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Archive for the ‘time’ Category

And I have to start this essay with a simple statement that it is not lost on me that all of the above is 100% derived from my own history, studies, jobs, art works, and everything else that goes into me.  So maybe this is just a theory of myself or not even a theory, but yet another expression in a life time of expressions.   At the very least I enjoyed 20 hrs of re-reading some great science, crafting what I think is a pretty neat piece of art work, and then summarizing some pondering.   Then again, maybe I’ve made strides on some general abstract level.  In either case, it’s just another contingent reconfiguration of things.

At the end I present all the resources I read and consulted during the writing (but not editing) and the making of the embedded 19×24 inch drawing and ink painting (which has most of this essay written and drawn into it).   I drank 4 cups of coffee over 5 hrs, had 3 tacos and 6 hotwings during this process. Additionally I listened to “The Essential Philip Glass” while sometimes watching the movie “The Devil Wears Prada” and the latest SNL episode.

——————-  

There is a core problem with all theories and theory at large – they are not The t=Truth and do not interact in the universe like the thing they refer to.   Theories are things unto themselves.  They are tools to help craft additional theories and to spur on revised dabbling in the world.

FullSizeRender (4)

We have concocted an unbelievable account of reality across religious, business, mathematical, political and scientific categories.  Immense stretches of imagination are required to connect the dots between the category theory of mathematics to radical behaviorism of psychology to machine learning in computer science to gravitational waves in cosmology to color theory in art.  The theories themselves have no easy bridge – logical, spiritual or even syntactically.

Furthering the challenge is the lack of coherence and interoperability of measurement and crafting tools.   We have forever had the challenge of information exchange between our engineered systems.   Even our most finely crafted gadgets and computers still suffer from data exchange corruption.   Even when we seem to find some useful notion about the world it is very difficult for us to transmit that notion across mediums, toolsets and brains.

And yet, therein lies the the reveal!

A simple, yet imaginative re-think provides immense power.   Consider everything as network.  Literally the simplest concept of a network – a set of nodes connected by edges.   Consider everything as part of a network, a subnetwork of the universe.  All subnetworks are connected more or less to the other subnetworks.   From massive stars to a single boson, all nodes in a network and those networks of networks.   Our theories are networks of language, logic, inference, experiment, context.  Our tools are just networks of metals, atoms, and light.   It’s not easy to replace your database of notions reinforced over the years with this simple idea.

But really ask yourself why that is so hard but you can believe that blackholes collide and send out gravitational waves that slightly wobble spacetime 1.3 billion light years away or if you believe in the Christian God, consider how that’s believable and that woman was created from a guy named Adam’s rib.    It’s all a bit far fetched but we buy these other explanations because the large network of culture and tradition and language and semiotics has built our brains/worldviews up this way.

Long ago we learned that our senses are clever biological interpreters of internal and external context.  Our eyes do not see most of “reality” – just a pretty course (30 frames per second) and small chunk of electromagnetic waves (visible light).   in the 1930s we learned that even mathematics itself and the computers we’d eventually construct can not prove many of the claims they will make, we just have to accept those claims. (incompleteness and halting problem.).

These are not flaws in our current understanding or current abilities.  These are fundamental features of reality – any reality at all.  In fact, without this incompleteness and clever loose interpretations of information between networks there would be no reality at all – no existence.   This is a claim to return to later.

In all theories at the core we are always left with uncertainty and probability statements.   We cannot state or refer to anything for certain, we can only claim some confidence that what we’re claiming or observing might, more or less, be a real effect or relation.   Even in mathematics with some of the simplest theorems and their logical proofs we must assume axioms we cannot prove – and while that’s an immensely useful trick it certainly doesn’t imply that any of the axioms are actually true and refer to anything that is true or real.

The notion of probability and uncertainty is no easy subject either.   Probability is a measure of what?   It is a measure belief (Bayes) that something will happen given something else?  Is it a measure of lack of information – this claim is only X% of the information?  Is it a measure of complexity?

IMG_4369

Again, the notion of networks is incredibly helpful.  Probability is a measure of contingency.   Contingency, defined and used here, is a notion of connectivity of a network and nodes within the network.  There need be no hard and fast assignment of the unit of contingency – different measures are useful and instructive for different applications.  There’s a basic notion at the heart of all of them: contingency is a cost function of going from a configuration to another configuration of the network.

And that leads to another startling idea.   Spacetime itself is just a network.  (obvious intuition from my previous statement) and everything is really just a spacetime network.    Time is not the ticks on a clock nor an arrow marching forward.  Time is nothing but a measure of steps to reconfigure a network from state A to some state B.   Reconfiguration steps are not done in time, they are time itself.

(most of my initial thinking comes from Wolfram and others working on this long before my thinking about it: http://blog.stephenwolfram.com/2015/12/what-is-spacetime-really/ – Wolfram and others have done a ton of heavy lifting to translate the accepted theories and math into network terms).

This re-framing of everything into network thinking requires a huge amount of translation of notions of waves, light, gravity, mass, fields, etc into network conventions.  While attempting to do that in blog form is fun and I’ve attempted to keep doing it, the reality of the task is that no amount of writing about this stuff will make a sufficient proof or even useful explanation of the idea to people.

