UnObtainium


Page Created: 1/8/2015   Last Modified: 3/9/2016   Last Generated: 12/11/2017

Knowledge is available without a prescription and comes in easy to swallow nouns, verbs, and modifiers. If you experience severe angst for more than 42 hours, please see your Doctor of Philosophy.

I am addicted to knowledge, and I sometimes wonder what is worse, the addiction or the knowledge.

We are all addicted to Food, Water, and Air, that is a requirement of our existence, but is Knowledge a requirement, too?

Sometimes, during my quest for knowledge, I See a whirlpool,
a Spiraling vortex that Sucks me in,
and the deeper I Stare,

the more vortexes I find. And after a while,
after Sweeping my arms, very infantile,
I run out of air,

and Swim my way back to the Surface, and rest on the Shore,
affixing my gaze to that whirlpool,
once more.

The shape of a fractal such as the Mandelbrot Set, shows us an important pattern, that if applied to abstract concepts and not just trees and coastlines, it still approximates our world.

We are both separated from each other, yet still connected. This would seem to be a contradiction, but since we are not separated and connected in the same ways, it is not. I could expand upon this further, using additional rhetoric, but I think you get the idea. We all know that Words are fuzzy, malleable things. Throughout history, war have been waged and people have been imprisoned over their very definitions, re-definitions, and interpretations. Sometimes words become jargon and transform into different words, sometimes they do not and remain shape-shifting, polymorphic chameleons. Sometimes the words are familiar but the meaning escapes you; this is a linguistic clue that a different language is present. Nobody tells you when to switch languages--you have to auto-detect and switch on-the-fly--and nobody said that different languages must use different alphabets, or different words.

Often, they do not. And sometimes the meaning is different. These are your false friends↗. In my father's language of Farsi, he used the word "dad" like we would use the word son, so I called my dad "dad" and he called me and my brother "dad". It's actually a really neat thing, but it was very confusing to people who came to visit. We would say "Hi dad" and he would say "Hi dad".

Mathematics and English share many words like this, and they are also different languages. The field of mathematics even re-uses its own words, letters, and symbols in different ways, depending on the branch of mathematics studied, or even the level of abstraction used.

But we should not blame the words when they fail to assume the shapes we want, for it is both the responsibility of the author to form them correctly and the reader to recognize their shape.

When I was a child, a speech therapist came to my school and observed my pronunciation, and she told me that I was pronouncing the letter "S" incorrectly, using my tongue in place of my teeth, an "interdental" lisp. It didn't sound incorrect, but just looked different. She had to look closely to even detect it.

My nose was stuffy much of the school year, and my doctor had me on decongestants like Sudafed and Naldecon much of the time, since I was highly allergic and also lived in one of the top "allergy capitals" in the United States, a bad combination. So it was harder to breathe without keeping my mouth open slightly when speaking.

I was required to spend many hours with my teachers to get the mechanics right. But under those mechanics, the S sounded funny when I closed my teeth, and I knew the teachers were wrong, as I could see it on their faces, but they didn't want to admit it.

So I pronounced it the way they wanted in class to make them happy, and when I got home, I went back to my usual pronunciation to keep people from laughing at me. Nobody had a problem with my pronunciation until the teachers tried to "fix" it. But today, I have a choice of deciding when I want to apply it, raising the pitch of that S for emphasis, or speaking more casually, employing both techniques.

So I spent a lot of time in a tiny room pronouncing Sssssssssssss and paid more attention to speech sounds and phonemes. Did you know that Sally sells seashells by the seashore? My grandmother taught 1st and 2nd grade and had so many phonetic flash cards in the house that I used to lay them all out, covering the living room floor, and then run across them wearing my Super Socks (thanks Mr. S) creating my own ice-skating rink. They taught me how to simultaneously pronounce fricatives, overcome friction, and write fiction!

Language is a wonderful thing. Early in life, we discover that we are separate, for the exteriors of our bodies do not pass through that of another↗. Our brains create "objects", allowing us to separate things from one another in our thoughts even though they are not really separate, the closer we look. A particular type of word, the noun, can represent an object and allows it to be named, allowing the many to become one, through the process of abstraction.

And we are continuously connected by mysterious, invisible threads of Communication, along which flows Information.

