from the world's big
We are information experiencing information: an experimental essay in "Intertwingularity"
GUEST POST BY JASON SILVA
"Intertwingularity" is a term coined by Ted Nelson to express the complexity of interrelations in human knowledge.
"EVERYTHING IS DEEPLY INTERTWINGLED. In an important sense there are no "subjects" at all; there is only all knowledge, since the cross-connections among the myriad topics of this world simply cannot be divided up neatly..."
And on that note, here are a bunch of “cross connections among a myriad of topics” that are very much not divided up neatly.
The Noosphere and IDEA SEX:
This "all knowledge" that Nelson refers to, akin to an invisible compendium of our collective intelligence, was coined by Pierre Teilharrd de Chardin as "the noosphere", the 'thinking' layer of reality, sitting above the biosphere.
If you want to experience this Noosphere directly, this trippy, numinous, truth-composite of the human species, all you have to do is visit a typical museum: art is the mirror we hold up to ourselves: yet more so than ordinary mirrors that only reflect our physical anatomy, museums reflect our psychic mind, our extended selves, they are a physical aggregate of the human species talking to itself at the highest levels, in real time. Our minds come alive in the dance between the vast galleries of art which talk to us in paint or shape , graphics or words, scratching, probing, aching to affect us and engage us. "Wake up" they scream: 6 billions humans are engaged in an informational exchange at every moment: massively fascinating parallel patterns and connections are emerging: complexificaton is no longer limited to DNA and sexual reproduction: the thought-sphere now has "idea-sex" via "techno-social wormholes" that fold time and space and accelerate complexity! Magic exists. It has been engineered!
Chris Anderson, curator of The TED Conference, recently spoke about the human mind, the power of imagination and the life-form Teilhard called the "noosphere". Though he didn't use the word Noosphere directly, he did refer to the world of ideas as a "lifeform":
"I am talking about the talent which some would call... imagination or invention or innovation. It is the remarkable ability first of all to model some aspect of the external world inside our heads... and secondly to play with that mental model until suddenly... bingo... you find a a way to rearrange it so that it's actually better... This is the amazing engine that underpins both technology, the T of TED, and Design, the D of TED. It is this skill that has made possible the human progress of the last 50,000 years...
It's really astonishing that we can do this. For almost the entire period of life on earth, the appearance of design has been driven differently. By random trial and error. Like a drunkard lumbering through a dark maze of passages, life has lurched its way forward. For every evolutionary step forward there have been countless dead ends. In a single lifetime, change was not detectable. It happened slowly, painfully over millions of years. Yet somehow in our species the light came on. We actually found a way to model the future before lumbering into it. That... changed... everything.
Viewed from a different perspective, you could say our brains became the ecosystems for a new kind of life, a life that replicated and transformed itself at a rate hitherto unknown in our corner of the universe. The thrilling life of the world of ideas. TED is devoted to nurturing this life form."
HUMANS ARE AN ANTI-ENTROPIC PHENOMENON:
"The physical is inherently entropic, giving off energy in ever more disorderly ways. The metaphysical is anti-entropic, methodically marshalling energy. Life is antientropic."
- R. Buckminster Fuller
Humans are anti-entropic. We are an exception to the second law of thermodynamics, which is slowly simplifying almost everything in the universe. Life, conversely, is getting more complex, more organized, and more sophisticated.
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, a Jesuit Priest and scientist, had an unrelenting desire to find common ground between his first rate scientific mind and his guttural urge to dance with the divine.
His central thesis is fundamentally that life is anti-entropic: that there is, in the evolutionary process, a direct progression from the simplest structures (for instance, atoms) to single-celled organisms, to multi-cellular organisms, to ever more complex organisms, until the stage of "evolutionary organization known as man" is reached. Accompanying this growing complexity of structure is an ever-increasing complexity of consciousness, crossing a critical threshold at the dawn of man. "Thinking, feeling, striving man is the cutting edge of biological synthesis," he said. The type of complex self-awareness and rich, symbolic inner world characterized by man, whether triggered by the synesthetic ecstasy of "mind-manifesting" mushrooms, or something else, is the point where we effectively switched from biological evolution, to self-directed, technological evolution.
