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Metaphysics of the coming age

by Gaianne Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 01:31:29 AM EST

Of course you will be wanting me to justify or defend this title.  So perhaps I had better admit at the outset that I cannot.  Nobody knows what the coming age will be, nor what metaphysics it will either accept, or require.  Nonetheless, that is where I would have us turn our minds, for consideration and speculation.  

This is, obviously, a heat-generating topic.  Metaphysics is like religion, indeed, as it is concerned with the fundamental structure and meaning of the world (or of life) it IS religion, where religion exists.  And where religion does not, metaphysics takes on the religious passion.  

But I would have us consider it anyway, because whatever we believe, it is likely to change.  Circumstances alone will see to that.  My goal here is not to seek agreement, but to find possibilities--more important than what is precluded (although some notions will be being shed) is what is allowed.  


I write as a progressive who no longer believes in progress.  This is an embarrassing thing.  But progressivism was born in the apparent abundance of rising empire, and in the idea that if wealth is plentiful, then it OUGHT to be shared out (rather than horded by a few), but as abundance visibly disappears, the spiritual aspects of progressivism (to me, the most important part) lose their material support.  Now what?  

I should also admit at the outset that I am an apostate from science.  I indulge some personal history to explain what that is and how it came to be:  

I grew up, as a child, in a context of intermittent violence and pervasive lying (and lying about the lying) so that it was natural and inevitable that I was drawn to mathematics, where the truth was both knowable and provable.  This became both a career and an emotional anchor.  

The irony, of course, is that unbeknownst to me, a century earlier the idea of truth had already run into trouble.  The problem was the parallel postulate of Euclidean Geometry, which has several equivalent forms, but is readily visualized as stating that through any point outside a given line, there is exactly one line through that point parallel to the given line.  For centuries mathematicians had thought that postulate should be a theorem, proved as a consequence of the other postulates, but had failed to find the proof.  

In the middle of the 19th century, in something like desperation, mathematicians decided to reverse their approach, to try assuming the postulate false, and see what kind of geometry would result.  

Riemann became known for postulating that there are NO parallel lines.  The result is a Geometry quite unlike Euclid's, but nevertheless completely consistent.  All doubt about the validity of Riemann's work was perforce dispelled when a "model" of his Geometry was found:  

Let a "point" be defined as any pair of antipodes of a sphere, and let a "line" be defined as a great circle on the sphere (a circle on a plane that passes through the center), and then Riemannian Geometry becomes equivalent to Spherical Geometry, which had already been being used by navigators for several centuries.  

The alternative contradiction was also tried, and, skipping over the issues of theft and precedence (the practice of mathematics is truly a catfight), what was found is that you could construct a Geometry ("Hyperbolic" Geometry) assuming that there are INFINITELY MANY parallels through the given point.  This can be modeled in several ways.  My favourite way  makes use of a hyperboloid of two sheets:

t sq - x sq - y sq = 1  

under the (non-Pythagorean, non-Euclidean, specifically) Minkowski metric for arc-length

dx sq + dy sq - dt sq = ds sq.

This is a hyperboloid of revolution and is the natural analogue of a sphere.  We use great hyperbolas on the surface of the hyperboloid (hyperbolas that lie on planes that pass through the center) to be the "lines" while again antipodes are the "points."

This is the natural environment for Einstein's Special Theory of Relativity.  

If it is hard to visualize, project it onto a disc:  "Lines" become circles cutting the edge of the disc at right angles, and "points" become points inside the disc.  This mapping is "conformal," meaning angles are preserved.  (Distances are another matter; never mind about distances.)  This mapping is the basis of several beautiful lithographs by M. C. Escher:  "Heaven and Hell,"  "Circle Limit I," and "Circle Limit III."  

The point of these models is that they show non-Euclidean Geometries are as logically justified as Euclidean Geometry.  But because they are all different, they CANNOT ALL BE TRUE.  This was the problem.  

The solution was to retreat FROM truth TO consistency.   All three Geometries are consistent.  Only consistency is real; truth is a matter of convenience (within consistency, please!).  

Worse was to come.  

Not only the new Geometries, but also difficulties in Calculus (among other things) had led to a desire for a more careful description of Logic itself.  The idea was that Logic should become like Arithmetic--a matter of pure calculation--and this was epitomized in the program of Hilbert to convert the whole of mathematics into funny little symbols that would be manipulated according to formal, rigid rules.  Leaving aside that the result can in no way be described as human-friendly (the resemblance to low-level computer code is more than accidental), the program seemed to be working:  Mathematics was now on a reliably consistent (if unreadable) footing.  

And so it remains--sort of.  The problem is that already in the 1930s Goedel showed this formal system was necessarily too small, "incomplete."  There are true theorems of Arithmetic that can be stated formally, but have no formal proof.  If Arithmetic is itself consistent--AS WE ALL BELIEVE!!!--it's own consistency is one of those theorems.  

Arithmetic is consistent if and only if its consistency cannot be formally proved.  (Head explodes.)  

This is no joke.  

Now, it is not like two and two are suddenly going to start adding up to five.  But for a system obsessed with consistency and proof, Goedel's Incompletenesss Theorem is a bomb planted right at the foundation.  

By the time I was up to speed with this, several decades had passed, and as it happened, my own career was falling apart.  (Also my mind.)  Mathematicians paid no attention--no, had DECIDED to pay no attention--to the trouble at the foundations of their subject, an attitude I found increasingly difficult to live amidst.  

Logicians did not feel the same freedom to put their fingers in their ears while singing loudly--it was their own subject, after all.  Many (not all) were becoming very interested in Taoism, and this was not an accident.  It was beginning to occur to them that their field might not be rooted in the Solid Rock of Certainty, but was rather floating on a Fog of Mystery.  For centuries the Taoists have been teaching that you can trust that Fog.  

What other choice do you have?  

In my own case, this led me to Zen Buddhism, which is a very concrete spiritual practice, based on trusting the Fog.  But nothing in Buddhism requires one to be apostate from science, so let me explain further:  

Mathematics was not the only field finding limitative results, for example, physics was simultaneously going through wave after wave of them.  First, Relativity set boundaries on available energy--vast, vast boundaries that, tantalizingly, we have no idea how to reach--yet boundaries they were.  Then Quantum Mechanics set boundaries on what is knowable.  

Worse, Quantum Mechanics directly contradicted our notions of how the physical world works.  Nick Herbert in his book Quantum Reality has described eight different approaches to possible (mutually incompatible) world-views that are compatible with quantum mechanics.  None are compatible with the Western mind.  

So now I get to how I became apostate:  Both mathematicians and physicists have chosen to turn away from the import of their own discoveries, in a sort of mental cowardice.  Not the least of the many ironies of our time is that these various limitative results have created rich possibilities, especially for creating clever toys, and the attraction of the toys has served to mask the underlying difficulty.  

Which is that the world absolutely does not work the way we think it does.  

How does the world work?  Nobody knows.  Some OTHER way.  Scientists have abandoned the field, clinging to solutions they already know are inadequate.

So I am apostate.  What of it?  All it really means is that I can expand my field of inquiry a bit.  To wander off a bit.  There is nothing in this that implies an ability to CONTRADICT science, just a recognition that science is missing a lot.  

This brings me to what I was thinking was my real point:  Even as we are reaching the limits of what the Western mind is willing to contemplate, the circumstances of peak oil, climate change, biosphere destruction, and consequent civilization collapse are going to require an utter rearrangement of that mind.  

What rearrangement?  I make vague guesses.  I try to find what we can know or learn about people who lived sustainably.  What did they think?  How did they think?  Example here and here.  Surely this example is not reachable by us, being too fragile under external hostility, which is one constant of modern life, but it can at least open our mental field.  Also, note how childrearing is key.  

Then again, we are unlikely to reach sustainability soon.  A preceding period of catabolism is likely, and Archdruid considers some possibilities.    

Update [2008-1-2 7:7:56 by Gaianne]: Sorry about that last link. When you get there, you have to click on "show original post."

What is worth saving?  There are aspects of Western Civilization that I am sure we would like to save; I am equally sure we would disagree on what they are.  But CAN they be saved? How?  

Some things are certainly going to go.  The cancer-mind drug-binge we call capitalism (aka debt-based money aka empire aka taking without giving back) is one of them, though whether it goes before or after planetary destruction is a very intense and anxious question.  Are there any direct ways to bail out of this one?  I know that some folk here on ET have thoughts--can they be represented in a way that we can assess and utilize?  

I should say for myself that I have moved on a bit from Zen Buddhism--though it is surely a good practice--finding it a bit austere.  For several years now I have been mucking about in paleo-astronomy:   This is a vast and interesting subject that includes, firstly, the cycles of the sky--ignored and forgotten by the modern mind--and secondly their relationship to the rhythms of life.  Though, seemingly, these rhythms were thought to be given by the Gods (not a bad approach, really) it was always an active process to bring them into one's daily life, and the key point is that living in those cycles CHANGES MIND.  It is one key to a sacred life.  That this is an important key to sustainable mind seems likely.  

CODA:

When I was learning musical counterpoint, after I had (finally) learned what a melody was, I was surprised at how many (real) melodies could be written to a given melody (cantus firmus) to make a harmony.  In a class of twenty students no two were ever the same.  Sometimes I was envious (and sometimes not).  But within the constraints, the possibilities were all valid.  

Metaphysics itself grew up as part of the philosophy of the Classical Greeks, at a time when faith in the Gods was collapsing.  So it sought a different basis of support--logical argument.  The study of Logic has been so successful, however, that it is now clear a strictly logical support of a metaphysics is not possible--we cannot even do as much for a technical study like Arithmetic!  But, in truth, logical support of a metaphysics is not really necessary.  It must SURVIVE Logic, but beyond that it can be whatever it wants to be and circumstances allow.  

What will circumstances allow?  

Display:
Thanks for dropping by.  

The Fates are kind.
by Gaianne on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 01:32:48 AM EST
Wow, thank you for a wonderful insight into mathematics (that even I could understand).

European Tribune - Comments - Metaphysics of the coming age

paleo-astronomy

I have never heard of this before, but it makes sense. I do believe that our living against the natural cycles are  one the reasons for the malaise of modern life. Is there any literature or other readings you can recommend to get a peek of what paleo-astrology is about?
by Fran (fran at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 01:48:19 AM EST
For me, it has been a long and winding road.  Robert Graves' very interesting book The White Goddess was certainly my inspiration and starting point, and yet, there is much that he gets dead wrong, (never mind I don't believe his central thesis of the alphabet encoding a particular sacrifice ritual) making it hard to recommend him as a source.  He is a poet rather than a scholar, and that is how he has to be read.  

From there I tracked back to things like Isaac Azimov, Moon over Babylon which contains a good description of Planetary Hours--a concept in astrology--but like modern astrologers, he does not seem to know what the planetary hours were actually good for.  Realizing the import was a major breakthrough.  

Clues turn up here and there.  The Ballad of Thomas the Rhymer was one.  I was sitting in a concert at a Pagan Festival when I heard it performed for the first time.  I was astonished.  That was when the Planetary Hours clicked into place.  

In Richard Feynman's Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman he describes besting the archaeologists in a matter involving Mayan codices and astronomy--specifically picking out the 11959 day Mayan eclipse cycle.  Actually, the cycle of eclipses is 11960 days, and the one day discrepancy is a further hint.  

I spent a month surfing the net reading about the Mayan Calendar.  There is less there than you think.  Much drivel and absurdities.  But again, some good clues.  

But before all of this was cracking out an ordinary Astronomy text and making comparisons of planetary constants.  Ratios of synodic periods are the key.  Since, fortunately, the ancients had the same sky that we do, it is possible to know what they could observe.  They just thought about it differently.  

I will have to post a diary.  

Thanks for your compliment, and interest.  

The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 02:29:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Would the Vedic Yugas also fit into paleo-astronomy/astrology?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vedic_timeline
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Four_Yugas

by Fran (fran at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 05:45:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This might be a better link - Frawley is a reknown Vedic Scholar:

http://www.vedanet.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=129

by Fran (fran at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 05:50:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks for the links.  

Good question.  

I don't really know.  The first stage would be to see what those numbers might correspond to in the sky.  Generally, I have been looking at much shorter time-frames.  

The longest cycle I have encountered so far is (one fifth of) 25 800 years (the cycle of precession of the equinoxes) and at this point I can not really justify this--because I do not have an explanation for the one fifth.  And the longest cycle that I have come across that is sure is a 112-year eclipse cycle (actually 1385  months) in an account of the markings on a brass bowl recovered from Arabia and dating from Mohammedian times or possibly earlier (brass is hard to date).  The 56-year cycle of the Dragon against the year can be confidently adduced to the ring of hollow stones at Stonehenge.  This is not an eclipse cycle, but is instead relevant to the elevation of the Moon's path in the sky.  

The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 06:20:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Is there a link with the fact that the earliest agricultural systems could have cycle of up to about 50 years between two cultivating of the same field ? We tend to forget some earlier societies did think in the long term - a long term we have forgotten the use of.

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 07:20:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
A good point.  Agricultural cycles can exist, and I have no way of finding these, unless they are ALSO linked (by the agriculturalists) to the sky.  But then the sky makes a very useful way of marking.  

On the other hand, while I may know the meaning in the sky, I won't know the meaning on the ground!  So I definitely miss part of what is going on.  

One of my friends is studying mythological structures, and sometimes our results dovetail perfectly.  But that is a study that is even murkier than what I am doing.  At least to me.  ;)  

The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 07:41:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
How would "paleo-astronomy" help?
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 06:45:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It doesn't help, it is just is, you Irish pussy cat ;-)

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 07:08:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Please, do write a diary about it.

In particular, I would like to know how one can avoid the conceptual trap that Europe fell into in the 18th century which is to go from celestial mechanics to a clockwork universe metaphor.

How would it help if suddenly a large fraction of the population knew about these astronomical cycles? How can one justify organizing one's life around cycles other than those of the sun-earth-moon system? What difference does it make if one has a Venusian calendar?

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 07:24:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Excellent diary, Gianne.  Re: palaeo-astronomy, you set this puzzle before, I went searching for the solution(s) to the riddle(s) and...got lost around the dragon (I got to draco and the changes in the moon's height and that relates to eclipses and it seemed to be about eclipses...but I could have that all wrong so...) I would very much appreciate it if you could write your findings up in diary form--very very much appreciate it, thanks!

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.
by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 07:30:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
While it was great fun organizing my thoughts--to the extent that I did--and coming up with clues, I sort of broke off from overload of doing too much at once.  

So I owe you for your diligence, and shall start thinking about what goes into that diary.  

Thank you for your encouragement.  

The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 07:46:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Maybe the entertaining things in the heart of mathematics are more mind-blowing when you haven't grown up with them - they just make life more interesting for me.

As for quantum mechanics, we know it's not right: worrying too much about the philosophical implications of theories we know to be incomplete at best seems like rather a waste of energy to my mind.

