Singular Extracellular Matrices and Information Rebirth in Kane Faucher's The Infinite Atrocity
By Jim Chaffee
To be sufficient is never to be free, but it remains possible to be quasi-complete.
—The Pseudo-Heraclitus, Statistics and Information
It is a pity that all energetists have passed away long ago.
—Benoit Mandelbroit, The Role of Sufficiency and of Estimation in Thermodynamics
Unlike the first volume in Kane Faucher's The Infinite Trilogy, the second volume requires little to no mathematical preparation, although it does require more functional literacy than would likely be found among recent US college graduates. It is unnecessary for readers to have learned much modern set theory beyond familiarity with the continuum hypothesis and then needed only toward the end of the book. My review of the first volume is available which could be of some help, but probably wouldn't be and is likely better avoided.
The novel may be read at many levels, possibly uncountably many levels, but in this review our concern will be with three of them. The first of them is
Inverting Ayn Rand
Faucher stands the bitch on her head. This ain't so hard to do given her transparent vapidity in designing monsters as heroic protagonists who would not long survive outside the inconsistent and hence impossible ambient background she creates for them. Her heroes are theriomorphic deities with antisocial dominance traits, stuck among lesser beings called humans, social animals she considers weak and effeminate due to their dependency on society for survival. These dominant monsters prey on the less aggressive pure humans as vampires prey on humans in the third rate potboilers currently so popular among the stupid; her writing appeals to the same sorts, for the same reasons, but now with the pretension of intellectuality and literature and philosophy among those of arrested noetic development stuck in the same mind set as the childish vampire-genre devotees. It's the same shit except Rand's plots are less believable and far less likely.
By creating a trio of dummy characters, placeholders if you will, Faucher represents the cliché Rand stocks-in-trade without making them cliché. It's a nifty trick. He places them in a less amenable background. The weak one (Jacob Sigurdsson) and the mandatory panmictic cooze (Alexa Richter) in the beginning collide, literally, outside the office of the motherfucker who will dominate them both (Dr. Edward Albrecht, psychologist or psychiatrist, never made clear though he does prescribe drugs in Canada; Alexa is his patient and sometime squeeze). Albrecht rises Rand-like to the place she reserves for her selfish, egocentric pricks but this time the consequences are not nourishing for society.
Such consequences are in keeping with actual events as they unfold in reality, a bothersome detail that Rand devotees (Randees) refuse to see. There are a myriad of actual people who would aspire to Ayn Rand heroics, most of them in jail or dead. An easy one is Bernard Madoff, chosen here to illustrate how intellectually stunted are the Randees.
Madoff is so obvious a Rand prototypical protagonist that it has been commented on repeatedly. There are better examples, but Madoff is applied here since this obvious comparison irked a Randee of some note (a member of a worshipful society, itself an irony that it is doubtful its members will appreciate) who was prompted to explain why Madoff was not someone "selfish" in the special (and undefined in any operational sense) meaning of Rand's. His explanation was that someone truly "selfish" would not now be in prison. That is not a lifestyle to which a "selfish" person would aspire to subject himself.
Consider how childish is the "reasoning" in this argument; this is a common shared characteristic of Randees. There is a hidden assumption that only one of retarded intellect would fail to see. That assumption is that a "selfish" person would have the prevision to foresee the consequences of his actions, of where they would lead. But anyone who reads Rand will see this is not part of her "definition;" rather, people who are selfish in the sense of Rand's supermen have massive egos. Their intellect is crippled by what is termed an infinite ego-to-brain ratio (EBR), a common affliction among media people for example. It is also one of the reasons very intelligent people who might specialize in obscure scientific or engineering disciplines of extreme complexity outside the ability of the majority of humans would fall for schemes less brilliant humans would not fall for. The infinite EBR does not allow them to see simple consequences when they are themselves involved. Of course, infinite EBR can also befall those of modest intellect, a humorous spectacle one finds in celebrities like Chris Matthews or Bill O'Reilly. So the argument by the Randee that a selfish person as brilliant as Madoff must have been would not have pursued a course that would end him in such a future position is logically specious. Nor is there any reason to believe that Madoff is of anything but average intelligence, since running a scheme such as his depended less on intellect and more on the ability to schmooze the right people, helped immensely by having been one of the founders of the NASDAQ and hence above suspicion. Madoff believed he would not be caught, an obscuration of reality by his giant ego. He was smart enough to realize fleeing would not help, as he would clearly be caught and humiliated. So when his scam was no longer sustainable, he turned himself in, the ultimate selfish and egotistical act which kept him from ever being caught.