An article in Wired said this: "Teilhard went on to argue that there have been three major phases in the evolutionary process. The first significant phase started when life was born from the development of the biosphere. The second began at the end of the Tertiary period, when humans emerged along with self-reflective thinking. And once thinking humans began communicating around the world, along came the third phase. This was Teilhard's "thinking layer" of the biosphere, called the noosphere (from the Greek noo, for mind). Though small and scattered at first, the noosphere has continued to grow over time, particularly during the age of electronics. Teilhard described the noosphere on Earth as a crystallization: "A glow rippled outward from the first spark of conscious reflection. The point of ignition grows larger. The fire spreads in ever-widening circles, he wrote, "till finally the whole planet is covered with incandescence."
As futurist Ray Kurzweil has said, "this makes us very important” because, “...It turns out that we are central, after all. Our ability to create models--virtual realities--in our brains, combined with our modest-looking thumbs, has been sufficient to usher in another form of evolution: technology. That development enabled the persistence of the accelerating pace that started with biological evolution. It will continue until the entire universe is at our fingertips.”
Kevin Kelly, founding editor of Wired Magazine, goes even further back, referring to technological evolution as following the momentum begun at the big bang- he has stated: "...there is a continuum, a connection back all the way to the Big Bang with these self-organizing systems that make the galaxies, stars, and life, and now is producing technology in the same way."
He also points out the complementary relationship between this accelerating 'complexification' and the amount of energy harnessed:
"The energies flowing through these things are, interestingly, becoming more and more dense. If you take the amount of energy that flows through one gram per second in a galaxy, it is increased when it goes through a star, and it is actually increased in life...We don't realize this. We think of the sun as being a hugely immense amount of energy. Yet the amount of energy running through a sunflower per gram per second of the livelihood, is actually greater than in the sun... Animals have even higher energy usage than the plant, and a jet engine has even higher than an animal. The most energy-dense thing that we know about in the entire universe is the computer chip in your computer. It is sending more energy per gram per second through that than anything we know. In fact, if it was to send it through any faster, it would melt or explode. It is so energy-dense that it is actually at the edge of explosion.”...
AND, this anti-entropic complexification is accelerating exponentially, bootstrapping on its own progress. The computer in your pocket today is a million times smaller, a million times cheaper and a thousand times more powerful than a 60 million dollar supercomputer was 40 years ago.
Kelly continues, his interpretations increasingly poetic and beautiful:
"Look what is coming: Technology is stitching together all the minds of the living, wrapping the planet in a vibrating cloak of electronic nerves, entire continents of machines conversing with one another, the whole aggregation watching itself through a million cameras posted daily. How can this not stir that organ in us that is sensitive to something larger than ourselves?"
Ultimately, we can extrapolate a move towards infinity in all directions: infinite creativity, infinite consciousness, infinite intelligence.
I really love this summation by Kelly:
"The story and game begin at the beginning. As the undifferentiated energy at the big bang is cooled by the expanding space of the universe, it coalesces into measurable entities, and, over time, the particles condense into atoms. Further expansion and cooling allows complex molecules to form, which self-assemble into self-reproducing entities. With each tick of the clock, increasing complexity is added to these embryonic organisms, increasing the speed at which they change. As evolution evolves, it keeps piling on different ways to adapt and learn until eventually the minds of animals are caught in self-awareness. This self-awareness thinks up more minds, and together a universe of minds transcends all previous limits. The destiny of this collective mind is to expand imagination in all directions until it is no longer solitary but reflects the infinite."
REACTIONS TO ACCELERATING COMPLEXITY:
Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh the urge to experience this type of freewheeling romantic insight wrapped in unfolding bliss and ecstatic awe is ever-present. I get SAD if I get distracted by anything less than this. I want god-head all the time, I want freedom from fear and freedom from death. Immortality-now: An Ecstatic continuity of self feeding on transcendent stimuli, an emergence of patterns and a ballooning, euphoric self-referenciality.
The fact that we can see this hypertechevolution taking shape should make us feel euphoric!
Albert Camus said life should be lived to the point of tears- Poet Roland Barthes says that 'fulfillment' is to overflow, to literally exceed totality, to spill over. We are told to suck the marrow out of life, to live each moment so intensely that we bleed awe.
It has been said that "art is the lie that reveals the truth"- I think I understand what this means: we are the directors and our life is a film, and like a director, we imbue life's precious moments with poetry by highlighting these moments and enhancing them with music and words and wine and most importantly our attention.
Using different elements, we combine our intention, auditory+ visual media, and diverse environments in order to radically engage our senses in a form of synesthetic ecstasy and emotional catharsis- Albert's Camus' tears of ecstasy, or Roland Barthe's overflowing fulfillment.
