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Projection or Prediction

Most formal scientific cosmological investigation is preferential to the determination of the earliest events in our universe's history. As we tease away the noise, we illuminate conditions and dynamics ever closer to the moment of origin. The notion, reasonable enough, is that the more robust our knowledge of the earliest conditions, the greater our ability to predict the scope (limits) of all future events.

Prediction, remember, is the purpose of all intelligence, all science, all knowledge, all structure, and all evolution. So, yes, if one is interested in advancing our power and accuracy of prediction, it is methodologically reasonable to understand the earliest conditions of our nascent universe.

But somewhere along the scientific way, investigators revealed an interesting attribute of systems, of all systems, the attribute now called "The Second Law" of thermodynamics. What makes the second law interesting and unique is that it predicts the same future for all posible systems. That future is maximal dissipation. The second law says that all systems at all times are moving en mass towards disorder… are falling apart.

The 2nd Law was discovered by people interested in the flow of heat. Specifically, their interest was the maximal efficiency of steam powered equipment, factories, and transportation. They wanted to get the most production bang for their coal fired steam buck. And what they found was rather frustrating to a factory or train owner. What they found was that all systems no matter how well designed, leak a lot of heat, a lot of potential power, power that would ideally be used by the factory to make carpets, or by the locomotive to pull freight from point A. to point B. To make matters worse, the nature of this leaking of energy problem was such that it was irreversible. Once energy leaked out to the surroundings, any effort to recover it would cost more energy than was lost, lots more.

Now you might expect that there is something special about factories and locomotives that makes all this leaking energy so big a problem. You might be inclined to hope that leaking thermodynamic energy is specific to man made or artificial systems. You'd be wrong. Second law demanded energy dissipation is as true of natural systems as it is of man made systems. But the real kicker is that 2nd Law dissipation has nothing specific to do with heat or steam or coal, manmade or otherwise, but to all systems and all forms of energy applied in any way and under any conditions. This universality of dissipation became crystal clear in the 1940's when Claude Shannon of the Bell Labs in New Jersey, USA independently discovered the same dissipation dynamics in information and communication while trying to do for the telephone industry what the original thermodynamics investigators had attempted for the steam power industry a century and a half before. Shannon found that trying to shove signals down a wire or through the air resulted inevitably in noise that degraded the original signal and that insuring accuracy or distance in communication was a costly affair where more and more energy must be pumped into the system with less and less of that energy resulting in actually moving that signal from point sender to receiver. The final kicker came a few decades later when it became clear that computation suffered the same dissipative pitfalls as had been earlier discovered in communication and the conversion of power to work.

OK, so what does any of this 2nd Law stuff have to do with the question I posed at the top of this post, essentially: what is a more effective path towards predictive understanding of a universe, knowing when and how it started or knowing how it will all end?

Until the 2nd Law, all scientific effort resulted in understandings that started with initial conditions and worked forwards in time. Newton's laws of acceleration are a great example. If you know where and object is and what forces are brought to bear on that object, you can use newton's math to accurately predict that object's position at any time in the future. Einstein's work simply reinforced Newton's laws and provided a more robust contextual understanding of why they worked and when they could be expected not to work. But the 2nd Law is a strange bird indeed. The 2nd law simply doesn't care how a system starts, or what it is made of, or what forces pertain. The 2nd Law focuses our attention on the way systems move into the future, and mostly, on what systems become in the end. That end, on the grandest universal scale is something called "heat death". Heat death isn't really an end, the time doesn't stop, its just that things fall down and fall down, the dissipate and dissipate until less and less becomes posible. The slide into maximal dissipation is what we call an asymptote, it is an end never actually met. An end that in effect keeps ending. The universe is scheduled to become yet more dissipated forever. But the lion's share of that forever will look almost the same from eon to endless eon. The 2nd Law end is an end that never quite ends.

