After months of diligent study I have finally become the person you edge away from at parties. At the last one I attended I began, after a few drinks, to dilate on alpha theory as usual. One of the guests suggested that I become a prophet for a new cult, which was certainly a lucky thing, and I want to thank him, because that joke would never have occurred to me on my own.

As with party-goers, so with blog-readers. The vast majority of my (former) readership has greeted alpha theory with some hostility but mostly indifference, and for excellent reason. It is a general theory, and humans have high sales resistance to general theories.

Generality offends in itself. Theories of human behavior apply to all humans, and that means you. If you’re anything like me, and you are, when you look at a graphed distribution of some human characteristic, no matter what it is, you harbor a secret hope that you fall at a tail, or better still, outside the distribution altogether. It is not that we are all above average, like the children of Lake Woebegon. Oh no: we are all extraordinary. Surely the statistician has somehow failed to account for me and my precious unique inviolable self. Nobody wants to be a data point. General theories, including alpha theory, often involve equations, and nobody likes an equation either.

General theories are also susceptible to error, the more susceptible the more general they are. An old academic joke about general surveys applies to general theories as well. I first heard it about Vernon Parrington’s Main Currents in American Thought, a once-common college text, but it has made the rounds in many forms. Whichever English professor you asked about Parrington, he would praise the book, adding parenthetically, “Of course he knows nothing about my particular subject.”

Someone seeking to explain a wide range of apparently disparate phenomena usually overlooks a few facts. By the time these are brought to his attention he is too heavily invested in the theory to give it up. He hides or explains away the offending facts and publishes his theory anyway, to world-wide yawns.

The gravest danger of a general theory is that it might be true — more precisely, that you may come to believe it. Believing a new general theory is a mighty expensive proposition. You’ve built up a whole complicated web of rules that have worked for you in the past, and now you have to go back and reevaluate them all in light of this new theory. This is annoying, and a gigantic energy sink besides. General theories, including alpha theory, tend to attract adherents from among the young, who have less to throw away — lower sunk costs, as the economists say. For most of us dismissing a new theory out of hand is, probabilistically, a winning strategy. Some might call this anti-intellectualism: I call it self-preservation.

(I will not go so far as to claim that alpha theory predicts its own resistance. Down that road lies madness. “You don’t believe in Scientology? Of course you don’t. Scientology can explain that! Wait! Where are you going?”)

General theorists often insist that anyone who disagrees with their theory find a flaw in its derivation. I have been known to take this line myself, and it is utterly unreasonable. If someone showed up at my door with a complicated theory purporting to demonstrate some grotesque proposition, say, that cannibalism conduces to human survival, and demanded that I show where he went wrong, I’d kick him downstairs. Yes, they laughed at Edison, they laughed at Fulton. They also laughed at a hundred thousand crackpot megalomaniacs while they were at it.

So if you still want alpha theory to dry up and blow away, I understand. No hard feelings. And if you’ve written me off as some kind of nut, well, could be. The thought has crossed my mind. I can assure you only that I ardently desire to be delivered from my dementia. It would do wonders for my social life.

(Addendum: I want to make it perfectly clear that, although I have written about alpha theory for several months now, I did not invent it. I am not nearly intelligent enough to have invented it. That honor belongs to “Bourbaki,” well-known to the readers of the comments. Me, I’m a sort of combination PR man and applied alpha engineer. Oh wait — there aren’t any applications yet. Don’t worry, there will be.)

Aaron Haspel | Posted February 13, 2005 @ 12:28 PM | Alpha Theory,Philosophy

73 Responses to “Prolegomena to Any Future General Theory of Anything”

  1. 1 1. Jim Valliant

    It might do wonders for your social life–certainly an important consideration–but would it be so rewarding as the discovery of a great truth? Hang in there, my friend, this could be history-making, and the effort itself is never really wasted. Only the open and exercised mind, one with he courage to assert somethng, even has a chance at greatness.

  2. 2 2. MeTooThen


    OK, so you’re a megalomanic crackpot.


    Alpha theory may be totally bullshit.

    So be it.

    But it seems to me that there is meaning, or usefulness, in the energetics that have emereged as a result of your pursuit of it.

    Or not.

    And that, of course, is the question.

  3. 3 3. Tommy

    ___The totally not pretentious answer of pretenses that are not cliches, certainly, because,I would never write such drivel___

    As best as I can tell alpha theory supposes connections between fields of disparate and still in the process of being defined contentions (or ramifications) of science and probability as well as information relay and contrasts these with the laws of thermodynamics and what can be viewed as Bernoulli trials to explain emergence and behavior.

    I do not get thermodynamics yet, not enough to see how it can be used to measure large systems of nonequilibrium. I get it generally, but in that general base lies the greatest potential for misunderstanding, as you yourself note. I still have not found satisfactory answers to certain assertions William Sidis made about thermodynamics. I still have not got my head around everything being resultant from thermodynamics and people. Trying to find where this theory goes wrong is so much more difficult than accepting your understanding of the subjects and conjecturing about it’s actual breadth or properties under those assertions.

    Either way, you seem to have always been a striking and witty and defensive blogger, with a maverick tendency and a love of being precisely expressive where possible and ironic about those ideas and instances that make such logic or precision impossible as you understand it. I have been reading old posts in between everything else.

    So, my suggestion as far as being social is concerned is the same thing I would tell any little kid: don’t talk to strangers. Don’t talk to those who would be stridently averse to a topic of conversation or line of reasoning about that topic or reasoned ideation in a setting where people are just trying to get fucked up or just plain fucked (euphemism: let their hair down). You are smart enough to know that even happily (ironic, earnest or what have you) presenting stuff that makes you sound smart about something can cut both ways *actually being smart about it is even more precarious* unless you possess the insistence of certainty and necessity. It is perfectly possible and reasonable to mind control other people with your certainty (and sense of this idea’s necessity) so long as you possess the ability to build logic they can personally associate with (simply draw from their experience or get them to talk about themselves, and point out how what they said is illustrative of ….). This was the in general conflict I had with a vast majority of the analogies used to illustrate points here (but this is a blog, so the practice is much more defensible, both as a way of getting us to learn things and in knowing that we can go learn them, then revisit).

    In general, assuming you are not insecure and awkward around others, and assuming that you do not secretly resent their opinions and stances and lives for being what/ever they are (you would get a sense of generally not liking the room, the people in the room, a "general" sense of not quite fitting), so, assuming that, you should be able to convince most people of your topical validity with a conveyance of strong purpose. You can even give people who disagree with you a better understanding of your points in this manner, so long as you are somewhat subtle and nonabrasive (dont be cruel or belittling, but rather, inclusive) and actually care about them enough to care whether they understand.

    The main thing is, if you were just popping off because the drinks were flowing and the mood was getting faster paced, your feelings were leaning towards being "high", it is the harmless talk of drink and diversion, and so basicly fuck anyone who seriously judged you. But were you to MEAN to get your point across, I have little doubt that you could do so (or did so). I just doubt that you really meant to.