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 02:43:45 AM EST
The consequence of Bell's Theorem is that if Quantum Mechanics is correct then reality (at the quantum level) is unmitigatedly connected, that is, connection is not limited by space and time:  It is immediate and bounded by neither space nor time.  

That is not the problem.  "As for quantum mechanics, we know it's not right."  And indeed, Quantum Mechanics may well get replaced by something else.  

Here is the problem:  The unmitigatedness of interaction (in the case of entangled pairs) has been put to physical experiment, and this aspect of Quantum Mechanics IS correct.  Which means it will also be part of whatever supersedes Quantum Mechanics.  

This is not acceptable to the Western mind, unfortunately, it IS acceptable to Reality.  It is part of how Reality works.  

This is perhaps the key point of Herbert's book.  

There is only one world-view I know of that approaches reality on this point--Vodun, or Haitian (and by extension, African) magic.  There may be others I don't know of.  

The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 03:09:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I guess I don't have a "Western" mind, whatever that means, then.

But then I don't believe in any of this religious/spiritual stuff that apparently underlies the "Western" mind.

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 03:15:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Actually, what do you think the "Western mind" is, and why is quantum mechanics unacceptable to it?
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 03:51:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This comes in several flavors.  Catholicism is the foundation, of course, drawing on both Aristotle (foremost) and Plato (secondly).  I will skip over Protestantism (even though I shouldn't, as it laid the basis for both individualism and Capitalism).  

In all forms of Christianity the material is a real (though denigrated) category.  The spiritual is thought to exist and is exhalted, but is separated from the material.  

The Modern West arises co-incidentally with modern science, which investigates public knowledge--that is, that which is publicly verifiable through demonstration or experiment.  This leaves out dreams and visions (the most important part of reality in many cultures), but at this point it does not pass judgment on them.  

By the 19th century certain ancient notions that had been adopted by Christianity as unalterable dogma were shown by science to be false in fact, leading to a war between Christian religion and science.  One consequence of the war was that science moved from non-study of the non-material, to active denial of the non-material.  Science adopted a wholly materialistic point of view.  

Several non-Western cultures blur the material-spiritual distinction.  The interest is not in how to separate them, but in how they relate--how they inform each other.  

If you were really non-materialist you would not be Western in mind.  

The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 04:30:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm entirely materialist, in that I have no idea what "spiritual" is meant to mean any more.  It doesn't make QM bother me: the world is what it is, not what I expect it to be.

Most of the "the West" is definitely not materialist - the problem is that they conflate their mythos with their logos and expect certainty when there is and can be none.  And they're afraid to say "I don't know".

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 04:34:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I thought so. ;)  

the world is what it is  

But WHAT is it?  I don't think we know.  A metaphysics is  one's underlying model for everything.  Are there metaphysics that actually work?  

This as an inquiry, not angst.  

And they're afraid to say "I don't know".  

"Don't know" is the starting point for Zen:  It is okay not to know--not at all the worst place to be.  ;)  

The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 04:55:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Are there metaphysics that actually work?

I'm not sure I really do metaphysics. I must informally at some level I'm sure, but I try not to take it too seriously, whatever it is.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 04:59:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But WHAT is it?

I don't know. I don't expect to.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 05:00:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"But WHAT is it?"

I've always had a fondness for an 'answer' provided in the Yoga Vasistha (India, 500 CE).

"The world is an impression left by the telling of a story."

by sandalwood on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 09:58:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What is impression, what is telling a story, what is a story?

My problem with such metaphors is that instead of being compelling for some insight, they are compelling for being antropomorphic, that is, referring to stuff we have 'innate sense of' and don't immediately think  of something whose meaning could be philosophically (or metaphysically) complicated itself.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Fri Jan 4th, 2008 at 08:08:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Some find such metaphors compelling, others do not. I think many approaches are required because any one approach by itself will always be deficient... it will leave something out for sure. In that sense, all approaches are akin to 'Art' because they are finite constructs which aim at shedding some light onto what is beyond them. Even our best scientific theories are artistic renditions as they address some aspects of reality while leaving others out.

In the classical Indian scheme, there are 6 complementary views... none of which paints the whole picture... these views are called:

Nyaya: Sets forth the rules and limits of thought/logic/language
Vaisheshika: Analysis (an ancient atomic theory is part of this approach)
Samkhya: An atheistic, dualistic approach which posits an essential difference between matter and mind
Yoga: Gnosis
Mimamsa: A theistic approach
Vedanta: Posits an essential non-duality

These are considered complementary approaches.

by sandalwood on Fri Jan 4th, 2008 at 11:10:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Could you write about this?  It would be new and interesting to many of us, and deserves its own diary and thread.  

The Fates are kind.
by Gaianne on Fri Jan 4th, 2008 at 02:02:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thank you for your interest... I will begin to think about this in a diary format.
by sandalwood on Fri Jan 4th, 2008 at 02:22:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In all forms of Christianity<snip>

Wrong.

Why does everyone insist that Christianity is some simple set of axioms? Christianity is not like dolls cut out of folded paper. We create god in our own image and that image shifts and changes with the individual and the time. Just to be clear here I am speaking of organised Christianity.

Christianity is not some fossil that has been dug out of the ground. Attitudes and ideas of today are found in the religions of today. Christianity in particular has fractured like a pane of glass dropped on the pavement. Like humpty dumpty there are those desperately trying to put it back together, and like humpty dumpty they will fail.

For a bunch of mathematicians, the lack of precision is surprising. Is this the quality of mathematical work? It is 99% true so we will call it universal?

There is a deeper problem than the 1% of Christianity that is not part of all forms of Christianity, and that is the way Christianity is changing. It is affected and altered by the same things that affect everyone. Today's Christianity is not the same as yesterdays. There are people who desperately cling to their vision of the past, but even they put forward a new version of their beliefs and myths. The landscape that they build their beliefs on has changed, so too must be what they build on that landscape.

Not all Christians dress in funny fashions that date from your grandmother, or great grandmother's time.


aspiring to genteel poverty

by edwin (eeeeeeee222222rrrrreeeeeaaaaadddddd@@@@yyyyaaaaaaa) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 09:26:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
not an untried theoretical construct.  

The Fates are kind.
by Gaianne on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 03:27:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's not just Bell, but also Hardy and Kocken-Specker. Together what they do is show that Einstein's idea of realism is just wrong. Hidden variables are so counterintuitive (nonlocal, contextual, non-counterfactual) that I prefer standard quantum mechanics.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 07:22:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's not just a theory. We're talking about a slew of experimental results for which the simple mental model is to write down schroedinger's equation. That indicates we need a whole new conceptual/metaphorical scaffolding to allow us to reason qithout having to solve the equations - and we don't have that.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 07:20:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That indicates we need a whole new conceptual/metaphorical scaffolding to allow us to reason without having to solve the equations - and we don't have that.

Could "a whole new conceptual/metaphorical scaffolding" be identified with Gaianne's "utter rearrangement of [the Western] mind"/"metaphysics" (though maybe I should not be identifying "mind" and "metaphysics" here)?

If so, then if and when we find such a new scaffolding/metaphysics, how can this help us address

the circumstances of peak oil, climate change, biosphere destruction, and consequent civilization collapse
?

Also, why exactly is our current conceptual/metaphorical scaffolding not already sufficient for undertaking these challenges?

Truth unfolds in time through a communal process.

by marco on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 10:37:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, the problems with QM are probably different to the problems
] with the other issues: basically we're really bad with systems and feedback and loops and things.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 10:48:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
bruno-ken:

If so, then if and when we find such a new scaffolding/metaphysics, how can this help us address

the circumstances of peak oil, climate change, biosphere destruction, and consequent civilization collapse
?
I don't see how, and neither Emil Moller nor Gaianne have explained quite how it would.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 11:22:19 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The flip answer:  Well, and IS our current conceptual scaffolding meeting these challenges?  

Clearly it is not.  

Indeed it is the mind that we ALREADY HAVE that has led us into our troubles.  So we need to alter or augment that mind in some way that will work.  

This comes even before worrying about how we might communicate and implement such mind.  

That is: I am seeking to cast a wider net.  

There are two places I know to look:  Peoples who already are (or were) sustainable; and the unregarded places our own studies point to.  The latter may seem esoteric, but considering they demand a new mental structure (and we know we need one) they might (by luck) suggest the things we actually need.  (Reality is your friend.)  

There may be other places to look.  

The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 11:23:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
How about decoherence?

Seriously, I cannot imagine how ecology or political economy can depend on insights from Quantum Mechanics.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 11:37:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Let's assume that the next evolution of QM begins to decode, or even decodes, consciousness.  We may even find action at a distance being the binding agent of consciousness, as speculated for over three decades now by the wild crew from the Physics Consciousness Research Group begun at Esalen in the mid-70's.  btw, Nick Herbert, Fred Wolf, Gary Zukav, Fritjof Capra, Saul Paul Sirag and Jack Sarfatti (the gluon), now leaders in the exposition of the physics of consciousness, were all together there, and having survived decades of internecine warfare, are still more or less together (with a glaring exception, or two.)  At the same time, physicists as diverse as David Bohm and Brian Josephson were, and remain, in constant contact with the group, as it continues to this day informally.

back to Mig's question.  since environmental destruction is caused by a civilization which doesn't know itself, nor its relationship to its surounding; then a healthy dose of conscious evolution would enable the "New Deal/Apollo" program of renewable energy to be not supported, but demanded by the general population.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anaïs Nin

by Crazy Horse on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 12:02:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Dude, Sarfatti believes that he received a phone call from a sentient computer orbiting the earth on a spacecraft from the future and that he got all his insights from it.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 12:10:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Dude, that doesn't make his equations any less precise, nor his insights less valid.   He doesn't say he got his insights from the sentient computer, only that it began his path.  He even admits the phone calls, which his mother also heard, could have come from some strange intelligence plot cooked up by an agency here or there.

But there's a whole 'nother side to him and his work.  Some of his insights he got while doing the grunt work for Abdus Salaam's Nobel.  That Sarfatti worked for Salaam doesn't invalidate his Nobel.  Brian Josephson remains in constant contact with him, despite sarfatti's sentient computer.  That doesn't invalidate the Josephson Junction.  and for what it's worth, Sarfatti is a center of the physics consciousness world.

Full disclosure.  I can't argue physics, because i'm not, nor ever will be one in this lifetime.  Sarfatti is a close friend of mine for nearly 30 years.  I stayed at his house in November, so i'm prejudiced.  I have seen him at his most brilliant, and i have seen him at his most manic.  But as Jack himself often says, it doesn't matter if he's crazy, it matters if the equations check out.

And i do have personal knowledge of how much equation checking is being done at high levels around the world.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anaïs Nin

by Crazy Horse on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 12:26:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think we should not engage in a war by proxy between your friend and my PhD advisor, which is what this would devolve into.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 12:33:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Though it would never be a war with you anyway.  Preconceived ideas are always the hardest to give up.  But i bet we could have a very interesting evening together.

The real point was not about Sarfatti, but about the physical roots of consciousness, and the possible effect of the now common "paradigm shift" in human thinking.  And how that shift would affect every aspect of civilization.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anaïs Nin

by Crazy Horse on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 12:49:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Preconceived ideas are always the hardest to give up.

Now, what is that meant to mean?
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 12:53:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Like imprinting, Migeru's understanding of the reality swirling around the wave function of Sarfatti's life is informed by the PhD advisor's view, just as mine is informed by hanging out with the entire crew of psychotic boddhisatvas.

People in general do not change views easily, as there's always some extra attachment.  "No, we have to take Little Round Top, said Lt. General Pickett."  or perhaps, "No, Pope, the sun does not move around the earth."

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anaïs Nin

by Crazy Horse on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 01:39:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Sarfatti believes that he received a phone call from a sentient computer  

I don't worry about where my insights come from, only whether they're any good.  

Sadly, I'm sure people would rather believe a sentient computer than Sarfatti himself.  

The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Thu Jan 3rd, 2008 at 04:30:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
We might want to start with understanding the brain at the cellular level.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 02:31:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There is a lot of talking about the consequences of QM when we don't really understands most of what happen in scales between molecules and the whole organism. Apparently, a recent discovery was how water reacts in the presence of an electron...

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 02:35:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
We're going to have a far easier time examining the brain at the cellular level first. If that doesn't explain it to a satisfactory extent, we can dig further.

I'm immediately skeptical of Crazy Horse on this: his comment has dualism written all over it, with the material/immaterial mapping to the microscopic/macroscopic world of physics. That would be neat if true, but I'd rather reject more likely candidates first.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 03:58:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
My continuing point exactly...

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 02:41:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Not that simple.

The Mind reconfigures neural pathways.  Among those so configured are the pathways to/from the diencephalon where the Thalamus and Hypothalamus major control areas for the endocrine system are.  

Thus, what you think may become what you are.

Also, the Thalamus is the 'ante room' to the two cerebral hemispheres where higher cognitive functions are located.  As the body does its 'thing' messages are passed to the Thalamus through the Central Nervous System and the biochemical signals of the endocrine system.  Together these 'inform' the Thalamus which then transmits messages to the cerebral hemispheres.

Thus, what you are may become what you think.

Out of the googleplex of messages being transmitted eventually some of what you think will become what you are.  Out of the googleplex of messages being transmitted eventually some of what you are will become what you think.

On a simplistic level, the homeostasis system will generate signals to the Thalamus which send signals to the cerebral cortex which will result in the thought, "Let's go out for a pizza."

It works the other way as well.  That's how we can make the decision to hold our breath so we don't drown while swimming under water.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 09:56:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
How does this involve quantum mechanics?

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Thu Jan 3rd, 2008 at 12:59:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
At any level from chemical or electrical activity within brain cells to the unfolding and decay of galaxies, the basic building blocks are in action according to their QM or post-QM laws?

Newton's Gravity still affects brain components.  Why not other physical aspects?

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anaïs Nin

by Crazy Horse on Thu Jan 3rd, 2008 at 02:52:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Quantum effects can be ignored in transistors down to a certain size, that is, above the feature size cutoff, starting from maxwell's equations we can predict the transistor's behavior mathematically among all the transistor's variables we are concerned with to the degree of precision we want. Below the cutoff, quantum effects have a non-negligible impact on a number of variables we do care about and Maxwell's equations are not good enough for our purposes.

Similarly we may or may not need quantum mechanics to describe consciousness to an extent we are satisfied with. If it turns out our brains store data in quantum states, for example (admittedly I know very little about QM), then sure, QM will have to be into incorporated into an adequate description of consciousness.

I'm not equating transistors or logic gates to neurons, by the way. I'm claiming that in a universe with no apparent absolutes, pinning down assumptions through approximate models is all we can do, that this is useful, and that less sophisticated models, even those that have been superseded by models that work in a broader range of cases, can be adequate for our purposes.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Thu Jan 3rd, 2008 at 03:49:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Quantum effects can be ignored in transistors down to a certain size  

Not quite:  Transistors only work BECAUSE of quantum effects.  

