Gerald Hecht in Fractals Forever, Scientists and Research, Writers Associate Professor (Tenured and rank promotion 2007) of Psychology • Southern University Baton Rouge Sep 24, 2016 · 5 min read · 2.8K




If I were cornered (or felt like I) was being cornered or pressed or hammered to define this whole “Fractals Forever Thingie” by an angry mob who unconditionally believed that it was the essence of “uncontaminated truth” and/or the clear purity of “divine law” when perceived by a human mind cleansed of vile and impure physical attachments/worldly distractions such as lust, drunkenness, false pride, self love, etc., I guess the best I could come up with (as a drunken, lustful, female obsessed rock & roll junkie) would be something like this:

1) One component of the religion of “Fractals Forever” is a phenomenon called “nonlinear dynamics”. I would next try to use the only tool at my disposal (given my training in the “proper empirical methods of behavioral neuropharmacology”) ---providing an operational definition for the term:

2) “The study of systems which respond disproportionately (nonlinearly) to initial conditions and/or the first stimulus which perturbs (however slightly) those initial conditions.”

3) Elaborating further on my (however idiotic) operational definition --I would continue with: “These nonlinear systems may exhibit a corollary property frequently referred to as ‘chaos’.

4) Continuing: “chaos” itself can be operationally defined as:

5) “Unusually sensitive dependence on initial conditions.” Thus, chaotic systems, while distinguishable from more ordered periodic systems, are not random.

6) Continuing (while feeling the blade against my throat): When the behavior of a chaotic system over time is appropriately displayed (which I would operationally define by combining the unique preordained dynamic aspects with a sustained period of observation) as “phase space”.

7) Continuing: Over a sustained period of observation, the observer (in my case the sin-prone, yet still concentrating empirical practitioner) would notice specific limit/constraint patterns becoming evident.

8) Now, (in unknown territory) I would tentatively attempt to name these unusual, yet consistently occurring patterns in the “phase space zone which I now am fully concentrating on”.

9) I would probably use colloquial/mundane speech in the nomenclature --something along the lines of: “strange attractors.”

10) Continuing (with a tad more confidence)...I would attempt a postulate:

11) Phase space representations of these strange attractors, are clearly revealing a specificity; a fractal (in the mathematical sense...usually associated with paradoxical differential equations or geometrically sound but physically impossible) self-similarity across time scales (observation periods).

12) It is at this point that my attempts to enter the realm of clear, spotless divine consciousness would true nature would be revealed --I would be seen as the hopeless infidel I am. Here's why:

13) The sensitive dependence on initial conditions immediately plants a (perhaps very naïve) “conception seed” in my mind; it begins to send out ROOTS along one dimension of a vector and a STEM along its inverse. I am powerless to stop it.

14) CAUSALITY ITSELF is called into serious question—that is, the conception where the EFFECT is believed to be proportional to the CAUSE.

15) THE INFIDEL’S MIND is beyond eternal life element of unpredictability has now been introduced in systems which display chaotic behaviour. The plant grows.

16) Even if we know the initial conditions with great precision our ability to predict future states of the system is limited since minute differences in initial conditions may rapidly lead to very different states of the system. In chaotic systems our possibility of accurate prediction therefore deteriorates at a much faster rate than in linear systems, --the states of the system quickly become PRAGMATICALLY unpredictable. SCIENCE HAS BEEN MURDERED AND REPLACED WITH EITHER RELIGIOUS CONFUSION OR RELIGION.

17) WAIT...PERHAPS I AM NOT YET DEAD! It is STILL POSSIBLE to distinguish between practical unpredictability and true randomness or non-determination.

18) I AM STILL ALIVE...the plant begins to wither...for within this strange (to me) framework of complexity theory --systems may exhibit PRACTICAL/PRAGMATIC unpredictability, but: all their future states are still fully understandable as developments of a deterministic system.

HA! I GET IT!!! Complexity does not dissolve straightforward physical causality…(uh oh the plant is becoming healthier again)

19) It does make it much harder to disentangle causal relationships --in science; alas, three, four steps BACKWARDS ; progress (as I understand it) “lost”!

20) THE PLANT IS TALKING TO ME NOW: “gerry--REMEMBER the so called three body problem from high school?” “Remember Mr. Rugerie’s classical mechanics class?” The example of complex behaviour in a physically simple system (STOP!!! SHUT UP!!! I ALMOST WAS IN THE FRACTALS FOREVER THINGIE!!!)

21) It won't stop: One version of this problem deals with the motion of three ideal elastic billiard balls on an ideal frictionless billiard table. The movements of the three balls will be complex—that is, even if we know the velocity, momentum, and direction of movement of each ball at a given time, we have no accurate analytical method of predicting the same measurements at a subsequent time (if the time span is not very short). We also have no methods for deciding exactly why the velocity, momentum, or direction of movement of a given ball has a specific value at a given time. But this does not mean that all of the movements on the table are not caused through PERFECTLY NORMAL physical CAUSAL events. The movement of any one of the billiard balls on the table is precisely determined by the specific features of its initial movement and its subsequent collisions with the other balls and the edges of the table—that is, through a long, but complex, chain of simple causal events.

