a subject made of objects

north eastern stick dancing and pipes

after a short break, let’s continue our series on things. in my previous posts i solved the subject-object problem by claiming the subject is recursively made of objects, and that subjectivity is no more than distorted copies of real information. this was only possible because of my axiomatic opinion that things are real. once i get to minds, subjectivity will become clear by its physicality. you are obviously entitled to make your reality any_real, like _surreal or irreal. doesn’t matter to me, since your thoughts, in this line of thinking, are things too (real things even). this is enough to make a lot of people angry, so i’m moving on.

we had our miniverses, macroscopically different. one with a vocabulary of two (a, b), and one with a vocabulary of six (a, b, c, d, e and f). so now we can define our vocabulary in our own miniverse (the one we live in). this is the quest for the elemental alphabet that we spend so much money on (your bosons give me hadron?). but depending on how deep we want to go, we might not need to know the core letters.

this is what we must ask ourselves every time. where are we drawing the boundary? am i concerned with brownian motion? hydrostatic pressure? rainfall on your wedding? how deep is my zoom in?

let’s try to formalize this question in simple terms in these steps: – what information are you doing work with (how your thing is sufficiently quantifiable, with your chosen distortion or error); – find the simplest alphabet to represent that information, given all the alphabets you have (you can’t use alphabets you don’t have).

an example on how this works. if you are doing simple construction work and want to think (or imagine, or project it), what is your alphabet? let’s take building a simple wall as an example. let’s imagine i don’t want to make them fancy and anti-seismic, rather the old school kind that always kills people at some point. of all the possible letters i could work with (atoms, molecules, chunks of clay, geological formation of rocks, etc), i will choose the simplest amount that allows me to do work within my boundary (this boundary being the one that has my little construction yard inside, and everything else on the outside). my letters are bricks, concrete, the laws of gravity and static forces. why? because to describe my activity (the work i’m doing), this allows me to save and retrieve my project with no loss of information (sometimes the type of brick isn’t important, nor the type of concrete) plus it can be encoded in the smallest chunk of information (occam’s razor). imagine a piece of paper. you could use that piece of paper to write

put bricks alternating on top of each other with concrete between them

or you could use that same piece of paper to write

start a universe make a lot of stars explode and find one that has a good planet have all these things happen to it so we have clay and walking monkeys and concrete and teach them to carry the things and make them build things

in fact, if you only wanted to use core elements, you could go as far as

quark id#1 move to a quark id#2 move to b quark id#3 move to c quark id#4 move to d quark id#5 move to e (…)

in a huge sequence. it’s easy to say that if you choose a deeper alphabet, you might not end up with a simpler explanation. so saying F=ma is simple is a bit naive. it depends on your subject.

so what we’re describing is that activity (work) is what makes us choose our alphabets. for a culture that never deals with earthquakes, a brick and concrete alphabet is enough to do work in their reality (they don’t know earthquakes are real because they haven’t observed them).

again, this is where we specify. every human activity has its own jargon, its own alphabet that is used to accurately do work. that work can be analyzed quantitatively by looking at the thermodynamics of the system. what is generating information, what is destroying it?

so in a couple of lines i jumped from tiny things and miniverses to construction work and made them seem similar. this means that this model is fractal, since it repeats itself in different scales (or zoom factors if you will).

in my trade jargon, you’d call going from lower level to higher level descriptions. obviously everything i write is highly influenced by my trade. again, once we get to minds, it might become clear why. lower level is no more than fewer agents and more data or more descriptions and less models. higher level is the opposite. as you go into more and more abstracted realms, you will have more models and less descriptions.

for example, you have 5 marbles, each in a hue of blue. if you need to telegram this to someone (they call that tweet these days isn’t it?), you could write:

i have a duke blue marble, a federal blue marble, a navy blue marble, a sapphire blue marble and a prussian blue marble

or you could write

i have 5 dark blue marbles

which one do you prefer? one uses more description, the other one uses more modeling. the closest to reality is the descriptive one, since the information has less distortion when compared to the real marble. the smallest one (cheapest one) is the modeling one. they will be equivalent when all your marbles are exactly dark blue (there is no difference in the distortion in both telegrams).

it will always depend on what kind of work you’re doing, and whether you’re a science major or a liberal arts major. literature for example is beautifully descriptive. it can also be a bit exhausting at times. science on the other hand, is beautifully abstractive. it can be a bit unintelligible at times. anywhere in between you can find an expert and a smart ass. that’s how we work, and how we make ourselves feel superior to others.

so is there a more real perspective? the realest perspective is to accurately observe and describe all states of all things at all time. this is impossible. so we can induce from our agents all states of all things at all time. if the distortion between reality and our induction is zero, we have found our theory of everything. this is my version of the formulation of the scientific method.

again, there are some problems that have to do with computation, which i briefly described as “how much you’d have to write on your paper” (we can call that paper the tape on a turing machine), that everyone trying to use models instead of descriptions will have to address. also, due to our light cones, we cannot verify global minimum distortion of our models, only local (even if local is our whole light cone).

