Miscellany

Herein I intend to list various concepts. I find that I have always carried around with me a collection of concepts, and am unsure whether my thought is growing, or just moving. The purpose of this website is to develop my opinions on everything. The Encyclopædia Britannica has a section purporting to be an ‘outline of knowledge,’ which I could criticize in several ways. Nonetheless, it is not a bad idea, as long as it is done properly. This page could be a log of different thoughts that I have, just so I don't let anything through the net. If I see a thought here which I have forgotten, it will be a sign that my thought is moving and not growing. All these thoughts in this section should be integrated into the rest of the site, and it should be viewed as a temporary holding ground. I view all thoughts, all feelings and all aesthetic reactions as candidates for being integrated into more and more general theories. I sometimes find my self spontaneously dictating prose to myself, and then telling myself, no, wait until you can get it written down, so this could be a good dumping place for such prose.

  • The answer is, it is moving. Hopefully I hang on to something important as I go.
  • I find I have a desire to stare at physical regions, like beaches or rooms of houses. It's like I wish to do everything which is possible in that region. In a field I want to run round in tight circles, and stare intently at blades of grass, just because it's possible. I don't because of the fear of what passers-by might think.
    • That's just a question of direction of consciousness. Some music may remind you of a certain state of mind, or give you a feeling of being in that state of mind, by lurching from one note to another the way direction of consciousness may move from one object to another.
  • The human mind operates in a certain way. It cannot comprehend itself. There are propositions, such as mathematical propositions, that are inaccessible to the human mind because they would require too much self-knowledge. If human beings could build an artificial mind that worked in a radically different way, but was still essentially a mind - developing different concepts, trying to explain things to itself, and, importantly, prone to error - then maybe the mind would look at the functioning of the human brain, and tell us something we didn't know, and assert that we would never be able to understand it. We would agree with the mind on some things, as that's how we would know that it worked, and had a mind-like nature, but we could never be sure if the mind was right or not. If the mind was right, then try as we might, whatever twists and turns we attempted to use to work out the answer, we would always find ourselves failing.
    • Maybe the fact of emergent intelligence from our brain cells is one of those things. If we could understand the operation of our brains, each individual atom would appear to move according to physics, and to the limits of what we could measure, obey the laws of probability, but we would see no reason why they combined in the way that they did; we'd have to assume that there was an imperceptible force, nudging atoms one way or another, so that on a large scale we'd have intelligence. The effects of this force may take until the top level of abstraction to show themselves, not being described as having a qualitative effect on any simpler components. This would be one way of saying that the universe was fundamentally irrational - it is, but we are unable to see that it is. We could build machines or simulations to test whether atoms when placed into those combinations would yield emergent intelligence. There'd be two problems with this: if the experiment failed, we wouldn't know if it was because we had made a sufficiently accurate replication of the mechanism of naturally occurring intelligence; and secondly, if it did work, we wouldn't know if that same creative spirit was not manifesting itself through our workmanship, or if it was indeed emergent from the unbiased random interactions of the atoms.
  • The form of natural things is not inherently superior to the form of artificial things. However, I love nature, because it is strong and certain. Living things maintain themselves and reproduce, and life will continue as it has for epochs. Artificial road networks may be similar to the branches of a tree, but left on their own they will crumble away. Abandoned cigarette packages and chewing gum on the grass verge of a busy road are not bad in themselves, but betray a careless and destructive spirit, which depresses the observer and pulls him into the gloom of its ignorance.
    • Yeah, so it would be true to say that artifacts give the contemplator a sense of their teleology. One may variously think, this was done in kindness, this was done to achieve great power, or 'what the fuck! how could anyone be so stupid as to create this!!' (like a wall across your driveway. But if a tree had fallen over and blocked your driveway, you wouldn't be as annoyed because that is more of a natural event and there's no-one to blame for it.) Likewise I attribute personality to the sounds that cars make and the way they are driven, even if I can't see the person inside.
  • I have heard that in remembering an event, you also risk changing your memory of the event. This will be true of concepts that you have had before. As ever, we have the difficulty of distinguishing between description and reality, but I imagine that it is part of the mechanism of the mind that a concept will be brought to mind, and this concept will be a black box, with feelings and ideas attached. Again it seems to be part of the mechanism of the mind that several concepts are unified into one. This is not an abstract phenomenon but something that is directly experienced, to have several concepts in one's mind and to see them balancing, attracting and repulsing each other and in some cases joining together, so that a state of mind and memory will be attained that has a better, more accurate and more powerful understanding.
