Crossing the Great Divide

Life is flexible and creative.

Mathematics is different from life; it is definite and conclusive.

When certain modern mathematicians recently figured out—and admitted— that equations can not account for all truth about life itself, they actually enabled themselves to make a quantum leap forward in human communications.

What George Gilder calls the mathematics of information theory is actually a “math of creativity.”

Human creativity is required to make this math work properly. If humans would not intervene—if we were to choose not to intervene, not to tweak, not to program—our stupid, soul-less computers would “churn away forever.”

Caught up in a never-ending loop—that’s what computers would do if we didn’t manage them and tell them what to do.

How did such a bright idea enlighten the computering pioneers of our 20th-21st century progress?

In his book, Life After Google, George Gilder describes a series of progressive mathematical proofs that eventually brought us to an advanced stage of modern mathematics. Beginning mainly with Isaac Newton, these theorems collectively lead, step-by-step, to a system of proven mathematical truths.

But the mathematicians ran into a problem—a dead end. The roadblock showed up shortly after a certain fellow, David Hilbert, came along and, being absolutely  sure that we could express all knowledge mathematically, famously said: “We must know; we will know!”

It seems to me David was gathering his sustenance from an old source that was long ago proven unreliable; it was, I surmise, that phenom that Moses called the “Tree of Knowledge.”

Actually, it was a little while later that his assistant—a fellow named John von Neumann—provided the missing link that exposed Hilbert’s wishful thinking for what is was.

Along those link lines, George Gilder provides in his book a list of other mathematicians and scientists whose work contributed to John von Neumann’s breakthrough. The list includes Kurt Gödel, Gregory Chaitin, Hubert Yockey, Alan Turing, Claude Shannon.

George Gilder explains. . .

“Gödel’s insights led directly to Claude Shannon’s information theory, which underlies all computers and networks today.”

In the midst of this move forward away from mathematical determinism and into creative computing, the contribution of John von Neumann was to encourage Gödel in his emerging proof that absolute mathematical proof was impossible.

Along this path of computing enlightenment, Gilder points out that

“Gödel’s proof prompted Alan Turing’s invention in 1936 of the Turing machine—the universal computing architecture with which he showed that computer programs, like other logical schemes, were not only incomplete but could not even be proved to reach any conclusion. Any particular program might cause it (the computer) to churn away forever. This was the ‘halting problem.’Computers required what Turing called ‘oracles’ to give them instructions and judge their outputs.”

Those “oracles” are human beings. Guess what: Computers need us if they’re going to work correctly!

George Gilder goes on to explain in his book that this creative guidance from us, homo sapiens, is what leads, and has lead to, all the computer progress we have seen in modern times.

Along that path of progress, Larry and Sergei came along and harnessed all that creative oracularity into a thing called Google.

You may have heard of it.

My takeaway is that, back in the dawn of the computer age . . . while Hilbert was chowing down on the Tree of Knowledge, his assistant Von Neumann managed to pluck some life-sustaining nourishment from the Tree of Life.

Gilderbook

Along those lines, here’s a cool quote from George Gilder:

“Cleaving all information is(:) the great divide between creativity and determinism, between information entropy of surprises and thermo-dynamic entropy of predictable decline, between stories that capture a particular truth and statistics that reveal a sterile generality.”

 Maybe you have to be a computer nerd to process all that quote in your very own CPU, or you may be like me and just read a lot . . .

King of Soul

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