(continues from here)

Here I go more conceptual, and away from the specifics of the show. I found a great article, written way, way better than I ever could. So this second section about the show will be in the form of direct commentary to that article.


That first paragraph is spot on. I have avoided to comment on the “form” of the show, the direction, because it’s done really well and there’s not much I can add. There are aspects of it that are well done, but here I’m more interested to delve into “meaning.” As always I try to take things seriously, and so beyond the art form.

The rebus-like symbolic tangles that emerge within this world are a kind of apophenic sense-making.

Apophenia is about seeing patterns where there are none, so this line seems a kind of oxymoron. Apophenic sense-making is already about getting lost in the labyrinth. Being led astray by the very nature that makes “sense” possible. The hint here is that the condemnation is structural. Built in. Embodied. And so, again, not a choice.

it is as likely to turn out to have been All A Dream as anything else — but the shared activity of following the threads, puzzling out your collective condition, is all you have.

Here is the first big hint. Adding the rest of the line makes this read like it’s a straightforward statement on “the human condition.” But instead what we’re dealing with here is something a lot more specific.

We have to detach from the level of the narrative. Of course it’s all metaphoric, but metaphors can lead astray if you aren’t aware of context. So, “likely have been all a dream” doesn’t refer to OA’s story. It’s not fictional. The metaphor holds as a reflection on real life. What’s suggested here is Westworld’s iconic “have you ever questioned the nature of your own reality?” In the same way that question, in that show, is to us and not the robots, here the dream hypothesis isn’t about OA, it’s again about us. Our life and reality.

Yes, what we are living could all be a dream. Or a simulation. The show is gnostic, so it means it will have… a theory of consciousness and reality. It will need to be structured. We have to accept that it will work on these two layers. The fictional and the real, where the fictional is a metaphor to “illuminate” the real. What applies to OA is generalized and applicable to us.

So again, “the shared activity of following the threads, puzzling out your collective condition.” It’s about the “your”, so us. Not simply her and her peculiar situation, or other characters in the show. We are all caged in reality. Or like a “stage” where we act our lives. But we don’t know the nature of our reality, we don’t know real meaning, truth, purpose. And so we look for answers, for understanding. We follow the threads and try to find that meaning. But how we decide that meaning is found or created? How we decide truth?

Season 2 of The OA collides two seemingly disjoint epistemological stances, which I’ll describe as the “local knower” stance and the “big data” stance. The “local knower” stance grounds knowledge in embodied, situational, phenomenological experience, mediated via communal meaning-making practices; it eschews the global ontology of the scientific “worldview”, favouring a “view from somewhere” over the “view from nowhere”.

Here’s the deal: dualism. Plainly shown. The old dichotomy of philosophy. The mind and body, the explanation gap. Phenomenology and everything else. The distinction between first and third person. Observing systems. And so on, since it all unravels from there.

The quote is clear, what we are dealing with is epistemology. We are dropped in a cage (because it has boundaries), reality, and we have to decide what’s true. It all comes back to epistemology. The methodology of truth-making, or more pragmatically: how you decide to navigate the space. The tools you rely on. The foundations of knowledge.

The “local knower” is simply the phenomenological stance. The observer. Consciousness as it is experienced. The you who “feels”. The qualia. But you can see how that quote is already oriented. It’s not neutral, not much because it carries the point of view of who writes, but because it is explaining the show. And it’s the show to be oriented: somewhere versus nowhere. Something over nothing.

The straw man begins here because science and objectivity are demonized. They aren’t simply described, but they are qualified negatively. The view from nowhere is a false view. A trick. The “big data” is the obscure process that takes control and answers to no one. It all begins here: obscurity is moved outside, unknown processes outside the mind, nihilistic nonhuman voids.

It’s no coincidence that Hap, the “mad scientist” in this scenario, is a figure of evil

Oh yes, it’s called straw man. And it’s pathetically done.

an ontological malcontent who refuses to abide within the finite stance of the local knower, and treats the world around him as experimental material in a deranged and violent quest for transcendence.

And this is pure projection. Science, as a third person, doesn’t actively move. You need to give it intention, you need to make it human. At that point you have a villain, because you’ve taken the evil inside and you have moved it outside. You’ve fashioned a monster.

This is where epistemology dies. Hap, as the external knower, wants to transcend. But it’s instead the closed point of view, the first person that has the need to understand the truth of the world and should transcend its blindness. The outside is already free from that cage. It’s one step ahead.

And so knowledge has to be bound directly to violence. So that it’s automatically disqualified. Because otherwise knowledge would appear quite neutral, if not positive. Wasn’t the starting point about understanding reality?

So, lets see… What happens if you disqualify external knowledge. Make it EVIL. What happens? What other kind of knowledge is possible?


Those raw, vague “feelings” become your knowledge. Your truths. You’ve just disavowed science as a reliable tool and decided that what’s true is the feeling of truthfulness. You’ve just opened the gates to blindness, by making obscurity ontological. The loop closes. You can only see what you can only see. And so you are blind…

The truth heralded by the OA, embodied in the “five movements” (one for each of the senses), is a truth of revelation: it is not acquired by testing and falsifying hypotheses, but by becoming incorporated into a narrative.