TUNING IN, TURNING ON, PLUGGING IN:
Today, with portable devices such as ipods we can create custom soundtracks resulting in what MoMa Curator Paola Antonelli calls "Existenz Maximum" - or perhaps what Ortega once described as "The beaming forth of a favorable atmosphere".
The more custom-engineered our reality becomes, the more we transcend all thoughts of helplessness and death. We are made closer to immortal as we are amplified by our technologically-extended minds.
We all long to experience the world through a lens untainted by bitterness or repetition, a lens not fogged by familiarity and exhaustion, not jaded by the mundane or ravaged by the passing of time.
We must step out of the familiar. An recent esquire magazine article used sailing as metaphor for our desire to transcend familiarity:
"Sailing lifts people out of their normal parameters of understanding; it makes them question their place in the world, because their feet and their brains need time to adjust to their new reality. For some people, the idea is too much to bear, and their sensory systems become overloaded and they throw up their lunch. For other people, the feeling becomes addictive. They learn to love the sensation of being just a little off-balance. It's as though they can find the truth about themselves only when they can't find their feet."
Marijuana, for others, is a way we might "find the truth" or sharpen our 'realitybubble'.
A former beat poet was once asked to describe the psychological merits of the marijuana experience. He answered in no ironic terms:
"You want to know what it is?
John: Chapter 9: verse 25: "Where as once I was blind, now I can see.."
In other words we need to practice side-stepping our reality tunnel. "The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new lands but seeing with new eyes."
Writer Alain de Botton, for one, gravitates towards the sublime and lifting power of technology and aeronautics to quench his thirst for lightness:
"With what ease our seemingly entrenched lives might be altered, were we to walk down a corridor and on to a craft that in a few hours would land us in a place of which we had no memories and where no one knew our names. How pleasant to hold in mind, through the crevasses of our moods, at three in the afternoon when lassitude and despair threaten, that there is always a plane taking off for somewhere, Baudelaire's Anywhere! Anywhere!
But this begs the question: Are we willing to let go of the comforts of familiarity? Perhaps we must accept that in order to find our way, first we must get lost. Indeed in our search for this sense of elation and elevation one might be led to conclude that:
"One does not discover new continents without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time."
JUMP-ROPING ACROSS REALITY TUNNELS:
Here’s the headspace I want to be in: a "reality tunnel" that sees rapture everywhere, the space of the divine wow, the vantage point of the uncompromising child-voyager who sees nothing but wonder and drinks nothing but awe.
The artist has a compulsive need to pay tribute to what he has experienced. The ecstatic surrender, the aesthetic arrest, the rapturous awe, is felt, and upon returning to ordinary consciousness, the residual feeling compels one to honor it in words.
This relentless urge becomes what fuels many of us: The Imaginary Foundation says that to "imbue our artistic work with even a twinkle of that reverence," (felt during the ecstatic moment), is enough to give our lives purpose.
I believe one must be willing to explore oneself while in the ecstatic state, to maintain enough executive function to describe vividly what is felt so deeply.
One must be willing to record oneself having idea sex in real time- we're talking about RECORDING the bursting forth of Aha.
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin wrote, "The living world is constituted by consciousness clothed in flesh and bone." He argued that the primary vehicle for increasing complexity consciousness among living organisms was the nervous system. It is our responsibility to put it to good use!
Jason Silva is a media personality and a Fellow at the Hybrid Reality Institute
Andy Samberg and Cristin Milioti get stuck in an infinite wedding time loop.
- Two wedding guests discover they're trapped in an infinite time loop, waking up in Palm Springs over and over and over.
- As the reality of their situation sets in, Nyles and Sarah decide to enjoy the repetitive awakenings.
- The film is perfectly timed for a world sheltering at home during a pandemic.
Richard Feynman once asked a silly question. Two MIT students just answered it.
Here's a fun experiment to try. Go to your pantry and see if you have a box of spaghetti. If you do, take out a noodle. Grab both ends of it and bend it until it breaks in half. How many pieces did it break into? If you got two large pieces and at least one small piece you're not alone.
