version @ of 2006 03 18

relates to Gestalt

You light a match. You get a little big of light, a little bit of heat. You build a firecracker, a sealed tube with a fuse. It just sits there in the box. Light the fuse with the match and a great deal more happens.

The baby eats her cereal, grows, years go by. So too the boy. Then one day, kerpow.

Synergy: combined effects exceeding what might be predicted from studying any component in isolation.

These days we all know about fuses, detonators. Our most ancient ancestors knew what happened when boys and girls reached puberty. Yet there remain synergistic effects few of us are aware of: that fewer still can do anything constructive (or destructive) with. I give an example from Bucky Fuller.
You may well be able to do this exercise in your mind alone, just reading, and thinking while reading; but don’t: build a model. It will add only seconds to the lesson but may add degrees of understanding the mind along can’t guess. That’s right: synergy. Get several equal length sticks for edges, toothpicks will do; or scissors and paper for cutting triangles.

Involving Additional Dimensions

Put two sticks together, make an angle. Add a third stick to the open ends of the two. Now you have a triangle: an equilateral triangle: three angles, all equal.
Note that the two sticks alone implied a triangle: by synergy.
(Someone obsessed with triangles might “see” a triangle from just one edge, but any of us will start to see a triangle from just two edges. (The rare girl, the rare boy, may anticipate puberty by a month, or a year, but by puberty nearly all of us are responding to the common stimulus. At maturity, all members of the group will have at least some response: so the average propagates.))

You want your triangle to have stability for at least a moment or two, so glue the ends of the edges; or cut an equilateral triangle from paper where the edges are the same length as you next stick.

Ready? Now add the end of your next stick so it joins your original vertex. Lean your triangle a bit so your fourth stick can share the weight of the first triangle. You have a tepee. You have a tetrahedron.

Ordinary counting, ordinary arithmetic gets complicated. 1 + 1 … 1 + 2 … = a new 1.

1 edge + 1 edge implies N edges, N faces, N forms …

Typically, typically invisibly, a new dimension has been involved.

Arthur C. Clarke tells a story that I see as an example of dimensional synergy: a girl scored 799 on the math section of her SATs. She was indignant, wanted to know which one she got wrong, insisted she had gotten none wrong. Everyone tried to pacify her: a 799 was fabulous! What was she complaining about. She had trouble getting even her father, a math teacher, to investigate. Finally, he did: identified the question, confirmed the SAT’s answer: his daughter missed that one. No, she insisted. Build a model. Her father built the model. Lo and behold, the daughter was right. She was the genius here, her father and the SAT people were ordinary, merely smart.
The question involved counting the number of faces on a new geometrical form after two simpler forms had been joined. The SATs, the father, had followed a known formula. The girl had pictured it, seen that an unpredicted synergy was involved: the new form simplified!
They sued, she triumphed.
(An unknown number of geniuses before her got ridden over: by numbers, volumes, of merely smart people.)
(As Fuller said, if nature wants to make something, she makes jillions of them: cause most will fail.)
(pk adds, How many Messiahs would a God have to send before the crucifixion of one of them got noticed?)


And always one “dimension” is easily overlooked. We’re trained to see length and width. We learn to see depth as well. Human primate-eyes-forward
stereoscopic vision helps.

There’s a point. It has no dimensions, merely location. Or does it? Look again: is it still there? And again: still there? It has a dimension: time. It’s enduring. For around a century we’ve been calling time the “fourth dimension.” We think of length first. In the sense that naming is arbitrary. 666 Fifth Avenue may have been built after 961 Fifth Avenue. It’s an order, but it’s not a chronological order. (It may be, it is, a geographical order: small numbers south, greater numbers north (in New York anyway).) Ilya Prigogine assumes that time is infinite. Makes sense to me. If the universe is finite (and it seems to be), then time is older, much older, infinitely older, than space.

If we count 0, 1, 2, 3 … then time is Dimension0.


Those examples are visual; here’s one that’s auditory:
This example has multiple appearances at Macroinformation. I need to reduce them all to one file: and a bunch of links.

One kid sasses another kid, or the group sasses an individual: “Nyah-nyah.” We see it, but importantly here, we hear it.

The nyahs are chanted, sing-song. The kids don’t have to have musical training: the nyahs WILL be a minor fifth apart. Let’s say that it’s a G and an E that’s been sung. The minor third is the second and third third of a major chord. The kids chant G and E. The victim, the kids, we the audience hear the implicit root, C.

Two tones are uttered, a third tone, the root tone, is heard: unconsciously or consciously makes little difference to the effect.

Now, compare that to our forming of a triangle above. We joined two sticks to form one vertex, the two sticks at an angle. Instantly we implied a third edge: the base to a triangle. A basic, stable form “wants” to form: in our minds. We sing two tones. Instantly, automatically, the most stable auditory “shape” is suggested. Perhaps an infinity of other tones are also suggested; but the simplest, most stable form will dominate: unless new information is added.


