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The day of my first child’s birth (July 4th, 2003) remains one of the formative experiences of my life. Yes, it was a holiday and the day Barry White died and she was born as the sun was going down and the fireworks were sounding off (I swear this all happened as gloriously as you’re thinking). That’s all the pomp though it’s the instant change in circumstance that made it formative.

All the thinking and imagining before a child’s birth did not prepare me for the reality of the moment when your child screams her first cry and you realize as a dad it will be your responsibility to keep that child alive until she can fend for herself.

An instant romantic all encompassing wave of movie like love didn’t wash over me in that moment. A profound sense of fatherly protection did. We don’t have much control about what happens in life but I somehow felt and still feel I did have some say in that (and my other daughters) life coming to be. If I had the nerve to create I needed to have the courage to protect my child.

This sense of protection grows more nuanced as I age and my daughters age. At first it was just about feeding, sleeping, breathing and mom. Making sure that baby was touched and it’s body could grow. And now it’s still about those things and it’s about education and relationships and sensitivity and awareness and self actualization. And ultimately the biggest act of fatherhood is letting go. That time will come. It’s not here yet.

The love, O the love! Of my daughters is unbearably deep sometimes. It was never love in an instant for me, it’s been an extensive root system that as our lives become ever more intertwined I realize how profoundly their existence is in some sense my existence and that their protection is my own protection. They give to me not out of obligation nor some sense of knowing what I’ve ever been through (pity) but because children don’t have the baggage of a noisy world. They love me in such beautifully simple ways.

The most incredible pride I feel about being a father is that my daughters love each other so much. They are best friends and defenders of each other. They are very different persons but they go together so well. What more could I hope who above all as a dad wants his children to survive and thrive? I want them to have a life long companions who will love them and share the pain and joy and bumps and journeys regardless of all the mistakes they will make.

The more my daughters are able to integrate and shape the world of their own and need less of me and my protection the more of a father I feel I become. It’s one of those zen things. The more they become themselves and go out in the world the more love of them as themselves I experience.

And the birth of my daughters was also formative in that it softened my own view of my dad.

God do I love my dad. All those times he pushed me to “stop bitching and just do it” or got me up real early to go fishing or threw a football or earnestly played me in chess and didn’t just let me win. All these times he said get a job or eat your meat first… And ultimately, “Russell, you’ll be lucky to count close friends on one hand when you get older” to remind me that friends matter and you need to cherish them in this world.

All these things seemed here goes dad again. These sayings and actions making me uncomfortable as a kid. And once I had kids I realized that’s why dad did it. That’s why. He had to keep me alive long enough so that he could love me.

Happy Father’s Day to everyone.

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We all are programmers.   And I want to explain what programming really is.  Most people think of it as a writing instructions that a computer will then interpret and go do what those instructions say.   In only the simplest sense is this fully encompassing of what programming is.

 

Programming in the broadest sense is a search through computational universe for interesting patterns that can be interpreted by other patterns.   A few definitions are in order.   A pattern is simply some set of data pulled from the computational universe (from my own investigations/research/logic everything is computational).  Thus a pattern could be a sentence of English words or a fragment of a program written in Java or DNA strands or a painting or anything else.   Some patterns are able to interact with other patterns (information processing) such as a laptop computer can interpret Microsoft Office documents or a replicated set of DNA (a human) can interpret Shakespeare and put on a play.   A program is simply a pattern that interacts with other programs.

 

When we write programs we are simply searching through the space of symbolic representations in whatever programming language.   When a program doesn’t work/doesn’t do what we want, we haven’t found a pattern of symbols that’s interpreted the way we prefer or the processing pattern can interpret.  We sometimes call that “bugs” in the software.   Underneath it all it’s simply another program, just not the one we want.

 

I call it a search to bring particular activities to mind.  When we say we write a program or create a program it seems to engender only a limited set of methods to find programs by a limited set of people, called programmers.   Calling it a search reflects reality AND opens our eyes to the infinite number of ways to find interesting patterns and to interpret them.   The space of programs is “out there”, we just have to mine it for the programs/patterns we wish to interpret.

 

Programs/patterns that become widely used owe that use to the frequency that those patterns can be interpreted.  For example, Windows or MacOS have billions of interpreting machines in which their programs can be interpreted.   Or on an even bigger scale, DNA “programs” have trillions of interpreters on just this planet alone.

 

Using a program is nothing more than interpreting it.  When you type a document in MS Word the OS is interpreting your keystrokes, refreshing the screen with pixels that represent your words, all while MS word itself is checking for grammar put in place by programmers who interpreted a grammar reference and so on and so on.   For sufficiently complex programs we aren’t able to say if a program “does the right thing.”.  Only simple programs are completely verifiable.   This is why programs exist only as patterns that are interpreted.

