Posts Tagged ‘Neural Networks’

What Are Numbers? Math is most abstracted physics!

June 27, 2019

German mathematician Richard Dedekind (1831–1916) published in 1888 a paper entitled Was sind und was sollen die Zahlen? What are numbers and what should they be? 

Here is my answer: forget what you know. 

Numbers are neural networks. Small numbers have small networks, big ones, big networks; so the nature of numbers, change, as they get bigger…(According to me, listening, delighted, to the indignant screams of distant mathematicians ).

Diagram Chasing all of them: not a coincidence. Instead of having “It from Bit”, one has it from action (arrow in Cat theory, action potential with neurons, fundamental process in physics…)

A few immediate applications of this master idea:

  1. Numbers are learned, because neural networks are learned.
  2. Advanced animals, having advanced neural networks, should be capable of having those neural networks we call numbers.
  3. Big numbers are different from small numbers, because big neural networks are different from small ones. Here again is the idea that energy should matter in mathematics (the conventional thinking being just the opposite: energy doesn’t matter).

***

Kronecker’s also quipped: “God made the natural numbers. Everything else is the work of man.

Kronecker proceeded to define numbers from Set Theory, invented for the purpose. Later Bertrand Russell found a problem with Set Theory, the set of sets which are not elements of themselves brought a contradiction. Russell tried to get out of that with a hyper complicated theory. In modern times, mathematicians prefer to use Category Theory. [1]

I go beast on how to construct numbers. Beasts have brains, and brains have neural networks.

Kronecker thought mathematics is the work of man. But, actually all advanced animals move in a way proving they are capable of differential calculus. Far from being the work of god, differential calculus is the “work” of dog. Without differential calculus, that dog can’t hunt. OK, dog is not conscious of god, or of the calculus it’s using. So what?   

Now for a few easy bits:

*** 

Let’s notice that numbers are definitely the work of the genus Homo: 

Consider the integer 152. 152 is the work of man. Just like “Yes” is the work of the Englishman. 

152 means: 100 + 5×10 + 2. But that’s only in base ten. In base 60, that would be: 60 x 60 + 5 x 60 + 2… Which converts to 3,902  back in base ten. 

So “152” is not an absolute notion. For that integer to make sense, the basis in which it lives has to be expressed (and what the notation means, such as 2 = 1+1…). The Babylonians invented base 60 to handle big numbers in astronomy. We still use base 60 to this day, for angles and time. So “152” is a cultural construction. In several ways. 

***

So how come Platonists claim that numbers live out there, in a special realm of their own, if there is so much human explanation and convention to provide, with just basic numbers? Most mathematicians also believe their are exploring that realm of Plato. But actually all they are exploring is the possible connections which can be built within the neural networks inside their brains. So they are exploring physics, a bit like a child on a beach explores which sand castle she can get away with. A difference with building sand castles is that the possibilities are few and are carefully recorded, becoming the body of that culture and language called “mathematics”. 

An example is the Archimedean axiom. The Greeks knew about it well: it’s in Euclid, and it says that, given two magnitudes, A and B, there is always an integer n so that: nA > B.

If one denies that axiom, one gets infinitesimals… That was made rigorous through Model Theory, in the 1950s, three centuries after Leibnitz first introduced infinitesimals, starting a fight with Newton.

No Plato universe of “forms”… or rather, they exist, but live as geometries inside brains…

Even more dramatic are hyperbolic and elliptic geometries: they were discovered at least a century before Euclid. Then they were forgotten, and a stupid debate occurred for 21 centuries about whether the parallel axiom (one parallel to a line, one only, through a point off the line) was independent of the others. Mathematicians, even the brightest, had forgotten that their ancestors had found geometries with many, or no, parallels…)

***

Let’s recapitulate: culture is composed of (vague, but good enough) descriptions of neural networks, which can be transmitted. Once contracted, those neural network templates modify brains in similar ways. Those similarly modified brains behave all similarly, mimicking innate characteristics.  

Language enables a transmission of neural geometries, topologies, logics, and categories. Language is primitive in most advanced animals, consisting in grunts, cooing, gestures, etc. But in Homo language became an advanced mental cultural duplication system (and some of the mentality passed is mathematical, but not only). 

True, advanced animals have a sort of pseudo-innate capability to evolve neurobiological mathematical structures: through trial and errors mimicking their relatives, or experimentation with what works, young animals brains learn to optimize trajectories: the brains of many predators in pursuit make subsets of themselves into differential calculus machines. 

So if Plato’s “forms” are real forms in (generalized) geometry and topology… what are the latter made of? Good question! Therein come our old friend, the Quantum Wave… 

Clearly, math is the most abstracted physics.

Patrice Ayme


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