viznut's amazing discoveries

[2007-08-12]

Dreams, Entropy and Unique Creation

Last night I had a dream. Of course, I have dreams every night, but it's only a couple of times per month that I actually care about a dream so much that I decide to write it down in the morning.

I'm not going to repeat the whole dream here (as it is quite complex), I'm just mentioning a single portion, where I am sitting in a restaurant and there are two books written by someone named "Li Tan" on the table. The cover material resembles that of an oldish encyclopedia, giving a feeling of dignity. I don't really remember what the books are exactly about, but it is some scientific topic related to computer science. I consider the books somewhat "sacred" (with some well-thought "truth" in them) and want to have my own copies of them.

I don't remember hearing the name "Li Tan" before I saw it in the dream. However, once I googled the name in the morning, I found quite many people with that name, from 5th century historical figures to computer science researchers. I also found some books written by various "Li Tan"s, the only English-language of which was about digital signal processing. One of the CS Li Tans has been researching systems design and verification of critical embedded systems.

Why am I so interested in following some random clue generated my subconsciousness and trying to find some kind of relevance in it? Isn't this kind of irrational?

The thing is that I like ideas that come from "irrational" sources. Dreams, subconscious associations, misheard words or even random number generators. I'm convinced that following an "irrational" route every now and then makes my life and creation process more interesting and personal, and the paths I choose tend to become more unique, and consequently, more "worthy".

It's a pity that there's no "random" search in Google. However, I often play around with the "random article" link in Wikipedia, looking for new "out-of-the-box" concepts to relate to. I've also been playing associative Wikipedia games (such as, "get a bunch of random articles and create a piece of text that links to every one of them"). I also see a point in divination systems (such as Tarot and I Ching) that randomize a combination from a set of all-around "archetypal" symbols that can be associated with almost anything.

Those who know me may have noticed that I often embrace all kinds of "profound" concepts -- that is, simple and universal ideas with a very low complexity. I often desperately look for "optimal" solutions for problems and apply a nearly scientific perfectionism in order to find them. This definitely sounds like a total diagonal opposite to my appeal for the irrational and "entropy-generating" methods I described earlier.

Anyway, I've been using both of these approaches -- "anti-entropy" and "pro-entropy" -- for a very long time. Still, it's only recently that I've been realizing that they actually form a "yin-yang pair" where the balanced polarities perfect the whole.

I now see the importance of this balance as follows:

As I pictured in my blog two months ago, I see the existence as an infinite sphere of ideas (or "all imaginable things"). The "low-entropy" ideas are near the centre, and the farther away we get from there, the more increase there is in complexity, entropy and randomness.

The life of a single human being is just a single idea on the "outskirts" of the ideasphere. The complexity and randomness of a human life is what makes it worthy for the existence as a whole. That's why it is important to embrace what makes one's life personal and unique.

However, in order to relate one's life to the rest of the existence, it is also important to embrace the "central ideas". There must be some kind of a compass needle that points to the centre -- otherwise, the soul gets lost in the infinite ocean of complexity.

An example:

When making music, it is important both to understand the "universal theory" (low complexity) and to establish a "personal channel" (high complexity).

If we omit the "personal channel" part, we get music that has been made a billion times before. Some of it may be good and powerful, but it does not reflect the "composer's" (or rather, "discoverer's") personality in any way. Such music could just as well have been generated by an algorithm.

On the other hand, if we omit the "universal theory" part, we get chaotic noise instead of music. The noise may very well reflect the artist's inner vision in a very wholesome way, but the resulting piece lacks coherent shape. Consequently, there are very limited means for the audience to relate to the music.

Of course, this principle can be applied to many other areas of life and creativity as well.