Quantum Library Science: A Review of the Infinite Grey by Kane Faucher
By Jim Chaffee
Those who have read my reviews of the two prior volumes of the Infinite Trilogy may have been presented with an honest appraisal of said volumes by someone who read them. They won't know if that is true until they have read the two volumes; then a possibility remains that they won't know. But there are two conditions that if violated would mean they had not been given such an account. The first stated condition, the honest appraisal, is more difficult to decide by reading the volumes than is the second condition. They will be able to tell by reading if they can indeed tell anything, which cannot be decided by not reading, so the unknown after reading is more trustworthy. A partial collapse of the wave function (otherwise known as decoherence?)? Which brings up the question, What is the wave function of this book? We have to look to the eigenvalues and eigenfunctions, which is what we have been doing, as cogent readers of my reviews of the earlier volumes know. (Perhaps it is better to think Bayesian update from diffuse prior? Is that equivalent?)
One eigenfunction that disappeared was the unltrafinitists. They imploded in a blather composed of their self-imposed small logic. So much for dorks of the Doron Zeilberger class, whose spectrum is smeared across their diaper of religious fanaticism. Good riddance.
There are a few more missing elements, especially in Ian Random where exist the followers who either have not read or cannot understand their beloved leader.
At any rate, this final installment is wider ranging than the earlier installments of the trilogy, by which is meant social commentary, historical scope and compactification of character.
The history of the world after the atrocity of volume two is written in the collapsed style of the Russian mathematician turned pseudo-historian Anatoly Fomenko, in which various early periods of history are denied existence and folded onto later periods, with events separated in time made equivalent through a reality as heavily filtered and with an internal logic as constrained and not even wrong as that of the ultrafinitists regarding mathematics. Hence we find the equivalence of Paul Fabulon and Paulus, Degree Holder, much as Jesus and Plato are amalgamations of several historical figures in Fomenko's chronology. This without considering the placeholder known as Alberto Gimaldi being the same as Paul Fabulon and Jonkil Calembour even as the placeholder Paulus, Degree Holder may be Ram Calembour. And of course, there are no ancient times before the atrocity, in keeping with the New Chronology of Fomenko where the Old Testament was written after the New Testament and regards events that occurred during the Middle Ages, the existence of the dark ages being denied. So with the historical chronology regarding history before the great atrocity and of the so-called Grey, there is in fact none, since there was no prior existence. A trick common these days among such as the followers of Fomenko, the Ultrafinitists, the Tea Party, or dwellers in Ian Random: deny what is not to one's liking. It is the equivalent of calling the filling of a shit sandwich filtered foodstuff.
It is in the implementation of feudalism that I was somewhat disappointed. Faucher falls back on the standard medieval model of monasticism with a binary Scholasticism as retainer of knowledge. Given the new well developed feudalism of modern societies, it seems that it might have been more amusing to let them evolve from the catastrophe into more original forms. In particular, what happened to modern social trappings? Can such really be suppressed?
I refer, in particular, to the feudal forms of contemporary US and Japanese societies. These developments are of some interest in their own right, given that Japan had a feudal structure on which to build while the US did not. The US began as a break-away colony led by wealthy plutocratic land owners dominated by plantation slave holders, nothing like feudalism. Feudalism didn't rise in the US until modern times, after corporate dominance spread to wipe out much of the smaller business not dependent on corporate or government spending for existence. Japan built upon its feudal structure with corporations replacing the war lords and with a large network of middlemen, many of them ceremonial, to maintain a workforce aside from the serfs employed by the corporations, thereby creating a sort of non-governmental tax to redistribute wealth.
There were significant differences in the implementation of modern feudalism by the two societies, though both took their final forms after WWII. In the US, the two-way loyalty of serfs and corporate masters unraveled with the destruction of the labor unions, which were akin to guilds designed for serfs, an innovation. With the loss of employer loyalty came the end of serf fealty, though employer loyalty is missed by many of the unemployed or under-employed who have been released. This is akin to the release of serfs from the land which occurred all over Europe and continued until the 19th century in Eastern Europe (including Germany and Russia) and Italy, the latter not formed as a nation until quite late. The only loyalty of the US corporation is to royalty, the knights and lords who were and continue to be amply rewarded no matter how ineffective their service (see, for an enlightening example, the discussion of William Agee's amply rewarded destructive reign at different companies, in the Wall Street Journal articles of February 2, 1995, page B1, February 13, 1995, B1 and March 31, 1995, page A1; nor is this an isolated example, as Journal articles made clear during it's period of honest reporting; for other forgotten incompetents/criminals, consider Albert "Chainsaw Al" Dunlap or for a more localized example, Steve Papermaster, though it might be difficult to find information regarding Papermaster's amazing fuckups: a search under Agillion, Inc. might turn up some not yet repressed information). Of course, such obeisance to highly-paid non-performing parasites is predicted by Veblen's behavioral theory of human economics, the only economic theory based on empirical observations rather than wishful thinking and rationalization, though one must disregard his superstitious belief in the progressive evolution of human society, whatever that might actually mean, which fortunately has no effect on his economic theory. (It is noteworthy that even as formal economics continues to represent the world as made up of competing small businesses when such is clearly false, one more step back makes clear that the entire notion of supply and demand as causal is totally bullshit and chosen only to make the subject appear scientific.) Whether the US pressure on Japan to end its loyalty to its serfs with lifetime employment, reciprocated with fealty providing labor stability, had an effect is not known to me, but that pressure was intense. In the US, serfs are tightly bound to corporations through debt and the expense of healthcare, corporations the only source for meaningful insurance until (perhaps) recently, bonds not so readily available to the Japanese corporate fiefdoms.
