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"...the most accurate account of the life and escapades of Daniel James Geisz..."

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A Conversation at Dusk

By: Danny Geisz | October 28, 2021

Project: #Life


Simply put, it was an utterly exquisite evening in the mountains. The leaves were making their final crescendo into a fortissimo of red, yellow, and blood orange; the effect was only accentuated by the final rays of a setting sun. The temperature of the air was precisely at the boundary between lukewarm and distinctly chilly, perhaps the perfect essence of the term “crisp.” The lower hills flowed so perfectly into the plains below it looked like God himself had used a wide-brimmed paintbrush to bring the landscape into existence.

The effect of the scene, however, was entirely lost on Danny as he once again attempted to understand the point Lauren was making.

“But wait. I feel like we’re operating under different definitions of the word ‘representation.’ Maybe that’s why I’m not getting what you’re saying?”

Lauren sighed. They were walking on a trail high enough in the mountains that the setting sun still illuminated the forest around them. It was already dark further down the mountain in areas too low to be hit by the sun’s increasingly horizontal rays. Lauren felt a tinge of apprehension at the prospect of descending the mountain in the dark, and then turned her attention back the nigh impossible task of getting Danny to see something differently.

“You’re always so focused on structures and representations,” said Lauren. “If you stop thinking about them for a second, it’ll be more clear.”

“I’m not entirely convinced you know what you’re talking about.”

Lauren stopped and glared at Danny.

“That’s a cheap tactic. You’re just trying to avoid letting go of your precious theories. Can’t you just think about this differently for two seconds, and then return to your precious world of representations?”

Danny, secretly affronted by Lauren’s implication of his intellectual immaturity, decided to press the offensive.

“You do understand that in ‘thinking differently’ about this, all I’m doing is adopting a different intellectual representation towards the matter at hand.”

Checkmate, thought Danny. Though still internally quaking at the ease with which Lauren was able to perceive his insecurity, Danny relaxed his shoulders and smiled at Lauren like they were playing a delightful game.

Incidentally, Lauren actually didn’t pick up on Danny’s feeling of weakness, and instead perceived a smug twerp who clearly thought too highly of himself. Breaking up isn’t out the question, she thought.

“Fine,” she said, and promptly turned around and continued up the trail.

After the last three months, Lauren knew Danny well enough to know the effect this response would have on him. Danny really did crumble remarkably quickly if he thought he had hurt her feelings. All she had to do was sufficiently “commit to the bit,” so to speak.

True to Lauren’s intention, Danny stood dumbfounded for several seconds. The term “jagweed” kept reappearing in his mind. What an utterly bizarre term, he briefly thought before compulsively turning the entirety of his mind towards relational reparations. How quickly a perceived checkmate turns against you.

“Lauren, I apologize,” said Danny after accelerating to catch up. “My last comment was aside the point. What were you saying about art again?”

And this point, the pair was crossing a boulder field, and Lauren took the opportunity to step onto a large rock, distinctly looking down at Danny. She crossed her arms and slightly narrowed her eyes, completing the effect.

“Are you actually going to listen to me this time, or are you just going to look at me, nod your head, and pretend like you’re listening?”

Danny, though feeling thoroughly chastened, noticed for the first time that Lauren’s left eye was slightly further from her nose than her right. Perhaps it was the combination of their relative positions together with the angle of the sun that gave light to this fact. Though it by no means detracted from her attractiveness, Danny quickly filed the observation under his mental cabinet of “Things to never say, under any circumstances.” A second-order analysis revealed that he was violating the implicit request she had literally just made, which he found equally ironic and potentially dangerous within the scope of the discussion. As such, Danny took a deep breath and then positively clamped his attention onto Lauren’s disapproving face.

“Yes, I’m listening,” he said.

Ironically enough, Danny had been making careful eye-contact with Lauren despite his flurry of distracted mental activity, and therefore she didn’t pick up on his instantaneous faltering of attention. As such, her irritation with the schmeag standing in front of her softened a bit; in fact, she was overtaken by a faint sense of amusement.

“Ok, good. But we’re losing light, so I’m gonna need you to listen and march at the same time. I know that’s hard for you.”

And without a backward glance, Lauren hopped off of the rock, began hiking, and launched into a lecture about the meaning of art. Danny stood watching her for a moment, and felt a slight chuckle take command of his throat. Heavens, she really is quite compelling. Then he dutifully hurried to catch up with her, straining his ears to catch what she was saying. It really can be cursedly difficult to hear someone who’s hiking in front of you.

