The microzen: a unit of enlightenment

Earlier today one of my commenters caused me to realize that it would be entertaining to try to define a unit for the intensity of “aha!” experiences – moments of sudden insight.

In honor of said commenter (who, synchronistically enough, signs himself “Foo”) I define the “microzen” (μz) as follows: the amount of enlightement achieved when one realizes that “spinward” and “antispinward” are useful terms on planets as well as ringworlds. Because, well, global atmospheric circulation patterns – the context was a discussion of the incidence of cyclonic storms.

(I’d have preferred “microsatori”, but μs is taken.)

Of course, there’s a scaling problem here. Even if you have a good way to estimate relative magnitudes, you need two fixpoints to define a linear scale. (You in the back there just shut up about logarithmic already, I’m having to wave my hands hard enough as it is.) I therefore arbitrarily set 100 μz as the amount of aha required for somebody to write The Cathedral and the Bazaar.

Now, I hear you out there saying “You fool! That’s entirely too ill-defined!” But here’s my clever plan: if people have broadly similar intuitions about relative degrees of aha, we can crowdsource the problem! That is, we ask a bunchaton of people to consider some specific enlightenment experience – like, say, grokking how anonymous lambdas work in a functional-programming language – and rate that relative to our 1μz and 100μz scale pegs.

There you have it. Comments are open; let the crowdsourcing begin.

102 thoughts on “The microzen: a unit of enlightenment

  1. >Wouldn’t the second fixpoint naturally be zero?

    The second fixpoint could be anything. Mathematically it makes no difference.

  2. Yes, but zero is implicitly defined, and having it keep its obvious meaning aids in mathematical analysis – for example, marginal enlightenment per unit time analysis makes far less sense if zero is a positive number. You don’t want three fixpoints for a linear scale.

  3. Ironically, by attempting to measure enlightenment, you have achieved a score of precisely zero microzen.

  4. But if C+B is less than 100x as enlightened as realizing “spinward” is useful on planets, then zero is a positive number, so that’s not actually an insult.

  5. The problem with defining a zero point is that there are far too many to choose from. Indeed, how do you distinguish zero enlightenment from negative enlightenment, i.e. active st00pidity?

  6. It’s a measure of marginal enlightenment, I assumed, not of total enlightenment. The amount of enlightenment achieved by an ordinary rock in one minute is zero.

  7. @Alsadius

    That’s an interesting point, actually. I think making it a unit of total enlightenment is preferable; then you can have a rate of enlightenment (?z/s,) a measure of marginal enlightenment (?E) and so on, all “for free.” It solves the more general problem.

  8. The question marks are a lowercase mu and an uppercase delta, respectively.

  9. Probably one Zen is decided to large for convenient use. You will find using mili-, micro- and nano- as frequent as for Farads ?…

  10. It seems that for a lot of folks, nanozen would be useful.

    Perhaps a nanozen is the amount of enlightenment achieved when one realizes that when holding an ice cream cone, the pointy end should point downwards.

  11. But in that case, ESR’s fixpoints don’t make a lot of sense. I mean, they were defined in terms of single realizations, not people. What are the odds that the sum total of someone’s enlightenment is precisely that “spinward” is a useful term?

  12. From the first sentence of the post:

    to define a unit for the intensity of “aha!” experiences – moments of sudden insight.

    We are talking about “single realizations”, here.

    The “sum total of someone’s enlightenment” would be more of an integral – the area under the curve of one’s instances of enlightenment over time.

  13. Of course, the “integral” idea only works if a person has “moments of sudden insight” often enough to define a curve.

    Perhaps the “sum total of someone’s enlightenment” is just a simple sum of “single realizations”.

  14. It has been famously said that the depths of human st00pidity have never been plumbed, but I don’t remember by whom (I think it had something to do with Dr. Strangelove, but I might be mistaken.)

    I think that the feeling of zen-ness is probably related to how much enlightenment you already have. I figure that a six-week-old discovering that he has feet is probably feeling a lot more zen than Jesus did when listening to the Roman Centurion asking for his servant to be miraculously healed of cerebral palsy from a distance rather than a personal visit. (See Matthew 8:10). The former is probably about 0.2 mu-z while the latter is, I’d guess about 1000 mu-z.

    I figure a personal experience most directly comparable to the mu-z “yardstick” as it were, is when I realized sometime in my early teen years that the circling of the water counter-clockwise down the drain of a bathtub really is influenced by the rotation of the entire planet.

