While I was teleworking, my landscaping contractor knocked at my door to ask me for some decision. I stepped out with the door opened, thinking it would be quick answer but it became clear that I would have to walk around the project. I closed the door to keep the insects out and the door automatically locked behind me but this did no concern me because it is a password lock. When I returned, I tried to enter the password and the display was dead, the batteries were no longer working. I had other options for getting inside again. I was sure that the batteries were dead, even though I remember changing them not that long ago.
I opened the compartment and saw he problem. The batteries were in a cage and the connector on the cage was corroded. This is just like corrosion that can appear on the batteries themselves, but in this case, the batteries looked fine, only the cage’s connector was corroded. This was very unusual.
I usually buy AA batteries in a large package and I use them in lots of things in the house. I have these little LED lights that use them, and some have had the same batteries for many years. I checked them and they looked corrosion free. The only exception was the other exterior door, it also had a corroded battery, but this was just like I would expect, the corrosion was on the battery itself, not the connector to the battery cage. These batteries spend their time in the door handle and are subject to more temperature changes than the others. This is probably why they started to corrode.
This simple revelation was new to me. Battery operated door locks need to have their batteries checked or replaced more frequently than I have been checking them. From this point forward, I will keep a closer eye on the batteries themselves instead of just waiting for them to drain out completely.
This is an example of four dimensional script. There is an intelligible instruction set that I was able to read. Batteries in door locks are more prone to corroding or leaking. This information is not an original discovery on my part. The actual information probably was in the original one-dimensional instruction manual in the first place, so many people didn’t have to rely on experience to read the message.
I cleaned up the terminal and got the lock to work again. I decided to get a new lock instead. The old lock had a metal door on the outside that slid up and down to protect the keypad. The door also activated the key pad so it had to be closed and opened again if they first attempt didn’t work. This was not only annoying but occasionally the door would pinch my finger. This recent experience encouraged me to get a new lock with a more recent design using touch-screen instead of buttons.
This reaction occurred without much thought. In hindsight, it appeared like I was following an instruction manual that said I needed to do something more than just change the battery. Now is the time to change the entire lock. This would never have happened if the battery connector had not corroded. Nor would it have happened if I hadn’t been aware of newer technology designs. I would never have replaced the lock with the same make and model, I would just repair it and keep it working. I bought a new lock because that was what was in this mysterious instruction book. Given the current circumstances, this is what I should do.
I bought a new lock. Unlike the old one that specifically had to be bought as a right-hand or left-hand version from the manufacturers, this one had a lever that the user can assemble in either handedness. I read through the instructions before buying it, and noticed it involved an hex wrench to tighten the hex screw. I thought that was not secure because an intruder to the house would be able to unscrew it. I bought it anyway.
I began assembling the lock and noticed that the set screw did not work on the outside knob, there were no threads to screw into. At about the same time, I noticed that there was only one set screw and it worked on the inside handle. I was very careful about unpacking everything and I spent a long time trying to find the missing screw. Meanwhile, I was mystified by why there were two brass pins in the same bag that contained the set screw. If these pins were relevant to securing the front-side lever, then there should only be one, just like there was only set screw.
The pins had a wider diameter at one end than the other, and I figured out that the fatter end fit the hole on the inside shaft where I assumed would be threaded for a screw. The narrower end fit the hold in the handle. This must be the solution but there was no way to get the handle over the pin.
I read the instructions multiple times, and the written instructions and the diagram confused me to the point of not figuring out how to get it to work. Meanwhile, the instruction set explained about arranging some internal shaft in a particular way was very important step. It did not explain why it was important, or at least I didn’t understand what it was trying to tell me. I would arrange it they way they said and assembled everything to confirm the handle worked, but then after disassembling the shaft would be arranged in the wrong way again. It seemed like the wrong arrangement was the correct arrangement for operation. I was right about that.
Eventually I figured out that the important step was important because it allowed the brass pin to fall in deeper and this allowed the handle to slip over the hole. Then when rotating the key, the pin popped from the inside, locking the handle into place, permanently. This was clearly the intended design and it makes sense. It could have been explained better in the instructions. At least for me, I had to figure it out by trial and error.
