Picture This : Tools of Matrix Thinking [MT121]

David Noel
Ben Franklin Centre for Theoretical Research
PO Box 27, Subiaco, WA 6008, Australia.

A wise man will make tools of what comes to hand
-- Thomas Fuller (1732)

Tuning up the Intellectual Engine

Up until now in this suite of articles, we have concentrated on designing and assembling the intellectual engine which is called Matrix Thinking. Now let us take some time out to look a little more closely at some of the tools and techniques which can be used to keep this Engine operating at high efficiency.

Most of the efforts involved in applying MT can be classed as either Analysis or Synthesis. Analysis is essentially the taking apart of an existing situation, to see what is happening within it. Synthesis is essentially the design of a situation which does not yet exist, often using information gained from a previous analysis.

Nevertheless, in practice there is not a clear boundary between these two operations. Synthesis can be applied to generate a projected situation, and then analysis can be applied to test it. And when working in an MT environment, much of the synthesis can be sucked directly out of the Matrix and then tested, rather than coming from a previous analysis.

Picture This . . .

A common ground in the application of MT is the use of what we can call 'scenarios'. This word is used in the conventional sense of a picture of a situation, but is extended to cover the description of functioning parts of the Matrix at any level -- not only the interaction of groups of human beings in particular environments, but everything from cosmology of the whole universe down to biochemical interactions in an animal.

So a scenario may be the same thing as one of the 'mind models' mentioned elsewhere in this suite of articles, applied to a physical situation. In most examples which follow, 'scenario' will have its familiar use of a situation in human society. But the term will be applied both to a projected or envisaged situation, and also to an existing one -- we can apply 'scenario matching' in building up a picture of what is happening somewhere now, or even in the past.

The general technique is to put together a scenario for a particular situation, identify its parts and elements, and then try to refine the picture with more detail until the scenario matches reality to the accuracy desired. The first elements to be identified are the systons.

We in Indonesia

Indonesian has two words for 'we' -- and they mean different things. For a native English speaker, the fact that there can be more than one meaning is perhaps surprising.

One of the Indonesian words, 'kami', means 'we, not including the person addressed', as in "we will never yield to your demands". The other word, 'kita', includes the person addressed, as in "shall we go down the pub now?".

In English, 'we' encompasses both meanings. The Indonesian distinction makes it easier to know who are the actors referred to, it makes it easier to determine the systons involved. The first step in building any MT scenario is to identify these systons.

MT Checklist # 1. Attempt to identify the systons involved

In MT115 we mentioned the different pulls exerted on a Minister in a state government in making a decision. Identification of the sources of these pulls is an example of syston identification, and realization of 'which hat was being worn' should be an aid to making a decision.

The next thing to do is to to check the identity of these systons by consciously moving out to wider systons, and in to narrower ones, to check your true position.

Tag and Label Testing

Often the syston you are really standing in can be localized by deliberately applying tags or labels which are normally applicable, but in distorted form, as wider or narrower systons. Consider the following quotation:

"My only regret is that I have but one life to give for my suburb". Here is a quotation which has been made ridiculous by shifting the syston involved from 'country' to 'suburb'. In developing a scenario including a chauvinistic group, the true bounds of that group can be worked out more exactly by seeing where the tag would still probably apply. Sometimes the result may show that you are standing in quite a different syston to that initially assumed.

Another syston-shifted tag:

"The United Nations yesterday voted to continue the prohibition on selling packs of red meat weighing more than 500 grams in Western Australia on Sundays"

Now don't laugh, there is genuinely such a regulation in force in Western Australia -- a territory the size of western Europe. What makes the tag ridiculous is the fact that the United Nations is involved. The result of this tag-shifting is to suggest that such matters be left to much more localized bodies -- Ask Question Four (as in MT116).

MT Checklist # 2. Verify a syston by shifting to narrower and wider systons to see whether tags and other features still apply

What Far Boundaries?

The next technique involves localizing the cut-off levels for a supposed syston boundary. In Proposition 119A it was suggested that no syston boundaries are completely sharp, instead they are profiled -- a hedge rather than an infinitely thin metal sheet.

A good way to localize syston boundaries is to devise various Seesaw quizzes, as in MT119. By running them in opposite directions, some compromise value may be agreed on.

