Hot Frog, Soft Learn

Recreating (and advancing) pk’s censored domains: & / Teaching / Society / Survival /

I fear that there can be no political solutions for our predicament so long as institutions truly represent the population base. What’s wrong with us cannot be so much as brought up in polite society. Self-serving, self-deluded democracy is little better than self-serving, self-deluded monarchy. Church, state, and school all leave us in the same homeostatic theater of illusion.

These three little pieces added to my home page April 2001 merely telegraph messages long gone into with varying degrees of fullness in modules throughout my home page. They of course merely reflect my life’s work of preceding decades.

Human institutions serve humans as humans serve themselves. If people are greedy, superstitious, kleptocratic … then their institutions will be greedy, superstitious, kleptocratic. Put a lyncher in judge’s robe: you have a lyncher in a judge’s robe. Dress the onanist in cardinal’s garb. Ditto. Crucify those who heal, those who preach peace, self-abnegation … Pour poison in the ear of those who see even some of the society’s delusions … Funnel all resources to the poisoners; deny resources to the solvers … What do you expect? What you should expect is to die. Maybe quite soon.

The only interesting question in my mind regarding the coming catastrophe is what might survive it? What kind of world will the newbie inherit? Will the perished be the lucky ones? Imagine being in a wreck. Somehow your back is broken, your larynx shattered, you’re wedged upside down between the engine block and the rest of the wreckage. An air pocket permits you to breath for an extra day. Crabs come and eat your eyeball. Were you lucky to live those extra hours?

I know one thing: any survivors will not respect their dead parents, their dead institutions. Papa, president, and pope will be execrated in so far as they are remembered at all. Whatever we used to do, we’ll tend to do the opposite.

After the French Revolution political prisoners were yanked from the Bastille and deified. Pickpockets were yanked with them and treated the same. I’m not saying survivors will be smarter; I’m saying they may not automatically, unconsciously, blindly repeat the same mistakes.

The references in my title are explained several places here. Basically, the references are two. Both are to the teachings of Gregory Bateson. If you throw a frog into hot water, he’ll jump out. The frog registers the difference, the information, between normal and hot. A jump is triggered. Heat the water a frog sits in slowly and the frog will boil to death without ever jumping. Changes made below the threshold of perception … are made below the threshold of perception. They trigger nothing. note

Ronald Reagan asked if we thought we were better off under the Democrats than we had been. As though an incumbent party were magically 100% responsible for anything. I wish he’d asked if we thought we were better off with civilization than we had been without it. Of course we would almost all have said Yes. We’re trained to see it, trained to say it. Will we say it as the crab eats our face?

I catch a fish. The fish has plenty of chance to reconsider the lure as I yank the barb through its flesh. I put the fish on a stringer. A minute later I notice the tethered fish respond to the same lure in the water. We know the girl is wearing falsies, but our flesh stiffens anyway. What we learn doesn’t affect certain hardwired things. Some things are learned so early, so uncritically, that they are almost hardwired. It took a lot before a feudal peasant could learn that “aristocrat” and “good” weren’t necessarily the same thing.

The kid who burns his hand off will have a healthier respect for the hot stove than the kid who’s been warned by his mother. The first learning is in the flesh; the second merely in the mind: a relatively unimportant place.

Experience teaches effectually, but brutally.
Frederic Bastiat

During a postal strike Nixon sent the army. The army delivered the mail. I pretended to misunderstand. I pretended to think that the president had declared lethal war on the post office. I wrote that “killing the postal workers should teach them a lesson in responsibility they were not likely to forget.” A race that could understand pk humor would be a lot better off than the race we’ve got. What lesson can be learned by the dead? The most important lessons: the lessons that other species must learn. If an entire ecology were to burn, and were life ever to re-evolve, the next ecology might be fireproof. Nothing can be done for the last one.

What would it take to teach an American that Free Speech does not guarantee that we’re speaking freely? When I taught at Colby College, I was free to teach anything I wanted. Colby merely fired everyone at the end of the year who had actually said anything other than pabulum. In 1969 Colby fired eleven out of twenty English teachers. God! You mean more than two English teachers actually said anything that year? Yes: it was an interesting year.

It would be nice if we could monitor what the other ten did subsequently. Leave teaching? Shut up about not believing in Santa Claus? Join the Lions Club? What I did was found FLEX. What we need is an institution of free information. No censorship. Cheap publishing. No coercion. At Colby I said about 10% of what I thought. I got $8,000 for the year. At FLEX I got zero. My wife left me, kidnapped our son, was backed by the state as well as her family (as well as by all of you). Result? Now I say 100% of what I think. Why not? What further harm can you do me?

Global warming is a deadly threat precisely
because it fails to trip the brain’s alarm,
leaving us soundly asleep in a burning bed.

Daniel Gilbert

More later. But then again: it’s already here. In some form.

Actually, I think I’ll start something here now and develop it further in another module later:

Dr. Hannibal Lecter we learn in the third novel involving him, the one bearing his name, hoped that Dr. Stephen Hawking was right, that time would someday reverse itself and that the universe would repeat its history, but backwards. Hannibal hoped that that way his little sister would therefore live again. Dr. Lecter is a wonderful satire on Christian belief minus Christ.

I once thought myself a Christian. And I’ve spent a lot of time worrying about entropy. My novella Beginning shows some of what I came up with by way of “solutions.” Here I’ll hint at my current thinking.

What if Judgment Day were not the final moment of history but rather its midpoint? What if God watched us do whatever we wanted for x billions of years, and then watches all twists spin the other way. Who’ll be the slaves in the new society? Will the eaters be eaten? Will I pass through the bowels of the fish, pigs, chickens I’ve eaten?

What if all our efforts were like winding up a toy that would then unwind? Of course entropy can’t simply reverse: all zeros being ones, all ones being zeros, but the complications will have to develop another time.

If only Dr. Hawking were as wise as he is good at math. If you want a smart scientist, read Prigogine.

I Believe


Informational Triggers: Frog Boil:

There are a half-dozen repetitions of this point at K. The ever-alert billy mac shared a link to a supposed “refutation”. I quote my response to billy.

My making the point passes-on Gregory Bateson’s point. He made it more than once … I’ll bet it’s in Mind and Nature. It’s definitely in Steps to an Ecology of Mind. Could be in Angel’s Fear as well. entirely misses the point as Bateson makes it which is about INFORMATION. If the frog notices the temperature (INPUT), it will jump. The information, the difference, Uh Oh, Hot, triggers the possibility of action. If the heating is gradual enough (2 degrees a minute is not gradual enough) there is no information, no perceived difference, no trigger, no jump. The “scientific answer” offered is irrelevant.

I do my best, but there’s no substitute for Bateson’s presentation.

billy warmed my heart by assuring me that he saw that: just wanted me to see that there was a dissent online. Thanks, billy.

@ K. c. 2001

Social Survival

About pk

Seems to me that some modicum of honesty is requisite to intelligence. If we look in the mirror and see not kleptocrats but Christians, we’re still in the same old trouble.
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