    My personal discovery of the Antikythera Mechanism most certainly is much greater. On 2009 February 1, I had an interesting vision of angels playing in the sky. They weren’t real angels, since they were just married and had a physical presence, but they were just playing and dancing around in the air, deeply in love. That’s them in my avatar, Juubi (him) and Haifun (her). One of my pet peeves regarding the (in)famous Id Software game franchise Doom is that it features thousands of these physical demon caricatures, but not a single angel. Suddenly I had it, and on April 23, made a blog post starting to show what it might be like to put angels in Doom 3. On May 10, I found Haibane Renmei, the thirteen episode masterpiece anime series by the Radix studio in Japan, captained by Yoshitoshi ABe, one of the finest works of fiction I’ve ever come across. It means “Ashfeather Federation” and features a more helpless angel caricature, the haibane, or ashfeather, with its tiny little wings and floating glow-in-the-dark metal halo, all the spiritual firepower aspects of “angel” and “demon” taking a back burner for a much more personal story. Similar to what was happening with Juubi and Haifun, but without the romantic side, and… well, they’re reincarnated and remember almost nothing about their past lives, including the emotional and spiritual problems they’ve been reincarnated to examine (which makes said examination rather difficult; their inability to comprehend, let alone apologize for or atone for their sins is a major part of the series’ dramatic tension.) The full-size winged angels have it better off that way.

    So, anyway, it came about that the three worlds remixed together in a fanfiction novel I eventually titled FHD Remix: Three Worlds In One:

    http://haibaniki.rubychan.de/wiki/FHD_Remix

    Now, if you know anything about Haibane Renmei and Doom 3, you realize that there is an arcane element in each. The former has this enormous impenetrable Wall surrounding Glie that isolates the world so much that you can’t tell where the events of Haibane Renmei occur on the world map or calendar. The latter has this Soul Cube which has been sitting on Mars for thousands of years and has inside it all the (hundreds, thousands, millions?) survivors of an ancient civilization on Mars. In a fanfiction conjoining the two worlds, they might have something to do with each other…

    I had written this and how, along with a few details about the original city within Haibane Renmei’s enormous Wall, and was in the process of uploading the story to Bookrix when I found this:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ONqYRGzqQY

    First of all, that lady is the spitting image of Yaiba, a major FHD Remix character, sans halo and wings and with a few unobrusive piercings, but other than that, they are identical. Skip ahead to about 2:45 into it for the part where I burst into tears while watching it for the first time, only _after_ having written FHD Remix: Three Worlds in One. It took me about an hour to quit crying and I’m still beside myself at this astonishing coincidence. I’d rate it at about 1200 mu-z for the fictional side.

    Add to this the Antikythera Mechanism’s IRL historical significance and how it plays into the spiritual story of our planet, and its own coincidences with the fictional Soul Cube. The Antikythera Mechanism was a hi-fi solar system simulator and astronomical calendar with fourteen indications driven by mechanical innards including 63 gears with planetary gearing and pin-and-slot mechanisms thought to be unknown before 1435AD and the Wallingsford Clock. It was built in about 150BC and unlike the simpler Wallingsford Clock (whose only advantage is the pendulum and escapement, which is a relatively simple knob on the Antikythera Mechanism), the thing is the size of a shoebox; not much larger than the laptop I’m currently typing on (a lot heavier, the innards are made of bronze.) It sank on a Roman wreck of the coast of Antikythera in about 75BC and was recovered by Greek sponge divers in the winter of 1900-01. Noted at the time were the collection of marble and bronze statues. It took us a hundred and four years to figure out what the thing did, including the use of an x-ray machine designed for jet engines in 2005. I later became convinced that it was made not by (it was made in Syracuse, Greece by the students of Archimedes), but for the Babylonian Magi of the period, and that they would have given it to Jesus Christ if they still had it (see Matthew 2). Unfortunately, it was stolen from them by the Romans who sank on the way back to Rome, almost certainly making a stop at Rhodes Island as the final time the ship touched shore. I can provide citations for a lot of this, but much is the result of having read an awful lot about it and filling in the gaps.

    The Soul Cube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5CAhfaWuW30

    I’d rate that coincidence and my experience of it at about 600 mu-z for a total of 1800, maybe 2000 mu-z (the whole being greater than the sum of its parts in these matters.)

  15. We already have — already had — a perfectly good term for “spinward” on planets: “east”. If we ever discover a Ringworld without getting blasted to bits by the owners, I expect it would and should be used there too.

  16. > We already have — already had — a perfectly good term for “spinward” on
    > planets: “east”. If we ever discover a Ringworld without getting blasted to
    > bits by the owners, I expect it would and should be used there too.

    “East” requires planetary system flipping when one encounters a world that spins in the opposite direction vs. Earth, else “east” on such a world would be leftwards instead of rightwards. That’s ok, but “spinward/antispinward” would be a more useful general term.

  17. Coming up with your own scales for things is funny.

    Have you ever heard of Adam Carolla’s unit of stink? The amount that something smells needs to be defined right?

    The scale is hobopower, from 1 to 100. One hobopower is defined as the smell of one homeless man, or hobo. Now 100 hobopower is theoretical, if you actually smelled something that was 100 hobopower you would instantly die.

    One time Adam suggested that a cat eating some blue cheese, then taking a crap atop a space heater, would measure 30 hobopower.

    Fun stuff.

