Thursday, July 8, 2010

PC future

Sometimes events provide definitive clues concerning future events. Once the sound of one shoe hitting the floor has been noted the future sound of the other shoe is assured. One could (if one were a tad obsessive) even use this knowledge to divide the future into two segments, and perhaps even provide abbreviations or acronyms for each segment. I would call the time until the other shoe dropped WD (waiting for the other shoe to drop) and the time after AD (after the other shoe dropped).

Once the WD-AD boundary condition has been realized by the dropping of the other shoe the WD time segment can be described in terms of all observed events that took place within it. In other words, the status of the WD time segment changes from anticipation to narrative. Many people believe that the narrative exists before the WD-AD status shift, and is merely transcribed onto reality as time nudges us closer and closer to the boundary condition.

There is utility in believing that the future exists before it is realized; it may provide actionable information before it becomes history. There is an obvious paradox in this situation. If you are able to see accurately into the future and you act on that information about the future you must be able to change the future therefore your information about the future is inaccurate. If the paradox holds it is incorrect to view the unrealized future as a fixed narrative; instead it would be a set of suggestions. Hidden within the suggested narrative would be unavoidable events, like the WD-AD boundary condition. This view could also be illustrated by a picture of the future as a probability cloud (PC), with each of the apparently infinite potential events being given a distinct probability.

I view the future as PC and I can tell you, without hesitation, that it is unsatisfactory. Firstly a PC future is wildly confusing, and for events that are not certain most probabilities are fairly random guesses. Secondly a PC future ignores those potential outcomes that are unimagined or disregarded (the so called black swan events). The PC future is dependent on the ability to focus on potential events while at the same time one must be aware that focus on a particular event distorts the ability to accurately place that event in the context from which the very probability of its occurance is derived.  An obsesive attention to particular events in the future can distort the future time-space contimum, and result in a rather pshcologically disturbed individual in the present.  A PC world future view is so wildly unsatisfying that it is often reduced to only performing the simple task of answering the question:”What do you think future is like before it becomes history?”.   I do not personally get asked that question every day.

I think I would much rather have magical knowledge of the future. This desire ignores the obvious constraints this situation would impose on physical laws, like gravity, that are dear to my heart. I would couple it with the magical ability to act on the future knowledge. The ability to act on knowledge of the future would have to be limited to me (or maybe a very small handful of folks) or else it would not be magical; would it? The knowledge would also need to be un-saturating; in other words I would be able to retain some mystery of the future to keep me interested in the progression of time. In fact... a mirror of my mental state resplendent with magical abilities and privileged information would be quite acceptable. When I was insecure about the future my feelings would be fixed by magic. The future would provide the abundance, and opportunities for everything I desired, and I would have the magic treasure map to it.

Because the magical knowledge future (MKF) is so very tempting it should come as no surprise that it has many followers. For most of those I have spoken to, who believe in MKF, their belief is that MKF is almost just barely obtainable at any point in time. One may be separated from MKF by the need to sacrifice a few goats; perhaps one must purify one’s body by repeated and violent cleansing of the colon. For some the visions of MKF are murky, and the interpretation of the future is suspect, requiring application of probability to make the intelligence actionable. To me the latter sounds much like a PC future only with more goat meat and diarrhea.

I would love to interject a story here. It would be a story about someone who believes in a MKF. The story would be complete with ominous threats of death, visions of paradise, unnecessary blood transfusions, adventure in far off lands, the discarding of all worldly possessions, and ultimately disillusionment and depression. I would love to tell this story, but some of you would recognize the protagonist, and I do not think I would tell it with the level of respect the protagonist deserves. The telling of such a story might come across as theist bashing.  Although theist bashing can be: enlightening, productive, and good clean fun; it is not what this blog is about.

I should say something about what this blog is about. A little over a month ago I declared that I would be on summer vacation and therefore writing much less. Instead I wrote more...much more. I will stop posting so many of my “this day in history” pieces as they were originally for another project. I would also like to say I will be less wordy in my other posts, but look at how long this one is already (almost 900 words, and it’s still going strong).

Without a very workable PC future (or MKF for that matter) I am stuck with an approach to the future best described as “muddling through”. There are things I “know” will happen like the dropping of the other shoe (ie. the WD-AD boundary event), but I do not know what the drop will sound like. In some cases I may have so many doubts about the particulars of an event that apparent doubt will be cast on the certainty of the event itself. If I do not know enough about what an event will actually consist of, what certainty can I place on the occurrence of that event? To be even more disjoint I should suggest that some events interfere with one’s cognitive ability to observe or judge the event’s occurrence.

