Thursday, December 15, 2016

I just had a dream of a place... all I want to do is go back.

This is what happened, as literally as I can say it.
Insides were contsantly becoming outsides, the borders of all things changed whether you looked at them or not. I was at work on a pizza.
Then she scooped me off with a seductive proposition, grinning at each other, "That's not a no," Yer damn right it isn't. So long as I was cool to menage. Couldn't forget about my munchies tho. We tried phones but the digits wouldn't sit still. She told me just find them in the hotel towering up, right there.
Never did find my way back to that 'zza, even re-past the bistro right back down to my kitchen outside the conference center and parking garage. That infinitely descending promenade was damn slippery. I fell too high, waaay too high, only settling by force of will into softness of autumn trees. The promenade was all different now, snaking or slithering here, arching sublimely there, everywhere following hidden geodesics, with boxes of matching ferns and flowers popping up everywhere. Constructed out of perfectly solid granite cubes with no desire to remain so. I had no choice but to try to find my way in Hotel Hedon.
The elevator up is a jumble, people here are serious in suits flocking like geese on cue here and there. I find the boyfriend, with another girl naturally, but he hasn't seen here since I have. I go trying doors and that's when it gets weird. On the upper floors, things grow twisted dark and confused. I'm in too deep and masturbatory monsters lounge with their slave-fantasms, spiked organs on tentacles with eyes watching me as all colored juice blows up in their faces, I've eaten way past my fill, dark room cornered, comic book frames with red ragged words spelling out my misery...
Nothing but vile toxic darkness... gradually gradually subsiding into
And scchooop back in front of the knoll, just past the bistro where we discovered numbers don't work. Something isn't right... some sort of simulation? I started wandering down again, it was day, time to go to work? Excuse me i just... I have nooo idea what's happening right now or to me. What is this? An old soul half materialized... face untwisting and zoop and "how do you do, youngling? Oh ho ho, you're in for it." This is only my second day here!
He calmly strolled off into oblivion, with some purpose I could tell. But what was mine, pick up these, fruits scattered about? They just change shape the moment you touch them. I wonder what happens if you hurt-move an animal-form, they can't be real animals? Which is it, a dog fox aardvark raccoon? Won't sit still but.. my it certainly acts real. hesitant but trusting, I pet it's chin, and suddenly I stop wondering, I will leave them be...
So many souls. So maany. Noise from down there but no fury. What are we doing, who are you? She doesn't know she's here yet - thinks she's still wheelchaired back in her own life. She's hanging on a ledge and I'm just above her now, she just stares without motion. Get up, get up! Youre big and bold and beautiful, look at your legs! And I drag her up and she comes to and the crowd cheers, and now I'm in the flow, up a fractal staircase to a concrete clearing. "My mood wheel needs a spin, help me, young man."
Together we heave the red-orange iron trefoil, It won't go any further, it's getting lodged in the floor. "That's just enough, just enough so she's in the circle now, you see? And you're a crow, right on the edge here." Aaahh yes I do see, the women here have been together a long time, whatever that means here and now it's blue-green out of the rock again, it could go anywhere, be any thing... I'm off, on the promenade again...
I begin my descent and awaken.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

