Thursday, June 2, 2016

The information complexity of bee sexuality

Recently I began to see people ambiently talking about bee sexuality. Which, as you might imagine, made me go wtf, until I stumbled upon the context (apparently, worker bees are all female, and Bee Movie got it wrong). Upon finding this out, the wtf factor disappeared, and so did my interest in the matter. But it did get me thinking about information processing.

Information processing happens in iteration cycles. The information differs from case to case, but the general process is the same every time, with up to five stages if the information is complex enough.

The first stage is the wtf stage. You have encountered something, and have no reference points for what it might be. The thing just exists, an intrusion into your ordinary mode of understanding the world around you. There are things that make sense, and there are things that do not. This thing is clearly in the latter category.

The second stage is the huh stage. You've been given or acquired some context to the thing, and started to make sense of it. You still don't understand it, but whenever you encounter it again, you can confidently go "huh, I've seen this before".

The third stage is the exploratory stage. You've begun to understand the thing, and are exploring the possibilities afforded by it. Thoughts that follow the lines of "if, then" are starting to enter your head, and you try it out just to see if the thens then. Just to see if you've actually understood the thing, and to satisfy your emerging curiosity.

The fourth stage is the experimental stage. You've grasped the thing, and now try to relate it to other things previously grasped. Using your accumulated body of knowledge, you try to find where the things belong and where it does not, and where it would produce interesting results if introduced. Some of your experiments will succeed, others will fail, some will fail spectacularly.

The fifth stage is the meh stage. You've understood the thing, done the thing, done the permutations of the thing, and know where to apply it to best effect. In short, you're rather bored with it, and can do it in your sleep or mindless working hours if called upon to do so.

Of course, this is not a thing that happens once and then never again. It happens all the time, all around us. Different people are at different stages, and that which engenders a wtf reaction in one person is a meh to another person. Nothing is static - everything is constantly processed.

The things to look out for are the iteration cycles. While these stages are pretty agnostic to the online/offline divide, the online has the advantage of faster iteration cycles. Things can go from wtf to meh faster than you think, and more things can undergo this transition in parallel than you imagine. Which means that, left to its own devices, the online can produce some spectacularly fast mehs, and generate demand for very particular wtfs that seem very far from the offline experience.

So the next time you stumble upon discussions of bee sexuality, remember this post. Introducing it to the context might produce some interesting results. -

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