February 13, 2008

Strange loops and the pleasure of finding things out

I was looking through the stack of books I've set up to read next, and the foolishness of some of my projects really hit home. I think I understand the futility of trying to get smarter. It's a manifestation of two deep set habits. One is that there is a complete answer and truth that'll be revealed at some point - when I grow up, these books are read, this skill is learned, that time arrives - rather than learning more only opening up new areas of ignorance.

There's always the pleasure of finding things out, but I think even with this one can become jaded if it's pursued too vigorously. I have a tendency to get stuck in a loop and work certain behaviors or ideas to death. It took me a long time learn, even only in theory, that if x is good then 2x isn't always better, that nearly all systems of interest are nonlinear. Which is why I jump around between subjects, to keep my brain firing on fun, and why what I know is so shallow. The choice is between knowledge that's either deep or wide, and I keep going for the latter, learning just enough to make confident but foolish pronouncements on a broad range of topics. And this is where my other deep set habit comes in to balance the affair, the retreat into the patterns that reverberate and flow in my head, with the idea that something real is taking place.

Self-similarity is the rule in natural systems, and I see no reason why the mind should be any different. Why shouldn't the same features turn up, with slight variations, at all magnifications of thought?

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