Bigsley the Oaf

The Greatest Thing Ever

Posted in Uncategorized by bigsleytheoaf on January 14, 2011

I always have this feeling like I’m just on the verge of writing The Greatest Thing Ever, as if I’m about to utter some sentence so profound that it’ll cut the human world in twain. Why do I feel this? Is there such a thing? Is there some word-virus I could concoct which would infect your ears and spread down and out your mouths and into the ears of others and so on?

What would TGTE be? A clear, simple, short, description of the principles behind intelligence? Abundantly obvious, once read, but deviously difficult to concoct? The distillation of my endless hours of thought on the subject of the mind/spirit/ghost/whatever?

I’ll be stumbling along through life and think: “ah, I have it now!” and then I start writing and the wind goes out of my sails. I wish I possessed the ability to keep something firmly caught in my mind and also write about it. Ah, well.

I’ve been toying with the idea of writing a non-fiction book which tries to put forth the unification of my multifarious ideas about mind. It would talk about abstraction, generalization, “going meta” (I can never think of a good word for this). I’ve kind of tried before, and I always end up getting mired down in pesky details. I like the idea, though, of crafting a rough outline of my thoughts and then slowly refining it until it is a gleaming gem of theory. Perhaps this gem would be TGTE.

But I always feel like, if something’s going to be TGTE, shouldn’t I be able to just write it down quickly? I mean, we can generally write a single line to sum up the greatest intellectual motions in history:

“Information (light) has a maximum speed.”
“Matter/energy exists atomically/as quanta.”
“Context dominates.”
“Society is a structure.”
“The vast majority of human belief is self-negating/self-deconstructing.”

Could I write down my contribution in such a pithy form? I think that I search and search and search, and these blog posts are just the trail of corpses I leave in my wake.

3 Responses

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  1. Graham said, on January 23, 2011 at 1:12 am

    I strongly believe in your ability to do this. Just start!

  2. Blim Mickey said, on February 4, 2011 at 2:01 am

    Edited only as I go and not again.
    A warn/ming to you, and a post-facto promise to myself.

    So I could make about a million corpses replying to this post, ’cause I’ve fallen into this sunbeartrap a couple of prolonged periods; it can be fun, it can be exhausting, it can be like making love to nature in hope of oracular secrets during orgasmic secretions. I’ve got a really idiosyncratic processor in my head for “what sort of world does this statement imply?” and sometimes its sirens blare at the strangest shit, thinking I’ve stumbled upon a string that evaluates itself, or an NP-complete non-sequitor. this is probably just due to poor calibration or wonky filters on my part, given how prone I am to generating things that mostly reinforce my own solipsistic-at-times, wouldn’t-it-be-nice error-prone world.

    It’s probably more realistic that actual TGTE sentences are pinnacles of summation, statements in the center of the bow-tie of experienceable reality, operating in that honey-and-mud-filled threshold between the intangible and selectively tangible aspects.

    let’s try to say what I’m getting at in disjointed metaphor and gross abstraction of phenomena. no guarantees that I’ll get there.
    a mountain built by stacking stones. if you make a real pile of rocks, try to find a pebble perfect enough to sum up the whole stone stack. 
    what if you find the right pebble but have no prior pile? might be able to figure out fits immediately under, and under that, building top-down until you can’t lift it any more. otherwise, by the first method, start with the desired base of the stack, the dimensions of which depend how tall it is to be.   
    cobble together a pebble from heterogenous dust? template it to self-assemble in a quasicrystalline array? 3d print the whole mountain. but then it has to fit inside the machine. by scaling it down, you make yourself giant. model it in vector and be content with the difference in resolution when actually realized.  
    something closer to an actual mountain’s in-formation process? vast shearing forces deep underground. its future tip is perhaps just below the surface, in the bedrock supporting all our dirty things. that point might be a large swatch of rocky surface experience when the mountain first emerges, and only through its increasing elevation does it become high enough to see summ(it)ed up as one indicative point on the horizon beyond the facility of our self-reflecting cities. one nice aspect to this is the tip has “been there all along,” perhaps even seemingly pulled up in the air from above if you increase your playback speed. 

