“There is geometry in the humming of the strings,
there is music in the spacing of the spheres.”
Grind and Crack the Dirac,
In the Heart of Darkness and Light
On June 8, 2013, ‘Congo’ — Season 1, Episode 7 of Parts Unknown was aired on CNN.
“It is the most relentlessly fucked-over nation in the world, yet it has long been my dream to see Congo. And for my sins, I got my wish.” Bourdain starts the episode off on a dramatic note as he tries to recreate his favorite book, Heart of Darkness.
On June 8, 2018, he committed suicide while on location in France for Parts Unknown. The suicide appeared to be an “impulsive act“.
Comparative Science and Relational Complexity
We would debate for hours.
Only the educated and self-educated are free.
When I was young, my father would introduce and discuss, around the dinner table, the ideas of philosophers, scientists, and historians: like Adam Smith, Charles Darwin, Herbert Spencer, John Stuart Mill, Georg Hegel, William James, Arthur Schopenhauer, Bertrand Russell, Oswald Spengler, Will Durant, Ayn Rand, Milton Erickson, and Jay Haley, to name a few.
I had a question early on “How and Why does the World Work?” He had a more difficult question: “What are the long-term patterns of an ‘Individual’s Human Action?” He was clinical school psychologist, who was identifying deviant habits of children, parents, and teachers. He was developing techniques aimed at enabling them to abandon such habits. His methods of research and reasoning enabled him to evolve his ideas into a coherent system. His model of Human Temperament has helped many people to better understand themselves and others.
He was good at qualitative reasoning, wholistic thought: the Gestalt (despite [and because] of having lots of training in statistics). I became good at quantitative reasoning: conventional science and mathematics. Between the two of us, as we debated, I realized that there was a middle way, much more powerful than ad hoc wholistic reasoning or ad hoc atomistic reasoning, when they are used separately. The new middle way, The Slow Idea, is using Comparative Science and Relational Complexity in conjunction as fields of scientific endeavor using systematic qualitative and quantitative reasoning together. To some extent: (hard and soft) science, mathematics, and computer science are towers of Babel, not able to understand each other’s argot and considered irrelevant to other.
The idea of: Slow Ideas <=> Fast Ideas
Atul Gawande introduced the idea of slow and fast ideas with an example from the 19th century. The fast idea was anesthesia and the slow idea was antiseptics. To quote him:
“Why do some innovations [ideas] spread so swiftly and others so slowly? Consider the very different trajectories of surgical anesthesia and antiseptics, both of which were discovered in the nineteenth century.”
“The first public demonstration of anesthesia was in 1846…”
“The idea [anesthesia] spread like a contagion, travelling through letters, meetings, and periodicals. By mid-December, surgeons were administering ether to patients in Paris and London. By February, anesthesia had been used in almost all the capitals of Europe, and by June in most regions of the world.”
Antiseptics, on the other hand, was a slow idea. It took decades for antiseptics to accepted by doctors, who had no incentives to change their practices that didn’t help them immediately. Blood stained clothes was a sign of a experienced surgeon; and washing hands, sterilizing instruments, and keeping hospitals clean seemed unnecessary. Germ theory was dismissed by doctors because the “germs” were not readily observed. Miasma Theory still was used as an excuse to not change.
Hey buddy, can you spare a Para-digm?
“Science advances one funeral at a time.” — Max Planck
“The trouble with specialists is that they tend to think in grooves” — Elaine Morgan
Establishment science needs to protect themselves from quacks, but it also resists slow ideas that are not easily incorporated into the current fashionable (often fast) ideas. This is natural, this is the way evolution works. However, Kuhnian revolutions (as in Margulian-Darwinian evolution) are necessary in science to progress and leap across the Quantum Gap.
There is no Shangri-La, except in Fiction
But in life, there is hope,
until there doesn’t appear to be.
What do Ludwig Boltzmann, Alan Turing, Yutaka Taniyama, and David Foster Wallace have in common? All were successful from a outside point of view. Each were very smart, and many would say they were geniuses. But, they all committed suicide.
