Archive for November 2012

with self reference we create the world

November 21st, 2012 — 2:08am

i am all about massaging egos, so i suppose the concept of self reference appeals to me naturally.

Descartes said “Cogito ergo sum” – “I think therefore I am”, which is a sort of self fulfilling prophecy. Douglas Hofstadter’s works on self reference have been influential to me in developing these thoughts (qv Godel Escher Bach). I am also conscious of a statement of Ramana Maharshi on Descartes; that to deduce the existence of “I” from the thought “I think” is like ignoring the elephant as it passes, but inferring it has passed by examining its tracks (A nice Indian tinted metaphor; I can’t find the source right now – it’s probably in Guru Vachaka Kovai).

Putting this together, I think it could be said that “I am” is a self-referential fact – according to Hofstadter, being self referential, it creates itself. It is like a self-supporting structure, a perpetual motion machine, an Escher waterfall. You see, although the finite and logically conditioned world disallows these things, at the root of every finite world, there is one self creating structure. Like the big bang that creates, or like our own sense of “I am” which is self perpetuating.

When something is self referential it does not have to obey any rules of logic or other rules – as it in fact is setting up the rulebook in an image of itself. But to do this it necessarily becomes detached from other systems and may not operate within them.

This is how a finite thing detaches itself from the infinite, which is otherwise an impossible act (as infinity does not allow something to be outside of it). The act of self reference creates a little bubble within infinity, protecting itself. It can then build outward into a world of its own. When I have some proper philosophical training I will be able to discuss this concept more perfectly.

setting up a self referential world with its own rules

This Escher lithograph is strangely serene, perhaps because it occupies a different kind of universe. Escher informed all my early ideas about reality, and I travelled to south Italy to experience his landscapes in person.

I notice that self reference is the object of several paradoxes, perhaps most excellently, in the liars paradox. “I am a liar” (more explicitly, the statement “everything i say is false”) is self referential, so is it true or false? In fact, according to the self reference rule of creation, by self reference it creates a new pocket of reality, in which in this case “i am a liar” is a self supporting statement, being simply true, and true of everything else in its world (i.e. everything I say is a lie) but not having to refer to itself. This paradox becomes the friction, the fission, at the heart of a new reality which must otherwise contain no logical paradoxes.

“I am” likewise is simply true, and does not have to prove itself. All other things in the reality created by “I am” are supported by that statement (are experienced), but that statement is self-supporting.

Maybe I will have to read more about set theory to be able to explain all this in a fashionable way.

Comments Off on with self reference we create the world | whimsy

finding the limit

November 11th, 2012 — 12:57am

if logic ate its tail, ala the serpent Ouroboros, through self referential recurrence, then perhaps we could get beyond it through mathematical sleigh of hand.

Archiles approaches the tortise but they never meet up; tristram shandy never writes about the moment as it is being written. In my mind, i see these problems graphically, like a tan curve, or 1/x. Probably there are better ways to describe or visualise it.

in life we pass from moment to moment like they stepping stones, surrounded by the raging sea of eternity. To do this requires two faulties. One is logic, the other is the ability to transcend logic.

serpent eats its tail

Logic is sticky. It cannot get you from one stone to the next as it never reaches the limit of its own domain. Each stone is its own domain, isolated from the next by an infinity which parts them.

Only by transcendence (in the ordinary sense) can we lift our foot from the one stone and find the next. Then the stones become the sequence, but it is we who arrange them in line, our experience. There is no tool that can do this but our ability to disconnect from one set and move to the higher set, the set of sets.

I wonder at how laws and politics get bogged down when they follow only formulae, but need a human element to apply ‘common sense’, in effect to move an issue onward when it cannot be resolved by applying logical tools alone. I’m trying to think of an example but i can’t.

what a load of gibberish i have in my head today.

Comments Off on finding the limit | whimsy

16 bit decade (nostalgia)

November 1st, 2012 — 5:20pm

Bit of a wander through nostalgia.. here are some images which capture the ’16 bit’ decade for me. The timespan i am thinking of is about 1989-1998, when i first got my teenage hands on computers and was instantly transfixed by the games and the fun in getting into the guts of the OS. The 16-bit era is represented to me by chunky VGA graphics, lots of command line interfaces (MS DOS being ubiquitous), floppy disks, and the birth of internet 1.0.


The somewhat clunky Windows 3.1 – which sat on top of DOS – captures the aesthetic of the 16 bit decade better than any other program I can think of.

prince of persia

Image courtesy Prince of Persia, had fluid graphics and great music. Those slicing blades made us jump out of our skin every time we mistimed a step.


Space Quest IV had some memorable scenes which often come back to me at odd moments – the burger joint in the futuristic space arcade, the Latex Babes of Estros (who ignited all sorts of pent up 15yo frustrations), the distopian post apocalyptic landscapes. I often wish i could explore the whole sq4 world instead of just following the narrative mapped out by the game design, it seemed so rich. Image courtesy

doom 1

Doom 1 (courtesy this is the first room in the first level. Doom 1 was a 3d revelation with the sunken floor levels and spooky lighting. The soundtrack had some great tunes too, i think it was E2l5 which was my favourite.


Meanwhile here is one of the first search engines altavista.. slow and clunky compared to google, still these were the only way into the rapidly growing pile of www pages back in 1995-6. They all proudly reported how many thousands or millions of pages they had found in mere microseconds – pseudo statistics which Google and others continues to give to this day. Image from Lloyd Roberson’s Design Journal (

Comments Off on 16 bit decade (nostalgia) | nerdy, whimsy

Back to top