This separation + connection is profound. People have known about this for millennia, as evident in Mankind's ancient philosophies and the philosophical components of our religions. And their understanding of the importance of words is ancient.

Words have immense value to us, but what does Value mean? And what does Meaning mean? Can the words themselves tell us? Words, being discrete, can be manipulated like a mosaic, and sometimes images form that are unexpected. As any author knows, words can sometimes write themselves, being placeholders for the subconscious.

Value seems to be quantitative but Meaning seems to be qualitative. Let's examine Value first.

There are many theories of value across different academic fields such as philosophy, ethics, economics, etc. In fact, just about any discipline or field of thought you can imagine has its own definition of Value. Some people have gone as far as to create peculiar pyramids↗ to describe some of the components that determine what people value. There is nothing wrong with doing this, and it is interesting to examine these attempts.

You would think that economists, of all people, would have nailed down the definition after all of these years, but they have not↗, and there remain numerous different theories.

There are a lot of concepts like this in different fields, that remain undefinable, or are meaningful only under a strict definition in that specific discipline. The field of philosophy tries to tackle these concepts, using more generalized approaches, and that's sort of the point. Many of them are shapes of a Higher Order; we only see the irregular plane of one facet of them unless we move upward.

But it is generally agreed that if something has value, it has worth. It is important to people in some way.

At first glance, Value is a subjective term, that the value of an object is defined by the subject. But value has an objective property as well, that great numbers of people see certain objects, ideas, or people as having much higher or lower values than others, and there are some dynamics to it, too. Depending on what great numbers of people do, the value of the object changes. To obtain a Value, you must take a snapshot of an object in a complex system at a certain point in time. Analogous to quantum mechanics, you must perform a "measurement", but the measurement itself affects other measurements. And analogous to parallax↗, this measurement appears distorted depending on your perspective.

If you try to narrow this definition further, it just gets more and more vague, like that slippery quantum particle.

This is because the word Value is an abstract noun, more akin to a mathematical function. The word is a sign, a token, that points to or represents this function. The function exists at a higher order and then generates specific instances of itself at lower orders.

But if I were to make an attempt to translate this function, I would state it as a consequence of scarcity and complexity:

We value that which is hard to obtain or facilitates its obtainment.

If the Universe assumes the shape of a fractal, since a fractal is bounded, the only way to "advance" is to move downward into complexity, which requires energy from an ever diminishing pool↗, making it harder to obtain. Complexity seems to be an expression of energy or information, just like the Universe itself, and we are part of its expression. But each new step into Order requires a larger step into Disorder, or entropy.

In my opinion, what is "hard for us to obtain" in normal life can be equated to, using complexity theory, what is "more complex", or using physics, what "requires more energy", or using information theory, what "requires more information".

As a child, I opened some of the collegiate-level books in my public library, and to my surprise, while the words were familiar, I could not understand their meaning. I lacked pre-requisite knowledge and experience. I did not realize at that time that adults were that much more advanced than me until the first time I did this.

But I kept making attempts to understand the text, noting the "pattern", replacing my lack of knowledge with context. I had known what "context clues" were from my early days of schooling, and I tried to apply them, but they didn't work at the sentence level. So I looked wider than just one sentence or paragraph, and by not giving up, I could detect larger patterns, decoding the larger context, and then gradually isolating smaller contexts to derive meaning from those sentences. I became very skilled in doing this and because it was hard, I obtained knowledge of great value.

Today, as an adult, I have much of the pre-requisite knowledge and experience and do not need to employ as many contextual tools to read such books. But today, society has moved to higher level of complexity, a higher ordinate, as I like to call it, and we have Wikipedia, the largest encyclopedia on earth, with millions of articles and editors. If you read Wikipedia like a book, which I frequently do, hyperlinking via train-of-consciousness from topic to topic, you will discover that it is the most complex book Mankind has ever written. Reading it in this way reminds me daily that the human collective is that much more advanced than myself, as it is with each of us, as individuals. It speaks with one voice, yet it is the voice of many.

So it humbles me, and I have to employ those childhood contextual tools once more, but with the speed of hypertext, I can still obtain a great deal of Knowledge from it.

I have found that this is an uncommon skill for many readers, and yet it is not an uncommon practice for open-source programmers trying to understand one another's source code, especially if it is large, uses unusual patterns, and/or is poorly documented. Source code is usually a collaborative creation.

