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

Sunday, September 6, 2009



Ever walk down a dark street late at night? A husky man is coming toward you his right hand thrust into his leather jacket. What do you do?
Your mind assesses all the possibilities as the two of you are converging. You can cross the street. Turn and walk in the direction you came from. Walk by him. Run in any direction away from him, prepare to shout if he accosts you. How much money do you have what is the danger to you life? You continue to walk toward him, passing to his left he says something you don't quite understand. You utter, thanks but no thanks, continue on your way, you know some how he will not harm you and your sense of bluster will confirm your confidence further disarming him.
How did you arrive at this course of action?
In less than an instant your mind assessed his height weight, potential running speed and fighting prowess compared them to your own; it assessed his face, compared than to all other faces you have known. What did it say in terms of hostility, friendliness, depravation or other emotion? You simultaneously take in his body language. It is as communicative as his face. You run the same "model" assessing this body language against all other you have experienced in terms of hostility or serenity. In split seconds as your paths converge you have assessed all these possibilities without a single postulate being explicit, a single parameter consciously determined. Yet the decision is clear and irrevocable. He does not present a danger, continue on your way, react to any intercession with friendliness but firmness. This will further disarm any bad intent which might occur to him.
The situation passes as the model predicted. What model? That of wholly intuitive thought much quicker more comprehensive, finer in its assigning of parametric weights, more rigorous and comprehensive in its comparisons.
Shine such a light on the economy and you have John Maynard Keynes or George Soros. Muddle along with explicit models and you would be stuck in your tracks waiting for the stranger to approach and shake you down in total confidence.


Debra said...

This situation reminds me of an incident that happened to me in 2003, the year of our famous heat wave that knocked of thousands and thousands of old people, to the shock and outrage of many here, but that is not the point.
I was walking around our local park at around 11:00 PM, alone, as I have almost always walked, everywhere on this planet. The suffocating temperature had just dropped by about 2 degrees, enough for me to go out.
I passed by a group of Magrehbin boys who were drinking, and shouted at me in a somewhat provocative fashion. I continued.
Ten minutes later, with not a soul in sight, I heard running footsteps behind me, and...
I KNEW I WAS IN DANGER (not the situation here...)
I turned to face the 17 year old Maghrebin boy who was after me, and when he stopped, I calmly told him...
That I was old enough to be his mother.
That he had been drinking, and that in his current state he was capable of doing something that BOTH of us could regret afterwards.
He blustered for three seconds, and then turned tail and headed back to his friends.
I tell this story often in racist France, and YOU can tell it in racist America too, if you want to, BECAUSE :
I'm 90 % sure that that boy was raised in a Muslim family, and that in a Muslim family, my comment about being old enough to be his mother means something.
If I had said that to... a little piece of white upper middle class bourgeois trash a few miles down the road, that would have meant... diddly shit...
Think about it, the next time you hear people earnestly telling you that the Muslims are out to wipe out the Western world...
Don't get me wrong : I don't hate the white upper middle class. I just happen to think that there are a few too many lawless families in this category for my taste. It shows in the schools here.

SS said...

Nice story Deb, thanks


Thai said...

"I just happen to think that there are a few too many lawless families in this category for my taste"

I seem to remember this has been my point all along

Thai said...

And SS, I think it is time to take about network theory

Debra said...

On second thought... I am going to criticize my own diagnostic of lawlessness because...

What do a 17 year old upper middle class white trash American or French boy and a 17 year old poor Afghanistan enrolled in the mujaddin have in common ?
All too often... a childhood without the presence of a mother to show tenderness and caring.

SS said...


Any child raising advice (boys) for those of us still involved? By the way I'm eleven years older than you.


Debra said...

Advice can fit in a nutshell : always play it by ear, allow yourself to be surprised, learn to identify and take into account your personal prejudice, THINK, and don't be afraid to show affection (until adolescence, that is...)

SS said...

I see you emerging in 1959, a Leo struggling not to be expelled before Virgo reigns in the sky and can bring her the peace she will seek thereafter.


Debra said...

1956, not 1959.
Does that still fit, your analysis if you're off by three years ???

Thai said...

Oh you two get a room! ;-)

SS said...

9 years younger


Thai said...

Deb, you are misunderstanding my point re: mentally ill.

Spend away if you will but to me there are three issues:
1. Is it making a difference? (the data says no)
2. Can you afford it?
3. If you change the system, will the changes work?

