## Songs as Another Kind of Parallel University

Meta Intelligence is a heterodox view of education where formal education (courses, diplomas, universities, fields) are incomplete and limited without adding informal education which is part of your life such as movies, songs, conversations and images (paintings, posters, etc). Your “lifeworld” (Edmund Husserl’s apt coinage) fuses all the kinds of education where the word education means thought-provoking and illuminating. Even personal experience counts such as illnesses or bad marriages! Only via this Meta Intelligence will you achieve a glimpsed “holism.” (Meta Intelligence is that meta-field outside fields, borders and boundaries.)

Take songs.

Think back to Jim Morrison’s classic tune, “Riders on the Storm” which begins:

“Riders on the storm
Riders on the storm
Into this house, we’re born
Into this world, we’re thrown
Like a dog without a bone
An actor out on loan
Riders on the storm”

This song (by the Doors), expresses in a simple way Heidegger’s notion of human existence as partly governed by “Geworfenheit” which derives from “werfen,” to throw. “Geworfenheit” means “thrownness.” Jim Morrison and his band the Doors are songphilosophers without (probably) being Heidegger’s acolytes. Max Weber, one of the fathers of modern sociology, uses the word “disenchantment” to describe the modern world, “Entzauberung” in German, where “zauber” means “magicality” and “ent” means “removal of,” and “ung” means “condition of being.” The magic here does not mean something like a card trick but rather sacred mysteries, perhaps like the feeling a medieval European felt on entering a cathedral.

Enchantment in the West survived in our notions of romantic love and was associated with the songs and outlook of the medieval troubadours. Such romantic enchantment which is fading from our culture in favor of sex is still celebrated in the classic Rogers and Hammerstein song, “Some Enchanted Evening” from the forties musical and fifties movie, South Pacific.

The song lyrics give you the philosophy of romantic love as the last stand of enchantment:

“Some enchanted evening, you may see a stranger,
You may see a stranger across a crowded room,
And somehow you know, you know even then,
That somehow you’ll see here again and again.
Some enchanted evening, someone may be laughing,
You may hear her laughing across a crowded room,
And night after night, as strange as it seems,
The sound of her laughter will sing in your dreams.

“Who can explain it, who can tell you why?
Fools give you reasons, wise men never try.

“Some enchanted evening, when you find your true love,
When you hear her call you across a crowded room,
Then fly to her side and make her your own,
Or all through your life you may dream all alone.

“Once you have found her, never let her go,
Once you have found her, never let her go.”

Notice that “chant” is a component of enchantment.

One could say that conventional enchantment has been transferred to the world of science and mathematics where a deep beauty is intuited. Professor Frank Wilczek of MIT (Nobel Prize) wrote several books on this intersection of science and the quest for beauty whereas Sabine Hossenfelder of Germany has argued, per contra, that this will be a “bum steer.”

You should sense that like movies, songs give you a “side window” or back door into thinking and knowledge, which should be center stage and not depreciated.

## Education and “Intuition Pumps”

Professor Daniel Dennett of Tufts uses the word “intuition pumps” in discussing intuitive understanding and its tweaking.

Let’s do a simple example, avoiding as always “rocket science,” where the intricacies weigh you down in advance. We make a U-turn and go back by choice to elementary notions and examples.

Think of the basic statistics curve. It’s called the Bell Curve, the Gaussian, the Normal Curve.

The first name is sort of intuitive based on appearance unless of course it’s shifted or squeezed and then it’s less obvious. The second name must be based on either the discoverer or the “name-giver” or both, if the same person. The third is a bit vague.

Already one’s intuitions and hunches are not fool-proof.

The formula for the Bell Curve is:

$$y = \frac{1}{\sqrt{2\pi}}e^{\frac{-x^2}{2}}$$

We immediately see the two key constants: π (pi) and e. These are: 22/7 and 2.71823 (base of natural logs).

The first captures something about circularity, the second continuous growth as in continuous compounding of interest.

You would not necessarily anticipate seeing these two “irrational numbers” (they “go on” forever) in a statistics graph. Does that mean your intuition is poor or untutored or does it mean that “mathworld” is surprising?

It’s far from obvious.

For openers, why should π (pi) be everywhere in math and physics?

Remember Euler’s identity: e + 1 = 0

That the two key integers (1 and 0) should relate to π (pi), e, and i ($\sqrt{\mathrm{-1}}$) is completely unexpected and exotic.

Our relationship to “mathworld” is quite enigmatic and this raises the question whether Professor Max Tegmark of MIT who proposes to explain “ultimate reality” through the “math fabric” of all reality might be combining undoubted brilliance with quixotism. We don’t know.

## Education and Finality Claims

Stephen Hawking kept saying he wanted to discover the ultimate world-equation. This would be the final “triumph of the rational human mind.”

This would presumably imply that if one had such a world-equation, one could infer or deduce all the formalisms in a university physics book with its thousand pages of equations, puzzles and conundrums, footnotes and names and dates.

While hypothetically imaginable, this seems very unlikely because too many phenomena are included, too many topics, too many rules and laws.