  18. Will comment more later, but for now “negative enlightenment” is obviously measured in Lenats

    — Foo Quuxman

  19. Interpolation is hard. Let’s go crowdsourcing!

    What about:

    understanding pointers at the 1-star general level
    understanding pointers at the 2-star general level
    using reduce/foldl/foldr for something other than + or *

  20. @jsk: “’East’ requires planetary system flipping when one encounters a world that spins in the opposite direction vs. Earth, else ‘east’ on such a world would be leftwards instead of rightwards.”

    Um, no. The North Pole is defined as the point at which the axis of rotation intersects the surface such that the spin takes place counterclockwise when viewed from above. Your comment above means that you have the North and South poles reversed.

    Once you have a North Pole, spinward/East will always be to your right when facing it while standing on the surface.

    The axial tilt of Uranus is usually given as 98 degrees, not 82 degrees, per this definition.

    However, “spinward” is a much more intuitive term because it immediately links the atmospheric geophysics to directions and spin, while “east” requires a significant amount of thought to make the same connection.

  21. >However, “spinward” is a much more intuitive term because it immediately links the atmospheric geophysics to directions and spin, while “east” requires a significant amount of thought to make the same connection.

    Yes. Exactly why I reached for it.

    A philosopher’s way to put this is that in a discussion of atmospheric physics, “spinward” is a generative term, whereas “east” is not.

  22. If real satori is 1 Zen, what comes after that? Could you become double enlightened?

  23. >In honor of said commenter
    uh, Thank you.

    >(who, synchronistically enough, signs himself “Foo”)

    Interestingly enough I was going to ask what the rating of the Koans of Master Foo should be.

    As far as the microzen goes; does this scale cover the everyday aha!s of the !!!OH! it’s *that* guy!!!, !!!Never saw that house before!!! sort? Obviously this would be in the nano- or pico- range but I can see where it would make sense to limit it to mind altering aha!s.

    And how is it measured? A single aha! obviously counts as one but what about aha!big, followed by a bunch of aha!smalls (what happened for me with spin). Is the first one measured separately from the others or are they added up?

    Also, I propose the use of !!! to delimit the aha!, based on the python triple quote.

    — Foo Quuxman

  24. Apparently the blog software eats angle brackets and everything in between, after the thank you there should have been [bracket] mumble about worthiness [bracket].

  25. A fascinating idea Eric. Do you (or any commenters) have general advice on how to quantify “intangibles” or other interesting phenomena like epiphanies? I’m reading a nifty book from a risk management and business type whose contention is that anything that we care about can somehow, someway, be measured. I’d be interested to know whether or not you agree.

  26. How about a measure of the intensity of the intellectual implosion that occurs when you finally realize how much you fscked things up?

    microdoh? ?d

  27. To calibrate the μz scale, you could take a list of Zen koans of increasing “satori-ness”. Grant each a value on the Zen scale. So, how many μz would be assigned to understanding “The sound of one hand clapping”?

    Taking just two random Koan web sites:
    http://www.cincinato.org/koans/list_en.php
    http://ashidakim.com/zenkoans/

    This would then have to be translated into different languages or sub-cultures. So, how much zen could be assigned to “see”:
    the Coriolis force?
    Zeno’s paradoxes?
    Cantor’s diagonal argument?
    The riddle of the wolf, the goat and the cabbage?
    The puzzle of the identical twins?

  28. So, how many ?z would be assigned to understanding “The sound of one hand clapping”?

    Absolute zero. Perhaps this would be better expressed as a measure of pretentious anti-zen ;)

  29. @Dan
    The value of a zen koan is not in the words of the “solution”, but in understanding the reality underlying the words and beyond. But if you want to qualify it as 1 femto-zen, that is a valid judgment.

  30. There was that moment when the Geeks with Guns team were gathering and chatting.

    Then I said to myself, “that guy over there…he’s a little older than the rest, and he kind of reminds me of Eric’s picture.”

    I might rate that at a fraction, about 0.5 ?z. (I was right, it was Eric.)

    A minute or so later, when Eric showed somebody else his 0.45 and promised an opportunity to try it, produced a similar level of micro-Zen, and confirmed my suspicion of his identity.

    (At that same gathering, when we were talking vehicles for car-pool purposes, another guy asked me if I had a particular issue with my vehicle. I said I wasn’t sure, then he described the sound it generated. I said “Oh, that sound.” out loud. Maybe 2 ?z or so. That was a zen-filled day, by this measure.)

  31. >>Perhaps a nanozen is the amount of enlightenment achieved when one realizes that when holding an ice cream cone, the pointy end should point downwards.

    Keep in mind that the degree of enlightenment is relative to where you started from. For a two year old, the above is a non trivial step.

  32. >>A philosopher’s way to put this is that in a discussion of atmospheric physics, “spinward” is a generative term, whereas “east” is not.

    You guys are certainly beeing northern hemisphere centric. Have you not noted that the air flow goes east to west in the southern hemisphere — making the notion that weather tends to flow spinward — simply wrong?

    East and west are simply defined as spinward and anti-spinward — they are fully equivalent terms.