From a scientific perspective, at least from the perspective of most of the short history of science, the 2nd Law predicted end is absolute and perfectly knowable and absolutely independent on the initial state of our universe or for that matter, of any posible universe. Previous scientific knowledge had settled in on the idea that the future is only predictable to the extent that the past is known, that the laws of the dynamics of the universe are known, and even then, the predicted future becomes fuzzier and fuzzier the deeper one looks.  Yes the 2nd Law is strange indeed, flipping prediction end to end, it says that the end state of any universe is absolutely known, and the intractable part is instead the path towards that end. Got it? No, its not an obvious idea to grasp.

So now lets revisit the original question I asked. Is there any point in the full arch of a universe's life, when what is known of its past is less important than knowledge of its end?

To answer that question one might want to look not to the beginning or to the end, but to vast middle. In both predictive models, the classical causal model that predicts the future by knowing the past, and the entropic model which says that the past is always just a ramp towards a perfectly knowable end state, it is the middle ground that is the the most intractable. A thermodynamically determined universe is one in which falling down is the determining factor. A thermodynamic universe is one in which the end is absolutely known but the path getting there is not known. In a thermodynamically determined universe, each new moment presents a new set of conditions that must be computed upon in order to make the best posible prediction of the shortest path from that indeterminate here and now to the perfectly determined eventual then and there.

A universe locked into the 2nd Law dance would seem to be a universe in which the dynamics of change is a dynamics that becomes better and better and understanding its own dynamics. We have come to table this cumulative understanding "evolution". Evolution it would seem, is the process by which a universe becomes better and better at playing the only game a universe can play, and that is the game of getting to the end state as soon as possible. So we must reframe our original question and ask which knowledge is most evolutionarily potent, knowledge of the past or knowledge of the future? Or, in the spirt of my original question, is the situation more complex, more dyanmic, does the answer to the question vary depending on the particular epoch one asks it? Is the past more determinate in an early universe, and the future more determinate in an older universe? The reverse hardly seems reasonable.

If not, if predictions are more dependent on knowledge of the end than they are of the beginning, and if this is true no matter when in the arch of the lifespan of a universe one asks, what can be said of the value of traditional cosmological formalisms? If evolution is a process by which a universe finds the shortest path from any beginning to its entropic end, how important is knowledge of a causal classical dynamics in the solving of any of the moment to moment shortest path computations that must be eternally computed?

… to be continued …


Macro-evolution (not micro-evolution)