I would posit, in the end of their lives, they had lost view of their horizons. Lost Horizons. Horizons of the mind.
A gypsy of a strange and distant time
Travelling in panic all direction blind
Aching for the warmth of a burning sun
Freezing in the emptiness of where he’d come from
Successful people who commit suicide are a mystery why in they don’t see life is worth living.
Ludwig Eduard Boltzmann, Architect Rational, (February 20, 1844 – September 5, 1906) was an Austrian physicist and philosopher whose greatest achievement was in the development of statistical mechanics, which explains and predicts how the properties of atoms (such as mass, charge, and structure) determine the physical properties of matter(such as viscosity, thermal conductivity, and diffusion).
Alan Mathison Turing, Architect Rational, OBE FRS (June 23, 1912 – June 7, 1954) was an English computer scientist, mathematician, logician, cryptanalyst, philosopher and theoretical biologist. He was highly influential in the development of theoretical computer science, providing a formalisation of the concepts of algorithm and computation with the Turing machine, which can be considered a model of a general purpose computer. Turing is widely considered to be the father of theoretical computer science and artificial intelligence.
Yutaka Taniyama, Architect Rational, (Japanese: 谷山 豊 Taniyama Yutaka; 12 November 1927, Kisai near Tokyo – 17 November 1958, Tokyo) was a Japanese mathematician known for the Taniyama–Shimura conjecture.
David Foster Wallace, Architect Rational, (February 21, 1962 – September 12, 2008) was an American writer and university instructor of English and creative writing. His novel Infinite Jest (1996) was listed by Time magazine as one of the hundred best English-language novels published between 1923 and 2005. His last novel, The Pale King (2011), was a final selection for the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2012.
“Until yesterday I had no definite intention of killing myself. But more than a few must have noticed that lately I have been tired both physically and mentally. As to the cause of my suicide, I don’t quite understand it myself, but it is not the result of a particular incident, nor of a specific matter. Merely may I say, I am in the frame of mind that I lost confidence in my future. There may be someone to whom my suicide will be troubling or a blow to a certain degree. I sincerely hope that this incident will cast no dark shadow over the future of that person. At any rate, I cannot deny that this is a kind of betrayal, but please excuse it as my last act in my own way, as I have been doing my own way all my life.” — Yutaka Taniyama
To attain insight, to see what no others see, to be on top of that mountain:
We can only see a short distance ahead, but we can see plenty there that needs to be done. — Alan Turing
She was born a Natural.
Born when it wasn’t natural.
“Mathematics are the natural bent of my mind”
— Mary Somerville
It was in her nature to be a scientist — damn the culture.
In fact, she was to become the first named scientist. William Whewell, in his 1834 review of Somerville’s Connexion, coined the word “scientist” to describe Somerville.
Her mother taught her to read the Bible and Calvinist catechisms, and when not occupied with household chores Mary roamed among the birds and flowers in the garden. In her autobiography Somerville recollects that after returning from sea her father said to her mother “This kind of life will never do, Mary must at least know how to write and keep accounts”. Thus the 10-year-old was sent for a year of tuition at Musselburgh, an expensive boarding school. Somerville learned the first principles of writing, rudimentary French and English grammar. Upon returning home, she:
“…was no longer amused in the gardens, but wandered about the country. When the tide was out I spent hours on the sands, looking at the star-fish and sea-urchins, or watching the children digging for sand-eels, cockles, and the spouting razor-fish. I made collections of shells, such as were cast ashore, some so small that they appeared like white specks, some so small that they appeared like white specks in patches of black sand. There was a small pier on the sands for shipping limestone brought from the coal mines inland. I was astonished to see the surface of these blocks of stone covered with beautiful impressions of what seemed to be leaves; how they got there I could not imagine, but I picked up the broken bits, and even large pieces, and brought them to my repository.”
Mary Somerville, Architect Rational, (1780-1872) was an innovative and talented science communicator, with an extraordinary (and mostly self taught) grasp of mathematics in an era when most women had no access to formal education. As a direct result of her work, calculus was introduced to the English speaking scientific world, the idea of physics (as a single subject containing topics such as optics, thermodynamics and astronomy) was invented, and the term “scientist” was coined to describe people who studied the various sciences.