 

Humans have become adept at interpreting patterns most useful for the survival of human genes.  With the advent of digital computers and related patterns (tech) we are now able to go beyond the basic survival of our genes and instead mine for other patterns that are “interesting” and interpretable by all sorts of interpreters.  I don’t know where the line is on good for survival and not, but it’s really not a useful point here.  My point is that with computers we’re able to just let machines go mining the space of existence in much grander ways and interpreting those results.   Obvious examples include the SETI project mining for signs of aliens, LHC mining the space of particle collisions, Google search mining the space of webpages and now human roadways, Facebook mining everyone’s social graph and so on.  Non obvious examples include artists mining the space of perceptively interesting things, doctors mining the space of symptoms, and businesses mining the space of sellable products and so on.

 

Let me consider in a little more detail that last one.  Every business is a program.  It’s a pattern (a pattern of patterns) interpreting the patterns closest to it (competition and the industry) and finding patterns for its customers (persons or government or companies or other patterns) to buy (currency is just patterns interpreted).   Perhaps before computers and the explosion of “digital information” it wasn’t so obvious this is what it is.  But now that so much of the world is now digital and electronic how many businesses actually deal with physical goods and paper money?  How many businesses have ever seen all their employees or customers?  How many businesses exist really only has brief “ideas”?   What are all these businesses if not simply patterns of information interpreted as “valuable?”.  And isn’t every business at this point basically coming down to how much data it can amass and interpret better/more efficiently than the competition? How are businesses funded other than algorithmic trading algorithms trading the stock market in high frequency making banks and VCs wealthy so their analysts can train their models to identify the next program, er, business to invest in…..

 

When you get down to it, everything is programming.  Everything we do in life, every experience is programming.  Patterns interpreting patterns.  

 

The implications of this are quite broad.   This is why I claim the next major “innovation” we all will really notice is an incredible leap in the capability of “programming languages”.   I don’t know exactly what they will look or feel like but as the general population desires to have more programmability of the world in a “digital” or what I call “abstract” way the programming languages will have to become patterns themselves that are generally more easily interpreted (written by anyone!).   The more the stuff we buy and sell is pure information (think of a future in which we’re all just trading software and 3d printer object designs (which is what industrial manufacturers basically do)) the more we all will not want to wait for someone else to reprogram the world around us, we all will want to do it.   Education, health care, transportation, living, etc. is all becoming more and more modular and interchangeable, like little chunks of programs (usually called libraries or plugins).   So all these things we traditionally think as “the real world” are actually becoming little patterns we swap in and out of.  Consider how many of you have taken an uber from your phone, stayed at an airbnb, order an eBook from amazon, sent digital happy birthday and so on…. Everything is becoming a symbolic representation more and more easily programmed to be just how we want.

 

And so this is why big data is all the rage.  Not because it’s a cool fad or some new tech thing… it’s because it’s the ONLY THING.   All of these “patterns” and “programs” I’m talking about taken on the whole are just the SPACE OF DATA for us to mine all the patterns.   The biggest program of all is EVERYTHING in EXISTENCE.  On a smaller scale the more complicated and complex a program is the more it looks indistinguishable from a huge pile of data.   The more clever we find our devices the more it turns out that it’s an inseparable entanglement of data and programs (think of the autospell on your phone… when it messes up your spelling it’s just the data it’s gleaned from you….).  Data = programs.  Programs = data.   Patterns = patterns.   Our world is becoming a giant abstract ball of data, sometimes we’re symbolizing but more and more often we’re able to directly compute (interpret natively/without translation) with objects as they exist (genetic modification, quantum computing, wetware, etc.).   In either case it’s all equivalent… only now we’re becoming aware of this equivalence if not in “mind” then in behavior or what we expect to be able to do.

 

Face it. You are a programmer.   and you are big data.

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There will be no understanding. There should be no blame.

Our section of the world is confronted yet again with unexplainable suffering taking the shape of so many other recent events. A person, a lonely agenda, a gun, a manifesto, a set of targets, an “obvious” back story, a chance to intervene, the event, the scramble, the rage online, the blame, the investigation, the pontifications, the closing, the moving on, repeat.

The narrative is too simple. Every aspect of it hides complexities that would reveal at almost every turn that we are not in control and we cannot predict. Our easily tricked pattern recognizing brains piecing it all together try to draw connections and signs and ways it could have been different. It couldn’t. Not this event.

Any solace drawn from conclusions and blame is hollow and destined to be violated.

And yes the question is a valid one and one worth investigating: how can this be different?