1. Any change in any system is THE change that would have resulted in the greatest dissipation.
2. A universe only becomes more dissipated with time. There are no exceptions to this process… it is a one way trip.
3. This is the only domain independent behavior in any system and in any possible universe.
4. As things fall down, they sometimes cause other smaller things to fall up, or to land in locally complex arrangements (so long as the energies released are greater than the energies needed to assemble).
5. Some of these assemblies are structurally stable (resist dissipation). Even more rarely, they are both stable and catalyze faster local dissipation.
6. As a result, these stable catalyzers result in greater local energy throughput. Think of them as the deepest and steepest canyon that will gather the greatest flow of river water.
7. This increased flow will have the greatest effect on the future topology of the dissipative landscape.
8. Complexities that can survive nearest this flow will by necessity need to be even more structurally stable (survive across time despite an extremely corrosive environment), and to do so, they will by necessity have to draw more and more energy through their own system to repair and maintain stability… increasing the rate and density of dissipation at that locality.
9. Each of these processes are change catalyzers. They increase flux at the local level. They take the universe closer to heat death not by doing anything qualitatively different, but by doing what a universe does, but faster.
10. We call this process evolution.
11. Evolution is not teleological. No knowledge of the patterns and structure and behavior of a universe is required. Evolution works in any universe with any set of forces and structures and initial conditions.
12. Evolution has nothing in particular to do with biology or to any particular system or domain. It is agnostic to domain. They way in which atoms hydrogen and lithium and helium both come into existence and precipitate into proto-star clouds that accrete into stars is no different than ways in which biology evolves. The methods used are the result of the materials and forces and environments at hand and are independent of the overarching reason that dissipative change results in or selects for systems that dissipate more quickly and comprehensively… that get the universe to its "heat death" end state at the highest possible rate.
13. Darwin described well, the "how" of evolution within the domain of biology. But he couldn't put together the more general "how" of evolution such that the process could be seen stripped of its dependency on one particular domain.
14. Darwin was correct. But he described evolution at the local or micro-scale. For instance, the Galapagos finch populations he observed felt survival pressure that selected towards beak shapes that made them more and more specialized towards the exploitation of particular seeds and nuts in their environment. Such solutions do indeed favor optimization in what topologists call "local minimums". This is indeed what happens, for the most part, in any evolving system. It is the path of least resistance. But it doesn't explain (or not directly) the way that evolution finds solutions that involve looking outward to non-local opportunities of resource acquisition. Getting good at the local game can very much make you unprepared for the larger game just over the ridge into the next still larger valley. A great beak and excellent nut detection skills, is of no use should the bush you have learned to exploit either go extinct or if the greater environment (especially that environment which is the future) not have much at all to do with that particular kind of nut or for that matter, with nuts of any kind. Specialization causes local advantage, but ultimately, specialization (local optimization) always makes a species less well adapted as a generalist, and thus, less flexible and robust into the future. Optimization always results in extinction.
15. Any change in any system will be judged by the environment based on the degree with which that change adds or subtracts from that system's capacity to advantageously predict its dissipative future. Evolution filters for prediction because prediction allows an entity to extract greater advantage while using less energy. If the energy in your environment is in nuts, a beak predicts energy access. If you have a way to store the experiences you've had today, you won't have to try every door to find the bathroom tomorrow. Prediction can involve a brain, but it can just as easily and more commonly involve a shape or the presence of an appendage or sensor. A shark's tail predicts the need to move swiftly through water to catch and consume other fish.
16. Prediction is equivalent to intelligence. And as with beak shape specialization, locally optimized intelligence is ultimately less important evolutionarily than general purpose wide-scope intelligence.
17. The most general of all predictions/intelligences is the prediction that thermodynamics provides… the eventual and always closer asymptote of total dissipation (heat death). The capacity to make such a prediction (and to pay attention to it) gives humans great potential advantage. But only should we be able to crawl outside of our own evolutionarily acquired set of attention enhancers, such that we can push our interests and motives in the direction of universal dynamics.
18. Just having the capacity to detect the universal direction of evolution, does not necessarily insure evolutionary advantage. You have to have the means to make it an actionable goal and motive. If we humans can't take action and create advantage from the prediction of heat death we will eventually be as food for some other entity or system that can.
19. The Zeroth Law of causality: the universe is at all times, changing at the maximum rate possible. There is no holding back, no waiting around, all systems are decaying and dissipating to the full possible extent and speed, given their present context and configuration.
20. The 2nd law says that total info or energy concentration is reduced as a result of any change in any change in any system (energy applied to a system). It doesn't say anything about why the change that happened was the one of all possible changes that could have happened. And it doesn't say that all systems are changing at their maximal change rate at all times.

Post Script:

Imagine a bunch of atmosphere separated by temp. Top layer is cold, bottom layer is hot. This is an unstable situation as the hot air is less dense, wants to rise above the more dense cold air.
I've just described a typical storm cell.

Now imagine that some smaller areas of air are moving laterally, and some others are moving up or down. Somewhere in the cell, units of air are moving in almost every direction.

All units are moving in the direction they are moving because that is the least energy thing to do. They, like all systems, are simply falling down.

These units compete with each-other in the falling down olympics that is the brewing storm (imbalance). The ones that can reduce the cline between hot and cold air the fastest, are the ones that fall the fastest and thus dominate the falling down in their immediate region. As units less dominant (efficient) motions are absorbed, that part of the storm becomes a larger and larger competitor and its original or combined behavioral dynamics become dominant on a larger and larger scale.

Eventually, spiral dynamics dominate as they are better at reducing the temperature cline than are other shapes and gas meta-dynamics.

At each level of scale, each granularity in the system both structurally and temporally falling down is always at its maximal rate for that configuration at that particular moment in time. As changes accrue, the new configuration allows a new maximal rate of dissipation.

