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FW: Is this essay Godelian??

-----Original Message-----
From: Sanjay Sharma [mailto:leoaugus@mail.rdu.bellsouth.net]
Sent: Tuesday, May 08, 2001 6:42 PM
To: xml-dev@lists.xml.org
Subject: Is this essay Godelian??


This is a personal and anecdotal account of the path that led me to the S-W Machine. The work is based on Douglas Hofstadter’s book Godel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid.

1.1 Introduction to the Problem at the heart of the Need

The problem is how to get the business people to anticipate what the technology people are going to require without talking to them. After all each project is unique, and surely their new project is no different. And that is the problem – most businesses think their business proposition is unique in the market and that’s why they will succeed, and most technologists think that each business problem is not very different from the one they solved elsewhere and that is why they will be successful. Both are after all looking at the same situation, but the business people build their “value” system based on dollars and cents, while the technology people on whether they will be able to put together the 1’s and 0’s of hardware and software. The engines that drive of their “value” systems of dollars and cents, and 1’s and 0’s, may be different too.

1.1.1 The Problem of Communication between different Universes

Our goal was to be able to capture the exprssion from the business person in $c$c$$, massage that input with some device, and then present it to the Information Technology people in 10010101. But then we had a possibility of starting off with a solution proposed by the Information Technology vendors in their own logical structure of 10101, and having to explain it to the business people, and so the 10101001 had to be translated into their language of $$c$$$. Thus, the device had to be able to translate both ways – from $$$Cc$$ to 1010101 and to $$$c$c$$ back again.

Further, this exchange did not have to stop after one step. The results from the business people could be taken in $c$$cc$$ and given to other business or artisitic people, who had their own languages of ddd$$d$$  and !X!!!XX. And the results from all of them had to be translated in an endless fashion. Indeed, the increasing use of the Internet increased the possibility of all this happening very fast and, hence, we had to explore the possibility of somehow automating this device.

Figure 15: Different logical Systems describing the same indescribable thing in different ways as 10 or $ or !! This indescribable thing shares semantic similarity with the definition of  a Requirement. From "How to Communicate Value," at http://www.cio.com/archive/010101_value.html.

In Figure 15, we see that despite seeing exactly the same thing, different people express  what they see differently. One person is trying to describe what he/she sees in 1010 or structural terms, while another in the terms of $$$ and business, while another in terms of !!! or experience.

The separate, but, dependent, nature of these dynamic universes of $$$$ and 1010101, and their limitations in describing the "dimple" in higher dimensions is well illustrated in the following passage Michio Kaku.[i] This is a passage from Kaku’s book called Hyperspace which is a popular exposition of some arcane concepts in Higher Physics and String theory, and I have found this passage very effective at visualizing the notions of different “logical systems” trying to deal with something indescribable.

One of my happiest childhood memories is of crouching next to the pond, mesmerized by the brilliantly colored carp swimming slowly beneath the water lilies.

In these quiet moments, I felt free to let my imagination wander; I would ask myself silly questions that only a child might ask, such as how the carp in that pond would view the world around them. I thought, What a strange world their's must be!

Living their entire lives in the shallow pond, the carp would believe that their "universe" consisted of the murky  water and the lilies. Spending most of their time foraging on the bottom of the pond, they would be only dimly aware that an alien world could exist above the surface.

The nature of my world was beyond their comprehension. I was intrigued that I could sit only a few inches from the carp, yet be separated from them by an immense chasm. The carp and I spent our lives in two distinct universes, never entering each others's world, yet were separated by only the thinnest barrier, the water's surface.

I once imagined that there may be carp "scientists" living among the fish. They would, I thought, scoff at any fish who proposed that a parallel world could exist just above the lilies. To a carp "scientist," the only thing that were real were what the fish could see or touch. The pond was everything. An unseen world beyond the pond made no scientific sense.

