Tuesday, November 18, 2014

The Travels of Marco Polo (now known as Ishi)  Part Two.

Chapter One:: Less Wrong.


Preface to Prolegomena to any Future Prefaces (abbreviated 'no future' by an old english band the 'sex pistols' ).

Around 1270 AD, I, when I called myself Marco Polo,   traveled from Italy to China and back again, and wrote a book recounting my trip (although some questioned my veracity---i.e. whether I really went the whole way.  These types of issues arise commonly: I went to do the 'roller coaster' hike on the Appalachian trail Saturday; i could could claim I did the whole 14 miles, though others in the group I was in will argue I only did about 3.5 before turning back, while some went as far as 5 miles.  I guess one could hire a dispute resolution specialist to find the truth, maybe with a plea bargain or thanksgiving 'black thursday' discount or depression).  

This current blog post picks up exactly where that account ends, in 2014 in Washington DC, although again I imagine some will question its veracity.   For example, I can forsee some will ask  'what happened during the years between 1270 and 2014?', 'how did you get from Italy to Washington, DC?', and 'why are you no longer named Marco Polo?'

I take these questions as too trivial to address in this blog post because the people who raise them have no understanding of modern physics (which can easily explain these facts using quantum mechanics and general relaativity) but I may address them in a later more technical blog post (which of course will require familiarity with some elementary mathematical logic notation such as 9{4;c#npi&#350qed) .


The Less Wrong meeting:
1st Step of a Journey of 10 Steps ---'One Small Step for a Real Man, One Giant Leap for Mankind'


     (Note1: Men are most likely numbers, so they can be real, complex, quaternionic,  octonionic, or other sorts; Neil Armstrong and NASA apparently haven't classified womyn yet;
     Note2: Some think Journeys should be a 1000 miles, but that was in the past; now, they are all 10 steps because of economic austerity policies. Also we use kilometres, because of Occam's razor---shorter and hence simpler.
      Note3: Long ago, before leaps, there were jumps----eg  The Jumping frog of Calaveras county. But due to my discovery of Moore's Law

     (i discovered it here:
   some Kind (of)  Men can leap, unless they kant and instead are jerks, and like frogs are boiled alive  )


One of the first events in my current travels was to attend the DC Less Wrong meeting.  


  This group I think claims to aim for  what in my terms i call the 'rational use of rationality', following in the path of Einstein (trying to get the profusion of means to mate with  the confusion of ends to get an offspring which is more highly evolved----a profusion of confusion for a mean end); Jacques Monod, in Chance and Neccesity, made a similar argument) .

  They have a sort of interesting approach----which may be due to what seems to be their heavy interest in computer intelligence (eg MIRI).  In other words, they seem to be in the Chomskyian tradition---its all syntax (i-language). 'The form is the content' is the view.  
   I basically disagree, but this is likely a personality difference.  I respect car mechanics, etc. but I wouldn't ask them to tell me where to go .(Besides, I dont drive except occasionally since u need a liscense.).


The 1st Trip.

 From my current abode, getting there is approximately the same distance and diffculty as getting from Italy to China, though the terrain and means of travel are different. Since the National Portrait gallery and my apartment are both on the same continent of North America,  and I didn't keep to my schedule which would have permitted me to walk,  I just caught the 16th street bus (with a brief detour through the park and then a walk through downtown) .  There were incidents all along the way most of which I won't recount.

   I will mention on the bus I did talk to a guy who said he grew up near where I live, is a 3rd generation Washingtonian, went to the March on Washington, and his father worked for 5 presidents,  etc.:

     Living history, sort of like the Washington Monument (except that is considered non-living history since its mostly inorganic and hence has a very slow metabolism and also no apparent 'self' or evolutionary trajectory, though conceivably it would disagree. After all, it was repaired after the earthquake, so just as dogs actually may have domesticated humans so they wouldnt have to hunt and stay outside, and the code of the universe may have created DNA and humans so that 'silicon valley' and silicon life (computers and the web) could exist and replicate
   (eg the popular Less Wrong view of 'superintelligence'
    of which I am very skeptical, though it may be dialect, since he seems to promote some sort of          precautionary principle )

   it may be that the Washington Monument has big plans---eg a whole forest of monuments, starting with a monument to the Washington one, and then keep iterating into the transfinite to colonize outer space, so it would like arlington cemetary.  See Goodstein's theorem on wikipedia.).

So after many ordeals (not Galois or utopian ideals, more like 'the trail of tears' (native americans like ishi)), including braving wind and cold,   I arrived at and go into  the Portrait Gallery from the F St. side this time.  (I met someone recently who helps manage this; she has an MBA from someplace in California, and while from Boston, now has decided DC is too cold after LA---she also only made 3.5 miles on the appalachian trail, 7 roundtrip).  I chose the F St. side  for the same reason people have chosen different routes to attain the summit of Mt Everest---some are less dangerous than others. Last  time I attempted to go to a Less Wrong Meeting I went in from the  G St side, sat down with the (possibly more) wrong group;   and  said something;  I was promptly told to leave and that they were calling security on me---so I split quite quickly.)  

