Friday, June 30, 2006

Cool Site

has links to free math and science lectures

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Nietzsche and Truth

"Truth" for Nietzsche - the No and the Yes of truth - traced through "On Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral Sense," and beyond to that autobiography of a mind and a body - the two inseparable - that is Ecce Homo. Truth traced to understanding what Nietzsche meant by truth.

The No of truth:

The "senses nowhere lead to truth" (TL, 80) - how can they when our bodies deceive us about our own bodies, masking and thus making us forget about "the coils of the bowels, the rapid flow of the blood stream, and the intricate quivering of the fibers!" (TL, 80)?

Does truth exist outside of man? No. Truth was invented so we can live together socially (TL, 81). Truth: "a uniformly valid and binding designation is invented for things, and this legislation of language likewise establishes the first laws of truth" (81).

Are words truth? No. "What is a word? It is the copy in sound of a nerve stimulus" (81). The designation of certain sounds to certain objects or, more accurately, concepts, is arbitrary (82), that is: "truth alone" is not "the deciding factor in the genesis of language" (81).

"With words, it is never a question of truth" (82).

"The thing in itself" - a Kantian concept - is this the truth? "The "thing in itself" (which is precisely what the pure truth, apart from any of its consequences, would be) is likewise something quite incomprehensible to the creator of language and something not in the least worth striving for" (82). Words, therefore, do not correspond to "the thing in itself," and "the thing in itself" is itself a pointless pursuit - why pursue what, by definition, you cannot know? And what of the "would be"? Does not this "would be" require an "if"? If, perhaps, there were such a thing as "pure truth?" In any case, "pure truth" is something Nietzsche sees as "something not in the least worth striving for" since words do not correspond to pure truth, to "the thing in itself." The "genesis of language" is "not derived from the essence of things" (83).
Why? "We believe that we know something about the things themselves when we speak of trees, colors, snow, and flowers; and yet we possess nothing but metaphors for things – metaphors which correspond in no way to the original entities" (83). What is a metaphor? Saying one thing is another. Words, therefore, themselves are metaphors. What are words for? Particulars? No. Words are for concepts. We cannot name each particular, unique object. Therefore, words "correspond in no way to the original entities." More: "a word becomes a concept insofar as it simultaneously has to fit countless more or less similar cases" (83). And what is a concept? "We obtain a concept, as we do the form, by overlooking what is individual and actual; whereas nature is acquainted with no forms and no concepts" (83). Concepts are created in the human mind: "our contrast between individual and species is something anthropomorphic and does not originate in the essence of things" (83). "Concepts, forms, etc. is based upon" "an equation between things that are unequal" (94). There is no perfect "original model" of things, like leaves "according to which all the leaves were perhaps woven, sketched, measured, colored, curled, and painted" (83), presumably be a deity – the only thing capable of such weaving, sketching, etc. This is a truth that does not need a god. This is a truth found only in the mind of man. The "essence of things" does not appear "in the empirical world," (86), but only in the mind of man, since artists "reveal more about the essence of things than does the empirical world" (87). It is we who bring "truth" into existence (87-88), "truth" as "the essence of things."

So, "What then is truth?" (84). What, indeed, is the Yes of truth? Truth is:

A moveable host of metaphors, metonymies, and anthropomorphisms: in short, a sum of human relations which have been poetically and rhetorically intensified, transferred, and embellished, and which, after long usage, seem to a people to be fixed, canonical, and binding. Truths are illusions we have forgotten are illusions; they are metaphors that have become worn out and have been drained of sensuous force, coins which have lost their embossing and are not considered as metal and no longer as coins (TL, 84)

That is: "to be truthful means to employ the usual metaphors" (84), which means that it "is the duty to lie according to fixed convention" (84). We have forgotten that these are lies, and that is how we have arrived at our "sense of truth" (84). Truth means using things "in the designated manner" (85). Truth, therefore, is mere convention - the way things have been done. Truth, therefore, is not permanent. "New truths" are possible - new truths are merely new ways to do things. But these are all"anthropomorphic truths," which means we have designated concepts with words, and then act surprised when we find something else that fits that category, and so declare the concept we originally created as "truth" (85).