    Thanks again for the blog, it’s good challenging material. I am having to relearn geometry and algebra 2 now :*I so pardon my stupidity. My objection may very well come when: "the time these are brought to his attention he is too heavily invested in the theory to give it up. He hides or explains away" but, you know, if it made (and makes) you feel good, who really cares.

    HaHaHaHa. Good day Aaron, I’ve got to go start relearnin everything ever now. Thanks a lot.

  4. 4 4. Robert

    The difficulties alpha theory presents to its partygoing partisans are easy to imagine. On the other hand, you can get yourself into just as much trouble (albeit with different people) by coming on strong about who’s the greatest rock drummer of all time.

    Leaving aside the merits of, say, Stewart Copeland, hats off to you in your quest after the utilitarian grail.

    I have an intuitive feeling that the glories of post-Enlightenment western culture are very much worth defending. Sans god and utilitarianism, though, the defenses come off feeling merely heuristic and convincing no one who doesn’t want to be convinced. If alpha turns out to be a solid baseline for moral philosophy, it’s worth the suspicious looks at parties. If not, it’s worth it anyway; the current intersection of science and art is a good place to be (sez I, based only on the metric on ‘interestingness).

  5. 5 5. David Airth


    I think you put your cuticle on it when you said "But it seems to me that there is meaning, or usefulness, in the energetics that have emereged as a result of your pursuit of it." Never mind the "or not."

    I think Aaron has found his general theory in thermodynamics. One can’t go wrong there.

  6. 6 6. JvE

    Well, you know from the get go you’re going to get into trouble when you try to represent "the ethical" by an equation.

    I liked it a lot, and i don’t think (and don’t think you’d think) it’s a knock to say I disagree with the basic premise of something descriptive-also-being-prescriptive.

    But hell, there’s not buying something, and refusing to buy. I think you have a lot of people who don’t buy it, but haven’t refused to buy it – if you take my meaning.

    Maybe you could start applying the math to the real world. The map is not the territory and all that but let’s see the praxis of the thing. Might encourage more people to try the thing on.

    -keep punchin’!

  7. 7 7. Bourbaki


    Maybe you could start applying the math to the real world. The map is not the territory and all that but let’s see the praxis of the thing. Might encourage more people to try the thing on.

    Forthcoming. For now, read this.

    From the article:

    The coherence of the organism can most easily be appreciated by a recently developed noninvasive technique that allows one to see the whole organism down to the details of the molecules that make up its tissues.

    Too many equations tend to turn people off but they’re all there if you wish to investigate. It’s better to start by checking predictions against simple problems and common sense. Althought it is not advisable to rely entirely on common sense because it may depend on too many unspecified assumptions.

    Recall that there were three alpha-related properties for living systems: alphatropic, alphametric, and alphaphilic. We defined an error term, epsilon, for the alphatropic component. But it’s easy to see that such a term must also exist for how organisms calibrate alpha (alphametric) and how they behave (alphaphilic).

  8. 8 8. Bill Kaplan


    Let me see, alpha theory proposes that life is not a thing, but a number and that this number derived from the most difficult to understand abstractions of thermodynamics can inform us on anything, from what hair gel to buy to whether you can distinguish pain from a cold steel rail, by using thermodynamical equations as its polestar.

    And you say you were not "intelligent" enough to have invented it.

    Perhaps intelligence is the wrong word. A friend, who did many drugs at Yale, used to refer to this process as "mansioning".

    The theory is informative only in so far as it recognizes that free energy is needed to beat back the the effects of the second law, and that all species develop one or a number of strategies to do this through a filtration process. In other words, Darwinism with a physics twist.

    The rest is mansioning.

  9. 9 9. Scott Chaffin

    I have enjoyed the alpha series a great deal, and have even caught glimpses of glimmers of understanding. Unfortunately, my equation module was decommissioned a few years ago, unbeknownst to me. So, I keep checking back for the ‘for dummies’ version. Plus, I really like the rockin’ comment threads.

    And may I also suggest, more stuff more often? Or is this not the kind of thing that lends itself to that?

  10. 10 10. gerald

    this is a wild ride. i hope it’s not over. nothing has ever motivated me to refresh my understanding of science like this. to sit back and watch this develop. there are so many books to read!

    can i expect more?

    i admire you for trying to pull this off. just remember for all the blowback you might get at parties, there are a few people lurking in the background trying to make sense of it all.

    you can’t change the way people react to new ideas.

    it’s elegant. it’s beautiful.

  11. 11 11. Matt McIntosh

    Wait, so Bourbaki really is the mastermind here? That would explain why he’s been the one fielding all the questions… ah well, it matters not. Both of you are smarter than I am. But I’m idly curious now as to how you know eachother and how you came up with this.

    Bill’s comments above strike me as partially valid insofar as he criticizes the lack of real "meat" introduced so far. But I think he’s asking too much for the moment; alpha theory is a framework that unifies various subjects (evolution, information theory, economics, etc) into one grand program. That in itself is well worth the price of admission — such consilience is one of the goals of science, after all.

    I’m going to second the Fat Guy’s call for more stuff more often though. :)

  12. 12 12. Bourbaki

    Mr. McIntosh,

    But I’m idly curious now as to how you know each other and how you came up with this.

    Mr. Haspel and I are former colleagues. He’s a tenacious polymath and an excellent writer. I thought he’d make the perfect partner in crime for a project like this–assuming that I could convince him that the theory was plausible. He’s not shy about calling bullshit on a stupid idea. More importantly, however, he’s honest enough to not call bullshit until he knows the idea is stupid.

    I’m very grateful to him for taking the time to understand it and to present here.

    I started fumbling with the mathematical tools during graduate school to avoid real experiments–one of my experiments involved murine pancreatic cells. I had to harvest them myself.

    The quantitative tools came in handy when I switched to finance. I was surprised to see that the standard heat equation played such a prominent role.

    The Black-Scholes equation closely resembles the heat equation in physics, with an important difference: the sign of the term containing the time derivative is reversed.

    The theory itself grew out of bits and pieces of cross-disciplinary problems. Its scope expanded when I showed it to a friend who was majoring in philosophy. He actually wrote the first paper on it but met with a lot of resistance because of the math and physics.

    As an ethical theory, alpha offers an objective criterion to compare solutions to problems. Our conversations led us to conclude that the alpha maximizing path is to be preferred. That’s very different from conjuring fixed recipes to problems. In fact, alpha rejects the hard recipes of utilitarianism. The information set (the filtration) is far too large.

    I planned to submit it to a journal but it ended up being a lot of work. I went through the initial process of presenting it to colleagues at Columbia, Rockefeller, Harvard and MIT. The responses were either encouraging or hostile–but there were no flaws exposed. The generality of the theory was viewed as a handicap in academia.

