(Reblogging after Edit)
After looking into entropy, I wanted to get into making a theory of what I see as its cosmological opposite: significance. In Multisense Realism, this kind of opposite is different than just high entropy = low significance, it is the difference of an orthogonal sort - a horizontal exterior to a vertical interior.
To begin with, from my framework, Significance is not a process generated by the brain whereby emotion is attached to functional semantic groups. In truth, consciousness and significance are not processes at all, but rather the intrinsic affective stillness (solace, solitude, stasis, solid), through which all processes are realized.
In Figure 1 above, the labeled drawing of the house is to illustrate how the one-to-many ratio is inverted from that found in entropy. A simple line drawing, which can be compressed to a very simple digital encoding can nonetheless be understood to host a rich variety of human psychological associations. The associations themselves are of different qualities and strengths (represented by the use of colored and shaded text) and we can assume that these will vary from person to person and culture to culture, with variations by age, gender, and other social factors. I think that this concept of significance as associative promiscuity is critical to bridge the gap between functionalist models of consciousness and subjectively experienced realism.
Without significance, we are left with information-theoretic assumptions about meaning, which are rooted in purely quantitative measures of resource requirements for processing. This model I believe, is a problem because it flattens all meaningful appearances and interactions into rates of data exchange, such that all forms of information, whether convulsively beautiful or mind numbingly banal are identical forms of noise, discernible only by matching algorithms to proscribed formulas. There is no sense here, only large swaths of true-false branching tree algorithms.
In my conception of Significance, quantitative density of data is juxtaposed intentionally from quality. Rather than conceiving of information as isolated texts, a separate measure which honors contextual connectivity is invoked. It isn’t merely a shallow accounting of the number of associations, or even number plus strength, but a vast qualitative summation of cultural, social, and personal positions and momenta which cannot be quantitatively reduced. By figurative extension, each local instance of significance capitulates in some sense the experiences and attitudes, the afferent and efferent charges of every being in the history of the universe.
Using this system of measurement, we can honor the reality of the difference between the high significance, simple line art in the top picture, and the high data content, but low significance grey cloud in the bottom. Claude Shannon’s work shows us how to model statistical entropy (which I have tried to illustrate below in Figure 2) as a measure of how difficult it is to complete a prediction of a message given a particular fragment. If you have the letter ‘Q’, it is a good bet that in any English language transmission, the letter ‘u’ will very likely follow it. Using that statistical insight, we can include many such formulas which will dramatically improve data compression, speeding up transmission and lowering resource requirements. It’s the same thing as predictive text.
Information Entropy vs Thermodynamic Entropy
This sense of ‘Information Entropy’ as the degree of difficulty in predicting information statistically, is distinct from (despite the objections of information theorists) thermodynamic entropy. Thermodynamic entropy is rooted in physics, and even though it relates to quantum decoherence, the two are not constrained together because pattern recognition is dependent on perception. If we make a movie of a glass of ice melting and compare it a movie of the same glass of water after it has melted, the mpeg compressed movie of the former will require far more kilobytes to store than the latter, even though the molecules of warm water are in a higher entropy state than the molecules of ice. If we recoded a movie of the molecules on a microscopic level, this discrepancy would be reversed. This example illustrates how the presentation and representation of patterns fundamentally changes the so-called information content, and I suggest that it be used to understand that all realities, public and private, are presentations and representations of meaning rather than context independent realities.
The approach of science in recent years has been to force a choice between reducing consciousness to the known quantities of physics and computation, or jump off the cliff into speculation and professional suicide. In this new measure of Significance, I propose a phenomenal character that is the opposite in every way to the high-entropy/low-entropy axis of physics and statistics. Where information theories begin with sets of data fragments and use stochastic processes, such as Markov chains, to anticipate future variations within a digitized set of finite possibilities, I propose an experiential sense-based model which is semantically open but spatiotemporally fixed. This is to say that significance accumulates through concrete experiences in this world - the universe, rather than within any phase space simulation. Significance is based in trans-rational experience through time rather than topological functions across space. To understand this, I propose, is to solve the hard problem of consciousness and bridge the explanatory gap.
Analog approaches, such as the transmission of phonograph needle vibrations to a your eardrum acoustically
do not attempt to statistically alter or compress the form of the needle’s motion, only to amplify it to all local objects, including your ear drums.
Both digital and analog are strategies for data reproduction, digital being more of a meta-reproduction, or simulation that is one step removed from the physical source and destination.
In MR, however, what these approaches are handling is not literally information, but rather formation - the production micro level impersonal forms through which subjects may be informed on the personal level. Micro level impersonal forms are those physical and chemical processes which are selected for their obedience to high level control. They must be incapable of determining their own agendas, and are therefore typically inorganic physical substances known for their fidelity, durability, precision, and accuracy.
