Tag: Order

An Assault on Meaninglessness

By: Danny Geisz | April 8, 2022

Project: #Life

No need to mince words here. Roughly a month and a half ago, I was blatantly suicidal. I suppose such a declaration might cause some degree of consternation amongst those of you who care about me. First, ahh, thanks! Secondly, to make a long story short, I’m now moving forward in what I believe is a constructive way, in large part due to the support of many of the most important people in my life. Which is to say (because I probably should be pretty clear here) that I’m not suicidal, haven’t been for a good period of time, and am generally quite stable (in some respects, more so than I was before that particular episode).

But enough about my mental health issues. Let’s look at something significantly more interesting: why I was suicidal. Now, an honest answer to that question would certainly take into account the more external factors of my situation, which included the fact that I was somewhat malnourished, my sleep and eating schedules were totally off, I had caught COVID, and was in a foreign country living with people I barely knew who generally didn’t want to be around me due to the virus. Heavens. When I actually write that down, I’m realizing it was a bit of a perfect storm for mental health issues. I should also note that a variety of caustic behavioral patterns into which I’ve fallen over the years were really starting to come back to bite me. Anyway, generally not the best combination of circumstances.

Actually, gracious, I’m realizing that perhaps the question isn’t why I was suicidal, but rather what I experienced mentally that I perceived as being the cause of my thought patterns. Also, I should mention for interested parties that at no point was I ever planning the means by which I wished to end my life, but rather was feeling an overwhelming desire to no longer live. Glad we cleared that one up.

Ok, enough beating around the bush. Let’s actually answer the question.

Basically, during the aforementioned moments, I was experiencing an utterly suffocating sense that everything in life was utterly meaningless, and there was nothing actually worth living for.

Hmm. I’m thinking about how I want to tackle this from here.

First, let me say that this moment was essentially the culmination of the last two years of me being an atheist. During that interval, I’d essentially adopted an increasingly narrow understanding of reality in the name of empiricism, which I was basically able to maintain through a combination of arrogance and a lack of willingness to engage with different worldviews.

In any event, suffice it to say that the trajectory of my intellectual exploits was pointed towards hell, and this fact was somewhat lost on me until I glimpsed the fires for myself.

I suppose in an effort to unite the present narrative with the direction I want to take with this post, I should note that despite my feelings of utter hopelessness and desolation, I essentially convinced myself to try find a logical reason to abandon the worldview I had adopted at the time, even though I was subconsciously quite convinced I would be unsuccessful.

To make a reasonably long story short, through this process of brutally examining the way I viewed reality, I have become increasingly convinced that this whole “oh, everything is actually meaningless; we’re just a speck of dust in the cosmos” is actually a maggot-ridden pile of horseshit.

Perhaps to put this in different language, I’m fucking enraged at the intellectual laziness and blindness we’ve permitted ourselves to have allowed such an unbelievably arrogant worldview to become such a prevalent ideology. Especially in “intellectual” circles.

To that end, I wish to lay assault on the notion of meaninglessness. Welcome to my Ted talk.

There are several different angles from which this requires attack, but I think perhaps we should attempt to understand what we mean at all when we say something is “meaningful” or “meaningless.”

Before I continue, perhaps meditate on that question for a bit. The “What is the meaning of life?” ontological question has become sufficiently cliche as to have nearly lost any meaning, but perhaps attempt to parse what that question is really asking.

What do we mean when we ask “What is the meaning of life?”? (Wow, look at that strange punctuation! Any grammar nerds, please reach out to inform me whether I navigated that edge case correctly) In any event, that’s a bit of a hard question to answer. Perhaps to do so, we could reformulate the ontological question: let’s switch from asking “What’s the meaning of life?” to “What’s the significance of life?”. Those are either the same question or sufficiently similar that we can learn something about the former from the latter.

Ok, so let’s unpack this new question: “What’s the significance of life?”. The key word here is, of course, “significance.” (We’ll deal with “life” in a second :)). What do we mean when we ask about the significance of some event, action, or object has?

Well, we might say that the extent to which something is significant is directly tied with the extent to which the particular thing in question is connected with other entities or events that manifest in reality. Well, that’s a bit of a mouthful. Perhaps some examples are in order? 

We might say that the assassination of a President is a significant event. I believe we’re at least intuitively aligned on that fact. But let’s ask the question: why is this event significant?

Let’s give our fake president a name. Let’s call him Tim. President Tim. Despite his name, he inspired the nation.

Anyway, we’re looking at why President Tim’s assassination was a significant event. Or perhaps we could ask “what was the significance of President Tim’s assassination?”

There are a couple different ways that we could go about this. We could say that such an event has historical significance, insofar as the President’s assassination caused a variety of events and circumstances to unfold. We could say that the assassination had geo-political significance, in so far as other world powers took immediate political action in response to the death of a significant world leader. Oh ho! And why might he have been a “significant” world leader? Well this certainly would have been the case if his actions had broad consequences on the lives of millions around the world.

Ok ok. Let’s take a step back here, and attempt to generalize.

When we talk about “significance” in this context, what are we really talking about? It’s clear that something is “significant” in proportion to its degree of connection.

Carefully read this statement: “The President’s death had historical significance because it caused a variety of events and circumstances to unfold”. The incredibly important word there is “caused”. “Caused” is the word that demonstrates some degree of connection between the object in question (an assassination) and other events.

In order to really bring home this point, let’s look at what it means for something to be “insignificant.” Well, as I imagine you intuitively feel, if an event is insignificant, then it essentially has a very low degree of connection with other events and entities that have manifest within the context of reality.

I just lifted up my phone. Is that a significant event? Or perhaps, how significant is that event relative to, say, the assassination of a President? The intuitive (and honest) answer is that my physical interaction with my phone is infinitesimally significant relative to the assassination of a President, especially within our context. My lifting up my phone might have some (utterly imperceptible) physical consequence on me, but if doesn’t affect anyone else. Or perhaps to use more illustrative language, my picking up my phone in an empty rooms is the “cause” of very few (or no) subsequent events within the context of societal experience. The assassination of the President, on the other hand, could very well lead to an entire change in political power, which could easily lead to massive change in the lives of millions of people.

Ok, I think that we’ve had quite enough of that particular example. Let’s really lock down on the thesis that’s being presented. When we talk about whether something is “meaningful” or “significant,” to some degree we’re discussing the causal connection this particular thing has with other aspects of reality.

Ok, good. Now let’s go for the goddamn jugular. What are we daring to say when we assert “everything is meaningless”? Well, for one thing, we’re essentially attributing ourselves a godlike understanding of reality, which speaks to some unspeakable narcissism.

But let’s attempt to speak of this a bit more objectively. When you say “everything is meaningless,” you’re essentially making the claim of a universal degree of arbitrariness. Or, perhaps to put it in different language, you’re essentially asserting that there’s some particular context in which “everything” (to speak abstractly) has no degree of causal connection to anything else.

Now why on earth would someone think this?

Hmm, as a brief aside, you’ll notice that my language is becoming increasingly violent. I would like to make clear that in no way am I attempting to condemn anyone who ascribes to this particular thought pattern. That would be an incalculable injustice, because I myself have been the ultimate servant of this particular ideology. When I speak with rage, the rage is not directed at some other group of people who I believe have in some way deceived me. No! I am my own deceiver! In me is the ultimate spirit of totalitarian malevolence, that would dare set itself up against God! When I speak with rage, I speak to the satanic presence within us that would create intellectual idols, and worship them as though they the source of truth!

Goodness, I’m realizing this is starting to have a particularly religious feel to it. While I have no idea who might be reading this, I think I should attempt to put several other things straight. Though I’m speaking with some degree of “Christian” language, I feel that it would be extremely wrong to call myself a Christian. (I was actually baptized about a month ago, but that was a totally bizarre experience that frankly I still need to make sense of, and can therefore be ignored within the context of the present discussion).

There are two reasons that I feel particularly inclined to use “Christian” language when discussing these topics. The first is more personal, and the second is much more… shall we say, global.

Reason 1: As my beloved and wickedly intelligent sister pointed out to me within the last month, because of my intensely Christian upbringing, Christianity provided the symbolic framework that I used to make sense of my experience and interaction with reality. As a side note, this came up in the first place because for many years, in some sense I’ve “blamed” my experience with Christianity in my youth for producing some of the more emotionally painful patterns into which I fall. For example, I have an incredibly strong conviction that I can’t and won’t be accepted in social situations. In my arrogance, I had “blamed” this phenomenon on the degree to which I took Christianity seriously in my youth, which in turn meant that I didn’t participate in many of semi-disrespectful and rebellious activities with which adolescent boys engage in order to jockey for social respect and acceptance. However, beloved reader, what kind of seven year old takes Christianity that seriously? Why on earth did I care that much? Could there perhaps be some more intrinsic element of my personality that manifested itself through the symbolic framework of Christianity, which in turn lead to my particular attitude towards social acceptance? In any event, for better or worse, my involved history with Christianity means that I naturally find metaphors between my experience attempting to pursue truth and Christian teaching (and who the hell is there to say that’s a coincidence?)

Reason 2: Christianity and Biblical interpretation have been some of the most fundamental mediums by which people throughout the millennium have attempted to answer and understand the most central questions posed by the human experience. That of course isn’t to say that Christianity can’t easily become a tyrannical and idolatrous force in it’s own way (more on that in another post :)), but perhaps as a mirror of my own experience, Christianity has undergone the crucible of millennia of human interpretation and the human quest to understand matters of the divine. That fact used to make me a bit queasy, because what could be more arbitrary than human interpretation? Well, idiot (referring to 2020 Danny), who the hell are you to say that there aren’t actually deep emotional and psychological behaviors that generally manifest cross-culturally and inter-temporally? How do you explain love? Or greed? Or jealousy? There are a set of fundamental psychological patterns that are shared by the vast majority of humans. Who, then, are you to say that human interpretation and introspection is an arbitrary process? Well, you (again, talking to myself) must be an unthinkably narcissistic, blind, and intellectually tyrannical. Or perhaps, in an attempt to have grace with own (past and present) ignorance, we could say that the spirit of narcissism, blindness, and tyranny lives within me, as it does with every other human. In some sense, the project of life is learning to negotiate with the spirits that provide the experiences of consciousness.

Goodness, I seem to be totally lost in the sauce, don’t I! What was I even writing about? Oh yes! First I was attempting to justify my use of Christian language despite my (potentially) non-christian status. And the reason I was doing that was to continue to describe the arrogance of the statement that “everything is meaningless.”

Hmm. I suppose there are two things that I should attempt to do moving forward. First I would like to continue exploring the statement “everything is meaningless.” Then, depending on the context of that conversation, I might be in a position to reasonably assert that that statement is at best a theory, and should not be taken as a central ideology. Onward!

Ok. “Everything is meaningless.” What does this mean? I had briefly unpacked this, but perhaps let’s attempt to take this apart a bit more collaboratively.

Unless you have some superhuman (or potentially idolatrous) faith in God, it’s extremely plausible that deep within you lies a fear that everything is, in fact, meaningless. The reason that I bring this up is that it would be immensely helpful if you can bring to your consciousness this particular fear. For the religious among you, this is essentially akin to the fear that there is, in fact, no God. And I might assert that even if you would count yourself among the religious, it’s entirely intellectually honest (and even encouraged, in some spiritual sense) to deeply engage with this fear. Dear lord, what on earth is your faith in God if it’s unable to stand against the fear of his absence.

Anyway, please take a moment to bring this particular fear to mind. And, I apologize for getting off topic: I mean the fear that “Everything is meaningless.”

