What you see is NOT what you get!

Or perhaps it is…let’s find out…

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Another discussion. Also a while ago. But I thought that I’d type it out before I left Stephens and my comfortable room: S-9. So the discussion began like this… No, wait! It had already begun. In fact, I could here screams (or whelps) from two rooms adjacent to mine. I presumed that either someone was getting slain in some heroic duel or perhaps Arnab Goswami had paid our block a visit. In any event, my curiosity had to be satiated and what better way than to peek from a safe distance. The art of peeking is quite intricate and I’ll dedicate another blog post to that. But it’ll suffice to say that it begins with something along the lines that you mistook their room to be someone else’s and before they realise that you are a fraud, you rove your eyes about the room and scoot with enough of their secrets now safe in your cerebrum. Or was it hypothalamus. Okay, somewhere in the region above your medulla oblongata.

But this peek proved to be different. Of all the topics possible, they were discussing Reality and God! Sigh! Ultra-mega-supercalifragilisticexpialidocious-sigh! I mean, there is world hunger, poverty, terrorism, oh, and more importantly, class tests and university exams and all that they could discuss were whether the world we were living in was real? (God will take up another post!) Woohoo!! Then they were just my kind of people and I sidled into the room uninvited but excited nonetheless.

So, usually, there is this perfunctory introduction about your name and blah blah.. which no one really cares about anyway. Yeah. Well, that didn’t happen here. I was instead subjected to decide immediately in favour of a debate which had been ensuing for quite a while before curiosity asked me to check out the murders happening 2 rooms next to mine! Oh, it was marvellous. Entreaties were made and convincing arguments put forward. I could not be a realist agnostic: I had to choose. Well, and choose I did. Silenced them up a bit as suddenly they ganged up on me. Poor folks. Humanities types, all of them. Their arguments were getting more and more ridiculous till they suddenly claimed, that perhaps the world doesn’t exist the way we see it, neither does the window or the door through which I entered. I snapped back. I asked the most agitated guy to jump out of the window if he didn’t believe in gravity. That sobered them up for a while. But only just.

So, I did a bit of reading on my own instead. A particular TED talk by Donald Hoffman was most interesting as was a recent article I read on The Atlantic while perusing Facebook. Nonetheless, that is what compelled me to sit down and type. anyway. So here we go:

The crux of his article and talk focussed on how or why “a fitness function” was all that was essential for the survival of a species. And that when simulating mathematical models which mimicked evolution, those species survived who maximised the fitness function than those who maximised the reality function. It’ll be important to take a step back here to understand that a fitness function or a reality function is a parameter in any simulation which abstracts the species whose evolution we are mapping, to a system which inputs certain parameters and outputs certain values. Corresponding to changes in these parameters: fitness and reality, we see how these simulations map out. Now, we usually want or expect certain values to be spat out by the simulation program. If these conform with those in tune with the parameters suggested by Hoffman et al., we know that these affect the system, and thus by extrapolation, also the organism whose evolution we are mapping.

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It turns out that Hoffman and his team found that fitness rather than reality defined the evolution of a species and in Darwin’s lingo would be the fittest to survive.

The mathematical physicist Chetan Prakash proved a theorem that I devised that says: According to evolution by natural selection, an organism that sees reality as it is will never be more fit than an organism of equal complexity that sees none of reality but is just tuned to fitness. Never.

That could have been a surprising proposition. But I’ll suggest a few arguments below which might lead you to consider such an excitement premature if not futile. In fact, I think he goes on to make a few more sensational claims following this regarding quantum physics and the observer effect which make them more dubious. Here is what he says:

The neuroscientists are saying, “We don’t need to invoke those kind of quantum processes, we don’t need quantum wave functions collapsing inside neurons, we can just use classical physics to describe processes in the brain.” I’m emphasizing the larger lesson of quantum mechanics: Neurons, brains, space … these are just symbols we use, they’re not real. It’s not that there’s a classical brain that does some quantum magic. It’s that there’s no brain! Quantum mechanics says that classical objects—including brains—don’t exist. So this is a far more radical claim about the nature of reality and does not involve the brain pulling off some tricky quantum computation.