On Organismic Computation

On Organismic Computation

This is introductory, so I skip over a lot of very interesting questions, which I have every intention of covering in detail later.
        Here I wish to introduce a new theory of computation, which relies heavily on biological and cybernetic intuitions. It in no way erases Turing theory (theory of Turing machines), but offers another branch from the same tree. Right now, its connection with Turing theory is not completely clear. It is not a priori contradictory to suppose that some living organism may have computational power equivalent to a Turing machine. It may be that a framework will be useful which distinguishes biological information from classical information. In that case, one could just as well have classical Turing machines as quantum and biological Turing machines. This piece already hints at how such a concept might be used.
        However, it should seem obvious that in most cases, living things are nothing like the mathematical objects laid out by Turing. First, they cannot expand themselves arbitrarily in the aid of a single computation; they are subject to economy. Also, as one observes animals continously navigating the Earth through time, discrete "input" and "output" phenomena are not present except perhaps in social animals. Indeed, to the animal itself, the only thing distinguishing "input" from "output" appears to be intentionality. The traditional account is that one passively recieves input, while one actively and rationally achieves output.
        Allowing that some actions and behaviors are not entirely intended or "enacted", the picture becomes muddier. Also, any tangible output is also part of the input; feeling muscles exert is a result of exerting them. Hence it is only by an animal's own distinction between "inside" and "out" that it seems coherent to think of oneself as a computational device at all, if one's intuition of "computation" is guided by Turing theory. (Don't take me to mean that only animals "compute" - they are only the most viscerally obvious example).
        Presumably, this border between organism and environment is only explicitly given to the organism itself, i.e., it perceives the border more clearly than any other. If "input" and "output" depend on the situation of this border, it seems to me then that no theory which gives only a first-person (phenomenological) account of "input" and "output" can distinguish individual organisms' computations from cooperative computations undertaken by multiple individuals. That is, to each organism, it would symmetrically seem that the other is just a part of the environment feeding it input. The communicating parts should be in some sense "aware" of one another if they are to truly cooperate.
        So if we're gonna make this work, we need to expand the framework.
        The first step I'd like to take is following David Deutsch in conceiving of computations as consisting of arbitrary physical processes/motions. The paradigm is this: One prepares the computational apparatus, a physical system, in a state (along with input), and allows it to come to "rest," i.e. achieve some stationarity. If one can establish a correspondence between the set of input states with the domain of some function F, and if the "final state" resulting from each input corresponds to F(input), the apparatus can be said to compute F.
        Quick remark. The Church-Turing thesis in this setting becomes "Every physical process can be simulated by some other physical process," which is quite a thought provoking idea, but a bit to the side of my goal here.
        Physical automatons can be defined on this basis. At the very least, if a physical "theory of everything" is mathematically possible, we suspect their "transition functions" could be given by the theory. Theories we have now illuminate this. If one had system that could be relied upon to behave classically, its evolution would be given by the equations of motion. A "pure" quantum system would evolve according to its "rules," whether given by Schrodinger time evolution or something else [e.g. in theories of quantum thermodynamics in which entropy increase is the "rule"]
Here metaphysics enters the picture a little too strongly to ignore entirely. Idealists may find the rest contentious, but materialists won't find cause to object. I treat the mind as if it consisted solely of physical processes/motions. An idealist theory is probably possible, and would interest me greatly. Perhaps a dualist theory would have elements of each.
        Leaving philosophy behind, a physical Turing machine is achieved by simply expanding the above automaton to include expandable storage. Lord knows how you'd build one. But it's easy to define and imagine. In fact, the chief engineering difficulty would be getting to run itself; if it has human help, almost any place in the universe can be turned into a Turing machine: just write on it! However, my claim is not that any organism is a physical Turing machine, i.e. that it's life constitutes one, but I do take certain similarities as my starting point for a theory of organismic computation.
        A finite automaton's evolution, or the output of a Turing machine, can be computed by anyone provided a complete set of transition functions, which determine the "motion" of the machine. It doesn't matter if the word "motion" is metaphysically precise, only that the system presents itself as having changed. Quantum theory doesn't allow us to ascribe to arbitrarily precise "states" to a system in terms of observables quantities, i.e. points in a Euclidean phase space, but such descriptions often suffice for very large systems. Taking that into account, I prefer to use "motion" in a way that remains vague, to describe qualities of observed systems rather denoting the use of any particular mechanical theory.
        Now we're ready. The basic idea is that any repeatable motion can be, in principle, used to help decide something. Motions need not be reversible - they must be reproducible in the same sense as a scientific experiment or DNA sequence. Given a decent knowledge of possible motions, all that's needed to compute is some way of acting on whatever it is that's moving, in order to "start" it from a desired position.
        Our seed will be intuition about "performing actions." Expanding my own intuition, I find a few key characteristics. Of course, this is a potential branching point from which alternate theories might grow.
0) Actions are possible motions of a whole. This to say they are physical processes thought of as being "contained" in a name-able place; spatially bounded. Call this t
1) Actions can be referred to by names, whether or not they can be related in detail through writing or not. On this basis we can have say we have at our command a structured collection of actions. (Which can be studied mathematically, presumably). If one were navigating a written flow chart while making a decision, certain actions are obviously possible: Go back; Go back and change answer; Reset. We can imagine it working the same if the person had only a mental image of the diagram, rather than a written copy.
2) Actions modify the present in its entirety. Specifically, they may even change knowledge of themselves. One can forget what one just did to get here, even departing from the original idea altogether. This has the consequence that actions need not be functionally reversible even if one has complete control of the system, regardless of thermodynamic considerations. The obvious example is erasing a white board that contained necessary information that no one present remembers.
3) Actions work analogously to mathematical functions. They transform what is present, and would allow for a reproduced state to transform the same way any number of times. I'll speak on this below.
A word is necessary on the characteristics of biological "states." I'd argue that organisms are necessarily uncertain of the configuration/motion of the material which constitutes them. It's conceivable that some microscopic part could be re-arranged independent of all sensory apparatus as well as of all mental computations. Either "bodily state" could correspond to the same quality of existence. This recalls an idea from classical thermodynamics, a principle that many microstates may correspond to the same macrostates.
        It'd seem that tiny bits nevertheless add up to something. Just by experiencing the moment and performing measurements on the organism, it is impossible to detail its constitution in terms of imperceptible parts. (I could conjecture an information theoretic theorem applicable to arbitrary systems which can be considered "aware," or even "organized," but I'll leave that for another time.)
This uncertainty has the consequence that we're never sure exactly what we're acting on, so that even though we suppose actions work essentially by transitioning where we're at into where we're going, that principle isn't enough to control yourself with arbitrary accuracy, since you can't know your departure or destination precisely. I've made no mention of quantum uncertainty.
        Even though actions can in theory be symbolized, I'm assuming they are known qualitatively. So applying the last paragraph, of course we're never sure exactly "which" action we're performing; microscopic prescription eludes us as well as description. So we never where we are or what we should be doing, but if the phenomena of my "actions" are in any way tied to mechanics (and I think they must be), we can assume (hope?) that some mechanical theory could give a more precise account of a particular "action" (whether or not know that theory now!).
        So I think it's safe to assume that actions "do something," whether or not we know exactly what it is. That something may not be deterministic in the sense that an action produces the same outcome from a given "input" every time, but we can be sure to find a pattern in the outcomes. (Even if the pattern appears "random" and unordered, its disorder can be described.)
        Recalling that mathematical functions serve to abstractly link between two structures (domain and range), it seems that actions, at least at a theoretical level, play the same role as a function on the "state space" of the oragnism's computational workspace.
        The epistemology of actions and their "mathematicity" should definitely be explored. But not now. Onward...!
        Now you can see that actions can be allowed to play the role of acceptable input symbols to an automaton or Turing machine. A family of transition functions d(s,A) could equivalently describe all possible motions. The alphabet of actions represents abilities and limitations for computation.
Note that "what is acted on" also influences what can be computed. Suppose you have a large supply of pencils and paper. Now suppose instead you have only a beach of sand to write on with a stick, which can be counted on being erased by the waves "forever." Whatever could be computed by someone (e.g. solving a mathematical problem according to a precise theory) with the aid of these slates, the consistent loss of information on the beach would surely have some effect. On the other hand, if the paper or pencils run out, and one has no means to acquire more, there is an upper bound on how much info can be processed with it (assuming a minimum readable symbol size). It is not clear whether either has "greater" power a priori (remember, there is no general hierarchy of computational devices in terms of power). Locally, a computer sees no difference between the slates (factoring out bodily mechanics!); writing out a few lines of an equation for instance, before any waves come or supplies run out.
        I'd rather express the above axioms more clearly, specifically in reference to the body of an organism. Its living state is referred to as well.
1) Actions operate on what is present, to produce patterns of behavior.  Actions on a bodily state are repeatable if the bodily state can be reproduced.
2) If the body were to return to a previous state and perform a known action repeatedly, a pattern would emerge in the resulting processions of states. I'm using the word "pattern" in a broad enough way that even "no pattern" or utter randomness counts. If it can be perceived, if it can be known, it can be studied and described, at the very least in one's own internal language. [Actions are "mathematic" in a broad sense]
3) This pattern is the basis for symbolizing an action by some letter, e.g. "A," or by words deemed appropriate (such as the Hamiltonian operator in quantum mechanics). Likewise, the ability to recognize states of self justifies symbolizing them. We can thus make formal statements like A(s = pattern. Here "A" acts on (s, an organismic state.
        Formalism can at times be useful, and I propose it only as a potential tool. We can consider the algebraic properties as well as spelling and grammar of various alphabets.
A(B(s). This is an action applied to a pattern. We should interpret it as a pattern of patterns: The action A applied to any state which follows the pattern B(s). Concatenating actions with complex behavior seems to exponentially increase the trajectories one must consider. Seems like fertile ground for mathematics. Beautiful harmonies may lie within even simple alphabets of actions.
        For instance, any cycle would surely be of great interest, if its factors varied widely and unpredictably in their behavior: A(B(C(D(E(F(s = F(s. We can imagine information being created and destroyed arbitrarily, yet in some sense still being "preserved" by virtue of the structure of the systems behaviors. Is that crazy? Of course, this apparent preservation could be considered a coincidence. However, it does suggest a scheme in which actions for keeping a specific piece of information can be encoded concisely, if indeed such cycles happen at all.
The "=" identifies results, not processes, so that the above equation cannot be interpreted to mean that doing F feels the same as doing F, then E then D and so on, just that doing those would result in the same long term pattern.
        Another interesting possibility is that the action one performs changes imperceptibly. After a long enough time the result may be perceptible (like a big swimming pool with a slow leak.) Letting A^n = B, supposing the drift to be uniform, we can go back and differentiate the results of the various A^k's (provided we made some decent record of the throughput during the drift).
        The formalism allows a distinction to be drawn between actions which historically led to a similar outcome, and compositions of historical parts into historical wholes and decompositions of wholes into parts:
        A(s = B(s for any particular s is distinguished from A(x = B(x for every possible input x. As you can see, this expresses neatly something that is awkward with ordinary English, so at the very least the formalism is efficient. In particular, a decomposition such as A(x = C(B(x that holds for every x in some "problem space" denotes knowledge of how to stop and resume A. It would suffice to record B(x, then to reproduce this state later and enact C.
        This gives us a nice way to think of actions as being wholes consituted of parts. It's hard to say how fine we could in principle refine the resolution of a sequence... it seems this would serve as a measure of how "automatic" the action feels. If an action can't be decomposed, its inner workings must remain entirely mysterious. One simply does it. For me, adding 1 to a number is a bit like this. That automatic-ness can be taken as an axiom, as in Peano arithmetic.
        Compared to machine-like computations, the most glaring characteristic of living computations is that they don't start and stop discretely. Life consists of unifed, continuous operation. The closest analog to "halting" is an apparent lack of motion (as well as some idea that the system won't spontaneously leap into motion). One must decide what to make of the throughput as one goes.
Organismic computation may depend on a living, thinking, feeling subject to "run," so long as its aware of itself. This means that we can "call" functions involving intuition, preference, quality. Any intuition an animal has can in principle be relied on to influence a decision, whether or not it can be codified as a written rule or simulated on a deterministic machine. This should be developed much more.
        "Programs" on such devices therefore can be written entirely in "pseudo-code," translated according to the organism's ability. Any confusion about how a program should run is somewhat analogous to an error in compiling.
        The success of spoken language for teaching manufacturing and engineering processes to one another is an example of this. Theories of arts and music are also an example. "Play a low G," (in the context of some understood instrument) serves as a pseudo-code whose actual "instructions" would be ultimately carried out physiologically. You don't need to go over and physically move a person's body into position to conduct an orchestra!
        I want to emphasize again that I'm not claiming anything about the totality of an organism's processes. It is possible to think many phenomena of the mind this way, and it seems to me powerful but in no way "ultimate."
        Thus far, the narrative of a living computation is this:
Symbols or simulated objects are prepared in a mental context or actual or simulated environment. One need only some momentary evolution rule to "let the system fall" (flow) where it may. If one is trying to make an important decision, likely one has some idea of what acceptable or non-acceptable results look like. Settling into one of these categories would have a clear implication for the decision.
The evolution may dictate that there is no "halting," i.e., no decision is reached. Or the device may halt, but it's answer may be indistinct or ambiguous. A key feature of living computation is that an organism decides when to cease a computation.
        Whatever the result, it is witnessed as living information. The quality of this info can be interpreted however is useful. For example, to work with a classical Turing machine, one would naturally translate the qualities and symbols apparent in the mind into bodily actions to influence the machine, and likewise the machine's behavior to influence further mental computations.

Thinking of an organism as a computational device ---

        In the literature of physics, devices appear as abstract objects which "do things" at a theoretical level. One need not specify how to instantiate them in order to employ them in diagrams which indicate function. The theory of electronic circuits is a great example of this. It is also used in daily life. For writers, a pen is something that lays ink on a surface. Beyond that, the specifics of its operation need not concern you (unless you want to repair it or build a new one!)
        Let's just say a computational device is any physical system that performs computations. Then if an organism can set up by itself, any automaton, the organism may operate on it by a set of rules to perform computations, and is naturally a computational device.
        You and I have many routines that we use to help make decisions involving various "inputs." Is the way blocked? But it's not clear if these are mathematical functions like those computable by Turing machines. We call a machine a "computer" because we suppose it correctly computes known values. But usually we're trying to find out something we don't know.
        Just saying this, I've left it as a matter of conjecture whether an organism's mind can be described solely in terms of computations (defined as they are here). Whether or not that's true, thinking organisms can employ computations in their lives, which is obviously the case for humans.
This is why I'm not sure it's appropriate to call an organism a "computer" or "machine" of any sort. It can compute functions, but it's not obvious whether everything it does can be considered a computation. If a computation "happens", but it didn't involve anyone "reading" or "writing," is anything performing a computation? I think it's a bit like asking about falling trees in deserted forests.         It'd seem awareness makes some difference; natural processes become signs in the light of consciousness, and only in this light.
        However, just about any well understood biomechanical aspect of an organism could in principle be used to encode, communicate, or compute something. I refer you to the literature on DNA computing. So it's also not insane to think perhaps organisms can be considered holistically as computers. If that's so, what is it that they compute?
        Biological "state" and information must be explored in far greater detail. If we can consider a topology on all possible (and known/remembered) states, then organismic computations are almost like topological automata. Maybe this suggests a useful framework. It allows us to talk about how actions interact with the intrinsic structure of the "state space." My first idea for a topology is to define a closed set surrounding some (s as the of the region of states which are accessible from (s given some resource limitation. Considering all possible self-imposed resource limitations up until the limit of the actual pool, we generate the topology of states. If we allow time to be a resource as in traditional computer science, we get a time topology. Time is a bit odd, though. As in quantum mechanics, we shouldn't expect it to behave exactly like energy. Much more later.
        It is fascinating to note that we can count using physical representers (such as stones), or entirely within the mind using symbolic means, or indeed with electronic systems like the one you have before you. Thus many computations seem to (spatially) exceed the organisms that use them.                 Cybernetic aspects of computation, as well as fundamental aspects of cooperative computation will be explored in my next essay.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Call to self-empowerment and self-policing [pamphlet]