Without quantum effects we would still be using vacuum tubes.  

The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Thu Jan 3rd, 2008 at 02:14:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Comment specific to the "...understanding the brain at the cellular level."  You can't understand the brain at that level.  All you understand is the diffusion of neuro-transmitters across the synaptic cleft, the electo-chemical interactions along and across the myelin sheath, & so on.  It's like trying to understand an automobile by looking at the alloys used in the metal and the petrochemicals used in the plastic.  

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Thu Jan 3rd, 2008 at 03:07:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
What are the deeper levels involved?

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Thu Jan 3rd, 2008 at 03:57:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't understand your question.  

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre
by ATinNM on Thu Jan 3rd, 2008 at 05:27:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If we use QM, what else can we look at?

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Thu Jan 3rd, 2008 at 01:23:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Anything. Just enumerate a set of states and postulate a set of transition amplitudes.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jan 3rd, 2008 at 01:27:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
since environmental destruction is caused by a civilization which doesn't know itself, nor its relationship to its surounding  

I don't have anything to add; I just want to highlight it.  

Anything that can cut through the willful ignorance of this civilization is to the good.  

The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 03:05:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
So, if you understood mind, you would understand that they are related.  

Of course, we don't:  That is the problem I started with.  

But for my part, I am willing to SEEK understanding.  

How will an understanding of Quantum Mechanics inform ecology and political economy?  

We won't know unless it happens.  

The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 12:11:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That begs the question. It is possible that you're right, then again it is possible that it isn't. Don't dodge the question, though, decoherence is a significant enough effect that quantum mechanical entanglement only survives into the mesoscopic level in carefully designed experimental conditions.

Entanglement doesn't imply superluminal communication, by the way.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 12:19:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Doesn't mean superluminal communication isn't there anyway.  But i'm not qualified to discuss physics with people as educated as Migeru in the field.  I'd only like to point out that there are physicists with much more experience who take various versions of the action at a distance theories very seriously.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anaïs Nin
by Crazy Horse on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 12:41:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Any experimental verification of superluminal communication? That would have earned a couple of Nobel Prizes by now.

Instead, quantum optics has provided esperimental verification of Bell's inequalities, Hardy's theorem, the Kocken-Specker theorem, interaction-free measurement [which is not interaction-free], quantum teleportation [which is not teleportation but subluminal communication]...

There are enough wonders in empirically established quantum mechanics already.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 12:45:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This is pretty far off topic.  

However:  I do not know enough physics to know if it is possible; only enough to know how I would try to do it.  The basic idea would be to use the difference between the interference patterns that can be generated when particles do not choose, versus the lack of interference pattern that occurs when they are forced to choose.  Obviously the particles would be in batches--sequences--long enough to reliably create such patterns.  

Of technical problems, there should be many.  

Theoretically, it would be very interesting.  

The earth is only 21 light-milliseconds across.  I don't think it will improve cellphones much.  

The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 01:15:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, you yourself said elsewhere in this thread that since the 70's, theory had outstripped experiment.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anaïs Nin
by Crazy Horse on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 01:48:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That is not a good thing. Theory has gone on without new experimental input. And I'm talking only about the standard model of particle physics. On quantum consciousness there is no real experimental lead because our understanding of consciousness is very poor on all levels.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 01:54:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Migeru:
Any experimental verification of superluminal communication?

Kind of.

And also here.

I can understand the group velocity argument, but what bothers me is that the rationale for 'proving' that superluminal communication can't happen seems very similar to the one that was being used to 'prove' with absolute relativistic certainty that the group velocity has to be less than c.

This doesn't 'prove' anything about what's possible, but it does make me suspicious of the rigour of the arguments that are being used.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 04:59:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh, that!Faster than a Speeding Light Wave - UFO Evidence
Researchers have now measured many group velocities higher than c. "It's just not true what they say in the textbooks," says Raymond Chiao of the University of California at Berkeley. For example, a Gaussian shaped light pulse can travel faster than c through some highly absorbing materials. The explanation is that the central piece of the pulse is attenuated more than the earliest piece. Although the pulse shape is unchanged, it comes out smaller, and the "leading edge" of the input pulse is transformed to become the peak of the emerging pulse, a process called "reshaping." So no part of the pulse is actually transmitted faster than c, says Chiao.
That doesn't constitute a test of superluminal transmission of information, though I can imagine an experiment being designed on the basis of this phenomenon.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 05:24:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I understand that the unmitigated connections are at the quantum level, so when you say they don't rise above the mesoscopic, that does not come as any particular shock.  

You are asking me to explain how a new theory of Quantum Mechanics would allow Quantum Mechanics to solve our problems.  But there is no way I would expect that.  

And not only because our problems are not going to get solved.  

Rather, my guess is that a correct understanding of Quantum Mechanics would be a new model of the world, and that model would suggest many things, not only about Quantum Mechanics.  It would suggest things that would compel us to CORRECT OUR BEHAVIOR.  

What might those things be?  We'll know if it happens.  

The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 12:57:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I feel compelled to take a stab at a diary on quantum mechanics and ontology.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 01:01:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Hooray!

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 01:17:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You do have a degree in philosophy, right? I'll need backup.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 01:26:15 PM EST
[ Parent ]
okay, I'll move to the office and get all the big books out.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 01:29:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Only after I've posted the diary, though :-)

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 01:41:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well it is only upstairs, if I can get the pile of cats off me.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 01:43:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Are you Dr. Strangelove in disguise?

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 03:45:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Football chant?

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 08:15:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
By the way, the problem that decoherence attempts to solve is how it is possible that out of quantum mechanics arises a macroscopic world that is more or less consistent with the Western metaphysics you lambast.

That is the real problem. How do you construct a metaphysics that at the same time contains heuristics for the microscopic and for the macroscopic.

I agree with a lot of people that quantum gravity is likely to result in this new heuristics, but I honestly fail to see how 1) any quantum gravity is going to be testable other than by internal consistency (which you lambast), that is, how experiments are going to be accessible; 2) how knowledge of quantum gravity could affect (or would have affected) political economy.

Feynman once said that the problem with hard-nosed scientists is not that they lack imagination but that what they imagine is constrained by everything they know to be approximately true.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 01:06:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"other than by internal consistency (which you lambast)"  

???

The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 02:11:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Maybe I misread you as to at what point Mathematics went wrong.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 02:15:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, my complaint was, that 30 years after Goedel showed mathematics was not exactly planted on solid bedrock, mathematicians were still pretending that it was.  

I had no complaint about internal consistency--but what we were getting was faith.  In a sense there was no choice about that, but I thought that in that case we should own up to it.  

Then again, a non-formal proof of consistency, might serve, but--and now I am wandering off-topic, perhaps those funny little symbols were not as important as everybody thought?  I was slowly coming around to the intuitionist view that mathematics should be comprehensible.  Even if the intuitionists treated Cantor very badly--which they did--they weren't wrong about everything.  Hilbert's project had its uses, but the core of it had failed.  It was time to let mathematics be done in a style appropriate to its content.  

So during this period, it was the logicians, not the mathematicians, who were my guides.  They wanted proof of consistency but knew they had not gotten it, and owned up.  They knew they needed to do something about it, too, even if what they did lay outside of logic.  

The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 02:51:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Personally I think we'd be well served by taking a constructivist approach to mathematics. A lot of the apparent paradoxes and monsters of functional analysis go away if you take a constructivist approach. Which, in fact, is good for applied mathematics such as physics because a lot of conundrums just melt away.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 03:10:32 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Gaianne:
It would suggest things that would compel us to CORRECT OUR BEHAVIOR.  

It's actually not hard to understand what the problem is. Although the Western Mind (including Colman's, at a guess) shrinks back in horror from mysticism and explicit dualism, it still works on the assumption that Mind is separate from Reality, and that the only way to understand Reality is by making Mind (i.e. abstracted pattern recognition) and Reality as separate as possible.

You can experiment on Reality, but you're not allowed to admit that you take part in the experimental experience directly. That's called being subjective, and it's a terrible sin.

Put simply, we don't see ourselves as an organic part of the physical world. We see ourselves as separate and detached from it. It happens to us and around us, but it's not a deeply felt or experienced part of us.

So physics is still a theory of distant-mindedness rather than a theory of participation, and Goedel is the inevitable result of trying to find a theory of mind which isn't grounded in experience - a castle in the air with no foundation, because foundational axioms are based in participation and experience and can't be derived from pure pattern matching.

Relativity and QM have been suggesting - inconclusively, so far - that participation is a pre-requisite for deep understanding.

This is very uncomfortable for rational dualists, and they're still not sure what to make of it.

Inevitably the disconnection leads to ravings and mania like the international economic system, where pure algorithms of value disconnect from reality so completely that they're in serious danger of destroying themselves.

This won't change until the detachment ends. It doesn't have to end in a naive participation mystique, because that's often every bit as superficial as it seems to be. Doing lots of drugs and saying 'Hey, wow, that's like, really cool' isn't any more insightful and useful than it seems to be.

But the common factor among mystics is that they don't feel the separation, either between themselves and physical reality, or between themselves and others. And that makes them consicous participants with a personal relationship to their surroundings, rather than slightly confused and anxious passengers who feel embattled and detached from them.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 05:23:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Excellent, tbg, the future is participative, or there is no future...

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson
by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 05:34:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
but you achieve it.  

Very neat and clean.  :)

The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 06:32:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Although the Western Mind (including Colman's, at a guess) shrinks back in horror from mysticism and explicit dualism, it still works on the assumption that Mind is separate from Reality, and that the only way to understand Reality is by making Mind (i.e. abstracted pattern recognition) and Reality as separate as possible.

Thank you for attributing idiotic views to me. I always appreciate that, especially when they're diametrically opposed to my actual views.  I guess I'll just have to become a mystic so I can truly understand things. <sigh>

Turns out that earlier I was discussing with Migeru in IM that the distinction between observer and the observed is entirely artificial. Mind you, mysticism doesn't help at all, because it moves the observer further from the observed, not closer - the observer is really outside reality, floating around in a higher state of consciousness with the other enlightened souls, man.

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 07:38:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
the distinction between observer and the observed is entirely artificial.

Could you develop that point further, or any chance of posting that segment of your IM chat?

(Or maybe Migeru is already planning to include it in his diary on quantum mechanics and ontology?)

Truth unfolds in time through a communal process.

by marco on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 08:10:30 PM EST
[ Parent ]
No, the diary on ontology is going to be on boring stuff such as
what is an object?
take the physics of quasiparticles and the whole idea of objects falls apart
what constitutes the identity of an object?
take the physics of fermion, boson, anyon statistics and compare with maxwell-boltzmann; take the Gibbs paradox

but if these topics are a prerequisite for discussing ontology, who can take part in the discussion?

it takes the fun out of philosophy
</lecture>

As for the requested discussion on the separation between subject and object:
Migeru: it's funny how QM philosophical problems always end up at the conscious observer
... but I think it's about philosophy, not about quantum consciousness
Colman: Yes.
Migeru: it's like the philosophhy of probability: it's also broken
Colman: It's an artificial split between system and observer. Or somethign along those lines.
Migeru: do you know about the holographic principle in quantum gravity?
Colman: I've heard of it. But I forget...
Migeru: it says roughly... you can put a boundary wherever you want
the area of the boundary is a bound on the information entropy of either half
it appears likely to be a key principle of the new theory
but quite what it has to do with consciousness...
though it does seem to have something to do with these boundaries between systems
Colman: Hm.
Migeru: subject and object, etc
Colman: Could do. The distincition is artifical.
Migeru: the problem is
since we don't understand consciousness
we can't do a toy model of a self-aware entity
Colman: No.
Migeru: so there's no way to put that in QM
and talking about QM as the basis of consciousness just confuses things even more!
Flame away!

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 08:21:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
How is the Philosophy of probability broken?

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 08:31:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
One of the main ways IMHO is that the frequentist probability interpretation confuses the definition of probability with the operational way in which probabilities are measured. It takes the law of large numbers as the definition of probability, which makes the conceptual edifice dangerously close to circular.

A big problem with the interpretation of Quantum Mechanics is actually disentangling the philosophy of probability from specifically quantum mechanical conceptual problems.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 08:35:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
now that's going to take at least a pint, a bath, and an hour of thinking to come up with an answer to.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 08:52:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You guys are in danger of disappearing up your own arses, so a bath would be good.  I'm told that long threads are almost always the result of flame wars and there hasn't been a bit of excitement here all night!  Can someone please light a fire under these guys so I can scramble some lieutenants?

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 09:17:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
But aren't there interpretations which don't assume consciousness is necessary?

This seems to be a good thing because otherwise you end up in a solipsistic universe, where you personally are a cause of the Big Bang and all 13 and a bit billion years of everything that happened afterwards. (For varying and approximate values of 'you', at least.)

Assuming consciousness is essential seems to be another spin around the implicit dualism of mind over matter. Although it looks as if it's saying that mind and matter are linked, the implication is really that matter only appears when mind decides it does - which could be a little bit suspect, I think.

How much of a mind do you need before it's conscious enough to start deciding observables?

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 08:53:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Why would it have to be you? perhaps your existence is only guaranteed by the existence of another individual who is the actual observer. That would mean that the biblical "thou shalt not kill" might be to guarantee your own existence  and that of the universe, by maintaining the life of the observer.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 09:03:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That's why I asked about how much consciousness you need.

There's a neat paradox which says that if you try to kill yourself in a quantum experiment, you can't do it. If you did you wouldn't be able to observe the result of the experiment. So it would never happen.

Your colleagues meanwhile can see a quantum suicide note, and possibly a dead body.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 09:21:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The flip side of that one is that we're all immortal, we only see other people die and there's at least one history of the universe in which the observer persists.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 09:22:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
So that makes the worlds militarists, those who are not taking Pascal's wager in that form.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 10:42:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You're right, there are interpretations that do not require a conscious observer: "consistent histories" for instance. But here's the thing: most of these interpretations address primarily the problem of decoherence, that is, the passage from quantum-mechanical interference of complex amplitudes to classical addition of real (and positive) probabilities. What none of them address is the (not quantum-mechanical but probabilistic) problem of actuality (which of the actual histories is realised), which is basically the (probabilistic, not quantum mechanical) problem of assigning a probability to a single event.

Finally, there's an additional twist to this whole discussion which is that decoherence is supposed to be about breaking entanglement, a concept which figures prominently in gaianne's writeup and seems central to the "everything is connected" woo-woo (excuse me) narratives. Now the twist is that entanglement itself is not well defined. It is possible to write down a state of three particles such that depending on the result of a measurement made on A, B and C may or may not be entangled (and cyclic permutations of A, B and C). So, "connectedness" of A, B and C means that "connectedness" of B and C depends on what happens to A far away. This state is called sometimes a Borromean state, by analogy with the borromean rings which are not linked pairwise, but are linked as a set of three.

