Page Created: 7/9/2014   Last Modified: 4/28/2016   Last Generated: 11/16/2023
My grandmother was an elementary school teacher since she was 18 years old, teaching in a one-room schoolhouse in rural Poplar Bluff, Missouri. Her only interruption from teaching was WWII where she enlisted in the WAC↗ and became a military photographer, before getting her college degree and resuming teaching. She was a progressive woman and an early feminist, although she never called herself such as that term has been redefined over the decades.
She told me the story of Helen Keller many times. It was a fascinating story for her, perhaps because she, like Anne Sullivan, was trying to teach language to people without it. Perhaps because Helen was her own first name, it had a greater effect. My grandmother taught me how to read and write, rules of grammar. She encouraged me to tell my own stories, which is what I am doing right now.
This concept was fascinating to me as well, and I later read about Helen Keller and watched documentaries about her. I tried to imagine a world without language, which seemed almost impossible to me, as language is what stores knowledge, at least in the sense that most of us think of it. And somehow, in this dark box, a teacher was able to get though to her, to show her pattern, and allow her mind to abstract upon it.
In her 1902 book, The Story of My Life, Helen Keller described when she first understood language after playing with a doll:
When I had played with it a little while, Miss Sullivan slowly spelled into my hand the word "d-o-l-l." I was at once interested in this finger play and tried to imitate it.
But she did not understand the concept of name until her teacher placed her hand under flowing water, spelling the word water into her other hand:
Suddenly I felt a misty consciousness as of something forgotten--a thrill of returning thought; and somehow the mystery of language was revealed to me. I knew then that "w-a-t-e-r" meant the wonderful cool something that was flowing over my hand. That living word awakened my soul, gave it light, hope, joy, set it free!
The human brain is a wonderful thing. Even surrounded by silence, darkness, and ignorance, it is frantically trying to escape the box, to make sense of everything around it, everything that touches it. And when there is nothing to touch it, it will create an inner world.
Inside collapsed nesting dolls, like Russian matryoshkas, there is the tiniest doll in the very center, surrounded by shells and shells of larger dolls. Each doll is similar to the other dolls, but not the same. This is very much a fractal but a different representation of it. For a fractal doesn't have to be 2 dimensional, like the designs on Persian carpets, it can also be 3 dimensional, or even higher.
If you were a middle doll, would you know there was something outside of that shell around you?
You could feel the wall of the shell and notice that its shape resembled your own. You might notice that the shape around you and that of your own resembled the shapes in your mind. You could abstract this concept and theorize that perhaps this pattern continues to extend both outward and inward.
But unless you are outside of the doll, you don't see its true expression. You cannot see that the shell that contains you is a painted figure of immense beauty. You could however, see the beauty of your own creations, the shells you contain.
This simple set of nesting dolls is reminding us what beauty is.
Beauty is only recognized when you first know the pattern of structure, the "language", and then you encounter another expression of it, in detail.
Most of the time when people look at a painting or read a poem, they don't get overwhelmed with emotion, but there are times when these things do happen. There are times when suddenly there is an understanding, a recognition of the beautiful.
These times are profound, but they don't occur unless you pay attention, and actively investigate the patterns in the world around and inside you. Beauty exists in all abstract realms, since, to continue the analogy, the larger dolls have even more surface area upon which more detail can be painted, but it is more difficult to paint detail on a smaller doll.
There was a study published in February 2014↗ that shows that mathematicians can see beauty in mathematical formulae in the same ways as other art.
The fields of philosophy and science have constructed a variety of methods over the years to discover truths about the world, to explain the meaning and purpose of life. These are noble endeavors, but in my opinion, most of this is overkill, like the complexity software programmers continue to layer upon layer over each generation.
It is our innate ability to recognize pattern that provides meaning to everything else.
At our lowest levels, at our inputs, we are simply comparing two different things, classifying each one as "like" or "different", which lead us to create logic and the scientific method.
