Home   Science Page   Data Stream Momentum   Directionals   Root Beings   The Experiment

10.3 The Emptiness Principle & the Implications for Shifts

A. Preliminaries

History through past Notebooks

In the Notebook, The Boredom Principle, it was argued that humans are attached to the neural networks that store the information about average deviations. It was pointed out that humans feel pain from shrinking deviations. Hence we demand continual diversity to combat this pain. Because even change can get repetitive, we set up homes to combat the boredom of too much change. Our only constant is change says the Buddha.

Underlying Assumptions

The underlying assumption of the previous Notebook is that an emotional content is placed upon our neural networks that calculate deviations. We already showed that all animals must calculate deviations. About this there is no doubt. The thesis that was presented was that humans place an incredible emotional content in these networks compared to other animals. We humans want to hold onto these networks. This Notebook explores a mechanism by which these deviations can be maximized.

Boredom Principle Institutionalized

As with the Boredom Principle, it is buried so deep that the mechanism has been institutionalized. The Boredom Principle has been institutionalized in seasonal fashion changes in clothes. Not annual changes, mind you, but seasonal. A few more examples are annual changes in car design and TV shows, bi-annual election of politicians. We even get tired of the same old faces. There are many other instances of the Boredom Principle at work but the above mentioned have been institutionalized. Culinary and musical tastes regularly change but they have not been institutionalized.

A preliminary Definition

This Notebook will explore the Emptiness Principle and its implications. The Emptiness Principle says that doing nothing increases your potential of doing something and vice versa, that doing something increases your potential for doing nothing. Of course, because principles are mechanisms and mechanisms are contextual, our principles are also contextual.

Emptiness Principle Institutionalized

Before looking at some non-obvious manifestations of the Emptiness Principle, let us look at its institutionalization. We have weekends, vacations, Sabbaticals, three-day holidays. These are all institutions, which are based upon the Emptiness Principle. Even sleep is based upon the Emptiness Principle, as we shall see. But it is not institutional; it is biological. Let us look at some examples before going into the simple theoretical foundation.

B. Different types of 40 hour shifts

Nine weeks without a break

Below we have an individual who has been working 5 days, 40 hours per week, i.e. 5 eight-hour shifts. At the beginning of this session, because of an emergency, he is forced to work 9 weeks without a break. Because the management doesn't want to pay him overtime they cut his shifts to 6 hours. The white circles represent the number of hours worked each day. This is the raw data. The green is a decaying average with a decay factor, D, of 12. It would represent average hours worked per day. The blue is the average deviation. It is added onto the average. It represents the potential for change. The poor guy is in a mental jail by the 4th week. His potential for change is nil. He is going crazy with the boredom, because of his shrinking deviations. He is more than ready for his vacation in the 10th week. Notice how his potentials for change grow by doing nothing.

A little better: 6 seven hour shifts per week

Our second scenario has the same worker working 6 seven-hour shifts per week for 9 weeks. His sense of potentiality is greatly expanded, over the former. The sharp jags correspond to his days off. By doing nothing he expands his deviations, which according to this theory represents his feeling of potentiality. The blue area represents one average deviation over the average, both decaying measures. Roughly speaking the average deviation for the first scenario was approaching 0; in this scenario the deviation fluctuates between 1.6 and 2.

Much better: 5 eight hour shifts

Our third scenario has our same worker laboring the traditional 5 eight hour shifts per week for 9 weeks. Again his sense of potentiality jumps again, although he is basically still working the same amount of time. Our worker's average deviation fluctuates between 3.1 and 3.6 – substantially higher than the 6 shifts per week scenario.

All together now: 7, 6 and 5 shifts per week

In this graph we show all three scenarios side by side. Although the average amount of time worked per week is approximately the same, the top of the green area, the sense of potentiality, the average deviation, is dramatically different between the three.

