what’s in a story?

more french pipes, this time with a modern bagad style band. oddly enough, even though france has a tremendous variety of pipes, the bagad is a recent copy of the Scottish model for a pipe band. it’s always interesting how history does loops around itself, and makes the influenced become the influencing.

to close up the recent series, i’ll provide a simple test to falsify what i wrote about information representation. if brains are information machine based on projective spaces, then we can imagine a test: provide people with texts with information they know, but write them in a language they don’t know. i postulate that if the mutual information between the test subjects’ knowledge and the information used to represent the remaining information is the determining factor of transmission. it is not what is contained in the transmission, but whether the people reading it understand the language it is written on. and the worse they are at it, the worse they will understand it. this is equivalent to testing different coordinates in the language space, and the ones that are perpendicular (like me and zulu language) will cause complete absence of understanding despite the topic. this is a simple test that makes clear that it’s not the content determining understanding, instead, the determining factor is the mutual information that allows for the communication itself. if i think of other tests i’ll post them.

but today i’m focusing on a different topic. if we accepted the model described so far, there are some consequences i want to discuss. the main one is that distinct narratives carry more information than a single narrative. unless we are to compare a mindspace to reality, which is an objectively measurable task, we have no way of differentiating between different mindspaces in a quantitative way. to put it simply i’ll illustrate with an example. we’ll do it with a simple miniverse with symbols {a,b,c,d}. these are the symbols available to brains in this miniverse. two brains emerge, one that, through experience and so on, contains the mindspace {a,b}, and another that contains the mindspace {c,d}. now, according to information theory, is it better to have two observers with {a,b} or one with {a,b} and one with {c,d}? in the first case, we are dealing with two arrangements of two letters, so the information is 2 bits. in the second case, we are dealing with two arrangements of four letters, so the information is 4 bits. the math is very simple in this case (please correct it), and the results show something obvious: there is more information in different representations of reality than in the same.

remember that we are dealing with mindspaces, not the full data. this means that people might have different expansions of their mindspace, but the mindspace can be the same. for example, two english speaking individuals can write different sentences, but their mindspace is english, meaning they will be both working on the same mindspace. this is a simplification, but it is used for clarity.

this is where my writing will begin to lose neutrality. i defend that information should be maximized as the biggest universal value. i will explore the consequences of defining it as the value on which everything is based soon. for now, it is important to understand that, in its simplest formulation, this guarantees that personal subjective stories are more valuable when they are unique, versus several copies of the same information. this is the seed for an objective formulation for the preservation of subjectivity.

cargo cult revolutions

some sac de gemecs and other català instruments

yesterday we went to the camping ground on one of lisbon’s squares, rossio. it’s meant to be in sync with the spanish camp outs and to be some sort of beginning of the spread of the “arab spring” to europe. now what exactly is going on? we were at the assembly for 1h30 and the whole length of it until we left was devoted exclusively to how to organize the assembly, the tents and the activities. in fact, all that was discussed was mainly how things should be discussed, voted on, and so on. over 1h of complete absence of political content!

it was amazing to see how well everything was organized, with committees and subgroups responsible for everything from food to toilets to taking care of children, all of this to take care of less than 50 people sleeping on the street that would hardly need any of this with so many shops around. it was almost like they were creating more problems for them to solve than they existed in the first place. i was extremely confused. one particularly passionate speech was one of my favorites: a very politically toned lady shouting about the fact that people were only discussing minor logistic things instead of discussing important political ideas, only to end the speech without a single political idea put forward! at some point, i had to leave because i was getting too brainwashed by all the technical political jargon without any content. the activists are mimicking what they saw on tv, read on facebook and twitter, without any political background to sustain it: it is [cargo cult](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cargo_cult) politics! all the signs, the jargon, the attitudes, the hairstyles (and beard styles) are perfect copies of the originals. but, just like the wooden radios and junk airports, these politicians don’t work either: it is not sufficient to copy something considering only the shape of it and expect a revolution (or even, basic audience).

