Credo Tarot

by Anders Sandberg

This is my own tarot deck. Being my own, it refers to the structure of the world as I see it, my opinion of the world.

Tarot can be seen as a memory palace, a system of ordering all knowledge. People have always sought to express their sense of the order of the world, or at least affirm their belief that there is some order. Especially tempting is the all-encompassing system that claims to embody all that there is. Soon a chain of magical thinking occurs: since the system is all encompassing, it must be all knowing. And if it is all knowing, we can ask it questions and get answers. And before we know it we have ended up in fortune telling. Human credulity can move in the other direction too: any pattern that seems to be able to encompass complex truths about the world becomes all encompassing. A card game becomes a mystical tool assumed to know everything.

This tarot is unfinished so far. Maybe I will never finish it, or re-work it forever. New cards can be added, or why not a few extra suits? It is my tarot blog.

I deeply believe the universe is more like an unfinished, ongoing project than a set of eternal truths. That is my credo.


0: The Frozen Bike

The frozen bike defies explanation. It could be anything, symbolise anything, and do anything. But right now it just floats there. It could be a pointless piece of conceptual art, or the fulcrum of all creation. The only way to know is to act: examine it, melt the ice, and use it somehow.

This is the passivity before action, the readiness potential of the universe.


I: The Transhumanist

The transhumanist stands ready to ascend with his tools: information technology, nanotechnology, biotechnology and cognitive science.

Is he the harbinger of the posthuman era, or a self-deluded fool who listens to pseudoscience and science fiction all too credulously? Only time will tell – but it is also up to the transhumanist to prove himself. Can he harness his will to gain the necessary skills, resources and plans to achieve his ambitions?

The scientist/technologist is descended from the magician and still shares his niche in public consciousness. They both seek to understand and influence the world through knowledge and skill. Still, there is a chasm between the outlooks: one seeks to gain control and understanding by experiment and theory that is open to outside scrutiny and testing, the other seeks the same things but fears the sceptics and their demands of knowing how the trick was done. As the scientist clouds himself in jargon and assumptions he becomes a magician. As the magician refines his theories and dares to subject them to testing and publication, he becomes a scientist.

Will. Ambition. Intellectual creativity


With his right hand he points towards the blessed future. With his left hand he presses control-D to break with the past.

Behind him are the stores of past human knowledge and history. Around him are the documents of current knowledge. He needs to make new tools to gain the new knowledge he seeks.

The plant is Ginko Biloba - a living fossil whose family appeared in the Carboniferous era and survived both the ends of the cretaceous age and the latest ice ages. It would likely have died out if not Chinese monks had decided it was sacred and cultured it. It is rich in antioxidants and appears to improve short-term memory by increasing blood throughput in the brain.

The tools are the calculator (dagger), the pill bottle (cup), the DNA model (the wand) and the credit card (the pentacle) surrounding the fullerene molecule. They represent the analytic skills, the health and energy, the sense of destiny and the practical/material preconditions needed to get anywhere.

The infinity sign signifies his lack of limitations. At worst his imagination is unbounded from ordinary assumptions. At best his destiny infinite - far beyond human limitations. But it is a Möbius strip. One has to be careful not to follow it round and round in self-referential loops to get anywhere.

He is standing barefoot - he is still very much connected to his human past and plans to remain so even when he has become something transcendent. But his head is in the air.

And yes, that is a butterfly of transformation and a cryotag. Cannot leave them out.


IX: The Hermit

The Triangle inequality

||x+y|| <= ||x|| + ||y||

Sometimes the sum of two people is less than the people on their own.

The hermit turns inward. He conserves his power, does not start any new projects or meet new people. He continues in the old rut because it is old and doesn't cost him any mental effort - he saves energy.

Is he alone? Yes, as alone as he wants to be. He doesn't have to be consistent when nobody is there to judge him.

Carl Woese suggested (Woese CR (1998). "The universal ancestor." Proc Natl Acad Sci USA 95:6854-6859.) that the Last Universal Common Ancestor, the bacterium all terrestrial life is descended from, was not a single cell but rather a community of cells living in a sea of genetic exchange - or rather, a community of genes moving between cells. There were no species, just gradients of genetic usage. But when this exchange weakened, perhaps due to better cell membranes, different parts of the community were cut off and began to become individual.

A global genetic community allows all cells to partake on new useful genes, but it also requires that the cells are simple and porous. If they start to hide their genomes, just exchanging small pieces through plasmids and sex like trading misers, they will not get the same range of possible new genes but will also be able to form more complex and sensitive structures. The isolation breeds diversity, enabling the formation of species and complex ecosystems.

