Posts Tagged ‘life’
I love you, first of all – and really that’s all that matters. Thank you for reaching out to me. It’s selfish but I needed someone to reach out to me. It’s been a long time since I was young and confused and mad about the universe ripping living people in my life into the grave. It’s been long enough that sometimes I wonder whether it really happened and whether all these years if I didn’t just go insane.
People die. They really do. And it’s as terrible as anyone can imagine. And it’s as natural as the science books suggest.
And it hurts. God does it hurt. It is punishment. I still feel guilty. Every day. I don’t know what I did or was or could ever be to deserve anything that’s be given to me. I really don’t. Rage isn’t even close to how it feels. AHHHHHAAAGHHHHH.
Comfort doesn’t come in words. Comfort doesn’t come song. nor travel. nor food. nor anything. You see, death just rips. It rips your anchors, your beliefs, your ideas and completely and totally destroys them in one fell swoop. And it doesn’t give you anything in return.
My heart breaks for you, for her, for him, for all. Because I know. I know that I will never know – never know those that died, those that died in your life, those that died in my life. And, GOD!, do i want to know those that died in my life. There they were … and then… no they weren’t.
You are young, and so was I, and so are so many people. Who are we to feel guilty? or mad? or sad? who are we, with life, to rage against the universe? who are we to dare to ask why? knowing no answer is coming. but secretly hoping in all these books. SO MANY BOOKS… there is no answer.
I searched for you. I’ve read them all. There are no answers, I’m afraid. I know you will read many more and talk to many others and take walks i haven’t taken. and yet we will both arrive right here.
Somehow, someway, I made it to 38.9 years old. I don’t really know how. But here I am. Thank you for reaching out, your tender years. Lost in this universe I remain. Is that hope? if i can do it so can you? hardly. but maybe….
I am so sorry she was tossed from a car and tossed from your life. No universe we imagine has that outcome. and yet, here it is. here it is. here you are. here i am. here your mom is.
greg, oh, greg. you are not alone. oh no you are not. but you feel like you are because in so many ways right now you are. and its real. oh god is it real. oh god am i alone right now. i wish you were here, even though we barely spend any time together. but we are also connected and not alone. i don’t know how you feel. i didn’t and don’t really know how i feel now. other than i just HOPE, goodness do i hope, somewhere out there something touched someone in some way. even for a moment. For A Brief Moment… anything that made someone think God I Do Matter.
greg you matter. amber matters. i matter.
i hope you keep talking to me.
i love you,
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.
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.
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.
“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.
Like most things Disney, Tomorrowland is a delicious snack of seeming subsistence. This movie is chock full of “I wanna believe” and “I must be a terrible person if I don’t believe” sentiments and relationships. “We are the future”, “I can make it work”, “Light and hope – the wolf you feed”, “You still have hope”, “Anything is possible” and “We make our destiny” – are just a few of the inspirational tugs. The story itself is cute, watchable and, by in large, moving. And herein lies The Problem.In an ironic twist, if that’s even an American possibility anymore, Tomorrowland, violating its own story premise, espouses overly simplified, imagination-limiting Propaganda. The movie presents the future worth chasing as people standing in amber waves of grain aweing at a technological, automated city of industry and digitization out in the distance. Hard to be irritated by the vision all of us Americans have been sold since the nanosecond we were conceived. The irony of this vision in this movie is that the realization of this future, and the children sold into it, end up creating the technology that brainwashes the world into its own destruction.
The bigger philosophical, ethical issue is that humans by in large cannot imagine a future without humans at the center of it. And in America we can’t sincerely adopt a future without technology and industry made by humans. Americans, and most “developed” societies, mostly do not view non-human growth, creativity, and prosperity on the same level as human efforts. We justify our existence by our ability to continually re-wreak havoc on the world so our human solutions can prevail again! Us humans do have a remarkable ability to solve various issues, especially through technology. But is it remarkable enough to justify our existence, and more pressingly, our proliferation in time and space?