these politically illiterate attempts by activists around europe are dangerous in the sense that they are easily manipulable. for example, the “à rasca” protest we had in lisbon, which was organized via facebook (and considered an inspiration for the gatherings in spain), though declared “apolitical” was quickly exploited by the extreme right wing (i was at this protest and marched along side neo nazi people). this facebook generation kind of protest has all the warning signs of a cargo cult, or even worse, of capitalism sucking out the blood out of a movement so it becomes completely sterile and useless.

first, it is impossible for a political attitude to be apolitical. if citizens occupy a square of their own city, that is politics in an almost literal form. so anyone part of any movement claiming they are apolitical is basically fooling themselves, either by ignorance or fear of commitment to an ideology, which only makes it weaker.

second, there is no parallel in europe vis-à-vis the arab states. the first has had its time with military dictatorships in the past, during the 20th century, and had their tahrir squares all over, like our own “largo do carmo”. europe lives under a cultural dictatorship, not a political one. there are no mubaraks or kadhafis to topple since the rulers of europe are not the political class. these square incidents can, at best, weaken an already defunct government in any of the countries, which, you guessed it, guarantees that the economic powers will take control of the state with even much greater ease. exactly what happened in spain, weakening zapatero’s majority government.

by following along mindlessly just so people can have pictures of themselves during a pseudo revolution to post on their facebook wall, activism and politics is watered down to empty slogans and signs that are full of form but no content. there is no united political movement in modern capitalist countries like spain or portugal. unity is only in the sense that individuality has won and that everyone believes they have the chance to be ruling class, and with it, don’t mind stepping on everyone else.

if we compare this to the arab world, it is fundamentally different. in many cases, it’s their first democracy, with basic rights like freedom of speech being granted for the first time. and let’s also keep in mind that these countries have had strong activist underground movements for decades that provided the “arab spring” with real political content for their tweets. this “new media” was only the vehicle for something that existed already. these revolutions were real like the first cargo dropped by planes in the pacific. but in europe, the war has long past, there are no planes flying over and no matter how many signs and guy fawkes masks people wear, there will be no cargo dropped because the war is over.

the consequence of cargo cult revolutions is that revolutions themselves become a thing of fiction, of personal promotion via social networks, invalidating their power permanently. why is the government still considered the target of these actions, when the government itself has nothing to do with it? why is the economical oligarchy just being referred to instead of heads being demanded to be cut off? this is the great challenge for the future of activism. there are no pictures of dictators in our houses anymore. the enemy is more like a hydra, a being with multiple heads and that solves the problem of individual fragility by having many independent heads. though the heads of banks and corporations can roll, the banks and corporations themselves keep moving. and while we keep trying to dial wooden phones to call planes that don’t fly anymore, our precious cargo is being gorged down by the elites.

the heart of the hydra is capitalism, and unless activism openly states its motives as the total extinction of capitalism to kill this hydra, it will continue to wait pointlessly for their cargo to drop.

the real question for me is which political ideology heracles is capable of this task?

information inertia

some musette de cour from the eighteenth century. it might seem impossible, but the drones are over 2 meters long: their length is folded into that seemingly tiny drone sticking out (much like modern shuttle pipes).

we’re slowly broadening our sights, and abandoning the tenuous details of the small things and moved on to bigger things. by now if you accepted my premises, we can begin to see a landscape where minds are not only available for human beings, but also to all kinds of matter in motion: molecules, cells, organisms, animals, plants, individuals and collectives. it might not seem clear at first, but this idea of mind includes and predicts that two individual minds can be seen, when communicating between themselves, as a bigger mind with a bigger mindspace than each of the individual ones. obviously, it’s not this simple as we saw before, but it’s interesting to see it this way. minds are arbitrary boundaries around moving information.

think about a simple every day item, like a cellphone. it is impossible for a single human being to fully understand how it is done and built. if we analyze this problem using the tools of the model i provided, we would see that the information required to build a cellphone is bigger than the capacity of a single mind, but not of a collective mind with enough abstractions. this means that certain material endeavors are impossible for the individual to understand, but possible for a collective to understand. we will dive into collectives soon.