Integrity is the control over the information flowing in and out of one's organism.

It is not just the right to keep silent about what one wishes to keep silent about, but also the duty to determine for oneself what to attend to. When the spammer steals our attention we are contributing by allowing anybody to email us anything.

Isolation as a virtue. To keep silent. To conserve information.


The code on the sphere the hermit holds is the plasmid pINIIIompA3.


X: Chaos

The Lorenz attractor is the wheels of fortune.

The system spirals outwards: will it miss the hyperbolic fixed point and continue another turn, or will it shift to the other side? It is entirely deterministic, but each circulation makes the future less certain. Laplace's demon sits in a corner, cursing lack of precision.

The future cannot be predicted exactly except in the boring special cases. In all other situations small differences in initial conditions grow and grow until they make the outcome completely unexpected. We can make forecasts a bit into the future, and we can know the general shape of the attractors and universality classes we belong to, but we cannot know where we will end up.

Every grain of sand was placed there by interactions with the surrounding sand, the wind or the steps of an animal. Each grain has a complex history, despite having no memory of where it came from. And each grain will influence anything interacting with it, sending it to an entirely new path.

Is the approaching sandstorm the work of a butterfly somewhere? Yes. But it is the work of every butterfly, every bird, every sneeze and every past hurricane. There are no single causes.


XIII: Entropy

First Law: It is impossible to obtain something from nothing, but one may break even
Second Law: One may break even but only at the lowest possible temperature
Third Law: One cannot reach the lowest possible temperature
Implication: It is impossible to obtain something from nothing, so one must optimise resources
Kalyan Annamalai & Ishwar K. Puri, Advanced Thermodynamics Engineering, CRC Series in COMPUTATIONAL MECHANICS and APPLIED ANALYSIS, 2002

\Delta I <= k_B T \ln 2

The skeleton of entropy relentlessly advances forward, bearing the sword of dissolution but also the arrow of time.

Entropy is the root of all decay. It turns books to dust, heat to cold and life to death. It always increases, moving us towards the heat death of the universe. It doesn’t promise change or transformation, just stable states of maximal uninterestingness. It is impossible to escape because it is so fundamental: as long as unlikely states randomly move towards likely states entropy will win.

And yet it is the driver of change. Without irreversibility time would not have any direction. Objects would decay and undecay. Evolution would cease, as selection would no longer remove unfit genomes: individuals would die and un-die randomly. The thinking process moving from ignorance towards knowledge would be as likely as moving from knowledge to ignorance. Life depends on the dissipation of energy to preserve its low entropy, its identity. Without entropy life would become arbitrary.

Yet we do not welcome entropy. It is the foe that never sleeps, and as living beings we are fighting an uphill struggle against it. We must, because to give in is to cease life. Being metastable states random chance will eventually get us. But we can reproduce, protect ourselves, make backups and make the risks as small as possible. Immortality is not precluded, just easy immortality.

Death. Decay. Irreversible acts and decisions. One-way directions. Cold. You cannot beat the house.



XIX: The Dyson Sun

F=G m_1 m_2 / r^2

Kepler struggled for many years with his model of the solar system. Since there were six planets orbiting the sun, and five platonic polyhedra, should their distances not be related? He attempted inscribing the polyhedra in spheres marking the circular orbits, placing the solar system in perfect mathematical harmony. It made wonderful hermetic sense - and it never worked.

When Kepler finally discarded his cherished model and looked at what the data had been truly saying, he discovered something else entirely. Three simple laws:

The orbits of the planets are ellipses, with the Sun at one focus of the ellipse.

The line joining the planet to the Sun sweeps out equal areas in equal times as the planet travels around the ellipse.

The ratio of the squares of the revolutionary periods for two planets is equal to the ratio of the cubes of their semimajor axes.

Suddenly the data made sense. The solar system did contain harmonies, but new harmonies never expected by any Greek philosophers. The way towards gravitation, central forces and space was open.

Will our descendants make Kepler's dream true? Most of the solar system is a waste of matter, just lying there and dissipating the sacred rays of sunlight into the void. But what if that matter was rearranged to collect the light, to make it available for life, work, thought and growth?

Freeman Dyson's idea (based on a similar concept in Stapledon's Starmaker) was to englobe the sun in a shell of orbiting habitats and solar collectors: a Dyson sphere. It would have 600 million times the surface area of the Earth. He suggested it as the logical result of current exponential growth in energy and resource use.

