zenpundit.com » big data

Archive for the ‘big data’ Category

Intriguing DoubleTweet variants & more

Monday, August 3rd, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — also genetics, genetic algorithms and John Holland on the glass bead game ]

An abstract DoubleQuote:

Thi9s is like one of my DoubleQuotes boards, empty — the reader is incited to fill in the blanks. And —

A Skew DoubleQuote:


Parallelism is a pretty obvious form of linkage, opposition is almnost the same, yet also sharply distinct — and there’s the style of linage where two ideas could be be described as in oblique relation, intersecting, but not in direcxt opposition or parallelism. And then, then there’s the situation where wo ideas, two lines of thought, may pass quite close by one another, without intersecting- – ideas that pass in the night — in a manner that would be oblique if they were in the same plane, but they’re not – skew ideas?

I’m using the definition of skew that says “Skew lines lie on separate planes, they are not parallel, they do not intersect” — as illustrated here:

skew lines

Poets love skew links between thoughts, for the leaps they embody:

Li Po drowning, drunk, into the moon reflected in the Yellow River. Crazy? Crazed. Amusing? Mused.


Bryan Alexander alerted me to the bead game matter. You may need to read the whole article, The Codes of Modern Life by Alex Riley to understand how Reed-Solomon codes allow for the nifty correction of errors in complex messages:


but what led Bryan to cc me in on the discussion was the passing mention that DNA-stored data could best be protected bu encasing the DNA encapsulated in “microscopic beads of glass” — cue the Glass Bead Game by Hermann Hesse:

DNA in glass beads


While on the subject of genetics, it’s worth recalling once again that John Holland, the “father” of genetic algorithms, once told interviewer Janet Stites:

I’ve been working toward it all my life, this Das Glasperlenspiel. It was a very scholarly game, starting with an abacus, where people set up musical themes, then do variations on it, like a fugue. Then they’d expand it to where it could include other artistic forms, and eventually cultural symbols. It became a very sophisticated game for setting up themes, almost as a poet would, and building variations as a composer. It was a way of symbolizing music and of building broad insights into the world.

If I could get at all close to producing something like the glass bead game I can’t think of anything that would delight me more.

How to fake a Mahdi and / or create a New World Religion

Saturday, January 24th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — conspiracy is stranger than scripture, partly bcoz supercomputers! ]

Hey, we can pick a face out of a crowd:

face in crowd 602

track the numberplates of individual cars around a city:

Oakland pd tracking eff

follow individuals by tracking their cell phones:


and see who’s in a room by their reflection in the cornea of an eye:

corneal reflection

We’re asymptotic to omnipresent, eh?


Now consider this:

Nir Rosen, in his book In the Belly of the Green Bird: The Triumph of the Martyrs in Iraq, p 129, tells us:

Seyid Hasan Naji al-Musawi, the thirty-eight-year-old leader of Sadr City’s Muhsin mosque and commander of [Moqtada] Sadr’s Army of the Mahdi in Baghdad, said that the final days were approaching in which the Mahdi would return. … Musawi declared that America’s real purpose in coming to Iraq was to kill the Mahdi.

You got that? America’s real purpose in coming to Iraq was to kill the Mahdi. No wonder some Iranians think of us, and specificallay of US, as The Great Satan.

I must confess I’ve been under the impression that Mahdism, being not merely a religious concept, not merely a religious concept from an “other” religion, but an “end times” religious concept from an “other” religion, was ideally suited for those of us in the post-Enlightenment west to ignore, even though it may be a concern of immense significance to, say, Moqtada al-Sadr and his followers, or Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and his.

But what an opportunity for conspiracy theorists the idea that the US wants to disrupt the coming of Islam’s Mahdi must be!


Now, putting one and one together, we see what a dastardly plot the US must be up to!

Peace be upon Mohammad and the family of Mohammad.

If I was the CIA/FBI/MI6/MOSSAD or in fact the Dajjal, here is how I would make a fake Imam.

