Curiosity Over Pride (FYI: To comment, send an e-mail to scifidink@gmail.com)

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Levels

So with Thai baking in AZ I think I'll step up as the fractal prophet for a while.

I worry that when people think of fractals that they think of Legos. A rectangular Lego piece is the base unit, a rectangular train car made out of these units is a large and more complex replication, and a giant rectangular train car made of base train cars is the next and similar level of complexity.

Its not wrong, its just not impressive. And the concept really can be mind-blowing.

You start with base unit of elements. They have their octet and charge rules. But once carbon and hydrogen get mixing up for some crazy length molecules we enter a new level.

These organic molecules start have their own rules and eventually settle down into something stable.

Nervous systems develop on top of that.

Then consciousness.

Then groups of sapients working in cohesion.

There may be patterns in the rules/systems of each level that are similar to the other levels (therefore fractal). But the difference in complexity is astounding. And we really need to take care of the "supporting" levels (i.e. Earth) if we want to enjoy the benefits of our current level of complexity (Netflix).

New subject- Dr John mentioned in his last comment the need to embrace community. Cooperation is another big Thai theme. So Saturday I go to a local parade. Shins bruised from countless strollers, dozens of bassett hounds dressed in costume, local crafts (I am not paying $40 for a tye-dye t-shirt!), high school marching bands, and firemen making pancakes. People are strange, but I generally like them.

44 comments:

Dr John said...

I was reading a review of a book today in an older issue of Skeptic. I keep them in the bathroom. The book "Irreducible Mind" is not well thought of by the reviewer. They seem to side step the really interesting questions of what is consciousness, how does it emerge from neurons, why did it evolve and can these questions even be answered? Rather than say "I don't know" the authors seem to make a 1000 page attempt at substituting strange paranormal explanations for real knowledge. Anyway this post made me think of this review.I don't think the brain/neurons really counts as a fractal does it? Even a train made up of legos which are all similar is not really a fractal right? Does not the individual part need to be a reduced copy of the whole? Am I taking this post too literally? Debra where are you going with this? Did you have ice cream at the parade?

Debra said...

Doctor John, we are having a long standing argument on this blog as to whether the whole is simply the sum of its parts, or... something else...
I vote for something else.
On consciousness emerging from neurons.. This debate may be a continuation of the age old problem of localization. You will remember that neurologists were doing autopsies in the late nineteenth century to try to pinpoint the origin of corporal lesions in the brain. And they found nothing for hysterical symptoms.
One of these days we can go into just WHY the DSM instrument CANNOT SEE hysteria, and why hysteria is really its blind spot...
I am going to try to go into the structure of consciousness as I understand it from the linguistic standpoint. That will not be a neurological standpoint.
But I think that the analogy is pretty telling in the idea of language, and social structures being constructed like a fabric, and the neuronal structure functioning like a fabric too. In French we say... "tissu", fabric. Tissu social, but "tissu" is also the word we use for the body. Tissues in English ? The more modern words coming out are "réseau", like.. network.
But I don't like "network". I refuse to use... mechanistic metaphors to describe living processes. By ideological choice.
Doctor John, I also refuse to indulge in any prejudice which involves privileging the idea of "real" knowledge in opposition to something else.
Because the idea of "real" resonates with neo-Platonic philosophy which creates a polarity real/false, truth/fiction which I find simplistic. (Re Hell's last post in the jungle.)
One of these times we are going to have to rehash just exactly what constitutes the scientific method, in order to emerge from nineteenth century prejudices about the so called "hard" sciences.
I refuse to acknowledge the separation "hard" science vs social science, and the prejudice that the "hard" sciences are necessarily more... scientific or objective than the social sciences.
And we shall have to discuss the constellation science/techne/art.
We've got work ahead of us, right ?
I like your post, Dink.
It is very pedagogical. I will read your answers to Doctor John with interest, as I am not competent to discuss them (yet).

Dr John said...