Our outputs, our choices, are also two things, choosing between "this" or "that".
We are input, output, binary machines, and the world we see is binary.
There are only representation of that which exists (1) and that which does not (0).
These two binary values give us direction, dimension, "degree of freedom". It gives us the space we need to generate numbers greater than two. It gives us magnitude.
And with direction and magnitude, like a Turing Machine↗, all other concepts can be generated.
However, this binary duality is not the whole structure. There is an illusive tertiary, a degree of freedom that is hard for us to see that provides energy to this structure, like the sun.
As people, we live our lives looking at things around us, illuminated by the sun, but we rarely ever look directly at the sun. In other words, the very source of energy that is feeding our earth and our bodies will burn out that same body if we look at it directly. It is in plain view, not hidden from us, but instead, we are not capable of grasping it directly.
Similarly, if you held a microphone to a speaker that was amplifying the microphone, you are placing the energy source for that microphone (the sound source) directly into that microphone, causing a runaway amplification effect, or feedback. In computers, this is called infinite recursion, and it can break the machine on which it runs.
If the sun is like the feedback effect of our body, the feedback effect of our mind is the quantum superposition. The quantum superposition is the point where we have put our focus on the object that creates the object whose focus it belongs.
Fortunately, we can break the cycle before the feedback overwhelms our mind. But it has given quantum physicists many a headache.
In a computer simulation, if the computer program used the data stream that created it as input, a similar thing happens, a feedback effect.
It is like we are a type of subroutine, an instantiation of an object of a higher order, and there is a shell around us. But our object is not completely separate. This stem, like the sun, is in plain view, but our mind refuses to look at it.
In OBE's (out of body experiences), many people see a silver cord attached to their body. Perhaps this is a direct visualization of this transition or energy connection.
This might seem far-fetched except for the fact that we have a physical analog, the umbilical cord of a human fetus which serves a similar purpose. The physical body may be a lower-order construct of the same fractal pattern.
In computing, if a program is running inside a virtual machine (a software simulation of the system on which it is running), there is no way for the software running on the virtual machine to detect that it is inside a virtual machine unless it has access to something external, outside of the machine, such as a time source. Even though it is connected to its parent process, receiving energy and information from it, it cannot see that connection. Only the parent process can.
While we are inside the shell, the box shaped like us that surrounds us, there are things we cannot easily see which are inside the shell with us. The shell contains far more inside it than we realize.
There were many famous thought experiments used by Einstein to test special relativity. Our shell is like an "non-inertial frame of reference", a closed room where the physical laws within that room do not vary unless that room is under acceleration. This explains why you can walk in a park in the same way that flight attendants can walk on an airplane that is cruising at hundreds of miles per hour. At cruising speed, the plane is no longer accelerating, but is held steady.
So within that closed room, even though we cannot see outside of it, we can perform experiments inside it that can reveal knowledge of things outside of our shell. One of the famous ones is the Foucault pendulum. If you erect a heavy pendulum bob on a long wire, and let it swing, it will swing like you expect, back and forth.
But if you watch that pendulum over the course of a day, its path will slowly rotate 360 degrees, like a 24-hour clock.
But the pendulum is not rotating at all, it is moving in a straight line, according to Newton's first law of motion, commonly known as inertia.
In actuality, the room is rotating around the pendulum.
It rotates as the earth rotates, but even more fascinating is that it is also rotating around the sun and rotating around the galaxy. ANY amount of rotation throughout the known universe is detected in that simple pendulum swinging back and forth in your room.
The entire universe is connected, a philosophical hypothesis known as Mach's principle, named after Austrian physicist, Ernst Mach. It appears that we are inside a giant maze that spreads throughout everything, not realizing that it is shaping our path until we bump up against one of its walls. But Mach believed that physics followed the rules of fluid dynamics, so perhaps our path is really a type of river, like the flowing water than Helen Keller experienced.