“Ok, here’s what I’m saying,” Lauren began, “and I honestly thought you’d like this more, because I think it’s kinda like all the stuff you’re always talking about with representations. Ok. So when I was running yesterday, I was thinking about the word ‘meaning,’ as in the ‘meaning of life.’ And I was thinking to myself, ‘that’s kinda a sucky phrase, because it doesn’t feel like it’s even being used properly—’”

“Wait, hold on,” interrupted Danny, “What do you mean by ‘meaning,’ in this context?”

“That’s literally what I was getting to, if you’d stop interrupting me,” said Lauren with another backward glare, “But I guess it’s a fair question. Let me think about it.”

She stopped for a moment, breathing heavily, and thought about it.

“Ok, here’s what I think I mean. Imagine there are a bunch of kids playing in a room, and they’re breaking a bunch of stuff. Then the dad comes in and is like: ‘What’s the meaning of this?’ I’m talking about meaning in that sense. …does that make sense?”

“I suppose so,” said Danny, “so wait, it seems like you’re talking about ‘meaning’ as an associated explanation. Is that right?”

“Hmm, maybe? I think the idea of association is important for how I’m using ‘meaning.’ Like two things being associated with one another? …yeah I think that’s it. It’s like when you’re looking for the meaning in something, you’re pursuing associated information about the something. Does that make sense? But actually, you know what? I think it’s more general than information. And yes, I know I’m being vague about my definition of ‘information,’” said Lauren, countering a frequent source of intellectual incoherence between herself and Danny. “I guess without specifically defining ‘information,’ I think ‘meaning’ is more general than just having to do with information just because information seems too concrete to me. Like it doesn’t capture the emotions of the situation well enough. Ok, yeah so in talking about art—”

“Wait, hold on,” said Danny, “it’s hard to hear you. Let me go in front so I can hear you better.”

Having said that, Danny bounded around Lauren and continued forward. He squinted off to his right toward the sunset. Probably about 30 more minutes of light. Good thing we brought head lamps.

“Ok, sorry about that. Keep on going,” said Danny.

“You’re good. Yeah, so I guess I’m interested in why the idea of ‘art’ is so loosely defined. Like imagine trying to define ‘art.’ It’d be as hard as trying to define ‘love,’ or ‘joy.’ But what if you asked the question, ‘what is the meaning behind the Mona Lisa?’ Or maybe ‘what is the meaning behind a Rembrandt?’ It’s a weird question, but I think it’s easier than trying to define ‘art’ itself.”

“So I guess based on what you were saying earlier, you’re thinking about this in terms of associations, or associated explanations?”

“Yeah I guess so. And actually, yeah, I think that’s the right way to think about it. Maybe, at least. Like art is something that’s typically created, right? But, I mean, our brains are constantly forming associations between different concepts, emotions, structures, all of that. Like all the stuff you’re interested in.”

“Yup,” confirmed Danny.

At this point, Danny was getting an increasing sense that what Lauren was talking about could more simply be discussed within the framework of representations and entities, but it seemed like a tactical blunder to bring that up in this present moment, so he kept his mouth shut and let Lauren keep talking.

Lauren, for her part, was quite aware of what Danny was thinking, given that it seemed to be the only thing he ever really seemed to think about. That, and me. Ha. She allowed herself a silent smirk and continued describing her thought.

“Ok, so I think that’s getting close to what art actually is. This isn’t totally exhaustive, but you could say art is something that is created and is associated with a set of emotions.”

“I mean, yeah,” said Danny, frowning, “but isn’t that kinda …obvious? I mean, would anybody say that’s not the case?”

That statement would have been annoying to Lauren, but to her satisfaction she could tell that Danny was speaking purely analytically, which meant he actually was paying total attention to what she was talking about. As if that should be something that makes me happy. It shouldn’t feel like a battle to actually get his attention. Whatever.

“Yeah, I guess it’s obvious. But, I mean, it doesn’t mean it isn’t important. Emotions, desires, thoughts, sensations are all stuff that appear in consciousness at the most basic level, so it seems important that the certain creations we call ‘art’ have a pretty fixed set of emotions and sensations associated with them.”

“Wait, that actually is super interesting,” said Danny, again stopping briefly to check the position of the sun. “Hmm… yeah. It’s actually really interesting to think about pieces of art as carriers of a particular set of emotions. And actually, there really is something to be said about the fact that the piece of art itself was created by a person. Like for some reason you almost automatically want to figure out why the artist did what he or she did. Hmm… did you ever read the Mysterious Benedict Society?”

Lauren laughed. This is why she kept Danny around. It was fun to get him excited about something and watch him compulsively bump around between different subjects. “No, but I think I’ve heard of it. It’s that kids’ book, right?”