Back to the beginning, consciousness is not essential but unless a conscious observer is involved, philosophical problems with quantum mechanics seem rather mild to nonexistent, which again suggest a philosophical problem, not a problem with quantum mechanics. The central question is: how are entanglement or interference perceived? Remember Bohr's "no phenomenon is a phenomenon unless it is an observed phenomenon".

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 09:20:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"'woo woo' is not shorthand, it's rudeness."--Bertrand Russell

http://www.watchingyou.com/woowoo.html

There are 41 statements to the Woo Woo credo, many of which demonstrate that it is a term coming out of Usenet flamewars--or somesuch.  To understand if a person is a woo woo, one would have to run their comments via the list--and if they matched up, you can then call them "woo woos" and start an argument--it's an argumentative term, with some humour but clearly aimed at a certain Usenet type of character (the kind who reports you to the sys admin etc.)  The list does have some enjoyable moments.  I recommend numbers 4, 8, 9, 12, 22...wow, 22!  But I don't recommend using it as shorthand because it is clearly meant to be derogatory.


Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.

by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Thu Jan 3rd, 2008 at 04:55:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But there's another interpretation which is a kind of extremist Copenhagen view. It says that QM is a tool which calculates probabilities. And that's all it is.

It doesn't try to define what really happens, it doesn't assume that wave functions are 'real' or even that they evolve. All it says is that if you measure a system at time t, the probabilities of the different outcomes are the real part of etc.

The fact that states can be in various baroque non-local superpositions before the interaction doesn't change this. The probabilities will still be consistent and computable.

Migeru:

What none of them address is the (not quantum-mechanical but probabilistic) problem of actuality (which of the actual histories is realised), which is basically the (probabilistic, not quantum mechanical) problem of assigning a probability to a single event.

"It's random within probabilistic constraints" seems to be all that QM can tell you.

There may be a theory which defines the ontology in more detail. But QM doesn't seem to be it.

The only difference between an observer and a non-observer is that the observer is consciously aware of a measured value. But that doesn't define the value.

What's annoying about QM is that it tries to conflate different issues. There's a difference between the physical interaction needed to make a measurement and the mental process of experiencing the measurement. There's also non-locality, which supposedly makes everything very spooky and has somehow - for some reason which has never been properly explained, because it's not really needed - been linked to mental experience, even though it's completely distinct.

Consciousness
Micro to macro amplification ('measurement')
Non-locality etc
'It's all one' woo woo

are all different. I'll take the middle two. I won't accept the other two until someone does an experiment in which two observers measure two contradictory observables from the same quantum system at the same time.

Migeru:

Remember Bohr's "no phenomenon is a phenomenon unless it is an observed phenomenon".

That's almost makes sense, but doesn't, because in the limit it says that nothing in the universe exists unless it's observed. Which seems unlikely - otherwise you're back to solipsism again, with every possible wave function in the entire history of the universe converging on your viewpoint.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Thu Jan 3rd, 2008 at 06:13:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Great comment.

Regarding Bohr, isn't that very similar to what Kand said about noumenon and phenomenon? Aren't there serious epistemological issues at the core of all this?

ThatBritGuy:

"It's random within probabilistic constraints" seems to be all that QM can tell you.

There may be a theory which defines the ontology in more detail. But QM doesn't seem to be it.

The only difference between an observer and a non-observer is that the observer is consciously aware of a measured value. But that doesn't define the value.

Which is why I want to make a diary referring to a number of out-there models and experiments from Quantum Mechanics and ask people to hash out the ontology. Because things like "what is an object" are not quite clear. And it is a lot easier to say "the universe is purely relational" than to build any useful model out of that insight, which is why a lot of physicist will talk in those terms around a pool table, but few papers get written.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jan 3rd, 2008 at 06:21:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
And it is a lot easier to say "the universe is purely relational" than to build any useful model out of that insight, which is why a lot of physicist will talk in those terms around a pool table, but few papers get written.

sniff, sniff  Chris, is that you cooking up another batch of your pudding somewhere?

Truth unfolds in time through a communal process.

by marco on Thu Jan 3rd, 2008 at 06:48:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Migeru:
Regarding Bohr, isn't that very similar to what Kand said about noumenon and phenomenon? Aren't there serious epistemological issues at the core of all this?

That depends what you expect physics to do. There's a difference between explaining reality, modelling reality, and defining reality.

I think realistically (sic) the best you can hope for is models of increasing sophistication and usefulness. Explaining reality is best left to theologians. (Not that they have a clue either, but it keeps them busy.)

No one should be trying to define reality, ever, but it's easy to fall into the trap of believing that a theory with predictive power is what's going on ontologically.

Too much physics is still cursed by Platonism. According to Penrose et el., models supposedly float around outside reality telling it what to do.

But there's a huge gap between using experimental recipes to predict what's going to happen next, and assuming there's a Central Recipe Database running things behind the scenes.

One is pattern recognition, the other is metaphysics. One assumes that reality works consistently and the consistency can be enumerated. The other makes unwarranted assumptions about the mechanisms which create that consistency.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Thu Jan 3rd, 2008 at 10:19:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Colman:
Turns out that earlier I was discussing with Migeru in IM that the distinction between observer and the observed is entirely artificial.

It's not artificial, it's a useful way of relating to the world.

What it isn't is the only useful way of relating to the world.

And there's a bit of a gap between thinking it as an interesting concept and living it, even a little.

Colman:

Mind you, mysticism doesn't help at all,

If you know it's all lazy woo woo by definition, it wouldn't.

Colman:

the observer is really outside reality, floating around in a higher state of consciousness with the other enlightened souls, man.

It's lucky you never find any of that in science, isn't it?

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 08:34:39 PM EST
[ Parent ]
mysticism doesn't help at all, because it moves the observer further from the observed, not closer - the observer is really outside reality, floating around in a higher state of consciousness with the other enlightened souls, man.  

This is a very strange description of mystical experience.  It is not like anything I know, or anything I have heard of.  Where does it come from?  

The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 09:22:56 PM EST
[ Parent ]
participation is a pre-requisite for deep understanding.

This is very uncomfortable for rational dualists, and they're still not sure what to make of it.

Inevitably the disconnection leads to ravings and mania like the international economic system, where pure algorithms of value disconnect from reality so completely that they're in serious danger of destroying themselves.

This passage helped me finally to understand (I think) the root of Gaianne's concern about our metaphysics and its adequacy (or lack thereof) to equip us for dealing with social and environmental crises.

But maybe I missed this earlier because, agreeing with you that

the Western Mind ... shrinks back in horror from mysticism and explicit dualism,

I do not believe that the Western mindset can be equated with "rational dualism" (which indeed is not adequate for dealing with the results of modern science and logic, nor with the real world crises we face).

I would go further that if

it [the Western Mind] still works on the assumption that Mind is separate from Reality, and that the only way to understand Reality is by making Mind (i.e. abstracted pattern recognition) and Reality as separate as possible

then even this is a modern manifestation of a Platonist, Manichean hold-over that has persisted in our culture in various forms (with some tragic consequences), but is divergent from a more fundamental Western "metaphysics" that construes reality as both spiritual and material (in a complementary, non-contradictory relationship), and that understanding comes from both personal reflection and contemplation as well as from experience and participation within the material world and within society among other people.

Truth unfolds in time through a communal process.

by marco on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 10:22:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
How will an understanding of Quantum Mechanics inform ecology and political economy?  

Query: does QM 'work' when the Object - never mind Action - is described by Second Order, or higher, Collections (not Sets) of Strange Attractors?

My guess: No.  (But I'm willing to be corrected.)

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 10:16:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
But isn't it already possible that we already have what we need in our current conceptual scaffolding (though I would call it a ethical or political rather than metaphysical scaffolding), but that these are being neglected and even repressed?

I refer to values such as cooperation, democracy, freedom, community, pluralism, solidarity, compassion, future preference (relevant to sustainability and solidarity with our descendants), and even (albeit to a lesser degree than in other cultures perhaps) a respect for and fondness for nature.

These are all to be found in the Western tradition (although again, I realize they are not really metaphysical in nature.)  If we revive and revalue them, then I think we will be well equipped to address the challenges you raise.

One point that might bear on the metaphysical is the Western notion of truth, and it just occurred to me now that here a revision or expansion of this notion could conceivably enhance, though not radically alter, in a positive way our conceptual equipment to deal with real world crises.

Our metaphysical outlook has always held that there is a truth, a meaning, a goal to existence, and that this truth is learnable, but not with completeness, finality, or certainty.  Also, this truth is approached not only through divine revelation (the exceptional, almost mythological case), but through individual, personal effort and through reiterative, communal, collective effort.  Furthermore, the social dimension of the unfolding of truth involves both competition and cooperation.  To claim to have obtained final truth is to commit the Greek sin of hubris or the Judaeo-Christian sin of pride (which caused Lucifer to forfeit his box seat in Heaven).  This conception of truth is at the basis of the modern scientific enterprise in which truth is progressively approached, through competition and cooperation, through ever increasing and ever refining knowledge, with the ever present caveat that science is never fully achieved and that no matter how good a theory is, it may always be disproved by a new experiment or displaced by a better theory.

This conception of truth as unfolding in time through a communal process is thus hopeful and optimistic, and affirms that there is an ordered, external reality that is not arbitrary, chaotic, and meaningless.

The irony is that Gödel's theorems, as well as quantum mechanics, violently rattle our simple understanding of what truth is, and force us to reexamine it.  It may even cause us to question the fundamental premise that truth exists at all.  But I do not think these discoveries require that we reject truth, but rather that we enrich our understanding of the nature of truth.  In particular, based on my purely lay reading of quantum mechanics and logic (including a college course in first order logic), I think quantum mechanics and Gödel's theorems can contribute positively to our metaphysics with the following:

  • the rejection of absolute, mutually exclusive duality ("Do I contradict myself? Very well then I contradict myself, (I am large, I contain multitudes.)")
  • the role of subjectivity and consciousness, maybe even sentience, in the constitution of reality
  • the confirmation that truth can never be expressed finally and exhaustively ("There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy")
  • that the discovery, unfolding of truth cannot be automated, but requires the continual participation of conscious intelligence
  • reality is not pre-determined
  • reality may contain multiple "truths" ("reject the tyranny of the or, embrace the genius of the and")

In short, what these scientific/mathematical "crises" may offer our metaphysics is
  • a more important place for the active engagement and consciousness of people
  • more room for creativity and consideration of alternatives (solutions as well as points of view)
  • open-ended optimism and hopefulness

I am no scientist or mathematician (to my great regret), so I may be totally off base here.  But if not, these seem like they could be very helpful for us in dealing with the real world challenges that face us indeed.

Truth unfolds in time through a communal process.
by marco on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 12:33:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A superb contribution. You've revealed many of the things that I struggle to write about.

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 01:15:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
These ideas are nothing more than a regurgitation of what I have read elsewhere.  But if they resonate, then I am glad (and relieved) that I am not the only one who found value in them.

Truth unfolds in time through a communal process.
by marco on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 11:13:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Brilliant indeed, Bruno-Ken.  

I optimistically believe that through the use of the emerging partnership-based models - within which risk and reward are shared equitably - we will come to understand that Ethical is, in fact, Optimal.

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 01:34:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks, but I promise you, the credit definitely goes elsewhere.

I optimistically believe that through the use of the emerging partnership-based models - within which risk and reward are shared equitably - we will come to understand that Ethical is, in fact, Optimal.

And I suspect that part of that success will come through the eventual replacement of the self-oriented profit motive with an other/community-oriented giving/helping/support motive underlying economic transactions.

Truth unfolds in time through a communal process.

by marco on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 11:24:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... 'social consequence'?

That is,

'our mind' => 'social outcomes'

... in a way that our mind is independent of social outcomes?

That is,

'social outcomes' =/> 'our mind'

As a fundamental premise, this seems to me to be dramatically Newtonian/Cartesian.

More likely:

... => 'our mind' => 'social outcomes' => 'our mind' => 'social outcomes' => ...

... that is, a self-reproducing system, so that fundamentalist, analytical causality is insufficient to map to the problem at issue, and we require a living systems reasoning instead.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 07:23:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Not to make presumptions about your argument, but we certainly have a tendency to believe that minds belong to individual people, running on individual brains in individual bodies--and that isn't right at all.  There is some of that, yes, but it is pretty irrelevant to the problems of climate change, biosphere destruction, and economic disaster that constitute the visible surface of our looming difficulties.  

These are created by mind, mind that does not belong to individual brains in individual bodies, but flows across them creating real actions by real people stretching across some centuries and more or less culminating now.  This mind has indeed created the problems, through the nature of the thoughts it perpetuates and the actions it has induced.  And it is still doing it, right now.  

Now it is a mistake to think we are separate from this--for we are participating in it.  Our individual minds may recognize the disaster we are involved in (some do, some don't), but the mind we are part of all together does not.  There are several reasons for this, but one of them is the metaphysics of this mind--a metaphysics we all share.  This lies a bit below the level of visibility--the metaphysics we are happily arguing about do not reach quite that deep.  My tactic is that by arguing about--or sharing--our little metaphysics, the deeper levels might start to show.  

It is needful that they show, that they are revealed to us, the participants who never think about them.  

When I said there are things we want to save, but we don't know what CAN be saved, there are two meanings to this.  There are things that simply cannot (are unable) to make the transition into the new age.  But secondly, there are things which we think we want to save, but are actually part of the destructive process itself.  We don't know what these things are, but we should make a point to know before we set about trying to save them.  We need to know what things belong to the destructive process.  

This then has its mirror:  What does life require of us?  Life needs to outwit the mind causing the destruction.  How do we help it do that?  

Is it "social?"  Oh, yes.  

The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 09:08:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
... as opposed to whatever it is that our brains do when they do things.

I do not see the benefit in "explaining" social systems by loose metaphors to one of the aspects of our own biology that we most struggle with understanding, unless deliberate obscurity is the goal.

However, that is an aside ... if it is a loose metaphorical social "Mind" being discussed, then, while it is true:

"Mind" => thoughts/actions

it is equally true that

thoughts/actions => "Mind" ...

... so "Mind" recreates itself ...

"Mind" => thoughts/actions => "Mind"

... and patterns of thoughts/actions recreate themselves ...

thoughts/actions => "Mind" => thoughts/actions

... and the simple externally-driven system turns into the classical living system, open to material cause, but recursively closed to efficient cause.

That is, a concrete, self-reproducing, matter/energy processing system ...

... for which the simple linear mechanical Newtonian causation, in which material, formal, and efficient cause all collapse into a single type of cause-effect relationship, is inadequate.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 09:51:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
These are created by mind, mind that does not belong to individual brains in individual bodies, but flows across them creating real actions by real people stretching across some centuries and more or less culminating now.

