Chaotic Utopia

A Necessary Twist (Values, part IV)

Why can’t we picture a fifth dimension? One, two, and three seem so easy to grasp. We can even see how one leads to the next: a line, composed of points, is a component of a shape on a plane, which in turn is a component of a spatial object. Consider that object with an additional aspect, enduring through time, and you can almost envision a fourth–a curving sense of endurance, relative to our space. So, why not imagine another dimension, not just curved, but twisted or spun, which consists of the aspects of time, present, future and past, relating to one another? Ok… don’t picture it too hard… it hurts. I’ve tried, plenty. At the same time, it IS something we can sense. We sense it all the time, and it confuses the hell out of us. Our plans, based on multiple influences and contingencies, don’t turn out exactly as we expect. We learn from the past, trying not to repeat the same mistakes, but they appear to happen again, just with all new twists. It isn’t just a personal problem issue, however. In science, it is described perfectly by the laws of thermodynamics–energy persists, but entropy increases. So, for lack of a better term, I’ve labeled the fifth dimension “chaos”.

i-fe25f0e67b4638bff772d6c31340399c-purechaos.jpg(This is where I always expect to hear some old science fiction soundtrack in the background, and the evil villain jumping out. I’ve even heard people say “a dimension of pure chaos” and thought they had no clue as to what they were saying. It was amusing enough that I pasted the phrase onto my coffee mug… one of these days, I’ll come up with a cafe press version. Anyways… back to the subject.)

Here’s what we have, so far:

i-d14ddf936128ea0228c4c34f6c63d538-5dmonochrome.jpg

i-8d15d10f9d85cdd9858fac6d29e08d89-scalingpattern.jpgAs much as I talk about chaos theory, in relation to the study of fractals in nature or other complex, scaling phenomena, the term seems woefully inadequate here. It does indeed relate to things at all scales–each individual part of a system, consisting of these dimensions, is in turn the part of a larger system, connected by the same pattern of dimensions. Still, it seems like there should be a better word to describe it. But what do you call a level at which there is an evolving relationship between all things, where everything affects everything else, with such a subtle influence that all we can perceive is uncertainty? “Chaos” doesn’t quite cut it. i-fa59245053fc470a965bf7b985adc1ec-chaoskanji.jpgIt seems to me worthy of a more beautiful term. (The Japanese equivalent, the kanji konton means both “primeval chaos” and “new birth”, similar to the English term, but without the evil stigma.) Regardless of name, because of this aspect, things can change. Values can be readjusted, information can expand, experience diversifies.

If we were able to see it from the outside, with a full perception of all five of these dimensions, it would seem like a harmonious master plan. More than a complete history, it would be the what-ifs and never-weres, and the subtle influences of each. I think you’d almost have to be a deity–or, at least, have access to the combined knowledge of a sentient species–to grasp it. Alone, we don’t have a chance. The more we learn from science, both at the detailed level and at the interdisciplinary level, the closer we come, as a society, to glimpsing the big picture. (I guess that’s why I’m so concerned about us adapting now. It would really suck to come this close to seeing the whole, and then screw our chances of surviving to enjoy the study of it.)

It seems almost obvious why it is difficult to understand some of these dimensions. But why do we struggle with even the plain ones? You’d think a simple relationship between values would be easy to settle on, but as I showed with the example of a sunflower, it isn’t. You could call it a flaw of human perception, even… we have a limited perspective, with limited senses to gain information about our world. Because we’re stuck with a one-way perception of time, we learn about the world after considerable lag. (A few milliseconds, anyways.) I believe this is because an individual is, in this context, nothing more than a mass conglomeration of 5D patterns, just another piece in a larger 5D pattern. Because we are a part of the pattern, we can’t see the whole picture by ourselves. To us, the 5D picture really does look chaotic, because we perceive the chaos before we sense the other, more seemingly stable dimensions. We only see time moving one way, experiences tend to vary, information can be misinterpreted, and values, up close, seem fuzzy. To make sense of things, we are forced to look for patterns in the details, rather than grasp the synthesis of a thing.

i-968f6b136af2b3fb81c0dcdddf01d101-troubledperception.jpg

Of course, as I mentioned above, we’ve already found a way around that. We came a long way when we started writing things down and creating complex systems of symbols in order to communicate–it was a way to chart the patterns. Just look where the variations on that theme have brought us.

We’ve discovered that we are the parts of bigger organisms, from our families and communities (even the online ones) to our larger cultures, or to humanity as a whole. Even humankind is just a rather active part of a larger ecosystem. Each level is capable of a larger perspective than one individual. Will we, as species, ever bother to look?

For more information: At this point, I could quote so many other people who have seen similar views, or whose writings have influenced my thoughts on the subject. I’m planning to re-write this series, polish it up, and toss in some cited references–then I’ll stash it until I have to write a dissertation in philosophy. In the meantime, I’d be happy to answer any questions, or dig up any relevant quotes or sources for influences on a particular aspect, if anyone is interested. Also, I’ll probably post some of my earlier notes on these ideas while I’m on vacation next week, so look for more, then.