“Actually, it’s more of a young adult novel. I think my sister calls them YA novels. What a ridiculous acronym. But anyway, the villain is a dude called Mr. Curtain, and basically he has this machine that transmits thoughts around the world. But one of the most interesting parts about the book is actually how he packages information. So basically, he has this institute that’s set up to fill kids head with propaganda. Like they’ll be taught stuff like ‘the government is like a poisoned apple, and society is like a poisoned worm.’ Stuff like that. Anyway, after he’s brainwashed these kids, Mr. Curtain hooks them up into his machine, and then has them project thoughts like ‘poisoned apples, poisoned worms.’ It’s cool because even though it’s only those words that are transmitted to people, the connotations of the words themselves are also transmitted. So even though a kid might only be saying ‘poisoned apples, poisoned worms’ into the machine, they’re also projecting a bunch of anti-government propaganda.”

Danny fell silent for half a second.

“Wait, where was I even going with that?”

Lauren laughed again. It was probably a good thing she found this conversation amusing, because otherwise she and Danny would be entirely incompatible.

“I think you were talking about art being a carrier of emotions,” she said.

“Oh, yeah yeah yeah. That’s right. I guess I was thinking that art kinda becomes like the propaganda words from Mysterious Benedict Society. Like not in terms of societal decay, but in terms of carrier of meaning. But why would something like a piece of art be better for that than just any old thing you’d find in nature?”

“I think there’s something about the artist’s intention,” said Lauren. “Like I think you expect that if an artist is being genuine, they had some particular purpose in how they created their…creation. Even if it wasn’t totally conscious while they were creating it. Like the purpose, I mean. Unless you like believe that there’s a God that created everything with a particular purpose, then if you’re just looking at a scene in nature, there’s not a strong of a reason to think that it’s not all totally random.”

“Wait, yeah. That’s actually kinda weird,” said Danny, frowning again. “Why are humans so obsessed with purpose? Or I guess meaning. Yeah, why are we so obsessed with purpose and meaning?”

“I mean, isn’t that kinda obvious? Isn’t that the whole purpose of philosophy? Like basically trying to answer the basic question of ‘how should I live my life?’”

“No, I don’t think that’s obvious. You just basically said humans are obsessed with purpose because they’re trying to figure out how to live their lives. That seems circular.”

“What are you talking about? How isn’t that obvious? Ok, so I guess if you take a step back and look at the human experience, we basically have a set of experiences that are either perceived to be good, like happiness, or perceived to be bad, like pain. So then you’re basically trying to figure out what you should do to maximize the good and minimize the bad.”

“But what does that have to do with purpose? And I mean, we’re also kinda getting off track. We started out by talking about the purpose behind a piece of art, which I think is a different discussion than speaking about the purpose of a human being.”

They fell silent for several seconds. The summit looked like it was about four minutes away.

“Hold up,” said Lauren, stopping and shading her eyes, “are you seeing this sunset?”

Danny had been staring at the ground while thinking about their conversation, and experienced a minor jolt as he escaped his thoughts to return to the present. Looking up, he could see why Lauren had stopped. The sun was now at the very edge of the horizon, and appeared like a blood-red orb behind a distant mountain range. Equally compelling was the fairly thick blanket of clouds to the east. The red of the sun was bounding across the cotton-candy blue sky to paint the clouds with a delicious shade of pink. Those are the two colors on a sour gummy worm, Danny realized. Naturally, this only added to the effect.

Turning his gaze slightly downward, Danny looked more closely at Lauren, and experienced a second jolt as he realized just how beautiful she was. The same rays that illuminated the clouds to the east were playing across her face, which only accentuated her expression of quiet satisfaction and joy.

“Wait, stay right there,” said Danny. He bounded down to a slightly lower position where he could see a three-quarters view of Lauren against the clouds behind. Having found the proper position, he closed his eyes and took a long, deep breath.

“And what are you doing?” asked Lauren, somewhat bemused.

Danny opened his eyes, taking in the scene before him, once again.

“Perfection,” he said. “Absolute perfection.”

It was these sorts of things that informed Danny’s family’s decision that he was the most dramatic member of the bunch.

Lauren laughed, perhaps a bit nervously, then struck a pose with her hands on her hips thus becoming a caricature of a broadway model.

Danny laughed a well, and then ran past her back up the trail.

“Come on, let’s get to the top!”

For some entirely intangible reason, the scene of Lauren against the clouds had rapidly lifted Danny out of his prior contemplative state and had filled him with an altogether boyish energy. Coupled with the equally intangible (though carefully hidden) male desire to impress Lauren, Danny directed this burst of energy towards sprinting the rest of the way up the mountain.

Lauren, for her part, thought the display somewhat childish, though perhaps amusing. She most certainly had not experienced the same arbitrary burst of energy; in fact, she was feeling the altitude. As such, she proceeded upward at her previous pace.