You (in France) are borrowing from China (as are we in America) to fund a lifestyle that is not sustainable. One day your daughter will pay for this decision (indeed is already paying for it now if I understand you correctly).

Your choice

SS said...


with all due respect you seem to believe all systems are zero sum games without any evidence and that if the current American system is unsustainable - I agree - than any system that doesn't reduce spending is unsustainable. There is reducing spending on swimming pools and yachts and increasing it on health care and expanding employment. The two systems are not the same.

If one prefers the former fine but there is no physical, fiscal or zero sum reason why the latter can't work.


Thai said...

SS, all fair points to which my response is "Yes and No".

I think they are zero sum when looked at from all perspectives. I certainly see they are not zero sum from any particular individual perspective.

You (or I) may like one approach or another because it works for us, we just need to remember that in a closed system there is always someone else the approach effects as all consumption is related to all other consumption (conservation of energy and all).

As for "proof"? I thought you were the Keynesian? Networks operate in closed manifolds.

Thai said...

And in all fairness, owning neither a swimming pool or a boat, in all fairness, these both do provide jobs.

If we were to make a Keynesian swimming pool boat building jobs program for the unemployed, this would not be acceptable for you who want to spend more (from somewhere) on jobs?

Or we could take a bigger chunk of our biosphere from the animals and fish, etc... this would also be non-zero sum to humans (but zero sum to the planet).

We can take it from anywhere within the manifold or we can look outside our current manifolds- there will just be consequences.

We don't have a manifold outside of earth itself (at least yet)

Dink said...

Portland, OR is lovely. We met up with a friend that I've had since the 6th grade. Good fun, but once again I'm way behind in blog subject matter

Reverse entropy- These theoretical physicists must be stopped. Either provide experimental data supporting the concept or stop blowing my mind.

Okie- Bon Voyage! Is it true that the average cruiser gains eleven pounds per week due to the 24 buffets? No matter; you'll burn off the calories pursuing the aforementioned hotties.

Intuition- Malcolm Gladwell's Blink had a lot of interesting stories about intuition. A sad one about cops shooting an unarmed guy in NYC; one cop thought he saw a weapon being drawn and milliseconds later bullets were flying. The 1st cop nearly had a nervous breakdown as he was searching the victim and couldn't find the gun he swore he had seen. Awful.

Of course the cop could have been a bastard and just felt like shooting and told the story to cover up his crime, but it seems his story was plausible. His regret seemed sincere.

Debra said...

You can tell that the subject of the "mentally ill" is close to my heart...
Spending on a living allowance is not QUITE the same thing as spending on... psychiatric hospitalisations in maximum security outfits (the U.S. has gotten REALLY good at setting up EXPENSIVE programs to deliver full scale sensory deprivation in different contexts ; it's awesome, and merits reflexion...).
Dealing with mental illness in what is called a "sectorized" manner, with small associative structures that build community is A HELL OF A LOT LESS EXPENSIVE than dealing with it... with big modern, faceless structures full of pill pushing white coats. AND, as you probably know, it works better.
The point is, Thai, only Freud allows me to get a glimpse at WHY we implement decisions and programs which are so nefarious, so unproductive, when we have the means to know that there are better, less expensive ways of doing things.
And as for the living allowance, I must say that I think that you are drowning in abstraction sometimes : what do you propose to do with these people ? Dump them in the streets in order to spend less ? Is that what you're advocating ? Be precise, please.
Okie, you are hitting the Meditterranean in its best season : the hordes of tourists have gone home, there's still sun, the water is a little cooler, but it's Indian summer still.
As Dink says, careful with the buffets... Hope the food is good. I think that sometimes it can be, and sometimes it isn't. You will be a trapped audience for a week though, so I hope that it is good. Enjoy. (I hope that I have got destination and time correct, my apologies if I have been a lazy reader...)
The cop shooting story is really sad. I get tired when the human rights associations get rabid about police brutality. It exists, but in an extremely noxious social context. You guys sound suspicious of everyone these days sometimes...

SS said...

looks like "Leo" is under a "kindliness" constellation. Enjoy it while it lasts - apologies if I've been a lazy reader - unprovacative host?



P.s. Okie - bon voyage!

Dink said...

"looks like "Leo" is under a "kindliness" constellation"

Ridiculous! They're predestined megalomaniacs and its surprising that the other signs haven't joined forces to ban sex in October to rid the world of these menaces.