Luckily, it occurred to me (a contingent network myself!) that everyone is already doing this translation and even more startling it couldn’t go any other way.   Our values and traditions started to be codified into explicit networks with the advent of written law and various cultural institutions like religion and formal education.   Our communities have now been codified into networks by online social networks.  Our location and travels have been codified by GPS satellites and online mapping services.  Our theories and knowledge are being codified into Wikis, Programs (Wolfram Alpha, Google Graph, Deep Learning networks, etc).   Our physical interpretations of the world have been codified into fine arts, pop arts, movies and now virtual and augmented realities.   Our inner events/context are being codified by wearable technologies.    And now the cosmos has unlocked gravitational waves for us so even the mystery of black holes and dark matter will start being codified into knowledge systems.

It’s worth a few thoughts about Light, Gravity, Forces, Fields, Behavior, Computation.

  • Light (electromagnetic wave-particles) is the subnetwork encoding the total configurations of the entire universe and every subnetwork.
  • Gravity (and gravitational wave-particles) is the subnetwork of how all the subnetworks over a certain contingency level (mass) are connected.
  • Other 3 fundamental Forces (electromagnetics, weak nuclear, strong nuclear) are also just subnetworks encoding how all subatomic particles are connected.
  • Field is just another term for network, hardly worth a mention.
  • Behavior observations are partially encoded subnetworks of the connections between subnetworks.  They do not encode the entirety of a connection except for the smallest, most simple networks.
  • Computation is time is the instruction set is a network encoding how to transform one subnetwork to another subnetwork.

These re-framed concepts allow us to move across phenomenal categories and up and down levels of scale and measurement fidelity.  They open up improved ways of connecting the dots between cross-category experiments and theories.   Consider radical behaviorism and schedules of reinforcement combined with the Probably Approximately Correct learning theory in computer science against a notion of light and gravity and contingency as defined above.

What we find is that learning and behavior based on schedules of reinforcement is actually the only way a subnetwork (say, a person) and a network of subnetworks (a community) could encode the vast contingent network (internal and external environments, etc).   Some schedules of reinforcement maintain responses better than others, and again here we find the explanation.  Consider a Variable Ratio schedule reinforcing a network.  (see here for more details: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reinforcement#Intermittent_reinforcement.3B_schedules).   A variable ratio (a variations/compositions on this) schedule is a richer contingent network itself that say a fixed ratio network.  That is, as a network encoding information between networks (essentially a computer program and data) the variable ratio has more algorithmic content to keep associations linked after many related network configurations.

Not surprisingly this is exactly the notion of gravity explained above.  Richer, more complex networks with richer connections to other subnetworks have much more gravity – that is they attract more subnetworks to connect.  They literally curve spacetime.

To add another wrinkle in theory, it has been observed in a variety of categories that the universe seems to prefer computational efficiency.  Nearly all scientific disciplines from linguistics to evolutionary biology to physics to chemistry to logic end up with some basic notion of “Path of Least Effort” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Principle_of_least_effort).  In the space of all possible contingent situations networks tend to connect in the computationally most efficient way – they encode each other efficiently.  That is not to say it happens that way all the time.  In fact, this idea led me to thinking that while all configurations of subnetworks exist, the most commonly observed ones (I use a term: robust) are the efficient configurations.  I postulate this explains mathematical constructs such as the Platonic solids and transcendental numbers and likely the physic constants.  That is, in the space of all possible things, the mean of the distribution of robust things are the mathematical abstractions.  While we rarely experience a perfect circle, we experience many variations on robust circular things… and right now the middle of them is the perfect circle.

IMG_4366

Now, what is probably the most bizarre idea of all:  nothing is actually happening at the level of the universe nor at the level of a photon.  The universe just is.   A photon, which is just a single massless node, everything happens to it all at once, so nothing happens.

That’s right, despite all the words and definitions above with all the connotations of behavior and movement and spacetime… experience and happening and events and steps and reconfigurations are actually just illusions, in a sense, of subnetworks describing other subnetworks.   The totality of the universe includes every possible reconfiguration of the universe – which obviously includes all theories, all explanations, all logics, all computations, all behavior, all schedules in a cross product of each other.   No subnetwork is doing anything at all, it simply IS and is that subnetwork within the specific configuration of universe as part of the wider set of the whole.

This sounds CRAZY.   until you look back on the history of ideas, this notion has come up over and over regardless of the starting point, the condition of the observational tools, the fads of language and business of the day.  It is even observable in how so many systems “develop” first as “concrete” physical, sensory things… they end up yielding time and time again to what we call the virtual – strangely looping recursive networks.   Here I am not contradicting myself, instead… this is what exists within the fractal nature of the universe (multiverse!) it is self similar all the way up and down scales and across all configurations (histories).

Theories tend to be ignored unless they are useful.   I cannot claim utility for everyone on this theory.  I do find it helpful for myself in moving between disciplines and not getting trapped in syntactical problems.   I find confirmation of my own cognitive bias in the fact that the technology of loosely connecting the dots like GPS, hyperlinks, search engine, social media, citation analysis, Bayes, and now deep learning/PAC have yielded tremendous expansion of information and re-imaging of the world.

