Tag: Structure

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.”

Synthesizing Immortals

By: Danny Geisz | August 28, 2021

Project: Project Supernatural

Sup fam. Just transferred to CU from ol’ Berkeley, and the academic year has begun. Also I just had a major project fail, so Danny boi is feeling a little directionless at the moment. Well, that’s not quite true, but nonetheless, I though it might be time to shake off some cobwebs and blog about some things that have been bouncing around the ol’ nogerino.

I’d like to present a theory on why some notion of “God” or perhaps some other hyper-powerful supernatural creature could potentially come into existence. So in other words, I’d like to discuss why God might exist. Specifically, how God might have come into existence.

I think the best way to do this is to first talk about the human experience, and particularly, humanity’s understanding of the divine. Additionally, I’d like to talk about why humanity’s collective cultural belief systems or “religions” do provide a pretty substantial benefit to the population.

In most of the religions that I’ve encountered, one common thread is the establishment of an intellectual framework focused on several archetypical ideals. These ideals take many different forms for the different religious systems. Sometimes these ideals are encapsulated in a divine figure, like “God,” or perhaps many gods. Other times these ideals take the form of a particular way of life.

I think Christianity is a particularly good example of this, simply because how explicitly this construction takes place in the Bible. Specifically, the figure of God in the Bible is taken to be perfectly good, perfectly just, and of infinite wisdom. Alternatively, you also have Satan, who is typically presented as the perfect embodiment of evil.

Another particularly interesting aspect of the Biblical God that many people I’ve met find particularly compelling is the fact that God also purports to never change. In other words, God is taken to be the archetypical representation of everything “good” now and forever more.

Now admittedly, I’m certainly less familiar with other religious systems than I am with Christianity. That being said, based on what I have learned and experienced, the different religious systems typically provide a similar type of utility to their practitioners.

And what is that? The utility that stems from knowledge on how to live.

Now, with that said, different religious systems certainly provide different ways of giving this information. Typically, this information is imparted through stories, or myths. Greek myths, for example, present situations in which humans interact with one another, and with the gods. At first glance, someone living in modern times might dismiss these tales as primitive and useless. But that’s certainly not the case.

Even though we humans don’t interact with Zeus and Athena on a regular basis (or at least I don’t. If you do, give me a yodel), these stories certainly provide a particular utility. And what is that? Well, Zeus, Athena and the other gods of the Greek pantheon are representations of different archetypes. Athena, for example, is the embodiment of wisdom, whereas Zeus represents the all-powerful ruler (among other things, of course).

The Greek myths therefore tell stories about humans interacting and negotiating with these archetypical representations of different aspects of reality. More often than not, the human characters in these stories suffer tragic fates because they interacted poorly with the gods.

So sure, you can dismiss these stories as fairytales, but you’d be missing the functional value of these myths. Specifically, myths encode information about how to live and interact with reality. And the myths that have the highest probability of lasting throughout the eons are the ones that people repeat. And why would people repeat a myth? Likely because some aspect of the myth rings true within their personal context.

Therefore, it naturally follows (by means of some sketchy logic) that the myths that have survived the millennia are the ones that encode useful information about how to interact with reality.

I should also mention that this is typically the utility provided by any story, regardless of its association with a religious system. Good stories are incredibly useful to us humans because they implicitly reaffirm our existing knowledge base regarding information on how to live. This is a can of worms I probably shouldn’t open right now, so I’ll just move right along.

Ok, so I hope I’ve established that myths and stories are one vehicle religions use to encode information about how to live. But there are certainly other means by which religions encode this information. For example, the Tao Te Ching, basically goes right ahead and makes explicit assertions about reality, and how Taoists ought to act. The 10 Commandments are another example of this, in which explicit instructions are given about how to behave.

That being said, the most interesting way (within the context of this post) that religions provide knowledge about how to live is by providing an embodiment of perfection and encouraging practitioners to emulate this figure. I’ve already mentioned that this is how God is presented in the Bible, for example.

A common phrase you’ll hear in Christian circles is that Christians are constantly trying to be “more like Him.” Him being God, of course. To extrapolate this a bit, Christians are therefore attempting to emulate their perception of perfection and the embodiment of “good.”

Now, I think it would behoove us to take a step back for a quick second here. How do Christians know that what they are pursuing is actually “good?” What even is “good?” And does this apply to people who don’t practice that particular belief system?

Ok, before we move on, just know that I’m going to make some pretty broad statements here that might not be fully correct. Even though that’s the case, I think the point of my arguments is going to be clear, so don’t get bogged down in the gray areas and edge cases.

I think I’ll start with a discussion of the nature of “good.” I think we all intuitively think of “good” as describing actions that provide sustainable benefit both to ourselves and our community. You likely have a different definition of “good,” but I think you probably can agree in part with this definition.

And what sorts of actions actually benefit the individual and our community? Well, this is a tricky question. Even though this isn’t a complete answer, I think “good” actions promote the stability of humanity with the context of a reality that constantly threatens our existence. Typically, this either manifests in someone solving a problem, or empowering a group of people to solve their own problems. This arguably describes the impetus behind technological development and provides some degree of moral argument for increased technological development. But that’s another rabbit hole that I don’t want to go down right now.

Ok, now that I’ve established a relatively concrete definition of “good,” now let’s talk about whether the objective that Christians pursue is actually “good.”

I’ve established that “good” actions actually have a tangible benefit to humans within the context of survival. Not only that, but most people have a reasonable sense of what is or isn’t “good” because their experience has shown them what sorts of behaviors actually benefit the individual and the community.

With that said, Christianity actually provides a pretty good framework for determining what is or isn’t “good.” Why? Because it creates a context for people to converse and argue about what actually is good, and what isn’t.

To see why this is the case, here’s a toy example. Let’s say Dante and Virginia both believe in God. They also believe that God is perfectly “good.” Now let’s say Virginia makes the following assertion: “God wants us to kill evil people, because evil people harm others.” Dante might then respond: “Wait, no. That’s not true. God wants us to love evil people and try to help them see the errors in their own ways.”

Now, regardless of who’s actually right, this is an example of people arguing about the nature of God, given their mutual belief that God is “good,” and given their own personal perceptions of “good.” And this has been happening all throughout history.

So who wins, Dante or Virginia? Well it isn’t totally clear. However, let’s say that the pair agrees to disagree, and both follow their own belief regarding the nature of God. Statistically speaking, one of those two beliefs will actually provide a greater degree of utility to humanity on average, and therefore will likely have a higher likelihood of being passed on to the next generation.

It’s literally survival of the fittest, but with world views (almost sounds like Stable Entities…). Now, obviously reality isn’t a statistically perfect system, but these conclusions imply that over the course of time, Christians should trend closer to a more accurate belief of what is actually “good,” or what actually provides humans with the greatest degree of utility.

Ok, so with that said, though not actually perfect (IMHO) the Christian pursuit of knowledge of perfect “good” naturally should lead to a better knowledge of what’s actually “good.” And for that reason, I’d argue that people who don’t believe in Christianity certainly shouldn’t dismiss the teachings of Christianity outright. Even though there may be inefficiencies, the process of refining Christianity has been a multi-millennium project, and the results of that project should be given their time of day.

But what’s interesting about all this is that not only do Christians naturally attempt to discern the nature of “good,” but to the best of their abilities, they also attempt to become “more like God.” (That is, of course, if the Christian is behaving optimally within the context of the Christian belief system).

Now what’s particularly interesting to me is that technology has been developing at an exponential rate. In simplistic sense, technology gives us better tools for enacting our desires and visions for reality. To put this in different language, the power that humanities posses over reality has been increasing at an exponential rate.

To put it really simplistically, humans are getting much, much better at doing the things they want to do.

Now then, this power is and will lead to increased instability, as individuals have greater potential to harm entire populations. If humans are to survive, we need to figure out what sorts of actions actually benefit both the individual and the community.

In other words, we need to figure out what’s actually “good.”

Now then, the people who subscribe to religious systems arguably have a head start in this pursuit, because they benefit from thousands/millions of years of encoded information regarding the nature of “good” (i.e., what sorts of actions actually lead to beneficial outcomes).

What’s particularly interesting is that if humanity is able to survive the instability of increasing power, then it will literally become more and more like God, in the Christian sense, i.e., a manifestation of perfect “good.”

