You'll find these in reverse chronological order because I'm not insane
What is up, my people? It’s truly been a phat minute since I last posted to XFA. Actually that’s not true. I wrote something on Tuesday. It’s been exactly four days since I last posted. That isn’t a phat minute at all.
Well, regardless, as the title suggests, my life is now in full overdrive. One consequence of this, as alluded to in the first paragraph, is the fact that once again, my perception of time is actively failing. This tends to happen during the academic semester, so it’s not that worrying.
Now then, I feel compelled to explain the nature of the overdriven-ocity of my life, and I shall now do so. There are really six main contributors to the maximum overdrive:
Funny story: when I started writing those bullet-points I thought I would only have three main contributors to maximum overdrive. Amazing how quickly three things turns into six things.
Now then, some quick notes about the above list. While 20 units is, I’m pretty sure, a fairly heavy course load, I’ve heard legends of some schmeags who have taken 40 (40!!) units in a single semester. I’m honestly not sure how that’s actually physically possible. All that is to say that I’m not trying to dump a weird flex on you unassuming readers by quoting my course load. Actually, that’s my only note. Next paragraph.
I’ve been wanting to write a couple short posts this week but I haven’t had time, so I think I’ll include the most important of them here.
This should fall under Project Supernatural, but whatever. Last Wednesday night I had a pretty deep conversation with one of my friends. Deep conversations are really just the sauce. Later that night, my baked-in Christian instincts kicked in and I almost thanked God for the conversation I had before I remembered that I’m not actually Christian right now. However, those of you who have read my posts for Project Supernatural will know that I’m making an effort to interact with the divine/unknown/transcendent/God/gods/flying spaghetti monster, because if that is possible it is something I would like to experience. This is a bit difficult to describe, but after I had fought down my instinct to mindlessly and guiltily thank the Christian God for the conversation I had, I concentrated my attention on the aspect of reality that is outside my comprehension and I thanked whatever superintelligence may exist outside of my perception for the conversation I had with my friend.
What happened next was even more difficult to describe. My normal baseline levels of stress and anxiety were siphoned out of my body, and the more I concentrated on this notion of the unknown, the more I began to feel some part of my being trying to pull away from my physical body. It was remarkably peaceful. The feeling was so intense that I actually became somewhat convinced that I was about to have a vision or some experience that would transport me away from my physical senses. Unfortunately, there was no vision this time. That would be quite neat. But it was a remarkably interesting experience.
I suppose as a parting thought, while the aspect of reality that we experience by means of our senses is an interesting and, in many ways, comfortable place for us to dwell, I would encourage you all to open yourselves to the possibilities associated with the unknown. If nothing else so that I can carefully log your experiences to aid in my own deductions. Au Revoir!
This title is entirely false advertising. I have no experience with actual Instagram domination, so I can only regurgitate that which I have found on the internet on that front. This post is, however, meant to introduce my Insta Dominus project, which is the newest and coolest project on the block. Actually, I take that back. Orchid is cooler than all of them. Eh, is that even true? In an attempt to subvert the wrath of the divine on my household, I should probably assert that Project Supernatural is the most important. If we’re being honest though, Orchid is the illest, baddest project this side of the Styx.
Anyhoo, back to Insta Dominus. Some of you insightful readers may have noticed that there’s a perpetual link on the side of XFA to my Instagram. Others of you may have actually found XFA by means of my Instagram. Either way, these two subsets of readers are at least subconsciously aware of the presence of my Instagram. I certainly imagine this didn’t strike you as odd. Any blog worth half a bag of tree sap has a link to its corresponding Instagram. “Networking,” I believe the mortals call it. So then, I ought to have such a Insta as well, right?
Wrong. My views of Instagram are simple and direct. Insta is a drug that saps away time, personality, energy, motivation, and most of whatever makes human beings human beings. While it superficially masquerades as a magnificent way for people to connect and remain connected with one another (which is, of course, a noble effort) it secretly fills the voids of our biological needs with a temporary antidote to our deepest, intrinsic desires. At one point, I had a true Insta. Upon realizing the effect it was having on my life and my personal motivations, I deleted that bad boy with a certain swiftness.