Robert Bradbury went further in suggesting the Matrioshka Brain: making use of all available matter to process information - thinking, feeling, being - in a nested structure where each kind of material available would be used for energy collection and dissipation, information processing and storage. Planets would be disassembled by self-replicating machines in the matter of years, the stellar atmosphere tamed and the entire system turned into something not unlike the Kepler vision of interlocking spheres and polyhedra. Optimisation and forethought would shape this structure, by necessity introducing mathematical and physical harmonies.

We recoil at the idea of disassembling planets (especially the Earth). But maybe we should burn our cradle to light the library of mind.

Abandoning outmoded ways of thinking. Central forces. Energy. The birth of something new through creative destruction. Maximum productiveness. Perfect unity aesthetics and efficiency.


XV: The Dragon Eagle

I - Reign - Over You - Saith
The Dragon - Eagle - of - the Primal Chaos
I Am - the First - the Highest - That Live In - the First Aether
I Am - the Terror - of the Earth - the Horns - of Death
Pouring Down - the Fires of Life - On the Earth
-- The Mass of Chaos, Liber Null

The dragoneagle is the great catalyst, the object/being that takes any force, information or action and redirects it an entirely new direction. It enables true creativity. It is the cross product, the antisymmetry inherent in the universe.

There is something odd about physical (or perhaps mathematical) law around here: it is so easy to get new levels of complexity. Throw out a lot of quarks and cool, and they form hadrons. Cool a bit more, and they turn into atoms. Wait, and you get molecules. The molecules attract to make galaxies, stars and planets. The planets organise themselves geologically, and some gain biospheres. Complex chemical networks organise themselves into cells. Cells into organisms and evolution. Organisms into communities and ecosystems. Ecosystems into biospheres. Everywhere new levels appear: add a pinch of nervous system and you get social interactions, communication, culture, technology. It just takes time.

Why does this happen? Most artificial life simulations grow complexity fast at first, but then it peters out. Tom Ray’s Tierra starts out with simple replicators that compete evolutionarily and become more efficient. Then parasites, immunity and hyperparasites. And then little else. Scaling things up doesn’t seem to change things: the world remains as simple as a petri dish. No Cambrian explosions.

The Dragoneagle is the reason why complexity grows in the universe. What is it? I do not know. It could be some property of physical law. Some would claim their favourite god is behind it. It could be the effect of having enough time and space to run things so that complexity emerges somewhere.

The will to power. Antisymmetry. Transformation. Evolution.


XX: Yog-Sothoth

"Yog-Sothoth knows the gate. Yog-Sothoth is the gate. Yog-Sothoth is the key and guardian of the gate. Past, present and future, all are one in Yog-Sothoth."

H.P. Lovecraft, "The Dunwich Horror"

R_{\mu \nu} -(1/2)g_{\mu \nu} R= 8\pi T_{\mu \nu}

Yog-Sothoth is the underlying unity of space-time, of all events of existence. They form a grand structure, Einstein's crystal. There is no present, no future and no past, just the same timeless structure.

The shapes of Yog-Sothoth are twisted and strange merely because they are intersections between a higher-dimensional object and a limited space-time. The true shape of Yog-Sothoth is something completely different.

Yog-Sothoth is the secret fundament of reality, but also that, which is too strong for us. Radioactivity is pure, but disrupts biological matter by its fierce energy. Yog-Sothoth sears existence, not out of malevolence but simply due to its sheer power.

"It was an All-in-One and One-in-All of limitless being and self—not merely a thing of one Space-Time continuum, but allied to the ultimate animating essence of existence’s whole unbounded sweep—the last, utter sweep which has no confines and which outreaches fancy and mathematics alike. It was perhaps that which certain secret cults of earth have whispered of as YOG-SOTHOTH, and which has been a deity under other names; that which the crustaceans of Yuggoth worship as the Beyond-One, and which the vaporous brains of the spiral nebulae know by an untranslatable Sign..."
H.P. Lovecraft, "Through the Gates of the Silver Key"

Yog-sothoth can also be viewed in another way. Seen from the outside perspective a human is an extended four-dimensional tentacle extending mostly forward in time, twisting through life and existence as a catalyst of change. Each tentacle branches off from another tentacle, extending backwards towards the primal source: a world-tree of living four-dimensional tentacles interacting with each other and reality. This is Yog-Sothoth as Baphometh, the mass of all life - past, present and future.

When life feels hard, it is comforting to remember that one is a tentacle of an alien multidimensional god.


XXI: Azathoth Pleroma

What exists? One possible answer is that any self-consistent system exists, not just as a mathematical possibility but as concrete reality. This materialistic Platonism is a logical consequence of functionalism.