so my view of the scientific method, summarized, is the very difficult task of creating a set of agents whose generated thing space has zero distortion relative to the real thing space.

remember the miniverse? our agent 3x(a,b) was our theory of everything. it could generate our miniverse with zero distortion. we could say everything there is to know is known from a model perspective. but we would not know all the arrangements themselves without generating them, which would require, you know it, a lot of paper. in the end, we would be able to telegram our miniverse in a tinier piece of paper, but we would not know the lives of mr. a1 and mr. a2 and how they lived their lives. to do so, we would have to generate their lives from our law. while possible, if you have a lot of letters, it quickly becomes intractable. so we would do:

3x(a,b) = (aaabbb),(ababab),(…),(bbbaaa)

this simple miniverse has only six letters but already 6⁶ ways of arranging things! try writing that in a piece of paper! this is the obvious intractable issue that i fail to have science types understand. but we can see how powerful laws are. ~7 characters (for a mind) can generate 46656 different arrangements of things. it is a compression of 5 orders of magnitude!

math disclaimer: i used the cartesian product of sets (hence 6⁶), not the arrangements. i like to think ababab is not the same word as ababab, because two a_s are not the same _thing, instead they can both be saved and retrieved using the same information (they are redundant). it’s different. but whichever you choose, the compression rate is astounding.

so do i favor models or descriptions? depends on what kind of work i’m doing. so i choose both to signing up to any. but already we can see that reality isn’t black and white, but rather a complex spectrum, like that mutant onion i was talking about, and that it is possible to compress things enough to talk about them, but not to fully represent them (as of today’s knowledge).

now that we’re done with understanding different layers of abstraction and how naturally the scientific method emerges from this way of thinking, we can begin our journey from the objective to the subjective. that will be for the coming posts.

mishaps of names

some more gaita from the northeast, including the portuguese harmonic 3 hole flute, and the local explanations of the artifacts

continuing our sequence on things, it should be clear by now that there is a strong ambiguity going on in defining agents versus things. so let’s clarify it. there are no agents, there are things, a lot of them.

let’s take this example to see how a core agent can emerge (the theory of everything of a universe). let’s make a little universe with 6 things, all different, and another, with 6 things but redundant. i don’t want to dabble in “sets of sets” questions, backwards recursion, and so on, it would lead to halting, incompleteness and many other interesting issues, but not practical. as i said in early posts, i take existence as a fact. these problems still exist, but in the realm of ideas, which we are far from approaching. if we live in a real world, then i am imagining real worlds, not hypothetical logical inconsistent worlds, even though they might exist. it doesn’t matter, because i don’t live in one. i can’t tunnel effect through my wall or wave into two people at once. i wish. so let’s begin.

miniverse m: let thing t in miniverse m be in {a,b,c,d,e,f}, arranged in any way;

miniverse n: let thing t in miniverse n be in {a,b,a,b,a,b}, arranged in any way;

on one hand, the possible combinations are the same, because the miniverse doesn’t have a mind and can’t read. so in n, {a,a,a,b,b,b} is just as likely as {a,c,e,b,d,f} (remember letters exist only in our alphabetical minds, for things, they have no clue if they are a, b or c).

but there is a main difference between the two. whereas m needs the 6 letters to be saved and retrieved, n can both require 6 letters or be seen by a mind as an agent acting on things, being this, for example 3 x {a,b}, where “x” means repeat, and “3” means how many repetitions. obviously these two are part of the tools (math) of the mind watching, and not part of the miniverse n. remember n is {a,b,a,b,a,b} just like m is {a,b,c,d,e,f}. neither has a clue of what a letter is. but if a mind exists that knows math, it can compress miniverse n, but not m. note that this compression is no more than a statement of redundacies, or repetition, in things, by observation. the things themselves don’t know and don’t care if they are in m or n, remember they are only letters. but this is only possible because a mind knows that a is the same as a, by observation. for the things themselves, it is impossible to say which of the 3 a_s will be chosen as the central _a. what we’re assuming is that in this miniverse, a single alphabet letter contains all information about the thing. therefore, reading and writing a in sequence over and over is the same as making a universe with genuine a_s from the start. the “3 x {a,b}” expression is an _agent, and it exists as a thing in observer minds, but it doesn’t exist in n.

so this is how i fix the recursion problem. i don’t consider agents real until they themselves can be things. why? well, take this miniverse, there are not enough things to make an alphabet and a fully working mathematics system. so tough the redundancy might be observable from the outside, it isn’t by the things themselves.

so we can say fundamental laws (core agents) only become real once they become things themselves. in a way, an atom can’t appreciate that it’s an atom, but a lot of them combined make a mind capable of understanding that there are only so few atoms around (or letters in my example before).