It’s answer, which should NEVER settled down to THE answer, is not a simple narrative about a single event and a single person. The question should spawn a web of questions and should forever.

The meta issue is conclusion.

When we conclude we have reduced the world and the situation. We do not consider all the factors. When we conclude we have decided we know far more than we possible can.

Peace comes not from a false conclusion (police should have known, young white males with money do X, gun control, …). Peace may never come. Maybe that’s part of the ongoing issue is that we seek concepts and ideas and states of being that aren’t anything, can’t be obtained.

Sometimes when these events exist I have extreme sorrow. I’m sorrowful when light of lives are snuffed out. This happens every day all over the planet in all sorts of senseless ways. Though I’m not sure you can call any life or death full of sense.

In the face of inconceivable complexity I am left only to ask questions and through those questions love and honor this brief experience of life. It’s not usually peaceful but it is living.

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Preface:
This essay lays out an extremely brief account of what I believe (see evidence towards) is the source of existence and thus of perception, thought and knowledge. I want to say I have some overarching practical use for this truth-seeking, but I do not. Once you dig deep enough into questions of truth and knowledge they become both the means and ends of themselves. I cannot claim truthfully that knowledge of existence would help me better live my life, make more money, live more happily or whatever it is people prefer the ends of effort to be. So often I find that the truth (as close as we can get) to a matter is that the matter itself doesn’t matter. So if I had to tie up what I do in some nice little package I’d say I’m on a journey to figure out what doesn’t matter. And that the side effects of that might often yield to less worry, because I do not think even worry matters. That is, worrying doesn’t provide any use in matters of truth and knowledge nor does it matter in getting through the day.

I should also note that this essay and previous essays are by no means complete, fully consistent and without some leaps in logic and/or unexplained connecting of the dots. My intention is to always produce ever more tight arguments and deeper questions but both myself and any readers probably have limited attention at any given moment to go all the way “there.” It has and will continue to take more and more of my life to piece everything together and there will come a spacetime context in which I can more fully devote my energies to communicating much more coherently to those with the patience to muck through what every that communication becomes (paintings, books, essays, videos, discussions…)

The basic thesis

No finite thing is able to contemplate, recognize, think of, use, make sense of, perceive any other thing without reference to or a mapping to other things. A most basic activity of even the slightest awareness or perception requires difference. Perception is response to differences – a sliding scale of identity, sameness, similarity, dissimilarity, difference, opposite, negation, inverse.

Perception is reality. Becoming is reality. Difference is truth, the only truth, it makes the truth, becomes the truth. The whole of perceived existence – and what other existence could there be? – is difference.

Two key topics or issues or thesis arise:
Difference as fundamental source of existence
The role of the infinite pulling apart into the finite

A very brief description of Difference as the fundamental source of existence

0 is 0. A tautology of non existence. but 0 is 1-1, no longer a tautology, is existence. 0 becomes something, it becomes 1 – 1, 1 plus negative 1.

Is this a word game? Certainly and so much more than that. The whole of reality is an infinite game of differences and play of this is not that. Go deeper and forget the words, think in physical or abstract terms. A proton is not an electron, it is their difference that imbues them with existence. For if a proton = electron in word and physical terms there would just be protons and positive charge only, which isn’t charge at all.

Carry this all the way up from primitive mathematical and computational constructs to biology, chemistry, linguistic, artistic, social, political constructs. Everything is its difference from everything else. Not just in language or thought – how we conceive and perceive of difference, but in full actuality. Difference actualizes everything at every level.

What is a thought if not an exploration of differences? What is politics if not differences about laws and policies? What is genetic material if not differences in proteins? What are computer programs if not differences in use interpretations of 1s and 0s? What are YOU if not differences from others, from changes in the environment, from previous YOUs in other contexts?

It makes no difference to this reasoning if one denies concepts such as YOU/I or politics or anything else. IF those concepts are to exist it will come from differences. The only things possible that could not come from a difference would be NO THING (nothing) or EVERY THING (everything). And of that I will claim, nothing is everything, everything is nothing. nothing = everything. In having no difference between them, they do not exist except through an infinite descent into nothing or infinite ascent into everything. The becoming of reality is a finite experience of difference between nothing and everything.

To test this reasoning consider a few simple questions. What would it mean to represent every political view? Or what sort of behavior could we measure if all behaviors were present? What sort of mathematics would we have if every number were the same? What sort of identity would you have if you had all identities?

An even briefer description of the role of the finite
Consider a fractal. It is the same throughout or is it? It is an infinite loop of similarity and sameness where difference arise out finite awareness – we cannot experience the whole of a fractal. Or can we? is the finite description of a fractal program/generating formula enough to experience its infinite self similarity throughout? Even if it is, it is in identifying EXACTLY THOSE DETAILS WHICH CREATES THE DIFFERENCES (this is what a formula is!) that gives one fractal distinction from another fractal.