Danny had exhausted his temporary well of energy with about 100 feet left to the top. However, given his latent desire to not look weak, he decided to press onward at his needlessly rapid pace. As could be predicted, Danny was so sufficiently winded upon reaching the top that he immediately crouched downward and thoroughly scrunched his face in a desperate attempt to avoid heaving. Thankfully, he narrowly avoided that fate and had roughly a minute to compose himself before Lauren herself summited.

Lauren, entirely oblivious to Danny’s self-imposed plight, had been taking the last several minutes to continue pondering the meaning of art. Upon reaching the top, she immediately began vocalizing her thoughts.

“You know, I was thinking about what you said. Like how humans focus on a piece of art in a different way than they would focus on some other thing. Even without knowing exactly why people do that, it’s interesting that a piece of art would become the focus of so many people’s attention.”

Danny, caught off-guard by a combination of the rapid return to conversation and an oxygen deficit, didn’t immediately grasp what Lauren was talking about.

“…what?”

“It’s what we were literally just talking about! I’m just saying that it’s interesting how famous pieces of art basically become the focus of intense meditation. Or maybe that’s the wrong word? You get the idea. It’s almost like everyone is convinced that the piece of art has meaning, and they’re all arguing and trying to agree upon what the meaning actually is. Or, I mean, everyone who actually cares. But anyway it’s almost like the whole point of the piece of art is to attract attention, and then the generations of viewers imbue the art with meaning that can be communicated and has value.”

At this point, Danny had re-centered his attention within the conversation.

“I don’t think that properly acknowledges the aesthetic value of art, but you do bring up an interesting point about how people effectively normalizing their collective opinion about the meaning behind a piece of art. I guess that’s also interesting to me on a functional level, because then motivated individuals can then use the particular piece of art to invoke a certain set of emotions in an audience, which can be used for political purposes. I suppose that’s just the essence of propaganda.”

Having both completed their respective thoughts, the pair watched as dusk faded into twilight, bringing with it the first indications of stars.

Danny smirked.

“I guess you did know what you were talking about.”

Lauren closed her eyes out of exasperation. Jagweed, she thought. And then: What a weird term.

Intuition as the Inverse of Physics

By: Danny Geisz | September 8, 2021

Project: #Life


I was recently walking amongst the Flatirons at dusk, and I suddenly came to an interesting intellectual discovery. It seemed fairly profound to me, though ultimately the nature of the realization is fairly simple, once you consider it for a second. Before I describe the precise nature of the discovery, perhaps I should give some level of indication why it seemed so profound. On a personal level.

In an increasing number of my pursuits, I’ve recognized that there seems to be a conversation of sorts going on between different aspects of reality. In particular, I tend not to be one of the participants in the conversation, but either my impulsive actions or intellectual activity seems to be the medium by which this conversation occurs. I suppose my latest discovery is one particular instantiation of this phenomenon. If nothing else, simply observing this conversation is somewhat remarkable. The trick, I suppose, is realizing that the conversation is even happening in the first place. Only then can you actually witness it as it occurs. It took me about 21 years to actually figure out it was happening. My simply describing it will make it patently obvious, and perhaps some of you that have been involved in research-based endeavor have already come to a similar realization.

In order to explain my realization, I first have to explain the nature of physics. Particularly, what theoretical physics is all about. Now, I recognize that some might have a viscerally negative reaction to my even bringing up physics, likely because of some poor experience in high school. First of all, let me say that I’m not actually going to be describing physics from a high level, rather than actually doing it. So don’t stop reading even if you feel some degree of repulsion towards physics. Second of all, before I even describe physics, let me say that in my experience, physics is either profoundly frustrating and difficult, or shockingly easy. There’s very little in-between. More specifically, if you take the time to develop an intuition for the most basic principles governing a particular theory, working with the theory becomes remarkably easy. And if you don’t develop that intuition, you’re literally screwed. Physics becomes exponentially more difficult. In my experience, this is why so many people believe they are “bad” at physics. The American school system (especially high school, but certainly college as well) teaches students to memorize facts. It does not teach students to develop intuition for the first principles governing a particular topic. Thus, students are typically totally unprepared to engage with something like physics, wherein the material becomes exponentially more difficult if you opt to approach it using a “memorize everything” learning framework. Hmm, I’m going down a rabbit hole. All that is to say that physics might not be as hard as you think, and it’s possible you didn’t approach it correctly.

Anyway, if you actually know me, I’ve probably already given you this particular speech, and it’s certainly not the main body of that which I wish to discuss at the particular moment. So, let’s move on to what’s actually interesting.