Otherwise called as: truth by deus ex machina. Unquestioned truths coming from above: faith. Blind surrender.

Such knowledge is “proved upon our pulses”, by trial of personal commitment. It is Hap’s prescribed fate to remain permanently hapless in the face of this way of knowing, which eludes him as the Roadrunner eludes Wile E. Coyote.

Yes, the show is PERVERSE. The quintessence of EVIL.

Because it’s the other way around. Once you have disavowed the methodology of science you get hope-FULL. Driven by delusions. You have eluded the only movement possible toward truth (and the “movements” in this season are performed by *machines*, so symbols of lack of choice). Hap is here again just a demonized puppet to feed those delusions. To keep the eyes closed and continue to be a slave.

You look at Hap, feeling sorry for him, right when the cage locks closed around YOU. It’s all a game of misdirection and distraction.

You are driven into the cage while being told that it will be your freedom. You are being betrayed by the same systems you relied on. Seduced and brought to the slaughterhouse.

It happens that this process has accidentally uncovered “unnatural” phenomena, locating a fragment of dream-logic that is somehow germinating within the waking world.

There’s no unnatural phenomena. Only phenomena that aren’t well understood.

When you make of blindness a virtue: you make of obscurity a quality. So this phenomenon isn’t anymore simply “not understood”. But it becomes unnatural: impossible to explain. Obscurity as intrinsic quality.

The OA thus brings together, in a single imaginative gesture, two kinds of ontological excess.

Not quite because in the end they aren’t excess. They are merely the usual ontologies: idealism versus materialism. Perception versus an external reality.

On the one side, there is the local knower confounded by unrepresentable trauma, grief and loss, who has only experience with which to make sense of experiences that don’t make sense, and who must assemble a liveable world through shared narration and ritual practice.

And this is ultimately fine. If your methodology is good then you know that phenomenology doesn’t get overwritten. It might be transcended, so to speak, but it cannot be contradicted. This means that the basic, “foundational” level of the first person is virtuous. It stays valid.

There’s no looming presence outside that threatens it, unless you surrender again to false methodologies that simply project outside the monsters that always lived inside. The idealism, by its constitution, makes an habit of displacing the essence of “being.” It’s all a klein bottle, always inside even when it appears outside. For once the lesson is correct: fear yourself, not the world.

The fantasy here is not merely that an individual’s apophenic pattern over-recognition has a foothold in material reality — that there really is something special about every thirteenth paving stone — but that this over-recognition is mirrored by a breakdown in the global order of knowledge: the machine dreams the same impossible thing into being that we do.

Well, yes. When you bridge the gap then you merge the first person into the third. This is what happens. As I said, the third person doesn’t overwrites the first, it integrates it.

That’s the only thing the show vaguely stumbles on by aimlessly groping in the dark (this time I quote the show):

I don’t suppress the consciousness of the body that hosts me.
That would be vicious.
I integrate.
I share in the experiences of all the bodies that hold me.

Of course in the show this is merely the sum of different subjects. It’s just about merging “souls”.

The “truth beyond the veil”, instead, is that the necessary merging happens between the first and third person. That’s the real “integration”. You bridge the mind/body gap, instead of reinforcing it by making blindness a virtue.

That’s why the show constantly contradicts itself. That’s rejection at a radical level, not integration.

What is blindness, truly? A form of partiality. A distinction between seen and unseen. What is seen is only seen partially, because the whole is hidden. But when you then reject logic and rationality it means you’re building walls around that partiality. Make it your castle.

You are not integrating, you’re separating. You’re widening the gap so that the unreal stays real. And so that the obscurity stays shadowed (in anosognosia, “I don’t know that I don’t know”).

There is a kind of theory of vibe at work in The OA

“Theory of vibe” is another oxymoron. Something strict, like a theory, versus something vague, like a vibe.

Where’s the distinction? In obscurity.

A theory is a theory. It’s thoroughly explained, explicit. A vibe instead is only a theory that has been occluded. That you cannot exactly pinpoint even if you seem to glimpse its shape. It’s a potential coming out of doubt, but it’s once again dangerous if you take that obscurity as a virtue.

The series itself is more persuasively attentive to mood and incident than it is to plot: it short-circuits the logic of narrative, instead creating and sustaining a “feeling of meaning” that can attach itself to almost any event. It is the kind of series from which you come away slightly dazed, looking at the world around you as if daring it to come alive with meaning in the same way. Which would be terrifying — but at the same time, wouldn’t it also be strangely welcome?

It’s welcome because it’s alluring. It’s meant to seduce. The mothes go toward the artificial light because they trust their “feeling.” Their code. They are slaves to the machinery that moves them. They go through their “movements” as they received them.

But at least they don’t idolatrize that machinery. They don’t consciously justify slavery.

This is instead a movement TOWARD blindness. It’s blindness embraced. Ultimate misdirection. Perverse as a Pied Piper song.

It’s scary because it weaponizes the phenomenological grief. It earns trust through intense, honest emotion, but then cynically exploits it to induce delusions.