  33. May I suggest that picking a point based on the required enlightenment to write “The Cathedral and the Bazaar” is a poor choice. Understanding this value would require that somebody be able to place themselves in the same mental space that existed before publication to understand how transformatory it was at the time. This is very hard to do in retrospect.

    It reminds me of a comment made by the child of a friend of mine upon seeing the first Lord of The Rings movie in the theaters: It was like watching a movie of a Dungeons and Dragons campaign. *Facepalm*

    Spinward/antispinward are fairly deconstructable, though, and so that point is currently a good choice.

  34. Assorted points.

    Three fixpoints is entirely desirable when establishing linear scale. The third confirms the legitimacy of the other two. (Or it refutes them, and thus draws your attention to the very real need to rethink the scale.)

    Intuition suggests that Zen, i.e. “total enlightenment” would be infinite by the standards being pushed here, as there are an infinite number of possible enlightenments one could have. On the other hand, intuitive is not formal; there may in fact be a finite, albeit very large, number of possible enlightenments. (I doubt it, though. Sure, this isn’t a matter of “there are infinitely many primes” –

    It would be interesting to know the relation of microzens (which I’ll call “muzen” here for short, if that’s all right with everyone) to other physical units. For example, we know that power, or energy per time, or work per time, is a useful value for various applications. Clearly, enlightenment per time has use – one would prefer to employ someone with a higher potential muzen/second for a position requiring heavy thought.

    Another attractive path of inquiry involves the multiplication of enlightenment by work. If work is good, work augmented by enlightenment is better, and better in a way we intuitively regard as multiplicative. The more work is required to accomplish a task, the more valuable a muzen of enlightenment becomes relative to each additional joule of energy (“you could pave more road if you just did it *this* way”). Similarly, the more valuable a joule becomes relative to each additional muzen applied (someone eventually has to sweat a little).

    So it’s enticing to think of something that is the product of enlightenment and energy, as well as enlightenment and power, and muzen finally gives us a unit to work with. But that leads to another problem:

    …Almost as soon as the muzen was proposed, commenters have brought up examples of insight that go nowhere, or go in the opposite direction. I take this as positive evidence that enlightenment, like work, is path dependent, which would compel us to inquire what the analog to force is. For now, I’ll label the enlightenment analog to force as thought, and see where that takes us.

    If enlightenment can go in undesired directions, then, we might say that this is because the thought vector was not parallel to the intended direction. It’s as if you asked someone to come up with the algorithm necessary to estimate fluid flow through an irregular channel and they produce one that tells you what noise that flow would make. Clearly, they have exerted thought, without producing “enlightenment work” (I’m still working on a term for this). (Anyone considering commenting on the “enlightenment work” produced by this treatise is heartily encouraged by me to shut their goddamned pieholes.)

    In some cases, enlightenment may require thought along nonparallel vectors for various reasons. For example, the engine of thought may demand various side problems be solved before it can progress. In certain cases, it may even require periodic thought exerted in all directions; that is to say, cyclic, or angular enlightenment.

    Meanwhile, back to the enlightenment times work concept – I keep trying to think of a useful term for this as well. Value keeps popping up. Could this provide the elusive link between thought, force, and money? Trouble is, it’s already well established that value is subjective; there is no purely additive aggregate, despite what the Keyneszenians would have you believe.

    Just my two microzents.

  35. Argh. I neglected to complete the thought on Zen. Just disregard the parenthetical at the end of paragraph 3.

  36. Another data point:

    The realisation that government has every right to set the rules of the road because it is government property and is a completely separate issue from whether they should own the roads.
    Rating: 2-3 microzens on its own; combined with other aha!s (from esr’s politics posts) probably ~10 microzens.

    — Foo Quuxman

  37. Enlightenment should be scaled using Zen koans. A microzen obviously should be defined by the “mu koan.”

  38. From Jim Hurlburt…

    >>Perhaps a nanozen is the amount of enlightenment achieved when one realizes that when holding an ice cream cone, the pointy end should point downwards.

    Keep in mind that the degree of enlightenment is relative to where you started from. For a two year old, the above is a non trivial step.

    I just had a (minor) insight…

    We seem to be dealing with two separate concepts, here (quotes from the original post):

    1. “the amount of enlightenment achieved”
    2. “the intensity of ‘aha!’ experiences”

    It seems to me that my attempt at humour about nanozens and ice cream cone orientation involves an absolute “amount of enlightenment” but the “intensity of ‘aha!’ experience” would vary from person to person.

    Would the intensity be higher for a young child than a stupider older person? Not necessarily. I think that a more important aspect is how much the person cares about the ice cream cone at the time of the “aha”.

    Jim brings up another aspect – how impressive it is for a particular person to have a particular instance of enlightenment. Or is Jim’s point more enlightened that that?

  39. From the original Dictionary.com, enlighten means “to give intellectual or spiritual light to”.

    Is there a conversion factor for microzens and candle power?

