Sideways Bootstrap

/ Cybernetics /

There was a news article the other day reporting how spiders can use an object with mass, a stone say, or a shell, to build a web at an angle to the line of gravity. Local gravity aligns between the center of the local dominant mass, say the earth, and anywhere out-and-away from that center. That’s an infinite numbe of lines of force, but there are infinitely more lines that are not on those lines. Say the spider wants a web where the insects are, not where the insects aren’t. Say the spider has a clear line between a possible launching place and the fall line. Say that adjacent to that line is a recess with a cave. Lots of insects fly in and out of the cave not in line with that given fall line. OK, the spider gets a rock, exudes a web line, sticks the rock to the line. Good, now you’ve got a vertical pendulum. The spider sticks a new silk to the rock, climbs back up, climbs sideways a bit, attaches the silk to the overhead. Et voila: the rock has moved a degree or two sideways. Keep it up, and the spider can locate its web under the cave overhang, sideways to the starting point! The article said that spiders have been building webs for 100 million years, maybe sideways for a good bit of that time.

Now I just saw another nature doc, about eels. The author, a nature artist, was saying that he caught eels as a kid only by mistake, trying to catcch other fish. Me too, exactly. Then you hate the eel, you can’t get it off your hook, it wraps itself aroound you arm, it’s slimy, ugly, distressing you, wasting your fishing time and energy. But then iver time I learned to love eels, would fish for them deliberately. In 1960 on the Freeport River after work I’d take the outboard into the bay and fish for flounder. I loved a nice flounder sautéed in butter for my breakfast before a hard day picking up garbage cans in Rockville Centre. But sometimes I’d catch an eel. Cut it up, Sauté a slice or two: also great. Great. So I love eels after hating them, just like this doc author and narrator.

What about spiders? Just this: eels apparently breed in the Sargasso sea, then fill the world. Salmon are famous for travel, so are some turtles. Pity the poor turtle who once bred off the coast of Africa but fed off the coasts of the Americas. Once upon a time America and Africa were a stones throw apart, but they moved, and moved further. Now the turtles have to cross the wide Atlantic to get from nursery to breakfast table. Great, astounding. But the ugly cousin eels don’t get mentioned: the salmon are Brando, turtles are Douglas Fairbanks, the eels are Peter Lorre, and the Phantom of the Opera.

Now this is what eels do: they travel. On a wet night they can travel over land. They can travel over obstacles. It works in numbers. The eels form a ball: hundreds, thousands of eels in a ball, and they can roll the ball … well, anywhere.

I was in a debate once with a moron school administrator, he was supposed to be so smart because he was an alternative school administrator, somewhere on Staten Island, whereas I, I was the anarchist offering an unregulated internet to replace schools (and alternate schools) (and the NYT) (and the US government) (or any such vertically powered state … Anyway rich liberals back in 1970 were saying that poor kids should pick themselves up by their bootstraps. This moron was saying that one cannot pick oneself up by one’s bootstraps, it’s a physical impossibility. Implicit in his attitude was the additional attitude that therefore we should tax everyone to death so we can interfere with poor people. My attitude in contrast was we shouldn’t tax anybody anything, we should get out of peoples way, mind our own business; not have a government, not have a school system, but do have cybernetic data bases, updatable by the members.
(Essential side point: if people are too stupid, or too shortsighted, to voluntarily fund institutions essential for survival and growth (meaning my FLEX, not meaning pathogenic institutions such as church and state). (We did indeed prove to be that stupid, that shortsighted.) (So: screw phooey.)

Now, in 1970 I had a sort of idea about sideways bootstrapping, without having the above two examples of deflections off the fall line. Bucky Fuller had explained aspects of the possibility to me, Gregory Bateson handled much of the rest, with his cybernetic Darwinism, Mind and Nature, 1979: large numbers, lots of time, can perform miracles: get out of their way. Ah, but these details, new to me this 2014, are wonderful. (When I remember Bateson’s mathematical term I’ll supply it.)


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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