While I do hold these somewhat forceful views, I do want to make it known that if used properly, any form of social media can be an incredibly useful and lifegiving force that allows people to share experiences. My simple assertion is that it is rarely, rarely used properly and can very easily take over one’s life.
It just so happens that when people don’t think they’re on a drug, before anyone can blink, the masses have already formed an addiction. To put this in simpler terms, literally everyone and their mother and their cat and their goat and their beta fish has an Instagram. Many such users are frequently on Insta. And this, my friends, introduces an interesting prospect. After observing the world (like, idk, a regular person?) I have noticed that people who are able to utilize a large following are able to effect some of the greatest changes on the world. As of right now, I don’t really have such a following. I think this is likely because math and physics really aren’t that cool to the outside world, and it’s what I’ve been doing for the past 6 years. It also hasn’t helped that I barely touch social media.
I feel inclined to mention that many people want to build a following because the prospect of fame is appealing. While there is a part of my being that subscribes to this desire, I have spent the better part of the last two years in a state of introspection trying to sort out my principal motivations for working on various projects or relationships, and I have found that whenever the principal motivation for one of my actions is to garner some else’s attention or respect, I typically end up in some state of existential depression and anxiety. So then, I have made and am currently making a concerted effort to do what I do not to impress those around me, but because what I’m doing is personally or globally beneficial.
So then, is the prospect of having a large Instagram following appealing to some deep dark part of me that desires attention? Absolutely. However, that part of me has been subdued and is currently quite dormant, I am happy to say.
Why else then should I attempt to build a following? Honestly, I mostly just want to see if I can. If I were to have such a following, I’m sure I could find a good use for it, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
So then, the central action of Insta Dominus will be thus: build up a following on Instagram by whatever means necessary (short of that which morally compromises). We’re talking bots, rigorous following/unfollowing techniques, liking a bunch of crap, all that meaningless nonsense that people have developed over the last couple of years. I actually made the ex_fizz_assist account specifically for the purpose of developing my own Instagram bot (using Python and Selenium, for those of you CS nerds), however I basically ended up following 1,200 randos, and I was eventually shadow-banned from the site. At this point, my account has been dormant for several months, so I’m certain the ban is lifted, and Insta Dominus is a go.
Several things about the account. The pictures I post probably appear incredibly vain. My current profile picture is in fact a mostly shirtless picture of myself holding a machete and Shankar’s Quantum Mechanics while shamelessly flexing for the camera. To address this, because I’m not blind, I have noticed that the average layman is very compelled by people with good bodies. I have been working out for 1.5 years now, and so I think I can assert that my body isn’t bad. Do I think I’m fit to be model? Certainly not. Do or will I take any pictures I post of my body seriously? Absolutely not. They are all ridiculous. However, perhaps they will help me generate a following. We shall see. For those few of you who were friends with me before college and have also happened to see my insta, I can assure you college hasn’t turned me into a vain, egotistical, narcissistic swine. Actually maybe it has. Well, I kinda doubt it because being vain is such a tremendous waste of time, and I really don’t have time to waste.
Regardless of whether I’m not a swine, I’m excited for this project. I’m starting with like 100 followers, which is nothing, and I guess we’ll have to see where it goes. Worst case scenario, nothing happens. Ok, I move on with my life and I have more time for other projects. Best case scenario I have more followers than Kylie Jenner and I can rule the world with a tap on the screen. We shall see. Until next time, sisthren.
What is up, my dudes. It is a truly wonderful morning in Berkeley. Slightly overcast, not glaringly hot, not oppressively raining. A great day to be alive.
Now then, right to business. One of the central purposes of this project is to catalog my attempts at interacting with the supernatural/unknown/God/god/gods/the Divine whatever you want to call it. I therefore feel the need to catalog one such event.
