(urth) barrington interview

António Pedro Marques entonio at gmail.com
Tue Oct 7 18:30:10 PDT 2014

No dia 08/10/2014, às 01:05, "Dan'l Danehy-Oakes" <danldo at gmail.com> escreveu:

> It is not necessary for a "conch to do math" for its spiral shell-shape to be mathematically based. Its genes, an incredibly powerful computing system (whose results are expressed in proteins which then control cellular behavior), "does" the math. Likewise the shape of the galaxy; stars aren't "doing math," they are obeying natural law, which is mathematical in nature

That is not only confusing the model with reality, but reifying physics.

Lee's example is perhaps not the best, not because it's wrong but because it lends itself to misunderstanding. He was not saying (tho he could) that math doesn't have definite answers, he was pointing out that math itself even with a shared mind structure (human) has conventions and you're at sea without them. The square root of -1 is something which started as pure convention, no matter the interpretations that were developed later on. Now imagine an alien mind, dividing the same physical world in a different way. Our math is consistent and helps us deal with the outside world, but it reflects the organisation of our mind. Addition, multiplication and subtraction don't exist in the outside world, they're the way our mind copes with complexity. Other minds might work in completely different ways, handling the outside world with the help of some consistent tool that bore very little resemblance to our math. And at the end of the day, who's to say that 7x8 was meant to be math, even? Math says that there should have been MS Word 3, 4 and 5 for Windows, and there should be a Windows 9 before 10, not to mention that Windows 8 should be the 8th major version of the OS. 

Lee is absolutely right when he points out that everything in communication hinges on shared assumptions. I began to make such a point in a conversation with Gerry some weeks ago, but decided not to push forward. Incidentally, I'm not being ironic when I say I like Gerry's Daleks in NS and the Third Policeman reading of FHC. He meant them as parody, but they've worked out well.

What you can sometimes say is that a given reading is decidedly NOT what the author currently says they had in mind at the time. That can't make the reading incorrect. It can even be a stupid reading, but as long as it is a reading, then it is a reading, and there is no truth criterion that can be applied to such a thing.

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