He could be a genius. As Phoebe in F.R.I.E.N.D.S.  pointed out,

The mark of a genius is not being appreciated in one’s time!

But, I’m inclined to disagree here! Yes, sadly, I feel that Hoffman hasn’t struck gold as he might have led the gullible editors of The Atlantic to believe.

Firstly, quantum mechanics says nothing to the tune of brains not existing. They say that any object can be described by a quantum state and that for a large enough system, there would be way too many external influences such that it would well nigh impossible to consider the whole thing as a system. And with the system being so messy, it would be impossible to practically apply Quantum Mechanics. Thus classical mechanics tends to rule in these realms. (Yay, Newton!) What I think Hoffman and most popular science readers miss is that: The moon exists even if we do not look at it. (Einstein was philosophically musing! It doesn’t make sense to extrapolate each and every sentence of his! Phew!) Because such a system is hopelessly entangled with many other systems. And we, the observer, are either one of those systems or interacting with it anyway to make any meaningful observation which could be theoretically described. Thus, Penrose is right, when he claims that the brains need to be looked at classically. Yep, one could look at possible tunnelling effects vis a vis neurons, which are strictly quantum, but it is important to realise that this says nothing about the brain not being there. Or the moon for that matter. Or you. Yes, quantum mechanics doesn’t preach anything as such. (Sigh!)

Lastly, Hoffman’s simulation is flawed. His simulation holds an inherent bias. He takes reality and fitness to be independent parameters and plots the survival of various species. That, of course, will lead to the conclusion as posited by Chetan Prakash’s theorem, if we can call it that. A species which survives maximises its fitness. Then we check whether it maximises “reality” or “fitness”. Obviously, it’s a foregone conclusion that fitness will be maximised. Because incredibly that is the assumption that we have set out with. Hoffman chose fitness as an independent parameter from reality and found what was expected, that fitness needs to maximised for survival. A principle enshrined in Darwin’s “Survival of the fittest” paradigm. He chose reality as an independent parameter. In short, his findings are nothing spectacular at all.

At least that is what I understood from the presentation on TED and the article on The Atlantic. I did try running a search on Google Scholar, but it was pretty hard finding it. Maybe you could blame me for lack of effort, but this is more than what I am willing to do in my hobby time.

In any event, I believe that one needs to run a correlation simulation between “fitness” and “reality”. And see why or in which areas, deviations from reality, provide a better fitness. Unlike Plato, I don’t think we will find data which points to us being twice removed from reality. Such a species will perish. The obvious places to look for deviations from reality would be to enhance data abstraction or encapsulation of more data. But, the closest thing to an example, Hoffman provides is the icon on a desktop PC. (None from the real world.) However, I beg to differ here as well. In the case of our PC, we make a conscious effort to avoid the more intricate details. If we opened the CPU, we would still find the wiring.

When we look at a human being, we don’t see bones and flesh. Or blood. That doesn’t mean that we don’t see reality.

It only means we choose not to. And that’s a difference. A big one.

 

Final Day Musings

Last post from S-9, Mukarji East

Don’t you worry child! Heaven’s got a plan for you… -Swedish House Mafia

 

 

You can’t read music. You can dance to it, feel it and yes, listen to it. But you can’t simply read it. You could always read poetry perhaps, but music transcends that, by far. And as I said some time back:

Art is how we celebrate space, music is how we celebrate time.

 

While I while away my last day at Stephens writing this blog post, Swedish House Mafia is providing the juste mood to set in. The word juste is so appropriate here. But we’ll not relapse into etymological origins, right yet. Partings are always hard, but I have always been this emotional rock. I don’t cry at partings. I don’t shed tears post goodbyes. Which is why it’s amazing that memories swirl around me like a blur as I start packing up.

It’s said that sadness makes you appreciate happiness. I would beg to differ here. Melancholia is a far more profound feeling than mirth can ever match up to. Which is why a movie which makes you cry at the end of it sticks with you more than those which provide a few laughs. Nostalgia is inherently a sad expression. No, it doesn’t reduce you to tears. But it’s far stronger than what a wan smile could provide.