Yesterday morning, I was feeling lonely. I’m not afraid to admit it. However, because my wee lil brain likes to blow all my emotions out of proportion, when I am feeling lonely, it isn’t a small emotion in the back of my brain. It’s only ever that acute sense of existential loneliness that beacons an onset of depression and nihilism. Actually, writing this, I realize I don’t actually talk to many people about their loneliness all that often. Perhaps what I experience as loneliness is in fact your standard, run-of-the-mill loneliness. Hmm. Perhaps I’ll survey my friends on this issue. Actually, I can just survey you all as well. If you feel so inclined, please comment below indicating whether you experience loneliness as a small, perhaps peripheral emotion, or an extremely powerful sensation that brings about depression.
Ok, so back to the main story. Yesterday morning, I was feeling lonely. Whence my emotions reached a certain critical magnitude, I decided it would be a good idea to open a connection to the supernatural/unknown/God/god/gods/the Divine and see if he/she/it/they had anything to say about my current emotional state. To be precise, I basically brought to mind the full spectrum of my emotional state and made a request for something to be done about it. Interestingly enough, yesterday turned out to be a day filled with all sorts of social activities with a variety of my friends.
Before I perform an analysis on this situation, I feel somewhat inclined to address those of you who are wondering if I am just another “loser.” The formal definition of the word “loser” is something of which I don’t feel I have a good grasp, but I can imagine you may be wondering what kind of social outcast/ “loser” feels the need to plead with the supernatural about loneliness when his friends are a text away. I actually have a large group of people whom I have the pleasure of calling “friends,” so perhaps it is a bit silly that I turned to the supernatural before I turned to them. On the other hand, I am also, as a citizen of our reality, always trying to ascertain some understanding of the supernatural, and it seemed like an acutely powerful and uncomfortable emotional experience would provide a good “playground” for attempting to interact with extra-realitas.
Now then, to begin my analysis of this potential interaction with some unknown form of superintelligence, let me clearly lay out the facts of the case.
Ok then. Let’s begin. I think a reasonable place to start would be to ask the question “Was yesterday an answer to a prayer?” Let me first say that I do not know. I also feel inclined to mention that by prayer, I mean a sequence of words carrying a specific set of connotations and denotations directed at some aspect of the unknown. I think that this definition of a “prayer” is pretty neat because it indicates a language agnostic conveyance of information and emotion. Anyway, back to the main line of analysis. The events of yesterday certainly felt like what I might consider an answered prayer.
To summarize, I don’t if yesterday was an answer to prayer, but it certainly felt like it could have been. Some of you distracted readers may think that this isn’t a big deal, but I would entreat you to take a different approach in your thinking. Let me explain.
Because we humans don’t have access to the fundamental truth of our universe, we are not in a position to make assertions about the state of reality with 100% certainty. Is there a God? Are there many gods? Is there life after death in some capacity? Do the crystals that are all the rage in sororities actually have spiritual power? Maybe. We don’t know, and we are not equipped with the ability to assert anything about these claims with 100% confidence.
This may sound discouraging, but our perception of the universe is actually quite exciting. While we don’t know anything for certain, we are in a position to test our hypotheses against reality. Let me give an example. Let’s say I come up with a pickup line so amazing that I believe it will cause any girl I use it on to immediately give me her number. Any interesting premise, wouldn’t you agree? Now then, I can’t actually make any real assertions about whether I have found the ultimate pickup line until I actually try it out. So then, let’s say I start trying it out. To my astonishment, 10 out of 10 girls on which I use this line give me their numbers. Am I now in a position to state with perfect confidence that I have actually found the ultimate pickup line? Of course not. Perhaps I encountered an extremely lucky anomaly. Be that as it may, 10 out of 10 is an extremely good track record, so if nothing else, I have built up faith in the notion that I have found a darn good pickup line.
So then, back to the supernatural, and my potentially answered prayer. One particular possibility that I would like to explore throughout my life is the idea that there exists an all-powerful God in the universe that desires a relationship with us as humans. I know, I know. That reeks of Christianity. However, I think that is an incredibly compelling prospect, and I can certainly say that I would very much enjoy having some form of relationship with a higher form of super-intelligence in our universe.
So then, once again I ask, was my experience yesterday an answer to prayer? And again I answer: I don’t know. Regardless, my experience yesterday has allowed me to increase my faith (or confidence) in the possibility that there may in fact be some form of superintelligence that actually cares in some capacity about my personal loneliness. And to me, that is quite exciting indeed.