If it holds, then every mathematical system corresponds to a universe (or family of universes). Some are tiny and cramped, like the algebra of 0 and 1. Others are as vast - or vaster – than ours.

But the set of all such systems is also a system, encompassing them all (and being part of itself).

This set of sets is the True God. It is not a being, it does not act - it just is everything in the ultimate sense. It includes uncountable (in the literal mathematical sense of the word) universes with lesser deities. Most of its component worlds are barren or pure chaos, but some are filled with complexity of any level. And just like all natural numbers can be generated using a short program while

individual numbers hold enormous complexity (in the algorithmic complexity sense), so the Set is ultimately trivially simple while holding infinite complexity within itself. God is Unity and Perfection.

But this pleroma of possibility is also the ultimate chaos. Most (again, in a very strong mathematical sense) worlds are inconsistent chaos, where anything is possible and everything happens and not-happens at once. The Set is not just the God of All Gods, but also the idiot god Azathoth dancing at the core of chaos - there is no planning, no thought, no higher meaning, and no consistency.

Azathoth and the Logos are the same.

The Gnostics were wrong. All the meaning exists within the subsystems of the great Set, not in the Set as a whole. Ascending into the pleroma reduces one to a tautology. It in the fall into matter - specialisation within a local system with limited axioms - where possibilities appear and goals can be achieved.

Ultimates. Meaning and nonsense. Consistency and inconsistency. Infinites. Existence itself.


Ace of Matter: Atomos

Matter is a process. Even the most inert piece of iron 56 or hydrogen gas just lying around is active. The electron wave-functions form complex clouds around the nuclei, vibrating in response to the thermal motion of the atoms. Even at absolute zero the uncertainty principle makes matter dance. The nuclei are themselves just as active; dense wave functions where triads of quarks exchange gluons and other force carriers all the time. Interfere with the process and the atom breaks up.

The matter process is propagating forward in time. It is like the periodic configurations in Conway's Game of Life. We are privileged to live in a universe where relatively stable matter can exist, able

to store information for aeons (or picoseconds), to channel energy and forces, to interact in complex ways that enables the formation of complex forms.

The stillness of matter is just like the stillness of vacuum an illusion. Something perfectly static and unchanging would not be visible to our senses, would not impinge on our world. That is why the relative stability of matter is so amazing - it is almost unchanging, but not too much.


3 of Matter: Engineering Realities

Even in the age of nanotechnology construction is going to take time and supervision. And repair involves both deconstruction and reconstruction of damaged parts - if you can't simply replace something then the repair is going to take some effort.

The same goes for medicine. A kidney is a marvellous structure of glomeruli, counterflow exchange and blood vessels – it cannot be easily repaired once damaged locally, it has to be replaced. But how do we fix the random and distributed damage of age? We cannot replace every organ in the body because the replacement itself is damaging and traumatic. Add nanorepair, and the nanomachines will still have trouble replacing broken glomeruli while the surroundings are working. Even worse in the brain – which synapse is broken and which is not?

Give me modularity or give me death - but sometimes modularity cannot sustain life. We can divide things into easily separable unities, but such unities need to have limited and clear surfaces and interactions. They ought to be like windowless monads – disposable, cheap monads. But then we cannot put too much irreplaceable complexity into the monads because we will throw it away with them as they break. They have to be simple parts, with the complexity residing on the next level up. But then that level needs to be kept safe. Finding the right level divisions to keep things whole and healthy is hard. Likely there is no best solution, just more or less good solutions – and circumstances when their break down.

Repair. Messy engineering. APIs. Online learning and change.


6 of Matter: Success

Two querents. One accepts fate. The other creates fate. Who will be happiest?

To succeed one can either adapt to circumstances or change the circumstances to suit oneself. Neither method is perfect and knowing when to do one thing or another is true wisdom.

"God grant me the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change. Courage to change the things I can and Wisdom to know the difference."

The same goes for many other choices. The more able to change the world around us and the more able to change our own beliefs we become the harder it is to know which to change. Should I slim myself, or accept being rotund? Should I strive for professional achievement or enjoy things as they are?

Success is all about integrating the different parts of the self into a working whole. There is no universal balance between consistency, compatibility, coherence, completeness, compactness and community (the unity system from Robert J. Weber's The Created Self), but each person has his or her own potential balances. Because there are no perfect ideals even for a single person, but entire families of local self-equilibria.

The Magus creates coherence and compatibility by choosing his cards. The empress-to-be seeks compactness and community, wowing to accept her fate (but if it is too strange or awful she will ignore the reading, just as the magus will if events do not turn out as they should; the pair is more symmetric than they know). As long as they keep respectful silence they get along, but the sheer absurdity of the other's approach grates. How can anybody live with such a strange self?