It’s sad that show preys on the ingenuity and credulity of its public. It’s shameful. And it’s, once again, perverse. The true face of evil.

Considering Westworld, The Man in the High Castle, and then Lost and its own rib, The Leftovers, but also that other stuff with Jason Isaacs like Awake, Touch and Dig. Or Upstream Color and Brit Marling’s own Another Earth… They are all more worthwhile to watch than The OA. (this is a reference to what I wrote back then about the first season)

(I’ve recently seen the three seasons of Travelers and that too is quite good and recommended. I mention it because it is also obliquely about the problem of epistemology)

I of course like and enjoy the “weird”, but only when it’s done well and those who do it know what they are doing, or at least sincerely try, like groping in the dark for meaning. Step by step. The earnestness of the struggle would be enough. The first season of The OA fell in this category and I still appreciate it. It was ambivalent, open, and it was quite “honest”, all things considered. There was a lot of worthwhile, well placed magic in that first season, and I was waiting this second one to see where it would all lead. In the end there wasn’t all that much to figure out. The show wasn’t a riddle to solve because it simply didn’t offer enough pieces to work with. It, in some way, “held itself back”, without really showing its hand. So I accepted it as a whole, as a kind of suspended thing that still worked on its own even if it felt also ephemeral.

The second season is somewhat satisfying in the sense that it offers a number of exhaustive answers to its mysteries. If season one held back and only hinted, season two instead is more blunt and explicit. The problem is that all these answers are very underwhelming and insubstantial in their meaning. The overall feel is that “the king is naked.” There are a few infodumps here and there, delivered by literal deus ex machina, and this foreign and unnatural source of information isn’t even the damning point. The problem is that when you brush away all these mysteries you are left with an exposed core that in this season is extremely emphasized to the point that it overwrites everything else: anti-scientific lecturing.

There is no way around this time. The character of Hap is even more clearly the straw man of science. This role is so heavy handed and unsubtle that this time it doesn’t work at all. There’s no nuance, no real complexity. Simply a cartoonish villain that at some point the show tries to re-enable through even more hokum.

This comes out after a little more than two years since the first season. I was really waiting for it because I had no idea in what direction it would be spun. This interest then increased because I read a few comments in the last few days calling it a “masterpiece”. Then I looked at the titles of the episodes and noticed one was “SYZYGY”. And I know what that is. Are they trying to blend in the mythology of the CCRU? Are they really diving into that stuff? Is that you, Nick Land? But nope, it was all for nothing. The “syzygy”, besides its very superficial and symbolic meaning, is used only as the name of a night club and then to solve a pointless riddle with no other ties. A macguffin that represents the great majority of the substance of this season. Inconsequential meanderings, looking for inspiration and ideas that just aren’t there…

That it is all largely pointless was quite evident from the first episode. This detective finds a riddle that reads something like “what’s above the sea but under the stars?” The detective comes up with a straightforward solution: “birds.” But it turns out it’s not the right one. At that point I stopped the video and tried to see if I could figure out another answer. I thought of consciousness, breath and stuff like that, but they didn’t quite fit with the five letters required. So I resumed the video to see where it all lead… Turns out the answer to the riddle is the code of an airplane that was flying over that specific location, that you could only see though the augmented reality app. This is quite exemplary because this riddle-house is one of the main themes of the season. Everything that relates to it amounts to nothing at all. Those riddles are so specific and so empty that instead of offering some insight, or a spark of intuition when you guess right, instead you are merely about guessing the arbitrary answer that the riddle-maker set up. The WORST kind of riddles. When the riddles are that arbitrary then there isn’t anything to them. No valid hints, no getting progressively closer to an answer. It’s all the random chance of ending on the same spot, looking at the same thing, and having the same thought of the designer. Pure coincidence. It’s predestination versus choice.

It then continues on this path of deus ex machina, “guess-what-I’m-thinking” pattern. The riddle house is a labyrinth without any direct or symbolic significance. It’s just that, a labyrinthine labyrinth that delays its solution until the very end, just in time for the necessary twist to end the season. And the solution is lame outside those 20 second when the post-modern layer drops. The “behind the curtain” moment is always cool. The fourth wall breaching. But if you have at least a little experience with it then you’d expect at least a tiny bit more than it simply being shown. Here instead it just goes nowhere. The OA can travel through dimensions, so why can’t she travel to a dimension where The OA is being made as a TV show? WHOA! Whoa… Well, alright. Is that really it? Nope, because they drop the ball by making it a fictional semi-reality. Where Brit Marling is actually married to Jason Isaacs and gets hurt during the finale while it was being made. So it’s not quite here, but almost. Am I supposed to be impressed?

So yes, the fourth wall breaking is always quite effective because you don’t expect it. And to the general public of Netflix it might also look like a shocking plot twist. But it is a known tool. You have to give it some purpose, make something out of it. There’s nothing here beyond that cheap surprise. It’s just sleight of hand for its sake, that it works because it simply aligns with the perspective of the show where multiple realities are an established mechanic. So why not? Because there’s nothing else to it. There’s nothing implied, nothing “truthfully magical.” There is no beyond, no revelation, no transcendence, no understanding. It’s a labyrinth that the showrunners couldn’t solve. It’s a closed loop without emergence. It ends flat, monotonous. It sinks.