    Journals are slow and expensive and the theory doesn’t neatly fit into a nice category. A blog just seemed more timely. We wanted to openly derive the theory before trying to apply it. It’s easy enough for anyone to forward the URL to their favorite scientist or mathematician.

    I’ve been applying it to arcane (and proprietary) problems.

    Mr. Haspel has a few applications queued up that should prove to be considerably more engaging–especially to the culture-bloggers. I can’t speak for him, but the collaboration has been a lot of fun for me. Several people have helped with the theory. But it sets off the crackpot meter in a big way so I suspect some of them will only step forward if it gains some traction. But at parties, people have started asking for a book.

    If the theory survives scrutiny, I’m looking forward to writing it with Mr. Haspel.

    And although tone doesn’t translate so well on a blog, hashing out the ideas here with everyone has been a blast. A former girlfriend went to law school at Yale–I plan to follow up to see if she can explain mansioning to me.

  13. 13 13. Matt McIntosh

    Thanks for indulging my nosiness. I’m like you in that I like learning about the personalities and circumstances almost as much as the theories (consequently, the Bell and Waldrop books you mentioned are now on my wishlist).

    It is a pity that broad theories like this have become casualties of the narrow specialization of different fields. Fortunately the internet gives us a half-decent proxy for peer-review, but it’s still no substitute for having people who really really know the stuff it deals with go over it with a fine-toothed comb. I’d keep shopping this around for a more qualified audience in the mean time.

    I too would buy the book.

  14. 14 14. Bill Kaplan

    So Bourbaki is Kan?

  15. 15 15. Tommy

    Let me see, alpha theory proposes that life is not a thing, but a number and that this number derived from the most difficult to understand abstractions of thermodynamics can inform us on anything, from what hair gel to buy to whether you can distinguish pain from a cold steel rail, by using thermodynamical equations as its polestar.

    What Bill? I thought it said the "meaning" of life was a number? Life is the process of being alphatropic, alphametric, and alphaphilic contrasted to epsilon. Or am I backwards, and life is a number and its meaning is that it is a number? Answer please Bill.

  16. 16 16. Bill Kaplan


    "Seek to maximize free energy, Grasshopper." That is what it all boils down to.

    Now for your questions. Life,the meaning of life, the number of imaginary bald men hiding behind your imaginary closet doors are all acceptable answers. And none of them are. You see alpha is this number that LACKS REFERENCE UNITS. It is not a number of anything, it is just a number. And although the number refers to nothing at all as well as everything in the universe, we know that bigger is better. And if we fail to maximize this number and screw up (epsilon), well that is a bad thing.


    It just struck me, one of the underlying assumptions of alpha theory is that existence exists and that proper modeling of reality is helpful in maximizing alpha. But what if that is wrong? What if, sometimes, IMPROPER MODELING increases alpha?

    I submit for your examination the catechism of America. "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…pursuit of happiness". How many lies, half-truths and errors are there? The "truths" are neither true nor self-evident. There probably isn’t a Creator. Rights are always alienable. You get my point.

    But isn’t America an alpha creation machine? The catechism is wrong, but the results are inarguable. America rocks. It is founded on lies. They are lovely lies, wonderful lies, lies that that for the first time in history showed the world the way to live like human beings. These lies create happiness, create wealth, create hope, not just for us, but as lamp unto the world.

    But they are lies.

    I am reminded of the brilliant South Park episode where the beliefs of the Mormons are dissected. Every time a story from the Book of Mormon is recounted, a chorus sings "dum-de-dum-dum-dum". By the end, the foul-mouthed South Park boys confront their Mormon counterpart with the sheer silliness of the religion. The boy responds that he knows, but that he has a happy family who loves him and that the faith creates great people. So he tells Cartman and the rest to screw off.

    Alpha theory holds as a fundamental assumption that truth is good. Doubtful.

  17. 17 17. Tatyana

    I can assure you only that I ardently desire to be delivered from my dementia. It would do wonders for my social life.

    "New Yorkers suspect that we may be too smart for our own good. It is a form of self-flattery as self-criticism"
    (from here, and the rest of the article doesn’t apply)

  18. 18 18. Matt McIntosh


    People can increase alpha without realizing they’re doing it. No universal strong solutions, etc. In some circumstances, useful fictions can be alphatropic. But it’s important to note that it’s not these fictions themselves that are the useful part; it’s what they get people to do that’s the important bit. We can just as easily justify all the good stuff like free speech, private property and divided government without any of those dubious bits of shaky reasoning, and probably improve on it as well. Knowing the truth is not always and everywhere alphatropic, but it is so often enough to follow the general rule that good modelling is better than bad modelling.

  19. 19 19. Bourbaki

    Mr. Kaplan,

    this number derived from the most difficult to understand abstractions of thermodynamics

    It took Kepler years crunching numbers to come up with three laws to describe orbits.

    "Seek to maximize free energy, Grasshopper." That is what it all boils down to.


    alpha : dimensionless
    free energy: joules
    alpha != free energy

    You see alpha is this number that LACKS REFERENCE UNITS.

    This is a good thing. Are you familiar with how dimensionless parameters are used in physics?

    What if, sometimes, IMPROPER MODELING increases alpha?

    Then your original model was wrong. So what?

    Alpha theory holds as a fundamental assumption that truth is good.

    Where is that stated in the derivation? Only alpha is asserted as "good". You’re selling another universal strong solution. I thought they all met Kenny’s fate.

  20. 20 20. Jim Valliant


    Not only is Matt right, but people can also be screwed up about some things and be "on to something" with regard to others, e.g., the Mormons. The fact that they are mystics, doesn’t preclude them from having some good–and true–ethical points. If I may be so bold, it’s only the true points that cause them to flourish, not the mystical ones. The American "catechism" is also on to something big. While rights can be violated, they are built-in properties because of our present configuration. The authors knew all about, and were delineating, the various ways rights can and have been violated. Same with equality. They knew quite well that men differed in every way that can be measured, but they were asserting, in the face of that, that the existence of "rights" pertains to them all in precisely the same way.

    As to "self-evident"–this was just wrong. Jefferson had originally written, "sacred and undeniable," I believe–perfectly true. I believe it was Franklin who wanted to put it in the face of Europe, as it were, with that jab (and, purge the religious taint he saw in "sacred," which I do not.)

    But until and unless your fantasy world–or anyone else’s–actually pertians to this one, whether rationally or accidentally, the principles derived thereby can result only in disaster

  21. 21 21. Tommy

    Lies are not lies if they are believed.

  22. 22 22. Matt McIntosh

    Micha Ghertner (who is also smarter than I am) wrote a good post on this topic a while ago.

  23. 23 23. David Fiore

    ah Parrington!

    he IS great (especially the middle volume on the "romantic revolution")…but he also doesn’t have a clue what he’s talking about!