IMG_4355

Currency, writing, art, music are not concrete physical needs and yet they mediate our labor, property, government, nation states.   Even things we consider “concrete” like food and water are just encodings of various configurations.  Food can be redefined in many ways and has been over the eons as our abstracted associations drift.   Water seems like a concrete requirement for us, but us is under constant redefinition.  Should people succeed in creating human-like (however you define it) in computers or the Internet it’s not clear water would be any more concrete than solar power, etc.

Then again, if I believe anything I’ve said above, it all already exists and always has.

 

———————————–

 

Chaitin on Algorithmic Information, just a math of networks.
https://www.cs.auckland.ac.nz/~chaitin/sciamer3.html

Platonic solids are just networks
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Platonic_solid#Liquid_crystals_with_symmetries_of_Platonic_solids

Real World Fractal Networks
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fractal_dimension_on_networks#Real-world_fractal_networks

Correlation for Network Connectivity Measures
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22343126

Various Measurements in Transport Networks (Networks in general)
https://people.hofstra.edu/geotrans/eng/methods/ch1m3en.html

Brownian Motion, the network of particles
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brownian_motion

Semantic Networks
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Semantic_network

MPR
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mathematical_principles_of_reinforcement

Probably Approximately Correct
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Probably_approximately_correct_learning

Probability Waves
http://www.physicsoftheuniverse.com/topics_quantum_probability.html

Bayes Theorem
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bayes%27_theorem

Wave
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wave

Locality of physics
http://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2016/02/all-physics-is-local/462480/

Complexity in economics
http://www.abigaildevereaux.com/?p=9%3Futm_source%3Dshare_buttons&utm_medium=social_media&utm_campaign=social_share

Particles
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Graviton

Gravity is not a network phenomenon?
https://www.technologyreview.com/s/425220/experiments-show-gravity-is-not-an-emergent-phenomenon/

Gravity is a network phenomenon?
https://www.wolframscience.com/nksonline/section-9.15

Useful reframing/rethinking Gravity
http://www2.lbl.gov/Science-Articles/Archive/multi-d-universe.html

Social networks and fields
https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Wendy_Bottero/publication/239520882_Bottero_W._and_Crossley_N._(2011)_Worlds_fields_and_networks_Becker_Bourdieu_and_the_structures_of_social_relations_Cultural_Sociology_5(1)_99-119._DOI_10.11771749975510389726/links/0c96051c07d82ca740000000.pdf

Cause and effect
https://aeon.co/essays/could-we-explain-the-world-without-cause-and-effect

Human Decision Making with Concrete and Abstract Rewards
http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1090513815001063

The Internet
http://motherboard.vice.com/blog/this-is-most-detailed-picture-internet-ever

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She stood at the tree waiting.   Rain had softened the ground overnight so her feet sank a little as time passed mud creeping up.   Long ago the childish message carved in the tree disappeared as new layers of bark did what they do – cover up the years.   She kept her hand where the message used to be.   She did not move even as sweat matted her hair and tears streaked her face.  The bugs didn’t care about her situation.  They swarmed and nipped at their motionless meal.

The Tree

She Waited Here

~~~~~~~~~

He never made it to the tree.  Three years ago on a trip overseas he fell ill and with barely any notice slipped away.  He was traveling alone and had not noticed the severity of his illness when he fell into a deep sleep one afternoon.  He never awoke.

His body was removed from his temporary dwelling after finally being noticed by the housekeeper who had been away.   He had paid cash up front and left no useful information behind for the housekeeper nor anyone else to contact anyone.  The housekeeper had him buried in a slightly marked grave and buried his meager personal belongings, a journal and wallet, with him.  She kept a description of him on hand in the house in case a future visitor inquired.

Years passed.

~~~~~~~~~

When the search party found her she was still attached to the tree.   Drenched from several nights of rain and a near perpetual sweat rashes covered her bitten and weakened body.  She rarely blinked and her face was flush white.   At some point during the waiting it occurred to her he wasn’t coming and she wasn’t going to leave.

“Are you ok? Are you ok,” they repeated over and over.

No response.

“Let go of the tree.  Come with us.  You’re going to be ok.   Let go,” the pleading continued until they finally forced her hands away and carried her to the vehicle.   A tear, so slight, crept from her left eye.

~~~~~~~~~

“Let’s find ourselves,” the note ended openly and without commitment.   One night she had written the note and hastily dropped it in the mail after a long week of anguished failed attempts to compose.  The writing was sloppy and rushed and the stamped was not flush with the corner.

~~~~~~~~~

“Let’s find ourselves,” he read trembling.   Normally the envelope would have been thicker with more words stuck inside of it, but this one had been impossibly thin.   It contained few words.  He packed his bag in haste taking a few clothes and his journal.  He left immediately on the next boat with no idea when he would come back other than to meet at the tree.

~~~~~~~~~
With a little knife they carved “our love grows” deeply into the tree that day.   The hugged when they were done and whispered their promises to return to that tree 15 years from then.  They hugged and hugged.   The wind was gentle and did not rush them.