Is all truth anthropomorphic? What about the "true in itself"? Is there something "really and universally valid apart from man" (85)? By forgetting metaphors and being particular – "this sun, this window, this table" – do we come to "truth in itself" (86). Knowing "truth in itself" is knowing the world as a place, not of concepts and forms, but as a place of unique particularities.
So, can we get away from anthropomorphic truths and get at the "true in itself"? "The drive toward the formation of metaphors is the fundamental human drive" (88), and the mind "seeks a new realm and another channel for its activity, and it finds this in myth and in art generally" (89). Indeed, "it is only by means of the rigid and regular web of concepts that the waking man clearly sees that he is awake; and it is precisely because of this that he sometimes thinks that he must be dreaming when this web of concepts is torn apart by art" (89). We prefer our anthropomorphic truths to the "true in itself," they create comfort, convince us we are awake. It reflects the regular, the rational - and it is in fact the rational man who wants to use the usual metaphors. But it is the intuitive man, the "liberated intellect" who creates new concepts and shatters (by dividing up) old ones (90). This is the artist, the creator of new metaphors, the creators of untruths, without which "there can be neither society nor culture" (92).

"His nose wrinkled into a prune" creates a new concept – one that includes human noses and prunes – and therefore creates a new truth. It is also a particular – a particular nose, "his," that is associated with this thing, "prune," to make his nose have a particular look – thus making it unique and, therefore, a "truth in itself" as well as a "new truth." The new metaphor creates a new concept (new grouping of objects) that results in a "new truth" in the anthropomorphic sense, while bringing us closer to "truth in itself" by unveiling the particularity of the wrinkled object. How does it do this? Because art admits it is a lie: "Artistic pleasure is the greatest kind of pleasure, because it speaks the truth quite generally in the form of lies" (96), and therefore comes closest to revealing itself as truth. "Art works through deception – yet one which does not deceive us" (96). Why? Because "art treats illusion as illusion; therefore it does not wish to deceive; it is true" (96). "His nose wrinkled into a prune" – an artistic statement, and therefore closer to truth than anything else in this protokoll. Why? "Truth cannot be recognized. Everything which is knowable is illusion. The significance of art as truthful illusion" (97). A redundant statement: "truthful illusion": since truth is identified by Nietzsche as "illusion" (93). Thus art is an "illusionful illusion," and, as such, like love and religion, one of "the truest things in this world" (95).