this demonstrates that in order to fully represent n or m, we can both take a descriptive approach (as i defined the sets), or an algorithmic approach (as i defined with the operator). the two are interchangeable since the set itself is always the same and independent of whoever is observing. this is why reductionism is correct and wrong at the same time. we can use algorithms or laws to describe things just as we can just list them by order, and that gives us compression (saves us time, for what it is uncertain). but this is only possible while the semantics available (the alphabet) is sufficiently rich to save and retrieve all information. that’s why science is working out so well, and why the laws are so good at explaining things (when we explain, we retrieve a copy of the arrangement of things). mathematics is an excellent compressor of data and saves us a lot of time.

but this brings us back to why reductionism is wrong, which is also given by physics itself. even though we can retrieve copies of other things, if they were predicted based purely on agents and not observed directly, it is unwise to say the predicted things are real. they can be real, and that tests how good the agent is. but if we go back to the miniverses, both n and m are real, and they both consist of 6 elements. n isn’t made of 2 elements and 1 agent. it is made of 6 elements, period. and since observation is limited to the observer’s light cone, there is no way of knowing if in a very big miniverse of {a,b}s there isn’t a {c} lurking somewhere.

this speaks only to the limits of observability and agents. it will always be arguable if there is a way to accurately save all the information in something in order to have valid agents, since someone who chooses a spiritual explanation might add non physical things to things, which is legitimate. if we choose that atoms themselves have non physical qualities that need to be saved, which is a legitimate question, then accurately saving and retrieving them is impossible.

the way i approach this, and my simple answer, is that if it can’t be observed, it doesn’t matter. the real for a mind comes from observation. this act of observation can then be refined by improving our means of retrieving information, but is in no way perfect and is highly biased by what we can do as things in our own world. for human minds it gets worse, since the mere act of observing is subjective and depends on previous observations. confirmation bias, change blindness, i could go on. they all remind us that it’s a rocky road to observe without distortion.

so just a quick definition. observing is having the information of a thing fed onto another thing. this is a copy, it can be lossy if information is lost (what i called distorted), or it can be complete if all information is transferred. if redundancies exist, this information can be transferred in terms of both smaller things and agents, or the entire set of things to be copied. usually, when we have restrictions in space or time (our case), we tend to prefer a compressed version of information, rather than the entire data set.

in a way, we can say it is real if it has information to be observed. only real things provide information. and agents become real too, when they exist in minds. but they are a part of them, and don’t exist alone (like in our miniverse). this is where i usually piss off science people. i already lost philosophy people at the sight of sets and curvy brackets. but since this isn’t a popularity test and i’m not trying to convince anyone of anything, i’ll just let this sit as another story.

western minimalism

apropos: pipes made of stuff

this is just a short post not connected to the recent stream about things. if you read this far, it should be easy to understand a common mistake i hear more and more from westerners. more and more people are considering themselves minimalists, saying they only need their computer and/or cell phone. but if you go back to the posts about work, the work required to build a cell phone makes it a bit ridiculous to claim it as a possible minimalism.

even though all we’re holding is a cell phone, to have it we needed a whole chain of production and marketing. we need the mines, the miners, the engineers, the designers, the salesmen, the transport system, the globalized economy, the hardware and software designs, the job to get the money to buy the stuff, which in turn requires an economy to work.

so saying we can just have a cell phone, or any other modern artifact, is the same thing as claiming we just need an entire capitalism globalized market. that is hardly minimalism.

until we can build our own chips and hardware at home, using dust or dirt, there is no way one can be a minimalist. and even if we could build everything ourselves, we would still need the knowledge to build the things, which would come from a society, and probably after a lot of work done by that very same society.

another one i love is how minimalists these days easily dumpster for everything, but still have a laptop and an online connection. the online connection alone is a massive energy sink and requires an immense telecommunications infrastructure. i know when you use your cell phone, you don’t “see” the cables, so it’s like “magic”. but nearby i bet there is at least one cell tower with a broadband connection, and plugged in to the city main electrical grid. there is nothing “independent” about a cell phone except that you can’t see the wire. the same works for everything we do. even if we dumpster everything and use nothing from the main economy, we are still using byproducts of that economy. if capitalism magically “disappeared”, so would dumpstered goods and broadband.

unless the items we use last or made by ourselves (including the mining), it is pretty much useless to dumpster, because the engine is still moving. how long do your items last? we have technology to make electronics (and other items) to last forever (lifetimes). capitalism just doesn’t work that way (see planned obsolescence). the article is highly disputed on wikipedia, but i learned that same technique in project management. it’s just not widely broadcast because it might make people realize what’s really going on.

you make light bulbs. thick filament and glass means it’s more expensive, but that it will last 400 years. you sell a batch to all citizens. you’re out of business. that’s the essence of planned obsolescence, which has been around for a long time (even since henry ford days). there is little extra cost to make a lifetime thing, but there is a big cost to stay in business afterwards.

once we moved from a culture of making things to a culture of making money, lifetime goods are no longer an option.