Really marinate in this for a second. I would recommend doing this late at night when the Chaos of reality is most readily manifest through the absence of illumination. 

Ok, I’m going to assume that you’ve followed my advice, and are hopefully deeply engaged with the deeply intrinsic fear that everything is meaningless.

Alright friends, here we go! Are we going to attempt to convince ourselves that this fear is unwarranted? Hell no! Let’s feed the beast! Let’s make him strong! Only then can we truly approach him to determine if he truly holds the final word! Talk about the ultimate final boss!

And to be explicitly clear, my goal with the subsequent discussion is to attempt to justify the assertion that “everything is meaningless” as much as possible. Let’s begin!

Well, I think that probably a good place to start is arbitrary suffering. Evil, some might call it. Let’s try to be specific as possible with these. Let’s really try to engage with the malevolence of life. 

Hmm, why not start with Putin and Ukraine? OHCHR reports that 1,480 civilians are confirmed to have died in Ukraine, though many speculate that this number is much higher. Why have these people died? I’m certainly no expert on Putin, but it largely seems that thousands have died because of a single individual’s extremely misguided understanding of what is to bring about the flourishing of the human race. 

Does that sound familiar? Anybody catching whiffs of Hitler? Stalin? Perhaps Mao?

In what universe that has any semblance of higher order would thousands, millions even die because of someone’s ignorance?

Let’s move on to Africa, shall we? 

My brother recently worked in conjunction with a group that works directly in one of Africa’s many slums. This group recently held a celebration because the rate of rape had dropped to 90% in their particular slum.

Hello? Anybody home? 90%?? Are you kidding me? How dare we battle against the notion that “everything is meaningless” when a rape rate of 90% is something worth celebrating? 

But in the immortal words of Joseph Stalin, “a single death is a tragedy, a million deaths are a statistic”. So perhaps instead of paying attention to silly statistics, let’s look at actual tragedies, shall we?

Perhaps let’s explore the life of David Berkowitz. At 22 (my age!), David stabbed two women to death on Christmas Eve. A year later, he approached two women at night, produced a pistol, and shot them both. Lovely stuff, isn’t it.

Hmm, I could continue, but what is the point? Goodness, do I need to convince you of the presence of arbitrary violence? Meaningless suffering? Lurking nihilism? That seems largely unnecessary. Unless you’ve lived an unthinkably insulated life, then no doubt is your connection with this particular topic particularly poignant. 

How else might we strengthen the claim that everything is, in fact, meaningless? Perhaps instead of appealing to blatant demagoguery, let’s really try to give this some more theoretical meat.

In my experience (and this really says something about my life), when people say something like “everything is meaningless”, they typically aren’t discussing existential frustration with the injustice of life. Instead, this statement more frequently is paired with another statement like “we’re all just specks of dust, floating through the cosmos.”

So, perhaps let’s explore that particular statement in some degree of detail. “We’re all just specks of dust.” Another analogous claim that people frequently bring up is the notion that “We’re all just going to die someday.”

These sorts of statements are meant to invoke a sense of insignificance or arbitrariness of our current existence.

And actually, I was starting to get off track. I’d like to explore the “speck of dust” statement, because I think that it’s particularly useful for moving us towards the point that I’m making.

Why is it that asserting our status as a speck of dust immediately brings to an acute sense of meaninglessness?

Really think about this for a second. Pause the video, and then press play when you’re ready.

Ok, I’m going to take a crack at this. By bringing attention to the totality of the cosmos, you’re essentially bringing to mind a wide variety of cosmological actors which are, quite literally, almost totally unaffected by human existence (as far as we can tell). Is this unreasonable? Not at all! What would be the mechanism by which we could exert some degree of influence on the celestial bodies? 

Well, perhaps the best answer that we could give is that the four fundamental forces could potentially be at work in influencing the evolution of the celestial bodies. So like, gravity and stuff (by stuff, I mean the electromagnetic force, the weak interaction, and the strong interaction).

Ok, and how much would these forces actually affect things like, say, the sun? The moon? Alpha Centauri? Geidi Prime (joking :))?

If you answered “like, not at all”, then ding ding ding! Someone gets a gold star! (If your reflexive answer included the term “infinitesimally”, then you get extra points).

Ok, so this notion of humanity being a speck in the cosmos brings to mind feelings of intense insignificance because within the presented context, the causal connection between the actions of humans and the evolution of these astronomical bodies is essentially infinitesimal (yay, extra points!)

This example is actually extremely helpful in allowing us to better understand what we mean when we say that “everything is meaningless”.

Much like the statement “we’re just specks, floating through the cosmos”, the statement that everything is meaningless implicit assumes the existence of some global context in which a variety of things might interact.

Now there are two ways that you can go from here. I guess I’ll just attempt to explain my own conception of this particular issue (instead of presupposing that my conception accurately describes your own) in order to maintain intellectual honesty.

Actually, I just tried to write down the first way that I conceptualize this issue, and it turned out to be quite difficult to coherently discuss. It’s also less important, so let’s just skip directly to the second conception. (You can safely ignore this last paragraph). 

Ok, so let’s once again set the stage. “Everything is meaningless.” As previously asserted, this implicitly asserts the existence of some global context in which different entities might interact. Now, “everything is meaningless” is a bold statement, because it’s essentially asserting the sum total of “everything” lacks significance, or to use language that we developed earlier in this post, “everything” lacks some degree of causal connection with some broader context. 

Ok, this is getting technical, and somewhat difficult to understand. I think that it would actually be illuminating to once again consider the alternative. 

In that spirit, what if your life actually had meaning? What if your life actually had significance? What do we even mean by that particular statement? Well, for one thing, it actually doesn’t matter if the significance is positive or negative.

When we say that “your life has significance,” we’re presupposing the existence of… something (for lack of better word) on which your life has some effect. As (exhaustively) explored previously, the notion of significance is intrinsically connected with this notion of causal connection.

It would seem that part of the difficultly that arises when attempting to answer the question of “what is the meaning of life?” lies in the fact that it’s intensely difficult to even conceptualize the something that our life might have an effect upon. Are we talking about reality? The redemption of creation? The preparation of the world for the second coming of Christ?

As I explored in my previous post (about how we don’t know what we’re doing — pretty topical), there’s some very real sense that reality is trying to do something. I don’t mean to anthropomorphize reality (perhaps that’s the mortal conception of God?), but if you simply look around you, there has been a clear progression in the complexity hierarchy of reality that has lead to… well, us, humans.

Just to be a bit more clear about this, you have subatomic particles, which then form atoms, which them form molecules, which them form biological structures, which then form cells, which then form organs, which then form organisms, and boom! You get humans.

There’s a clear… well, let’s call it a “story”. There seems to be a clear story in the way that reality evolves throughout time.

Maybe to put it in more biting language, we could say that the evolution of reality, in some sense, seems to be the very opposite of “arbitrary.” While it’s extremely difficult (or perhaps, explicitly impossible) to clearly articulate what reality itself is doing, “something” seems to be happening.

And perhaps within the context of this theoretical understanding of reality, perhaps we have identified (though poorly) the overarching “something” on which your life has some causal effect.

“But Danny”, you might be saying, “if the ‘something’ that we’re discussing here is in fact some aspect of reality itself, wouldn’t my effect on this ‘something’ be trivial, like my gravitational effect on the evolution of the heavenly bodies?”

Well, to that, I might say “yes” and “no.” In a very real sense, this process is (by literal definition), much bigger than us.

However (and I’m going to speak mystically here, because I’m not really sure how else to do this), there’s a very real sense in which the actions that you take are in direct reflection of the fractally macroscopic actions behaviors of reality as a whole.

And what do I mean by that? In other posts, I’ve showed that I’m fascinated by the similarities that different structures show at different levels of the complexity hierarchy. For example, it’s fascinating that, in a very real sense, you can see something like “love” emerge in the interactions between atoms, or perhaps molecules. There are several common themes in how the most successful structures that manifest at different levels of the complexity hierarchy behave. 

To take a step back, what I’m trying to say that is that even though something like a single electron essentially has no meaningful effect on the decisions that you make as a human (sound at all like the “speck in the cosmos”?), in some sense, the actions of the single electron are fundamentally what give rise to your existence. For without the actions of electrons, we wouldn’t have atoms, and without the intricate dance of multiple atoms, we might not have molecules, and so on and so forth! There is a dance, a game, that all entities in creation are playing, and success in the game enables continued progression of the story of reality.

So, truly blessed and anointed reader, you might ask, “what could possibly be the significance of my life in all of this?” Like the single electron, there might be structures scattered throughout reality on which your life might seem to have little effect.

But, again like the electron, by means of right interactions with the world around you, your life is the fundamental force that gives rise the continuation of the broader story of reality. What is the meaning of your life, you ask?

Your life adds a voice to the choir of creation, co-creating a hymn of the continual redemption of the entirety of fucking reality. Meditate on that for a bit, would you?

When I became an atheist (when I was 20), I felt distinctly relieved that I no longer felt the urge to justify the silliness of the Bible. It was such a relief that I didn’t have to constantly contort my mind, trying to actually believe that a man could turn five loaves into five thousand, or could walk on water.

However, in my old age (22 lol), I’m starting to realize that so much of the juice of the Bible lies in the fact that it has, quite literally, withstood the test of time. Instead of just trying to blindly believe that a man could turn water into wine, I’m learning to ask a different question: “What is is about [insert Bible story] that has so captured the human imagination that it has endured all these years?”

I suppose what I’m trying to say is that I’m learning to legitimately and carefully examine the significance of what’s in the original book (well, “book” as we know it).

More specifically, consider Romans 8:18-25: “I consider that our present sufferings are not comparable to the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager expectation for the revelation of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not by its own will, but because of the One who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.

We know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until the present time.  Not only that, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved; but hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he can already see? But if we hope for what we do not yet see, we wait for it patiently.”

If you have a background in Christianity, then just for two fucking seconds, please look beyond what you think you know, and actually consider this statement. If you don’t have a background in Christianity, then just for two fucking seconds, actually consider this statement. 

What on earth might it mean that the “whole creation” has been groaning in the pains of childbirth? This language is pregnant (see what I did there?) with a sense of expectation. There’s an incredibly real sense of present suffering, present frustration, present anguish, and present angst.

And yet. As with childbirth, amidst the utterly encompassing pain, there’s an expectation of new life to emerge, new possibility to flourish, the possibility of redemption to once again become manifest. 

When we discuss creation, we’re tempted to over-spiritualize. This either leads to an idolatrous view of the divine, or it leads to the contempt thereof.

So, ok then. Let me attempt to put modern language to that which it seems St. Paul was at least alluding.

The life of an electron is chaotic. It itself is barely exists as we’re able to conceptualize existence. It exists, somehow, as both a wave an a particle. Not only it its own existence one of intense chaos, but then it also interacts with a whole variety of other particles. It gets pulled to electrons, buffeted between stationary states of different angular momentum, repelled by its own brethren.

And yet, through some miracle, eventually it comes in contact with a set of protons and neutrons in such a manner that for the first time, it finds some degree of stable respite from the chaos of its existence. Order emerges from what had previously been a situation of pure chaos.

Thus that we see in some sense the very existence of the electron and the proton speaks to an ideal state of being, where order can emerge, and greater things are able to emerge.

What then, should we say of the eukaryotic cell? There are 30 trillion cells in the human body. It is effectively impossible for humans to try to conceptualize that number (we’re actually very bad at understanding the relative size of different numbers). 

