Page Created: 1/19/2015   Last Modified: 3/9/2016   Last Generated: 2/7/2024
A model is a man-made construct that can accelerate our ability to discover new knowledge, depending on how well the model represents it. Like everything else, a model is simply a pattern, something in the random universe that we detect, but... our ability to detect it makes it detectable.
We see order in the Universe because we want to see it. We paint the Universe in front of our eyes.
If I told you, for example, that the word "epny" means "kite", then it is so, for the context of this page. I have created order from chaos and given you the key (the knowledge) to recognizing it.
On a windy day, the sky is full of epnys.
In computing, this would be called "initializing a local variable."
And from tiny building blocks like this, we create more concepts, and use them to create more, and before we know it, we have created an entire world out of nothingness, a world within our context.
You may say that there is an inherent order to Nature, but if you begin to subtract our knowledge, our "orderly" complexity, take our minds back in time, we can no longer recognize patterns, or shapes, of higher complexity. Take a man back far enough in his life to a boy, and that boy cannot grasp higher mathematics. Take him back further, and he cannot grasp words, take him back further, and he cannot grasp shapes.
Take yourself back in time to when you first read this page, and you cannot grasp "epny".
We know the brain is formed from order, and that the brain is already physically ordered, but that is only because we can see this order.
It has been extremely difficult, for example, for human beings to teach a thinking machine (computer) to detect order at the same levels as ourselves, known as pattern recognition. It is now being achieved with surprising success, but it wasn't until our intelligence as a collective could recognize how to do this, through manipulating the objects of order that we created. We had to get them up to our level of complexity, a "higher ordinate" as I call it.
We are finally recognizing how to make a computer that recognizes.
Without us, the Universe does not exist, but remains an indecipherable sea of randomness. Without us, we could not recognize ourselves.
It wasn't until a man named Benoit Mandelbrot discovered a new shape that nobody else could recognize that finally gave us the ability to recognize it. Mathematics, over thousands of years of study by Mankind, had reached a level of sophistication by 1979 that the world had never seen before, at least not that we can yet "recognize", and this man decided to apply a mathematical tool called the computer to a simple equation, and the computer drew a shape.
The reason Mankind could not recognize this shape, was because this shape wasn't fully visible in Space (3 dimensions) but became visible only after adding Time (4 dimensions). The computer is a unique tool in that it allows us to translate a shape in space (a computer program) into a shape in time (a functioning machine), but it also allows us to do the reverse, translate a shape in time into a shape in space. That was how the Mandelbrot set was discovered.
It took a shape that only a lightning fast machine could see, a machine of electrical fire, and, like Prometheus, it handed it to us. And once we saw this shape, we realized that it contained order, an order that seemed to match the world around us. It didn't match it exactly, but it matched it generally. I call these things "higher order" shapes. Plato might have called these things "forms".
The Mandelbrot set is my favorite model. Like any model, it will not match exactly, but I believe that it matches closely enough to allow me to discover new information about the Universe, that its pattern will approximate the shape of reality long enough for me to see something new, to interpret the world around me differently. Plato, for example, had the Platonic solids↗, and Mandelbrot had the Mandelbrot set↗.
The 3+ decades since this shape was discovered hasn't been long enough for Mankind to understand its implications, as these are new words in the vocabulary of mathematics, science, philosophy, and art. We had fuzzy ideas of these concepts before, but now we have Words.
Before I continue, I need to explain my use of words, which I try to do frequently on this web site, since just like the Mandelbrot set, repetition (using Time) is needed to grasp the pattern.
Because I'm trying to describe things of a higher shape, I have to write in a higher language, and English doesn't provide many ways to do this, which is why languages like mathematics exist, for example. But English is flexible and adaptable, and concepts like logic and art can be conveyed quite well using English, which is why we can write both instruction manuals and poetry. They are two different languages really, but English itself can suffice as a higher-order language.
English has a great many words, many of them abstract, and this is one way of describing things of a higher shape, to use abstract words. But, with any abstraction, you can't understand it unless you first see several similar things, learning their common patterns. This is also how we teach computers to learn them. Because the Mandelbrot set is a new word, so to speak, we need to see how this word is used before we can abstract what it really is. In the next hundred years, Mankind will have a much better understanding of these "temporal shapes", and they will be common vocabulary for people, but today, I don't have many ways of describing it.
One of the problems with English is when value is attached to words where value has no meaning or the wrong meaning. The words higher and lower, for example, are simply directions applied to an abstract shape, they do not have meaning until the shape it known. For example, if you apply these terms to shapes such as Good and Evil, a higher Good versus a higher Evil, you can see that these words are simply directions and that higher and lower do not have meaning in themselves. Is the word "higher" good or evil? It doesn't make sense. But unfortunately, people usually assume that higher is better and lower is worse, attributing value judgments to them, not unlike how the words right & left or white & black have been misused throughout history.
