Think differently part 2. :0

turn like a wheel inside a wheel…

talking heads - slippery people

Thank you for such a thorough, thoughtful post! Really enjoying this discussion.

Rather than mathematics, my background is that of a writer / story-teller. I am also very interested in philosophy, psychology, and evolutionary biology, so a lot of my opinions and frameworks come from those backgrounds. However, it’s interesting that the same problems and questions come up - i.e. “are we finding truth or inventing it?” or “are we seeing reality as it really is or are we fundamentally limited to seeing what we are expecting to see?”

If one studies comparative philosophy long enough, something quite unsettling becomes clear: while any philosophical viewpoint allows one to gain insight into the universe in some particular way, it will necessarily blind the viewer in another way. As in your example above - things that make perfect explanatory sense from the Platonist point of view become nonsensical from the formalist view.

There is also the problem that - regardless of our philosophical background - our conceptual frameworks are innately, inescapably human. They are based on human experience and try as we might, we cannot avoid painting our reality with the colors and metaphors gained from that experience. And so our religious mythologies become filled with stern fathers, loving mothers - we make arguments for or against abstract concepts based on what our experience has trained us to expect (i.e “it can’t be turtles all the way down” or “God doesn’t play dice with the universe” etc.)

The philosophical framework of Zen gives us some interesting clues and tools in this regard, in that it asks us to explicitly focus on how our mental structures draw limits on what we are ready to accept, and urges us to actively break through those limits. However, just like any philosophical framework, Zen also has boundaries - in that - if you’re not using those tools to approach a particular goal (i.e. detachment / going beyond ego) then you’re “doing it wrong” :wink:

So, given that we are hobbled by our human perspective in all these different ways, is the whole process of making sense of the universe doomed? I don’t think it is - and again - I use a framework from evolutionary biology. At any one point there is a dialectic between our approaches and the reality outside of us. If our approach doesn’t fit - if it fails to explain the reality outside of us, we have to discard it, adapt, and evolve something else.

The point isn’t to get to some final answer at the back of the book, the point is to continuously evolve our frameworks, approaches, and answers to the reality before us because Reality is That Which Does Not Go Away When We Stop Believing In It - which is pretty darn close to the Scientific Method. I like this approach because - at any given point - we acknowledge our limitations. We aren’t seeing Reality as it really is - we acknowledge that it might be beyond our current ability to measure with the instruments we have at hand, or might even be more complex and strange than we can wrap our human minds around - but at least we are constantly building and discarding frameworks rather than being stuck in any one particular framework.

I think about these kinds of things a lot. How do you take something so huge and abstract and make it concrete? We look out at the darkness between stars and we can tell ourselves “That goes on forever”* - but again, we are limited by our human experience. Since nothing in our living experience is infinite, we are reduced to abstractions.

(*and yes, I know that our universe may not in fact be “infinite”:

For me, it helps to think about much smaller infinities like repeating decimal fractions. I know that 1/3 = 0.333333333… is in some ways just an artifact of base10 math, but there is something there about those 3’s going off into infinity that helps me make the abstract more concrete. The same thing goes for Pi - on one hand, I know that this irrational number goes on forever, on the other hand I know that they all fit in to that little tiny chunk of red between 3 and Pi.

It’s the same with fractals. Using a good computer program and diving deep into the Julia set, one gets that awe-inspiring feeling that it is bottomless. Now, some part of me knows that this is an illusion - that the software I’m using is only rendering so many iterations of the equation, and that my monitor is only able to display only so much granularity of that image, because of the limits of the pixel sizes. However, the thing that works for me isn’t the actuality of infinite depth but the POTENTIAL for infinite depth - that given these particular conditions - one could perform the calculations and they would theoretically go on forever.

So maybe that is the most useful way for me to think about infinity - something that has the potential for being an infinite process because there is no natural limit to keep it finite.

So, so back up and bring this around full circle - the idea I started with was that once the capacity for embodied awareness evolved, it began adding additional layers of complexity to the universe in ways that

  • accelerated the universe’s natural process of adding those layers
  • made novel resources and products available for complexity to use and
  • created a situation where the process of adding additional layers of complexity had the potential to become an infinite process.