Good morning, schmeagy deags. I bring tell of great tidings. I have finally started birthing an Orchid. To formalize the previous statement, my mind has begun the painful, several-year-long process of giving birth to Orchid. What is Orchid? Certainly not a human child. I don’t have the biological hardware for that. Will it be as good as a human child? I suppose that will be for the world to decide.
You’ll notice I never answered the first question. To put it in the most boring way humanly possible, Orchid will be a piece of mathematical software. Bleh. To put it in a far more intriguing way, Orchid will be a tool that allows human beings to mercilessly take advantage of the parts of computer that are better than humans to construct magnificent pieces of logical structure with extreme simplicity.
If you’re at all involved in STEM, you probably have some level of familiarity with Mathematica, Maple, or Matlab. For the uninitiated, these are all programs that have been developed over the course of several decades and are essentially superpowered calculators. I do not mean for Orchid to attempt to overthrow these three giants of this particular industry. That would be ultimate folly for several reasons:
Goodness, that was only two reason. Last I checked, “two” doesn’t fall within the set of numbers described by “several.” Well I think they are both good enough. Those of you familiar with the Big Three mathematical programs know the staggering breadth of mathematical material that they support. What then could I possibly wish to accomplish with Orchid? What will Orchid be able to do that these pieces of software cannot?
I will answer by giving you the story that motivated Orchid in the first place. Last semester, I wanted a break from my regular schoolwork, so I bopped on over to the law library and violently threw open Steven Weinberg’s Foundations of Quantum Field Theory. That book is, in a word, dense. With my other courses last semester, I took me about four months to get through the first (real) chapter of the book. I was finally at the point where I could start working through the problems at the end of the chapter. To many of you readers not actively involved in physics, you may be wondering why on Earth I was purposely subjecting myself to the third level of hell. To many of you readers actively involved in physics, you may be wondering why on Earth I was purposely subjecting myself to the third level of hell. To those of you readers who actually enjoy theoretical physics, you will know exactly why I was purposely subjecting myself to the third level of hell, and understand I was doing this for the same reason a drug addict will go to any lengths to get another sweet, sweet hit of whatever particular substance has been giving them problems.
Because I was in Weinberg’s book, the problems were hard. Like really, really hard. However, I wasn’t annoyed by the length of the problems, I was annoyed at how I was doing the problem. I was naturally doing everything with pencil and paper, and I found that I was constantly rewriting extremely long equations with an incredible number of moving parts. I think everyone except the true weirdos can agree that the act of constantly rewriting extremely long equations is incredibly tedious, but it is also extremely prone to errors. Eventually, blessed readers, I had had enough. You better believe I wanted to find the Lie Algebra of the Galilean group, but at a certain point, a girl has got to put her foot down. I, being the metaphorical girl, fled the Law Library feeling particularly defeated.
As a budding computer scientist, however, I had another reason to be frustrated. Literally one of the biggest purposes of computers is to do simple monotonous tasks that probably could be done by humans. Why couldn’t I just use a computer to find the Lie Algebra of the Galilean group for me?
With this question glistening upon my tongue, I started a deep dive into the documentation of all the major pieces of math software with which I’m familiar. These pieces of software are incredibly good and fast at doing standard computations in a wide variety of fields in mathematics. Their issue is that they don’t allow you to define your own logical structures with their own rules. The particular piece of mathematics that I needed to do cannot easily be done using the Big Three.
I then began researching the incredibly huge variety of other pieces of mathematical software. The closest thing I found to a software that could solve my problems are two programs called Coq and Lean. Let me tell you, the language and interface for both of these pieces of software are absolutely disgusting. Coq in particular has that “90s software” feel that makes everyone want to amputate one of their feet.
From the beginning of this venture, I felt I would likely need to develop my own piece of software to accomplish my needs, and as I continued to research, the requirements and features of what I now call Orchid came to me as though from a half-remembered dream. In essence, I have two main requirements for Orchid:
As a final note, some of you overly masculine readers may ask why I am choosing to call the system Orchid. I could give you some hooplala about Orchids being beautiful yet unique, or them having cool adaptations that mirror logical structures. That ain’t true. I wanted to name it something cool that in my mind evokes a similar emotion in my being as when I think about the Euler-Lagrange equation. “Orchid” therefore, fit the bill remarkably well.