1 Get some the world’s most advanced supercomputers. Current supercomputers have speeds of up to 2.507 petaFLOPs per second (In layman’s terms the best way I can describe the speed of a petaflop to you is: 1 petaflop is equal to 10 times the speed of all the networked computers in the USA combined!!!). This supercomputer will be dedicated to the purpose of Imam Mahdi. It will be fed everything that is possible to find on the subject of Imam Mahdi. It will be used for planning our strategies and tactics, and it will be able to answer any questions instantly. It will be our “backbone” for our operations.

2 Get some of the world’s most clever young children. You know how they choose children who are cleaver and give them scholarships to the best schools and universities? Well, what we would do is to get about 100 or more of the most clever geniuses that we can find around the world. They will be our “candidates”.

3 Each candidate will be raised up by us – with a very special and specific top secret training program which will be devised with the help of our supercomputer. We will assign a role for each one, and we will brainwash them and have them truly believe that they are who we want them to be. For example, we could have 20 of them who will take the role of the Shia Imam Mahdi, and another 20 who will take the role of the Sunni Imam Mahdi. We will also have them impersonate other end time characters, such as Jesus, Khithr, Yemani, Khorasani, Sufyani etc etc etc. Each candidate will have a slightly different approach, so that we can target all the different people – with all their different beliefs about the Imam. With many years of training, they will become extremely good at impersonating an Imam at least they will NOT be making any recitation mistakes!

4 Once they are fully trained and thoroughly tested, we will put them into the real world. They will be secretly connected with our dedicated supercomputer. With sophisticated technology, they will be able to send and receive information instantly and automatically without anyone knowing. For example, if someone asks our fake Imam a question, the supercomputer will “hear” it and it will give the answer instantly to the candidate without anyone hearing anything. It will give answers complete with Qur’an references and ahadith references etc… so much so that the candidate will be able to answer every single question with so much knowledge and wisdom and so many references that he could not have possibly known it will appear simply miraculous. You can even ask him to read page 205 from your CLOSED book, and he will read every word of it. It will look like he has knowledge of every single page of every single book ever written on this matter. He can look at your face (have the supercomputer link it with the intelligence
databases and get a match) and he can tell you everything about your life (which is stored in their database).

5 We will stage fake events such as the 313 giving allegiance in the Ka’bah to our candidate to make the deception more effective.

6 We will stage “miracles” to make the deception more effective. For example, we will use neverbeforeseen technology, and we will stage several optical illusions (magic tricks) which are very difficult to tell from a miracle. We can also make use of the spiritual skills which have been demonstrated for years in India. There are those who do not eat or drink anything for 70 years, there are those who can stop a moving train without touching it, there are those who can make you have specific dreams, there are those who can read your thoughts, there are those who can KILL an animal just by looking at it! And these are not miracles. These are spiritual powers which mainly employ Jinn, and anyone can gain these abilities through special spiritual exercises. We will also stage “punishments” on those who do not believe in our candidate. For example, get someone to approach a scholar and say: “There is a fake Imam who is deceiving people! And I want you to talk about him in your next lecture!” And when he does, we kill him and make it look like an accident or a heart attack. This will be seen as a miracle for our fake Imam because those who speak against him are “punished by Allah!”

What will be the obstacles:

The scholars. The scholars know all the signs and with the help of Allah (swt), they will be able to tell that our candidates may be fake. So we will target them one by one, and make them look evil.

The expectations of the people. The people will have very high expectations from the Imam. The biggest is the Shia belief of infallibility. Since it is difficult even with years of training to guarantee “infalliblelike conduct” from our candidates, we will have to reshape the people’s definition of infallibility using ahadith which have a broader and less strict definition of infallibility.

And more obstacles… each with a clever remedy.