  40. To clarify my second last comment…

    I was suggesting that any instance of “sudden insight” has an absolute “amount of enlightenment achieved” – that the quantity does not depend on the person having the insight; it is “absolute” as opposed to “relative”.

    On the other hand (if I am not misinterpreting the idea), the “intensity of ‘aha!’ experiences” is a measure of a psychological event. For a given insight, it would be different for different people and different for a particular person in different circumstances (primarily affected by how much he/she cares about the insight at the time).

    If we have two different concepts – enlightenment achieved and intensity of experience – which quantity is measured in microzen?

  41. @Brian

    Actually both of these (but particularly the aha!) can vary immensely depending on how close the person was to the idea in the first place, and how far they follow down the newly burned open path in their head.

    Note that this doesn’t mean that enlightenment is relative; just that people have vastly different step sizes even for the “same” exact thing.

    — Foo Quuxman

  42. @ foo

    I agree.

    how far they follow down the newly burned open path in their head

    I sort of remembered that part of the following point was raised in a previous comment, and when I look back over the comments I see that it was by you:

    One aha can bring on more ahas, sometimes small ones, sometimes big ones, as new ideas relate to what a person already knows. In some respects, the more a person knows, the more valuable a new idea can be.

  43. @JIm Hurburt:
    >You guys are certainly beeing northern hemisphere centric. Have you not noted that the air flow goes east to west in the southern hemisphere

    Very, very wrong. At any given lattitude, the winds travel in the same direction (east-west-wise) in the Southern hemisphere as in the northern. What you’re getting this confused with is the fact that airflow around low pressure zones travels counterclockwise in the northern hemisphere but clockwise in the southern (vice versa for high-pressure zones).

    >— making the notion that weather tends to flow spinward — simply wrong?

    That notion is indeed wrong (because the spinward/antispinward flow of weather is different in different lattitude bands, *not* because it’s different in each hemisphere), but it doesn’t appear anywhere in this thread or the “storm warning” thread prior to your mention of it. If you’ll note, Eric’s original statement in the storm warning thread was:

    “One advantage of having umpty-bump thousands of kilometers of Eurasian landmass to spinward of you is that you’ll never see a cyclonic storm.”

    Note that for Asia (which is spinward of Europe) to shield Europe from cyclonic storms as Eric mentions, cyclonic storms have to travel *antispinward* (which indeed they do, at least in the phase of their lives when they’re strongest).

  44. What is the sound of one hand clapping?

    Eric: June 2011:
    “Falling behind in 4G/LTE support is particularly likely to lose Apple high-end sales. And a poor 2011 Christmas season could completely finish off the iPhone’s chances of regaining lost ground.”

    Today: new Nexus phone introduced without LTE. Rubin blames cost and battery life:
    http://www.theverge.com/2012/10/29/3569688/why-nexus-4-does-not-have-4g-lte

    The reality: Google doesn’t have the juice to push carriers into unlocked LTE phones.

    Shuzan held out his short staff and said, “If you call this a short staff, you oppose its reality. If you do not call it a short staff, you ignore the fact. Now what do you wish to call this?

  45. Alas, like so many other enlightenment-type discussions, I’m afraid all we have managed to establish is that the more we attempt to pin it down with specificity, the more it slips away, like trying to confine an electron precisely in a trap.

  46. We have made a lot of observations about enlightenment but we have made little progress in ESR’s original plan: crowdsourcing “aha” moments to flesh out the microzen scale.

    I find it oddly difficult to recall aha moments… I can think of a few, but they are either so specific to some project that no one else would have had the same aha or they are so simple that they just seem silly in retrospect.

    Personally, when I learned about anonymous lambdas, it was in C++, and my primary thought at the time was: “Man, these things are hard to declare”, which sort of put a damper on the “aha”.

    What aha moments do at least some of us share?

  47. I’ve nothing to share so profound as grokking lambdas. I see them mentioned here and again in my studies of Python, but I don’t get them. I suspect I shouldn’t approach that magic until I have a much larger fraction of a clue of what I’m doing than my present one.

    However, somewhere between coming up with a script to remind me to fill out my timecard at work so as to avoid the ire of my corporate masters, and making a script to download chat logs from a server, I realized that programming is in fact, fun. Is that the sort of thing that should register on the µz scale? If so, at what magnitude? 0.01µz? 0.1µz? 1µz?

  48. Jeremy, a lambda is just a function that returns a function. So,

    def abcd(): return 200
    turns out to be very similar to:
    abcd = lambda : 200

    It’s very useful in places where you need to call a function with a function as a parameter.

  49. @LeRoy

    Shuzan held out his short staff and said, “If you call this a short staff, you oppose its reality. If you do not call it a short staff, you ignore the fact. Now what do you wish to call this?

