Intuition Machine
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Intuition Machine

Process Patterns, Loops and Emergence

Let’s talk about language and cognition. A Strange Loops is simply a self-recursive statement (i.e. “X generating X”). There are 3 components here, X the thing that’s generated, “generating” the verb that’s creating, and the entire statement that refers to the relationship.

The problem with language and cognition is that we got two strange loops. “Language cognizing language” and “Cognition languaging cognition”. We have trouble expressing cognition because we lack the language to express it.

The physicist David Bohm recognized this and the difficulty of language being noun centric (i.e. Subject verb object). So he devised what he called Rheomode from the Greek “rheo” which meant flux. He sought a verb-centric language for cognition.

So the above two noun-centric statements in a verb-centric language will look like “languaging X cognizing.” Furthermore, the X is implicit and defined by languaging and cognizing in an inextricable loop. So we are left with words that are “cognizing languaging” pairs.

This is why words used for cognition are what @PessoaBrain would call “epistimically sterile.” Words like perception, cognition, action, emotion, attention, memory, and decision-making are not useful enough to explain cognition. (see: Refocusing neuroscience: moving away from mental categories and towards complex behaviours | Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences)

To see this, you can combine any of these nouns with “is” (the verb to be” and they have the illusion of making sense. So “perception is cognition”, ‘perception is action”, ‘cognition is emotion”, “attention is memory”, “decision-making is perception”.

The verb “is” (the verb to be) is problematic. Some say that it should be banned so that language is clearer (see: Thus another verb replaces “is”. But that means “cognition is emotion” is replaced by “cognition feels emotion” (see: E-Prime — Wikipedia ). Where you realize that there’s no replacement verb that adds greater clarity than the verb to be! E-prime doesn’t work for cognition and language because E-prime replaces “is” with verbs of cognition and expression. We are stuck inside a language box we can’t break out of!

Bohm in his rheomode invented 8 new words “levate”, “vidate”, “divdidate”, “ordinate”, “verrate”, “structuate”, “factuate”, and “constantate.” These are words on how thoughts relate to ideas. This is a good start, but I think I can extend this further!

What is missing in Bohm’s rheomode is that it involves only cognition and not language. What I seek are cognition and language pairs. To be more concrete, what I’m after are cognitive verbs that manipulate expressions.

When you study cognitive processes long enough, you begin to see recurring patterns that are in a cycle:

A century ago, C.S.Peirce observed that signs are involved in an evolutionary process. In his semiotics, signs evolve from icons to indexes and then to symbols and then back again. The semiotic processes involve the evolution of signs. In semiotics, cognition is a sign process.

Peircian semiotics revolve around nouns (i.e. signs). Peirce also categorized inference into 3 categories: induction, deduction and abduction. That is, signs evolve because they are involved in the process of inference.

When studying the formalizations of past thinkers, it’s extremely insightful to ask what was discovered in their futures that they did not know about. Babbage couldn’t build a scalable computer because he did not know of electrical relays also invented in his time.

Peirce’s ideas were revolutionary, but I don’t believe he had the clairvoyance to see what computer science had invented to manage the complexity intrinsic in signs. Computer science invented all kinds of programming languages that have ways of abstracting instruction.

In the diagram above, you’ll notice three terms “decomposition”, “mediation” and “late-binding”. These are three categories of recurring design patterns that I discovered in my research in interoperable protocol design.

If you’ve ever read the gang of four book on design patterns, the authors have 3 categories of patterns: creational, structural and behavioral. (see:

Design patterns or pattern languages is another set of concepts that C.S. Peirce may not have been aware of. Pattern languages are generated as a consequence of expertise developed in the immersive activity of creation within a narrow domain. Specialization invents new language.

David Bohm was unlikely to know of Alexander’s design patterns, and it’s also possible that he did not study C.S.Peirce semiotics. What differentiates’ Alexander’s framing of knowing from Bohm and Peirce is that it is a collective process. It’s not an individual one.

What we overlook about cognition is that it is a collective process. Our consciousness conjures up the illusion of individuality, but in reality, we know what we do know as a consequence of collective conversations. In fact, our brain itself is a collective.

So what are the key ideas for my formalization? The first is that you can design language to cope with complexity. The second is that cognition is a consequence of patterns of collective interaction.

The wonderful thing is that these two ideas feed back into themselves. Language design leads encourages ease of adoption through its ease of use. Ease of use implies greater common usage and thus supporting parallel processes. It is the abstraction that evolves in language and its collective usage that is at the core general of intelligence. Thus to make progress, we must develop a language that is compositional in both.

Why is top-down causation so problematic for many? Is it a consequence of their lifelong bias towards substance metaphysics?

Substance metaphysics, that we can understand reality by discovering its parts and that the parts predict the whole entirely, is one cultural bias we’ve developed since the Greeks. The other cultural bias is a consequence of Descartes and analytic philosophy.

Civilization leads to a bias that prioritizes syntax over semantics. Marc Andressen observed this when he tweeted about wordcels and shape rotators. Wittgenstein has said that “philosophy is a battle against the bewitchment of our intelligence by means of our language.” Noun-centric language encourages, and the prioritization of explanation through natural language are mental blocks to understanding complexity.

Zeno’s paradoxes are examples of how language and substance metaphysics leads to a paradox that doesn’t exist in reality. Gödel’s incompleteness finally put an intellectual stop to Russell’s agenda on formal languages.

But very few understood Gödel or even the related computation theories of Church and Turing. Self-referentiality is problematic for both substance metaphysics and legalized discourse. Hofstadter wrote an entire book “The Strange Loop” on the mystery of self-referentiality.

The study of the origins of life differs from the study of elementary particle physics in that we already know what life is made of (i.e., molecules of atoms). But how did DNA, proteins, and lipids, essential for life, come into being?

This discovery of the ingredients of life came almost half a century after C.S.Peirce. How would Peirce order the 3 in his triadic method? A rough guess would be lipids->proteins->DNA. In abstract terms, separation of the inner self is followed by constructors and then encoding.

The Kreb’s cycle is not only a constructor of the parts for life, its the also the process that drives the energy flow required for life. The energy required for cells to do anything is driven by the Kreb’s cycle. This strange loop is the constructor and driver of life!

There is a loop that drives all the metabolic pathways of life. Self-referentiality is not just a language artifact, it’s a real thing that drives all of life.

Von Neumann’s Universal Constructor explained the mechanism of the replication of life. The mechanism involves two kind of interpreters, a copier and a constructor. The Kreb’s cycle is a constructor and a self-maintainer. We have at least two loops intertwined together for life.

I’ve wondered why we don’t have a good vocabulary to explain this bootstrapping process. Life cannot have Von Neumann’s constructor without Kreb’s cycle. But how does this bootstrap into eukaryotic cells or multicellular creatures? How do minds bootstrap from all of these?

It’s not enough to talk about processes as they are. We need to understand how processes bootstrap into another complex layer. If we use life as an example, there are no obvious pathways to how Kreb’s cycle leads to a Von Neumann constructor.

The complexity and messiness of reality is that we have many of these loops intertwined, and the causal links between these loops are all emergent.



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