Monday, December 29, 2014

The Propagation of a Story

Suppose I tell you a story. Will you retell the story to someone else? Or will you keep the story to yourself, seeing no reason to retell it?

In writing this blog I am trying to tell a story, a story which I believe carries profound significance. I have told it a half dozen times before. But almost nobody gets it. The significance has been sensed by at most a handful of people. As far as I know none of those people has retold the story.

So I am in a quandary. Should I work to retell this story myself in a different format which might imbue more readers? Obviously since I have come this far with this blog I have decided that I should try. But how hard am I obliged to work on this? And what manner of storytelling should I employ for best effect?

I have noticed media, in that it is a "medium" which retells a story. Why would any medium ever retell a story? Well obviously, if the medium is a person or a business organization, I might expect the medium to retell a story if there is some gain in it for the medium. Also let us consider the end consumer of a story. I expect a person will want to consume a story from a medium if there is some benefit in the story for that consumer.

In the industry of storytelling I notice novels and love songs. Some stories are in so much demand that people get paid to make them up; other people get paid to transmit these stories. So in the entertainment industry it pays to color (to craft) a story carefully. But this coloring of stories to enhance demand goes on, as most of us now can attest, in mainstream news and academic journals as well as in the entertainment industry. That's life. So I should consider the coloring of my story.

I am soaking up philosophy of science as rapidly as my slow brain can take it in. Thinking about thinking does not seem to promise definite answers, but it is helping me guess where I might be now  in the landscape of storytelling. Last week I saw again an account that Darwin's famous thesis had been published earlier by another writer. Almost no one had noticed that earlier publication (ref. Daniel Dennett, Darwin's Dangerous Idea, 1995, p. 49). But Darwin's telling of that story resonated with media. Darwin's telling was such a hit that it propagated itself. Interesting.

Curious readers may find some of my earlier reflections on media, about mainstream media in a democracy and airline security.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

A Second Resource Pattern Appears in the World of the Critters

This post continues development of the model of Tabletop Critters. We will add a second resource pattern to the tabletop world of the critters.

For readers needing a review of previous developments, here are the preliminary description, and
initial condition. In those circumstances, with the effect of a single resource pattern, we have seen that a set of critters can grow in prosperity if, after the resource pattern has been dropped into their world, these critters follow certain rules as they choose how to act. We see this in the top of the picture below. There we see a large supply of water on the left and a large supply of sugar on the right (a resource pattern). Critters can thrive if they form a line between water and sugar, following rules to move excess water to the right and excess sugar to the left.

A second resource pattern appears, in the bottom half of the tabletop above
The Second Resource Pattern
Now we have added a second resource pattern in the bottom half of the picture above. In most respects this second pattern developed just like the first resource pattern. That is:
  • It appeared in a world in which a small population of critters already lived. Those critters lived near the edge of starvation as hunter-gatherers.
  • After the resource pattern appeared, critters in that vicinity somehow discovered how to exploit the pattern and live better. By using their ability to pick up a resource, carry it a distance, and then set it down again, and by following rules about when and how to use this ability, they discovered a prosperous style of life. Their numbers increased dramatically in a line of trade between the water and sugar.
The principal difference which we notice between these two exploited resource patterns is the rules which the successful critters must follow. In this second pattern the critters must carry water down (in the direction of the picture) and sugar up, whereas in the first pattern the directions were right and left respectively.

You should notice that both of these resource patterns exist in the same model world. Both resource patterns, once deposited, start to affect the lives of critters who were already living as hunter-gatherers in that region. But I have left a considerable distance between the two resource patterns in order to make it seem unlikely that critters would develop a line of trade between the two. We will assume for the time being that critters do not discover and exploit the possibility of trading between the resource patterns.

As such we notice an implication of distance in this model: the farther it is between a supply of water and a supply of sugar the less likely it is that critters will discover and employ rules that will enable them to cooperatively exploit the pattern presented by these two resources.  Distance equates to difficulty for the critters.

Important Observations
We have two communities of critters who thrive by following rules, but the rules in one differ from the rules in the other. If somehow a critter found its way from one community to the other and then tried to become a productive member in the new community by following the rules which it had learned in its original community, it would fail in this effort. For example, suppose a critter that has learned to carry sugar to the left (in the upper resource pattern in the picture above) somehow finds itself in the other line of trade (in the lower resource pattern in the picture above) where physical reality requires that sugar be moved up, not left. This critter's effort to be a good citizen by following the rules it has learned will introduce waste, not help, into the new community.

Where critters discover rules which enable those critters to live better, those rules are dictated by the physical realities of the critters' nearby environments. Each new resource pattern may possibly introduce a requirement for a new set of rules. So even though we might think of our critters as constituting a single biological species, our critters must be capable of conforming to various sets of behavioral rules, rules as dictated by physical circumstances beyond the control of any of the critters.

As you must have guessed, I intend this modeling with critters to suggest explanations for some of our human experiences, as we will be seeing.