Posts Tagged ‘life’

While I have many interests and ideas… the most of enduring is my own obsession over the nature of reality and specific spacetime. It’s probably been my guiding light since my much younger self around 14-16 started reading/toying with chaos theory, popular cosmology books and starting in roads into deeper than algebra mathematics. At the same time the theater bug struck in earnest as I struggled with a long involvement with Christianity and the bible. You put it all together and all of these things seemed to be asking questions about origins and the flow of time and cause and effect.
I have a bit of a revisionist/simplified story around why I went to University of Chicago… but a lot of my most basic thinking at the time was still about how to fully engage my obsession… it was very clear that was probably the only place I could go and chase this obsession in a world class physics and math department that just so happened to co-exist with amazing theater and improv comedy. (These things are related deeply, I swear, on some incredibly fundamental level.)
Somehow I managed to survive, barely, getting a theoretical (not applied) math degree (it’s still a mystery as to how I survived complex analysis) while performing in, directing or writing something like 40 theater shows… and then I went out into the real world no closer to understanding anything at all about the true nature of my obsession, spacetime.
Futzing about with first real world jobs but mostly sneaking off to Borders as often as I could I basically read almost every professional computer book I could as well as picked up A New Kind of Science, by Wolfram. In a mish-mash of messing around with programming/multi media side projects, shortlived w2 jobs and reading as much as I could… I finally devised a ridiculous plan. I would one day work under Stephen Wolfram and actually come to know his vision and math driving A New Kind of Science. All 10 billion pages of NKS seemed to overflow with consistent, mind blowing Yes This Could Actually Be The Basis of Reality stuff that somehow was bizarrely consistent with the bevy of other art, theater, religious, literary thoughts I’d come across on the matter.
So this plan… well first I knew that it wouldn’t be good enough to have “read” NKS, i would actually need to know how to use Mathematica and understand the theoretical and applied logic behind its operations. Being a resourceful young man with no shame I managed to convince my software provisioning team at the w2 job I had at the time to purchase me a license for Mathematica (those are expensive for non students!) because it was critical for the development of Online Advertising Recommendation Algorithms. Well, whatever, it worked and I was off and running learning and trying things out and mostly making a mess of my computers.
The plan needed to evolve as I wasn’t getting anywhere. in 2008 or so someone pointed me to the New Kind of Science summer school that Wolfram Research put on. Well, shoot! There ya go… I doubted whether I had any business in spending three weeks in Bernie Sanders country (VT!) hanging out with some of the smartest people I’d ever met doing theoretical physics and computer science… but having no shame… I wrote up a typo filled statement of my intentions and applied. I wrote a lengthy run on sentence piece about how I thought the approach of NKS could finally bridge the broken disciplines of cognitive psychology and economics and radical behaviorism (I said it somewhat differently… and live blogged my approach… shameless… https://socialmode.com/2008/03/21/anatomy-of-a-decision-in-life-applying-to-nks-summer-school/). Beyond the silly basis of my plan my wife and I also had two young kids and I didn’t really have a job job, just consulting gigs… so spending 3 weeks working on insanely theoretical/no-connection to my real life was even more ridiculous. but obsessions are obsessions…
Shorting the story here Wolfram invited me to the NKS school that summer where I decided to pursue a project on Turing Machines (https://socialmode.com/2008/08/07/nks-summer-school-summary/) that was pretty great to work on. I greatly improved my understanding of Mathematica, the beauty of turing and his machines, the lambda calculus as well as further confirmed I was as far away from understanding spacetime as ever. Beyond my project I had several deep interactions with SW and various members of his team. These all gave me better and better glimpses into this stuff… the other students also had a mix of unbelievably interesting perspectives in philosophy, neuroscience, medicine, architecture and so much more. I was under no delusion that I understood much of anything… much like my math degree in college… but I always bet on osmosis and you don’t know what you know and what you don’t know…. meaning, sometimes you know things but only by using it and applying it in different ways…
Ok, so having properly stoked the obsession I became more deeply enamored with things which led to more discussions with SW and ultimately to engaging their team in launching Wolfram|Alpha, which i had see while at the summer school and knew that I wanted to somehow be involved with it. Outside of NKS and my various reality seeking obsessions my own “professional” career had continued down the “search engine” path from SEO junk, to building various search engines/crawlers, playing with query semantics and indexing ideas, etc. etc. by this time I’d worked on several web scale search engine/recommendation engine/geo gis systems and everything in between. So doing Wolfram|Alpha was an obvious next step pro wise and obsession wise.
Well, beyond the fun times in trying to explain WA to the world and trying to figure out various business models my little spacetime obsession became an obsession with language (programming and otherwise) and probably what some would consider semiotics and other analysis of symbols. There was just something in NKS, math, mathematica, computers, turing machines, radical behaviorism, theater, religion, art, LIFE that scream SYMBOLICS… study of SYMBOLICS… oh and on and on and on.
I carried all of these obsessions from various bill paying gigs to the next… which was really just a front for me to continue buying computers and books at an alarming clip while not completely ruining my young children’s futures.
This sort of brings us back around to RIGHT NOW with this wonderful blog post from SW and my own current Art and Philosophy situation. His post still strikes me as On The Right Path. And it’s still not the full story… it’s even more fundamental than Space as a Network and it’s Just a Network and some simple rules… and the only way I’ve come to be able to work out the details is well, not to work out the details… but do as SW is doing… searching the space of possibilities… I’m just doing it through art, as my hunch (which is likely just a confusion of my obsession) is that an artistic exploration is Computational Equivalent to writing a bunch of symbolic programs AND may, in fact, be more efficient due to the nature of how humans (awesome multi faceted pattern recognizers) process data and the world that data represents. See here for some exposition and poke around the art… http://www.worksonbecoming.com/symbol-and-relation/
Look, perhaps this is all unknowable (likely) and perhaps I’m just a kooky guy who spent too much time with his nose in a book. What I learned though is that… this little obsession spun me off in a million directions gaining lots of little skills that all allowed me to navigate the weird business world, the slightly unnerving computer programmer culture, improved my literacy, help start a school, employ and raise up lots of ambitious upstart people and perhaps have made a couple of hundred million dollars here and there for folks, and now has me making art, mostly poorly conceived but done at a pace that fills me up.
perhaps that’s what spacetime is really about. using it in fulfilling ways.
perhaps everything is connected.

