Curiosity Over Pride (FYI: To comment, send an e-mail to

Friday, June 19, 2009

Example 1- "It's not me trying to control things, it's a safety issue."

"It's not me trying to control things, it's a safety issue."

I had to smile as Mrs. Thai angrily shouted this at me this morning. I had just been thinking about what my first example should be for all this mumbo jumbo when she handed it to me on a silver platter.

We were having one of our typical arguments over whether I should use a long piece of climber's rope as a leash to walk our dog Sasha (her photo is included above). I like the rope because it is long and therefore lets Sasha run further and faster before I must pull her back. Sasha loves to run fast, and I mean fast.

But Sasha is a rather particular dog. While great with people- she will let any strange 3 year old child pull her tail hard and simply lick the child's face- Sasha also loves to fight with other dogs. Further Sasha has this almost uncontrollable Tic when it comes to cars, trucks, lawnmowers and vacuums. She is absolutely convinced they are part of an evil creation bent on spoiling the world; they require attacking at all cost.

And we do live in a high density semi-urban environment were cars and trucks are part of the obstacles of the daily walks. Mrs. Thai is convinced Mr. Thai will let his rather spacey attention down for a moment and not so little Sasha will get crushed by a truck.

Mrs. Thai has a point so I usually surrender and use the shorter leash.

So my platonic series of questions to everyone is as follows:

"What is the closed system I have identified here?" or "What is the information structure?"

"Having identified this structure, can you share examples of where a conservation of energy exerts itself for this system?"

We will we continue the platonic dialogue in the comment section.



Debra said...

Well, Thai, let me be the first to dig in on this example.
I will NOT use the information structure vocabulary, as you have guessed that it does NOT please me.
BUT... rest assured that I WILL TRY TO KEEP IN MIND the information structure vocabulary, as it MAY at some point in time show itself to be INADEQUATE to flesh out (love that one...) the (platonic) ideas that you are handing us on a platter...
In Freudian jargon, we will say that Mrs Thai's sentence is what is called a "denegation", (not a denial).
"It's NOT me trying to control things" goes back to what I have tried to put across on some of Hell's posts, that LANGUAGE IS STRUCTURED SO THAT IN ORDER TO BE ABLE TO NEGATE (?) (we will leave WHAT is negated as a question because THIS concept is very very complicated...) YOU HAVE TO FIRST POSTULATE THAT (?).
And Freudian theory ALSO stipulates that le "moi", what you call the ego but I don't like the latin words that English picked up on to translate, they are questionable.. KNOWS this linguistic FACT.
So, for analysis' sake I will allow myself the (temporary) luxury of getting rid of that NOT, and then looking again at the sentence.
Parallel : trying to control things/ a safety issue
The simple fact of PUTTING THEM TOGETHER establishes a connection, in the mind of the speaker, and also FOR the listener (who may or may not be willing to make that connection, depending on analytical skills and all different kinds of parameters, or variables, including, for example the contents of his/her stomach, or an upcoming appointment).
So, the INITIAL immediate comprehension of this sentence is "I am trying to control things AND it's a safety issue, and this EVEN IF it is "apparently" NOT what the speaker intended. Cute, huh ?
Mozart has a LOVELY example of denegation in Le Nozze de Figaro : Suzanne has set a tryst with the Count : she has PROMISED to show up to meet him, but she does not intend to do so. In the air that follows, he says to her : you promise you'll come--yes--- in the garden --yes-- at eight--yes--- you'll come--no-- NO ???---yes...
Freud is complicated on the phenomenon of denegation, as denegation is itself a complicated phenomenon. SOMEWHERE, Mrs Thai KNOWS that she IS trying to control things But she does not want to know that she knows this, and the idea itself DOES NOT PLEASE HER AT ALL, she does not like this...and the "not" is an expression of this displeasure. But, given the property of language, Mrs THAI CAN HAVE HER CAKE AND EAT IT TOO, as she can talk about trying to control things which is what she wants to do, and still say, and BELIEVE SOMEWHERE (but not TOTALLY believe Thai, she is somewhat NON DUPE on this one...) that she does NOT want to control things. And, of course, she finds an excellent reason for her statement afterward in the safety issue. It is a reason to JUSTIFY her personal desire, and it also is important, and NOT TO BE DISCOUNTED, the way that Freud sometimes does, when he thinks that he has been super sleuth, and that he can DISCOUNT the rest of the sentence...
(Dink, have we lost our innocence yet ? ;-) )
Of course, what is true for Mrs Thai is also true for EVERYBODY ELSE. We are (mostly) all of us structured this way. The point being also that you cannot see yourself outside of the mirror AT THE SAME TIME as you are looking in the mirror. Not possible...