But science loves a good challenge<p>The mystery remained unsolved until 2005, when French scientists <a href="http://www.lmm.jussieu.fr/~audoly/" target="_blank">Basile Audoly</a> and <a href="http://www.lmm.jussieu.fr/~neukirch/" target="_blank">Sebastien Neukirch </a>won an <a href="https://www.improbable.com/ig/" target="_blank">Ig Nobel Prize</a>, an award given to scientists for real work which is of a less serious nature than the discoveries that win Nobel prizes, for finally determining why this happens. <a href="http://www.lmm.jussieu.fr/spaghetti/audoly_neukirch_fragmentation.pdf" target="_blank">Their paper describing the effect is wonderfully funny to read</a>, as it takes such a banal issue so seriously. </p><p>They demonstrated that when a rod is bent past a certain point, such as when spaghetti is snapped in half by bending it at the ends, a "snapback effect" is created. This causes energy to reverberate from the initial break to other parts of the rod, often leading to a second break elsewhere.</p><p>While this settled the issue of <em>why </em>spaghetti noodles break into three or more pieces, it didn't establish if they always had to break this way. The question of if the snapback could be regulated remained unsettled.</p>
Physicists, being themselves, immediately wanted to try and break pasta into two pieces using this info<p><a href="https://roheiss.wordpress.com/fun/" target="_blank">Ronald Heisser</a> and <a href="https://math.mit.edu/directory/profile.php?pid=1787" target="_blank">Vishal Patil</a>, two graduate students currently at Cornell and MIT respectively, read about Feynman's night of noodle snapping in class and were inspired to try and find what could be done to make sure the pasta always broke in two.</p><p><a href="http://news.mit.edu/2018/mit-mathematicians-solve-age-old-spaghetti-mystery-0813" target="_blank">By placing the noodles in a special machine</a> built for the task and recording the bending with a high-powered camera, the young scientists were able to observe in extreme detail exactly what each change in their snapping method did to the pasta. After breaking more than 500 noodles, they found the solution.</p>
The apparatus the MIT researchers built specifically for the task of snapping hundreds of spaghetti sticks.
(Courtesy of the researchers)
What possible application could this have?<p>The snapback effect is not limited to uncooked pasta noodles and can be applied to rods of all sorts. The discovery of how to cleanly break them in two could be applied to future engineering projects.</p><p>Likewise, knowing how things fragment and fail is always handy to know when you're trying to build things. Carbon Nanotubes, <a href="https://bigthink.com/ideafeed/carbon-nanotube-space-elevator" target="_self">super strong cylinders often hailed as the building material of the future</a>, are also rods which can be better understood thanks to this odd experiment.</p><p>Sometimes big discoveries can be inspired by silly questions. If it hadn't been for Richard Feynman bending noodles seventy years ago, we wouldn't know what we know now about how energy is dispersed through rods and how to control their fracturing. While not all silly questions will lead to such a significant discovery, they can all help us learn.</p>
The multifaceted cerebellum is large — it's just tightly folded.
- A powerful MRI combined with modeling software results in a totally new view of the human cerebellum.
- The so-called 'little brain' is nearly 80% the size of the cerebral cortex when it's unfolded.
- This part of the brain is associated with a lot of things, and a new virtual map is suitably chaotic and complex.
Just under our brain's cortex and close to our brain stem sits the cerebellum, also known as the "little brain." It's an organ many animals have, and we're still learning what it does in humans. It's long been thought to be involved in sensory input and motor control, but recent studies suggests it also plays a role in a lot of other things, including emotion, thought, and pain. After all, about half of the brain's neurons reside there. But it's so small. Except it's not, according to a new study from San Diego State University (SDSU) published in PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences).
A neural crêpe
A new imaging study led by psychology professor and cognitive neuroscientist Martin Sereno of the SDSU MRI Imaging Center reveals that the cerebellum is actually an intricately folded organ that has a surface area equal in size to 78 percent of the cerebral cortex. Sereno, a pioneer in MRI brain imaging, collaborated with other experts from the U.K., Canada, and the Netherlands.
So what does it look like? Unfolded, the cerebellum is reminiscent of a crêpe, according to Sereno, about four inches wide and three feet long.
The team didn't physically unfold a cerebellum in their research. Instead, they worked with brain scans from a 9.4 Tesla MRI machine, and virtually unfolded and mapped the organ. Custom software was developed for the project, based on the open-source FreeSurfer app developed by Sereno and others. Their model allowed the scientists to unpack the virtual cerebellum down to each individual fold, or "folia."
Study's cross-sections of a folded cerebellum
Image source: Sereno, et al.
A complicated map
Sereno tells SDSU NewsCenter that "Until now we only had crude models of what it looked like. We now have a complete map or surface representation of the cerebellum, much like cities, counties, and states."