  • When a new understanding is reached, a sense of uncertainty can be completely gotten rid of by understanding why the mistakes were made before. Sometimes I've seen explanations of why you shouldn't commit a certain error, but been completely confused as to why anyone would say those sentences and think they had any meaning, but in these cases it doesn't matter, because those errors weren't mine and I can skip over them as if they had never existed.
  • This page is becoming a blog. I have a quite a bit of re-organization to do on this whole site, but haven't gotten round to it yet.
  • A chessboard is an eight-by-eight grid. It seems a shame to restrict ourselves to defining a specific game of chess on it. We've lost some of the potential of the grid. We can't sit back and admire the beauty of its ‘griddyness.’ After defining the pieces and rules of chess, learning to play chess well is more restriction. Bad moves are not considered. You have to play with a narrower continuum of possible moves. No one ever starts their game with ‘h1’. It is the same with cricket, or video games. It is the same with mathematics. As soon as you've learnt the rules of the game, and were looking forward to playing it, the game itself is transcended. We don't spend our times doing sums with integers, or manipulating the group axioms to find more and more obscure identities. That's why mathematics is not like a video game, because you can learn the rules and controls of a video game, and get good at it, but with mathematics you never get to the end of learning. We may overrun ourselves and develop theory faster than we can develop an interest in it. I still quite enjoy looking at a plus sign and savouring its ‘plussyness,’ but I never cared that much about ‘meromorphic differentials,’ or ‘cohomology groups.’ This applies to life too. Solving some problems leads to new problems, which build on what has gone before. At one time states may not have had a choice but to go to war with each other. Then on top of a stable military order can be built better things, like trade and the exchange of ideas. I say that we should always consider looking at the broader context - e.g., chess on a nine-by-nine grid.
  • Who could have known that such pain existed? Who could have known that you could be that excited, or that you could enjoy yourself so much? Where were these emotions all this time? What dark crevices of the attic of the universe were they hiding in?
  • Can the statement ‘Everything can be doubted’ be doubted? I feel confident of being able to answer that question, but I haven't tried thinking about it recently, and if I ever have it was many years ago. I'll get onto it.
  • Are there feelings that we don't feel at some times, and we are ignorant of them? There are grand and portentous emotions, but they only occur and grand and portentous times (such as births, weddings and deaths), or in dreams. I was walking home one day, and suddenly some loud and derivative pop-music started blaring from a white van parked on the pavement. I must say I was slightly moved by the music, however awful it was. (I may also have been irritated at the fact that I was moved.) It was as if I had seen a broader context to my actions, that I was part of a grand story, whereas I previously remained within the boundaries of my trivial, day-to-day life. (I should note that this was a false emotion. Most people who listen to cheesy pop music don't do anything important or significant.)
  • It is sometimes suggested that emotions are only felt when what happens departs from what was expected. This might be true. But I would also point to the fact that music can be enjoyed even if you know the tune. Awful, discordant and arrhythmic music can be reviled even if every so-called ‘chord’ has been memorized.
  • Should we work to reach the portentous emotions? Would they exist even if we knew they were coming?
  • Meet an old friend after a year of being apart, and you will be full of nostalgia and be joyful and glad to see him. Meet him after five years, and you will be unmoved and apathetic. After 10 years, you will wonder, what is ten years - I used to think of that as a long and portentous time, but now I have direct experience of ten years, I have a direct grip on it. I expect that old people people think to themselves ‘LOL, I'm eighty years old. I was contemporaneous with great figures of history and remember a time before aeroplanes and the Internet. The only satisfaction I get out of this is the occasional conversation I have with young people when I casually drop my great age and experience into the conversation, to shock and surprise my youthful interlocutor with my indifferent authority on matters historical. Though I have lived through long ages, the sentiment I have regarding my lifespan does not point to great meaning and purpose. In fact, I feel much the same as I did forty years ago - trivial and slightly irritated. My mind is clear and painless, my body just does not move very well when I tell it to. I have started to apply to myself in my mind the concepts which I applied to old people in my youth. Jokes.’