This practice has allowed me to compare and contrast in an abstract fashion, and it allows me to detect the presence of those higher-order shapes. One reason I switched to the field of communication in college was because of this abstract, yet tangible, nature. I had the choice of placing an emphasis in mass-media (technology, journalism, art), marketing (business), or theory (social science). It was a flexible, multi-disciplinary field of study by its very nature.

I disliked social science for many years, believing it to be pseudoscience since they were not reductionist sciences. Being a determinist by my late teens, I believed true understanding could not be attained without knowledge of the inner workings of a system. I disliked psychology (behaviorism, in particular), since it studied human beings from the viewpoint of a black box↗, whereas artificial intelligence (AI), attempted to build thinking machines from well-understood mechanisms. So I thought that AI would be the only way of understanding the human mind, and wrote a paper on neural networks when I was in high school. I didn't realize at the time, that these well-understood mechanisms were meaningless at understanding the complexity that emerged from them.

But when I learned about fractals around 1989, I began to consider that both the reductionist sciences (physics, chemistry, biology) and the social sciences (psychology, sociology, linguistics, communication, economics) were trying to do the same thing. And the tools that the social sciences had developed were the best tools they had to study something at that order. Even artists, by creating art, were doing the same thing, at arguably the "highest" level of complexity. Art does not exist in a vacuum--the totality of the human condition at any point in Time is expressed within it.

The social scientists got a bad rap, in my opinion, since their language was relatively easy to read and understand, much of it seeming like common sense. But the more I read from that powerful voice of the many, the more I realized that no, these are not simple sciences, and these are not simple people. It is easy to read, but more difficult to construct, the stereotypical "read-only language", like the natural language Inform7↗ by poet and mathematician Graham Nelson, used for InteractiveFiction. The source code reads like an English novel, but writing the source code requires that you follow certain patterns, some of them might not be very obvious at all. By contrast, something like Perl, written by NASA linguist Larry Wall, is a stereotypical "write-only" language, being easy to write in a short amount of space, but reading it is cryptic, since the same goals can be achieved in multiple different ways, just like English. Both of them are wonderful languages that share aspects of English, but it is ironic that the mathematician created a language that reads like English, and the linguist created a language that reads like Math.

Perl has been criticized as being too symbolic and hard to use by many scientists who prefer Python, when the very language of science, mathematics, is extremely convoluted. There is no requirement for this convolution, and mathematics could be converted to something like Python, expanding its words and whitespace, and making sure there was only "one obvious way to do it". Python emerged around 1994, and is now frequently used for teaching people how to program, due to its clarity for general purpose programming, so why hasn't mathematics changed? We are still using mathematical notation that is extremely old, yet our programming languages are not.

The natural language components of mathematics can be separated from the components that are unique to math's pattern manipulation abilities. I think that one of the reasons this has not been done is because it would consume too much space, and the human mind has a hard time managing sufficient levels of abstraction when out of view (and writing them). This is actually one reason I prefer Perl to Python, since I can see it in front of me, it has not scrolled off the page. And perhaps the flexibility of expressing it is like an artist's tools. If you restrict their tools, you might restrict thought itself, the concept of "linguistic determinism".

I think the language and notation of math will change over the next 100 years, and it will become a lot easier to learn. Because the world is fractal, and the patterns are self-similar, our natural languages, mathematical languages, computer languages, and even the languages of our arts, will converge. We are part of this fractal, and we will be an instrument of this convergence. What is common will be unified, and what is different will remain separate.

To see the lowest-level of computer source code, an assembler, machine code monitor or hex editor can be used to inspect and manipulate the binary code, but these tools are useless at manipulating the source code of higher-level languages and macro languages.

This is because Knowledge is fractal, so our tools of obtaining it must be fractal, too. Ideally we need something like a universal decompiler↗, a way of understanding things at whatever level of order we need, decompiled into a common language. The fields of the C's (Cybernetics, Chaos, Complexity, etc) that have been ignored by much of traditional science over the decades may soon discover how such a thing could be created. Buckminster Fuller tried to create his own "C" field, Synergetics, but it never got very popular, even though it started with an Sssssss...

But programming such a decompiler being subject to the halting problem↗, was proven impossible by Alan Turing, and is undecidable.

