Kant’s ideas of time & space in boids

This text written for a project about boids we had in the c0d3l4b of the artscience interfaculty. If you do not know what boids are, check here.

The original text is one the codelab blog.


For our boids to come alive, and reach the point they need, a strong sense of orientation is essential.

So far we took the space, and the dimensions we are walking in during the experiment for granted, while space and time dimensions play a huge role in the simulation of flocking boids. I will explain according to a theoretical base why we first need to give these dimensions exact measurements before we continue the experiment again.

About time and space dimension, and the Idea’s of Immanuel Kant

I like the idea that every living being in this world has it’s own perception of time and space. The german philosopher Immanuel Kant had the following idea about t&s: Time and space are “angeborene Ideen”, ideas that we are born with, and that are a systematic framework we use to structure our experience.

To understand this idea better we can take the example of a new bought harddrive:

When you buy a new hard drive, you can plug it in and connect it to your computer, which is the basic setup for powering it up. Yet the harddrive won’t start actually working, and be able to save data unless you format it. Formating a harddrive, gives it something like a filter, or a mindset, a protocol that it needs to give it the possibility for receiving, saving and transferring data.

Kant’s theory basically gives the idea of time and space, to living beings the same priority and impact as formatting has to the harddrive. He believed that human brains on a whole scale are structured by the framework of a perception of time and space. Thus we can not think, percieve, receive and furthermore do anything without this birth-given framework.

In programming, these ideas are neither excluded. Basically making a program always starts with these two parameters: Every program (or programming language for that reason, which is mostly nothing else but a program itself) has an internal clock, that all processes are basesd on, and as soon as there is an element programmed into it, the space in which it operates has to be defined. You could go back to Kant’s idea by saying that no program exists without having a framework of time & space, thus to create this framework is equal to breathing “life” into something programmed.

For the boids experiment, we where so far quite dependent on nesha, who’d allways shout different commands to us on a irregular timescale for the boids to move. Yet, to make the boids “flocking” like birds would do, which is closer to the original simulation of boids, we would need regular movement on a set timescale. While constant movement may be too advanced for us too reach yet, we can make movement in a more regular timescale. We do not have to orient ourselves on a gregorian timescale, but as there are no other elements that always reappear on a regular timescale the stopwatch might still be our easiest option. We can set a regular interval, say every 10 seconds.

Another thing we need to set more exactly is the space. Luckily, the space we operate in is two-dimensional, unless we get ourselves some jetpacks. The conservatory has some lovely roof-tiles that serve excellent as a grid, that we can describe with letters and numbers like a chessboard.

Once this dimensions are set, we can find a way more exact way of moving, and also in case of cohesion, we can send an exact point and exact routes for the boids to move towards without clashing into each other.