If you insist on mis-using terminology confusion will be your reward.

What you are describing is intellectual continuity within a particular culture.  

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 10:31:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
uhhhhh..you hit a soft spot..

Quantum mechnanics is not wrong.. it is perfectly ok!!

j ejej je

Can we have an intense discussion? I will no take it personally :)

My salvo

Qm explain perfectly the "how" .. and that's all it needs to be in any physical theory...

So QM is neither wrong nor incomplete. there is not a single "how" that it does not explain properly, and there is no phenomena inside its scope which is not addressed.

Of course QM is incomplete in the sense that it can not describe something macroscopic.. but this is is a problem of the complexity of the system and the need for a future complexity theory (understanding how the all is more than the sum of iits parts in a more systematic way and not only with some examples)..

So Here I wait... in which instance QM is not right? :)

Dare you not speak ill of QM :)

A pleasure


I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Thu Jan 3rd, 2008 at 07:26:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I said incomplete: gravity is the obvious missing bit.

Which means that worrying too much about QM's implications outside its realm of application is a bit silly.

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Thu Jan 3rd, 2008 at 07:40:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But Qm is not supposed to address gravity. why is it incomplete then? newton laws are nto supposed to address electromechanics.. is Newton law incomplete for that? and what about Einstein's gravitation.. I guess you think it is incomplete because it does not address all the other forces?

So tell me if I am right.. you think that until there is no theory which links the four fundamental forces foces ..then all theories is incomplete?

then we really have a completely different vision of science :)

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Thu Jan 3rd, 2008 at 07:43:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's fine within its own limits. It's when people want to start applying it outside those limits as if it means something that I get annoyed.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Thu Jan 3rd, 2008 at 07:51:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
kcurie:
But Qm is not supposed to address gravity. why is it incomplete then?
Okay: quantum mechanics presupposes the existence of Newtonian time.

Quantum field theory pressupposes the existence of Einsteinian spacetime. You can get away with quantum field theory on stationary spacetimes because there you have a proxy for "Newtonian time". String theory is not very different in the way it appears to require a highly symmetric "background".

But things like Hawking radiation are like the "old" quantum mechanics of Bohr and Sommerfeld. There needs to be a better theory. One in which somehow spacetime emerges.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jan 3rd, 2008 at 08:17:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
kcurie:
So Here I wait... in which instance QM is not right? :)
Quantum gravity, of course.kcurie:
So QM is neither wrong nor incomplete. there is not a single "how" that it does not explain properly, and there is no phenomena inside its scope which is not addressed.
Which is why a proper ontology, epistemology and logic of QM would be neat things.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jan 3rd, 2008 at 08:09:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Excellent Diary, Gaianne.

There must be few on ET who don't know that I think that  Pirsig's Metaphysics of Quality is the answer to Life, the Universe and Everything.

I just wish I were intellectually equipped to argue his corner!

I presented a paper at Lancaster University on the subject of Knowledge based Value and Intellectual Property which attempted a different - "Metaphysics of Value" - approach to Economics...

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 03:27:09 AM EST
His first book of the two was one that I just found ultimately frustrating, to the extent that i've tried reading it wseveral times and can't get past about the middle. Normally I read anything, but that is the one book that utterly defeats me.

Somewhere either in the attic here or at my Fathers, there is a copy, reassembled with sticky tape after it had been disassembled with a handaxe. Thats how frustrating I find it.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.

by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 03:43:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
in last week's car-crash thread.  

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance was very important to my understanding, though I left it out of my miniature biography.  His description of Poincare is exquisite.  

He too ran up against the limitations of science.  And flunked himself out of Chemistry, no less.  One issue he raises that I did not go into but which is very relevant for metaphysics:  Since you can come up with hypotheses faster than you can test them, which ones do you test?  You have to choose, and the choice may well have a basis that is not "scientific."  At best you are relying on scientific inspiration (which is not supposed to exist) at worst you are making a choice out of social or personal prejudice.  

From there we get to the problem of what questions does science ask?  Now partly, scientists ask questions to which they can almost already see the answers.  But as for the rest, again:  Inspiration, or prejudice?  

In truth, science is a method for testing hypotheses.  Everything else, including the hypotheses themselves, is not scientific.  That is not the problem.  The problem is not admitting it.  

Can we admit there is such a thing as scientific inspiration?  

So, in Zen he develops the notion of Quality, and shows how it resembles the concept of the Tao.  

In Leila he starts to develop the ideas of his metaphysics.  I found Leila fascinating, but I must admit he went in a different direction than I would go.  For me, Taoism led to Buddhism led to other forms of spiritual practice to a sense of the essential importance of non-verbal experience.  He went  directly back into the world of words, and partly I distrust that, and partly I just found it harder to get what he was saying.  

At this point, I am not yet understanding the Metaphysics of Value, but am wondering if it can provide a route out of debt-based money and global ecological collapse.  

The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 04:03:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
you are relying on scientific inspiration (which is not supposed to exist)

Were you ever a working scientist?
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 04:10:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sure.  And I tried to teach my students to guess the answers before going ahead and solving properly.  

Without intuition you get nowhere.  

But none of my colleagues would ever admit that in public.  

Why do you think is that?  

The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 04:39:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I have absolutely no idea: the idea that you can work without intuition is bizarre to me. I mean, intuition -> experiment/proof and peer review -> new intuition(s) is how it works. Where and when was this, in general terms?
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 04:43:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There is the ongoing pedagogical problem where the process is very seldom taught, at least in mathematics, where everything is generally presented in a linear fashion - because that's the easiest way to read it once you're done - and people start to imaging that's how the results were arrived at, which is almost never the case.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 04:50:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That's exactly the problem I had when I was teaching "finite mathematics" which was the first undergraduate course where proof techniques were introduced.

I had to explain to my students that the proofs in their textbooks made no sense because they were discovered inductively in the opposite direction than they were written, and then sharpened for "elegance" in order to impress other professors so they will select the textbook. Take, for example, a typical epsilon-delta exercise from calculus. The official answer will start with "let epsilon equal blah blah bla" and the student will stop right there and scratch their head "how did they come up with that?". Well, that was the last thing they came up with.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 07:00:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I had similar troubles with proof techniques during secondary schooling... I could follow the logic of the proof, but not how anyone could come up with it out of thin air, which even then seemed slightly more important to me.
by Nomad on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 07:25:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's the pedagogy and sociology of mathematics that are broken, not the subject matter.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 07:28:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Ahhhh, I wish I could have been your student, my relationship with math and some of science would probably be very different. :-)
by Fran (fran at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 05:07:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Because they're mediocre?

Dirac admitted it in public. The way he put is is that what people call "physical intuition" is knowing what the solution looks like without solving the equation.

Seeing how some of my classmates who were better than I was at symbolic algebra and functional analysis and never got caught by a trivial counterexample, but were mystified by even slightly nontivial PDEs, I came to the conclusion that I did the right thing studying physics before mathematics. Physical intuition allow the mathematics to come alive.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 06:57:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
against abstract mathematics on much these grounds.  

(It wasn't the abstraction he objected to, but the disconnect.)

The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 07:18:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]

Gaianne: ... Without intuition you get nowhere.  

But none of my colleagues would ever admit that in public.  

Why do you think is that?  

Because they were prisoners of a false image of what real maths or science was like - from their own education and the way papers are written - tidily, after the messy process of creative thinking (cf Colman below).

Koestler's "The Act of Creation" was published back in 1964 and gave many examples from science (as well as the arts) of how the creative process worked; bascially:

felt need (arts) existing problem (sciences)

initial conscious work

unconscious activity (so important to leave time for this - a very important lesson that B. Russell learnt the hard way after years of struggling to do it all consciously)

Insight/inspiration

The latter often occurred in dreams or half-awake state and often involved imagery - including in sciences - Kekule snake with tail in mouth I seem to recall - yes:

 "While researching benzene, the German chemist dreamed of a snake with its tail in its mouth. Kekulé interpreted the snake as a representation of the closed-carbon ring of benzene"

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cryptomnesia

 Einstein even said his creative "thinking" involved muscular sensations.

As this review points out, unfortunately it got a very bad review from Medawar (and probably other scientists) so not too many young scientists may have read this - a pity:

"The Act of Creation" offers a theory to account for the "Ah Ha" reaction of scientific discovery, the "Ha Ha" reaction to jokes and the "Ah" reaction of mystical or religious insight. In each case the result is produced by a "bisociation of matrices" or the intersection of lines of thought which brings together hitherto unconnected ideas and fuses them into a creative synthesis. When the lines of thought are scientic the result is a scientific discovery, when they are concerned with devotional matters the result is mystical insight and when they are on a more homely plane the result can be a joke.

The model is fleshed out with a great deal of information ranging from the religions of the world to a theory about the nervous system to account for the build-up of tension and its discharge at the puchline of a joke. Peter Medawar's review was scathing in his comments on Koestler's science, which is a shame because the book can have the desirable effect of encouraging young scientists to read far beyond the usual range of their literature.

http://www.amazon.ca/Act-Creation-Arthur-Koestler/dp/0140191917



Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.
by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 11:43:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In my top 10 of 'books that have changed me'

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 11:56:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]

We probably agree on LOTS of things :-) By the way I went on courses run by Tom Hudson and Terry Setch too.

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.
by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 12:06:13 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Wow, that is a neat bit of serendipity. Studying under Tom Hudson certainly shook me out of my middle-class complacency! The other who was a great influence at that time in Leicester was Mike Sandle, who to a certain extent took me under his wing.

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 12:17:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]

I only did short courses with them at Barry summer school after finishing art school (Camberwell). I'm afraid I found it a bit superficial - I generated quite a lot of visual ideas, as they encouraged us to do, and I think it was Setch who said I had enough ideas already for 10 years work and a show. I thought what I had done was all a bit trivial - no real aha moments :-) But they could be very encouraging and liberating if you were stuck in some limited mode. I see Setch was still working quite recently with some stuff supposedly having an ecological orientation - though it wasn't really clear in the work itself on his site.

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.
by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 12:40:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This on the workings of the conscious and the subconscious in problem solving...

Then Poincaré illustrated how a fact is discovered. He had described generally how scientists arrive at facts and theories but now he penetrated narrowly into his own personal experience with the mathematical functions that established his early fame.

For fifteen days, he said, he strove to prove that there couldn't be any such functions. Every day he seated himself at his work-table, stayed an hour or two, tried a great number of combinations and reached no results.

Then one evening, contrary to his custom, he drank black coffee and couldn't sleep. Ideas arose in crowds. He felt them collide until pairs interlocked, so to speak, making a stable combination.

The next morning he had only to write out the results. A wave of crystallization had taken place.

He described how a second wave of crystallization, guided by analogies to established mathematics, produced what he later named the "Theta-Fuchsian Series." He left Caen, where he was living, to go on a geologic excursion. The changes of travel made him forget mathematics. He was about to enter a bus, and at the moment when he put his foot on the step, the idea came to him, without anything in his former thoughts having paved the way for it, that the transformations he had used to define the Fuchsian functions were identical with those of non-Euclidian geometry. He didn't verify the idea, he said, he just went on with a conversation on the bus; but he felt a perfect certainty. Later he verified the result at his leisure.

A later discovery occurred while he was walking by a seaside bluff. It came to him with just the same characteristics of brevity, suddenness and immediate certainty. Another major discovery occurred while he was walking down a street. Others eulogized this process as the mysterious workings of genius, but Poincaré was not content with such a shallow explanation. He tried to fathom more deeply what had happened.

Mathematics, he said, isn't merely a question of applying rules, any more than science. It doesn't merely make the most combinations possible according to certain fixed laws. The combinations so obtained would he exceedingly numerous, useless and cumbersome. The true work of the inventor consists in choosing among these combinations so as to eliminate the useless ones, or rather, to avoid the trouble of making them, and the rules that must guide the choice are extremely fine and delicate. It's almost impossible to state them precisely; they must be felt rather than formulated.

Poincaré then hypothesized that this selection is made by what he called the "subliminal self," an entity that corresponds exactly with what Phadrus called preintellectual awareness. The subliminal self, Poincaré said, looks at a large number of solutions to a problem, but only the interesting ones break into the domain of consciousness. Mathematical solutions are selected by the subliminal self on the basis of "mathematical beauty," of the harmony of numbers and forms, of geometric elegance.

"This is a true aesthetic feeling which all mathematicians know," Poincaré said, "but of which the profane are so ignorant as often to be tempted to smile."

But it is this harmony, this beauty, that is at the center of it all.

Problem solving is what I have always enjoyed more than anything else. I think that "pattern recognition" is a good way of describing the process.

My motivation is to find the simple answer that everybody knows, but which doesn't yet exist: Naoto Fukasawa


"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson
by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 12:14:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, it's remarkable how important beauty can be to those in maths and physics - there are a number of examples in Kaku's "Parallel Worlds".

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.
by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 12:44:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Why is it remarkable? Isn't aesthetic pleasure important to engineers, architects, sculptors, painters, photographers, filmmakers, writers...?

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 12:47:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]

Because it is so different from the general image the general public has of the nature of science and maths (I don't recall it being mentioned during my education :-)), and, has been noted here, even many scientists do not like to acknowledge the creative/intuitive nature of their work.

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.
by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 12:56:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
As Sam has mentioned perviously, we come from a college background where drinking in the pursuit of theorems was a semi-serious  strategy. I just find this whole part of the discussion culturally weird.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 12:58:49 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It is remarkable that the general public has the wrong idea about the nature of science and maths?

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 12:59:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A big factor is that a vast majority of people in the written press have arts degrees, and are activly disinterested in science. Unless you are reading more specific science press, the quality of science reporting is poor.

On top of this you have a vast amount of celebrity reporting that compresses the space that's available for other reporting. The vast increase in the number of TV channels also allows people to avoid any exposure to science.

why is Science that important to the average person when Brittneys got no underwear on?

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.

by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 01:15:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And elegance as a criteria for suggesting truth in mathematics is a widely known heuristic, surely? Not that it always works, but people are extra suspicious of inelegant hacked together proofs.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 01:00:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This book, edited by Graham Farmello - subtitled 'Great Equations of Modern Science' goes into great detail on this subject.

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 01:08:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A great diary to start the new year. Thanks. I'll have to get back to this tonight...

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 04:51:44 AM EST
Incidentally, how would people react if I chose to describe those who choose to rely on spirituality and beliefs in higher realities as indulging in an act of mental cowardice?
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 05:27:39 AM EST
We'd send round ghosts of hamsters

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 05:30:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, definitely!
by Fran (fran at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 05:41:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
But the point is not that these discoveries prove a spiritual world--they certainly do not do that (and for my part I have no interest in such proofs)--but that they require a metaphysical revision, of some sort, that can cope with them.  

It was the turning away and ignoring that was, as I saw it, the mental cowardice.  