Once I was caught in a rainstorm. I noticed that the pond's surface was bombarded by thousands of tiny raindrops. The pond's surface became turbulent, and the water lilies were being pushed in all directions by the water waves. Taking shelter from the wind and the rain, I wondered how all this appeared to the carp. To them, the water lilies would appear to be moving around by themselves, without anything pushing them. Since the water they lived in would appear invisible, much like that air and space around us, they would be baffled that the water lilies could move around by themselves.

Their "scientists," I imagined, would concoct a clever invention called a "force" in order to hide their ignorance. Unable to comprehend that there could be waves on the unseen surface, they would conclude that lilies could move without being touched because of a mysterious, invisible entity called a force acted between them. They might give this illusion impressive, lofty names (such as action-at-a-distance, or the ability of lilies to move without anything touching them).

Once I imagined what would happen if I reached down and lifted one of the carp "scientists" out of the pond. Before I threw him back into the water, he might wiggle furiously as I examined him. I wonder how this would appear to the rest of the carp. To them, it would be a truly unsettling event. They would first notice that one of their "scientists" had disappeared from their universe. Then, seconds later, when I threw him back into the pond, the "scientist" would abruptly reappear out of nowhere. To the other carp, it would appear that a miracle had happened.

After collecting his wits, the "scientist" would tell a truly amazing story. "Without warning," he would say, "I was somehow lifted out of the universe (the pond) and hurled into a mysterious nether world, with blinding lights and strangely shaped objects that I had never seen before. The strangest of all was a creature who held me prisoner, who did not resemble a fish in the slightest. I was shocked to see that it had no fins whatsoever, but nevertheless could move without them. It struck me that the familiar laws of nature no longer applied in the nether world. Then, just as suddenly, I found myself thrown back into our universe." (This story, of course, of a journey beyond the universe would be so fantastic that most of the carp would dismiss it as utter poppycock.)

In the above passage about the fish in the pond, let us for a moment imagine the fish are the "technology people" and the people on earth are the "business people." Or,

One universe in the cartoon describes the "dimple" in terms of 1010100, and another universe of the business people describes the same dimple in terms of $$$c$$c$. (Note that I added “c” to the string of $’s because just repetition of one thing does not communicate anything.)

And, indeed, someone can define it in terms of !X!!!!XX!!! too. Or any other combination of symbols. Or with apples and oranges.

Our goal was to be able to create a device that was able to translate between ALL the different logical systems and yet, by constant interaction and feedback, confounded logical systems. This confoundedness was not unlike described in Michio Kaku’s passage about the pond and the fish quoted earlier. The fish were dependent on people to treat the rivers on the earth well or their ocean would suffer when the rivers fed back into the ocean, and the people were dependent on the fish to treat the oceans well or their rainfalls would suffer when the water rose from the oceans to form clouds for the rainfall. Just like “water” was the “indescribable” that helped us span both worlds of fish and the people, one possible solution to our problem was to discover something similar to “water” in our thesis that would help us span the gap between the business and Information Technology people. It was interesting to note that though “water” is static, both the “rivers” and “rainfalls” are dynamic.

After some searching, I gave up on the hope of ever finding anything physical, like water for our thesis that would help span both worlds. The worlds of business and technology are not that simplistic. And, so, with the confidence of my engineering background I started off framing the equation:

Let x = “dimple that bridges the world of business and technology” (here after just called a dimple).

I felt like a doctor who knew the name of the disease, but that did not mean he knew how to treat it. But the engineer in me told me that there was a possibility, that after I framed the model correctly, x might just drop out of it all, and I would not have to worry about finding the real nature of the “dimple” that bridged business and technology worlds after all.

That feeling sustained me for quite some time, and of course, still does. In the meantime, I decided to proceed in that direction and started believing that if x was going to dropout, I might as well start ignoring it.

But when I started to ignore x, and I knew that there was no way I could directly think about the dimple, I really had nothing to tie the business and technology worlds together. If there was no water flowing (using the analogy of the fish in Michio Kaku’s passage) between the business and technology worlds, how was I going to create a device that could translate between those two worlds?