If exponential improvements continue to occur and humanity survives them, at a certain point, humanity will be indistinguishable from God, in the Christian sense. Omnipotent, due to the limitless improvements in technology. Omniscient, given the limitless potential for technologies that synthesize representations of reality. Omnipresent, given the (almost) limitless potential improvements in transportation technologies.

Not only that, but such an Entity would almost necessarily be “good” because the power granted that Entity combined with evil actions could literally destroy sizeable aspects of reality. That’s a weak argument, but I think you see the point.

Ok, so this line of reasoning introduces a mechanism by which a God-like entity may come into being. However, this begs the question: what if this already happened? If that’s the case, then God might actually already exist.

Ok, let me flesh this out a bit more. A good deal of this argument has leaned on a notion “good,” and presented why humans might want to try to be more and more “good.”

However, I’d argue that “good” isn’t necessarily a human construction. Earlier I spoke of “good” describing actions that promote the dynamic stability of an Entity. Which means that if we de-anthropomorphize “good,” it can basically apply to any system.

Now then, humans can be described as Entities that are capable of formulating internal representations of reality and acting in accordance with those representations (i.e., intelligence). Though certainly an advanced system, I’d certainly argue that most Entities within reality could benefit from some mechanism like that, which is to say that there’s no reason to firmly believe that intelligence is a uniquely human phenomenon. I imagine that it’s incredibly rare, but certainly not impossible.

With that said, any creature capable of formulating internal representations has a high incentive to determine what is “good” (in the more global sense) and pursue those sorts of actions. And given the exponential nature of technological improvements, moving from mortal to God-like might occur much faster than we’ve might imagine.

Basically, what I’m trying to assert is that according to the reasoning presented in this post, there’s a mechanism that allows for the creation of God-like entities that behave in reasonable correspondence with our own human belief systems. Which is fairly remarkable, I’d say.

Some Especially Fizzy Definitions

By: Danny Geisz | January 21, 2021

Project: #Life

If you have either read any of XFA or have spoken with me in the last 6 months, you probably know that I have a series of terms which I frequently use in discussing the nature of reality. While some of my favorite terms like “non-trivial,” “compelling,” and “indicative,” have definitions taken right out of (insert you favorite dictionary), I do use several terms in a more…idiosyncratic manner, and I find myself frequently re-defining them as I write XFA posts. As a firm subscriber of the DRY programming philosophy, I think it’s high time I bite the bullet and just write down some definitions that I know I’ll use again.

You know what? We can actually make this into a fun little system. Whenever I capitalize a word that otherwise has no business being capitalized, please understand that I mean it in a fizzy way. When I write “Entity,” instead of “entity,” understand that I mean entity according to the fizzy definition provided here and not according to the connotation you’ve been cultivating for that particular word your entire life. Aight fam, here we go!

One final note. I very well may find myself needing to add to this list over time. If/when I do, I’ll include a small note indicating the date on which I made the edition.

Entity – Darn right baby. This word is #1 in my heart and XFA. An Entity is anything within a time-constrained context that exhibits any degree of Stability (see definition below). In an effort to further analyze an Entity’s stability, we can say that an Entity has stable Characteristics and stable Behaviors (again see definitions below).

Stability – When I use Stability, I’m referring to something’s ability to retain its form or features for a non-trivial duration of time. For example, a dog exhibits a certain degree of stability because it maintains its dog-like characteristics for several years. The earth is more stable than a dog because it’s been around for several billion more years than a dog will live.

Characteristic – A Characteristic is one aspect of an Entity that remains constant as time progresses. If I saw a blue fence and noticed that the fence didn’t change color with the progression of time, I would refer to “blue” as a Characteristic of a fence. You’ll notice that this is in slight conflict with the dictionary definition of “characteristic,” which is typically used outside of any time-based context.

Behavior – A Behavior is an aspect of an Entity that evolves as time progresses, but in a well-defined stable manner. If my aetheric girlfriend Arya laughed every single time I told one particular joke, then Arya laughing at my joke would be a Behavior of the Entity that is Arya.

The Orchid Manifesto

By: Danny Geisz | January 12, 2021

Project: Orchid

The Orchid Project aims to replace a wide swath of modern mathematics with a set of digital structures that can be understood and manipulated by humans and computers alike. To understand how Orchid will fulfil this goal, it is fruitful to first consider the nature of mathematics. Mathematics is the study of abstract entities with stable characteristics and behaviors. Over the past millennia, human beings have developed a set of written symbols used to describe the characteristics and behaviors of these abstract entities. These written symbols allow humans to reference properties of the abstract entities being studied and perform symbolic manipulations on these entities in accordance with well-defined rules.

Modern mathematics is a symbiosis between the human mind and the aforementioned symbol set. Without the human mind, the symbols are essentially worthless and only interact with reality in accordance with physics of their constituent physical materials. Without the symbols, humans would have to reason about abstract entities without any outside assistance, and therefore would suffer from the limitations of human memory and intelligence. Together, however, there is a beautiful symbiosis. The abstract structures live within the human mind, but they can be compressed and stored compactly within the symbol set of mathematics.

However, this brings us to an interesting philosophical question: why is mathematics useful? Mathematics is useful simply because there is stable structure in reality as perceived by humans. The term "stable" is defined here to simply mean "existing for a non-trivial duration of time". While there are, of course, no guarantees about the stability of the different entities perceived within reality, there nonetheless seem to exist a very large number of entities that exhibit some degree of stability.

One particularly fundamental reason contributing to humanity's evolutionary fitness is the human mind's ability to create a model of the stable structures in the human’s environment, and act according to this model. If, for instance, a human learns there is a meteor directly overhead, the human will use their internal model of the world to reason that they must run away in order to survive.

While the importance of the brain's ability to harbor an internal representation of reality cannot be understated, humanity has progressed even further by creating spoken language. Spoken languages allow groups of humans to translate the representations stored within their brains into a set of stable auditory signals. These auditory signals are then decoded by other humans and translated into neural representations of the world.

Forming and reasoning about internal neural representations of the world takes time and effort, and frequently humans form the same sorts of representations. For example, even without communicating, multiple humans could easily learn that a meteor overhead probably means grave danger. Spoken language is an incredibly tool because it decentralizes the effort required to formulate internal representations of reality. As a simple example, a person entering India for the first time several millennia ago might never have interacted with a tiger before. The person could either learn about the dangers of tigers by experiencing one for himself/herself, or he/she could communicate with the locals and learn that the big striped orange and white cats ought to be avoided. The latter option obviously better lends itself to human survival.

Spoken language is a miraculously useful tool, but it suffers from the fact that audio signals decay rapidly, thus requiring two humans to be in immediate contact while communicating. This limitation is addressed by written language, which is next in the chain of incalculably useful human developments. The written word can last for centuries or even millennia, and therefore allows humans beings to share neural representations of reality across wide swaths of time.

So where does mathematics fit into all of this? Languages like English or Mandarin allow humans to describe a large portion of either their perceived reality or even hypothetical situations, and typically rely on some context for understanding. “How fast did Blake run?” I might ask. “Fast,” or “slow,” or “faster than Usain Bolt,” you might answer. Given my current context, I’ll probably form an internal representation of the events you witnessed that isn’t too far off from what you actually perceived. However, the words “fast,” “slow,” and even “faster than Usain Bolt” are all very imprecise, and effectively lose all meaning without the ill-defined context I described.

Mathematics attempts to address this lack of precision by describing both the structures and context in terms of abstract imagined entities with infinitely precise characteristics and infinite stability. To my question of how fast Blake ran, you could instead answer “44.83 ± 0.9 km/h.” You could also provide me with a mathematical model of Blake’s trajectory using polynomials and describe the Blake’s physics using Newtonian mechanics. Given the definition of kilometers, hours, and real numbers, someone 300 years from now would still be able to form a highly accurate internal representation of Blake’s speed, were they to desire that knowledge.

Mathematics therefore gives humans the ability to describe reality with far greater detail, precision, and accuracy than languages like English or Mandarin. The toolset of mathematics has also informed the development of some (if not all) of humanity’s most impressive modern technologies.

Why, then, has mathematics not replaced the languages of the world? If mathematics can provide such superior descriptions of reality, why don’t we entirely replace “the old technologies,” like English? The reason we haven’t done this is because mathematics comes with a high cost. It’s really, really hard. The reason why “Einstein” has become synonymous with “genius” is because Einstein formulated a mathematical description of the world that was more consistent with reality than previous attempts. Mathematics isn’t nearly as forgiving as world languages. While humans can rely on mutual context to convey information with language that would otherwise be imprecise or inaccurate (think metaphors or sarcasm), well-defined mathematics doesn’t allow for any of that behavior.