So from this point of view - if you think about the state space of the universe as not only the positions of the atoms in the universe, but also the motion of those atoms, and the procedural/interactive information that is made possible by all the processes and forces acting on those atoms - then you approach a framework where new ideas really do expand the state space of the universe.

What do I mean? Well for one - the presence of living beings has reshaped the chemistry of our planet many times, the most famous being the Oxygen Holocaust:

Once that great chemical change occurred, and a more energetic element was available as an energy source (i.e. oxygen metabolism) that then led to all these other evolutionary and metabolic pathways evolving, increasing the overall complexity of the system.

Or, let’s look at something like the hormone Oxytocin:

At one point in biological evolution, you had sexual reproduction, but no pair bonding, no parents taking care of offspring, etc. Along comes this new hormone (note: from an evolutionary perspective, this first evolved in sea birds, see this book for more:
and suddenly you have these internal reward pathways that lead animals to develop new behaviors to nurture their young, form pair bonds, form larger societies of animals that are capable of more complex group behaviors than any individual. This increase in behavioral complexity then circles back and becomes the evolutionary pressure which leads to development in language complexity, group dynamics, and eventually the beginnings of theory-of-mind, etc.

Fast forward to modern times and we have scientists filling in the Table of Elements by creating new elements that were once only theoretical. We can even misuse those things, and create huge nuclear disasters (Chernobyl / Fukushima) that create long-term physical changes in our world. We are sending our machines and information about ourselves out into space. And now, we are working towards technology that is taking our embodied/physical awareness and transferring those processes into machines. Will we ever get a strong/general AI? I don’t know! But I do see it as something likely, and if we ever do succeed, it will create new configurations of matter, energy, and information - it will open up entire new situations where complexity can take root and grow - it will create its own new by-products and secondary/tertiary effects that we cannot predict.

So - yes - I do see our ideas as increasing the available state spaces which are possible in the universe in a very real / physical sense. I also see this entire process as something that has the potential to be infinite - even though I cannot hold the actuality of that infinity in my hand. Of course there are many factors that might limit it - our potential to destroy ourselves - the finite lifespan of our local star - even the potential heat death of the universe. But again, I can stipulate that this might be an infinite process because it has the property of constantly jumping beyond its limitations - creating new configurations of matter, energy, and information - making new forces, new materials, and new ideas available.

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Hi - so I was a little confused by your over-use of the pronoun THEY/THEM. Are you doing this because you’re trying to use gender-neutral pronouns? Or are you so beyond self/other that there is no distinction between your thoughts and your co-worker’s thoughts? Either way, it made it a bit difficult to understand who thought what and who said what…

I was also confused by the SWIM thing - I just looked it up and I’m guessing you meant Someone Who Isn’t Me… right?

Anyway, I guess I just wanted to point out that humans have this amazing capacity for non-verbal communication and theory of mind. We have entire centers of our brain cooperating to feed us theories of what might be going on inside other people’s brains.

Some people are naturally better at this than others, and I’ve certainly read a lot of anecdotal evidence, and had my own share of psychedelic experiences which let me know that our capacity to do this particular trick can increase in those situations.

So yeah, while it might be possible that some sort of telepathy was taking place, it’s probably a lot more possible that this was just one person’s mind being really good at making sense of the world. In other words

  • the person not feeling well was giving off all these non-verbal signals that this is what was going on in their head
  • another person absorbed those signals and - without even trying - created a complex mental model that predicted what was going to happen next, and then
  • the thing they predicted actually happened

I’m not saying that this is somehow 100% proof that telepathy doesn’t exist, but it is the much simpler explanation…

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I like to fall back on that ‘ol rock & roller William Blake who tells us “If the doors of perception were cleansed, every thing would appear to man as it is: infinite.”


To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour

The rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam -
“the flower once blown, forever dies”

The way that can be told is not the eternal way.

