Recreating (and advancing) pk’s censored domains: Macroinformation.org &
Knatz.com / Teaching / Society & Its Pathologies / Social Survival / Evolution /
@ K. 1999 09 13
Best men are moulded out of faults.
Measure for Measure
I read as many scientific “histories” as I can. For well more than a decade my favorite history was Timescale: Nigel Calder’s one hundred page history of the universe. It’s ordered logarithmically from each end toward the middle. If you’ve ever seen a slide rule you know that zero-to-one occupies an disproportionate amount of line and that nine to the completion of the units is squeezed. Logarithmic proportions. Thus Timescale devotes more page space to the “first” moments of the fourteen or so billion “year” note “history” of our universe, and at the end, as much again of the most recent moments. The long middle is squeezed for text space.
They talked a lot.
If you’re reading this you probably remember Carl Sagan standing in front of a “calendar” to represent that same span of time. If one year represents fourteen-odd billion years, then mankind was born on December 31st, a minute or so before midnight: civilization arose some seconds before midnight. Calder varies the analogy. If time since the Big Bang is mapped against the island of Manhattan and the arrow of time is north to south, then, time having started its journey up by Hellgate where the East River branches from the Hudson, man’s history is merely the outer layer of paint on the railing in Battery Park which looks toward the Statue of Liberty. Calder manages to squeeze in a tidbit or two such as the mastery of fire, stone tools … the genetic mutation which allowed some humans to digest milk past infancy …
His summary had to be short. It was. It could well be our obituary:
Since the publication of Timescale, other books have reinterpreted many of the “facts”: and many new “facts” have come to light. Nietzsche said there were no facts; only interpretations. If so, I say Jared Diamond’s “interpretations” are as close to “fact” as you can find these days. Be that as it may:
My purpose in adding this module this 1999 09 13 (congratulations Serena Williams and Andre Agassi!) is 1) to highlight Calder’s obit for us; 2) to provide an open-ended catch-all file for comments on the subject; and 3) to say a little something about what Calder reports as the principle distinguishing characteristic of our species: talk, talk, talk.
I do it. Look at this home page!
Man [under fascism] honors his enemies and murders his friends.
Ogden & Richards catalogued “reasons” for speech. One was word magic. In homeopathic magic (for the nth time here), like is supposed to produce like. By the time I got to college Louis Armstrong and Benny Goodman, Michelangelo and Van Gogh, Shakespeare and Mad comics, had already shown me what art could do. Isaac Asimov and Arthur C. Clarke had shown me the “spreadsheet” thinking of science fiction: chart a system with complex relationships, enter a variable, imagine effects and trace your imaginings … Still, it seemed altogether different when I met “>Bucky Fuller [not all Fuller references resurrected yet, search] and he showed me what deep analysis of real systems could do. I had had no interest in (little awareness of) verifiable reality until then.
I believe that some of Fuller’s reason awakened some in me. I’ve worked on it diligently. It transformed how I saw the thesis on Meta-Oxymoron I’d regarded as already well worked-out. So how come I don’t see any reason transferring from me to others? Is it all just magic after all? Am I just doing my reason dance, incanting my reason spells to the same avail as the shaman’s rain dance? Is reason a delusion of mine? Rain isn’t. It’s just that the shaman has a wholly erroneous conception of how rain is “caused.”
We’re taught that teaching teaches. The shaman was taught that dancing causes rain. I find no evidence of the latter and little of the former. Maybe Fuller didn’t teach me: perhaps it just started to “rain” while I was with him. If I dance and chant for decades, shouldn’t I see it “rain” at least once? Whatever the causality? shouldn’t the stupidest gambler in the world win at least once if he plays 8 at the roulette wheel every spin from 1967 to 1999?
What does it matter whether or not I get it? What do you get?
Our notions of “teaching” should be tested against rational skepticism.
In Rachel Carson’s metaphor extinction is the biosphere’s drain.
|Man is a species in that biosphere.
Civilized man — kleptocratic man — is the drain’s Roto-Rooter
Ream the hole wide enough and the Roto-Rooter itself falls in.
Same meaning as the metaphor I jut posted of man as pathogen.
I’ll further take advantage of this space to spin new thread from a rough nub a few paragraphs back. Religious say we’re the spiritual animal: that is, not an animal at all. Lots of theorists have said we’re the tool user. Aristotle said that we’re the political animal. In the Eighteenth Century, when the word “reason” was being bandied about by people who could no more pass the Wason Test than can the majority of today’s college graduates, the idea that man was the “reasonable” animal was in the air.