Randees like Paul Ryan are even more amusing to watch, even if in the long run more damaging to society. Mr. Ryan famously declared himself to be a devout Catholic atheist. Of course, he didn't say it in so many words. He claims to be a devout Catholic and he also claimed to be a follower of Ayn Rand or at least of her philosophy. The Catholic Church itself informed Mr. Ryan that such a position was logically untenable given that a fundamental tenet of Rand's "philosophy" is atheism. This is a necessary condition to be a follower of her philosophy, probably one of the less stupid ones. That the clueless Mr. Ryan (who said after the rebuke from the Church that he was not a follower of Rand, a lie given that it was recorded: he had made this statement during a speech to a "conservative" group) didn't realize this simple inconsistency tells us that 1) he lied about having read Rand or 2) he cannot read with comprehension. Since his requirement that his staff read Rand's gibberish (something one would assume they had done and seen through in high school or before) implies he has read her work, he then cannot have comprehended it. That is, the man cannot read with comprehension. He is a functional illiterate. Given that among his generation of humans educated through college within the US one has only a fifty-fifty chance of meeting a functional literate, that is no surprise. (In the past decade the percentage of functionally literate US college graduates has fallen to thirty percent; it was seventy percent in the decade of the 1970s and fifty percent in 1990s. You do the extrapolation.)
It is amusing that the Republican Party considers Ryan their intellectual leader. A functional illiterate would not be considered under most circumstances a good choice of intellectual leader, but then it does allow for more identification with blue collar workers: Hey, dudes, I can't read either! And in fact, God forbid (Rand notwithstanding) the Republican Party have a functionally literate intellectual leader. There would then be no excuse. Rather, it explains a lot.
That is perhaps the most accessible level of the novel, obstructed only by the manner of telling, which leads to the second level
The tale entangles Albrecht, Alexa and Jacob Sigurdsson even as six other characters are synthesized into a new version or stronger version of one of the three or maybe someone else entirely, continuing a synthesis begun in the first volume of the trilogy. The six seem to believe they will be merged or submerge into Albrecht, but the final outcome is never quite discernible though it seems clear there is no such submersion. Of course, skulduggery is afoot most apparently with spies, but who spies for whom becomes itself entangled in the entanglement of these six in the entanglement of the three who are entangled with two authors who both work on the Ars Atrocitatis, the novel or whatever it is that becomes the events leading to the infinite atrocity. Both the authors Gimaldi and Castellemare played major roles in the first volume, with Gimaldi tasked by the library to write the atrocity into some sort of existence even as Castellemare edits the work while it is written, perturbing unfolding reality. As the side by side tales are spun by Gimaldi and warped by Castellemare, converging to a single tale, an unknown transforms the tale still more, with neither Castellemare nor Gimaldi aware of the final outcome or of who is changing the point of convergence. Intertwined with the chapters of the Ars as written followed by the transformation as edited are a continuo of works that provide simultaneous background or back story (akin to Huxley's Eyeless in Gaza with converging back stories, but higher dimensional given three or more independent "narratives" and a pair of holonomically constrained direct narratives) or both or perhaps neither (perhaps lies), including a tale of a volcano erupting in a grimly historical and forgotten atrocity-ridden backwater village in Russia where resides a whore who might or might not be Alexa prior to immigrating to the US, though all of it is destroyed by the volcano before said immigration in a final local atrocity.