What is the purpose of all of creating a fake Imam? Well, there are MANY purposes. But
the most obvious is that if we succeed in getting many of the Muslims to believe in OUR fake Imam, then when the REAL Imam comes, the Muslims will automatically call him a liar and a fraud because they believe OUR candidate is the real Imam, and no one else!!!

Also, since the Muslims believe in our fake candidate, we can slowly push our agenda in a very clever and subtle way.

This is just a quick outline of how I would create fake Imams. There’s so much more that can be done, and I’m sure there are even better ideas which I missed. But that was just to give you an idea.

Do not be surprised if we start seeing some very convincing imposers very soon. I’m pretty sure that the CIA and the Masons and Illuminati will do EVEN MORE than what I’ve outlined above.

Narrated from Mufathal Ibn Umar:

I heard Aba Abdillah (pbuhaf) saying: Beware of being weak (loose translation). By Allah, your Mahdi will be hidden for years of your era and it will be very long for you, and you will say: “what”, and “I wish”, and “maybe”, and “how”, and you will be tested, and doubts will rise within you, and it will even be said “he is dead”, or “he perished”, or “in what pit did he go?”, and the eyes of the believers will weep for him, and you will be shaken (loose translation) just as the ships are shaken by the waves of the ocean, until none will survive except those from whom Allah (swt) has taken an oath and has written faith in their hearts and has supported them with a spirit from Him, and there will rise 12 similar banners, and they do not know of their matter what they do.

Mufathal said: I cried and said: Oh my Master, and what will your awliya (close companions) do?

The Imam looked at the sun and it had become clearly visible (loose translation), and he said: Do you see this sun oh Mufathal?

I said: Yes my Master.

He said: By Allah our matter is clearer and more visible than it.

Ref: AlHidayah AlKubra by Hussain Ibn Hamdan AlKhosaiby Chapter 4, the Chapter on the Awaited Imam Mahdi (pbuhaf) page 361.

Welcome to the age of awesome deception.

Allah (swt) alone can save us from what is to come. May He (swt) assist us and make us firm in faith and keep us on His straight path always.


That’s one Islamic eschatological vision of false messiahs — no more official than Alex Jones‘ rantings are official US policy — but it’s interesting to set it besides a somwhat similar scenario from our own western conspiracists — The Blue Beam Project:

The infamous NASA Blue Beam Project has four different steps in order to implement the new age religion with the antichrist at its head. We must remember that the new age religion is the very foundation for the new world government, without which religion the dictatorship of the new world order is completely impossible. I’ll repeat that: Without a universal belief in the new age religion, the success of the new world order will be impossible! That is why the Blue Beam Project is so important to them, but has been so well hidden until now.

[ .. ]

The second step involves a gigantic “space show” with three-dimensional optical holograms and sounds, laser projection of multiple holographic images to different parts of the world, each receiving a different image according to predominating regional national religious faith. This new “god’s” voice will be speaking in all languages. In order to understand that, we must study various secret services’ research done in the last 25 years.

The Soviet’s have perfected an advanced computer, even exported them, and fed them with the minute physio-psycological particulars based on their studies of the anatomy and electro-mechanical composition of the human body, and the studies of the electrical, chemical and biological properties of the human brain.

These computers were fed, as well, with the languages of all human cultures and their meanings. The dialects of all cultures have been fed into the computers from satellite transmissions. The Soviets began to feed the computers with objective programs like the ones of the new messiah. It also seems that the Soviets – the new world order people – have resorted to suicidal methods with the human society by allocating electronic wavelengths for every person and every society and culture to induce suicidal thoughts if the person doesn’t comply with the dictates of the new world order.