When I think of the future I like to think about love. This is partially due to my constant desire to think about love, and partially my desire to imagine a future filled with love. Unfortunately love is associated with such an indirectly knowable event system that it is difficult to predicatively visualize. This is not because of “black Swan” type love phenomena, which are as rare as they are delightful. This is because of the way love arises from the cognitive machinery of the brain.

Comparing love to smell is particularly useful due to similarities in the neuroanatomy of both of these stimulations. We describe smells by comparing them to other smells. We describe love by comparing one instance of it to another (possibly fictional) instance of it.

The setting sun teases with the possibility of a green flash over the pacific whose waves slowly erode the base of those Palos Verdes cliffs.  The orange-ing glow catches her hair and obscures the color of her eyes. Later I am reminded of sitting across the table from her, except for the lack of sunset, cliffs, or the anticipation of a possible green flash. I am reminded of the expression on her face, except for the fluorescent light that reveals the color of her hair and eyes and everything else. Almost all describable elements that unite the moments are reductably exceptional, only a few trivial particulars remain: the smell of coffee and night, the sound of automobiles, the touch of unfamiliar fingers. The descriptions that can conjure the memory of love only serve to define the stage upon which it was played out, and yet love is described.

Some attempt to describe love by its secondary symptoms. One could, for instance, describe the quickening of the circulation or the tunneling of attention. To me this often makes love sound more like an illness, or a poisoning.

Because of this “blind spot” in recounting love it is difficult to predict its onset. The event can be as much of a certainty as the attractive forces between two mutually attracted individuals in close proximity can surmise, but what of the attending phenomena that will eventually be used to describe the love onset event? Sure, one can attempt to set the stage. Driving the rickety VW bug to the cliff-top trail just before sunset… but how does one plan tripping over every root and stone on the short stroll to the cliff’s edge? Once I even ran out of gas while driving with a leggy blond on a breeze kissed quayside road, and I have never decided if I had set that stage on purpose or not; that young lady ended up marrying me.

The end of a loving relationship is easier to describe. Describing the symptoms accurately recalls the emotions and state of mind. This may be due to the resonance between the tendency when describing emotional events by their symptoms to make emotions sound like disease, and the disease-like feelings associated with the ending of a love affair.

The progression from love to lying to loss may describe a trajectory as certain as those ballistics defined by physical laws, but the particulars remain ill-defined. Looking into the eyes of a lover as they talk themselves into your past tense gives no hint to the pathway of their exit. It is always possible, perhaps even preferable, to ignore the lies that begin disturbing the surface of the shared experience that is the relationship. But the first ripples give way to waves and fire, and before long a new whole land is formed and one of you is not on it. Understanding which words -what look- or what event causes the start of the decay is sometimes impossible. Sometimes the question: “what was I even thinking to begin with?” can obscure the dropping of the first last shoe. And the second last shoe can seem to drop just once or a million times. The reconciliations, the memory loss, the reminders….

Depending on the amount of ancillary life that became attached to the relationship there is an inevitable physical adjustment period. This can be accompanied by moving out or just watching her walk out the door with a strange finality in her step. Then there are the friends wanting to know what happened and/or the lawyers trying to make something of what happened. Each step is an opportunity, not necessarily utilized, to mark the progress of the relationship’s dissolution. An ideally manufactured person could theoretically mark this progress dispassionately, but I have never met anyone who was able to even convincingly lie about their skills in this area.

Then there is the social recovery: the re-discovery of time, space, and the enjoyment of them, the discovery of and exploration of a new lover. The grounding events like the (as has been all too common for me) accidental happening upon your ex (or soon-to-be-ex)in an uncomfortably comfortable embrace with her new lover.

In those relationships where little is held back the process is akin to putting all the above steps in a blender and making some sort of emotional blender drink; like a fruit smoothie made with broken glass.

There are some who believe that the breakup is the inevitable “other shoe” to the one that is dropped when one takes a lover. I do not (with very little evidence) believe this pessimistic vision of all futures is accurate.

I have never gone, and never plan to go, bungee jumping. I imagine the weightless falling moments wondering if the bungee will catch and hold. I imagine the doubt and fear increasing as the ground rushes up. I know that, given enough bungee jumps, the failure of the bungee cord is a statistically certainty. The amount of doubt has no effect on the cord. The amount of fear only colors the experience, and I’m not sure it would be worthwhile to even jump without it.

The breakup of a relationship may be a memory more easily recalled than its conception. The inevitability of a breakup following the onset of a relationship may be empirically suggested by my experience. That the pain of a breakup is directly proportional to the amount of effort put into a relationship is a theorem I would state as true. However, I gladly doubt these apparent clues (along with all rational thought) for a chance to believe things will be marvelous forever this time; whenever "this time" is now.

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