Before I continue, I’d like to once again emphasize how critical both language and mathematics have been to the improvement of the human condition. Even though I will talk about how Orchid aims to achieve a superior technology, the importance of both mathematics and language should never be taken for granted.

So where does all this leave us? Spoken/written languages can describe a broad swath of reality, but they are imprecise and typically rely on ill-defined and brittle context to actually convey meaning. Mathematics can describe some aspects of reality in incredible detail, but it is difficult to use and struggles at generalizing to complicated systems.

The Orchid Project aims to move beyond language and mathematics for formulating representations of reality by utilizing advances in computers to significantly lower the costs associated with mathematical descriptions of reality. As previously described, right now mathematics is a symbiosis between the human mind and a symbol set, wherein the actual mathematical structures live in neural representations within the human mind but can be represented compactly within a set of written symbols.

Put in high level terms, Orchid transforms neural representations of mathematical entities into computer data structures, which can be created and manipulated by computers. While this is easily said, the ramifications of this statement are enormous. By making this translation from the brain to the computer, Orchid allows computers to “think” about mathematics like humans do.

While you could probably see the importance of this concept after a moment or two of thought, let me perhaps provide some motivation for why this could be revolutionary. Modern computer architectures are capable of roughly a billion operations per second. The spiking rate of a neuron in the human brain is about 200 spikes/second. If we equate a single spike as being approximately equal to a single clock cycle, then a computer processes information more than 5 orders of magnitude faster than the human brain.
What this means, in more accessible terms, is that a task that would take the human mind 1,000 years could be completed by a modern computer in under 4 days. This example obviously makes some irresponsible assumptions about the similarities between the human brain and computers, but the point being made remains valid.

With that said, by drastically reducing the cost associated with mathematical descriptions of reality, Orchid aims to give human beings a tool that robustly addresses the limitations of both languages and mathematics in formulating representations of reality. In accordance with the historical trend outlined throughout this text, one can hope that the tools provided by Orchid can aid in both a drastic improvement of the human condition and the progression of organized complexity within reality as a whole.

The Light and the Chaos

By: Danny Geisz | December 15, 2020

Project: #Life

Sup Schmeags. Insofar as my perception of reality can be taken to be a non-local standard, it appears as though reality can be understood as a compositional and hierarchical collection of entities. For sake of precision, I’m defining and entity to be any stable system with well-defined characteristics and behaviors.

That’s somewhat redundant, because a “behavior” is simply a characteristic with a temporal element, but we’re time-bound creatures, so I find it to be a useful categorization.

You know what? I’m going to capitalize Entity because I’m the lord of this blog, and nothing can stop me.

Now it’s quite important to me that you understand the generality of an Entity. While the term “entity” typically brings to mind some connotation of either a physical object or some abstract localized notion, please understand that an Entity, as I’ve defined it, is far more general.

There’s nothing inherent that constrains an Entity to be spatially localized in any capacity. Additionally, there’s nothing that constrains an Entity to behave in a smooth, locally linear fashion throughout the expanse of time. It just so happens that within our three space dimensions and time dimension, there happen to be a higher degree of correlations that occur between Entities which are closer in time and space. And I most certainly mean closer in the typical sense.

So then, why talk about Entities? Well, friend, they’re kinda the only thing that matters. And you know the most important aspect of them? Stability. To add a slight caveat, they’re important insofar as knowledge that is useful to human survival is important.

Why is stability important? Well, the only reason you can comprehend, articulate, or imagine anything is because the objects of your interest have some degree of stability.

Good heavens, I suppose I should define stability so that the importance of this topic is clear. By stability, I mean the extent to which an Entity is able to maintain its characteristics and behaviors as time progresses.

This definition is intrinsically bounded in time, but it is generalizable to any situation in which there’s even the slightest notion of evolution in the state of a system.

That’s kinda a side note. Anyway, back to the importance of stability. Why are homo sapiens a big deal? Because they’re a highly adaptable Entity that are able to contend with their environment in a manner that allows them to promote their personal and group stability in a highly robust fashion. Why do you care about Netflix? Because it’s an Entity which has proved to be highly stable throughout the last decade and has behaviors and characteristics which bring humans utility. Why are sub-atomic particles important? Because they’re so incredibly stable and have such a robust set of behaviors that they’re able to constitute an unreasonably large number of higher-order Entities.

I do hope that this has somewhat convinced you about the importance of Entities and stability. If you’re not convinced, respectfully go shuck a duck.

Now then, let’s talk a bit about what makes Entities stable. A very good first step is for the Entity to be internally stable. And by “good first step,” I mean “unavoidable, crucially important first step.” By internally stable, I mean that the sub-Entities which constitute this particular Entity are in and of themselves stable.

So, to give examples, a molecule is only stable because the atoms that constitute the molecule are stable. A cell (as in Eukaryote) is stable only because its organelles are stable. Here’s one you might like. Why is Netflix stable? There are literally to many sub-factors to even name. In order to Netflix to be even possible, let alone stable, you need a large population of people with computers and Televisions, you need a stable power-grid that typically behaves in a well-defined fashion, you need a stable population of producers who are willing to make shows, you need a stable population of actors and actresses who want to be in shows in the first place. You need a stable frikin internet, which allows for the highest bandwidth of information transfer even conceived.

I could certainly go on, but I think you get the idea. Basically, stable things (Entities) can only exist if their constituent parts (sub-Entities) are stable.

I really should emphasize that by “stable,” I do not mean “static.” Static means “fixed in some capacity.” Anyone who remembers the God-awful early days of Netflix can attest to the fact that many times, an Entity needs to adapt and improve if it is to survive.

Now then, I didn’t actually want to spend the entirety of this post reiterating my theory of Entities, so let’s talk about the aspect of Entities that’s important for this particular post.

In order for an Entity to be stable, not only does it have to be internally stable, but it also must be externally stable as well. This presupposes that an Entity is necessarily embedded in some environment, but that seems to be a safe assumption because it applies to literally every Entity ever witnessed and recorded by a human being.

Whether you’re an atom, a molecule, a coronavirus, a human being, a literal planet, or a nebula, in order to be stable, you need to be able to contend with your environment. And your environment typically presents a myriad of threats to your stability.

Imagine I’m an amoeba. I’m boolin around, absorbing organic matter, doing my thing, and them all of a sudden, BOOM I run into a eukaryotic cell! Oh frikin no!

Now, lets put the dirty biology aside for a second and talk about what could happen in this here Mexican showdown between different forms of organic matter.

  1. The Entities could both just go their own separate ways, and nothing more happens.
  2. The amoeba could potentially destroy the eukaryotic cell.
  3. The cell could potentially destroy the amoeba.

And when I say destroy, I’m not necessarily talking about some evil, premeditated attack. It could be as simple as the amoeba running into the cell, which ruptures the cell, causing it to no longer exist as a Eukaryotic cell.

Basically, what I’m getting at is that both organisms potentially pose a threat to one another.

Ok, whatever. It’s possible one or both of the organisms won’t survive the interaction. And who cares? They aren’t conscious, they don’t have souls, they don’t have feelings. If they die, literally no one knows or cares.

Be that as it may, if the eukaryotic cell possessed the capability to contend with the amoeba, then it would have a higher chance of survival.

How would it do this? Well, both of these organisms live in our 4-dimensional world, so perhaps the eukaryotic cell has a chemical detector that is able to detect the presence of an amoeba or other external threat. Let’s say this chemical detector, once activated, triggers a mechanism that propels it away from the threat.

Alternatively, let’s say the cell has a mechanism which releases a powerful acid if it’s threatened. Then, when the amoeba approaches, BOOM chemical blast. The amoeba dies!

As a third potentially rarer option, let’s say that when the amoeba approaches the eukaryotic cell, the amoeba realizes that the eukaryotic cell is excreting a chemical that is necessary for the amoeba’s survival. Likewise, the eukaryotic cell realizes that the amoeba destroys other harmful organisms that approach, so it’s the in cell’s best interest to keep the amoeba around. Thus, the two organisms live symbiotically, and potentially merge into a higher-order Entity.