Instead of understanding that mythology and using it to show the way, it falls into its trap. Fails to see ahead, to see clearly.

The enchantment that worked for the first season simply wore off, now the king is stark naked.

And again, the problem isn’t that nakedness. The problem is what’s left after you remove the game of mirrors and pretense: that anti-scientific core. The message couldn’t have been emphasized more. The king is not only naked, but completely blind, and he made his blindness a virtue.

Like in Twin Peaks, this show is itself condemned to OBSCURITY. That last moment when Laura Palmer SCREAMS. She’s lost once again because she’s trapped inside (inside fiction, worlds). Part of this loop that cannot be shattered. NO MATTER HOW MANY TIMES Cooper tries to save her, traveling to other dimensions. Do you see the parallels? The OA is Laura Palmer, and she can’t save herself because she IS blind. She never got any insight because the show as a whole has made the gnostic obscurity its idol. You cannot awake if you are structurally blind, not able to see the forest for the trees. No help outside nor within. There’s nothing else but surrender to the blindness itself.

This celebration of gnostic blindness couldn’t be more EVIL because there’s no Cooper fighting against it. Instead of fighting darkness, it’s a celebration of it. It’s blissful nihilistic abandon to a false sense of truth. Like moths flying around an artificial light. The show essentially incarnates the enemy it pretends to fight. It blindly states that it lost the capability to navigate the space. It permanently lost orientation. A victim with no salvation. A prey to the higher forces. No choice, no will. Just a prey that cowers and wails.

The OA is the blind loop that in Twin Peaks Cooper tried to shatter. A cage. And if Twin Peaks ended with the perpetuation of that endless “chase”, maybe The OA embodies better our modernity. Because it idolatrizes blindness itself and shows that human beings are structurally unable to navigate the space. They are broken in a definitive way. Structurally broken in a way that salvation is simply not possible. There is no narrow bridge to cross. No journey to go through, no lesson to learn. There’s only the desperation that drives you deeper, closer to the ultimate damnation. There is no hope. There is no choice. And there is no understanding possible. You die, and die blind.

Here is where we go a little deeper, because this pattern of chasing after blindness isn’t new. And it happens in the show because the show comes from that same angle where blindness is always sublimated. What it would be? Idealism of course. That gnostic blindness mistaken for “light”. The power of the soul. Of this anti-scientific false idol.

(continues here)

I received today the hardback of Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James. It came out just a few days ago. It’s exactly 620 pages with some large line spacing, and it also looks like a very slim book just because they’ve used very high quality but thin paper. Otherwise it’s a 220k words, and so around 550 pages on a standard format, including a few maps drawn by the writer himself, or at least through some softer because they don’t look hand-drawn. It’s the first in a trilogy titled “The Dark Star”, but this is only written on Amazon because there’s no mention at all on the physical book itself.

My prediction is that is going to win the next Hugo. Or the next after this one since I think this year are only eligible the books that came out in 2018, but I might be wrong.

Jemisin won best novel the last three years. We all know the political mess around the Hugo. What has happened in the last three years can objectively be described as an anomaly. Maybe not so much because the novel prize went to a black woman, but because a fantasy book won, three times, year after year, and in the form of a series.

Now, I do believe that Jemisin happened in the right place at the right time, because I think it’s not too outrageous to say that the book might not have won otherwise (the Hugo isn’t too keen on epic fantasy), and even more unlikely three times in a row. But again I have nothing against that. I bought the book (and the previous trilogy by the same author) long before it got popular because I read excellent reviews and very interesting ideas. It sounded absolutely amazing. It’s still part of a big to-read pile ready for my next life so I cannot give first-hand opinions, but I’m certain it’s an great book that deserves the praise it got, and I see this whole scenario as a general case of “killing two birds with one stone”: sending a political message by promoting and celebrating diversity while giving the spotlight to an excellent book that deserve it.

In the end these “prizes” don’t really reward the “best” book, because that’s impossible. They are simply marketing tools. And at least we end up with a very good service if to be promoted is the diversity itself. Because the diversity, or change, in culture will also reflect in the writing. It broadens the view.

But if it was the perfect opportunity for Jemisin, this time it looks like the perfect storm. Marlon James is a black, gay man (from what I’ve read), who won the Booker prize a few years ago, so coming from the high tower of literature, raining down on the ignoble and lowborn fantasy genre, waiting for a new messiah to bring the light. The reviews are filled with superlatives, so I don’t know how this could go wrong. We’ve got all the ingredients once again, they seem even better aligned than with Jemisin.