The police's presence/organization is so often justified to me by a cinematic, white picket horror fantasy of a band of dangerous men coming into your comfy house at night and having their way with your curvy, dolled wife (bird-of-paradise). It takes a certain kind of learned stupidity to think locking yourself in a box is going to keep you safe.
Why is it "just obvious" that we need to divide labor like we have? Into cops and robbers? It seems "obvious" to me that it's terrible and needs serious revision. Creating a difference in powers has led to system-wide abuses, and reinforces the systematization of those abuses at every political level. The institution won't spontaneously heal itself, because it is engaged in an unjust war with its own constituents. Individual officers with desire for reform balk at the enormity of the task and the enmity of the institution to any type of change. They've got to organize.
Meanwhile, I feel constantly forced into bizarre political contortions just because of a dude with a gun standing behind a long chain of "because I said so"s aka financial contracts. Ask him why he's doing what he's doing, and he'll give the same answer. There's no sense to it, just the raw differential. All because we have willfully disempowered ourselves for the sake of the drama of a campfire tale. ("And then, right as the bad men we're about to do a bad thing,.......... wait for it........ the heroes BURST IN, and said, 'I AM THE LAW.'")
But this cute little fable (the good order defeating bad chaos) has no fuel in daylight. Look around you, size up the dudes you see. There are not that many dudes much stronger than me. Yes, I'm large, but it only took about 5 years to develop the strength I use daily, and not more theory and pracitcal guidance than is available all over the internet (google "body building"). Start now. 2 smaller men whotrained that hard could take me, in a contest of muscle strength alone.
And that's the hinge of this whole thing - teamwork, or it's lack - you feel you're alone in the world of men and have no one to count on than the king's men. Perhaps it's your heroic/erotic idealizations that have contorted you thus, and offer you now some lure or sweet treat. Couldn't be further from the truth, tho!
There are enough good, average men, to take on the oversized bullies that arise.
All we have to do is stay alert and police OUR OWN COMMUNITIES.
Why is that so hard? Is it because we don't trust each other? Then LET'S LEARN TO TRUST ONE ANOTHER!
It's not that hard!
Is it the guilt of force...? If you're prepared to call the police on someone, you're already emotionally prepared to use force on them, unless you hide your mind from the true nature of police power. Denial is weak - we want you to be STRONG. Yes, me, and all on the side of world peace. It's better for us if you're strong.
Is it because it's a tough job and you don't wanna do it? Because all of a sudden it's your ass on the line - and not someone else's, FOR yours?
This is what I mean by "you're disempowered." When you are a coward, and everything about your society tells you that's right.
Well here I am. It takes no magic talent to understand yourself as a potent thing. All it takes is the will to looking deep within yourself - this will to depth and understanding IS real power, and that is where you can start to empower yourself.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Plastic Addiction is a Tendency to Reduce Earth's Health

Occassionally my distaste for plastic is met with some type of scorn and confusion by capitalists who style themselves as rugged and pragmatic. "It's cost effective in the short term, what could be wrong?" They haven't hit rock bottom yet.
The problem with this statement is a narrow view of "cost." Insisting that individual human costs are the only ones relevant, we cut ourselves off from the wider truth - we're hurting the community.
Their apparent confusion is confusing to me, because the stuff is obviously appalling to any ecotherapist. Most plastics are clearly designed against all life - that's precisely what makes it so effective as packaging. Of course, these days, there is enthusiasm for biodegradable plastic - but it does not suffice to say "abracadabra." The problem is that to effectively store perishable items, one wishes to protect them from hungry, persistent, self-producing life - to form a barrier whose strength against invasion and corruption should increase with the desired time of storage. The problem is not that we simply haven't yet invented good enough technology - it is that mathematics leads us to suppose there is an inherent "competetion" between our ability to stabilize perishables, and the health of the planet.
Perhaps the simplest "first" guess to describe such a relation would derive from the notion of a conservation "law:" first we divide the living world into "human-stored" or "rigid" parts and "non-owned" or "fluid" parts. Then, supposing a given quantity which describes the health of the system, its "total accessible parts" or "workspace," we have
rigid + fluid = total.
However, it's not quite this simple, since there are some rigid parts which are not actually human owned - things like rocks. Perhaps, an optimist could assume that for every human permutation which hardens living "fluid," wild life softens some non-human "solid." Carried on long enough, this logic would convert the whole vivable planet into self-unconsuming void, so this isn't very optimistic afterall. That is, given finite raw material, a process which consumes it must halt in finite time.
It is indeed the case that ("well-tuned") life tends to soften up hard, dead rock and gradually organize it into a healthy living system. However, it seems that humans have an easier time figuring out how to sabotage life than life does mutating ways to deal with that sabotage. Plastic is the prime example of this. We know some existing life eats plastic - but clearly, it is not evolving this ability (and using it) as quickly as we are turning food-for-many into food-for-almost-nothing. Look to the gyres for clear evidence.
This means that all you have to do to clog up and eventually kill any living system is to introduce a high enough mass of plastic into it. This is what we're doing to our planet right now - to the biosphere, life itself - using fossil fuels which cost millions of years of planetary processes to quickly convert organic material into plastic, that is, healthy matter into less healthy matter. Every piece of plastic you consume makes you complicit in this derailment.
 Ordering another to produce it for you doesn't absolve you.
What are you gonna do, look away? You can bury your head in the sand as long as you want, but the longer, the worse it gets. Eventually, the beach is gonna fill up with plastic and you won't be able to dig in the sand any longer without cutting through it.
Or perhaps, "someone else" will deal with your problems for you? Some for-profit scientist, some beneficient capitalist will again rescue us from our own thoughtlessness? Perhaps they will appear with a swell of symphony music from the loudspeakers, and we will hail them as our rightful Ford and savior.
So what then, you just have to pay for your credential to work in the plastic-eating industry? You're still just a peon who can never reach the top - still a contempted, pathetic thing that no one reallywants except insofar as you are profitable to them. You're just there to run the machines someone else made and ordered you to run - still a slave to another's intellect. An epsilon.
As optimism fades into the realization that inventing lifeforms is actually much harder and costlier than destroying them, we have to consider the long term: If we hope to solve the problem of plastic with a plastic-based lifestyle, how long can we continue trying various avenues of research before the search for a solution actually becomes futile - until the health of human-colonized systems diminishes so greatly that we can no longer keep up the research? Until mere survival becomes our overwhelming concern, and our plastic-filled world becomes a fixed assumption?
What happens when we can no longer negotiate our heads through the sand?
I don't know, but it doesn't sound fun.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