Well first Debra I could not agree with you more that the sum of many things does not appear equal to its parts. I have spent many hours gazing at the Rembrandt's at the Cleveland Museum of Art. You will never ever understand their totality by studying the chemical makeup of oil pant or the structure of canvas. Can you understand Michelangelo's David by the study of rock? Certainly not and we should not use science to try to give us personal meaning about things. That being said I think there is a line between "hard science" like physics and chemistry and the softer social sciences. Her it is. The knowledge must allow one to regularly and accurately predict outcome and hopefully intervene. Newton's physics are not perfect but they got us to the moon.Calculus can be used to describe the accurate trajectory of a ball every time. Such scientific "truth" allows us to manipulate our surroundings and create cell phones and this computer you are reading my post on! In medicine such knowledge allows us to understand a pathological process such as a Group A strep infection and to design anti-biotics to stop it.Although not perfect and pure or completely free of value it is grounded in at least an attempt at objective observation. Social Science and Psychiatry fall at the other end of the continuum and it is a continuum. They are pretty much circular and descriptive. They allow for no real predictions on the level that the "harder sciences" do nor similar interventions to alter outcome. They are more obviously riddled with personal bias and emotion. It is hard to get worked up about the atomic wt of Hydrogen. Try telling a gay man psychiatry for most of its existence thought he had a disease.I think there is a distinction that is pretty obvious and psychiatry is a wonderful example of a failed attempt at using scientific principle to try to look at something that is not at all suitable for scientific study.These of course are not pure distinctions. My first paper in Skeptic outlines this failing clearly I think. http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_kmske/is_3_13/ai_n29381159/?tag=content;col1

Dink said...

"Does not the individual part need to be a reduced copy of the whole? Am I taking this post too literally? Debra where are you going with this?"

At the bottom of each post it states the author's name ;)

Well, maybe I was getting a bit poetic. Each iteration should be self-similar; plugging the product of the equation back into the equation. Patterns emerge from the chaos once you stand far enough back.

"They seem to side step the really interesting questions of what is consciousness, how does it emerge from neurons, why did it evolve and can these questions even be answered?"

I think we'll figure it out. Hopefully within my lifetime because I'm really curious.

"Rather than say "I don't know" the authors seem to make a 1000 page attempt at substituting strange paranormal explanations for real knowledge"

Loathesome. They'd earn integrity points if they started with "This seems a plausible explanation to me because xyz" instead of "this is the explanation".

"You will remember that neurologists were doing autopsies in the late nineteenth century to try to pinpoint the origin of corporal lesions in the brain. And they found nothing for hysterical symptoms."

We didn't know enough then. We still don't, but we're getting closer by the day. At some point the "experiential" data will mesh with the neurological data. That "Fawlty Circuits" article was intriguing; basically that a memory keeps getting replayed due to a storage circuit glitch. Its a nice theory that neatly matches up what the PTSD pt is experiencing with something observable in the physical world.

Off to read the Skeptic article!

Debra said...

Doctor John, I followed you all the way through until you got to your... strep infection, and then I no longer followed you..
A strep infection is a LIVING process, no ?
The possibility of predicting tends to diminish once we move into the domain of living processes.
And for your distinction hard science/soft science ?
The so-called "object" of these "sciences" may be different. But the, uh, SUBJECT observing these processes is still the same. And I say that that SUBJECT is by definition.. NOT OBJECTIVE.
Dink, just how far are we going to split the atom to try to find the localized ORIGIN of certain processes before we ACCEPT that we CANNOT ? Will not ?
And what if Freud was right ?
And... worst of all heresy...
What will localization TELL us (and mean...) in the long run ?
What is really interesting is to observe...
US, as we keep seeking to localize..
Like.. localizing... the soul.
God.
And now.... ???
What are we going to try to localize next ?
That's (good) social science, Doctor John.
Social science which is another, more modern name for.. philosophy.
Work for you dinky.
How does your lego/fractal model compare to my structural linguistics one ? Do you think we are saying the same (type of) thing ?
I like it when you use images. It helps me much more.

Debra said...

