Nerditya by Aditya

Pondering Thoughts

It's been more than 5 months since coming to LA. I've been a lousy writer for the past few months. Come to think of it – I have been a lousy writer forever. Except, of course, when I write technical stuff. I planned to write something a lot of times. I couldn't. There was nothing to write about. Nothing that fit. I recently came across a post by one of my friends, Aniket Awati. He's a lousy writer as well. More or less as infrequent as I am. But he came out of the shell before I did.

He wrote about dreams. What they are, what they mean. How people try to find some meaning where in reality – there exists none. There's a similar concept explored in one of the books I read. Fooled by Randomness. It's about people. People who try to find patterns. People who try to find patterns where none exist.

Human brains are hardwired to think in a particular way. People who do not suffer low latent inhibition. People like you. Humans are weak. They are aware of everything that happens around them but they don't like to admit it. The need to explain everything. The need to find the reason. The weakness.

There is no higher cause or greater good. It's all random. It's all white. It has no definite aim or purpose; not sent or guided in a particular direction; made, done, occurring, without method or conscious choice; haphazard.

People think of things. They think more about the causes of the events. They don't like to think about the events themselves. Nothing fits a model. Nothing….

What about human behavior then? All this rambling. All the characteristics. Everything that I wrote till now – is thinking about random things as if they were not random a non-random behavior pattern in itself? Would that make the behavior pattern a deterministic model? Is thinking about random things – even according to a rule – a truly random thing at all?

Which brings us – me – the blog – to Chaos Theory. What is chaos? The disordered formless matter supposed to have existed before the ordered universe. We are not interested in that. Chaos theory is – in basic words – an attempt to find the ‘underlying order’ behind things that seem apparently random. But are things really deterministic? I spent a whole lot of this article saying otherwise (with references). Chaos theory has an answer to that. The Butterfly Effect.

The flapping of a single butterfly's wing today produces a tiny change in the state of the atmosphere. Over a period of time, what the atmosphere actually does diverges from what it would have done. So, in a month's time, a tornado that would have devastated the Indonesian coast doesn't happen. Or maybe one that wasn't going to happen, does. (Ian Stewart, Does God Play Dice? The Mathematics of Chaos, pg. 141)

This is interesting since with this phenomenon taken into account, anything can be attributed to a butterfly flipping its wings – literally. Parallax, noise, inaccurate instruments, human errors – all are things of the past. It's a butterfly that's causing your hard-drives to fail.

A similar thing can be said about fractals. A rough fragmented geometric shape that can be broken into parts, each of which is – at least approximately – a reduced size copy of the whole. Which again is an attempt to find a governing algorithm. A governing dynamics for how things in nature actually are. When you look at it – the Nash Equilibrium – a way of predicting what will happen if several people or several institutions are making decisions at the same time, and if the outcome depends on the decisions of the others. Is this the ‘grand design’ of the Butterfly effect? An organization opening its wings? An individual perhaps?

Bobby Fischer – arguably the best chess player to have walked the Earth – proposed a new (?) variation of chess, Shuffle Chess (or Chess 960) because he felt the game was becoming too predictable with opening theories and emphasis on initial moves. It was his attempt to remove predictability in the game. Changes in the initial conditions, ever so slightest, can bring about the desired randomness. How ever – here we believe that the classic chess was becoming predictable and adhering to a deterministic pattern.

The point of this article is – there is no point. Just something that got me thinking after reading Awati's post I mention in the first paragraph. I am not a physicist and my knowledge of all the theories and theorems mentioned here is bare minimum. It's just something that shot into my mind at that point. It's possible that 99% of the things are pure crap and incorrect. I wonder – is it a pattern?