So there you have it! When faced with an external threat, a stable Entity probably should flee, fight, or “learn” to cooperate with the threat. You’ll notice that I have in no way presupposed the existence of emotions, goals, motivations, consciousness, or anything of that sort. All I’ve asserted is that if Entities possess these particular traits, they’ll likely be more stable.

Ok. Now then, let’s talk the Light and the Chaos. I’m about to get all Daoist on all y’all, so prepare yourselves. The Light represents order, structure, and the “known.” The Chaos is an abstraction for everything not in the light, the “Great Unknown” in the most expansive meaning of the phrase.

As stable Entities, human beings exist at the boundary of the Light and the Chaos. As the most stable inheritor of a truly staggering array of lower-level stable Entities, not only do we impulsively live at the edge of the Light and the Chaos, but we’re also conscious of our position.

Now I should say that the boundary between the Light and Chaos is in no way clear cut. The Light and Chaos rather bleed into one another. The Chaos permeates every facet of the Light, but to differing degrees. However, regardless of the Chaos, there are always still areas where the Light promises of its own existence.

Now then, let’s discuss what we might do about our present reality of Light and Chaos. Where ought we strive to live?

Should we walk into the depths of the Chaos? I certainly think not! That would be akin to nearing the gaping mouth of an inky black cave, hearing the sounds of terrible beasts rustling around within, and nevertheless strolling inward.

Should we call that bravery? Perhaps. But also likely suicide. Much like the cave, not only do you have no knowledge of the dangers which lurk within, but you also are in no way prepared to contend with the dangers when they attack. And thus, to plunge into the Chaos is external defeat, and is therefore evident of internal defeat.

But what else can we do? Should we wallow in the Light? In an area entirely permeated by the Light, with not a shred of Chaos in sight, adventure goes to die. There is nothing meaningful whatsoever about living entirely within the confines of the Light. It spells certain survival, but survival at what cost? There’s nothing more soul crushing than a guarantee of nothing new, nothing fresh, a staggering lack of adventure. You will live, but you will live in a state more despicable than death.

So what is left? What leads to a meaningful existence? An existence that perhaps has some degree of important within the context of reality?

It is along the murky Border of the Light and the Chaos that we must walk. Only at the Border of this duality is meaning to be found. Only at the Border does Light no longer represent despicable stagnation. Only at the Border does Chaos no longer spell certain failure and defeat.

At the border, Light becomes the structure we use to remain afloat, the tools we use to build, and the weapons we use to fight. At the Border, Chaos becomes nothing short of the giver of life, continually presenting us with the newness and adventure as crucial to our souls as water or food is to out bodies.

It is at the Border where Heroes are formed. It is at the Border where the most glorious humanity has to offer take up the sword and the hammer, and truly contend with the chaos. It is at the Border where Jacob wrestles God. It is at the Border where Atlas holds up the sky. It is where Light is spoken into Chaos.

It is where meaning lies.

What the @#$% is a definition??

By: Danny Geisz | September 16, 2020

Project: #Life

Sup people. Ex fizz, back at it again, trying to understand reality. So as I mentioned a couple posts ago, I’ve been working a bit more on Orchid, because I’m pretty sure it’s the only way. However, in bathing myself repeatedly in the hot, soupy stew that is fundamental mathematics, I’ve been forced to think a bit harder about certain things than I normally would. Like, for instance, “what is information?” Now all you information theory nerds can go wallop some cows for all I care, because typically discussions pertaining to information theory disintegrate into nonsense about entropy and other such jazz. And, allow me to be vulnerable for a sec, I don’t care enough about entropy to have studied it enough to know what the frack information theorists even care about. So maybe I’m just dealing with the same problems as them.

So let’s cast information theorists aside for a moment and return to first principles in these matters. Let me first ask a question: what is information? And now, let me answer it. As best as I can tell, information is a correspondence between the configurations of several (sometimes unrelated) stable systems. I realize that’s not super helpful, so let me give you an example from cave man days, because those are my favorite examples.

Let’s say we have two cave men, Dave and Thnead. Dave and Thnead enjoy being alive, and are therefore wary whenever they are approached by a saber-tooth tiger or an allosaurus. Both of those animals are big red flags to Dave and Thnead and typically spell out a gruesome bloody demise. Let’s say Dave and Thnead keep their best weapons at the back of their cave to protect them from the weather. Now then, Dave and Thnead take turns keeping watch during the night to minimize the chance of gruesome death by wandering saber-tooth tiger or allosaurus.

You know what, Dave and Thnead might as well be gay. How’s that for character building? That helps the analogy because now they have a good reason for wanting each other to stay alive.

This is an egregiously drawn out analogy, but let’s say Dave and Thnead come up with a system. If the boi that is keeping watch during the night sees a mean beasty, then that boi will throw small rocks (the type that float) at the back of the cave to wake the other boi up. Now then, everyone knows that rocks are better than sharp sticks for attacking saber-tooth tigers, and sharp sticks are better than rocks for attacking allosauruses. Because of that, our bois agree to throw one rock to the back of the cave if a long toothed tiger is spotted, and two rocks if a large reptilian fang-lord (allosaurus) is spotted, simply so that our bois are best equipped to fight whichever beasty they may encounter.

Dang that example was way shorter in my head. It’s literally equivalent to “one if by land, two if by sea” but we’ll ignore that for now.

Anyway the whole point of that written charade is to emphasize the correspondence between the number of rocks thrown and the type of beasty strolling by in the night. Even though there doesn’t seem to be any inherent tying the type of beasty to the number of rocks thrown, this system allows information to be passed between our lads.

So then, we get to the question that be-titles this post: what the flip-shack frack is a definition?? You may be wondering why this is important. Well, intellectually endowed reader, the notion of a “definition” is the only reason why the number of rocks thrown to the back of a cave has any correspondence to the nature of the animal that lurks in the darkness. Otherwise, those two systems have absolutely no meaningful connection.

The reason why I care about this is because I’m attempting to determine the extent to which information is fundamental to the universe, and the extent to which information is a human construct. It has become crystal clear to me that in any system within which there exists some notion of forward progressing time, the most fundamental entity is a stable system. The question, then, is whether information as we know it exists on a fundamental level or on the level which is only meaningful to the entities known as humans. And the answer to that question rests on the true nature of a definition.

While I’ve been writing this, I think I’ve stumbled upon something major. A definition is only meaningful if the source of the definition is itself well-defined and perceivable. Ah yes. That’s it. Well I just wrote three pages to answer my own question. I suppose before I wrap this up, I should explain my realization. Definitions are themselves merely characteristics of stable systems. Why does the character sequence “r-e-d” mean anything to you? Because you know that whenever I’m trying to describe an object that’s giving off electromagnetic radiation around 700nm in wavelength, then I will use the character sequence “r-e-d.” Thus even if you aren’t in the room, you now have a clear idea of the nature of the light coming off the object and entering my eyeballs.

So basically definitions and information are just “if, thens.” For example, in the case of our cave men, the following statement describes the stable behavior of one cave man “if [boi] sees allosarus, he will throw two rocks. If [boi] sees tiger, he will throw one rock.” Therefore the presence of a thrown rock immediately yields the other boi information on the nature of the beast outside the cave. Cool!

If you’re wondering why any of this is actually interesting, email me and I’ll do a better job of explaining it. Otherwise, bye bye now!

An Effective Recipe for Mathematical Modelling

By: Danny Geisz | July 20, 2020

Project: Orchid

Sup readers. Prepare yourselves for another disjointed post. I’m basically using my blog as a repo for and log of my thought processes.

K, so basically a big thing that I’ve learned about myself is that even though I really enjoy learning about pretty much anything technical (math, physics, CS, etc) it’s immensely hard for me to stay motivated to continue working on a project unless I can very easily discern why the project benefits humanity. That’s part of the reason why I’m really enjoying my current project.

Oh wait. I forgot that I haven’t written a single blog post about my current project yet. RIP. I’ll do that soon. Basically, I’m trying to build a social media platform that psychologically incentivizes healthy, non-violent conversations about traditionally controversial and polarizing topics. I’m bringing this up simply because I perceive the goal of this project as being of upmost importance for the future health of the purportedly self-healing super graph that is humanity.

Anyway, back to Orchid. The reason I bring all this up is because in past months, I haven’t really been able to come up with a compelling reason why building Orchid would be beneficial to humanity, which has meant that it’s somewhat difficult to remain motivated to work on it, which in turn means I haven’t prioritized working on it, which means I haven’t worked on it all that much.