On Health

Health is important, but hard to define. Some people go by their idea of normal function or appearance; in any case, the idea seems to be that health is required to satisfy one's desires, whatever form they may take (functions, motions, emotions, experiences, etc.). Since some desires are considered by societies to be taboo, the situation is a bit more complicated.
    My people, Americans, of course, speak mostly of individual health. I hear from all corners of America that society is sick, but there's clearly no consensus on what this sickness is; often side A thinks the fault is side B and vice verse.
    My proposal is that health be defined for anything that can be understood as alive (even if only partially). Any self-proclaimed environmentalist should agree that our planet seems sick; it's reasonable that we have an idea of planetary health. The story we have is that a few thousand years ago, it was only humans (in some places) that were sick. Most of everything else still ran well, comparitively.
    Throughout the Earth's history, we believe the planet assumed many climates and ecological forms. Finding remants of old organisms still fascinates us and excites the imagination. Since the system and its history are so much larger than individual humans can cope with, it is far more difficult to define "absolute health" than "relative health." So for now, considering only relativity, we need only concern ourselves with what changes health.
    Any attempt to improve the health of an animal, plant, society, or planet obviously must seek some goals. In this spirit, I propose a more or less mathematical definition.
    We must understand ourselves as partaking in the vastly complex process which is the living film surrounding the rocky earth. The atmosphere often serves to bind the biosphere together; without a nice big cushion of air, plants and animals couldn't cycle air.
    I call a being in such a situation a tangle, since it realizes itself and its actions as tangled up in as many planetary cycles as it has active consituents (air, water, carbon, energy in photons/electrons, etc.). Here I refer to a chemical understanding of the body, but I believe any unit of any 'scale' could be used.
    Insofar as a tangle can content (stabilize? fulfill? re-secure?) itself in the environment with which it is tangled, it can think of itself as healthy. I just leave it up to any tangle reading this to define its own contentment. Some distinct alterations in lifestyle may be adapted to adequately that no distinct difference in health can be noticed. In fact, there may be apparent many such configurations accessible from any given configuration.
    It's reasonable to assume that any healthy configuration becomes understood as a norm after some time, such that with increasing normalness, more subtle variations from the norm can be deteced. So deviation from a given norm doesn't necessarily indicate movement towards ill health.
    As one more fully understands the extent to which one is tangled with other accessible systems, one may see one's individual health as related to wider communities' healths. The connection is most clear when an other community member's processes are understood as being in series with one's own organismic processes. In such cooperative circumstances, slowing down the other's processing potentially limits one's own health.
    One way to decrease health, then, is to disrupt a cycle by processing its elements in a way that limit other life's access to them. Discarded plastics are a good example of this.
    If one understands a border between two systems in series, one can affect health by changing the physiology of the border. Clogging vital tubes is an easy example of this. If you were to block the pipes of a house or the arteries of an animal, you'd soon notices drastic changes.
    Weakening or destroying systems you cooperate with is by definition unhealthy.
    In human societies, killing friends might be a way of reducing one's own health, if those friends helped in some vital process (not to mention any guilt and community responses). Even if one learns to fill their old roles, it will take more time for one to do the tasks of many. Should other vital tasks pop up, the increased time requirement may leave one stretched to thin, relying to much on wearing pharmacodynamics or other tension, possibly reducing health. Is there some equilibrium point, given a situation? I don't know - but don't work too hard on the problem.
    Hurting people to the extent that they refuse to cooperate with you is often unhealthy. If the situation goes without remedy, such wounds may fester and reduce future health.
    Though complete control of the biosphere necessarily eludes humans (being as we are only a small portion of the total process), we can imagine as an ideal a complete understanding of every cycle you and I take part in. Remember that some cycles might be expected to take many millions of years longer than humans will survive. In actuality, some of them perhaps aren't exactly cycles given a time frame of even billions of years; perhaps some atoms belonging to you will end up in outer space or deep within the planet, only to emerge long after life has extinguished. It's impossible to say. However, we can expect that a substantial portion of the atoms that constitute Terran life would look cyclic if you could only get enough info. Another option to think about "non-cycles" is to just "black out" the non-living parts of the world, leaving it unspoken of, so that such material "disappears." This is actually a more accurate picture of a "cycle" (as I'm using the word) than a perfect circle - there should be some fuzzy dark part to denote our uncertainty of the total cosmos - indeed of any process we take part in.
    The total amount of you or me expected to be in cycles vs. non-cycles, then, is either a matter of quantitative analysis/estimate, or somewhat irrelevant, depending on your goals. (I'd be very interested to hear any number you might come up with - this may begin to give us an idea of what "absolute health" could mean.)
    Consider the food you eat, and any other materials required to sequester its nutrients and energy. Where will your waste go? Will it be mixed with the ocean and atmosphere? Even if a certain constituent couldn't be observed to cycle in any lifetime, it at least came from somewhere in the non-living cosmos and went back, perhaps to return some day. The faster a body like yours is able to access its re-processed waste, the more bodies like yours can live healthily at once; the more fuel flowing, the hotter the fire.
    Perhaps an eco-utopian gola, then, would be to configure our current species to cooperate as smoothly as possible. This "optimal health" would be a bit like a Nash equilibrium: no change in lifestyle could lead to greater health for everyone. What if there is a whole spectrum of such configurations? It would come down to preference.
    If you live on an organic farm (depending on type/schema), you may have a very good idea of where most of your waste will end up: cycling back into yourself and allied humans. Humans can be fickle, of course.
    Mine is a non-deterministic understanding of life, which has yielded a non-deterministic understanding of health. Being more an aspect of a continuing lifestyle than any one moment of that life, understanding our own health guides us, but this understanding being non-determining, it does not rule us. The rate of addiction in America proves it; we get into unhealthy situations more or less willingly (though not necessarily knowingly). Note that this can be understood from many addicts' own viewpoints: admitting you have a problem is a first step to recovery. Something about the lifestyle they've gotten into isn't working for them any more. This is an illustration of how "health" need not refer to any norm - rather only a relative judgment of how desirable a situation is.
    It seems that health is necessarily sustainable, but not identical with stability or predictability.
These ideas are still somewhat in experimental stages. I am interested to hear questions or critiques.

Monday, March 14, 2016

Thoughts on Mindfulness

It's been very interesting to watch the subtle changes in the decor at the local 24-hour Fitness, and in the fitness industry in general in the past few years. Modern "mindfulness" is definitely creeping in to every corner of commercial scene, complete with the well-composed, aesthetically satisfying yoga photos and cute tips like "stress is bad for stressed out bodies! don't stress!" Certainly, I welcome any increased awareness of holistic health in a society that has for far too long been obsessively reductionist.
What I've found bizarre, in a hard-to-put-a-finger-on sorta way, since I first became aware, some years ago, of the mindfulness movement [or is it just an industry?] is that it is in every way incongruous with the big picture of industrial life. Slowing down and smelling the roses is completely antithetical to what our controllers/managers/rulers would have us do in their ideal universe. Mindfulness, pursued authentically, would be extremely dangerous to the current socio-politico-economic order. When you start to reflect deeply enough to realize that huge amounts of collective stress and anxiety drive not only every-day production and markets, but culture, you're gonna have a tendency to take a step back and go, "wait, what the fuck are we doing here? does it really have to be so unpleasant?"
If the answer you find is "yes," then the goal of mindfulness will always be a farce, just a pose struck for the camera to fit in with a crowd or to sell another magazine: "10 great new de-stressing techniques! Learn them all and be your own master! Take control of your life! [Only $9.99! I'll take one]"
If your heart sings "NO!", you will tend to become interested in political economy in a way that puts you at the forefront of societal innovation; dangerous shit for those in power. They have an interest in stifling the true spirit of mindfulness while using it as just another management technique to maximize the efficiency of their labor force.
We can also interpret mindfulness not exactly at its word, but as just another trend in consumer entertainment, and we can see the figures in the photos as iconizations of ourselves, motivating us with their big, hyperreal, bolder-than-bold relatability. The big powerful slogans, the fit people looking all serious in their cute little outfits. It coheres into an impression of being part of a big important collective project. I also get the feeling like a Big Sibling is watching me from those posters. [And it's barking - "get to work! get fit! let's go! move it!"]
What are your thoughts on the modern mainstream mindfulness movement? I'd love to hear your comments below!