The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 06:47:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
European Tribune - Metaphysics of the coming age
Both mathematicians and physicists have chosen to turn away from the import of their own discoveries, in a sort of mental cowardice.  Not the least of the many ironies of our time is that these various limitative results have created rich possibilities, especially for creating clever toys, and the attraction of the toys has served to mask the underlying difficulty.  
I agree that this is a problem, but I have to say that at least in the case of physics up to the 1970's it was not an act of cowardice per se.

The real reason little attention was paid to foundations and students were discouraged from thinking too much about them was that high-energy physics experiment was well ahead of theory for the better part of the 20th century. Progress was astoundingly fast. So fast, indeed, that the whole 80 years of quantum theory are littered with half-cooked models that just about work, despite their mathematical and epistemological inconsistencies. At the same time, the number of physicists expanded greatly as did funding for the discipline, so scholarly reappraisal of decades old advances occupied relatively few people.

Since the 1970's theory has been ahead of experiment but, instead of going back and doing the boring work of revising the foundations, people forged ahead in search of Einstein's unification (talk about platonism and flights forward).

The 21st century will be the century of biology and maybe that's a good thing for physics: funding will drop in real term, fewer people will work in the field and the slower pace of progress will motivate people to look back, reappraise, understand and reformulate quantum mechanics.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 07:18:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There might well be an entire spectrum of reactions, both from those who rely on spirituality and beliefs, and those who don't.  From those who do rely on spirituality and belief, there might well be an entire spectrum of reactions.  On one hand, indignation and anger there their belief is characterized as an act of mental cowardice.  On the other, sadness and compassion for poor Colman, still wandering in the darkness of the material desert.

So of course i'll continue to believe you chose not describe people who believe in higher realities mental cowards.  (This of course does not mean there aren't mental cowards who do believe in higher realities, but the latter doesn't beget the former.)

Illustration.  i spend much of my time in the science of material reality, trying to answer such questions as:  why are the planetary gear teeth experiencing micro-pitting?; why are we seeing leading edge delamination or root cracking?; how can we better estimate fatigue or transient loads better?  We use the tools of engineering to get closer and closer to answering the questions.

So how do i explain this story?  My father had been quite ill, but i'd been informed he was doing much much better, and i didn't need to fly to visit.  Days later, normal day, mid afternoon, i've decided to bring my laundry downstairs, where i would mix it with water and various detergents under turbulent conditions in order to make them cleaner.  Like always, i take the basket out the door into the hallway, to begin my journey.  Suddenly i find myself yelling at the ceiling, very loudly, "Joe, let go!  Joe, Let Go!!

I don't conceptualize it yet, but i know what's just happened, despite my shock at suddenly discovering i'm yelling at the ceiling.  i bring the clothes basket back into the loft, and plop into my favorite recliner and drift into the ozone.  Half an hour later the call comes that my father had just passed on, fighting against the electric shocks.

To me that was direct inner empirical evidence of some higher reality.  That i choose to believe that someday physics will discover the mechanism used for the communication or transmission or whatever it was which most of science today doesn't even acknowledge, does not make me a mental coward.  That i "know" for certain there is a higher reality doesn't either.

But then, i've seen old indian guys break clouds away or bring rain.  Wish they could do load calculations.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anaïs Nin

by Crazy Horse on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 06:24:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There might well be an entire spectrum of reactions, both from those who rely on spirituality and beliefs, and those who don't.  From those who do rely on spirituality and belief, there might well be an entire spectrum of reactions.  On one hand, indignation and anger there their belief is characterized as an act of mental cowardice.

Yet it's perfectly acceptable to characterise scientists that way. How strange.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 06:48:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Fantastic, thought-provoking diary.

Even as we are reaching the limits of what the Western mind is willing to contemplate, the circumstances of peak oil, climate change, biosphere destruction, and consequent civilization collapse are going to require an utter rearrangement of that mind.

On the one hand, I share the feeling that as an intellectual matter, the Western mind/metaphysics may need to be revised/expanded/further developed in order to catch up with the discoveries of modern mathematics and science.  On the other hand, I am not yet clear as to how such a putative gap between our metaphysics/mindset and the results of science and mathematics (such as Gödel's Theorem or quantum physics) bear on our ability to address the immense practical challenges you list above.

Obviously, I don't mean to exclude the possibility that other metaphysics/philosophical outlooks can make valuable contributions in our overcoming these challenges -- in fact, I fully expect them to (e.g. the notion of harmony [和] from Chinese philosophy).  It's just that I am still unclear as to why the Western approach -- however you construe it -- is inadequate to the task.

(In somewhat similar fashion, while I am still working on understanding Pirsig's "metaphysics of Quality", I don't see that embracing Chris Cook's open corporate model of economic organization requires going outside a Western metaphysics or mindset.  The proof of Pirsig's pudding will be in the eating of it.)

Truth unfolds in time through a communal process.

by marco on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 06:19:27 AM EST
The proof of Pirsig's pudding will be in the eating of it.

I meant to write,

The proof of Chris's pudding will be in the eating of it.

My very point was that Chris's pudding need not be served with Pirsig's Value sauce, as long as it tastes good on its own (although combining the two may add a certain relish.)

Truth unfolds in time through a communal process.

by marco on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 06:30:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I use Pirsig's MoQ to help explain what I see as an emergent phenomenon. I can see that it works, but cannot explain why.

The current system is based upon thinking of "Money" and "Property" as "objects", and also upon "absolute" property rights.

Perhaps the key point is the role of Time in all of this.

Current financial and property rights are split as between two absolutes: absolute permanent infinite ownership on the one hand, and temporary "use", for a defined finite term, on the other.

The use of the Open Corporate as a vehicle for encapsulating the property relationship (the relationship between the subject "owner" and whetever is the object of his "ownership") allows an entirely new property right of indefinite duration.

We may now, using this approach, synthesise the conflicting legal claims of Secured Debt and conventional Equity into a simple new continuous asset class consisting of "nth's" in ownership of a productive asset, and its production.

Moreover, that that production may then be "unitised" using time as a divisor eg KiloWatt/Hours; SquareMetre/Years.

I have used the Mobius strip as an analogy to try to illustrate the continuity over time inherent in the model.

But the beauty of it is that it's not a matter of either this model or the existing one. This new model is complementary to the existing one, and will, IMHO both assimilate it and render it obsolete. I am not saying that every enterprise need be an LLP or LLC, but rather that those which do not become members of networked LLP and LLC frameworks will be at a competitive disadvantage to those that do.

The existing "closed" Capitalism will consume itself.

I find it difficult to explain all this: much is intuitive; but I know based upon a career in financial services at a pretty high level and a track record in financial innovation, that what is emerging will wipe the floor with everything else out there.

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 08:37:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I know that what is emerging will wipe the floor with everything else out there.

And my gut says you're right.

Truth unfolds in time through a communal process.

by marco on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 10:51:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
(well, a lot of bits after the beginning as well)

I write as a progressive who no longer believes in progress.  This is an embarrassing thing.  But progressivism was born in the apparent abundance of rising empire, and in the idea that if wealth is plentiful, then it OUGHT to be shared out (rather than horded by a few), but as abundance visibly disappears, the spiritual aspects of progressivism (to me, the most important part) lose their material support.  Now what?

Of course, the pollyanas in the United States will argue that there has not been any disappearance of abundance in the United States in this last decade ... it has not gone away, its just gone into the hands of the top 1% on the wealth ladder.

However, where I depart is the observation (from social science or biology, take your pick) that the problem of a new system organization emerging and the problem of persistence of the descendants of that system organization are quite different things. For any given system organization, its emergence is, everything else equal, extraordinarily unlikely, and so its emergence is typically the result of everything else being very much unequal, combined with a healthy dose of luck.

But survival in some form ... that is much less unlikely.

So while I am not sure that a Progressivist of 1900 would recognise it as progressivism, I suspect that progressivism will not go away to be replaced by some other metaphysics ... it seems more likely that it will evolve into a new form ... of course, possibly accompanied by a new metaphysics that emerges in the same, dramatically different, circumstances.

BTW, I took the Laoist route.


I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 07:38:21 AM EST
I'm not trying to break with progressivism.  Just acknowledging (what I see as) current difficulties.  

This diary is not really about progressivism, though.  That would be another line of thought.  

The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 08:01:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This is one of those cases where I wish bloggers would use a "scientific paper" format.

Is it impossible to give a VERY short abstract containing your "take-home" lesson prior to jumping into the article/diary/whatever?  This might be a GREAT article but I don't know if I want to invest the time reading this whole bugger so I tend to blow it off or bookmark it for later but later never arrives.

Think about it folks.  An abstract to start an article?
PLEASE.

They tried to assimilate me. They failed.

by THE Twank (yatta blah blah @ blah.com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 09:02:29 AM EST
This is your abstract:
European Tribune: Metaphysics of the coming age
Of course you will be wanting me to justify or defend this title.  So perhaps I had better admit at the outset that I cannot.  Nobody knows what the coming age will be, nor what metaphysics it will either accept, or require.  Nonetheless, that is where I would have us turn our minds, for consideration and speculation.  

This is, obviously, a heat-generating topic.  Metaphysics is like religion, indeed, as it is concerned with the fundamental structure and meaning of the world (or of life) it IS religion, where religion exists.  And where religion does not, metaphysics takes on the religious passion.  

But I would have us consider it anyway, because whatever we believe, it is likely to change.  Circumstances alone will see to that.  My goal here is not to seek agreement, but to find possibilities--more important than what is precluded (although some notions will be being shed) is what is allowed.  

And the whole thing is 2000 words - you can speed-read it if you want.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 09:24:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
ROFL

You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 10:15:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
OK, this is getting nowhere.  Assuming I have the time a little later, I will read and reread this article and publish what I believe to be an acceptable abstract.  We can then go from there.  It's worth the effort (IMO).
Will bookmark this article.

They tried to assimilate me. They failed.
by THE Twank (yatta blah blah @ blah.com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 12:18:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think the obstacles blocking our progress in the coming age are not conceptual or metaphysical in nature, but rather organizational (society needs to be rearranged to adapt to changing circumstances and increasing tensions) and moral (people are too lazy, greedy, selfish, etc. to undertake the discomfort entailed by such rearrangements).

Truth unfolds in time through a communal process.
by marco on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 10:57:53 AM EST
Gaianne - it was a big mistake to seek certainty - though so many had done so before. Descartes thought he had cracked it with his cogito, many thought he had for a long time. Nietzsche took it apart in a beautiful piece of philosophical analysis in Beyond Good and Evil, section 16:

There are always still the harmless observers of themselves who believe that there are "immediate certainties," for example, "I think," or like Schopenhauer's superstition, "I will," just as if perception was able to seize upon its object pure and naked, as "the thing in itself," and as if there was no falsification either on the part of the subject or on the part of the object.*

The fact is that "immediate certainty," together with "absolute cognition" and "thing in itself," contains within itself a contradictio in ajecto [contradiction in terms]. I'll repeat it a hundred times: people should finally free themselves of the seduction of words! Let folk believe that knowing is knowing all of something. The philosopher must say to himself, "When I dismantle the process which is expressed in the sentence `I think,' I come upon a series of daring assertions whose grounding is difficult, perhaps impossible, for example, that I am the one who thinks, that there must be some general something that thinks, that thinking is an action and effect of a being which is to be thought of as a cause, that there is an `I', and finally that it is already established what we mean by thinking--that I know what thinking is. For if I had not yet decided these questions in myself, how could I assess that what just happened might not perhaps be `willing' or `feeling'?"

It's sufficient to point out that this "I think" presupposes that I compare my immediate condition with other conditions which I know in myself in order to establish what it is. Because of this referring back to other forms of "knowing," it certainly does not have any immediate "certainty" for me. --Instead with this "immediate certainty," which people may believe in the case under discussion, the philosopher encounters such a series of metaphysical questions, really essential questions of intellectual knowledge, "Where do I acquire the idea of thinking? Why do I believe in cause and effect? What gives me the right to speak of an `I,' and indeed of an `I' as a cause, finally even of an `I' as the cause of thinking?"

Anyone who dares to answer those metaphysical questions right away with an appeal to some kind of intuitive cognition, as does the man who says "I think and know that at least this is true, real, and certain"--such a person nowadays will be met by a philosopher with a smile and two question marks. "My dear sir," the philosopher will perhaps give him to understand, "it is unlikely that you are not mistaken but why such absolute truth?"--

http://www.mala.bc.ca/~johnstoi/Nietzsche/beyondgoodandevil1.htm

I think you're quite wrong to describe scientists who go on working and not concerning themselves with the foundations of science/maths/logic as "cowards". It's not as though science depends for its validity only on those foundations; there is a long history of success in application to the real world. There is also the long history of improving on earlier basic theories - hence current foundational problems might well be resolved later too.

There's a useful summary of Bronowski's enlightened views on this in a study guide for  Bronowski's excellent "Knowledge or Certainty", a programme in his series "The Ascent of Man" for the BBC in 1973. In the programme he argues that the desire of certainty or absolute knowledge is not only misguided but dangerous. The desire for it can lead to intolerance and the imposition of one's supposed certainties - as with some religions, or dogmatic racial theories as with the Nazis:

 The defence of science which Bronowski mounts depends on the "uncertainty principle," or "indeterminacy" or--as he prefers--"the principle of tolerance." His insistence that there is no absolute truth, not even in science, descends from the same line of reasoning as Voltaire's insistence on the limits of knowledge. Both argue that the logical result of human limitations should be tolerance.

The Science

You do not have to understand modern atomic physics to follow his argument, but it helps. He begins the film by focussing a number of devices on the face of an unnamed elderly man to see how much detail each can produce. The point of this exercise is to demonstrate that all perception, including that provided by scientific investigation, is necessarily imperfect, limited.
...

It is crucial to understand that he is not saying that there is no such thing as knowledge, or that all approaches to knowledge are equal. He emphasizes that we can be very precise about what we can and cannot know through scientific means. That in itself is important knowledge. But all knowledge is limited, never absolute. Philosophers and other humanists have often seized on uncertainty theory and quantum physics to argue for skepticism, and tried to use it to deny all validity to science. Why this is unjustified in most scientists' opinion is beyond the scope of these modest notes, but it is important to keep in mind that Bronowski does believe in scientific knowledge: he simply denies that it is complete or perfect.
...

His use of the word "tolerance" may be unfamiliar to you if you have not studied engineering. Parts are often manufactured to a certain degree of tolerance in the sense that a bolt may measure .25 centimeters give or take 15 millimeters. The "give or take" part is the "tolerance." It is not possible to make anything to perfect dimensions--not just because of human imperfection, but because of uncertainties built into the very nature of matter. Bronowski is punning on this meaning of "tolerance" to connect it with the more common use of the term to express open-mindedness. Note how his analysis of science emphasizes that it progresses through questioning and argumentation, refusal to accept any finding as the last word. For him, science which becomes dogma is not science.

