Thursday, December 2, 2010

extending the theory into the FOURTH DIMENSION!!!

I wish there was a font to convey that wavery science fictioney voice...

The latest evolution of the GUT (for me at least) is that it applies not only to distinct items at a given point in time, but also to a given item at two different points in time.

So to recap and say the same thing in a different way:  no two things are the same.  Also, no one thing is the same at any other time.

This revelation came to me while showering yesterday and thinking about the comments from Mr. Anonymous on the "narrative" post...he's not actually anonymous to me and from past conversations/debates I was trying to infer where the discussion of narrative bias might go with him from here.  It led me back to my central premise that No Two Things Are the Same and also non-starter problems in debate I discussed here before.

His comment on the narrative post he stated "truth is truth", which points to a particularly contentious debate among those who like to talk philosophy; whether or not there is an objective "truth" has been debated to death among we quasi-intellectual coffee house navel gazers.

But back to my shower (and how it connects back to this desultory post): I was wondering how two separate people (who cannot be the "same" given NTTATS) could ever come to an agreement on the question of objective reality (or truth), and then - BAM - it hit me that even in a given person's experience it is possible to hold two conflicting opinions on a given subject.

The best example of this that comes to my mind is the difference between a teenage person's perception and the "adult" perceptions of the same person 10 or 20 years later.  It may appear to a 14 year old boy that the objective truth is that the girl in his social studies class is the girl for him for all time.

Or, say you are at a party in March 2006...the well dressed young man drinking Maker's Mark over ice suggests that you consider getting out of the rental racket and buy some property.  "You see," he explains, "when you rent you are just throwing your money away every month...if you bought a condo, instead, you would be investing.  Buying real estate is the biggest no-brainer investment out there" he might add, or something similar.  So you give it some thought, do some research, and find that EVERYONE else in your circle of friends and coworkers has been making serious jack in the condo market.

superfluous paragraph break for aesthetic purposes

So you do some more research and find that real estate prices have been rising steadily for quite some time, and that, on top of that promising trend, the government and the major banks are working together to push borrowing rates for people just like you to ALL TIME LOWS.  So you bite the bullet and buy a condo [let me, the blog author for this here post, interject that I'm not suggesting that this action was either rational or irrational...I'm just trying to create a scenario to make another point].  Given all of the evidence at hand you felt confident that buying a condo was the right thing to do.

Two years later you feel that buying a condo was the wrong thing to do, when "price corrections" lowered the value of your condo significantly below the associated debt load to buy the condo, which further reduced  your ability to source credit to make other investments, hindered your mobility, and raised your leverage ratio.  Let's examine this made up scenario (this example is obviously not drawn from any real world examples, right?) for just a minute...none of the original premises turned out to be exactly false

  • real estate prices were rising steadily
  • interest rates were at all time lows
  • renting truly did not provide an opportunity to build equity in real estate, while
  • buying a condo actually did provide the opportunity to build equity (even if the certainty of that eventuality was mis-measured)
And yet, under this scenario, there existed a point in time where a given person in possession of a bunch of basically true "facts" came to a conclusion about the nature of a given reality, only to come to the opposite conclusion when presented with another set of "facts".

It's possible this is a flawed example, stilted by the blogger's bias.

Let's try another one:

(it's hard...I'm pretty cynical about objective reality, so I'm struggling to come up with reasonable examples)

I was surprised at some point in my education to find that weights and measures are basically defined by agreement...I mean, I didn't think that there was something in nature that everyone could look at and say "that's a foot - it's exactly 12 inches long."  But I also didn't expect that there was a place you could go to check your ruler against a "standard"...but that's the case.  As it is the case that you can go see the reference kilogram.

It made sense to me after I read it, but was one of those things that I was unprepared to learn.  But it's relevant here: the only way we can collectively make use of something useful like the concept of a given weight is by consensus...there is no objective, Platonic "kilogram" out there in space, only a chunk of material we have agreed to call a kilogram.

And - to tie it all back in to this idea of non-sameness along the timeline - the reference kilogram is not the same weight from moment to moment.  (Admittedly small) variations in pressure, temperature, composition of the air in the room, intensity of the lights (this is getting goofy) will affect measured weight.


  1. BAM, that was an aesthetically persuasive post!

    The things or concepts about which we tend most vigorously to try to stake some Truth-is-Truth objectivity are the ones that are more closely linked to our evolved psychologies. We feel, at some level, that if everyone would just agree to all the moral and religious (for instance) delusions that inhabit us, then there would be harmony. In a way, real estate enthusiasts of the mid-00's were evangelistic like this. If only everyone had agreed to perpetuate the bubble...

    But yeah, anytime you want to feel less certain about the ground beneath your feet, think back to the kilogram. You didn't mention that it's actually evaporating too. Just a little... but still!

  2. "Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away."