For a single cell, how on earth is it to know what it should do, or with what it should interact? It’s constantly being bombarded by a whole variety of ions and bio-molecules. However, by some orchestration (beyond human comprehension, I might add), these single units are able to orient themselves in such a manner that allows for a drastic increase in both their individual and collective stability.

But should we stop at just a singular groups of cells? Certainly not. The groups themselves begin to organize themselves into arrays of increasing complexity and stability. Millions of cells come together to form tissues, and from these tissues emerge complex interdependent organ systems. The existence of the tissues is impossible without the dance of single cells, and the singular cells benefit from the higher level organization that manifests and subdues broader swaths of chaos.

What should we say of the human being? Of the consciousness that miraculously emerges? Is it fair to attempt the understand the individual without understanding the constituents? The human being is impossible without the tissues, and analogously to the dance between the tissues and their constituent cells, the tissues benefit from the actions of the human.

But what, we might ask, are the electrons, the cells, the tissues, and the humans doing? At every level of the complexity hierarchy these entities are striving against the forces of destruction and chaos and seeking where they might pull structure out of the void.

Hmm. How then should we characterize this process? I’d say that St. Paul hit this one straight on the head: “The creation waits in eager expectation for the revelation of the sons of God. For the creation was subjected to futility, not by its own will, but because of the One who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God.”

There are a wide array of different tangents that could be explored, but perhaps I should close this post out for the present time, and delve into different matters in further posts. 

As you might recall, the entire purpose of this post was an attempt to mount an attack against the idea that “everything is meaningless.” I naturally can’t say whether my words have had any particularly meaningful effect on you, but maybe think on these things a bit. What I have described here has been immensely beneficial to me in my struggle with suicidal depression.

Before I close, I know that I frequently say things like this, but if you find these matters important, and potentially want to discuss them with someone else, please, for the love of God, reach out to me. It is my heart’s truest desire to hear your thoughts on these matters. Please please please, send me an email, or a text. We’re not meant to consider these things in isolation. 

In closing them, I’d like to include an excerpt from The Brothers Karamazov, which I think is the best book I’ve ever read. (Dostoevsky was an astute son of a motherless goat, to say the least). This is a quote from the last teachings of Father Zossima. This caught my attention because of how accurately it described my suicidal state. Do with it as you will.

“God took seeds from different worlds and sowed them on this earth, and His garden grew, and everything came up that could come up, but all growing things live and are alive only through the feeling of their contact with other mysterious worlds. If that feeling grows weak or is destroyed in you, what has grown up in you will die. Then you will become indifferent to life and even grow to hate it. That’s what I think.”

I think we might need to go to space...

By: Danny Geisz | May 29, 2021

Project: #Life

So I’ve been thinking about it, and I think we’re going to die 😊. How’s that for a click baity first sentence. I was actually lying in the first sentence – I actually think we might die. Definitely not guaranteed. I’m def not tryna bool on out as Thomas Malthus’s reincarnation, but it’s actually a legitimate concern.

I suppose I should probably explain what I mean. Well, as with most of my posts, I’d like to first talk about why humanity has made it this far to begin with. Am I about to talk about Stable structures? You betcha!

Ok, so humanity is fairly miraculous, specifically given our dynamic stability within the context of everything else we can perceive. If you’ve even taken cursory biology, you know what I’m talking about is true. If you’re not convinced, go look up our best understanding of the human ear. It’s literally buck wild. It’s so unbelievably complex, it’s difficult to even conceive that it literally doesn’t fall apart in a second. Let’s just say, you’d be forgiven if you researched the human body and came away believing in the existence of a Creator.

Anyway, if we assume intelligent design isn’t actually a thing (for sake of argument – don’t get your panties in a wad), there still is totally a mechanism that would allow for something as complex as Homo Sapien to come about. Let’s talk about it.

Definitely beating a dead horse if you’ve read some of my other stuff, but I’m gonna talk briefly about Stability again. Basically, according to our perceptions of the world, it’s fairly obvious that some things are more stable than others. If, for example, you built your house out of granite, it’s going to last longer than if you built the boi with thousands of slices of Swiss cheese (an inferior cheese, IMHO).

So within the context of stability, some things just “work” better than others. And by “work,” I mean “possess some Characteristic that allows it to survive in its present form for a greater duration than other Entities.” Not too bad, right?

Ok, in past posts I’ve gone on at length about why some Entity might be more Stable than others (ie it’s better at contending with threats, etc.), but right now, let’s talk about how Entities even come into existence in the first place.

As I think you can intuitively agree, complex stability just doesn’t manifest arbitrarily. In other words, a Big Mac isn’t going to just appear at the center of the milky way. Well, it could, but that would be an incredibly low probability event.

This idea of complexity just appearing out of nowhere is something that people have been thinking about for a while. There’s a thought experiment about something called a Boltzmann Brain, which basically looks at whether a fully conscious brain could just come together arbitrarily in the middle of space. If you think about it, a brain is just some matter that’s organized in a particular way, so there’s isn’t a reason why a bunch of matter couldn’t randomly form a brain in the middle of space.

However, just to continue the Boltzmann Brain thought experiment further than it’s typically taken, let me ask you this: Even if matter randomly came together to form a brain in the middle of space, what then? I’ll tell you what then. The brain would immediately die due to the lack of blook flow, the low temperature, a lack of nutrients, and generally a lack of a body to support it. The same could be said of effectively any biological entity, in that it would immediately perish if it were to arbitrarily form in the middle of space.

So then, it’s not just our biology that makes us humans incredibly interesting, it’s also the context that allows humans to exist in the first place. And it’s this context that gives us a clue into how something as complex as a human could even come into existence in the first place.

Ok, let’s talk about subatomic particles. Not because of their actual physics, but rather because most people think of them as a fundamental building block of reality. Whether that’s actually true is neither here nor there for the present argument. Bear with me.

So if you had a super big puddle of subatomic particles (like in the early universe), what would happen? If you don’t believe a supernatural figure had anything to do with our universe, then you probably tacitly believe that the puddle of particles would eventually become people, houses, monkeys, whatnot. But how do we get from the chaotic puddle of subatomic particles to structures are complex as monkeys? Let’s dig in.

Basically, the only thing you need to know about subatomic particles is that they interact with one another in interesting, but relatively predictable ways. Basically, what typically happens is that particles will either attract each other or repel each other in different ways.

The really interesting thing though is that some configurations of particles are way more stable than others. The configurations that are most important to us humans are atoms. And if you think about it, it’s not too difficult to see how atoms formed from particles. As a quick recap, atoms basically have a bunch of electrons (small, negative bois) swirling around a bunch of protons and neutrons (large, positive or neutral bois).

Basically, in order for atoms to come about, all you need is an area of space where a bunch of particles are interacting. Chances are (ie, it’s a fairly probable event) that an electron and a proton are going to come together to form a hydrogen atom, and then boom, all of a sudden you have a very stable structure. So basically, it’s reasonably probable that particles create hydrogen atoms, and then stay in that configuration due to its stability.

Just to be clear, hydrogen is special. If you throw two electrons together, the resulting configuration is highly unstable. The same thing can be said for a huge array of other possible configurations of particles. Without needing to know the details, there’s something about hydrogen that just makes it work, where other things don’t.

Ok, so now we have hydrogen. Luckily for us, hydrogen is both highly stable, and it also interacts in interesting ways with different atoms. Thus we can apply the same line of thinking to atoms that we did with particles. And basically, the story there is that some configurations of atoms just work (are inherently more stable), than others, and you get molecules.

You can basically continue this line of thinking until you start getting biological Entities, and whoopie! We have humans. However, as you’ll probably intuitively agree, it can’t just be that easy. And, blessed reader, your intuition is correct. It isn’t.

Basically in order to reliably get situations where lower forms of complexity can create higher forms of complexity (ie molecules to biological cells), you need something I call a Sandbox. (That’s by no means an original term, and you probably know where I’m going with this).

Here’s how I define a Sandbox. First of all, you need some structures (like particles) that interact with each other in interesting ways. More specifically, the situation has to allow for the Entities to interact with each other in many different ways. For example, if all subatomic particles were spread out across the universe, they wouldn’t be able to interact and form atoms. In order to get atoms, you need particles to be in the same general vicinity to increase the probability of atom formation. To make a somewhat shaky analogy, nature has to be able to run a bunch of “experiments” in order to find the structures that are the most stable. So you need a situation where random interactions are fairly probable.

On the flip side, you can’t have a situation that’s too chaotic. If you stuffed all the particles in the universe into a tiny box, you’d probably get atoms pretty quickly, but they’d probably be blown to pieces by all the chaos around them. Essentially, the Sandbox can’t be too unstable or the structures that do form won’t be able to survive the threats to their existence.

Lol. If you’ve read my stuff where I pontificate about Order and Chaos, this is a slightly less philosophical treatment of the subject: progress occurs at the order between the Light (order) and the Chaos.

Just as a quick side note, can I quickly vent a little bit? Some people have been getting really caught up in how “fined-tuned” the universe is for human life. They say things like “if some fundamental physics constant was slightly different, life wouldn’t be possible.” Duh! But you sons of goats are looking at it wrong! Life and consciousness are obviously really cool, but they aren’t necessarily the end-all-be-all of the universe. From my perspective it seems fairly obvious that life and consciousness are both phenomenon that make total sense within the context of reality because they’re simply mechanisms that lead to higher structural stability.

While life and consciousness are obviously incredibly, unbelievably complex, they aren’t super surprising, in that it makes sense that they would manifest in a reality with temporal consistency, given that such a reality places high priority on temporal stability. What would be way more surprising is if life and consciousness didn’t give rise to higher Stability. If that were the case, I would be way more likely to believe in an intelligent creator because complexity basically doesn’t come around unless it has a competitive advantage.

Ok, back to my original tangent. Why do humans exist? Well, we’re basically the product of a ton of Sandboxes. What I mean is that in going from atoms to molecules, molecules to cells, cells to organ, organs to organisms, each step of the way there’s been a Sandbox that allows the universe to “experiment” with many different structures and find the structure that works the best.

Now then, you might be wondering, wouldn’t Sandboxes themselves be really, really rare? If so, then humanity’s existence would seem more mysterious. However, if you read my post on Explosive Continuity, you’ll see that certain particularly stable structures naturally give rise to Sandboxes (low threat areas where “experimentation” is possible). I won’t go into that too much, but if you’re interested, send me an email and I’d love to discuss this.

Anyway, let’s go back to the very first paragraph. Why do I think humanity’s in real trouble? Well, we’ve been banking off some great Sandboxes for the last millions of years, and now we’re in a position where we could destroy our current Sandbox. Why? Because humanity’s too powerful, which makes it very unstable.

One critical aspect of a Sandbox that allows it to function is that if one experiment fails, it doesn’t destroy the Sandbox. So two electrons being close to each other isn’t going to threaten the electron and proton to form hydrogen, which is why we get atoms.

If a failed experiment can lead to the destruction of a Sandbox, then you’re basically dealing with a situation that’s too chaotic to be a Sandbox. And that’s specifically what’s happening with humanity.

Scientific progress is really neat, but it has drastically increased the power individual people yield. And just like any other situation, certain aspects of humanity are more unstable than others. As you probably agree, it’s not great if the unstable parts of the system can wreak a huge amount of havoc.

To look into this, let’s consider the age-old phenomenon of someone losing hope, going crazy, and killing a bunch of people. In the old days (like cave man era), if you decided to go on a killing spree, resulting in your own suicide, you could probably only kill a couple of people before you were taken down.