when was the last time a cell phone lasted you more than 2 years? a tv? a computer? my laptop failed exactly 1 year and 11 months after i bought it. i could call the warranty just for that 1 month, but it’s a bell curve around 2 years, so most fail one month after anyway.

management likes to say this is a conspiracy theory. despite the evidence it isn’t, let’s be a bit naive and just say we’re doing it only for the money. the cheapest components don’t last as long. so the effect of saving money is equivalent to planned obsolescence. electronics break down when the worst part breaks down. some computers can break down because of a fucking cheap capacitor. so even if planned obsolescence wasn’t a management technique (false statement), profit driven management also guarantees planned obsolescence.

so how can we be real minimalists? an easy one would be becoming a hermit. another one is building your own infrastructures and hardware and producing your own goods. this is impossible for most things at this point, since electronics requires a lot of power and rare minerals. it’s easy to see how being a minimalist requires either having nothing or having a massive infrastructure to support you. either way, you’re left with joining society or building your own.

a more practical way of avoiding such traps is reducing consumption, fixing and recycling. but you can’t fix or recycle everything. until you can, you can’t be a minimalist in a western society. you could be if all of a sudden everything you had became self powered and “payed off” the energy necessary to build it. from then on, maybe. but your hardware would be so obsolete you couldn’t plug in to the rest of the world, making it useless. planned obsolescence always wins.

our world is moving fast enough to be unstoppable. i would say jump off, take the speed you got from the ride and start something new, like we’ve been doing with the places we built. but don’t fall for the trap of believing you magically became “sustainable” or a “minimalist”. that requires the entropy math i just did. where are your things coming from?

value of excitement

another disconnected post, and some lightning pipes.

as the web is evolving towards a more audiovisual kind of content, versus text, i think we are beginning to witness our biases online too and the consequent popularity of topics. some examples:

  • Jason Clay: How big brands can help save biodiversity, one of the most interesting talks i’ve heard in a long time. unfortunately, he is old, fat, and not particularly attractive or good looking. he is, however, demonstrating a viable, practical way of fixing today’s society and demonstrating results. no ovations, he is a boring speaker;

  • Sebastian Seung: I am my connectome despite the interesting ideas, i couldn’t get past the fact that he is incredibly annoying. this made me reject his ideas, even though a wonderful metaphor is presented: the brain as the mountain, the mind as the river, and how they shape each other in different conditions;

  • Slavoj Zizek – Examined Life, slavoj zizek has quickly become an internet favorite, mostly because of the showmanship involved. his ideas, many times, are empty and vague, but most of the time, very strong critiques of modern society. i think that part of the enchantment is his lisp, his exotic waving of hands and accent, which adds authenticity to it.

books have a very strong advantage versus multimedia. they don’t test any of our biological biases towards attractiveness, intonation, etc. they don’t allow us to be affected by physical biases. in fact, you can write signing as your opposite gender. it won’t make much of a difference if you’re talented enough.

the internet used to be a bit like this. it was text, a lot of it, that you had to parse through to get meaning. nowadays, we’re slowly moving towards a more audiovisual knowledge transmission system. but this is the very system being exploited by marketing, and a very sub-optimal way of transmitting information.

but this means that in order to be properly listened to online, we are increasingly demanded of more showmanship. it is no longer sufficient to have a good idea. you also have to be a good seller of that idea. many other industries went through this process, it was just a matter of time until it caught up with the internet. now, why should we be listened to anyway? that’s for a later post. i don’t really think we should at all, we should be heard.

arranging things

gaita, drums and modernized traditional portuguese music

previously i discussed how things can work becoming agents, and how change is always for the worse on a global perspective. but since this is a very sad and gloomy perspective, let’s be a bit naive now and forget about all the stuff that is going to waste and draw a boundary around a system that allows ectropy, like the earth. from now on, all ectropy must be seen as part of a greater, globally increasing, entropy.

a key aspect of information theory is how we can quantify the structure of things when they are arranged in a specific way. but how do we know they are arranged in a specific way, rather than just a random one? this is a common dilemma, and can be exemplified by asking how many grains of sand are there in a pile of sand. this faces us with a simple question. when do things become parts of a bigger thing? when does an alphabet become a novel, and not just any random assortment of letters?

there are many ways of answering this, but since this is my page, i can answer with my own perspective on it. in my view, when agents increase information in a system so that the total information is more than the sum of all the information required for each thing, we’ve just created a new thing, be it an agent or not.

so let’s go back to the sand issue. each grain of sand can be our unit of information, so let’s say we need g bits to adequately describe (save and restore) each grain of sand. a pile of sand would take, therefore, n x g bits. let’s now take an empty hourglass, and say it’s simple enough that its information fits in h bits. our system now has n x g + h bits in total. now let’s say an agent decides to do work on these things. depending on the agent we choose, and depending on whether we want a fully restorable system, we might want to add the agent information too, let’s say a bits. this is optional, since we might just want to use a hourglass, and not make a hourglass. so now our system has n x g + h + a = s bits.