    I’m a die-hard particularist Aaron, and no, you haven’t brought me over to the side of truth and keys to all reality (any more than Parrington proved to me that all American thinkers have either been Jeffersonians or Hamiltonians–but watching him attempting to affix these labels on people like Emerson and Hawthorne is goddamned amusing!)

    Still…I’ve enjoyed this macrotheoretical outburst…and, judging by the fact that you’ve emerged from it with your sense of humour intact, I’d say your social life will be just fine!

    but couldn’t we go back to arguing about Yvor Winters, just for a little while?


  24. 24 24. Matt McIntosh


    I can’t speak for Tommy, but I think his point was either 1) that it’s not lying if you believe your own false statements, it’s just error, or possibly 2) that there are certain classes of statements which are true because everyone believes them to be true (that dollar bills are worth something, for example).

  25. 25 25. Jim Valliant


    If that is what he meant, I stand corrected with my apologies.

  26. 26 26. gerald

    why is there anyone left to argue for the divine given its obscene history? the founding principles of this country were a way out from those odious lies.

    those divine fantasies have been a meat-grinder for millions of lives for centuries. for what? to be in this group and not that group? that group is murdered so let’s split up and fight over finer details of this god’s plan while we wait around for him to show up?

    recipe for greatness? sorry. it just doesn’t add up for me. wanna show me your math? the ideals we cherish make it possible to build a more solid foundation of TRUTH rather than indulge in yet another layer of lies.

    we can’t delude ourselves with prizes and wealth to put enough lipstick on that pig.

    people need to believe something. but wouldn’t it be better if that belief was NOT built on provincial fantasy predicated on ignorance? i mean, faith?

    isn’t the freedom to challenge ideas worth exercising? didn’t the greeks cherish comfort so they could think rather than simply react?

    aaron was bold to lay it out all out on the table like this.

    lay your ideas next to his and see how far you get. ANYONE may freely verify alpha. but to take this ride, you have to crack open your skull and, for once, flip the switch to ON and learn how the universe works.

    "oh no: we are all extraordinary."

    we are. it’s a big universe.

    put me down for a copy of that book.

  27. 27 27. Jim Valliant


    If no one’s around to hear that tree called reality fall, then lies are the truth? I don’t know about you, but when I discover that I had been wrong about something, I am no longer satisfied with my previous condition, however ignorantly blissful the state of mind had been. Moreover, I find that I am more powerful–my filtration improved, my tools refined. There must be this crazy little thing called "reality" out there cascading, churning and throbbing according to the laws of physics, whether I had ever realized it or not. If I had reason to know this and ignored it, and if I spread then the opposite idea, it would be a lie, Tommy. It would be a lie no matter how many chumps I got to believe it.

  28. 28 28. Bill Kaplan


    It may have taken Kepler three years, but it took Hawking 25 to deal with the second law and its implications in black holes. These are difficult concepts.

    Your exposition of alpha in three equations is true enough, but how do you increase the dimensionless number? Would it be by, um, increasing free energy?

    As for the dimensionless Navier-Stokes equations, I now see why you think this is good. It is the same reason you thought Godel applies to everything. Those equations are meant to equate two similar systems. What they do not do is equate everything with everything else. It is a case of overreach.

    Alpha theory assumes truth is good by the filtration process. This process is performed naturally in the life experience of unthinking beasts who prosper to the extent of conformance with reality. I have given a case where a country excels because or in spite of non-conformance with reality. What does this say about filtration for creatures with volition?

  29. 29 29. Aaron Haspel

    Bill: One might increase alpha by, um, "increasing the free energy" (enthalpy is what you mean, not quite the same thing), and one might also increase it by, um, reducing positive entropy, i.e., by processing the available energy more efficiently. These are two distinct strategies, and alpha theory can most certainly not be boiled down into "maximize free energy." In fact I don’t think alpha can be boiled down any further than I already have here. A theory of everything in 10,000 words or less strikes me as pretty terse.

    As for filtrations, obviously the more accurate they are, the better you do. In this sense alpha theory values conformation with reality, though not truth, in and of itself, as some abstract good. Alpha theory suggests that America succeeds insofar as American laws, values, and traditions model reality accurately. This is not a revolutionary proposition I suspect you believe it yourself and pointing out a few falsehoods in the Preamble to the Constitution scarcely suffices to refute it.

    I will let Bourbaki speak for himself, as I have no doubt he will, about your misapprehensions of Gdel and Navier-Stokes.

  30. 30 30. Aaron's sister

    Dear Aaron,

    It warms the cockles of my heart to see all your blog readers encouraging you in your alpha preoccupation. I will remind you that its easy for them youre not (I assume) at most of their parties.

    Like all your enlightened readers, I come down on the side of intellectual investigation, particularly of a theory that, if correct, explains pretty much everything. But couldnt you mix it up, just for an evening, with a little current events, or literature, or music, or politics? Wait strike that last one.

    I think its possible to be an indefatigable alpha enthusiast and an entertaining dinner guest. If you think you want to give it a try, Ill arrange another dinner party. Ill even make that venison again.

  31. 31 31. Aaron Haspel

    I will happily eat your chow any time you say. You need only unmuzzle me at the table.

    Literature will again be discussed here, novels and poetry both, and soon, but I have to get off my lazy ass and finish the writing.

  32. 32 32. Bill Kaplan

    Aaron and Bourbaki,

    Just a simple question about alpha theory: What are its formally undecidable propositions?

  33. 33 33. Bourbaki

    Mr. Kaplan,

    Your exposition of alpha in three equations is true enough […]

    This is progress.

    Especially in light of your (warranted) initial reaction. We can now consider application with more confidence.

    [Paging Mr. Haspel…]

    If we make errors, we can look for them at a higher level rather than in the foundations of the theory. The foundations of alpha theory are very abstract. What lies outside thermodynamics and information theory?

    As you pointed out, it even applies to black holes.

    But characterization is not reality. A perfect model of a hurricane is still not a hurricane.

    Mr. Haspel is right–you can’t distill the ideas any further using currently available tools. Truth, beauty, freedom, free energy or angular momentum can all be alphatropic. But you can not swap in proxies for alpha and pursue them as if they were equivalent.

    For example, if I were in an accident and a paramedic told me that my leg was fine to prevent me from going into shock long enough to stitch up my gaping stump, that "lie" would be good. Here comes that F@t-1 again.

    You’ve interweaved cold fusion, Noether, Navier-Stokes and Godel but without explaining the substance of your argument.

    I don’t think we’ll clarify things by trotting out fiber bundles and differential forms. Obfuscation is not skepticism.

    Just a simple question about alpha theory: What are its formally undecidable propositions?

    It’s an empirical theory. You don’t decide empirical principles. Thanks to the first law, you only need accounting. Arithmetic was proven consistent by Gerhard Gentzen using transfinite induction.

