The Magic of Numbers – Serial 13

We get pleasure from our five senses and memory

As we have discussed in Serial 1, our five senses can detect pleasant and unpleasant stimuli: smells, the everyday objects we see, the sounds we hear, the food we taste, the roughness, softness, and smoothness of objects. They all can give pleasure. if there is something unpleasant, our survival instincts gives some pain or fright. If everything feels comfortable to our five senses, that means everything is all right.

When those stimuli are experienced simultaneously, they make up the overall experience of an event. If it gives you pleasure, you tend to want more of the experience, you start to like it and feel happy, then smile. If something gives you an unpleasant experience, you tend to dislike it or may give no comment.

Both pleasant and unpleasant experiences will give very strong memories, in turn, we tend to use them as reference points. We can like or dislike different stuff, for example your paint canvas, basketball, trees, the color of a fruit, and your furniture, because they look good to your eyes.

You will also like (be satisfied) your furniture, if they are very comfortable with your sense of touch. Like and dislike also evoke body language in the form of facial expressions.

Also how much you like or dislike stuff will often depend on your talents and personality. You can have similar likes and dislikes with your friend, it is often what you both like in common that brings your relationships close to each other.

Sometimes you may have different talents, for example you are good at mathematics while your friend is good at music. You both can do amazing things and work together on projects, using the best of your talents.

Different talents mean different likes and dislikes. If you are talented in mathematics, you will not appreciate the usefulness of a paintbrush. You can share good memories with each other even if you have different talents or perspectives.

How you value things depend on:

You might first need a criteria on how to set the numerical value of objects.

  • How long things last,
  • How much nourishment it gives you.
  • How much labor it takes to produce them
  • How much you need them (how useful they are to you)
  • How attractive they are, that means it pleases our five senses, as explained above.
  • How it reminds you of memorable personal experiences (sentimental value).

You tend to keep the stuff you have worked hard for. For example, it is a labor to do crop rotation.

You need your house. You need your tools. You need your trees. You need your family and friends. You need your furniture. You need your artwork and ideas for inspiration. We will feel sad if we lose our necessities.

Some things do not last long compared to others, or may take more labor to produce. You find that the furniture or house you have built lasts longer than the ripe fruits you have stored in your cellar.

We also value the things that are attractive, for example the latest piece of music that your friend has given to you, or the beauty of the trees and the freshness of the air in your backyard, which can stimulate you to meditate.

Not all attractive objects last long. Your trees may die, but seeds are always there to replace them, that natural cycles enables trees to reproduce, but humans need to work with their hands and mind on the furniture or tools we make. No food from the natural cycles, no nourishment required for creating tools by hand.

Labor requires nourishment that can fulfill the homeostatic mechanism of hunger. If there is hunger, it is hard to do labor. So you will last long as long as the trees and the environment are there.

Using counting and numbers to value stuff

When you like stuff you tend to value it and want to keep it with you, and may want more of it. Habits also tend to influence how we value stuff. We tend to feel bad when we lose our furniture, because the cushion of the furniture brings comfort. This is true when you have a habit of resting in your sofa after a tiring day.

We also set up a simple 5-star rating system in online stores to quantify how much we value stuff and personal experiences with a tool. We all know different people will rate something differently due to different perspectives. Using numbers to set arbitrary values to objects will be discussed below.

Sometimes our backyard trees may produce excess fruits. To deal with that excess, humans also learnt how to deal with strangers: while trading, they set arbitrary equivalences in the value of objects because humans felt the need to be compensated for their effort. Numbers and counting is very useful for building equivalences: If you give me five (5) oranges, I give you eight (8) apples.

This created the concept of ownership. We tend to compensate for someone if we empathize with the other person.

In the olden days, humanity used a barter system, a system used for trading with people whom you have not built close relationships (strangers).

Barter systems

Why did we use barter systems long ago? We are dealing with strangers most of the time. We are conditioned to believe we must compensate for the people we don’t yet know or not part of our family, or have not built friend to friend relationships.

We simply have not introduced ourselves to those people we are trading with. They have not introduced their likes and dislikes, their ambitions and their talents to you. It takes a week or two to build relationships, but only takes a second to engage in barter. People value what they need (basic existential needs), if we lose anything, we want it compensated.

Example: Your neighbor must have planned a week’s worth of supply of homegrown fruits and vegetables. Some fruits and vegetables are seasonal, or take some time to grow. You don’t feel good when you lose a week’s storage of food, of if a tree from your backyard is uprooted, to be rooted to another place (losing a source of food).

Sometimes we may have excess of what we need: excess fruits and vegetables which will rot (eaten by bacteria and fungi, both are decomposer type of fauna) if nobody in the house eats them.

A neighbor from afar may also have excess of she needs. You need her excess and she needs your excess, thus you engage in barter. You value the excess of each other.

