J Bov Explodes Rhetorically

Shoelaces Aren’t That Interesting but Mind-Uploading Is
17/03/2009, 2:57 AM
Filed under: Gibberish, Philosophical Bollocks, SCIENCE!

I will tell you about them anyway.

Backstory: I bought some DC shoes in South Africa that are a patchwork of fabrics, they also had hessian laces.

One broke and I replaced it with a real one, the other broke and I just found a replacement so I decided to replace it this eve.


I put the new lace on my shoe through the bottom pair of eyelets and it wasn’t even so I spent a few minutes getting it exactly right and proceeded to lace it up. It didn’t look right so I took it out and did it again.

I wanted it to look like it had come out of the shop recently so I went to Google searched ‘How to lace skate shoes’.

I found this site. ‘Dude,’ I thought, ‘this is what I’ve been looking for!’ and I decided to use the ‘Display-Shoe lacing’ method as my other shoe was in that style already and it works fine.

I must break off now to inform you that I’m using flat laces. As such I absolutely MUST lace the entire shoe in such a way that there is not a single twist. They have to be completely flat.

After a few re-laces because of twists I finally got it right only to find that I’d laced the shoe so the lace coming from the left side and going to the right was always the uppermost on the crossovers. Exactly the same as the other shoe. I undid the entire thing and relaced them with the right side on top and (twists aside) they were perfect.

This took twenty-eight minutes. Twenty-eight!

I shall now lace my DocMartins in the ‘Roman’ style and see if I like it. If not I’ll try military style, but I think Roman will suit.

Luckily the laces on my boots are normal round laces so twists wont be that much of a problem.

Now, Shoelace related facts:

  • Assuming  the regular six pairs of eyelets on a normal shoe, there are 2 trillion (2 x 1012) possible methods of lacing a shoe using one lace. Assuming that half of those are mirrored versions of other methods that’s still 5 billion (5 x 109) methods.

From the site, on this issue:

In the real world however, we can place some sensible constraints, such as:

  • The lace should generally start and finish from the top pair of eyelets.
  • The lace should pass through each eyelet only once.
  • Each eyelet should contribute to pulling together the sides of the shoe.
  • The lacing should not be too difficult to tighten or loosen.
  • Any pattern formed should be relatively stable.
  • Ignore irrelevant variations (eg. changing the direction through a single eyelet).
  • Above all, the finished result should be visually pleasing.

So how many possible ways are there to lace a shoe with 12 eyelets if we DO take into account some or all of the above constraints? This requires far more complicated maths than the simple multiplications above. For example:

Shoe lacing equation

The above combinatorial equation came from research by Australian mathematician Burkard Polster, who caused a sudden worldwide surge of scientific and academic interest in the mathematics of shoelacing following the publication of an article in the respected journal “Nature” in December 2002.

Although not quoted in the Nature article, Polster’s calculation for the number of real-world lacing methods for a typical shoe with 12 eyelets came to 43,200.

  • Nobody is sure when shoelaces were invented, as they have been in use since long before records were even taken and probably started life as leather strips used to bind the hide-based clothing of early humans.

It is widely mis-reported that shoelaces were invented by Harvey Kennedy on 27th March 1790. This date is centuries after shoelaces were in common use and is clearly NOT correct.

  • The little plastic or metal tip at the end of a shoelace is called an ‘aglet’. The word “aglet” (or “aiglet”) originates from Old French “aguillette” (or “aiguillette”), which is the diminutive of “aguille” (or “aiguilee”), meaning “needle”. This in turn comes from the original Latin word for needle: “acus”.

The site also offers links to places one can buy shoelaces.

Not so exciting till you see that one link offers glowing fibre-optic shoelaces. I want some. I want them so much.

I was thinking about Mind-Uploading today (here‘s a Wiki-link, it’s a fascinating concept).

I was thinking that using certain methods, such as rebuilding the brain in a computer and switching it on would create an entirely different entity. One that thinks, feels and acts exactly the same as the original, but entirely separate from it. Two identical entities existing at once.

