Wednesday, 3 April 2013

Forty-five; the essence of things

Forty- five; the essence of things.

Did Douglas Adams get it somewhat right? Can the essence of all things really be reduced to a number?

It's probable that 45 is not THE NUMBER. But a number, any number as being the answer to the conundrum of life, and everything, is certainly astonishing.

But apparently not new.
For Pythagoras, his followers aptly named 'the Pythagoreans', and countless people since have all thought that the essence of things lay in the Numbers. But not it must be added in a single number.

Certainly numbers aid us as counting aids, as the provender and circumscriber of extension and space, but can they really help to differentiate the different qualities that mould our experience?

Pythagoras touched by the "music of the spheres" distinguished the relationship between music, possibly the most qualitative of experiences, and ratios; the purest of forms of numbers.

And since then more than one composer has dared to compose by numbers.

Can a number hold harmony?
Can harmony be described in its fullest by a number?

They thought so.

Do the various qualities in essence boil down to quantities?

If we were to be empiricist, holding that the only reality was a sensual one; one that could only be touched, felt, smelt, tasted, heard and seen.
Then we might argue that when a man feels a thing, that that feeling is the result of the firing of such an such neuron in such and such a place in that man's brain.

That all experience can be measured, and if it can be measured in such a way, then each quality can be described in the mathematical terms of relative spatial location, within a generic brain, and the quantitative firing of such and such neurons.

We might then believe that Geometry and Quantity are the essence of all things, and Mathematics is the father of both.

Such random thought experiments are however as far away from our everyday experience as, say, an atom.

But it is the remarkable field of Computer Science that has really touched all of our lives.

Imagine it's humble beginnings as computational (counting) devices which solely, at base, was and still is a register of on-off switches. And then consider its impact on our qualitative lives.

Who could have imagined that numbers could evince, even if only by reproduction, such emotions as we get when we watch a tear-,jerker of movie or listen to a fab artist's album.

And so at its most basic, numbers have proved themselves to be semblatic of all of the sense experiences that we might feel.

But is that wholly so?
Is it the visual and sonic experience of those counting devices that causes us to feel, or is it our memory of those things and the context in which they were experienced that really is the source of our emotion?

Alan Turing imagined a test for when we could really begin to argue that AI had come of age. And if it came of age, ever, then that would be the death knoll of qualitative experience as being something other than quantitative expression.

But the Turing test has recently become obsolete, especially in this author's eyes. Not because AI has progressed to the level of HAL in the 2010 Space Odyssey. But because the most recent attempts at this apex have resorted not to another type of consciousness but to tapping the collective consciousness of the World's people via the WWW.

Off course a computer can play chess extremely well, after all chess is a game with full and clear information. And a computer as a hyper efficient counting machine can easily enumerate all the necessary branches of a decision tree in order to determine the winning sequence. But can it perform equally well without resorting to enumeration of all branches of those trees?

Can it compose truly magnificent art, without recourse to an unknown?

When it has no need, can we really expect it to understand subterfuge or guile, or even motive?

It is our hidden lives that make us who we are.

The broken rule that makes it no less of a rule.

Or the invention of a word that fits just right - like my "semblatic" above.

Or the appreciation of good art; words and rhythm, sounds and spice.

That sometimes, as with the Qur'an, are not poetic by rule but transcend all poetry. And cause our hero's heart to sujjorn in PEACE.



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