~~~~~~~~~

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I did as I was told.

I did as I was told.

At the escape the pistons fire incorrectly.

She frowns at the sound of hushed murmurs.

Bound and silenced, his captors forget.

In an instant, bang, existence.

Swallow-filled woods hide the shadowy fleet of marching barbarions.

Billowing stacks fulfill the dreams of green-eyed titans.

Misfired, misdeed, mistake but still someone is dead in Ferguson.

“You lie!” from the commons it comes changing discourse discordingly forever.

“Hello [long pause] tell me your location,” the sleepy 911 operator sighs.

Dosed off, door unlocked, debts unpaid he sleeps perhaps too well.

The far off chirp and the slight drip of sunsoaked cicles warns us that he will arise soon.

Logic gates flip bits determined to ruin fortunes.

She blushes at the his left left foot.

A scream reaches out signaling another miracle.

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The idea of progress is a flimsy concept.  Nothing in the universe comes for free.  So when some system or entity “progresses” in comes at the expense of energy somewhere.  It’s not necessarily a wholly destructive expense but it is an expense nonetheless. The way in which we commonly talk about society, civilization and the human race is in terms of progress.  We’re progressing from a barbaric or unenlightened state to a state if self reliance and control and technologically enhanced awareness.  But this progress is mostly an illusion.  It comes at a great expense to other species,the planet and even ourselves.

Some conflicting reports:

http://humanprogress.org/ (there’s progress!)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_progress (there’s progress!)

http://reason.com/archives/2013/10/30/human-progress-not-inevitable-uneven-and (there is a thing called progress but we’re not always on it!)

http://people.wku.edu/charles.smith/wallace/S445.htm (there’s progress!)

http://www.alternet.org/environment/myth-human-progress (progress is an illusion!)

http://www.vice.com/read/john-gray-interview-atheism (there is no progress!)

(Another way to think about this is that everything is competing to exist against other things that also are fighting to exist.  The better we compete the more we extract from the ecosystems.)

Certainly we’ve increased our life expectancy on the whole and reduced violence and physical suffering in the human race. We have invented computers, figured out space flight, eradicated some diseases, taught billions to read and write.  All progress right?

To what end?  Where is all this progress going?  How is this progress measured?  Does a longer life mean a better life? Does a less violent life lead somewhere differently than a more violent one?

Perhaps even more challenging is figuring out whether we have a choice in the matter.  Are we even biologically, physically capable of not trying to progress in these dimensions and exert our competitive advantages upon or environment?  If we had some definition of how best to live in some philosophic sense and it differed materially with the progressive ways we’ve chased could we actually change?  Could we choose less technology and a culture more in balance with the environment?  And no there’s no “hippie” justification needed for this thinking.  The question is is there a way of life that is more sustainable and less extracting from the world than the way we currently live?  Or is our survival inexorably tied to dominating everything we can?

To make this very clear consider the species that have become extinct at the hands of humankind’s hunting.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lists_of_extinct_animals
Our “progress” has led in many cases directly to their complete decline.  Who are we to say whether our progress is worth it – Was worth their demise?

I’m directly asking everyone what is the point of our focus on progress.  Certainly in America we are all put on a course to progress through life.  Our goal is clear to get through high school, go through college, and begin to produce.  One production should lead to ever more important positions in this progressive society with ever increasing economic output.  We measure all facets of our culture against GDP and endowments and ROI.  We do not recognize that growth in these aspects must be paid for in other respects.

So the question remains.  What is progress? and what’s it worth to you?

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Apparently a lot of people want to live forever.

Last week I read an article about cryonics company, Alcor, and their founder.  Apparently he passed away. A couple of years ago I read the book “Frozen”.   (Alcor has been fighting that book for some time.)   I’ve also read / watched stuff from Aubrey De Grey and all the stuff from Ray Kurzweil.   I’ve had conversations face to face with “singularists”.   And, of course, the efforts to get humans to mars I watch with extreme curiosity.

All of these are modern equivalents of the search for the fountain of youth, religious salvation and belief in the afterlife.

Do you, dear reader, want to live forever?  Do you want to preserve some specific way of life, your way of life, humanity?   It’s maddening to me that a large number of humans want to make some basic version of this existence go on forever.   It seems insane to me to want to promote this specific way of life considering how little we actually know and how frequently we kill each other and the planet.

Personally I’d find it miserable to live forever or to be reanimated in the future with my current form.   One lifetime, as a human, is enough.   A couple of years ago I read this book, Forever, by Pete Hamill.  It depressed me a great deal.   The main character lives forever.  He watches many generations and friends live, suffer and die.   All the joy and up moments were dwarfed by knowing it was an endless cycle – living forever wasn’t all there was!  It was a similar lesson I pulled from Man from Earth and Moon.  Maybe I need to read and watch more hopeful views of living forever.

Chasing immortality strikes me more as fear than some aspirational ideal.  If not the fear of death or regret over something not done in the life time, it must be some ridiculous belief that one or humanity SHOULD live forever and promote this particular formation of life.   Whether it’s fear or some anthropocentric imperative the pursuit of immortality seems like a big fat cop out.