but before we discuss collective information, i’d like to describe the principle of information inertia. if we accepted the principles that information is the specific physical arrangement of things, it is natural to imagine that to change this arrangement we must do work. the bigger the change, the bigger the amount of work. this means that if a specific arrangement exists, it will tend to stay that way. it also means that if an arrangement can transmit its information to another arrangement, the minimum amount of change possible is a copy of itself. from this follows that if we follow the principle of minimum energy, we also follow the principle of least originality. everything about basic thermodynamics says that complexity shouldn’t exist, and whenever it does, it will tend to preserve its structure versus complicating itself.

it is no surprise, therefore, that in this framework, we can extract the understanding of why things copy themselves (genes, cells, animals, ideas) in a way that tends to preserve their own information. it is not that they have a natural selfish tendency. in my opinion, it is simply that the laws of nature are rigged to make originality very hard, and laziness very easy. the laziest activity for a replicator is to replicate itself. to evolve will only happen under pressure to do so, otherwise, the tendency will be to stabilize. note that i extracted this only from the initial premises. with it, we can see evolution and reproduction in a simpler, more general light. there is no need to define what a thing is to obtain these predictions. that evolution will happen at every level where information is exchanged, and that it will happen against a natural tendency to inertia. i suspect that laws like the laws of genetics, memetics and so on will keep popping up in odd fields where this wouldn’t be expected, and that this pattern will be referred with a new word, but will be essentially the same process: the information inertia guaranteeing the replication, and the non random possible distribution of information in our world as the non random selection.

i won’t dig deeper since this seems like a concept that is simple enough as it is. it predicts that it is more likely to see a copy than a difference, the principle of least surprise. this hints at the idea that surprises are valuable events in nature, and in essence, against its very basic rules (though they allow for them).

consequences of projective brains

more gaita sanabresa. previously we summarized the last few months of theoretical development. now i will begin exploring some of the consequences of the model i described. note that i am not claiming truth, i am merely describing the framework behind every argument i make. so let’s first explore what the consequences of accepting that minds are a generative space, or at least have equivalent properties.

the more you know, less you generalize.

knowledge, in a generative space, is quantified not by its expanded values, but by how many dimensions are present in the mindspace (the mindspace is the space made of all base concepts we have in our mind). for example, consider bagpipes. one individual only knows about scottish bagpipes. in his mindspace, the “bagpipe” line is every kind of scottish bagpipe: 3 drones, a mixolydian chanter and kilts. whenever anyone talks to him about bagpipes, they will imagine scottish music, the army, kilts and so on. this is the space expanded from the limited knowledge of a single type of pipes. now consider someone who has been exposed to more kinds of bagpipe. whenever someone speaks about bagpipes, this other individual won’t be able to imagine it without more information on what kind of bagpipes are we talking about. in his mindspace, it is insufficient to say “bagpipes” because he knows that “bagpipes” is a broad term applied to several different types of pipes, each with its set of drones (or no drone even), one or more chanters, and dozens if not hundreds of different musical modes and tonalities. the resolution to speak about pipes on the second individual is higher than the first one, but this also means that the second individual has a bigger bagpipe mindspace. he can expand the reality of bagpipes in more dimensions than the scottish one. but this means that to classify a new set of pipes, the first case will just say “scottish bagpipes” because that’s all he knows, versus the second that will say “that seems like the tunisian mezoued but with an eastern european drone”. less generalized, more refined, imply more knowledge. he projected a new set of pipes onto a big mindspace of many different pipes.

this is somewhat counter intuitive, as we tend to imagine that people that know laws of nature really know nature very well. in fact, i’m saying that knowing reality in one dimension only is actually restricting one’s knowledge of it. generalizing grows in the inverse proportion of the knowledge of the topic being generalized.

this only makes sense in a generative space. if, instead, we were dealing with brains and minds made of a quantified collection of independent concepts, assorted and fragmented, this would mean that the individual with the most pipe knowledge would be able to generalize the most because he had the biggest amount of information about pipes and a bigger vocabulary to express his generalization. what we see is the opposite: the richer the vocabulary, the more specific, therefore, less generalizing comment. this implies a mindspace that is generative and not simply a collection of information.