    • I think you could revive the affection though, in the nature of an archaeological dig. This affection is just one of a collection of mental constructs that were current at a certain stage in your life. It would depend on how much of it you could find present relevance in. It's all mutually reinforcing, and you could loosen it up and get rid of mental blocks. Whether you would want to do that or not depends on the specific situation.
  • Isn't it amazing that we have a word ‘unknown’? That we can categorize the uncategorizable? Call it turning the outside in. Think of it as applying the function $z \mapsto \frac{1}{z}$ on the complex plane. This sends {|z| > 1} to {|z| < 1}. An infinite, unbounded shape is sent to a bounded one, and viewed as equivalent to it. You can visualize a bounded area and imagine that you have some kind of grip on it. However all this is doing is changing the names of things. If we imagine a function from the plane to a set of colours, and you could visualize the pattern of colours in any bounded subset of the plane, composing the inversion with the colouring function would not enable you to visualize all the information in the colouring. The unit disc in the image would have an infinitely intricate pattern, and the mystery is still there.
  • I have ideas for how to find ‘the answers.’ I imagine a Christian saying: ‘How do you know that your method will work? Your methodology is very narrow, is purely logical, and rejects possibilities such as divine inspiration.’ Well, perhaps I'd miss out on enlightenment by not sitting on a chair in a room and staring at the wall while slowly counting to a million, each day for forty years. I hardly see that that would do any good though, and I can only go by what I think is right. I figured I had given myself enough wiggle room by having this big thing called the 'unknown' at the edge of my knowledge.
  • Need to consider reasoning, which is also called verbal reasoning, which is the same thing as logic; what it is, what mistakes people make and why they make them (reasoning on overly general grounds)
  • A lot of reactions you have to things is to do with if it makes you think of how you've interacted with other people before, e.g. if you think others have a grudge against you or if it makes you think about other people acting in a moronic manner or if they are very rude and grumpy people. Study of interpersonal interactions, how people act and what their personalities are like could be a productive way of working out how to explain what one's personal experience is like — if you've been insulted and you are angry about it, that is part of your consciousness.
  • What determines if someone is bored or not?
  • What makes me angry? Each cause can be viewed as being proscribed by an implicit ethical stance.
    • Destruction of important historical artifacts
    • Oppression of the weak. Obstreperosity. Tyranny. Wilful stupidity. Passive aggression.
  • Ecstatic relativity — more on this later
    • In short, life isn't like a movie, people have different perceptions and emotions about the same events. You might have strong emotions about very minor things you experienced when you were young, for example.
    • By ecstasy, I mean what Schopenhauer called "contemplation of the lower levels of the objectification of the will".
  • Some questions:
    • To what extent is knowledge (and by extension curiosity) practical in nature, even if only potentially?
      • Well, to that, all causality is practical in nature. Why did a player score a goal in a football match? Because someone kicked the ball into the net. Another reason is that noone in the audience ran onto the pitch and picked up the ball and ran off. We say that the goal had a certain cause because that's the one we can do something about. This shows that history as a web of cause and effect is implicitly practical.
    • How do people make decisions, and why do they act the way they do? Is it like a flowchart, with different paths leading to different states? If we have such a thing as a ‘happiness function,’ how can we compare all the different values it could take? Once we have knowledge of how we act, how would we like to change the way that we act?
      • People act according to motives, such as self-promotion. For example, I was in a driving lesson, and I can't remember what happened exactly but I may have done something dangerous. I noticed immediately that I affected a look of a clueless learner driver so that others would be sympathetic to me. This is not a premeditated act but on the level of direct action. Sometimes I can see right through people and the things they say and I don't like what I see.
      • There is a basic system of interpersonal interaction, governing how people feel about each other. Imagine you know that someone wants to kill you, but then you have a conversation with them and they are very suave, so that you start to feel that you like the person and trust them. Hopefully, you still have abstract knowledge of the situation, of who this person is, what they want, and why you feel the way you do about it. Walking through a shopping centre, and listening to the music in the background, you may have a sense of exaggerated self-worth and sense of adventure. Even though you feel this way, you can avoid wasting your money if you have this abstract knowledge of your own psychology.
    • What is knowledge, and what is thinking? When I think of a cat, I hear the word ‘cat’ in my head, and a lot of time reasoning may just be words moving through my head with me unconscious of what they represent, although I have no unease at this and still have a sense of feeling that I know what I am doing.
