updated: Mar 10

Here are some passages related to "creation by subtraction." That is, the creative process, especially in today's information age world, is often characterized by taking a large set of data and pruning (curating) it until it leaves the creation. Creation is a remainder. Thus, intelligence is in the subtraction. What is left, is the byproduct of the subtractive process. For more context on information curation, please see our article: Information curation in a world drowning in data noise


"Fortunately, the effort of information curation is its own reward. Information curation provides the calming confidence of curiosity enablement. Plus, a security blanket to repel the demons of information insecurity."

- Jeff Hulett


"There are two approaches to embodying intelligence....The alternatives correspond to two different approaches to building a boat.
1) To build a kayak, you assemble a skeleton and then give it a skin that allows it to float, just as the architectural framework of a computer is fitted, by evolution or by design, with an envelope of code.
2) To build a dugout, you grow a tree and then remove everything, one chip at a time, except the boat.
This is how nature creates her intelligences, by spawning an overwhelming surplus of neurons and then selectively pruning them to leave a network that, if all goes well, becomes a mind.
As computers are replicated by the millions, they are aggregating into structures whose design bears nature’s signature in addition to our own."

- George Dyson, Darwin Among The Machines


“I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.”

- Michelangelo

“It’s simple. I just remove everything that is not David.”

- Michelangelo was asked by the pope about the secret of his genius, particularly how he carved the statue of David, largely considered the masterpiece of all masterpieces.


“It is in the nature of things, that many hard problems are best solved when they are addressed backward.”

- Charlie Munger


“When you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth."

- Sir Arthur Conan Doyle


"Keeping one’s distance from an ignorant person is equivalent to keeping company with a wise man."

- from Arab religious leader Ali Bin Abi-Taleb


"The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, and wiser people so full of doubts."

- Bertrand Russell


“the sustained process of wearing down an opponent so as to force their physical collapse through continuous losses in personnel, equipment and supplies or [wearing] them down to such an extent that their will to fight collapses.”

-The International Encyclopedia of the First World War defines attrition warfare


“The method began as an avoidance of direct description, leading to a focus on negative description, what is called in Latin via negativa, the negative way, after theological traditions, particularly in the Eastern Orthodox Church. Via negativa does not try to express what God is— leave that to the primitive brand of contemporary thinkers and philosophasters with scientistic tendencies. It just lists what God is not and proceeds by the process of elimination.”

- NN Taleb


“[I]n practice it is the negative that’s used by the pros, those selected by evolution: chess grandmasters usually win by not losing; people become rich by not going bust (particularly when others do); religions are mostly about interdicts; the learning of life is about what to avoid. You reduce most of your personal risks of accident thanks to a small number of measures.”

- NN Taleb


“The World Wide Web, a primitive metabolism nourished by the substance of the Internet, will be succeeded by higher forms of organization feeding upon the substance of the World Wide Web.”

- George Dyson






















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