I was motivated to try different things because I could not believe that a well packaged product would leave out an important piece, or provide me a piece I didn’t need. I was also motivated because I didn’t want to return it or to ask for a replacement of the part I thought was missing. Eventually I figured it out by handling the parts and trying the different variations until I saw what was intended all along. This is not an original discovery on my part, I was merely doing what the engineer intended for me to do all along. I learned this instruction by handling the parts instead of reading the one-dimensional wording or the two-dimensional diagram in the manual. Handling the parts are the three-dimensional language because the parts could only fit together in one way. However, to really figure it out, I needed to learn the sequence to get the pin to move in the desired direction: getting out of the way for the handle to fit over, and then permanently moving into the hole to secure that handle. That was the fourth dimension instruction. The instruction was there all along, I ended up reading it instead of reading the instructions from words or diagrams.
In an earlier post, I proposed that there are different levels or dimensions of written language starting with one dimensional writing as I am doing here both in text and in narration. The text is read and understood linearly. The next level of writing is in illustrations or solid models that convey information more efficiently than linear writing. The third level consists of working models or actual machinery. Disassembling or other forms of testing can convey information about how to create it or something like it. The information is inherently encoded in the working machinery itself. The fourth level is analogous to a factory or a supply chain, where the information is in the operation of the entire chain. Studying an existing process from start to finish can provide instructions about how to build something similar.
Each level of writing involved some type of persistent record. In the first two levels, the record in the form of writing or illustrations can outlast any example built from those instructions. Even after many millennia of non-use, we can still read back those instructions and reproduce what was discussed. Above that, the record depends on preserving working models.
To figure out how a machine works, we really need a working machine, or a relic that can be restored to functional status. To figure out how a supply chain works, we need a working supply chain. The examples from ancient history tells us that we lack a comparably durable script to capture these constructs.
For example, the supply chains that supported ancient civilizations are incompletely understood. This is partly because the civilization at the time probably did not fully understand it. My impression of modern supply chains are similarly mysterious to us. We keep them running only because they already are running. If everything were to stop for a lengthy period of time, I doubt we will be able to rebuild it even though all the elements are still around.
Recent examples of lost supply chains are those that built earlier generations of air and space craft. Even with preserved models of the finished product, we would have to reinvent a new supply chain if we needed to make new copies of those models. Part of the reason they existed as they did was that they used the supplies available at the time. Those supplies don’t exist any more. Even when better options replaced the older supplies, there would have to be major design changes to the finished product to take properly use these new supplies.
Humanity has yet to devise a language that can adequately describe the entire supply chain so that some distant future civilization can recreate it based only on the language because there will not be any recognizable remnants of the original working supply chain. It may be unclear why any civilization would want to do this. While we don’t understand how to recreate the supply chains of the height of the Roman empire, there is a no real benefit in that project. Given that not enough people would want to return to that work enough to invest in recreating it, there is even more reason to have an adequate system of language to properly document it, so we can understand it from the writing without rebuilding it. I doubt that writing can be done in linear script or two-dimensional illustrations and models.
My impression is that we lack a writing systems that preserves information that cannot be put into words or pictures. I am convinced such a writing system is possible. I use the example of an acorn from an oak tree. Perhaps the acorn survived a long drought that killed off the forests that produced it. Perhaps it was also carried away in a flood and ended up where no oak tree ever before lived. Given that scenario, the acorn has all the information it needs to build an acorn factory. That information is stored somewhere because it can reproduce its ancestors’ accomplishment exactly. Humans lack that kind of language, but that is the language I would love to have.
In a more mundane example, consider a work place experiencing a vacancy of someone who had a reputation for solely being able to get certain types of things done. Perhaps the vacancy is sudden, such as from the result of an unexpected death. There is a need to have some kind of written instruction of how he went about making his achievements. The best we have are written documentation or perhaps from video records of demonstrations. These are inadequate to capture the real value of his being able to solve a new problem. The text and diagrams at best can capture the point solutions of past problems, but those solutions are not helpful to solving new problems while we are confident he would be able to solve the problem if he were still around.