Tomorrowland and the millions of other political, cultural narratives will never be able to ask questions penetrating enough to even hint at a possible justification. These narratives survive and thrive by preying on cognitive bias – asking “is my existence justified?”, “is my worldview accurate?”, “is my limited perception sufficient for external imposition?” isn’t exactly the stuff of mega block buster movies, toy shelf marketing, school room pledges, company missions and political campaigns. And we as consumers and producers of these narratives will not be able to imagine, adopt and create a future worth having nor even a possible future if we can’t ask those questions. The future contemplated by this Dream of the Dreamers is not one that can exist – a perpetual recycle of humans at the center of everything isn’t really a thing has been clearly demonstrated by 13.5 billion years of the universe doing its thing.
Are there popular narratives and dialectics that seem to ask deeper questions – things like “Planet of the Apes” to “The Singularity” movement to posthumanism to mathematics to most philosophy books and departments? On the surface all these things all seem to contemplate non-human centrality but they still all have anthropomorphic aspirations at their core. Anthropomorphism is very hard, if down right impossible, to avoid.
The way forward may be not be forward at all. That is, progress is a very misguided, humanistic concept. Progress is at best a relative, self-serving concept, it is not a physical law or a feature of the universe. It is a misguided concept because it guides at all. The Dream of the Dreamers is always one of Progress, never one of restraint or contemplation or admission or apology or submission.
Inside of me there is a battle. All these questions well up and make me feel like a bad father for not wanting to pass on “wisdom” but only questions. I’m a bad capitalist for questioning the unending creative destructive power of markets. I’m a bad American for questioning The Dream of the Dreamers. I’m a bad creator of technology for anguishing over its ultimate value. I’m a bad person-person for not having an identify or a mission or end goal or a five year plan and question my own centrality to my own existence. I’m a bad artist and writer for lacking happy, hopeful endings and conclusions – never answer a question with a question! I’m a bad revolutionary for not fighting every fight. and I’m definitely a bad philosopher for having no particular philosophy at all. Right?!
The Dream of the Dreamers is potent because it certainly makes for pleasant sleep and a comfortable way to get out of bed and get on with the day’s work. But it is not reality it is marketing against reality. And it is more de-pressing than the struggle with unanswerable questions.
Everything is a pattern and connected to other patterns. The variety of struggles, wars, businesses, animal evolution, ecology, cosmological change – all are encompassed by the passive and active identification and exploitation of changes in patterns.
What is Pattern
Patterns are thought of in a variety of ways – a collection of data points, pictures, bits and bytes, tiling. All of the common sense notions can be mapped to the abstract notion of a graph or network of nodes and their connections, edges. It is not important, for the sake of the early points of this essay, to worry to much about the concept of a graph or network or its mathematical or epistemological construction. The common sense ideas that might come to mind should suffice – everything is a pattern connected to other patterns. E.g. cells are connected to other cells sometimes grouped into organs connected to other organs sometimes grouped into creatures connected to other creatures.
As can be imagined the universe has a practically infinite number of methods of pattern identification and exploitation. Darwinian evolution is one such example of a passive pattern identification and exploration method. The basic idea behind it is generational variance with selection by consequences. Genetics combined with behavior within environments encompass various strategies emergent within organisms which either hinder or improve the strategies chance of survival. Broken down and perhaps too simplistically an organism (or collection of organisms or raw genetic material) must be able to identify threats, energy sources and replication opportunities and exploit these identifications better than the competition. This is a passive process overall because the source of identification and exploitation is not built in to the pattern selected, it is emergent from the process of evolution. On the other hand sub processes within the organism (object of pattern were considering here) can be active – such as in the case of the processing of an energy source (eating and digestion and metabolism).
Other passive pattern processes include the effects of gravity on solar systems and celestial bodies on down to their effects on planetary ocean tides and other phenomena. Here it is harder to spot what is the identification aspect? One must abandon the Newtonian concept and focus on relativity where gravity is the name of the changes to the geometry of spacetime. What is identified is the geometry and different phenomena exploit different aspects of the resulting geometry. Orbits form around a sun because of the suns dominance in the effect on the geometry and the result can be exploited by planets that form with the right materials and fall into just the right orbit to be heated just right to create oceans gurgling up organisms and so on. It is all completely passive – at least with our current notion of how life my have formed on this planet. It is not hard to imagine based on our current technology how we might create organic life forms by exploiting identified patterns of chemistry and physics.
