All posts for the month April, 2002

Wow, is it really two weeks since I last posted.
Actually I’ve been ill with a heavy cold, and have done very little apart from read.
Finished Heisenberg, Physics and Philosphy – good read
Started Poincare Writings, ed SJ Gould – not so promising
Started Melville, Moby Dick – excellent read so far.

Spotted this interesting BMJ link from Jorn
About drug companies talking up “illness” to boost drug demand.
From my perspective this is “spinning” information.

Reading Physics and Philosophy by Werner Heisenberg (c1958/p1962)
Having previously read the Physical Principles of Quantum Theory, to get a first hand account of the Uncertainty Principle, found this much more readable volume of his. Pretty comprehensive summary of Philosophical views of the “reality of matter and atoms” from the Greeks to Hume and Russell. Illustration of uncertainty principle effects at each step seems to be leading to many worlds (no buts so far as I can tell). Says the quantum / uncertainty view of the world is a “paradigm shift” in the way the reality of the world is viewed. Makes allusions to human scale manifestations, without really illustrating with examples (yet), so far all his examples are at the quantum / measuring device level – still, only 1/3 of the way through. Some excellent fit with Pirsig static (matter) / dynamic (energy) perspectives, and problems with One/Duality/Binary vs Plural views of possible states. Expect the latter to lead into where quantum computing gets its alternative view of “information” – will develop further when completed.

Also suggests a new thread – distinctions between Metaphor, Analogy and Model. Let’s be honest, when we say this is a Metaphor or an Analogy to help understanding of the principles and effects of something, are we also saying it is a Model of what actually exists ? Is this distinction meaningful or not ? Either way, every time I see “many worlds and multiverses” I get this dilemma in my head. I can see why Stephen Hawking screams whenever he hears of Erwin Schroedinger’s overcooked Cat – just like Chares Handy’s overcooked Frog !

Also obtained Melville‘s Moby Dick, and Poincare Writings edited by SJ Gould.
The most cited sources in so many others.

Pirsig’s Lila – finished at last, after many interruptions.
Will add a review, but may need to re-read final few chapters to absorb.
Thoughts for now.

The lunatics take over the asylum again. Should I be worried ? – in ZMM I identified with Phaedrus, in this, I am Lila ! The “game” of Catch22 and the “character” of Cuckoo’s Nest feature very strongly, but only implicitly, in passages about “insanity”. (The reference to an imposter in an asylum, spotted by the inmates, but not the staff – is surely a reference to Cuckoo’s nest, or shares a common source. Similarly the strategies inmates play to convince staff of “sanity” are full of Catch22 allusions – no references made to Heller or Kesey anyway.)

Levels of intellectual / social / biological cultures very reminiscent of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (not mentioned by Pirsig), as used to describe motivation of individuals and groups within organisations / cultures. A culture having ascended to a higher level (or dynamically within a higher level), those levels below become static “hygiene” to be challenged / controlled from the higher culture, but not undermined, without replacement foundations. Equally, static cultures must not be allowed to control / restrict higher dynamic cultures – necessary controls to avoide degeneracy must come from within or from higher levels. This is the main framework of Pirsig’s commentary on “morals”, and the concepts of absolute goodness and badness, and or course, his “Metaphysics of Quality”. (Consequently – lots of good stuff on the bounds of scientific argument vs value judgements.)

Main thread revolves around “anthropology” and its history as a “science” (or not). Encouraging to my main thread – pointing to ethnography / behavioural / process model for “information” (Interesting description of Philosophology as distinct from Philosophy.)

Lots of new references (philosophical and philosophological) and lots of namedropping arising from his post ZMM celebrity. The general line is a clear development of his thoughts in ZMM, but somehow as a novel, it is less gripping than the original, possibly due to the constant references to the previous book. The underlying narrative, Hudson river boat trip / New York locations (and WTC / Manhattan skyline references too) has some good emotional twists though, so definitely recommended reading (after ZMM – no point reading out of sequence.) Post Moby-Dick note – Did Pirsig have Melville in mind when he chose the Hudson ?

[Post Note 2002 – since reading ZMM and Lila, Pirsig became for a time a project in his own right – see Pirsig Pages. Interesting, updating links in 2015, that these notes already carry all my ongoing agenda items – except maybe the realisation of scientific vs anthropological knowledge-and-decision-making converging in governance or “cybernetics”.]

Binary or Tertiary views ? – Let’s do the Hokey-Cokey.
How many things do you divide something else into. Are you a
2×2 Person – BCG Grids, Yes&No, Black&White, we need a decision, binary chopper.
3×3 Person – three layer architectures, with three layers in each layer, onion-skins ad-infinitum.
Is there such a thing as an NxM Person ?

If you have a “bag” of say 20-ish issues, which are to some extent different or independant, but somehow inter-related, how many boxes do you draw before you allocate pigeon-holes ? This is more to do with pragmatic span of managability, and immediately perceived purpose, than anything fundamental about the classification of the issues themselves. (see TQM / brainstorming / facilitation techniques and bases of various approaches.)

Also a matter of geometric perspective / topology, a 2×2 grid is typically a tertiary decision tool. 2 different no-brainers, bottom-left and top-right, plus a set of problems top-left and bottom-right. In, Out and Shake-it-all-about.

Is there something better than “binary” classification. Is quantum computing part of the answer ?

I’m listed on the Internet Research Register

Trending propensity – assumption at current subjective scale that observable variations or changes reflect underlying trends or simple patterns. Compare chaotic fractal complexity, scalability, and “catastrophic” local instabilities and also anthropocentric views of genetic success in Steven Jay Gould – Life’s Grandeur. A rationalisation of the observable on the current level ? Cf Post-modernism and Lila – many independant levels on orthogonal axes – hold that thought.

Bayesian Methods – International Society for Bayesian Analysis.
After the Rev. Thomas Bayes.

Jules Henri Poincare – everybody’s hero (as I said earlier) in fundamental thinking behind complex behaviours. (Google#Poincare gets 1000’s of hits.)

William James Sidis – new thread prompted by Pirsig / Lila
Sidis – the original April Fool ?
William James Sidis could speak five languages and read Plato in original Greek by the age of five [ps perhaps he was Greek – more western/US/English-speaking arrogance – aside]. At eight he passed the entrance for Harvard but had to wait three years to be admitted. Even so he became Harvard?s youngest scholar and graduate in 1914 at the age of sixteen. Frequently featured in ?Ripley?s Believe it or Not?, Sidis made the front page of ?The New York Times? nineteen times. The story defies all conventional norms and may even sound like a joke if you found out that Sidis was born on April 1, 1898.

Quantonics – Sidis web resource.
The W J Sidis Archives
Huge resource – many links and archives including Dan Mahoney, Cathie Slater-Spence, Buckie-Fuller as well as Lila extracts / reviews.

Main interest apart from Sidis own contribution to Anthropology / Enthnography, is the attitude of the world to Sidis. April Fool / Burnt-out Genius or Boy Wonder ?

[Post Note : See also Sidis and Buckie-Fuller links in the Pirsig Pages – via side bar.]