Dimension must be an illusion, just like decimal or sexagesimal numeral systems are illusions to a binary computer. Like the holographic principle, dimensions are like a "painting on a flat surface", the projection on Plato's cave wall.
We are able to perceive a higher dimension because of the complexity of our brain and its ability to abstract. Animals without this ability cannot perceive them, and cannot recognize paintings on flat surfaces. Thus it must be the case that given higher abstracting ability, we could perceive more dimensions. Some animals and insects live their entire lives along surfaces, walking along them, walking up them, but perhaps not realizing that their 2-dimensional surfaces are oriented through a third dimension. They, like ourselves, exist in all dimensions, but they may not be able to perceive them as such.
Dimensions must not be a property of space, but a property of our mind. Dimensions are information structures, not physical ones.
A bison, for example, has a different binocular disparity than a person, with eyes wide apart and a brain adapted to it. Perhaps it would see a television screen as a flat display of colors, but a human will see a portal to another world.
But human beings have some drawbacks. We cannot see what is behind us, we cannot see in the ultraviolet spectrum, and we cannot see magnetic fields. Just like Helen Keller, we are blind to many aspects of the world around us. A pigeon, for example, can see all of these things directly.
But even so, a human can hide from a bison or a pigeon, tagging them with RF transmitters, or watching them on a telephoto lens, remaining beyond the reach of their perception. Our abstract brain finds hidden "avenues" in the maze-like world that the animals never knew were there.
A being with a higher abstracting ability than ourselves would thus see many things that we don't see and remain beyond the reach of our perception.
Some of them are right here with us, just not in a form we can recognize.
The abstraction mechanism that enables us to perceive this can be simulated in computer pattern recognition models like Jeff Hawkin's memory-prediction framework, which seems to be similar to a lot of the earlier work done in gestalt psychology↗. I think they are one and the same. Everything we perceive is built up from layers of abstraction, but at the bottom, there is very primitive mathematics at work.
Graham Hancock reported seeing geometric "phosphenes" when under the influence of DMT, a drug that seemed to break down his abstractions. These patterns are similar to patterns in paleothic cave art.
In fact, many people using this substance have reported that they felt they were being stripped away or disassembled. But after this occurs, they suddenly experience a reality, more real than life, the opposite direction of the dream state, which is full of intelligent entities. Whereas taking a sleeping pill puts one to sleep, TheMatrix "blue pill", perhaps these people have taken the red pill, putting them into a hyperwake state.
The dream state appears to be shifting our point of view downward into a smaller nesting doll, but Hancock and others' experiences seem to shift it upward, into a higher nesting doll.
Going back to the virtual machine example, theoretically, we could build a virtual machine that can fool all software programs running on it.
But as my father frequently repeated to me, "You can fool all of the people some of the time, some of the people all of the time, but you cannot fool all of the people all of the time."
Since the universe is connected, it does not have pockets of isolation that allow us to continue such an illusion forever. A fractal such as the Mandebrot puts all of the complexity on the boundary, like a coastline. There are no islands. A virtual machine can therefore never be completely isolated.
The machine on which the virtual machine is running requires power and maintenance. People make mistakes. Entropy is at work outside of this artificial system, causing things to change.
But we are not so much in a virtual machine, as we are inside its lower-order cousin, an instantiated object↗.
The illusion of isolation, therefore, does not require as much time to be detectable, if we look closely.
We contain the entire universe inside ourselves, inside our tiny shell. We are like a cell that contains copies of DNA within it, which is the blueprint for creating not only itself, but the greater being that contains it and all other cells within the organism.
We just have to keep looking, keep examining the ordinary, recognizing all of the wonderful variated figures in their expanded forms, like versions of a well-known play, the thousands of individuals in the Chinese Terracotta Army, or the gigantic herds of bison and the even larger flocks of passenger pigeons containing millions and billions of unique individuals, respectively, that once inhabited North America.
In doing that, we will find beauty.