In the US the propertied plutocratic Founding Fathers of a slave society eventually gave way to plutocratic overlords of corporation-dominated society. The rise of Germany and Italy from feudal societies had led to speculation in the period just after the Second World War that societies late to leave feudalism were prone to fascism, though one seldom hears that nowadays. Part of the reason this is no longer discussed is perhaps the difficulty in assigning general meaning to the term fascism outside the specific forms in Italy and Germany (ignoring Spain and Portugal and perhaps, too, Japan). However, there are elements that can be seen as necessary (though not sufficient): extreme nationalism in the sense that the nation is seen as right and superior to all others; propaganda in education and media presentations, especially news, with a common box outside which no one can be taken seriously, no matter the ideological bias of the source (in the US this is effected via corporate-government dominated media); and extreme militarism. A more essential element, sufficient as well as necessary and hence an operationally defining condition, is the amalgamation of government with corporations, whether controlled by government or with corporations embedded within the government which is a step beyond corporatism. The latter form of fascism is what has developed within the US, wherein corporate fiefdoms write laws and control entire swathes of the US legislative structure, especially regulatory laws and the budget. Recent examples include giant banks writing banking legislation, health insurance companies controlling the writing and implementation of health care law (especially Obamacare but clearly a result of employer-provided healthcare in the old tradition of the company store), and energy policy determined by energy producing corporations. More alarming for the long run is the dominance of the American food supply by giant corporations. Whole Foods redefines organic; giant producers undercut small, local producers and sell food grown hundreds if not thousands of miles away that is weeks old; corporations like Monsanto replace genetically diverse crops with Frankenfood; fast food chains confound freshness with never frozen; media bombards Americans with the notion that cooking is a specialized skill best left to prepared food suppliers and fast food chains. This development took root during WWII when corporations were called upon to support the war effort. But the intersection of government and corporations was gradual, coming about in research projects and infrastructure projects both during and after WWII. It gained a giant step forward when President Reagan gave complete control of the DOD budget to the "defense" industry (though this may have happened much earlier with the intelligence agencies and the intelligence industry; it is not clear when that industry actually came into being). There was pushback to this outgrowth of modern feudalism during the Vietnam War, but now all such pushback is muted given it is no longer acceptable to call into question the nation's military or foreign policy goals (which is distinct from questioning how such goals are to be met). And of course, with the all-volunteer military, there is no longer soldier-citizenry to act as a restraint within the military (consider how the French conscripts helped avert the coup resulting from the granting of freedom to Algiers). This modern form of fascism ought be contrasted with the less subtle sort which Teddy Roosevelt stopped around the turn of the 20th century, though arguably such methods are again in play with the supreme court ruling that money is speech, a bit of bullshit that highlights the fact that the training of lawyers is based on casuistry and not logic.
Far more apparent is the management of elections by plutocrats through their corporate fiefdoms. The very idea that a nation as large and diverse as the US can be a representative democracy through a strictly enforced two-party system is ludicrous, but more important is that with the growth and control of giant media by corporate fiefdoms has come anew the ability to ensure that the candidates from which one is certain to be chosen are vetted by overlords. This was certainly the case early in the nation's history, but was broken by Andrew Jackson. More complete control is now exercised than even during the period of the Founding Father plutocracy. In this sense, the US democracy now resembles that of the 16th century Rzeczpospolita (Republic) of the Kingdom of Poland and Grand Duchy of Lithuania (which included the palatinates of Ukraine) in which the nobles elected a king hired on contract to manage state affairs. This is akin to the elections for political offices in the US, the more powerful the office the more managerial control exercised over who is allowed a chance to win. Moreover, the smaller the electorate involved the less power media might exercise, so the more local the office the more difficult to effectively manage. But the genius innovation is allowing "the people" to vote for the (two) constrained choices in a general election, giving the illusion that they are exercising power with their vote. It is a way to stem revolutionary fervor, as well as persuading citizens to accept their lot: after all, they made the choice. This illusion is enforced via public "education" and the official corporate media propaganda (news, entertainment, commercials). It seems that during earlier centuries feudal structures in some areas of Europe evolved into democracies in which lords were able to vote their influence, a step in the direction of the US implementation of such managed democracy. Norman Davies makes clear (in Europe: A History) that absolute totalitarianism is a myth, though a handy one for use as a straw man to hold up to the constrained systems which are now considered free, democratic societies. This works hand-in-hand with the misapprehension that somehow feudalism, fascism, totalitarianism, and democracy, among other political "systems," are necessarily disjoint categories. Nothing could be farther from the truth, though they can be made to seem so by restrictive, meaningless "definitions" promulgated by compulsory miseducation and propagandist entertainment and commercials via film and television.