In order to describe how theoretical physics works, I first need to describe how math works. In essence, one first defines particular entities of different types. Then one describes concrete rules for how the entities interact with one another. Finally, one typically manipulates the entities in question according to the rules provided which leads the creation of a new state that logically follows according to the definitions used to describe the entities. So, for example, a number is an example of an abstract entity defined within the context of mathematics. One then can define operations such as addition and multiplication, both of which take two numbers and produce a new number. Not only that, but rules such as the “distributive property” (which you probably remember from basic algebra) define basic rules that govern relationships between addition and multiplication.

Ok, the actual particulars of math aren’t important. Basically, all you need to understand is that math provides a framework for creating abstract (typically symbolic) entities, and defining rigorous, deterministic rules for how these entities interact.

Ok, so now I’m in a position to describe what theoretical physics actually does. It’s actually pretty simple. First, you observe something in the physical world. This could be anything from gravity, to temperature, to windspeed. Really anything. Then, you observe how different mathematical structures behave. More precisely, you study what happens to different mathematical entities when you apply previously defined rules to these entities. Thirdly, you attempt to find a mathematical structure that behaves similarly to the physical phenomenon you observed (in some capacity). Finally, you manipulate the mathematical entity and then map it back onto the physical system, which effectively allows you to predict how the physical system will behave.

I think probably I’ll give a related example to explain this more clearly. What is a map? A map is a simple two-dimensional image that is a representation of geographical features in a particular area. We’re all familiar with maps. Now let me ask you this. Is the map the same thing as the actual land it represents? Obviously not. Is the map perfect? No. So why is it still useful? It’s useful because it’s a good enough representation to help you perform some action. Maybe let’s be more specific. Let’s say you’re in Denver, and you’re trying to drive to Salt Lake City. If you don’t have a map, it becomes substantially more difficult to acquire the information necessary to make it to Salt Lake City. Which exit do you take? What’s the right highway? However, if you possess a map, and the map is a sufficiently faithful representation of the different features you’ll encounter on your way to Utah, then you can make accurate predictions about how you should best approach your journey. In other words, if you want to get somewhere, you need information about what lies between you and your destination. The map allows you to easily acquire this information because the map is incredibly accessible. Far more accessible than acquiring this information by interacting physical terrain.

This is precisely the same reason why a physicist tries to find a mathematical structure that behaves in the same ways as some physical phenomenon. Instead of trying to drive from Denver to Utah, the physicist is interested in figuring out how some physical system is going to behave. More specifically, the physicist is interested in figuring out how some system will behave in different environments and situations. There are two ways of acquiring this information. First, you can simply empirically observe how the entity behaves in a variety of different situations. More specifically, if you’re trying to figure out what something does in a particular situation, you can simply attempt to observe that thing under those conditions. So let’s say you’re interested in how electrons behave at very low temperatures. One way to acquire this information is to simply observe electrons at very low temperatures. Ok, great.

But what’s the problem with this approach? Any time you want to figure out how something will behave in a new situation, you need to find a way to observe the system under those particular conditions. Typically, this is either difficult or effectively impossible. What if you’re trying to figure out how electrons behave at the center of the sun? That’s a pretty tough one to directly observe.

Luckily, there’s another option. Instead of just empirically writing down how electrons behave under a wide variety of conditions, let’s say you instead try to find a mathematical structure that behaves in the same way as those electrons under different conditions. Let’s say you find such a mathematical structure. That’s pretty great! Why? Because if you wish to acquire information about how the electron behaves in a new environment, instead of observing it in that new environment, you can simply simulate the behavior of the electron using the mathematical structure you’ve found. In particular, instead of observing the electron in the new environment, observe the equivalent mathematical structure in an equivalent mathematical environment. And why would you do this? Because working with the math is much easier than working with the actual system.

Just like the example with the geographical map, it is much easier to acquire information from a mathematical structure than a physical structure.

Ok, so just to reiterate, this is literally all that happens in theoretical physics. First you observe something. Then you find a mathematical structure that behaves in the same way. This mathematical structure gives you an easier way to acquire information about the physical system in question. Boom. Done.

That ended up taking longer to describe than I previously thought it might. Well, whatever. Now let’s get to my realization.

I’ve presented physics in a fairly simple light. Observe something. Find math that behaves similarly. Use the math to predict something about the thing you observed.

However, I’ve left out one crucial step in the process. Namely, I haven’t talked about how to efficiently work with the mathematical structures you find.

Now it is true that math should behave according to certain rigorously defined rules. However, typically in something like physics, you have something you’re trying to find, and you need to mess around with the math to get it in a form that gives you the information you want. And this can be pretty monstrously difficult.