Orchid, however, has been dancing around the back of my head for the past couple of months simply because I think it would be super cool if it worked. If nothing else, it would give me a way to work on learning things like QFT without the overwhelming frustration of working with ginormous equations with pencil and paper. While I personally don’t see learning QFT as a particularly meaningful pursuit at this juncture of my life, the equations that govern quantum fields are super, super juicy, and it’s fun to play around with them.

Anyway, in trying to come up with ways that Orchid could benefit the humanity graph, I’ve had a couple ideas. This first one kinda showed its head in my last post, but I’ll flesh it out a bit more here. Basically, if Orchid works as I intend, it will essentially create a method for storing mathematical entities of all varieties in well-defined computer data structures. Neat. Additionally, the rules governing mathematical manipulations of these particular mathematical entities will also be stored in similarly well-defined computer data structures. The reason why this is compelling is because computers would then have the ability to work with and manipulate these structures on their own, without human interference. Obviously, the algorithmic approach the computers would take in manipulating the mathematical structures would be defined by humans, but it would essentially allow computers to perform the same sorts of computations humans do all by themselves.

Why is this potentially cool? Because up until this point, most mathematical software is essentially super-powered calculators. Mathematica, for example, has been built over the last 30 years, and during that time, human beings have translated all varieties of mathematical processes into code. There’s a reason it takes up like 20 GB. It’s gigantic. But if you want to numerically solve erf, like I did back in high school, well then boy is Mathematica for you. How is orchid different? Instead of having a bunch of hard-coded algorithms for solving and manipulating previously defined mathematical expressions, Orchid allows you to define entirely new mathematical entities and the rules that govern them. This, furthermore, allows users to have a central location for creating a manipulating all varieties of mathematical entities.

Not only that, but the computer itself would have a way of creating and manipulating exotic mathematical structures. This means that computers would be able to do what previously could only be done with pencil and paper, or on a blackboard. Instead of slaving away doing a bunch of predefined calculations, computers could actually be “doing the math” in the same way that humans have for the last several centuries.

I imagine it might not be immediately clear why computers doing pencil and paper mathematics would be beneficial to humanity. Let me explain as clearly as I can. Mathematics has provided humanity with perhaps the most robust and effective method for quantitatively understanding the world around us. And when humans better understand the world, they can make better predications about the state of the world. As I’ve discussed in previous posts, whenever a structure exhibits stable characteristics and behaviors, that structure can be effectively utilized in the creation of another, larger stable structure. In this context, that means that whenever humans are able to understand the stable characteristics and behaviors of a system, they are frequently able to use that system in a manner that increases humanity’s overall fitness.

Theoretical physics, as a field of study, is perhaps the best and most well-established example of what I’m describing. The phone in your pocket, the missile defense system that keeps you safe, and the lightbulb that illuminates your house are each examples of the staggering amount of technologies that fundamentally would not exist without developments in theoretical physics.

And what is theoretical physics? It is the practice of modelling physical systems in terms of well-defined mathematical structures, and then making predictions about the systems themselves using well-defined mathematical manipulations on those structures. In case you are wondering, experimental physics is the practice of designing and carrying out experiments to gather data on physical systems. Analyzing these data sets is what allows theoretical physicists to determine the degree to which their models accurately describe reality. So, if you’ve ever wondered what those nerds up in national labs, universities, or particle accelerators are doing, it’s that.

Physics is all fine and good, but I’ve found that much of what goes on in modern day physics doesn’t actually seem to affect many people. Some of it certainly does, but a good deal of it is documented in papers that 99.99% of humanity can’t understand and don’t really do people any good.

However, there are plenty of other real-world systems that could be analyzed using the aforementioned methodology. Data scientists are basically the people attempt to understand large data sets using machine learning or other statistical methods. From what I understand of current practices in data sciences, there really isn’t a large amount of coming up with novel mathematical models for understanding data sets in a manner similar to theoretical physics. There certainly is some, but nothing compared to physics.

And there’s a very good reason for this: coming up with appropriate mathematical models for different systems requires a huge amount creativity and intellectual capacity. In other words, it’s really, really hard. Ever wonder why everyone thinks Einstein was so smart? It’s because he came up with extremely precise mathematical frameworks for describing relativistic systems. He did a bunch of other stuff too, but he’s celebrated mainly for his ability to create compelling mathematical models for physical systems. And let me tell you, General Relativity is no small pill to swallow. There are a ton of moving parts and different mathematical structures at play, but my gosh, the resulting theory is objectively gorgeous.

Anyway, I could fawn on about GR all day long, but that’s not why we’re here. The reason Orchid is compelling is because it would drastically simplify the process of coming up with mathematical models to describe different systems. Not only that, with the right set of algorithms, the computer could by itself create mathematical models to describe data sets.

That last sentence probably didn’t have the desired effect on you, so let me rephrase. Orchid could potentially allow a computer to do the same thing Einstein did that made him famous as one of the smartest people in history.

IMHO, that’s pretty dank. But even if that last bit doesn’t happen, Orchid would still provide humanity with a framework for easily constructing and manipulating mathematical entities, which could in turn be used to understand the world around it with a degree of precision previously unattainable.

Well, maybe that’s being overly optimistic. We’ll see.

Anyway, when I started this post, I wasn’t going to talk about Orchid, I was going to give the recipe for consistently and efficiently modelling a system mathematically. Here goes.

  1. Determine which parts of the system in question that you would like to understand.
  2. Create a set of mathematical structures that quantitatively describe the interesting characteristics of the system in question.
  3. Clearly lay out the method that can be used to extract observable quantities from the structures in part 2.
  4. Describe all factors that effect the system in question as transformations on the mathematical structures from part 2.
  5. Use the defined mathematical entities to make predictions about the system in question. Queso (K, so) I think this is, if nothing else, a reasonable starting point for understanding a system in terms of mathematical structures. It also gives me the spiritual reassurance that Orchid is actually a tool that could be used to improve and optimize the humanity graph.

Just hit page 7, which is about 5 pages longer than I thought this post was going to be, so I’m going to wrap this sucker up. I guess as one last thing, if this stuff interests you, shoot me an email. After leaving Berkeley, I haven’t talked to a lot of people interested in this stuff.

May your socks always come bedecked with cool designs. Peace.

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.

A Treatise on the Will of God

By: Danny Geisz | March 7, 2020

Project: Project Supernatural

Let me hit you with this one. Just fyi, this might be a bit shorter cause I got apps to write.

Ok, I’m going to assume you have a basic knowledge of protons and electrons. For a one sentence recap, protons and electrons are particles that make up our universe, and they have opposite charges, which mean they attract. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, maybe you should skip this post.

Now then, basically all chemical reactions are essentially protons, electrons, and other particles interacting with one another. Chemistry is the foundation of biology, so basically everything we humans do can be understood in terms of interactions between protons and electrons. Obviously, this is basically impossible in practice because there are ~10^28 electrons in a human body, but my point is that everything we humans do is a result of interactions between smaller complex systems of particles. This, of course, is basically tautological, and is something we just take for granted.

Now then, let’s for a moment, consider what I’ll call the “Conscious Particle” hypothesis. In this hypothesis, all subatomic particles are actually built up from much, much, much smaller complex systems, and are actually what we would consider conscious. While this may sound silly, it really actually isn’t. We humans have no way (as of now) to study the inner structure of electrons to the degree necessary to confirm electrons aren’t made up of smaller complex systems, and we have absolutely no philosophical way to determine whether electrons are conscious.

I imagine this idea still probably sounds a bit silly, but you’ll see why I’m using it in a second. Let’s say we have an electron, and I’m going to call him (look at me go, assigning particles genders) Fred. Fred is just your ordinary electron, going about his life, having fun. Fred can move himself around, but there are certain particles he likes and others he doesn’t like. Fred likes hanging around protons, so whenever he perceives one around him, he moves closer to it. Likewise, he really, really, doesn’t like other electrons, so when he sees them, he runs away.

So Fred’s life basically consists of running towards protons until he’s close enough, and running away from other electrons. He wonders what the purpose of his life is. It seems silly that all he does is run towards and away from other particles, but that’s just what makes sense, so he keeps on doing it.