“Without education we live within the narrow, dark and grimy walls of ignorance. Education, on the other hand, means emancipation. It means light and liberty. It means the uplifting of the soul of a human into the glorious light of truth, the light by which humans can only be made free. To deny education to any people is one of the greatest crimes against human nature. It is easy to deny them the means of freedom and the rightful pursuit of happiness and to defeat the very end of their being.” — Frederick Douglass, –Blessings of Liberty and Education (1894).
Douglass, as an adolescent slave roaming the streets of Baltimore, Maryland would hunt for scattered newspapers, torn Bible pages, scanning broadsides, and generally searching for anything with reading matter.
He had a hunger for knowledge and learning. For Frederick Douglass is a classical example of a Rational, more specifically what we call a Strategic Coordinating Rational: A Fieldmarshal. Rationals are “the Knowledge-Seeking” Temperament.
Those Rationals who are quick to judge and to make schedules are eager to take the part of Coordinator. Coordinators determine who is to do what at a given time and place, and this role requires a directive character. Coordinators steadily increase in directiveness as they mature, such that they easily and comfortably command others and expect to be obeyed. Indeed, Coordinators are surprised by any resistance to their directives, because it is so clear to them that others do not know what to do, presumably because their goal is unclear or absent, and because they apparently have no strategy in mind by which to proceed. So, in the view of the Coordinator, most people are operating blindly and going around in circles, plainly in need of direction.
Fieldmarshals arrange a well-ordered hierarchy that makes possible the chain of command and the mobilizing of forces. In their campaigns these expressive, energetic Coordinators commandeer whatever human capabilities and material resources are available and use them to execute a complex strategy … Any kind of undertaking, whether commercial, educational, political, or military — whatever — can be arranged hierarchically, indeed must be if success is to be achieved, and the more efficient the hierarchy, the greater the success. [Please Understand Me II]
Robert Rosen, Strategic Engineer: Architect, had a similar thirst for knowledge, but in a different way and of course, it was significantly different time, place, and circumstance, from Douglass.
“When I was five or six, I was taken to see the Disney film “Fantasia”. I remember being mesmerized by the panoply of life through the eons, which the Disney cartoonists set to Stravinsky’s “Rite of Spring”. This was worth spending a lifetime with. Though I did not even know the word at the time, had already determined to become a Biologist.
By that age, I had long since learned not to ask complicated questions of the adults around me, either family or teachers, because they didn’t know. Although I had no idea then where they came from, books seemed more authoritative, so I began reading anything I could find dealing with life and the living. Unconsciously, I was casting about for information, not only about this life which fascinated me, but on how one best went about understanding it; information on how to be the kind of Biologist I increasingly aspired to be.”
Engineers structure the form and function of the instruments to be employed in pursuing objectives, and is the domain of the probing Rationals, those who prefer to keep their options open and to follow an idea where it leads them. Concentrated as they are on determining the ways and means of operation, Engineers tend to have an informative rather than a directive character, which is to say that they are usually eager to provide information and reports regarding what they are currently engineering, but not at all eager to tell others what to do.
Architects make structural plans, models, blueprints. To these reserved Engineers, often working alone at their desks, drafting tables, and computers, the coherence of their designs is what counts, the elegance of their configurations, be they plans for a building, an experiment, a curriculum, or a weapon of war. [Please Understand Me II]
He wrote many books.
Oliver Wolf Sacks, Strategic Engineer: Inventor, (9 July 1933 – 30 August 2015) was a British neurologist, naturalist, historian of science, and author. Born in Great Britain, and mostly educated there, he spent his career in the United States. He believed that the brain is the “most incredible thing in the universe.” He became widely known for writing best-selling case histories about both his patients’ and his own disorders and unusual experiences, with some of his books adapted for plays by major playwrights, feature films, animated short films, opera, dance, fine art, and musical works in the classical genre.
Beginning in 1970, Sacks wrote of his experience with neurological patients. Some of his 12 books have been translated into over 25 languages.
