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Indiscrete Thoughts


I should be reading Gian-Carlo Rota’s book on Geometric probability, which I found through a strange and circuitous chain of events and discussions including a pun on Buffons needle (buffoons noodle). And I will… But after I get some work done today, I aim to read a few pages of indescretion from book that the title of this post was stolen from.

In Rota’s lexicon, I had “working myths” a few years ago, a so-called “ultimate reality” to stand unquestioning upon, then crises hit, uncertainty came pouring in and working myths dissapated into belief (that I, apparently like others, although I didn’t realize it at the time, fancying myself not the type, defended)… these beliefs begat “wilting myths”, a few of which are still going to seed this very autumn, but most are now dead, DEAD! I can’t wait to read this book. (Note: not only did Rota write the book on Geometric probability, but he was an expert functional analyist turned combinitorialist at MIT who also taught philosophy in phenomenological tradition! amidst a sea of analytic philosophers that threatened to quit if he was allowed to give students course credit for his packed class (they didn’t quit and Rota kept on teaching to a full house). The first page alone established a framwork and vocabulary for anyone who has experienced an attuation in their relationship with “ultimate reality” and the rest of the book looks equally interesting and unhinged.
(AMS review – Krantz)

April/May are the nicest months… don’t nap

Some art from folks that have been seen in the virtual pages of Effluvia and from those that have not…

Alexis Ross | RVCA from RVCA on Vimeo.



ross-jux (from the recent issue)

when someone calls you intuitive or you call yourself stupid you’re letting your ego do science

(I print out A lot of articles and don’t read them for months, below are some thoughts on a paper that has been laying on my bed for about half a year. (ego? ergo?) See below the quotes from the article for additional thoughts for how we might “build a partial answer to some of the author’s questions.”)

I have often found myself drawn toward activities that I felt held the capacity to make a difference. Ironically I never found myself making one. Lately I have been just having fun in a less “goal orianted” way. I found the expository article below surprising because it turns precisly these notions on their heads and argues for goal free learning as a route toward a true science and mathematics of learning, written with respect to the aspects that seem to me to be exactly those that are the most amazing, confusing and beautiful.

From: “Ergostructures, Ergologic and the Universal Learning Problem

Apparently, mind contains two quite different separate entities, that we call egomind and ergobrain.

Egomind is what you see as your personality. It includes all what you perceive as your conscious self – all your thoughts, feelings and passions, with subconscious as a byproduct of this ego. Most (all) of what we know of egomind is expressible in the common sense language – this language, call it ego-reasoning, that is a reflection of egomind, is perfectly adapted to to our every day life as well as to the needs of a practicing psychologist.

Ergobrain is something abstract and barely existing from ego’s point of view. Ultimately, ergobrain is describable in the language of what we call (mathematical universal learning) ergosystems but it is hard to say at the present point what ergobrain truly is, since almost all of it is invisible to the conscious (ego)mind. (An instance of such an “invisible” is the mechanism of conditional reflexes that is conventionally regarded as belonging with the brain rather than with the mind.)

Certain aspects of ergo may be seen experimentally, e.g. by following saccadic eye movements, but a direct access to ergo-processes is limited.

Your egomind with its pragmatic ego-reasoning– common sense as much as your emotional self, is a product of evolutionary selection. The two “selves” stay on guard of your survival and passing on your genes. But ergo, unlike ego, was not specifically targeted by selection – it was adopted by evolution out of sheer logical necessity as, for example, the 1-dimensionality of DNA molecules.

A pragmatically teleological ego-centered mode of thinking that was installed by evolution into our conscious mind along with the caldron of high passions seems to us intuitively natural and logically inescapable. But this mode was selected by Nature for our social/sexual success and personal survival, not at all for a structural modeling of the world including the mind itself. The self-gratifying ego-vocabulary of:

intuitive, intelligent, rational, serious, objective, important, productive, efficient, successful, useful.

will lead you astray in any attempt of a rational description of processes of learning; these words may be used only metaphorically. We can not, as Lavoisier says,

to improve a science without improving the language or nomenclature which belongs to it.

The intuitive common sense concept of human intellegence – an idea insulated in the multilayered cocoon of teleology–purpose, function, usefulness survival, is a persistent human illusion. If we want to to understand the structural essence of the mind, we need to to break out of this cocoon, wake up from this illusion and pursue a different path of thought.

It is hard, even for a mathematician, to accept that your conscious mind, including the basic (but not all) mathematical/logical intuition, is run by a blind evolutionary program resulting from “ego-conditioning” of your animal/human ancestor’s minds by million years of “selection by survival” but we welcome the idea that mathematics is the only valid alternative to common sense.