This should be obvious. Change is always motivated by difference. A universe doesn't like difference. Change always follows the fall line, the fastest path to greatest dissipation.

As a description of dynamics, maximal dissipation rate is only interesting in context to what the brain likes to believe about systems and especially likes to believe about systems that are responsive to human interaction.

As example, I cite the often repeated "we only use 5% of our brain". This statement is physically and causally false. No system can ever be any faster than it is currently operating at. If it could be running faster, it would be. Full stop. Now, it is possible that a brain sent to Cambridge University will after 8 years of graduate studies, be capable of operating at a higher rate (what ever that means), but that brain would not be the same brain that existed prior to those 8 years of studies.

It is instructive to periodically remind ourselves of this very important aspect of the causal physical world of which we are a part.

Q: Before I go to sleep. Explain to me your last post (if you want). I just read up on Ray kurzweil… didn´t know he existed.

A: OK… To the Singularians, and the Transhumanists, Kurzweil is Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha, Krishna, Confucius, Moses, etc. Kurzweil speaks and writes of the acceleration of the evolution of technology and posits a time, not long from now, when technology evolves at an almost infinite rate…

That moment of infinite acceleration of technological evolution, "the singularity" as he calls it, if taken literally, would herald the beginning of an age where everything is possible and almost instantly available. In ancient religion and philosophy, this "get anything you want at the instant you want it", was called omnipotence. Omnipotence. Completely powerful. Kurzweil reaches this understandably attractive conclusion by projecting forward the current technological acceleration rate (as measured primarily by Moores Law). Moores Law is attributed to Gordon Moore, the founder of Intel corporation who noticed early on that the semiconductor industry was able to put 4 times as many logic gates on a CPU for half the price every 17 months, resulting in the exponential growth of computing power that has fueled the tech and information and communication market expansion that has so defined the last 30 years of the global economy.

Q: Are you done with the explanation? So this type of evolution is what you meant?

A: But Moores Law is a simple result of the square law of the area of a two dimensional surface… divide a rectangle in half on both of its axis and you have 4 times as many internal units. A linear growth in one attribute causes an exponential growth in the result. This only works with computer chips because electrons are really really small and can be caused to run down smaller and smaller wires without changing the result of the logic on a circuit. Long before Moore noticed the trend line, Richard Feynman wrote a great paper called "There's Room At The Bottom" in which he spoke to the fact that information only cares about on and off, yes and no, 1 and 0, and that matter at the atomic and subatomic scale could really hold a lot of the stuff.

The problem is that eventually, after processing information, processing abstractions, you have to make that information do something. Even more than that, as you work up through the easy calculations, you eventually are stuck with computational problems that would stretch the limits of the whole universe even should all of the universe be made into one big computer. And of course, the universe is already a computer, and it is already doing that calculation, that mother of all calculations.

A big deal that has nothing to do with Ray Kurzweil? You must not be a singularian.

Q: You have time to write more science or should I go to sleep??

A: The difference is that Kurzweil is so motivated by his own human centered vision of the future that he forgets that there is but on future of the universe and the only way to effect it is to predict a better path from here to there. The universe doesn't become us. We must become the future or other things will and we will be as food to their efforts.

Who's vision will always have the larger audience? Kurzweil, of course. He feeds our wants and our fears. I feed an abstraction larger than any self or vantage.

My explanation demands we abandon our selves… not likely to happen.

Q: When you say that we must become the future, in what way would that be? Abandon how?

A: Can you have a goal that doesn't directly benefit you? Very few people can.

Q: I thought about this before my beauty sleep and the answer is No. Everything I do benefits me in a certain way. Even helping others with necessity is an advantage to me, emotionally, does that count?

A: What we've got to do and may not be genetically equipped to do, is begin to extend the boundaries of "self" outward to encompass a larger and larger chunk of reality.

Q: And that genetic requirement is some kind of intelligence? And… What is your answer to people that say: "The second law only works in a closed system. We have solar inputs therefor it is not a closed system and order can and has emerged aka life."