    I’m trying not to judge these different sorts of piling processes, but some seem more apt than others for ways to go about finding the keyphrase for a lump of assumptions sequenced supportingly. and I’m hardly accounting for the losses in assuming the process is limited to behaving in the ways of its abstraction made literal. ’cause actually we can spit rocks, and conceptually we might be shaped like a swarm of curious spiders in zero-g, more talented with pulleys than we can imagine & that’s why we can’t see it occur save the reflections and refractions through the webs trailing out our asses. 

    and so forth. on “going meta,” I read an article in technology review on a guy charles simonyi, one of the progenitors of wysiwyg software. the article is called “anything you can do I can do meta..” I’ll post a couple decent chunks from what I can find online offhand. First, a nicely turned paragraph on the layers of abstraction in computing environment, as a geologic semi tangent:
    “Ever since programmers stopped memorizing the opcodes that Simonyi used in his youth, they have been layering new abstractions upon older abstractions. Every generation of programmers uses its era’s programming languages and tools to build the programs of the next generation. Layers of abstraction have accumulated like geological strata. Messages are constantly racing up from the binary bedrock of your machine and back down again, making it possible for a mouse-click to accomplish its function. Your mouse-click triggers some code in the operating system, which sends a message to the word processing program, which instructs the operating system to save your file to a hard drive. But that apparently simple process is possible only because of many, many layers of abstraction.”

    And then, earlier in the article, it brings up his then recent or impending trip to the international space station, following it with:
    “This has always been Simonyi’s preferred vantage. In a career spanning four decades, every time he has confronted some intractable problem in software or life, he has tried to solve it by stepping outside or above it. He even has a name for his favorite gambit: he calls it “going meta.””

    Though it seems Hofstadter might have coined it in parallel. I’m not exactly a fan of the phrase, regardless of it’s origin, but when I first read that article some 3+ years ago, I thought it equated pretty closely to the Lifting Theorem. which you probably recall is a joke theorem from Harold’s Bedtime Theorems that can turn anything considered serious into a joke. I think it reeks of an actual mechanic. I often lift a little bit to remove the influence of the immediate, enveloping contextual. You can keep lifting until the situation is funny, or you can float around in the nebulous middle ground and pick apart sub & superset problems, lifting when necessary. It’s a meta-space, almost addictive to travel 
    in, but in retrospect it’s perhaps just one constructed verb operation of a possible many-ways to “go meta.” But perhaps that’s just me going meta on going meta. Strange loop territory, be-aware. 

    I’ve come to the conclusion on a number of occasions that I lift too much. It breaks my ability to be certain in asserting most things, which is a useful ability given that most of society’s regular churning is composed of people spouting relative-ly certain things at each other. It makes it difficult for me to even post anything at all. I’ve started some determinations on what lifting’s inverse function would entail. I thought ‘placing’ might be nice, for it is what you eventually do to something you’ve lifted, and it has connotations in physical places, mental space (“I can’t place it” says the mouth when the mind is a floating point seeking a reference). What word is opposite abstraction? The adding back of the details that were removed in the process of making the mental model. Could one keep going beyond the original abstracting point where one first hovered? I can only give a first attempt of a guess.. perhaps by deeming specific details relevant from various system radii inward & outward from immediate context until you’ve got a fatal crystal scope telling you what needs to be unquestioningly done within your historical moment, over some duration.  But, but, blutt, the parameters of this enhanced contextualization (placing? landing? speci(es)fying a generic situation to the point it seems like an evaluating environment?) are bound to just be another abstract model, because this thread is probably just describing the process of ‘thinking’ itself. And like how the universe is the minimum and only perpetual motion machine, we will often be tempted into trying to make variably clever and comical imitations of the very process supporting and shaping our process in the first ‘place. 

    • bigsleytheoaf said, on February 4, 2011 at 8:07 am

      When I first heard about Harold’s Lifting Theorem it made me very upset. I guess I’m pretty sentimental, at the core. I could imagine plenty of situations in which one couldn’t lift. I mean, have you ever tried doing this when something was actually important/critical? It’s non-trivial. The reason it made me upset is related to this, I think – I think I’ve always been averse to (even in myself) situations in which college students or whoever else sit around in little bubble worlds supported by grant money and parental contributions and point fingers at everyone else, imploring them to stop worrying about “concrete concerns.”

      Whenever a statement is made in a given context C we have to remember that in order to generalize that statement to other contexts C1, C2, … you must carry over some of the assumptions of C in the statement. For instance, yogurt production. If you put milkthing out in a warm place it might turn into yogurt. If it’s your first time then you might think that milk + warm = yogurt, but actually (as you may very well know) there is an underlying factor, namely the biological composition of the air (what protists, bacteria, etc. are present). So if you try to generalize milk + warm = yogurt to a sterile environment, say, you’ll just end up with warm milk.

      Coming back to earth, the point is that I think that the reason the HLT seemed true was that we were swimming in this sea of resources – what’s interesting is that this observation somehow implies a resource requirement for “going meta.” The idea of a poor Muscovite lifting, while perhaps heart-warming in a sort of Lifetime movie magic way, seems really weird/impossible somehow.

      But perhaps humor is actually just a primordial form of lifting. Eh, anyway. I should start on that book.

      Thanks for the reply, though – many interesting thoughts and inspirational strains flow out of your words into my BRAINS.

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