Friday, April 20, 2007

6 : Detour - Patterns

If one looks very, very closely at a printed page then all that will be seen is a set of dots. A collection of dots, arranged in a particular pattern would constitute a letter. Individual dots are meaningless, but when grouped together in a particular manner they acquire a specific meaning. This process is recursive. A continuous sequence of letters on a line is again meaningless, but if grouped together and separated by spaces and other punctuation marks they again acquire the meaning of words. Similarly words by themselves mean little but arranged in sentences they make sense. Finally sentences arranged in a certain fashion represent ideas. At each stage of this evolution, individual units do not mean much but collections of the same units, when arranged in a particular pattern contain, and can convey, information when observed at a hierarchically higher level. This phenomenon is not unique to text-based language only ... similar hierarchical acquisition of meaning is evident when atoms form molecules, which form cells, which form living organisms.

What is so new and original about this ?

There are two things to be noted about in this namely
* First - the same set of marks on the paper can and do convey very different messages or pieces of information under different circumstances .. sometime they are alphabets, some time they are disjointed words and sometimes they are sensible sentences
* Second – and this can be a partial corollary of the first observation, a group symbols ( or of anything ) can and do represent something more important than that communicated by the components.

You are unnecessarily complicating matters. The first is merely a restatement of the second.

Not really .. take a look at the image on the on the next page and tell me what you see there.

Nothing just a random pattern of coloured dots.

Apparently it looks like a haphazard set of random coloured dots, but if you hold it in front of your face and stare it for some time, a fuzzy image of three eyes will begin to appear and with a little more effort, the image will suddenly “jump” out and your eyes will lock into it very comfortably.

Is this some magic ? Some trick ?

There is no magic in this and similar images which are called stereograms. Once your eyes lock onto the image, there will be no difficulty in seeing it for any amount of time. This particular image is a rather crude product that I have created but professionally done stereograms with more complex objects can easily be created with appropriate or better imagery and more sophisticated computer software. If you go to the web and search for stereograms, you will find more interesting examples.

What is it that you are trying to tell me through this ?

There is a message – or in this case, an image, that is here inside this diagram, that is not very apparent to begin with. But with some effort and with no special or additional communication channel it is possible to transmit this message or image to someone else.

Can anybody see this image ? Can anybody can get the message ?

That is exactly my point … what you must understand is that while the technology for creating such images is interesting, the insights that are thrown up by this analogy are even more so.

What insight ?

The reality in this case is the image of the three eyes but it is hidden inside a random pattern of coloured dots. Nearly 20% of the population would never be able to see the real image because of a peculiar metabolic structure of their eyes. The other 80% would be able to see it but if and only if they strive to do so.

Is this the only case of such non-physical transmission of message ?

There are other examples and I could share them with you. But what is more interesting is that almost 80% of the population would be able to see the message – that is only about 80% would be able to ‘tune’ in to this mysterious channel. But the others would not !

Is this what is called Extra Sensory Perception ? I thought that that was possible only with esoteric individuals like tantriks, sadhu and mystics.

Perhaps they can ‘tune’ into other channels that we are not even aware of … but this is a simple example of how we can use an existing and known channel of communication to overlay and transmit another additional layer of information and message.

Can you give some other examples ?

There are quite a few very simple examples from our daily life … for example consider the standard tests that are used to check colour-blindedness.

How is that done ?

Look at these patterns, can you see what is written here ?

Of course, I see three numbers, 25, 45 and 56.

Right, you have access to channel called colour that is not available to a person who is colour blind. For him it will impossible to decode what is written here.

Why is this ?

It is the way that our brains our wired together. For a person without colour-blindedness the ‘hardware’ of the eye and brain is such that it can spot the pattern and make sense of the message. That is the same with the stereogram. In fact that is true with a large number of other patterns as well.

Like ?

For example, our knowledge of the English language. Just because you know the language you are able to understand this text. For a person who knows only German or French it will be difficult to comprehend what is being said here … even though he may recognise the letters of the alphabet. And if you take this analogy further, a person who is not familiar with the English alphabet – say someone from Africa, will find it even more difficult to comprehend what is being said.

Just as we would have difficulty in comprehending a series of mathematical symbols.