Universal computers are all equivalent in their abstract ability to compute anything that can be computed. They become different in use. They take on their existence through difference. My laptop is equivalent in everyway as your laptop except through our different uses – our finite exploration of that universality. If you and I with our laptops computed everything that could be computed our laptops would lose all difference, and in doing so would cease to exist as unique entities. That is, if this were possible, and we both pushed our laptops towards an infinite ascent to everything they would become nothing relative to anything else that was also universal.

Drop into something perhaps more abstract, like transcendental numbers (pi, e, etc). They contain an infinitude. They are only different in finitude. They become something through a finitude. Were infinite computation and infinite perception possible these numbers would be equivalent – interchangable. In their finite application they are distinct some things. Only through an infinite exploration can we fully experience these numbers and in full exploration they cease to have a unique existence.

Perhaps making it personal illustrates the point – if all of us were infinite in our lives and could experience everything and could be transformed through all genetic and epigenetic and nature/nurture contexts we’d all be the same and cease to have any unique existence. It is our finite biology and finite contexts that we become anything at all.

Tying together, briefly.
That nothing and everything can be “pulled apart” into differences is the ontological basis of existence. It shouldn’t come as some surprise that a conclusion to this reasoning is that the pulling apart of ALL DIFFERENCES is beyond our resources, and will forever be beyond our resources. But that this finite thing by thing pulling apart that is becoming is exactly and only what can fuel existence. The universe is the infinite becoming finite over and over and over and over into an infinite percieved collection of differences.

An incomplete but useful set of three links:

[a somewhat useful discussion on difference and information: http://plato.acadiau.ca/courses/educ/reid/papers/PME25-WS4/SEM.html]
[a useful categorization of information: http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/information-semantic/#1]
[transcendental numbers: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transcendental_number#Numbers_proven_to_be_transcendental]

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A variety of thinkers and resources seem to converge on some fundamental ideas around existence, knowledge, perception, learning and computation.   (Perhaps I have a confirmation bias and have only found what I was primed to find).

 

Kurt Godel articulated and proved what I believe to be the most fundamental idea of all, the Incompleteness Theorem.   This theorem along with analog variants in the Halting Problem and other aspects of complexity theory provides us the notion that there is a formal limit to what we can know.   And by “to know” I mean it in the Leibnizen sense of perfect knowledge (scientific fact with logical proof, total knowledge).   Incompleteness tells us even with highly abstract, specialized formal systems there will always be some statement WITHIN that system that is true but cannot be proved. This is fundamental.

 

It means that no matter how much mathematical or computational or systematic logic we work out in the world there are just some statements/facts/ideas that are true but cannot be proven to be true.   As the name of the theorem suggests, though it’s mathematical meaning isn’t quite this, our effort in formalizing knowledge will remain incomplete.   There’s always something just out of reach.

 

It is also a strange fact that one can prove incompleteness of a system and yet not prove trivial statements within these incomplete formal systems.

 

Godel’s proof and approach to figuring this out is based on very clever re-encoding of formal systems laid out by Betrand Russell and A Whitehead.   This re-encoding of the symbols of math and language has been another fundamental thread we find through out human history.   One of the more modern thinkers that goes very deep into this symbolic aspect of thinking is Douglas Hofstadter, a great writer and gifted computer and cognitive scientist.   It should come as no surprise that Hofstadter found inspiration in Godel, as so many have. Hofstadter has spent a great many words on the idea of strange loops/self-reference and re-encodings of self-referential systems/ideas.

 

But before the 20th century Leibniz and many other philosophical, artistic, and mathematical thinkers had already started laying the groundwork around the idea that thinking (and computation) is a building up of symbols and associations between symbols.   Of course, probably most famously was Descartes in coining “I think, therefore I am.”   This is a deliciously self-referential, symbolic expression that you could spend centuries on. (and we have!)

 

Art’s “progression” has shown that we do indeed tend to express ourselves symbolically. It was only in more modern times when “abstract art” became popular that artist began to specifically avoid overt representation via more or less realistic symbols.   Though this obsession with abstraction turns out to be damn near impossible to pull off, as Robert Irwin from 1960 on demonstrated with his conditional art.   In his more prominent works he did almost the minimal gesture to an environment (a wall, room, canvas) and found that almost no matter what, human perception still sought and found symbols within the slightest gesture.   He continues to this day to produce conditional art that seeks to have pure perception without symbolic overtones at the core of what he does. Finding that it’s impossible seems, to me, to be line with Godel and Leibniz and so many other thinkers.