it is impossible to fully understand topics of which we have no prior knowledge of

consider that extra dimensions are added via new information that the system receives, like we saw above. for example, if we have the red and the green neuron as before, we cannot add the “yellow” until we see one and both our “bases” are active at the same time and “grow” a new abstraction for it (as i put before, another base or neuron). without this case, we will never encounter a case where both will be active. if we cannot “listen” to both red and green at the same time, each of them alone will call their data red and green respectively. it is only when they are put together via a higher level abstraction (a “yellow” neuron that collects replies from “red” and “green”) that we understand that in fact, both red and green are correct and together they can be identified as “yellow”.

the fact that structurally we are capable of seeing yellow (thanks to having green and red neurons) means nothing if we never observe a yellow data point. even though today we can induce yellow’s existence from the green and red, it comes from our prior knowledge that green and red together make yellow, which in turn comes from, you guessed it, the fact that we observed that red and green make a yellow. this apparently circular argument serves only as a proof that reality is the primary source of information, and that even induced effects use symbols that they themselves were extracted from reality. we are capable of recombining and expanding existing values (like the two colors we can detect), but we cannot conceive, imagine or even work with, concepts outside our observed dialect. we were born without any capacity to see infrared, so we couldn’t imagine it until an artifact (thermometer) could transform that information into one we can see (turned heat into the growing length of a mercury column). in this sense, our conceptual capacity is permanently limited by how much we can project into our own sensory system, and then induce from it its patterns.

an easier example to understand is being given a book about the life of bees in chinese when you don’t speak the language but are an expert on the life of bees. since you have no prior understanding of chinese, you cannot project its information onto your own mindspace. this means that even though this book is part of the reality you know via your subjective projection, it is impossible for you to access this new set of data because you possess no equivalence between your subjective symbols and the chinese symbols. you cannot understand the book, even though the subject is familiar to you, because it is represented in a mindspace that is orthogonal to yours, i.e., shares no single common base concept.

one of my favorite examples of this was a particularly fun IQ test i took online. everything was working out great, until i reached a basic mathematics for counting. for some reason, the script miscalculated my location and gave me numbers in hebrew. i couldn’t understand the numbers, so i failed the test below retarded level for mathematics, even though i had done the same type of tests before and had a normal score. the system assumed that i had a non-orthogonal mindspace on which they could project the test, and with it, assess my knowledge. in practice, it demonstrates that it is impossible to understand a test if we don’t understand the letters it is written on, implying that prior knowledge is required for any activity. by prior i don’t mean we’re born with it, i merely mean that it is present in the system when the event being analyzed occurs. i will deal more with this when we reach communication.

it causes generalizations that are powerful and false

if minds are generative spaces, then they can generate hypothetical observations beyond their original observation. for example, the basic understanding of quantity, i saw one stone, then two, then three, i can generalize and say i can count any amount of stones. this is a valid mathematical theory that fits very well with reality, but it is flawed because it induces it can go on forever: there is no reality check on the generalization. this means that we can imagine infinite rocks even though we have a finite supply of rocks (see our axioms). generalizing is only possible in a generative space. if we based our thoughts exclusively on data, it would be impossible to imagine beyond the three rocks we had seen before. induction is a side effect of a generative space, and must be fed back through reality to check the validity of certain inductions. this also means that mindspaces can contain infinite quantities, not because they can represent infinite quantities by enumerating them (1, 2, 3, …), but actually by just representing the base for that space: number x is between 1 and infinity. this requires only the base of numbers and capacity for computation. a lot of infinities have very low computational complexity. as i said above, mindspaces can generalize very well thanks to their reduction of reality to a few key projections.

it is very common to see these generalizations in our every day life. in fact, the whole capitalist exponential growth seems to be based on this generative idea that infinity is real. even if the richest man in the world makes all the money there is to make, the matter used to quantify his wealth will still be a limited number, limited by the amount of information that can fit physically in reality. there is no infinity on our planet, only the concept of infinity, that exists in brains and minds. whether infinity exists in general is a very interesting topic. i feel inclined to say this question, if asked locally, the answer is no. globally, i don’t know.