A: In a dissipative universe, a universe where EVERY change in ANY system ALWAYS results in the greatest possible dissipation, evolutionary FITNESS is always the configuration that causes the greatest dissipation of the universe. Biology is better at the dissipation game than is most simple chemistry. So biology out-competes chemistry in the race to get the universe to heat death the fastest. Biology makes for a steeper slope from hear to heat death… a shorter path. That is the problem evolution computes.

And notice that these progressively better dissipation schemes… aren't exclusive… but additive and hierarchical. Biology doesn't replace chemistry, it uses it, builds with it, accelerates it.

Q: Knowing all this, what have you done or changed in your life in order to be true to your ideas and believes about the universe? I know your perspective of religion is not the same as your family´s, what else did you give up or drastically changed?

A: That question doesn't really apply to me as I've been working on figuring all of this out since I was 9. I think that figuring out how a universe works is plenty for one person to do in a life time. I'm writing a book describing it all. I'm creating Sam extra-biological system to extend eviction forward at a higher pace than biology allows. I'm passing the baton forward in better shape than when it was handed me. I'm doing what the universe does.

I'll tell you how maximum dissipation is locally competitive… the nuts and bolts of evolutionary fitness. Hint: it isn't survival of the fittest the way most people imagine it.

OK, by having a structure that out-disipates other nearby structures, that causes more energy and materials to be cycled through or because of your structure, you create an environment of such flux, such rapid change, that other structures must either be more dissipative or they will be consumed by you. This is the competitive advantage that dissipation affords. Survival advantage goes to the structures that can cause the greatest energy and material flux, and can do so while maintaining more structural integrity as they do so. And because all structures eventually compete in the dissipation game, continued survival is always dependent on a structure's ability to get better and better at dissipation and to get better and better, faster and faster.

The last component of a comprehensive domain-independent theory of evolution, the one that evaded Darwin, and seems to evade most evolution theorists, is the apparent logical conflict between local competitive advantage and the long-term wide-scope trends in evolution.

Locally, optimization always wins – always out-competes. Darwin's island finches do gain survival advantage by becoming specialists, by matching morphologies to local resource pressures. BUT (or rather, AND), optimization makes one vulnerable to change, the more your beak becomes perfectly matched to one type of nut, the least likely you will survive changes in food availability. In the short term, optimization always wins, always makes an entity more successful, more plentiful, more representative in the population and as a factor in the local environmental dynamics. But in the long run, such trends towards optimization always result in extinction dead ends. Optimization is a reductive process. What drives evolution forward, towards the maximization of dissipation on the largest scales (not local), are the freaks on the outskirts of a population, are the generalists, are the entities who struggle in the local, but are better prepared always to accept and survive into a changing environment (the environment always changes). In evolutionary terms, general-ism is equivalent to knowledge. The more an entity can build an internal representation of the salient aspects of their environment, and the more that representation or map can be refined and made inclusive of and describe all of reality, the greater will be the probability that entity will be able to predict the future. Prediction allows the advantage of efficiency, it allows an entity to ignore all aspects not causal and to put their energies only towards that which is most likely to happen. In the short term, in the local, prediction advantage goes to maps that assume environmental stasis, that imagine the world as never changing. In the long run, in the largest most universal scope, prediction advantage goes to maps that more accurately describe the shape and direction of change.

The "Darwinian Map" describes the sort of local advantage that results in the rich and endlessly varied branching of evolution's extinction history. But the essence of capital "E" Evolution isn't best described by the dominance of evolution's extinction branching, but by the freaks on the sidelines that struggle to compete in the present, in the local, with the optimizers, by being generalists, by optimizing to the largest trend, by being the computation at all moments, of the shortest path from all here and nows to the one there and then.

Think of the generalists as entities who can see or want to see beyond the local horizon. The localists, the optimizers, predict too of course. A Galapagos finch's beak predicts the abundance of certain types of nuts and seeds and insects. But that prediction is eventually false as the environment changes. 