Monday, February 15, 2016

On Therapeutic Supersomatics

The following refers to Thomas Hanna's conception of somatics. Read about it here:
Organismic bodies, that is, those which are capable, in their immediate environments, of producing 'copies' (or 'versions,' iterations) of each of their volatile parts, that is, those which are expended in the motion of life. This notion of indeterminate 'immediacy' tends to inform the perception of a "body as a dynamic whole" strongly; ultimately, we expect every organism to die, so its historical wholeness is not complete in the sense that it will forever continue to reproduce its vital elements.
We seem to have come upon a choice in possible delineations of "bodies," in the sense relevent to this piece, i.e. the every day somatic sense of one's whole body, referred to both in theories of dance and in pop songs. One branch leads towards a focus on the immediacy of the organism's capability to reproduce itself, taking into account energetic and geometric/functional aspects of its whole home. It happens to be that for most life, whether autorophic or not, the limit of production is ultimately the sun's power output, or perhaps more precisely, the flow of energy that occurs when sunlight filters into chlorophylous bodies (again bodies, but of far less complexity than human ones). We can then speak of the "immediacy" in terms of daily power throughput.
Another branch is to mention the expected eventual death of the organism, which has a certain theoretical elegance over the other branch; there is no need to awkardly wield traditionally set-theoretic math by relating an organism to its "total free energy" whether or not it is measured by any organism in the system. Mentioning the organism's historical partialness does not however make the resolution sharp; it just reminds us that there are some components in every organism currently being used/expended that may never be replaced or resynthesized.
These two branches may be travelled freely back and forth as anyone sees fit, to form a shifting description of organismic life.
All this theoretical biology behind, we can define a "superbody" as simply many organismic or subjective bodies which acknowledge one another in some way. It is a literal "coplex" in that it is an evolving system of contacting parts, their motions mutually affecting one another. However, it is not again a "body" in the sense just described. In fact, when organisms "wear out," there is no necessity that they will be reformed, that is, that "new versions" will replace them due to the whole motion of the cosmos. Species go extinct; genotypes disappear from living motion. The structure of DNA does not engender itself; life does that. Furthermore, we have absolutely no basis on which to assume that the whole of the biosphere will die, the way we do with organisms. Indeed, it hasn't yet. It takes much more sophisticated and precise theory about cosmology to predict the eventual exhaustion of all living motion. To see this: For if we don't refer to that theory, what's to say Earth won't just head down some wormhole into another universe which is "less advanced," in the sense of the 2nd law of thermodynamics, and to continue this reincarnation eternally? We must look farther out into the cosmos than Earth to predict complete death.
We have then, no reason to assume a subjectivity emerges from the coplexity of superbody in the same way it does from the coplexity of the body. So whatever theories and practices of body we have discovered and used, ways of generalizing them to superbodies are not clear, and we should first examine what aspects of the body are involved in control of it. Perhaps it'd be advantageous to find a relation between the mathematics of the organism, and those control schemes that have been observed in social organisms. A monogamous, two- or three-child family will be large enough to form a clear model.
The subject necessarily occurs on a sort of "surface" of the whole organism. Awareness feels itself as an interface with the "outside." There is, too, the possibility of interfacing between insides, at least in big mammalian bodies like ours, which become aware of bodies-within-the-body, that is, organs, such as the beating of the heart, or the use of the tongue, the grumbling of the stomach. These are again felt as closed surfaces, that is, geometrically without border. [And here, classic modern topology has suddenly become of great use: The project of a complete classification of such surfaces, up to deformations which preserve access (and inaccess), was completed long ago. We can notate them using just two integer parameters. In fact, the actual bodily situation is simpler, because algebro-topological torsion is completely foreign to somatic experience. The ocular mind, of course, finds non-orientable geometries amenable and harmonious, having been made familiar with the phenomena of optics, but the motions implies by torsion connote bodily pain. It seems to me this is a consequence of the geometry of the universe, the fact that there is no plane of complete reflective symmetry; at least I have not come into contact with one. Projective geometry would be appropriate for somatics along that plane in such a mirrorsphere, as one would experience the right and the left parts as precisely one part. Here I'm referring to the third person as well: "what went in to the plane of symmetry as left and right" become one in the first person. Multiple subjectivity is likewise foreign, as would occur as the subject moves out of the mirror. The basic intuitive objection to torsion in bodily homologies is the distinction between left and right sides of the body, or any of its chiral parts, at least in bilateral somatics]
Losing focus on these inner bodies, or parts, one experiences the body as an undifferentiated whole, a "simple extended substance," as philosophers used to like putting it. Focusing first on the mouth, then anus, and tubing in between, one finds oneself a torus, corresponding to a gastrocentric mode of somatics.
Relax and lose focus, be present with your self, and allow the hole to fade.
We can now notice our nostrils, fusing continuously into our whole ventilation system between the lungs and open air. It is only by third person inspection of lungs that we find a branching pattern of tori with increasing numbers of holes as we branch our awareness further towards the inner surface of the lungs, though our nervous system does not penetrate far enough to put more than 1 or 2 handles on the "normal whole" bodily sphere. Discounting the septum and closing the mouth, one finds still just a sphere, ultimatley, with the lungs a cup depressed within the open nervous dermis.
Lose focus and come to wholeness. Now we focus on our skin to the edge of available ocular resolution, to reveal that "all flesh is like grass." We imagine millions of pores and cracks in the skin-matter, making it seem rather inaccurately conceived of as a sphere. Indeed, we can now postulate the body as a many holed torus, "in truth." It is not, however, the case that these cracks can be felt; touch a finger to your skin, or something smaller. Move the point of contact the smallest amount you can visually confirm. Was there a gap of sensation as the motion occurred? No. The quality of contintuity will most certainly vary with the nerve density of the tissue, but the continuity does not "rip" anywhere. It is also not the case that there is a true figure-ground dichotomy of body-matter and "hole matter," and in fact we find that these visual complements are formed alike by patterns of clustering cells, which again would appear, under microscope, as little bodies, also with porous surfaces. Assuming a sequence of finer resolutions approaching quantum mechanical limits, we find that this roughness of the imaged "body surface" never disappears, only morphs into fuzziness at atomic scales and below, the common ground being emergence of geometrically "sporadic" phenomena.
Relax and let a deep breath out. Come away from the cosmic, back to wholeness.
The point I'm trying to focus on here is the point of focus: where you focus it matters. When we are least focused on any part, and the whole coheres as a "simple whole," we can focus on the quality of wholeness. Re-focusing elsewhere, we find this same quality is present at every point of focus, ocurring as the somatic ground for parts to emerge upon, or in. The body partitions itself not by dividing and destroying the whole, but by resynthesizing the whole-as-part-collection using an abstract framework - specifically, it is focus on many points of focus in parallel - "This hand-figure on everything-else, AND/OR this otherhand-figure on everything-else, AND/OR these foot-figures on everything-else, AND/OR ... " etc. Such expressions fit poorly in linearly ordered text, for the claim is that there is no order to their expression.
Every way we can partition ourselves, it would appear there is some definite volume involved. Yet every partition only adds subinterfaces to the whole, hence does not allow a continuous 3-dimensional reality to form. Closed surfaces are only ever turned into many "smaller versions of themselves" in mutual contact, at least insofar as they remain closed compact surfaces.
There may indeed be some "inner dimensions" of feeling, such as those apparent when sensing warmth or tension emanating from within. However, it is not clear how far these sensations are hooked up to any regulatory apparatus, as is this obvious case in the dermal sense-motor network, and even the awareness along the surface of the esophagus. Lacking this clear and persistent self-feedback, such "emanating" or diffusing sensations can be distinguished from somatics as explored by Thomas Hanna and myself. Somatics is not a complete theory of consciousness.
Having framed organisms as surfaces, it's now natural to think of superorganisms as "products of surfaces," but not just abstract products, rather multiple distinguished surfaces situated within a larger structure to begin with. Placing the environmental structure as ground for the figures of the superorganism's constituents, we can consider the combined surface with an abelian algebraic framework, so that the number of subjects is equal to the first Betti number. Assuming subjects don't "cross," and are sufficiently aware of one another, we have this as a superorganismic invariant across the perspectives of the subjects involved. When organisms stay in contact but their subjectivities disappear to one another, a "rip" occurs in the cybernetic structure and the former superbody "breaks." Note that such traumas in no way alter the raw coplexity of the system; it merely becomes less aware.
The natural economic topology of bodily motions then suffices to determine how mechanical control is exerted by the superbody participants upon one another. "Raw" classical mechanics can in no way predict the whole evolution of the system, but can completely describe each interface action to the participants, up to the limit of resolution. You can see this by meditating upon how you learned to type. The keyboard has a very static resolution built in, so that any forceful enough depression upon the "surface" of the board will result in a linear symbol sequence which can be translated between machines and organisms, a faithful recording of the motion of the interface. Many more examples can be thought of. Whenever material is organized into human useable products, somatics is ultimately involved, allowing construction of narratives solely in terms of tangible and abstract efforts, and it is by tracing the somatic history that we abstract "economic actions" and their resultant tangible-abstract "products." Automating the processes of organization blurs such histories, which may have profound cybernetic implications in itself.
We have a way to think of one another, as surfaces within a common surface, and a way to think of how those surfaces "touch." The superorganism emerges as clearly as this continued touching tends toward some "function," a phenemenon whose presence at least can be agreed upon by all participants, out of sheer necessity: it is in some way powerful, potentially useful or dangerous. A military victory is an obvious example of such functions: All the soldiers, whether victorious or defeated, agree out of practical necessity on the outcome of the battle, if not the fate of the war.
A less violent and more fundamental example is the "function" of a family. To cite an empirical example: family roles are iconized in American and British (at least) television sitcoms, and through their fictional coplexity, the family is hyperrealized as a persistent superorganismic entity. In these family sitcoms, the camera always orients itself around the main web of tensions and accords that arises between regular characters. This shifting web "is" the superorganismic "soma," in reality a plurality of minds acknowledging one another and coplexing.
In the same way as we can consider the control we exert over our individual physiques, we can ask what control we exert over the collective physique. The essential logic of therapeutic somatics is unaltered, so long as we phrased as it only in terms of signal and response. If I have tension in my neck and can't fully relax it, I have lost some amount of control there, or perhaps never had it. If somebody holds my arm down, I have lost some amount of control there. If my nervous system degenerates, I lose control. If people tie me down and give me depressant drugs, I lose control.
It is clear that human superorganisms can sustain only so much violence before they stop functioning as superorganisms, rather devolving into a mere population of (perhaps hostile) coinhabitants. Hence one's control over the collective physique does not increase forever with one's willingness to use force on coparticipants. It is also clear that control is completely lost if one has no will to use force at all, as in the typical organismic case (although "will" is applied awkwardly to plants, it does mechanically analogize).
Therefore signal languages, the corresponding cybernetic schemes, thoughts and emotions must be taken into account in supersomatics, as these tend to have irreducible roles in the methods of control. A modern example is the boot camp drill sergeant. The psychomechanics simply don't work the same if he or she doesn't keep up a certain veneer of strictness.
In the same way then, as we can seek to come to a desirable understanding of our bodies, we can seek to come to a desirable understanding of the superbodies we participate in, so that their quality is good for all subjects, so that "function is enhanced," to speak with the modern jargon.
This practice may scale up arbitrarily with the underlying logic, as one can proceed to find biological coplexes at all scales up to the whole planet. We see that this action of "scaling up" provides an ecosomatic understanding of the biosphere, as interfacing beings within a matrix of their own arrangement, the "whole Gaian superbody." I again stress my opinion that the whole biosphere is indeed not a subject, not a "true organism," as Lovelock would have it. It can, however, be understood as a "true" superorganism, to the extent that its pieces are aware of one another and exert mutual control.
I think this stream of thought and feeling offers great promise. Starting from partnerships toward the family, and extending to so conceived political bodies to ecosystems, the logic of therapeutic somatics may have radical ability to alter the course of history, by tending towards blurring and eventually eliminating the lines between human identity and biological identity in general.