There are two different aspects of step two. The first is the “space show.” Where does the space show come from? The space show, the holographic images will be used in a simulation of the ending during which all nations will be shown scenes which will be the fulfillment of that which they desire to verify the prophecies and adversary events. These will be projected from satellites onto the sodium layer about 60 miles above the earth. We see tests every once in a while, but they are called UFOs and “flying saucers.” The result of these deliberately staged events will be to show the world the new “christ,” the new messiah, Matreya, for the immediate implementation of the new world religion. Enough truth will be foisted upon an unsuspecting world to hook them into the lie. “Even the most learned will be deceived.” The project has perfected the ability for some device to lift up an enormous number of people, as in a rapture, and whisk the entire group into a never-never land. We see tests of this device in the abduction of humans by those mysterious little alien greys. who snatch people out of their beds and through windows into waiting “mother ships.”

The calculated resistance to the universal religion and the new messiah and the ensuing holy wars will result in the loss of human life on a scale never imagine before in all of human history. The Blue Beam Project will pretend to be the universal fulfillment of the prophecies of old, as major an event as that which occurred 2,000 years ago. In principle, it will make use of the skies as a movie screen (on the sodium layer at about 60 miles) as space-based laser-generating satellites project simultaneous images to the four corners of the planet in every language and dialect according to the region. It deals with the religious aspect of the new world order and is deception and seduction on a massive scale. Computers will coordinate the satellites and software already in place will run the sky show



I am posting thes two examples of end times religious conspiracism today because IMO we need a sense of how far out such speculations can go, as we consider the rumors of a connection between the death of King Abdullah and the coming of the Mahdi.

Take off your tin-foil hats, people. A little common sense is required.

Rabbi Yochanan Ben Zakkai says, according to the Avot D’Rebbe Natan:

If you are holding a sapling in your hand, and someone says to you, ‘here comes the Messiah!’ — come and plant the sapling, and afterwards go and welcome the Messiah.

And Anas b. Mâlik in Musnad Ahmad 12981 relates that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said:

If the Hour arrives and one of you is holding a date palm sapling, then he should go ahead and plant it before getting up from his place if he is able to.

Keep calm, in other words, and carry on.

The Automatic State?

Tuesday, October 29th, 2013

(by Adam Elkus. I will be guest posting occasionally at Zenpundit. I am a PhD student in Computational Social Science at George Mason University, and a blogger at The Fair Jilt, CTOVision, Analyst One, and my own blog of Rethinking Security. I write a column for War on the Rocks, and I once was a blogger at Abu Muquwama. You can follow me on Twitter here. )

I’ve been looking at some recurring themes regarding technocracy, control, elites, governance in debates surrounding the politics of algorithms, drone warfare, the Affordable Healthcare Act, and big data‘s implications for surveillance and privacy. Strangely enough, I thought of James Burnham.

Paleoconservative writer Burnham’s scribblings about the dawn of a “managerial revolution” gave rise to conservative fears about a “managerial state,” governed by a technocratic elite that utilizes bureaucracy for the purpose of social engineering. In Burnham’s original vision (which predicted capitalism would be replaced by socialism), the dominant elites were “managers” that controlled the means of production. But other conservative political thinkers later expanded this concept to refer to an abstract class of technocratic elites that ruled a large, bureaucratic system.

Burnham had a different vision of dystopia than George Orwell, who envisioned a rigid tyranny held together by regimentation, discipline, pervasive surveillance, and propaganda. Rather, the managerial state was an entity that structured choice. The conception of power that Burnham and others envisioned issued from dominance of the most important industrial production mechanisms, and the bureaucratic power of the modern state to subtly engineer cultural and political outcomes. Building on Burnham and those he influenced, one potential information-age extension of the “managerial” theory is the idea of the “automatic state.”

Automatic state is a loose term that collects various isolated ideas about a polity in which important regulatory powers are performed by computational agents of varying intelligence. These beliefs eschew the industrial-era horror of a High Modernist apocalypse of regimentation, division of labor, social engineering, and pervasive surveillance. The underlying architecture of the automatic state, though, is a product of specific political and cultural assumptions that influence design. Though assumed to be neutral, the system automatically, continuously, and pervasively implements regulations and decision rules that seek to shape, guide, and otherwise manipulate social behavior.