And notice the way that this model explains and defines intelligence.Edit

So, if you can internalize my theory, you are one of a very few who have ever understood THE process in this or any possible universe. This process is the only domain independent process, and as such is the foundational causal behavior in any system. Be proud.

We are sooooooo lucky to be alive at this exact moment in evolution… the dividing line between blind evolution and self aware evolution.

Q: How does this apply to us as humans and our current lifestyle? You say we are not genetically equipped in order to achieve that kind of knowledge??

A: There are twenty or thirty people on earth who can run close to 28 miles per hour. So if our future required we all run that fast…

However, knowledge changes action. A more accurate map of reality should change behavior in actionable ways. The problem is that evolution has selected against certain types of thinking, and for other types of thinking, and I am afraid that this theory falls very much in the center of the region of thoughts our brains are structured specifically to avoid.

And remember, all we have to do is extend the process… not our selves.

Just remember that there are lots of ways to be a "freak". But only one type of freak is the type that try's to find the shortest path to the most general eventuality. And the only way to do this is to get better and better and knowing what matters.

Q: From what you know about me, do you think I'm a long way of knowing what matters?

A: You are one of the only people I know who bothers to ask. You are probably on the way to being the right type of freak (outlier).

Post Script:

I forgot to talk to the boundaries of self as related to questions about practical actions one might take as pertains dissipative evolution theory.

Imagine yourself as a Galapagos Finch. You maximize your personal advantage by having a beak that matches the demands of the local food resources. In the process, it is also most efficient to dump any attributes that don't match local resources exploitation needs. Maybe you don't need a big brain if all you need to do is find the seeds that match your beak. You will as a result, become fabulously wealthy in finch land. Until, that is, the environment evolves out from underneath you and big brained finches do better in the chaos transition that ensues. Ultimately, in fact, the biggest advantage doesn't go to one type of finch or another, but to some genetic path that selects towards the capacity to understand and process a map of the world, the universe they are a part of. The path from finch-ed-ness, to big-brain-ed-ness isn't exactly obvious. Somehow, a succession of generations of finch adaptations must survive, and must survive in the presence and competitive pressure from, the beak-optimizer finches as they live it up in relative luxury.

Even should big-brain-ed-ness provide the shortest path from finch-ness to the most deceptively profound future, no finch in his or her right finch-mind would willingly choose to scrape by on the sidelines of competitive survival. Not at least if big-brain-ed-ness prove to be of little help in competition with the better-beak-ers. Barely surviving on the sidelines, isn't exactly the best self-motivation incentive. So how does one explain long range evolutionary advantages in reference to here and now survival advantage? And, how does one, once aware of the grand evolutionary arch, choose a path or paths that provide long range solutions at the expense of local suffering?

The answer to the first question is that the larger arch of evolution pays little attention to local success schemes and is always more the result of the schemes and structures that maximize dissipation in the whole of the future. So long as survival passes unbroken across the necessary chain of generations, a scheme can influence the future even if it is horribly unsuccessful in any of its iterative incarnations.

One way to achieve success that is in agreement with dissipative evolution theory, is to expand the definition of self. If one thinks of their skin as the boundary of what is and isn't the self, it is hard to be motivated by the larger goals that may for example involve their own demise or the demise of their culture or species. But if one instead thinks of self as including the whole of the universe, or at least, that portion of the universe that will successfully influence a path towards the maximization of entropy, than even plans and changes that marginalize their own corporal self can be imagined wildly successful.

I've previously found better words to describe this thought. This will have to do for now.

Mountain Lion Close Encounter

This image is stolen from the net. Last night, while camping at Alder Creek Campground above Truckee California, I was about to get up and walk to the camp bathroom, when I heard a strange sound. Next second, a BIG mountain lion walked so close to my tent that it brushed against the fabric. There was a light across the way so there was a perfect silhouette of the monster moving around my tent towards the absurdly thin mosquito netting at my head. I had about a second to decide whether to let him scare me or scare him first. So I made a rather awkward convulsive motion and grunted. He jumped away from the tent and let out a half truncated growl (still very scary) and ran down toward the stream. My third encounter with these solo travelers… a little too close this time.