Sunday, May 26, 2013

Why I am a materialist

   Democritus (c. 375 BC)

'Materialist' is associated to varying degrees of identity with other identifiers: 'naturalist', 'physicalist', 'atheist', 'freethinker', 'skeptic'. I just simply call myself a materialist, and that should be enough.

Materialism has a long history, starting with Democritus ("Nothing exists except atoms and empty space, everything else is opinion." c. 400 BC), and on through Epicurus and Lucretius to the present day. Some argue there were materialists in India before Democritus.

Physicists today have other entities in their ontology — subatomic particles, strings, branes, quantum vacuum, wave function, Feynman paths, ... — but Democritus's quote is still applicable today. Some talk of fields, but "while our mathematical theories are expressed in terms of abstract fields, what we always measure is best described as particles."1

I am not only a materialist but also a codifist: Code is all that exists.2 But the code that is the fabric of nature is not completely deterministic.3 In one way to think of them, codes should be no more more surprising than fields.

I don't say one has to be a codifist to be a materialist, but I am.

1 Particles Are for Real
2 The Codifist Manifesto
3 Evolutionary code and the probabilistic lambda calculus

Friday, May 24, 2013

The Code Age

Some names I've seen for the current "Age": The Information Age, The Digital Age, The New Media Age (really?), ...

As a codologist, it came to mind that the better name would be The Code Age.

I did a search* and it turns out this has been recently proposed by a blogger in India:

Would you call the current era “The Code Age”?
... I have dared to propose for so long that “code” is the fundamental building-block which creates the structure of human expressions and thoughts in the current era and all major influencing vectors like technology, economy and language are almost driven by codes and as human structure is code-dependent the power of code to influence human actions, functions, expressions and ideas cannot be denied … now, if the current era is influence in so overpowering manner by “codes”, would it not be proper to define this era as “The Code Age”? … …

And codes are not only the basis of human creations, but are the fabric of the natural world as well.

This is The Code Age.

* There is also the Code Age Commanders game, which, too, lives in The Code Age.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

re: Sean Carroll on naturalism

re: post on Rationally Speaking (Sean Carroll interview)

An alternative to ontologizing the quantum wave function, as Sean Carroll does (see also Jill North, is to ontologize Feynman paths (from Feynman's sum over paths formulation of quantum mechanics). This is what Huw Price does in "Backward causation, hidden variables and the meaning of completeness". In fact, collections of paths are ontologized ("bundles", e.g., the set of paths connected to a single location on a screen in a double-split experiment is a Feynman bundle).

If I got it right, there was an interesting remark on the podcast about there being more non-naturalists among chemists than either physicists or biologists. Maybe it's the drugs.

Whether one calls oneself a naturalist vs. physicalist vs. materialist may be debatable among some, but I'm OK with materialist. I like to think it links me back to Democritus and Epicurus.

If I had to state my own ontology, it would be "Code is all that exists."

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

War of Words

The Tea Party and the Republican Party promote the Christian Reconstructionist belief that government should be small, laissez-faire capitalism should reign, and churches and charities will provide all social welfare needs. They have been winning the war of words on how people view government, thanks in large part to the apparently effective writings of conservative pundits and, of course, fear-mongering right-wing politicians.

What Our Words Tell Us

Tuesday, May 14, 2013


Sociologists, palaeontologists, codologists and a host of other 'olo-
gists' tell us that we live in the Information Age.

InQUIZition, By Mark Evans

codology n. (Irish informal) The art or practice of bluffing or deception.

Funny that codology is that, not

The study or use of codes.

So is codology the study of codes or the art of bluffing? — perhaps it's in the difference in pronunciation.

Sounds like a problem for Derrida, codologist.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Materialists and spiritualists together?

The "new atheists" have a lot to say about theism. But they do not have much to say about platonism, and that could be because they are speaking from their own platonistic platform of eternal laws. But as far as religion goes, their agenda seems to be to attack it indiscriminately.

Materialists are not like the platonistic atheists. In their rejection of platonism, materialists see that there is a fundamentalist aspect of some of the new atheists that is as misguided as what they criticize regarding those who are spiritual.

While materialists and spiritualists may differ in their conception of reality, they can find common purpose in building a more progressive and flourishing society. And that is more important than "winning" a "Does God exist?" debate. A creationist progressive is better than an evolutionist conservative any day.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Code theory

Segments and loops of filament
filling the firmament,
forming into letters
(the alpha and the numeric),
randomly alining,
coding the multiverse.

Friday, May 10, 2013

lambda calculus and category theory in JavaScript


Here are some references for programming components of lambda calculus and category theory in JavaScript:

    Lambda calculus in JavaScript syntax


    The Lambda Calculus and The JavaScript [Leisure (related code)]

    Category Theory in JavaScript [videos by Mike Stay]

    Faster JavaScript Through Category Theory [video presentation]

    Fay: A proper subset of Haskell that compiles to JavaScript

These references below are not about JavaScript programming, but they connect lambda calculus to category theory (the first more directly than the second):

    Cartesian closed category

    To Dissect a Mockingbird: A Graphical Notation for the Lambda Calculus
        with Animated Reduction

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Why to be skeptical of skeptics societies

There is a discussion of something of a rift within the skeptics community on the philosophy blog Rationally Speaking over what is and what is not to be included under the umbrella of the skeptic movement, which includes a critical identification of pseudoscience.