To use a once trendy term, this might be an example of metafiction, if indeed the term, invented it seems by William H. Gass in a 1970 essay (meta-literature? meta-criticism?), has any meaning at all (contrast John Barth's notion versus that of Gass). Most likely it is more bullshit from literature professors trying to sound like they possess some special insight to pass on. Clearly it is nothing like metamathematics in which a larger language engulfs a formal language to study some form of consistency as well as the theorems that can be proved in the formal language versus those that are unprovable, some of which might be true whatever that might actually mean (it can be defined operationally, but various definitions have created gangs and death squads within mathematics hunting down their enemies in the mausoleums of academia, the ultrafinitists most dangerous; they played an important role in the first of the trilogy). For an example, see Paul Cohen's Set Theory and the Continuum Hypothesis or Kurt Gödel's Über formal unentscheidbare Säder Principia Mathematica und vermandter Systeme I. Perhaps this novel is not metafiction, given that the fiction within the fiction creates the fictional reality and hence necessarily mirrors it but not by choice and even then only between chapters until the tale converges to a merged variant finalized by neither author nor editor. The book is alive and self-directing beyond the interaction of characters and story in Gilbert Sorrentino's Mulligan Stew.
As discussed earlier, Albrecht is the Randian element; like Rand he embraces contradictory sets of premises. In Rand these are trivially apparent. For example, her metaphysical position that what one sees is what is real is problematic given her ethical requirement of embracing science, whatever that might be but one assumes some sort of empiricism sometimes called the scientific method, a term without operational meaning as there is not any such thing. But neither quantum physics nor general relativity reflect what humans perceive, contradicting Rand's what you see is what is (WYSIWI), though it is hard to be certain what she means by what is seen and was likely confused in any case. This would be in keeping with her embrace of Aristotle as the basis of right-minded philosophy, a harebrained notion given that Aristotle believed objects fell at different rates depending on their weight and could not bother to disabuse himself of such stupidity by observing objects falling side by side. With his dual, the nitwit Plato who invented idealism, these two promulgated malarkey that stood the test of time, keeping the world in darkness for centuries, especially as the Catholic Church first integrated Plato (via Augustine early on) and then later Aristotle (via Thomas Aquinas, who read translations of Aristotle preserved by the Arabs) into their dogma, Hellenizing its burgeoning brand of formal organized superstition and cleansing it of original Judaic influence. Which dogma they enforced on the populace by murder and torture. And of course, Albrecht, like Rand, misunderstood Nietzsche. And both Albrecht and Rand ignore what is readily apparent, namely that the human primate is totally dependent on society for survival, and promote the misguided and clearly bogus humbug that heroes transcend society to promote their own wills. As Faucher puts it in Albrecht's words, much pithier than Rand's own, "I have no time for ethics in that way. Conscience is the flat luxury of the uninspired. Conscience is only a wall of tangled briars that are to be machete-slashed by the autonomous artist who wishes to free his creative powers and actualize upon his dynamic intensities."
For Albrecht the contradictions include his notion of what is science versus what is art (said misunderstanding of science likely true as well of Rand), his little brain forced to make clear distinctions in what he perceives. The book presents a mishmash of notions of what is science from Albrecht's consideration of himself as a scientist when practicing psychology or psychiatry (a terrible conceit that if seen in a physician, for example, ought to cause one to seek another physician: one wants the physician to be an engineer, not a scientist (which is a kind of philosopher)) to the geologist Kastellemarovic in Ex Libris 15 mistakenly believing that scientific theories are confirmed instead of failing to be falsified, a significant difference. Taking on only Albrecht here, his giant ego casts him in his own mind as a scientist, when of course there is no science in psychology though certain schools of psychology, most notably the reductionist behaviorist school of B F Skinner (destroyed effectively by Noam Chomsky with a single essay) did accept the positivism of the Vienna Circle as the scientific method in order to dress themselves as a science. This giant mistake for Albrecht brought about by his infinite EBR causes him to believe his own stuff which leads to expecting predictions to be correct which leads in turn to several obstructions to his plans which are carried out in the end despite his mistakes (reminiscent of The Giles? or perhaps more reminiscent of the financial disaster befalling Merton and Scholes, Nobel Prize winners who believed their pure mathematics had physical meaning and applied it as if it were science through Long Term Capital Management LP, causing themselves severe financial harm while nonetheless becoming heroes of finance.)