Now a days, with ARs and bombs, if someone really wants to kill a lot of people, they can kill a lot of people. We typically focus on the positive aspects of empowering people with technology, but the same technologies that “make the world a better place” also allow people to cause a greater amount of destruction, if that’s their goal.

Oh, and I almost forgot to mention! (JK) Scientific progress naturally accelerates if left to its own devices, which … um … might just kill us. Let’s just say that if General AI is widely available to your average Joe Shmo, it’s time to head for the fracking hills.

So what do we do about this? Well we could either try to dampen scientific progress, which, historically speaking, would probably be a total disaster, or we need to increase the size of our own Sandbox drastically so that when Joe Shmo decides to ‘splode the Earth with his pocket nuke, we don’t all die.

And how do we do that? Well, we’d need to increase our domain beyond the boundary of destruction, which probably means that we need to get to space, and we need to get there like now. Frankly, spreading to space probably wouldn’t save us from malicious AI, but at least we might be safe from some nukes.

Hmm, a small group of humans would probably have to sneak off in a totally untraceable manner to escape malicious AI. That’d be interesting.

Ok, well I imagine you all catch my drift. However, I should note that Malthus’ error lay in underestimating human ingenuity to solve the problems he thought would bring humanity to its knees. While I’m arguing that humanity’s ability to constantly progress may in fact be our downfall, I certainly don’t want to make Malthus’ mistake and discount the problem-solving abilities of generations to come.

However, if the trend of the last several thousand years stays true, then the coming developments of humanity will likely be well beyond or entirely different from what we presently conceive, bringing its own opportunities and threat.

Eh, whatever. Just stay on your toes, bois.

Explosive Continuity

By: Danny Geisz | February 25, 2021

Project: #Life

Sup schmeags. So quick Danny life update before we talk about Life, the Universe, and Everything. I’m in a bit of an ironic situation, in that I believe I’m a certifiable workaholic without every having worked an official full-time job. Neat, huh?

Anyway, you might be wondering what I do with all the time I don’t spend writing XFA posts. Well, I’m finding myself spending an increasing amount of time trying to convince my perpetually fraying emotions that it’s a good idea for me to just keep coding. I hit a bit of a rough patch last night involving Orchid, comments, and really sketchy DOM manipulation, and I decided to put my foot down. So yeah, I’m taking a full day off, which is something I’m not actually sure if I’ve done since I got my wisdom teeth out back in January.

And that means it’s a great time for me to write some blog posts! I’ll probably go find Roger and give him a toot as well, but there’s time for that later. To be clear, “Roger” is the name of my bassoon, which should clear up any juicy misconceptions that last statement may have imparted to you.

Alright friends, let’s talk about explosive continuity. I probably should have named the post “Explosive Homogeneity,” but it seems the term “Homogeneity” has accrued some negative connotations in the last several years with which I have no desire to be associated.

Also, I’ll be using my Fizzy Definitions, so if you see capitalized words that otherwise have no business being capitalized, you can scoot yourself on over to my last post in which I outlined my definitions of some of my most frequently used words.

Ok, before we get into what I mean by “explosive continuity,” let’s talk about why this is important. The notions surrounding explosive continuity provide (in my estimation) a compelling explanation for effectively any large-scale system that has some degree of homogeneity. Humanity, biological life, the universe, dimensions, subatomic particles are all examples of such systems.

Hmm, that didn’t come across as sexily as I wanted, but hey, no one’s ever said that sex sells, right?

Ok, so now that I’ve (somewhat shakily) described why explosive continuity is important, let’s talk about what it is, and why it comes about.

As I’ve stated about a bajillion times by this point, a Stable Entity basically has two jobs if it wants to survive. It has to maintain its internal stability, and it has to contend with threats in its environment. So as a human being, if you want to survive for a good long time, not only do you have to make sure your internal organs don’t randomly shut down (leading to an almost certain death), but if you run into a tiger, you best be sure to either fight it, or run away. Likewise, if you’re a Carbon atom, if you want to survive for a long time, you have to be sure that your protons and electrons don’t arbitrarily decay (they typically don’t), and you also have to be sure that you aren’t blasted to smithereens by a rogue Alpha Particle.

Now then, basically all the arguments I present about stability recursively apply to an Entity’s substructure, so we’re just going to ignore internal stability for the present moment. Let’s talk about dealing with threats.

Every Entity typically poses some degree of threat to every other Entity with which it interacts. So, a bowling ball (a certified Entity) poses a threat to you (another certified Entity) because the bowling ball is able to interact with you and your constituent parts. You might argue that the bowling ball doesn’t pose much of a threat to you, but what if you accidently drop it on your foot? What if Dwayne the frikin’ Rock Johnson throws it at your head? Now it’s really a threat!

While the degree of the threat obviously varies drastically given the context of the situation, the threat is always there. So then, how do you deal with a threatening Entity? You basically have three options. You can fight, you can flee, or you can cooperate. Now then, fighting and fleeing are typically the goto options in these sorts of situations (remember your fight or flight instinct?) but cooperation is typically the best option, if it can be achieved.

Before I move on, I want to clarify one point. Given my language, you might think I’m talking specifically about biological Entities. That’s simply not the case. These arguments apply to biological systems because they’re Entities, not the other way around. These arguments apply just as well to non-biological entities.

To illustrate this, consider a rock. Within the context of our planet, rocks are pretty darn stable. They’re certainly not nearly as fancy (or interesting) as human beings, but they’re darn good at the whole Stability game. Why is that? Well, rocks typically have great internal Stability because they’re built out of super stable materials (small atoms), and they’re also pretty great at contending with threats? How, you rightly ask? Well, they aren’t super great at fleeing, but they are pretty darn great at fighting and cooperating.

“But Danny,” I hear someone keening in the back of the room, “Rocks don’t fight. Rocks don’t cooperate.” Well, Foolish Florian (I’ve been reading GOT lately), here’s what I have to say to that. How should we define fighting? I would argue that we could define fighting as behaving in a manner that eliminates a threat. Rocks happen to have such a high degree of internal stability, that most true threats to their stability simply break on impact. While it’s certainly passive, this particular characteristic of rocks makes them pretty great at fighting threats.

“Ok, so rocks fight,” mutters Florian. “Whatever. But they don’t cooperate.” Well, again, I would have to disagree with you, under a particularly open definition of the word “cooperation.” I would define cooperation as two or more Entities behaving in a manner that increases their collective stability. We therefore can certainly apply this definition to rocks. Consider the interaction between a rock and a human being. As long as the two entities have low relative momentum, then there is a ton of potential for cooperation. The human might take shelter next to the rock, thus protecting the human from other threats. In this case, the human might also attempt to fortify his/her shelter with other materials, which could easily increase the rock’s stability as well. Thus, cooperation.

Cooperation is actually way more common than one might think. It’s typically a key ingredient in creating higher-order Stable Entities. Just to satiate your appetite, here are some other examples of cooperation. The interaction between primitive eukaryotic cells and mitochondria is a great example. Any form of biological symbiosis is probably the most familiar example of non-human cooperation. The interaction between electrons and protons is a fantastic example of cooperation as well. And obviously, people working with other people is clearly a form of cooperation.

Now then, cooperation is clearly the optimal way of dealing with threats, but obviously cooperation isn’t always possible. Statistically speaking, out of all the threatening Entities an Entity may encounter, the Entity will likely only be able to cooperate with a small set of those Entities.

Good heavens, I need to find a way to use the word “Entity” less frequently. This is getting out of hand.

Ok. So I’ve established that it’s in an Entity’s best interest to cooperate with other Entities if possible (because it increases everyone’s stability), but cooperation is really hard to achieve. So then, how can an Entity minimize its need to fight or flee from threats (suboptimal outcomes), and maximize its propensity for cooperation (far and away the optimal outcome)?

Well, typically the best way for Entities to achieve this is to exist in a widely homogenous environment. To understand why this is, let’s take two different examples. Let’s first imagine that you live in the middle of nowhere, but your house is surrounded by gorillas for miles and miles. When you first move in, you might find this terrifying. I, for one, have an irrational fear of gorillas from a Nancy Drew book I read as child, so I’d consider that a suboptimal situation. If, however, you learn how to cooperate with gorillas, you’re basically home free. Gorillas have shown a remarkable capacity for communication, so let’s say over time you learn how to speak gorilla. Before long, you could basically organize your environment into a gorilla metropolis. Awesome!

Now, let’s consider a different situation. You live in the same house, but now you’re surrounded by miles and miles of all different sorts of animals. We’re talking Noah’s frikin Ark, baby. This really isn’t as great. Even if you learn how to speak gorilla, you aren’t in a position to deal with the threats posed by the lions, bears, shadow cats, white walkers, ismenian drakons, and what not.

Definitely not my best analogy, but you get the point. If you exist in a homogenized environment, then you don’t have to do as much work in order to achieve a state of productive cooperation with the environment.

If you’re looking for real world examples of this “homogenization,” then literally look around you. Almost every large-scale system we humans encounter on a daily basis exhibits a greater degree of continuity than almost anything else we can observe. The air we breathe, the ground on which we walk, the climate, our civilization, businesses, multicellular organisms, humans themselves are all examples of incredibly homogenous environments. It’s this homogeneity that has allowed for Stable Entities as complex as human beings to come about.

Ok, we’ve hopefully established that it’s almost always in an Entity’s best interest to exist within a homogenized environment because such environments typically allow for the greatest degree of productive cooperation between local Entities. With that said, can an Entity do even better? And perhaps the more leading question is: how do these homogenized environments come about?

The answer to the first question also answers the second. Yes, an Entity can do even better than simply existing in a well-homogenized environment. How? If it can act as the agent of homogenization. In other words, insofar as it’s possible (which it typically isn’t), it’s in an Entity’s best interest to homogenize its environment. And, as you might have guessed, this is typically how homogenized environments come about.

Now then, I’ve been pretty loose with my definition of “homogenization,” but let’s talk about how an Entity might go about homogenizing its environment. Well, one way is to simply eliminate all of the most potent threats to your existence. This has basically been the MO of almost every large civilization in human history. How do you guarantee the health and stability or your society? Simply conquer all the threatening societies around you.

Another example of this is biological immune system. An animal is a system of trillions of incredibly homogenous systems (cells) displaying an incomprehensible degree of cooperation, and the immune system’s job is to basically destroy anything that threatens the homogeneity of the organism.

Ok, so eliminating threats is a great way to promote homogeneity, but there’s an even more potent way to homogenize your environment. Replication. We humans call it reproduction. Sex, baby.

The essence of replication or reproduction is to reorganize the Entities in your environment into a copy of yourself. Now then, the reason why this form of homogenization is so potent is because this replication can easily be exponential in nature. If the copies you make of yourself can also make copies of themselves, then soon you’re going to get a bajillion copies of yourself.

Replication is also great because cooperation is typically easier to achieve between similar Entities than between dissimilar Entities.

The real powerhouses can both replicate themselves and eliminate threats in their environment. That’s not a hard one to understand. It’s easier for an army of 100,000 soldiers to take down a civilization than it is for a single soldier. And how do you get from one soldier to 100,000? Sex, baby (replication).

Thus, systems of Entities that can replicate themselves and eliminate threats in their environment exhibit what I call explosive continuity. As long as resources exist to sustain the further production of similar Entities, they basically grow exponentially fast, which is to say, really frikin fast.

Due to our privileged status of citizens of the Earth, we constantly encounter systems that exhibit explosive continuity. Explosive continuity is basically the MO of literally every biological system, ranging from cellular structures to global communities. It’s pretty darn important.