An interesting linear question ocurred while typing, when I couldn't decide on what verb to use when describing participation in somatics.
Does doing somatics involve thinking, or feeling? It doesn't delineate. There is an irreducibly unexplainable aspect to it, always. Don't waste your time trying to say "what it is," because it has already changed by the time you're done saying it.
"THE STRUCTURE. DOESN'T. DO THAT." The body doesn't delineate itself. Probably, nothing does or can; it has always been an idealistic pipedream. It does however, become ground for parts, which appear, visually, delineated in their form and function. There is a trope springing from explorations in visceral horror, which in some way relates to this. Each part appears as a powerful mechanism unto itself, but the whole network of control between them feels eerily uncertain. "What if the arm was left to its own devices? What if my constant exertion of force upon each part is the only thing that keeps them in check?"
The piece of mass media that inspired this particular entry was the sitcom "Good Times," the 12th episode of the first season. The relevant characters are mother, father, and children. The father has become stressed out and abrasive, to the increasing dysfunction of the family and detriment of the furniture. The mother and children form on one side, worried that he has hypertension. There is a chilling moment in which the mother experiences loss of control over the father, after which he continues to escalate in his rage towards interpersonal violence.  Finally, on the cusp of a further escalation, she yells in desparation, stop, and he stops. Soon, the father/husband reveals something of the psychospiritual knot he's in. This conduit re-established, and the signal having been allowed to propagate throughout the family, gradually the tensions begin to resolve, and the rest of the family is restored to their proper authority over the father. They get him to a hospital which allows a revealing moment of hyperreal cultural interface between the Black family and the white doctor, resolving in the reassertion of working class blackness upon the cinematic space. The doctor's ultimate advice was the imperative "relax." It occured to me at this point that therapeutic somatics might be extended between so conceived political bodies.
 An irreducible component in this fictional mechanical example is the mutual familial love on all sides. One thing I genuinely enjoy about family sitcoms is how little tendency they have to rationalize family dynamics. The best writers know when their audience will settle for sentiment.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

On Memetics and Mimesis: Turning McLuhan's tetrad upon social media

As the internet evolves, I become ever more fascinated by it.
Applying McLuhan's tetrad to social media, just to see what happens to the theory when its pushed beyond its historical limit. Textual hashtags and pictorial memes serve the media differently, the former being rather more concise and compact, but they represent a similar departure from the dominant 20th century media: Audiocast, cinema, telecast, comics, and printed periodicals of various periods. [Let me know what I'm missing].
The obvious qualitative difference is to be found in the distributional schemes corresponding to mass publishing and networks organized by hitting the "Accept request," "post," and "comment" buttons. One class of schemes strongly favors centralized economy, the other not so much: it has radically weakened the value of hierarchy in the publication process.
Let's examine the tetrad. This is only one way to focus the lens, however. I'd be interested to see any differing analyses.
1: Pictoral memetics enhances the everyday process of abstracting narratives, themes, and characters from our immediate surroundings. Even our most fleeting thoughts and impressions become the figure of social media.
2: The practice makes obsolete the format of scheduled entertainment. It's all just stacking up in your feed, waiting for you to look at it at your own pace, and it organizes dynamically into a continually shifting "whole" no matter the level of throughput. This flexibility and dynamism is the new "ground."
3: Concisely, reality returns and supercedes hyperreality. The personal and subjective finds itself at last vindicated. From Vaudeville-infused stunts to mic'd and lighted studio (cybernetically transcoded, mixed and mastered by specialized labor force) to Hollywood spectacle in the cushioned, sugared, and perfumed theater, the trajectory towards the hyperreal has been apparent in cinema since the silent era.  Away from the tiny, neurotic, hidden being, and towards the iconic, bold, spectacular event. The trajectory is there in radio, television, even to some degree the popular song [culminating in the radio-rave anthem, think Swedish House Mafia, but that's another story], although this is hardly an innovation belonging purely to the machinic screen: Long before conservative Christians lamented Hollywood's lack of moral integrity in the era of the action spectacle, Plato lamented the psycho-social potential of reciting Homer in public. Odysseus is a hyperreal hero; no human, who works during the day and finds entertainment come evening, would expect to accomplish what he accomplishes. The referenced war had passed into legend by Homer's time, freeing him from any impulse to historical accuracy or realism. He is important to the audience not because he stands for the actions of an actual hero of theirs, but because he represents an ideal of heroism that any audience could learn about by watching: "he" operates on them by telling them the right things to do. Of course, adhering to rationalist aesthetics, we might find this thought objectionable. Morality must be decided upon according to principles, after all, not simply followed blindly!
Even in the most apparently mundane of genres, the family sitcom, we find not an actual family, but a hyperreal, aesthetic ideal of a family: Always cracking jokes and making fun of one another, ocassionally fighting about important issues but always coming back together at the end of the arc. They are an icon, economically, of stability and growth at once, psychologically of the pleasures of life itself, and socially, of all those qualities the hazily defined but nonetheless actual mainstream audience is supposed to judge virtuous in families. And this "supposed to" is at the heart of the modern paradigm: Supposed by *who*? By whoever prepares the media, of course, that specialized and rarefied class of professional entertainers and engineers. Though the sitcom family members go through life changes over the course of the series, their changes in situation are only used to more fully explore the persisent qualities of their character, which must be agreeable to the broader economic and psychosocial narratives. Anyone who wants to discover the true dynamics of bourgeois whiteness and color in America need only trace the history of people of color operate within the frameworks of the sitcom. At every stage, this must be lock step with the real interactions between subcultures, or the show will tend to be cancelled. The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, for example, is about how blackness works in white space, and as such must bow to certain white ideologies, at least within the space of the explicitly given story. A book could be written on that show alone.

[Allow me a digression here.
The camera is more or less forbidden from depicting Smith's character in his native setting of the opening song, in a largely black and brown West Philadelphia neighborhood, presumably. I don't mean to say that the show is not conscious of Blackness, which it surely is. What I mean is that its events could plausibly take place wholly within the white imagination, without reference to the perspective of the Other. It uses the images of blackness that were familiar to average, NBC watching, middle class white audiences at the time. Seeing Will as anything but the black-one-out would detract from the show's exploration of its themes. This is not because black people had not been portrayed in sitcom before 1990, but because that is not an actual place in the canon of the show: The observed motion takes place only in white psychological territory. The entire account of his hometown given in the song would appear to symbolize white discomfort with urban black life, and the resulting tendency to understatement: "And all shootin some b-ball outside of the school. When a couple of guys who were up to no good started making trouble in my neighborhood." [Compare to 19th century depictions of slaves as happy go lucky entertainers.] But Will's not one of *those* black people, that we hear about selling crack and packing heat on street corners: He only got in one little fight before his overprotective mother took extreme measures. Having removed him from the dangers of blackness and inserted him into bourgeois white society, we've made the actuality docile enough to laugh about in comfort. A similar narrative prevails over the life of his uncle Phil, which much more closely resembles the life of a historical person. At every bend in this fictional biography, Phil's blackness [activism, reading Malcolm, listening to James Brown] bows and bends one piece at a time to the prevailing white aesthetic bias, eventually giving way to an almost Uncle Tommish veneer: And what does the show say? Look: it worked for him, here he is with a manor in Bel Air, raising a good family, a secure and impressive sounding bourgeois job, all due to the merit of his hard work. The subconscious message received is to just give in, to cease to be Other, and the rewards of white privilege will be yours. Absolutely fascinating.]