  34. 34 34. Bill Kaplan


    So alpha theory, being an empirical theory, recognizes the difference between empirical and logical truth, between the a priori and the a posteriori?

  35. 35 35. Jim Valliant


    More information, all other things being equal, is alphatropic. A "lie" can only be "alphatropic" within a delimited context. And, then, the inertia of established belief makes the lie, eventually, a problem too.


    H.H. (sis),

    Yeah, I can see Emily and Yvor impatiently tapping their feet in heaven (iambically, of course) with all of this!

  36. 36 36. Tommy

    I would say, for anyone who doubts that a will to be believe is an ingredient of truth, to read Noam Chomsky, Derrida, and Boris Sidis. Anyone who wants to argue that truth is what exists (or is) is only seeing part of the equation. Lies also exist, and they exist, most often, as truths. Truth, on the other hand, can exist as a lie. Here is how: existence and reality is a composite whole, not an individual interpretation. Sorry, but turning calculus into nonequilibrium thermodynamics has made me grouchy, and I have had to sacrifice video games :(

    Suggestion: to be an interesting Dinner Guest avoid being the center of attention for several moments, watch how the social nebulas develop, and then engage the people with the most social gravity in something that will both challenge and encourage them.

    Good luck. By the way, I’m with Aaron, "maximize free energy" isn’t alpha theory, that is some stupid strong solution you derived. Alpha theory tells WHAT WE DO and WHY WE DO IT, and that CAN potentially inform what TO do.

  37. 37 37. Matt McIntosh

    No objections here, Jim. Falsehoods are alphatropic in very narrow circumstances, but generally speaking we get better results by getting as close as we can to the truth.

    Tommy – Truth is simply correspondence to the facts. That’s all. I have no patience for Derrida’s turgid obscurantism. Read Tarski instead.

  38. 38 38. Tommy

    Matt: perhaps lacking patience is alphatropic, certainly it is an imperative of your actionable pathing and is a component of your boundaries and limits. But, I am not here to debate taste. If you can explain to me nonequilibrium thermodynamics, oh, and how such is able to be counted on to model something as complex as a universe, man, I will give up Derrida and go read Tarski. Until then, I will still be slowly going mad. Hooray.

  39. 39 39. Bourbaki


    You’re charging yourself with a big task. Pre-calculus to stochastic calculus is a trip typically measured in years.

    Learning how to do science is not unlike learning to play an instrument. It takes time and patience and lots of practice.

    There are some decent references online but you’d be better served by finding someone who can teach you in person.

    Finally, it helps to listen to lots of music. There are excellent biographies and histories of these fields.

    What are you reading?

  40. 40 40. Tommy

    The more I read about science and math and the brain the more I realize how much of an attempt it all is to explain the same thing. I cannot quite express this yet, but I am begining to feel like much of what someone says one way is EXACTLY what another person said his way, and that the differences in understanding are not so much neccessary as they are neccessarily understood. Also, I have been lazy as of late, chasing tail. Music is great, I am a rapper of quite fantastic skill. Emergence: John Henry Holland. Great book. Noam Chomsky 9/11 and The Umbrella of US Power, also, Understanding Noam Chomsky, to go along with my online readings of his linguistic theories. Also, a book called The Big Bang. Naked, by David Sedaris. Wigfeild by Amy Sedaris Stephen Colbert and Paul Dinello. On the Shoulders of Giants: Stephen Hawking. I think if I spent as much time specializing as I do combining, I would get through the math in a matter of weeks/months depending on which part we are talking about. Fermi writes with a clarity that is refreshing about math that is really hard, and I am not going from Pre-Calc, I have had to learn Algebra and Geometry over as well. So slow going. I am also reading the "sequel" to the Elegant Universe, the name of which has slipped my seroquel raddled wits.

    What are you reading? Did that universal consciousness book do it for you?

  41. 41 41. Bill Kaplan

    There is at least one strong solution — NO SLAVERY. To the extent that alpha theory advocates slavery over a non-slave owning solution because alpha is higher, then alpha theory is wrong and immoral, period. It is the achilles heel of all consequentialist theory.

  42. 42 42. Jim Valliant

    Not quite all, Bill. Do I really have to remind you…? Doesn’t your issue for the consequentialist depend upon his epistemological position on "strong solutions"?

    This problem has already been stumbled over repeatedly, and the answers–inevitably–have been inadequate, that is, FOR A SYSTEM OF ETHICS. Strong solutions are held and used every day. But, really, this is not alpha’s problem at all, unless–as is unfortunately insisted–this is a complete system of morality. For all of its glories and accomplishments, alpha can never be that.

  43. 43 43. Bourbaki

    Mr. Kaplan,

    To the extent that alpha theory advocates slavery over a non-slave owning solution because alpha is higher, then alpha theory is wrong and immoral, period.

    Would you like to demonstrate how slavery would maximize alpha? Do you think a society would be more or less adaptive with a significant portion of its brainpower shackled to their masters?

    How did you choose slavery as opposed to, say, murder? How about nuclear self-destruction?


    I’m reading Kandel’s book (Chapter 12 of 62) and started Edelman (Chapter 3) but haven’t read enough to post anything yet. So far, so good.

  44. 44 44. Jim Valliant


    Take note of the (typical) manner of evasion here: the intensely strong demand for YOU to demonstrate alpha’s strong assertion (and one that you actually deny, no less!) about there being no strong solutions.

  45. 45 45. Bourbaki

    Mr. Valliant,

    The case against slavery has already been made. It is both a consequence of the derivation (an information/adaptive problem) and also supported by the works cited by other readers. See Hayek and Mr. Kaplan’s own recommendation for Axelrod.

    It’s not an attempt at evasion but, rather, an attempt to encourage people to work out the solutions for themselves so that the underlying principles become clearer.

    No one said that there are "no strong solutions".

    That statement is absurd.

    There are no universal strong solutions.

    You’ve mentioned contextual certainty. A universal strong solution would be a response independent of all conceivable context.

    Though the heavens may fall.

    In other words, even if a new context arose in which adherence to this universal strong solution would destroy all life, you would continue to abide by it.

    Mr. McIntosh’s recommendation of Micha Gertner (above) is worth a read.

  46. 46 46. Bill Kaplan


    I chose slavery because it is a system, rather than an act, which can be justified by its proponents as enriching the general welfare. That assertion, however correct, has no bearing on the morality of the issue. Accordingly, in slavery I find the broadest gulf between the "ethics" of alpha and morality in the ordinary sense. The issue creates a universal strong solution.

    Jim has it exactly right.

  47. 47 47. Bourbaki

    I chose slavery because it is a system, rather than an act, which can be justified by its proponents as enriching the general welfare.

    Anything can be justified by its proponents. That’s the game played by traditional ethical systems.

    I’d like to see your justification in alpha terms. You’ve got a nasty epsilon problem on your hands.

    The issue creates a universal strong solution.

    According to your statement, the institutionalized exploitation of one group by another is the most alphatropic arrangement of a society.

