Saturday, April 11, 2009

Ghost in the Shell 1101010100100010101010100101

On the Hard disk of a computer all data is a simply 1's and 0's (one's and zero's).

10100101010010010001 000111110101010101011110101 01001010010101001010 10010100101110100

0100 1000 0011 0101 0110 1100 0110 1100 0110 1111 0100 1000 0011 0101 0110 1100 0110 1100 0110 1111
01001010010 1010010101 0010100101110100
0100 1000 0011 0101 0110 1100 0110 1100 0110 1111 0100 1000 0011
010010100101010010 1010010100101110100
0100 1000 0011 0101 0110 1100 0110 1100 0110 1111 0100 1000 0011

Patterns like these are all you would see if you examined the structure directly.
It would look random, and for all intents and purposes it WOULD be random.

For our human minds to get a grip on those 1's and 0's we take blocks of them and give them a label.
The letter 'H' is given the number 72 which in binary format looks like: 1001000
A computer has no trouble reading 1001000 in fact that is the only way it reads anything.
If I was going to write the world 'Hello' this would look like:
H = 72 = 0100 1000
e = 101 = 0011 0101
l = 108 = 0110 1100
l = 108 = 0110 1100
o = 111 = 0110 1111
or a string like this:
0100 1000 0011 0101 0110 1100 0110 1100 0110 1111 without the spaces.

More on the way characters are translated into binary codes using ASCII codes here and here.

On a Hard Disk there are millions, billions of 1's and 0's.

Some of the 1's and 0's are designated as the heading of file, other 1's and 0's are the content.
Some 1's and 0's are part of a binary executable file and get put into a microprocessor which acts in certain ways, depending on the pattern of 1's and 0's.
The contents you are reading now, are 1's and 0's on a computer somewhere and they are controlled by other 1's and 0's which in turn depend on other 1's and 0's and so on. Somewhere along this chain the computer waits for my fingers to touch the keyboard and tell it which of the available keys I want to add. You in turn read this, and either continue or decide to move on in search of whatever drives you....

I in turn have an idea, vague and unformed and fuzzy that I want to put out onto this blog. I type, I read, I check if the things I read and see in in black and white on the screen are what I really FEEL I want to say, if they hit the heart of my idea. And this process continues until I say "ok this will do, given the time and energy I have available, this will get the message across".

So far, this is all pretty standard computer engineering and IT stuff.
So what is the point of this article ?

The point is this: - The framework of interpretation determines if the patterns of 1's and 0's I see are meaningful or not.
In other words: the framework of interpretation overlaid onto the data is what releases the meaning, it decodes the information.
And here is the KEY point: That framework is not material it is an intangible, idea.
That framework is an agreement between a large group of people to do things in a certain way. But the agreement is not a material thing. Sure it can be written down, in words but that is simply the agreement written in an agreed form.

The framework of interpretation is what I call the 'spirit'.
The framework of interpretation is the 'ghost in the shell' to use the title of the popular Graphic Novel by Masamune Shirow.

Going back to our example: the pattern of 1's and 0's above would only represent the word 'Hello' if the computer I used, also followed the same system, used the same codes for the letters.
And if it the computer I used read the codes in EXACTLY the same way it was encoded.

If you take the same string of 1's and 0's as for 'Hello'
0100 1000 0011 0101 0110 1100 0110 1100 0110 1111
and you decide (by accident or purpose) to interpret the codes by leaving out the first '0', you would get totally different result. You would get:
1001 0000 0110 1010 1101 1000 1101 1000 1101 111
and if you interpreted that using the same ASCII tables you would get:
144 = a strange character of ' E ' with an accent on top, depending on what system you use.
173 = upside down exlamation mark ' ! '
..... you get the idea.... gobble digook....

Or if you decided to read the 1's and 0's in blocks of 5 or in blocks of 6 you would get a totally different result.
It would be the "wrong" result in the sense that it was not the same system as was agreed to, but in another sense it would simply be another interpretation, useful or not depending on the viewer.

Taking this a step further:

Even the idea of calling information on a Hard Drive 1's and 0's is an abstraction and an interpretation. The actual information on a Hard Drive is in terms of magnetic orientation of tiny particles that are interpreted as a logic ONE or ZERO. There is a framework of interpretation agreed to by the manufacturers that says: "if the magnetic particle is this and that, we'll call it a '1', if not then we'll call it a '0'.

Reality is at every point intimately entwined with spirit, with interpretation, with meaning.

What is really out there ????

That is a matter of how you set your perceptions...... Carlos Castaneda, the mystics of the ages, the Sages, and the religions all offer different schema of interpreting the pattern of 1's and 0's that make up life....

And at this point the analogy with computers breaks down.
The codes for representing letters of the alphabet were chosen arbitrarily ('H' = 72 = 0100 1000).
Yet the reality of life seems to me to point to a commonality and a common reality underlying the mulifaceted physical world.
The code of interpreting life on that level seems to be more in the direction of love, caring, respect, honour....
Yet that deeper underlying reality cannot be expressed in simple words (and even less so in complex words or creeds), it can however ---- be felt ! - it can be intuited.

For me: stories and myths of great numinous beauty do this.
Stories in which the codes of honour, love and respect create a picture of such beauty and longing that I KNOW that everything IS worth the price. I've tried to write my own (here), to capture some of that beauty, but the true masters are Lafcadio Hearn(& here) George MacDonald, JRR Tolkien....

What is more: those stories tell me that I am living inside one of those wonderful myths right now... As we all live in that story.... a story that is different for each of us, yet also a part of the GREAT STORY.

Once upon a time, in a small solar system at the edge of the Milky Way Galaxy there was a small planet on which living creatures dwelled......
......and so it goes on and on .... a story that includes you, me, every creature and rock and leaf... in a meaning and purpose so grand if we could see it it would blind us.... and so we take tiny microscopic bits of it and chew on those, argue about those bits.... until our eyes can take a higher intensity and we see more, and more....


- [1] Lafcadio Hearn's (
Koizumi Yakumo (1850-1904) )short stories, my favourites, most beautiful here.
- and more here: Glimpses of the Unfamiliar
- Biography of Lafacadio Hearn here.

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