Exactly but a person who understands symbolic logic will have no difficulty in understanding that -x,y| x,y c N, ( x >y) e ( x 2 > y 2 ) means for all values of x and y where both are members of the set of Natural Numbers, the fact that x is greater than y implies that the square of x is greater than the square of y.

So it means that the physical image, the physical message may not be all that there is in the message ..

You are right, there is no magic, no Extra Sensory Perception involved in the transmission of a complex message that may be encoded or overlaid on a ‘normal’ message that is being transmitted. The magic – if at all you call it that – lies in patterns and the ability to decode these patterns in a meaningful way.[1]

Never knew that patterns could be so exciting ..

They are and in fact they have some very unusual applications as well.

Like what ?

Do you believe in Astrology ? But let me warn you, that this could be big detour …

Well I cannot say I do not … for I do look up the various astrology columns that appear in Sunday newspapers. So go head, let us take this detour within a detour – astrology within patterns.

I find the generalized newspaper columns rather vague and if not trivial but a personalized horoscope cast with the date and time of birth is a much more significant document.

But how do you explain it all ? How can planets that are so far away have an impact on individual lives ? Is it the usual action at a distance phenomenon ? Like gravitation or electromagnetism ?

Well it is obviously not gravitation or electro-magnetism or any of the known forces of nature as otherwise we would have found an explanation for it.

But astrologers do talk about rays – invisible or otherwise coloured, through which the planets impact our destiny.

Well that is just another escapist tool. When you cannot explain something, invoke something extra-physical, psychic and what not.

So how do you explain it ? With Patterns ?

Yes .. and it is quite simple .. if you view this whole phenomenon from the perspective of co-relation and not causality.

Big words, please explain.

Suppose you walk into my office and see that my car is parked in the basement garage … what would you conclude ?

That you are in the office, of course.

But does that mean that the car somehow forced me or otherwise ensured my presence in the office.

Of course not.

If the car had some mysterious mechanism to make me physically present in my office, then that would have been a demonstration of causality. But what we have here is a simple demonstration of co-relation : the probability of me being in the office when the car is in the basement is significantly higher than what it would have been had my car NOT been the basement. The two events are co-related and the existence of one leads us to believe in the existence of the other.

But how does this square with the planets at your birth ?

I will give you an analogy : Suppose you were looking at a landscape from the sky but parts of it are obscured by clouds. At two positions you see a river but the portion in between is not visible. Would you not expect that the river is there in the middle portion as well ? Even though you cannot see it because of the clouds ?

Well I suppose, I would.

Now suppose that a person’s life is depicted as a series of events and these are events that occur not to the individual itself but to all entities to which the individual has some – however tenuous – connection.

That would be an incredibly large number of events.

Agreed and a very simple analogy of this the Feynman diagram for an elementary particle.

I have heard of this Feynman diagram. If a particle is stationary in space, the Feynman diagram is a line in space-time. If it is in a 2-dimensional orbit around a fixed point, then it maps out a spiral in 3-Dimensional space-time where time represents the axis of the spiral. Similarly, the Feynman diagram for a 2-Dimensional surface that is stationary in space will be a 3-Dimensional solid structure.

A Feynman diagram for a normal 3-Dimensional body in a 4-Dimensional space time is a difficult to visualize or represent but mathematically speaking is a trivial extension of the line, the spiral and the solid structure that we talked about. But if you take a little leap with your imagination, and imagine the Feynman diagram of a 3-Dimensional person, in a 4-Dimensional co-ordinate system then you have ‘something’ ( which cannot be drawn on paper but can be understood by a mathematician ) that represents a person’s entire life in 4-Dimensional space-time.

This is way too mathematical for me … you will have to simplify matters.

OK, let us stick to a 2+1 Dimensional space-time environment where the final representation of the life line of a 2D body is a 3D ‘solid’ figure.

Fine, that is more tractable.

Now suppose we have a system consisting of 2 planets plus an individual, so a total of three bodies.

These three bodies move in a 2D space – that is on plane surface – and at any instant of time form a triangle. At every different instant of time, there is a new triangle which is slightly displaced from the earlier triangle in the Z direction ( the time dimension ).

So I get a series of triangles on top of each other and all these triangles some kind of solid body.

Right … and if the behavior of these three objects is not completely random, then the solid structure formed will have some kind of deterministic shape.