But perhaps our parent Egregore, our Web 2.0 connected society, the author of Wikipedia, has already created that decompiler, as evidenced in the shape of our society today, being hyper-specialized, hyper-connected, and driven by the most superficial of tweets, pics, blogs, and memes that have the power to alter our planet and even our missions to other planets. Perhaps millions of human choices have already solved the halting problem. People paid little attention to early new media theorists for decades, even laughing at the man who coined the term hypertext itself↗ before the World Wide Web formed, and then it suddenly formed around everyone.

That's one of the hazards about studying Information. The Egregore is studying it too, and is much more capable.

Complexity is also one of those hard-to-define nouns. There are multiple definitions, and multiple ways of measuring it. Nobody is quite sure what it is, and yet it is one of the most fundamental consequences of our lives and the Universe. And perhaps that is why it is difficult to decipher--the complexity of our lives might be a different type of complexity than the Universe. In 1948, American scientist and mathematician Warren Weaver wrote in his paper "Science and complexity" that the complexity created by organized things like human creations or things that have relations, is "organized complexity", and the complexity of disorganized things, like molecules randomly bumping into each other under physical laws, is "disorganized complexity".

Because organized complexity increases disorder, the most complex human creations would seem to converge with randomness↗. We are apparently advancing ourselves into nothingness. Or perhaps it is "everythingness", since maximum disorder = maximum information capacity, or information entropy. It doesn't matter though, for we're already riding a steamer into that iceberg, a steamer that the Universe has set to full speed ahead↗.

We are taking pure energy, and transforming it into complex collections of cold matter, and we attach value to these complex, cold collections, like a bag of fancy gold coins resting in a shipwreck at the darkest bottom of the deepest ocean.

We cannot observe energy directly, but it concentrates in different ways depending on what depth of complexity we observe. Let's assume that the singularity at the Big Bang was a zero-information state (like a computer that is turned off), and that the Universe (spacetime, energy, matter, etc) is the information generated when the computer was turned on.

From my perspective within this giant tree of information expression, I can directly see that energy concentrates as follows:

  • Positional fuel (derived from the position of matter in time and space, like mechanical energy)
  • Nuclear fuel (atomic energy)
  • Molecular fuel (chemical energy)
  • Food (biological fuel, life)
  • Money (socioeconomic fuel)
  • Words and symbols (knowledge fuel)

This is not necessarily a comprehensive listing, and you can add more, depending on how you see the world.

It seems to transform into the various bonds, speeds, and locations of matter, then transforms into biology and stores itself in living systems (food), then transforms into our society and stores itself in the abstract form of money, and stores itself in the words and symbols used by our languages and sciences to create Knowledge, a higher order form of Information.

Intuitively, this: BNSENURF looks a lot more complex than this: DOUGHNUT, and we would expect that the work of a futuristic human society would appear indecipherable to us, being so complex due to their higher-ordinate "advancement". But it doesn't have to look that way, for they may use the same words as us, those false friends, but they probably won't be using our language. For all we know, Douglas Adams' 42 really is the answer to life, the universe, and everything.

But it is impossible for any deterministic algorithm to generate actual randomness. In other words, no matter how advanced those people are, they can't "think" themselves into that "disorganized complexity". We always have to borrow from nature to do this. For example, the Linear Congruential Generator (LCG) is a simple recursive algorithm for generating "pseudo" random numbers, numbers that appear totally random, and are sufficient for use in many videogames, as they are good enough to fool a human player.

The LCG produces unintelligible garbage each time it is run. In contrast, the Mandlebrot set algorithm, also recursive, produces a recognizable shape. It's like one algorithm tries to destroy its own order, like messing up its hair, while the other brushes it.

But LCG can be run over and over, and it will always generate the exact same garbage each time from the same initial conditions. So what "appears" to be total disorder is ugly to us, but still ordered, which mathematicians like to call dynamical systems, being based on a "deterministic" rule.

From a physics standpoint, there is no distinction between the types of complexity, since all matter is subject to the Second Law of Thermodynamics, and will eventually reach equilibrium, where everything moves to a state of total Disorder. So at some point, our highest "organized complexity" must break down and merge with "disorganized complexity". Perhaps those futuristic humans tried their best to stop the destruction of the Universe, by achieving their highest levels of advancement, but the Universe ultimately destroyed them and their creations in the end, by strangely increasing their advancement. The late Isaac Asimov, an author, physicist and atheist, had an interesting solution to this↗.

