Cosmos Café [2/26] - Introduction to Davor Löffler's Generative Realities

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(Ed Mahood) #22

Model year 1949 may be part of it, even if I just made the cut. (I’m sure you’re the older of us two.) Cosmically, all the celestial bodies were standing in a particular relationship to us, a relationship that is ever-changing on top of that, and one that never lets us go.

With the first sentence I couldn’t agree more. On the second, we differ. At every moment of our existence we find ourselves in a personal, extended, societal, planetary, even cosmic configuration that demands that we choose. What we do as humans is choose. Those choices may be limited, and they most often are, and in ways that we can’t even imagine, but we can choose. Free – as in free will, not free beer – is not whether we can choose whatever we want, rather it is that we can choose at all. I think freedom is great, but I don’t believe for a moment that it is as great – in the sense of unlimited potentialities – as most people like to think. We don’t have a good grasp on what “free” means.

And only you can decide that. But you have to make the decision then, on the spot, and I believe as consciously as possible (whatever that means). Most of us most of the time look back at choices we made and tell ourselves they were the best we could have made under the circumstances. But they weren’t. We’re often just rationalizing our good intentions, especially when we find ourselves on a given road to hell. They weren’t the best decisions we could have made because we didn’t know then, and are only getting a glimpse now of, what we might have done differently.

There is little I can do about those past decisions. There’s hardly anything we can do about anything that has past. That’s what makes the past the past. But, until they put me in my “earth furniture” (a literal translation of how former East Germans referred to caskets, or urns … Erdmöbel) I can do a hell of a lot about how consciously I make those decisions that are still remaining to be made. We may be wherever we are whenever we are, but we’re not mere pawns of fate.

When I was young, what I (thought) I wanted was much grander in scale and scope (or so I sometimes thought) than what I (I think I might want) want these days. Back then, as the saying goes, we had time to kill; these days time’s killing us. But I refuse to let that put me under undue pressure.


(Mark Jabbour) #23

Thus the “illusion”. We must choose faced with a fork in the road, even to go back to whence we came or to freeze (make no choice at all), but all of that, the 4 “choices”, all are determined by what has come before within our experience and biology, yes?


(Ed Mahood) #24

No, not in my mind. Those choices are influenced, and we are predisposed in a sense, but not determined. If the choice (that is, the actual choosing) were determined, then they wouldn’t be choices. This is what you are saying, I think, by characterizing them as an “illusion”. I say, they are actual choices, not just the illusion of choice.


(Mark Jabbour) #25

Exactly! and we will never know! and so it is better if we imagine/choose that we do have a choice. Thus we take responsibility for our behavior and punish those for theirs. Thus we have order out of chaos.
cheers, see you soon …
mark


(T J Williams) #26

As the desired outcome of my personal explorations is historiographical, I watched the other other video embedded in the OP, in which Loeffler presents a background and basic sketch of his thesis to an interdisciplinary group of seminar students. (Should anyone (who hasn’t already) decide to view it, scroll to 00:59 where the actual presentation begins.) I greatly appreciated his invitation to the class to question and challenge his proposed “way of thinking”. Much food for thought indeed, but honestly at this point I’m sure I would rather pick his brain than wade through another Germanic tome - I’m not quite as young as I seem either!

I won’t pretend to have understood everything, but so far:

  1. Loeffler joins the growing chorus for whom postmodern questioning of certainties has outlived its usefulness. It is time for assertion again in academic discourse.
  2. His definition of “technology” is wider than I got from the article: he counts art and worldviews as types of human modification of the environment, and among the more important. Interestingly, he wants to establish a “new historical lineage” which examines the co-evolution of humanity and technology in order not to be distracted by current political, media, or mechanical fads he deems ‘epiphenomena’ of this crucial transitional moment. He sees bigger existential threats to the human future. The path-dependence of modern developmentalism will only be avoided “before catastrophe” if we call upon wisdom from the “outside,” of which
  3. There are four…
    a. The “total unknown”, accessed (perhaps obviously) through imagination and exploration.
    b. The outside “within” created by the changing relationship between humanity and technology at present. [This was hard to explain to the class and I don’t think I get it fully either.] What man produces changes not only what he can then do but who he is in relation to material reality. ‘Technological Civilization’ is abstracting this hitherto human ‘prerogative’ [my word] in ways increasingly out of our ‘understanding’ [‘control’ or ‘direction’ do not quite fit the context here].
    c. The outside of a new form of cognition/consciousness, related to (b) but always present in the interaction of different cultures/worldviews.
    d. The outside representing “objective” regularities in “the historical emergence of world-relations”, which he considers to be his “Archimedes [leverage] point” enabling system transition capable of avoiding the yam-root cul de sac. Loeffler sees the concept of convergent evolution (similar circumstances leading to similar responses/adaptations in biological and social life) as illustrative of how legitimate objective patterns can be recognized.

My next question was actually asked by the anthropologist in the class: do we know enough (world)history to truly establish “objective regularity” - particularly in light of point (b) which appears, at least as presented here, unprecedented? Is there truly an accessible ‘outside’ of human historical experience and how would we know it?
Not to be picky but if the answer is no then we would have to proceed to address our current problems without this access, which seems to defeat the purpose. And if the answer is yes, then what does Loeffler think other philosophers of history have missed over the years in their search for this very thing?


(Ed Mahood) #27

As a German might say, “Jein” (a conflation of ja and nein). Yes, we must individually take responsibility for our own behavior. The consequences of many decisions become immediately apparent and may serve as their own corrective. But, upon what basis (and who) may punish, and why is punishing the first (only?) option? I’m a big fan of individual responsibility, but in which areas of life is that responsibility primary? What is more, it is the rarest of individuals who is untouched, unaffected, and completely uninvolved with others, and the moment others are involved, you can feel the chaos in the air.


(Ed Mahood) #28

Thank you very much, kind sir, for taking the time and making the effort to dig deeper into Herr Löffler’s thought, and most especially for this eloquent result of that effort. Like you, I am still unclear on many things, but I now have a better feeling for what I “wasn’t getting” (which quickly turns into frustration which then expresses itself as the exasperation that every one else has to put up with in our face-to-face discussions). But, more to the point(s) …

  • Re: 1 – I think I got this one, and as I resonate with that sentiment, this was my motivation to continue reading and trying to get a handle on his ideas.

  • Re: 2 – This was a suspicion I had, and this is what led to my at least part of my earlier “dissertative” post. You, TJ, had remarked that he was perhaps focusing on “machine technology” which has been bouncing around in my head ever since, but which wasn’t getting me any further.

    Of course it raises the (mostly) rhetorical question as to why he spent so much time on axes, bows-and-arrows, and traps when it seems that many technologies – and I would suggest art as well – are not, for me at any rate, as amenable to the kind of (engineering-like [i.e. flow chart]) analysis he presented in his paper. But, again, it could be that the 18 or so schemas he mentions he has developed have something to do with these other environmental modifiers.

    Fair enough … condensing 1000+ pages into 35 is no mean feat, something is going to fall through a crack.

    While I remember his using the word “epiphenomena”, I wasn’t clear exactly how, so this is particularly helpful.

  • Re 3 – Point b was the part of the interview where I stumbled most, and I was still stumbling when I read the paper. I think your summation here is very important feedback for Davor, for this is obviously a difficult notionality to communicate. To me “understanding” is useful word in this context, for it highlights – at least in my mind – the difference between “knowledge” and “wisdom” (and this is a matter that hovers in the background of a lot of my cogitation these days).

    For example, the development of nuclear weapons opened the door for nuclear power which generates waste that is both deadly and impossible to manage (cf. Fukushima). And the recent human-gene-modification undertaken by the Chinese scientist: the genome we’ve “decoded” only represents about 4% of our total DNA and the other 96% was considered “junk” (an idea that is slowly changing), yet there are obviously delicate and significant linkages between the genome and the junk. These are two examples for me where we have not thought-through the problems we think we are trying to solve.