What shape ?

We don’t know that as yet. The nature of that shape is the knowledge that astrologers like Parashar have tried to tell us.

How does this help ?

By looking at the shape of the structure at one region ( that is at one instant of time ) we could reasonably predict what the shape of the structure would be at another region, that is at another instant of time.

Well I suppose so …

And that is exactly what the natal horoscope is all about ? It gives the positions of the planets at one very critical time point of the individual – the birth, and by doing so it tells us the ‘shape’ -- if I may use that word – of the structure at one time point. Using our knowledge of such ‘structures’ – that is astrological knowledge – we can now predict what the shape of the structure would be at another time point.

Can you say that again ..

The existence of a planet at a particular time at a particular position is an event. So the positions of planets during birth are a set of events, as is the birth itself. So we have a pattern of events – and this pattern represents one portion of the huge pattern of events that characterize a person’s life.

So all events in the person’s life, like say marriage, job, wealth, death etc are events that fall into that huge pattern.

Exactly, but we cannot see the pattern in one glance. So we cannot know about the marriage, job, wealth, death in advance. But what we can do is to look at some of the events and try to understand the pattern that is local to that part of the structure.

How does that help ?

Once we know the shape of the structure at one point, we can extrapolate to the actual state of the structure of events for the individual at a different point of time … which is what predictions are all about.

Is it something like seeing a part of a picture – say the upper half of a face – and guessing the name or identify of the subject of the picture ? Is it something like seeing a part of a jigsaw puzzle and trying to figure out what the rest of the picture could look like ?

You are absolutely right ! It is a all a matter of seeing a part of a pattern and trying to figure out what the rest of the pattern would – or perhaps could, be like.

But is this feasible at all ?

Theoretically yes, but practically very difficult and prone to errors, but that is exactly what Astrology is like ! Of all the predictions, only a handful turns out to be correct.

So what is the benefit of that ?

That is a different question .. would you be happy to live with some error in the analysis ? Some people are not, some people are … that is a personal choice.

So you believe that astrology is real ?

I do. But it gives me a lot of comfort to know that I can explain this phenomenon in terms of co-relation and not causality. I can visualize the process of prediction as looking at an abstract shape in four dimensional space and not have to invoke either the divine or laws that operate outside the bounds of physics.

Are you sure that you are right ?

I believe I am right but what gives me confidence is that the horoscope is cast at birth and not during the conception of the individual because had the process been causal, then the time of conception would have been more important in charting the destiny of the individual.

But what about gems and jewels that people wear to change their fortune or sometime perform certain rites to satisfy the planets ? Would you not say that there is causality involved there ?

I have faith in the ‘predictive’ part of astrology but my faith withers and turns into skepticism when astrologers claim to curative powers. I am not comfortable with the remedial aspects of astrology since I cannot figure out how it could work. Perhaps there is an explanation but I do not have it.


That was a huge detour into Astrology but where does all this lead us ?

We began with two fundamental flaws in our attempt to use computer technology in the analysis of mental phenomena, namely
* The absence of a well defined theory of algorithms that allow us to have any degree of confidence in our ability to model human thought on a digital machine and
* The absence of a proven communication channel that would allow sentient individual to communicate without resorting to physical media

And we have arrived at a possible solution to the SECOND flaw.

Yes, and that is in the ability to transmit a message, a piece of information, across physical entities without the physical existence of something like an Ethernet network wire. By using patterns of stimuli that encode and help transmit deeper, more significant messages and ideas.

That still leaves us with the other flaw ? The problem of algorithms.

That can be addressed to an extent through the use of another unique concept – that of the Universal Turing Machine.

[1] Ya Devi Sarvabhuteshu Chaya-roopena Sangsthita, Namastasyai Namamstasyai Namastasyai, Namoh Namaha – Salutations to the Devi who abides in all beings in the form of Reflection or Image.

1 comment:

leprechaun said...

Another correction, there are words missing.

"So I get a series of triangles on top of each other and all these triangles form some kind of solid body."

There are also some minor errors, like colour-blindness, you've got to send me your originals before publication! :)

Besides, I simply keep on reading... both spirit and mind feeding!

God is in the richness of the phenomena, not in the details of the science. – Freeman Dyson