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The idea of control is absurd, guns or not.   The world is far too complicated to predict events, system behaviors, or whether even your email will send when you hit the send button.  Prediction is a necessary (but not sufficient) condition of control.  And when we say “gun control” we believe we can predict who would be a responsible user of a gun and who wouldn’t.   We believe with the proper equipment features we can control what happens when a user pulls the trigger or that it’s actually the user who owns the gun… and so on.  It’s literally all based on an absurd premise.

Guns in the Game of Life

Guns in the Game of Life

And yet, control is exactly the fallacy of our political and social systems.  Guns and other tools of destruction provide the operator the illusion of control.  Lightweight, homage regulating laws provide the population the illusion of control.  These illusions really just mask the chaos of a contingent world.  Any distressed person operates under highly conflicting contingencies or has lost the ability to recognize contingencies (of behavior and consequence).   In fact, this happens to all of us all of the time.  We live under near constant confirmation and related behavioral (cognitive biases) as a result of our limited perceptive systems and neural componentry (and often sick and broken bodies).   Our system constantly pattern recognizes incorrectly (we think God helps us score touchdowns….).  These incomplete interpretations of the contingencies of the world become especially problematic in a stressed and distressed situation.   (I’ll skip a deep discussion of behavioral, physical and chemical science and just lump all of it in an idea that we are all systems ecologically looking for homeostasis/equilibrium.)