What Fred doesn’t know is that he’s actually one of many, many particles making up a Golgi Apparatus, which is an organelle in eukaryotic cell. When the Golgi Apparatus wants to send out a vesicle, it sends a bunch of atoms towards Fred, and Fred just does what he’s always been doing, running towards protons and away from electrons, and before Fred knows it, the atom he’s a part of has bonded with another atom.

Now then, the Golgi Apparatus was packaging up a hormone to send outside the cell of which it is a part. This cell is one of trillions that makes up my body. The Golgi Apparatus was sending out the neurotransmitter in response to my wanting to type the letter “w” into the computer in front of me.

Why do I talk about this? Well, humanity is basically a complex system, and it is incredibly good at propagating complexity. Based on the progress being made my boi Elon Musk, soon we’ll probably be propagating complexity on an intergalactic level.

Perhaps what some people consider God is actually just an incredibly complex system of which we are a small part. Just like Fred is one electron in my body, perhaps humanity is one system that makes the super-complexity that is God.

And perhaps everything you do in your life, and everything that humanity does while it exists within our universe, perhaps everything that happens within our universe occurs simply in response to God’s desire to type the letter “w” into a keyboard, so that he can finish a blog post he’s writing.

Just a thought, Mr. Fox.

Stop and Smell the Orchids

By: Danny Geisz | February 16, 2020

Project: Orchid

Bon-frikin-jour, brethren! What a week it has been. Last night my housemate and I journeyed into San Francisco to see the SF Symphony perform Saint-Saens’ Organ Symphony among other pieces. The Organ Symphony has a special place in my heart because:

  1. Saint-Saens was a musical sorcerer and everything he touched is distilled platinum.
  2. I myself played the Organ Symphony back in my glorious bassoon days, and I know the piece in and out. Listening to it performed live is remarkably similar to the feeling of seeing an old friend.

This schmeag named Jean-Yves Thibaudet debuted a spicy, spicy tango concerto for piano which was also quite fun. Monsieur Thibaudet is apparently one of the sauciest pianists still trotting, but I certainly hadn’t heard of him before this concert. Perhaps I need to make a better effort to remain attached to the culture of classical music. Perhaps not.

Now then, onto Orchid! Gracious me. I just looked at the Orchid project, and to my general horror I have only posted one piece about Orchid. This is slightly egregious because Orchid is hands down my most time-consuming personal project right now (aside from Project Supernatural, which implicitly consumes several hours per day), and literally the whole point of XFA is to document such endeavors. Perhaps I should just drop all pretenses of XFA being anything other than a brain dump for me. That would certainly be easier to explain in person. Eh, I like it as it is.

So what’s the latest news with Orchid, you ask? I think I’ll give a bit of an update as to my general progress, and then I shall give an account about how this project is affecting my life.

Superficially, Orchid has changed very little since I last posted. Actually, it literally doesn’t even properly compile, so to the untrained eye it may appear that I’m doing everything all wrong. However, if you take a peep under the hood into the code base, you’ll see an expansive evolving architecture for this project. You may remember from previous posts when I was noisily complaining about Orchid being the most organizationally challenging project on which I have ever worked. Well, blessed readers, nothing has changed. I’m not gonna lie. This is hard.

For my own personal gratification, I will now give a bit of an overview on how this project is working from a software perspective. If you consider yourself above computer science nerds, by all means, skip these next paragraphs and go to the part of the story where I tell the tale of Orchid provoking emotional breakdowns.

If you read the first post, you will know that one of my principal goals for Orchid is for it to look really good. Like Latex, for those of you who are familiar. This, in practice, is very difficult to accomplish. At the beginning of the project, I had to make the very big decision about how I want to actually render the math onto the application window. This is tricky, because I need the computer to be able to tell what mathematical terms are being clicked, which means the computer has to know where the terms are being rendered on the screen. This isn’t a problem if you’re using a text editor, and the computer only has to worry about one line of text. It is a problem if you’re trying to allow for more complicated mathematical expressions that aren’t linear in writing.

Because I really am trying to avoid reinventing the wheel as much as possible, I ended up settling on a slightly strange approach to the problem. During my research, I noticed that people have gotten really good at rendering math on web pages. Web pages are nice because you can add behaviors to each of the individual html elements that can allow you to easily detect if some element has been clicked or is highlighted, or whatever else.

Now then, JavaFX (which is what I’m using to build this application) has a cute little feature called a WebView, which can be used to display web pages. With Orchid, I basically have a WebView as the main editor window, and in the background, Orchid is just adding html to and manipulating the WebView’s DOM. I’m actually quite happy with this approach because I can very easily use the application to convert the entire editor window into html, which can then very easily be converted into a pdf.

This approach is, however, a bit quirky because I’ll have JavaScript listening to what the user is doing with respect to the main editor window, and the JavaScript will communicate this to the Java on the backend, so it kinda feels like I just stuffed a website into a desktop application (which is exactly what happened).

Another reason Orchid is a bit strange is because it doesn’t really lend itself to a MVC architecture. This is simply because each mathematical term in the model has a one-to-one correspondence with an html element in the WebView’s DOM, so it actually ended up making most sense to have each piece of the model be able to contribute to the view. So then, while the controller is abstracted from the model and the view, the model and the view are extremely parallel in nature, which is interesting.

Gracious me, if you don’t like CS, I super hope you didn’t read those last paragraphs. It honestly may not have been comprehensible to those of you who do like CS. Whatever. Let’s go right on ahead to how Orchid is messing with my life.

A simple axiom of my current existence is that I would rather be working on Orchid than doing my schoolwork. While this is of course in part due to the fact that I find Orchid more exciting that things like finding the infimums of sets, there are also more subtle reasons. Interestingly enough, ever since I started working on Orchid, whenever I’m doing math or physics, I’m always subconsciously trying to figure out how I would approach the current problem with Orchid, once it is completed. Because Orchid is inherently category-theory based, this mindset is actually quite useful in understanding the subtleties of various equations.

However, this has also started biting me in the butt. There are some topics in physics that Orchid will be able to handle incredibly easily and efficiently, and so now it’s frustrating to do my physics homework by hand because I know how much faster and easier it would be to do it with Orchid.

So then, the very idea of Orchid is making me frustrated with my math and physics homework, which isn’t exactly where you want to be when those are the subjects you’re majoring in.

Another reason I find Orchid to be particularly compelling is because it’s literally a perfect marriage of math, logic, and computer science. It’s kinda my ideal project. And because of that, I would rather be working on it than, well, most anything else.

Finally, I have found throughout my life that I tend to learn more useful information from my own personal projects and academic pursuits than I do in my classes. This is simply because school and classes can’t tailor their curriculum to the interests of each student, so they just teach you a ton of generally useful information, most of which you may never need. When I’m working on a personal project however, whether it be Orchid, building XFA, or ever learning Quantum Mechanics back in High School, I’m only learning information that is personally gratifying and applicable to my interests.

Now, I’m going to complain like an annoying twit.

I’m generally just frustrated with college in general. There, I said it. It feels like I’m spending a tremendous amount of time learning somewhat useful information when I could be spending my time learning and applying more practical information.

Gracious me, I’m starting to annoy myself. I’ll get straight to the point. My frustration with academics coupled with my liminal spiritual state has made me particularly prone to emotional crises. Two days ago, I hit the emotional nadir of my semester. I wasn’t doing great, I’ll admit.

Well whatever, enough complaining. I know for a fact that some part of me loves all the math, physics, and CS I’m doing in school right now, so I’m just trying to bring that mentality to the forefront of my mind.

Wow, I’m fading. I suppose if you want to take something away from this post, know that Orchid is a fun and cool boi. I got midterms to study for. Peace.

The Universal Conspiracy

By: Danny Geisz | February 8, 2020

Project: Project Supernatural

Hello, hello, hello! Man, it feels good to be click-clacketing away at this here keyboard. It feels like an eternity since I last wrote a post to XFA. I have a few life updates before I plunge into the icy depths of theological philosophy.

First off, there are certain opportunities that arise when you begin a blog. One such opportunity is to throw your content at random parts of the internet and see how people respond. For instance, I was like, “Hey Danny, what would happen if you chucked the post about your life being at Maximum Overdrive on Reddit?” Curiosity overwhelmed me, blessed readers. So I slapped that bad boy on the Berkeley subreddit with some crap about me wanting to see if other people felt like they too were pushing themselves to the limit. Really just whatever it took to make my post not look like a flagrant attempt at self-promotion, which it basically was.