Ha.
And NOBODY has touched my last post.
Y'all afraid, or something ??
Keep bringing on the poetry, Dink. ;-)

Debra said...

Looking at the difference/ressemblance between the Lego analogy and structural linguistics.
All the sounds in the phonemic system (a set ?) are DIFFERENT. But the way that they go together obeys the same GENERAL principle, while conforming to a sophisticated logic of combination (certain sounds within a particular system, i.e. language, can not appear in certain places).
In the Lego analogy, likewise there is a SET of elements that go together in a multitude of different ways, but still limited, so that is maybe like the phonemes... Yeah, that could work.
But we can pick up on meaning because the DIFFERENT SOUNDS are OPPOSED to each other.
Lego does not work this way, I think. (If so, where is the opposition ?)
And fractals ?

Dr John said...

Sorry Dink I missed you were the author of that post until it was too late. I do not share your optimism in regards to understanding consciousness. We may understand better the process that produces it but I suspect consciousness itself is just an epi-phenomenon and is not really something to be "understood". Have you ever read the work of Frank Jackson and the problem of Qualia? If not,tell me how to post and I will post on it as it relates to this issue. Debra of course you are correct when it comes to the fact that living things are infinitely more complex and harder to predict but simple functions within that organism may not be as hard. This is why we can make semi accurate predictions about what happens to the cell wall of a bacterium when given certain antibiotics but have little if any ability to predict what people will do when they drink Etoh specifically. As I said this is not a yes or no proposition.

Debra said...

The clincher is "semi accurate".
A different universe.

Debra said...

And... WHY do we have to predict all the time ??
Ho hum.
Predicting all the time SOUNDS good. REASONABLE.
But it gets you into that rut that Herbert was talking about at the end of his Dune series.
By the way.. have YOU read through the Dune series, Doctor John ??

Debra said...

And yes, I agree with you Doctor John about consciousness...
I agree SO much with you that I have the honest temptation to conclude that ALL of our theories, no matter what their object, DESCRIBE OUR CONSCIOUSNESS.

Jonathan said...

Slate had an article on the Mysterian position recently.

I think one of the issues raised in the article was that we are consious, and that we are somehow "imprisoned" by consiousness, such that we can never really see outside of consiousness, and that we will never be able to truly understand it.

I may have missed the point, but I'm operating from memory from something I skimmed a few weeks ago.

Bob's blog, over at onecosmos.blogspot.com deals with the issue of Matter ----> Life -----> Mind ------> Spirit ------> God.

You can always argue with anyone over there about the issue of consiousness.

Jonathan said...

This also gets into my current operating theory that individual human personalities can be explained by geometric configurations, e.g. fractals.

I'm still assuming that my fractal can be represented by a unique Calabi-Yau manifold unless someone can convinve me otherwise.

Jonathan said...

Hmmm, I messed up my blogger profile. Time to fix it.

It's using my first name rather than my first and middle initials and I'm not sure why.

This is "JP".

JP said...

This should work again. Testing.

Debra said...

Good job, JP.
For a moment I was wondering who this mysterious "Jonathan" person was..
Somebody Scotty beamed in ? ;-)
I don't feel like arguing with just anybody over consciousness though.
Did you know ?...
Arguing this way about consciousness is what sent Rabbi Akiba over the edge several hundred years ago.
No mattter what way you look at it, looking at consciousness and opening those doors can send you over the edge.
Gotta be careful with that kind of stuff, as I say, or you may end up starving to death while blogging..
The Rabbis fixed it so that the people who were arguing this way were people with wives and children (like Thai...) in order to protect them from the hazards of too much... DISINCARNATION.
You know what I'm talking about ?
Herbert talks about this too.
Isn't it amazing how many of us there are who manage to get TOGETHER to talk about this stuff ?
Talk about universality...
Your other half is right not to have an Internet connection at home.
She MIGHT never see you again, right ? ;-)

Debra said...

Thai is going to be pissed when he comes back.
He'll have SO much to catch up with...

Debra said...