communication is possible, but only efficient with a balance between mutual information (shared base vectors) and information entropy between the systems

if mindspaces weren’t projective spaces, communication would merely be the transmission of information from one point to another (much like we saw for mindless observers), so it would be possible for me to read a chinese book. but what we see is that this is not the case. for mindful observers, it is a requirement that there is some kind of internal mindspace that receives the new data. like the example above of the chinese book, the information carried has a certain mutual information and a certain entropy connecting the sender and the receiver. the issue here is that if we are dealing with a projective space, if there is no mutual information, the projection will be zero, effectively causing no transfer whatsoever. this is very counter intuitive: the efficiency of communication between minds requires that they already share some prior information (this sharing is the mutual information between the two minds). while it is true that i could learn chinese, i would do so by growing a new section of my mindspace that guarantees a non-zero projection: it guarantees that i have some mutual information to read the book. if minds weren’t projective, learning would be just “feeding” the symbols directly. we know this is not the case, and that minds need to be trained to be able to grow that new chunk of mindspace.

this means that communication between minds is worse than communication between reality and observers. it requires that of both that they have some mutual information, which, by definition, is not necessary to transmit. this also means that communication will be the most efficient with the mind itself, i.e., we are best understood by ourselves, even if we are permanently contradictory. my opinion is that this explains why we gravitate towards minds we share something with. communication is more efficient, and it is less likely that we’ll have a misunderstanding or a conflict. it also explains why we have so much trouble dealing with conflicting data versus our prior beliefs: if something has high mutual information, we do not need to grow new sections of mindspace to accommodate the knowledge, we can just reinforce what we already have. a projective space is more efficient at transferring information it already knows, than at transferring information it doesn’t know. this is incredibly different from a mindless observer that indiscriminately gathers information.

now, why is it that a projective space makes evolutionary sense versus other spaces? because it can reduce the complexity of reality that has an immense amount of data to simple dimensions that it can understand, no matter what size of the data being fed. in fact, the simpler the brain, the more powerful the generalization. a mind that can only tell light from dark will have no problem dealing with light from a light bulb, a firefly, a supernova or a star. this is both incredibly powerful and incredibly lazy at the same time: the simpler the mind, the less resources it will need and still it will be capable of powerful generalizations about reality. a very nice trick indeed. for the mathematically inclined, i shall give a full mathematical formulation of this soon.

with this comes a sobering consequence for complex minds: they are valued not by their capacity for generalization, but for their capacity to exquisitely represent abstract realities. not for their capacity to know reality (since their skin knows more about reality than their brain), but instead for their capacity to imagine, conceive and expand their interpretation of reality beyond observation. it is not that we see reality, but that we use it so we can see beyond it, and with it, visit infinite impossible landscapes just by closing our eyes.

portable chromatic tuner solar mod

some ney anban from iran. note the double chanter.

i have a portable chromatic tuner i carry with me all the time. it came with some basic lead batteries, and they eventually ran out. so i modded it for solar energy. an interesting side effect is that since the current is very low, we can actually charge the lead batteries. while some batteries do explode or leak, most can be recharged slowly. this is a risk we can take, since my cells are 75mA only.


  1. any chromatic tuner that runs on batteries
  2. solar cells (i have a bunch of 1V/75mA cells that came from recycled toys, check ebay for that kind of stuff)
  3. a diode that can handle 75mA (almost any diode you find on any scrap electronics from the trash can)
  4. wire, soldering iron, voltmeter and diode meter (if you don’t know which one is the plus and minus)

schematic and pictures


pic 1

pic 2

pic 3


it works. you can see the led lighting up in the last pic. looks a bit ugly because the cells aren’t a perfect fit to the tuner’s size, plus i made a board out of newspaper and glue layers to hold it, making it look even worse. that’s about it. considering lead batteries do not have memory, they can be recharged indefinitely. this might sound a bit strange, but as long as they aren’t completely drained, they can be reused over and over again. the main advantage of lithium is that it can be completely drained and still work, plus energy density and weight, but there’s no particular reason not to use these as the chargeable cells in this case. also, the charge voltage is very near the operating voltage (3.3V versus 3V) which means it could work only with sunlight. however, it’s always better to have batteries between the two as they stabilize the voltage.

minds and generative spaces

some [dazkarieh](http://www.myspace.com/dazkarieh) this time. i love this song, they have a new album out.

in the previous series we saw how information can be stored and processed by physical entities without any elaborate structure. we also saw how the speed at which it is both processed and stored has increased as life became more complex. today, i will summarize again the whole series from the beginning, including our formulation for minds.