Yes, one can’t control time. And I am sure that we’ll never be to reverse it. That makes me glad! Some memories deserve to remain untouched, no matter how hard. Because a function of such a series of events is why you are who you are. And I wouldn’t want to change that. Sure, you could always improve. But, it would be cheap to simply discard certain moments just because we feel that it’s not the way we imagined how that moment would play out in its perfection. And it’s those scratches of imperfection that makes it so memorable.

As Dr Seuss said: Don’t cry because it’s over; smile because it happened.

 

That is what memory is: when you train your mind’s eye back in time and feel this latent sadness because you can’t relive those moments again. But you smile inward because they happened nonetheless. And you are glad for it. To them who shared those moments with you. Nobody can take that. Ever!

“Life is what happens to us while we are busy making other plans.”

Allen Saunders wrote it. John Lennon broke my heart with it. And St. Stephen’s explained it to me. Beautifully.

Thanks for the memories.

 

What makes a superhero?

And what unmakes him…

There was a particular scene in Kill Bill II, where Bill tells the bride something which sets Superman apart from any other superhero. I found the lines to be brilliant commentary in an otherwise gory overkill of a movie:

As you know, l’m quite keen on comic books. Especially the ones about superheroes. I find the whole mythology surrounding superheroes fascinating. Take my favorite superhero, Superman. Not a great comic book, not particularly well-drawn, but the mythology. The mythology is not only great, it’s unique…

Now, a staple of the superhero mythology is, there’s the superhero and there’s the alter ego. Batman is actually Bruce Wayne, Spider-Man is actually Peter Parker. When that character wakes up in the morning, he’s Peter Parker. He has to put on a costume to become Spider-Man. And it is in that characteristic Superman stands alone. Superman didn’t become Superman. Superman was born Superman. When Superman wakes up in the morning, he’s Superman. His alter ego is Clark Kent. His outfit with the big red “S”, that’s the blanket he was wrapped in as a baby when the Kents found him. Those are his clothes. What Kent wears – the glasses, the business suit – that’s the costume. That’s the costume Superman wears to blend in with us. Clark Kent is how Superman views us. And what are the characteristics of Clark Kent? He’s weak, he’s unsure of himself, he’s a coward. Clark Kent is Superman’s critique on the whole human race.

Bruce Wayne had to become more than himself to stand out. Clark Kent had to become Clark Kent to not. I’ll leave it at that.

Making Sense: 1.0

The not so fundamental fundamentals of arithmetic.

One plus two equals three. That’s a true statement. As true as they come actually. You cannot argue with that. Of course, if you wish to sound smart, you may say what if we are using a binary basis? (The system used by computers to count). But we ignore the heuristics here. The numbers are defined in a basis they make sense in. Arithmetic thus makes sense. But does it? Let’s look around some of the most fundamental pillars of logic and see if they hold up to scrutiny.

In fact, why does 2 follow 1? Why not 1.3 or 1.999? What does it mean when we define addition as we have defined above? Well, it’s easy to define any natural number (apart from 1) actually. You can define any successive (natural) number by saying that you increment it by 1. That’s neat. But it shifts the burden of proof to defining what “sum” is and more importantly what “1” is.

1117094_73120387Dedekind and Peano spent some portion of their lifetimes on this. In mild terms, they started by taking axioms. Mathematicians use this lingo, whenever, there is a true statement which cannot be proven within that system. It’s basically an assumption. But don’t let that dishearten you yet. Because, lo, “addition” or “sum” is defined. This means that we can say no more than 1+1 =2. You can’t say anything more. You can’t explain that. It’s a fact which you have to swallow. We don’t say why. It’s not important. But mainly because we can’t.