Inventors develop their skill in devising prototypes more than their skill in designing models. To these outgoing Engineers, functionality is the objective, as in the case of Nikola Tesla, the gifted inventor of the split-phase electric motor, the giant coil, alternating current, the radio, the inert gas light bulb, and countless other ingenious devices. Inventors must make sure their prototypes don’t just make sense on paper, but work in the real world, or else face the consequences. [Please Understand Me II]
Inventor Rationals include: Atul Gawande, Larry Page, Elaine Morgan, Lynn Margulis, Elon Musk, Steve Jobs, Joseph James Sylvester, Frances Crick, Paul Allen, Werner Von Braun, Wolfgang Pauli, Abraham Lincoln, Mark Twain, Hedy Lamarr, Julius Sumner Miller, and Zhang Xin
She titled her book, “Nomad.”
For that was her ancestral origins — misleadingly put as “her genetics” — supposedly her “inheritance” and her culture.
But she was different. Something deep inside was different.
She had always read books, from the beginning as a child.
Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Strategic Coordinating Rational: Mastermind (born Ayaan Hirsi Magan, 13 November 1969) is a Somali-born Dutch-American activist, feminist, author, scholar and former politician. She received international attention as a critic of Islam and advocate for the rights and self-determination of Muslim women, actively opposing forced marriage, honor violence, child marriage and female genital mutilation. She has founded an organization for the defense of women’s rights, the AHA Foundation.
Masterminds arrange things in coherent and comprehensive sequential order, that is, they coordinate operations by making efficient schedules, with each item entailing the next, as a necessary precursor or consequence. Moreover, Masterminds make contingency plans for keeping their schedules on track. If plan A is in jeopardy or is aborted, switch to plan B. If that doesn’t work, then plan C. Often working behind the scenes, these quiet, reserved Coordinators are able to anticipate nearly everything that can go awry and generate alternatives that are likely to avoid the fate that might befall the first operation. And so it goes, the Mastermind ending with a flow chart of alternate ways and means to reach clearly defined objectives. [Please Understand Me II]
Mastermind Rationals include: Andy Grove, Ed Catmull, Ayn Rand, Sheryl Wudunn, Salman Khan, Susan B Anthony, Issac Newton, Sharon Presley, Bill Gates, Masha Gessen, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Rosalind Franklin, and Ulysses S. Grant
He didn’t get it.
I was surprised, kinda. But it made sense, why he didn’t think much of my suggestion. In fact, in his seminar at UCIrvine Information and Computer Science department (as tactic to get MIT to give him a better offer as a tenured faculty member), he dismissed my “idea”, quickly, even though he had asked (obviously rhetorically, in hindsight) for suggestions as a kind of Socratic presentation tactic in his talk.
My mentioning of Kirchoff’s law as a parallel in regards into information flow, he thought irrelevant, and was rather dismissive. But who was I, just a graduate student from a west coast Podunk U [which eventually was a key university in the development of the World Wide Web]. He was an assistant Professor from MIT, angling for tenure.
This time I understood. Although I didn’t have a name for it at the time. I just shut up.
Now, I call it eucaryotic hubris. We all have it, in the area of our expertise and our vast areas of ignorance.
This time, I had had enough encounters with these kind of guys to not be in awe of them. I didn’t assume I was at fault in not understanding, and not smart enough it “get what they are promoting”. They were just as ignorant as I was.
And, Stupid, as me. So when I was watching one of Geoffrey Hinton’s youtube talks…
I had interacted this “professor” before, in that seminar. And I had listened to some of his other conference talks, he is very very very smart and accomplished. So smart, these days, he is a distinguished emeritus faculty member, at the institution he got his BS and PhD at. He has never had to move out of Massachusetts, or MIT. No, this guy wasn’t Marvin Minsky, but his student. So when Hinton told his offhand story, about Professor Carl Hewitt, I had to laugh. Deja vu, all over again.