So I started thinking about x again. I wondered how I would represent it. Characters seemed too restrictive. Graphical User Interfaces had been popular for some years, and so I though I might want to represent it in pictures. Our memories are stored as episodic memories, and about 80% of our senses are visual. Then I thought I might be able to create a programming language of pictures, just like Java and C++ were for characters. Java and C++ are character based processing languages that allow the creation of Objects, that can have both static and dynamic parameters. I might be able to do that same thing for graphics based processing.

Thus, by this time I knew how I would represent x in my new graphical processing language, but I still had no idea what x was. What is it that bridged the business and technology worlds, and what must the device that I was building act on.

In a late night brainstorming session decided I that if my device was going to be acting on pictures, why did I want to know what x was. After all, in the time that was available to me, by the time I figured out what x was, I would not have enough time to incorporate it into the device.

I might as well start thinking about what pictures to act on, because that is what the device was going to be acting on. But I did not know the nature of the pictures that my device was going to be acting on. So, I played the role of a doctor again, said,

Group of computer bits = picture à the pictures are representations of the “dimple” which flows between the business and technology worlds

And so now I just had to worry about the computer bits. As these computer bits were always displayed on the computer monitors or printed out, (audio and video is relatively rare) I tired to find patterns in the pictures on which my device could act.  The more “pictures” I came across in my conversations, and case studies, the more I was convinced that it was going to be a tough proposition to find out the nature of these pictures.

And so, here I made an assumption. I decided that the way people deal with the episodic memories, which are similar to “pictures” would be a good model for me to base my device on. If people like Temple Grandin [Error! Bookmark not defined.] (Thinking in Pictures) and Albert Einstein [Error! Bookmark not defined.] primarily thought in pictures, a device based on the mechanism of human memory would be a good one to base my design on – even though I had absolutely no idea of what pictures were stored as episodic memories. I did have a working hypothesis of how memory works:

You see something, or something triggers a memory, which first starts as the sensory memory. It then moves to the short tem memory as declarative or integrative memory. That with repeated use is sent to the long-term memory.

This seemed like a good model to base my design on.

But, I really did not know what the practical value of this device was. Anyway, I called this the SW Device.

1.1.2 Developing the Device to Allow Communication between different universes – More than a possibility

One day I dreamt that that I got a phone call, and found out that the business and technology people we frantically looking for the “SW Device,” but they had never seen it. They had heard good things about, and how it would help them do business with each other, and wanted me to tell them more about it. But the problem was that both the business and technology person lived in a cartoon world. But, for me the phone call was heaven sent, for I was trying to find some unsuspecting people to test my SW device on. So I did not mind that they lived in the cartoon world.


Figure 16 : The Business and Technology people asking for the SW Device.

Let us assume, just for a moment, that these two cartoon characters in Figure 16 are each espousing their own “value” systems – the business person in $$$$ and the technologist in 101001. If any deal is to take place between them, then the “value” of the $$$$$ system, must somehow match the “value” of the 101001 system – it is a simple axiom in our methodology taken from the field of economics. The buyer and seller must accept on a mutually acceptable price before the deal is consummated, and price is just one variable in the broader notion of value.

Now somewhere in these utterances $$$c$$cc$$ and 1010101 are clues to find the “values” in the business and technology worlds. (I just added c to the $$$$ expression because simple repetition of something does not communicate anything.) The business person is trying to express his/her requirements for buying the product and somewhere in the $$c$cc$$ is the code to crack and understand what his/her value proposition is. Meanwhile, it should be similarly be possible to find in 1001010 uttered by the technology person the code to crack his/her value proposition.

 Now, assume, just for a moment, that we were successful here at NCSU and have produced the device that could determine the “value” in the “value systems” and communicate that “value” across the value systems of business and technology, and all of this is done automatically. Then we really would have something. I thought I might be able to derive this device out of the SW Computer that I was already using. Maybe I could adopt the SW computer for their cartoon world. So, I did the following to create the new device.