Indeed, a recurring theme in some important political and social debates underway is that changes in technology allow a small group of technocrats to control society by structuring choices. The data signatures that all individuals generate and the online networks they participate is a source of power for both the corporate and government worlds. The biases of algorithms is a topic of growing interest. Some explicitly link unprecedented ability to collect, analyze, and exploit data with enhanced forms of violence. Others argue that the ability to record and track large masses of data will prop up authoritarian governments.  Activists regard the drone itself–and the specter of autonomous weapons–as a robotic symbol of imperialism.

While an automatic state may be plausible elsewhere, the top-down implications of Burnham’s technocracy does not fit America fairly well. Some of the most prominent users of the relevant automatic state technologies are corporations. While cognitive delegation to some kind of machine intelligence can be seen in everything from machine learning systems  to airplane autopilot functions, it would be a big stretch to say that the powerful algorithms deployed in Silicon Valley and Fort Meade serve a macro-level social regulatory function.

Certainly it is clear that mastery of computational intelligence’s commercial applications has made a new Californian commercial elite, but it is mostly not interested in governance. Faulty government information technology deployment of large-scale systems (as seen in the Obamacare debacle) also does not auger well for an American automatic state elite. However, some interesting — and troubling — possibilities present themselves at state, country, and municipal levels of  governance.

Cash-strapped state governments seeking more precise ways of extracting tax revenue for road projects are seeking to put a mile-tracking black box in every car. Drivers would be charged based on a pay-per-mile system, and government planners hope that it can better incentivize certain driving patterns. Tools like the black box may suggest the dawn of a new age of revenue extraction enabled by cheap, precise, and persistent surveillance. Why not, say, utilize a black box which (in the manner of a traffic camera) automatically fines the driver for going over the speed limit or violating a traffic regulation?

In contrast to Burnham’s vision of technocratic elites, those who benefit from these technologies are the same unwieldy group of local bureaucrats that Americans must inevitably put up with every time they drudge down to their local DMV. While this may seem innocuous, local government’s thirst for new revenue has led to disturbing practices like the drug war habit of asset forfeiture. Though legal, asset forfeiture has stimulated corruption and also incentivized constant drug raiding in order to secure more funds.

What technologically-enhanced  local governments may bring is the specter of automatic and pervasive enforcement of law. The oft-stated notion that millions of Americans break at least several laws every day suggests why automatic and pervasive enforcement of rules and regulations could be problematic. As hinted in the previous reference to asset forfeiture, it is not merely a question of a rash reaction to substantial fiscal problems that local political elites face.

Politics is a game of incentives, and it is also a question of collective action and cooperation. As many people noted in analysis of mayoral corruption in the District of Columbia, many local politicians often have little hope of advancing to higher levels of prominence. Thus, they have much less incentive to delay gratification in the hope that a clean image will help them one day become more important. They can either reward themselves while they have power, or forfeit the potential gains of public office. Second, the relative autonomy of state and local governments is possible due to the lack of a top-down coordination mechanism seen in other, more statist political systems. The decision horizon, of, say, a county police department is extremely limited. So it will be expected to advocate for itself, regardless of the overall effect. These mechanisms are worsened by the fiscal impact of government dysfunction, the decay of infrastructure, privatization, and the limited resources increasingly available to state and local governments.

This mismatch is somewhat understandable, given the context of Burnham’s original theory. His inspiration was the then-dominant corporatist models seen in 1930s Germany, the Soviet Union, Italy, and other centrally planned industrial giants. He also misunderstood the political importance of the New Deal, claiming it was a sign of American transformation to a managerial state. As Lynn Dumenil noted in her history of interwar America (and her own lectures I attended as an undergrad), the New Deal was not a complete break from Herbert Hoover’s own conception of political economy. Hoover envisioned a form of corporatist planning in which the biggest corporate interests would harmoniously cooperate regarding the most important political-economic issues of the day,with the government as facilitator. The technocratic corporatism implied by Hoover’s vision was Burnham-like, and the New Deal was a continuation of this model. It differed only in that it made the government the driver of industrial political economy instead of designer and facilitator.