JP, the key word is SEE beyond our consciousness.
Because consciousness is very largely limited to the part of us that sees...
When we connect to our other senses, then something else starts happening.
Is it consciousness ? Who knows ?
If it is consciousness it is not the same kind of consciousness as that which we "see" with.

Dr John said...

Debra, come on. You know why we need to predict. To control our world and better our existence. Knowledge and understanding lead to the germ theory which lead to understanding poop lying around is bad which lead to Mr. Crapper inventing the toilet in some respects which allows me to predict what will happen after lunch.Sure we cannot nor should we attempt to apply this approach to everything but certainly somethings it is helpful for. As far as Dune I made an attempt to read that in high school and failed. Really I have not read a lick of fiction since Lord of The Rings in 9th grade. Consider it a failing of mine.

Debra said...

I am not a positivist, Doctor John. ;-)

Dink said...

Here is a link to the issue of Skeptic where one can find Dr. John's article.

It is fascinating, especially considering that it was written by an "insider" of the profession.

"Have you ever read the work of Frank Jackson and the problem of Qualia? If not,tell me how to post and I will post on it as it relates to this issue."

No, but I am curious. To post, you send me an e-mail. I add you as an author. You'll receive an e-mail from blogger.com asking if you accept. You accept, follow a link, and write a post. It really walks you through the process; its as easy as entering a comment really.

" Matter ----> Life -----> Mind ------> Spirit ------> God."

Welllll, that gets to be a problem as some street rats are deists and others are hell-bent on evolution ;)

"I'm still assuming that my fractal can be represented by a unique Calabi-Yau manifold unless someone can convinve me otherwise"

You can go down this rabbit hole when Thai gets back; I'm just a fractal novice. I think the Julia set is cooler than the Mandelbrot set (i.e. I stick my toe into the rabbit hole, but go no further).

"Debra, come on. You know why we need to predict."

Deb likes to provoke for no apparent reason.

So JP and Dr. John, hope we'll see some posts soon!

Dr John said...

Dink, I need your email. Mine is jsorboromd@yahoo.com if that helps. John

JP said...

Dink says:

"" Matter ----> Life -----> Mind ------> Spirit ------> God."

Welllll, that gets to be a problem as some street rats are deists and others are hell-bent on evolution ;)"

No problem. Just lop off everything above mind and you can just think about that subset without even worrying about the set which contains that subset.

Like Dr. John, I basically gave up fiction.

I've found that I prefer actual history to fiction.

Real life is stranger than fiction anyway.

Look at spooky action at a distance for example.

We now know that information can be exchanged "faster than the speed of light".

Debra said...

Hey dinky, thanks for sticking the link on.
I read all the way through the article.
I like your crankiness, Doctor John, and your no nonsense approach.
But... here in France where pharma is NOT YET quite as invasive as it is in the mother country, there are STILL psychiatrists who are working as psychotherapists, for example and actually helping patients...
I don't like the idea of psychiatry as a science.
A religion ? Not all religion is bad, you know.
There are worse things around than being a religion.
No fair, dinky on provocation.
Yeah, I like to be provocative sometimes.
But not gratuitously provocative.

JP said...

Debra says:

"Isn't it amazing how many of us there are who manage to get TOGETHER to talk about this stuff ?
Talk about universality..."

That's because the Internet is non-local, so to speak. There were always this many people to get together and talk about "this stuff", just normally not more than 1 in every five villages or so. :)


And yes, chaining the rabbis to a wife and children was certainly one approach to addressing the urge toward hermetic speculation.

Being obsessed with chess can apparently also drive you insane.

Dr John said...

