Monday, September 6, 2010

It's a Wonderful (Digital) Life (Style)

OK, so I'm going to come right out and say it. Stuff that everyone knows but is afraid to sound stupid saying. There's something evil about digital.

I don't kow if I mean that literally or figuratively, but then there's another binary distinction for you. I heard on the radio that those two words are prime examples of this new category for words, contranyms, (no way I was going to remember that word without looking it up!!) which are often used in a manner opposite to their, well, literally proper usage.

So, like, there was literally the world's largest fireworks display last night, except well how could I know, but they called it that! Anyhow, everyone understands or should understand that there's a distinction between a machine and a living thing. But when you pursue a formal distinciton, it's damned hard to pin one down. You get all bogged down in that art vs. nature stuff. Articficial vs. natural.  Created versus evolved.

The funny thing is - if you think it's funny now - that evil in practice has all shifted sides too. The evil ones now are the religionists, the ones who really really need to believe in digital, binary reality. As in men are men and women are women and the Word is literal and abortion is murder and the border is absolute between your country and mine and life and death and good touch and bad touch and all the rest.

Anti-creationists, without irony, try to "reverse engineer" the brain even while they insist that the brain was never engineered in the first place, because that would be just plain ridiculous even to contemplate. But the assumption is that the brain is, at it's root, a machine because what the hell did you think it was? Magic?

But machines, at root, if they work properly, don't do random except for flaws in them, and you generally don't want to build-in such flaws. Digital reality allows perfect machines to be built, but the trouble is that in order to work - building in some fault tolerance, which is nowise the same thing as flaws - they really have to work perfectly, as in, no random. Ever.

On or off is on or off and someone outside the machine has to make that decision (you can make fuzzy machines which use fuzzy logic more like my logic, but that's a digression without all that much interest here, trust me). Now, sure, lots of people understand that at the most basic reaches of "modern" (is it now "post-modern?" Are we there yet?) physics, there is no on or off up or down this or that until the probability function for propositional but not quite actual reality gets collapsed by an act of touch. Lot of people understand this.

But some of those very same people actually believe and have probably even concocted elaborate proofs to demonstrate that this makes no nevermind about the whole machine versus life thing.

Which is just nuts unless you want to include conjectural reality among the living. What will or might or would have happened were the probability function to collapse. Were to have collapsed. What has ever been and yet to come.

There is no conjecture with well-oiled machines. You set them in motion and they go where they were designed to go. (Unless they're as complex as the CERN supercollider and then you just hope and pray)

Some enterprising souls, much much smarter than I will ever be (I'm on the decline, don't worry) try to build in this quantum stuff to the state of the brain, to put it in touch as it were with the fundaments of the cosmos so that we can partake holographically and at a Star Trekkie kind of distance from those things with which we demonstrably interact to introduce a dose of random to the buggy machine inside our heads.

OK, cool, but that's a pretty roundabout way to resurrect the ol' ghost in the machine (which is a misuse of allusion, by the way). I don't want to digress too much, but I just love the way that old-world economists still think that business is about profit and loss in the here and now. The inside-the-tent corporate economists who so overpower the ones on our side have such fun seeding the MSM with snippets like "Amazon loses money on each Kindle book sale" while Amazon keeps building power in the form of market share which represents future earnings after the rest of the world has been wiped out which is a manner of incorporating conjectural reality with the stuff we think of as real, and in ways which might as well be equated with seeing actual ghosts, except that when it works, it's foolproof, like Walmart coming in and undermining by capital over-power any and all local business and you call that losing money? Loss leading?

I call it virtual reality, but I said I didn't want to digress. And I don't. But obviously if you own the future you control the cosmos and money hardly matters. Money is all here and now, and the funny thing is (or is it actually the proper use of the term "ironic"???) that this all puts the scientists qua scientists on the side of the religionists on the good v. evil continuum. Which I for one find rather funny.

Still, I'm not wanting to trash either of them. They're a lot smarter than I ever was (or ever shall be, but I've already exposed that about myself). Truly. I couldn't hold a candle to the least of them, and I'm including the well-educated religionsists. I'm not just talking scientists here. No, I'm not kidding. I don't want any of them, qua humans, to stop anything that they're doing.

I would, however, like to stop the machine. So, back to that.

It's not really necessary, you see, to find some fabulous and incredibly complex quantum machinery by which to link the stuff of our corporeal machine with the stuff with which we're out of (ahem, "literal") touch. Touch is mediated by particles and limited by the universal constant represented as the speed of light.

But prior to touch, as it were, there is emotional connection. Connection in the mind. Conceptual relations among actual things which have yet actually to touch. That's not terribly complicated and has the distinct advantage, written about, to be expressible in pretty natural language. No math. No complicated constructs only comprehensible by uber mathemeticians on the edge of utter insanity in their thinking. Percept/concept motion/emotion, touch/feeling, (perception/conception). Trivial,. really.

I know, touchy feely and the words all shift shape literal to figurative, conjectural to actual because your feeling is my reality or vice versa since we don't, technically speaking, any of us occupy the same time and space. Well, we couldn't actually unless you were right inside my skin and I don't want much of a crowd in here.

But it is true that on the quantum level there is no shortage of actual perceptual touch to collapse those (im)probability functions into actual actuality, but it's all each to other and not yet to me the one who wants to know. Still, they do conspire upward, as it were until, I actually can tell, in aggregate, what I"m about to like and what I'm going to run from. Even before I actually confront it, in the case of telegraphed signals like a boxer might make.

Oh worra worra, I have to go ride a float in the Labor Day parade alongside Mother Jones, and thus I'll have no time to finish this off. But you can do that for yourself if you try. You don't have to try very hard. It's not like Fermat's theorem or anything, where I write in the margins and then don't leave my proof behind. It's all in the words and they're all in black and white. Binary. But not evil  . . . .

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