However, there’s one more system that I’d like to talk about which I believe might exhibit explosive continuity in the manner I’ve described. That system is our universe.

There’s basically nothing within perceivable reality that exhibits a greater degree of homogenization than outer space. That might be a weird thing to think about, because we typically think of outer space as being empty. However, in the past century, we’ve learned that our universe is expanding incredibly rapidly. That’s kinda the whole deal of the Big Bang.

Within the context of reality, explosive continuity is quite rare. However, when it does exist, it’s, well, explosive. And there’s nothing quite as explosive in perceivable reality than the Big Frikin Bang.

Which leads me to the following hypothesis. Cosmologists typically attribute the expansion of our universe to a mysterious force called dark energy. If you want to get jiggy with the math, dark energy kinda just appears as a constant in Einstein’s field equations, but that’s less important here. Math, after all, is just math.

So here’s my hypothesis about the nature of dark energy. Based on my observation of processes that behave like our expanding universe (systems exhibiting explosive continuity), I hypothesize that our extremely homogenized dimensions (both spatial and temporal) are actually just a sea of constituent Entities that are able to replicate themselves and eliminate threats to their existence. Based on my understanding of particle physics, I hypothesize that these Entities are even smaller than subatomic particles but may very well be the constituents of subatomic particles. I would guess that these Entities operate at roughly the Planck scale, simply because that’s where fancy physicists believe the continuity of space and time starts breaking down.

So yeah, that’s my hypothesis about the nature of dark energy. I don’t really care about the local structure of the constituents of Dimensions so much as their global behavior, because that’s what actually makes everything we know and love possible.

What makes this hypothesis so intriguing is that it indicates that there are greater forms of structure to reality than simply all that is perceivable in our universe. So yeah, for all you schmeagy physicists that don’t know what to do with CERN now that we’ve found the Higgs Boson, let me humbly suggest that you ain’t seen nothing yet. However, based on literally everything we know about reality, I’d guess it’ll be pretty darn hard to figure out how to observe the constituents of dimensions.

In closing, if you ever learned about European history, you may remember that at one point, some humans believed that the Earth was surrounded by a “Celestial Sphere.” The celestial sphere model was used to explain the fixed motion of stars and planets by asserting that they are embedded on the surface of this gigantic sphere. The religious folk of the time were a big fan of the Celestial Sphere model because they basically asserted that God and the angels lived on the other side of the sphere. So, if you want to find God, just go to the other side of the sphere.

Unfortunately for those religious folk, it turns out the celestial sphere model is a pretty bad model for explaining the motion of heavenly bodies, which means it’s a little harder to find God than they suspected.

If however, our universe is constructed from some constituent Entity which exhibits explosive continuity, then that means our universe is embedded within a greater form of reality than we’ve ever dreamed of perceiving. I’m not talking parallel universes, I’m basically asserting that reality might be much much larger than we initially thought.

So if you’re looking for God (or aliens, or general superintelligence), I’d start there.

Scattered Thoughts Regarding Appropriate Modelling

By: Danny Geisz | July 18, 2020

Project: Orchid

Sup readers. Prepare yourself for a post that will make absolutely no sense. Or it might. I’m not really sure yet. Basically, I’m revisiting Orchid, and I’m attempting to determine how to make it fundamentally useful.

The fundamental shift in my thinking that I just recognized is that in order for a mathematical model to be useful, it must be defined within a particular context. I realized two nights ago that if the entire game of complexity comes down to stable structures with well-defined behaviors, and humans are good at categorizing such structures, then in order to replicate it, you need a machine that is able to meaningfully describe the set of characteristics and structures of a particular stable structure it encounters by means of data. So the goal is basically three steps. One: Develop a universal method for describing the characteristics and behavior of stable structures in terms of computer data structures. This is and has been the entire purpose of Orchid, as mathematical entities are essentially perfected abstractions of perfectly stable structures. Two: Develop a method for extracting a set of characteristics and behaviors about a particular stable structure encountered in a data set into the data structures discussed in step one. Three: Develop an algorithm by which computers can meaningfully interact with these data structures in order to make meaningful and increasingly refined predictions about the structures in question.

I’ve already worked out a good deal of the difficulties of step one during my previous efforts with Orchid, but it’s really step two that’s giving me trouble. I presume step three will be the most difficult, but I’ve logically decided not to even consider that yet as to preserve the amount of unpolluted thinking space that currently exists in my brain. Anyway, step two. How do we possibly do this? My first goal is to essentially translate simple statements into mathematical structures that are meaningful. So take this, “If I stack blocks on top of each other, I end up with a taller structure.” Incredibly simple statement, right? Well, how do I translate that statement into a working mathematical entity? That’s a pretty tough question.

I think my mistake for the past day of thinking about this is that I was attempting to match any object or stable structure with a corresponding mathematical entity. Ideally this mathematical entity would be sufficiently robust to fully describe the object in question, including the object’s behaviors. But that’s really tricky. Take me for example. If I jumped off a cliff, a meaningful question might be, “How long is it going to take this boi to hit the ground?” Good question, reader. I certainly would like to know how many seconds of life I have remaining. However, imagine I insulted a friend of mine, causing them to be angry (purely hypothetical, (hehe)). Based on my previous method of description, I would have come up with a mathematical entity that described Danny Geisz and used that object to model the two previous situations I described. But what sort of object would I be? Like, for real? Should I be modelled as a mapping from my environment to a particular phrase, which would in turn be modelled as a mapping from my friend’s previous emotional state to his/her final emotional state? What about the first situation? Should I simply be approximated as massive object as traditionally used in kinematics? If that were the case, then I would be a simple scalar: mass.

I’d like to think that there’s a bit more to me than my mass, so that’s clearly not the way to go. Maybe a slightly better method for modelling myself would be as a cartesian product of a variety of sets that together describe my characteristics and interaction with reality. Still, though, that seems insufficient and highly disorganized.

What I’m realizing even as I write this is the importance of context. The context of me jumping off a cliff ought to be modelled differently than the context of insulting a friend. Specifically, (and now I’m really going stream of consciousness) a particular question should be posed, and a particular quantity studied. More specifically, the characteristics and behavior of the entity being studied should be described in as great a depth as reasonable by mathematical language, and everything else ought to center around that main model. For the example of me jumping off a cliff, the two important quantities are time and my height off the ground. When my height reaches 0, we measured the time elapsed, and wala! We found an accurate prediction of the time I have left to live. (Congrats, Danny, you’ve done basic kinematics).

The situation of the emotional state is a bit less traditional. I think in this situation, the important quantity is the friend’s emotional state. Then we can regard my insult as a mathematical mapping of the previous emotional state to the final emotional state. Furthermore, we could model me, Danny Geisz, as a mapping from my current emotional state, to the words I said to my friend, which affected his/her emotional state.

In Quantum Mechanics, a particle is described as a wave vector. Why? Because simple mathematical manipulations on a wave vector yield interesting quantities like a particles position or momentum (specifically the probability that a particle will have a specific position or momentum). So basically, the interesting quantities of a particle (within the context of QM) are modelled as a wavevector, and any other entities that interact with the particle are modelled as transformations on the wavevector. Neato.

I suppose my goal, however, is to build a computational system that’s capable of analyzing a set of data and generating mathematical models that describe the data. These mathematical models could then be used to make a more cohesive and robust set of predictions about the world than the models traditionally associated with machine learning. If I’m trying to build a computer that beats a human, I need it to be able to replicate the human experience and do it in a manner superior to humans. Humans are really quite good at classifying objects and using logic to make predictions based on their “modelled” view of particular stable structures. So I want Orchid to do this, but better.

After writing this, I’m realizing that simply regressively generating mathematical models isn’t sufficient for the level of classification I require. I think I need to do some more thinking about the relationship between a structure and a mathematical context, because that’s the space where computers could excel relative to humans. Ok, that’s all for now.

Anti-entropic Machines

By: Danny Geisz | July 14, 2020

Project: #Life

Aight lads and lasses. Let’s get technical. I want to code more than anything right now, but a certain thought process has been coursing through my veins for the last twelve or so hours, and I need to get it down. If my language gets too technical, it’s your fault for not understanding me. Haha, take that. Nothing like purposefully trying to push my readers away. Here we go!

I’ve written several posts about this, most recently the post about love, but I think the part of physics that is topically most interesting at this moment is the process of analyzing the stability of different systems. I’ll lay out the reason why this is interesting.

One central law in physics is the second law of thermodynamics, which roughly states that the disorder in a global system increases over time (that statement is a shade of the mathematical glory that is a proper study of entropy, but my readers don’t got no time for equations). The simple (and painfully cliché) analogy that is given for this statement is to imagine a new deck of cards. The cards are nicely in order. But the second you start shuffling, the cards quickly become scrambled and disorderly. If you hunker down and examine the probabilities in question, a randomly shuffled deck of cards is far more likely to be “disorderly” than “orderly.”

By applying similarly simple probabilistic theory to physical systems, you basically get the basics of statistical mechanics, which concerns itself with average quantities of systems with a large number of constituents (usually at or above 1023. Gotta love my boi Avogadro). To make a long story painfully short, you can essentially think of a thermodynamic system as a deck of cards that’s constantly “reshuffling” itself, and like a deck of cards, “disorderly” configurations of the system are generally significantly more probable than “orderly” configurations.

Great. So why should you care, inquisitive reader? Well, look at human beings. Human beings are incredibly well-ordered systems of incomprehensible complexity. To perhaps make the point clearer, if you took all the subatomic particles that make up your body and threw them into a box at random, the probability that the particles would end up in the configuration of a human being is disgustingly small. Outrageously small. If you think along this line of reasoning, the probability of humanity existing in our universe is so unthinkably small, it’s a miracle we even happened.


I simply refuse to believe that what I’m about to discuss hasn’t been rigorously treated by smarter minds than my own, but I’m going proceed as though these are original thoughts because I enjoy feeling like I’m scientifically innovative.

The fundamental question of this post is the following: Are highly ordered and complex systems probable given the configuration of our universe?

Given what I’ve already stated, your gut reaction to this question is probably: “No, Danny! Stop being dumb.” Hey, reader, watch your mouth. No one’s forcing you to read this, so go shuck a duck.
In order to continue, we ought to have a civil conversation regarding stability, because it’s ever so important. In fact, I think it’s the key.

In the previous example with the deck of cards, let’s change things up a little bit. Imagine that every single time the deck is in new deck order, small magnets engage that keep the deck from being reshuffled. So even though new deck order is statistically unlikely, if you continue shuffling the deck for eternity, the average configuration of the deck of cards is new deck order because once it reaches that state, it can’t be reshuffled.

To get a bit more rigorous, I’ll define a stable configuration of a system to be a configuration that is resistant to change (not super rigorous definition, but it’ll do). As we’ve seen with the “sticky” deck of cards, even is an “orderly” configuration of a system is statistically improbable in terms of possible random configurations of the system, over a large swath of time, the “orderly” configuration is actually probabilistically likely because it’s most stable.

The question now is, what would make any one system any more stable than another? Well, take a helium atom, for example. What makes a helium atom any more stable than a hydrogen atom? Those of you chemistry nerds are probably kerfuffling about orbitals and valence electrons. Hey, chemistry nerds? Y’all can also go shuck some ducks, then go take a proper class on Quantum Mechanics. Or, even better, just read R. Shankar’s The Principles of Quantum Mechanics. What a truly divine textbook. A mathematical masterpiece at the very least. Anyway, I’m not going to even try to explain humanity’s best understanding of the physics of stable orbits, but I can give you a much more abstract answer.