So, in my opinion, this distinction is just semantic, that "organized complexity" contains patterns that are recognizable to us, within our comprehension, and that there is no real difference. I believe such patterns will one day be measured as a result of fractal depth and dimension. The kind we can't recognize (perhaps due to our own lack of sufficient Order) cannot be measured. For example, we cannot measure the Shannon entropy (the entropy of Information) of our world because we don't know how to do this.

It is curious that nature itself seems to contain its own pseudorandom numbers, since irrational numbers such as Pi, e (the natural logarithm) and Phi (golden ratio) have decimal components that go on forever and are non-periodic (they never repeat). To mathematicians, they appear totally random... but this never been proven.

There is a material called "Unobtainium", used in thought experiments, that is so rare or difficult to create that it is impossible to obtain. It is depicted as fictional, but it may very well be real. It might exist in that "disorganized complexity", just outside of our ability to recognize it with our deterministic thought processes. We see that area as total randomness, which means that anything could reside there.

It shows us the upper bound of Value; nothing is more valuable than Unobtainium, and the value of everything else is just represented smaller numbers.

At first, one may think this is untrue, that the usefulness of this object to someone is really what determines its value.

But when you try to define "usefulness", you run into the same problem. Useful as a means to what end?

Think of a clay vessel, an ancient human artifact going back to prehistoric times. Vessels are extremely important for human survival, as they allow us to transport and drink water, and they aren't readily found in nature. One of the first things survivalists do in the wilderness is find a water source and obtain or fabricate a vessel for carrying it.

Today, everyone owns or has access to some sort of vessel such as a cup, a bottle, a bowl, but does that mean that it has a low value? Un fortune ately, yes.

Because so many people own plastic cups, for example, we don't attribute high value to them. People even give away disposable versions of them for free at public events, like the popular Red Solo Cup. The ocean is full of discarded floating vessels, and I'm not talking about ships.

But imagine finding The Holy Grail, a vessel sought after since the Middle Ages, as depicted in Steven Spielberg's third Indiana Jones film. It would be of the highest value, since it is something extremely difficult to obtain, if it even exists. This is one of those great ironies, as the cup itself would bestow wealth, but the original owner of that cup famously said that material wealth in this world inhibits us from moving to the next↗.

If a thirsty man came across both The Holy Grail and a plastic cup, and he still had his wits about him, he would realize the value disparity, for the Grail could be bartered for millions of plastic cups.

The choice, of course, is up to him, but Value, again, at least in the material world, seems to be concentrated in those things that are difficult to obtain.

In economics, this can be reduced to a simple relationship of supply and demand. If these two values are not in equilibrium with one another, where the supply is low and the demand high, more money (or energy) is needed to acquire it. It therefore becomes more difficult to obtain.

But strangely, value goes beyond economics, and even determines our relationships with people.

It is common for millions of people in the world to be named after something or someone of value, which is perhaps beneficial, since, like linguistic determinism, many people shape their lives after the literal meanings of their name, called nominative determinism↗. For example, my middle and last name in Farsi means "prosperous jeweler" in English. Jewels are rare minerals, difficult to obtain. I never became a prosperous jeweler but am instead interested in decoding language and meaning, perhaps because my name was indecipherable to me when I was younger . A consequence of the Value of words is their power--things that have value also seem to have great power (they can affect great change).

And we value those people who are difficult to obtain.

Those people may have no use to us whatsoever, and may even be harmful to us↗, but we simply don't care. Charisma is a powerful trait, which is why it was selected as one of the 6 "stats" in the original 1974 D&D role-playing game, and is used heavily in many RogueLike games. I first learned what charisma was when I played Eamon adventure games on the Apple II+, and the concept disturbed me. My ability to succeed partially depended on how "likable" my character was. It seems that a higher percentage of people than average that are on a quest for the highest "advancement" actually achieve it, but not in the form we expect, but in the form the Universe dishes out as chaos and destruction, increasing that overall entropy once more.

There's the saying that good friends are hard to find. Perhaps that's why they are so valuable to us.