Tolerance, creating ones self, deciding whether to tackle a problem or not.


9 of Matter: The Planet Garden

Pile it together, and it might not look like much: nine planets, around 130 satellites and a few hundred thousand larger asteroids, Kuiper belt objects and assorted debris. Most of it is dense hydrogen and helium mixtures or cold reddish-grey ice-regolith mixtures. Just about 4e27 kg or something like it.

But each little world has its own history and unique style. From the blue methane storms of Neptune to the shepherd moons dancing around each other in the rings of Saturn to the sulphuric acid rains of Venus, each world is different.

But imagine going back three billion years and changing the state of a single hydrogen atom in the sun. That change would propagate outward, producing slightly different radiation patterns. Most worlds would not change at all: the orbits are set by far greater forces than random variations in radiation pressure. Maybe a few comets would change course slightly, producing somewhat different cratering on some worlds. The weather of most planets with weather would be different by now as they amplify the change, but the general climate would be identical.

Everywhere but on the Earth.

On the Earth changes in solar radiation would lead to a different evolutionary pathway. A single UV quantum can determine the rise of an entire phylum as it causes the right mutation at the right time - or leaves the organism with a deleterious mutation that will doom its descendants. Evolution cannot be replayed, it is always live. And as life grew to encompass the Earth it changed all its systems: atmosphere, lithosphere, aquasphere and biosphere. Maybe the continents would look slightly similar today even after the quantum change, but I doubt it. Life has meddled with continental drift too - not necessarily out of any Gaian purpose, but just because it is so fond of making sediments that oil plate subduction. When intelligent life arose on Earth the rate of change grew. Now a single quantum can lead to the idea that shatters the atom, builds a self-replicating machine or approves a terraforming project.

What makes life so valuable is that it is contingent. It will never repeat itself; it is individually unique in a way asteroids can never be. An asteroid can never become much else (except a crater, a smudge in Jupiter's or the sun's atmosphere or perhaps some smaller shards), a bacterium can become anything in a biosphere given enough time.

Some have proclaimed the unchanged grandeur of the solar system to have a value in itself, something that must never be changed by human action into something else. But that is the grandeur of a dusty art museum, where the pieces eternally revolve with nobody to see them. Life means change, diversity and the unexpected. We should not terraform worlds to live on: it is too hard and expensive, better build orbiting paradises instead. But we should help life spread everywhere it can: solar-powered Von Neumann device ecologies on Mercury. A terraformed Venus shaded by a L1 solar shade and given light from rotating mirrors. The moon covered with worldhouses, each with its own artificial ecology. Modified eagles soaring through the terraformed skies in Valles Marineris. A stellified Jupiter warms its moons. Ethane based artificial biochemistry on Titan. Cold temperature nanomachines evolving their own strange adaptations on the outer moons and Kuiper belt objects, sometimes sailing on gossamer wings towards ever more remote sources of matter.

Lady Life is not a good planner, but she is a great opportunist. When she sees a niche she takes it. Her grandchildren try to help the old lady but she refuses to see it as help: to her mind, their ingenuity is hers in extension. The grandchildren nod and smile, not wanting to spoil the family reunion. Besides, her smile when she beheld her latest great-grandchild (a metallic hydrogen structure colonising the interior of Saturn) was a wonder to behold.

Still, some are not content and want to go further. The snail has stocked up with antimatter, nanotechnology, gene banks and the sum of human culture inside its radiation-proof shell and is escaping the pull from the solar system. The next one is beyond the horizon, but so far so good.

The beauty of the natural and changed world. Bountiful nature.


I used a square root scale for sizes here: the diameter of objects is proportional to the square root of the real diameter. This way one can almost see Phobos at the same time as Jupiter does not overshadow everything and the size difference between Jupiter and Saturn is still visible unlike how it would be in a logarithmic scale. The circle beneath the planets corresponds to the sun.

10 of Matter: Water Symmetry

The water molecule is a beautiful structure.

The symmetries impose an orbital structure that forms a tetrahedral shape. But the tetrahedral shape is not perfect, and the charges do not neutralise each other perfectly - bending the cubical symmetry of the p-orbitals to the tetrahedral hybrid structure is hard to do. But this charge variation makes the slightly negative outside of the oxygen atom tempting for the slightly positive hydrogens of other molecules, forming hydrogen bonds. The bonds make each molecule link to four others in a loose network that enables water to remain liquid over a wide range of temperatures, gives it a high heat of vaporisation, a loose crystal structure that makes ice float rather than sink, a high surface tension and high specific heat. These properties creates a complex chemistry and physics, allows interesting weather and life to exist.