People die.  Species go extinct.  We have limited time and resources at our disposal.  We should stop looking for infinite sources of energy and life and start learning to live better (in whatever way you take that) with less.   Stop damaging other things in pursuit of a cop out.  It’s a waste.  In fact, it appears to me to be a HORRIBLE strategy for ultimate survival of whatever it is we’re trying to protect.

But is the pull of survival of genes, the body, the species so great we can’t help ourselves but to spread the human and our own gospel?  I don’t think so.  Thousands of other species of life execute a variety of other strategies that don’t seem so damn selfish and fated.   Insects, fish and the dinosaurs have about 100x+ the longevity as humanity and as far as history suggests, none of the creatures in those phylums chased immortality.

Could “intelligence” be at the root of this?  Hard to give a truthful argument for this idea.   I conjecture that it’s actually a horrible side effect of “intelligence” in the same vein as the illusion of free will.   Intelligence conjures these things up by accident and they seem to fit conveniently into a world view that keeps the intelligent being going – being fruitful and multiplying.   It might also be the case that this is an evolutionary mutation where a strategy extinguishes itself.

We’ll never know… or maybe some will find a path to immortality and they will come to know.  or maybe we’re actually creating these immortal versions of ourselves in all these Web based things we keep inventing.  If any of that comes to pass I hope whatever carries on has a far better grasp of reality and what’s worth carrying on.

And please oh please don’t let immortality be born out of freezing our heads and reanimating them in some weird duct taped, half baked future.  It’s just creepy.

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As I watched some of the Republican National Convention, gear up for the DNC, get through my own daily work, read essays, strategize about business, talk to friends and family and synthesize all the data, I just come back to this question What Are We So Afraid Of?

I decided to write this post today specifically because I saw this ridiculous commercial yesterday for ADT Pulse.   http://www.adtpulse.com/  This commercial made it clear that if you aren’t monitoring your home in real time with video all the time everything you know and love was in grave danger!    So, I’ve decided to figure out just how afraid of everything I should be.

Here’s some of what we seem to be afraid about as a culture.

Our jobs: 

http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2012/08/31/public-says-a-secure-job-is-the-ticket-to-the-middle-class/

http://www.cnbc.com/id/29275784/People_Fear_Losing_Job_the_Most_Poll

 

Our economy: 

http://www.conference-board.org/data/?CFID=20758670&CFTOKEN=9d689c13bda4ed14-4C556B63-968C-7A5F-C9BBEBCC03AA5B5E

http://pewresearch.org/pubs/2306/global-attitudes-economic-glum-crisis-capitalism-european-union-united-states-china-brazil-outlook-work-ethic-recession-satisfaction-gloomy

 

Our government: 

http://www.realclearpolitics.com/epolls/other/direction_of_country-902.html

http://www.people-press.org/2012/06/04/partisan-polarization-surges-in-bush-obama-years/

 

People different than us: 

http://www.sciencemag.org/content/336/6083/853.short

http://www.nyclu.org/news/nyclu-analysis-reveals-nypd-street-stops-soar-600-over-course-of-bloomberg-administration

http://www.winnipegfreepress.com/arts-and-life/entertainment/books/unfounded-fears-167413105.html

 

Murder:

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-narcissus-in-all-us/200903/mass-murder-is-nothing-fear

 

Food:

http://www.amazon.com/Fear-Food-History-Worry-about/dp/0226473740

http://shop.forksoverknives.com/Forks_Over_Knives_The_DVD_p/5000.htm

 

Technology and Media:

http://richardlouv.com/books/last-child/

http://www.amazon.com/You-Are-Not-Gadget-Manifesto/dp/0307269647

http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2011/12/5-things-we-fear-new-technologies-will-replace/250545/

 

Cancer, Disease:

http://www.lancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736%2810%2960610-1/fulltext

 

Medicine, Shots, Vaccines:

http://www.wired.com/magazine/2009/10/ff_waronscience/

 

God, Heaven and Hell:

http://www.plosone.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pone.0039048?imageURI=info:doi/10.1371/journal.pone.0039048.t001

http://www.usatoday.com/news/opinion/forum/2011-08-07-love-wins-afterlife-hell_n.htm

 

Terrorism:

http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/story/13262/london-olympics-2012-the-odds-of-dying-in-a-terrorist-attack/

 

Our Children’s Safety:

http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2011-07-17/news/ct-met-walk-alone-20110717_1_free-range-kids-abductions-york-writer-lenore-skenazy

http://www.denverpost.com/ci_16725742

 

Tattoos:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-2032696/Now-tattoos-cancer-U-S-regulator-probes-fears-inks-contain-carcinogenic-chemicals.html

http://professional.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052702303933404577505192265987100.html?mg=reno64-wsj

http://cityroom.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/04/01/when-tattoos-hurt-job-prospects/

 

Large Hadron Collider:

http://www.time.com/time/health/article/0,8599,1838947,00.html

 

Everything else:

 

Nothing to Fear?

So is there anything to fear?   are the fears valid?  well, I guess they are valid fears if you don’t have information.   So here’s some information.

