Tuesday 20 March 2018

#478 Life as a pool table - part 1

This weekend, snow returned to the capital. The thermostat was clearly broken. I'd spent most of last week in two layers and some of it in one. One or two little insects had ventured out above ground, Now they were wishing they hadn't. Winter was ongoing. Lectures were ongoing. The job search was ongoing. It was all just a big continuum.

Recent family matters had inspired my sister and I to engage in some creative writing although the dust hadn't settled enough for our efforts to be shared. I decided instead to use my writing time this week to run through a thought experiment that I'd started at times in the past but had never properly articulated. I called it "Life as a pool table".

The experiment was meant to represent, in terms easy to understand, how conscious thought could arise out of unconscious processes. I'd first thought of it while watching some of Dan Dennett's videos years ago. I tried reading his book, From Bacteria to Bach and Back but found it hard going and wondered if it might be possible to explain some of the concepts in a more accessible way. A pool table seemed like as good an analogy as any.

Life as a pool table

The concept of death
Imagine trillions of balls on a very large piece of slate.
They've been formed from sticky bits of dust and are blown around on the slate by the wind.
The piece of slate contains some holes and is located over a pit of fire.
Some of the balls fall down the holes and disintegrate in the fire.
This gives us the concept of death.

The concept of growth
Some of the balls bump into each other and get stuck together.
The newly formed combinations of balls are larger. This gives us the concept of growth.

The concept of survival
The balls that combine are large enough not to fall down a hole if they roll over one.
This gives us the concept of survival.

To be continued


Fizzfan said...

I feel like I’ve come out of hibernation too early. You can always ‘feel’ Spring is in the air at the end of March because of the extra light, and similarly Autumn has descended in September from the temperature nip in the morning.
What do insects do in the winter? I’ve never thought about it. I read your blog last night though and had a dream about a giant bumble bee trying to get out of my front door and I couldn’t get past it to open it. I don’t know what happened, but it was huge and very furry.
The big continuum. Yes and mostly I don’t like my expectations of that to be upset. I think I like a routine pattern of the same different things happening on a loop.

OK I’m on board with the bigger your balls the more likely you are to survive.
Next instalment please.....:)

(Intrigued about the creative writing you n your sister have done too)

Profound Familiarity said...

I don't really know if thy hibernate or just go deeper underground.

I wonder what the bumblebee dream represents. Who is the bumblebee? What's the door? Why do you feel helpless to intervene? It's interesting that the bee was huge.

Yeah routine is good, it means we don't have to think too much.

I wrote an anecdote and she made a poem.

Fizzfan said...

I’ve just done a quick Google and some of them snuggle up like penguins in massive clusters and rotate who’s on the outer extra chilly layer, others seem to produce anti freeze and some head off to their holiday homes in the sun.

I think the bee represents the fact that I’m unable to fly away from all my responsibilities without putting on a huge fur coat. It also had a big ominous sting.........

Thinking’s dangerous, you never know what it’ll come up with. I have at times wished I was a happy robot.

No pressure, but I like your anecdotes and poems are always good (and hard)

Profound Familiarity said...

Do you have a huge fur coat?

I might publish some of the stuff we wrote as blog posts next month if I don't think of anything else to write before then.

Fizzfan said...

No but I’m imagining falling into one as big as Hagrids. Yum.

I’m a bit scared of fur coats. I love them as much as I’m appalled by them.
Even if one could make my dreams come true, my conscience would make me unhappy.

I’ve often thought we’d all be much happier if we had fur instead of skin though. It would be so liberating.