Constructing meaning from random information (was Re: virus:

David McFadzean (
Fri, 27 Sep 1996 10:39:22 -0600

At 07:44 AM 27/09/96 -0400, Wade T. Smith wrote:
>>It is _completely_ unreadable, but gives the
>>reader a sense that he has learned something.
>> Noctem
>Regardless of any contemptuous misgivings I may have about the Tarot (and
>any presentation of it in CoV), the above snip from Noctem pretty well
>wraps it up for all religious tracts, IMHO. ;-)

I disagree, but first a tangent from electrical engineering. Say you have
a black box that contains an electronic circuit. Your job is to describe
the circuit without opening the box and looking inside. All you have is
inputs, outputs and the black box. Turns out that if you send random
information to the inputs and do spectral analysis on the outputs, you can
do a pretty good job of describing ("divining" :-) the contents of the black
box. The key word in the previous sentence is "random". True, you can't know
with certainty how the circuit is constructed because it is possible for two
different circuits to behave identically, but even then at a functional level
they are the same and that is all you usually care about.

Now let's look at a different black box: the brain. It has several high
bandwidth inputs carrying sensory data. It's output is subjective reality.
When the sensory data is cut off (while we sleep or in a sensory deprivation
tank) the inputs don't go to zero, they still carry random perturbations.
And the brain doesn't shut off, it continues doing it's job: creating
(subjective) reality. And the realities we experience in those conditions,
aka dreams and hallucinations, can give us a clue into the makeup of the
black box.

I believe the same as true when we are presented with a random set of
symbols (as in a tarot, or palm or psychic reading) and forced to find
meaning in them. It comes so easily that it forms the illusion that the
meaning is in the symbols (cards, palm lines, whatever) but it's not,
the meaning is in our minds. So, with that understanding, I think the
tarot has potential to be an excellent instrument for introspection, to
explore our current set of beliefs and memes and see how they collectively
form meaning in our lives.

David McFadzean       
Memetic Engineer      
Ideosphere Inc.