Is there any problem with that? None at all. The book seems indeed excellent, I’m absolutely optimistic, and being set in Africa it kind of drags along that quality of diversity. It might seem as an artificial recipe (take Game of Throne and set it… in Africa), but in a way or another it forces a novelty, and the author seems to have totally embraced it and without holding back any punches. If anything I expect a snowball effect. (well, Amazon reviews right now don’t look great, but the motives they use don’t seem very convincing anyway, it seems they don’t like that the book is mean and brutal)

But the reason of this post is another, and it’s about the marketing that surrounds the book that TRIES SO DAMN HARD that it can feel quite ridiculous and even irritating. First because you can see how this was “air dropped” from those high walls of literature and those who have been co-optioned. What do I mean? Who are those genre writers that these day celebrate the genre by the virtue of being outside of it? Well, Neil Gaiman and China Mieville, for example, and they are of course those who were carefully chosen to provide cover blurbs for this book, projecting it right into that very dandy and exclusive club that is LITERARY sci-fi & fantasy. “Open the gates! He’s with us!” (but of course he won that pass on his own, by winning the Man Booker prize, Mieville and Gaiman appeared BECAUSE of that, chaperoning him in)

So we have a typical parade of now high-brow “celebrities” to help elevating this book to the ranks of literature, and okay, but what’s even more ridiculous is how they all speak about it.

Let’s see. By the way, this escalation is exactly all I saw when I started getting curious about the book. These weren’t handpicked, they all appeared right away in quick succession.

src: The New Yorker


We have African Game of Thrones. Alright. This is also mostly acceptable since it’s Marlon James himself to explain his intent. The article is noteworthy for other reasons, but lets not get sidetracked…

Yay! Gaiman namedrops Tolkien! It’s super-effective!

(well, well, to be entirely correct he isn’t comparing this book to Tolkien, but to a Tolkien-like specific feature, that of a well realized and solid worldbuilding.)

That’s a classic, but do you think it stops there?

src: The New York Time

Umm… WTF?!

This is the New York Times, now it’s literary equivalent of the Marvel Universe, just one step away from Middle-Earth.

So, what’s next?

src: The Washington Post

Beowulf, REALLY?!

…What is wrong with people?

Well, alright, this one is the same that goes with Marvel Comics.

Of course it wasn’t enough, better add some more names. I cannot even blame that title, it’s designed to be outrageous for a reason.

But finally we come full circle back to Gaiman, because on the back of the actual book there’s a more complete blurb, and of course he didn’t stop at namedropping the obligatory Tolkien…

I couldn’t find a picture of the backcover and I cannot take it myself right now, but the quote is all over the place.

“Black Leopard, Red Wolf is the kind of novel I never realized I was missing until I read it. A dangerous, hallucinatory, ancient Africa, which becomes a fantasy world as well-realized as anything Tolkien made, with language as powerful as Angela Carter‘s. It’s as deep and crafty as Gene Wolfe, bloodier than Robert E. Howard, and all Marlon James. It’s something very new that feels old, in the best way. I cannot wait for the next installment.”
—Neil Gaiman

That’s what the original quote read like. A list of names. (and “the kind of novel I never realized I was missing” has such a rhetorical, phoney feel that it only does a disservice to the book)

This is the list of what the book has been associated with:

– Tolkien
– Game of Thrones
– Marvel Universe
– Beowulf
– Hieronymus Bosch
– Garcia Marquez
– Angela Carter
– Gene Wolfe
– Robert E. Howard

I assume this isn’t remotely a complete list. This is what I’ve seen immediately right on the Amazon page of the book. I’m sure that if I made a more careful search that list would grow longer and longer.

Comparisons are fine. I look for them, I use them. They have their use and they represent an effective heuristic to gather information quickly about something like a book. They are a tool to quickly orient your curiosity. The problem here is that this list of names doesn’t really help.

It’s as if I claimed: this book is the perfect mix of Joyce’s Ulysses and Fifty Shades of Gray, with the intrigue of Dan Brown and the wit of Pynchon.

Wtf does that mean? How it can even be useful? How do you go from Robert E. Howard to Gene Wolfe and then the Marvel Universe?!

Taxonomy goes to the slaughterhouse.

I had this on a playlist for a while. It deserves closer attention:

I’m currently dealing with a philosophical problem about nihilism, idealism and phenomenology. But in trying to understand more the aspects that are to me more obscure I’ve found this good book suggested by Sean Carroll on twitter.

While skimming through this interesting book I stumbled on a page about “caos”, that has been one of those topics I was dealing with, and now I’m bumping my head against it and its deceitful wording.


The great power of science lies in the ability to relate cause and effect. On the basis of the laws of gravitation, for example, eclipses can be predicted thousands of years in advance. There are other natural phenomena that are not as predictable. Although the movements of the atmosphere obey the laws of physics just as much as the movements of the planets do, weather forecasts are still stated in terms of probabilities. The weather, the flow of a mountain stream, the roll of the dice all have unpredictable aspects. Since there is no clear relation between cause and effect, such phenomena are said to have random elements. Yet until recently there was little reason to doubt that precise predictability could in principle be achieved. It was assumed that it was only necessary to gather and process a sufficient amount of information.

Such a viewpoint has been altered by a striking discovery: simple deterministic systems with only a few elements can generate random behavior. The randomness is fundamental; gathering more information does not make it go away. Randomness generated in this way has come to be called chaos.

The result is a revolution that is affecting many different branches of science.

Okay, so this is the thesis. The randomness is fundamental. Information won’t make it go away. And this is what we now call “caos.”

