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

Friday, June 11, 2010

The Thai Experience

Being that he had insatiable intellectual curiosity, he voraciously tore into the internet. In his numerous internet wonderings he came across a certain blog that fascinated him and he began voicing his ideas in the comment section. People with similar curiosity began responding to his comments; the comment section became boisterous. A community was formed.

One of the members gave Thai the nickname “The Fractal Rabbit”. It pleased him greatly. He had a reputation for an obsession with fractals, hence the fractal part of the nickname. He also had a habit of letting his curiosity lead him into “rabbit holes” a la Alice in Wonderland. He would come across a new idea and dive into the internet rabbit hole with frenzied intention to learn all he could about the new subject. Therefore the rabbit part of his nickname. The rabbit part was also apt because he was FAST! He would encounter his new subject, study it ruthlessly, post his findings on the blog, and demand you consider its relationship to the universe. By the time you had started your first query into Google to try to catch up with him, he had already repeated the process with a different new exciting idea. And likely correlated the two and demanded that you consider that as well. You couldn’t help but be infected by his enthusiasm for new ideas.

What was he searching for ultimately? I believe he wanted to make sense of the world and then fix it so people could be safe and happy. At least in the “big picture’ this seems to summarize what he was subconsciously driven by. In the more “normal daily life” perspective I think he just found it to be fun and fascinating ;)

Not being a religious guy, he couldn’t just adopt a preformed view of the world (in fact, when one blogger suggested it would be interesting to discuss the Old Testament he replied that “he’d rather stick his hand in a blender”. Tres amusant, no?). So this left him with the difficult job of crafting his own world view.

Physics. Chemistry. Evolutionary biology. Great, that set the stage of the universe and created the actors in it. The actors then did some really strange things for a couple hundred thousand years. Groups formed different systems of doing things. Politics. Economics.

Yet, there was something odd. In all these different areas he was seeing patterns. Whether driven by the laws of thermodynamics or the nature of humanity, these various systems were similar to each other in some way. He came across the concept of fractals and was entranced. This is what keeps happening!! Define the boundaries of a system, insert or remove energy, and the results are predictable. Every iteration that the system cycles will be similar to the previous and next iteration. Fractal self-similarity.

This fractal key became how he made sense of the world. So on to fixing the world to make people safe and happy. Humanity is a system like any other system. How to make it the best system it could be…..

If the members of a group were not cooperating there was a lot of misspent energy that could have been better used. If they cooperated all that energy could have been used forging ahead to a new layer of complexity (which is good- the library of a major university in 2010 is more complex than the three books some guy in a village 15 km away has in 1510). To cooperate requires rules. For people to follow rules they have to be perceived as fair. How do we determine what’s fair? How do our brains do that? Language seems critical to the process for humans. How do our brains know what language is? Down more rabbit holes!!!!

He didn’t get to finish the puzzle. I type that with terrible sadness. He was 43 years old. I’ll always wonder what he would have come up with if he had another 43 years to search and ponder. With every new scientific discovery I’ll think “Man, he would have gone ballistic on the blog over this!”. Bittersweet.

And it wouldn’t be right to not mention his life outside cyberspace. Both his mother and father had terrific adventures ( his mother was sent to Thailand by the Peace Corps so “Thai”) and were educated at UCLA which was also his alma mater. He met his wife when they were both still in school and he adored her for more than twenty years. She went with him all over while he finished medical school. He had some wild experiences working in Emergency Departments. He had four kids that he doted on tremendously. He read truckloads of fiction and non-fiction. He watched TED conferences online. He listened to NPR. His energy for learning was matched only by his energy for enjoying people.

How lucky I was to become his friend. You’ll be remembered fondly, Buddy.

10 comments:

Edwardo said...

Yeah, it's a damn shame he didn't get more time, for him, and everyone in his life.

JP said...

Thai's death is absolutely horrible news, that's for sure.

JP said...

"What was he searching for ultimately? I believe he wanted to make sense of the world and then fix it so people could be safe and happy. At least in the “big picture’ this seems to summarize what he was subconsciously driven by."

He was subconsciously searching the bright destiny of mankind, so to speak.

I really need a more poetic phrase than that.

In any event, it's the opposite of the "Hobbesian war of all against all."

Dink said...

@ JP,

Its horrendous, isn't it? Okie and John debated the Kubler-Ross model, but I think we can elaborate on it...