Anthropologists these days are a bit more responsible in their self-portrait: man is the social carnivore whose hallmarks include (I read in a bit of Jared Diamond) “art, spoken language, drugs” [The Third Chimpanzee, p 294] (and continue in his vein) incarceration for non-food purposes, coordination of murder, routine commission of genocide…
And I’ll add one I’d love to see publicly tested against rational skepticism:
Man is the creature who routinely rationalizes his behavior to himself.
Better yet: I add a new category: one that subsumes the majority of the preceding.
Man is the
Cartamania is a form of name magic. Cartamania is the preference of name for thing named, of map for territory supposedly mapped, of description for thing described. It’s the Cartamaniac who keeps his flag clean while he fouls his country. It’s the Cartamaniac who uses his ad with its guarantee to “prove” to the inspector that your home is termite free. It’s the Cartamaniac who looks at your grades transcript instead of examining you. It’s the Cartamaniac who prefers the perfumed centerfold to the real woman. It’s the Cartamaniac who says “Get it in writing” (when the small print means anything the court Jesuits want it to).
Notice how nicely this ties in with my addition of “rationalization”? Does the gorilla killing some previous males progeny invent a theology for it? It would be hard to tell if he did, but I doubt it. We certainly have no evidence that he then teaches that theology to his new progeny. Once upon a time man took what he wanted if he could. Then kleptocracy instituted limits on who could take what. Then man would take what he could if he thought he could get away with it. It was no longer the question can I drive the lion away from the carrion and not get chewed up myself while I’m eating it; it became can I take it and not be incarcerated by my fellow kleptocrats? (Or by invading kleptocrats.) As I’ve said elsewhere, Genghis Khan might have said Give me all of your women and all but a handful of your grain or I’ll tie you to horses and whip them off in different directions. Your choice was simple. Your choice was clear. But what do you do when the lords of Naples, Florida take millions for their war on drugs and twenty years later admit that you can buy any drug at the side of any road, that it’s high time they did something about it, and that therefore they’re taking many millions more? What happened to the last millions? Why, they were spent for your good: the mayor took a million, the sheriff took a million … (Either or both may well have invested a good deal of it in the drug trade. Hell, they’ve got the police for runners, don’t they?) What’s good for the mayor and sheriff is good for you.
How many fingers am I holding up now? O’Brien asked Winston Smith in 1984. Any number you say, Big Brother.
Human beings are usually awful, but must be given a chance not to be.
(pk agrees — except for the “must.”)
Integrity vs. Existence
(2013 08 26 The following got made into its own module just the other day.)
In Praise of Inefficiency
Mankind is his own worst enemy: and it’s a good thing. Because if he weren’t, if man’s volitions were actually efficient (instead of pseudo-efficient), if he ever actually acted in concert, we’d all be dead a hundred times over, tens of thousands of years ago.
Those who monopolize the resources should build a huge statue to their victims: the women, the Blacks, the uncollected, unpaid artists, the despised geniuses, the backwards, the backwoods … people who drive VWs, better yet, people who walk!
Even our science is still ridiculously anthropomorphic and earth-centered. A “year”? If a year is the time it takes for one full rotation of our planet about the sun, and our planet is some 4.6 billion such rotations old, what meaning can it have to talk about a year in times before there was such a planet? How can there be “feet” before any confirmed instance of a creature with feet?
If it’s the universe that we’re measuring, the measure should come from the universe, not some recent, local, and anomalous part. It’s as though we were to choose Muddy Waters’ A string to measure the pyramid of Khufu. (don’t misunderstand: I’ll take Muddy Waters over Cheops any time.)
Kleptocracy is six thousand years old, yet it is in part held in place by the invention of a kleptocratic demon who made and owns and rules a pre-kleptocratic universe.
Marvelous coincidence. 2013 08 26 I put back this module from fourteen years ago: take a break, and read this: Ben Franklin writing to Joseph Priestley:
|Men I find to be a Sort of Beings very badly constructed, as they are generally more easily provok’d than reconcil’d, more dispos’d to do Mischief to each other than to make Reparation, much more easily deceiv’d than undeceiv’d, and having more Pride & even Pleasure in killing than in begetting one another, for without a Blush they assemble in great Armies at Noon Day to destroy, and when they have kill’d as many as they can, they exaggerate the Number to augment the fancied Glory; but they creep into Corners or cover themselves with the Darkness of Night, when they mean to beget, as being asham’d of a virtuous Action.
… A virtuous Action it would be, and a vicious one the killing of them, if the Species were really worth producing or preserving; but of this I begin to doubt.
Gee, I sure wish I could show Franklin the satire I wrote in 2006 that got me arrested by the FBI! Parallel hyperbole. I plan to reconstruct it once K. re-achieves critical mass: another several hundred resurrections. If I think I’m dying I’ll just go ahead and resurrect what part of that I can. Much of the macroinformation will be lost. Much of the mi is lost no matter what I do, or when.