Author Archives: Wyrd Smythe

About Wyrd Smythe

The canonical fool on the hill watching the sunset and the rotation of the planet and thinking what he imagines are large thoughts.

Interpreting AND as OR

Previously, I wrote that I’m skeptical of interpretation as an analytic tool. In physical reality, generally speaking, I think there is a single correct interpretation (more of a true account than an interpretation). Every other interpretation is a fiction, usually made obvious by complexity and entropy.

I recently encountered an argument for interpretation that involved the truth table for the boolean logical AND being seen — if one inverts the interpretation of all the values — as the truth table for the logical OR.

It turns out to be a tautology. A logical AND mirrors a logical OR.

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Interpret This!

My illusion of free will decided the month of May must be made for Mind (and maybe a dash of Mandelbrot). Lately, online discussions about consciousness have me pondering it again. I never posted on topics such as Chinese Rooms or Philosophical Zombies, largely because sensible arguments exist both ways, and I never decided exactly where I fell in the argument space.

It’s not that I’ve decided[1] on the topics so much as I’ve decided to write about them (and other topics). I’ve found that writing about a topic does a lot to clarify my mind about it. (Trying to teach a topic does that even more.)

I’ll start today with some personal observations and points of view.

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Our Inner Screen Vector Space

I’d planned a different first post for May Mind Month, but a recent online conversation with JamesOfSeattle gave me two reasons to jump the gun a bit.

Firstly, my reply was getting long (what a surprise), and I thought a post would give me more elbow room (raising, obviously, the possibility of dualing posts). Secondly, I found the topic unusual enough to deserve its own thread.

Be advised this jumps into the middle of a conversation that may only be of interest to James and I. (But feel free to join in; the water’s fine.)

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Cubes and Beyond

I’ll end these posts about the configuration space metaphor where I began: in a big cube. I started the series in the Neapolitan room, a three-dimensional space where we could indicate our feelings about vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry ice cream with a single marker. From there we visited the Baskin-Robbins 31 Flavors space (which is tasty but beyond our ability to visualize).

Then I focused on spaces with only two-dimensions (which are easy to visualize). These are probably the best use of the metaphor; they turn a tug-of-war into a sensible place to stand. They also strongly differentiate “don’t care” from “care about both.”

Now let’s see what we can do with three dimensions…

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OU812!

You may remember my pal, Bentley, the APBT:

Tired Dog

All tuckered out after a three-mile walk!

Last week the little dickens ate three-quarters of a cotton dish towel, which freaked her mom (and me) out.

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Our Existence (part 2)

Recently I wrote that I was reading Existence (David Brin, 2012), a novel I found so striking I had to post about it before I was even halfway through. Now I’ve finished it, and I still think it’s one of the more striking books I’ve read recently. (Although a little blush came off the rose in the last acts.)

Central to the story is the Fermi Paradox, with a focus on all the pitfalls an intelligent species faces. The tag line of the book, a quote attributed to Joseph Miller, is, “Those who ignore the mistakes of the future are bound to make them.” Brin’s tale suggests that it’s well neigh impossible for an intelligent species to survive their own intelligence.

I’ll divide this post into three parts: Mild spoilers; Serious spoilers; and Giving-away-the-ending spoilers. I’ll warn you before each part so you can stop reading if you choose.

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Expanding the Middle

My blog has such low engagement that it’s hard to tell, but I get the sense the last three posts about configuration space were only slightly more interesting than my baseball posts (which, apparently, are one of the least interesting things I do here (tough; I love baseball; gotta talk about it sometimes)).

So I’m thinking: fair enough; rather than go on about it at length, wrap it up. It’ll be enough to use as a reference when I mention configuration space in the future. (There have been blog posts where I couldn’t use the metaphor due to not having a decent reference for it. Now the idea is out there for use.)

And, at the least, I should record where the whole idea started.

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SF or Fantasy, Pick One?

It’s Science Fiction Saturday, so today I want to consider a fairly common question a fan might encounter: “Science Fiction or Fantasy?” The implication is that one tends to exclude the other. In these polarized times, it can amount to a declaration of your tribe.

One problem is there’s a spectrum from hard SF to pure fantasy with everything in between. But let’s take them as two legitimate poles and consider the question in terms of configuration space. (See posts #1 and #2 if you need to catch up.)

I think you’ll see that using a space give us a new take on the question.

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31D Ice Cream

Last time we considered a cube-shaped room where we could indicate our opinion about Neapolitan ice cream with a single marker. That worked well because we were dealing with three flavors and the room has three dimensions: east-west, north-south, up-down.

Later I’ll explore other examples of a 3D “room” but while we’re talking ice cream, I want to give you an idea where this goes, I want to jump ahead for a moment and consider good old Baskin-Robbins, who famously featured “31 flavors!”

So now the question is, can we set a marker for all 31 flavors?

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3D Ice Cream

Have you ever had (or at least seen) Neapolitan ice cream? It’s the kind with chocolate, vanilla, and strawberry, usually as separate layers in one package. As a kid, I didn’t care for the strawberry. I loved the chocolate, and was fine with the vanilla (wouldn’t usually choose it, but don’t disdain it).

That’s just my take on it: one flavor liked, one not liked, and one that’s just okay. Someone else might have the same pattern with different flavors. Or love them all equally, or want just the strawberry. Some might not like ice cream at all — any combination is possible.

What if we wanted to describe our feeling about Neapolitan as a whole?

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