All posts by Martin K. Jones

Combogenesis and Alphakits

Let us calculate!

— Gottfried Leibnitz

I admit it, I’m rather a Utopian.

Perhaps I’ve been thinking all this time that it should be possible to find a reduced set of words, symbols, or even concepts that could serve as a basic core of human expression and being, some kind of fundamental proto-language that might cut across all cultures and yet connect all individuals. Something to undo the “Tower of Babel” and be able to heal all misunderstandings, resolve all disagreements, and find everyone’s common ground. I see now I have fallen down the “perfect language” rabbit-hole.

Of course, along with our imperfect languages we also have to deal with our imperfect thoughts and our imperfect feelings. Not only do we want to hide what we’re really thinking and feeling from others, we want to hide it from ourselves. Is it because we don’t want others to know the weakness and darkness within us, or we don’t want to face those parts of our own identities? Perhaps that is the main problem with language, the ease with which we can lie to both ourselves and others, and our eagerness to accept these lies.

Psychology is supposed to help us understand ourselves better. But before that, there were the Tarot decks, Ouija boards, and the I Chings that were supposed to illuminate our thoughts and actions, and help us perceive, however dimly, a little clearer into the past and future. I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking that such devices merely bring concepts to the forefront of the conscious mind and allow one to engage in creative and playful thinking. Maybe they tie into the “unconscious”, whatever that really means, and if not, then what is the source of their utility?

In the same vein, there are other instruments purported to aid in the effort to know thyself, such as Astrology and Myers-Briggs. Astrology has also been used for divination and that is its popular and sad ubiquity, that is “your daily horoscope”. Myers-Briggs is popular in the business world to help the managers manage and to resolve conflicts, and takes itself more seriously. In my foolishness, even though I didn’t believe that there was a perfect language lost in antiquity, perhaps I thought I could invent one anew like Ramon Llull or Gottfried Leibnitz!

Does language reveal reality or does it mask it? Can it blend and synthesize different realities or can it shape and create the very reality we inhabit? I’ve been mulling over the idea of what the next combogenetic alphakit might be, after chemical-molecular, biological-genetic, and symbolic-linguistic. Could it be something hyper-linguistic or hyper-cognitive, to serve as a perfect language, melding syntax, semantics, pragmatics? Or could it be something completely different, a blending of mathematics and philosophy?

Or even a new type of computer science? Such studies are still in their infacy, so one hopes for future breakthroughs and grand theories of logical systems and (e)valuations. Could a machine that creates reality from mere thought be the perfect language we seek, one that performatively produces no ambiguity by changing the abstract into the concrete, the inner into the outer? The Krell machine in the movie Forbidden Planet was one such hypothetical device, and showed the folly of a scheme that granted god-like powers to mere mortals.

Possibly better is a system that starts from grounding axioms that are so simple and fundamental that all must agree with their basis, utilizes logics that are so straightforward and rational that all must agree with their validity, demonstrates proofs that are so rigorous that all must agree with their worth, all enabled by overarching schemas that allow the truth of all things to vigorously and irrefutably shine. Even then, humankind might be too weak to suffer the onslaught against its fragile and flawed cogitations.

But O, what a wonderful world it might be.

Further Reading:

Umberto Eco / The Search for the Perfect Language

https://equivalentexchange.blog/2019/07/07/the-arcane-arts-of-ramon-llull-the-dignities/

https://equivalentexchange.blog/2019/05/22/combogenesis-a-constructive-emergent-cosmos/

https://equivalentexchange.blog/2018/09/07/the-myer-briggs-type-indicator/

https://equivalentexchange.blog/2019/11/07/the-twelve-houses-of-the-zodiac/

https://equivalentexchange.blog/2013/12/06/the-tempest-and-forbidden-planet/

https://equivalentexchange.blog/2011/08/04/the-64-hexagrams-of-the-i-ching/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hedgehog%27s_dilemma

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The Devolution of Trust

The Prisoner’s Dilemma is a simple game designed to show how the success or failure of cooperation between individuals can be contingent on various factors, primarily some sort of reward. Shown above is a representative payoff matrix between two players; each square shows the two choices and the two winnings for each. Each player cooperates (A or B) or cheats (A’ or B’) with the other player, so for example if A and B’ obtains (A cooperates but B cheats) then A loses 1 and B wins 3.

Each player knows all the values of the payoff matrix so it is said they have perfect information, except they don’t know what their opponent will do. If they are rational and believe their opponent to be as well, the wisest thing to do is for both to cooperate to maximize their winnings, knowing that their opponent knows that they could also cheat. If the game is played only once, however, that is clearly not the case.

If the game is iterated, things change. If each player remembers what their opponent did previously, and it is considered to be informative for what they might do next, then the player could use it to condition their decision to cooperate or cheat. Different algorithms or personalities can be considered for the players, with more or less thinking about what to do and more or less willingness to cooperate, and it is interesting to try different strategies, all the while seeing what adjustments of the payoff matrix might do to the results.

