No, But Seriously – Part II


The previous post relates to a few things. The trick is not remembering in and of itself. Think of actual Archives in general, whether they are for academic, business (for profit), government, non-profit, and other purposes. In an academic institution, or say a research laboratory, or even a Science Museum, there’s no use in preserving the things in and of themselves, i.e. there is no intrinsic value, if you will, to just storing something, whether it is experimental data or a scientific instrument used in a research process. There has to be some other value, at least to me that’s what makes it all worthwhile. What I am finding increasingly important is the idea of a) all the material that is being lost forever, but also b) how rich a treasure archives are specifically of scientific research, laboratory work, experimental data, findings, and so on.

Example. It’s not enough that someone made some amazing discovery. It’s not enough to have a record of how they went about discovering it. If they took samples, you ideally want to still have access to the samples and so forth (I am simplifying things for brevity). This is true of inventions too, which is why we have a patent system. The true impetus, rationale for such a system is for the enrichment of all, right? The patent records give us the ability to a) know what abstract knowledge came before so we can properly add to it or invent new abstract knowledge and b) it’s also great for a host of other things, like maintaining the quality or integrity of something, or its authenticity, if you will, as in, "Is that how those chairs were made? What made IKEA designs so x, y, and z? Are these real IKEA chairs, how can I verify that?"

It’s much more complicated than that obviously, but the point is that there are treasures in there waiting to be found which might not be where you might think to look. A lot of the technology that came just before the official standards in information technology, communication technology and so forth, the digital computer, a.k.a. The Information Age, i.e. before the transistor and the use of silicon and so forth, that technology was abandoned for obvious reasons. What is forgotten though is that often the shortcomings that say vacuum tubes had may no longer exist. Whatever constraints existed that made people switch to transistors, that made the abandoned solution suboptimal, maybe due to some future innovation, that constraint is no longer true. That opens up the possibility of using vacuum tubes again, perhaps for a whole host of yet undiscovered purposes. Just a simple example.

Just as many minds are better than one, i.e. the old wisdom of the crowd idea where a group of people guessing how many jelly-beans there are in a jar of jelly-beans can collectively come to a much better approximation than any single person will tend to come to – because processing can often scale that way, I guess – better preserved archives and more people looking through them is also optimizing, especially looking at the record of old inventions and otherwise many of the traces or paths, trails that led us to the Present Moment, etc. One should perhaps also take a closer look at abandoned or discarded inventions, ideas, etc., and the reasons for their ending up in the historical trash-pile. In other words, you never know what you might find in a pile of garbage. I call that something that was Kierke-disregarded, a.k.a. fell prey to Kierkegaardian disregard, true crypto-kierkegaardian pseudonymity where Lost was just another name for Found.

Discoveries seem to work that way. I see discovery as the discovery of Artifacts in the most general sense of the term. Artifacts are always unique. The artifact isn’t just the thing sitting in the archive, at least not when treating of these kinds of archives, with experimental data, scientific research, etc. The artifact isn’t just the thing being observed or studied either. The artifacts are also the things that went wrong with the equipment, the things that interfered with the research programme itself, all the above and more. There were artifacts that interfered with the scientist’s work, artifacts in their own minds, in their own perception of the world, and by implication, with their own perceptions of themselves observing themselves using scientific instruments to study various phenomena.

We’re at the point now where the resolution is incredibly good, amongst other things, and we should be going back to check every single piece of knowledge that humans ever put to clay or paper or to archives and catalogues and databases and so forth. Think of it in terms of the Bitcoin protocol and its blockchain. The integrity of the blockchain, as public ledger or register, is all-important in Bitcoin if we want it to work properly. Same thing goes for the integrity of information or data assets, structures, types, the integrity of the data models themselves.

I often say that the age of narratives is over. This is not a story, Experience is not a story, Existence is not a story. There can be no systematic theory of this type of thing. It is distributed, it has countless concurrent processes, it is adaptive, non-linear and dynamic, what more do you want me to say? This is Not the Narrative You Are Looking For. In the meantime, you missed out on the most beautiful thing of all, the thing you weren’t paying attention to when you were paying attention to the thing you were paying attention to, i.e. you were paying attention to the trajectory, the voyage, the exploration, a.k.a. Story, and not the individual tiles that make up the micro-mosaic of episodes. You were looking at the pattern(s) and the process(es) and trying to see how they fit together to form a Big Picture, you were not paying attention to the actual artifacts. For me personally, the real artifact, the most important artifact of all, in fact the ONLY Artifact that there truly is, is => **The Interference Fringe Pattern**! That will always be where all the action is for me, and that’s what is being documented and kept in my personal archives: The catalogue, the database of such high-order side effects, one by one, plucked from Experience, documented, abstract containers of the very quintessence of everything that is or could possibly be.

The problem with this is that it may take a while. Also it’s important to realize that you simply can’t compose a protocol that will make it work. You can’t control it. You can’t reduce uncertainty. There will always be interference and noise, data loss, corruption, etc. You can’t shape it to make it more resilient. Do you see where I am going with this? You basically can’t alter the physical laws of the universe. Don’t even bother trying.

Now jump back to me reading Henry Petroski’s book about failure and then breaking my leg, spending 3 months in the hospital, having to learn to walk again in a place where I just lost half my most valuable personal possession of all, my personal Archive going back 30+ years. If you got a group of people and tried to think of what the perfect torture mechanism would be for me at that precise moment in time, you could never have come up with something as profoundly torturing as that. I couldn’t even think of it myself. I actually accidentally slipped on black ice and broke my leg. Note to Self: St-Paul didn’t throw himself off the horse and experience metanoic conversion, he fell off the horse.

So, the only thing you can do is build on what fails most beautifully: Data loss, noise, corruption, corrosion, fractures, cracks, fragmentation, and so on and so forth. But if you focus on what I call the beautiful signals, like how beautiful the Rhythms of the Brain book is by Gyorgy Buzsaki, you’re missing the whole point. You’re missing what’s right there in front of you that can never be attributed to the book itself, since your Experience hadn’t even happened yet when the book was already bound up and stocked on the shelves in the Amazon super-warehouse. So the signal: "I recommend this Book," is the wrong signal, because whoever recommended I read Petroski almost cost me my life. Except the only way I would ever have found that book was if for the last 20+ years I had been implementing and optimizing the perfect search strategy for finding rare finds in old book-stores and through piles of books libraries throw away that you can purchase for 1$ a pound, or garage sales, etc. I am a collector of rare books, but not books with monetary value. The best book is the one that doesn’t exist, the singular book that is out of print and that almost no one even has any record that it exists. The best book is the book that hasn’t been written yet and that perhaps will never be written, or that will be written but lost forever to History. Those are always the best things in life, that which was most necessary, and also necessarily must have come to pass. This has always been my interpretation of Ecclesiastes in the Bible. It is the Vanity of Vanities. Better to stare disinterestedly at the moving pictures of the fringe effects as they get stuffed into the catalogue. Call it: A Season in The Life of a Manual, Characters in Search of The Lost Anti-Logbook. Remember, Interference, too, Can Be Beautiful. 🙂


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