However, sustainment of a New Deal-like corporatist model depends on elite agreement. This was not to last. George Packer, Chris Hayes,  and Peter Turchin have all noted that today’s American elites do not have the level of cohesion necessary to sustain a technocratic state. Instead, they are competing with each other in a zero-sum manner. Silicon Valley entrepreneurs have flirted with the idea of secession. The US government cannot pass a budget that funds the government for more than a few months. A “submerged state” of  sub rosa government regulations twists policy towards an affluent few and private interests. The notion that financial regulation was compromised by regulatory capture is not controversial. Finally, a normative conception of elite appropriateness is no longer shared.

What this all suggests is that the impact of an automatic state will be scattered and aggregate. It will be experienced in large part locally through revenue-extracting technologies open up hitherto untapped sources of advantage. Political rent-seeking, not social engineering is the byword. The mechanism of extracting rents, however, is very “managerial” in its operation. In my home state of California, overt attempts to increase revenue have been consistently thwarted by political resistance. The potential for automatic state technologies to become “political technology” that fixes this problem through much less obvious revenue extraction mechanisms is understandably very attractive. However, the ability to process a constant stream of data from automatic state technologies will be contingent on computational power available, which will vary contextually.

Where the automatic state becomes politically and culturally influencing beyond pure rent extraction is also an area where localism will likely matter more. Computational capabilities for automatic enforcement and subtle structuring of political choice is difficult to accomplish on a national level except on a fairly piecemeal way due to national political constraints. However, on a local level where one party or interest may have vastly less constraining influences, it is much more likely that a computational instantiation designed to structure cultural or political choices toward a preferred result could occur. Even without such partisan considerations, there is always a school district that acts to ban a student’s behavior that they dislike or a prosecutor seeking to ramrod a given result that would see such technology as a boon.

All of this isn’t to completely dismiss the potential for federal usage of these technologies. But, as seen in the NSA scandal, mass domestic surveillance in an environment where the public is not afraid of a 9/11-esque event occurring may not be politically sustainable in its current form. A patchwork of “Little Brothers” tied to a revenue extraction mission, however, is a far more diffuse and difficult political issue to organize around.

If the automatic state comes, it is not likely that it will come in the form of a Big Brother-like figure hooked up to a giant machine. Rather, it might very well be a small black box in your car that measures your mileage–and is so successful that it is soon modified to track your speed and compliance with traffic regulations.

Blip: algo’s got rhythm at last!

Tuesday, August 27th, 2013

[ by Charles Cameron — a qualit with little time for quants making another graceful retraction ]

I haven’t been too convinced that algorithms were good at understanding my interests — remember that ad for “bold” Christian shirts (and babe) some fool code placed on Islamic Awakening — a site I was visiting to read up on Awlaqi?

Well, those algos are improving… Here’s what YouTube thinks I might want to listen to next, hot from the digital presses…


Turing Test: check!

I’d say YouTube’s algorithm has finally figured out — at least momentarily — the basics of who I am.

On two, one, seven plus or minus, and ten – towards infinity

Monday, July 29th, 2013

[ by Charles Cameron — a few quirky thoughts about graphs and analysis ]

Two eyes (heads, ideas, points of view) are better than one.


When I worked as senior analyst in a tiny think-shop, my boss would often ask me for an early indicator of some trend. My brain couldn’t handle that — I always needed two data points to see a pattern, and so I coined the mantra for myself, two is the first number. When the American Bankers Association during the Y2K scare wrote and posted a sermon to be delivered in synagogues, churches and mosques counseling trust in the banking system it was a curiosity. When the FBI, in response to the same Y2K scare, put out a manual for chiefs of police in which they provided input on the interpretation of the Book of Revelation, the two together became an indicator: they connected.