This Evolution of Trust site is a very nice lesson in some of the complications that can result for such algorithms and adjustments. On the whole, this site indicates that rationality and consideration for others can thrive, if conditions are right. In the traditional Prisoner’s Dilemma, the reward values in the payoff matrix are usually considered to be jail sentence time (so less is better), or for the site mentioned above where I’ve taken the representative matrix, monetary value (so more is better).

One thing of note in these examples is that each player doesn’t distinguish their opponent by anything other than their posteriori plays, because these players are supposed to be all part of the same group or society. But what if there is an a priori distinction that conditions their decision? So, if your opponent is a known Y, and you are a X, then you might want to raise your social credit with your other Xs by punishing a Y, even if it punishes you or even other Xs in the long run.

For example if you are a member of gang X, you wouldn’t want to cheat against another X. But cheating against a member of gang Y might raise your in-group social capital and be as important as the value of the reward. Or you might want to punish your opponent in group Y by not granting them any benefits even at the cost of your own benefit. Such distinctions are not usually part and parcel of the Prisoner’s Dilemma game, but they would add an interesting and realistic dimension to the game.

And thus lend insight into the woes of our modern political scene and culturally diverse society.

Further Reading:

https://ncase.me/trust/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prisoner%27s_dilemma

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Sneetches_and_Other_Stories

https://equivalentexchange.blog/2017/08/03/the-prisoners-dilemma/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Devolution_(biology)

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Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus

Just the facts, ma’am.

— Detective Joe Friday

  1. The World (Die Welt): The world is everything that is the case.
  2. The Case (Der Fall): What is the case, the fact, is the existence of atomic facts.
  3. The Picture (Das Bild): The logical picture of the facts is the thought.
  4. Thought (Gedanke): The thought is the significant proposition.
  5. Propositions (Der Satz): Propositions are truth-functions of elementary propositions.
  6. The Form (Die Form): The general form of truth-function is: [p-bar, xi-bar, N(xi-bar)].
  7. Silence (Schweigen): Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent.
  8. ( ):

The Tractatus has seven propositions, most with sub-propositions and sub-sub-propositions, etc. I have added the eighth, which is the actual silence of all one cannot speak of. Quite a large section, for all its emptiness.

I also thought it would be nice to have an internet version where you could click and expand down through the sub-sentences. There are already many such versions available for your enjoyment.

I can’t decide whether I like the English or the German version better, so here are both.

Further Reading:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tractatus_Logico-Philosophicus

http://www.tractatuslogico-philosophicus.com/

http://www.bazzocchi.com/wittgenstein/tractatus/eng/index.htm

http://www.kfs.org/jonathan/witt/ten.html

https://pbellon.github.io/tractatus-tree/#/

https://tractatus-online.appspot.com/Tractatus/jonathan/index.html

http://daxoliver.com/tractatus/

http://people.umass.edu/klement/tlp/

The Tricky Truth about Tractatus Trees (updated)

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The Utopian vs. the Dystopian

Crime. Pollution. War. Climate change. Corruption. Lies. Overwhelming, isn’t it?

It’s easy to be cynical these days. Reading the newspaper or watching the news on television informs us all of the myriad ways the country and the world are going down the tubes. And watching your favorite entertainments on your beloved media devices shows you all sorts of dystopian futures and worst case scenarios that you’d rather not be in the middle of in a few years time.

It’s easy to get discouraged. It’s easy to feel disenfranchised and helpless by the onslaught of problems that we are facing every day, every week and every year. It’s hard enough to manage our own issues and get through the day without feeling like we’ve lost ground to disorder and entropy. It’s hard to be happy about a future that will be hardly worth catching up to, a future less happy and less hopeful than we thought we had earned and even deserved.

Utopianism is out, and Dystopianism is in. Nobody seems to want to hear about bright and shiny possibilities for everybody. It’s either pie-in-the-sky or it’s flat-out impossible. Human nature and economics collude to block us from hoping for better days, for a sustainable progress in our quality of living, learning, and planning. No words to the contrary, because that’s not being “realistic” of how the world works, or how it is run. All we can do is wait for ruination.

Happy reading and watching!

Further Reading:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Utopian_and_dystopian_fiction

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enlightenment_Now

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Fourth Person

I also dream of a new kind of narrator―a “fourth-person” one, who is not merely a grammatical construct of course, but who manages to encompass the perspective of each of the characters, as well as having the capacity to step beyond the horizon of each of them, who sees more and has a wider view, and who is able to ignore time. Oh yes, I think this narrator’s existence is possible.

— Olga Tokarczuk, Winner of the 2018 Nobel Prize for Literature

Further Reading:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Olga_Tokarczuk

https://www.nobelprize.org/prizes/literature/2018/tokarczuk/104871-lecture-english/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grammatical_person

News via Associated Press:

https://www.yourbasin.com/entertainment-news/nobel-literature-winner-dreams-of-a-new-narrative-style/

Or behind a pay wall:

https://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/books/nobel-literature-winner-dreams-of-a-new-narrative-style/2019/12/07/4b3af524-1929-11ea-80d6-d0ca7007273f_story.html

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What is Turbulence?