after our agent works on the system (creating entropy outside the system), let’s say he inserted the sand into the hourglass, giving the system extra structure (more information). what is this information? it is the one provided by the new vocabulary available to both the grains of sand and the hourglass, meaning, each one is now an agent acting on the other one, and therefore, since they have a relationship between them, this must be accounted for (remember Kolmogorov complexity?). so the equations that govern sand in an hourglass might be simple, but they no longer fit in our s bits. the whole is more than the sum of the parts, because the relationship between our two things created new agents, let’s call them l, for laws. our total system is s + l.

note that the previous agents already at work are still there. things like gravity and the glass blower that made the hourglass, have been accounted for as requirements for the initial things. but the fact that each grain of sand in the hourglass cannot go anywhere, instead being confined to the hourglass shape, is entirely new to the system. we just witnessed an agent being born! it came from the simple fact that we connected two things and they became agents limiting each other. in this case, it’s more the hourglass than the sand doing the limitation, but nevertheless, the hourglass is not an agent until it has sand inside it.

thanks to structuring, or work, we have increased the information in our system not only by its parts, but also, inadvertently, created more things. this is ectropy, or like we humans like to call it, making things pretty.

now, a hypothetical natural hourglass, fruit only of secret agents (laws of nature without a mind), could be filled with sand just by random chance, thanks to the free energy on earth, coupled with gravity. if this were the case, we would have more information in our system, even though there were no minds to use the hourglass. so information synthesizes itself simply because things jiggle a lot and bump into each other.

this is one of the things we see a lot of on earth. spontaneous order from nothing, and we’ve also seen how easy it is to synthesize information, by merely making things constrain other things. so information increases when there are more restrictions (agents or laws) to a system when it is assembled than the ones that exist for its parts.

this is why you can’t reduce everything to simple equations, because some restrictions emerge from their interaction, that require more information than the original formulation to be saved and retrieved. it should be obvious that these new laws are consequence of earlier “deeper” laws, and anyone with sufficient patience could prove that there is no need for a new thing since the previous thing is enough.

this is superficially true, but it avoids the problem of generating the work between the two states. it’s like saying that between an empty plate and a full plate all we have are molecular interactions. yes, it’s true (more like a deepity). but these molecules are restricted to such an extent (the molecules in the ingredients, the molecules in the maker’s brain, the molecules in the tools, etc), that stating all the restrictions created by the thermodynamic trajectories of all those molecules in time (ectropy, information) would require the same time as the process itself. meaning, you’d have to ask the annoying physicist (they’re always physicists, aren’t they?) to demonstrate with his equations the motion of every single particle of every single molecule he claims is the central thing. or, you can just accept a new thing (or law), that like the hourglass example, governs the macroscopic properties of your system. in this case, which ingredients, which recipe and how good is the cook. much easier than typing the trajectories.

this means that things are created only due to these restrictions that are simpler using a thing than using deeper things. or, the simplest way to explain is usually better. some people call this the Occam’s razor principle. this is only relevant, again, if you want to retrieve and save things (observe, discuss, are subsets of these two simple forms of work). nature itself goes on not giving a shit about how much information it has or doesn’t. it’s its own thing.

it is also where all arguments for and against reductionism amount to. one is saying “all you need is the single one secret agent“, and the other one is saying “you can’t describe everything just using secret agent“. they are both right, and here’s how.

while it is true that there can be a single core secret agent, people call it theory of everything these days (back in the day it was god), it is not possible to save or retrieve the entire work done by this agent in enough time to have a conversation (not even a lifetime). so to allow our tiny monkey brains to discuss big things we either create new laws, or are left with a never ending complexity that is impossible to deal with in useful time (not computable in useful time). just ask any physicist to solve the three body problem. though gravitational equations are beautiful, they grow ugly really quickly. and even though that secret agent might be beautiful, it grows ugly by simple entropy. new laws make it pretty again, not ugly, since laws can emerge from any kind of system, made of things or things of things and so on.

if you can say “sand can’t go through glass”, you save 3 hours of painful molecular dynamics, that would waste your time in discussing whatever idea you were trying to discuss to make yourself feel superior to others. note that you can still dissect that phrase onto simpler things, but doing so would waste time, because the information dealt with is the same! we would be manipulating the same information using first an alphabet of just one thing, and then one with many things on top of things, abstraction. abstraction makes it easy to manipulate massive amounts of information. more things mean a richer vocabulary to store and retrieve information! abstraction is just laziness at work! how terrible!

in a way, it is very similar to the way our cortex works. but that’s for later. for now, more music, we already had enough fun. there are many hard concepts in these paragraphs.

this last one is from a (sadly) deceased portuguese artist that took a lot of old traditional material and mixed it. his entire repertoire is freely available at the tribute website

the agents of change

some gaida today.