    • Check out this link: More people have written about this than I have. This is an example of holding a formal structure in your mind for later reasoning, syllogistic or otherwise, without thinking about what it actually means. I took a long time to agree that something was wrong with this sentence, because I wasn't thinking about what it meant. (I don't claim to explain this sentence, but link to it because I thought it was cool.)
  • Mental action is analogous to physical action, and has some of the same base motives (food, sex, etc.).
    • So for someone to have the label 'rational,' they would have to only use their analytical abilities to seek the truth - rather than, say, seeking to justify their actions or dreaming up a fantasy better than the real world. I don't think that there are any truly rational people. For rational discussion we need carefully chosen norms of behaviour.
    • Examples of mental action
      • Dredging something from your short-term memory (e.g. if you aren't skilled at mental arithmetic, you may think, now, what was the sum again? and what was that remainder?. Also if you go on a train of thought you may think to yourself, can I remember what the point of this was? What was I thinking about before this?
      • Pulling something up from your long-term memory.
    • There is also a mental element that spontaneously creates mental images, etc., without conscious thought or effort going into their creation. This is called the imagination, and it is hard to know how it works. A lot of thinking about something may be deliberately putting your mind down certain avenues and hoping your imagination creates a structure describing something you want to know more about. (See 'ontologies' and 'knowledge representation' in computer science. An example of such could be: A happened before B. In a single flash of imagination, several of these elements could be present.)
  • All emotional states relate in some sense to potential action, and this is a ground rule in helping to determine what emotional states that there in fact are.
  • This website is becoming a complete mess.
    • And I find a lot of what I've written very annoying
    • But it's also annoying trying to edit a page when it is always contacting the server to get a lock, or to make a back-up. It makes me tense, makes me worry that it won't contact the server properly, that I'll be disconnected, and that I'll lose my edits, and takes away my concentration.
    • Who cares if your enemies are happy? It's like being jealous of a drug addiction. The difference is, your enemy may be a fat leech who doesn't feel the "come-down" in his lifetime. He's your enemy because of his wicked behaviour, because he doesn't serve a long term, transcendental good. Well fuck them, let them and their ilk destroy themselves. Find your own path of righteousness, if you can. I think if you could, you'd be happy.
      • I'll just make a note here for the time being, because it is a very important point, although I have already touched on it elsewhere. It is the fact that there is a subjective correlate to activities as viewed from an ethical perspective. We can say that murder is wrong, and relate this with our feelings about the thought of someone killing someone else, or with an ethical framework where we try to reduce everything to a few imperatives or one, but there is also how someone feels when he is contemplating murdering someone, when he is doing it, and how he feels afterwards. It's questionable how much effect ethical theories have had on human behaviour.
  • Imagine someone driving a car across an icy wilderness. If he runs out of fuel, he'll freeze to death quickly. When someone is hungry, he feels a direct urge to look for food. Likewise, it would be better in this situation for the person to have a direct urge to drive to the nearest filling station when he's low on food. He may be warm and not hungry, but his life is still in danger. The car and the individual together form a system. It may be worth asking how similar this system is to the system of just the individual. Could it be made closer to this system by adding, for example, more feedback loops, integrating closer human and technology? Where do emotions occur? Why isn't there pain and worry where this system is about to be destroyed? What makes it different? Humanity has a destiny in the stars. There is a hierarchy of needs. I have imagined that first we will satisfy the human's needs for physical comfort, and long- and short- term goals, with the help of "artificially intelligent" machines who will always provide challenges of an appropriate difficulty. But what is the direction of all life and intelligence? To survive. I imagine that humanity, augmented with technology, will spread across the universe, increasing the chances of survival of intelligent life into the infinite future. These joint systems, of man and machine, would be analogous to the intelligent actors, human beings, that exist today, with urges, desires, conceptualizations, perceptions and plans; they would survive in an analogous way. So why shouldn't the same emotions exist? As opposed to humans existing in a machine-created bubble of perfect happiness, there is an argument that pain will always be with us; it will be a property of the aggregate system. It's hard to imagine how this would happen though, or how it would be different from the situation I've described of someone driving a car.
    • When I lose my keys just before I need to go out, it isn't physically painful, but it is very uncomfortable, just as if I needed the toilet desperately.
  • Should look into personality types: nice, nasty, etc.