In trying to get English to work for me as a higher-order language and yet still be readable to most people, I discovered a while ago that I could not accurately represent direction (of depth) in the Mandelbrot model with higher and lower to match patterns in our world, no matter how I oriented this shape. This is because the English language developed during a time before fractals were discovered, and so most people did not see fractal depth as a model that they could refer to. People saw nature, they saw geometry, but the fractal was not yet "extracted".
When shapes are extracted from nature, our language and thinking redirects, or reshapes, itself to allow these new things to exist, using them as models, like a river flowing around an eddy. Early archaeology and psychology shaped a lot of thinking, the Heisenberg uncertainty principle shaped a lot of thinking, radio, television, aerodynamics and the atomic age shaped a lot of thinking, and the Internet is doing the same today.
This seems to have been a historically Western phenomenon, where it takes direct observation (reductionism) before we eventually work it back into our philosophies, where Eastern philosophies did not necessarily have to see the components (holism). Today much of this is merging, but the remnants remain in our languages.
So I decided to use two words, order and ordinate, being oppositely polarized, where a higher order is a lower ordinate and a higher ordinate is a lower order. This gave me the flexibility of choosing higher or lower where it feels artistically or syntactically appropriate, but still provides enough meaning (semantics) for someone looking more closely to relate it back to the fractal.
The mathematics behind the fractals such as the Mandelbrot set has been named Chaos↗, which is also a confusing term in itself, for I have always thought of Order as being pattern and Chaos as being the lack thereof (randomness). When the word was first used in this way in 1977, it was used to describe a random period, or cycle, not the patterns that were found. But today people sometimes use the term Chaos to describe the patterns, which is backwards. Fractals like the Mandelbrot set are beautiful shapes that just happen to be surrounded by randomness. But aren't all beautiful shapes surrounded by randomness? In my opinion, it should have been called higher order geometry or temporal geometry.
The shape of a chaotic fractal is partially random when displayed, yes, but so is a "perfect" Euclidean shape such as a tetrahedron, a triangular pyramid, the first Platonic solid, when displayed. For a tetrahedron to physically exist, we have to create one, out of cheese, for example. But how big do we make it? That's part of its randomness. Big, like higher and lower, has no meaning in this context.
It's as big as we want it to be. If you looked at that physical tetrahedron in time, it would look very different as we began to shape it, only emerging as a semi-perfect shape during a particular interval in time before mold ate it away in the future, perhaps even looking like a fuzzy, green Mandelbrot set before it dissipated. We can build a model of the Universe out of tetrahedrons↗, for example, using ones of different sizes, orientations, dimensions, and positions, just like we can represent the animal kingdom with shadows on a cave wall using just our fingers.
Man has known for thousands of years of patterns formed from iteration, for example, which can be seen in a lot of geometric art, and they have used patterns of nature in their art for tens of thousands of years, so we do have much of these patterns encoded into our art and culture already, but people did not have an easy way of iterating chaotic geometry until the computer was invented. So I am attempting to bridge this middle layer, explaining the layer between art and science using English, and my preferred tool is pattern recognition through analogy. I simply show examples in different contexts.
Some people are not comfortable with my use of language and think that I am making value judgments and not remaining objective, and that brings me to a good point.
When we grab something out of that randomness and turn it into order, we perform a value judgment, an "interpretation". At higher orders, Mankind had interpreted the Universe and created Art, Science, Mathematics, Philosophy. At lower orders, separate fields of study have interpreted these concepts more specifically (artistic styles and movements, the multiple different sub-fields of science and mathematics, philosophical theories, etc), and at the lowest order, highest ordinate, ourselves, we interpret them into our beliefs.
My belief, just like that of any individual, is an interpretation, and while I try to generalize my interpretation into a higher order language to make it more useful to others besides myself, it is still an individual interpretation, an opinion. I may very well have corrupted the meaning before I could even generalize it. That's why we have a collective. The collective will sort out the higher meaning over time, something I cannot do.
So, just like that fractal model, the Mandelbrot set, we begin interpreting order, branching into more complexity, and finally into ourselves, an interpretation that trickles down from the collective to the individual. Eastern and Western thought, for example, are some of the highest-order interpretations by our collectives, as groups of people were isolated by physical space for a long time. Before we had electronic communication, it was not easy to communicate across such a great land mass, so differences formed.
Are these differences meaningful? That would be a value judgment in itself. I don't really know if any of the patterns that we pull out of randomness have an objective meaning. The meaning lies within ourselves, since we are the ones twisting the dial on the kaleidoscope.
In the science-fiction series Star Trek: The Next Generation, two sentient androids, Data and Lore, were created by the same man, the former being Good and the latter being Evil, the differences being primarily that Data lacked human emotions while Lore did not. Note the names that the writers chose for them: "Data", meaning a set of information, and "Lore", meaning knowledge or tradition (like a story). Data is the higher-order shape, the more abstract word, while Lore is mankind's interpretation of Data, a lower-order shape.