This is important to differentiate such ‘vertically shallow’ equipment, with its specially optimized quantitative properties, from high caste forms, ie, persons or other organisms with greater personal latitude (preferences, whims, qualities and intensities in expressions of will) and vertical integration (simultaneous participation in many sub-personal, personal, and super-signifying layers of experience).
What we have seen so far in the development of AI, CGI, and digital communication, is that there is something about certain kinds of ‘information’ which is very easy to reproduce for a computer and certain kinds that are difficult or impossible. Even more puzzling is that this range of strength and weakness in pattern recognition skill seems to be the inverse of the human range. Computers seem to be great at doing things that bore us humans to tears, but they can’t seem to get the hang of our simplest pleasures.
Computers need to be programmed from nothing and then be built up with modules of processing routines. They need to be told explicitly what to do, but they do not need to be told what not to do. They are well behaved in that way, they can only do exactly what we tell them to do. If they fail to do it, the fault is always with the programmer. It does no good to try to punish a computer or threaten it with a ‘time out’. They have nothing to gain or lose by following our commands to the letter, and will attempt to do so continuously forever without complaint if so instructed.
Living organisms however, from the most primitive single cell to primates and cetaceans, tend not to do what they are told unless motivated strongly - not by command lines of discretely coded instructions but by other peers who they love or fear. Those peers are held in enthusiastic esteem, whether high-superior or low-inferior esteem. This is like the binary code equivalent of the psyche, good and bad, yes! and no! rather than 1=true, 0= false.
Our relatively unfiltered early experiences in childhood and infancy presents our world to us in overwhelmingly super-signifying terms. Mythic, magic, heroic, ecstatic. Family members are titanically influential figures, whose power to reward or punish weaves an epic story of daily life. It is a struggle, since even being strongly motivated to please others, the self is intrinsically lazy and rebellious. Not only must organisms be conditioned or trained to do what we want, even then they get tired, forgetful, careless, etc.
Going back to Figure 1 and 2, I’m trying to show how significance is an implicit presence of accumulated experience through time which can be queried to extract discrete information. Instead of a generic English letter pushing arrows out to denote the logically fixed options of a defined sequence, there is an image of a child’s stereotypical house drawing (a visual form with both generic and proprietary qualities), with inward pointing arrows which connote personal semantic associations. These may occur beneath the level of conscious attention, so that it is not necessary to formally articulate any message strings to be informed. The experience of being informed is immediate in one sense, but it can be enriched and deepened further through analysis. With entropy, we must chase meaning and work against resistance to drive purpose, but with significance, its manifest meanings and sense qualities call to us to drive ourselves.
In the following set of three images I have tried to show the different ranges of qualities of significance. Beginning with the base picture below, what I did (and you want to try it too then avoid looking at the other two pics for now) was to close my right eye and look at the picture and notice what stands out for me, without trying to justify or judge my attention. I then took it into Pshop and tried to convey my sense of it (not literally what I see, but what I seemed to get out of the experience of looking at it). Then I did the same but with closing the left eye. I have an astigmatism in my left eye so that may account for some degree of the difference between the two, or maybe it’s more of a brain hemispheric thing that works for everyone, I don’t know.
Right eye closed, I see the bright trio of triangles. I notice the shadows and overall composition of the house and scene. It’s more 3-D in that I feel present. The windows invite the feeling of being watched. The left side of the house seems spooky. The PO Box reminds me of a coffin and the whole front lawn maybe subliminally suggest a cemetery.
Left eye closed I readily focus on practical details that did not occur to me before. I am aware of the two arched entrances to the house, the brick patterns and railing in the front. It’s like handyman vision. I see structural things that might need to be fixed. I see the roof and lawn assets to maintain. I see more of the geometry of the shapes. I see the address number and it makes me think of where the house might be on a map. I notice the reflection on the mailbox and feel where the sun should be. I feel present but detached.
Anyhow, these ideas about significance seem to be developing further now. This study:
gives me more signs that others are thinking in a similar way that I am, talking about consciousness as a ‘temporal hub’. What nobody so far has done as far as I can tell, is to take this literally and recognize that awareness itself is what generates time by waving. Instead of a waveform collapsed by subjects, it is the accumulation of the subject’s experiences which waves and calls signifying communication and association to it. Subject is the vector who is informed, not form or information.
Significance is a richness and quality of signal that translates as power to inspire motivation through imitation. Not merely low information entropy where mathematical relations can clip along smoothly, but phenomenological beacons of iconic power. Ordinary features blessed by fate or luck to become super-signifying powerhouses. Celebrities who confer access to privilege and godliness just through association with their name or personal attention…a lock of hair, an autograph.