MT Checklist # 3. Use Seesaw Quizzes to localize syston boundaries

There is a background observation here. If it proves very hard to localize a syston boundary, say if it is very hard to decide whether particular people should be allowed in a group, this may imply that there is no justification for having a boundary at all.

Proposition 121A**. If a syston boundary cannot be easily localized, there may be no purpose in establishing it

A Glass and a Half of Full Cream Milk

Readers may remember that brilliant science popularizer Professor Julius Sumner Miller, known also in some quarters for his advertisements for a brand of chocolate. In his analyses of scientific phenomena, Professor Miller had a regular question -- "Why is it so?".

In the MT toolkit, we can use two similar questions to advantage. The first is, "What is it for?", and the second, "How can we use it?". We will list these formally and then look at some examples.

MT Checklist # 4. Ask "What is it for?"

MT Checklist # 5. Ask "How can we use it?"

A Matter of Fingerprints

Everybody is familiar with human fingerprints. Most people will know that they are distinct for every individual, no recorded case is known of two people having identical fingerprints, not even identical twins.

The use of fingerprints to establish the identity of criminals is well known also, and perhaps their use just to verify identity, as in a security system. Those with a deeper interest in this field may know that the different patterns of whorls and loops also give some racial information -- for example, African pygmies tend to have more complex patterns of whorls than Europeans. Nonetheless, even in quite technical treatises about fingerprints, a question seldom asked or answered is this: What are fingerprints for?

Actually, that isn't a particularly hard question. The answer is almost certainly that the raised skin ridges which form fingerprints enable the owner to distinguish surface textures. If one surface feels like velvet, another like sandpaper, what that really means is that nerve endings in the fingertips send different and distinctive messages to the brain when the fingertips are passed over differently-textured surfaces.

Right, that answers what fingerprints are for. We can look a little closer at the mechanisms involved, and deduce something else about them. If fingerprints are to be effective, the separations between adjacent skin ridges must be fairly uniform, else the nerve messages sent on touching would be too mixed up and irregular for the brain to make sense of. And indeed, if you look at a particular set of fingerprints, you will see that adjacent skin ridges have similar separations, even on different fingers.

There is a case where this uniformity breaks down. Another thing about fingerprints which is taken for granted is that they do not change as an individual ages. In particular, a baby will have the same fingerprint patterns as the adult they will become. This means that the average separation of the skin ridges will increase as the child grows and the fingers get larger.

That brings us to the second question, How can we use fingerprints? We already have some answers to that, but suppose we look for a further answer, dependent on the further information we have just extracted. A possible answer is, that children can be used to detect surface texture differences which are too fine for an adult to be able to distinguish -- "as smooth as a baby's bottom".

Now that was a fairly simple example, nothing particularly to do with MT, to illustrate the technique of asking these two questions. The first question is used in an analysis phase, the second in synthesis mode. Let us turn now to some more complex examples, one perhaps trivial, the other more profound, in the area of MT analysis.

Why Women Nag

Why do women nag? Here is a question which perhaps Professor Higgins had not been enmeshed enough to come to, but in one of the sequels to My Fair Lady he could be expected to voice it. What do I mean by 'nagging'? I mean the continuing repetition of some admonition or desire by a woman, intended to drive an associated man into a change of behaviour or completion of some action.

We will not enter here into an argument as to whether nagging is confined to women, other than to note that a man who does nag is apt to be referred to as 'an old woman'. Instead, we will return to the original question, and ask why it happens at all.

Here is an area where conventional linear logic is stumped. Nagging is, by definition, ineffective. If it was effective, it would not need repeating. Q.E.D.

Now apply MT techniques, and ask, not 'why?', but 'what is it for?'. Here is a possible MT answer. Looking around the world, I notice that with modern life expectancies, men have enough 'juice' in them to be able to raise two families, one after the other.

Now that is a situation which MT would see as advantaging the wider syston. It involves greater diversity, greater infocap accumulation, not only in a genetic sense, but also in the extra synenergy flows generated -- two crops per year instead of one. Two women are cycled through the child raising/education/release business per man, or, conversely, a more diverse set of children may be raised with two males rather than one.

All right, I accept that this suggestion displays a heartless lack of sensitivity to real marriage problems of the day, one with no moral backing. But it is not me suggesting this, it is MT.