We need a type of writing that the acorn can access. We can hand the document to the youngest new hire and confidently know he would be able to solve problems equally as well as the documented predecessor. The best we have requires a living mentor to guide the novice to learn experientially. If the mentor is not around, this opportunity does not exist.
This brings me back to my little door lock saga. The instruction manual did not help me figure out how to assemble the external lever-handle, yet I figured it out. This figuring out could be a form of puzzle-solving. After all, it was a puzzle and I solved it. This explanation implies an independent intelligence of the puzzle-solver. If this puzzle solver were that intelligent, he’d be able to understand the written and illustrated instructions so that he wouldn’t need to solve the puzzle in the first place. I prefer to attribute my eventual success to the simple deciphering of the text in front of me, and that was in the form of a not-yet assembled door lock.
There was a similar deciphering in the earlier part of the story where I figured out what I should have known about batteries in door locks, and where I figured out that now is a good time to replace the entire lock. I really do not feel these were examples of my own free will or discovery.
I was following some script left to me by some predecessor. I cannot produce a copy of the script to hand to someone else so that he can learn the same lessons. This may be similar with textual language encountered by an illiterate person, someone who does not even know of any one who can read what is written. The language may require a certain level of development to read.
Certainly, puzzle-solving skills could have solved my lock assembly problem. It is just my impression that the information came to me as if I had read it. I didn’t solve the problem using my mental skills. I merely read the instructions, but the crucial instruction was not in the printed manual, or at least I didn’t understand it there. I read the instructions in the object itself.
Puzzle solving does not explain the earlier example of deciding to get a new lock after discovering the leaking battery. Puzzle solving fixed the lock and it was operable again. I got a new lock because I read it in some instruction somewhere. I just don’t know where.
The discovery of the corrosion from the leaking battery came as an unexpected shock to me. Once discovered, I had to do something about it immediately. I did address the problem with some cleaning and battery replacement, but I also took the additional step of changing the lock, and thus the character of the entire door. I didn’t do this out of intelligence, I did it because it was in some instructions I was reading.
Life in general knows how to read from that instruction book. That’s how the acorn knows how to make an acorn factory.
The corrosive effects of the leaking battery reminds me of the mechanisms behind the current COVID19 vaccines. The leaky battery is the injection of a high pressure flood of foreign material into deep tissue. The corrosion is the effect of that flood. We fully expect that the body will respond according to its innate instructions to deal with this mess in a way that will produce the desired outcome. This means we acknowledge the superior learnedness of the body in its ability to read higher dimensional instructions sets that tell it what needs to happen next.
As with the door lock where the fully expected response is to clean up the corrosion and to remember to check the batteries more often, the body’s response to the vaccine is to clean up the noxious stuff and be more prompt about cleaning it up in the future. Missing from our expectations of the vaccine response is the analog of my immediate decision to replace the entire lock.
There was nothing wrong with the original lock and the core problem was fixed. I still decided to discard the lock and go with a different one. That decision very much felt like I was following instructions. The body may find similar instructions to discard things or abandon projects because of a vaccine flood.
It is from this perspective that I react in horror at the current rush to vaccinate children, perhaps as young as two years old. Unicef is preparing to vaccinate two billion children world-wide with the confidence that this will help end the pandemic. By all accounts I have heard about, children are not at risk from the virus and they do not spread the virus to others. Vaccinating them is entirely unnecessary to their own welfare or even to ending the pandemic.
Meanwhile, the injection will interrupt their body’s development to address this new insult. This interruption will occur while the body is still trying to read the higher-dimensional instructions for how to make an adult human. We hope that the body would just address the immediate problem analogous to my cleaning up the battery compartment of the corrosion. We do not expect that the body does not uncover some other instruction that tells the body that as a result of this insult, the body should abandon the project of developing a healthy adult human.