Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Literal Meatphors

Our mind weaves patterns from the garbled mess our senses offer up as perception. These patterns are more real to us than those entities whose physical interactions stimulate our senses. The pattern of these patterns is the foundation of much of our sense of self. It is at the level of pattern comparison that we analyze our world. Humans are metaphor processors.

“Our ordinary conceptual system, in terms of which we both think and act, is fundamentally metaphorical in nature.” – from "Metaphors We Live By" by George Lakoff and Mark Johnson (1980)

In order to be mature about processing patterns one needs a collection of patterns for comparison. Collecting patterns is a beautiful-horrible process called experience, and results are apparently not guaranteed. There are many teachable people who can also gather patterns non-experientially.

Once gathered the patterns are repeatedly post-processed. Some people like to think of the post processing as a sorting, but it is much more than that. Our eventual memories of some events can be very different from the actual physical events, but our memories are more useful, or can be.

Without enough related experiences processing can become backed up. It is easy to run particular events through one’s mind over-and-over-and-over again, like a closed film loop, trying to make sense of them.

Sometimes we give up on making sense of things, but it is almost impossible to simply file things away as “other” in the mind. Many people use a supernatural explanation as a label for binning these recalcitrant patterns. This is one reason why the unknowability of god is so fiercely championed amongst some theists.

By comparing patterns we can validate shared experiences and create a sense of culture. This is one reason why theists gather to share their undecipherable experiences in groups. Together the events can be post processed to validate the existence of many supernatural events, and even create new ones.

Teenagers often get stuck overusing particular words. I remember overusing the words “bourgeois” and “really” and “like”. The word “like” is a particularly popular word for teenage overuse. Throwing it about creates all sorts of accidental similes; one of the simplest types of metaphor.

In order to be more literally correct one should only state that: “The patterns in our mind are like metaphors”. The patterns only become true metaphors only when we translate them into words.

“All our words are but crumbs that fall down from the feast of the mind.” -- from “Sand and Foam” Kahlil Gibran (1926)

Once in words the metaphors are in machine readable form. Unfortunately, machines tend to read what words mean literally. They are not adept at metaphors.

It is a relatively simple proposition to code a simile detecting algorithm. Look for the word “like”, and then compare the two elements of the sentence that are being likened to each other. Then, by using some kind of relatedness scale, one can grade the degree of metaphorical usage. For instance the comparison:
“Your rose is like a carnation”
This sounds like it is actually only comparing the flower-like attributes of two flowers. Both entities are similar; they are both not only plants, but common flowers that are often used in flower arrangements. One is inspired to imagine the petal configuration or the colors which are imagined to be similar in form and function between the two entities. This is not very metaphorical, and it would get a low metaphor score.
“Your lips are like a rose”
While this may not score highly in many arbitrary literary rubrics it gets a good high metaphor score. One of the entities is plant, and the other is animal. The attributes they share are accidental. We imagine the redness of the lips, and perhaps their soft and supple texture. Further knowledge about the rose is possibly inherited. The fact that the rose is the center of sexual activity for the plant invites the reader to imagine sexual activity –like kissing- for the lips.

To venture beyond the simple simile the machine needs to ask questions like “is this really what is meant?”. It is impossible to simply turn on a program and have it discern between what is literal and what is metaphor, but given a large learning set it should be possible.

What does a machine do with its “other” experiences? I doubt it mulls them over in melancholy excess. Without the emotional handicaps it is unlikely that anything resembling god would be used to explain situations.

For each theist the concept of god is not necessarily a simple delusion. I picture a multi-faceted delusion whose faces are human psychological issues. For each person it is likely that each face could be named for the evens that made it unknowable. “My parents did that”, “I don’t like him anymore”, “The room was dark”, “I heard noises” …. An almost-narrative of psychological damage might be created from the faces of god.

So god’s will is a lump of psychologically indigestible events. This, unfortunately, would get a low metaphor score. If I replaced god’s will with god to shorten the simile, and replaced the unwieldy “psychologically indigestible events” with something that is indigestible and repulsive I can get a much higher score.

God is s**t 

Lewis Allan "Lou" Reed 
Born: March 2, 1942 
Died: October 27, 2013

Friday, October 25, 2013


Here are a couple pictures from AYD's summer trip to CERN.  And...yes according to AYD it was as awesome as it sounds.

AYD smiling in front of the detector called ATLAS.

AYD smiling in front of the detector called CMS.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Like a magic sieve

Let me first apologize for having been AWOL for quite some time. The last post left a couple things hanging with the promise of follow-up posts. I was a little distracted when I set up the follow-ups to automagically post. I suppose that the magic had leaked out. I searched for backups of the posts after I realized they did not go up, and did not find them before my desire to look for them also ran out. One of the sprinkler heads in a planter out front of my house was oozing water till last week when I finally shut the system down for the winter. Everything is leaking.

More precisely I can see harmonics to my current mood in so many aspects of my environment. I feel, and it alters my perception; Its self referential looping spirals through days, and the days trudge through time. I’ve not posted since May.

In May AYD won a trip to CERN for her ISEF science fair project. She built a robot in the basement that monitored the germination of seeds. She called it Germitron, and made it from old bicycle parts. I recommend against repurposing old bicycle wheels as they do not stay true.

It is interesting that she won the trip almost a year after the famous Tooele Jr High wardrobe malfunction. Perhaps I’ll post a couple pictures of her posing in front of ATLAS and CMS to contrast with the picture I took of her in the Jr High front office.

In June I first broke into a hidden e-mail account that my wife of 21.5 years was keeping. I did not actually go through the e-mails till August. Here are some tidbits:

"Remember our pledge to marry and have Anyen Rinpoche preside and remember White Tara and the Buddha watching over that pledge"

“Most of all Sweetheart, I am happy because I have you. That is the truth you are my Grail, my everlasting Life. I am hoping we can get together at my apartment this weekend to share our excitement at how things are shaping up for us.”

I knew what I was going to find in a general sort of way, but filling in the specifics was rather uncomfortable. I needed the specifics to address the denials my more mature and pointed questions produced. The affair had apparently been going on for years. I knew the fellow she was seeing; he was one of AOD’s Jr High School teachers. AOD is graduating from High school in a few months.

I’ve never been a fan of Jr High school, and my opinion is not improving.

The admission of guilt was delivered with several declarations from my now former wife; three of which I would like to list:

  1.  That “the only reason” for the affair was that he, as a Buddhist, provided the spiritual support an atheist like me could not.
  2.  That I was “the greatest lover she had ever had”.
  3.  That it was impossible for her to reconcile the idea that there might not be an afterlife (or, more specifically, reincarnation) with her desire to know that loved ones who died are not simply lost.

I steadfastly insist that the lot of it is nonsense… except the “greatest lover” part.

Unfortunately that is the only part that can be reasonably questioned.