    You have it exactly wrong.

  48. 48 48. Bill Kaplan


    Under your system, it matters what imputs you use to argue the casae for or against slavery. In my view, it doesn’t matter what imputs are used.

  49. 49 49. Bourbaki

    So you’re an advocate for slavery because the Bible says it’s ok? After all, there’s no commandment against it and Leviticus is practically an owner’s manual for human chattle.

    Or is slavery wrong because the prevailing moral force of will of its opponents happened to be stronger than its proponents?

    No inputs? Are you using divine revelation?

    We clearly did not do a good job explaining strong and weak solutions. This is something that must be addressed.

    Stating that no strong solution is optimal all of the time is not equivalent to asserting that all strong solutions are optimal some of the time.

    You should bust out your Venn diagrams.

  50. 50 50. Jim Valliant

    Why do I do this? Gluttony for self-abuse?

    In any event, the specific factual context is what defines the "universe" for our "universal strong solutions."

    "No slavery" requires only one contextual specification I can see: that the context is human beings. Ants and bees are excluded. Only the rational animal needs political freedom and only because of the precision of this context–"rationality" cannot function by force. Or, put the other way, freedom maximizes the use of human intelligence.

    It’s not just politics, either–this context–HUMAN BEINGS–defines the "universe" to which ALL of ethics–all of my normative, universal strong solutions–pertain.

    Ethics is a senseless proposition for the non-human, as I have repeatedly insisted. However, the context of human needs–our present configuration–creates the much more delimited context in which we can generate such strong solutions, such as the rational prohibition against slavery.

  51. 51 51. Jim Valliant

    As to the verbal trickery: it is for YOU, Bourbaki, to show that a prohibition against slavery is not a "universal strong solution," since you say that there is no such thing, especially when your opponent denies this very point. It was Bill who started by saying that slavery is always wrong. You cannot then demand that HE prove YOUR assertion. Until YOU can show some exceptions to the "no slavery" rule, universal strong solutions appear to exist.

  52. 52 52. Bourbaki

    In any event, the specific factual context is what defines the "universe" for our "universal strong solutions."

    Nope. "universal strong solution" has a precise meaning. It’s all openly derived. Re-read Part 5:

    A strong solution is any specified trajectory for a random process. […]
    Sooner rather than later, he must risk a strong solution. He must chart a course: he must act. […] To succeed he must eliminate paths that violate known constraints; a path to riches, for instance, that requires the casino to offer an unlimited line of credit is more likely a path to the poorhouse.

    Eliminating deletrious trajectories does not itself yield a strong solution. But it will certainly improve the odds.

  53. 53 53. Aaron Haspel

    To begin with, I hope by now that everyone can understand the fundamental difference between "Never do x" and "Always do x." "Don’t enslave people" is not a strong solution of any kind.

    That said, I am enjoying this belated outburst of natural rights reasoning. No inputs! 100% fact-free! Bill Kaplan may find, upon reflection, that he considers a great many more inputs than he thinks, besides the obvious one that Jim mentioned. Slavery, I suspect, is just fine by him, provided:

    1. The enslaved party hasn’t reached his majority.
    2. The enslaved party is "capable of making his own decisions," as determined by a court. I’m guessing that hopeless mental defectives don’t count.
    3. The enslaved party isn’t carrying some deadly contagious disease. Or perhaps he would prefer not to quarantine Typhoid Mary.

    There may be other exceptions; that’s off the top of my head. One could counter by saying that these cases aren’t slavery; I have discussed this line of reasoning before. How do we know they aren’t slavery? Because they aren’t wrong, and slavery is always wrong! This gets you nowhere.

    Ludwig von Mises, in Human Action, had the last word about anti-consequentialist ethics: "The historical role of the theory of the division of labor as elaborated by British political economy from Hume to Ricardo consisted in the complete demolition of all metaphysical doctrines concerning the origin and the operation of social cooperation. It consummated the spiritual, moral and intellectual emancipation of mankind inaugurated by the philosophy of Epicureanism. It substituted an autonomous rational morality for the heteronomous and intuitionist ethics of older days. Law and legality, the moral code and social institutions are no longer revered as unfathomable decrees of Heaven. They are of human origin, and the only yardstick that must be applied to them is that of expediency with regard to human welfare. The utilitarian economist does not say: Fiat justitia, pereat mundus. He says: Fiat justitia, ne pereat mundus."

    Not "Let justice be done though the sky may fall" but "Let justice be done so the sky doesn’t fall.” Me, I’m for the sky not falling.

  54. 54 54. Jim Valliant

    It’s always so charming to see the forehead veins burst right on cue…maybe that’s why I do this, after all!


    Your silly "correction" is just another round of B.S., isn’t it? What on earth made you think I was talking about alpha? I was clearly leaving THAT context–there is other knowledge outside of alpha, right? Alpha is NOT ethics, you see, and I must repair to other knowledge to even get a grip on it. Keep thinking, you’ll get it one day. But to do so you must abandon the need to play verbal games. Universal strong solutions are not possible within alpha… o.k., we get it. Thus, MY universal strong solutions will step outside of your silly "definitions." Get it? Now, think about what I said. You started using MY language, dude, e.g. "context." By using it, you are entering the domain of something other than alpha. It’s o.k., you can do it. Just stay calm. No need to import foreign matter, though. In that "context," it’s pollution.


    What "gets you somewhere" is to see that the "no slavery" dictum is a only the negative form of a rather positive prescription. It is this negative/positive dualism that you need to abandon. No "avoidance" of something–a negative rule–can be understood outside of the context of what I seek to obtain–the positive rule. Guardianship is NOT slavery, and the difference in the law makes this painfully obvious to all except those who did not grasp the prohibition against slavery in the first instance. Indeed, we HAVE guardianships and the legal status of minority for precisely the SAME reason that we forbid slavery. Parents and guardians are strictly forbidden from treating their wards as slaves. They canot be simply commanded, except in delimited circumstances designed for the benefit of the ward (!!), they cannot be sold or bought, they canot be killed, they have legal rights, the court can intervene in order to end any slave-like treatment of these wards, etc., etc. Indeed, to confuse these two states is to destroy the very meaning of "guardianship" in a free society. "Some slavery" is intolerable–always and forever–when it’s people we are talking about.

    To the positive: Freedom is a condition for the operation of reason. Reason is the tool of survival for human beings. You can start getting the rest from there, I am confident…

    "Avoid poison" is the negative form of a positive moral truth about proper nutrition. It cannot be understood–in context–until the positive side is reached. My patience wears thin with repeated repititions. But isn’t ALL of this a giant retreading?

    To attack more staw-men is not to provide a very convincing response.

  55. 55 55. Bourbaki

    Now consider Mr. Valliant’s claim:

    Or, put the other way, freedom maximizes the use of human intelligence.

    Freedom and intelligence are hardly well-defined terms.