Debra said...

By the way, Thai, I read an excellent book by Temple Grandin this summer, Animals in Translation, (she is a super analyst, all those building blocks will blow your mind...) and she says that Americans are not socializing their dogs correctly. A dog needs to meet and have contact with other animals of his species to understand that he is part of the group "dog". Otherwise... he doesn't know. (But then, come to think of it, WE'RE not very sociable these days either...)
In the states last summer I saw lots of dogs who were not allowed to be dogs : no shit smelling, no but smelling, no running free on the leash... A safety issue, right ?
In France things are moving that way, but we're not there yet. I hope we can reverse the trend before it proves fatal to dogginess...

Dink said...

Sasha is indeed adorable!

I'm going to say the information structure is The Preservation of Sasha. The closed system(s) would be The Leashes. The Leashes have different defined boundaries in which the Thais correlate to acceptable Sasha risk. For the conservation of energy... well, I guess The Force Sasha exerts when she lunges at a car Is The Same with either leash so the energy will either go to propelling her forward or to pulling Thai's shoulder out of socket.

Maybe I'm being too literal. I'm looking forward to Thai's answers since I'll then have a nice metaphor that I can grasp onto.

Here's something potential useful. Holarchy...nice!

Debra said...

My God, dink, we're on different planets...
I wonder WHICH planet Thai is on, maybe a third ?
At least we agree that Sasha is cute...
NOW we know why a dog is man's best friend : because he (in this case, SHE) brings people together.
There's definitely something to be said for THAT.

Thai said...

Great choices! Lots to work with.

And thanks, I think Sasha is cute as well, but I am know I am biased.

As for my version of the information structure?

...We will get to mine later.

Dink, I think the terms from your dictionary of terms I most want to convey are:


And this entire exercise is a white box systems analysis...

@Deb- Why would someone want to "denegate"?
... I have a hunch you are going to refuse to let me pin you down to any articular closed system by always expanding your closed systems by demanding they are really open (which they are) and therefore just jumping into the next closed system, but I will give it a try.

@Dink- Try not to think of energy as just something like a force or a lease. If the thoughts in your brain are really a bunch of atoms and electrical impulses, then isn't information really energy?

And if it is, doesn't the conservation of energy apply to information if it is in a closed system . And if it is really energy, then wouldn't a conservation of energy also imply a conservation of information for a closed information system?

With that in mind, can you think of other was that the information structure "The preservation of Sasha" might display a conservation of energy or information?

Debra said...

Well, Thai, in order for me to reply to your argument, I have to understand it first, and I don't understand a word of your reply to me.
Why would someone want to denegate ?
Isn't that evident from the analysis ?
We are not unitary "elements". We are divided into lots of different fragments, but we have the illusion of being integrated.
"I" brings to together under one "word" lots of different "elements" in able to allow me, and you to perceive ourselves as being integrated.
Agreed, this analysis is not a purely linguistic analysis, I have integrated what psychoanalytic theory, and psychoanalytic theory based on linguistics, conclude from the language that we use.
And what you say about not letting you pin me down, I don't understand. I could answer that YOU do not let yourself be pinned down, Thai, as you have neglected some of my more important statements, like "categories of thought=categories of language.
That one demands a confrontation, Thai.
Why would someone want to denegate, Thai :
To have their cake and eat it too. That was in my analysis. That is the point. And it is Freud who points out that a fragment of me has its cake and eats it too, while the other fragment of me is looking elsewhere and can sanctimoniously proclaim that it is not eating its cake...

