Friday, December 28, 2007

Tunable Properties

While slashdot-reading (a certain stylized depth and breadth of research) about quantum dot nanotechnology google, I came across the phrase "tunable properties" google.

This age we are fast approaching promises to reach into our assumptions of the natural world and morph things into new forms and functions. Platonic forms and aristocratic hierarchies have been vehemently challenged in early days of postmodernism, but only in the realm of ethical principles. Challenging Greek classicists has been a religious or ideological affair, and the manifestations in physical space were mostly the human domain of (social) clustering and missions. The early days of postmodernism were about changing our minds.

The near future will move the revolution out of the playpen of mind altering and onto the base elements and technological phenomenon of our natural world. Previously your ideas had to change in order to continue existing in a group, in the future your ideas will have to change to continue existing in the environment.

Platonic forms. Tunable properties. Are yours?

1 comment:

The Serpent Lord said...

Until recently religious fundamentalism was limited to social clustering and mind-changing missionary activity. The tunable properties are limited to scriptural interpretation and a broad selection of useful logical fallacies.

But what if fundamentalist pseudoscience like "Creation Science" and "Intelligent Design" become a pseudotechnology based on tunable physical properties. What if they could produce "Creation Scientists" and "Intelligent Designers". The Biologic Institute cannot wait to find out. These chemists, biologists and computer programmers intend to demonstrate how God created the heavens and the earth in six days - empirically.

(The Biologic Institute is located in Redmond and Fremont in Washington State - and it's parent organization the Discovery Institute is headquartered in Seattle.)

Making a literal deus ex machina isn't going to impress unbelievers, but it will serve the Intelligent Designers goal of generating tunable culturally-specific sciences which are all equally valid and based on choice rather than something beyond human control, like nature or ... well you get the idea.

But creationism has always been a pandora's box which does not create one alternative but a whole spectrum of speculation about the relationship between the natural world and the physical world. Now imagine that instead of simply having to balance experience with faith, you have the option of tuning the physical world to fit your religious speculation.

According to Barry Schwartz too many choices results in short-term anxiety, long-term dissatisfaction and many more people choosing the default option (usually nothing) even when any other choice would be better.

Fortunately there are ways to make choices other than the "shop and compare model." Planning ahead works but very few decisions can be planned in advance effectively because of the detailed information required (and sometimes unavailable.)

Building things from scratch or customizing and remixing them are also useful and emotionally satisfying compared to shopping, but these are very labor intensive. To be practical, do-it-yourself and re-mixing tactics should be cheap and sloppy and crude. The sanitized word for this quality might be "robust".

In a post-Platonic world of tunable properties, striving for perfection will be a kind of self-destruction. But life might be greatly improved by making many small plans and carrying them out with cheap, sloppy, crude methods. Practical examples of using tunable properties with small plans and robust methods could include yoga, martial arts, agile or extreme programming, or a flexible diet based on attention to wellness.