Best yet: 5, 4, and 3 shifts per week

Just as the potentialities grow consistently in the above scenarios, they keep on growing as the number of 'empty' days increases. Below we compare 3 different types of 40-hour weeks: 5 eight-hour days, 4 ten-hour days, and 3 13-hour days. The trend is obvious. The less shifts the greater the average deviation. Here they are all working the same number of hours per week and yet the deviational differences are marked. (Indeed private studies have shown that less workplace burnout occurs when employees work 4 tens or 3 twelves rather than the traditional 5 eights.)

C. Different numbers of 8 hour shifts per week

5, 4, 3, 2, 1, 0 Blast off!

Below we consider the cases when our subject works only 8 hour per day shifts, but different number of shifts per week. We will equate the blue area, the average deviation, with a sense of potentiality, freedom and flexibility. Looking at the graph it is easy to see that 3 or 4 shifts per week give the greatest average deviation. According to our theory, working 3 to 4 shifts per week would give the worker the greatest sense of potentiality and freedom. This could be good or bad depending upon the employee. Some individuals with too much freedom get into trouble. Employee satisfaction would depend upon how the individuals responded to freedom. If an animal is in a zoo too long then it prefers it. If the worker, for whatever reasons, i.e. perhaps lots of stress outside of work, craved order in his life; then minimizing the deviations would be the best strategy rather than maximizing them.

Welfare syndrome and workaholics, two sides of the same coin

In this graph we show all the different weekly arrangements of 8-hour shifts. In a rough way we can easily see that the deviations, the sense of potential, begins at zero, grows to a peak at 3 or 4 shifts per week and then falls, approaching zero at the end. This shows that the ability to do nothing increases the potential to do something. It also shows that the ability to do something increases the potential to do nothing. In ordinary terms, a balance of work and play gives the greatest sense of potential for change. Doing no work limits the possibility of working at all, or at least makes it incredibly painful because it is so far outside the Realm of Probability. This is the welfare syndrome. Go on and never come off. The alternate is the individual who works long hours 5 or 6 days a week for years on end and then dies suddenly or goes into depression when he is forced to retire. The shock of so much freedom is overwhelming. Humans need to be prepared for working by working some of the time. Humans need to be prepared for play by playing at least some of the time. It is hard on the psyche at either extreme. The psyche loses the flexibility of response.

D. Realms of Probability

Refining the Realm in the present context

Below are some graphs that exhibit the notion of the Greater Realm of Probability (dealt with in other Notebooks) as applied to the 7-day workweek. We will call the potential for work the sum of the deviation and the average. We will call the potential for play the difference of the average and the deviation. The Greater Realm of Probability (See other Notebooks) is the area between these two measures, i.e. the average plus or minus the average deviation. The Lesser Realm of Probability is the average plus or minus two average deviations.

Graph Interpretation

We see counter-intuitively that 5 shifts per week yields the greatest potential for work at 9.33 hours per day. Working 7 shifts per week yield a potential for work of only 8 hours per day. Working 3 or 4 shifts per week yields the greater Realm of Probability at 9.2 hours per day. These individuals could comfortably work from zero to 9 hours per day. Our workaholics, 6 or 7 days per week, have a hard time not working and a hard time working much extra. Conversely for our lazy bones, 0 or 1 shift per week, even one 8-hour day is excruciating because it is so far out of their Realm of Probability. Just as it is easier to work more if one has time off, it is also easier to play if one works a little. Work increases the capacity for play just as play increases the capacity for work. It is a balance that is desired. Four or three shifts per week maximizes work and play potentials.

Same hours per week different number of shifts

In the graph below we keep the number of hours worked per week steady and vary the number of shifts. It is easy to see that the Realm of Probability increases as the number of shifts decreases. Because of the impracticality of working 2 twenty-hour shifts per week, we stopped at three shifts per week.