I imagine you’ve likely experienced this, regardless of whether you hate math or if you’re a theoretical mathematician. Typically, in school, math question questions are frequently phrased as “Here’s some stuff we know. Now solve for X.” And it typically requires some brain power to solve for X.

In fact, given the rules of math, in any given situation, there are usually an exponentially large number of different options available for how you can possibly manipulate an equation. So the question is, how do you figure out how to manipulate the math to get the information you want?

In my experience, I’ve found that perhaps the most powerful way to do this is by developing an intuition for how to mathematical entities in question should behave. Then you can let your intuition serve as a guide for how you should perhaps manipulate certain equations.

But here’s the question: what is that intuition? What is actually going on when you follow your intuition?

Here’s the thing I realized. If I told you to imagine a ball spinning in front of you, I imagine you’d be able to conjure up this apparition in your head. In fact, it could likely be more than just a 2d image in your head. You could probably imagine holding the ball, touching it. Engaging with it with your different senses.

I realized that when I talk about using my “intuition” to solve some problem in math, what I’m really doing is conjuring up some physical representation of the mathematical quantity in question to give me insight into how I should proceed. In other words, my intuition is almost precisely the opposite of what we do in physics.

In theoretical physics, you find math that behaves in the same way as a system. However, in using intuition to work with mathematical structures, you’re basically conjuring up some physical representation of the mathematical structure to give you insight into how you should manipulate the given mathematical structure.

When you’re dealing with physics, typically the subject of your intuition is actually the physical system you’re describing in the first place.

Ok, this post is stretching on a bit long, but here’s what I’ll say. Up until my little walk in the Flatirons, I wrongly conceptualized the process of mathematical modeling as being simply simple one-time back-and-forth between the physical world and the mathematical world. Namely, you attempt the convert the physical world into the mathematical world, you work with the mathematical world, and then you convert back to the physical world.

I’ve realized that in this sort of process, there’s actually much more back and forth between mathematical knowledge and physical intuition. And at a certain point, it begins to feel as though the physical and mathematical worlds are engaged in conversation, with your brain being the medium by which this exchange takes place.

I find this quite compelling.

Synthesizing Immortals

By: Danny Geisz | August 28, 2021

Project: Project Supernatural


Sup fam. Just transferred to CU from ol’ Berkeley, and the academic year has begun. Also I just had a major project fail, so Danny boi is feeling a little directionless at the moment. Well, that’s not quite true, but nonetheless, I though it might be time to shake off some cobwebs and blog about some things that have been bouncing around the ol’ nogerino.

I’d like to present a theory on why some notion of “God” or perhaps some other hyper-powerful supernatural creature could potentially come into existence. So in other words, I’d like to discuss why God might exist. Specifically, how God might have come into existence.

I think the best way to do this is to first talk about the human experience, and particularly, humanity’s understanding of the divine. Additionally, I’d like to talk about why humanity’s collective cultural belief systems or “religions” do provide a pretty substantial benefit to the population.

In most of the religions that I’ve encountered, one common thread is the establishment of an intellectual framework focused on several archetypical ideals. These ideals take many different forms for the different religious systems. Sometimes these ideals are encapsulated in a divine figure, like “God,” or perhaps many gods. Other times these ideals take the form of a particular way of life.

I think Christianity is a particularly good example of this, simply because how explicitly this construction takes place in the Bible. Specifically, the figure of God in the Bible is taken to be perfectly good, perfectly just, and of infinite wisdom. Alternatively, you also have Satan, who is typically presented as the perfect embodiment of evil.

Another particularly interesting aspect of the Biblical God that many people I’ve met find particularly compelling is the fact that God also purports to never change. In other words, God is taken to be the archetypical representation of everything “good” now and forever more.

Now admittedly, I’m certainly less familiar with other religious systems than I am with Christianity. That being said, based on what I have learned and experienced, the different religious systems typically provide a similar type of utility to their practitioners.

And what is that? The utility that stems from knowledge on how to live.

Now, with that said, different religious systems certainly provide different ways of giving this information. Typically, this information is imparted through stories, or myths. Greek myths, for example, present situations in which humans interact with one another, and with the gods. At first glance, someone living in modern times might dismiss these tales as primitive and useless. But that’s certainly not the case.

Even though we humans don’t interact with Zeus and Athena on a regular basis (or at least I don’t. If you do, give me a yodel), these stories certainly provide a particular utility. And what is that? Well, Zeus, Athena and the other gods of the Greek pantheon are representations of different archetypes. Athena, for example, is the embodiment of wisdom, whereas Zeus represents the all-powerful ruler (among other things, of course).

The Greek myths therefore tell stories about humans interacting and negotiating with these archetypical representations of different aspects of reality. More often than not, the human characters in these stories suffer tragic fates because they interacted poorly with the gods.