The discovery of chaos has created a new paradigm in scientific modeling. On one hand, it implies new fundamental limits on the ability to make predictions.

But then:

On the other hand, the determinism inherent in chaos implies that many random phenomena are more predictable than had been thought.

Wait. That’s an oxymoron. The correct phrase would be: these phenomena are predictable, because they aren’t as random as it was thought.

If the phenomenon is “random” then you cannot predict it. And if we can predict them it’s because they only APPEAR as random.

But here’s the real contradiction:

A speck of dust observed through a microscope is seen to move in a continuous and erratic jiggle. This is owing to the bombardment of the dust particle by the surrounding water molecules in thermal motion. Because the water molecules are unseen and exist in great number, the detailed motion of the dust particle is thoroughly unpredictable.

But they opened the article saying the exact opposite:

It was assumed that it was only necessary to gather and process a sufficient amount of information.

Such a viewpoint has been altered

Cause => water molecules => if these molecules are absent from the model, then this absence IS a lack of information.

You’re obtaining unpredictability because your model doesn’t includes everything that takes part in this process. Your model is partial, so produces prediction errors. Your model LACKS the necessary information to make that prediction you want.

If “sufficient information” was provided, then there wouldn’t be any errors, because the model is complete and so can fully predict the evolution of the system it wants to model.

What makes the motion of the atmosphere so much harder to anticipate than the motion of the solar system? Both are made up of many parts, and both are governed by Newton’s second law, F = ma, which can be viewed as a simple prescription for predicting the future. If the forces F acting on a given mass m are known, then so is the acceleration a. It then follows from the rules of calculus that if the position and velocity of an object can be measured at a given instant, they are determined forever. This is such a powerful idea that the 18th-century French mathematician Pierre Simon de Laplace once boasted that given the position and velocity of every particle in the universe, he could predict the future for the rest of time. Although there are several obvious practical difficulties to achieving Laplace’s goal, for more than 100 years there seemed to be no reason for his not being right, at least in principle. The literal application of Laplace’s dictum to human behavior led to the philosophical conclusion that human behavior was completely predetermined: free will did not exist.

This is the basic argument, clearly explained. But then:

Twentieth-century science has seen the downfall of Laplacian determinism, for two very different reasons. The first reason is quantum mechanics.

And okay. We know quantum mechanics are weird and that introduce a true, fundamental randomness. But the theory is incomplete and so it doesn’t make a lot of sense to put it against the hypothesis of determinism, at least until we get a clearer, definite formulation of it.

What I care about, then, is the second reason. And it takes another couple of pages to get to the point.

It is the exponential amplification of errors due to chaotic dynamics that provides the second reason for Laplace’s undoing.

That’s not Laplace, though. That’s a very obvious straw man.

Laplaces’ true position, copy/pasting from above, was:

given the position and velocity of every particle in the universe


If you know the position and velocity of every particle in the universe then there isn’t any space for “errors”, because errors are caused, as in the example above, about tiny stuff that interferes with the model. And this external interference is in fact what the text points to:

A simple example serves to illustrate just how sensitive some physical systems can be to external influences.

It begs the question: what can be “external” to knowing the position and velocity of every particle in the universe?

The text even acknowledged that the problem wasn’t the PRINCIPLE, but the feasibility of that principle:

there are several obvious practical difficulties to achieving Laplace’s goal, for more than 100 years there seemed to be no reason for his not being right, at least in principle

But your thesis is that Laplace’s thesis is wrong *in principle*, and not just in practice.

This article states again and again that there has been a revolution in science, but when it comes to motivate why, it falls flat on its face.

On one hand there’s the thing about quantum mechanics and okay, I accept that. But on the other hand the article reduces the essence of chaos to computational errors, then puts these computational errors against the deterministic conclusion: human behavior being completely predetermined, free will does not exist.

And this conclusion would be false because WE MAKE COMPUTATIONAL ERRORS?

Caos can be two things:
– variables not modeled that interfere with the prediction (external interferences)
– computational approximations/errors within the model that have exponential effects

BOTH ARE ABOUT IMPERFECT KNOWLEDGE, not imperfect determinism.

It’s completely ridiculous. This confuses a subjective level where you work with imperfect approximate models, and so with imperfect predictions, with an objective level where the idea of “errors” and external interference don’t have any sense. External from what, reality? Is it the hand of god that meddles with physics?

In Laplace’s hypothesis, without any straw man, there couldn’t be any external factors, as the thesis postulated that every particle is part of the model, so no other particle can arrive from outside reality to produce an interference. And of course the principle, in the same way it presumes an impossible thing like knowing every particle, then would assume that the computational model would also be accurate enough to properly handle that data. Because the thesis is that it’s computable in theory, so assuming that it is fundamentally possible even if not possible in practice because we just don’t have/won’t have that computational power and accuracy.

Nitpicking, Laplace is impermeable even to quantum mechanics. “Given the position and velocity… then…” Quantum mechanics undermine the possibility of the knowability of the initial condition, but not the validity of the hypothesis itself, that remains strong. This makes Laplace’s hypothesis not relevant, but not wrong.

