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art and patterns

art lives in the mind.

but there is no mind.

art lives in perception.

but there is no perception.

art lives as patterns.

there are patterns.

but there is no art.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

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How to Program

Here’s a short presentation about programming, my philosophical view of it, that is.

How to Program (PPT)

How to Program (PDF)

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Yesterday someone told me that science was contingent and logic necessary.

I struck the stone – at first lightly
Then I dug in and drew blood.

Fractured assumptions flared their flimsy premise
Crumbling before less than mighty blows

This someone warned me if you crack too hard
The stone carries impact damage
Scaring the surface
Forcing you to sand and polish

That is if what you care about is something smooth and approachable.

Will this stone yield to me?

Or am I yielding to it?

My logic battering it tink after tink
Forces my theory that no matter what I do
This stone will be what it is
And it is up to me, flawed and frayed, to ask
It questions

The response is Wittgensteinien. Silent and yet understood
A brooding proposition of certain doubt
That nothing yields everything.

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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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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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