"we have the means to know that there are better, less expensive ways of doing things"

According to what metric? Its pretty much the ultimate quagmire (especially as I tend to lump any self-destructive behavior including smoking as mental illness). If the person is even remotely functional then they have the right to free will. Normally I'm suspicious of Big Pharma, but you have to give them credit for their advances in treating mental illness.

Thai said...

Re: "what do you propose to do with these people ?"

Deb, you hit the nail on the head! Why do you think I see this as a zero sum issue so readily?

I want people to live the healthy happy lives they personally want for themselves; I don't own a gun and never will. That we waste as much money on prisons as we do is unbelievably frustrating to me. I would much prefer we never need to have a death penalty discussion.

And life is what it is. Why do you think I got so Angy at god when I let down my cognitive dissonance and recognized what the conservation of energy meant to humans and human society.

Understand that in a world of limited resources there is only so much NET consumption (in minus out) that we will tolerate of each other (people way confuse net consumption with net wealth all them time).

And the argument "I am mentally ill so you have to forgive my needing to consume more than everyone else" doesn't work either.

I have no solution I like.

That is one reason why I can easily be talked into sympathizing with free marketers; at least people get to chose for themselves how to handle this issue (even though the heuristics of the human mind are flawed- whatever that means).

The other option of course is totalitarianism and a "big brother" king chose for them.

Or we can have an combination of the two (as if it makes a difference).

But I ask you what SS must have asked himself many times before, should one person in America consume NET more than an entire village in Africa?

The concept of NET is very very important imo.

Thai said...

And Dink- Amen

Thai said...

And SS re: "apologies if I've been a lazy reader - unprovacative host?"

So where is our New Yorker?

SS said...

Absolutely not a question I ask myself, one of the first lessons of Marx is that envy is relative. The second is it is not a zero sum game.


Thai said...

Re: "The second is it is not a zero sum game."


I hope you are right. I have yet to find an instance to the contrary (it sometime takes a little to frame the problem) but I hope I continue to remain open to the possibility I am wrong ;-)

Be well my friend

Dink said...

"I have no solution I like.
That is one reason why I can easily be talked into sympathizing with free marketers; at least people get to chose for themselves how to handle this issue"

Its not a bad premise. Out of the millions of experiments maybe a few good ones will evolve. Even going back to feudalism may turn out to be a viable solution (as long as we get to keep the net and some other tech goodies for our spare time after plowing and such).

"should one person in America consume NET more than an entire village in Africa?"


"envy is relative"

Obscure tangent coming; feel free to skip

There was this Canadian comedy troop that had a show called The Kids In The Hall (do NOT mistake with goofy American musicians with similar name). In one skit, two brothers show up drunk to their sister's place after a hockey match needing a place to stay. As she's gathering pillows for them they discuss the edibility of something they spotted in her trash can.
Drunk brother #1: "Just because something is in the garbage does not mean its garbage. Its like the question "What is art"?"
Drunk brother #2: "Not that again! We'll be here all night!"

So when SS brought up relativity, the first thing to come to mind was ""Not that again! We'll be here all night!" :)

Debra said...

There is something that concerns me in my contacts with most Americans these days.
Oddly enough, in France, where "religion" has been out for quite a while, I do not hear as much, and as many, breezy assumptions about human beings as here, on this blog, and in the States in general.
In France, there is STILL a perception, NOT THAT THE MENTALLY ILL ARE ENTITLED to be taken care of, but that what WE become when we refuse to "protect" the more fragile elements of society is absolutely horrendous. This is what makes me talk about it sometimes being preferable to go down with the ship, rather than being on the "winning" side...
Frankly, I have felt FOR A LONG TIME that fascism is a SUBTLE, omnipresent factor in American society, and that most cultured, educated "left wing" people in the U.S are subtley influenced by it, unbeknowsnt to themselves.
By fascist, I mean, the belief that it is acceptable to get rid of what society perceives as its "weaker" elements. (And obviously, stuffing them away in prisons, institutions, whatever, is a manifestation of fascist tendencies.) Acceptable, yes, but also that human beings behave in a way that NATURALLY tends to "eliminate" the "weaker" people in their society. This is a form of social Darwinism, and I am violently hostile to social Darwinism, in any and all forms it may take.
Your comments, Thai, reinforce me in my belief, even though you will surely think that I am way off base.
You have to remember that two or three generations ago, when people were slugging it out in France, Germany, England, Morocco, etc etc, they had no magic hindsight to tell them just what fascist meant. That means that NOW, in our own times, WE have no hindsight to enable us to be sensitive to the many ways in which the fascist question continues to manifest itself, all the while metamorphosing so that we won't be able to easily recognize it.
One can "justify" fascist thought with any kind of theory, or biblical quotation, but in the long run, it remains fascist thought.
Be careful : I am not name calling on this blog. Fascist thought is a universal temptation which presents itself to EVERY human being in one form or another. That means me too, of course.
American society, as a whole, has given in to this temptation, no exceptions for any political leaning.
One of the BIG BIG advantages of the GOSPEL's teachings, with or without the Church, was to constantly plug the concern for others, the preoccupation for the weak and the frail, as compensation for, and control over, a certain inclination to ride roughshod over anything that one COULD ride roughshod over.
Rampant individualism has severely limited this social control and compensation. And free market ideology, all the while justifying excessive preoccupation with ONE'S OWN, has done it no good either.

