Managing Static Vs. Dynamic Leads to Practical Fusion & a Better You
As a parent, I am helping my preteen navigate the transition from childhood to adulthood by encouraging them to observe, ask questions, and narrate their experiences. I am teaching them the importance of both static and dynamic states of being, which are both necessary for growth, from developing atomic energy to the inner workings of our own lives. I am also reflecting on my own journey of self-inspection and self-modification, which I had to do in order to grow and develop during transitional periods.
Navigating Childhood to Adulthood: Finding Balance in Static and Dynamic States
By Michael Levin
Thursday, December 15, 2022
Yesterday my kid called me in tears over being forced to go to scouts. They are homeschooled and I moved back into the state 6 months ago because such calls were becoming more frequent. They are twelve and there’s a lot of important formative transitions going on from child to adult. This is both in the body and the mind. With my not being as present as I’d like 5 out of 7 days of the week, I’m focusing on body, making sure they’re fed well enough on the weekends in terms of protein and vitamins to cover for the rest of the week, which while may not be bad, is unknown to me. And so I take precautions. With one’s natural predispositions plus enough of the right fuel and enough sleep, one can sort out almost any problems. I see the kid has many of the right predispositions. Fuel is taken care of. Sleep is an issue because they don’t like to go to sleep, but I let them sleep generally as late as they need. I’ve been reprimanded for allowing that to go too late into the day, twice I think, so I do a courtesy wake-up shout into the bedroom usually at about 11:30 AM now.
Entries like this certainly belong in my personal journal. But do they belong here? We are always in transition in life, and few more so than children going from preteen to teen. A lot of big decisions are made during these years that resonate forward through time and set your path in life. If you despise certain things, you are going to despise them for a very long time with a very closed mind. Open mindedness isn’t something associated with teens very much. It’s one of the first big rounds in life of shutting-down and switching yourself from the more exploratory child-like wonder-driven mode of a child to a more static know-it-all mode of an adult. It takes awhile in adulthood to switch back to the wonder-driven child-like mode again, if at all. Scientists I believe stay in that always-amazed and always trying to know the unknown state–except maybe those in traditional anthropology who hate what Graham Hancock proposes about an apocalyptic flood wiping out ancient civilizations around 12,800 years ago. Those scientists lost the wonder.
I see my role as helping my preteen transitioning into adulthood to keep an open mind about things and to question much of what they’ve been told as absolute truth. It’s not that you should reject everything and be stuck in a state of rebellion for rebellion’s sake, a too-easy trap that plays right into teenage angst, but rather to keep observing, asking questions, and narrating the entire thing to yourself so you can her it from as close to an objective viewpoint as one can muster internally. I used to call it “the observation game” with my kid growing up. The depth of what I am instilling into the with the observation game is probably still lost on them, but my goal is that with the right gentle prodding here and there, they will repeatedly hit the mind-opening events that keep you dynamic; stable, but still dynamic.
As in programming, dynamic is generally less stable than static and can blow up on you. The use of a list datatype over a tuple will often drive your program to excessive resource consumption and cause all sorts of unexpected behavior. In many applications, this unexpected behavior is what you want and are looking for by using the dynamic datatypes. Dynamic datatypes are rather open-ended and less predictable and deterministic than static datatypes. So use static datatypes for stability, right? Well, something running in a highly predictable and stable way lulls you into an illusion, a false sense of security from which you receive unexpected and often terminal wake-up calls.
Sometimes having the wrong assumptions going into your static beliefs and systems built around those beliefs can be fatal. Sometimes it just sets you up for a good story-arc and the hero’s journey. You settle into a static state, receive a wake-up call and then undergo some sort of growth that makes you all the better for it. J.R.R. Tolkien and George Lucas were masters of this. We deal with identical static vs. dynamic personal growth issues at different scales within our own lives, and it is urgent that we talk about and address them, and thus this being on the public side.
It takes a long time to internalize what’s implied behind the words “static” and “dynamic”. It’s other one of those things which when a statically-inclined individual thinks they’ve figured out, the will latch onto with ferocity. When the webserver does work to build a page as if from a database and variable user-input, then it’s a dynamic site. But when the site is served from pre-generated “static” HTML files sitting on the hard drive, then it’s a static site, right? And static sites do better in search engines than dynamic pages because they’re faster and easier for the engines to read, right? Well, yes in some cases. But what if those static HTML files are generated every night to reflect new conditions. Is it still then a static site? Or is it a static site with a dynamic element running intermittently in the background? Labels, labels, labels! The reality of the situation is always in the nuance and details for which (mostly static) people want to tune-out. A dynamic person will at least hear you out.
We are entering a time in history of greater change than ever before. Arguably, our discoveries of atomic energy kicked it all off, and that was almost 100 years ago. Enrico Fermi deduced atomic power in the 1930s, peeling away the layers of mystery surrounding radioactive decay, such as present in bananas. It was only about a decade to go from the insights to the atomic bomb. We survived. Around the same time in the 1930s, another aspect of Einstein’s E = mc² equation was shown to be responsible for the burning of the stars in the sky by Hans Bethe. It took 10 more years than the atomic bomb (fission in 1942) before fusion was demonstrated here on earth with the Hydrogen bomb in 1952. It took 70 more years, from November 1 1952 to December 5, 2022 before we demonstrated that we could harness this power effectively in anything other than a bomb.
The stabilizing of a volatile, dynamic process enabled non-weapon fusion. Profound attention to detail and nuance and a tour de force of self-regulation with rules based upon those details and nuance in controlling all those lasers and conditions allowed it. The subtle dance between the dynamic state of explosion and the static state of magnetic containment allowed it. More energy-out than energy-in was not (is not) a given. Someday we will look at it as an assumed fact of life, overlooking the complexity that goes into baking a star-in-a-jar and yawn with the ho-hum mundaneness with which we look at the controlled explosions in our fossil-fuel powered combustion engines in most of our cars. But today’s cars are basically just controlled bombs. Fusion energy, same thing. Dynamic explosions with a leash thrown onto it. Intrepid dynamic thinkers enable the ho-hum mundane lives of comfy-cozy static-state livers.
So it is inside each of us. Static states are simpler. Programmers brought up through traditional computer science will vehemently defend static-typed variables in your programming for a reliable compile and fast, optimized and deterministic execution. That’s great for air traffic control systems and other things that need near-100% reliability and the fastest runtimes possible, but it’s not so great when trying to teach a computer to think. Emergent properties generally come from dynamic systems, often full of duck-typed variables and mutable (changeable) objects. You can’t compile such programs for optimized runtime executables. There’s lots of tricks you can do to speed it up using caches and such as we see in the performance optimizations of Python 3.11. But still, Python code will run slower than compiled C because sometimes Python code writes Python code, which is not yet optimized. Self-referentiality is a dynamic thing. Self-inspection and self-modification is a dynamic thing.
In our lives, we must self-inspect and self-modify from time to time. There are big transitional times in our lives where we simply must, or die. In our early years these things are automatic and result from our evolutionary and genetic predispositions, such as learning to crawl, walk and talk. After that, most rules are off. It’s in the hands of parents and society to take up where genetic predispositions leave off and to start programming-up our children. It’s still not very self-referential or meta because outside forces such as parents and society are applying most of the forces that shape the child. This all changes between about 6 years old and teen. BAM! Self-awareness. Self-referentiality. Decisions regarding ones own static-ness vs. dynamicness are made, sometimes in life-crippling ways and sometimes in life-broadening ways.