The argument in defense of free will doesn’t even hold on the other hand: quantum mechanics want that the fundamental nature of reality is “random”, so unpredictable. But “free will”, in the sense of human free will, implies that human beings are IN CONTROL.

How a reality that is merely random, opposed to determined, makes human beings more in control? Huh? Whether the cause is determined or random, human agency remains out of the picture just the same.

WTF is wrong with these people who write these articles?

(Of course I’m not implying they are all idiots and me the smart one. I’m just putting emphasis on the subjective struggle I go through, in the way it happens in my mind. And that’s why I keep looking to figure out where and why I’m wrong.)

Most people wouldn’t notice a good movie even if it punched them straight in the face.

“The Secret” is a singular Italian movie that on IMDB has been rated by 17 people in total, with an aggregate of 6.3/10. I’ve watched it and not only it’s a great movie, but one of the greatest movies I’ve ever seen. It just happens that sometime the very best stuff is what no one watches or wouldn’t watch.

Even those two lines of description on IMDB page would diminish its effect, the movie is best seen without any cue. Despite this being many dimensions and worlds away from a product like Westworld, I still see in it a similar theme. The kids in this movie are “being moved” by a force they don’t understand. They become a process, united with the city itself. There’s an undercurrent, a mythology, that runs through those narrow alleys of the city, giving it life. These kids are the embodiment of the city, they are its movement and voice. They are flesh and blood, concrete and asphalt. They are one with the city with an harmony so visceral that it defeats time and space.

Despite they obstruct those roads, litter and disturb everyone around them in a way that wouldn’t be excused, the force and vitality that moves them is so pure and timeless that no moral judgement could ever be leveraged against them. And there isn’t even a tiny speck of rhetoric to be found here, no trick of showmanship or artificiality. The camera has a gentleness that I’ve rarely seen even in these kinds of movies. This isn’t a movie that is subtly pulling at your heart strings, without showing its hand. Instead it represents the complete absence of an observer and the judgment that would be carried along. Yet there’s this feeling that these kids, above all rules and reason, have to do what they have to do.

Because literally nothing else could be more important. They are the city. This chthonic mythical force still lives today, it just moves unseen.

I’ve watched the finale but I haven’t read what people think about it. It’s been the same for this whole season. During the first one I did seek out discussions and theories, it was a wild ride. But this second season already had a context established and so I felt like I could go through it on my own. My own journey, my own thoughts.

I say this because I don’t know if out there there are more elaborate interpretations about the “meaning” of this last episode. I’ll have to find out later. My opinion is that the first season ended on a strong finale because it lead up to a coherent idea about consciousness. But if this second season, as I see it, ends on the theme of “free will”, then I don’t think it was able to build a coherent design, this time. I’ll elaborate in a moment.

The episode was packed full of suggestions, I’ve seen plenty of flashes of excellent stuff. The problem is: they were all deja-vus.

This good stuff was all about the apocalyptic setup, the door that opens onto reality, but instead of leading outside it leads in, deeper. It’s truly excellent and inspired stuff, only a bit muddled by a too convoluted plot that ultimately isn’t that meaningful (and just copies the first reason with the same idea that the hosts have to observe human’s atrocities in order to learn what they’ll deal with). The reason why Bernard had to scramble his memories feels like a pointless McGuffin just so they could carry over from season 1 that game about the timelines. It wasn’t well earned and didn’t coalesce into something satisfying. They tried too hard there.

The good parts are all deja-vu because I’ve already seen this, in this exact shape, and even executed quite better. It’s once again Malazan. Ford building a virtual world for the hosts in the shape of a past that is no more, an unsullied lost world, is the same as what happens in Malazan’s third book, with the Mhybe being fashioned as a vessel, a dreamworld built to receive and preserve those people so that nothing would be lost. Ford moving behind the scenes like an invisible, caring and compassionate hand, the same as Kruppe.

Both in Malazan and Westworld this fashioned dreamworld is an answer to a world that is being destroyed. An answer to that call. But in doing this again Westworld turns into just a weaker copy of what was done there even better and with deeper, more meaningful implications.

(also, in Malazan there was a much greater effect because of its overall structure. In Westworld it was one path moving toward its conclusion. In Malazan instead there were two completely separate paths that moved in their independent way through the whole book, without even a hint they would collide. Malazan had Itkovian. And it’s when the two paths join that not only you’re hit with the shock of what is happening, but it’s this unexpected collision of completely separate journeys that yet finds a perfect, but still unbelievable, complementarity in each other.)

In Westworld this leads to this sort of antagonized perspective, Dolores on one side and Bernard on the other. The significance of the dreamworld is questioned:

DOLORES: That world is just another false promise.
One more gilded cage.

How many counterfeit worlds will Ford offer you
before you see the truth?

Malazan addresses all this directly. Westworld instead shrugs it off by just presenting dissenting opinions, on one side Bernard who support the fictional Eden, and on the other Dolores who doesn’t accept trading reality for illusion.