    How many μz are ascribed to the insight that this koan is one of the subjects of Critique of Pure Reason by Immanuel Kant?
    (although Kant’s version is much less readable)

  50. “as the amount of aha required for somebody to write The Cathedral and the Bazaar. ”

    Huh? The Cathedral and the Bazaar is a book full of anecdotes and personal estimations, with very few stuff inside that makes sense from a business perspective. It doesn’t solve the problem of how to fund client-side open source software, even if it has a large userbase (server-side OSS can be funded by selling support). Instead if a proprietary piece of software is popular, you can always fund it’s development by selling it and prohibiting others to do the same.\

    For example, X.org is the most popular graphics stack out there, and it still hasn’t got Vsync and still breaks upgrades a lot and has performance issues, because no volunteer has fixed those problems yet and X.org is underfunded, and hence can’t hire as many professional coders as it badly needs. Same for Wayland. It is stuck in vaporland (I laughed at their “1.0′ version), because volunteers are not enough and there is very little financial support. Do I need to mention PulseAudio and it’s huge latency issues and endless bugs like the volume bug?

    There, there is the problem of the “bazaar” model. There is no guarantee volunteers will get you to 100%! Let’s assume volunteers do 70% of the work (I am being nice here), you still need to hire paid programmers to write the rest 30%. And to do that you need a business model. And The Cathedral and the Bazzar doesn’t offer one.

  51. How about I call Shuzan a silly old man who can’t get his head straight? Is that worth any microzens?

    Lambdas seem to me to be just a way to write a function without bothering with the formal declaration/call sequence.

    And there is value in separating spinward and east: Earth north happens to be the same direction as galactic north, but if it was the opposite, then “east” suddenly needs disambiguation.

  52. > Lambdas seem to me to be just a way to write a function without bothering with the formal declaration/call sequence.

    Not the point at all, Tron boy. Not. At. All. It’s about names and the lack thereof.

    > How about I call Shuzan a silly old man who can’t get his head straight? Is that worth any microzens?

    More naming. When you become aware, you’ll see that names don’t matter.

    A cocky novice once said to Stallman: “I can guess why the editor is called Emacs, but why is the justifier called Bolio?”. Stallman replied forcefully, “Names are but names, ‘Emack & Bolio’s’ is the name of a popular ice cream shop in Boston-town. Neither of these men had anything to do with the software.”

    His question answered, yet unanswered, the novice turned to go, but Stallman called to him, “Neither Emack nor Bolio had anything to do with the ice cream shop, either.

    (And if you still don’t get it: http://www.emackandbolios.com/?page_id=36)

  53. @LeRoy
    “> How about I call Shuzan a silly old man who can’t get his head straight? Is that worth any microzens?

    More naming. When you become aware, you’ll see that names don’t matter.”

    That is why Kant wrote his unreadable book. Names are but labels and labels are but symbols. So the names do not matter. But without symbols, there is no abstract thought, no speech nor language, and no programming.

  54. Kant in philosophy, Heinsenberg, in physics, and Godel, in mathematics, have each shown ineluctable limits to human reason. They open up to us a glimpse of a nature which is irrational and paradoxical to the very core.

    Zen is not a philosophy; Zen is a mirror, it is a reflection of that which is. As it is, Zen says the same. It does not bring any man-made philosophy into it, it has no choice, it does not add, it does not delete. Zen is not a paradox. Zen is nature. Zen is paradoxical — because life is paradoxical.

    Osho said, “When you accept both the good and the bad and you don’t choose, the bad and good cancel out each other, the negative and the positive cancel out each other. Suddenly there is silence, there is neither good nor bad; there is only existence, with no judgement. Zen is non-judgemental, it is non-condemning, it is non-evaluating. It gives you utter freedom to be.”

    The old scribe was asked why, in his official accounts, the temples and the clans were named but the many monks and priests were not.

    “If I gave you a sheet of figures to tally, would you first bestow a name upon each number seven?” asked the scribe, dismissing the questioner with a wave of an ink-stained hand.

    This was mentioned to the Java master, who nodded and finished his tea.

    The next morning the scribe ascended to his office, only to find the following written in thick block letters above the door:

    public static final int NUM_DAYS_IN_WEEK =

    At this, the old scribe Qi was enlightened.

  55. Hmmmm….

    Is zen (partly) another way of saying the map is not the territory but Now With Added Vitamin MindFuck?

    — Foo Quuxman

  56. I think you mean BrainFuck. Or Ook! if you’re a lower-order primate.

  57. +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++>+++[]

    Humph.

    –Foo Quuxman

  58. [self-censored screed of rage against wordpress]

    there should have been a (pointer decrement, output, pointer increment) in those brackets

  59. Katsu!
    On the death bed — Katsu!
    Let he who has eyes see!
    Katsu! Katsu! Katsu!
    And once again, Katsu!
    Katsu!
    -Y?s? S?i (????, 1379–1458)

  60. >Is zen (partly) another way of saying the map is not the territory but Now With Added Vitamin MindFuck?

    Why yes. Yes, it is. Couldn’t have put it better myself.

  61. For me, it was the time I first applied calculus to a problem I was working on. (Briefly, the derivative is, among other things, the rate of growth; if one quantity grows faster than another it will overtake it; therefore if one derivative is higher than the other….)

