It all started as all good things start these days : on irc, written by people who aren't me. How do you like that ! Oh, you're still dealing with the title... well, what can I tell you, forget about it. One sometimes runs out of titles.
Anyway, check this beauty out :
asciilifeform: The 'time microscope' thing is typical of aging inventors who, by virtue of being cut off from competent peers (either by having none alive, or being on the wrong side of a jail of one kind or another) end up flying off untethered into strange. E.g : Tesla's 'ghost telegraph'.
kakobrekla: I guess misconceptions add up over the years.i
asciilifeform: I don't think this is it at all.ii Rather, this is more like the folks who send binders full of crackpot proofs to maths profs today. If you're unable to interact with an actual community of your peers, you tend to go way off in some strange direction. Sometimes, with interesting results, more often - with none. Another thing about aging inventors - when they become anxious to carry out a 'last hurrah,' the mechanism in their heads that is needed to dis-invest in an unproductive line of inquiry breaks. 'This ghost telegraph! It'll be what I'm remembered for! just needs a little tweaking.'iii
kakobrekla: Heh, good points.
asciilifeform: Another similar, but distinct phenomenon is: people who regularly have ideas usually have fat notebooks full of strange. When these get published posthumously, quite a bit of strange is revealed.v E.g. Karl Friedrich Gauss had a big fat binder that contained, among other things, both types of non-euclidean geometry. But it also had a good bit of crap.vi Hard to find good material about an inventor's 'dwarf star' phase, because the real demented folks inevitably pick it up and add flourishes of their own. Some 'idea people' don't have these 'coffin liner' binders, they just publish everything.vii And tend to end badly.viii Oliver Heaviside's notebooks, it is said, stoked a furnace for many years. (Heaviside, the fellow who turned maxwell's equations from 23 in about that many unknowns, into the 4 that we learn in school, and coughed up terms like 'impedance'.) Re: invention, for the impatient: the greatest heroes who ever lived, who none of us are fit even to be beheaded by, had terrible signal-to-noise ratios, because that's simply how it works. The most one can hope for is to get one or two major ideas 'out'.
cazalla: I wonder if people are testing his hypothesis.
asciilifeform: How? See MP's little piece about 'art'.
cazalla: In the binders full of crackpot writings as you mentioned.
asciilifeform: If you dive into the binders, you're almost certainly doomed to be lost in the noise. If you don't believe this, get thee to a dusty book store and buy bucky fuller's 'synergetics' I and II. That was his coffin notebook that some lost soul printed up. More or less unreadable - as they tend to be, using 1000s of terms known only to the dead man.ix After all, he was writing for his own self.x You can try to read this stuff and make sense of it, but more often than not you'll just be 'rorschaching'xi your own mind. There are so many blanks for imagination to fill in, you'll mostly be reading the contents of the blanks.
So now there you go. To quote Art Vandalay, this is the true spirit of Christmas : people being helped by people other than me.———
- This is a perfectly valid approach to explaining the type of insanity. To understand, consider the problem of dead reckoning :
If you start at 0,0 and your job is to get to 7,3 then pathfinding is an easy enough task : you need to make 7 X's and 3 Y's, in whichever order. So if at some ulterior point you find yourself at 9,1 you'll know you overdid X and now need to double back. But what if you don't have the ability to "find yourself" ? What if all you have is "turn right 44 degrees and go one day, then turn left 18 degrees and go three days , then turn right 55 degrees..." etc ? You'll be in for a world of hurt, because after a coupla weeks of this treatment you're more likely to find yourself just about to enter your mother, never mind your intended destination. (For a very pleasant in depth discussion of the topic see Nick Szabo's Dead reckoning and the exploration explosion.)
What's worse for ideal problems (as opposed to real problems) is that while you're (at least in principle) equally likely to err on the left as on the right with the degrees business, you're not equally likely to err on the left as on the right in politics, for instance. Find me the blue voter that's just as likely to go "well I suppose there is some merit in randomly discharging your weapon while hooting" as "well I suppose if it is for their own good, better hop the kids up on pharma". Or, whatever, the red voter that's as liable to come out with "well I guess taking it in the butt isn't the end of the world" as "well I guess if the girl wants to have an abortion it's her right, and not the doctor's business to oppress her with his notions as to whether she is or isn't pregnant". And politics is just the tip of the iceberg, you think it's a notoriously contentious topic because it lets you. It's something your brain feels ready to consider. Just how fucking stupid you are, for instance, isn't something you're at all prepared to even consider, which is why it's such an uncontentious topic : you're very very smart and clever and nice and good, and so is everyone you meet. O wait, no, scratch that one, considering just how fucking stupid they are poses no serious dangers of bruising your own ego. [↩]
- Amusingly, yes he does. [↩]
- You know that your parents are senile once they stop saying "whoa, that thing I came up was a stupid idea". And that's exactly how your kids will know you're senile too, in due time. [↩]
- Talk about asking the right way eh ? [↩]
- Amusingly, one'd think the same is the case with Newton, who spent more of his time trying to figure out alchemy and theology than the falling of the bodies and calculus, especially if that one were a "realities" mind (as opposed to "humanities"). Nevertheless, I hold this to be untrue : the man's nonscientific writings are quite fucking brilliant.
In any event : the curated view of the history of science (and generally, ideas) as presented by textbooks is significantly biased in that it systematically leaves out parts of reality (the very definition of curation, hey). Consequently people who grow up on nothing but manuals develop some pretty fucking strange ideas of how inventor papers are supposed to look (symptomatic for this problem, the general impression that photocopies of such papers sometimes included for "historical flavour" are kind-of unkempt, badly organised and generally putting to shame the neatly delineated textbook discussion.
You'd think this is only interesting to ninnies that are inexplicably preoccupied with a correct and complete preservation of the history (of ideas), until you happen to realise that the reason your middle class, well mannered, well brought up miss is hooting over Kanye West is exactly of this nature. Gotta let the girl get dirty, and preferably starting at a very young age. It'll be a lot easier for the both of you this way. [↩]
- As far as anyone knows.
No, seriously, this is important. [↩]
- You know, like I do. [↩]
- Fuck you. [↩]
- And you thought you had it hard with Trilema's 100s. You have it easy, buster. [↩]
- And so should you. [↩]
- Ie, giving yourself ink tests, which is to say : whatever output your brain comes up with "from reading" those things has more to do with your brain than the things. Which is why good education starts with getting the kids to SHUT THE FUCK UP because NOBODY CARES WHAT THEY "THINK" and they, personally, are worthless shitbags. (Here's a great example of the process actually working out in practice.) It may ruin their "self esteem", but self esteem is roughly unrelated to anything of import. It may, however (especially when solidly backed into a wide array of hickory switches prominently displayed on the walls) get their stupid brain to stop talking long enough for them to actually have a chance at understanding what's going on.
And to make your pleasure : the stupid way is typically feminine, it's what gossip is all about - two girls enjoying a half an hour together each talking her own narrative undisturbed. Undisturbed by the anthropocentric paternalistic oppressive and chauvinistic culture invented by men to... reign in... idiots... which is to say... women and children. True story. [↩]