Thai said...

Deb, the conservation of energy always applies in a closed system. How one society deals with this issue vs. another is simply their personal choice.

America spends a larger % of its resources on health care than any society in the word, by some metrics this would be a measure of our greater generosity than any other society on earth- it all depends on how you look at it ;-).

Be careful with analogies with grains of truth

Totalitarianism or fascism (to me) is putting all control in the hands of one person or one group. Free market systems solves the conservation of energy dilemma an entirely different way (though the results can be just as draconian).

While I agree that totalitarianism/fascism has always been an element of American society, all data shows this is a much smaller element than in other European countries imo.

Cutting the flow of money to government is the opposite of totalitarianism/fascism, although it would likely achieve the same result. And if Americans want to get draconian imo, they will just increase free market forces and let people decide how to ration for themselves (though one could never guarantee this will happen).

... Though I do read you may be missing something on this issue???

Perhaps you should look at studies examining the % giving to the needy by liberals vs. conservatives.

Utah may be a very free market conservative place in America, but make no mistake, the Mo's of "Mo town" take care of their own, on that you can be sure.

SS said...

@ Deb,

Fascists are usually right wing. Read Umberto Eco's book length essay "Ur-Fascism" it is quite good.


Debra said...

Totalitarianism and fascism are NOT the same thing, and putting them together in the same boat is simplistic. Totalitarianism is concentrating and centralizing (political) power, and reducing the diversity of the actors involved in the political/social forum, shall we say. With this kind of larger definition we can see just how precisely... the MARKETS themselves, by eliminating competition, centralizing power, and creating monopolies, THEMSELVES participate in totalitarianism. It is naïve to imagine that totalitarianism is purely a government issue.
I stubbornly hold to my broad definition of fascism, which was very explicit in my last comment. As such, it is indeed not a political entity at all. It is a psychological mecanism, which allows it to be present in any and every psyche, and in any and every political party. And as such, it is very easy to see to what extent fascism is much more prevalent in American society these days than in many European ones. Once again, we get down to the nitty gritty details of the concrete effects of having World War II fought on European soil, NOT on American soil.
Please be VERY explicit in telling me exactly WHERE my grain of sand analogy appears in the last comment, Thai. I do not understand.
And... from my viewpoint, you are using the conservation of energy "theory" as a religious mantra. Theory does come from... theos, you know. It sounds as though you have decided that "conservation of energy" is ABSOLUTE truth, and that is a question, ultimately, of... belief.

Debra said...

By the way, French society does not in any way equate totalitarianism with fascism, as illustrates the following intellectual debate : much ink has flowed over the possibility of "rating" and comparing the twentieth century camps : Stalin's gulags vs. Hitler's death camps.
If you look at the numbers, Stalin and Hitler were both monstrous. But there is an instinctive push to insist that the death camps were something really different. People got stuck in the gulags, they were deprived, they worked until they dropped, like flies, and in monstrous numbers.
But... people got stuck in the death camps, and they did NOT work until they dropped, they were snuffed out immediately, no work done, no nothing.
In France, this difference still remains very very important, as indeed it should.
Fascism intends to snuff out the weak, and to totally deny even unto their very humanity.
And I maintain that this is an omnipresent trait of American society at this time, and probably always has been, as Thai mentioned.

