Knowledge has a maximum resolution
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Knowledge has a maximum resolution

  • We name the patterns that we see in the universe and call it knowledge. Knowledge is a low resolution rendition of reality. Flawed, but better than none.
  • "All knowledge is belief, and no belief is true."
  • When we try to pick out anything by itself we find that it is bound fast by a thousand invisible cords that cannot be broken, to everything in the universe.
    • John Muir
  • Knowledge is the rendition of reality that we hold in our brains. Everything that it holds is necessarily a lie, through gross simplification. A simplification that we cannot do without. We can only break down our assumptions in order to arrive at more granular assumptions.
  • As human beings, we must accept that any situation will always be more complex than what we can perceive, as there is an infinity in every direction, we must simplify packets of it into patterns, in order to absorb that information.
  • In fact, this may be pretty much how our brain works, by interpreting inputs as patterns through multiple hierarchies of pattern recognisers.
  • As an aside: Perhaps a brain with greater computing power than our own, such as an [AI, would be able to assess data with much more detail than we do. Units of simplification would still exist as it would still have its limits, though they would be much smaller; and thus it may understand the world through a much higher 'resolution' than what human beings can. Extrapolating on this, it may, for instance, be able to list every individual person in a country by name, and by their individual spending habits. Such a machine may be able to predict how, say, a new economic plan would affect every one of them.]
  • So we summarise, using myths and stories. The depth of each person's or group's myths depends on them, but at a certain point and for all people it reaches a bedrock of simplification. A historical anecdote comes from ancient Athens, where Socrates examines the people of Athens by asking a series of 'Why' questions, and at the end of it all never gets a satisfactory answer, no matter who he asks. He concludes that no one, including himself, truly knows anything, and in this realisation becomes the wisest person in Athens. Even the wisest people to exist only ultimately understood at best a series of complex beliefs or myths.
  • Another common thing that we hear that may be worth mentioning is that a person may spend their entire lives in a certain environment or in a certain profession, and at the end of it still admit how little they know and how much there is yet to learn.
  • So even with the frontiers of the knowledge of the species expanding, and in externalising our knowledge into books, notebooks, and websites, we will still be stuck with knowledge at a certain maximum 'resolution'.
  • We can't understand everything, so we just have to be at peace with the immensity, the complexity, and the humour of it all. You cannot do otherwise, and you certainly cannot control it. Perhaps the only thing that we can approach complete understanding of is, with great effort, our own emotions and consciousness in the present. [Perhaps also our own artificial constructions, such as fiction, games, art, and music.]
  • With all that being said, without the rudimentary understanding that we piece together, the world becomes incomprehensible and frightening. Our knowledge, imperfect though it is, is tremendously useful. It also, I think, plays an important role in discovering enlightenment.

Categorising complex units is tricky

  • The more complicated (which can perhaps be described as the magnitude of macroscopic components the unit contains..??) the phenomena that you're trying to categorise and describe, the slipperier and blurrier the edges become. Social and economic issues are classic examples of this problem. Each block of categorisation becomes less and less definitive the higher up you go.
  • Building a cohesive argument of social issues that requires many parts is difficult. Each building block is not a definitive unit- it's a social concept that inevitably has very blurry and slippery edges.
  • For instance, you can hardly say with any certainty 'Muslims believe..', you have to at best say 'many Muslims believe' because you can't possibly lump 1.6 billion people together like that, even if you're talking about the central tenants of Islam. You can hardly even use the term 'Caucasians' or 'Africans' or 'Asians' since they are all such hugely diverse ethnic groups in a million different geographic, cultural, and economic regions.
  • In other words, talking about complex societal issues is inherently tricky, since you have to be particularly delicate when you try to simplify something.
  • I think that when information about a situation is being communicated to someone that is 'outside' the situation, this categorisation and simplification begins to take place. The more 'outside' this person is, the more simplified the information is going to be.

Order and symmetry are brutal simplification

  • Complexity in the universe relies on disorder and chaos.
  • Despite disorder and chaos being the natural environment of the universe, our limited brains prefer order and symmetry. They simplify our environment and allow us to more easily understand and control it.
  • Picture a backyard with a meticulously mowed lawn and trimmed hedges backing onto a free growing national park overflowing with thickets, vines, and wild animals.
  • We do this to our physical environment, and it is also how we conceptualise the world. This act actually brutally destroys at worst, or ignores at best, niches which may have contained great complexity which may have been at great interest to us. But if we must understand and control, then it is an effective method, though we must acknowledge the sacrifice.