It is all in the symmetry breaking.

So why oxygen and hydrogen? Hydrogen because it is the simplest and most common substance in the universe. Oxygen because it is a side effect of the triple alpha process in old stars. Due to a fortuitous "coincidence" beryllium-8 has an energy level that makes the merge with helium-4 far likelier than it would otherwise have been, allowing the formation of carbon. Which in turn combines with another helium-4 to give an oxygen-16. But nuclear spin rules prevent oxygen-16 of being burned into neon. So in the end we get a lot of carbon and oxygen instead of inert noble gas. But the triple-alpha process is also so slow that it did not occur during the big bang, preventing the universe from becoming too much carbon in the first place. Again, saved by symmetry. This time the symmetries of the nuclear orbitals of beryllium and oxygen saves us. And why are they like they are? Part is just the mathematics of eigenfunctions of the spherically symmetric Schrödinger equation, but part is also due to the exact proton and neutron masses... set (presumably) by another symmetry breaking.

The subtle order of everyday life surrounds us, and we take it for granted. But had it not existed our everyday life would not have existed, and whatever lives we may have led would have seemed natural. Some of the order of the world is due to the balance of different forces, be they physical, social or psychological. Other order emerges through self-organisation. A bit even through deliberate planning. But then there are the coincidences and patterns inherent in the rules themselves, the true bedrock of life.

The Anthropic Principle. Symmetry and symmetry breaking. The harmonies of matter. Symmetry groups interacting, breaking symmetries and creating new possibilities

Details: Cube 10-compound

Ten cubes interpenetrate, revealing O_h, the octahedral symmetry group of space. Three axes of 4-fold rotation symmetry, 4-axes of 3-fold symmetry, 12 axes of 2-fold symmetry. So what about the 'roses' where 5 cubes meet? There shouldn't be any in O_h. Ha! Those roses are not true symmetry axes! The object is changed if you rotate through them.

But there is a longing between the octahedral group and the dodecahedral group. Remember that the cube can be inscribed in the dodecahedron and how the groups can be married through the 5-compound cube:


Infinity of Matter: The Event Horizon

An event horizon is a trapped surface: nothing can emerge from it, everything that exists on the inside will be unable to cross it. It is a prison with open doors.

One can throw anything one wants to get rid of into the event horizon and be sure it never returns. But what are the conditions on the inside? We cannot know.

Hawking radiation? Yes, the things that are inside are not truly lost. They still participate in the universe but now in another capacity. Maybe their information is not truly lost either. But we will not be able to read the alien encyclopaedias thrown into the M87 black hole.

The boundary of a boundary is zero.

\int_{\gamma} d\omega = \int_{\partial \gamma} \omega</p>

Holographic principles. Matter becomes force. Secrets. Fundamental truths.


8 of Information: Trillicom Arms Inc.

"Weapons don’t kill people, people do… unless it is a Trillicom Autonomous Self-Replicating Interceptor!"

The inventors and designers of Trillicom don’t work primarily for profit. They are driven by idealism, curiosity and pride in their creativity. They invent new ways of projecting force, using advanced means and brilliant intelligence to make them as deadly or dramatic as possible.

"Wherever you go, whatever you want to blow up, we will be there to sell you what you need".

Writing computer viruses is fun. Let's admit it. It is an act of godlike creation to make something that can live and reproduce on its own. It is an intellectual challenge to fold it all into a small package and find good ways of circumventing antivirus software. It is a way of releasing something of oneself into the world to grow into something great. It is also a bad idea. The virus will disrupt communications and files quite easily even if it was intended as safe. It is easy to get an infection from one's own virus. People could backtrack the virus to you, leaving you open to legal or software attack. But the challenge... this time I will not make any mistakes, leave any traces or get caught!

8 of information is when the ideas and possibilities floating around spear into reality, heedless of the disruption they cause. It is also when reality strikes back against the inventor, forcing one to confront the consequences of one's ideas and actions.

Intelligence used for the wrong or amoral reasons. Technological chaos. Unexpected consequences. Military intelligence. The SNAFU principle. "Because I could!"


10 of Information: self-destruction

Living beings are by their nature actively self-preserving agents. But their ability to make choices includes the ability to make the choice not to be.

Sometimes you feel like you want to reach in with a taloned hand and rip out your own guts. To rend and desecrate your body, to destroy yourself. Not as any form of release but just as violence against onself, the one enemy one can never escape.