1.      Let us call that new device the “Elephant” in remembrance of the fable of 6 blind men and the elephant, and the “Elephant” is a version of the “SW Device” for their cartoon world.

2.      Each blind man in the fable touches a different part of the elephant, and because of their limits of sight, they all describe the same elephant in very different words.

3.      Similarly our cartoon characters are describing their needs to find a mutually agreeable “value” in their own “value systems,” One is describing it only in terms of $$cc$$c$$$ and one in terms of 1010101 which are both limited systems- they can only describe the elephant or “Elephant” to the best of their ability, which for cartoons isn’t much. But, they need to make sure that the “values” match up so that they can go ahead with the deal.

4.      It would be logical to think that someone who could describe it in $10c$$$1010$$ccc$$ would be in a position of advantage in capturing the truer nature of the “Elephant.” The answer, if a definition of truer could be agreed upon, turns out to be “not really” after all.

5.      But, meanwhile, it becomes an interesting question to speculate what will happen if the blind men start discussing the elephant (animal) or “Elephant” (the computer) with each other. (We now have a visually interesting analogy of a business and technology person trying to talk!)

The “Elephant” communicates the physical perceptions of the elephant of one blind man to the other blind men. The “Elephant” transmits just the coordinates of the elephant’s physical space-time position amongst the blind men. It is based on a very simple notion that there is a space-time that the blind men can feel if they stretch out their hand or other body parts. That way we just have a limited set of parameters to deal with in the creation of the “Elephant” device, based on the SW Device. Thus, when the cartoon characters use the “Elephant” device they can send each other their physical coordinates of the “value” to each other.

Now as time passes, and the elephant starts moving around, and its physical space-time coordinates will change. Thus, new observations in physical space-time will be generated, and the blind men can’t communicate all the observations as they come, or they will overwhelm the other blind men; and the other blind men don’t really want to be updated every minute about every change in physical coordinates of the elephant. So, the blind men will have to store some observations in their memory and communicate those observations only if they become relevant. The cartoon characters are not immune to having to “store” their memories somewhere, but we really don’t have to worry about them. If the “Elephant” device is powerful enough for the blind men, it will surely work for the cartoon people.

Research has shown that there are three types of memory in the blind men; sensory, short term and long term. Their observations if important move from the sensory memory to the short term memory, and if exposed to the observation repeatedly it moves into the long-term memory. Of course the memory can reside in two or more places at the same time too.

The device that lets the blind men move the memories between the various places of sensory, short term, and long term, and enables them to see one or more of the memories at the same time is not very different from the “SW Device” that we described in the previous section. The “SW device” can allow for the storage of episodic memories, integrative memories, and declarative memories, of the blind men, in the sensory, short, and long term memories areas, and, lets the blind men recall more than one memory, or more than one instance of the same memory.

But, the “SW Device” is not only meant for the blind men, but for all men and women. In fact I use it all the time. It captures my declarative memories, my episodic memories, and lets me create integrative memories by the use of tree or hierarchical structures, in addition to lists and tabular layouts. I have designated places in the device where I place memories for sensory recall , recall in short term and recall in long term.

How you may ask is the SW computer relevant to me. Actually , it turns out that the way the SW computer deals with the memories is architecturally the same as O-O languages like C++ and Java deal with Objects. The difference is that C++ and Java force you to represent your memories in character symbols (most of the programming code in Java and C++ is written in common alphabets), while the SW computer allows you to represent your memories either as characters or images and multimedia. Or in other words what the Java and C++ programmer does with characters like aAbBcC12345 ... etc., we can do with images and other multimedia. And do it much more simply, because the graphical processing of the SW computer is easily visualized. And what are opening and closing tags in HTML and XML become the name of the file when objects move from being defined by characters to being defined in files or folders.

[i] Kaku, Michio, Hyperspace, Anchor Books, 1994.