So the sobering MT conclusion is that women may nag because that tends to drive their man away from them, tends to cut off the synenergy flow and harden up his idiosyston boundary, ready to try again with another, currently more appealing female idiosyston. Love is better the second time around.

If there is any validity in this suggestion, it is a clear illustration of Proposition 114B on movement of infocap across syston boundaries. What the woman does is bad for herself, but good for the wider syston. In other circumstances, such a sacrifice might be seen as noble or philanthropic.

Why People Die

Here is a topic in which most people have an intense personal interest. Modern times have seen major increases in life expectancies for many groups. But there is an exception.

That exception is for people who are very old, approaching the century. The life expectancy of the average Australian 99-year-old has actually decreased in modern times, and the same thing has happened elsewhere. This can be understood -- modern medicine is 'propping people up' for far longer than it used to, and so getting more over progressively higher barriers -- but only just.

So although life expectancies have been increasing, what might be regarded as the maximum possible lifetime has not. This figure is around 120 years, and evidence from past ages suggests that the very rare long-lived individual of twenty centuries ago could approach this same figure.

Why do people die? The physiologist might respond that the various parts of the body just wear out. That answers the question for the individual, but not for the syston, not for society.

After all, there is nothing physically impossible about longer average lifespans. Tortoises can manage 200 years without difficulty. So we might apply MT and ask what the limitation in lifespan is for, what it does for the syston, rather than the individual.

Clearly it is not a matter of conventional efficiency. Perhaps 20 years are spent on educating and training a new individual, it is wasteful if all that effort pays back for only 40 years instead of 80. Instead, the MT answer may lie in cycle times, in half-lives, not of people, but of processes.

It is a characteristic of individuals that they resist change, particularly as they get older. If they get to the top, they want to stay there. Older people cling to the position they have reached, and often it is only a general regulatory retirement-age scythe, or decreasing physical or mental health, which cuts them off.

From the MT viewpoint, change represents infocap flow, and so will benefit the wider syston. Syston dynamics will therefore sweep away the individuals who oppose change, by one means or another, because it is to the longer-term benefit of the syston to do so. This is relevant to the limitation of the term of the US President, mentioned in MT116.

From another angle, it has been asserted that the time from appearance of a fundamental new discovery in science, to its general acceptance and use in society, is very close to 40 years. I do not believe it is purely a coincidence that this period is also the average professional life of a working scientist.

Hence the MT conclusion is that it is better for society if people don't live too long. It may be depressing, but this conclusion would imply that all the work done on increasing life expectancy, on the search for immortality, is likely never to achieve a major breakthrough. Solve one problem, cure one disease, and another syston-generated killer will come into play. Perhaps the best way to play it, is to look for 'quality of life' -- keep strong and healthy till the eighties, then pop off overnight.

The Case of the Vanishing Vaporware

Enough now of establishing the where and what of systons, we can move on to questions of what's inside them and how the bits work together. The first thing to look at is the infocap content.

MT Checklist # 6. Check the infocap content

The infocap content of a syston is similar to the capitalization of a business, and has a similar effect on its viability. But infocap, as mentioned in MT102, is not just money, but can include all sorts of other intangible assets.

With a professional pop group, for example, there are all the usual matters of cash flow, and assets in musical instruments and vans. There is also infocap content in skilled management and contacts, and in musical competency of the members of the group. And there may be infocap in more tenuous things, in the 'charisma' of the lead singer, in the 'luckiness' of the agent.

In the area of computer packages, matters of publicity and sales networks can be very important, as well as the usual software competency and hardware suitability. Realizing this, a major US syndicate once put together a brilliant marketing and publicity effort for a forthcoming package.

Unfortunately, they neglected a vital part of the infocap content, the actual writing of the necessary programs. As a result, the whole effort fell in a heap. The trumpeted announcement of new software packages which fail to ever appear is not unknown in the industry -- such packages are referred to as 'vaporware'.

Is It Alive and Ticking?

Another thing to check is whether the required synenergy flows are present -- are the physical and organizational communication lines open, are the motivational and reward aspects there.

MT Checklist # 7. Check the synenergy flows

Are the Rule Structures Developed and Known?