22) THE SMALL TREE NOW SPEAKS FOR ME: “Incorporating the implications of DYNAMIC SYSTEMS/FRACTAL/CHAOS IN PHASE SPACE has had but one effect:

23) Our well ordered models have now become become considerably more messy, and the predictions and recommendations we make based on them considerably more tentative…worse still --this is in the end a PRACTICAL and not a PHILOSOPHICAL INTOXICATION



I have heard it claimed in these very hives that chaos theory will change our philosophical concepts and analysis of the very old problem of free will.

24) It is now useless to waste my energy trying to give a full account of free will, but a simplified account can illustrate this idiot’s problem regarding the implications of chaos theory.

25) The problem is simply stated: if the world is fully causally determined, then this must also be true for the events occurring in the human mind, including those leading to our experiences of choosing, of exercising our free will. In this picture it is difficult to find room for true free will—that is, the idea that I do something because I want to do it, not just because some causal chain “makes me do it”.

26) THE TREE PROCLAIMS: “Here it again becomes important to distinguish whether my decisions that I experience as made with my ‘free will’ are 1) causally determined, or 2) are causally determined and predictable.

27) "FRACTALS FOREVER" theory is one way to introduce unpredictability in a fully causal system, but that does not really save free will. If my decisions are functions of causal, but complex and therefore unpredictable mechanisms, it still does not remove the fact that they are fully causally determined.

28) CHAOS/FRACTAL THEORY does not solve the problem of free will in a deterministic universe...NOT UNLESS what we are worried about is NOT that our decisions are caused, but that they are predictable.

29) The attempt to solve the free will problem through complexity theory has some parallels with earlier attempts to solve the problem through the indeterminacy of quantum mechanics and the randomness of some quantum events. If there is true randomness in quantum events, and if quantum events are effective parts of the causal chains leading to decisions, then these decisions are not causally determined and unpredictable. This does, however, not give us the kind of free will that we want. Instead of having our decisions determined by inflexible causal chains, we now have them determined by random quantum events. There is still no room for the UNCAUSED, but clearly not random agency that we INFIDELS seem to experience when we make decisions with our free will.

30) In the same way free will is not saved by being the result of complex causal chains, instead of simple ones. There would still be nothing free about it.


Based on the analysis above the conclusion must be that there is no reason to think that FRACTALS FOREVER theory will fundamentally and radically change our philosophical understanding and analysis of the concepts of utilizing our WILL to heal ourselves WITHOUT REMAINING DEPENDENT ON BIG PHARMA, etc, but MERELY LEAD us to move certain states from one category to another one.

..with a different name (diagnosis).

31) It is important to note that complexity theory can be, and often is, used in an inherently reductionistic project in exactly the same way as the non-linear models it aims at replacing. When trying to explain the function (and malfunction) of all kinds of systems (from physical to societal) using one kind of master theory, it really does not matter whether that theory is complex or simple, it is still a reductionistic project.


© Gerald Hecht, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Gerald Hecht with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Gerald Hecht 30/9/2016 · #40

#3 @Phil Friedman You offer (as usual) a truly eloquent summary of the questions; thank you! I just re-read it; and would have been lost were it not for your map!

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Gerald Hecht 30/9/2016 · #39

#37 @Aaron Skogen I have to agree with fact I would even argue that there is nothing simple regarding the art of the Martini....the way I was taught (and it continues to hold me in good stead) is to add the Gin, and then (just after shaking)...whisper the word "vermouth" into each glass. I also know this guy in N'walins who puts a little Vermouth in each glass, swishes it around and then pours it out before adding either Gin or Vodka...he also never shakes...always stirs; he will not say why...

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Aaron Skogen 30/9/2016 · #38

#36 I'd have to agree, if it's not it should be. . . a book that is!

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Aaron Skogen 30/9/2016 · #37

#32 I guess I am simple guy. I used a martini, because of its simplicity. I can tell anyone how to make a martini. Now if you ask me how to mix a Vulcan Mind Probe (the drink) I have no friggin clue, but I hear that it tastes a bit like absinthe. . .

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Gerald Hecht 30/9/2016 · #36

#33 @Aaron Skogen Sorry; I thought you said "book", lol

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Gerald Hecht 30/9/2016 · #35

#33 @Aaron Skogen i must be honest --although I'm not had better be!

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Gerald Hecht 30/9/2016 · #34

#2 @Joel Anderson I don't know if its worth doing that exercise; I just re-read it...I have no clue what this gibberish is, where it came from, or if it may be a symptom of a neurological syndrome brought on by exposure to environmental toxins; I've scheduled an appointment with a Neurologist.

Aaron Skogen 30/9/2016 · #33

#32 ". . .style and substance" Isn't that a marketing hook . . . ;-)

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