Working 7 days per week with variable hours

We have only considered situations where the hours per shift are constant in a week. Below is a scenario when our workaholic still works 7 days per week but each day he works a different number of hours. This increases his Realm of Probability substantially from working a constant number of hours per shift. Thus the Emptiness Principle predicts that working a variable number of hours per shift would give a greater sense of freedom and variability for the employee than working a fixed number of hours per shift.

E. Higher orders & different types of variation

Weekly variability versus daily or annual variability

Thus far we have only addressed the implications of the size of the first average deviation. Simply speaking in broad terms, we have assumed that the larger the deviation, the greater the sense of personal freedom, on the level of weekly work. There are many other factors that complicate or refine our picture depending upon the viewpoint. Thus far we have seen that a balance of ‘days on’ to ‘days off’ maximizes the deviation, independent of the number of hours worked. On one level, working 3 to 4 shifts per week optimizes a sense of weekly freedom, regardless of how many hours worked on those days. However on an hourly level working a longer number of hours in a day could be just as constraining depending upon the type of job and inherent variability of the work. Also when looking at the annual level, working 4 shifts per week 52 weeks per year could create a similar sense of confinement that working seven days per week would create on a weekly level or that working 16 hours per day would create on a daily level. This is why it is necessary on an annual level to take some holidays to vary the routine. This has been institutionalized in the three-day weekend. Under this way of thinking, the routine is the enemy that needs to be broken up from time to time to avoid falling into a rut. Of course sometimes in times of duress the routine could be temporarily, at least, a friend.

Trapped on all time zones

In the above discussion, we stressed that different time durations yield different results. An underlying assumption was that these results are somewhat independent of each other, i.e. one could be bored on a daily, weekly, and annual level simultaneously. When someone feels trapped by their life, they are normally referring to the chains of repetitive patterns on many levels.

The main advantage to wealth

The main advantage of being wealthy is the ability to avoid boredom through the expenditure of one's fortune. The moderately wealthy travel, shop, remodel, and go to expensive amusements on their time off. The truly wealthy are able to participate in the aforementioned as well as having the choice of how they want to spend their time as well. Those who reject the pursuit of wealth normally do so because it entails such a great loss of freedom when it comes to time. Yes, the moderately wealthy can spend money to fight boredom on their time off, but the time chains of their weekly routine is binding. Of course, many find much individual variability in their job, which nourishes their souls on the deeper levels. Thus boredom is the problem which wealth helps to solve. Hence if boredom can be solved in other ways, then wealth ceases to be an issue.

When wealth is not an issue

Creators tend to find so much variability in the act of creation, itself, that all other sources of variation can appear trivial. If however our creator is bound by a day job, or is in a rut, then wealth can appear mighty attractive. Thus even for creators a certain level of income is necessary to maintain the creative life style. For the yogis, who find variation in the meditation on emptiness, nothing is needed save the time to meditate. However, in these days, free time itself costs money to sustain it.

F. Stopping energy and the higher levels

First the higher levels

We've mentioned variability of hours per shift and shifts per week in terms of combating boredom. Now we are going to talk about a strategy that maximizes change on, all levels – Stopping energy. The Boredom Principle holds that humans feel pain from shrinking deviations. The Emptiness Principle is an effective strategy for combating boredom by increasing a sense of variation. Stopping Energy is an extension of the Boredom Principle. We could have called the Emptiness Principle the Something Principle because emptiness maximizes the potential for something just as something maximizes the potential for emptiness. However doing nothing is within everyone's Range of Possibility, even though not within everyone's Realm of Probability, while exceeding the level of something, which achieves the same effect as doing nothing, has absolute limits associated with it.


(The Author stopped dead still at this point and never came back to polish up the Notebook or even complete his thoughts. Too bad.)


We vary the length of the shift and the number of shifts per week to achieve variability. We have showed the variability of the first deviation but there are 2nd and 3rd deviations as well, that seek to maintain their existence.


Home   Science Page   10. The Emptiness Principle   Next Notebook