This then leads us to Ecce Homo, to the autobiography of an intellect. In keeping with the theme of truth, I thought we should see how Nietzsche’s ideas on truth have evolved. A lifetime of philosophizing has passed, and this immoralist, this Anti-Christ, has come to proclaim that "Overthrowing idols (my word for "ideals") – that come closer to being part of my craft (EH, 218, 4). (I give first the pg. of the Kaufmann translation, then the Hollingdale) And what are ideals (idols)? "What is called idol on the title page is simply what has been called truth so far. Twilight of the Idols – that is: the old truth is approaching its end" (EH, 314, 86). He shows the old truths – the anthropomorphic truths – are what have been called "ideals." He reiterates that the world of ideals, what he is now calling the "true world," or what philosophers past have considered the true world, is really the invented world (218, 4), the world invented by man, through concepts. Only Nietzsche’s words have now become stronger: "The lie of the ideal has so far been the curse of reality" (218, 4). And not only this. "Error (-belief in the ideal-) is not blindness, error is cowardice . . . Every acquisition, every step forward in knowledge is the result of courage, of severity towards oneself, of cleanliness with respect to oneself . . . I do not refute ideals, I merely draw on gloves in their presence . . ." (218, 4). So, error is "belief in the ideal," and, not only that, but cowardice as well. Naturally, courage is the opposite of cowardice, meaning courage is disbelief in the ideal. For Nietzsche, only those who do not believe the lie of the ages – truth, ideals, "the thing in itself" – are courageous. He sees this "truthfulness as the highest virtue; this means the opposite of the cowardice of the "idealist" who flees from reality" (328, 98). "Cowardice in face or reality" is "cowardice in face of truth" (320, 91). But Nietzsche here, as in "On Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral Sense," refuses to be dogmatic – that has not changed. This is why, despite his saying those who do not believe in ideals have courage, Nietzsche says "I do not refute ideals, I merely draw on gloves in their presence . . ." Why gloves? He does not want to be soiled by the filth of "ideals." This, despite his acknowledgment that "ideals" had been "the real fatality in my life, the superfluous and stupid in it, something out of which there is no compensation, no counter-reckoning" (241, 25) – ideals have been difficult for Nietzsche himself to rid himself of – they are "the fundamental irrationality of my life" (242, 26). Looking back, Nietzsche realizes that it is difficult to shed ones life of the lies one is raised with. "We all fear truth" (246, 29), undoubtedly because we fear change – and we fear the world unmasked of truth. At best, ideals have been frozen by Nietzsche, if not truly refuted (284, 60). He hopes he has gotten us to see, as he has, that "all idealism is untruthfulness in the face of necessity" (258, 38), while acknowledging that most are not capable of seeing: "‘where you see ideal things, I see – human, alas all too human things!’" (281, 59). Truths remain mobile. There are "my truths" (259, 39), and Zarathustra "creates truth" (307, 76). And if truths can be created, they are impermanent, changeable, "a moving army of metaphors." While the "true in itself" comes "upon every image (metaphor)," while "words and wordchests of all existence spring open to you; all existence here wants to become words" (301, 73) because words, concepts, are more comforting than "truth in itself." Only when we realize that "Nothing that is can be subtracted, nothing is dispensable" will we be able to realize that "precisely by this measure of strength does one approach truth" (272, 50) – again, it is the particular that is the "true in itself," not words, not concepts, which require that something be subtracted in order to be conceptualized, in order to be given a sound tag – that is, a word to represent it. And the more conceptual – the further from reality – something is, while claiming to be truth (unlike art, which admits to being a lie), "Those things which mankind has hitherto pondered seriously are not even realities, merely imaginings, more strictly speaking lies from the bad instincts of the sick, in the profoundest sense injurious natures – all the concepts ‘God,’ ‘soul,’ ‘virtue,’ ‘sin,’ ‘the Beyond,’ ‘truth,’ ‘eternal life’" (256, 36). Why do we do this? "The concept of the "beyond," the "true world" [was] invented in order to devalue the only world there is – in order to retain no goal, no reason, no task for our earthly reality" (334, 103). In fact, "Twice, at precisely the moment when with tremendous courage and self-overcoming an honest, an unambiguous, a completely scientific mode of thinking had been attained, the Germans have known how to discover secret paths to the old ‘ideal’, reconciliations between truth and ‘ideal’, at bottom formulas to a right to reject science, for a right to lie" (320, 91). So now science, in addition to art, is a path toward the truth, since the "right to reject science" is seen here as the "right to lie." The "true in itself" now seen as achievable through both art and science, through the breaking apart of the old metaphors and the realization of the particularity of the world, that the world is first perceived, then conceived, and not vice versa. This is now Nietzsche "was the first to discover the truth by being the first to experience lies as lies" (326, 96). This is how Nietzsche can say " – the truth speaks out of me. – But my truth is terrible; for so far one has called lies truth" (326, 96), and he has shown us the lies we live by.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Unstable Stabilities and Stable Instabilities in Government and Economy

The only stable political or economic systems are unstable ones. Conversely, the most unstable political and economic systems are those designed to be most stable. A paradox? Only if we accept a view of the world wherein order begets order, and disorder begets disorder – a linear, rationalist, Newtonian world since disproved by chaos theory.

