Thursday, November 11, 2010

Nothing, Something: The Beginning of Creativity

We have now come to a stage - a state - which, to me, is probably the most exciting. This is the state of no-mind, no-nothing, the void. While it may be natural to think that after death - after the end of something - there is nothing - or could there is anything - what, to me is quite interesting and exciting is that it could be the beginning of something - which I am always inclined to think - that it could be something new.

When something disappears, it disappears from sight or any one of the senses that perceives the thing or phenomenon. It depends on our ability to see or to sense.

If we were to try to understand how things come into existence in this world, it is our own sense of perception, our own sense of detection, and, I would add, the strength of our memory to retain what we have perceived or how we perceive. I am always conscious that there are many things that are happening right in front of me but, if I do not see them, they do not exist for me. Even if I am absolutely mindful, there is still my sphere of perception at any moment and the level at which I am perceiving. There is also the rate or pace of perception - how fast I can perceive at any one time. And I have come to realise that what we perceive, in the end, depends on our mental preparedness to perceive or observe, the sharpness of our focus and the power of our concentration. Or, are we simply just "absorbing" everything into ourselves, as most of us are apt to say?

Against a blank canvass, what comes out or what comes into our minds?

I am keenly interested in this because I try to indulge in this phenomenon called creativity. People are now no more interested in "thinking" - they want thinking "outside the box." They are no more interested in creativity - they want a "new paradigm."

So, how do we go about it? It goes right back to the point I have touched on before in one of my earlier posts about how we think. If I may reposition the sequence of thinking here, we start with (1) Wonder at the world: how to understand the wonders of the world and how to explain them. Myths and stories are then created. This may be considered primitive because it is probably the oldest form of knowledge, but I won't sniff at it because, if we are to wonder at the universe and the immense greatness of the skies as the Hubble Telescope can should us and the immense intensity of the inner world that the electronic microscope can show us, we continue to be dabbling with myths and stories insofar as trying to articulate our understanding or realisation of nature to the person next to us. The String Theory or the Big Bang Theory, for example. Or, what Stephen Hawking is trying to articulate about his perception of nature. They may put old myths to the world, but they themselves may just be new myths. (2) The most arrogant are probably what I would call the "hard" scientists - the "natural" scientists - those who work with data about the natural world. Those data are "hard" only insofar as they are filtered by their measuring instruments. Sure, at that level of observation or abstraction, they can put together what they think is a coherent sequence of cause-and-effect which they called "theory." But, at a deeper or greater level (which nobody knows yet), they could be entirely mistaken - as history has shown. Of course, in the land of the blind, the one-eye jack is the king - which goes to show the importance of knowledge - to know what other people know; or the importance of wisdom - to know what you do not know, and to know what others do not know as well. (3) It is the dissatisfaction with the narrowness of logical thinking that Edward de Bono comes up with what he called Lateral Thinking as a juxtaposition to logic - to show that there is a way out of this quagmire and into the land of the free and easy by having the confidence to link what appears at first to be unconnected entities and with effort to throw away the prejudice and try to look at the essence of each individual entities and find a connection at the core or centre. (4) The No-Mind stuff then takes the mental exercise one step further into the void and see if anything would come of it, not without trying, but without the mistake of putting the hackneyed foremost in one's mind all the time and thereby blocking any new insights that may arise automatically in one's mind with the natural passage of time without any distraction from the mundane world where every little bits and pieces or elements of life may turn into a potentially disruptive spoiler of one's effort to see a new perspective or a new image of the ordinary. Remember, in absolute reality, nothing changes and everything is unchanging, by definition. It is only our mind that changes.

In my mind, it is not easy to be creative, if we want to be strict about creativity. It is easy to do the same old stuff a bit differently. It is easy to do a slight change by modification or repackaging or rebranding - it is still the same old stuff. It is very difficult and challenging to come up with something that is entirely different, for it must satisfy a new thereto untapped demand or desire or fancy of human beings. To be "out of the box", one probably has to be out of the normal ordinary mind which means that one can seek no approval from anyone, not even oneself, if you have not probably understood yourself. This is why many of us buy into new products because you say "This is exactly what I want or what I have always wanted but could not find until now."

It is my guiding principle, when I am trying to be creative, is to use myself as a benchmark as a test as to what is really needed, for if I can satisfy myself, I am sure there will be another who also needs it. I read that Stephen King wrote the horror thrillers because he likes horror thrillers and could find no good horror thrillers for his enjoyment. While market research may be great, but I think there is no greater source of truth or inspiration than the depth of one's own being.

Therefore, when I contemplate death in my earlier posts, I wasn't just thinking about the end of a life or the end of an object, but also the end of a time, the end of an era, the end of an idea, the end of a phenomenon, the end of an economy, the end of a business cycle.