Numbers are one of the first real abstractions performed by the human mind. You can have one apple or two apples. Or three or a stomach ache if you want more! But, when we count, we are performing one of the most fundamental operations in Mathematics, addition. You are basically abstracting certain density distribution repetitions as discrete objects which should be counted. Of course, the density distribution might remain uniform extendedly like in space for example. (I don’t mean outer space here, but any space actually. Sure, outer space would also work!) In such a case, drawing a curve or line through them, we see we cannot subdivide them into discrete points, or separated density distribution repetitions. Perhaps, if we become tiny enough, we might be able to see whether the pencil lead which drew the line fell at discrete steps or not. But for now, we make the assumption, that space is continuous, backed heavily by experiments and the need for physical laws we have formulated to hold forte. So how do we count these infinite set of points. (Infinity, by the way, is a number which is larger than the largest number you can think of.) Turns out we don’t need to. Instead, we make use of another approximation. We know that we can only count discrete repetitions. And we can count things which can be counted. (This (apparently) rules out trying to count the number of sand grains in the Sahara desert or the number of water droplets in the Pacific. Possibly, one could approximate the total volume and use elementary chemistry: Avogadro’s no. etc arrive at about a limiting value. And since this would be a finite a number, it would be countable. The number of points in a line though is ‘proven’ to be uncountable and infinite. Of course, infinite things, if they can be properly labeled can be counted as well: the set of Rational Numbers is an example.) Of course, the first two are far easier to count than the last one. Because a point is smaller than the smallest thing you can imagine. And water drops and sand grains are pretty large in comparison to any “stuff” that we may imagine!

As we notice that the problem always arises with infinities. Here we get a problem because we can’t count an infinite set of points. Instead, we take a certain distance and define it to be our 1. Then we proceed like normal counting. Each time we subdivide our interval, we redefine our smallest unit of measure. It’s also known as the Least Count. Thus, depending on how deep we wish to go, we can count in intervals of 1, 0.1, 0.00000…1 etc. That’s entirely up to us. But as we know that there are always infinite sets of numbers between any 2 of such smallest units.

That ends part 1.0. Next, we’ll start with part 2.0. Nah, 1.1. Or perhaps 1.01. But it’s just my notation anyway. And also the rest of the world’s.

The Stroke of Midnight

Before, After or During?

Midnight is hardly night. People would scoff if you told them you slept at midnight.(So don’t tell them that you sleep so early. It can lead to a scandal. And scandals are not good.) Now sleeping at 1 am or 2 am is still respectable. But midnight is for the faint hearted. I always sleep at 3 am or don’t sleep at all. And if you read the next post, you’ll realise, that this is an essential criterion for being awesome (which I also coach people into becoming. Contact my mobile at +44 78…(Lol, I’m not putting my real number here) for advice! Also look where midnight got us. Midnight is such a pathetic moment that the date, for a whole damned second, can’t decide which date to become. I mean imagine telling people something happened at midnight. You can’t tell them the day. And you are damned forever! People will think that you are either a liar or that you can’t count. Both of which are enough to taint you for life. So don’t take any chances. Look what happened to the poor Nehru guy. He went about preparing a speech and at midnight (14th/15th of August 1947? See the problem now!) and decided to speak. In fact, I’m going to quote a few lines here. Here is what the man said:

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At the stroke of midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom. Blah blah blah…

He thought he made an awesome decision by becoming the first world leader to speak at midnight. He thought this act would guarantee world coverage. Alas, he underestimated the power of midnight! That Jinnah guy was mighty sly and clever. Using the dubiety of midnight, he declared that Pakistan got independence on 14th August 1947, one whole day earlier than India, trolling Nehru and India for life. And robbing poor Nehru of the limelight he wanted to singularly hog. Pakistan was like an evil twin who claims to be elder born by virtue of a few minutes. But this was more scandalous. The 2 nations were born at exactly the same time, and because Nehru hadn’t read my blog yet, he made the fatal error in declaring freedom at midnight. Jinnah merely took advantage as did several before and after Nehru, but anyway we are not criticising his naivete in this post, but the sacrilegious nature of the “midnight hour” or a minute or second. You get the idea.