Thai said...

Sorry Deb, I have been working a lot lately and I tried to type something out in haste before I headed to work this morning and it was unclear- my bad.

"Yes", it is evident from the analysis and you needn't belabor that. I actually meant something completely different with closed systems and I see you did not understand but no foul as again my bad.

By the way, I completely agree with you re: "we are not unitary elements" (didn't Berkeley first suggest this?).

Indeed, I am not all that sure there is as much "self" in the world as many people I talk to see to think. But this is neither here nor there either.

Anyway, too tired to respond any more tonight.


Dink said...

@ Deb,
"My God, dink, we're on different planets...
I wonder WHICH planet Thai is on, maybe a third ?
At least we agree that Sasha is cute..."

Absolutely. I've heard it said that animals are the best judges of character. Or at least they know a total sucker (i.e. me) when they see one.

@ Thai,
"If the thoughts in your brain are really a bunch of atoms and electrical impulses, then isn't information really energy?"

I think we're narrowing down the disconnect. So you're actually referring to cellular metabolism and nerve impulses when you refer to information as energy, no?

But if Sasha is napping and having a dream about lawnmowers there is energy zapping around. But if she's having a dream about tennis balls there is probably very similar energy being used. I.....the wording eludes me.

Awareness/consciousness/cognition comes from these wacky neural firings, but....but they're not real. And since they're not real then rules don't apply (including the beloved thermodynamics).

Yes, the neurons exist in the real physical world that we all share. But the resulting thoughts only exist in the private universe. Maybe the thoughts will decide something and the neuronal interface will instruct the body to act in the real physical world.

So I hope I've explained my difficulties so they can be fixed ;) I feel like a chimp sometimes :O

Debra said...

Ha, dink, I agree with you. Except when you say "they're not real". They have a reality that we can't manage to SEE or locate. That's different. But I do agree that the rules do NOT apply the way that Thai WISHES they would apply.
The nineteenth century spent mucho hours trying to LOCATE ideas in the brain, and make a direct connect between "mental" pathology and lesions in the body/brain.
Wishful thinking again. They did NOT succeed.
But that has not stopped US from thinking that WE are going to succeed, now, has it ?
More wishful thinking...
And SHOULD we ever be successful at this little alienating enterprise, I certainly hope that I will be dead before.

Thai said...

Hey guys

@Dink, re: "Awareness/consciousness/cognition comes from these wacky neural firings, but....but they're not real. And since they're not real then rules don't apply (including the beloved thermodynamics)"

No, they absolutely apply. The key is to make sure you first understand the rabbit hole you are defining.

For Deb's statement: "They have a reality that we can't manage to SEE or locate" is correct.

She is wrong however when she says "the rules do NOT apply the way that Thai WISHES they would apply"

See if this make the rabbit hole a little clearer:

We have sensors that take in information from that which is outside of us (our eyes, ears, skin's tactile sensory receptors, etc...).

These receptors send signals to our brains and our brain then analyzes the information, etc...

But you need to understand that information in the form of energy is being transmitted to our sensory receptors.

If you jump into a sensory deprivation chamber just at the moment Sasha jumps into the road in front of a truck, Sasha will still be killed by the oncoming truck whether you sense it or not.

The information about the event is being transmitted to you from a complex system that Deb rightfully says "have a reality... we can't manage to SEE or locate" but the information is there.

It is true our mind creates a symbolic model of this information system to help us navigate ourselves through it, but the fact that it does this (and does create a kind of reality for it) does not mean the information is also not there.

That information is energy and vice versa and Deb is absolutely wrong when she says "the rules do NOT apply the way that Thai WISHES they would apply."

The conservation of energy still applies.
The conservation of risk still applies.
The conservation of information still applies.

All three laws are simply ways of looking at, and saying, the same thing.