That map is a bit surprising, too, in that regions associated with different functions are scattered across the organ in peculiar ways, unlike the cortex where it's all pretty orderly. "You get a little chunk of the lip, next to a chunk of the shoulder or face, like jumbled puzzle pieces," says Sereno. This may have to do with the fact that when the cerebellum is folded, its elements line up differently than they do when the organ is unfolded.
It seems the folded structure of the cerebellum is a configuration that facilitates access to information coming from places all over the body. Sereno says, "Now that we have the first high resolution base map of the human cerebellum, there are many possibilities for researchers to start filling in what is certain to be a complex quilt of inputs, from many different parts of the cerebral cortex in more detail than ever before."
This makes sense if the cerebellum is involved in highly complex, advanced cognitive functions, such as handling language or performing abstract reasoning as scientists suspect. "When you think of the cognition required to write a scientific paper or explain a concept," says Sereno, "you have to pull in information from many different sources. And that's just how the cerebellum is set up."
Bigger and bigger
The study also suggests that the large size of their virtual human cerebellum is likely to be related to the sheer number of tasks with which the organ is involved in the complex human brain. The macaque cerebellum that the team analyzed, for example, amounts to just 30 percent the size of the animal's cortex.
"The fact that [the cerebellum] has such a large surface area speaks to the evolution of distinctively human behaviors and cognition," says Sereno. "It has expanded so much that the folding patterns are very complex."
As the study says, "Rather than coordinating sensory signals to execute expert physical movements, parts of the cerebellum may have been extended in humans to help coordinate fictive 'conceptual movements,' such as rapidly mentally rearranging a movement plan — or, in the fullness of time, perhaps even a mathematical equation."
Sereno concludes, "The 'little brain' is quite the jack of all trades. Mapping the cerebellum will be an interesting new frontier for the next decade."
What happens if we consider welfare programs as investments?
- A recently published study suggests that some welfare programs more than pay for themselves.
- It is one of the first major reviews of welfare programs to measure so many by a single metric.
- The findings will likely inform future welfare reform and encourage debate on how to grade success.
Welfare as an investment<p>The <a href="https://scholar.harvard.edu/files/hendren/files/welfare_vnber.pdf" target="_blank">study</a>, carried out by Nathaniel Hendren and Ben Sprung-Keyser of Harvard University, reviews 133 welfare programs through a single lens. The authors measured these programs' "Marginal Value of Public Funds" (MVPF), which is defined as the ratio of the recipients' willingness to pay for a program over its cost.</p><p>A program with an MVPF of one provides precisely as much in net benefits as it costs to deliver those benefits. For an illustration, imagine a program that hands someone a dollar. If getting that dollar doesn't alter their behavior, then the MVPF of that program is one. If it discourages them from working, then the program's cost goes up, as the program causes government tax revenues to fall in addition to costing money upfront. The MVPF goes below one in this case. <br> <br> Lastly, it is possible that getting the dollar causes the recipient to further their education and get a job that pays more taxes in the future, lowering the cost of the program in the long run and raising the MVPF. The value ratio can even hit infinity when a program fully "pays for itself."</p><p> While these are only a few examples, many others exist, and they do work to show you that a high MVPF means that a program "pays for itself," a value of one indicates a program "breaks even," and a value below one shows a program costs more money than the direct cost of the benefits would suggest.</p> After determining the programs' costs using existing literature and the willingness to pay through statistical analysis, 133 programs focusing on social insurance, education and job training, tax and cash transfers, and in-kind transfers were analyzed. The results show that some programs turn a "profit" for the government, mainly when they are focused on children:
This figure shows the MVPF for a variety of polices alongside the typical age of the beneficiaries. Clearly, programs targeted at children have a higher payoff.
Nathaniel Hendren and Ben Sprung-Keyser<p>Programs like child health services and K-12 education spending have infinite MVPF values. The authors argue this is because the programs allow children to live healthier, more productive lives and earn more money, which enables them to pay more taxes later. Programs like the preschool initiatives examined don't manage to do this as well and have a lower "profit" rate despite having decent MVPF ratios.</p><p>On the other hand, things like tuition deductions for older adults don't make back the money they cost. This is likely for several reasons, not the least of which is that there is less time for the benefactor to pay the government back in taxes. Disability insurance was likewise "unprofitable," as those collecting it have a reduced need to work and pay less back in taxes. </p>