He rejects the term "uncertainty" because we are certain about what we cannot know in subatomic physics, and can even measure precisely the "tolerance" within which our knowledge is bounded.

http://www.wsu.edu/~brians/hum_303/bronowski.html

He ends, movingly, at Auschwitz, saying that it is not scientists who turn people into numbers, but dogmatists like the Nazis, who killed many of his relatives. He walks into a pool (apparently unscripted and to surprise of film crew) where some of their ashes may have been dumped. He says we must give up the craving for absolute knowledge - which can lead to killing people. We must move forward despite uncertainty/tolerance - science is always tentative (but not just ignorance) and therefore not dogmatic.

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.

by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 11:19:53 AM EST
for the Pythagorean Theorem, but you never can tell, I suppose.  

But did you miss my description of Logic floating on the Fog of Mystery?  

It was the folk I thought cowards who were sure their truths were planted on solid bedrock.  

But accepting a foundation in Mystery is not the same as saying "whatever . . ."

The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 11:35:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I don't buy your description at all. Why do limits seem so appalling to you?
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 11:38:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Limitative results are not appalling, but they do mean your theory has hit a barrier, and you have to ask:  Why?  

The answer to why can be interesting.  

The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 01:39:52 PM EST
[ Parent ]
And sometimes it's because there's a barrier there.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 01:40:50 PM EST
[ Parent ]

And how many actually said this? If they did due to ignorance that's not same as being a coward. Others may well have just accepted that there were as yet unresolved problems in foundations. I don't see why you talk about "cowards" - without actual examples/evidence, except to justify your "apostasy" ? :-)

I don't think terms like "fog of mystery" are very useful to talk about unresolved issues in sciences. I prefer Bronowski's   play on "tolerance".

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.

by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 11:50:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]

Also, of course, I said, echoing Bronowski, that it CAN lead to killing people. The point remains that demanding absolute knowledge, based in indubitable foundations is misguided, and those who go on working within science without worrying too much about problems in basic theory are quite sensible. There was no need for apostasy - a term from religion of course where absolute knowledge is claimed and people also kill each other over rival claims to it.

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner - that I moved to Nice.
by Ted Welch (tedwelch-at-mac-dot-com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 12:02:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 05:53:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
"What is Metaphysics?"

At the risk of bringing us back to Heidegger, I have to point out that although the Ancient Greeks did "start" metaphysics, their precursors had already killed metaphysics before they started it. At least according to Heidegger, both Heraclitus and Parmenides showed the inherent errors of metaphysical thinking prior to its coming into being in formal practice.

Continental philosophy, especially French, over the last 50 odd years has been keenly interested in dismantling the whole 2,500 year old edifice of metaphysical thought.

by Upstate NY on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 01:59:25 PM EST
Upstate NY:
At least according to Heidegger, both Heraclitus and Parmenides showed the inherent errors of metaphysical thinking prior to its coming into being in formal practice.
One of the annoying things about philosophy is that whatever you say there's always a presocratic who said it first.

That doesn't mean that, for instance, Democritus was right about atoms for the right reasons. All this getting stuff right about the world on the basis of pure thought is a dangerous conceit.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 02:02:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
But then, Gödel's theorem is just applying the presocratic paradox of "this statement is false" to formal logic. I'm not sure how it makes formal logic so unstable...

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 02:32:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It doesn't make it unstable, it just proves that truth functions are incomputable.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 03:11:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It's possible that first learning about the undecidability aspects of computer theory made the Gödel theorem lose its surprise factor...


Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 03:28:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Gödel proved the incompleteness of Arithmetic.  Specifically, he demonstrated that in any axiomatic system capable of Arithmetic there are statements that can neither be proved or disproved within the axioms.

To fully understand what that meant and means requires an understanding of what Logic and Mathematics were 'on about' from around 1870 to l933.  To (greatly) simplify, Frege, Hilbert, Russell, Whitehead, & All That Crew were attempting to construct an intellectual tool that would always, when correctly used, derive a True and Valid answer.  

Gödel's Proof = You Can't.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 10:56:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, and it failed on "this statement is false". That's the basic point of Gödel's proof. I don't know how they expected to attribute a truth value to that statement, those formal logicians ; but that you can't attribute a truth value to it sounds even a bit reconforting... Logic doesn't get out of the realm of human experience about truth values.


Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Thu Jan 3rd, 2008 at 04:13:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Many antinomies (paradoxes,) such as that one - a variation on wossname's 'All Cretans are liars ...' - have an oscillating first order Truth Value with the TV changing depending on the step: On True Then False Then True & etc XOR On False Then True Then False & etc.  Since they are infinitely oscillating there is no resolution possible.  

By moving to the Second Order, on the other hand, the True/False OR False/True oscillation is, sometimes, capable of resolution.

But that, very often, takes you outside the original axiomatic system.

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Thu Jan 3rd, 2008 at 05:27:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"Arithmetic is consistent"

That was the sailing-over-the-edge moment.  

Now it may be that arithmetic really is consistent, but that is another truth function that is "uncomputable."  

The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Thu Jan 3rd, 2008 at 04:48:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It depends on what you mean by "right."

Heidegger understands Parmenides to be saying something quite the opposite of those who came after. So, there is no agreement there.

And genealogy is important. If we are to credit certain Ancient Greeks with the very foundation of thinking about subject-object relations, then we can't ignore those who came before and troubled that very relationship. We'd be privileging the form of thought which dominated the next few millenia as somehow an originary idea.

by Upstate NY on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 02:41:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
One of the annoying things about philosophy is that whatever you say there's always a presocratic who said it first.

Is that a quote from Hesiod?

;-)

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 10:38:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I've read this and a few of the recent dust-ups I alas missed over the holidays, and was surprised to have not seen references to a few things which I would have expected, especially to Kuhn and in particular his work The Structure of Scientific Revolutions,  as well as CP Snow who wrote of and lectured on the gulf between the scientific and literary communities that I believe is exactly the cause of quite a lot of friction in these thread I've observed.

And he is absolutely correct. We get nowhere fast when the humanities talk past the sciences and vice versa.

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill

by r------ on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 04:15:38 PM EST
redstar:
the gulf between the scientific and literary communities that I believe is exactly the cause of quite a lot of friction in these thread I've observed.

Interesting theory.

Migeru and others have attempted to explain the dust-ups on the basis of incompatible personality types and are planning a mass myers brigg test for the community, Frank Schnittger:

I'm thinking of writing a melodrama in 4 acts, with scrambling lieutenants and parts for introverts, Extroverts, Intuiters, sensors, thinkers, Feelers, perceivers,  and judges.  You guys can do the casting.

http://www.eurotrib.com/?op=displaystory;sid=2008/1/1/11415/37691

I'm wondering if we need to appoint an ET Psychotherapist....

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 04:41:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Having grown up with one parent a militant atheist, and the other a new-age devotee, I've sort of been threading this needle my whole life.  From what I've seen, much of the hostility comes from a basic epistemological incompatibility that is poorly understood on both ends, and that it is the failure to understand this basic logical and evidential problem that leads to so much of the hostility.

In essence, both sides are talking past each other, but the problem is that they think it's possible to talk to each other, and get angry when they are misunderstood - when in fact, understanding is fundamentally impossible.

by Zwackus on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 06:20:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I was trying to keep my account concise, so I left him out.  

Perhaps that was a mistake:  Once you accept the idea of scientific revolutions and paradigm shifts, you can see that science moves in discrete steps toward greater precision while generating a series of mutually incompatible theories of increasing calculational complexity.  (Sometimes techniques of calculation are borrowed over.)  The theories are referred to as truth, but of course they are not.  Truth is in the Mystic which is approached (numerically), modeled (conceptually), but never achieved.  

And this gets you to scientific mysticism.  

Unfortunately, this very sensible view is not much popular with scientists.  Even Kuhn himself is not very popular with scientists.  

I did not like C. P. Snow.  Still, he is right about one thing:  The literary people and the scientists do not get along easily, and get very territorial with little provocation.  Seeking of common understanding is more rare.  

The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Thu Jan 3rd, 2008 at 12:20:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Truth is in the Mystic which is approached (numerically), modeled (conceptually), but never achieved.

As Gregory of Nyssa said: "He who progresses goes from beginning to beginning through never-ending beginnings" (my translation from French)

But he's a post-Socratic...

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet

by Melanchthon on Thu Jan 3rd, 2008 at 07:22:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
from a comment you highlighted:

since environmental destruction is caused by a civilization which doesn't know itself, nor its relationship to its surroundings

This is a sentimental and idealized version of how life on this planet operates. The earth was not "in balance" before we arrived - it was the scene of intense, slow moving (by our point of view) warfare between all species on the planet, the same as it has been since there were enough life forms present on the planet such that resources could be considered to be scarce. We're doing no more and no less than playing that game. At worst, we'll be the first species on this planet to cause a mass extinction and decomplexification of life  (as opposed to the usual comets / radiation / super-volcanoes). At best our self-awareness gives us a chance to live longer than the average species on this planet, and during our time here, reduce suffering and increase happiness among ourselves and other species. We've achieved more in the latter category than we give ourselves credit for, but overall we're very much on track for the ecocide scenario.

The previous paragraph is in a style I use to attempt a less anthropocentric view of the universe. Just channeling Dawkins, really, minus that quick spiritual departure. Getting back to your entry:

What rearrangement?  I make vague guesses.  I try to find what we can know or learn about people who lived sustainably.  What did they think?  How did they think?  Example here and here.  Surely this example is not reachable by us, being too fragile under external hostility, which is one constant of modern life, but it can at least open our mental field.

Sustainability doesn't exist. Not in the way we think of it. Sustainability implies permanence, which is impossible, at the most fundamental level because the universe itself is not sustainable. The concept needs to have time incorporated into it as a variable. Rather than asking "is this system sustainable" the question should be "for how long will this set of initial conditions be stable?" after we have considered ways to increase robustness of the system to withstand dynamic changes in external conditions. To be able to ask this honestly requires us to come to terms with the mortality of our species, which may be harder to come to terms with than the inevitability of our own deaths, because all self-aware humans have knowledge of this inevitability forced upon them, whereas the death of our species is an intellectual concept that can be ignored if desired.

Studying hunter-gatherers to determine how they pulled off their sustainable societies is a flawed premise, because their societies were not sustainable. [To be fair, I think you implied this with your "too fragile under external hostility" qualifier.] Their societies weren't sustainable because they were killed by competitors with other ideas. We also must come to terms with this. It means that violence must be a strong component of sustainability. Therein lies an incredibly difficult balance that requires something far greater than mere policy to achieve.

The simplified (current) concept of sustainability is the search for utopia: we create a set of initial conditions (some theoretical perfect policy with perfect enforceability) and we as a species live happily forever. Colman and Migeru often say that one of our fundamental flaws is our inability to understand feedback loops. Our simplified version of sustainability is a nearly perfect demonstration of that.

I wrote a stream of consciousness diary on this topic a while back that might be worth reading again.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 05:25:35 PM EST
Great comment.  Dinosaurs were probably one of the most self-sustaining specious of all earth-time, and it took an extraordinary external event to finish them off.  Humans are different, however, in that we have acquired the means to kill off ourselves and much of the bio-sphere of out own volition, and relatively quickly.  This places an extraordinary responsibility on us not to do what we can do.  Dinosaurs probably didn't practice much self restraint, the earths ecology was strong enough to contain them for hundreds of millions of years. We have breached the boundaries of the Earths ecology and so we have to learn to practice self-restraint - and so far we haven't been able to practice it enough.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 05:45:27 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Dinausors weren't self-sustaining, it was a evolving taxon that lasted a very long time, but individual species weren't necessarily longer lived that most mammalian species. And when they finally disappeared - well, depending on what you call dinosaurs, birds are all dinosaurs - they were already on the decline. And it probably wasn't an external event as much as one of the regularly scheduled, biosphere cleaning massive volcanic activity, which apparently are also linked to many other mass extinction events - the main exception being the human-caused one happening right now.

(and since it might interest Bruce, it seems only question marks on a comment subject aren't accepted...)

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères

by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 06:07:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
MillMan:
At worst, we'll be the first species on this planet to cause a mass extinction and decomplexification of life  (as opposed to the usual comets / radiation / super-volcanoes).
I was under the impression the first photosynthetic organisms caused a mass extinction by poisoning the planet with oxygen.

Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: Oxygen Catastrophe

When evolving life forms developed oxyphotosynthesis about 2.7 billion years ago, molecular oxygen was produced in large quantities. The plentiful oxygen eventually caused an ecological crisis, as oxygen was toxic to the anaerobic organisms living at the time.

Great comment, by the way. The reference to the ultimate mortality of the species reminds me of Asimov's The Last Question.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 07:46:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Ah, but the oxygen catastrophe was caused by multiple species!

I thought about including it, but I tend to give up on googlepedia after 30 seconds, and I hadn't heard the term "oxygen catastrophe" before.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 07:58:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The way I got to it was through googling "banded iron" on wikipedia. However, last time I tried that I had forgotten the exact name and it took me an inordinate amount of time to hit on "banded iron". The first time I just serendipitously hit the cluster of articles.

To nitpick a little, it was likely caused by a single taxon, unless photosynthesis was evolved indepedently by disparate organisms.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 08:11:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There also is the Late Devonian:
Reasons for the late Devonian extinctions are still speculative. Bolide impacts are dramatic triggers of mass extinctions. In 1969, Canadian paleontologist Digby McLaren suggested that an asteroid impact was the prime cause of this faunal turnover, supported by McGhee (1996), but no secure evidence of a specific extra-terrestrial impact has been identified in this case. Needless to say, there are some extinction spikes during the period, and the Alamo bolide impact in Nevada, United States, and Woodleigh crater in Australia are believed to be candidate trigger impacts for some of these events.

The "greening" of the continents occurred during Devonian time: by the end of the Devonian, complex branch and root systems supported trees 30 m (90 ft) tall. (Carbon locked in Devonian coal, the earliest of Earth's coal deposits, is currently being returned to the atmosphere.) But the mass extinction at the Frasnian-Famennian boundary did not affect land plants. The covering of the planet's continents with photosynthesizing land plants may have reduced carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere. Since CO2 is a greenhouse gas, reduced levels might have helped produce a chillier climate. A cause of the extinctions may have been an episode of global cooling, following the mild climate of the Devonian period. Evidence such as glacial deposits in northern Brazil (located near the Devonian south pole) suggest widespread glaciation at the end of the Devonian, as a large continental mass covered the polar region.[3] Massive glaciation tends to lower eustatic sea-levels, which may have exacerbated the late Devonian crisis. Because glaciation appears only toward the very end of the Devonian, it is more likely to be a result, rather than a cause of the drop in global temperatures.