 

Most fears drilled into us aren’t founded on evidence – at least not at the level we fear them:

http://www.amazon.com/False-Alarm-Truth-About-Epidemic/dp/0471678694

http://www.amazon.com/The-Science-Fear-Culture-Manipulates/dp/0452295467/ref=pd_sim_sbs_b_2

 

Unemployment isn’t really that high in this country (or most western countries), especially if you get an education:

http://www.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=unemployment+rate+USA%2C+England

 

You’ll probably have 5-10 employers in your working lifetime so assume you’ll get laid off, fired or go out of business.  There will be other businesses to hire you or you can just make something yourself:

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704206804575468162805877990.html

 

Economy will have short term blips but ultimately continues to churn ahead:

http://www.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=gdp+usa

 

You’re unlikely to be murdered

http://www.wolframalpha.com/input/?i=crime+rates+in+austin%2Ctx

 

Children aren’t taken very often (at least in Colorado)

http://www.denverpost.com/portlet/article/html/imageDisplay.jsp?contentItemRelationshipId=3433817

 

In fact, violence has long been on the decline:

http://edge.org/conversation/mc2011-history-violence-pinker

 

It’s ok if you forget to pray, chances are it probably doesn’t change outcomes:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/03/23/AR2006032302177.html

 

And humans have been getting tattoos for a long time and the world hasn’t ended:

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/history-archaeology/tattoo.html

 

Oh, and, humans aren’t that different from Bonobos or Chimps, much less other humans.  So, maybe we should rethink that worrying about people that aren’t just like us:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2159027/Humans-share-genetic-code-endangered-ape-species-bonobo.html

 

Almost every one of common fears are unwound through perspective changes aka education aka realizing it’s not black and white.    Again, see the S. Pinker History of Violence link above to get an idea of the real impact of just literacy and access to information and what it does to fear.

Is it a big deal that people fear the wrong things?   Yes!   Especially if it leads to suicide bombing, racial profiling, not getting an education and so on.

 

But, c’mon, aren’t there some things we should fear?

Maybe…

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/david-ropeik/fear-of-climate-change-ma_b_1665019.html

and maybe this too

http://www.foxbusiness.com/personal-finance/2010/09/20/student-loan-debt-surpasses-credit-card-debt/

well maybe this too

http://www.cbsnews.com/2100-201_162-628194.html

 

In the end, methinks fearing too much is a waste of time because in the end we just don’t know what’s going to happen, right?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_swan_theory

Knowing you can’t predict it all (thus prevent it) what’s the point in worrying to the point of being truly scared?

http://mathworld.wolfram.com/ComputationalIrreducibility.html

 

So, no, ADT, I won’t be buying your Pulse product.

 

 

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NOTE: this is NOT a mathematical proof, a formal logic paper, nor even a science paper.  It’s a blog post that contains interpretive statements and some shortcuts to get to the point.  Maybe not even the point (s) I meant to make.  also, i’m sure there are typos.

aka a Story.

My mostly-borrowed thesis: Everything is Information.

Various smart folks have put forward this basic theory.   And I’ve personally come to believe it as truth.

Seth Lloyd put this basic theory forward in a clear way for a popular audience in his book “Programming the Universe”.

The universe is made of bits.  Every molecule, atom, and elementary particle registers bits of information.  Every interaction between those pieces of the universe processes that information by altering those bits. (page 3, Introduction)

Lloyd proceeds to draw out the universe as a computer paradigm and make a compelling case that everything is just information processing.   It’s a paradigm many others have proposed but I really like the straight-forwardness of of Lloyd’s book.

Now I can’t prove his theory or this entire thesis that Everything is Information.  I think Lloyd and others have done a really good job making a case for this view.   I’m going to essentially treat it as an axiom and develop a train of thought from there.  In the end of my explorations I’m led to a somewhat less borrowed thesis.

Art (and in particular STORY) is the most effective way humans can understand the universe and thrive

I can’t prove this either but why not shine a light on some data, some ideas, some commentary to perhaps make it easier to engage with this theory?

This thesis results from following a common thread to responses to questions like:

  • What is a thought?
  • Who am I?
  • What is behavior?  where does it come from?
  • what is moral?  what is a law? what do we value?
  • what is computation?  what is a general computer?
  • is the universe/multiverse a computer?
  • how did it all begin?  how does it all end?
  • why do people laugh? what is humor?
  • what is art?  why is some art good and other bad?
  • what are forces?  what is DNA in the abstract?
  • what is mathematics?
  • what is language?  communication?
  • what is time?  what is space?  what is motion?  what is change?
  • what is death? what is life?
  • what is love?  is love just a word or a real thing?

There’s certainly a large body of work (UNDERSTATEMENT!) attempting to answer these questions rigorously and thoroughly.    By my interpretation of the work that I can actually consume, process and synthesize it all leads back to the kernel that the most fundamental concepts are information and the processing of information.   Everything is information, nothing is information.  A bit.  0.  1.  Infinity. Blackholes.  Planets.  People. DNA. RNA. Animals. Humans.  Language. Emotions. Behavior. Math. Love. Computers. Paintings. Books. Bosons. Time. Space. Existence.  Non Existence.