The reason why the helium is a stable configuration of protons, neutrons, and electrons is because these particular particles exhibit a rich set of behaviors when near one another. You probably remember that protons and electrons have opposite electric charges and therefore attract. Our understanding of quantum electrodynamics actually gives a more compelling explanation than that of simple electric fields. In QED, electromagnetic effects are described by an exchange of photons between different particles. Fun fact, QED was the first theory with full agreement between quantum mechanics and special relativity (got that straight from the wiki).

I went down rabbit hole. Regardless of how fascinating QED is, the important thing to keep in mind is that subatomic particles exhibit a rich set of behaviors when interacting with one another. The reason why helium is stable is because of the underlying rules governing the interactions between protons, neutrons, and electrons. If these particles didn’t interact with one another (much like cards in a deck) then there would be no notion of stability, and in those systems, disorder would be statistically likely, even throughout a broad swath of time.

So then, if you want any notion of stability in a system, you want there to exist a rich set of behaviors between the underlying constituents of the system.

Ok, I’m going to go in a slightly different direction now. I want to talk about what constitutes an “orderly” system. I tend to think of a human being as a highly ordered system. Amazon (as in the company) is a highly ordered system. Quartz is a highly ordered crystalline structure.

I think the big thing here is that an ordered system has a fixed set of stable characteristics. Two examples of this: 1) Human beings have arms. On average, a human being will keep both arms all throughout their life. I can reasonably predict that tomorrow morning I will have both arms attached to my body. 2) If someone punches me, I’ll get angry. For the average human being, if you punch them, they’ll probably get angry. I can reasonably predict that if I were punched tomorrow morning, I would get angry.

Ok, so to get a bit more rigorous, (also do know that I’m basically making this up on the fly), the degree to which a system is orderly is proportional to the number and stability of each of the systems characteristics. Cool. One thing to note here is that under this definition, in order for a system to be orderly, it must also necessarily be stable.

Actually, wait. Now that I’m thinking about it more, I think stability and orderliness might be two sides of the same coin. Remember my definition of stability? A system that is resistant to change. Cool, but how do you quantify whether a system is resistant to change? Well, a good first step is to describe the characteristics of a system, and if those characteristics remain the same as time progresses, then your system is stable. But what I just described was my definition of orderliness. Ha! Geisz’s first law: Stability = Order.

Ok, let’s move along. Remember, the big question of this post is whether highly ordered and complex systems (like humans) are probable given the configuration of our universe. What we should talk about next is how stable systems are able to build themselves into bigger stable systems.

What I’m going to talk about next is probably going to be markedly similar to my post about love.

Remember, the recipe for stability is a rich set of behaviors between the constituents of the system. So, an electron and a proton are able to organize themselves into the “stable” and “orderly” configuration of hydrogen because of the underlying interaction between two particles of opposite electric charge.

Hydrogen is all well and good, but I want human beings, I don’t just want hydrogen. How do we get from hydrogen to human beings? In other words, how does one stable system bring forth another stable system.

Remember the recipe. For stability to occur, we need a rich set of behaviors between the constituents of the system. So, if we want hydrogen (and perhaps some other atoms) to build themselves into systems of increased complexity, we need them to be able to interact with one another. Because of the whole business of stable orbitals, certain atoms do interact with one another, and therefore are able to form stable configurations, which we call molecules. On the other hand, helium, while incredibly stable, isn’t able to “help” other atoms create systems of greater complexity (molecules) because it doesn’t interact with any such atoms.

As an interesting side note, even though helium is pretty tame from the perspective of chemistry, it does still interact with other particles in an entirely different context. Because helium is light and stable, in the presence of a dense, gravitationally dominant object, a mixture of helium and other heavier gases will push helium to the top due to helium’s low density. This is a perfect example of a stable characteristic of a system, which means that an atmosphere could be considered a stable and orderly system. So again, any time the constituents of a system exhibit a rich set of stable interactions, there is potential for the system to be stable and orderly.

I think you probably get the idea. I’m at seven pages, so I should probably wrap this sucker up, but I think there should be a big takeaway here. If you want to propagate complexity and order, you want stable systems that exhibit stable behaviors. That’s all for now.

Why Love is the Answer

By: Danny Geisz | June 23, 2020

Project: #Life

What is pooooooooooooppin’, my bois? (That’s supposed to be “poppin,’” not “poopin.’” No one’s pooping, as far as I am aware). It’s your boi Danny, back at you from my blogging hiatus that neither of us knew was going to happen. Basically, the story of my life is that I code 24/7 when I’m alone, and my brain is convinced that blogging isn’t a productive use of time when there’s coding to be done. Shut up, brain. No one needs you.

I’ve decided that I’m going to celebrate my coming out of my blogging slump by having a fun lil discussion about love. Love is a topic that is near and dear to me because it’s particularly intellectually challenging. Actually, fun fact: two spring breaks ago, I actually wrote a couple blog posts about love from the perspective of game theory. The posts were about 9 pages long, and even more schmeagy than the content yall have to put up with on XFA, so those posts haven’t really seen the light of day. Note that two spring breaks ago was about a year before I actually wrought XFA from molten python, Django, and html. Man I’m happy I actually powered through and finished building XFA. Where else would I possibly siphon off the thoughts that so mercilessly rattle about.

Alright, let’s jump right into the deep end in terms of love. First, I’ll mention that this post isn’t going to be Danny’s 101 tips and tricks for finding “The One,” mostly ‘cause I have 0 experience with healthy romantic relationships. Heavens, that might be a fun post for another time. No, much to the chagrin of all you readers who actively seek me out for my relationship advice (approximately 0.1 people per year), this post aims to answer a bigger question, namely why love is the answer.

“The answer to what?” you ask. “I thought the answer to life, the universe and everything was 42?” Well, nerdy reader, contrary to the religious teachings of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the answer to life isn’t 42, it’s love, so there.

Just kidding. I don’t know the answer to life. I just wanted to throw the click-baity title up for kicks and giggles (putting up click-bait on a personal site injects a certain amount of chaos into the reality simulation that I find particularly compelling).

Oh my gosh. I’m starting to get annoyed with myself. Pardon me for not getting immediately to the point. Allow me to get immediately to the point.

Love is particularly interesting to me because of how it affects human beings. I won’t try to describe love, an effort that is doomed to failure, but I can look at its basic characteristics and its effect on people. The aspect of love that I find particularly compelling is that love will often compel one person to partake in a set of actions that decreases his or her personal utility for the sake of another person. “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one's life for one's friends” comes to mind.

If you subscribe to the notion that life is a product of evolution, it may be surprising that human beings exhibit this particular behavior. Isn’t the whole mantra of evolution “survival of the fittest?” Why in the name of Odin’s left shin guard would humans have evolved in a way that compels them to harm themselves for the sake of another? Could organisms with that trait possibly have a higher level of evolutionary fitness than others?

Do remember that I’m a 20-year-old who is actively drunk on La Croix, but Imma take a lil stab at explaining this particular phenomenon, and I think you might like it.

The key trait of love that I think provides a good level of explanation for the intellectual query presented is the fact that one human being is able to love multiple people at once. If you model humanity as a graphical structure (within the context of graph theory) with humans being nodes and loving relationships being edges, you end up with a highly connected graph. If each human is in a loving relationship (either plutonic, parental, romantic, etc) with at least six other people, then even at third order, the love graph I’ve constructed could easily exhibit hundreds of connections between one person and the rest of humanity.

Bleh, I know you cool readers don’t care about graph theory, so let me tell you why it matters. Imagine you are in a particularly bad place in life, i.e. you lost your job, someone close to you has died, or something of that nature. At that particular point, you may not be in a position to lead a functional life. However, if you are in six different loving-relationships, then there are probably six other people who are willing to put their lives on hold to help you recover.

But that’s not even the best part! Those six other people probably know at least six other people each of whom would be willing to help you out.

What I’m describing is a highly connected, self-healing graphical structure! Isn’t that about the sexiest string of words you’ve ever seen in one sentence? Certainly is for this lad.

Now then, what about the evolutionary problem? The key issue in the perhaps counterintuitive argument I presented was that I was focusing on the wrong entity. Instead of looking at an individual human, look at humanity as the organism that has evolved to be the alpha on this planet. Humanity has evolved to have a particularly good knack at healing itself when a problem arises with one of its constituents.

An illustrative example of the point I’m making comes in the form of single cells. If you yodel on over to Google, you can verify that the average lifespan of a single bacteria cell is around 12 hours. You want to take a guess how long a single heart muscle cell lives? Probably not, so I’ll tell ya. 40 years. 40 frikin years. If you’re a single cell, it’s pretty great to integrated into a system of several trillion other cells built into complicated systems to ensure against single failures. Sure, this argument may have some logical holes in it, but 40 years is a longer time than 12 hours, I can tell you that much.

I understand that I’m not making a particularly complicated argument, but let me get to the juice. Say whatever poetic nonsense you want to about love, but at the end of the day, love can be understood as a chemical mechanism that compels people to form connections with others in a mutually beneficial fashion. You can make the argument that it’s in an individual’s best interest to play nice with other people, but I would counter that groups or organizations that are compelled by a loving motive are the most sustainable and expansive in the long run.

What’s particularly cool about the love-graph (patent-pending) is that its self-healing properties make it particularly sustainable, even despite its rich and diverse set of behavior. Systems that are stable and dynamic are particularly interesting because they’re able to interact with other similar systems in increasingly complex ways while maintaining stability.

And then, a large enough set of such complex, stable, and dynamic subsystems could potentially also form a type of self-healing graphical structure, which would then be able to form into a form of even greater complexity.

See where I’m going? The mechanism that we refer to as love within the context of humanity is actually perhaps the most effective tool in the universe for propagating and generating stability, order, and complexity. It’s a frikin anti-entropic machine, baby.

You could limit yourself by viewing love specifically as the deep, compelling emotion felt between humans, by why stop there? Personally, I find it more compelling to observe love-like characteristics in other highly complex systems than simply humans, and if you’re looking for a reason for why our incredibly complicated universe is the way it is, then perhaps the answer you’re looking for is simply love.

Anyhoo, that’s just some sauce for you to distill in your branium. If you disagree with me or the points I’ve made, or you have a different insight, please for the love of god send an email my way. I basically am always coding, so I’d love to take a quick break to spin up a fun lil email chain.

anYwaY, that’s all for now. I think I’m going to try for two posts a week, so I should have a bit more content coming your way from the ol XFA (that rhymed, massive flex). Byyee!

Several More Thoughts, but This Time about “Understanding”

By: Danny Geisz | April 2, 2020

Project: #Life

Goodnight! I, of course, mean that as a greeting rather than an adieu in a highly purposeful floutation of linguistic norms, seeing as it is 11 at night as I’m writing this. No need to dally, let’s jump right in to where we left off. If you haven’t read my last post, I would encourage you to do so, even though I doubt this post will be inaccessible for those of you who refuse. To easily get to the last post, go to the bottom of the page where you’ll find a link to the previous post shaped like a bra (I am referring to the “bra” of Dirac’s “bra-ket” notation for Quantum Mechanics, not the garment. If you think I’m pulling your metaphysical leg, I would encourage you to look up “Dirac bra-ket notation,” and I believe you will find all the answers for which you have ever sought).

In the last post, I (somewhat exhaustingly) took you on a trip through a rough picture of how the brain works. To summarize, the brain well and truly is a wonderfully complex pattern recognition system. There. Now you know how the brain works. Take that to the teacher at the front of the room and get a golden frikin star.

