Wednesday, January 26, 2005

All out of order


William Comida saw patterns. He saw them in the swirls of stuccoed ceilings, in the weathered bark of trees, in the flow of human traffic through the underground, in the movement of raindrops across glass, everywhere, and within every thing. He saw what others did not, boiling down the complex, to elegant, deceptively simple axioms. And it was due to this talent that he lost his faith in randomness.

Chance, he thought, is a romanticized lethargy, the ignorant product of limiting one's scale of reference. He bluntly criticized his co-workers for "not seeing the big picture." They resented him for this, and for his continual overuse of the mainframe's processing power. They mimicked him when he wasn't around: his avoidance of eye contact, his wild arm movements, his monotone and metered speech, his inability to detect sarcasm, his compulsion for pop and chocolate.

William's mother proudly told her friends that her son was a weatherman. He took offence to this; he was a meteorological scientist.

Five years ago, he began his career as a model employee. He had passionately worked long hours, asking for no extra compensation, while producing high quality results. His knack for pattern matching allowed him to predict storms, follow pressure systems, and read the Gulf Stream with a precision even his most seasoned colleges envied. More recently, his weather predictions, along with his mood, had become as erratic as the movement of his arms. He was no longer satisfied with the standard weather models. He thought his co-workers simple-minded, their methods flawed, and he told them so. They believed that weather systems were too chaotic to predict beyond two or three days. They spoke of randomness incessantly. "God," he would quote to them, "does not play dice."

William believed that God and the Universe were one and the same, a staggeringly large computer. He would defend his view by explaining that since the universe contained computers - created by man from pieces of the whole - this proved the universe capable of computation. At this, his co-workers would laugh, or ask if he could commute what they would do next. "I don't have nearly enough data," he would reply.

His work began to suffer the day he began experimenting with the worldwide weather archive, an Internet based repository for historical weather data. It contained over 100 years of recorded weather patterns from across the globe. The data fascinated him, and he studied it during his spare time. Nearly 3 months after his discovery, he had an epiphany while showering: Measuring the effectiveness of his weather models based on their future predictions produced limited feedback. He should be searching for a model that could recreate the historical patterns of the weather archive. By modeling the past, he could then predict the future.

He knew his most successful models were not up to the task:

My creativity is no match for the creative power of God.
Man cannot create. Only God creates.
And God creates through the evolution of complexity.

In the spirit of evolution, he fed thousands of new models into the mainframe. He based these on patterns he gleamed from the weather archive. He then instructed the powerful computer to process these models, to rank them according to how many days of historical weather they were able t o recreate, and to discard the weaker half.

He studied the retained models, their outputs, along with the weather archive. Next, he created new models. Some were built from mixed and matched pieces of retained models, others came to him in dreams, many more he derived from the archive. These new models were ranked and pruned by the mainframe along with the retained models.

He repeated this process as the seasons changed; leaves fell, then snow, a freeze, a thaw, then rebirth. 100s of thousands of models were born, manipulated, transmuted, and bred. The weak were deleted. The strongest models proved the best fodder for future candidates.

Meanwhile, William developed new, unorthodox pattern finding methods with which to scour the archive. He printed stacks of raw weather data, which he arranged in spirals in the courtyard next to his office. He allowed the wind to shuffle the pages, while he observed the results through binoculars from his 5th floor window. He spent his evenings reading books on string theory, fractals, cellular automatons, and the ancient philosophies of the East. He read straight through the night, until the clusters of letters lost their abstract meanings, demoted from words to lines and arcs.

William hadn't told his colleagues about his project. The evolution required constant care and his work suffered. He attempted to use the retained models for his present-day predictions, but they proved unfit for the task. He suspected his colleges of sabotage. His boss, who had once enjoyed his star employee's eccentricities, knew it was time to intervene when William lost his ability to speak. An ultimatum was given. William had one month to improve his predictions and regain his language faculties. A visit to the company psychologist was also suggested.

To be fair, William could still speak, if he put his mind to it. His pattern matching scope had been enlarged by the size of the archive. He could still see the forest for the trees, but could no longer be bothered with the leaves. The forest was too small for his liking. He would settle for nothing less than the entire ecosystem. He spoke only when it was essential to do so. It rarely was.

A month passed. William remained mute. His predictions remained unreliable. He shuffled into his boss's office in a disheveled state. It was obvious that he had slept in his double-breasted suit. His face was half clean shaven, half 3 days growth; epiphanies were not slave to grooming. His boss gave him an hour to vacate the building. William stared at a point one foot to the left of his boss's frown, and nodded. He kept few personal items at work: A poster of a Buddhabrot, three horseshoe magnets, some dice, and copy of the I Ching. It was easy to take leave of his cubical and desk.

William spent his final hour copying, by hand, the ten most successful models from the last round of processing. They fit on a single sheet of loose leaf. He would not miss his colleagues and their long-winded formulas. He knew what they had failed to grasp: Compression, not complexity, represented understanding. He deleted all the models from the mainframe. Only he could be trusted with their care. The evolution would continue at home. But first, there was something he needed. Folding his sheet of formulas, (ten folds, one for each model) and placing it in his pocket for protection, William Comida left the building.


I must be decisive. If I don't make my choice soon, he'll know something is up. He'll become suspicious. Perhaps he already is. Perhaps he was, even before I arrived.

This conjecture isn't helping. I must choose, pay and leave.

How can I reach my money without revealing the formulas? He's already suspicious. My pockets are not safe.

He senses my secret. They say we are all connected, so he may already know.

He must know, why else would he be suspicious?

Then it's true: We
are all connected.

I've altered the state of his brain from a distance. Likewise, he has altered mine. Through observation our brains change: chemically, physically, energetically.

"But what is energy?"

"Emotion," the man behind the counter replied after some thought.

It was not wise to vocalize. Surely now his suspicious mind will focus on me.

Focus. How long have I been standing here? Focus on the choice.

Pick a chocolate bar, pay, and leave.

No. Paying is no longer an option: I've focused his attention. I'll have to pick a bar and run.

Sprint. I'll need energy to sprint. I'll eat the bar first and use its energy.

Now the choice is focused; I must find the bar with the greatest energy content.

Wait! Didn't he just tell me that energy was emotion? They don't list the emotional content on chocolate bars.

But he will know. He is wise to emotions. I will ask his advice, choose, eat, then sprint.

No good. How could I cheat him after seeking his advice, after making an emotional connection? My karma is already low. This won't do.

I'll have to make amends.

Yes: Amend, choose, eat, sprint.

The amendment comes out of order. It will be a pre-amendment, payment for his advice.

Nothing too outlandish, he's already suspicious.

Right! I'll buy him a chocolate bar.


ChefQuix said...

I like it. Sortof has the 'Pi' feeling of a genius descending into madness in his quest for truth. Keep it up!

12:44 PM  
Anonymous said...

Hey you...excellent piece. I adored it...and enjoy being
constantly delighted with your abilities 'cuz.


3:30 AM  

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