Searching for the Moon

Shannon Clark's rambles and conversations on food, geeks, San Francisco and occasionally economics


Posted by shannonclark on June 12, 2002

Here is an article I recently wrote as part of an online discussion group that is part of Minciu Sodas an online virtual lab that I am part of. It is part of my ongoing discussion there about my philosophy, I may over time post more of that here, or at least links to my contributions to the discussions.

My responce below:

[continueing a discusion about determinism vs. non-determinisim and Stephen Wolfram’s new science, among other topic. The full thread can be found here: Minciu_Sodas_En on Yahoo Groups]

One – if you can SEE the whole pattern – and know where in the cycle to generate it what you see is, then perhaps you can both work backwards and forward… but again, only in the circumstances that the rules are comprehensive – and that the rules themselves do not generate randomness.

Neither of my above points are trivial, furthermore it is non-trivial to place a particular element within a pattern.

Say that a set of rules generates binary patterns, Wolfram cites an example that generates a pyramid like pattern – given a fragment of the pattern (1,1,1,1,0,0,1,0,1 etc) it is not possible to place it precisely.

It may not be possible to even know if you have a complete “line” of the pattern or not.

And this is from a simple case – image the rules underlying say biological interactions – such as my example of the creation of a seashell – how do you KNOW that you have the complete shell?

Especially when you are dealing with humans and human interactions and human will, I am strongly non-deterministic in that there is nothing that I can envision that could determine all actions of all people – at an individual level (which is where will and choice resides).

I can see systems that can be highly accurate in predicting the behavior of groups and trends within groups – but I would argue that not only will there ALWAYS be outliers and anomalies (people who acted in seemingly unpredictable manners) – but that this is essential to what it means to be human. Furthermore that it is not possible to “correct” the formulas to take into account these people’s actions as well – rather it points to some fundamentally flawed assumptions about a deterministic viewpoint.

One – that external to the individual it is possible to completely understand the individual – that by somehow taking measurements or noting externally viewable or measurable “facts” the sum of the person can be learned completely – I would argue that this is not possible – that no matter how closely the individual’s life is documented, there will always be a separation between what is externally viewed and measured, and what is internally experienced.

An example. I am color blind, nearsighted, and astigmatic. How I see the world (without my glasses) is extremely different than how “normal” people see it. Make all the notes you want to, take all the measurements and recordings of what I saw etc – you will NEVER measure precisely how I saw and experienced something. I can try to explain it, but it is literally the case that some things I see you will not – and much that you (you being someone with more “normal” vision) see I can not and do not (and did not).

Have you taken those colorblindness tests with numbers that “appear” in the midst of a pattern of seemingly random colors? In most cases – I can not see
those numbers.

What then is my experience of seeing?

Based on many factors – I am a young man, highly computer literate, single, have a decades long love of games and computers – I “should” be an avid computer and console gamer.

I am not.

In large part because I am also color blind – and so the experience of many of these games is deminished by text I can not easily read, by enemies I can not differentiate from foes, controls I can not easily read.

But digging further – you can look into my past deeper, try to delve more into what “makes me tick” – and you will find contradiction upon contradiction – in fact at many times I might seem to be wildly different people (the “math science nerd” on one hand, then a “history guy”, then a “writer”, etc) – and I am indeed all of these and none of these.

The solution, which the determinists tend to ignore and even deny, is that I have made, and make many choices about myself and mylife – and that in accepting that responsibility I choose different paths and different ways.

More later,


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