    Loan Shark: Hey, Bourbaki, how do you plan to pay me back?

    Bourbaki: I’m going to Vegas and I’m not going to use a Martingale betting strategy! And I’m not going to pay a lot for this muffler!

    Loan Shark: That’s your solution to our little problem?

    Bourbaki: Yes’m. I figured it out by reading all these math books.

    (Loan Shark breaks Bourbaki’s legs)

    What is POW labor when it is forcibly used to repair infrastructure and to provide assistance to the local civilian population?

    Since the war had drawn most of the nation’s young men overseas, the War Department authorized a major program to allow labor-starved farmers to utilize the POWs.

    American soldiers were mustered out of the military quickly and efficiently, but President Harry Truman decided that a labor shortage existed in the United States and that the POWs should remain in this country until the labor shortage was over. Some POWs did not get home to Germany until mid-1946. They had been in the Mississippi camps almost three years.

    In a strange way the camps saved their lives. Unlike many other German soldiers who were killed in the war, these POWs survived. When they entered the Mississippi camps, their war was over.

    What if the war lasted longer? The local population should starve rather than force the POWs to till their fields?

  56. 56 56. Matt McIntosh

    Oh for crying out loud. Bill, flatly asserting that slavery is evil is all well and good if you’re delivering a political speech for popular consumption, but doesn’t quite cut it in serious moral reasoning. You have to explain why the consequences of slavery are undesirable. Here, let me do it for you: slavery is bad because it’s a grossly inefficient (high epsilon) form of the division of labour; it’s a poor strategy for alpha maximization because we tend to get greater efficiency when people are free to make their own decisions based on their own knowledge and the resources at hand.

    This is all within the context of a society of (mostly) rational actors who (mostly) play by a common set of rules of conduct, of course. One could certainly dream up hypothetical contexts where some form of coercion/slavery could be alphatropic — like the everyday examples Aaron listed off, or perhaps something more outlandish like being stranded on an island with cannibals who would like to enjoy my liver with some fava beans, where I use a gun to force them to build me a raft so I can escape and not be eaten. So no, slavery/coercion is only wrong (or right) dependent on the context. (Unless of course you define "slavery" so narrowly as to pack the context into the term, in which case you’re just playing word games.)

    I think Jim is right that any negative universal rule can also be expressed as a positive rule (e.g. "never murder" is isomorphic with "always act in such a way that others will not be killed by you"). This is analogous to the laws of physics: the second law of thermodynamics can be stated as "energy spontaneously tends to flow only from being concentrated in one place to becoming diffused or dispersed" (positive form) or it can be stated as "you cannot create a perpetual motion machine" (negative form).

    But I don’t think this matters, because this isn’t what Aaron is talking about. Postive vs. negative is misleading; he’s talking about strong vs. weak solutions. Strong solutions are courses of action that aim at a specific result, such as "drive to the store to buy milk". Weak solutions simply eliminate a course of action without any specific end result in mind, like "don’t turn left on a red light". Is that a little clearer?

  57. 57 57. Jim Valliant


    You always bring good sense to these discussions, but my reasons for opposing slavery are different. My view of ethics as such is still outside of alpha. But I will not flog that dead horse any more…


    I expected a better grasp of Rand from you. What are you claiming that Rand said? Most folks are miserable because they lack a rational ethics? I have never read that in Rand… indeed, she said something quite different, did she not? You’re almost as bad as Aaron in this regard. Geesh!!

    Since one apparently cannot use terms Bourbaki thinks have been poorly defined–however limited his experience with the definitions in question, or however ignorant of MY (or Rand’s, of which he obviously has no clue) definitions, he is, it seems once again that rational discourse is not possible in this forum, outside of his narrow information set. In any event, enjoy your trip.

  58. 58 58. Matt McIntosh


    Thank you. If I may flog the horse a bit myself: you don’t justify your ethics using alpha, which is fine. But that doesn’t mean that your ethics is "outside alpha" because alpha describes everything a living entity can do. It’s possible to have multiple justifications for the same ethical rule, but they both accomplish the same thing. We just have to keep the difference between 59 59. Jim Valliant


    I stand corrected and my comments so qualified. I concede that in an important sense, all ethics is alpha–especially mine. (See how much good sense you always bring!)

  59. 60 60. Jim Valliant


  60. 61 61. Matt McIntosh

    Thanks again Jim, you flatter me. Few things frustrate me more than watching smart people talk past one another, so I’m happy to be of service in getting everyone on more or less the same page.

    Now we just need to light a fire under Aaron… :)

  61. 62 62. tommy

    Slavery lead to the pyramids. I love it.

  62. 63 63. Jim Valliant

    I’ll construct my own–much smaller, but more personally satisying–pyramids of my own, thanks.

  63. 64 64. MeTooThen


    I take a brief leave and there’s a breakout of posts.



    Venn Diagrams!

    I love them!


    One of my favorite teaching slides is a Venn Diagram (The Universe of Suffering).

    Also, I am pleased to read that you are working on the Edelman. I am thinking of paying a visit to La Jolla, CA to see if they need an unpaid research assistant.

    As an aside, I finished the Hayek and am now on to this: We Hold These Truths, by Mortimer J. Adler. I am finding this to be a very interesting and worthwhile book (hell, you can get a copy for a dollar!).

    There is much alpha theory out there.


    Learning the calculus on your own is hard. I can’t remember any of my 13 hours of college calculus.

    I just read this, Five Equations that Changed the World. You might like it. Or not.

    BTW, confession. I never really learned geometry.

    Does anyone have a recommendation for a geometry text?

  64. 65 65. Bourbaki


    Apologies for the slow reply. I’ve been reading Edelman alongside Kandel. In addition to brushing up on molecular biology, I need to acquaint myself with brain physiology. I didn’t see too much of it while working in artificial organs.

    There are reassuring parallels between alpha theory and Edelman’s approach:

    "The difference between the sum of the entropies of all individual components (x_i) considered independently and the entropy of the system X considered as a whole is called the integration I(X) of the system X:

    I(X) = EH(x_i) – H(X)

    where E = Sum (Sigma)

    Thus, integration measures the loss of entropy that is due to the interactions among its elements. The stronger the interactions among the elements of an isolated system, the greater their overall statistical dependence and the higher their integration.

    Note that the integration can be calculated not just for the entire system, but for any of its subsets."

    Edelman, "A Universe of Consciousness", pp 121-122

    But I’m wary of assuming too much until I’m more comfortable with the material in Kandel.

    Edelman was an excellent recommendation. Thanks, again.

    In the meantime, you should check out Dunham’s "A Journey Through Genius" for an introduction to geometry. Although geometry is covered in only five chapters, Dunham presents an engaging story with good bibliographic references that you can use to continue your studies.

    Dover Publishing has a reasonably priced collection of Euclid’s work.

  65. 66 66. MeTooThen


    Thank you for the kind reply.