On the 6th and beyond: Some ask me at this point, “what about higher dimensions?” I’ll head that one off at the pass and say it: I don’t know. While physicists sometimes use 11 or other odd numbers of dimensions to describe strings or membranes, they aren’t necessary in this case. From one point of view, a dimension higher than five would be practically impossible to envision. Even if it were possible, I’m not sure I’d want to. It seems to me that we have our hands full trying to perceive just what is here.

Regarding the simplicity of the diagrams (as opposed to the strange art usually found here): There are many ways to represent these ideas. Sometimes, I use symbols, like the hourglass and ribbon turning into a butterfly on the banner. Other times, I like the more factual representation, showing the scaling patterns. My favorite is DNA, with amino acids as the “matter”–values determined by chemical bonds at one scale, fitness at another. This time, I just wanted to keep it as simple as possible. If anyone wonders why they are all in black and white, that’s another story, waiting for a day to be reposted. If you’re impatient, click here.

Image notes: Konton kanji via Door Country Art. All other images made by the author.

Comments

  1. #1 Julia
    August 9, 2006

    I’ve never read anything before about chaos in this sense, and I have almost no science or math background. So please forgive me if my question is silly or obvious. In the 2D diagram, the line contains an arrow that seems to suggest that the line is a one-way movement from one point to another. I thought, though, that a line is actually an infinite number of points. So what’s with the arrow?

  2. #2 Karmen
    August 9, 2006

    I’m not exactly sure anyone has written about chaos in this sense. Most books on chaos theory focus on sensitive dependence on initial conditions, which I find fits beautifully here… but I’ve never seen anyone else refer to it as a dimension, let alone combine it with philosophical issues. So, with that in mind, no question is silly or obvious.

    The diagram is necessarily simplified, and more symbolic than visually accurate. The arrow just represents a sense of attraction or value. I don’t really see it as a one way attraction at all, but simply the relationship between two points. (I’ve used hearts, too… perhaps I should have made it a double arrow, or left it out. The arrow is supposed to make it look like a “1″, leading to the next shape.)

    As far as infinity is concerned, I sort of avoided it, on purpose. I have no doubt that the concept fits in this picture. The idea that there are infinite points in the metaphysical structure of nature is partly what attracted me to fractals. I think values do extend into infinite states (think of our concept of “priceless”) but we have a poor habit of assuming that some are limited.

    (I have other ideas about infinite forms, but they aren’t as concrete as the ideas I’ve written about here. When I do consider infinity, it starts to sound rather mystical or spiritual… so, for the time being, I’m keeping it to myself.)

  3. #3 Cash
    August 12, 2006

    Dimensions, by definition, are independent of one another. A 4th dimension doesn’t exist because it requires the other 3. And a 5th for the same reason, yes? You can have concepts that build on those three but they aren’t dimensions at that point.

  4. #4 Karmen
    August 14, 2006

    Dimensions, by definition, are independent of one another.

    Yes, different aspects of a single thing, so to speak.

    A 4th dimension doesn’t exist because it requires the other 3. And a 5th for the same reason, yes?

    This is where you sort of lose me. Are you suggesting time can exist without a space to define? Just because they are independent aspects does not mean that one is not based on another. The measurement of a plane depends on the length of a line. It follows that the measurement of another dimension would depend on the previous dimension. My attempts to visualize go back to reading “Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions” (by Edwin A. Abbott) as a young girl, when the spherical stranger told the square, “But the very fact that a Line is visible implies that it possesses yet another Dimension.” That inspired many of my questions, leading to the thoughts on this page.

    You can have concepts that build on those three but they aren’t dimensions at that point.

    A concept, by definition, is an abstract or symbolic representation; a metaphor. For more on my metaphorical approach to this subject, please see the post preceding this series, here. I see you like supermodels; that one includes discussion of girls in bikinis, as well. Enjoy.

  5. #5 Kim
    August 14, 2006

    Hi,

    Flatland is indeed an eye-opener. However, I got to know this classic by reading “The Planiverse” by A.K.Dewdney first. It’s another story with the same premise, and a kind of homage to “FlatLand”.
    I didn’t know of “FlatLand” ’till I read the intro to “The Planiverse”.
    Instead of viewing the 2D-world from above, as “FlatLand” does, “The Planiverse” views it from the side (as we 3D-beings would call it).
    (Worth a quick read.Dewdney pays much attention to how two-dimensional machines could work, including computers.)

    Kim

  6. #6 Kim
    August 14, 2006

    BTW: one of the first questions I asked my geometry-teacher about points, lines, squares,… was: “If a square has two dimesions, and a line has one, and a point has none, then how can you say that a line is composed of points? If a point has 0 dimenions, then no matter how many you put together, you’ld still have …nothing.”
    She was quit stumped by that, or , as chess afficionados say, she was taken out of book.
    I don’t care how nerdy that makes me seem, I got some satisfaction out of that…

  7. #7 Christopher Suter
    August 23, 2008

    @Kim the answer to your query would have been equally unanswerable to Euclid himself (he wrote your high-school geometry book, 1st edition). The joy of Euclidean geometry comes from the presumption that these constructs have meaning which need not be defined, and then proceeding to see what can be done with them.

    Mathematicians didn’t really have good answers for your question until the late 1800′s, early 1900′s (c.f. Cantor, Hausdorff and Lebesgue). Dimensionality is — in my personal opinion — almost an accidental byproduct of centuries of study; one which we’ve only just scratched the surface of understanding.

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