Chaos theory shows that growing systems are nonlinear systems that exist on the borderlands between order and disorder. Complete order – and complete disorder – both are definitions of being dead. A salt crystal is an example of complete order – a gas in a closed container at a constant temperature and pressure is an example of complete disorder. Living things exist on the edge of order and disorder, the realm of chaos, wherein lies the principle of growth. Living things are systems, and systems have order and disorder – the heart is a system (that makes up part of the circulatory system, which makes up part of the organismal system) that can have neither completely orderly beats, nor completely random beats, but must have beats that are mostly orderly, with some disorder, which means the beats are fractal. Cell membranes are orderly and disorderly – they are liquid crystals, fluid yet solid, as the proteins and phospholipids slip past each other. All living things live on the principle of growth, live in the realm of order and disorder, live lives far from equilibrium.

If the principle of growth and stability for life is in the nonlinear, far-from-equilibrium realm between order and disorder, this would also be the principle of growth and stability for systems of living things as well, including superorganismal systems such as ecosystems, economies, and governments. Indeed, studies of ecosystems show they are not stable – at some sort of equilibrium – but are in fact always in flux, always changing, in time. And the way they change follow power laws – with many small changes, a few medium-sized changes, and very few large changes, as we see in avalanches of sand when we pile sand up one grain at a time. They are systems that are far-from-equilibrium, always growing, in a state of orderly disorder – disorderly order. If something were to happen to make any given ecosystem stop changing – which is to say, stop growing – that ecosystem would die off. Ecosystems are stable only so long as they are constantly in flux, constantly changing. Thus, they cease being the ecosystem they are within the next moment, forever changing – deserts move in and recede, forests expand and recede, grasslands too expand and recede. Meandering rivers cut off oxbow lakes where new kinds of fish evolve – to be introduced to the river when the meandering river merges again with the oxbow lake. There the new fish compete with the other fish in the river, pushing some to evolve, others to go extinct, others into other habitats. They change as the river changes, flowing into new species with the flow of time and the flow of the very river in which they live.
A stable government is thus an unstable government. Any government that constantly changes – every two or four or six years, in towns, counties, states, and nations – is a government that is stabilized by this instability. Who is in charge in such a government as that found in the United States? The President, who is there four or eight years at most? The Congress, made up of two Houses in conflict with each other, whose members could be there only two or six years, but who may be there any number of years from two years to two decades? The Court system, which can overturn even what these two branches of government pass? Or how about the states, which are given (according to the Constitution, even if this is not true in practice anymore) all the power not explicitly given to the federal government? Or is it the people, who elect and defeat people who run for office at the town/city, county, state, and federal levels? All of them, and none. The system is kept destabilized by the very process of election – stabilized by varying degrees of continuity (two and four and six or more years, as the case may be). There are power laws of continuity that prevent power from existing in one set of hands for long, if at all. The most stable political systems are indeed those based on the principles f power laws – many people have most of the power and have the most cumulative effect, middle-sized entities have less power and less cumulative effect, and the federal government has the least power of all, and the least effect on us. Do you not like what the President does? He is gone in four years (if he is too bad, in less, with impeachment). Do you like him too much? Too bad – we cannot reelect him more than once. We have prevented ourselves from electing our own dictators. And if the President tries to take on too much, to take too much power, the Congress will block him, refuse to pass what he wants. And if the Congress tries to take on too much, to take too much power, the President will veto them. And if they both agree to too much, the Supreme Court can refuse to let it remain law. We have them fight each other, trying to take power from each other, so they cannot harm the people, who prosper and grow. But the people only prosper and grow so long as the government is in a state of stable instability – as is found in republican (not democratic, where the power is placed in the hands of one group – and we get the tyranny of the majority) governments. Stable governments are based on power law distributions of power.