Now that I have convinced you that midnight is “evil”, I will try to convince you why you should sleep post midnight, not pre. Firstly if you sleep before midnight, you’ll become a laughing stock to people like me, which should not be taken as a laughing matter, because I effectively control all the awesome people of the world by brainwashing them through this blog. (Yes, they all secretly read this. Even if they might deny so publicly. Just ask Obama after he leaves the presidency. He’ll openly admit to it then). So, you can’t afford that. But I’ll give you a few more reasons here. Once a year, the new year’s party comes. In between, there are birthday parties of friends to attend or exams to study for. Now, if you sleep like a mama’s boy regularly at 8 pm,  you will not be, even if you try, be able to wake up for the new year’s party. And from experience, I can tell you that it takes at least a year’s continual practice to be able to make it. And you won’t. You’ll also miss your friends’ birthdays to say nothing about your own. Getting up in the morning and greeting the day is nothing like welcoming the baby day when it is born at midnight.

So stay up late. Party late. Study late. Sleep late. But also get the job done. Because at the end of the day, even if folks like me scoff and you don’t attend parties and birthdays, you’ll be judged by the end result you provide. And as much as I’d like to not say it, I won’t be the person judging your work. So…

Disclaimer: This article makes no comments on whether one should sell one’s health regularly in staying up late. So I won’t entertain lawsuits to that effect.

A fall, many regrets and a steady climb

What is power?

So, I have decided to address this issue after a lot of thinking. Or issues. There was this most amazing quote in the movie Lion King:

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Everyone is haunted by their past…

The past can hurt. But the way I see it, you can either run from it, or learn from it.

But as I see it, the scriptwriters forgot that first you have to face your past. And that is not always pretty. But brace for the rest of the post which isn’t going to be pretty either which is apparent especially when you see a quote with the word “haunted” and an even sombre title to boot. Sometimes, you wish to rewrite some parts of your individual history. Sometimes you wish to change the past. And that is understandable. Because no one is capable of avoiding mistakes. But it pains you man, it hurts you bad. And no amount of “understanding” from anyone but yourself is going to make you feel better.

So let’s look at a case study: Me! Well, what about me?  Firstly, you should know that I am awesome! Or at least was. In any event, I’m going to use the present tense, because, I don’t believe in the past tense. (Yes, you read that right.) I imagine up universes in my head with you in it and destroy them. In most parallel universes I am thus your creator and destroyer, because I have imagined most that could exist. Hah! Oh and the ones I haven’t imagined don’t exist and can’t. I decide what you decide tomorrow, that is if you “get” a tomorrow in the first place. In my spare time, I come up with equations which alter how you look at the world around you or even better alter you. Rajnikant learns all his jokes from me and I despise Pakistan. And that’s why the world despises them. You see, I was that awesome. And, I decided to renunciate all of that like Siddhartha on his quest towards founding Buddhism. Damn him and damn me! There was a difference though actually. His was voluntary. Mine, not so.

The timeline was the beginning of third year. The end of the timeline was day before yesterday. That goddamn long! And what did I do during this time. Nothing. Oh yeah. Absolutely nothing. Shouldn’t that feel awesome? Isn’t doing nothing the closest way to attain nirvana? Bloody hell no! I am still reluctant to divulge why I wasted the entirety of last year, perhaps later. Yes, there were issues. Everyone has them. And in all fairness some people out there are (still) fighting for lives, food and shelter. So the issues I faced were definitely such that it reached importance at par with Global Hunger and needed the urgent intervention of the UN. But in all seriousness, to myself, I was dying slowly inside. And slow deaths are the worst. Warning: (disturbing imagery here) It’s like watching your someone peel out your nails one by one.

I have a mountain to climb. But, I’ve done it before. I won’t divulge how or what now. Perhaps sometime later. But I am coolly confident of pulling it off. Because as you remember, I am awesome. A few moments won’t change that. And of course I don’t really believe in the past tense as well. So I’ve got that going for me.

Thus…

Edit: The content has since been edited to flatter myself a bit more. By the way, I practice selective amnesia, which means that I don’t usually forget my awesome past, only the bad bits!