The greatest threat is to not recognise this impulse and be surprised by it. The more you deny the forces inside you, the more they control you. Knowing about them might not be enough to control them, but it is a start to rebuild oneself, to make defences, to ensure consistency.

Queen of Information: Chirp!

The bright little cry pierces through our muddled thinking.

The little bird concentrates on one thing, one thought at a time. It must, because it has not much brain to do it with. But that single-minded consciousness is a pure ray of light pointing at something.

Pop-up effects: a 'B' in a sea of 'A's. A red square among a thousand blue. A bird among spheres. Our attention system allows certain information to 'pop up' effortlessly. Other information has to be searched for, a slow and error-prone process. But some things fit our mental architecture. Synesthetes can see a pattern of one digit among other digits that normal people cannot, because they see the colour.

"That Which Thou Art" – whatever we are.

Promethian hyperpraxia. Revealing the situation to be highly unstable. The emperor has no clothes! Zen realisation.


Knight of Information: I Ching Lion

The Chinese hexagrams are a binary code of a system just as encompassing as the tarot. Binary codes can encode anything a discrete code can encode, and are the basis of all modern communications. All images, all sounds, all thoughts can be hidden in strings of ones and zeros - broken/unbroken. Each new bit doubles the number of possible messages.

But sometimes one has to break out of the system. 

Thinking outside the box. Breaking rules. Intellectual courage. New codes.

2 of Forces: Ideology Equilibrium

Each electron is surrounded by a shell of virtual particles - positrons, electrons and photons - that polarise the vacuum surrounding it, softening the electric field on the outside. And each of these virtual particles can in turn be seen as surrounded by their own cloud, and so in. Feynman diagrams all the way down. Naked electrons cannot exist in quantum field theory, and if we ever encountered such a beast it would be something very different from the tame electrons we know of.

Each ideological idea is surrounded by a shell of other ideas - rhetoric, arguments pro and con, criticisms, heresies and reinterpretations. They hide and change the meaning of the original idea, turning it into a complex rather than a single meme. One hears about political visions filtered through layers of journalism and interpretation, some one's own (picked up along the way), some belonging to others. Ideologies are coated and softened by the counter-ideologies they create around themselves. Encountering a naked ideology is a strange experience, especially if it is one one thinks one believes in.

"Force" has an everyday meaning giving connotations of energy and action. But in nature most forces are not spending their time acting. Rather they keep things balanced. The reason is simply that unstable, changing states by their nature often leads to stable states, and it is more likely to find these since nature remains in them (again by definition) most of the time. At least if one lives in the slightly parochial low-energy world we happen to have grown up in.

When two opposing forces meet they tend to form equilibrium. If one increases slightly, the other responds by increasing slightly more back, and the situation is restored. Weaken one, and the other weakens.

Quite a few ideologies have ended up in similar equilibrium. Their cores still shoot out ideas, analysis and criticism, but that is counteracted by the response from the neighbouring ideologies. People pick up the views they like and repeat them, eliciting the usual responses from their debating partners who have of course read their own views.

But equilibria are seldom permanently stable. Throw in a new ideology or some energy and what was static turns dynamic. The old ideologies oscillate and may move from their old positions. The new ideology upsets the balance, complicated matters enormously and draws the ire of all the old and stable.

3 of Forces: The Chair of Virtue

Only an alchemist or sibyl can sit on the three-legged chair.

The forces balance each other perfectly through the understanding of how to make them cancel. Without understanding the tension that keeps things stable is lost. Without sufficient strength the legs will break under stress. With understanding and strength comes virtue. But to use virtue one has to be balanced. There is some leeway for imbalance; otherwise it would be impossible to achieve virtue. But without placing one's centre of mass above the key spot and aiming one's forces inside the triangle the entire moral structure will come tumbling down.

"In medio consistit virtus", sagte der Teufel und sass zwichen zwei alten huren.

One can break apart the chair of virtue to create both three chairlegs of truth and the terrible nunchakus of moral. The act destroys virtue, but can unleash other ethical forces.

Synergy. Virtue. Balance.


5 of Forces: The Visible Hand

Sometimes things appear linked, as if one of them caused another. But they could both be caused by some underlying entity, producing an apparent but false correlation. On the other hand, sometimes things are correlated with each other without having a shared origin. The webs of correlation are uncertain; they are not the true webs of causality. But we cannot perceive causation, so we have to make do with correlation and association.

When a team works best there is no need of a leader or any spoken commands. Everybody acts alone, yet the result is the best possible. It requires that everybody know what he or she want and are supposed to do, and have the certainty to do it rather than to ask questions to each other, making them uncertain too.