Stable governments create instability – dictators create instability in their own countries, among their own people, let alone among the peoples in other countries. Often this is done precisely to create the stability inherently missing in dictatorial governments. Whether the dictator is ideological or nonideological, the results are the same – they try to prevent change (change means a change from their rule, after all), which stagnates, creating equilibrium – which is to say, death. We have seen the cultures of death, the governments of death, in Hitler’s Nazi Germany, in the series of dictators in the Soviet Union, in Pol Pot’s Cambodia, in Pinochet’s Chile (though there is something to recommend in his economic policies), in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, in the dictatorship of minority rule in South Africa during Apartheid, and in and with the various kings and queens throughout history. They attempt to override and overcome natural power laws through the use of force – many large avalanches are created through the use of a smashing fist. The democratic republics of the West and increasingly throughout the rest of the world have not always had the cleanest of hands – but those hands were only spotted with blood compared to other times and other countries where dictatorships (no matter what the name) ruled, when rulers’ hands dripped with blood. While France, for example, has not had the best of reputations in the twentieth century in its former colonies, especially as they pulled out of them, at least the French people have been safe from the French government – something that was not the case under their kings, the government of the Terror, or under Napoleon. Only as France has become more and more politically destabilized in their having now a representative government – and are even more destabilized by becoming part of the European Union – has France become safe for the French people. Thus has France become increasingly stable.
Economies too work on the same principle as ecosystems and government – the connection between economy and ecosystem should be readily apparent in the common root of the two words. Economies that are designed to be stable – the planned economies of socialist and communist governments, and even the over-regulated economies under interventionism and Keynesianism – are themselves highly unstable. Socialist countries around the world had and have high levels of unemployment. Communist countries starved their citizens because they could not produce enough food, or properly distribute it – during the 1980's the Soviet Union had to spend 25% of its GDP on the military to keep up with the Unites States spending only 2% of its GDP on the military. Welfare states slow economic growth in order to support the unemployed – those made unemployed by the slow growth created by the welfare state. Subsidies keep unprofitable businesses around at the expense of the profitable businesses – Britain famously subsidized looms when the textile industry became automated, keeping unprofitable looms around at the expense of the textile industries, which could have caused the economy to boom even more than it did, absorbing all of those temporarily displaced by the economic changes (and those who are displaced by change are always only temporarily displaced, for the growing economy rapidly takes them in). Every instance of a government anywhere trying to control the country’s economy has resulted in at best slow growth, at worst starvation and complete economic collapse. Any attempt to make an economy remain at equilibrium has had the same result – death.

The principles of a growing economy are the same as the principles of growth of ecosystems, organisms, and everything else in the universe – the economy must be on the edge of order and disorder, in the far-from-equilibrium state where growth occurs. Growth must be based on power law distributions. The economy must be allowed to be unstable so that it may be stable – stable enough to grow and adapt and change over time. It must have the rules of voluntary cooperation for it to have life (the imposition of force – which is what governments do – brings entropy-as-equilibrium to the system, making it act no longer as a system), for it to grow and to produce and reproduce, to create, recreate, and procreate – for these are the elements of growth. Economies, like ecosystems and organisms, must be heterarchies – both hierarchical and decentralized, full of nonlinear feedback loops. No one can control an economy any more than any one cell controls an organism (and, when one cell tries to take over an organism, it is called cancer – which results in the death of the organism). Even the brain dies without a working heart or liver. Yet, there is a hierarchy at work to create a living organism. The same is true too of economies – which are constituted not only of individuals, but, in a power law distribution, of families making decisions together, and each church making decisions as a church, communities making decisions as communities, companies and corporations making decisions as companies and corporations, and even governments making decisions as governments (though it is best when their decisions are to remain out of the economy as much as possible, since they are more apt to try to control it than participate in it – the only possible exceptions being doing things like building roads, which are more difficult to do privately, though one should note how, in a power law distribution, it is local governments that build and maintain more roads than do state governments, which build and maintain more roads than does the federal government, and which should all be done using only the "user fee" known as gasoline taxes, which I would argue should also only be used for roads). In such an economy, it is not the individual, the family, or the various groups and entities that are in charge of the economy – in fact, no one is in charge, or even for the most part has much of an effect on the economy as a whole, any more than does any individual member of Congress. Yet each individual and entity is necessary – and an individual or entity can have a large influence on the economy, with the introduction of a new technology, etc. Two bicycle mechanics had a massive influence on the world’s economy when they invented the airplane – yet think too of all the other bicycle mechanics who simply repaired bicycles, making tiny contributions to the economy that were, as part of the accumulation of economic activity, important, but only minimally important. But such innovations by bicycle mechanics could not be planned or directed by central command – they arose because they were part of a system that, because it existed at a far-from-equilibrium state, could be influenced by butterfly effects. Only in such an economy could a pair of butterflies like the Wright brothers truly take flight.