 

Wittgenstein is probably the most extreme example of finding that we simply can’t make sense of many things, really, in a philosophical or logical sense by saying or writing ideas.   Literally “one must be silent.”   This is a very crude reading and interpretation of Wittgenstein and not necessarily a thread he carries throughout his works but again it strikes me as being in line with the idea of incompleteness and certainly in line with Robert Irwin. Irwin, again no surprise, spent a good deal time studying Wittgenstein and even composed many thoughts about where he agreed or disagreed with Wittgenstein.   My personal interpretation is that Irwin has done a very good empirical job of demonstrating a lot of Wittgensteinien ideas. Whether that certifies any of it as the truth is an open question. Though I would argue that saying/writing things is also symbolic and picture-driven so I don’t think there’s as clear a line as Wittgenstein drew.   As an example, Tupper’s Formula is an insanely loopy mathematical function that draws a graph of itself.

 

Wolfram brings us a more modern slant in the Principle of Computational Irreducibility.   Basically it’s the idea that any system with more than very simple behavior is not reducible to some theory, formula or program that can predict it. The best we could do in trying to fully know a complex system is to watch it evolve in all its aspects.   This is sort of a reformulation of the halting problem in such a way that we might more easily imagine other systems beholden to this reality.   The odd facet of such a principle is that one cannot really prove with any reliability which systems are computational irreducible.   (P vs NP, etc problems in computer science are akin to this).

 

Chaitin, C. Shannon, Aaronson, Philip Glass, Max Richter, Brian Eno and many others also link into this train of thought….

 

Why do I think these threads of thought above (and many others I omit right now) matter at all?

 

Nothing less than everything.   The incompleteness or irreducibility or undecidability of complex systems (and even seemingly very simple things are often far more complex than we imagine!) is the fundamental feature of existence that suggests why, when there is something, there’s something rather than nothing. For there to be ANYTHING there must be something outside of full description. This is the struggle.   If existence were reducible to a full description there would be no end to that reduction until there literally was nothing.

 

Weirder, perhaps still, is the idea is the Principal of Computational Equivalence and Computational Universality.   Basically any system that can compute universally can emulate any other universal computer.   There are metaphysical implications here that if I’m being incredibly brash suggest that anything complex enough can and/is effectively anything else that is complex.   Again tied to the previous paragraph of thought I suggest that if there’s anything at all, everything is everything else.   This is NOT an original thought nor is it as easily dismissed as whacky weirdo thinking.   (Here’s a biological account of this thinking from someone that isn’t an old dead philosopher…)

 

On a more pragmatic level I believe the consequences of irreducibility suggest why computers and animals (any complex systems) learn the way they learn.   Because there is no possible way to have perfect knowledge complex systems can only learn based on versions of Probably Approximately Correct (Operant Conditioning, Neural Networks, Supervised Learning, etc are all analytic and/or empirical models of learning that suggest complex systems learn through associations rather than executing systematic, formalized, complete knowledge)   Our use of symbolics to think is a result of irreducibility.   Lacking infinite energy to chase the irreducible, symbolics (probably approximately correct representations) must be used by complex systems to learn anything at all.   (this essay is NOT a proof of this, this is just some thoughts, unoriginal ones, that I’m putting out to prime myself to actually draw out empirical or theoretical evidence that this is right…)

 

A final implication to draw out is that of languages and specifically of computer languages.   To solve ever more interesting and useful problems and acquire more knowledge (of an endless growing reservoir of knowledge) our computer languages (languages of thought) must become more and more rich symbolically.   Our computers, while we already make them emulate our more rich symbolic thinking, need to have symbolics more deeply embedded in their basic operations.   This is already the trend in all these large clusters powering the internet and the most popular software.

 

As a delightful concluding, yet open unoriginal thought from this book by Flusser comes to mind…   Does Writing Have a Future suggests that ever more rich symbolics than the centuries old mode of writing and reading will not only be desired but inevitable as we attempt to communicate in more vast networks. (which, won’t surprising, is very self-referential if you extend the thought to an idea of “computing with pictures” which really isn’t different than computing with words or other representations of bits that represent other representation of bits…)   I suppose all of this comes down to seeing which symbolic prove to be more efficient in the total scope of computation.   And whatever interpretation we assign to efficient is, by the very theme of this essay, at best, an approximation.

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Previously I made this set of statements:

Computation irreducibility, the principal (unproven), suggests the best we are going to be able to do to understand EVERYTHING is just to keep computing and observing. Everything is unfolding in front of us and it’s “ahead” of us in ways that aren’t compressible. This suggests, to me, that our best source of figuring things out is to CREATE. Let things evolve and because we created them we understand exactly what went into them and after we’re dead we will have machines we made that can also understand what went into them.