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Swim is clearly me lol and yeah he didnt see me, he was walking past talking to someone else and my half cubical blocked me from his vision. It was the timing too it wasn’t like 5 mins past it was like i thought it he said it level creepy.


Stage 1 cleared. Now repeat “We would like to offer you a position at our company” and wait for the phone call.

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my random ass neo call and then text #matrix

So it’s funny you say wait for the phone call lolz
Guess I didn’t follow the white rabbit to clear stage 2.

This is more a taste of what empty means than what infinite means. Quite the opposite.

perhaps. You’re right

No I have watched infinite totem poles scroll in front of my vision. Even simulated infinity is pretty intense.

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This is more of an awkwardness in our representation system. We cannot fully write down 1/3 or pi in our decimal system, so in a certain way our decimal system is lacking in expressive power. The actual value of those numbers is found by their definition (1/3 as the ratio of the whole equal to the ratio of 1 to 3, and pi being the ratio of the circumference and the diameter of a circle). Their decimal expansion is a way to approximate their value, and in that way yet another infinite process, comparable to “keep counting”. This is indeed the potential infinite, and not the actual infinite.

The same story holds for fractals, although I think fractals are an excellent example of how something extremely basic can create an extraordinary amount of complexity. It’s a good argument for something as mysterious and complex as conscious being part of something “simple and understandable” as nerves.

It’s quite difficult to get an appreciation for what the actual infinite might look like without involving infinite processes. It is possible though. For example, the following is a characterisation of infinity: a collection of things is infinite, if we can remove some elements from the collection without changing the size of the collection. If we remove less elements than the size of the collection (for example any finite number of elements), then we won’t change the size, and there are indeed even ways to remove the same number of elements as the size of the collection and still not change the size of the result (for example as I did with the even numbers).

Not in how I understand the universe. I don’t see how life / humans changed the motion of elementary particles or the information made possible by the forces acting on elementary particles. You could see the great oxidation event as not much more than a chemical reaction being sped up by a catalyst. Somehow (in my view by chance) some chemical structures in the form of molecular biological life started catalysing a chemical reaction that produced O2. As far as the atoms are concerned, not much changed, really.

It seems the point you want to drive home, is that the universe grew in complexity, in the sense that in order to describe the state of the universe, we would need more words to do so: A dead planet made completely out of iron atoms is easier to describe than a dead planet with our composition of chemicals, which is easier to describe than a living planet.

However, this is describing the complexity of describing the state space of the universe, but it is not a measure of the size of the state space of the universe.

Compare it with a (hard) erased hard drive containing only zeroes in all its memory cells to the same one after it had been used to store the entire content of Wikipedia. The former has very low complexity, since it’s easy to describe completely (I just did), whereas the latter will be comparatively difficult to describe (I estimate it could be compressed a bit, but still will be barely less than the actual size in memory of the Wikipedia, in orders of magnitude). We could make it even more complex by filling the hard drive with pure random noise, in which no patterns emerge, and hence it will take describing every bit of information individually to describe the state of the hard drive (as there will be almost no recurring patterns).

In the meantime, the state space did not change, since the hard drive still has the same number of bits of information in each of those cases.

Note that it is a law of physics that the entropy (and thus the informational complexity) of the universe can only increase, so it is not even the human element that makes the universe more complex: it’s expected to happen regardless of what we do or have done.

This could mean two things:

Clearly, it would be amazing if it was the former, so I suggest you test whether it’s the first or the second that happened. I’ll show you how you can test it (at least enough to moderately convince me):