    I thought you would like the Edelman.

    The chapters on integration and entropy (leading to an explanation of the "dynamic core") are helped with the useful diagrams.

    Speaking of diagrams, I have started the short, but colorful Cogwheels of the Mind: The Story of Venn Diagrams. So far, it is an interesting and enjoyable monograph.

    As noted before, after the Hayek, I read Adler’s We Hold These Truths, and now I am reading Richard B. Morris’ Witnesses at the Creation: Hamilton, Madison, Jay, and the Constitution. It’s about the authors of The Federalist and their work toward the ratification of the Constitution. It’s worth a look.

    And lastly this, more with regard to Hayek and Edelman.

    Funny, this.


  66. 67 67. Tommy

    More interesting than MeTooThen hehe:

    "The entropy is the measure of the number of internal states (ways it could be configured on the inside) that the black hole could have without looking any different to an outside observer, who can only observe its mass, rotation, and charge. The black hole entropy… equals the area of the horizon of the black hole: there is one bit of information about the internal state of the black hole for each fundamental unit of area of the horizon. This shows that there is a deep connection between quantum gravity and thermodynamics" which is the science of heat (and includes, obviously, the study of entropy).

    "The realization that the surface area of the horizon surrounding a black hole measures the black hole’s entropy has lead people to advocate that the maximum entropy of any closed region of space can never exceed a quarter of the area of the circumscribing surface. Since entropy is nothing more than the measure of the total information contained in a system, this suggests that the information associated with all phenomena in the three dimensional world can be stored on its two dimensional boundary, like a holographic image. In a certain sense the world would be two dimensional."

    Also: "A scientific theory is a mathematical model that describes and codifies the observations we make. A good theory will explain a large range of phenomena on the basis of a few simple postulates and will make definite predictions that can be tested."

    I donate a dollar on the new lab. Anyone know any Harvard profs? You guys are all ivy grads, what are you doing to get this thing movin?

  67. 68 68. Tommy

    This is a quote from Aaron at the start. If we cannot reconcile this then all else that follows is to some degree undermined.

    All events are measurable, at least in theory. We need only to be able to measure each thermodynamic consequence, and add them all up… Vast quantities of ink have been spilled in attempts to explain entropy, but really it is nothing more than the measure of this tendency of energy to disperse.

    It blew my mind to find that entropy was not only "a measure of the disorder of a physical system" but also "the number of different microscopic configurations of a system that leave its macroscopic appearance unchanged". Damn.

    Also, I found a great definition for all thermodynamics: the study of the relationship between energy, work, heat, and entropy in a dynamical physical system.

    Where dynamics mean "a branch of mechanics that deals with forces and their relation primarily to the motion but sometimes also to the equilibrium of bodies"

    Where mechanics means "a branch of physical science that deals with energy and forces and their effect on bodies"

    And force means "an agency or influence that if applied to a free body results chiefly in an acceleration of the body and sometimes in elastic deformation and other effects b : any of the natural influences (as electromagnetism, gravity, the strong force, and the weak force) that exist especially between particles and determine the structure of the universe"

    So is alpha theory a theory that measures heat’s relationship to force as it relates to motion and equilibrium in physical systems that therefore determines the degree of emergence of complexity? Does Alpha Theory then state that such emergence is positive, because a higher complexity and rate of information exchange increases or benefits the life of man? Is this absolute?

    Does Alpha Theory assert that framing our actions in such a fashion as to benefit the incremental increase in emergence is the commensurate consequence of action that links all forms of life by stating that all life should be striving to do this?

    And, if that is so, doesn’t this actually bias life to the standards of humans because of our increased consciousness? And is it true that increased complexity ALWAYS yields greater consciousness and awareness in lifeforms, or that it simply has a tendency to over a period of evolutionary years?

    And if that is the case, isn’t this actually simply all about language, about a lifeforms ability to make language? Does not both language contain the consciousness and consciousness contain the language.

    And, lastly, since I am clearly smarter than almost everyone ever (hehe) and can rely on the benefit of all the consciousness that has recorded its observations and impressions and beliefs and dreams and hopes and fears before me, does this mean that I have a greater complexity than a child that is not as conscious as me, or that I am more complex than them because I am more conscious?

    If that is not the case, then what benefit is actually gleaned from understanding alpha theory?

    Also, I was under the impression that children were actually more complex neurally (and metabolically?) than adults, but I never had an education past 10th grade so I never learned biology, let alone Neuroscience. And wouldn’t it actually be measured via molecular biology, or is that not where the complexity of life is first witnessed?

    I have read 4.5 books in 6 days and I just needed to kind of reboot my brain and get some thoughts out. If anyone can offer me answers to each question, or can answer one that came first in such a way that it makes it clear how it relates to the ones after, I would really appreciate it. Clearly, I have fallen a few steps behind.

  68. 69 69. Tommy

    Sorry, one more question, this one for Jim. Does the increase in complexity that yeilds greater consciousness actually increase the moral imperitive? Does the increase in consciousness actually simplify one’s ethical relaionships, if for no other reason than that our abilities to be aware of more people and types of people (and animals) would be greater? Does this increase in consciousness actually make you LESS LIKELY to develop a system of ethics that will appeal to most people, because they will surely, in a strictly mathematical sense, lack the consciousness that you have (having already established that you had a greater consciousness)?

    And lastly, is intelligence simply bounded by our consciousness, or is intelligence bounded by our language and language bounded by consciousness? Or is it none of that?

  69. 70 70. MeTooThen


    Hey, I’m learning Geometry!

    Journey Through Genius: The Great Theorems of Mathematics


    While I was waiting for the book to arrive, I started this:

    The Fabric of the Cosmos: Space, Time, and the Texture of Reality

    The book received mixed reviews at Amazon, but I am really enjoying it.

    It’s a history of, well, everything, from Newton, to Einstein, to Boltzmann, and then string theory and beyond. It is the best book I’ve read at explaining special and general relativity, spacetime, gravity, entangled space, the Big Bang, and the failure to find a unifying theory.

    Lastly, I also started this:

    The Philosophy of Set Theory : An Historical Introduction to Cantor’s Paradise

    Different, and interesting. The author explores the question as to whether Cantor "invented" transfinite numbers or "discovered" them. Different.

  70. 71 71. Tommy

    Thanks for the answers.

  71. 72 72. dpb

    The end of the posting says "I want to make it perfectly clear that, although I have written about alpha theory for several months now, I did not invent it. I am not nearly intelligent enough to have invented it." But in a number of places it looks as though Aaron is referring to alpha theory as his own. I’d like to suggest that these passages be rewritten so as not to confuse readers.

  72. 73 73. Aaron Haspel


    If you were Bourbaki’s intellectual property lawyer, you would know that every post on alpha theory was extensively revised by both of us and meets with his complete approval. But you’re not. So what’s eating you anyway?

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