in my previous post i used the terms things and agents separately. well, one key thing must be clarified. agents are things too. so the agents that do the work are themselves subject to the 2nd law, and can be encoded as information (this is known as Kolmogorov complexity ).

let’s say you draw a boundary around brushes, paint buckets and a canvas and you take two pictures. the first one has an empty canvas, full buckets and clean brushes. the second one, a pretty portrait on the canvas, not-so-full buckets and dirty brushes. what went by? can this be the work of the painter ghost? not likely. something occurred that made a state go towards another state.

if we draw a boundary around it, we’ll easily note that the information required to save our second picture is higher than the information required to save our first picture. let’s say information is encoded by having someone describing the two pictures in plain writing using an alphabet. more likely than not, they will have to spend a bit more time describing the canvas with a portrait versus the one without. obviously some people love dissertations about empty canvases, so this metric might not be that good. anyway, we’re seeing a case where complexity increased inside our system via some hidden hand (a secret agent).

now we have two choices. we can say the pictures we took are enough to represent the event. this is fine if we don’t want to paint new things, rather just look at them. but to adequately save the painting, you cannot simply include the two pictures. what about the agent? his training? the craftsmen that did the tools? the paint itself, mined and purified? big issue. here we have two very simple states, and we could probably fit the descriptions of the two pictures in a tiny booklet to have at our posh party, but we’d need heavy volumes to save the rest of the information, in this case, the information for the agent.

usually we avoid this problem because our boundary is just around our tiny observation. which is fine for portraits of things, but not fine for making things.

in order to make things, we need the agent too (or the algorithm). sometimes the agent is simple, like special agent photon bouncing off things and then bouncing off our eyes. again, if we go back to the beginning, things don’t require minds. minds are things that can know things. so i’m talking about our understanding of the agent we call photon, that is a consequence of the fact that that agent is around. i’m not talking about our concept of a photon, which requires humans and thousands of years of culture to analyze.

essentially, what i’m saying is that what’s real (things) do not need minds to be real. but wait, isn’t all of this just a delusion of my own mind? excellent question, and undecidable. so i just choose to solve it with an axiom, things are real. if i don’t accept this, i might as well believe i’m being anal probed by aliens and living a permanent hallucination. i can make up so many stories i could fill up many interesting books but do no useful work (kind of).

so the core (our monad) is things, a lot of them, with free energy to work on new things. if we didn’t have free energy, we could still have things, but no work. for simplicity, i call agents the ones that are working, but everything works in someway, even if it’s just sitting there doing nothing. when you’re sitting around, your heart still beats and you still breathe. there are always tiny things inside things that do something (entropy is there pushing them, one of those secret agents).

so, our building block is a thing with free energy, which in turn allows various available states and structure, that structure being the information required to represent that structure. note that without free energy all things tend to be very quiet plus or minus a tiny jiggle.

is energy a thing? yes, actually they are interchangeable. the problem is, as i said before, the 2nd law degrades everything. so think of energy as this very nice chocolate santa claus that you have to eat. it has this wonderful shape and the pointy hat and all, but you can’t help but eat it and shit it into a less organized form of chocolate (i wouldn’t eat that one, sorry). and to make that chocolate into a chocolate santa claus again, well, you might as well go get a new chocolate santa, because you just shat all over your floor.

so things degrade. they degrade anyway, whether minds are around or not. like i said before, an agent is there anyway, it just hasn’t been saved onto any mind yet. like when you were crying the other day and nobody listened. you know you cried, right? don’t you just hate it then when people show up and say you don’t cry? don’t you feel like saying “but i did!”? but then, how can you prove you cried? only with a picture. you would’ve had to save the picture and keep it with you. saving pictures is observing things. they add nothing to whether you cried or not for you, but they add to other things‘ perspective on whether you cried or not. so what we just described is a process of information replication. in order for your bff believe you, you had to copy your crying (your thing, or its information) to another thing (your bff hmm not so much anymore amirite).

so we can see how important it is to have not only things, but also the things that make things. that’s what usually people leave out of their math. i’ll take the potatoes and the garlic. since we’re not taking the farmer with them (sometimes unfortunately, they’re very healthy people you know?), we forget that to save (or fully represent) a modern shopping cart potato, we also need the algorithm (the agent) that produced the potato. so there are two potatoes: the one we can eat (the real), and the one we can make (the real plus all the farmers and potato elves and rainwater and kittens). look at the one we can make as the potato maker society. it can’t exist without a potato, but the potato ends up being a very tiny part of it.

so we can never make anything by this definition, because of entropy. what we can is add information to things via useful work. but that requires destroying information anyway. so as you write your novel, 20 cows were killed just so you could keep your mind on the writing. that’s the net balance, always. dead cows for anything. poor cows.