In this way, sitcoms can be used as proxies for all sorts of middle class attitudes. Likely an even lengthier book could be written on the interaction of gender and sexuality within the sitcom.
The common thread is that whatever human question we wish to focus on through the lens of sitcom, we find the answers that come back are iconic and comforting, coming with all the same connotations as the concept "family friendly." This trajectory has everything to do with mid-century economics, which I will leave here undelved. By centralizing and forcibly collectivizing the answers to questions of family, the genre has become impotent to speak powerfully to the organismic reality of family.
Again, the comic book has branched out from voyeuristic, visuo-visceral delights to the full blown graphic novel, every bit as sophisticated in its conception as the Great Novel of modern tradition. This is the essence: A graphic novel of the stature, of say, Watchmen, cannot be undertaken in a merely whimsical way, simply because it takes too much work. Stick figure drawings are for whimsy; hyperrealist noir landscapes are for overhuman icons. It is simply too seriously undertaken a work to deal with issues at any other scale than the spectacular, in analogy to the development of the 2 hour movie.
What has been retrieved by pictorial memetics is the capacity for expressing the subjective over the objective.
4. We now come to the most remarkable aspect of pictorial memetics as pushed through the lens of the tetrad. Pictorial memes, when pushed to their technical and psychosocial limits, flip into *reaction memes,* which merely break the rules which has been adhered to. Turing-mechanical digital pictorial and textual memetics is a stable medium. That is, the medium is in some way a categorical limit. It is unique from the historical media McLuhan considers in that no line proceeds from it to some distinguished medium which rests on it in terms of technical abstraction. We have instead classical Turing computation as limitting the living interface with the medium, and instead must branch into entirely new philosophy, mathematics, and science to see new meme-media emerge: Quantum computing and biocomputing offer two possible places of departure. But it's not clear whether these modes will emerge as social network infrastructures unto themselves, or whether we will again re-route into the old structure, or stop using social media altogether relatively soon. Having never observed the flip from classical determinism into radical non-determinism on a societal level, we cannot even establish a probability distribution over these possibilities.
So we find the theory must dissolve itself when pushed to the limit. I think this is only another form of the intuition that Land called accelerationism, which appears more or less as an idea that Western society must ultimately force itself out of existence (and further, the '-ism:' what could be more just?). However, the supposedly inevitable singularity has not happened, and doesn't appear to be yet on its way at all. It has become less clear over the past couple of decades whether anything is accelerating at all, whether there is a tendency towards anything at all. There is intimate relation between the bursting of Land's philosophical bubble and that of the tech bubble, though it is too complex to delineate within the rectilinear confines of this blog. That seems to be the paradox of critiquing linear extrapolation using linear extrapolation: Using the theory itself, one can only say what it must be bound to do. But that was the trap we were trying to avoid! Clearly, Western rationalism is not its own solution.
You see, the above paragraph has become confused and only sporadically sensible to any audience of large enough size. However, it does deeply express thoughts and feelings that occur to me daily. This is because what I am attempting to explore and express pushes beyond the limit of the technology we are using: I am trying to refer to actual thought and feelings, which are poorly conveyed with this machinery. And we already know what plastic and metal do when they are pushed past their structural limits, without embarking on this analytic trip.
However better the 2-hour theatrically released movie is suited to conveying heroism, the economics and organization of such works prevents people from interfacing authentically with those heroes.
Posting pictures that directly reflect an abstraction peformed is a way of iconizing oneself and interfacing directly with the resulting "hero" or "idol" via comments, likes, shares, creation of reaction memes, or whatever else might happen in the social medium.

As a consequence, an older superorganismic mimesis returns, older than recorded history almost by definition, and of a far more radical sort than when an orator is situated centrally in an auditorium of designated listeners, allowing humans to simply regurtitate raw surface impressions "at random" without regard for any notion of ultimate meaning or any anxiety that every utterance must fit into an unambiguous, rationalized, linear historical narrative, ordered from beginning to end by the Western philosophical concept of causality. If it doesn't fit a form or sequential casual narrative, there need be no question of "what it is;" it "is" this: a continual motion in silica. Philosophy has dissolved; long live philosophy!

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

On Living Mathematics


    It is often said that math is somehow transcendant and objective, but I prefer to take the opposite view. It is a phenmonenon found within a clump of wet, throbbing tubes striving to continue its throbbing and indeed, enjoy the throbbing. Since the profession and discipline of mathematics has come to be within the total of our human body/mind, we can study mathematics from a biological perspective, as an aspect of an organism.
    The first thing we have to realize is that every organism might understand math at lesat slightly differently, that is, to have a different math system. Yet, we, being different, can communicate in some way, and concede when we have been corrected in certain cases. Other times, one refers to a concept that comes up empty for another, or mismatched. Sometimes, one person thinks a theorem is obviously true, another person thinks it is "counterintuitive." The notion of partially corresponding mathematical systems itself seems to be mathematical, hence may seem less plausible to you than to me. If you agree to look at mathematics from a material stance, you'll find that reading even a single formula proves the partial correspondence. 1+3=3+1. Of course, I cannot convince you to step back altogether from another stance, if that's what you wish. [Platonism is a popular philosophical position in the community of pro math'ers]. It suffices that you entertain my perspective for the duration of this piece.
    We can think of a living body as positioned "somewhere" with some trajectory. Insofar as any animal can think this way, it can understand itself as participating in its moving environment: Here will become somewhere through action. Animals discover which cavities they can fit into, what fits into their cavities, and necessarily find ways to infer such properties by visual recognition, touch, and other acts of perception. Risk and fear are other essential concepts for any animal, coloring places and shapes with qualities of painfulness, repulsion, panic, etc.

We might expect that certain geometric and topological concepts would come to be in almost any motive and sensitive organism, so long as its body provided opportunities for complex enough interactions with the environment. So, organismic mathematics can be distinguished as dealing with the concepts that arise uniquely from being a self-sustaining organism in nature. Concepts such as fuel and force derive unambiguously from our organismic existence.

    When organisms communicate and cooperate, a certain degree of self-awareness is necessarily present. One must at least make the necessary motions to communicate, then navigate the world successfully while completing some collectively defined task. It requires some minimal abstract awareness of the body's position within the whole. We can thus distinguish "superorganismic" mathematics as that which would only tend to arise when organisms are aware and allied to one another in some way. Concepts such as rule sets, truth values, and hierarchies derive at least in part from the superorganismic aspects of our existence. Modern mathematical economics has a decidedly superorgansimic flavor. Genuine superorganismic "computations" can only be carried out by multiple people at once, as a discourse, interaction, or mutual observation of some kind, though theoretical work can be done alone. For instance, we can individually understand a law's stipulation that in certain trials, we are guaranteed a jury of 12 peers. But a verdict must then be carried out by no fewer than 13 people, including the judge.

    Since humans are social animals, it easy to see why both the organismic and the superorganismic should be found throughout the history of math. It is far harder to imagine suborganismic mathematics or math which is non-organismic altogether. What would a self-regulating but non-aware part calculate? How can we think of an organ as perceiving and thinking? We must broaden the traditional definitions quite a bit.

    "Sense" may be generalized so that any perturbation to the evolution of a (locally) closed subsystem counts, and "memory" may be generalized so that any structure maintained at the (local) expense of free energy counts.

    A cell very obviously senses and remembers as it participates in the body, to be sure, but a cell is not a very good example - it is not so unambiguously partial as a heart, which is too complex for a basic example. Consider instead some inhabitants of the nucleus.

    We find the genetic apparatus of a cell "sensing and remembering" epigenetic actions, which naturally depend upon the cell's interaction with its ambiguous environment. The science is somewhat new but an agreement seems to be that it is reflected on the effective topology of the chromosomes - parts of the DNA sequence are switched between "accessible" and "inaccessible" for the purposes of synthesis. Rather than "knowing" any mathematics behind the regulatory apparatus in the sense of a self-aware creature, we can think of the available epigenetic "states" [as it is put by the biochemists] as encoding possible "life plans" for a working cell (and we are indeed assuming the relevant nucleic acid apparatus is part of a living cell).
     In actuality, the cell likely lives by continually modulating between these "life plans". *Human* mathematics of the cell could attempt to compute the effect of a sequence of life plans on the cell's constitution or behavior (given assumptions about its environs), but "nucleic acid mathematics" could not. It could "know" the maintenance of the cell's processes, but it doesn't know how it is maintaining the cell's organization, or even the cell in the first place. *We* know that. The protosymbolic structure of the nucleic acid apparatus ensures that a wide range of conditions/situations and mechanical traumas can be withstood without disrupting the total operation, since the apparatus has evolved in part to maintain and repair to cell's structures, and it is there we should look for anything that could qualify as mathematics. The notion of regulation is very close to that of computation, involving some idea of "reading" or "sensing" some structure. The analogy with human recognition alone is what seems to allow that mathematics may be generalized from human activities to those of living systems. In this way, every living (or partially living) system can be thought of as a (partially) self-computing "machine," whose "output" is its continued life in materia, its input being its raw fact of existence/configuration. In physics parlance, it is "prepared" in a state which will prepare further states to prepare further states to... Speaking this way, we presuppose subjectivity somewhere within nature, that is, we are interpreting nature. The apparent implication of teleology in the phrasing should not be taken too seriously.

You can see why suborganismic mathematics is so difficult to conceive of: if it exists, it is not conceived of by any organismic mind, which is practically to say, it is non-conceptual. [For how could you speak to a body part? You cohere only in their plurality]. Perhaps insight can be achieved in so-called altered states of consciousness, rather to contract consciousess closer to unconsciousness in some way. Dreams and fraction-asleep states may hint at suborganismic organizational schemes. What do you think? Even more difficult is to conceive mathematics beyond life altogether, which might be used by some type of natural abstract actor, which persisted in a non-organismic way, that is, without the ability to organize itself. Perhaps they are just projections and phantoms of the autopoietic. I think it may be impossible to imagine. Perhaps digital intelligence would be a version of it. Can self-awareness be simulated ... to itself?
    In the limit towards complete knowledge, mathematics would simply limit to actual mechanics, or "whatever actually is." Taking quantum mechanics into account, we cannot characterize nature as having well-defined configurations at "instants" in time, so human ideas of a complete sequence of pictures of nature wouldn't constitute absolute mechanical knowledge - the Truth wouldn't be visible. Nor could it be tangible in the bodily sense, since it would have to concern every possible body [including bodies that are part of bodies - a radically parallel existence in comparison to conscious life] The idea is that a god of whatever sort could understand the state and motion of nature as a whole in terms of its raw being, so that it could be written in terms of the absolute. As organisms are self-guiding *parts* of nature, we cannot hope to grasp mathematics of the absolute. Likewise, the "mechanics god" could not hope to grasp us our worlds, since it could not help but see those of our cells and every last bacterium that participates in our bodies superposed. Such a perspective would show every possible world at once - ours would be but one infinitesimal point in its would be perspective-space.