This is a rather bulky ambiguous idea without putting some details behind it. What I am suggesting is that the endless zoological approach to observing and categorizing “the natural world” isn’t going to reveal path forward on many of the lingering big questions. For instance, there’s only so far back into the Big Bang we can look. A less costly effort is what is happening at LHC, where fundamental interactions are being “created” experimentally. Or in the case of the origin of life, there’s only so much mining the clues of earth and exoplanets we can do. A likely more fruitful in our lifetime approach will be to create life – in a lab, with computers and by shipping genetic and biomass out into space. And so on.

This logic carries on in the pure abstraction layers too. Computational complexity studies is about creating ever new complex systems to then go observe the properties and behaviors. Mathematics has always been this way… we extend mathematics by “creating” all sorts of new structures, first we did this geometrically, then logically/axiomatically, and now computationally. (I could probably argue successfully that these are equivalent)

All that said, we cannot abandon observation of the world around us. We lack the universal scale to create all that is around us. And we are very far from exhausting all the knowledge that can come from observation of what exists right now. The approaches of observation and creation go hand in hand, and for the most important questions it’s required to do both to be anywhere close to certain we’re on the right path to what might actually be going on. The reality is, our ability to know is quite limited. We will always lack some level of detail. Constant revision of the observational record and the attempt to recreate or create new things we see often reveals little, but critical details we miss in our initial assessments.

Examples that come to mind are Bertrand Russell’s and Whitehead’s attempt to fully articulate all of mathematics in Principia Mathematics. Godel undid that one rather handedly with his incompleteness theorem. More dramatic examples from history include the destruction of the idea of a earth centered universe, the spacetime curvature revelations of Einstein and Minkoski, and, of course, evolutionary genetics unraveling of a whole host of long standing theories.

In all those examples there’s a dance between observation and creation. Of course it’s way too clean to maintain there’s a clear distinction between observing the natural world and creating something new. Really these are not different activities. It’s just a matter of perspective on how where we’re honing our questions. The overall logical perspective I hold is that everything is a search through the space of possibilities. “Creation” is really just a repackaging of patterns. I tend to maintain it as a different observational approach rather than lump it in because something happens to people when they think they are creating – they are more open to different possibilities. When we think we are purely observing we are more inclined to associate what we observe with previously observed phenomenon. When we “create” we’ve already primed ourselves to look for “new.”

It is a combination of the likely reality of computational irreducibility and the psychological effect of “creating” and seeing things in a new light that I so strongly suggest “creating” more if we want to ask better questions, debunk false answers and increase our knowledge.

 

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Time equals money is a truism. It is true in the sense that both concepts are simply agreements between people in relation to something else. In the case of time it is an agreement between people about clocks or other cyclic mechanisms and usually in relation to synchronizing activities. In the case of money it is the agreement of credit and debts as representations of trustworthiness. The day, minute, hour, and second are merely efficient conventions we use to compress information about synchronizing our activities in relation to other things. Dollars, cents, bitcoins and notes are all conventions we use to liquidate and exchange trust.

In fact, there’s nothing in human existence that isn’t in this same class of concepts like time and money other than food, water, shelter, sleep and reproduction. All of our cultural conventions and social constructs are, at the root, based upon the need to survive. All of our social existence is derived from a value association network built up to help us obtain the basic necessities of our personal survival. This value association network can become quite complicated and certainly extends beyond our own individual lifespan and influence. We have traditions, works of literature and art, history, religion, politics and so on all due to an extremely complex evolution of learned associative and genetic strategies for survival of our individual genes.

The goal in this essay is not to reduce everything we experience to survival of genes and suggest anthropology, social sciences, psychology and so forth aren’t worth investigation. The various complex systems investigated in all these disciplines exist and emerge as stand alone things to study and figure out. Because politics and economies and social networks actually do exist we must study them and understand their effects and causes. Also we cannot effectively research all the way down from these emergent concepts to the fundamentals for a variety of reasons, not least of which is simply computational irreducibility.

Computation irreducibility, the principal (unproven), suggests the best we are going to be able to do to understand EVERYTHING is just to keep computing and observing. Everything is unfolding in front of us and it’s “ahead” of us in ways that aren’t compressible. This suggests, to me, that our best source of figuring things out is to CREATE. Let things evolve and because we created them we understand exactly what went into them and after we’re dead we will have machines we made that can also understand what went into them.