The next thing is to check whether the Rule Structures within the syston are developed and operating. Sometimes these are clearly apparent, as with a country-syston's jurisdiction, in other cases they may be unwritten.

Rule Structures are dealt with in MT112 and mentioned in many places elsewhere in this suite of articles.

MT Checklist # 8. Check the Rule Structures

Look at the Buffers

In the run-up to the 1992 US Presidential election, non-party candidate Ross Perot did not have clear policies, although he did advocate change. One radical suggestion which he did adopt and promote was the idea of dispensing with elected members of the legislature, and instead have arrangements for unlimited 'telephone referenda', in which the people could decide on issues themselves, instead of leaving it to their elected representative.

On the face of it, this is an attractive idea. Anything which allows people to have a greater say in the rules and regulations under which they live must be regarded as an increase in democracy.

However, an MT analysis of this proposal would probably give it the thumbs-down. The reason is nothing to do with preservation of the status quo, there is nothing in MT to support this. It is because the suggested telephone-referendum approach would lack buffer capacity (Proposition 119C), and hence might be less stable.

Making changes to the law can be a long-drawn out and tortuous process. We could say that it involves putting input (a 'concept-ball' or 'memon') into a large and complex infocap/ synenergy buffer (the legislation-vetting process), which it will take some time to work its way through. Many of the memons will be totally consumed in the buffer, and never work their way out at all. Of the ones which do survive and emerge, almost all will be appreciably beaten about and modified in the process.

The Perot proposal would largely eliminate this buffer, it would be 'instant' legislation, perhaps done in the 'heat of the moment'.

MT Checklist # 9. Look at the buffers

Look at the Arms-lengthing

The importance of arms-lengthing is covered in MT120. There it is suggested that arms-lengthing reduces the possibilities for corruption and bias, eliminates the stress of difficult decisions or dilemmas, and forces the development and refinement of the existing Rule Structure.

MT Checklist # 10. Check on the arms-lengthing

The Four Questions of Government

The Four Axioms of Government and their associated Questions have been covered in MT116. We will add these to our checklist all together.

MT Checklist # 11. Ask Question One: "Is the activity designed to directly achieve a threshold level of health or safety in the syston?"

MT Checklist # 12. Ask Question Two: "Is the activity designed to directly raise the level of infocap in the syston?"

MT Checklist # 13. Ask Question Three: "Is the activity a minimum taxing of syston synenergy needed to carry out Tier One or Tier Two activities by the syston?"

MT Checklist # 14. Ask Question Four: "Is the activity being organized in the narrowest possible syston government?"

As outlined in MT116, the 'Government' of a syston has a meaning applicable over the whole range of systons, not just ones in the form of countries or states. In this sense, a government can be regarded as a specialized systel with special responsibility for the syston's Rule Structure.

The fact that these Questions are in many ways competing was also pointed out in MT116. We can illustrate this with another Matrix Cocoon model (Figure 121.1).

Fig. 121.1. The 'Four Questions' Matrix Cocoon

In this model, the conflicting demands of the Four Axioms are represented in the four divisions of the cocoon. Within each division, the 'contour stripes' represent increasing concern with the particular demand. As a physical representation, each division can be thought of as a roughly triangular hill, sloping down to valleys dividing it from the other divisions. For example, the tiny triangle above the word 'Infocap' in the Q2 division is the peak of the Q2 hill. As in other examples, the contours do have a link with infocap content.

For any particular scenario, we can get a visual grasp of the relationship of the syston involved with the Four Questions by superimposing the syston outline over part of the cocoon. All systons will overlap the central point, but the degree by which they extend up the four hills will vary with the individual syston.

We will see some examples of this in MT125, Matrix Geography, mostly concerned with current nation-systons, and elsewhere. At this point, we can suggest a further property of syston skins which will be apparent in actual examples.

Proposition 121B*. Syston skins are elastic and pull in as if under tension

What this Proposition suggests is that the skin of a syston is like a rubber band, or perhaps the skin of an amoeba. The syston can extend out 'pseudopods', bulges in a particular direction, but these will tend to be rounded in outline, and the most common rest state will approach a circle. It might be helpful in grasping the model if the tension of the skin is thought of as due to the accumulated pressure of the infocap within the syston, like the air pressure in a balloon.

Where's the Clock?