This would lead to some interesting outcomes, for example, after the procedure the replacement robot-mind (which we’ll assume was the designed outcome of the experiment, perhaps to gain a semblance of immortality) might decide the human mind was no longer necessary. Is it murder? Is it suicide? Is it the same as throwing out an old t-shirt? I think given the choice my robot replacement mind would want to kill me as a symbolic gesture of the improvement.

As such, it wouldn’t be the subject living forever, but the replicant mind. Which by the nature of existance, as soon as it becomes active, begins to experience the world differently and as such is a different entity entirely to the original. All you’ve achieved there is making an intelligent robot.

Another method is gradual cyborging; the patient is anaesthetised and a part of their brain is replaced by a machine that replicates it’s function exactly. After which the patient is woken up to ensure there’s no problems and then put back under and this carries on until the entire brain is replaced. This method still means the original being dies, as it’s brain is carved up and replaced. The question becomes, if it happened to me, would I wake up? It’s likely that something exactly like me would wake up, confirm perfect function then be killed and a new entity exactly like me would wake up until eventually a robot being, exactly the same as me in almost every way would wake up and confirm it was working correctly. I’d be out the instant they cut my brain.

So that’s not immortality either. Well, not for the original patient, anyway. They wouldn’t be experiencing the rest of the cyborg’s existance, the cyborg would.

The only method that would work, the most feasible one anyway, is a slow and steady replacement of each individual neuron by nanites.

Nanites would enter the brain, scan the surrounding neurons and adopt their exact function. Once they were working correctly they would replace the neurons in that part of the brain and more nanites would scan the next set of neurons, and on in that fashion until the entire brain is nanotech.

The brain, and as such the human, can survive the loss of a few neurons with no ill effect. If they are then immediately replaced by the exact same thing (only in the form of a microscopic robot) then there’s litterally no harm done.

This method would ensure the ongoing experience of the original and would not create a new entity by replacing large chunks and killing the patient or digitising the original and both existing at once to experience things differently, which would bring the philosophy of AI into question as to whether it can be classed as simply a replacement or a new, identical, being.

This leads me to my next point which is equally interesting; using the nanite-replacement method one could also ‘back-up’ one’s mind outside the body for use as ‘insurance’ if the host body was to die (or critically malfunction, I for one am not staying in a flawed biological body when I have a computer brain, and prosthetics are at tops ten years away from being better than organic limbs). The back-up could be inserted into a new robotic body and the entity could keep on living. Especially if the back-up is constantly updated via the acive mind so it would have the same experiences from the same viewpoint and as such would be precisely the same entity that was taken out of commision somehow. (It would of course then experience the world for itself and would not be the original entity, but hell, it’s a step in the right direction.) Or if the body malfunctions, get a new one. Easy as. I intend to have three. One that looks similar to me, albeit more toned and… metallic. One that looks just like a T-800 endoskeleton and one that’s 60-foot tall and has ‘The Peasant Crusher’ written on it’s chest. I’ll explain why in a second.

I’d also think it’d be possible to exist in a virtual environment by simply uploading yourself into it, which would be cool. Think The Matirx, but we choose to exist in it rather than being forced.

Now, certain people (religious people, mainly) would object to having a tech-brain and body and would remain ‘Bio-Humans’ (as opposed to us ‘Tech-Humans’ or Homo Technologicals) and they would give up most technology and become simple farm-folk, living off the land because in an entirely Tech dominated world there would be no need for us to consume anything other than sustainable power-sources, and more power to them, I can see some of us Techs helping them out, I would. But there are always narrow-mindend idiots or extreme zealots who I imagine would actively seek to ight and destroy Tech-Humans. These people more often than not seem to be able to influence people and would gain followers, despite the fact that we just want to get on with our endless (if we should so choose) lives of metallic joy.

In the ensuing ‘war’ (or ‘massacre’, which seems more apt) the Bio-Humans would be wiped-out. I’m not one for fighting, but if someone tried to disable my motor-functions and shut me down just because I chose to transend my ridiculously frail and short-lived biological form, I would have to crush them to dust like an errant fly.

Hence ‘The Peasant Crusher’. Nobody argues with a 60-foot, metal peasant crusher. Not for long, anyway.

J Bov mk. 1


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