This leads back to the problem of free will because these are all cases where a theme seems to surface but then is merely shrugged off. When Bernard tries to understand why Dolores won’t accept the offer, she says:

No world they create for us can compete with the real one.
Because that which is real…
is irreplaceable.

This is a typical non-answer. What does even mean “irreplaceable” in this context when even people can be made into exact copies? I’m not even sure if it was deliberate in its contradiction because the scene that follows those lines shows Maeve once again chasing after her daughter. A daughter “fashioned” as one, the very essence of fabricated, but authentic-feeling love. Where is supposed to be found that uniqueness that Dolores wants to claim? It’s authenticity itself that comes after, the feeling itself being a fabrication. Truth that is created, not found.

Even the story those White Nation people tell themselves seems just a well fashioned lie (“We have died countless times. If we die once more… at least the story was our own.”). What we see here is not freedom, but a certain form of freedom. What we are witnessing is Ford having hidden himself from his creation. He fashioned a narrative for his people, a narrative about “freedom.”

Freedom and free will are the recurring theme throughout the finale, the problem is again that the story declares the hosts being truly free, opposed to human beings who aren’t, but nowhere to be found is an explanation of what draws that distinction.

When AI-Logan goes through his infodump explaining his human re-creation program I thought that it was all leading up to some sort of theory of enactivism. Meaning that you cannot quite “capture” the essence without modeling the environment, and by changing the environment you’d change the mind as well. But that’s not quite how it works, here.

We are instead offered an explanation, through Ford’s words no less:

Something that is truly free
would need to be able to question
its fundamental drives.
To change them.

That seems to mean that the (some) hosts are truly free because they can access their own code and rewrite it. They are truly free because they write their rules instead of being slaves to them.

But what’s described here is a sort of recursive process, a “strange loop”. A second-order observation. One observation that draws a distinction and then observes itself observing. It’s all 2nd order cybernetics, but if we follow it to its true implications we should realize it’s all a lie.

Adding loops to an algorithm makes that algorithm more complex, but it doesn’t make it free. A loop that rewrites itself means that the rewriting is built on the fixed instructions that come before. It means that the hand is hidden, but not that an hand doesn’t exist. No matter how many loops and how many rewrites, it’s all a chain of effects that are still determined by the original state. A self-observing, self-correcting system still executes these activities based on those patterns that are built in. It’s still “code” even when it rewrites itself, it cannot escape its gravity. Evolution and adaptation still won’t make a process free, or any different from “human survival”, either.

Now, there are ways to solve all this, but it doesn’t look to me like the showrunners have an idea. There’s not much substance to be found in this finale even after wading carefully past all the rhetoric. There might be a few vague hints, but they don’t seem as deliberate as I’d like them to be. Do they have a good idea, a good theory, of what “free will” is and how it’s built?

The “solution” is what can be found at the very end of Wittgenstein’s Tractatus, but I have a pretty original interpretation if it, so I doubt someone else got out of it the same idea that I did.

The secret of “freedom” is knowing what it truly is: lack of information.

That’s why this construction in Westworld holds inside itself the actual possibility of freedom. It’s all about Ford hiding his hand, it’s all about a creator who makes himself unknown, exactly as described in extreme clarity in John Fowles’s The Aristos:

29. If there had been a creator, his second act would have been to disappear.

Because if freedom is lack of information about a system, then “free will” is the necessity to make a choice in the absence of sufficient information to make that choice a good one. It means you have no other way than to make that choice. Being forced to have free will because you have to act, without knowing how to act. Freedom is always relative to a system, and if the system is sealed, then freedom is absolute, ontological. It stops being an illusion. It’s the system’s closure that with its imposition causes free will. A freedom that is built by its chains.

Here’s the Tractatus. When you control perception, reality ceases to be real. You need to know reality to understand and control perception, you need that science of consciousness so that you can use that science and climb the ladder.

But once you’ve climbed that ladder you turn and realize there’s no ladder anymore. There never was a ladder.

The finale ends re-building a theodicy. As an epitome, Arnold created Dolores, Dolores created Bernard, now they stand opposed, incarnating those two fronts of judgement and being overseen by Ford, now “gone” from his creation but still the breath of life that generated it all. Further differentiations that take a life of their own, and play the game. Dolores and Bernard are one process questioning itself. One who wants to erase everything because it’s a nightmare, the other who chases irredeemably after the hope that a better world is possible. Exactly how Cooper in the finale of Twin Peaks seizes Laura Palmer’s hand with the hope of saving her, only to lose her again, and still following her beyond the curtain of reality, to try once again, no matter what. No matter how many times he will fail and how many worlds and lives he’ll have to go through.

Always those two fundamental yearnings, one nihilistic, the other idealistic.

Ford gifts the hosts their free will by permanently sealing himself away from his creation.

Today I was commenting that this second season is moving from science-fiction to “mysticism”. This is both good and bad. But the fact is that they handle the mysticism better than the science. In episode 8 we’ve seen the prototype of religion, then with the split Dolores/Bernard we see the shaping of a theodicy. If we extend this same trajectory we could imagine that these two position will then splinter further into factions, and each faction will create its own system of values. We would essentially witness a re-creation. Not a story in the future, but a retelling of how a culture is born.