What if we were to deal with the world at "coarser" scales, rather than "finer" ones? Can we, as organsims, get an idea of super-superorganisms, super-super...-superorganisms, and the like? That is, when groups of people attempt to coordinate as distinct entities, or when many coalitions of tribes attempt to form a nation? I would argue that these are much more difficult than smaller social organisms for one person to coordinate. In reality, they are better coordinated at the correct scales: Superorganisms re-configure themselves to better fit a super-superorganism, rather than one organism attempting to discern how to best micromanage each superorganism in order to satisfy its desires as well as those of the larger overgroup. When would be collaborative political projects are attempted with a dictatorial approach, the subordinate parties tend to have their goals frustrated. Even without ill will or greed, peoples understand their interests better than do their neighbors.

So we see an interesting thing - as our notion of mathematics "scales" up and down in organizational capacity, we lose sight of what we are trying to imagine. Either there is so much detail to every small moment as to overwhelm our capacities, or it is too broad, too diffuse, evolves too slowly and over too many subjects to get a clear grasp of it from within the organism.


Shapes, motions, symmetries, harmonies, and symbolic quantities seem to have occupied mathematicians for most of history. The dawn of these concepts from animal experience pave the way for understanding nature in terms of navigation, aesthetics, economy. Human mathematics has wrapped itself comfortably between these, but there is no reason to believe that these concerns alone serve to represent the mathematical in the most general sense.

Anything organismic, that is, any aspect of experience itself, of the mind, may be 'noticed,' in such a way that it may be related to other things that have been noticed. There appear to be no limits or borders to these acts of analogy, aside from those which arise as a natural consequence of the bodily substrate. This affords any minds like ours incredible power to modify their own realities. It is in principle limitless, given a limitless resource flow to the organism (preferably in a way it is accustomed to).

One broad consequence of the second thermodynamics for life is that once a form finds the ability to produce a version of itself from its environment and self alone, life tends to spread. I mean this in the sense that so long as free energy is injected, life tends to turn it into more life. [Perhaps this is the true source of the notion of Freudian libido, a relentless energy, which manifests in modern economics as scarcity and the "tragedy of the commons."]

    The corollary for organisms that must guide themselves, then, must be that whatever grasp of mathematics they find, it must grow with their form. In the same way that an ecological "safety cushion" can result for a population from a combination of solid ecological "strategy"/niche and low population relative to [expectations for] available resources, I argue that well-functioning and well-fed minds will have more room to experiment. The reasoning is more or less identical: When one need not work too hard to live, more organismic energy is available for "mistakes" of all sorts, whether they be exploring unknown regions, taking new routes, or trying new maneuvers. I have a feeling this would, over many millions of years, select for animals which had a propensity to get bored in times of surplus and safety. This is simply because the bored ones would take more risks when they had the luxury. Of course, "risks" must be interpreted more or less economically, as anything that is less certain than some "safe" strategy to produce good outcomes, whether they are expected or not.
    If all this lines up, it wouldn't be surprising that animals could come to sophisticated ways of thinking about the world before they were ever ready to use them: the bats would never have survived with wings if they didn't know they could be used to fly. [Did not humans learn to fly by pipe-dreaming?] It must come to an idea of flying as a motion in the world at least in parallel to the development of wings. God, that's a mystery though, isn't it? Tempting as it is to blame the apparent shift from tree-dweller to sky-walker on some creator, I actually don't think it solves the problem. That answer doesn't remove the necessity of the evolution being carried out in materia, which still has to work out mechanically some how, whether or not it was all designed to take place. I think truly, the essence of the modern argument for a creator is that the story of evolution seems implausible, which I disagree with.
    Navigational schemes must develop in parallel with bodily forms. A tardigrade navigates its world very differently than a worm; just watch them. [Youtube.]
    So we should expect a cornocopia of mathematical forms corresponding to the beauty of the biosphere, and my primary question is how mutually intelligible they could possibly be. Mathematics across the same species is pretty easy. "Give me four of those. I'll give you three of these." "But I gave you four in advance last time, remember?" "Fine! Here's six of these then." Across humans and other apes species, it is a little more difficult, but still possible for those who think most like us. Across from humans to other intelligent species, like crows and dolphins, communication is even more difficult, but it is absolutely evident that we use some concepts which are mutually intelligible. All three groups of organisms live in different ecological domains, yet have come to similar understandings of abstract organizational principles. Rats, raccoons, octopuses, and other birds and mammals of diverse types display at least some ability to navigate rectangular human worlds and operate some of the apparatus of human organization.

Certain geometric concepts appear unavoidable. If not points, there are at least places, or things in places, which definitely differ from one another so that they can be assessed, selected, and navigated. If not lines, then at least curves or paths; thinking things make plans to walk in a direction. If not planes, then surfaces - the surface of the land, of a tree, of a prey or predator, and of course, of the body. The only essential thing for a foraging organism to understand is that is interfacing with the environs. There must a notion of bordering the environment, of the skin as a boundary of the self. The body can be thought of as going right up the border, as filling a volume, but the self-on-the-boundary is the site of interface with tangible reality.
If one makes complex enough use of a body, it has to be mapped in a topological way, that is, we must have some way of knowing what places are near which, ideally to have an idea of the total nervous structure of the body. From this, we find the "surface" of our bodies. If you trace a path along the surface with a finger, what you are feeling is this constructed topology: you feel everything near its neighboring points on the skin. The degree of access between two points on skin is known merely by feeling distinct sensations there and there.
    If a stranger slides their hand slowly up your leg on public transport, you may find it disturbing, or perhaps frightening or more. When they pull away after you glare at them, and say "I didn't do shit," you will know they were lying whether or not you *saw* them do it.
Probably this topological method is used extensively by Terran animals, but I am for more interested in the subtle differences that may emerge as we attempt to study the problem. That is a large project, enough for a life's worth of research, so I will leave it there. For a more complete understanding of ecosystems self-organize, we would ideally understand how every inhabitant maps the surface of its body [if at all, obviously].We should remember that our modern mathematical understandings of surfaces have been flavored irreducibly by the development of the rest of culture through history, and we should suspect any population would be similarly influenced in their understandings of mathematics by the psychological, emotional and social realities a population must cope with. Aside from our cognitive differences to begin with, this would inevitably cause obstacles to communication and understanding.
    Anything which eats special forms must find a way of recognizing them, as well as motivating their meaning. Mammalian brains, at least, tend to associate in any possible way, so that a shape once linked to a taste can evoke the taste on sight in the future. Thus symbolism is another basic animal act, constructing from the raw geometric picture a directly accessible world which consists of potential symbols which gradually resolve to genuine symbol-copies if the perceptual process happens to compute that way. The symbols are felt by whatever it is they might be thought to "do" or feel like.
    Complex-bodied animals, whose environments are persistent relative to the times scales of their actions, will benefit from remembering where everything "was." One then must construct a topological map of the home as well, with easily bodily-accessible world-places corresponding to mental places that feel close. Each "point" on the map can be made to correspond to a hypothetical places are felt by what was there, either in terms of geometric forms or symbolic ones.
Since one inevitably comes to a practical theory of motion in/around places (i.e., how to navigate shapes one finds in the world), its plausible to treat places-maps as containing some sort of information about possible ways to navigate a place. The smallest or shortest paths, or motions, through a place are its accessibilities, or "infinitesimal open sets," in classical-modern parlance, which can be thought of as generating a topology upon any place in a world. Such motions are purely from a bodily perspective, and may take into account gravity and other "forces" of the environment. Most maps will also attach abstract "motions" to world symbols, when materials are encountered and symbolized, such as food, water, types of shelter, plants, animals, rocks, landscapes and planetary/ecological forms of all sorts.
Regardless of how these maps have been learned, they contain easily accessible abstractions as the organism navigates the cosmos.
This is an incredibly large and fascinating topic, but I'm stopping here. This small piece is meant only to introduce the notion that mathematics can be understood as part of a biological process, which plays an immensely important role in the mechanics of evolution and ecology. Moving beyond our very mode of existence, we can think of life, hence mathematics, perhaps even more abstractly as a component of a physical process. That is to say, biological forms necessarily "compute" their future selves, and math emerges with awareness of self-guidance. I encourage you to explore and critique what I have suggested and asserted here, particularly in the final paragraphs, so we can begin study of the general organismic "mapping" process, and explore what it suggests about the ecosystems we participate in, and about our relationships with our own mapping processes.