    10 micro-zen, perhaps.

  62. @ Foo
    Is that code supposed to run forever? Or is there supposed to be a byte decrement in there somewhere too?

  63. @Jeremy

    WordPress garbled it, the pseudo code follows:


    inc mem[p] 63 times //ascii "?"
    inc p
    inc mem[p] 3 times
    while mem[p] != 0: //Wordpress ate everything inside this
    dec p
    putchar(mem)
    inc p

    Output: “???”

    — Foo Quuxman

  64. @Jay

    Yes, forgot that. And it seems that wordpress cant even handle a simple indent ~>:|

    Also, does anyone know if LeRoy is trying to be a gadfly or just a less stupid than average troll?

    — Foo Quuxman

  65. I think the only thing I have to say about this entire thread is
    “we are not a ?z ed”…

    Yes I will report for punnishment

  66. I propose 1 Zen to signify the enlightenment you experience when you read The Art of Unix Programming after having worked for 10+ years in the automotive embedded software industry. You know, where all stored data are still binary dumps, where non-standard networking is everyday practice, where you’re forced to use extremely expensive and mostly useless tools (price and uselessness are proportional), multi-MB ECUs are run by a single monolithic multi-threaded program, and this is even called safety-critical. Then you begin to secretly appreciate data driven programming, do-one-thing-well and TEXT. But it’s just a feel, you cannot even put it into words.
    And then you read The Book, and it turns out an entire programming culture has existed secretly, based on these very values.

  67. For example, X.org is the most popular graphics stack out there, and it still hasn’t got Vsync and still breaks upgrades a lot and has performance issues, because no volunteer has fixed those problems yet and X.org is underfunded, and hence can’t hire as many professional coders as it badly needs. Same for Wayland. It is stuck in vaporland (I laughed at their “1.0? version), because volunteers are not enough and there is very little financial support. Do I need to mention PulseAudio and it’s huge latency issues and endless bugs like the volume bug?

    What’s the quantity of aha it takes to read The Cathedral and the Bazaar, believe deeply in it — and then go buy a Mac because it works and desktop Linux is broken?

  68. What’s the quantity of aha it takes to read The Cathedral and the Bazaar, believe deeply in it — and then go buy a Mac because it works and desktop Linux is broken?

    See this is why i can’t take you seriously Jeff. I can crash a mac without even trying but am yet to crash Linux. I’m assuming you’re talking about OS X of course, OS9 was demonstrably less stable than Windows.

  69. @Jeff Read
    “and then go buy a Mac because it works and desktop Linux is broken?”

    For some values of “works”. For many values of “works”, a Mac does not.

  70. Macs work, or do not.
    Linux works, or does not.
    Windows… does not.

    FreeBSD, however, takes a daily dose of boner pills, and is still solid as granite.

  71. I’m running a Linux box side-by-side with my Mac Pro. Partly, this is a way to get a good framerate out of Second Life; partly, it’s an evaluation of possibly moving to Linux on the desktop fulltime when Lion is desupported and my Mac Pro, which can’t run Mountain Lion, is obsoleted.

    There are things that Linux – or at least my Linux distribution (I’m running Mint 13 with MATE) – gets right.

    There are many things it gets badly wrong.

    I have a blog about desktop Linux from a Mac user’s perspective, at A Mac User Does Linux.

  72. …and to drag this back on topic: perhaps the true enlightenment is in the realization that ideological blinders get in the way of getting real work done. Any ideological blinders, be they the rigidity of Stallmanism or a dogmatic refusal to believe that anything free can be worth anything.

  73. Handbrake, MPC-HC, AutoGK, ImgBurn etc are free (of course I mean as in beer and not the “as in speech” nonsense) and they have VALUE, aka they provide value to users (value is what you actually meant by “worth”). I think your ideological blinders “nothing of value is free” are preventing you from seeing this simple fact.

    The open source model works for small projects (which they can be made 100% by volunteers), and server-side software (just sell “support”). It’s big client-side software -like a goddamn graphics stack- where the open source model is not working, because volunteers won’t cut it (aka they will not do 100% of the work, but much less) and there is no business model for hiring paid developers to do the freaking rest.

    The Catheadral and The Bazaar doesn’t offer any solution (proposed business model) for this. For a book that is so popular and is often referenced even by academics, it was a huuuge dissapointment.

    So, back on topic, we need a method to calculate the real Zen moments, from fake Zen moments (as for example the ones that led to the creation of the Cathedral and the Bazaar) in order to accurately measure Zen

  74. Oh, duh, back to the original post. 100 µz.

    kurkosdr, enlightenment need not be complete, or completely correct, to be enlightening. It simply need not be wrong, and CatB most certainly is not wrong.It simply does not answer the entire question, even by your argument – but then, it does not purport to.

  75. @JonCB “I’m assuming you’re talking about OS X of course, OS9 was demonstrably less stable than Windows.”