Lets see, there is Reeling From Shock, Gut-Twisting Nausea, Tear-Drenched Sadness, Raging Against Abject Unfairness, Complete Despair For Humanity, and Utter Nihilism. Somehow the system reboots and you put some energy into creating a salute or what-have-you. You reminisce about a funny joke he told or interesting idea he presented. You smile. Then you start over with Reeling from Shock....

@ John,

Would you like me to post some of the nice words that you wrote on the memorial site? And thanks for allowing the site to be distributed to any interested parties (you too, Deb). As I've started sifting through some old stuff I've been both proud and embarrassed at various times ;)

@ Edwardo,

"It's a damn shame he didn't get more time"

I couldn't agree more. You really are a gifted writer. And I couldn't have come up with a better website title than "Disaster Porn" if I tried for 160 years ;) I mistyped it as "Disaster Pron" somewhere. This then made me think "Disaster Prawn". Which also somehow managed to cheer me up.

Dr John said...

Dink, I am trying to gather my thoughts and will post on the memorial sight soon. Despite having "known" Thai for a brief period and only through this electronic medium his passing has struck me in a way that is difficult for me to describe. It is wonderful that you have created it. I am still filled with complete shock at all of this.

John

Dink said...

"I am trying to gather my thoughts and will post on the memorial sight soon.... his passing has struck me in a way that is difficult for me to describe.... I am still filled with complete shock at all of this.

I totally understand! Feel free to take your time to gather your words so they convey what you wish.

It is so unexpected and without reason that it feels like some ghastly and random bureaucratic error. Like I should be able to go down to the Ministry of Death and request a review of the situation so it can be corrected.

D: "Excuse me, Officer, but I believe a mistake has been made. You see, this guy Thai was taken and that can't possibly be right."

O: "Hmph! I hear that all the time."

D: "I'm sure you do. But this guy was a healthy 43 yr old who was using his time very well. Education, healing profession, family, friends, etc. So, you know, ethical and exuberant about life and such..."

O: "It does sound odd; let me look it up.(keyboard clicks). CRAP!"

D: "You find something?"

O: "Yeah. You're right, some reaper tech hosed it up. Well, we'll just have to rewind time, repair this, and restart. Thanks for bringing this to our attention."

D: "Phew! I was freaking out. Thanks for clearing this up!"

Its just so awful a loss. I've been going back through archive gathering stuff for Kathy. I am pleased that there is a lot a "talk" stored up (not even counting Sudden Debt comments). The kids will be able to get a good feel for what interested him, what authors he liked, who his heroes were, how he managed civlized debate with other adults, etc.

Debra said...

Wow, what a job, dink.
Awesome, what you're doing. Yes, I'm sure that the kids will get a lot out of what you're doing.
Nice post too.

Dink said...

Thank you very much, Deb! Even with all of our past biting, I've found your "presence" very comforting. As if we've reconnected at some drunken Irish wake, sitting on the floor of the hallway talking about our mutual early days.

I did hear from Kathy via e-mail. She wanted to let us all know that she has been busy with sad duties, but would like to reconnect with us when things settle down.

Dr John said...

In the midst of this great tragedy I have taken some time while struggling with my own health problems attempting to compose some words that convey what I feel. I knew Thai on these boards only a brief time and the words to describe what he offered in that period seem to be beyond my ability to write at this time. The only thing I have to offer is my humble thanks to you Thai. You will be greatly missed and to me personally, a constant reminder that we must live life to the fullest each day and do our best to embrace one another in the spirit of cooperation you so earnestly preached.I will never forget that.


Goodbye and thank you Thai. John

Dink said...

"You will be greatly missed and to me personally, a constant reminder that we must live life to the fullest each day and do our best to embrace one another in the spirit of cooperation you so earnestly preached.I will never forget that."

That's wonderful, John! I think it would please him greatly to know that both of us started a bit doomerish, but through him we came to believe that its possible to humanity to fix itself.

I hope that your doctors are close to finding a reason for the immune reaction that's been plaguing your stomach the past two years. So you can start eating wood-fired goat cheese pizza and stop reading Marcus Aurelius.

Ah, I want Thai back to tell World Cup Soccer jokes too. I mean, "blowing the vuvuzela"? That's GOLD! And the term "howler" (from the Brit goalie who let the US tie the game)? Its almost as good as "kluge"!. Good times.

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