Given this rudimentary understanding, I would like to now explore our human notion of “Understanding.” I am specifically referring to the term within the context of someone saying “…to get a better understanding of [you fill in the blank] ….” Specifically within the research community, you will frequently hear researchers throw this phrase around, usually when they’re trying to convince other people that their research is worthwhile. In my current line of work, you will frequently hear people say something to the tune of “We do [blank] in order to get a better understanding of the early universe.” But what the blue heck does that even mean? I understand you might think I’ve taken some cuckoo pills, but answer me this, cynical reader, can you tell me, in clear language, what researchers mean when they say “…to get a better understanding?” “Sure,” I can hear you saying through the walls of time and space, “here ‘understanding’ basically means broadening our knowledge about a particular subject.” But, oh great reader, what is knowledge? Really think about that for a second. And if you answered “truth” then I’ve got you cornered.

The fact of the matter is that we do not have access to fundamental truth. There’s really no way around that. Now then, I imagine some Christian readers may be slightly flaring up at that distinction. After all, didn’t Jesus purport to be the way, the truth, and the life? Even if Christianity is the absolute fundamental truth of the universe, I still firmly claim that we do not have access to it. If you’re still doubtful, let me pose this question: if Christianity was the fundamental truth in the universe, and human beings did have access to this truth, then why isn’t everyone on the planet a Christian? Surely that would be the only logical option. So then, I think I’m perfectly correct in asserting that as Christians, you in some way or another believe that the tenets of Christianity are associated with fundamental truth, even though you yourself do not have access to the fundamental truth of the universe.

As a brief side note, I’m only mentioning Christianity here instead of other religious traditions and practices because I myself was a very serious Christian for the better part of 20 years, and it was my attempt to forcibly associate Christianity with fundamental truth that caused me a great deal of mental health problems. If you take issue with anything I’m asserting on the basis of any other religious tradition, feel free to email me, as I would love to hear your thoughts. It would also be a wonderful change to not get a spam email from XFA for once.

In order to continue in any meaningful fashion, I believe I should attempt to define “fundamental truth.” The dictionary says truth is “that which is true in accordance with reality.” However, I would like to take this a step further. My conception of fundamental truth is untouched by human constructs, particularly human knowledge and understanding. I will talk more about these two entities shortly, but hang tight for the time being.

Furthermore, if there are any aliens in the universe that are at all similar to us humans, then I would imagine that fundamental truth should be untouched by any of their constructs, or what they might consider “knowledge” or “understanding.” With this in mind, it’s actually quite difficult to define what fundamental truth even is.

When I talking to other people about this sort of thing, I usually define fundamental truth as a “piece of knowledge that would allow us to make predictions and claims about reality with 100% certainty.” But even that is somewhat wrong because it assumes that fundamental truth can take the form of “knowledge” as we know it.

So then, while I can’t give you a precise definition of what I mean by fundamental truth, I hope I’ve sort of cultivated a connotation for what I’m trying to describe. In many ways, I feel that fundamental truth is equivalent to the fundamental structure of reality. You may have noticed in some previous posts that I have an obsession with order and structure, and this is really where it comes from. With this in mind, we actually don’t have any guarantees that our reality actually even possesses fundamental truth (or structure, or whatever you feel you ought to call it).

At this point you may be asking yourself, “But what about things that I know are true, like the fact that the object in front of me is a computer, or that the big fiery ball above my head is called the sun?” That is an excellent point, intellectually gifted reader, and it provides a wonderful Segway back to the original discussion about the brain.

At the beginning of this post, I asserted that the brain is a pattern recognition system. If that is the case, then I imagine that you would probably agree that our conceptions of “knowledge” and “understanding” are intimately connected with the notion of a pattern. I would like to take this a step further by asserting that what we think of as “knowledge” and “understanding” are simply patterns themselves.

I think the best way to explore this is through an example. Let’s say that a couple millennia ago, there was a cave man called Danny schmeaging around the mountains. Danny looks around him and sees a bunch of hard looking objects with generally similar brown and grey appearances. Danny doesn’t have anything better to do with his time, so he picks up one object, and hits it against a different one. When he does this, the two objects make a distinct “ckk” sound. This greatly amuses Danny, so he does it again. Danny soon realizes that he can actually make the sound “ckk” using his own mouth. He practices it for a couple minutes until he can confidently make the same sound as the two objects being hit against one another.

Pretty soon, another cave man walks by, lets call him Elon. Danny looks excitedly at Elon, points around him to all the different hard objects around him and makes the sound “ckk.” Pretty soon, Elon too knows that all the objects around Danny make the sound “ckk” when they are hit against one another.

Ok, let’s take a step back. What just happened here? Without even realizing it, Danny made an implicit association between the sound “ckk” and the objects around him. In the centuries to come, other humans learn to instead refer to the objects as “rock” instead of “ckk,” simply because many objects make a similar sound when hit against one another. So then, the auditory sound “rock” is now associated with an object that makes a “ckk” sound when it’s hit against another such object.

Let’s take another step back. The only way the word “rock” is useful to other cave men is if all the objects that are rocks make the sound “ckk” when they are hit against each other. This implies that there must be consistency for this piece of “information” to be useful. In other words, the only reason that the term “rock” is useful is because all rocks are characterized by a series of patterns, i.e. all rocks look the same, all rocks feel the same, all rocks hurt when someone else throws them at you.

Through this example, we see that what humans think of as “information” is simply a series of classifications of systems with consistent behavior. These classifications can themselves represent the consistent behavior of the interactions between other classifications. I would also like to firmly stress that this “information” is entirely a human conception. As far as we know, there’s no inherent connection between objects that make the sound “ckk” and the word “rock.”

So then, you are absolutely correct in saying that it’s true that you’re looking at a computer, and it’s true that the fiery object overhead is called the sun, but these are only true within the scope of truths manufactured by human beings. If you define the term “computer” to represent a system of hardware and software that performs logical operations on data, then it tautologically follows that it is true that the object in front of you is in fact a computer.

So then, going back to my original question, what does it mean for us to “gain a better understanding” of something? The something in question is simply a human-constructed classification, so “gaining a better understanding” of that classification is simply finding more patterns associated with that particular classification. For example, once you classify green, fuzzy plants as “moss,” then one example of gaining a better understanding of something would be to state “most rocks are covered in moss.”

Ok, I think I should probably wrap this boi up. I suppose the main takeaways of this post is that what we think of as knowledge is entirely a human construct. Furthermore, people generally talk about research as a field of discovery, but I would like to assert that research is just as much about creation as it is about discovery. But, to get meta on you, even that depends on how you define the term “knowledge.”

Finally, this is a topic I actually care a great deal about, so if you have any of your own thoughts on the matter, or disagree with me on any of these points, then for the love of Alexandria, can you email me? Like, please?

Well whatever. Let me try to regain the air of aloofness I’ve so desperately been attempting to cultivate. Deep breath in, deep breath out.

Ok, I just hit seven pages, and its 12:34 AM, so I feel the strong desire to perform a swan dive directly into my sheets. I love you all dearly. Geisz out.

Several Words on the Entirety of the Human Experience

By: Danny Geisz | March 29, 2020

Project: #Life

A most aggressive “Shalom” to all you wonderful readers. Actually, now that you mention it, it has been a wonderful morning, thanks for asking. I was up until around 1 last night working on the app, and I had a lovely breakfast with my family. Afterwards, I did my laundry while listening to Flume’s self-named album and dancing about the laundry room wildly. I am now in my swamp room (if you don’t get the reference, it’s your own fault you aren’t on my email list), still listening to Flume at volumes that would make Percy Granger weak in the knees.

Now then, I had a very interesting discussion with my mother this morning about the nature of the mind, and what we know and don’t know about it. This discussion reminded me that I have had at least three thoughts in the past two weeks, and roughly two of them have to do with this very concept. I’m going to now pretend as though you are contractually obligated to read this post in its entirety, and I’m going to now launch into a pompous expose on my own personal thoughts regarding the nature of the mind.

To begin my civil diatribe, I would like you all, treasured readers, to think about what it means for a human being to learn something. Perhaps the accumulation of knowledge comes to mind, or perhaps, alternatively, the accumulation of experience. I would now like to humbly, yet domineeringly launch into my own meta-physiological understanding of what it means to “learn.” And to do that, we necessarily must have a one-way Socratic seminar regarding the brain.

The brain is gloriously dense pattern recognition system. That’s really what it is. I watched a TED talk on it, so I’m pretty much a professional. I’m sure most of us who’ve at least somewhat recently been in school have some notion of the brain being a collection of neurons in which “connections are formed.” Sure. That’s all fine and good, except that it’s too abstract to actually mean much of anything.

In order to understand how the brain actually learns, it’s best to cultivate a slightly more rigorous formulation of brain functionality than the statement “connections are formed.” Also, I’m only talking about the part of the brain that learns stuff over time. I’m not talking about the part of the brain that’s responsible for keeping all your internal systems in check.

Now then, I want you to think of the brain as a computer with a ton of USB ports. Your optic nerve plugs into one of the ports, your auditory nerves plug into another, your olfactory (smelling things) nerves plug into yet another, and so on. So basically, we have a computer hooked up to all of your sensory nerves.

All of these connections are constantly sending information into the computer, and the computer’s only job is to try to find patterns between the various inputs. Let me give you an example. Let’s say you’re about one year old. Your dad has placed a piece of paper and a box of crayons in front of you. Your dad picks up the red crayon, and says the word “red.” You’re one, of course, so you don’t have a flip shack frack what’s he’s talking about, but let’s look at what’s happening in the computer that is your brain.

When your dad says “red” and picks up the red crayon, your vision is being directed on the crayon in front of you, and hence your optic nerve is sending the visual information corresponding to a red crayon into your computer-brain. At the same time, your ears are sending the auditory information corresponding to the word “red” into your computer-brain.

Now then, your brain can’t tell one information source from another, so it does is form a correlation between the visual information corresponding to the red crayon and the auditory information corresponding to the word “red.”

You can probably see some issues with this. Does the word “red” correspond to the wavelength (color) being emitted from the crayon, or does it refer to the short waxy thing your dad is pointing to? At this point, your brain has no way to tell.

Now then, you turn your attention away from the crayon in your dad’s hand to the blue crayon lying on the table. When you look at this new crayon, your optic nerve sends the visual information corresponding to the blue crayon to your computer-brain. While the image isn’t exactly the same as the image of the red crayon in your father’s hand, it’s similar enough that the image of the blue crayon turns on the connection that your brain-computer formed between the image of the red crayon and the word “red.”

So then, while you don’t have a clue what’s happening in your computer brain, when you look at the blue crayon, the word that pops into your head is “red.” And because you’re a semi-useless one-year-old and you have nothing better to do, you confidently point to the blue crayon and say “red” out loud. Now then, because your dad has no interest in having his child think “blue” is “red,” he says “No.” He then picks up the red crayon, and again says “red.” He then points to your red shirt and says “red.” He finally points to your red couch and says “red.” Each time he does this, your computer-brain creates a new connection between the visual information of each object and the auditory information corresponding to the word “red.”

Now here’s the real kicker. Your dad then picks up the blue crayon and says the word “blue.” The exact same correlation happens as before, but this time, the auditory information corresponds to the word blue.