So sure, you can dismiss these stories as fairytales, but you’d be missing the functional value of these myths. Specifically, myths encode information about how to live and interact with reality. And the myths that have the highest probability of lasting throughout the eons are the ones that people repeat. And why would people repeat a myth? Likely because some aspect of the myth rings true within their personal context.

Therefore, it naturally follows (by means of some sketchy logic) that the myths that have survived the millennia are the ones that encode useful information about how to interact with reality.

I should also mention that this is typically the utility provided by any story, regardless of its association with a religious system. Good stories are incredibly useful to us humans because they implicitly reaffirm our existing knowledge base regarding information on how to live. This is a can of worms I probably shouldn’t open right now, so I’ll just move right along.

Ok, so I hope I’ve established that myths and stories are one vehicle religions use to encode information about how to live. But there are certainly other means by which religions encode this information. For example, the Tao Te Ching, basically goes right ahead and makes explicit assertions about reality, and how Taoists ought to act. The 10 Commandments are another example of this, in which explicit instructions are given about how to behave.

That being said, the most interesting way (within the context of this post) that religions provide knowledge about how to live is by providing an embodiment of perfection and encouraging practitioners to emulate this figure. I’ve already mentioned that this is how God is presented in the Bible, for example.

A common phrase you’ll hear in Christian circles is that Christians are constantly trying to be “more like Him.” Him being God, of course. To extrapolate this a bit, Christians are therefore attempting to emulate their perception of perfection and the embodiment of “good.”

Now, I think it would behoove us to take a step back for a quick second here. How do Christians know that what they are pursuing is actually “good?” What even is “good?” And does this apply to people who don’t practice that particular belief system?

Ok, before we move on, just know that I’m going to make some pretty broad statements here that might not be fully correct. Even though that’s the case, I think the point of my arguments is going to be clear, so don’t get bogged down in the gray areas and edge cases.

I think I’ll start with a discussion of the nature of “good.” I think we all intuitively think of “good” as describing actions that provide sustainable benefit both to ourselves and our community. You likely have a different definition of “good,” but I think you probably can agree in part with this definition.

And what sorts of actions actually benefit the individual and our community? Well, this is a tricky question. Even though this isn’t a complete answer, I think “good” actions promote the stability of humanity with the context of a reality that constantly threatens our existence. Typically, this either manifests in someone solving a problem, or empowering a group of people to solve their own problems. This arguably describes the impetus behind technological development and provides some degree of moral argument for increased technological development. But that’s another rabbit hole that I don’t want to go down right now.

Ok, now that I’ve established a relatively concrete definition of “good,” now let’s talk about whether the objective that Christians pursue is actually “good.”

I’ve established that “good” actions actually have a tangible benefit to humans within the context of survival. Not only that, but most people have a reasonable sense of what is or isn’t “good” because their experience has shown them what sorts of behaviors actually benefit the individual and the community.

With that said, Christianity actually provides a pretty good framework for determining what is or isn’t “good.” Why? Because it creates a context for people to converse and argue about what actually is good, and what isn’t.

To see why this is the case, here’s a toy example. Let’s say Dante and Virginia both believe in God. They also believe that God is perfectly “good.” Now let’s say Virginia makes the following assertion: “God wants us to kill evil people, because evil people harm others.” Dante might then respond: “Wait, no. That’s not true. God wants us to love evil people and try to help them see the errors in their own ways.”

Now, regardless of who’s actually right, this is an example of people arguing about the nature of God, given their mutual belief that God is “good,” and given their own personal perceptions of “good.” And this has been happening all throughout history.

So who wins, Dante or Virginia? Well it isn’t totally clear. However, let’s say that the pair agrees to disagree, and both follow their own belief regarding the nature of God. Statistically speaking, one of those two beliefs will actually provide a greater degree of utility to humanity on average, and therefore will likely have a higher likelihood of being passed on to the next generation.

It’s literally survival of the fittest, but with world views (almost sounds like Stable Entities…). Now, obviously reality isn’t a statistically perfect system, but these conclusions imply that over the course of time, Christians should trend closer to a more accurate belief of what is actually “good,” or what actually provides humans with the greatest degree of utility.

Ok, so with that said, though not actually perfect (IMHO) the Christian pursuit of knowledge of perfect “good” naturally should lead to a better knowledge of what’s actually “good.” And for that reason, I’d argue that people who don’t believe in Christianity certainly shouldn’t dismiss the teachings of Christianity outright. Even though there may be inefficiencies, the process of refining Christianity has been a multi-millennium project, and the results of that project should be given their time of day.