We do not fully banish common sense but rather limit its use to concepts and ideas within mathematics. To keep on the right track we use a semi-mathematical reasoning – we call it ergologic– something we need to build along the way. We use as a guide the following

Ergolist of Ideas:
interesting, meaningful, informative, funny, beautiful, curious, amusing, amazing, surprising, confusing, perplexing, predictable, nonsensical, boring.

These concepts, are neither “objective” nor “serious” in the eyes of the ego-mind, but they are universal, unlike say “useful” that depend on what, specifically, “useful” refers to. These ergo-ideas will direct us toward understanding of how a child’s (ergo)brain, that hardly can be called serious, rational or objective, makes a world out of chaos of signals.

Any kind of randomness in the world can be represented (modeled) geometrically by a subdomain Y in the unit square “square” in the plane. You drop a points to “square”, you count hitting Y for an event and define the probability of this event as area(Y).

A particular path to follow is suggested by Boltzmann’s way of thinking about statistical mechanics – his ideas invite a use of non-standard analysis as well as of a Grothendieck’s style category theoretic language. (This streamlines Kolmogorov”s “square” in certain applications as we explain in.) But a mathematical interpretation of the idea of probability in languages and in learning needs a more radical deviation from (modification? generalization of?) this “square”.

Cardano, Galileo, Buffon:
The existence of these people stands in contrast with our picture of a wall separating ego and ergo in the human mind, it challenges our evaluation of the range of the human spirit. Where are such people to-day? Why don’t we see them anymore? Nobody in the last 200 years had a fraction of Cardano’s intellectual intensity combined with his superlative survival instinct. Nobody since Buffon has made long lasting contributions to domains as far-distant one from another as pure mathematics and life sciences. What needs to be done to bring galileos back to us? – M. Gromov

Post-Game Analysis:
In the article Cardano’s problems with gambling are also mentioned, his ego-brain and ergo-brain emmeshed in the quest for the symmetries and probabilities ties to dice. It makes me want to generalize from Cardano’s possible experience and the frustration of him holding back his mathematical results due to his shame related to compulsive gambling.

What if we could take an addict, someone with the most problematic difficulties with learning and the most problematic if not rudimentary “grasp” on it, (the kind of people who make the most “unreasonable ‘decisions’ again and again, as if driven by some inner compulsion unknown to them, and never seem to learn from the consequences of their actions, never seem to i nternalize the arrows of causality), and take one (some?) of these problematic folks, but, say, one (some?) who is/are also obsessed with the idea of understanding learning itself as a process and developing a techinical set of tools to study it, and somehow (re)ducate them, setting their ergo free? (These people would be not unlike Cardano who was complsive dice-thrower but also a seemingly compulsive dice theoretician. With Cardano the situation was easy, he already had the mathematical ability and education going in, I am talking about a rehabilitation process here.) How would one achieve it? Could it be done? (This is a thought experiment, lift legal restrictions for a moment, for example.)

Their ego-brain would have to be targeted, confusion would have to become their friend, reality would need to be called into question at a basic ontological level. What if they were then supplied with the heavy machinery to attack serious ergo-problems? Is there a possibility that they could become a fraction of a Cardano? I am speaking theoretically here there are a lot of addicts here, many of whom are sharp and quite intellegent. And I am speaking in a measured way, we are not producing a Cardano but simply eliciting some of his qualities. Perhaps addicts are an overlookes category as addressed in this article?

From what I know about institutions that rehabilitate those with substance abuse problems I believe this ergo-style targeting is regular practice, but perhaps in a more ad hoc rather than formal manner and so deeply mixed with ego-stimulus that the signalling might often not work as I outlined above. However, gallows humor and a deep comfort with a shifting or lack of reality wherein the only good defense is humor and an infant’s style of learning and an inquisitiveness with respect to the basics, that is, an openness to the flux of the world and allowing ones sensory-self to do its work on the incoming stream of signals often is present in the beginning of sobriety, that is, until one begins the process of reintegration into the social matrix and assumes the roles and responsibilities of an “adult” again, thus nullifying all the ergo-enhancing work done and ego-recodifying so that the once potential “nonconformist”, who only posed a threat to herself, might never pose a “threat” to the order of things, by inquiring into the nature of ergo-structure. Imagine a world of Galileos! Who would do everyone’s taxes?

I suppose I am asking not “What needs to be done to bring galileos back to us?” but instead, “How might we build some Cardanos?”

Point Mutations

Is it possible that the BL was channeling AC?

Men pass away, but their deeds abide.

[His last words (?)]
Quoted in H Eves Mathematical Circles Revisited (Boston 1971).

“The Dude abides” (The Big Lebowski).

abide (intransitive verb)
1 : to remain stable or fixed in a state
2 : to continue in a place : sojourn

Arto Lindsay is still as radical as ever!

AND… we’re back! and er, whatever than ever!