Now then, you look across the room and see your mom also wearing a red shirt. While the shape of the shirt itself isn’t similar to that of a crayon or a couch, the wavelength being emitted from the shirt is the same, so when the visual information corresponding to your mom wearing a red shirt is sent into your computer brain, the aspect of the image that corresponds to the color “red” is fired, and once again, the word “red” pops into your head. So then, once more, your proudly proclaim “red” to everyone who’s around to hear. This, of course, makes your parents excited, and they say “Yes! Red!” which only serves to strengthen the connection between the visual information corresponding to the red wavelength of light with the auditory information corresponding to the word “red.”

There’s no universal connection between the word “red,” and the color red. This exchange could have just as easily occurred in a Spanish or French speaking household with the words “Rojo” or “Rouge.” All the brain is therefore doing is forming connections between different stimuli, which can be strengthened or weakened over time. In other words, it’s an incredibly efficient pattern recognition system.

How does it actually work? Instead of actually being a computer with bunch of USB ports that’s been programmed to find patterns in different sources of data (which is literally just machine learning, btw), your brain is a collection of around 86 billion neurons that are connected to one another. All neurons do is fire an electric stimulus to the other neurons it connects to when it has itself received enough electric stimulus from the other neurons that connect to it. So basically your brain is just a chain reaction of neurons causing other neurons to fire. Now here’s the kicker: once a neuron fires, it actually becomes easier to fire again. So then, going back to the previous example in less gruesome detail, when you see a red crayon and hear your dad say “red,” your optic nerve fires a huge amount of neurons corresponding to the visual information of the red crayon, which sends a huge chain reaction cascading all throughout the brain. At the same time, your ears fire auditory neurons corresponding to the word “red” throughout your brain, which causes a similar blossoming chain reaction.

Now here’s what’s super cool. Some neurons are fired by both the visual and auditory chain reaction. Because it’s easier to fire neurons after they’ve already been fired, this forms a strong “pathway” between the visual and auditory information in the sense that neurons along this pathway are more likely to fire in response to similar visual and auditory stimuli.

So then, even though your brain can’t tell the difference between visual data and auditory data, it can find patterns between the two sources, which translates to you knowing that the color of the red crayon is red.

At this point, I was going to launch into a greater discussion of what this means in terms of human knowledge, and what it means to “understand” things. However, being a decent human being, I can quite clearly see that I have just broken the 6-page mark, which is usually my sign that I should probably wrap things up. I think I will continue this discussion in the next post.

In closing then, contrary to Justin McElroy’s incessant pleading, I would urge you to not kiss your dad square on the lips, because that seems like a great way to spread coronavirus, which is generally inadvisable.

The Edge

By: Danny Geisz | March 13, 2020

Project: #Life

There it sits on the edge of comfort and madness. There it lies, so close to chaos. It has lost all trust, all knowledge, all reason. The only thing maintaining the structure is blind belief in unfathomable order.

At times it could hope in greater order. Those were the times of greatest happiness, greatest contentment. But through the insufferable passage of time, perceived order became only vapors, only whispers, only promises of what might be.

It fears the chaos. The truly incomprehensible chaos. The darkness visible. The chaos so prevalent, so magnificently implicit, everlastingly omnipresent. It but looks in the wrong direction and there lies the majestic beast, the ultimate foil of complexity.

And yet. By merely turning its gaze, the chaos morphs into order. Such beautiful order. Complexity propagating to the ends of reality. An entropic wonder. An inhabitable reality. A comfortable home.

Such beautiful dichotomy. The ultimate juxtaposition. Not only a universal balance, but an impossible isomorphism. How can the chaos also be the order? Does the chaos give rise to order? Does order inevitably return to chaos?

From reality’s edge, the final refuge, it contemplates. But it has grown weary. Ever so weary. Reality has exposed herself before its gaze yet shrouded herself in a darkness so complete even the angels lose track of heaven.

Reason has nothing left to believe in save for the absence of explanation. And even that is irrational.

And yet from the edge, the edge that may itself lack existence, it understands that ultimate victory may lie in humiliating defeat. Yet with defeat inevitable, it persists, and creates, and builds, and propagates its wonders throughout the truly incomprehensible. It is perhaps the existence of defeat that lends itself to order.

And so on the edge it sits. It sits waiting. Dreaming. Hoping. Despairing. On the edge it exists.

What on Earth is a Person?

By: Danny Geisz | January 22, 2020

Project: Project Supernatural

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:

  1. If we encountered an intelligent structure that did not contain a brain, a heart, lungs, etc, but was still clearly capable of pattern recognition and logical deduction, this present definition would force us to conclude that we are nothing like this alien structure.
  2. This is perhaps the bigger issue: defining a human being in terms of the matter it contains is tricky business because we humans are constantly exchanging matter with our environment. Consider for a moment a tool of great pedagogical importance: the hamburger. At what point can we classify the matter in the hamburger as a part of a human being? I think we can all agree that the hamburger isn’t part of the human whilst it lies upon the plate, ready to be eaten. But when then? When it enters our mouth? When it starts being digested in the stomach? When it enters our bloodstream through our microvilli? When the proteins in the burger are used to build cellular structures?

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.

Music is a Pulsating Life Form that is Actively Manipulating Me

By: Danny Geisz | January 10, 2020

Project: #Life

Sup, pup. I neglected to write an XFA entry last night which was quite irritating because the whole point of this blasted site is for me to write an entry every night. Well no matter. I’ve already punished myself Dobby-style for my error, so hopefully it won’t happen again.

Now then, I really think the title says it all here. However, because I want to write more, I feel it would be prudent (and at the very least fair to you, my treasure reader) to give some context for my claim regarding the nature of music.

For the past few days, I have been alternating between working on the XFA site and learning QFT by means of Srednicki’s book. I feel a deep existential compulsion to do both activities because I am a fallen human, but today I thought it might be nice to take a wee lil break from my regular activities to try to write some music. I have been listening a copious amount Grimes’s works lately (which should come as no surprise to those of you who read my post about my tragic, unrequited, animal-like love for Grimes), and I have been feeling inspired to convert some of my emotions and experiences into audible sauce, namely music.

As a quick side note, I learned today that Grimes is pregnant with Elon Musk’s baby. I have of course joked with my friends that Elon Musk’s children will likely rule us all one day, but come on. Grimes and Elon? I’m not sure the world is ready for their child. I’m honestly not convinced we’ll be able to classify the child as a human being.

I could probably write several more posts (or novels) about the supernatural powers Grelon’s (couple name) child will have, but I know you’re just itching to hear more about my musical endeavors. Fear not, patient reader, I will oblige.

I began my music-making sesh (short, of course, for session) today by listening attentively to a metronome pulsing at 84 bpm. After I had deeply internalized the beat, I began searching for compelling chord progression using a built-in synth in Ableton. After a couple minutes I found an intriguing combination of chords involving a very tempting Eaug chord and deliciously moving E7 chord. At this point, I was bit lost as to how I ought proceed. I eventually decided to write a rhythmic line for the chord progression, and then do my best to find a sick, sick beat over which I would lay the chords. It took a bit to finally get all this in place, but I eventually slide the chords into place over a hip-hop-like beat.

And let me tell you, it was awful. Perhaps someone else may have enjoyed it, but to my ears it sounded like a lifeless pile of oatmeal sludge.

The interesting thing is that I have in fact written several songs in my day. In my experience writing music, either the music you have written is either dead, passionless, and nauseating, or it’s the emotional equivalent of injecting ecstasy directly into your veins. Either it is everything, the only true reality, or it is absolutely worthless garbage.

The piece of sludge I had written therefore neatly fell into the category of worthless garbage. This was, of course, discouraging, and I generally lost all motivation to continue birthing audible sauce.

But then I found the chord.
As a last-ditch effort to try to feel something, I grabbed a virtual violin section and played around with the chord pattern I had found earlier. And then I stumbled upon the Fmaj7. And that is when my dying emotions found salvation. Pure ecstasy, my friends, pure ecstasy.

Finishing the original chord progression with an Fmaj7 generated an emotion of intensive sorrow mixed perfectly with intense hope. How do I better describe the emotion? Let me give an analogy.

Imagine a military commander of a small nation is under attack from the Roman Empire. This particular commander is an absolute genius, but he knows that eventually his nation will be defeated by the greater empire and be forced into servitude. Nothing does this commander desire more than for the freedom of his nation, and so he orders a small portion of the population to flee into the wilderness away from the Romans. He knows, however, that if unimpeded, the Romans will overtake the refugees, and so this commander begins a series of strategically masterful attacks against the Romans to divert their attention from the refugees. After months of strategic genius, the Romans eventually break through the commander’s defenses. During the final battle of this war, the commander is stabbed through stomach, and slowly bleeds out on the battle ground while the Romans meticulously deconstruct the last of the small nation’s defenses. In his last moments, all the commander can see is destruction and chaos. Men lie slaughtered on the battle field next to burning defenses. It is a scene of utter desolation.

Yet the commander knows that because of his masterful campaigns, the refugees from his small nation have a chance at survival.
It is precisely the emotion of this commander in his last moments of life that is captured in chords I found.

I had been planning on going into a large-scale discussion of the analogous nature of writing music and organic life forms, but I am immensely tired, and I need to sleep. Perhaps some other time, potentially faithful reader. For now, I will end by remarking that music is indeed fundamentally powerful. It is truly remarkable that music “sounds” like emotion. Perhaps it is more accurate to say that music evokes emotion.

Because of perception of reality can generally be broken up into logic and emotion (I realize that’s an overgeneralization, but it’ll do for now), in order to fully communicate our perception of reality to another individual, you must convey both the logic and the emotion. Conveying the logic is easy. We have oral language and the written word. Conveying emotion is much more difficult, because emotion cannot easily be quantified. Thus it is truly remarkable that we are able to communicate emotions with one another by means of music. In that sense, music perhaps is as fundamental a tool to humans as the written word.

I guess that’s why I have so much respect for Grimes.


By: Danny Geisz | January 7, 2020

Project: #Life

Order and structure. Structure and rationale. Rationale and rules. Rules and order. Order and structure.

These are my life blood, my drive, my passion, my pleasure.

By fate’s design we are kept from fundamental truth. Within fundamental truth lies fundamental order, fundamental structure, fundamental rationale, fundamental rules. And thus the fundamental has and will forevermore evade our tireless grasping.

We look into the darkness, and we cannot distinguish chaos from order. We can only perceive hints at greater order, but because we cannot distinguish the anomaly from the truth, we are blind even as we see.

Yet the miracle of our reality is our ability to construct our own truth from the darkness. Even as we grope blindly throughout the reality which houses us, we create our own realities with their own fundamental order. And through this order comes structure, rationale, and rules.

Blind as we are to the potential presence of howling chaos, we strive forward, tumbling over one another as the imperceptible storm continuously, remorselessly threatens everything we have ever created.

It is only by a faith fundamental to our existence that we press onwards. This faith is so fundamental that many do not even consciously perceive it, and yet is the only thing that keeps us from succumbing to the potential of invisible chaos.

This fundamental faith is the faith that there exists either fundamental truth or a stable representation of fundamental truth. Only the supernatural, the deities, the incomprehensible could purport to verify the existence of truth. The rest of us can only cultivate faith in the existence of truth because without this faith, we are unable to create our own personal truth, order, structure, rationale, and rules.

My eyes are open to the gift our fundamental faith has given us. Our life, our interaction with reality, these are the true gifts. This gift allows us to cultivate truth, order, structure, rationale, and rules where they may not even be able to exist.

Order and structure. Structure and rationale. Rationale and rules. Rules and order. Order and structure.

These are my life blood, my drive, my passion, my pleasure.