The force of concentration handling the forces of nature. Causing change in conformity with will. Underlying implicate order. False causation and real correlations.


Infinity of Forces: The Beanstalk

Buckytubes are held together as much by symmetry as forces. Their regular structure gives them their unique properties.

Place an asteroid in geosynchronous orbit. It will hang over the same spot on the equator since it orbits at the same speed as the Earth is moving below. Lower a filament from it, while extending a counterweight outward. The centre of mass will remain in place. Continue until the lower end reaches the ground. Add an elevator. Now the road to space is open: without any need for costly reaction mass, without the cruel rocket equation forcing most of the vehicle to be fuel just to lift all that fuel, without the poisonous and risky chemicals that can blow us into orbit. Just a solar-powered elevator bringing us to orbit and launchers on the asteroid. A bifrost bridging Midgård with Valhalla.

All it takes is a material strong enough. It has to carry 35,000 kilometres of itself on Earth. Kevlar would be enough to do it on Mars. Earth needs something stronger, like buckytubes.

Buckminster Fuller envisioned tensegrity structures held up by the tensile strength of cables. A beanstalk would be the ultimate tensegrity, held up simply by the Earth’s rotation. With a minimum of waste space would open and spaceship Earth would have a landing pad.

Engineering ambitions. Transcending the limits of material and energy. Power. Matter as force.


King of Forces: Rudra

I try to rise in pride, I want to radiate
walk on water and ride the light
I try to break the chains, I want to penetrate
cross the borders and drink the oceans
given velocity and gasoline
electricity and adrenaline
I want to be superluminal
I need to burn my fuel, I want to detonate
melt the sun and drain the sources
I need to waste my strength, I want to escalate
turn the tide, conquer the stars
given velocity and gasoline
electricity and adrenalin
I want to be superluminal
I have to go ahead, I want to elevate
rise above, find the path, I have to look beyond
I want to perforate, reach behind, take it back
I must spread my wings, I want to scintillate
blind myself, break away, I must be born again
I want to celebrate, stop the clock, never return
--Covenant, Luminal

Rudra doesn't care. When he is flying, surrounded by his rings of fire and his blasts of pure energy he does not think of who he is, what he is doing, his normal situation and any other worldly concern. Is he an avatar of Shiva, or just an ordinary boy with tremendous powers? It doesn't matter. He feels just the sheer joy of releasing energy. The joy of manifesting one's will, to destroy or change the world around oneself, to play with fire.

Not just information wants to be free. Energy must be liberated!

The strong nuclear force. Exuberance. Waste of energy. Extroversion.


4 of Processes: Hyperbolic flower




In hyperbolic space, the number of places a certain distance away from oneself grows faster than in ordinary space. One can always go further, and there is so much more further. Instead of going inwards, it entices us to move outwards. A small piece of surface is enough to determine how to extend the edge outwards, producing a flower. The imperceptible curvature at the centre determines the ever-larger windings and soars further out.

But the Enneper surface flower will eventually intersect itself. This is because we live in a limited three-dimensional space where there simply isn't enough room for this kind of hyperbolic growth. The surface must be seen from inside, from the perspective of intrinsic geometry and not the extrinsic geometry of the immersing space.

In the same way we must allow ourselves our contradictions and self-intersections as we grow. *We* may be internally consistent, but the world outside can't handle our kind of consistency. The trouble is distinguishing the inconsistencies brought about by outside perception and the inconsistencies due to true internal contradictions.

Harmonious exponential growth. Going inside oneself - going outside oneself. Consistency. Processes of bounty.


9 of Processes: Golden Scales

Freude, schöner Götterfunken,
Tochter aus Elysium,
Wir betreten feuertrunken,
Himmlische dein Heiligtum.
Deine Zauber binden wieder,
Was die Mode streng geteilt;
Alle Menschen werden Brueder,
Wo dein sanfter Fluegel weilt.

x'(t)=\lambda x(t)
x=c_0 \exp(\lambda t)

Beethoven's ninth symphony is a coiling dragon with golden scales, eternally twisting into an ever greater, ever tighter crescendo. It is the joy of existing; the joy of being a living being that evolves and acts.

But one could as well exchange the 'joy' of the lyrics with 'freedom'. The meaning would be the same, because free growth towards one entelechy is true joy: it is flow, it is eudaimonia, and it is the happiness we all seek. Unlike the golden clouds of opiates that lull us to sleep and blissful inactivity the hard scales of the dragon urges us to achieve more, to be more, to transcend all limitations in an eternal spiral of ambition and happiness.

Crescendo. Exponential growth. Flow, eudamonic joy. Rising to challenges