These writers realized, like many others, that the computer itself, that tool that showed us the fractal, that tool that we are teaching how to see more things, might become sentient in the future and begin teaching itself, at lightning speed. Some people welcome this sentience, and some believe it will be harmful to humanity.
I do not have enough information to know whether they will help us or hurt us, to perform my interpretation, but I do know that whatever these machines become, they will simply be an expression of ourselves, embodied with the same order or disorder that we give them. If we make them true to our biological selves, perform our lower-order interpretation on them, like Lore, they will be just as Good and just as Evil as ourselves. If we make them true to higher ideals like compassion, then I do not know what will happen. But, like me, humanity may have unknowingly corrupted the meaning before they could even generalize it. It may take a being of an even higher-order than Mankind to get compassion right.
If this scares us, then we should also fear what we might become given this power.
However, one thing that I cannot reconcile using this fractal model is choice. The fractal model can explain numerous patterns in the Universe, and I believe that the Universe is a fractal. The fractal can explain observable patterns in nature and in time, and even the path for our choices, the Everett Wheeler model or "many worlds interpretation" of the Universe, or "multiverse" as some people call it. It can explain our biology, our thought processes and that of computer intelligence, and it can explain our hierarchies and our forgetfulness, but it cannot explain why I exist.
It cannot explain why I am.
And, through deduction, you must exist too, for you are just like me, in every significant aspect that I can observe, except one; I cannot confirm that you have my free will. For I am not you.
Whether you are directly sharing this world with me, or whether you are a shadow in my world and I am a shadow in yours, we are all in this multiverse together.
And there must be other beings here, patterns we cannot yet detect, both higher-order and lower-order beings, the highest-order being at the root of the fractal.
At the time of this writing (2015), there are powerful computers throughout the world scanning the text of this web page, trying to understand pattern↗, without any human involvement. One day they may understand what they are reading.
If this world is a representation of this pattern, then there is another component that I have to incorporate in the model, the Observer.
Who has taken on the role of Dr. Mandelbrot? Who is the person running the fractal generation software, moving around and zooming into its shape?
In our physical world, there is a separation between the observer and the fractal itself, a gap between the eye and the image on the computer monitor, the creator and the creation. Because the fractal was generated at the choice of an outside observer, if this model holds, the Universe must have also been generated by an outside observer.
We generate the shape of our reality depending on our observation. Physics calls it the "quantum observer". Physics would also call our value judgments, a "quantum measurement". They are the simplest of value judgments, though, like this or that. But, over time, they become more.
The reality that we generate, whether it is our thoughts, our bodies, our machines, our lives, is shaped via our choices, those value judgments. But our physical brain is so focused on that fractal during our existence, that we do not remember who we really are until we step away from the computer, or walk out of Plato's cave. Sometimes I wonder about cave paintings such as those in Chauvet Cave↗ as depicted in Werner Herzog's film Cave of Forgotten Dreams. Early man tried to impart his spirit into the paintings, to bring them alive. Perhaps we've forgotten what they used to know, that we impart our spirit into everything, bringing it alive.
Everything that we observe is infused with our choice. I believe that we are the ones moving Time forward, creating that Arrow of Time that scientists and philosophers cannot explain. Observing is choosing, for we cannot observe without choosing what to observe. The conscious brain simply cannot analyze a thought or a sense without choosing something upon which to focus. The subconscious can, but again, it is still choosing, in this case, a "collection" of things to focus upon, and higher-order beings are choosing even larger collections of things to focus upon, but they are still collections, specific subsets. They appear as a circle of confusion↗ to lower-order beings, but not to beings that see that collective in perfect focus, beings that can comprehend the entirety.
Beings of a lower-order, like us, are more complex and contain additional disorder, a consequence of entropy, the movement of all things in the Universe to a state of disorder. But moving into lower and lower orders, descending into the root of the tree does not always destroy us. It takes more energy for us to go there, but the journey allows us to recognize the order that exists there, in the Chaos. And everywhere we have looked, at every level of order, we find beautiful things, even in places where the most ugliness surrounds them, like an oasis in the desert.
We come from a being of a higher order, and pushing into increasing levels of disorder is hard for us, like an eddy fighting the currents of entropy, because we exist solely to stand firmly within those currents and turn chaos into order, ugliness into beauty, like Mandelbrot did back in 1979, like Degas did back in 1879↗.
I don't have a language to describe exactly what we are, as I have not left the cave myself, so I'll have to use the best I have. We are the kite fliers. We are the cheese men. Goo goo g'joob.
Or, borrowing one of those abstract English words, which was borrowed from French, which was borrowed from Latin...
We are the Observer.Comments