Dwelling so much on the feudalism in the novel does not adequately represent the wide range of action. In particular, the nature of the library comes up both through an argument between two characters, Castellemare and Setzer, who have been prominent throughout the series, and as a final state of nature in the metaphorical winding down of the trilogy. The unraveling of the universe is fitting as an ending to the trilogy, but the characterization of the library and the aforementioned debate makes more explicit the possibility that the infinite library is a librarian's hallucination of an Everett-like many worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics. In the debate, Setzer, supposedly the more mathematical of the characters, denies that the library is infinite, but that is likely a manifestation of quantum decoherence given all the varieties of collapse with measurements, both intended and unintentional through interaction with the environment. I am sure that professors of literature could be kept busy for eons ferreting out and listing (and inventing) all the instances of measurement (see the work of John Bell regarding what is a measurement in quantum mechanics).
Faucher devotes more attention to education as an activity than in prior volumes. As a professor he is aware of the current replacement of certification for education. It is becoming commonplace for those certified as educated to be barely literate and unable to think for themselves or rationally question what they are taught (or apply reason in any context). This has been noted by Professor Kenji Ueno, for example, who writes in the preface to An Introduction to Algebraic Geometry (American Mathematical Society, 1997) that the recent phenomenon of Japanese students' inability to draw conclusions from what they read is "probably due to the overemphasis on success in entrance examinations at the expense of ‘the importance of thinking for oneself.'" This regarding the Japanese, who have outperformed American students in all aspects of academic competition, most especially in problem solving, the only meaningful measure of creativity. The purpose of all schooling preceding university in the US has been a modicum of socialization and indoctrination into official mythology taught as history followed by certification. Now ceremonial certification is become the business of US academia as well; education is an occasional by-product in certain disciplines at certain schools, though it is rare. That stamping more people as certified educated via this system will improve US competitiveness in the world is ludicrous, but convincing other nations to follow our lead in a downward spiral would certainly be effective. Why not certify at birth? It would accomplish as much toward educating the populace.
This final volume of the trilogy seems more entangled with other volumes than the earlier two, so it does not seem to me to stand alone so well. However, Chapter L, beginning on page 550, entitled Setzer, Schulmann, Gimaldi, and Castellemare, gets to the crux of the entire issue of the library, the nub of the final volume, while laying bare important aspects of the series. It is best left to the reader to explore this, as attempting to detail it would perhaps take up more space than was allotted to the trilogy.
I would suggest that readers brush up on pataphysics. Nothing too detailed. Perhaps Andrew Hugill's Pataphysics: A Useless Guide, available from the MIT Press. Pataphysics would be a fitting study for US students and ought be taught as early as possible, probably no later than middle school. It seems to form an appropriate foundation for what is called political science, with the same relationship as sophistic casuistry to law. Of course, political science is an adjoint of law via transformation by post hoc rationalization.
Faucher displays his descriptive powers throughout the book, but the following chopped up quotation aptly fits the contemporary US and is a fitting place to close.
"The days of the sensationalist villain bundled in eccentricities and obvious mental defects are over. If we speak of evil at all, it must be packaged in the banal, in the bureaucrat, in the official whose words are not stentorian and memorable, but bland and reassuring for all their blandness. Their meaning must be tucked behind walls of bureaucratic jargon and euphemism, and the changes they effect must seem worthy of adoption, gradual in nature. Evil today must be clothed in grey, a role occupied by an understated man in an established institution… If there is evil to be done, let it be legislated politely or unemotionally through a regulatory bureaucratic procedure."
This typifies the presidency at least since Kennedy. Very few Jean Bédel Bokassas are on the scene, though US media portrays our official enemies in that light with regularity. In a world of black and white, our own Presidents need to appear gray to appease both political "sides," a rule violated by Nixon. Most often in the last few decades they have been the whining bureaucratic spy master groveling on the floor while vomiting on the shoes of his Japanese host; the hickish good ol' boy, chubby, cherubic, smiling and drawling, a modern fertility figure as Norman Mailer once noted in an article in the New York Review of Books; the kindly, doddering, incoherent grandfather; the semiliterate cowboy; the international of humble origins with expertise in law; the smiling Southern farmer who sins in his heart; the crass Texas speedster who gives interviews while taking a dump. The lurkers in the background are the vice-presidents, the likes of a criminal Spiro Agnew or snarling, trigger happy Dick Cheney or a joker Joe Biden. It is only there that one sees the shadow of a Bokassa-equivalent, not as an individual but rather as the true image of the national character imposing its twisted vision of freedom on the world.
© Jim Chaffee 2013