so what we’re doing is taking the pretty chocolate santa the universe is (some people call this original santa the Big Bang) and nibbling it every day. change is always for the worse in this sense. so what’s the difference between me and my stories and just empty space? empty space doesn’t eat as much chocolate as i do. my argument is that the main difference is information. wait, isn’t santa all the information we had? great point. yes it is. but when your boundary is around you and the empty space, you don’t require the equal bits of information to be encoded and restored. for empty space you could just say “NOTHING HERE FOR LIGHT YEARS SO COLD BRRRR” to whoever. but for a human being, well, that would be a lot of encoding. probably would fit in a future hard drive, but not today. more on this when i get to minds.

even if you’re alone and empty space is alone, their proper information (or the information without replicas), your informations are different. so it’s pretty cold out there, but there are these tiny pockets of information around. like lost gems in a big empty box. in fact, this box is so fucking empty, you can’t even see the gems usually. we’re poor, and getting poorer by the minute. but since we have all these free things, might as well do some useful work.

so now that i clumsily explained my “building block” from which i’ll be building most ideas on this blog, i’ll leave another gaida tune and start working on heavier concepts soon. also, expect math too. i just need to find a way to typeset it here.

work, order and available energy

today’s tunes feature uilleann pipes, the singing octopus

in my previous post i talked about the empiric macroscopic fact of the second law of thermodynamics.

just to clear things up, i call facts what is established by the scientific method as a valid theory, therefore facts can be improved on and change but tend to stabilize. i consider facts independent of the observer and don’t want to dive into quantum nonsense, i’m dealing with the macroscopic world and macroscopic laws. i consider many of the current explanations for quantum effects very unfortunate in a practical science point of view, and it has opened the door for all kinds of quackery. but i don’t want to go down that rabbit hole right now. poor quantum has a bad name. it should be called quantified, so people would stop being silly and using it for spiritual mumbo jumbo just because it sounds so cool.

one of the great mysteries of our universe is that it began with very low entropy, or a lot of available energy (in the thermodynamic sense), and with an arrow of time. most laws of physics work well forwards and backwards in time. but thermodynamics only moves forward, like a broken train downhill. but the available energy we have allows us to locally express negative entropy, via useful work.

what is work? work is energy spent to move things. energy, as i said, is part of the mysteries of nature, our universe just happens to have a lot of it and very ordered (low entropy). so work uses this energy, sometimes to create entropy, and sometimes to create ectropy (inverse entropy). remember the second law? the balance is always positive in entropy.

note that it is currently postulated that the universe has zero total energy, but that is not relevant for earthlings. we live in a little rock with a lot of free energy, and i’m not planning on going to live in the empty cold voids of space. so i’m not interested in that side either.

let’s do a little example of this, to see how powerful this model is. let’s say you are an agent (something that can do work on things using energy). you take a pile of things (let’s call them rocks) and after a lot of work hours (many little instant works added up in sequence), you pile them up into a cathedral. your work has generated ectropy in the rocks system (the pile of rocks is now ordered, or has information), it went from disordered to ordered. but to work you had to eat some sandwiches, piss, shit, live your everyday life, and to do that, you produced entropy by consuming free energy (like the calories in your sandwich or in your reserve cells). so, if you do your net universal balance, entropy increased. but if you do a boundary around the rocks and forget everything about the rest (silly, but that’s how we do things down here), you’d say your pile of rocks just became more organized (less entropy). so this kind of work you did is called useful work, because it resulted in ectropy. the work you did to eat the sandwich, not so much, because it consumed free energy, or generated entropy. you now successfully synthesized information (the cathedral).

the main reason why we can have ectropy on earth (and lots of it), is because the sun is our big fat sandwich. we get so many calories from the sun that we can gorge on it and do crazy stuff like living things and flying things and shiny things and what not. so despite the human illusion that we build things, we’re in fact just piggy-backing sun’s calories (or Watt hours). so we can think of the earth as a kind of morbidly obese planet. it is getting so fat on calories it has all this life all over it, making itself pretty.

what happened on earth? why isn’t mercury, which gets many more calories, even fatter? well, in a sense, it is. the problem is that for the thermodynamic conditions for order to emerge, you need agents to do the work, not just sandwiches (or Joules, a sandwich has about 350 Calories or 1464 Joules or 0.4 Watt hours). the first agents are the physical laws, but they don’t tend to transform much. then there are chemical elements, and they only become more ordered in very specific physical conditions (when the laws are right, like gravity). water, for example, is only liquid at a specific range of physical conditions. like water, other, more complex molecules, only emerge if the setting is “just right”. for planets, people like to call this the “goldilocks zone”, though i still wonder who are the three bears. maybe the laws of thermodynamics, raining on goldilocks parade? so for the agents to emerge, you need some kind of setting, like when the weather is great to go to the beach and you think wow, i could really be at the beach right now. you are a thing being affected by your agent (the weather) and turning into something else (a thing at the beach). you’ve been manipulated by the sun! how terrible!