And we even value ourselves and our creations in the same way--we feel that we are valuable to people if we are or we can create or we own something that is difficult to obtain. We don't want to give up our uniqueness, for if this could be replicated, we would lose our value. Only a few are privy into our most unique traits and creations.

Knowledge itself follows the same pattern: A secret is valuable if nobody knows what it is, or if it is only given to a few, even if the secret is meaningless. If everyone knew the secret, it would lose its value.

Think of everything you own in life, and all of the friends and family you have. Now imagine that everyone owns those same things and has those same friends and families, and knows all of your secrets.

There would be no reason for them to interact with you--you would have nothing to give them. And you would have no reason to interact with them, for what would you gain?

There is an innate selfishness to people, and we enter into this material world with an understanding that some things are unique and scarce. Our movement though Time reinforces this.

These are depressing conclusions... The vortex is pulling me down further...

But there is still light shining down from above. Our movement through Time also provides us with something so unique that can never be replicated, our Choice. As long as we protect and preserve individual choice, our engines of uniqueness will remain running. You can replicate all of The Last Supper's that you want, for example, but you cannot replicate a Leonardo da Vinci.

If we were up at a higher order, this value difference would not be as apparent to us. We can't see the cellular makeup of living beings, for example, using only the optics of our eyes. But if we use a microscope, and move into a lower order through magnification, we can see the cell walls, their separation from each other. So we appear to be down in the trenches so we can experience this separation, these value disparities. At least we can build foxhole radios↗ while we are down here, adding that all-important component of communication.

It's a combination of perspective and knowledge, like a film. The film director or editor can adjust your perspective to show you something, but they expect that you already understand their language. In fact, prior to Sergei Eisenstein's Battleship Potempkin↗ (1925), you didn't see discontinuous editing (montage), cuts of images that were not related in space or time, but ones that your mind assembled into a story. Many films today use Eisenstein's technique, so we take the language of film for granted. But before 1925, people did not. (Interestingly, as I write this article, 84-year old famous French New Wave director Jean-Luc Godard is receiving awards for his new 3D film, Adieu au Langage (Goodbye to Language). I have not yet seen it, but in 1991, I remember watching Breathless (1960), and it was the most modern film I had ever seen from that time. From what I hear, it seems that he is adding some new words to the vocabulary of film.)

Our communication with others provides us with our language, but this must be combined with separation in order to create something unique, something closer to that Unobtainium.

When I was younger, I used to think that rituals, repetitive routines that vary from culture to culture, were illogical and worthless actions, especially those that weren't much fun, but as I got older, I found that rituals focus our attention on a collective pattern, the language of an Egregore. Rituals teach us different languages so that we can see value in more things. We can wear goggles of Bliss↗ for a short while.

A ritual is a very immersive film, like a type of interactive theatre. Many cultures have annual rituals to reinforce our memories, remind us, and get us up-to-speed on that language that we haven't used for a year. And with this language, we can suddenly see value in others that we couldn't see before. Preparing for a holiday can be a lot of seemingly needless work, for example, but the moment the holiday is gone, there is the sudden realization of what we have lost, and what we will forget over the upcoming months. This realization fades until the next holiday reinforces it.

In the Christmas tradition, for example, people exchange gifts with each other, but the exchanging of gifts goes back much further and crosses many cultures. The Three Wise Men, or Magi↗ brought gifts of Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh. These materials were hard to obtain (and still are to some extent), and had immense value.

Under Persian tradition it is customary to bring a gift to someone's house when you visit. I don't know when in history this custom began, but the Magi may have been Zoroastrian priests, of an ancient Persian religion. My father used to burn Frankincense on occasion, and I know the smell well. It is very different than Spruce and Peppermint...

Frankincense is a resin obtained from the Boswellia sacra tree, which only grows in a few areas of the world. Similarly, Myrrh is a resin obtained from the Commiphora myrrha tree, which also grows in a few areas of the world.

As a child in the 1970's, I remember my father bringing us large amounts of Persian Pistachios, Saffron, and Caviar, all very valuable things, and of course, their value came from the fact that they were very hard to obtain.

One may argue that there are other reasons that determine value (its desirable qualities, its usefulness, the importance of the person who gave it to you, its cost), and I do not disagree, but those reasons can be deconstructed down to the simple fact that they are hard to obtain.