It is a subtle distinction but an important one.

Do you follow?

Dink said...

"Do you follow?"

Unable to accurately judge, but I do think some important, foundational matters are under the microscope which is good.

Manifolds, manifolds.

1) The "Middle World". The physical world from the perception of a human (born with standard sensory equipment) on the planet Earth. The common reality.

2) Each sapient's modeled universe that only they can "see". True that its fed data from sensory equipment in the real world; true that the brain and its chemistry are in the real world. But the, uh...., "thoughts" that result from the chemistry don't have .... I'm getting stuck again.

If your neurons spend "x" amount of glucose on thinking about 2 lawnmowers, its not necessarily going to spend "2x" thinking of 4 lawnmowers.

And though it would be a good idea for the model to 1)keep an accurate assessment of manifold 1, and 2)keep with the boundaries of manifold 1 for forecasting/planning, it can go berserk if it wants to.

Gotta go do something, but I'll post this snippet so you can see what I'm fumbling around to explain.

Debra said...

Thai, you did NOT respond to my comment about localizing thoughts/ideas in the brain. That is a MAJOR critique that you have not addressed. It's not because you see brain activity in terms of electrical impulses that you can assume that your TRANSLATION of thoughts/ideas into energy stands.
So.... the ENERGY may remain constant Thai, but there is STILL information lost.
And I hold that to be axiomatic.

Debra said...

I will eventually post to clear up our structuralist differences through an examination of language, AS ALL OUR PERCEPTION IS DETERMINED BY OUR LINGUISTIC STRUCTURES.
This makes language the mother of ALL systems...

Thai said...

Deb, thoughts and ideas cannot be easily localized to one area of the brain as this is not how information works, nor is it how the brain works.

I completely agree with you that language is the mother of all information from some perspectives. However, this is not true for all perspectives.

I am truly excited to read your post as I know so little about linguistics.

Dink said...

"As for my version of the information structure?

...We will get to mine later."

Let's hear it! I'm really curious.

Thai said...

So Deb I am a little further in Pinker's Language as the stuff of thought. What a wonderfully fractal view of the language, thought and the mind! I love it.

All this discussion on linguistics is inspiring me to finish the book and I must say linguistics is quite fascinating.

In particular, after a number of your statements I was curious to understand how linguists could come up with a different theory of information than every other I have ever read. But I have been very pleasantly surprised to learn they have not. "Conceptual semantics" (I guess first proposed by someone named Kant?) does seem to fit with everything else I have ever read.

Fascinating stuff.

@Dink- I been working like a dog lately but I just wanted to type off something quick. Your statement "If your neurons spend "x" amount of glucose on thinking about 2 lawnmowers, its not necessarily going to spend "2x" thinking of 4 lawnmowers." is true but reading Pinker does remind me that this type of thinking about thought does have its limitations as well as the brain does change certain elements of a thought to make them smaller or larger as we change the perspective of an idea (but I don't have time to explain this more right now).

My information structure?...

Think of a cluster of grapes. Each grape has a few little holes which leak juice and these hole attack to other holes in other grapes in the cluster such that the entire cluster of grapes is one continuous structure but also has lots of smaller grape substructures within it.

I will expound on this further when I get a moment.

Thai said...

"... and these hole attack..." should read "...and these holes attach ..."

Sorry, I think my spell checker has been changing some of my typos into words I never intended.

What a fascinating new source for communication errors.

Oh well, it is what it is

Dink said...

I'm off camping until Monday afternoon so take your time. I am curious about Sasha grapes.

Greenie said...


Your initial premises are wrong. How can energy be conserved, when sun is pouring energy into the earth nonstop?

Here is what is going on - energy is pouring into earth, a part of it is getting lost, the remaining part is getting absorbed by earth in chemical form. That energy is the source of constantly increasing complexity in earthly systems over time. Absorbed energy from sun results in disorder being converted into order within earth.

I have not read post 2 onwards, because the initial premises are wrong. Can you tell me, whether they will be valid if energy is not conserved like you postulated?

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