Dink said...

1)"what WE become when we refuse to "protect" the more fragile elements of society is absolutely horrendous."

2)"It sounds as though you have decided that "conservation of energy" is ABSOLUTE truth, and that is a question, ultimately, of... belief."

Re: #1) Too black and white a statement to cover the uncountable shades of gray involved. Are alcoholics fragile and in need of my protection?

Re: #2) Its seems to keep happening.

Thai said...

Deb, I have no answer and am just glad I don't have to make the decisions as my heart goes out to the people who do have to make them (like both our respective presidents, etc...).

And re: "faith"- Amen ;-)

And SS re: "Fascists are usually right wing"- Amen as well.

PS- I love every Umberto Eco book I have ever read. Indeed The Name of the Rose is in my all time favorite 10 list.

Which reminds me (question to you SS but to Deb and Dink as well), if you were to share your all time 3 favorite books with the rest of us, what would they be?

I think mine would be:
1. Dracula
2. The Name of the Rose
3. Dune

Debra said...

Favorite books :
The Secret Garden
Where the Wasteland Ends
Pride and Prejudice

But this was really really difficult...
I have just heard over the radio that France Telecom (our currently privatized telephone monopoly) has had 20 suicides in its employee ranks over the last 10-20 months, and REST ASSURED, I WILL STICK UP A POST ON THIS ONE...

Debra said...

Thai, do you have any links on Alzheimer's outside of Western society ? Does it exist ?

Thai said...

re: Alzheimer's

Never looked at it before so I don't know... But I will say this, knowing the way epidemiological/genetic research works, I have to think it impossible this issue has not been examined closely.

I'll take a look

Debra said...

Thanks to Dink for making me tow the line. As it turns out, Dink, I do think that the issue I stated is a black and white one, BUT, my use of the word "protect" was misguided.
I would be happy to settle for : a primo non nocere attitude, instead of protection. That means, not passing hasty judgment on the behavior of alcoholics, no finger pointing, more empathy.
Protection is a bad solution, I agree. It leads to... what legislators and social workers are doing to poor Black women in the inner cities.
But... inclusion works best. Perhaps it's energy conservation that makes me say that every person whom the social body excludes is a person whose potential is not readily available to enrich that same social body. (Careful, one can enrich the social body without being evidently and immediately "productive", to use that nauseating word inherited directly from our Protestant forefathers.) One could almost say that it is... mathematical, although I for one, don't like to reason this way...
Exclusion is really a DIRTY and impoverishing, business.

SS said...

@ Deb

Great entymology theis - teo - God - religion. Thai and Hell are stuck mentally and emotionally have taken over a dubious law from the physics of closed systems, made the leaping assumption that all systems are closed, made another unproven assumption that laws of the physical science also hold in social science and finally hold on for dear life as it is a far fetched as the assumptions about god.

To begin with even the earth is not a closed system in reality although it is a closer approximation than many but it is still subject to constant change and the sun itself will eventually disintegrate as we are seeing in pictures of other stars from the Hubbel.

So good job!

As for alcoholics, sympathy is the word, have one over for a drink!


SS said...

@ Deb

The "Americans with Disabilities Act"
was sponsored by Tom Harkin a liberal Democratic Senator from Iowa. It protects those with disabilities.


Thai said...

SS, thanks, at least you see the issues: "faith in science vs. faith in magic (or religion)".

Indeed, invite an alcoholic over (I periodically do!). I am not out to get alcoholics one bit (and can we get them to not drive home while drunk?).

AND, in case you did not understand this from some of the links you have shared we us, Krugman and the Keynes crowd most definitely are in this camp.

Indeed, I invite you to re-watch the Hans Rosling TED video on the wondrous improvements in international development a little closer using my lens (say through the lens of someone who wanted to maintain high fertility rates).

... But you do bring up a very good point, the solution to a boundary problem is to break through the boundary itself (reshuffling the chairs in a prison still leaves you with chairs on a prison).

There are an awful lot of resources off this planet and their entrance into our closed system would most definitely be non-zero sum for the rest of us (though it would be an investment whose consumption we would need to take from someone else until we achieved it).

The Earth is not absolutely truly a closed system, I agree

Debra said...