When contingencies conflict or get very confused and the environment is primed properly disaster is more likely to occur.  Priming includes a cultural dimension, accessibility of destructive tools, lack of obstacles to act, etc.   Combined with stress, illness, and chemicals (drugs/booze/etc) in a person and a more combustible situation emerges – this is the nature of probability and complexity.

Proponents of guns and various “let’s all pack heat” strategies suffer from the same delusions of control as perpetrators of mass killings and gun murders.  The world is not fundamentally controllable – in situations with guns and situations without guns.  Every person and system is a collection of contingencies – the collective probabilities of circumstance and events.   For instance, at Christmas time if you have hot colored lights plugged in, faulty electric outlets and dead, dry pine trees in your living room you have increased the chance of burning your house down.   I assure you there are lower probability of raging fire decorations you can display in your home.

The key to dealing with our uncontrollable world isn’t pretending control exists.   We either increase or reduce probabilities of events by changing ourselves and/or the environment.   Changing the contingencies is non-trivial and multifaceted.   One key is to not put too many degrees of freedom between an act and the experience of the consequences of that act.  This is a subtle but very important point.   Many studies show humans are not good at anticipating delayed consequences – delay in time and in-directness (associations) of consequences.  This truth is at the heart of addition formation, financial debt, wars, education and literacy, and so on.  You can do your own study on this truth by reminding yourself of your last Vegas trip, checking your alerts for all those idiot Candy Crush notifications from your “friends,” looking at your credit car bills or reviewing your local church (and bible!) for policies on tithing and confession and promises of heaven and hell.

Guns are so easy (very few contingencies) to obtain and use (poorly) that there is almost NO PERCEIVABLE IMMEDIATE CONSEQUENCE to gun ownership relative to THE DELAYED ULTIMATE CONSEQUENCE of gun usage.  Pulling a trigger is such a simple act…. even gun makers and the NRA know this.  It’s why they attempt to stratify guns into level of effort to use: manual, semi-automatic, automatic and so on.   The delay in round expulsion is built on the idea that if you add more work for the user the less they can kill and the more time it takes to load and fire rounds the more the prey and other contingent circumstances can adjust in response.  This is all highly consistent logic and observable phenomena.

Most systems, including individual people, operate on a strategy of efficiency AKA the path of least resistance.   We resolve our stresses efficiently (according to our own weird histories/abilities).   When guns are easy to get then that’s an outlet we go with (replace guns with drugs, TV, gambling, sex, food, yoga, etc).   We know this truth.   We’ve used it forever… Grocery stores get ya every time with this.   And so does the government.  Some things it makes hard to do or get (more contingent): health care, food stamps, driver’s licenses, info on NSA programs.   Somethings it makes easy (less contingent): paying your taxes (do it online!  send cash!), getting parking tickets, buying lottery tickets, campaign donating!

Never underestimate the power of laziness! (capitalism and governments/kings and religion don’t!)

If people generally didn’t operate this way voter turn out would be 100%, education rates would be off the charts and no one would ever buy a lottery ticket or use a slot machine again (well at least they might pull the handle instead of auto spinning).

I firmly believe in the complete disarmament and aggressive buy back and destruction of all arms – civilian and otherwise. For this country and all of them.   I believe in trying to get the probability of widespread carnage and unintended consequences as low as possible.   While compromise is inevitable my position is not one of compromise.

If you’re for guns or even a gun apologist you really just don’t trust the world and believe in control and want to maintain what you perceive as a competitive advantage to the unarmed or the less well armed.   Perhaps it is a competitive advantage, local to you.   System wide you’re increasing the chance of unintended disasters and you’re partially complicit more or less in the continuing violence against kids and students.   You are also probably ok with it or don’t believe it because the consequences of your slight increase in probability of someone else’s disaster don’t register in your pattern recognizer.