In his science-fictional “Foundation Trilogy”, Isaac Asimov famously hypothesized a future science called “psychohistory”, a mathematically grounded theory of generalized and predictive human action, based on an amalgamation of psychology, history, and sociology. The future galactic empire was managed by this theory and practice (look out – almost seventy year old spoilers!) except for an exceptional character that was not anticipated and essentially unpredicable.

Asimov had in mind well validated continuous and statistical theories of physics, for example for idealized gases and their laws. I was stuck by an image for an explanation of turbulence that highlighted key elements of velocity, density, pressure, and viscosity, and how it was (in my mind) analogical to antagonistic individuals, dominating leaders, submissive society, and affiliated coteries. Of course, an article below states that turbulence is still too complicated to provably model correctly at this point in time.

I had no idea that psychohistory was claimed to be an actual field of study these days, albeit being somewhat controversial in its authenticity. And it doesn’t seem to have any mathematical basis yet, as far as I know. Mathematician Dan Crisan gave an inaugural talk a few years ago that was hypothesizing using heat equations instead of fluid dynamics as a basis. Even so, we can’t seem to properly model any sort of social action so how could psychohistory be within our grasp?

In these turbulent times perhaps we should make an effort to understand ourselves a bit better, as we hope to navigate between the Charybdisian whirlpool of civil discord and environmental collapse and the Scyllaian rocks of fascism, authoritarianism, and / or totalitarianism. But hey, isn’t Apple doing an Apple TV+ series based on Asimov’s books? Let’s all tune in!

Further Reading:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychohistory_(fictional)

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychohistory

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foundation_(TV_series)

https://www.quantamagazine.org/why-turbulence-is-a-hard-physics-problem-20190128/

https://www.quantamagazine.org/videos/what-is-turbulence/

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Navier–Stokes_equations

Philip Ball / Critical Mass : How One Thing Leads to Another (2004)

Concerning Professor Dan Crisan:

http://www3.imperial.ac.uk/newsandeventspggrp/imperialcollege/eventssummary/event_11-12-2012-13-34-29

https://rtraba.files.wordpress.com/2014/11/talkinaugural230113.pdf

And also this quite long but interesting essay:

Prolegomena to Any Dark-Age Psychohistory

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The Interpersonal Circumplex

May I have your attention please. The following citizens have been declared unmutual: Number 6.”

— From the TV show The Prisoner

Here we have another diagram based on the work of Timothy Leary (the other being the Eight Circuit Model of Consciousness), a simple chart defined by two axes. The vertical axis is currently and commonly thought of as agency (as well as power, control, assertiveness, and dominance) and the horizontal axis as communion (as well as love, agreeableness, friendliness, and affiliation).

The diagram is usually shown with concentric circles centered on the intersection of the axes, inviting continuous twofold measurements and plotting for the factors of dominance and affiliation. Thus it allows comparisons for the different quantified interactions of individuals within a group, perhaps as a metric for social cohesion and its opposite, fragmentation.

It is quite similar to the scheme for CM/CR (Conflict Management and Conflict Resolution), except that the Interpersonal Circumplex (IC) is a tool for understanding psychological and sociological behavior and traits, and CM/CR is apparently more often used in the business and political world. The IC also has commonalities with Grid-Group Cultural Theory, a notion used in sociological studies.

I first ran across something very much like the IC in Anthony Stevens’s “Ariadne’s Clue,” being used as a model for mythological solidarity and divergence. However, Leary is not credited but instead the primate studies of Chance and Jolly (1970) are cited for their work in intimidation and attraction, or agonic and hedonic modes of attention and interaction.

I would think that the IC could be used effectively to analyze the sorry state of politics in these “United States”, as domination and affiliation play their tug-of-war for superiority. I see some interesting papers by Kenneth Locke (2013), and of course I’m also thinking of the political work of George Lakoff as well, but I don’t see any use of the circumflex for Lakoff’s work.

Further Reading:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interpersonal_circumplex

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Timothy_Leary

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5045262/

https://psychology.wikia.org/wiki/Interpersonal_circumplex

John M. Oldham, Andrew E. Skodol, Donna S. Bender (eds.) / The American Psychiatric Publishing Textbook of Personality Disorders

Christopher J. Hopwood, Abby L Mulay, Mark H Waugh (eds.) / The DSM-5 Alternative Model for Personality Disorders: Integrating Multiple …

Anthony Stevens / Ariadne’s Clue: a guide to the symbols of mankind (1998)

M. R. A. Chance and C. Jolly / Social Groups of Monkeys, Apes, and Men (1970)

Kenneth D. Locke / Circumplex Scales of Intergroup Goals: An Interpersonal Circle Model of Goals for Interactions Between Groups
https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0146167213514280

Images of the Interpersonal Circumplex:
https://www.google.com/search?q=interpersonal+circumplex&client&tbm=isch

https://equivalentexchange.blog/2019/07/19/conflict-management-and-conflict-resolution/

https://equivalentexchange.blog/2019/08/19/grid-group-cultural-theory-v2/

https://equivalentexchange.blog/2019/02/07/the-eight-circuit-model-of-consciousness/

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