In our current attempt to transform the economy, are we really in the state of a new beginning with new thinking and new ideas and new paradigms or are we still stuck in the same old rut in the same old tattered mat with the same voices crying for the same old milk while the poor maid is trying to pacify those voices by promising that many nice things are coming their way or are surely coming their way? As you can tell from my postings on those topics, I do not think that we have done more than just shuffling feet to make some noise.

I am more concerned with individuals - which means individual readers of this blog and this post - and to be helpful by providing some pointers as to how to get each one of ourselves going and moving ahead, despite the rough terrain that each and everyone of us have to traverse on our own.

I am convinced that the world does not need geniuses. The world has always been run by normal people with average skills and average exertion. But the world does need one and, if lucky, two geniuses to get it going. In the current era, we have seen the wonders done to the world by the many geniuses of Bill Gates, Paul Allen, Steve Jobs, Gordon Moore, Andy Grove, etc., who I reckon are all babies of the Hippy era. So has the current crop of babies, big and small, lived beyond the comfort of their finger-activated otherwise stationary world in front of flickering lights training their little minds to a narrow group of mental signaling traffic. Would the best that they can think of be within that lighted box, or will it be something that is earth shattering?

So, at the point of the void after death is the point of the void of a new beginning. This is the point of the greatest source of creativity, and the degree of the greatness of the creativity will be defined by the degree of the blankness and the degree of the absence of memory of the past but with the greatest attention to what is right in front of our noses.


Neil said...

The product of a businessman and an oxford don of philosophy, Wolfram at a young age had delved into the idea of cellular automata.

Later and after foregoing a promising career as a particle physicist, he developed with the help of others the commercially successful math program called mathematica. But he returned to his childhood idea and used it to develop a new kind of science ( in which he posited that the patterns we see in nature are but the outcomes of simple programming rules varied between adjacent conceptual cells such that one can explain the shape and form of a snowflake or a seashell, for instance, just by applying those rules to a network of conceptual cells.

Of course many didn't take to his discovery which was seen to imply the Unseen One was just a computer programmer breathing life into self-organizing natural intelligence.

Likewise, the mainstream had buried the other idea by Godel who had logically derived expressions to prove that time travel was possible.

Perhaps their resistance to his idea was driven by the implication of his discovery, namely if it is possible to travel back in time, then one can reach the past but that would mean time has never passed which in turn means time which has failed to pass is not time at all which leads one to conclude that in Godel's universes, time doesn't exist which therefore puts a new spin on what is the void.

Now, the question. Were Wolfram and Godel thinking out of their boxes when they made their discoveries?

To assay any answer we can understand, we have to take a stab at what happens when we think out of a box.

Take this post i am writing now. I am writing it from two elements enjoined. One, motivation, and two, thoughts. Motivation is derived from the human complex which is generically described by the human situation, in turn composed of a worldview shaped by nature and nurture, and spiced by past experiences and present conclusions.

If, for instance, you meet someone you have not seen for thirty years and instantly note that his behavioral characteristics have not changed much, that is a reflection of his essence which will probably carry him throughout the rest of his life and motivate how he will look at the world and events, and interact with them, to wit define him and his actions.

Perhaps my motivation to communicate these thoughts in response to the blogger's comments in this and the preceding posts is due to a past life. Perhaps that past life was from working at the Daily Planet, stretching truths every day to meet politically-correct objectives. Perhaps that may explain why some people are therefore condemned in their next lives to try and delve into real truths with what little they have in their present state.

In any case, this speculation may be based on Hall's Past Life Astrology, for those on reverse-engineered diets of horological inclinations.

Next, thoughts. When i am thinking thoughts, what is happening? Godel's no-time void aside, I am clothing concepts and ideas with words and symbols in a time-based process.

These concepts and ideas are based on past exercises at thinking and also from memory of what i had learned before, either personally or from others.

And the thoughts brew up at temperatures based on the chronoscopic calculus of the aforementioned motivations in keeping with Peacocke's notion that concepts and ideas are shaped by individuated reference frames so that different peoples have different versions of what a concept or idea is, if 'is' is entirely definable to a high level of accuracy in the first place.

So, if in-the-box thinking is an electrochemical neuro-process guided by a balance between motivations, observations and logic rules, what constitutes out-of-the-box thinking that will go beyond creativity into the arena of innovation?

That change or paradigm shift has to come from changing that balance. We have to change how we motivate ourselves, how we observe the world and how we apply logic rules.

Neil said...


Which brings us, hopefully all, back to Wolfram's cellular automata.

Applied to society, the generic man attempting to think out of his box has to wire himself to others, not necessarily adjacent to him.