My human brain could see that at once — non-religious authority usurps theological function, times two.

For what it’s worth, the Starlight data-visualization system we used back then (1999) couldn’t put these two items together: I could and did.


To wax philosophical, in a manner asymptotic to bullshit:

One isn’t a number until there are two, because it’s limitless across all spectra and unique, and because it is its own, only context.

One isn’t a number unless there’s a mind to think of it — in which case it’s already an abstraction within that mind, and thus there are, minimally, two. At which point we are in the numbers game, and there may be many, many more than two — twenty, or plenty, or plenty-three, or the cube root of aleph null, or (ridiculous, I know) infinity-six…

Go, figure.

Two is the first number, because the two can mingle or separate, duel or duet: either way, there’s a connection, a link between them.

Links and connections are where meaning lies — in the edges of our graphs, where two nodes seamlessly integrate, much as two eyes or two ears give us stereoscopic vision or stereophonic sound, not by abstracting one from two by skipping the details that make a difference, but by incorporating the rich fullness of both to present a third which contains them fully via an added dimension of depth.

That’s the fundamental reason that DoubleQuotes are an ideal analytic tool for the human mind to work with: they’re the simplest form of graph — the dyad — populated with rich nodes and optimally rich associations between them.



Cornelius Castoriades wrote:

Philosophers almost always start by saying: “I want to see what being is, what reality is. Now, here is a table; what does this table show to me as characteristic of a real being?” No philosopher ever started by saying: “I want to see what being is, what reality is. Now, here is my memory of my dream of last night; what does this show me as characteristic of a real being?” No philosopher ever starts by saying “Let the Requiem of Mozart be a paradigm of being”, and seeing in the physical world a deficient mode of being, instead of looking at things the other way around, instead of seeing in the imaginary, i.e., human mode of existence, a deficient or secondary mode of being.

When I specified above “the simplest form of graph — the dyad — populated with rich nodes and optimally rich associations between them” I was offering a Castoriades-style reversal of approach, in which our choice of nodes is determined not by their abstraction — as single data points — but by their humanly intuited significance and rich complexity. Hence: anecdotes, quotes, emblems, graphics, snapshots, statistics — leaning to the qualitative side of things, but not omitting the quantitative. And their connection, intuited for the richness of the parallelisms and oppositions between them.

Often the first rich node will be present in the back of the mind — aviators wanting to learn how to fly a plane, but uninterested in how to land it — when the second falls into place — when a student asks a diving instructor to teach the diving technique, with no interest in learning to avoid the bends while coming back up. And bingo — the thing us understood, the pattern recognized, and an abstraction to “one way tasks” — including “one way tickets” established.

Let’s call that first node a “fly in the subconscious”. I’d love to have been a fly in the subconscious when SecDef Rumsfeld told a Town hall meeting in Baghdad, April 2003:

And unlike many armies in the world, you came not to conquer, not to occupy, but to liberate and the Iraqi people know this.

Because I could have chimed in cheerfully in the very British voice of General Sir Frederick Stanley Maude, in that different yet same Baghdad in 1917:

Our armies do not come into your cities and lands as conquerors or enemies, but as liberators…

Oh, the echo — the reverb!


The ideal number of nodes in the kind of graph I’m thinking of is found in terms of the human capacity to hold “seven plus or minus two” items in mind at the same time — thus, with a slight scanning of the eyes, a graph with eight to twelve nodes and twenty or so edges is about the limit of what can be comprehended.

The Kabbalistic Tree of Life, infinitely rich in meaning and instruction, has ten nodes and twenty-two edges. Once taken into the mature human mind, there is no end to it.

The value of a graph composed of such rich nodes and edges lies in the contemplation it affords our human minds and hearts.


Two, being the simplest number, will probably give you the richest graphs of all…

Art, in the person of Vincent Van Gogh, meet science, in the person of Theodore von Kármán.

Switch to our mobile site