If we want to truly have stable governments, societies, and economies, we have to have governments, societies, and economies that are inherently unstable, far-from-equilibrium, on the edge of order and disorder, wherein lies the principle of growth. For it is growth – and growth itself is imbedded in time, and changes and evolves – that is the source of stability in the world. A growing organism is most stable, healthiest, most adaptable. The same is true of ecosystems, economies, and societies. When an organism, an ecosystem, an economy, or a society stops growing, it becomes unstable, unhealthy, and may even die. We know what the principle of growth now is – a growing system is a far-from-equilibrium system on the borderlands of order and disorder – meaning, we now know what we must do to have a growing economy and a stable government wherein the people are safe from that government, other governments, and even those citizens which wish to do others harm. Only to the extent than an economy and a government are both hierarchical and decentralized, and constantly changing in such a way that stability is created (by good rules, not by either ironclad laws or anarchy), can they lead to safe and prosperous societies and citizens.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Profit Vs. Theft

Profit is always ethical – theft is always bad (though it may be good to steal from a thief, but only if you know you are stealing from a thief, and you do so to give it back to those who had their money stolen from them – this is the story of Robin Hood. He stole from the government, from Prince John, who was taxing everyone too much, to return the money to the poor). Theft is taking something from someone else by force. Thus, taxation is theft – so long as the government arrests people for not paying taxes. The line in the tax code that states that the income tax is based on the "voluntary compliance" of the citizenry should either be taken seriously or stricken from the code. I would prefer the first idea. Leaving it in there is insulting to every taxpayer.

People who mistake profit for theft are thieves themselves. They cannot tell the difference between good and bad. So, what is profit? The gain from any transaction. Any gain resulting in mental, physical, or spiritual betterment. From the Latin prÇfectus, an advance, from prÇ-, forward, and facere, to make. Thus, profit makes us advance. Profit is growth – it is life. Thus, those who make the most profits are doing the most good for the world.

Thus, we need to stop taxing profits, including capital gains, as this actually punishes profit-making, and thus punishes good. All income taxes should be abolished, stricken from the Constitution, and replaced with a very small federal sales tax. If the purpose of taxation is to generate revenues, this will generate the most revenues without punishing people for doing well. It is likely to generate the most revenues overall of any form of taxation, and will do so while allowing for increased economic growth, once making money is no longer punished. And it has the added bonus, for those who hate profits and thus want the rich to pay more in taxes, that the wealthy will pay more in taxes, since they in fact spend more money. But if you do decide to support such an idea, please note that it is important that we rid ourselves of the income tax first – otherwise, we will be in danger of burdening everyone with both kinds of taxes.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

Some Sites

A few sites to read:

Non-Essential Workers

Whatever would we do without the government to fall back on? Millions would have to work for a living! Children would be educated in droves! Hard work would be rewarded and laziness punished rather than the other way around! Artists the nation over would actually have to produce good art rather than hideous mockeries nobody likes, using our tax dollars. Public radio would actually have to broadcast programs people will listen to, and public television would actually have to show programs people will watch! Corporations would actually have to compete, as the government would not be there to protect their monopolies and cartels – usually using the prevention of monopolies and cartels as an excuse. Jobs would be created across the nation unlike ever before! We would be able to keep every dollar we earned rather than have it taken from us by the government! Since we all know how unbelievably irresponsible people would be with all that extra money, we certainly could not have that! Could you imagine the chaos? People buying and selling like mad! The economy booming like never before! The unemployment rate so low as to be nearly nonexistent! Could we ever survive such a society? Could we possibly stand to live in a society where people live their lives without worrying about the government telling them what to do, how to live, or how to make money, where the rights to live, liberty, and property are respected and protected?