The building of equivalence is important to barter systems

Having the ability to keep things means you can produce something that people may value. Also you are the only person in the neighborhood who can create it, for example you are the only person that can produce your personal artwork. Somebody else in the neighborhood in the only person that can build furniture.

Since you have not had a close relationship with the furniture producer, you barter your art. You have to set the value yourself first, then negotiate with the furniture maker. You know you can always redraw your personal artwork.

Here is an example of how you set the equivalent values of your artwork, based on how nourished you feel:

If my backyard farm in good shape, then I shall trade 3 of my drawings for an armchair.

If suddenly the fruit output is high, then I shall trade 6 of my drawings for an armchair.

Then you wait for the furniture maker’s opinion and you change the numerical value based on how empathize with the furniture maker.

Eventually barter became an inconvenient system of exchanging goods. There is no value in an armchair cut into half or quarters. If you cut your artwork into slices, the furniture maker might miss important details of your creative expression.

Solution to the disadvantages of barter

Selecting metals based on their chemical properties is a solution to the disadvantages of barter. Trading metals is more reliable, because if you cut a metal block into two, it is still very useful as a raw material for creating tools.

Not all metals have chemical and physical properties suitable as a medium of exchange. A rusted (corroded) block of iron is not desirable. The metal should not lose its luster. Gold and silver are metals that do not rust or lose their luster easily.

Not all metals are abundant in supply, gold and silver are quite scarce, and that is what makes them valuable. Some metals are chemically reactive or corrode easy when exposed to seawater. Some metals melt when you hold them in your hand, like gallium.
Some are poisonous and heavy like lead (not the pencil “lead”, which is the graphite form of carbon, a non-metal). Carbon takes the form of soot, graphite and the precious diamond. Soot and graphite are very abundant.

The qualities of gold make it a versatile medium of exchange

Here are the top reasons humans favor gold as a reference point, despite the numerous reference points of value, for example the natural cycles and other metals. Also too many reference points can be confusing and we tend to choose only one to make sense of others, this means we have to make sure the reference point is reliable.

Eventually we compared the value of everyday objects with gold, because it has all of the attractive qualities listed below, it eventually made barter obsolete, but an authority has to set value of all goods compared to gold.

  • Shiny and beautiful.
  • We can make jewelry or tools out of it.
  • Chemically inert, unlike iron (not reactive, does not corrode easily), can last for ages.
  • Strong material

Humans tend to be attracted to shiny objects. The appearance of gold was stunning, when you both saw how shiny it is. The owner of the gold also told you it is hard to find (precious). We tend to keep the things that are hard to find.

Gold does not rot, unlike fruits. Mainly due to the chemically inert properties, of gold, that you can store it for ages, authorities used it as a reference point to how we value stuff. A person’s hard work, or the value of stuff like food, can be represented in gold, this is how we defined wealth.

The fruits of your labor tend to be similar to the strengths of gold. Just like gold, human ideas/insights are timeless. This is why: ”Those who have the gold, make the rules”.

Setting gold as reference point

The reference point enables us to quantify value. Money and grades are counting systems, thus are used for quantifying.

A gold nugget the size of golf ball is more valuable than a green pea. The bigger a gold nugget, the more valuable it is, due to its limited supply. For precision, a gold nugget the size of the green pea can be used a reference point instead of the golf ball. Building equivalences with the value of stuff to gold is a common practice, due to the qualities of gold listed above.

Example: That armchair is worth ten gold nuggets the size of the green pea. This practice is the precursor to the money system we use today, because gold is not easy to carry in large quantities. So people often stored their gold in the goldsmith, for safekeeping.

To not that gold was kept, a piece of paper was issued to the owner of the gold. We simply represent a size of gold by writing it on paper. That paper became a medium of exchange, because it was redeemable for the amount of gold written on the paper note.
This paper became what is called money. For example for a 1-pea-nugget-note: “This note is exchangeable for a gold nugget the size of the pea”. But that was practiced when the gold standard was still valid.

Often our memories and experiences often contribute how we measure the value of stuff with gold. Since a different person will have different experiences, knowledge and memories (likes and dislikes) due to their personality structure, the value of stuff is often subjective. This is why an authority will set the rules, due to this subjectivity.

Grades are similar to money

Also the grades or marks you score from a school examination are similar to money. Any answer that is correct, or correct at least to the current authority’s standard, will be awarded numbers called scores, grades or marks. You will score more with difficult questions, that means difficult questions have more value. They are often measured with point percentages.

Grades indirectly measure how well you understand the subject, but this is not always true because rote memorization is not an effective strategy to understand topics to their very core.