If its qualities are desirable, then you and others will like it, driving up demand and reducing supply, increasing the price and thus making it harder to obtain. If it is useful, it does not replace something that is equally useful but harder to obtain. And it is probably useful because it facilitates obtaining other objects of value. If the value lies in the person who gave it to you, then that person is the object of value, and that person would also be hard to obtain.

Something expensive has value as long as it retains that value after you acquire it. At the time of this writing, PBS is broadcasting re-runs of their television show Antiques Roadshow but updated them with the price that the item would sell for at current auctions. The price of items fluctuates over the years, as people change how much they are willing to pay to obtain the item. But this value, again, has to be directly or indirectly based on the difficulty of obtaining the item or items like it.

A paper kite stuck in a tree, for example, is difficult to obtain, but a similar kite sold in a store is easy to obtain, so the kite in the tree does not necessarily have additional value. One of Benjamin Franklin's kites, however, is extremely difficult to obtain, if such a thing even exists, being made out of that very precious fabric, Unobtainium...

Obtaining something, though, involves the concept of Ownership, another abstract noun, which also affects value. I've spent over a decade trying to understand what ownership really is, what "having" something really means, and yet children begin to understand it before 2 years of age. They might not understand higher levels of ownership until they get older, but they understand "mine" and "yours". Even educated adults cannot clearly define this concept, and there are areas of Law that are devoted to this↗.

And here you encounter that same fuzziness, the fuzziness in delineating objects also applies to delineating ownership.

This is because Ownership is another linkage of that invisible thread of Information. I've spent many years administering information technology security, authenticating ownership and enforcing its rules, bestowing rights to the Owners, and transferring and delegating those rights. But there always existed a grey area, that fuzziness that nobody has enough authority, courage, or personal responsibility to clarify, that Venn diagram↗ were Ethics meets Law, where Ethics and Law meet Technology, and where Ethics, Law, and Technology meet the Economy.

The separation that applies to each of us as an individual, also applies to all fields of study, schools of thought, disciplines and circles, guilds, research institutions and think tanks--any human organization. At this level, they walk as a gigantic Egregore, the group begins acting as another individual, like a powerful Titan.

In many cultures, higher order beings are frequently represented with multiple features (numerous eyes, heads, limbs), which might be way of representing the collective, but singular nature of an Egregore, the voice of the many that speaks as one.

So at some point we must come to the conclusion that Ownership is a myth, that we do not have the power within us to posses any worldly things, but we are only granted temporary control by these monsters, those that bestow control to us, which we can bestow to others, if they allow it. They are the Titans of Information. But if you zoomed in on one of those Titans with a microscope, you would see the cellular separation, and the cells would look exactly like ourselves. We are the monster.

And when one of those cells ceases to exist, so does its Ownership over its belongings. But because we can't really "own" anything, why do we keep attaching so much Value to things?

The Ancient Egyptians, according to Egyptologists, tried overcome this by encasing objects inside the tombs near the deceased person, so that they would possess those objects in the afterlife.

But many of these ancient objects have been excavated and are now under the ownership of museums or the State, so it seems that they were not successful.

So it seems...

Those objects are still of immense Value, again, because they are difficult to obtain.

Using another example from Indiana Jones, in the beginning of Spielberg's first film of the series, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indiana obtains a golden idol in one of the most memorable scenes in the history of filmmaking. We immediately know the idol is valuable because the temple was full of booby traps, making it extremely difficult for anyone to obtain.

There was a memorable scene where he decides to make an educated guess and replace the idol with a bag of sand, hoping to replicate its weight, since the pedestal was also booby-trapped. He failed to match the exact weight and thus had to avoid more booby-traps. He was having a bad day...

This "weight" is symbolic of value, like the use of the balance↗ throughout history to measure the mass of an amount of material or collection of items for trading purposes. I visited the Chicago Field Museum last year (the fictional home town of Indiana Jones), and observed some of the Egyptian balance stones.

In the Egyptian Book of the Dead, Anubis is depicted as weighing the soul (heart) of the dead on a balance scale. But instead of a heavier soul being more valuable, a soul lighter than a feather (representing Truth and Justice) gained entrance into the reed fields (heaven), the opposite of how we weigh wealth or value, in the material world, where more is usually better.

