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The Mathematics of Curiosity

Why do we care about learning? What makes us curious? Is curiosity a survival trait? What is it that thrills us when we learn something that shakes our understanding of reality? What are the odds that a species would evolve to become conscious of self, of others, and of the farthest reaches of imagination? Animals display curiosity and even learn from experimentation, but (with some less notable exceptions) they generally do not pass that learning on.

The ability to communicate learn complex ideas from others who already did the work of discovery is key to evolution and separates us from other animals. We all begin life as tabula rasa. But we don’t each have to learn about gravity and atoms and galaxies from nothing. We don’t each of us have to find a Northwest Passage. We bypass millennia of discovery by learning from those who have gone before.

That we can hold in our minds a reasonable model of events happening billions of light years away is a remarkable thing. There is theory that suggests that ideas themselves are reality. That what we perceive as physical reality is a projection into three dimensions of a larger holographic reality. The coalescence of an energy field or something that we interpret as physicality, even as self. This coalescence that I interpret as being “me” forms, interacts, resonates, combines with other coalescences in a continuous stew of learning. Information theory suggests that as things become more complex, they become more chaotic and less meaningful. Too much information is indistinguishable from noise. As we grow and learn we reach higher levels of energetic complexity. Perhaps this is a model for life and death. Complexity becomes so great that systems become less able to communicate meaningfully–in effect they are less able to understand. The coalescence dissipates and is subsumed into the roiling chaos of generality, perhaps to refocus somewhere else.


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