Reddit responded exactly how you would expect: some schmeags tried flexing about their incredibly busy and impressive lives, others wrote self-deprecating posts about how they weren’t involved in anything, and many people took the sweet time out of their day to talk about how dumb I am and how cringy it is for someone to post about their attempts to “stroke their own ego” on reddit. The usual suspects. What’s really funny is that I’m probably going to do the exact same thing with this post. If you did come from Reddit, however, know that the question I posted is actually completely valid and is something I’m super curious about, so I’m not just making feeble attempts at self-promotion. You are, however, urged to like, comment, and subscribe because I need the validation of digital human beings to sooth my aching, angsty soul.

Now then, enough of that nonsense, let’s talk about religiosity, shall we? As some of you attentive readers may know, I’m currently in a history of religion class. This class is taught by Ethan Shagan, and my gosh, if there is one person who could convince me to leave my life as an emotionally conflicted STEM enthusiast, it’s my boi Shagan. This last week we talked about the origins of Hinduism (which is absolutely fascinating, btw. If you’re looking for some way to sooth your aching, angsty soul, look no further than the Rig Veda). While I could go on a variety of Hindu-based tangents, I will nobly hold myself back in a desperate attempt to actually follow through with my original purpose for this post. Instead of talking about the specifics of Hinduism, I’ll instead let you in on my super secret, super original epiphany: Christianity and Hinduism are surprisingly similar.

Danny, you may be asking, are you a mental nudibranch? How, in any way, are Hinduism and Christianity similar aside from the notion of a supernatural power? I have several responses to that query. First and foremost, nudibranchs are incredibly cool and beautiful creatures, and I would be honored to be compared to one such angelic entity. Secondly, while the claims and central tenants of these two religions are certainly different, the manner in which a human is instructed to interact with the supernatural is remarkably similar between the two traditions.

Before I go any further, I should probably add one caveat. Because my central focus has been on Christianity throughout my life, before college I hadn’t taken the time to productively grapple with the claims other religions made about the unknown/supernatural/divine. Since divorcing myself from my wholly unhealthy notion of Christianity, I’ve finally reached a place where I can properly examine the teachings of other religions and ask how I might apply such teachings to my own life. All that is to say, the similarities I’m seeing between Christianity and Hinduism reach far beyond these two particular religions.

What’s remarkably interesting is that so many religions emphasize the notion of sacrifice. Sacrifice comes in various forms: sure, you can slaughter a cow and offer it to Helios, but there are many other more subtle forms of sacrifice. For instance, many traditions of various religions (@Christianity) teach the notion that some biological impulses ought to be suppressed in order to achieve some greater connection with the divine. The archetypical “sex before marriage” comes to mind. In many ways, this act of giving up something intrinsic about yourself can very much be seen as an act of sacrifice.

And this, attentive readers, is where I see the similarity between Hinduism and Christianity.

To be specific, in class we discussed the importance of sacrifice in the earliest forms of Hinduism. I can’t remember off the top of my head if Prof. Shagan was referring to the early Vedic tradition or some of the later teachings, but somewhere in these texts, it is claimed that the pinnacle of existence is to live a life in perpetual sacrifice to Vishnu. I’m pretty sure it was Vishnu. Shoot. It also may have been Krishna. My apologies to anyone who may be more familiar with Hinduism than I and is actively scorning me. Anyway, this notion was very striking to me because of its similarities to Romans 12:1 in the Bible which states: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.”

This is like the exact same thing.

Such a similarity probably wouldn’t come as a surprise to someone like the catastrophically intelligent Ethan Shagan. Interestingly enough, Prof. Shagan actually made the claim that any tradition that can be called a “religion” is characterized by some notion of sacrifice.

Now then, it’s taken me three pages to get to this point, but this universality is incredibly interesting to me. The fact that two incredibly different religions like Hinduism and Christianity could possibly be characterized by such a staggering similarity is indicative of a deeper, more fundamental truth at play.

On the one hand, an argument could be made that regardless of the true nature of the supernatural, human beings have a deep notion of the zenith of a human life. Perhaps we are in fact the product of several incredibly random processes, and through eons of complexity-propagation and evolution, we humans all have the intrinsic notion that life is lived at its fullest when we live in a state of perpetual sacrifice. From the perspective of biology and game theory, this idea makes some level of sense: if one organism lives in a way that prioritizes the health of the group over that of the individual, a group of such organism would probably have a higher likelihood of survival than if each organism prioritized themselves over everything else. So then, perhaps religion is just a biological artifact that points to our fitness as a species.

However, there is another argument that can be made which I find to be a bit more exciting than the last paragraph. I call this…The Universal Conspiracy Conjecture. There’s no way in heck that this is an original thought, but hey, who ever cared about originality. Basically, the idea is this: what if everything in the last paragraph is true. So basically religion is just an artifact of evolution, and we’re the product of cold, hard game theory. However, let me gracefully add a simple caveat. What if some higher superintelligence created our universe specifically so that through a multi-billion-year process, the universe would produce a form of complexity (namely humans) that would fervently seek out the true nature of the superintelligence itself. To me, this is an incredibly compelling notion. Instead of us actively interacting with the superintelligence itself (which, btw, could just as easily be a god as a flying spaghetti monster), perhaps this superintelligence designed the fundamental physics of the universe in such a way that the highest form of complexity contained within the universe would achieve a greatest state of being by pursuing interaction with the superintelligence. Dang, I basically just said the same thing twice.

I probably could say quite a bit more about this idea, but the fact of the matter is that I’m about to hit five pages. The funny thing is that I just typed five pages in an hour, but I have a five-page paper due next Thursday (incidentally for History of Religion) that will probably take me several days of work. Amazing how we spend our time.

Anyway, I have some closing thoughts. For those of you who did stumble upon this because of Reddit, I am incredibly curious to hear your thoughts on the matter, and if you do end up responding to the post, I humbly ask that you would refrain from attacking me for my purported self-promotion and egotistical nature. We both already know I’m an egotistical basket-case, so that’s really quite boring to talk about. If you do want to rail against me, I certainly can’t stop you. In fact, go ahead. I can just be your internet punching bag. For the rest of you, we’re probably friends in real life, so if you find any of this interesting, maybe just text me? Or DM me? I won’t pretend to know the coolest trends in millennial communication these days. Shoot I just hit 6 pages. If you made it this far, you’re a true hero. May your path be free of bumbles, and your sight be free of briars. Tally ho!

The Birth of an Orchid

By: Danny Geisz | January 23, 2020

Project: Orchid

Good morning, schmeagy deags. I bring tell of great tidings. I have finally started birthing an Orchid. To formalize the previous statement, my mind has begun the painful, several-year-long process of giving birth to Orchid. What is Orchid? Certainly not a human child. I don’t have the biological hardware for that. Will it be as good as a human child? I suppose that will be for the world to decide.

You’ll notice I never answered the first question. To put it in the most boring way humanly possible, Orchid will be a piece of mathematical software. Bleh. To put it in a far more intriguing way, Orchid will be a tool that allows human beings to mercilessly take advantage of the parts of computer that are better than humans to construct magnificent pieces of logical structure with extreme simplicity.

If you’re at all involved in STEM, you probably have some level of familiarity with Mathematica, Maple, or Matlab. For the uninitiated, these are all programs that have been developed over the course of several decades and are essentially superpowered calculators. I do not mean for Orchid to attempt to overthrow these three giants of this particular industry. That would be ultimate folly for several reasons:

  1. Mathematica, Maple, and Matlab are all extremely good at what they do. It would be a staggering waste of time for me to try to build something even slightly like these pieces of software.
  2. These pieces of software are actively being developed by large groups of people. Regardless of any claims made about my arrogance or egotism, I assure you all that I would never hope to accomplish in any short amount of time what a group of several hundred people have accomplished over the last several decades.

Goodness, that was only two reason. Last I checked, “two” doesn’t fall within the set of numbers described by “several.” Well I think they are both good enough. Those of you familiar with the Big Three mathematical programs know the staggering breadth of mathematical material that they support. What then could I possibly wish to accomplish with Orchid? What will Orchid be able to do that these pieces of software cannot?