In similar ways the trajectory of artistic movements can be painted within this patterned theory. Painting is an active process of identifying form, light, composition, materials and exploiting their interplay to represent, misrepresent or simply present pattern. The art market is an active process of identifying valuable concepts or artists or ideas and exploiting them before mimicry or other processes over exploit them until the value of novelty or prestige is nullified.
Language and linguistics are the identification and exploitations of symbols (sounds, letters, words, grammars) that carry meaning (the meaning being built up through association (pattern matching) to other patterns in the world (behavior, reinforcers, etc). Religion, by the organizers, is the active identification and exploitation of imagery, language, story, tradition, and habits that maintain devotional and evangelical patterns. Religion, by the practitioner, can be active and passive maintenance of those patterns. Business and commerce is the active (sometimes passive) identification and exploitation of efficient and inefficient patterns of resource availability, behavior and rules (asset movement, current social values, natural resources, laws, communication medium, etc).
There is not a category of inquiry or phenomena that can escape this analysis. Not because the analysis is so comprehensive but because pattern is all there is. Even the definition and articulation of this pattern theory is simply a pattern itself which only carries meaning (and value) because of the connection to other patterns (linear literary form, English, grammar, word processing programs, blogging, the Web, dictionaries).
Mathematics and Computation
It should be of little surprise that mathematics and computation forms the basis of so much of our experience now. If pattern is everything and all patterns are in a competition it does make some common sense that efficient pattern translation and processing would arise as a dominant concept, at least in some localized regions of existence.
Mathematics effectiveness in a variety of situations/contexts (pattern processing) is likely tied to its more general, albeit often obtuse and very abstracted, ability to identify and exploit patterns across a great deal of categories. And yet, we’ve found that mathematics is likely NOT THE END GAME. As if anything could be the end game. Mathematics’ own generalness (which we could read as reductionist and lack of full fidelity of patterns) does it in – the proof of incompleteness showed that mathematics itself is a pattern of patterns that cannot encode all patterns. Said differently – mathematics incompleteness necessarily means that some patterns cannot be discovered nor encoded by the process of mathematics. This is not a hard meta-physical concept. Incompleteness merely means that even for formal systems such as regular old arithmetic there are statements (theorems) where the logical truth or falsity cannot be established. Proofs are also patterns to be identified and exploited (is this not what pure mathematics is!) and yet we know, because of proof, that we will always have patterns, called theorems, that will not have a proof. Lacking a proof for a theorem doesn’t mean we can’t use the theorem, it just means we can’t count on the theorem to prove another theorem. i.e. we won’t be doing mathematics with it. It is still a pattern, like any sentence or painting or concept.
The effectiveness of mathematics is its ROBUSTNESS. Robustness (a term I borrow from William Wimsatt) is the feature of a pattern that when it is processed from multiple other perspectives (patterns) the inspected pattern maintains its overall shape. Some patterns maintain their shape only within a single or limited perspective – all second order and higher effects are like this. That is, anything that isn’t fundamental is of some order of magnitude less robust that things that are. Spacetime geometry seems to be highly robust as a pattern of existential organization. Effect carrying ether, as proposed more than 100 years ago, is not. Individual artworks are not robust – they appear different to any different perspective. Color as commonly described is not robust. Wavelength is.
While much of mathematics is highly robust or rather describes very robust patterns it is not the most robust pattern of patterns of all. We do not and likely won’t ever know the most robust pattern of all but we do have a framework for identifying and exploiting patterns more and more efficiently – COMPUTATION.
Computation, by itself.
What is computation?
It has meant many things over the last 150 years. Here defined it is simply patterns interacting with other patterns. By that definition it probably seems like a bit of a cheat to define the most robust pattern of patterns we’ve found to be patterns interacting with other patterns. However, it cannot be otherwise. Only a completely non-reductive concept would fit the necessity of robustness. The nuance of computation is that there are more or less universal computations. The ultimate robust pattern of patterns would be a truly universal-universal computer that could compute anything, not just what is computable. The real numbers are not computable, the integers are. A “universal computer” described by today’s computer science is a program/computer that can compute all computable things. So a universal computer can compute the integers but cannot compute the real numbers (pi, e, square root of 2). We can prove this and have (the halting problem, incompleteness, set theory….). So we’re not at a completely loss of interpreting patterns of real numbers (irrational numbers in particular). We can and do compute with pi and e and square root millions of times a second. In fact, this is the key point. Computation, as informed by mathematics, allows us to identify and exploit patterns far more than any other apparatus humans have devised. However, as one would expect, the universe itself computes and computes itself. It also has no problem identifying and exploiting patterns of all infinitude of types.
