W. J. ZENG - An Intellectual Will
I sometimes wonder, if I were to get hit by a bus, what would be the unanswered
questions that I'd leave behind? What adventures have been glimpsed and left
Some I don't even know myself. The ink of a
handwritten word is unaware of its own meaning too.
But here's a short record of ones I know about. The list forms a sort of
Willwill* to pass on to other people.
Some remain quite vague. Your patience is appreciated.
I'm always up for discussions on these topics
Here's some background
* Of course will is in my name. As a kid I was fascinated by that
lexical ambiguity. I'm still fascinated by it.
Language does strange things
that even surprise its speakers. Having my own
name be an example was an early reminder.
"Do you think Jo desires for her estate-record to be read?" becomes
"Will Will will Will's will to be read?"
- Mathematics is the science of cognition. It is a testable model of what
rules are cognitively universal (for humans and similar intelligences).
It is less different from the other sciences than many think.
- Mathematics is a large distributed artwork, crafted across generations.
- The physics of reality can be derived from information
theoretic constructions, i.e. I subscribe to "It from Bit". Future
theories of physics will be theories of information (like quantum
mechanics already is). Quantum computers and derived technologies will
play a key role in exploring these foundations.
- The most important impact of quantum computers will be widespread
understanding by users of how different reality is from
classical/Newtonian models of the world. This will have broad impacts
on humanity as a whole conceptualizes reality.
- Language made from concatenated symbols will eventually
be superseeded by embodied languages. Expressive technologies will do
more than our voice or our pens or our keyboards can do today.
Emojii's and videochat are a precursor form. With VR/AR coupled to
brain-computer interfaces, the "words" of our languages will become
increasingly more complex. We will hyperlink between gestures.
- This shift in language will eventually also cause a shift in our
mathematics. Mathematics will remain formal but will become embodied in
systems. We will gain advantages from mapping mathematical reasoning
into the evolved human intuition for manipulating
physical objects. String diagrams in monoidal categories are a
precursor version of this.
- Unification from an information theoretic foundation for
reality will eventually lead to creative technologies that influence
reality more profoundly then anything we can imagine today.
Eventually this will collapse the distinction
between thought and reality.
But not by denying reality with a simulation! Instead by
embracing and unifying the two. Fiction is the closest thing we have to
such a technology today. From
some point of view the eventual "it from bit" theory will be a more
powerful tool for composing fiction than we have ever yet imagined.
- Aliens can be vastly more divergent beings from us than is often
Not just physically but cognitively. We need an understanding of
cognition that is broad enough to grasp beings whose mathematics has
vastly divergent axioms from our own. In the same way that the
science of the
natural world has different subfields, an alien's cognition could
introduce us to a totally new field of mathematics. Perhaps our
mathematics covers the cognitive version of thermodynamics and theirs
covers general relativity.
- The mass slaughter of animals for food is fundamentally unethical.
- Intelligence/cognition is a performative and context dependent behavior
and not an innate property. One day the inanimate/animate
distinctions that we hold so strongly to today will become
- Today's economics seems based on real-valued totally ordered
preferences. What economics could we build out of other systems?
This is an analogous question to the exploration of different formal
- A social evolution occurred when laws became written.
Another evolution will occur when legal systems become computable.
- Is teleportation of particles with mass possible? This question lies
intersects "bits" (which we already can quantum teleport in limited
ways) with "its" i.e. matter.
- Why do so many of us live physically separated from kindred spirits?
How can we build/rebuild community living in the future of the West?
- How can we live regeneratively with nature?
- Is consciousness a
bug and not a feature?