I think back to when Clinton and the Republican Congress shut down most of the government over the budget, and all the non-essential workers were sent home. Let me ask you: what corporation out there has non-essential workers? Anyone the government could send home, they should send home – permanently. There should never be such a thing as a non-essential worker in either business or government. Their presence is the very definition of government waste. If you truly want to cut the budget, get rid of all these wastes of time, space, and money. It is time we modernized and computerized more and relied less on people who work an hour’s worth of work for eight hour’s pay.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Qubit Processing and Strange Attractors

I recently read in Seth Lloyd's "Deprogramming the Universe" that quantum physical systems can compute at an exponential rate vs. linear computations. Compare this to the math I mention on Thursday, October 13, 2005, "How to Get Something (in Fact, an Entire Universe) From Nothing", where I show that the math for strange attractors is the same. I e-mailed Seth Lloyd and asked him the following:

Dear Dr. Lloyd,

Allow me first to introduce myself, so you can understand the spirit of the questions I wish to ask you, and the level of ignorance it necessarily comes out of. To begin with, I am not a mathematician, so please forgive whatever mathematical errors I will necessarily make – though the question is necessarily a mathematical one. I am an interdisciplinary scholar, with a background in the humanities (philosophy, literature and the arts), English, molecular biology and chemistry (Ph.D., M.A., and B.S. major and minor, respectively). I am particularly interested in complexity, systems, and information theories – and it is from these that I as my question.

In your book Programming the Universe, you describe the universe as communicating and registering binary bits. You also say that "the number of quantum searches required to locate what you’re looking for is the square root of the number of places in which it could be" (143). When I read this, it made me think of the following calculations I did for my dissertation, Evolutionary Aesthetics, taken from Stuart Kauffman’s formulae for calculating possible states of complex systems. Is this square root you mention in any way related to the calculation for number of potential strange attractors? If so, we may have a quantum mechanical description of the origins of strange attractors. Please let me know what you think of the following calculations, and the aforementioned idea. Am I completely off base here?

I have yet to hear from him (but you never know), but I do wonder if I am onto something here. Any thoughts?


When someone is laughing at us, it seems cruel – if we take ourselves seriously. But people who laugh at themselves cannot hate others. Hatred of others come more from taking ourselves seriously as children take themselves seriously than from anything else. There is no one more serious than a child – and no one is more easily hurt by others. Mature people know not to take much seriously, and that not all things should be taken equally seriously at all times. Adults know that not every action done by others involves them or that, if an action turns out to be harmful or hurtful to them, that the person doing it did not necessarily always mean it that way. Adults are aware that not everything is meaningful, and that not everything is as it may at first appear. In other words, adults are aware of irony. Only children do not understand irony.

People who laugh with each other about each other do not want to kill each other. They do not even want to hate each other. Laughter dissolves meaning in a meaningful way, so we do not take each other so seriously we see each other as a threat. And when people do not take us seriously this way, we should not be offended – they are learning to love us through laughter. But only if we laugh along with them. If we allow people to laugh at us – and get offended – we in turn show them that we are contemptible, that we do not or can not have a sense of humor. If we are perceived not to have a sense of humor, we will be taken seriously – and if we are taken seriously, we are in danger of being hated.

However, we want people to laugh with us, not at us. All laughter is aimed at folly – when we are acting good, we cannot be laughed at. Self-deprecating humor fits here too: people laugh with us as we laugh at our own shortcomings. Good people see the world as serious, but funny (as Aristotle says, serious people don’t take much seriously – and know when to take something seriously). Good people laugh the most. Beware of the humorless – even they know they are not good people.

Let me make a serious suggestion. How do we recognize a bad law? Can it be laughed at? Can we make a joke about it? If so, it is a bad law. Who jokes about the laws against murder, theft, or rape? You cannot vilify the good. You can only ridicule the ridiculous.