The next item in the Checklist is to look at the pacemakers and clocks which are operating within the syston. These were covered in MT118.

MT Checklist # 15. Look at the syston pacemakers

As mentioned, the pacemakers are those regulating particular processes within the syston. A syston can contain many pacemakers, but any process can be subject to only one, or else it is liable to break down.

Look for the Half-lives

Half-lives and cycle times were also dealt with in MT118. Other examples will occur to the reader, particularly in economic matters.

MT Checklist # 16. Look for the half-lives and cycle times

As mentioned, half-lives apply essentially to systons, cycle times to processes.

The suggestion was made in Proposition 118C that process cycles may be 'pumped' into completion, and that rituals, procedures, even Rule Structures, may bring about this pumping. Often successful completion of a cycle may depend on the right pumping action.

MT Checklist # 17. Look for the pumping

Where Can We Make a Buck?

The profit motive can be a powerful form of pumping. Analysis of economics, such as may occur in future additions to this suite of articles, may use the concept of margin-slack. This is the MT analogue of profit margins in conventional economics, but extended to cover all levels of syston operations.

MT Checklist # 18. Look for the margin-slack
As an example, if I was to work to introduce a new fruit to the marketplace, the fruit might cost me $10 per kilo to produce, while I might be able to sell it for $20 per kilo, if it had novelty value. The margin-slack would be large in this case, 100% on cost.

If the fruit was taken up successfully, I could expect competition to arise, and this might drive the margin down to $4 per kilo instead of $10, as the slack was taken up in the economic pressures. The decrease in the margin-slack would be balanced against the infocap investment needed to get the fruit to the marketable stage, which would itself have a relationship with the cycle time.

Look for the Specialist Systels

In MT117 we look at the role of specialist systels in successful syston operation, systels such as scapegoats, idols, and resonodes. Any syston scenario examination might well check on these.

MT Checklist # 19. Look for the specialist systels

Calming the Traffic

In common with many other cities, Perth has had a concern in the past about the speed of traffic in residential areas.

The early cries by residents focussed on imposing lower speed limits. The problem with this was the difficulty and expense in enforcing the limits. Instead, what has developed over the years is the technique of 'traffic calming' -- inserting physical obstacles such as low-speed humps, twisting paths between traffic strips, and roundabouts instead of traffic lights.

From the MT viewpoint, these techniques are most desirable, as they are self-policing or need no overt policing. They represent a shift in the Rule Structure away from written jurisdiction to unwritten physical laws, and in so doing allow a reduction in the synenergy taxation needed to maintain traffic order.

MT Checklist # 20. Look for 'traffic calming' rather than 'regulatory' techniques

Pigs, Wind, and Dirt

Finally, in the last item of our checklist, we will look outside the syston, rather than within it. A few years ago I did an analysis of why certain things happened in the plant world -- such as why wind-pollinated trees tended to be self-infertile and be more common in dry areas, and why vast wild pig migrations occurred in Borneo [Reference 16]. The results were presented at a conference, and the paper was the first place in which I used the Proposition technique.

Out of this analysis came a Proposition, developed to suggest where mimosine-free sources of the fodder plant species Leucaena could be found -- in places where the grazing deterrent constituent would have no purpose, no answer to the question 'What is it for?'. That Proposition said "To solve a problem, look where it does not exist".

The modern tendency in trying to solve a problem is to look at the problem in more and more detail -- to find a cure for cancer, look at people who have cancer. There is nothing wrong with this, but there is an alternative -- look at the populations who do not have cancer, and ask why not. If you have a bad problem with fruit flies, instead of finding ways to kill those fruit flies, look at other places in the world which do not have the same bad problem. If you can find out why, you may have an answer to your own problem.

Internal analysis may detect the cause of a problem, but cannot detect the non-cause of a non-problem. The MT generalization of this is that the non-contents of a syston may be as important as the contents.

Proposition 121C**. What a syston does not contain may be as important as what it does

And so, the end of our checklist, for now. Feel free to add your own!

MT Checklist # 21. Look at the infocap not present in the syston

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(Full list of references at MTRefs)

[16]. David Noel. Pigs, wind, and dirt: some nut mysteries reveal'd. WANATCA Yearbook/ 1988 Vol 13 p5-13.

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