But what’s interesting about all this is that not only do Christians naturally attempt to discern the nature of “good,” but to the best of their abilities, they also attempt to become “more like God.” (That is, of course, if the Christian is behaving optimally within the context of the Christian belief system).

Now what’s particularly interesting to me is that technology has been developing at an exponential rate. In simplistic sense, technology gives us better tools for enacting our desires and visions for reality. To put this in different language, the power that humanities posses over reality has been increasing at an exponential rate.

To put it really simplistically, humans are getting much, much better at doing the things they want to do.

Now then, this power is and will lead to increased instability, as individuals have greater potential to harm entire populations. If humans are to survive, we need to figure out what sorts of actions actually benefit both the individual and the community.

In other words, we need to figure out what’s actually “good.”

Now then, the people who subscribe to religious systems arguably have a head start in this pursuit, because they benefit from thousands/millions of years of encoded information regarding the nature of “good” (i.e., what sorts of actions actually lead to beneficial outcomes).

What’s particularly interesting is that if humanity is able to survive the instability of increasing power, then it will literally become more and more like God, in the Christian sense, i.e., a manifestation of perfect “good.”

If exponential improvements continue to occur and humanity survives them, at a certain point, humanity will be indistinguishable from God, in the Christian sense. Omnipotent, due to the limitless improvements in technology. Omniscient, given the limitless potential for technologies that synthesize representations of reality. Omnipresent, given the (almost) limitless potential improvements in transportation technologies.

Not only that, but such an Entity would almost necessarily be “good” because the power granted that Entity combined with evil actions could literally destroy sizeable aspects of reality. That’s a weak argument, but I think you see the point.

Ok, so this line of reasoning introduces a mechanism by which a God-like entity may come into being. However, this begs the question: what if this already happened? If that’s the case, then God might actually already exist.

Ok, let me flesh this out a bit more. A good deal of this argument has leaned on a notion “good,” and presented why humans might want to try to be more and more “good.”

However, I’d argue that “good” isn’t necessarily a human construction. Earlier I spoke of “good” describing actions that promote the dynamic stability of an Entity. Which means that if we de-anthropomorphize “good,” it can basically apply to any system.

Now then, humans can be described as Entities that are capable of formulating internal representations of reality and acting in accordance with those representations (i.e., intelligence). Though certainly an advanced system, I’d certainly argue that most Entities within reality could benefit from some mechanism like that, which is to say that there’s no reason to firmly believe that intelligence is a uniquely human phenomenon. I imagine that it’s incredibly rare, but certainly not impossible.

With that said, any creature capable of formulating internal representations has a high incentive to determine what is “good” (in the more global sense) and pursue those sorts of actions. And given the exponential nature of technological improvements, moving from mortal to God-like might occur much faster than we’ve might imagine.

Basically, what I’m trying to assert is that according to the reasoning presented in this post, there’s a mechanism that allows for the creation of God-like entities that behave in reasonable correspondence with our own human belief systems. Which is fairly remarkable, I’d say.

About the Creator

Who am I? Who am I? …not Jean Valjean. My full, unabridged name is Daniel James Geisz. I hail from a city on the border of the plains and the Rockies. Throughout my life I have skied at the top of the world, run down the canyons, leapt from the crags, and plunged to the depths of the sea. Enough of that poet talk.

Why should you read through my site? I am, after all, just another schmeag who’s vying for your attention. I should, perhaps, try to give myself some level of credibility. In that spirit, I feel inclined to inform you that I am a triple major in Physics, Applied Mathematics, and Computer Science at the University of California, Berkeley. I assure you that this site isn’t just another tutorial hub for how to launch of blog with Django or center a title with CSS or how to find geodesics on a curved spacetime (which is, btw, always a noble endeavor).

No, XFA is an attempt for me to give greater structure to my life and pursuits. I find life to be a wonderful gift full of miracles, hidden truths, and endless potential. In less flowery language, life is the sauce. XFA is essentially my way of cataloguing my interaction with reality. In these posts you will find my efforts to make sense of the universe I perceive, and my attempts at creation using the tools given me. I have been informed that I’m a bit more dramatic than your everyday Tim, but quite frankly, what the frack are you doing if you’re not passionate about your pursuits. To that end, you’ll enjoy your time on this site. Just trust me.

Edit 11/16/2020 - Since I created this blog, I decided college is dumb, and to that end, I'm no longer a triple major. I'm in fact a lowly single major. Actually wait, I'm technically a double major. I'll rectify that as soon as I set foot back on campus. Anyway, if my quantity of majors is what's keeping you on this site, I'd recommend you instead direct your internet traffic to idontgiveasinglefrack.com. Thanks! Oh, I also mostly turned off email functionality because the internet's stupid insistence on spamming.

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