And he will have to necessarily also change how he observes his world and the logic rules he deploys in order to come up with new designs and patterns of thought that will go into out-of-the-box products and services.

How does one wire to others in order to generate new designs and applications from envisioning new worlds around the next corners? There must first be a motivation to be sociable. Sure, some of the most creative peoples work alone.

For example, artists presumably think or imagine out of the box all the time because no two original paintings are ever the same, even if on the same object, so that even the best impressionist artists would have been regular patrons sometime or other at roadside cafes as they watch the world go by, and they would have derived some ideas observing the works of others, or drinking some tonic and exchanging ideas on colors and themes.

The objective or end-destination of such socialized interactions is to expand one's mental horizons by freeing oneself from the fetters of past assumptions. Which means all assumptions have to be held as unsacred and nothing will be denied the inquisitive mind. Not even by inquisitions.

Ostensibly, that's also how science progresses, not by just drawing conclusions from hard data, but by freeing imagination to soar beyond the observable, motivated by an innate belief that logical beauty exists in all and around, waiting to be discovered, and comprehensible even with the puny limits of man's mental powers.

All of which comes back to us. Is our society a Wolfram self-organizing natural intelligence or are we standing at the edge of Godel's no-time void?

The latest World Bank report on our economy decries how we compare unfavorably. Mention was even made of our declining standards of performance on such subjects as maths which has fallen abysmally.

But the clearest conclusion from it was that while the earlier policies had taken many out of hardcore poverty, they are not sustainable per se anymore because the rest of the world has caught up which means we cannot ignore the fact that those policies have only ended up serving to increase the income disparity within communities and not between communities, especially affecting those in the lower base of the common pyramid.

In fact, the report concludes that over ninety percent of the income disparity was within a race-profiled community.

What is the way out and forward? A young economist has posted three things to do: revamp the education system, upgrade vocational training, and cast a social net to help those who will never improve themselves.

These are pointed suggestions but for qualification they must also be pegged against the blogger's five points ('represents', cough) to revamp the economy that was carried in one of his earlier posts.

That was a linchpin post which may however and unfortunately suffer the same fate as all other better suggestions on how to improve this nation. Namely, a timeless oblivion. Therefore it bears a revisit. Before an antimatter annihilates it into the void.

And why that may happen is because of the same causes for why we do not have the means to generate a Wolfram cellular automata for our society and free all the creative forces that are innate to this fertile land.

Neil said...


The causes are weak leaders and bad policies. Weak in nation-forward motivation, character, intelligence, fairness, integrity, honesty and will. Bad in nation-forward policies, application, monitoring and taking things to the next level.

Which brings us back to what the rakyat can do about it. Civil disobedience comes to mind. Voting for change, another possibility. But perhaps the most reverberating paradigm shift is to change the centre of gravity of our nation.

That centre of gravity has been inordinately focused on politics. The politics has only led to creating assumptions which block the passage of self-organizing intelligence between adjacent cells of national creativity on the one hand while quietly leaking cellular juices to certain corners of the organism on the other hand.

Small wonder today we have the specter of bankruptcy even for such a thing as education loan funds.

Instead of augmenting the problem with more political parties and their attendant patronage, the third force can be generated, defined and propelled by all right-thinking rakyat themselves.

Crossing out all past assumptions and craven prejudices, the rakyat become the new centre of gravity of this country, their combined destiny, pulling back from the brink of the void into a new era of feverish self-multiplication. But i don't mean reproduction.

After all, if nobody's an original in this country, this nation is just a floating platform for cooperation and progress. Not patriotism defined by waxed-tongue chauvinists according to some racial blueprint for the void.

However, ever mindful of Horowitz's first rule, namely wisdom consists of knowing when to avoid perfection, this suggestion of a new citizen self-centric politic will be left to others for further elaboration, obviously with better minds; in this day and age of anxieties, no invitation needs be extended but needless to say again, it may prove a challenge, for if socalled leaders can't even think with quality in their little boxes, how can the novitiate rakyat be expected to think with quality out of their bigger boxes?

On that score, i would close with an administrative matter. A general vote of thanks is requested for one particular border guard.

The one who was a quiet disciple of the ninety year old man. The man who was stopped by the guard at the border. And asked to write the book before he was allowed to go into the desert. The book which pinned down the void without one word, without one thought, without one hook to all the insensate craving of humankind for the initial comfort but ultimate peril of self-identity.

After all, the chinese character for man is ren which is composed of two elements, a knife pointing at the heart. Endurance is the only lot of man. Benevolence the only recourse for his human situation.

Perhaps that's why there is a standard phrase for all:

"patience and perseverance win the day."

You have won yours coming so far with me today.

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end: 12/12

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