Shalom puppers. Today was my first day of classes this semester, and goodness me was it a long one. My roommate and I have been trying to set up online betting accounts all afternoon to try our hand at betting arbitrage, but let me tell you, arbitrage is dang hard in the United States. We ended up losing $25 to an abhorrent site called Bovada. May you burn in hell, Bovada.
Several hours before this unfortunate squashing of arbitrage dreams, I attended my History of Religion class. After hearing my boi Ethan Shagan lecture, I can tell you that this class is going to be the sauce. It is really remarkably interesting. I actually have lecture and discussion back-to-back on Tuesdays, so I was in the class for three and a half hours. That’s a long time.
Anyhoo, whilst I sat amongst my peers, my brain decided to start brewing some intriguing thought-children. If you’ll be so kind as to indulge me, I shall share one of these thought-children now. Here we go.
From the western perspective, God is usually thought of as a coherent, person-like structure. The whole “created in his own image” thing comes to mind (that was a biblical reference for those of you not biblically inclined). Yet the supernatural is essentially a possibility of the unknown, so why do humans feel the need to confine the notion of God to a person-like entity? At a certain level, a human being is essentially a pattern recognition system together with a set of subsystems that permit its survival. Given this, perhaps God is just some higher order pattern recognition system whose “brain” is not unlike our own? That would satisfy the “made in his image” requirement.
Many other religious belief systems, however, do not limit the notion of the supernatural to single “person-like” entity. In some cases, the supernatural/divine is thought of as a collection of super-intelligent beings or perhaps an enlightened state of being. But where can we draw the line between God and an enlightened state of being? Can we make the distinction between the notion of God and that of the supernatural?
In trying to sort out this conundrum, I got to thinking: if God were to be the encapsulation of the supernatural, what then would it mean for us to be “made in his image?” I’m not asserting that we are, I’m simply trying to find logical structure given a certain set of religious axioms, in this case, that of Christianity.
This is the question that got me thinking: how do we even define a human being? I’m not talking about this homo sapien crap, I want a rigorous, physics-like definition of what a human being actually is. I want a definition that would allow us to encounter some foreign structure in the universe and be able to definitively state whether the structure is human-like or not. This would allow us to start making claims about what it would mean to be “made in God’s image.”
So then, how would we do this? I think the first logical way to do this would be to describe a human being in terms of the matter it contains, i.e. a human has a brain, a heart, lungs, etc. You could then invoke standard biological classifications to differentiate a human from other animals. The issue I have with this definition in the present context is two-fold:
This is inherently a difficult intellectual issue. However, I will posit one way we can potentially get around this. Instead of defining a human in terms of its matter, perhaps a better way to define the human being is in terms of complexity and order. From this lens, instead of thinking about the heart from the perspective of matter as a collection of cardiac cells with a specific set of functionalities, we ought instead think of the heart as a manifestation of complexity that interacts with other pieces of complexity surrounding it. This is subtle ontological distinction, but one of incredible import. The object in this definition is not matter, but rather complexity.
So then, under this lens, instead of describing the universe in terms of the matter located at a particular point in space, to properly make claims about human-like structures, we instead need to describe the universe in terms of the complexity and order of a system at each particular point in space, independent of the matter located at that point. Physicists have a term to describe order in a system, namely “entropy,” but usually entropy is a function of the state of the system.
What I am describing here is a system whose physical state is a function of its complexity, or “entropy” (I know I’m abusing that term. Let me have this one).
So then, getting back to the whole “made in his image” issue. If humans suddenly encountered a super-intelligent structure that could possibly be God as described in the Christian tradition, how would we be able to tell if he passes the “made in his image” criterion?
I find it unlikely this God-like structure would have a similar biological makeup as humans, but perhaps it would contain several subsystems of immense complexity interacting with one another in a similar fashion are ours (namely our organs).
Anyhoo, just a thought, Mr. Fox.