The science promoted by those opposing the mainstream scientific assessment of global warming could be called "pseudoscience". But so could the economic theory that is the basis of Republican economic policy, what Paul Krugman compares to "the phlogiston theory of fire". Both "pseudoscience"s could end up hurting people, in fact the latter more immediately than the former. If the meetings of the skeptics societies were to become a safe place for Republicans by avoiding critical assessment of the theory behind Republican economic policies, something is wrong.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Is it pseudoscience?

This is what defines pseudoscience for me: Any "theory" that introduces the nonmaterial. (Other words for'nonmaterial': 'nonnatural', 'nonphysical', 'supernatural', 'spiritual', 'magical'.) Intelligent Design (ID) is a great example of pseudoscience.

For example, superstring theory and M-theory are materialist theories, so they are not pseudoscience. One might call such theories "edge" (as in "cutting edge") science, though. Another example is the hypothesized WIMP (Weakly Interacting Massive Particle) theorized to explain dark matter. No conclusive evidence has been found yet for WIMPs. It may be edge science, but it is clearly not pseudoscience. Cold fusion may be a "pathological" science, but it is not pseudoscience.

A materialist theory may appear to be crazy, and may even turn out to be flat wrong (as could be the theory presented in a recent paper* on the application of Moore's Law to timing the origin of life on Earth), but it is not pseudoscience.

* Moore’s Law and the Origin of Life MIT Technology Review
Apparently philosopher Paul Feyerabend thought 'pseudoscience' is just a pejorative and doesn't exist as a useful label. I don't go that far: I apply to those things that could never be science, which means they include the nonmaterial.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Writing, coding, and Derrida

Writing is coding.

From prose, to plays ... from programs* to poems ... from music, to math ... — each has its own HTML|XML + CSS|XSL encoding.

Derrida understood writing is coding, and codes do not have fixed interpretations.

Why does the right hate Derrida?

Derrida knocked texts out of a platonic heaven — they are a part of the material world like everything else.

* CodeUp: Marking up Programming Languages and the winding road to an XML Syntax

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Evolutionary code and the probabilistic lambda calculus

Anyone who considers arithmetical methods of producing
random digits is, of course, in a state of sin.

John von Neumann

A probabilistic lambda calculus (p-lambda calculus) is defined as follows:


variables: v1 v2 ...
abstraction symbols: λ . ⊕    ["lambda", "dot", "oplus"]
parentheses: ( )    ["left paren", "right paren"]

the set of probabilistic lambda expressions, Λp, is defined inductively:

1. If x is a variable, then x ∈ Λp
2. If x is a variable and M ∈ Λp, then (λx.M) ∈ Λp
3. If M ∈ Λp, N ∈ Λp, then (M N) ∈ Λp
4. If M ∈ Λp, N ∈ Λp, then (M ⊕ N) ∈ Λp;

Instances of rule 2 are known as abstractions, instances of rule 3 are known as applications, and instances of rule 4 are known as choices. The choice symbol ⊕ is a symbol added to the standard lambda calculus: M ⊕ N reduces to M or N with equal probability (0.5). (Along with the standard α, β, and η reduction of the lambda calculus, this reduction will be called φ reduction.)

(Note: The choice symbol enters the Church programming language via the flip function.)

A Tutorial Introduction to the Lambda Calculus provides lambda-expression definitions of natural numbers and arithmetic operators. From there the lambda calculus can be shown to be the basis for all (deterministic) programming code. The probabilistic lambda calculus is the basis for all probabilistic code.

The presentations of what is called by various names — digital physics, the computational universe, ... — appear to assume non-randomness. But this assumption of a deterministic machine "running" the code of the universe is a dogmatic* assumption. Ockham's razor should apply: Pure randomness is simpler than any deterministic pseudo-random number generator.

HotBits (from @Fourmilab) gives random numbers (quantum, or q-random numbers) from a quantum process via a hardware device. A program can obtain (jQuery.get()) an XML document with 128 (max size 2048) random numbers by


<?xml version="1.0" encoding="UTF-8"?>
<hotbits version="1.0">
<status version="1.0" result="200">OK</status>
<request-information version="1.0">
    <server-version>Release 3.2, June 2008</server-version>
<random-data version="1.0">
    B6 FD 92 5A 59 26 51 9C 28 FF B7 26 F8 2D ED 55
    0C 9D D5 79 FF E9 BE FF 1B A2 E0 D2 D4 2B 4B 7A
    56 39 81 C0 97 AA 75 98 C3 4D E9 BF 8E 14 C7 7B
    6D 07 6F 55 C1 28 B4 3B 2E 6A E8 C6 CF 86 B2 76
    52 53 4D 68 84 DD C9 35 05 0C 83 E4 56 9F 7A 33
    9B A5 DB 8D 81 84 46 C8 7A 13 50 0C 6E 0B 01 E0
    27 0F 06 4E 5F E7 12 8B 05 10 D8 24 9A BC CD F7
    33 8B 0B 4F B1 5D 29 77 5A 08 26 13 7A B1 B3 F9

Another call to this device will give a different set of q-random numbers (unless a really freak event has occurred!).

So random numbers do not have to come from a deterministic pseudo-random generator. They can come right from the quantum world itself, and we can escape from the sin of John von Neumann! And if we assume ⊕ is based on quantum (pure) randomness, we can create evolutionary code (in the sense of genetic programming and evolutionary computation, evolving everything from The Big Bang to The Big Bopper) that is not bound inside a deterministic framework of what is generally referred to as the computational model of the universe. We can now have genetic programming with the p-lambda calculus in a truly stochastic computational universe.

* (I've never understood the "computational universe" advocates' dogmatic adherence to determinism. There is no justification I've seen for sticking to that belief.)