I will answer by giving you the story that motivated Orchid in the first place. Last semester, I wanted a break from my regular schoolwork, so I bopped on over to the law library and violently threw open Steven Weinberg’s Foundations of Quantum Field Theory. That book is, in a word, dense. With my other courses last semester, I took me about four months to get through the first (real) chapter of the book. I was finally at the point where I could start working through the problems at the end of the chapter. To many of you readers not actively involved in physics, you may be wondering why on Earth I was purposely subjecting myself to the third level of hell. To many of you readers actively involved in physics, you may be wondering why on Earth I was purposely subjecting myself to the third level of hell. To those of you readers who actually enjoy theoretical physics, you will know exactly why I was purposely subjecting myself to the third level of hell, and understand I was doing this for the same reason a drug addict will go to any lengths to get another sweet, sweet hit of whatever particular substance has been giving them problems.

Because I was in Weinberg’s book, the problems were hard. Like really, really hard. However, I wasn’t annoyed by the length of the problems, I was annoyed at how I was doing the problem. I was naturally doing everything with pencil and paper, and I found that I was constantly rewriting extremely long equations with an incredible number of moving parts. I think everyone except the true weirdos can agree that the act of constantly rewriting extremely long equations is incredibly tedious, but it is also extremely prone to errors. Eventually, blessed readers, I had had enough. You better believe I wanted to find the Lie Algebra of the Galilean group, but at a certain point, a girl has got to put her foot down. I, being the metaphorical girl, fled the Law Library feeling particularly defeated.

As a budding computer scientist, however, I had another reason to be frustrated. Literally one of the biggest purposes of computers is to do simple monotonous tasks that probably could be done by humans. Why couldn’t I just use a computer to find the Lie Algebra of the Galilean group for me?
With this question glistening upon my tongue, I started a deep dive into the documentation of all the major pieces of math software with which I’m familiar. These pieces of software are incredibly good and fast at doing standard computations in a wide variety of fields in mathematics. Their issue is that they don’t allow you to define your own logical structures with their own rules. The particular piece of mathematics that I needed to do cannot easily be done using the Big Three.

I then began researching the incredibly huge variety of other pieces of mathematical software. The closest thing I found to a software that could solve my problems are two programs called Coq and Lean. Let me tell you, the language and interface for both of these pieces of software are absolutely disgusting. Coq in particular has that “90s software” feel that makes everyone want to amputate one of their feet.

From the beginning of this venture, I felt I would likely need to develop my own piece of software to accomplish my needs, and as I continued to research, the requirements and features of what I now call Orchid came to me as though from a half-remembered dream. In essence, I have two main requirements for Orchid:

  1. It does math like we normally do with pencil and paper.
  2. It looks good. We’re talking LaTex, but LaTex that is mathematically interactive.

As a final note, some of you overly masculine readers may ask why I am choosing to call the system Orchid. I could give you some hooplala about Orchids being beautiful yet unique, or them having cool adaptations that mirror logical structures. That ain’t true. I wanted to name it something cool that in my mind evokes a similar emotion in my being as when I think about the Euler-Lagrange equation. “Orchid” therefore, fit the bill remarkably well.

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.

Quasi-Documentation Story for XFA Genesis

By: Danny Geisz | January 18, 2020

Project: XFA Genesis

Just as a brief warning, this post is going to be quite technical. I imagine this content might be dry for those of you who aren't computer science-ically inclined. For those of you who are computer science-ically inclined, I can only hope this will be useful, but know the following content is mostly for my own benefit. If you're looking to be entertained, I suggest hitting the next/previous buttons on the bottom of the screen.

Now then, I have largely finished the architecture for the XFA site. I think it is very likely that I will build more web apps in the future, so I’m going to write what I like to call a documentation story for this project. The “Quasi” prefix is there because the last time I wrote a documentation story it was incredibly long and detailed, and here I’m only really going to include important points from the project. This is going to be in mostly chronological order with respect to when I completed the various parts of the project. I should also note that this is also mostly for my benefit, and this shouldn’t be taken as a comprehensive guide.


There are five main parts of a Django web app (when you’re using Django templates): Models, Views, Urls, Templates, and Settings. I will go over each in order.

  1. Models: Models are the Django python abstraction for entries in a database. They are really quite straightforward once you get the hang of it. To figure out how they work, it’s easiest to look at examples. If you want a field in a model to be optional, be sure to include null and blank kwarg options. Make sure to run manage.py makemigrations and manage.py migrate when you create or edit a model.
  2. Views: This is how Django handles Url requests. Basically, you use Django’s database API to get necessary data, and then you create a context object containing information necessary to render a specific page, and then render a page using information from the context object and a template.
  3. Urls: Django provides a way to create beautiful Urls. Writing Urls.py is quite straightforward, but two things are worth noting. You can include urls from different files throughout the project by using the “include” function. This is very easy. You can also create Urls that contain contextual information that is sent to Views in the form of kwargs.
  4. Templates: Django provides a wonderfully easy way to make dynamic templates that render to HTML using context passed in from a particular view function or class. I will talk about two features. You can use {% block %} to create template blocks that can be included in other template files. This is a very useful functionality if you have various features of a web app that appear on each page (like the header, footer). Django allows you to use namespaced Urls in templates, which means that if something changes with the urls of a project, you don’t have to change the hrefs of all the anchor tags. This is quite good. You can also call functions of different objects from within templates.
  5. Settings. This file obviously contains the settings of the project, but a couple things are worth noting. You should use a config json file or environment variables to store sensitive information about the project. This is also where you can include a list of other Django compatible web apps.


This is really only my second web dev project, so I learned a great deal about HTML/ CSS in this project. I’m going to include points that I find valuable. Some of these are quite basic.

  • Use divs to organize everything.
  • Use position: absolute if you know exactly where you want the element to be located.
  • If you use position: absolute, make sure the parent element has its position set to relative.
  • Margins are everything. Never forget.
  • To specify where something should be, margin, height, width and padding. Never forget.
  • The order of margin and padding is top, right, bottom, left.
  • Make sure to be mindful of cross-browser support.
  • To make a transparent linear gradient not look grey on mobile, use rgba, and make the “a” value 0.01.
  • Keep making websites and keep learning.

Materialize CSS:

I used the Materialize CSS framework for some of the CSS heavy lifting. Here are some important things to be done with Materialize:

  • Use center-align for alignment. This is so very wonderful.
  • Use container to put content in the middle of the screen. This is also so very wonderful.
  • Use Rows and columns for positioning objects. A very good feature.
  • The “hide-on-small-and-down” and other hide/show classes are incredibly useful for making webpages look good on mobile.


This was very daunting, but thanks to Corey Schafer, everything is up and working. This was my process for getting the XFA site up on the interweb.

  1. Make a Linode account.
  2. Create a new Linode Server. Mine runs Ubuntu 19.10. In retrospect I probably should have used Ubuntu 18.04 because its LTS, but hopefully that doesn’t bite me in the butt too hard.
  3. On the server, create a new user with sudo privileges. Honestly for the next couple steps, the best way to relearn is to just rewatch Corey Schafer’s videos until you understand everything completely.
  4. Set up SSH for passwordless authentication.
  5. Install ufw (uncomplicated firewall).
  6. Install and set up an Apache2 server. I’m a bit fan of Apache because it’s configuration files are pretty straightforward.
  7. Use git to transfer files from local to server (more details below).
  8. Configure Apache to work with the Django wsgi.
  9. Allow http traffic from the firewall.
  10. Buy a domain from a domain registry and set its namespace records according to Linode’s instructions.
  11. Use Linode to configure RDNS for your domain, and in your settings.py make sure you include your domain in the list of allowed hosts. More details in Schafer’s vid.
  12. Your website should be up and running by now, but it won’t be secure.
  13. Use let’s encrypt and certbot to make the site secure. These instructions are on Let’s Encrypt’s website.
  14. Add a section in the firewall configuration to redirect traffic from the non-www to the www site. This was causing some issues.

Setting up Git: This is super important because it allows you to develop on your local machine and easily push changes to the server. I will redirect you to this link which has much more information about this. Somethings to note about this process. Include your settings.py and your db.sqlite3 database in the .gitignore because you will have different settings for your live Django app than for your local Django app. It is also best practice for the server to have its own database. I used PostgreSQL for my live server. It’s super easy to setup and configure with Django, and Django migrations worked just as well for the Postgres as they did for Sqlite.

I think that just about covers everything. There are, of course, a ton of other nitty gritty details to figure out, but that’s how any software project goes. Once again, I’m mostly writing this as a way for me to remember the main steps for building a web app with Django. Perhaps this may be of some use to the rest of you.


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.