  1. reality R is a set of N discrete things repeated M times
  2. the distribution of these things is non-random (i.e., it has patterns)
  3. this distribution is not static, it can change thanks to free energy, leading to specific distributions that can be exceptionally complex (e.g., minds)
  4. the development of complexity comes simply from random fluctuations and non random possibilities for existence (e.g., anti matter particles still form, but they are annihilated by reality (see 2.), hence the evolutionary trait present in all layers of reality)
  5. these specific arrangements versus the general ones can be quantified using arbitrary boundaries, they are arbitrary because there are no boundaries in reality
  6. minds represent a specific subset of R, whose distribution is non random, which is a subjective representation of the whole reality. this means minds can be conceived depending on the boundary: draw one around a planet, an animal, a cell, an atom, and you can define its observations and its thoughts
  7. complex minds made of neurons represent not only observations themselves, but their structure allows for thoughts to generate hypothetical observations, i.e., by virtue of their hierarchical structure, they can generalize patterns so much that impossible distributions can exist as thoughts. this means that even fantasy is real, because it exists physically as a distribution of things (in this case for example, the electrical signals and wiring of the person with the idea).

note that it is not said whether all of the constituents of reality are observable by us, human beings, i.e., of the N things reality is made of, i make no claim on how many, and what type, are they made of. this means that if someone wants to use this model to justify spirituality, they can do so, all they have to do is say there is a “spirit particle”. and though i accept it, as i said before, the quest is for the simplest generative space with minimum distortion versus reality, and the more symbols are added that do not improve fitting, but instead distort it, the worse. but in essence, this is an objective formulation of a subjectivist model. it sounds completely ridiculous, but that’s exactly what it is. it harmonizes both subjectivity and objectivity in a way in which both are complementary, not opposing views.

regarding the minds as generative spaces, i will provide a simplistic formulation on how to look at complex brains and see them at work, and will provide predictions and tests that can be done to verify this model.

as we saw first, we are dealing with a limited and discrete set of symbols to work with. i postulate that brains create multi-dimensional spaces on which they project their sensory signals (sensory signals are not observations, they are interpretations, thoughts done over classification of input). the best way to imagine this is to imagine a two dimensional brain (two neuron brain). one of its neurons can classify red, and another can classify green. if we shine red, the red neuron lights up. if we shine green, the green neuron lights up. but if we shine yellow, both light up. now, each neuron “knows” only one color, but combined they can represent colors that alone they couldn’t represent. this is typical of many dimensional systems. two lines, one dimensional, once put perpendicular to each other can now represent all points in a plane, even though each one of them has only one dimension, together they’ve expanded “each other’s” representation of reality. red could not see yellow without green, and vice versa.

this means, and this is mostly, as i said, a very broad generalization i am making, that a single neuron is a base vector of that multi-dimensional space. so these two color neurons can represent yellow because when combined together they create a base vector for a 2 dimensional space versus two 1 dimensional spaces. obviously this view is a bit influenced by neural networks (which actually estimate an n-dimensional polygon and hyperplanes). but i take a simpler approach: i’m thinking just in terms of axis, projections and expansions.

each neuron is a base vector, and together they create the “brain” (a base matrix). the imaginable space of a “brain” is, therefore, the space expanded from these base vectors. note that it might be that not all neurons are independent of each other, that would be expectable, so this actually overestimates the capacity of this system. the main point is that i’m saying we are dealing with generative complexity, not actual complexity: the ideas that flow are consequence of the possibilities of representation, and this representation is a consequence of a reducible set of base “structures”.

i will develop on this soon, with more concise definitions, and discuss this whole block of ideas in terms of their predictable consequences in understanding the interaction of living things.