So is the universe using different computation than we are? Yes and no. We haven’t discovered all the techniques of computation at play. We never will – it’s a deep well and new approaches are created constantly by the universe. But we now have unlocked the strange loopiness of it all. We have uncovered Turing machines and other abstractions that allow us to use English-like constructs to write programs that get translated into bits for logic gates in parallel to compute and generate solutions to math problems, create visualizations, search endless data, write other programs, produce self replicating machines, figure out interesting 3D printer designs, simulate markets, generate virtual and mixed realities and anything else we or the machines think up.
What lies beneath this all though is this very abstract yet simple concept of networks. Nodes and edges. The mathematics and algorithms of networks. Pure relation between things. Out of the simple connection of things from things arise all the other phenomena we experience. The network is limitless – it imposes no guardrails to what can or can’t happen. That it is a network does explain and impose why all possibilities exhibit as they do and the relative emergent levels of phenomena and experience.
The computation of pure relation is ideal. It only supersedes (makes sense to really consider) the value of reductionist modes of analysis, creation and pattern processing when the alternative pattern processing is not sufficient in accuracy and/or has become sufficiently inefficient to provide relative value for it’s reduction. That is, a model of the world or a given situation is only as value as it doesn’t overly sacrifice accuracy too much for efficiency. It turns out for most day to day situations Newtonian physics suffices.
we’ve arrived at a point in discovery and creation where the machines and machine-human-earth combinations are venturing into virtual, mixed and alternate realities that current typical modes of investigation (pattern recognition and exploitation) are not sufficient. The large hadron collider is an example and less an extreme example than it was before. The patterns we want to understand and exploit – the quantum and the near the speed of light and the unimaginably large (the entire web index with self driving cars etc) – are of such a different magnitude and kind. Then when we’ve barely scratched the surface there we get holograms and mixed reality which will create it’s own web and it’s own physical systems as rich and confusing as anything we have now. Who can even keep track of the variety of culture and being and commerce and knowledge in something such as Minecraft? (and if we can’t keep track (pattern identify) how can we exploit (control, use, attach to other concepts…)?
The pace of creation and discovery will never be less in this local region of spacetime. While it may not be our goal it is our unavoidable fate (yes we that’s a scary word) to continue to compute and have a more computational approach to existence – the identification and exploitation of patterns by other patterns seems to carry this self-reinforcing loop of recursion and the need of ever more clarifying tools of inspection that need more impressive means of inspecting themselves… everything in existence replicates passively or actively and at a critical level/amount of interconnectivity (complexity, patterns connected to patterns) self inspection (reasoning, introspection, analysis, recursion) becomes necessary to advance to the next generation (explore exploitation strategies).
Beyond robotics and 3d printing and self-replicating and evolutionary programs the key pattern processing concept humans will need is a biological approach to reasoning about programs/computation. Biology is a way of reasoning that attempts to classify patterns by similar behavior/configurations/features. And in those similarities find ways to relate things (sexually=replication, metabolism=Energy processing, etc). It is necessarily both reductionist, in its approach to categorize, and anti-reductionist in its approach to look at everything anew. Programs / computers escape our human (and theoretical) ability to understand them and yet we need some way to make progress if we, ourselves, are to persist along side them.
It’s quite possible this entire train of synthesis is a justification for my own approach to life and my existence. And this would be consistent with my above claims. I can’t do anything about the fact that my view is entirely biased by my own existence as a pattern made of patterns of patterns all in the lineage of humans emerged from hominids and so on all the way down to whatever ignited patterns of life on earth.
I could be completely wrong. Perhaps some other way of synthesizing existence all the way up and down is right. Perhaps there’s no universal way of looking at it. Though it seems highly unlikely/very strange to me that patterns at one level or in one perspective couldn’t be analyzed abstractly and apply across and up and down. And that the very idea itself suggests patterns of pattern synthesis is fundamental strikes me as much more sensible, useful and worth pursuing than anything else we’ve uncovered and cataloged to date.