  1. State your method of telepathy beforehand (for example, ‘repeat the word “weather” inside your head for the first minutes after you arrive at your desk’). Make sure it’s something easy, like enticing your coworkers to say a specific moderately common word (“weather”). Also write down under which conditions you figure the telepathy was successful (someone said “weather” within the first 20 minutes you got inside). It is important that you do this before you do the experiment (you could even post them here if you want to be believable). It is also important that you state beforehand how long you will do the experiment.
  2. On each even date you go to work, practice the telepathy. If you witness the conditions that you had described beforehand, mark the date with a big green cross on your calendar, if you didn’t, mark it with a big red cross. Ideally, let one of your skeptic colleagues do the marking for you, just so you can prove them wrong afterwards (and to eliminate bias, of course).
  3. On each odd date you go to work, do not practice the telepathy at all, but pay attention to the conditions that would have made telepathy successful if you had practiced it. If you witness those conditions, mark the date with a big green circle on your calendar, if you didn’t, mark it with a big red circle.
  4. Do this for a few months. Preferably ask some friends to do it as well.
  5. Gather all the information: the total number of green crosses, red crosses, green circles and red circles.
  6. Analyse the data statistically to see how likely it is you’re telepathic (feel free to post the data on the forum here, then I’ll do the statistics for you)

Then of course, if the data makes you an exceptionally proficient telepath, we have to do follow-up studies (at least one where we switch the odd and the even days, to test if telepathy only works on even days / people only mention weather on odd days / etc), probably supervised by a team of psychologist who can make history if they could describe the first scientifically proven human telepath.

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Look man, I’m not trying to test this anymore and i’m not like professing this to be a gospel thing. More like an oddity.
Linear things don’t seem as interesting as they normally did before hand. So i could formulate methods and such but have issues sticking to it just due to the nature of experience.
Also it almost seems serendipitous. Which seems fitting if you’re playing in god’s realm it’s hard to nail down lolz
The guy who wrote the stuff about telepathy was a Harvard psychologist xD

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Do you know the warm progress under the stars?
Do you know we exist?
Have you forgotten the keys to the kingdom?
Have you been born yet, and are you alive?

Let’s reinvent the gods, all the myths of the ages
Celebrate symbols from deep elder forests
Have you forgotten the lessons of the ancient war?

We need great golden copulations

  • Jim Morrison

I keep thinking I’m going to reach a point in this discussion where I’m OK with the idea that we’re just on different sides of some philosophical divide, and just shrug and walk away - but you keep mentioning things where we are so close and yet on different sides that I can’t help but keep poking at those edges.

And this is the part where I’m genuinely confused - you seem to have drawn a line at the motion of elementary particles and said - any descriptions beyond here do not add any additional complexity - and I’m honestly a bit puzzled.

Let’s just do a Gendankenexperiment - let’s say you’re some advanced being from out in the Multi-Verse*, and you are capable of popping in and out of any of the available multi-verse bubbles out there, at any time in their existence you choose. Now let’s say you come from a very suspicious/nosy race of advanced beings, who not only want a description of all the elements of that universe, they want a fully functional super-computer model of everything those systems are capable of doing, just in case they should be worried or something.

Now, let’s say that these beings pop up in our universe about 500,000 years after the big bang. They see a huge almost-uniform soup of hydrogen, helium, and lithium. The complexity of this system is pretty low - the various elements can interact in only very limited ways. They press the FF button and pop back into the timeline around 5 million years after the big bang, and now there are all of these other elements - created by the emergent properties of large stars creating heavy metals etc. Also, now that galaxies and planets have emerged from the interplay of fundamental forces, these elements can become concentrated enough, and undergo a variety of energy changes, making organic chemistry possible.

So at this point, even though they’re still describing the motion of elementary particles, the particular state spaces (i.e number of elements available in the universe, the range of possible chemical interactions made possible by organic chemistry) has increased. In order to describe it accurately, they will have to write a more complex program with a larger (but still finite!) state space to model all these new interactions.

I’m not going to belabor the point, but you can see where I’m going with this - if you imagine program they would have to write to account for the state space of

  • all the valid statements that are possible to write using the genetic code available to Earth organisms
  • all the ways in which the conscious awareness of that organism could play out in the actual tissues available to the realm of genetics
  • all the products of conscious awareness as it can be expressed by living tissue, etc

In order to model these phenomena accurately, the models would have to get more and more complex, and exist within an ever-larger series of non-overlapping state spaces.

As such, I am having a hard time understanding how just accounting for the motion of the elementary particles involved provides an accurate or meaningful description of the complexity of that system.

(*and yes - I know that the Multi-Verse is just another theoretical construct )

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