Cranky is an accurate description Debra. Psychiatry is very much a religion. There is a lot of "revealed truth" going on. I think where it falls apart and is even less useful than most religion is that it seldom presents to people an organized set of principles for living. Most of what psychiatry has created is very bad metaphysics with no practical application. The reason I read Marcus Aurelius and not Freud or Adler for help is that Marcus tells me how to live when I have pain. This is what people need. I am an areligious person at this stage but at least I see religion offering that to people. I do not buy into the idea it offers the other stuff that it usually sells like exclusive salvation or "truth" but I see people making practical use of it to deal with pain. I like you believe that people can help other people feel better emotionally. I just do not buy into the idea that there has been anything in particular created by psychiatry/psychology to aid in this. JP. I agree truth is way stranger than fiction. I tend to read 3-4 books at a time putting them down for a while and going to another. One I am trying to digest is "What If". It was written by a bunch of historians who consider what would things be like if say Hannibal had not been turned back or Genghis Khan had not stopped just a few hundred miles short of Vienna. That's good fiction.

JP said...

Listenting to the stoics Dr. John? That's like going to Buddhists for metaphysical advice. And it's better than listening to Freud, I suppose. Although I think Jung started things moving in the right direction. The post-Jungians might have something useful to say. I don't know, not having read them.

Don't get me wrong. There's lots of practical advice there. But practical advice is only useful for practial things.

They can't really help you because they don't even understand where you are going. They can just help you wander around on the level where you are already located.

Dink said...

Wow, so many branches on these comments that I'd love to explore.

1) First some housekeeping: my e-mail is scifidink@gmail.com. I saw your e-mail Dr. J and added you so you should be getting an e-mail from blogger.com soon. Feel free to jump in JP.

2) "This also gets into my current operating theory that individual human personalities can be explained by geometric configurations, e.g. fractals."

Personality theory is fascinating! Any links you recommend?

3) "Like Dr. John, I basically gave up fiction....Real life is stranger than fiction anyway"

I don't drink etoh so I need a different type of escapism. Sci fi can be good mind candy ;)

4)"Yeah, I like to be provocative sometimes.
But not gratuitously provocative."


I suppose gratuitousness is subjective...

5)"There were always this many people to get together and talk about "this stuff", just normally not more than 1 in every five villages or so. :)"

I love the internet deeply

6) "Most of what psychiatry has created is very bad metaphysics with no practical application... I like you believe that people can help other people feel better emotionally."

Maybe we can create a flow chart.
Is pt responsive to stimulus? Y
Is pt able to get physical needs met? Y
Does pt self-report distress emotions? N
Is pt interacting in social milieu within tolerable range? Y

I dunno. Just playing around, but it would be interesting to chart out..

Dr John said...

Dink,I wish we could systematize human interaction in such a way. All the really good parts I think cannot be put on a flow chart. JP, I think Jung was mostly an insane man who historically was reported to be pathologically obsessed with undermining Freud.Who knows. Dream analysis? Lets look for bumps on your head after. I stick by my assertion they left us with not much of practical value but like astrology, it has broad influence that I can not argue over. There is no accounting for taste.

Debra said...

You haven't answered my question in there Dink..
I have stopped reading "how to" books.
When I read history, I like to read historical fiction, because I like fictionalized real life characters.
Otherwise the stuff is too dry for me. And I don't retain it.
What am I reading ?
Still trying to plow through Rousseau, Emile.
I just finished a quickie book called "Confessions d'une Taupe au Pôle Emploi" which translates as "Confessions of a Mole in Pole Unemployment".
What I call Rabbis' humor on the eve of the pogrom...the state of one of our former public services that the government has just guillotined to make it look like the government's idea of what a private business should look like.
Talk about Kafka..
Along those little fictions around "what if" ?, Doctor John, I also have a post in here somewhere about "what if" fourteen year old Adolf had found a kind, caring soul to fish him out of the gutter in Vienna...
Pleasant dreams. I am going to bed now.
You are unfair to Freud, Doctor John.
Americans have always had a prejudice for Jung.
Not me. I never forget that Jung was the son of a Protestant pastor...
Freud, at least his nanny was Catholic...

Dr John said...

I have no prejudice Debra. I can't stand both Freud and Jung. Sweet dreams. John

Debra said...