Thai, over on Hell's blog, I suggested that life was maybe about something other than... exchanging one bubble for the next.
What's fascinating about your link is this little considered psychological phenomenon : what is REALLY irrational is the way in which we see OUR role in the whole process : do we see ourselves as powerful actors, capable of changing our environment IN BOTH NEGATIVE and POSITIVE ways, or do we see ourselves as... POWERFUL ACTORS when we change our environment in ways that are acceptable to us, and... HELPLESS and irresponsible victims in the face of negative change that we refuse to acknowledge that we could have brought about ?
That means that in one case WE DO it, and in the other, we HAVE IT DONE to us.
This is a common psychological mecanism. It's SO easy to (not)think this way...
I don't see why you think that I don't understand you, Thai. I think I do.
And you guys' prejudices allow you to believe that whenever someone mentions God, he/she is a closet Republican, or a sentimental nutto.
That makes me laugh...
My American born and living brother reasons the same way.
Many thanks to you, SS, for the tip on reading Nietzsche. I am enjoying him immensely. Son of a Protestant pastor. You can't believe how much I relate to that one...

Debra said...

Oops, Thai, I blathered too fast, and didn't read you well. I am a "soupe au lait" person, that means that I am like milk in a casserole over the heat. :-)
When you talk about breaking through boundaries, that is the role of metaphor in Lacanian thought. The idea is to derail the everyday train, thereby waking people up to new ways of doing/seeing things.

Thai said...

Deb, I thought we had the religious conversation already (remember, I was once accused by Marcus of being an "intelligent designer"). I do not disagree with religious views in general, it is just I have a hard time accepting any particular anthropomorphic version/text.

A closed system always means everything is related to everything else. Si I completely agree with your statement:

"That means that in one case WE DO it, and in the other, we HAVE IT DONE to us"

It is always both.

Remember, the first thing about manifolds- or in physics with (say) the theory of relativity- is first framing what viewpoint you are looking at things from.

It is the same discussion over and over and over: what viewpoint are you looking at something from?

It is why I do not think there is a difference between capitalism/communism or any other ism, they are simply the same thing looked at from different viewpoints

SS said...

favorite books:
Twilight of the Idols, Frederick Nietszche (really anything by Nietszche except Zarathustra)

Voyage to the Middle of the Night (Ferdinand Celine (or anything by Celine but this is the most translated)

La Porte Etroite, by Andre Gide

Thai said...

Dink (and SS since you asked for evidence as to why conservation of conservation of energy always applies), I came across this doing some reading.

I am not sure if you remember when we talked about vaccinations and the importance of herd immunity: This article clearly mentions how important herd immunity is in stopping the spread of disease.

Anyway, more evidence in case you are interested- personally I think it will be hard to reach 70% before the flu has spread that far as we are absolutely getting hammered by swine flu right now; volumes are up 10%/day in most of my 6 facilities. This is not going to help health care costs one bit.


Debra said...

Well, Thai, I agree with you about viewpoints, but my point in the quote "in one case we do it, and in the other we have it done to us" is to indicate just how we make use of this difference in point of view to disculpate ourselves on this issue.
We are not "having it done" to us at all, I feel. We are reaping what we sowed. Notice that... the subject REMAINS a subject, and "we are doing" does NOT become "it is being done to us".

SS said...


I haven't read the article and with good reason, you have a fundamental flaw very much associated with religious zealots, just because conservation of energy applies in one instance does in no way make the case that it applies in another. You need to demonstrate it case by case, define a system, show that iti s closed and show that conservation of energy applies. None of the systems you do affirm that but it seems irrelevant to you. But if you really want to argue for zero sum games, posit a closed system that you are talking about and demonstrate it.

Conservation of energy is not a religious belief.


Thai said...

But SS, it is different with every manifold but the underlying idea is always there and always remains the same!

I know it seems bizarre but I am not trying to be.

Choose anything you want to discuss, and I mean anything, define the boundaries of what it is we are talking about (people, ideas, places, linguistics, illness, etc... again I mean anything) and once you have defined the boundaries we can slice and dice the things inside your idea or person or word an infinite number of ways and decide we like the slice we have but the overall energy remains constant within the defined boundaries.

Expand the boundary if you want, but now you have added energy (or information) to the system.

It is kind of like interior design which you said you like. You have a room (or a home or building), you have the furniture and items that go into the room and you have an infinite number of ways to move the furniture around.

But if you fundamentally do not like the furniture you have and want to go out and get new furniture, you will have to leave your manifold (i.e. break through the boundaries and added energy into the system from outside).