  • News media always presents an issue as a dichotomy, because their true function is entertainment and dichotomies are the most aesthetic and easy to understand.
  • Every profound idea you have about the operations of society someone has already had before you. In fact it is immanent within society, it is held as implicit by anyone with any experience of life. What you can perhaps can achieve is in the field of exposition - bring together a vast quantity of expository verbiage and distill it to its essence.
  • There are certain times when it is easy for me to write. I do not know what I will write in advance, but there is enough swimming around inside my head that I know that when I sit down in front of a computer, the words will flow out. There is quite a bit of writing on this site with various ideas that I have had. Many years ago it occurred to me that it might be possible to divide my thoughts into two categories, one where I am spontaneously generating statements, which are descriptions and ideas; and one where I am asking myself questions. Now I have thought some more, and I think now that all thoughts are attempted descriptions of the world. Even questions are: they are a belief that directing one's thoughts in a particular direction will lead to understanding it better; questions one asks oneself are a form of thinking about thinking. What are the important thoughts to have? These are simple thoughts with a general scope of possible application, that people will come back to over and over again. We are guided by our feelings in finding these. We see which ideas we find most interesting or have a strong urge to understand. It is not possible at this stage to give an exact definition of what it means for an idea to be simple or to give them an exact ranking of how simple they are. It is just as with mathematical propositions: there are many different formal systems wherein they can be expressed, with different sizes of representation in each, but the human intellect obviously finds some ideas simple and some ideas complicated. I often see debates about philosophy and politics and see people making very simple mistakes. Therefore, one category of important ideas is that of those which will help people to reason more effectively about these subjects. We could also cover questions that will come up frequently, the corresponding feeling to which being a sense of unease caused by a contradiction between mental representations. Now, in the development of this website I have added text at various times, and sometimes I am reluctant to edit it in case I lose something important. My idea is to rewrite the website, trying to keep which ideas I think are the most important, and moving abandoned text that I am unwilling to delete to a graveyard page.
    • This is an interesting thought: what are the important thoughts (or thought structures, or memories, or perceptions) to have? I think it is something to do with the explanatory power of it: the ratio between size and the amount of observation that it predicts.
  • What keeps the roads open? If all the road workers went on strike, the government would pull in other road workers. If the government didn't, they would be kicked out by mass pressure. Looking at non-proximate causality it seems to be a abstract, occult force of mass pressure that is responsible for a huge amount, rather than any specific person or organization.
  • It's remarkable how one can continue to have clear thoughts on a subject, even after they have spent years thinking about it. Previous thoughts leave traces, which remain in the subconscious and serve to direct one's thoughts with intuition and hunches. They may come to a subject anew, and the old perceptions are dragged in and strengthen a new image.
  • It's remarkable how people can understand the world by being exposed to a variety of specific experiences. Some of the integration into the whole perception may take place during sleeping and dreaming.
  • Some of the experience of old people may not be knowledge, but perception. Someone who has undergone painful experiences will be averse to them, even if someone else is capable of understanding intellectually that the experiences are painful and to be avoided.

Irrelevant thoughts which may be of use in writing fiction (not in the mission of this website at all)

  • The C programming language, ball-point pens, and, most of all, 7-segment displays will exist for thousands of years.
  • Freedom and happiness of blue skies
  • Love that lies behind loving
  • To sit down in a chair and exhale
  • To set sail over the ocean
  • Hate, or otherwise profundity of emotion, being displayed in the heavens, as if it somehow abides beyond time. Black clouds hang in the sky behind one walking down the road.
  • A giant's abandoned leather shoe. The kids go and play by it at weekends.
    • That's an example of an ecstasy-inducing image
  • Witches living in forests just outside the village. They inhabit a shadow world, of dealings and conversations unknown to the ordinary people, but in some ways their life is not all that extraordinary. Although they have powers and knowledge hidden to others, and can travel to secret lands, they are still bored and lonely at many times, even more so than others.
  • A 190 year old witch stirring her cauldron, reminiscing of those times when she was a respectable member of society.
  • A world in the eye of a flower. The wild that resists mapping. Hidden paths.
  • You make a journey across a plain of ice and jagged cliffs, to the tower where you will be spending the next few weeks. Inside, down some carpeted steps and amid the dimly lit pool tables and arcade machines, you spot a friend who got there earlier in the day. You relax together, and await everyone else's arrival.
Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 License