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Gender is just like quantum physics
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I'd be shocked if more than about five or so people actually fully understood what I'm talking about here, and unsurprised if nobody did. I suspect that those who grok the maths and physics type bits will not grok the gender-theory type bits, and vice versa. However, I'm going to post it anyway, because I'm sure that you all really need more proof that I'm a complete and utter dork.

So, we have the traditional view of gender, which is discrete. There are two distinct states into which everyone falls. Go a little bit more progressive and you get a line with "male" at one end, "female" at the other, and "androgynous" in the middle. Go a little further and you get what amounts to a two dimensional vector space, with male on one axis and female on the other, which allows for differentiation between "both" and "neither". Then, you can add an extra axis, perpendicular to the first two, and labeled "other", giving gender as a three dimensional vector space.

So far so good. I've seen this sort of model, or slight variations upon it, proposed numerous times. The problem is that "other" is a distinctly catch-all type of term. There's no reason why there can't be a second other which is independant of and orthogonal to the first one (and to male and female). Or a third. Or a fourth. Or any number. So let us add an infinite number of dimensions, each with infinitesimal contributions, and move over to a Hilbert space. Let us also remove the labels "male" and "female" from this basis since giving any significance to individual dimensions becomes utterly pointless.

So, each person has a certain inate gender, which is, essentially, some infinitely dimensioned vector within our hilbert space. It would then seem to make sense that we never actually observe the gender directly, but rather that we observe how certain operators act upon it -- or, to put it another way, how the person in question responds to a given set of stimuli. Now, if we allow our operator to be an eigenfunction to the gender's eigenvector then we allow for our actual observable to be a simple eigenvalue.

I'm just about managing to convince myself that it's plausible for their to be whole families of gender-functions which could have broadly similar eigenvalues for many operators, but maybe one or two divergent behaviours, and that this would, essentially, depend upon the exact form of the operators. There could be, for instance, two such broad families, which we could label "male" and "female" and then for the rare gender-function that falls outside these families, we could have chaotic behaviour.

It's simple, really.

So, did anyone understand any of that? And if so, does any of it sound like a remotely useful model, or was it just the pseudo-intelectual wangst that I believe it to be?

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It actually makes sense (in as much as I'm able to follow it). I can't see a use for the model for myself, but if I mentally collapse the space back to three dimensions for visualisation then I can see how gender clusters around the broad families could be ... I can't put into words the picture which I have in my head ... But it works.

I grok. Uncertain as to whether I agree, but I grok ...

I feel as though I understood it, but the image/shape in my head may be different to the image/shape in your head. It looks useful to me.

It makes sense as a model as far as I can tell. Whether I agree with it I can't say off hand without further thinking about it. Maybe I'm just fascinated by considering properties of infinitely dimensioned spaces.

senji pointed this page out on irc...

I can't see how it makes any sense to talk of "the eigenfunction of an eigenvector": AIUI they are different names for essentially the same thing, generally used in different contexts.

Apart from that you've got a gender g, a member of vector space G (possibly infinite-dimensional,), and some individual's interpretive responses to gender R, a function in G->G (presumably a simplification arrived at by taking responses to the world in general and considering only gender-related things). If you're going to talk about eigenvectors then I think what is missing is why R is a homomorphism and why some person's g should happen to be one of the eigenvectors of R.


Re: senji pointed this page out on irc...

Going to (hopefully) respond to the rest of this after I've actually had time to think it through fully, but responding to the first paragraph now.

Typically, you can have a matrix M. This can then have an eigenvalue n associated with a eigenvector lamda. This gives you M*lamda = n*lamda. When I said "eigenfunction" I was refering to the (matrix representation of) the operator M. I think you may well be right that I've fluffed my nomenclature though; but that's what I was intending to refer to.

Re: senji pointed this page out on irc...

If genders are supposed to be the vectors and perceptions the functions, the questions are why the functions should be linear and why the genders should be eigenvectors for them.

To the extent I understand this, it makes sense.

It does lead, again, to the question of whether the tendency to collapse those observations to a very few points (often to only two) is primarily because that's what we've learned to see, or because most people's genders cluster in a few places.

I am also reminded of a friend's idea that there are as many sexual orientations as there are people; that we label them in a few groups for convenience or because we consider some differences/aspects more important than others; and that those labels in turn tend to limit our explorations.

I'm probably not the friend in question--I've only taken it as far as "What if everyone's a different gender?" I'm currently playing with the idea that all the usual gender identities mostly function as conveniant handles for blackmail/social control.

I'm recommend Hanne Blank's speech--she describes her sexual identification as sovereign. Aside from having a pleasingly high level of attitude, it may be a sounder theory because it allows for the possibility of preferences changing with time. Or is part of the point of the physics/math that you can leave time out, and assume that people have permenent orientations which get expressed varyingly under different circumstances?

I admit I'm skimming the hard parts of the math, so I'm not sure why the non-male, non-female points would exhibit especially chaotic behavior. I would think they'd just be outside the majority clouds of points.


There's no reason the modeling can't be done at different times with different results. You could also include time in the model, though I don't know anyone whose gender varies in a sufficiently straight (heh) line to call it a vector.

If not a vector, perhaps a geodesic.

I don't get it!!
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Nahhh just kidding. I get it. :)

Yes, thats my idea of a joke today.

Well, I didn't get all the terminology, but I think I know what you mean.

Put in non-mathematical terms, I believe you said that gender is mostly a function of one's own internal and external environment, and that there are or could be as many genders as there are people. Therefore the only point of gender labeling is to make broad generalizations about a group of similarly-gendered people, with the understanding that these generalizations may be inaccurate and only temporarily useful.

And I say, wow, wouldn't it be great if gender were not an important data point in describing someone! In other words, awesome model, too bad most of society doesn't function that way.

Yet.

Having never taken a physics class, I understood it up until the last sentence of the fourth paragraph. Interesting idea, but I think I don't understand the point you were trying to make.

think I get it, more or less

at any rate I was laughing as I was reading it (in a "hahaha that's so cool" sort of way) :-)

Nope, makes perfect sense to me.

I think you're somewhat wrong, mind, but that's mainly because I'd enjoy the argument ;-)

I got a good portion of the way through until you maxed out my math/science knowledge. I generally consider my gender to be Rachel.

Surely, however, for many functions the eigenvalue won't necessarily be simple and have some imaginary component, this would explain some of the broad simplifications (such as calling some genders male and female) because they produce the same observable reaction (the real part of the eigenvalue), but the non-observable (or imaginary) part goes unnoticed.

Or perhaps I've mixed up two areas of maths in my head. It's a while since I did this sort of stuff.

(Deleted comment)
so I have friended you. Is that OK?

Yup, that's fine. I doubt I'll friend you back, but that's just because I barely manage to keep u with my friends page as it is. I'm happy to have anyone reading what I have to say though.

A similar description applies to personality space as a whole, not just the vague subspace known as gender. (What are the boundaries of the personality traits known as gender? Is the border between gender and other personality traits sharp or blurred? If blurred, then then the gender subspace is an vague notion.) Assuming a weak notion of reductionism holds, specifically that quantum physics is sufficient to underlie life, consciousness, personality, behavior, "free will", etc., then the notion follows mathematically, even though the vectors and the eigenfunctions may not be calcuable at this stage, or even ever.

Is it useful? It's a nice metaphor at this stage, and has all the uses of metaphor. But if useful means "allows more accurate predictions", then no, not necessarily at this stage of understanding.

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