I first met Malte Faber in 1990 in Washington in the World Bank Building.  It was a basement canteen informal and noisy, but he conveyed to me the awe he had envisaging “the entropy of a car” – where others saw a “good”, and indeed an object of beauty, he saw more.  He envisaged the process as a chain of acts that sorted refined objects by separating out and reordering mater, and then the assembly and ultimately the act of driving.  At each step entropy increased.  We admire the low entropy but he also was cognizant of the high entropy.

I was doing a PhD on entropy analysis of economic activity at the time and it was the first time I heard another say what I could see.

25 years later I have thought long and deep on the envisaging of the process.

To envisage we need to rely on our senses (the sensors and their capabilities of receiving, processing and “thinking” to make sense of the what is received).  The 5 senses normally acknowledged are great and all that we have got.  Though taste is big for babies and smell can save your life in some situations, seeing, hearing and touching are the 3 main ones.  Lepers lose their sense of feeling in their skin and so accidently get fingers and toes damaged because they don’t know to pull away. Blind people use their ears and voice like Ray Charles. Unable to hear is a handicap but can still allow a wholesome life.

One thought challenge is: What if we could only rely on one of the 2 minor senses to explore the world a) after we had gained knowledge normally as an adult, or 2) if from birth we only had one sense. For example taste. If an intelligent adult knew in advance they were going to lose sense of sight, hearing and touch, and ability to speak, they could collaborate in a lab to set up 2 or more distinct tastes and arrange a code that was a bit like morse and a bit like braile. I am thinking of a dummy that ejected a sweet or sour taste interspersed with tastless water as a kind of “space”. Eg sweet water sweet water sweet water sour water sour water sour  water sweet water sweet water sweet. (meaning “help” …—… SOS).  Very slow and inefficient for someone to transmit to this person a complex descriptive paragraph (assuming that they had grown up as a normal person with language capability.

This above is only to accentuate the richness of having five senses, and to be able to speak, hear and touch simultaneously to “verify” “reality”.   But it brings back the point of the limitations of what we envisage when we see and ponder the existence of a car.

Here is another thought experiment just to explore how senses operate. Obviously cannot be tried as inhumanly cruel. Please don’t accuse sadism. Just exploring a thought to isolate an idea: a baby is born into a dark soundproof room. Its mobility is restrained by a frame with straps to feet and hands. The one sense accessible is taste.  Fed properly.  Sound is impaired by ear plugs. Passive feeling cannot be stopped so it feels the restraint of straps and also passage of toilet process. While intention is to be immobilized the frame it is strapped to can force exercise regularly arms, legs, body, neck.

Post puberty, 15, within the padded empty room, normal senses opened up.  Must be a padded room because exploration is tentative. Learn to move, crawl, walk, reach out, Explore 3D. Walls, floor. Then introduce plastic cup of water. The subject “gets used to” coordinating sight and touch of object with the pre-existing knowledge of the taste of water and its function.  Then step by step, other foods. The simple tools and the need to use them (crack open walnut).  How much physics can this person learn on their own?  Solve problems.

The primary problem is identifying drink and food for sustenance.  Without any “education” or other person to “teach” it is total trial and error and depends on the “hand dealt” whether the right foods are easy to reach or on the other hand if red herring temptations are at the forefront.  The success in survival will be first to calibrate the distance the eye sees with what the hand feels.  It is uncanny and eerie and unsettling to realize that “30 centimeters” may not be a fixed distance. It is what your eyes and fingers agree is 30 cm and what others agree is 30 cm.  Not necessarily the same.    Try this thought experiment:

A large prismatic plastic aquarium has two actors on opposing sides.  The sides have holes for arms with plastic arm gloves (like in a lab for handling dangerous chemicals).  When an actor reaches into the aquarium with his hands under water the location of his hand seems distorted because light pathway bends in a different medium.  But he soon adjusts (recalibrates) so he can see an object on the aquarium floor and pick it up.

I see a situation where the two actors “see” and agree on where they think things are and even rewarded by feel, when an independent observer would know the “real reality” and that the two actors were wrong.

: http://www.coulterexergy.com/archives/1565

No comments yet.