Analogic / Digital

/ / Teaching / Thinking Tools /
@ K. 2003 05 20

Mission: to relate Analogic / Digital & Concrete / Abstract both directly and inversely and to relate their relations to that between micro-universe and macro-universe.

/ Digital

Etymologically the term digital relates to “digit”: fingers, and sub-units of fingers: to counting. Analogic recalls “analogy.” I shall relate both to the micro-universes and macro-universes that confuse as well as clarify our so-often glib conceptions of reality: and relate both to our (looks-to-me primitive) concepts of concrete and abstract.

Rough contrast, based on Gregory Bateson’s distinction:

If you puff yourself up, square your shoulders, and say, “It was …” unfurl your arms, stretch them out and down sideways till your arms are only a degree above horizontal, raise your voice, and continue, “big, huge, humongous …”, you are speaking analogically: your posture, your delivery, your acting … simulates your meaning. Get Arnold Schwarzenegger to deliver your line. Or Shaq, if he spoke better.

If you limit your delivery to an abstract value: “On his hind legs the grizzly stood x meters, y centimeters, z millimeters …”, you’re speaking digitally. You don’t need Arnold or Shaq or a special lighting-effects team.

Bateson points out that the word “big” is not longer than the word “small.” Their meaning is abstract: independent of the package the meaning comes in. That’s digital. A, b, c … 4, 5, 6 … 01, 11, 10 … contrasts digitally with “Oh, man, wow, that’s a b i g Mama!” which uses digits to wax toward analogic.

OK, I hope that’s sufficient to establish one or two coordinates in the universe (of understanding) I wish to build. Here’s a couple more. Note as we go that the new pair will considered in the same plane and also orthogonally to that plane. (In other words, we’re building extra dimensions.)

I’ve already said that the “digital” is abstract. That concept invites its complementary pair: concrete.

That said, I skip to another pair of complementary contrastives: micro- and macro-. They too will be compared in a plane and orthogonally. As we do so, a complex world will be revealed: one more congruent with the “reality” that sentiences educated in modern science live in: and by modern science I mean Einstein, Heisenberg, Planck, Godel, Mandelbrot, Prigogine, Diamond … Behe, Axelrod …; not “doctors” from state “universities” who write state-school text books and have about as much to do with falsifying our superstitions as medical doctors (the second leading killer!) have to do with sane living.

I’m just reading The Alienist by Caleb Carr. Reference there is made to contemporary [1896] thinking, as, on the one hand, Herbert Spencer had been trying to establish a molecular basis for understanding phenomena, whereas William James ignored the molecules and appealed to new psychological concepts. Still speaking roughly, I say that Spencer’s approach was “digital” while James’ approach was analogic. Ah, but wait. I also say that Spencer’s approach was concrete whereas it was James’ approach that was “abstract”: normally one would expect to match the pairs the other way around: digital with abstract; analogic with concrete. This world is complex: but may be conceptually simplified by the third pair: Spencer sought to understand phenomena from the atomic base up; James confined himself to the macro-universe of macro-phenomena, and ignored possible interfaces with the micro-universe.

If the visitor here has also been visiting Macroinformation, then the visitor may well recognize that I’m drawing exactly the same contrast I build there between data (which can be easily digitized) and (macro-)information (which cannot: not easily). In the universe of macro-phenomena, “all” is analogic: and abstract; concreteness here (as in the micro-universe) is actually abstract: not identical to, but kin to, illusion.

I’ll further say that my theory of Macroinformation wishes to establish an atomic (and sub-atomic) relationship between information as in data and information as in macroinformation, but the internet world seems to be full of Jamesians as no one has stepped forward to help! We process the information, but regard it as though it were concrete! rather than mental: a superstructure of mental concepts, as far removed from hyperstrings and quarks as Galactica is from a swarm of neutrinos!

I doubt that James would have denied that without molecules, psychology would be improbable; I doubt that Spencer was blind to macro-phenomena. Without the micro-patterns there are no macro-patterns. Without the macro-patterns the micro-patterns would seem to sentiences such as Hss to be chaos: without pattern, without meaning.

(A mature Macroinformation could mediate and resolve disputes over the whole spectrum from hyperstring to Hamlet.) (And a semi-mature Macroinformation could semi-resolve them.) I hasten to add that Spencer had little idea of sub-atomic particles and no idea at all of hyperstrings. To that I add that another century (should we live so long) could make our hyperstring look as primitive as Spencer’s molecule. (If we stopped worrying about exact truth and were content to live where we seem to be, “progressing” (or regressing) along a (call it) infinite (set of) spectrum (plural), neither “end” of which we will ever see, then we could just worry whether we were actually progressing or regressing! (never really the call to be made by fallible sentiences).

Just taking a break to look something up. Development note for when I return: compare James ignoring molecules with Bateson dismissing Pleroma as so many meaningless billiard balls. We must inspect both Creatura and Pleroma for interfacing: and model those interfaces we find.

K. Teaching Thinking Tools

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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2 Responses to Analogic / Digital

  1. Pingback: Analog Digital | DVD Video Editing

  2. pk says:

    I’ve accepted a comment here that’s sort of spam but it sort of straddles the fence.

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