Walking in from F St I scan the terrain, and see a group, walk over and ask  them if this was Less Wrong.  They said no, so I started looking around---and then the same dude who called security on me last time came up to me and told me he was calling security.  I told him I was going to a different group---and made it clear I wasn't backing down (macho men don't impress me), and he just said 'stay away from here'.  I did spend most of my remaining time keeping an eye out to see if he was going to give me more trouble.  (Presumably he is the one who owns and sets the rules for the  Portrait Gallery, and maybe DC,  North America, the Earth and the Universe.  So maybe God exists, and I met Him, and now believe in Him. But I already believe in details, and some say the Devil is in the details. On a related note I just heard there was a massacre at a synogogue in Israel, more ISIS (ancient godess) beheadings, and Ferguson, Mo. is apparently on 'lock down' for a month. )

I found my group---maybe 5 people.  They wanted to know how I knew about it, buit thanks to my earlier travels (when I called myself Marco Polo), I told them I am an early explorer, graduated to internet explorer, and now use google chrome---so  I know how to search and navigate around the tangled web of life,
 and then map that experience into different coordinates by using the bus and walking.
 (This sort of issue is fairly complex----how do you translate one set of symbols (eg a math equation) into another
    (experienced as space-time-matter (Hermann Weyl  
                               (an excellent writer)).
 It seems to happen all the time.  For a basic discussion see Max Tegmark's 'mathematical universe'  
      (my glance is the book may be better, and the idea is somewhat trivial and not new, but its something to         put on the coffee table to spark discussion).)


The Topic.

 The topic of the meeting  was on 'to do lists as a practical tool to be used profitably in one's daily life'.

I now wonder if  proper grammar might actually require use of the plural, 'Tools'., but maybe that can be the topic of the next meeting. Or it may be that people may decide that editing this aspect of the meeting notice is not important since its not being published in a peer reviewed journal, or else because it may stay in perpetuity on the web or in the cloud (assuming  'god is willing and the creek don't rise'  or that  the internet  and the power grid doesn't crash) , one may want to preserve it in its current form, so the entire history of errors will be cached for future generations to study.

     As they say, 'if you don't study history, you will repeat history'.

     Also, 'what people learn from studying history, is that people don't learn from history'.

     (Interestingly the phrase 'if god is willing and the creek don't rise' came up as a topic at the meeting briefly --- some thought it should be 'river' instead. Consensus seemed to be that it could be either; I was thinking 'creek' is better, since I remember a place in West Virginia I have gone to often where there is a ford across a creek,  and if the creek rises you can't drive across the creek but have to walk. But I've also known people who have lost their houses when the river rises, so its half of one 6 or others.)

Looking at this topic in retrospect, I realize I should have studied it better (just as after my earlier trip to China I realized I should have read the tea leaves better and gone  to Nepal or Kashmir instead, where the tea and grass are greener, and then the  opium wars between China would have been preempted, and everyone would have lived happily ever after---no cultural revolution, no great famine, no air pollution in beijeng).  

Oh well.  The Less Wrong group as noted promotes the use of rationality in daily life, and this recently developed Tool was not available when I traveled to China---all we had was tea leaves and fortune tellers, so perhaps this current  mistake will be, as they say, 'Less Wrong'.    

The problem with the topic is implicit in the  use of the  phrase 'profitably in one's daily life'.  I read the meeting notice as a general discussion of the theme in the entire phrase, but in fact the meeting was more of a sort of peer-to-peer 'personal coaching' session on how to create and use to do lists. 'Personal coaching' I see as a version of managment consultant or psychotherapist.

In other words, they were mostly discussing 'how you individually can  get things done using a to do list, so your life is profitable' (whatever that means).

I guess I have read too much 'left wing' and ecological literature to be particularily interested in profit, or even in 'one's own life' (which tends towards what some call selfishness----my profit is your poverty).   But I am quite skeptical of the idea that individuals are not important, and that profit isn't relevant.  Profit seems to be a tool---in economics, classical general equilibrium theory holds that the when the optimal state is reached there is no profit.


They discussed many methods for using to do lists.  They have a whole vocabulary ('dark playground', shaving a yak', etc.) which are amusing if they explain them to you.

But I was carrying a pack which contained my current year's to do lists.  All I really do is write to do lists, besides doing other things.  The tequniques described won't work for me.

Maybe I should have stayed longer but I don't like sitting still quite often---some may say thats like ADHD.

I am also somewhat into the precautionary principle---maybe its better to do nothing at all.  


I was trying to think of and develop some sort of mathematical formulation of 'to do lists'.  I see these as generic. One can measure components of your own life, create a high dimensional space, and create a metric---'how did i do today?'. One can do the same thing for the economy, like GDP,.human capital, biological diversity...