In a sense there’s only so much behavior (evolution of information) we can observe with the current resources available to us. We need to set forth new creations that evolve in our lifetimes (genetic and computational lifetimes). Let us see if cultures and social structures and politics and money evolve from our creations!

However, until that’s more feasible than it is now we have history and anthropology and sociology….. and yet! While new patterns emerge at various levels of reduction often these emergent patterns will share common abstract structures and behavior. For example, the Fibonacci sequences shows up in a variety of levels of abstract patterns. Another example is that of fractal behavior in economic markets, in the growth of trees and obviously within various computational systems. It is this remarkable phenomenon that leads to my forthcoming hypothesis.

The fundamental aspect of existence is information.

Bits. Bits interacting with bits to form, deform and reform patterns. These patterns able to interpret, reinterpret and replicate. These patterns can be interpreted as networks. Networks, described by bits, made of bits, able to understand streams of bits.

[for understandable examples of this in everyday life think of your computer you’re reading this on. It is made of atoms (bits) and materials like silicon (bits of bits) fashioned into chips and memory banks (a network of bits of bits that process and store bits) that understand programs (bits about other bits) and interact with humans (who type bits from their own networked being [fingers, brains, eyes…]).]

Information has no end and no beginning. It doesn’t need a physical substrate, as in a particular substrate. It becomes the substrate. It substantiates all substrates. Anything and everything that exists follows the structures of pure information and pure computation – our physical world is simply a subset of this pure abstraction.

These high level – or what we call high level – phenomenon like social networks and politics and economies all are phenomena of information and information processing. The theories of Claude Shannon, Kurt Godel, Church, Turing, Chatin, Mandelbrot, Wolfram and so on all show signs that at all levels of “how things work” there is a fundamental information-theoretic basis.

A strange thing is happening nowadays. Well, strange to many who grew up working the land and manipulating the world directly with their own hands… The majority of “advanced” societies are going digital. Digital refers to very clearly not the stuff taken directly from the ground on the earth ( I don’t mean digital in the sense of digital vs. analog… continuous vs. discrete). The economies are 90%+ digital, the majority of the most valuable companies don’t produce physical products, the politics are digital, the dominant mode of communication and social interaction is digital and so forth. It’s almost impossible at this point to think our existence will end up as anything but informatic. But it’s a bit misleading to think we’re moving away from one mode into another. The fact is it’s ALL INFORMATION and we’re just arguing about the representation in physical form of that information.

So what does any of the last set of paragraphs have to do with the opening? Well, everything. Time and money are simply exchanges of information. We will find traces of their basic ideas (synchronization and “trust”) in all sorts of complex information exchanges. Time and money are compressions of information that allow us finite, yet universal computers to do things mostly within our computational lifetime. Time and money are NOT fundamental objects in existence. They are emergent abstractions, that will emerge EVERYTIME sufficiently complex information structures start interacting and assuredly develop associative value networks.

Are they real? Sure.

Should we obsess over them? It all depends on what you, as an information packet, learn to value. If you basic means of survival as the information packet you are depends on the various associations they provide, then yes. If not, then no. Or perhaps very differently than you deal with them today.

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there isn’t one.

or

every gui will be available.

I receive a lot of resistance when I suggest that the future of graphic user interfaces doesn’t exist.   Here’s why I think this.  The graphical interface is soon to become a completely personalized experience.  That is, the machine will optimize the interface for you.   Sure, there will need to be some uber designer that sort of sets up some initial styles and maybe set some basic parameters but ultimately the machines are going to decide WITH YOU the best way to integrate.

This should be an unsurprising prediction considering this is how us humans interact.  We constantly adjust ourselves to each other.  We change language, fashion, body language, cultural norms, etc to improve our understanding.  So as machines increase in sophistication we ask that the interfaces changes with our desires (values/ideals/patterns).

Beyond GUIs though the technical world moves ever towards an intelligent web of computational services instead of a hyperlinked HTML web of linked presentations.  That means things are moving quickly to a semantic, computational approach where everything (interfaces and data!) are objects for computation and able to be input into whatever connects to it.

The problem of user interface design now is that it’s happening mostly in art and production circles instead of through a real collaboration between artists, behaviorists and computer scientists.  What’s ideal is a group of people that all understand the arts, behaviorism and computational theory.  You can’t really do solid UI design without at least those types.

In the very near future we will not obsess with and talk about GUIs.  We will talk about experiences in the world and with concepts and art and characters.  And all very naturally with machines and their “senses.”   This interaction with the machines will inform the presentation.

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I have an hypothesis that the key ability of humankind that evolved over the millennia is learning.   Broadly speaking this means the awareness, recognition, and synthesis of patterns.   This doesn’t refer just to academic learning or book knowledge, but instead to the more generalized concept of pattern recognition.   We are learners.   