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 08:48:06 PM EST
[ Parent ]
There was also a hypothesis that the first plants using wind-distributed pollen caused a mass extinction of land vertebrae (though this now seems out, with the first angiosperms being dated earlier and their rise seen less sudden).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Jan 4th, 2008 at 07:42:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This is a sentimental and idealized version of how life on this planet operates. The earth was not "in balance" before we arrived - it was the scene of intense, slow moving (by our point of view) warfare between all species on the planet, the same as it has been since there were enough life forms present on the planet such that resources could be considered to be scarce.

That is a cynical and judgemental version of how life on this planet operates. Go tell it to the bacteria in your stomach.
by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 08:51:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Go tell it to the bacteria in your stomach gut.

Hey, that sounds better, too. Cooperation between species, up to the point of symbiosis, is just as much a part of evolution as is competition.

... adding that these are still morally loaded frames. The Dawkins you channel may be less anthropocentric, but he anthropomorphises with the best of them.

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 09:24:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Sounds like shades of kropotkin.

aspiring to genteel poverty

by edwin (eeeeeeee222222rrrrreeeeeaaaaadddddd@@@@yyyyaaaaaaa) on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 09:51:09 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution
Mutual Aid: A Factor of Evolution is a book by Peter Kropotkin on the subject of mutual aid, written while he was living in exile in England. It was first published by William Heinemann in London in October 1902. The individual chapters had originally been published in 1890-96 as a series of essays in the British monthly literary magazine, Nineteenth Century.

Written partly in response to Social Darwinism and in particular to Thomas H. Huxley's Nineteenth Century essay, "The Struggle for Existence," Kropotkin's book drew on his experiences in scientific expeditions in Siberia to illustrate the phenomenon of cooperation. After examining the evidence of cooperation in animals, "savages," "barbarians," in medieval cities, and in modern times, he concludes that cooperation and mutual aid are as important in the evolution of the species as competition and mutual strife, if not more so.


Interesting. But now to find a pre-socratic who said it first...
by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Thu Jan 3rd, 2008 at 05:39:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Coevolution and cooperation of all types are part of the process I described.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Thu Jan 3rd, 2008 at 02:02:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
So how is 'intense, slow-moving warfare between all species on the planet' a useful frame? Are my 'selfish genes' eventually out to get those of the bacteria in my gut?
by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Thu Jan 3rd, 2008 at 05:48:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Why would they?  They compete their rivals, and doing so in alliance with other genes, be them on the same chromosome or another, in the same cell or another.

Of course, MillMan's way of putting it as species competing with each other is misleading and too narrow. Say, lions don't compete with gazelles.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Fri Jan 4th, 2008 at 07:36:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Unfortunately, cooperation usually has an objective to compete against other cooperating units. This also applies to expressions of support and approval on ET that curiously lead to piefights.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Jan 4th, 2008 at 07:38:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
heh...!

Don't fight forces, use them R. Buckminster Fuller.
by rg (leopold dot lepster at google mail dot com) on Fri Jan 4th, 2008 at 09:24:14 AM EST
[ Parent ]
life on our planet, nor how it operates.  It was about our civilization, and how IT operates.  Perhaps I should repost:  

Anything that can cut through the willful ignorance of this civilization is to the good.  

If you followed that link, you know those people had no "competitors" until some neo-lib businessman decided to cut down the (adjacent) rainforest for cash.  

Ascribing simple crime to "Darwinian evolution" does not impress me overmuch.  

The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 10:09:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
those people had no "competitors" until some neo-lib businessman decided to cut down the (adjacent) rainforest for cash.

Exactly. Their society was sustainable up until someone with superior technology showed up and destroyed it. Explain to me why we can dismiss this (wars of conquest) when looking for ways to create a sustainable world.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Thu Jan 3rd, 2008 at 02:15:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Our civilization is murderous and suicidal.   Right now you see it happily destroying others, but in fact it is also destroying the basis of its own life.  The natural model is a cancer tumor.  Do tell me about the Darwinian superiority of cancer tumors who do--after all--manage to destroy all competition.  

It is unfortunate and sad when sustainable peoples fail to evade this Engine of Death.  For in fact, the continuation of life will be possible only if they learn how to persist.  Some may actually be doing that but here I hold my tongue.  

For those of us who are already part of this Death Trip, we first have to decide if we want out of it or not, and secondly what that entails.  It is all a gamble anyway:  It may not be possible.  But if it is, it is the one thing that would actually be worth doing.  

Our "superior technology" is a delusion.  Our whole way of life is a delusion--a drug binge that ends in the morgue.  

Don't you understand?  We have already LOST your Darwinian war of all against all, by choosing to fight it.  The bacteria in your gut are superior to you:  They will outlive you, and all humans.  

The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Thu Jan 3rd, 2008 at 01:54:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
All is not yet lost IMHO.

A little furry Corporate animal is busily consuming all the Dinosaur eggs. The partnership-based entities I talk about are emerging because they "out compete" the existing corporates.

How? Because they do not have to pay a return to "rentiers".

They surround the cancerous cells and assimilate them...

"The future is already here -- it's just not very evenly distributed" William Gibson

by ChrisCook (cojockathotmaildotcom) on Thu Jan 3rd, 2008 at 03:43:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]


The Fates are kind.
by Gaianne on Thu Jan 3rd, 2008 at 03:57:41 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Nitpick: the Darwinian war is only lost with total extinction, if much of the biosphere and 99% of humanity is destroyed but a population of 100,000 post-civilisation scavengers continue humanity, it goes on until the next catastrophe.

On a more serious note: hunter-gathering lifestyle is not sustainable on a longer timeframe in the sense that the rise of a technological civilisation from it is possible. Hunter-gatherers weren't susptainable on a century timespan because they knew the danger, it's more they didn't knew how to be wasteful on a scale that it didn't just affect fellow humans, but the whole of the biosphere.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Fri Jan 4th, 2008 at 07:53:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
While I do realise you (Gaianne) haven't said this, but for what it's worth on the sidelines: from what I said, I follow that should civilisatio fall completely but humanity survive as hunter-gatherers, methinks memory would lapse, and civilisation would emerge again (maybe in 1000, maybe in 100,000 years), and the problems would begin anew.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Jan 4th, 2008 at 07:57:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Some primitivists say that should we go back to paleolithic civilisation, returning to civilisation would be harder than the first time around ; loss of topsoil and biodiversity means agriculture'd be harder ; no more easily accessible  iron or copper ores, as those have been harvested ; harder industrial revolution as we are out of cheap fossil fuel...

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Fri Jan 4th, 2008 at 08:04:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I rather suspect that tells you more about them than anything else.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Fri Jan 4th, 2008 at 08:12:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If there is a "next time" it will be without the oil and coal, which should prevent us from getting back to the nuclear age. Still, we'd simply be right back to the regional overshoot and collapse cycle through unsustainable agriculture and deforestation. There is a small chance of mitigating that if we manage to send what we know forward.

you are the media you consume.

by MillMan (millguy at gmail) on Fri Jan 4th, 2008 at 03:31:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
My concern is the popularization of metaphysical discussion. For example, there's a movie "What the Bleep Do We Know?" which makes some interesting points, but to do so it takes a mangled and simplified version of quantum mechanics and applies it to daily life.

It seems to me that the way to look at it is that the universe is a lot more complicated than we have noticed, and that it's likely that physics will advance as much in the next 100 years as it has in the last 103 (to include 1905 in the range) years. But such advances have nothing to do with religion or metaphysics, but with experimental evidence and hard math problems.

by asdf on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 07:31:40 PM EST
Well put. Metaphysics is essentially irrelevant to modern concerns and developments. Indeed this is true across all times and places. Whether or not the Platonic Forms exist, I still have to eat, work, procreate, and deal successfully with other people. Even if it turns out that we are all really 'One', I am presented with exactly the same problems of social reality (including, nastily enough for the truth of us being 'one', the requirements to act at least occasionally as an individual with distinct interests). It doesn't matter what the metaphysics of the age say: we are presented with our particular material and social circumstances which we have to deal with. Ancient China had very different metaphysics, much more interesting and touchy-feely for us Westerners bored with our own stale version (and that includes me), but it was still a hierarchical society based on the exploitation of the peasantry, and it would have sucked to live there, metaphysics notwitstanding. And modern affluent Chinese now behave very much like ideal Western consumers, again metaphysics notwithstanding. Indeed they will enthusiastically help us destroy the Earth ... regardless of an entirely different provenance of metaphysics.

The faulty ideas that do concern us, that do actual damage, lie not in metaphysics but in other realms (principally the 'science' of economics). Even if our allegedly faulty Western metaphysics is entirely replaced in short order, the ideas that cause the damage will remain in place because they are serviceable for those who make the money.

by wing26 on Thu Jan 3rd, 2008 at 12:12:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"Metaphysics is essentially irrelevant to modern concerns and developments. Indeed this is true across all times and places."

Wow, someone actually believes that.  Then uses the lowest common denominator effect of the herd mentality of various civilizations to justify the belief.  When in effect, they simply illustrate what happens when individuals without connection to "higher order realities" go about amassing the daily bread, at any expense.

That makes me totally irrelevant, for which i am grateful, as it allows me to work hidden from the herd.  I'm sure the all-powerful Church is very grateful to the Alchemists and other hidden metaphysicians, for creating an undercurrent of thought which eventually led to the diminishment of that power.

There wouldn't have been such a cataclysmic upheaval of society in the sixties without the coming together of various powerful new threads of thought, and which included as one thread the metaphysical.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anaïs Nin

by Crazy Horse on Thu Jan 3rd, 2008 at 02:46:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Excellent Diary! Makes me think of what has been said long ago, and now being revisited again.

"If thought is only a part of the whole, can it ever contain the whole?" -- Physicist David Bohm

Physicist Werner Heisenberg in Science and Philosophy:
"Any concepts or words which have been formed in the past through the interplay between the world and ourselves are not really sharply defined with respect to their meaning: that is to say, we do not know exactly how far they will help us in finding our way in the world. We often know that they can be applied to a wide range of inner or outer experience, but we practically never know precisely the limits of their applicability. This is true even of the simplest and most general concepts like 'existence' and 'space and time'. Therefore, it will never be possible by pure reason to arrive at some absolute truth."

The second stanza of Patanjali's Yoga Sutra reads: "Yogas Chitta Vritti Nirodha"; that is, "The technical aim of Yoga is the intentional stopping of the spontaneous fluctuations of mind/thought." Why? To address the problem so well described by Prof. Heisenberg above.

Excerpt from The Acintita Sutta (below)
The Middle Length Discourses of The Buddha

"The following questions cannot be thought about to a completion:

  1.  What is the origin of self and world?
  2.  What is the precise formulation of the law of Karma?
  3.  During the state of meditative absorption, what abilities/powers arise in the meditator?
  4.  What is the extent of the knowledge and power of a Buddha?

These four, if thought about would bring agitation and bind the person to unwarranted beliefs/views."
by sandalwood on Wed Jan 2nd, 2008 at 08:54:01 PM EST
Welcome to European Tribune, sandalwood!

I'm looking forward to reading your comments and diaries...

And we don't have enough Canadians here!

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet

by Melanchthon on Thu Jan 3rd, 2008 at 07:25:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thank you very much Melanchthon... I have learned much from reading this diary. I hope to contribute to the very many  thoughtful discussions here. This is a great place, eh!

:-)

by sandalwood on Thu Jan 3rd, 2008 at 11:50:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I cannot claim  competence in the field of Metaphysics. I read it only for pleasure and study it not at all.

But I wish to note, nobody has yet to even mention:

  1.  Kant (!?!)
  2.  Hegel
  3.  Husserl
  4.  Heidegger
  5.  Bergson
  6.  Comte
  7.  Ayer
  8.  Carnap
  9.  Hahn
  10. Neurath
  11. Schlick
  12. Merleau-Ponty
  13. Dewey
  14. Emerson
  15. James
  16. Whitehead
  17. Sarte
  18. Peirce
  19. Wittgenstein

Ya know, Modern Western Metaphysicians?

(And how a discussion on MWM can avoid discussing Kant escapes me.)

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Thu Jan 3rd, 2008 at 04:20:24 AM EST
LOL

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jan 3rd, 2008 at 04:47:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, after Heidegger, what's to discuss?

btw, you forgot Mr. Natural and his alter ego Flakey Foont.

"Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage." - Anaïs Nin

by Crazy Horse on Thu Jan 3rd, 2008 at 05:10:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I agree Heidegger was a boozy beggar who could think you under the table.  But on the other hand there's nothing Nietzsche couldn't teach ya 'bout the raising of the wrist.

One does not need to mention Mr. Natural.  One ASSUMES deep knowledge of the works of The Master when discussing philosophy.

;-)

(It's 3:30 in the AM.  I'm tired.  I'm going to bed.)

She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Thu Jan 3rd, 2008 at 05:40:09 AM EST
[ Parent ]


"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet
by Melanchthon on Thu Jan 3rd, 2008 at 07:16:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think kant solved the problem of metaphysics (my fav author by far).. but not the problem of magic.. anthropology had not started his progress.

Only Hume could comment (just for fun) what some centuries later will become tte great discussion of the century, are magic and scientific narratives fundamentally different? And if not, are there inherent magic foundation to science as Hume sustained?

I think the answer is defintely yes... but as with Quantum mechanics and Migeru explained..we have not  udnerstood what it really means, we do not have schoalrs who could provide more Asimovs and Sagans.. and we ahve a scientific structure outside math physics and cehmistry (mainly biology and medicine) which are facing the XXI century with a mechanistic and naive approach that I find sometimes scary.

And I do not even mention the real possibility that the "why" question might be more important to good social bonding thant he "how" question.

A pleasure

A pleasure

A pleasure

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men's minds without their being aware of the fact. Levi-Strauss, Claude

by kcurie on Thu Jan 3rd, 2008 at 07:07:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Finally reading this thread, I come out intimidated to ever write anything again on ET. This is waaay beyond my payscale.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Thu Jan 3rd, 2008 at 06:40:14 PM EST
Most of the rest of us feel the same way about some of the economics stuff that is written here.  

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Thu Jan 3rd, 2008 at 07:02:58 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thnak you for generating this great discussion!

I am left to make one single note: how you describe your experience with academia, as kind of latter-day autistic positivists, is different from mine. In physics, my teachers were adamant that we notice the holes in the theories we learn about, already in the Newtonian, and the problems of interpretation. (Coming to the current stage, one of my teachers made the point that the greatest shortcoming is not QM interpetation, QFT renormalisation or nonlocality; but something affecting even would-be quantum gravity theories, the lack of time assymmetry/causality.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Fri Jan 4th, 2008 at 09:19:08 AM EST
Also, I knew a mathematician colleague who did something with "Goedel theorem sets", but I have no clue what that means.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Jan 4th, 2008 at 09:54:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That would be apt, although it may be overly perjorative.  

Or not:  Thank you for describing your experiences, which are not only interesting to read, but show that it matters a good deal HOW the work of science is conducted--that is, the social and emotional atmosphere.  

The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Fri Jan 4th, 2008 at 01:56:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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