Precautionary measures are based on survival instincts and our ability to plan

We tend to keep things, sometimes in excess, for precautionary measures, for example, storing a week’s worth of fruits and vegetables, to keep us nourished. Precautionary measures causes us to hoard stuff.

We can have too many things to think about or too many things to take care of (cannot think precisely what to do at the moment), this is also what stimulates us to keep the objects we value, especially what nourishes you. This is also what motivates us to plan a supply suitable for an interval, say a week worth of supply.

Example: ensuring that you have enough excess fruits to barter with your neighbor. You ensure you can paint more and more of your art, so that you can continue to barter.

But barter systems do not fully take into account the sustainability of natural cycles and the building of relationships. How we can transcend the barter system and the money system?

We just need to remove complicated and obsolete precautionary measures, which is the main motivator to hoarding, we need to build good relationships with people around us and the natural cycles. It is more difficult to value the self regenerating property of natural cycles with these precautionary measures. Sometimes obsolete precautionary measures destroy the equilibrium of natural cycles, especially if a majority of people practice them.

Some precautionary measures don’t always take into account the valuable person to person relationships you can make, or the equilibrium of natural cycles, or the good ideas you can later create that may transcend obsolete precautionary measures. Those ideas may be more resource efficient than the obsolete ones.

Storing gold or paper money is hardly practical compared to the cycles of flora and fauna

As we all know gold bars or pieces of paper money cannot give you nourishment and ideas or insights. You can only admire its beauty by staring at them all day. That is, money is just as good as the tally marks (which evolved into numbers) you put in your record book or your daily to-do list on your sticky note. Thus storing gold has disadvantages. As we can see money or grades is just a counting system.

All we can do is hoard them. Hoarding is the very origin of competing with resources and the very idea of scarcity, since the whole earth only has a limited supply. We can keep what we need by streamlining our planning skills.

There are more important things such as your way of thinking and managing your basic existential needs rather than liking (valuing) gold and silver. Also, engineering knowledge is essential for building computers. Art is visually pleasing and can be source of inspiration. These are more practical that precious metals. Even ideas in books are.

Gold cannot help you when your backyard trees fail to bear fruit. They will just sit there and do nothing but take up space in your cellar. Only true wealth can be found from the gifts of the flora and fauna around you and how they operate in cycles.

Reproduction of flora and fauna is an integral part of the creature’s life cycle, they ensure a animal or plant species will last for ages. Flora and fauna tend to interact as will be discussed below. The interaction is very difficult to quantify, but keeping track of our needs does the job. Not everything we observed can be fully quantified.

Also you know just like how gold lasts for ages, trees reproduce by storing seeds in their fruits and dispersing them. For some plants, seeds are not possible without insect pollination. The flowers of the plant after successful pollination become fruits. Fruits are anything that store seeds.

There many methods of seed dispersal, like the wind dispersal of the dandelion seed. The seed absorbs water and minerals from the soil, then grows into a sapling, and then a mature tree. Trees get water from their soil and create their own food using photosynthesis, the process harnessing of sunlight into food (sugar).

The bees that pollinate the flowers of the berry trees also reproduce. Flowers give nutrition to the bees via the nectar the flowers produce. A queen bee lays eggs that hatch into bee larvae. The larvae mature into another queen bee or a worker bee. But the environment must be suitable for the flora and fauna to reproduce.

As long as we don’t disturb the cycles, the trees and bees will always work together to produce the fruits you love. Can we also say “Those who have the balanced cycles, make the rules”? Mother Nature makes the rules.

Your relationships to the people and the plants and animals around you matter than hoarding gold. This opens the door for outrospection.

Using numbers for introspection and outrospection

This can be a new reference point instead of precious metals: Consciously contemplating what you truly need and what is enough and what your neighbor needs, this means you have to consider the value of natural cycles. Thus the standards set by some authority become less important since you are confident in your self and your neighbor.

Introspection is reflecting on your basic needs, how you feel ways of thinking, your history and how you interact with all those in your environment.

Outrospection is reflecting on natural cycles that shape your life, you interdependence with flora and fauna. This also includes contemplating the life of your neighbors and how people interact with their environment and the people around them.

Constant introspection and outrospection makes it possible to act locally but think globally. You know how natural cycles operate and you enjoy the what Nature gives you at your locality. A large scale egalitarian information technology system might help in this paradigm. Information technology today relies on numbers.

The usefulness of numbers can help keep track of how much food you have grown in your backyard. You can also track if you need more if you need less. You keep some extra stock for a backup. You set the allowable quantity of food slightly above the requirements.

You observe: How much have I eaten in a day? For the whole week I expect this output, so I ensure that I harvest this much. This is an example of introspection.

The output of the trees can be observed at every season. Counting and numbers is useful for keeping track of them. Any excess fruit can be given to my neighbor, squirrel, bacteria or the fruit bat. This is an example of outrospection.

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