“Indeed, in their later years (after finding out that most others are faking an understanding of the laws of nature), INTPs [Architect Rationals] are likely to think of themselves as the master organizers who must pit themselves against nature and society in an unending effort to create organization out of the raw materials of nature.” – Please Understand Me II, Keirsey, David. Please Understand Me II (Kindle Locations 4099-4107). Prometheus Nemesis Book Company. Kindle Edition.
As scientists, we all are struggling with understanding:
Formatics: Precise Qualitative and Quantitative Comparison. Precise Analogy and Precise Metaphor: how does one do that, and what does one mean by these two phrases? This is an essay, in the form of an ebook, on the nature of reality, measure, modeling, reference, and reasoning in an effort to move towards the development of Comparative Science and Relational Complexity. In some sense, this ebook explores the involution and envolution of ideas, particularly focusing on mathematics and reality as two “opposing” and “fixed points” in that “very” abstract space. As Robert Rosen has implied there has been (and still is going on) a war in Science. Essentially you can view that war as a battle between the “formalists” and the “informalists” — but make no mistake the participants of this war are united against “nature” — both are interested in understanding the world and sometimes predicting what can and will happen, whether that be real or imagined. So… I will ask the questions, for example, of “what could one mean” precisely by the words: “in,” “out,” “large,” and “small.” The problem is both Science and Mathematics are imprecise — but this sentence contains fighting words and is impredicative, to say the least. In my father‘s terms, it is important to distinguish between order and organization, and understand the difference. Lastly, for now, the concepts and their relations, in the circle of ideas of “dimensions of time” and dimensions of energy along with the dimensions of space and dimensions of mass will be explicated, as I evolve (involute and envolute) this ebook. SO WHAT IS HE TALKING ABOUT? Let me try to explain.
Partitions: Exact Approximations
… there is something strange going on with Primes
— Paul Erdös
Never mind the mock theta, Ramanujan’s gap, Namagiri dreams.
I beg to introduce myself to you as a clerk in the Accounts Department of the Port Trust Office at Madras… I have no University education but I have undergone the ordinary school course. After leaving school I have been employing the spare time at my disposal to work at Mathematics. I have not trodden through the conventional regular course which is followed in a University course, but I am striking out a new path for myself. I have made a special investigation of divergent series in general and the results I get are termed by the local mathematicians as “startling”.
She brightens up when she sees me. There is recognition.
But she sits down, she is tired. It’s at the end of the day. It was convenient for me to come at this time and I had established a routine of going to dinner just to get her out and something to do. She is glad to see me, however, she fades in the chair.
“What are we doing?”
I say what we are doing. Going to dinner.
Seasons change with the scenery
Weaving time in a tapestry
I was surprised.
I was just eating lunch by myself in the cafeteria. I am attentive, not expressive, kind of guy. Besides this was the first time I was visiting MIT, as a part of Artificial Intelligence (AI) conference. No, my SATs were not good enough to get into CalTech (or MIT), and I am a west coast guy, anyway.
But, lo and behold. He sat down next to me. Obviously, to strike up a conversation.
Ok, now I wasn’t a kid anymore. I was industry-based AI researcher (Hughes Research Labs, HRL) working at the time on Autonomous Vehicle research. Minsky didn’t know me, but, I knew a fair amount about him.
Marvin Minsky, full professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and “one of fathers of Artificial Intelligence”, came to my table clearly because he was curious. Minsky, a Fieldmarshal Rational, had been very successful in promoting his graduate students to getting academic professorships across the lands. The list of his PhD students is more than impressive. He had government and university funding. MIT is a technological power house. Money, People, and Companies have been flocking to MIT well before I was born.
I tried to make our conversation as interesting as I could. Hey, Marvin was a legend in my field: Artificial Intelligence.
After about 5-10 minutes of conversation, me doing most of the talking about the autonomous vehicle project that I had been involved with, Marvin excuse himself, and wandered over to another table with a couple of people and joined in that conversation.
He didn’t get any useful out of me, in his mind, no doubt.
He moved on.
I did get something useful out of the encounter.
A slow idea. But not a fast idea. A hint on a part of an idea on how the world works.
It was a Kuhnian moment for me, I knew some things that Marvin couldn’t imagine.