As I said earlier… lowering the probability of gun violence takes more than gun laws.  It takes education, first and foremost.  And it takes economic opportunity, better health care, jobs, love, and everything in between.  I chose to be complicit in increasing those things at the expense of my right to bear arms.   We’re all just a small piece of a contingent and uncontrollable world and I’d rather stand in perspective and connection with people rather than behind armor, triple locked doors and concealed weaponry.

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Hi Greg,

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,

uncle russ

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

The Tree

She Waited Here


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

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

Years passed.


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

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

No response.

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


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


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

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


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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.

Human Progress is Not A Thing

Human Progress is Not A Thing

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.

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In 2002 my wife and I decided having children might not be the worst possible decision we could make in life (turns out we got two amazing, intelligent, engaged daughters).   I pushed pretty hard for us to at least try, especially because we were relatively young and I had at least an inkling that parenting (not sleeping) couldn’t get easier as you aged. (I was almost 26 so I didn’t know that much mind you.)
What I really didn’t know, and probably didn’t really understand at all until this year with my mom’s own life hanging in the balance, is that I was pushing for an impossible sacrifice.   Asking a woman to have a child seems almost natural until you actually think about it.  Beyond the basic What To Expect When Your Expecting fluff the sacrifice is a total self-exchange of the woman for the child.  She will not only dramatically give her body over to the child for 10 months, she does so forever.  She gives over her career, spiritual life, social status, friends and pretty much everything else.   And we ask her to do in some sort of manifest destiny “of course this is what you always wanted” way.
In the end, it turns out ok. For the most part.  If she’s fortunate enough that the pregnancy and birth don’t kill her or diminish her.  And if her economic situation can afford it.  And if she has tremendous support around her, in her family in her community and her work.   And if her hormones and nervous system keep up to the task.  And if her body can withstand the adjustment to post-birth life.  And if the media and pop culture don’t twist her into self-loathing for failing to be good at everything AND have a kid.   I might turn out ok.
I have a tattoo on my left arm.  It’s a phrase in cuneiform, “Redeeming Sacrifice.”   I got it a couple of years ago with the idea that in life I could only possibly ever hope to scrape the surface of such a sacrifice by trying my best to do whatever it took to not only provide for my family and my community but actually help them thrive.  I fail most days, in my opinion. The sacrifice made by my mom and my wife and countless other women around me to give me life, give my children life, support me, somehow get themselves to an ok place is of a magnitude greater than anything I’ve ever done.   The tattoo isn’t meant as a signal of a one time event but instead as a life long, infinite commitment to try to even approach the impossible sacrifice that is being a mom and being a woman.
My wife is an amazing mother.   Whatever the criteria you have for that distinction I’m pretty sure you’ll rank pretty highly.   She has given everything to these children and to me.   And as far as I know her mom did the same for her kids and I know my mom did for her kids.
What have we given them, really, in return?  A life long wondering whether they’ve done enough.  Whether they are doing enough.  Whether there’s someone else they have left behind. Whether they deserve the vacation or money they get.  Whether they’ve earned out respect and love.  I’m as guilty as anyone on that front too.  I want to blame our culture, which is pretty blame-worthy, but I cannot. Maybe blame or responsibility isn’t the right phrasing, but again I do feel all of us, especially males, need to think really hard about our own existence and decide to sacrifice more to make the pressures of being a female go away. Pushed to my most honest position we need to relinquish our patriarchy totally because we have not even come close to this impossible sacrifice.  We’ll never make up for the past but we certainly can leave the future with a slightly better chance that if you’re a female you can be just as much of Homer Simpson as I am or a leading Dr. or cheating football player or a president or whatever you damn well please.   As long as you’re taking on the burden of existence of ALL OF HUMANKIND you can and should do whatever you damn well please.
Happy mother’s day.  And really happy women’s everyday.  I don’t deserve it but I hope all of you will keep letting me try to redeem the existence you give me through my own self-sacrifice.
much love.

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The Point

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.

Universal Computation

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.

What Next

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.

And So.

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.

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