 

Everything we do is about foraging for new patterns or confirming previously learned patterns.   Of course, we forage for patterns to survive – to eat, sleep, find water, mate and avoid predation.   While in the modern world it can be hard to see how everything we do is about these basic survival aspects so far removed is our daily experience from pulling food from the ground and running from sabre tooth tigers, no doubt our homes, transportation, logistics networks and so forth have been built up to provide essentials for increasing populations.   And the one common behavioral thread from how our pre history ancestors likely lived and how we live today is Learning.   This is the biological strategy developed from our interaction with the world over time.

 

Our physiology compared to the rest of the animal kingdom favors us using our large brains and capable senses to forage for and use patterns vs. terrifying strength or built in camouflage, etc.  A baby can do very little physically for a very long time while it is learning.   Our period of growth to adolescence and self sufficiency is very long.   There is a lot to learn to become surviving human.

 

Certainly all living things learn to some degree.   The simplest creatures all of have some sorta of biological memory that helps them find food and avoid destruction – though that memory is often quite different from ours and may not even be anything we’d recognize.    The difference is the sophistication and complexity of that learning made possible by our complex nervous system.   As individuals we learn a great deal.   As a species we learn a great deal.  Over time we are able to store and retrieve an increasing amount of learning that we pass on to our descendents through culture, written records, and now the internet and digital technology.   There is simply no other animal we’ve found that does this to the scale we do it.

 

Plenty of literature suggests it’s language or consciousness or art that makes us “human” or “different that the rest of animals.”   Rather than saying learning makes us a superior life form or different than other animals I’m merely suggesting that this our evolutionary strategy that developed and that all of those other things people mention come from this ability and need to learn.   We are constantly in search of more efficient ways to discover and transmit patterns that help us survive.   Music, language, art, writing, sport, etc all of this are varied, efficient and robust ways to teach other patterns.   Yes, they often have more pragmatic and immediately practical effects like making us attractive to mates, etc.   but they also are transmissions of patterns we’ve found interesting or useful or they help unearth other patterns.

 

Now, this being per speculation as so much of evolutionary biological thinking is, it’s quite possible that everything that allows us to learn was simply evolving in response to other things than learning.   Perhaps that’s true, but the emergent effect is that we happen to be extremely powerful learnings and we have yet to devise anything that can learn more effectively.   It’s unsurprising to me that our key enterprise is developing non human machinery to help us learn and that might learn better than us.  This is literally what we must do, it’s all we do do.

 

Why is any of this important?   It is a perspective that might put various aspects of organizing our lives, societies, countries, world, technology in a new, more resilient light.   If learning is the key ability we have to survive should we not organize around this and NOT do things that reduce learning?   Should we not amplify our ability and scope of learning?   

Maybe that’s too directional of a way to think about it.  Perhaps it matters not if there’s something we OUGHT to do and rather we Do What We Do and that’s the whole lot of it.   EIther way, as an individual looking to find better ways to survive and thrive I find it useful to think through and understand what might be underlying it all.   You know, seems like I should learn.

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Homelessness, then, is a social relationship produced by an archipelago of vacant property and those who keep it so. This system of properties and their managers manifests itself in laws, vouchers, rent, in the police officer, the code enforcer, the fence, and the plywood-covered door, reserving places for some, excluding others.

– page 29, IMPASSES

The Tent City essay from IMPASSES is potent.   I probably will have a multi-part response to this essay because there’s a lot going on.  At a first read I dismissed it mostly because I have yet to fully support the Occupy movement and the essay, while not 100% aligned with Occupy, had enough coincidence to turn me off a bit.

But then I thought more deeply about one of the main points presented in the essay: the concept of homelessness.   Sadly, I’ve never really thought too deeply about homelessness other than thinking about ways to eliminate it in the traditional ways society thinks about it – get people into homes.   When I threw that notion out and asked, “why should we force people into homes?”  I didn’t come up with any satisfying answers.   This then lead to an even more fundamental question, “What is property?”.

Which, obviously, I’m not the first person to think about this and ask these questions.  In fact a French thinker, Proudhon, wrote a book with this title in 1840.   I have not finish this book but am quickly working my way through it.  He calls for the abolition of property as a concept calling it robbery.    I have yet to find anything particularly wrong with the IMPASSES essay nor Proudhon’s basically argument.  I mean how can any of us claim rights over anything on the earth? over ideas?  over information?   the idea of property simply makes no sense.

If property as a concept doesn’t make sense the idea of forcing people into homes seems rather unfounded. Eh?

I will discuss the specifics of Tent City, Occupy and the essay itself in a follow up post.

 

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