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UNTHINKABLE vs INEXPRESSIBLE THOUGHTS

10/06/2014, Madrid (ES)
Silviu Daniel Eftimie

To discuss about Unthinkable Thoughts I've invited in my lab Richard Hamming and Bret Victor. To talk about Inexpressible Thoughts we have here Sting, Alan Kay, and Ioan Rosca. This being said, let's begin.

Richard HammingBret VictorStingAlan KayIoan Rosca

01. Unthinkable thoughts

In The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics, Richard Hamming made the following statement:

“Just as there are odors that dogs can smell and we cannot, as well as sounds that dogs can hear and we cannot, so too there are wavelengths of light we cannot see and flavors we cannot taste. Why then, given our brains wired the way they are, does the remark: Perhaps there are thoughts we cannot think, surprise you? Evolution, so far, may possibly have blocked us from being able to think in some directions; there could be unthinkable thoughts

Bret Victor analyzes, continuous and shows a solution to Hamming's problem in Media for Thinking the Unthinkable:

“These sounds that we can't hear, this light that we can't see: how we even know about this things in the first place? Well we build tools, we build tools that adapt this things that are outside of our senses to our human bodies, to our human senses.

- So we can't hear ultrasonic sounds, but you hook a microphone into an oscilloscope and there it is you are seing that sound with you eyes, right?

- We can’t see cells or galaxies, but by building tools like microscopes and telescopes, this tools adapt the world to our human body, to our human senses.”

In conclusion:: there could be unthinkable thoughts... but we build tools that adapt those unthinkable thoughts to the way that our minds work, and allow us to think this thoughts that were previously unthinkable

02. Inexpressible thoughts

Although, there are thoughts that we are aware of but we can't express them fully.

When we use language we realize that it is limited, hence the inability to develop.

[...] “ there might be limitations in language itself and our ability to represent ideas and think about them that could preclude us from actually understanding the foundations of our situation”

The center of why, Alan Kay

We picture the world in the amounth of words we know. Because of this we can distort our ideas in an incipient state. The language itself shapes our thoughts.

Regardless of the method by which we try to express these thoughts, what really makes difficult their expression is the amount of details that we tend to overlook / highlight. The complexity of all details make the analisis of the data (comparison, assotiation) often impossible.

I will expose two ideas, which I partially manage to understand but whose evolution / finality I can not track / predict:

Did you ever hear the theory of the universe?
Where every time you make a choice,
A brand new planet gets created?
Did you ever hear that theory?
Does it carry any sense?
That a choice can split the world in two,
Or is it all just too immense for you?
That they all exist in parallel,
Each one separate from the other,
And every subsequent decision,
Makes a new world then another...
And they all stretch out towards infinity,
Getting further and further away.
Now, were a man to reconsider his position,
And try to spin the world back to its original state?

It's not the same moon, Sting

Based on this idea, I tried a few times to retrace my route up to the present, analyzing changes, wondering from time to time: "What happened to the old me who chose differently in this context?".

“You produce two pencils, one will go to a school and will be used in writing a story like The Little Prince. The other - will be used to draw a bolt pattern that will fix a component of a bomber, which will destroy a school full of children. Who and how can track the maze of the effects of our productive gestures?“

Alternatives, Ioan Rosca

On many occasions I've wished to have a solution capable of analising, anticipating and custom playing all the possibilities of a situation/problem.

Yes but why? Because [...]

“the most important invisible thing today is ourselves. Most people live in stories made up by them and their societies, and they call these stories “reality”. We are the most dangerous force on Earth, to ourselves and the environment. It is the main aim of education to provide not information or techniques, but a better set of perspectives for better seeing the invisible.“

The center of why, Alan Kay

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Silviu Daniel Eftimie

From the time when internet has connected the world.
I currently work as a web developer and I attend computer courses offered by Tuts +, Stanford University and Coursera.