What is is information.  What happens is processing information aka computation.

Humans are a specific class of configurations of information.   Survival is maintaining this class of configurations throughout processing.  Evolution is the transformation of this class of configurations of information.   Understanding is the processing capability to be aware of information configuration and processing (this is so strange loopy meta like).  Thriving is a human ideal/feeling (also information configuration) of not merely surviving (passing genes on) but of actually playing a material and unique part of processing information.

What is Information then?

Seems to be a basic question to ask.

To be sure, this word information in communication theory relates not so much to what you do say, as to what you could say.  That is, information is a measure of one’s freedom of choice when one selects a message.

This comes from Warren Weaver’s introduction to Weaver and Shannon’s “The Mathematical Theory of Communication.”   This is a classic, the classic, book on information theory.  It is a good place to start even though the language is somewhat anthropological.

I take the above quote in a broader sense that information is a measure of anything’s freedom of choice to be something else, to interact with other information.  Everything has infinite freedom.  Nothing has infinite freedom.   All the various “things” or configurations of bits into bytes into megabytes and so has various measure of potential to be something/anything.

Whoa.  That’s a mouthful of abstraction and ambiguity.  Such is the danger of trying to talk about these topics!

[Remarkably reviewing entries on Wikipedia for Information yield a pretty confusing set of paths to explore the basic idea of information.  WolframAlpha yields a variety of definitions, usage patterns and related terms that also lead in a wide variety of directions and abstractions.  And perhaps, more interestingly, the choice was made to map the basic query “information” to pretty much EVERYTHING in WolframAlpha.]

The smallest amount of information is a bit.  a 1 or a 0.   that can be processed as open or shut, on or off, charge or no charge, etc.   Put more bits together and things get interesting quickly.  two bits and you get 4 numbers, little words, on, off, sort of on, sort of off and so on.   You can build up the multiverse from this.   You can write configurations of information that process other information aka  “programs”.  So the universe has a very large measure of information – lots of freedom of choice to configure bits.

And a little tangent here… don’t you need another concept “energy” that gives you the fuel to process information.  Um, if you need that definition you can use it.  It’s really just a short cut to get around defining everything in terms of information.   e.g. how much energy a system has is just information about the rules for processing information.

Which then leads to wonder why there seem to be specific rules (information) about how to process information that give us this universe we experience.  It’s not at all clear that this is true in the universe – that there are fundamental rules that cannot be different.   The universe (this specific configuration of information) may have rules that it probabilistically are most likely to play out, but there’s not a requirement in the space of all possibilities.

I have to stop this train before it becomes a complete paper / book / library unto itself.   Wolfram, Lloyd, Shannon, Chaitin, Wheeler, Deustch and many others go very in depth about this stuff.

It’s unlikely I’ve convinced you of Wheeler’s premise “it from bit” but hopefully there’s some understanding of how I interpret things.

What is Information Processing? What is Computation?

Well, in short, it’s the transformation of information configurations into other information configurations.   Oh, sure, we can pick this a part and try to get more rigorous, which again, I’ll just refer folks to the smart people better able to draw all that out.

Processing could be random, a computation, simply letting time pass, anything really.

Computation is a bit more specific but still nebulous.   Computation is a refinement of the general processing in the form of function or a program or an algorithm – a set of instructions or rules by which the processing occurs.   I think it’s good to have this really abstract thing called processing and something more specific like computation because when you dig deep into things like computability you need these distinctions.   Not all processing is computable processing.

However, in general I don’t really make much of a distinction going forward.

Now to make sense of any of this and make progress we have to tackle the universe of information configurations and how they come to be and how we figure them out.

What is Exploring The Space of Possibilities and Why Does That Matter

The universe is always computing.  It’s exploring all possible configurations of information.   We experience and/or observe just a tiny tiny bit of these configurations.

Computing/processing (observing, understanding, modeling, sharing) ALL information configurations takes more time and energy than any of us have. Heck, processing even a small portion of information takes more time and energy than we have.  (wait, pause!   by limits time and energy… I mean this current configuration of information we are in the form of cells, organs, brains, humans has instructions to transform into other information aka we die.)

The survival of humanity and of an individual depends on exploring ways of avoiding extinction in the face of information processes that change us (kill us, destroy the genetic code, etc).

If one’s goal beyond survival is to live well (thrive) by whatever definitions we concoct then we also need to explore the universe of possibilities at that level as well.  And yes, I believe, our class of configurations, humans, has some embedded and learned processing instructions to do this.  Perhaps it wasn’t always embedded but the process of evolution (or whatever other processing model is in place) seems to have selected a class of configurations that tries to thrive over those that just maintain the gene code.

So.

There have been attempts to explain and interpret EVERYTHING through mathematics, physics, computer science, philosophy, religion, and so forth.   All of these attempts are models of how it all works.  Models of information and processing information that are more or less useful for figuring out ways to survive (and then to thrive).  These are narratives or stories.  Some more “formal” and “coherent” or “logically consistent” than others i.e. less open to interpretation and varied application of those interpretations.