There’s another deep problem with such Hawking-type “final equation” quests. Think of the fact that a Henri Poincaré (died in 1912) suddenly appears and writes hundreds of excellent science papers. Think of Paul Erdős (died in 1996) and his hundreds of number theory papers. Since the appearance of such geniuses and powerhouses is not knowable in advance, the production of new knowledge is unpredictable and would “overwhelm” any move towards some world-equation which was formulated without the new knowledge since it was not known at the time that the world-equation was formalized.

Furthermore, if the universe is mathematical as MIT’s Professor Max Tegmark claims, then a Hawking-type “world-equation” would cover all mathematics without which parts of Tegmark’s universe would be “unaccounted for.”

In other words, history and the historical experience, cast doubt on the Stephen Hawking “finality” project. It’s not just that parts of physics don’t fit together. (General relativity and quantum mechanics, gravity and the other three fundamental forces.) Finality would also imply that there would be no new Stephen Hawking who would refute the world-equation as it stands at a certain point in time. In other words, if you choose, as scientists like Freeman Dyson claim that the universe is a “vast evolutionary” process, then the mathematical thinking about it is also evolving or co-evolving and there’s no end.

There are no final works in poetry, novels, jokes, language, movies or songs and there’s perhaps also no end to science.

Thus a Hawking-type quest for the final world-equation seems enchanting but quixotic.

## Science and Its Limits

The outstanding physics theoretician Max Tegmark of MIT tells the story of how Ernest Rutherford’s 1933 prediction about atomic energy (i.e., that is was “moonshine”)—was refuted before 24 hours had passed when Szilard (the Hungarian genius) realized that a nuclear chain reaction could be set in motion getting around Rutherford’s pessimistic prediction of only a few hours before:

“In London, where Southampton Row passes Russell Square, across from the British Museum in Bloomsbury, Leo Szilard waited irritably one gray Depression morning for the stoplight to change. A trace of rain had fallen during the night; Tuesday, September 12, 1933, dawned cool, humid and dull. Drizzling rain would begin again in early afternoon. When Szilard told the story later he never mentioned his destination that morning. He may have had none; he often walked to think. In any case another destination intervened. The stoplight changed to green. Szilard stepped off the curb. As he crossed the street time cracked open before him and he saw a way to the future, death into the world and all our woes, the shape of things to come…”

(Richard Rhodes, The Making of the Atomic Bomb)

This Tegmark/Szilard “refutation” of Rutherford in our times reminds one of MIT’s AI pioneer, Prof. Marvin Minsky’s limitless and perhaps too rosy predictions for AI and human intelligence in the sixties and seventies.

A student pursuing education has to live with the paradox and puzzle that unpredicted surprises and leaps do occur in the world of science and they are astonishing. It is true at the same time, that the realm of science (i.e., “how” questions) cannot address “why” questions. The question “how was I born?” cannot replace “why was I born?”

Both of these questions have possible answers at various levels and are subject to hierarchies.

Steven Jay Gould, the late Harvard biologist, had a felicitous phrase, “separate magisteria” (i.e., separate realms or domains) to describe this gap between the pursuit of personal meaning (human quest) and the pursuit of (tentative) accuracy (scientific quest).

## Essay 40: Movies as a “Backdoor Into Financial History”

“Financial history” (the Professor Niall Ferguson PBS miniseries, The Ascent of Money, of recent years tries to “flag” this domain) can be exciting and eye-opening if the student fins the kind of “backdoor” into it that makes it all enchanting and not a tiresome slog through opaque textbooks.  Movies are a good way to “parachute” into fields, domains, areas of study:

The 1963 movie Mary Poppins is partly about bank runs and the “Tuppence” song in the movie communicates the centrality of London finance in the world of 1910, the setting of the movie:

“You see, Michael, you’ll be part of railways through Africa
Dams across the Nile, fleets of ocean Greyhounds
Majestic, self-amortizing canals
Plantations of ripening tea
All from tuppence, prudently fruitfully, frugally invested
In the, to be specific
In the Dawes, Tomes, Mousely, Grubbs
Fidelity fiduciary bank

Now Michael, when you deposit tuppence in a bank account
Soon you’ll see
That it blooms into credit of a generous amount
Semiannually
And you’ll achieve that sense of stature
To the high financial strata
That established credit, now commands
You can purchase first and second trust deeds
Think of the foreclosures
Bonds! Chattels! Dividends! Shares
Bankruptcies! Debtor sales! Opportunities
All manner of private enterprise
Shipyards! The mercantile
Collieries! Tanneries
Incorporations! Amalgamations! Banks”

The current  U.S. Treasury Secretary Mnuchin was a foreclosure king of the Great Recession of 2008.  An American movie on “bank runs” is of course the classic It’s a Wonderful Life (with James Stewart as the local banker.)

The 1910 world of London finance show in the movie Mary Poppins can be now contextualized by realizing all of this crashed down in August 1914 which represents the beginning of post-WW 1deglobalization.”  Thus, finance and globalization issues haunt the present.

Walter Bagehot’s masterpiece of 1873, Lombard Street, is a kind of anticipation of this syndrome and Charles Kindleberger‘s (MIT) Manias, Panics and Crashes gives the sense of the underlying instability.

Kevin Phillips’s book Bad Money of 2008 outlines the dangers of “over financialization.”

The movie and the fun song can help a student find his or her way in to these areas and domains.