Albrecht's goal is to free humanity, but in precisely the opposite of Rand's notion of freedom. Albrecht sees freedom as the release of human tension brought on by society. He says, "There are no supermen in my philosophy—there are only emancipated bodies realizing their excess energies. There will be no self-creation of values because this very idea of a self will cease to be relevant, at least for a time. Once the energy that desires cruel expression has been sated, selves and values will form once more until another catharsis becomes necessary." This is a profound difference with Rand. What he doesn't foresee is anarchy and societal breakdown, that which Rand would keep in check for those in the "inferior and middling stations of life," as Adam Smith put it, retaining freedom from social constraint only for her supermen. Albrecht moves towards his goal by freeing art to become atrocity, the opposite of Rand who like the Soviet Communists she fled would control art for purposes of social propaganda even as her supermen run rampant. (Note that the vision of supermen running rampant is very much the vision of the Republican Party, which promotes the status of corporations as legal supermen above the laws designed for the individual citizen, a clever observation by Paul Ryan in embracing Rand.) It is quite doubtful that many of those in the "inferior and middling stations of life" would consider themselves free under the conditions that Rand, Albrecht or the Republicans propose, though they are easily duped into so believing by news media as propaganda, controlled in good measure not by the "left" or the "right", but by the government and the corporations that make up significant portions of the government as misinformation sources and propagandists through a network of agents within the official (read corporate) media. The New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and of course Wall Street Journal for example, are all disseminators of official government lines, even employing agents of the CIA. (Who can forget the memorable Judith Miller, agent of the regime of Bush the Younger and possibly a CIA plant, spreading misinformation through the New York Times, likely with the complicity of upper management. Perhaps Miller trumps Joan Peters and her From Time Immemorial which might have been a Mossad fraud, a propaganda piece aimed at residents of the US; it may have accomplished the opposite of what was intended, showcasing the US "intellectual community" as itself a gang of frauds.)
A long extract from Ex Libris 3 early on, provides fodder. It is penned by an anonymous librarian later perhaps killed in the purges and previews the initial conditions of the non-minimal path traversed by the unfolding of actions (stochastic differential equation?) by fits and starts along a labyrinth of cul-de-sacs, inspired perhaps by the Giles' own trajectory in Barth's novel Giles Goat Boy.
"From the transcendentalizing of the free market economy comes the enabling function of aggrandized self-entitlement and a higher instance of narcissistic tendencies. Also, anxiety and alienation increases at an epidemic rate which leads to greater dissatisfaction, greater increase of social unrest, violence, and a feeling of betrayal that the myth of economic determinism providing for the unity of self (with world, others, and self) remains unfilled. Sociopathic tendencies also increase, alongside intermittent explosive disorder, and less obvious character disorders. With greater sense of entitlement resting on a foundation of unsustainable quality of life expectations (itself founded on the myth of infinite fossil fuels), there is also an increase in the further infantilization of the populace. This leads to ever more opinion (echoed from media sources) being expressed without accountability. Pride in stupidity becomes a virtue, and is further exacerbated by a turn to decadent and frivolous entertainment that attempts to mask the truth that an entire way of life is in decline. Myths are added such as instant wealth and celebrity. The populace becomes ever more immune to facts as they rally around polarizing opinions and show contempt for authorities and experts. The latter is informed by digital technologies that grant access to ‘information' in its most trivial sense. Redundancy and banality become cardinal aspects of the new age."
So here are provided initial conditions with society modeled on the US in the so-called "information age," a conceit of monkeys who believe intelligence is displayed in the ability to manipulate gadgets whose workings they do not understand (hence magic). The media is a culprit in the transcendentalizing of "the economy," a meaningless expression which pundits love to expound upon as they act out on opinion and business news programs like a raucous assemblage of Macaca mulattas (Rhesus monkeys) displaying and vocalizing on the airwaves, an apt comparison though it is likely unfair to the monkeys. Note the expression "the economy" is frequently used as shorthand for everything that public officials do not understand about the workings of the institutions devoted to distributing goods and services in society, aspects that they are unable to specify and hence lump under that term as meaningless rubric. And as a perfect example of the failure of the internet as a source of knowledge, consider Wikipedia, perhaps the greatest source of misinformation of all time, where opinion overrides expertise to the extent that experts refuse to contribute, leaving only the clueless. It reminds one of management wanting to put fans on orbiting satellites to cool computer processors.