    I actually think it’s amazing, looking back, that OS9 was as stable as it was. It was unique as a (then) modern desktop OS [its contemporaries being Windows 98/Me, Windows 2000, and various Linux/Unix variants] that had no memory protection.

  76. >Eric, how much of a Zen would you say was the realization that led to CatB?

    That’s what I proposed as the 100μz peg.

  77. A problem with a unit for experience is that it’s inherently going to be entirely subjective – there’s no reason that the relations between X, Y, and Z enlightenment activities (call it 1uz, 10uz, 100uz) for person A are going to be the same for person B (who might rate them at 3uz, 20uz, 75uz).

    It would be interesting to see (if possible) if persons put things not only at different places on the scale, but in different orders … and if that correlated to anything else at all.

    (Another thing comes to mind, related to Mr. Maynard’s last post …

    Assuming that enlightenment-properly-understood cannot be “wrong” … what do we call it when it feels like enlightenment, but the thing “revealed” is false?

    It seems to me that the feeling of enlightenment can’t be magically limited to only correct “insights”, so “false enlightenment” must happen now and then… so how do we tell it apart, and what do we call it?

    I suppose the experience is the same as for “real” enlightenment, so it’d use the same scale…)

  78. I actually think it’s amazing, looking back, that OS9 was as stable as it was. It was unique as a (then) modern desktop OS

    Your point is very valid but just like Linux doesn’t get a merit badge for “it’s free so no-one gives a crap about how you use the damn thing”, I’m not inspired to give OS9 a merit badge for “it’s amazing it was stable at all given that it was so very brain damaged”.

  79. I actually think it’s amazing, looking back, that OS9 was as stable as it was. It was unique as a (then) modern desktop OS [its contemporaries being Windows 98/Me, Windows 2000, and various Linux/Unix variants] that had no memory protection.

    Quick, what was the most stable and secure web server of the late 90s?

    Give up?

    WebSTAR for Mac OS Classic.

    Hint: the Mac used Pascal strings, so a whole class of buffer-overflow problems endemic to C simply didn’t exist ;)

  80. Cant believe I forgot this;

    ESR, how would you rate the Lisp enlightenment?

    — Foo Quuxman

  81. I’m going to ‘sort-of’ thread jack here.

    This story was linked at Instapundit and copied by Samizdata, where I found it.

    http://dvice.com/archives/2012/10/ethiopian-kids.php

    Now that we have a unit for zen what sort of unit measures the karmic happiness/astonishment/pleasure which these guys derived from their experiment? Interesting, in some respects, this is almost orthogonal to the millizen: it is not inwardly facing at all, but measures the internal result of external actions..

    And what *did* they expect would be the use case and growth in use of those computers?
    And now that we have a ‘zen’ we have other philosophical questions, if we rate the weather-girl as a 10 is that an actual 10 milliHelens, (or a centiHelen) or is the 10 a scale within 1 millihelen?

  82. Ooops, it was a different storey linked from Instapundit. Apologies. More coffee required.

  83. Hmm. Seems a bunch of people seem to be reacting to the recent IDC estimate on smartphones (75% Android market share, 15% iPhone, then the other 10% Blackberry > Symbian > Windows > non-Android Linux) by worrying that Google is acquiring a monopoly.

  84. Yeah late to this discussion – but it occurs to me that both of the examples for microzen are instances of taking a pattern from one context and applying it to an entirely different one. But once that new context is created and mapped out a little, it all seems sort of obvious and the new context soon becomes an old context.

    I had my own microzen moment recently when I realized that the human brains memory recall system probably uses associative array. Associate arrays have certain properties like speed and simplicity, but make some operations like queries and in order traversals very difficult. The satori is that associative arrays are obviously associated with computer data structures, not the human mind and memories, so we’ve moved them out of one context and into another. After thinking of associative arrays in that new context for a while, you would go from “wow” to “yes that makes sense” to “well, duh”.

    And yes, I just blew your mind by using the human mind’s associative structure as an example of a satori because if your own mental associations were always confined to their initial context you probably wouldn’t even be capable of satori.

  85. @ESR

    It occurs to me that there is an objective, though very limited way to measure the intensity of an enlightenment: dopamine levels, or rather the change of dopamine levels when the zen fires.

    This would most likely not work with horrifying realisations or muggles but for the “typical” neophiliac / hacker it should work fairly well.

    Although it would be *very* interesting to see a high resolution MRI of someone undergoing enlightenment.

  86. Foo,

    Dopamine levels can rise in response to any sort of pleasant stimulus, not just “ahas”.

    Lemme introduce you to the meme of dopamine hegemony, which states that most of the members of Western Civ (America in particular) are too addicted to the easy dopamine hits they get from consumer spending to get “ahas” in any significant strength or number.

  87. OK, it’s a stretch, but this is the most recent post I can find on an arguably similar topic: ESR, I would like the enlightenment promised in the “Why C++ is not Our Favorite Language” paper; do you still plan to publish it?

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