What becomes apparent as you dig into each of these narratives and their connections to each other is that to actual make use of these narratives in our own lives consumes considerable amount of energy – more than our instruction sets provide.   In short, you could not actually get through a day if all you did was try to use “math” to navigate life.  Mathematical interpretation of all this information adds a layer of information that becomes all consuming to other forms of information processing that actually keep you alive much provide understanding.

Cutting to the chase, which is so hard to do, is that there are infinite number of information processing methods to gain understanding at work all the time.   Math is one approach (well, it’s infinitely rich as well).   Chemistry is another approach.  and so on.   All are universal processors – given enough time/energy they will explore the right possibilities.

And here we get to the BIG THESIS is that ART and STORY are the most efficient ways to explore the right information processing for humankind to improve chances of survival of the species and of an individual.

How Does Art, Story Compute and Explore the Right Possibilities more Efficiently

For whatever reason human nervous systems seem to be big fat pattern recognizers.   That is they “see” patterns and change information configurations (behave) based on patterns.   Successive exposure to the same pattern or similar patterns tends to reinforce specific behavior aka learning.  (see experimental analysis of behavior for things like matching relation, etc. and various other learning theory and neuroscience material).

Learning is essential to avoiding “destructive” information configuration transformations (ya know, death).

So this thesis comes down to figuring out which ways of processing the universe teach the species (and its individuals) efficiently.   

And this is where this essay has no ability to prove anything with rigor.   That said, here goes.

Efficient learning involves efficient presentation of stimuli and efficient processing of that stimuli.   In other words, to effectively teach someone you have to be able to communicate information with them in such a way that they can consume it, process it and learn from it with the limited time and energy they have to avoid destruction.   There are some basic survival things “learned” in the gene code… various fixed action patterns like suckling and crying that get us going, but after that learning has to take pretty quickly to avoid the million different ways we can die at any given moment.

Now, before we get all crazy, let’s consider that humankind very much could have a different strategy for survival.  But the fact is our current configuration is such that we take 9 months to bake in the womb, we come out needing lots of help and have a very long rearing stage while our brains and bodies grow and get to the point where we can pass on the gene code (can make eggs and sperm and mate).   Having a person live this long and to select a viable mate makes learning some complicated stuff very quickly essential.   And if you keep thinking about all this you end up looping in about did big brains create the need to learn or did stimuli start evolving brains (bad example) and all sorts of other statements we can never verify.

So here we are with this species.  Over the centuries we’ve taught generation after generation how to survive and then how to contribute to the survival of the species. Which, to me, seems to rely on convincing each other to not just survive but to thrive so we’re more attractive to each other and all feel like living long enough to be fruitful and multiply.

What appears to be mostly true from history is that our primary way of teaching is through narrative.  We concoct stories that are devoid of formal specifics and instead have some memorable themes, lessons and characters – you know, patterns we can interpret in a wide variety of contexts.

These stories come in the form of fables, religion, traditions, paintings and what not. ( I am not suggesting MEMEs. )

Stories seem to be really robust information packets.   They can be poorly told and retain information value.  They can carry on through various mediums.   They are primitive packets of human information that survive generational death.

Formal mathematics, science texts, and what not are very dense information packets requiring very specific processing capability (a long time spent learning math!).

In essence stories help us avoid dying due Computational Irreducibility.   Most things we experience, see are computationally irreducible.   That is, to fully understand them would take forever and infinite energy.  Stories provide a description of how the world works that our pattern recognition systems can story up a bunch of stories that help us react without needing complete knowledge.  Stories are usually comprised of metaphors or rather we are good at using stories metaphorically to expand their utility.   Bears eat people is equivalent to Big Brown things with Claws eat People and so on.  (worth reading is Metaphors We Live By and responses like this)

It’s quite possible that with modern computers we’ll escape our current configuration computing limitations and we can describe the universe and the world around us with ever more precision and have enough time to not just live but thrive.

As it stands now, we’re still a world that relies on the telling of stories.

Our businesses need PR and business plans.   Our politicians need platforms and slogans.   Our kids need fables.   Our families need traditions.  Our economy needs advertising.

If we could simply process ALL INFORMATION we wouldn’t need short hand or interpretive information packets.

What Are The Implications

I think if we eliminate the need for story we’re not going to at all resemble this information configuration known as human.   It’s neither bad nor good.  Just different.

I think Story = Human.

I think we’re seeing, in some aspects of culture, the erosion of story and thus humanity.  Facebook and twitter are more and more turning the daily experience into more and more specific, formal bytes of what’s going on.   It’s quite possible that as web content gets more algorithmically generated we’ll just use algorithms to interpret it and as we get our phones and smart devices to do more and more stuff for us we’ll probably lose the ability and/or the need to tell stories and we won’t know the difference or care.

Humans aren’t efficient by very many measures.   What we’re efficient at is telling and interpreting stories.  This may not turn out to be a good ability for long term survival.   I don’t even know of species survival is a good thing.

I do think everything is information and we’re part of that everything and that stories are a nifty little thing in the configuration of all things.  and that of all the big questions I’ve chased down in life almost all of them have the best answers found in a story.   It is a tale told by an idiot perhaps…..

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