Leapdragon 2016 - Aron Hsiao Was Here

Monthly Archives: August 2008

We now have a precedent  §

for a system that requires no theory, a deterministic system that is fully understood not as a matter of theory but as a matter of law (because the laws are ours) that nonetheless appears to many to be nondeterministic.

Computers are fully deterministic state machines—simple, parametric, sequential; the same holds true for the Internet. It is not mere theory that given a mapping of all inputs and the previous state of the entire system, the next state of the entire system could be calculated and mapped.

The input, of course, comes from another, unrelated system, the human(s), and because these operate asynchronously with respect to the state machine in question and operate according to a different algorithmic universe, the input from human(s) is what gives the computers and networks the appearance of nondeterminism.

It is not a stretch to imagine that a human is analogous to this with respect to his or her gestalt ecosystem. A human is infinitely more complex than a computer or computer network, and the aggregation of assorted semi-autonomous systems that comprise a human’s ecosystem (the inputs to the human system, as it were) is infinitely more complex still.

I, unlike some, find it no stretch at all to imagine a universe that, being comprised of infinite levels of fully deterministic systems in horizontal and vertical aggregation in successively increasing complexity and inter-interaction, is fully deterministic while at the same time giving a good approximation of nondeterminsim, even a calculability scale that can be taken as unapproachable as a matter of course (given already existing proofs that to fully calculate a perfect chess game would require more matter, given a “perfect” computer than can use one particle as one bit, than is currently believed to exist in the universe).

After all, we have managed to get our deterministic systems in computers and networks to give us “random” numbers that pass as such to all but the biggest reservoirs of computing power that we can currently harness to transcend their apparent randomness.

Of course, this is not to imply a calculable universe. Why? Because in order to calculate the universe fully, one would have to map and represent its state (i.e. store it) in some fashion—every piece of matter down to the tiniest particle, along with every aspect of its state and position. Given that as a matter of storage, the universe itself represents the ideal (minimal) case for storing its the information that comprises its current state, such a feat would require at the very least more matter and space than are currently in the universe, and they would of course have to be outside the system because if they were inside it then that matter would be a requirement for a full state mapping as well, Catch-22.

But this doesn’t mean that the universe is absoutely nondeterministic, only that it’s mathematically impossible to calculate it, i.e. that it’s functionally or practically nondeterministic.

Getting a Ph.D. is a  §

wildly exhausting sort of thing to do, at least if you’re solidly middle class. People always tell you so before you start, and you doubt them, and when you start you begin by thinking, “Hey, this isn’t so tough, I can manage this…” but eventually it sort of creeps up on you mentally-emotionally that you are constantly taxed.

Back in regular life, I had three basic “critical to my personhood” threads of being:

1. Work for wages to live
2. Consume with those wages (i.e. shop, pay rent and bills, repair car, etc.)
3. Maintain personal relationships through interaction

As a Ph.D. student, the following get added:

4. Produce other, very difficult and time-consuming work for no wages
5. Maintain professional relationships that are voluntary for the other party
6. Learn/accumulate/study knowledge at an insane rate
7. Traverse bureaucratic structures (i.e. paperwork/hoop jumping) continuously
8. Assemble a CV/career path (not automatic in academics from #’s 1, 2, or 5)

If you fail do keep current on any of 4-8, your whole project collapses, probably for good. But if you let 1-3 slide, you can’t possibly maintain the energy or emotional resources to do 4-8. Meanwhile, the expenses incurred under 2 go through the roof as you pay for all of the additional resources demanded for 4-8, even as the cash produced by 1 falls through the floor due to limited time (and awakeness).

All of these tasks scream out for full-time dedication to do them well. Of course, because there are 8 of them and you still have to sleep and eat and commute (a lot), you end up being able to give each of them something like 1/16th of what they deserve.

At any point, when you try to prioritize by asking yourself “What should I be working on now?” the answer that comes screaming back at you from the depths of your consciousness is “EVERYTHING, BECAUSE EVERYTHING IS BEING NEGLECTED AND EVERYTHING IS WAY BEHIND! PANNNNIC!”

It constantly feels as though either

A) The whole house of cards will come tumbling down, or
B) You will end up homeless and friendless, or
C) Your body will come tumbling down with your snoring head on top of it

Just a little rant, that’s all.

It seems like I’ve said this every season since I got here, but this fall will be the toughest, busiest season of my life so far, by a reasonably frightening margin.

Reflection  §

I am living in a swirl of unreflected moments and overwhelming, uninspiring fragments. I have no direction and still less motivation amidst it all. From every quarter of my insides comes the frantic call for a time of deep reflection.

There is no reflection, however, despite life not being devoid of undirected moments. Reflection, after all, breaks an unwritten rule about the maintenance of industry at critical junctures; there is no allowance to be made for transcendental silence, for unexplained pauses at the heart of the maelstrom. What is demanded by all, including one’s own conscious psyche, is continuous, vigorous action bordering on madness—to match the madness of one’s surrounding context, even if each intensification of industry fosters a coincident intensification in insanity.

The fact that flailing about can be less conducive to swimming than floating does not, for some reason, enter into the moral calculation.

Drowning in the interest of industry’s triumph over accidental sloth is, after all, a most moral thing to do.

Reflection  §

I am living in a swirl of unreflected moments and overwhelming, uninspiring fragments. I have no direction and still less motivation amidst it all. From every quarter of my insides comes the frantic call for a time of deep reflection.

There is no reflection, however, despite live not being devoid of undirected moments. Reflection, after all, breaks an unwritten rule about the maintenance of industry at critical junctures; there is no allowance to be made for transcendental silence, for unexplained pauses at the heart of the maelstrom. What is demanded by all, including one’s own conscious psyche, is continuous, vigorous action bordering on madness—to match the madness embodied by the needs of the moment.

The fact that flailing about can be less conducive to swimming than floating does not, for some reason, enter into the moral calculation.

Drowning in the interest of industry’s triumph over accidental sloth is, after all, a most moral thing to do.

It’s damn hard to focus  §

or to be pleasant and upbeat at times like this. 🙁

The moment of the invention of the electric clock  §

is the moment at which “time” outgrew itself. Originally merely a man-imposed mechanical method for segmenting tasks and sleep/wake/work cycles as a mode of instrumentality, with the electric clock, which requires no winding, no visible mechanism, no maintenance, and no necessarily regularly recallable energy source, “time” became subject to both social convention and coordination and to transcendence of any human routine, taking on a life of its own, becoming something outside society, outside men.

We created time, and now time will outlive us; after the nuclear winter or the great biological holocaust or the inevitable environmental collapse strikes, there will be clocks that will continue to run without us, solar-powered or powered by lost remnants of the power grid of which there will no doubt be a few, caught beneath waterfalls or amidst wind currents forever generating the arrow of measured time, a human time that outlasts us and at such a point exists merely to provide context to the narrative of our demise.

Visitors who succeed us will come to see the world already ordered according to a timescale and timeflow created by mankind, who can be positioned in it even if he is no longer present.

After all, once defined, presence is forever articulated by surrounding absence. With the invention and externalization of regular time, man cements his own immortality but also the endless tragedy of his own inevitable absence within it, time itself being the soul and the marker, the avatar and endoskeleton of presence that continue long after he is gone.