Gimaldi's seed for Chapter 16 is "The assertion of humanitarian values, of egalitarianism and multiculturalism will be denounced as economic threats that endanger the well-being of the citizen, depicted in a pejorative light as an unearned social handout." This of course runs straight out of the contemporary playbook of the so-called "conservative" politicians, but is also in the wheelhouse of Albrecht as he attempts to overcome the equilibrium state of present existence.
Overcoming the equilibrium state of present existence with energy as a sufficient statistic for the estimation of inverse temperature is how Albrecht gains control, though he eventually loses it. Of course temperature is a macroscopic variable and so beyond a certain level down, the estimate cannot be improved by measuring over finer partitions. This is squarely within the classical case, and it leaves one to wonder just how to work into this discussion the ever trendy terms information and entropy and perhaps even cybernetics. There is a way, as explained in a famous paper of Maurice Stoker, Metaphysical Bundles of Simile over Pseudo-Macho Hemingwayesque Trivial Spaces with Applications to the Unintentional Asemics of Cyberneticists in the Large, Nonlinear Methods in Topological Literary Criticism, Vol. 2, Number 3, July, 2004, which even provides an algorithm. And as we will show, Stoker's celebrated equivalence theorem also applies here, allowing a partial (perhaps complete) list of papers to which this novel is equivalent (though it does not nor can it address the issue of whether the author intentionally set out to use Stoker equivalence).
As the informed reader will know, since we are assuming both the zeroth and first principles of thermodynamics we can also add adiabatic invariance. This is a segue into the more classical forms of the phenomenological second principle of thermodynamics as applied of course to literature, and so brings in the Phaffian form of first variation of entropy (not actually a differential, but still integrating to measure the change of entropy if and only if the integral around closed paths be independent of paths). See how easy that was?
Albrecht, stuck unable to refine his estimates, instead resorts to statistical mechanics as an approach to the thermodynamic variables controlling the populace (who are stuck in a giant heat reservoir in steady state, if you will, which is equivalent to a form of information death) and seeks to break them free with a series of massive and continuous fluctuations in the sense of Landau and Lifshitz. This is equivalent it seems (according to Mandelbrot) to applying the Fisher information matrix as lower limit to the (co)variance of the estimate of the inverse temperature. But it seems in order to be general enough to disrupt thermal equilibrium, a necessary and sufficient statistic for the requisite estimate of the parameter before the adiabatic isolation is prerequisite, but can only be accomplished by the parameter after isolation, a difficulty given Albrecht must force events to go diabatic. And this requires a Radon-Nikodym derivative, which need not yield the requisite properties of conditional probability. Hence in the end, Albrecht's problem reduces to Mandelbrot's problem as to whether or not thermodynamics can be generalized beyond the Euclidean conceptualization of state and parameter. In essence, this book can be replaced with the following brief papers:
Paul R. Halmos and L. J. Savage, Application of the Radon-Nikodym Theorem to the Theory of Sufficient Statistics, The Annals of Mathematical Statistics, Volume 20, 1949, pages 225-241.
Benoit Mandelbrot, The Role of Sufficiency and of Estimation in Thermodynamics, The Annals of Mathematical Statistics, Volume 33, 1962, pages 1021-1038.
Benoit Mandelbrot, On the Derivation of Statistical Thermodynamics from Purely Phenomenological Principles, Journal of Mathematical Physics, Volume 5, Number 2, February 1964.
Of course, given the limitations imposed it is impossible to obtain the sufficient statistic for the parameters before isolation from the parameters after isolation, since the nature of thermal isolation do not apply and no return is possible. Hence everything turns to shit.
For the reader unprepared to enter this final discussion, Chapter 1-3, 10 and 12 of Jean-René Barra's little book Mathematical Basis of Statistics, Academic Press, 1981, is recommended. (This is a translation from French of Notions fondamentales de statistique mathétique, Bordas Dunod Gauthier-Villiars, 1971.)
There remains the reviewer's question of when Stoker's theorem will be applied to a work of fiction equivalent to Paul Malliavin's Stochastic Calculus or more generally the Malliavan calculus. Perhaps it will await the arrival of the reviewer's own work in mathematical pornography which is in the final stages.
Unfortunately, to work in the expression cybernetics will take us too far afield.
© Jim Chaffee 2012