Here’s another visual example, already multiply offered here (and also needing to be replaced with one file and a lot of links).

A woman has a B tattooed on each buttock for her husband’s birthday, her husband always marveling at her “beautiful buns.” She strips in front of him, bends over, he asks, “Who’s Bob?”

Where did her husband find the “O”?

The key datum isn’t among the data.

With macroinformation key data are never among the data. That is: the key data is already in the universe, in the mind of the beholder. Triangles, major chords, human anatomy … existed in the world before we were born. If you have no geometrical sense, you will not see the triangle until it’s completely “spelled” out. If you have no sense of harmony, you won’t hear a major C chord in the kids’ chanting. If you’ve never seen, nor imagined, a woman naked, you won’t get the “beautiful buns” joke. But the bulk of us do get those, and much more.

My point is to try to get us to see, to acknowledge, that our most important information is routinely not spelled out.

There’s a whole universe of information in Shakespeare’s “salad days.” We all “get” it; what I want to do is analyze it: as deeply, and as completely, as possible.

The exercise is not for everyone. You can live, function, reproduce, die … all without knowing music theory, without studying anatomy, without making a fetish of grammar … Fine. Should therefore no one perform dissections? compose aware music? write, perform, or fathom great poetry?

More coinages: macro-datum

Now: I’m emphasizing eidetic data, data that we sense in our mind rather than see or hear extensionally: “between the lines”; not “on the page.”

Information is any difference that makes a difference. Metadata is information about the information. Metainformation is information that emerges from patterns, especially conflicts, among the data. And macroinformation is my name for the cream of the metainformation, the synergistic Gestalt of the whole. Now I want a term to distinguish the edge of the triangle physically present from the implicit, eidetic, edge; the “o” from the “b” in Bob; the unheard C from the uttered E and G or nyah-nyah … This is a distinct — a different — type of metadata. Thus metadataeidetic, where it makes a major, interpretive, difference, I shall call macrodata. The specific “missing” triangle base I shall call a macrodatum.


Eyes-forward stereoscopic vision:

2006 07 23

When I wrote the above I had in mind primate evolution in terms of focusing on and grasping branches in trees. Now a paper has appeared arguing that primate vision developed advantages for those who could see and evade snakes, a predator that normally can get close up and personal before being detected. See


Synergy Notes


It was R. Buckminster Fuller who revived the concept of synergy from the ancient Greeks. His writings on the subject are now online at Kirby Urner’s

You may as well be able to look at some of my reading notes on synergy before I convert them to new modules.

Haken, Hermann: Synergetics, Stuttgart, Van Nostrand Reinhold Co., NY, 1981

order parameter: the right hand drawing the left (which draws the right)

“As synergetics shows the `relevant information’, the overall context is supplied by the order parameters, which will become most significant whenever the macrobehavior of the systems changes. Generally these order parameters are the long-lived magnitudes that enslave the short-lived ones.” p22

… the competitive behavior of different colective types of motion: one of them becomes more and more dominant, supressing as it does so all the others.

We shall in due course find in sociology that in political or economic decisions, minor fluctuations — accidents, as it were — often determine the momentous direction events will take. Once the coice is made the alternative is out of the question, and the choice cannot be reversed. Minor fluctuations often decide the nature of the choice. p48

Those readers who at this point would like to infer that self- organization can lead to chaos but that organization — ie, control from outside — avoids it should realize that they will find that the very control processes can also produce chaos in self-organizing systems. p 58

The existence of the order parameter on the one hand and the coherent behavior of the electrons on the other mutually condition each other. This is a typically synergetic phenomenon. p66

like all biological systems, the laser is an open system. p 69

[cf. Lewis Thomas’ termites and A C Clarke’s Nine Billion Names of God]

We shall find time and again that the transformation of microenergies into the macroenergy of a few degrees of freedom appears to be one of the fundamental priciples of biological processes.

Laser activity will, however, start quite suddenly as soon as the number of laster atoms is increased beyond this critical number. What we are in fact confronted with here is a change from quantity to quality. p 70

If we increase it progressively with liquids, patterns of ever-increasing complexity will be formed until they are superseded by turbulence.

These light flashes — as called utrashort laser pulses — are the outcome of the cooperation of many different waves. Competition between them has ceased and been replaced by a huge shared effort. … also predicts another new kind of light: turbulent light. p 71

Thinking Tools Information, Macroinformation Menu Mi Views

About pk

Seems to me that some modicum of honesty is requisite to intelligence. If we look in the mirror and see not kleptocrats but Christians, we’re still in the same old trouble.
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