Perhaps Value is not what is being weighed, but Disorder, the larger component of Value's equivalence, Complexity. Things higher in Value would thus be more complex and contain higher levels of Disorder, being of higher ordinates. An innocent being, would have lower levels of complexity, a higher order, for example.

Gift-giving is really a transfer of Ownership, where some of those wispy threads of Information detach from the giver and re-attach to the recipient.

When I was 25 years old, for a birthday gift for someone, I created an archaeological game that was full of puzzles to solve, and those puzzles were layers that increased the value of the treasure discovered, which was inside a chamber, inside an inner sanctum, inside a locked box, inside a wooden model of an Egyptian sarcophagus, and inside a wrapped cloth. These were nested layers, a recursive movement into complexity.

The Christmas gift exchange ritual is unique in that we purchase or obtain items that have some value, then wrap them up so the person doesn't know what it is, and the unwrapping takes place all at once, in a relatively short amount of time.

Wrapping the gift, literally and figuratively, creates another layer of value, the Secret, as I mentioned earlier. Whatever the gift is, it has the value of Knowledge that is hard to obtain, as is revealed on only one day of the year.

After the unwrapping, a most wonderful thing occurs, that we are reminded that we do have Value to others, and they do to us.

Whatever the historical basis for this ritual (religious text, pagan, consumer/corporate, cultural, mythological), it is a profound thing, which is perhaps why people of many cultures celebrate this event in different ways. Even if people don't agree on everything, unless we grew up on the planet Ferenginar↗, we all inherently know that the act of giving something of Value is a good thing.

This yearly ritual is a long cycle, like a gigantic computer using gigantic RAM with a long refresh interval↗.

It reminds me that what we value does not always equate to a high monetary value but can equate to things like happiness. Programming the $1 ATTiny microcontroller using the free GCC compiler↗ brings me more happiness than playing expensive videogames. It has high value to me since it facilitates happiness, but is happiness hard to obtain? Or is this simply my perspective? Reading something at the library or Wikipedia both facilitates happiness, and increases Knowledge. All of this comes at a high societal cost, however, being based on an advanced technological infrastructure.

But Value, in this context, does not feel right...

Love (compassion) is similar. We consider love valuable, but is it hard to obtain? The act of giving it to others also gives it to you, not in reciprocation from others necessarily, but in reciprocation from your higher-self. And this kind of Love--not the narcissistic kind--seems to be of a different quality than the kind from others, but is no less significant. Your higher-self bestows love and compassion on you, when you bestow it on others, like basking in the light reflecting off of the capstone of Maslow's pyramid, a capstone not made of Gold, but of brilliant Unobtainium.

I therefore cannot quantify these things, put them on that energy/complexity scale. Perhaps Abraham Maslow, a Humanist psychologist, was right all along, that our highest value is not basic needs or wealth, but must come from within.

Value loses its meaning, and so we must defer to Meaning itself.

Some things cannot be "meaningfully" measured in the form of a weight, but only in a quality that must be measured by the beholder↗. We cannot see our True complexity as we are still infused with that invisible "disorderly complexity", like the dark matter that infuses the Universe. But our higher-selves can, and the higher-selves of others, the higher order entity that gives rise to our Choice.

Some philosophers have called these things "moral goods", being separate from "natural goods", and I have to agree that there does seem to be a separation between them, like that gap between orderly and disorderly complexity.

Our separation, that I mentioned at the beginning of this essay, adds subjectivity to Value, what is valuable for one person or group in one area of the world may not be valuable to others; and due to our connections, and the deterministic causality this implies, everything facilitates the obtainment of everything else. Thus everything must be precious, but as individuals we are too far out on a branch to see it directly. I cannot see this myself, even with binoculars, but my instrument of logic dictates it. Once I remove those goggles of Bliss, I can no longer see the runway, but I can at least fly on instrument and steer myself in the right direction.

Words are the resin of that giant tree of information expression, the Tree of Knowledge, and all of us are resin junkies.

The Meaning of Value is swirling in that Vortex beneath me, in all of its letter combinations, like stirring a Vat of alphabet soup. I can see its shape and eat a letter, but I cannot spell many words, for most of them spiral away, out of View.

Unobtainum cannot be found in the material world↗, and it defines a boundary that is immovable. But each of us has the power to transcend it by turning our inner selves into glittering jewels, vastly more precious than the inanimate ones that people wear for decoration, and lighter than a feather.

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