You can destroy some furniture and create new furniture with the furniture you have, but even this is adding energy from outside the system.

Stuff like this is obvious to everyone. What becomes harder to understand is when this idea is applied to systems with larger boundaries but it is just as true. And it is just as true with ideas, etc...

All the people, societies, resources, concepts within larger manifolds are still subject to the same rules. And when you are talking about the planet, there is no more energy to obtain!

So in the world of economics:

We can take from (say) plants and animals (this is currently what China is doing), but then the country will be an environmental disaster, etc...

Or one country can take towels from one country, so it has more towels while the second country has less, etc... (can make more but takes energy)

It is easy to see this kind of thing for "material" or solid objects. Where the concept becomes bizarre is when it is applied to ideas, concepts, etc... but if you think it through you will see it applies even for them.

For ideas are really information structures and as such as still subject to the same laws of thermodynamics- this is why we end up with Alice in Wonderland like results when we think about ideas and the linguistics which goes into describing them, etc...

Am I being clear? I know it is bizarre, I am more that willing to accept that I am being bizarre as long as I am clear.

It is this idea of boundaries and conservation of energy within that is literally the way all science modeling works today in medicine, environmental science, etc... It is the math of fractals, chaos theory and complex systems and what epidemiologists use to model virus propagation in populations or how NOAA makes all weather models or tells you to stop eating farm raised Salmon and instead use rod and real caught Salmon.

Perhaps another way to discuss this topic is if you give me ANYTHING you want to discuss (it would be easier for me if it was not philosophy but I will even try philosophy to make my point if that make you more comfortable)?

Thai said...

So remember when I made the posting It's not me trying to control things, it's a safety issue"?

We can proceed with that information structure if you want?

Or any other

Thai said...

I define my system as:

1. Safety of Sasha
2. Marital harmony
3. Sasha's happiness

... at least we can start there. Three separate information structures linked together into a larger glob like a grape vine

Dink said...

*Interesting book selections, all! SS, how many languages are you fluent in? Foucoult's(sp?) Pendulum was fun, especially for someone getting a little too into the whole Templar thing. Name of the Rose had the library burning...shudder (but a great book).

*Kindness to the unkind? Tolerance to the intolerant? Including those who would exclude? Empathy right up to the point where it puts self/kin/humanity in danger? I'll try to organize my thoughts better and post.

*The solar system is a fairly closed system though. From the Earthling perspective. Earth, moon, and solar radiation. Its late here on the west coast...

*I think I'll intentionally get the H1N1 flu instead of just the vaccine. I want to be really, really safe from the subsequent waves of this bastard virus.

*The Sasha grapes example works for me! Do proceed!

Dink said...

Oh yeah, some favorites books (besides The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy).

Red Mars- Kim Stanley Robinson

Cryptonomicon- Neal Stephenson

Quicksilver- Neal Stephenson

I feel like ranting about the last one. Historical fiction mainly told from Isaac Newton's college roomate. But that description is so simplistic compared to this complex book. It really shows what a disaster the past was. The character was 4 when the king was beheaded by Cromwell and the political situation was perpetually uneasy going forward. This isn't coming out right...its late here on the West coast...

Debra said...

As the policeman says, "time to move on, now..." and Joni Mitchell "you be polite" (that's cheating, but I won't tell you how...)

Thai said...

Deb, re: national differences in Alzheimers rates

I looked into the issue a bit. There are national differences in the prevalence of both dementia and the various types of dementias worldwide(e.g. Alzheimer's is the dominant type of dementia in caucasian countries while vascular dementias MAY be more common in Asian nations; issue is difficult to get closure on since national methods of reporting are very very different).

There are also differences in prevalence among different racial groups in single nations as well as world wide.

There is a clear genetic component as well but it does not completely explain the issue.

Does this answer you question?

Dink said...


Okay, I'll comment on the stroller Jesus post, but you're not going to like it ;)

Debra said...

Ha, Thai, I saw what I was looking for : if you check it out you will see (probably) that the rate of diagnosis of schizophrenia in developing countries is much lower than in "developed" countries, and I suspect that the Alzheimer's/dementia question is related.
The cute rationalizations used to explain away the differences between developing and "developed" societies did NOT convince me.
The number one problem with an aging population (and with many of the mentally ill) is... sensory deprivation and isolation. What sensory deprivation and isolation do to people's brains and people AT ALL AGES is pretty spectacular.
I am definitely surprised that few people are tying these questions together in the research on dementia... Or maybe they are and I haven't noticed. Genetics can get in the way sometimes...