note that this is a recursive definition (with somewhat fractal properties). if the laws are agents that create new agents, and those agents create new agents and so on, we have the setting for evolution! obviously, agents die too, when the sun goes down, the beach gets cold and you leave. remember the setting? it’s not that good anymore. so you pick up your stuff and leave. but there’s always that dude that stays longer because he can put up with the cold or took some blankets and wine. look at him as a more evolved beach goer. evolution is just something that happens when you combine agents making agents and agents killing agents but not all of them. so the ones that survive, are fitter. like the delicious chocolate molecule. it’s so delicious you’re bound to eat it and shit it and make new cocoa plants. you’re being manipulated by the cocoa plant! how terrible!

so if laws are agents, what made the laws? big question. i leave that to whoever wants to dabble in those questions. it can be the flying spaguetti monster, or a mad man’s dream, or whatever. we can only test as far as the laws are testable. if it’s not testable, i don’t care. again, i’m an earthling and i’m not considering becoming a god or meeting one or starting my own universe. i think physicists are better at doing that. when i have my feet in the sand, i like to enjoy it. i don’t need to know that the sand is made of jiggly things made of jiggly things made of jiggly things. some people do, and that’s great, but not what i’m discussing at all. for what it’s worth, things jiggle too much already (or why i don’t do nudism that much at the beach).

see reality a bit like an onion. the more you peel it and dig deeper, the more it stinks. and eventually, if you dig deeper, you end up crying and with your hands empty. i kind of think physics is going the way of the onion a bit. so i don’t like crying so much (unless it’s from happiness), so i’m not looking to peel the onion too much.

the problem is that these layers are all mixed up, like a mutant onion. you kick this bottle on the floor one day, it hits a car, makes a dent, the car was the guy’s boss’s, he gets fired, ends up dying because he slipped on the way out of his office and hit his head against the porcelain cat. think of all the agents at work. gravity, friction, but also pavements that required city planning by the state, buildings that required engineers and rich people and architects and a lot of bricks, porcelain cats that required bad taste to exist, the dude himself that didn’t mind taking the boss’s car to get him his suit from the cleaners, the list is huge!

it’s hard to accept that these layers are all entwined and mixed between themselves. that agents from some layers are affected (and affect) agents from other layers. so everyone just chooses one layer (i’m a physicist, i’m a philosopher, i’m a biologist, i’m a priest, i’m a fashionista hipster, etc etc), mostly because it’s too hard to see everything at once with our little primate brains.

then comes the simplification, saying everything is made by agent a or agent b. well, it’s all of them, having a big nonsense party at our expense. it’s like everyone is just looking for a way to feel their “layer” (or trade, or art, or science) is the core of every other. guess what, it isn’t, but since you know so much about it, it’s obvious you’ll see it everywhere. the more a trade deals with complexity (or how these layers of agents intertwine), the more sensitive it will be to hidden variables, or, let’s say, secret agents. like that time you thought the lamp moved on its own and it was a ghost and you were so scared, but in the end it was just a fan behind the couch. the fan! a secret agent! you were manipulated by the fan! how terrible!

each agent has its own rules to be understood. physical laws are probably the easiest, since they fit in tiny pieces of paper and t-shirts (isn’t that why we draw them so pretty? so we can tattoo them and use them in t-shirts?). but some agents are very hard to deal with. special agent DNA for example, or special agent yours truly. and it might be true that if you throw me out of a bridge i will fall (agent gravity can grab me), it might be also true that i might jump for love (agent love can grab me too). it’s not hard to see that agent yours truly is subject to agents of many layers. and since our tiny brains can only deal with a couple of things at once, we just specialize. that’s fine and wonderful. just don’t tell me love is physics. it’s love, and though you can still throw a love letter in the river, you won’t take its story with you. love might be made of smaller things, but it’s not just those things. it has a specific arrangement, order to it. and to try to quantify it (in bits maybe, or money spent on flowers and dinners), you must live it.

work is what makes agents interact with each other, thanks to the big free energy sandwiches. and patterns in work tell you their rules. for example, gravity is an angry man always pulling people “down”. that’s his job. but he’s also the one that makes planets go round. so maybe he’s not that bad after all, maybe just grumpy from having to pull everyone “down”. hey, we all have to do work we don’t enjoy, right?

so complex agents can be created by simple agents, like a human budding from a single cell. all it takes is free energy and some kind of agent (or agents) working. evolution is a rule that works with most of these agents, and it’s so powerful it led to some agents being able to understand other agents and their rules. that’s us! but that’s also dogs and cats catching flies (hey, they know where the fly is going, they wouldn’t otherwise catch it), sunflowers turning towards the sun (what? they have no brains! maybe they are more like zombies!). ok, sunflowers don’t turn, they “grow towards”. but as an agent understanding the rules of another agent (sun) they do a pretty good job.

what rules matter? what order matters? well. i don’t really know. i have my opinions. i’ll post them later. for now, here’s a bird singing through a pipe octopus. it takes a whole lot of sandwiches to wrestle this one.