Nothing’s More Practical Theory

“If we want to learn to use a system, part of that is speeding up this process of operant conditioning – learning what’s safe, and what to avoid. Having an adequate mental model of the system seems to be a key part of that, because it lets you figure out this mapping of action to outcome.”

—David R. MacIver, “Learning to use the system.” DRMacIver’s Notebook. July 10, 2020.

Possibly my favorite blog. Reminded me of a saying of my cataloging professor, “Nothing is more practical than theory.” You can’t troubleshoot a problem if you don’t have a mental model for how the system it is part of works. Perhaps your problem is a “feature” when looked at from a different perspective.

Stephen Wolfram’s Fundamental Theory of Physics

“We have such a simple rule. Yet applying this rule over and over again produces something that looks really complicated. It’s not what our ordinary intuition tells us should happen. But actually—as I first discovered in the early 1980s—this kind of intrinsic, spontaneous generation of complexity turns out to be completely ubiquitous among simple rules and simple programs. And for example my book A New Kind of Science is about this whole phenomenon and why it’s so important for science and beyond.”

-Stephen Wolfram, “Finally We May Have a Path to the Fundamental Theory of Physics…
and It’s Beautiful
.” StephenWolfram.com

Bookmarking for later.

The Theory of Visitors

“She leaned in. ‘Do you believe in the theory of visitors?’ She said this conspiratorially, as if she was sharing with me a secret.

‘What’s that?’ I asked.

‘All relationships are transient,’ she said. ‘Friends who stab you in the back. People you network with at a fancy party. Relatives who die. The love of your life. Everything is temporary. People come into your life for a limited amount of time, and then they go away. So you welcome their arrival, and you surrender to their departure. Because they are all visitors. And when the visitors go home, they might take something from you. Something that you can’t ever get back. And that part sucks. But visitors always leave souvenirs. And you get to keep those forever.'”

—Sam Lansky, “The Theory of Visitors.” Medium.com. November 10, 2017.

Enjoyed the whole essay. It invites us to consider that the theory of visitors and the looking for the next swipe right encounter might be preventing us from interacting more deeply with people. Engaging with the projected personas that are reflected in the digital medium that can only be maintained at short intervals or at a distance, we make quick judgments about complicated, multi-faceted human beings. Perhaps everyone is a visitor, but the key point may be that relationships (at least some of them) are worth investing time in, irrespective of their duration.