Thai said...

Deb, cross national comparisons of mental illness are very difficult- the wars creating DSM and each of its revisions are legendary in medicine and this is always one of the key issues.

Hearing voices in some cultures is not considered abnormal so it gets very tricky saying when it is crazy for one country and not for another.

Don't put too much weight in those kind of comparisons.

Re: your theory of Alzheimer's.

Bottom line, it was clearly disproven beyond a reasonable doubt. The statistics to tease it out were fantastically complex.

But nice thought ;-)

SS said...

@ Deb 12:09
Really very insiteful. Research on prisoners in solitary confinement has show the same thing. You have made a discovery, we are too alone in the West but it will likely be ignored.


Thai said...

Deb and SS, I am not saying sensory deprivation is not a serious and tragic problem. Nor am I saying it is without effect.

Alzheimer's however is a very specific disease and is the very heavily studied as it is one of the most debilitating and costly diseases on this planet.

There are tons of businesses trying to get people to pay them money to "exercise" the mind and delay/prevent Alzheimer's so this has been looked at heavily with hopes it might improve things.

It does improve things, it just doesn't do anything for Alzheimers.

Debra said...

Thai, you are talking to someone whose mother, as a result of a religious experience, withstood breast cancer for more than 25 years, at a time when the mortality for it was at about... 95 % or more...
Our pasts ensure that we will always see things differently.
My mother threw a stick ? bedpan ? at the doctor who, when she allowed herself to show enthusiasm after her SECOND major debilitating and defiguring surgery, said "but you only got six months out of the last one". She told the medical establishment to never let him enter her room again.
She was right.
That's why I kind of shrug off the attitude of the medical establishment towards Alzheimer's.
When doctors can't propose a reasonable, non-invasive CURE to illness, they would do best to... SHUT THEIR FACES sometimes...
Some of them seem to forget this.
And obviously EVERY doctor should be really really circumspect when dealing with those cute little "heavy" diagnoses, like... Alzheimer's, or schizophrenia, the ones that really burst your bubble and make you feel like taking a knife to your throat.

Dink said...


This is one area we may be able to meet half-way on. The body's stress response is an awful thing. Besides the nastiness we can actually perceive (elevated heart rate, nausea, sweat), there are also steroids being released that inhibit the immune system.

Being relaxed and positive is not 100% curative by a long shot, but it may in some cases be giving the immune system its full potential which in some cases may make the difference in recovery.

I'm glad to hear that your mother defended herself against an unnecessary, stress-inducing comment. Instead of "shutting his face" or being negative, there perhaps could have been a realistic, but cautiously optimistic, analysis in response to her glee. I'm on unsure footing on Thai's professional turf and your personal turf, but thought I'd chime in.

Debra said...

As Freud realized a long long time ago, you don't just go say "I'm going to be relaxed and not stressed when the doctor goon comes into my room telling me that I only got six months out of the last surgery".
You can "control" certain things in your reaction, but definitely not all.
Visualisation and incarnation are not the same thing as control, I think.
My mother was not showing glee, nor elation, but hope. They are radically different things.
The doctor had no business opening his mouth, and he had no excuse (except maybe he got out of bed on the wrong side that morning. Doctors are human.)
Had he HUMBLY approached her with an apology, she probably would have accepted it, by the way. She was not an unreasonable person.

Debra said...

Thai, I don't think that your zero sum theory holds for language WHEN YOU CONSIDER IT AS SOMETHING OTHER THAN AN INFORMATION SYSTEM.
Poetry considers language as something different from an information system.

Thai said...

Deb, let it go.

We all see the world as we see it and I see you views as also wonderful.

Be well

Debra said...

Thai, I know that I'm a pest who has a serious insistance on being right all the time, but my last remark was not intended to be agressive ; it was my reflexion on the subject, that's all.
You are fortunate to be much more tolerant than I am...

karim said...

An insightfull post. Will definitely help.

Karim - Mind Power

The Most Fabulous Objects In The World

  • Hitchhiker's Guide To The Universe trilogy
  • Lord of the Rings trilogy
  • Flight of the Conchords
  • Time Bandits