I love Freud.
The idea of systematizing human behavior is truly revolting to me.
That's why I became a Lacanien psychoanalyst.
I COULD HAVE been a psychologist...
By the way Doctor John, have you ever really read Freud ? I discovered during my official training that most people read Cliff Notes of Freud..
Too bad, from what I hear the English translations (at least Jones...) are NOT up to parr.
Freud was a WRITER first. A literary type. Like me.

Dr John said...

I have read Freud. He bores me like most priests and gurus. I find the writings of those who deconstruct him much more interesting. I would recommend "Follies of the Wise" by Frederick Crews. I can see why people would gravitate to that kind of stuff though in the same way they flock to religion. We want explanations for things that do not have good explanations so people create spirits and constructs like the Ego or archetypes to help. I do not see this helping much and just prefer to respond "I don't know" which most people do not like to do. As William James would say to me it has no "cash value".

Dr John said...

I would also add that I have only read English translations of Freud.I know some Spanish. Is he good in Spanish? Maybe that will help....

Debra said...

No idea in Spanish.
I read him in French, with an Alsacian guy who spoke fluent German. We went through the text with a fine tooth comb. (The Studies on Hysteria, The Psychoanalytic Technique, and passages of Dream Interpretation.)
I love doing that kind of stuff.
Language is fascinating. My first love. With literature, of course.

Debra said...

By the way, I find American culture (or should I say, Western culture ?) incredibly depressed and disillusioned.
Spending mucho time and energy on debunking people is a waste of talent, like you said elsewhere, Doctor John. (No, that was Thai, talking about the traders and Wall Street. Maybe less of a waste of time, Wall Street, than wasting time and energy on debunking.)
I constantly warn the people on this blog about the seductive sirens of the... NEGATIVE.
The negative takes you down. Slowly or quickly, but it still takes you down.
I try to avoid it. I'm not always successful, but then our social context is really the pits for trying to avoid the seduction of the negative.

Dr John said...

I would agree with you completely Debra. I am a Skeptic in every sense of the word and when skepticism is your world view you have no trouble poking holes in things. As you correctly point out sometimes it is at the expense of being hopeless. On the other hand you do not find yourself floating from fad to fad in an attempt for self fulfillment as I see most people doing. There is something wonderful about saying I don't know and deciding you do not need it explained or it really does not have an explanation humans can grasp. Most people just cannot do that and by default such an approach often requires the deconstruction of alternate systems of belief that present themselves for consideration. It can be excessively negativistic but it does not always need to be so.

Debra said...

Which is better ?
Being a jellyfish or a hermit crab ?
After years of desperately hugging the walls, I am attempting a jellyfish act.
Which sometimes means taking a stab at being ectoplasm..
Can one be both jellyfish AND hermit crab ?
I keep trying to get the knack of that famous copula, as it is called..
You know one of the things that I found out not so long ago ?
That we are sniffers. Like dogs.
But we sniff with words.
Would it be better if we stuck our noses in each other's crotches ?
More.. AUTHENTIC ?
That damned frontal cortex.
Sometimes it is a pain in the ass...

Dr John said...

I am laughing at your last post Debra. Not sure what is better crab or jelly but at least for now I am glad we are not crotch sniffers. hahha hhahha

Debra said...

Haven't you noticed how we sniff with words ?
Try NOT sniffing with words when you meet somebody at work or at a party and see what happens...

Thai said...

JP

... Briefly commenting from my iPhone.

I think many of us would absolutely agree with you that fractal geometry makes excellent models of consciousness and I'm a little perplexed why Dr, John does not agree?

Be well

Debra said...

Thai, sweetie...
YOU ARE HOOKED !!!!

Dr John said...

I am not sure we know enough to have a model of "consciousness". Do folks even agree on what consciousness is enough to make models of it? Is any guessed descriptive approximation a model?

Thai said...

May be hooked bur really more a function of needing to check email on vacation; alas my work never really stops.

Re: do we know?

We know that whatever it is, consciousness must be energy and I think I have already shared that I suspect it may be a Boze-Einstein condensate.

If so, fractal gometry as a model works well as many others have recognized and I suspect JP "sees" as well.

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