    Which brings us to point d. Maybe this is his “Archmedian point”, but it means that we cannot look at everything we do (as a species) as problem-solving strategies. I find that view unwise.

Your – and the anthropologist’s – question is well worth mulling over in a serious way. But in addition to that could we ask if looking for “objective regularities” is worth all the effort. Is this the best question to be asking. What I’m missing is some notion of “value”, which may be anything but objective in a logical sense, for one question hovering in the background here is not so much “what could we do?”, but rather “what should we do?”, which is the more difficult question to answer, but it might be wise to give it more thought.

Again, thanks loads for your post. I, for one, appreciated it greatly.


(john davis) #29

Thanks, TJ, for making this desired outcome explicit. Would that everyone could be so clear. That I have a different kind of desired outcome makes a different kind of ensemble effect.

As there are many of us who have an aversion to outcomes ( a hangover from the Post-Modern?) it might be a great skill to focus attention upon the structure of desire. Diversity with integration ( which is not the same as a standard) could become our shared desired outcome? I am aware that we have yet to become a WE as there is a lot of vagueness about what a group actually does in a techno dominated transition that few of us have figured out.

I have watched thirty hours of Herr Loffler and it is an academic discourse, a student teacher relationship and with grad students. This is not introductory but I found it easy enough to follow with a concerted effort and without the benefit of a method.

I am less interested as I mentioned in historiography as I am in what is actionable and aesthetic. What will get people out of the library and into the streets. We can’t have order without some action. And that is illusive as ever. Davor doesn’t have an action plan. So, how do we make a systems transition, out of path dependcy?

And why would we want to?

This is where the rubber meets the road.

And my question, and why I avoided the topic, is do we really need another seminar that goes nowhere?

This Cafe ( once a week, fast paced, limited study time, peer to peer and a very cranky, free for all) this is not a seminar style set up, where any kind of homework, can evolve complexity and rhythm and dare I say-Vision?

I dont think the Vision thing has , yet, to become our focus. The Cafe is more a fast stop chat fest, with an emphasis on fun. And that is not a problem for me. I find the grand academic posturing from most of the seminar set as pretty much a dead end. And I would hesitate to bring experts and non experts together just to stare awkwardly at each other.

As someone who has tried to create programing that can grab the feeble attentions of most of us most of the time, I think I learned a lot from this exercise.

So why should I bother? I have no skin in the game, no children’s future to worry about, no advance degree or expertise. Why should I spend my last decade worried about others when so many with grand kids are in such a muddle?

Clearly, I feel there is a point to all of this and I am glad that others have been motivated to take care of the invisible work and the anticipatory work that has made many of our couch potato existences possible. It is that invisible work, and the invisible workers,behind the scenes, that have made my limited leisure time possible, that I am dedicated. What is under history, what is that anterior future all about?

So, while others are passing the potato chips and sipping beer and having temper tantrums I am off to the library and to another study group, and on the look out for a demonstration, with raised voices, and raised fists. This is music to my ears, that feel of the crowd, in motion, in love with something ineffable, that keeps this crazy world, happening. What is the difference between a mob and systems transition? I think it has something to do with aesthetic relationships, affective zones, and an articulate VISION. I am very interested in those kinds of desired outcomes. Janus faced, looking backwards and forwards, at the same time. My mind is more like a wadded up handkerchief with lots crooked creases than it is a flow chart in a text book.

Great to see you in action, again, TJ. I hope this will become a trend!

Here is another voice, a prophetic voice, from another country, another history. Teachers, mentors and coaches are necessary. And we also need sponsorship, that extra special something, that is so rare. Without sponsorship skills we are doomed. So, may we celebrate when we find the presence of that invisible work happening.


(john davis) #30

And is there a relationship between " Knowledge" " wisdom" and what I refer to as “sponsorship”?

For me, it is not about “understanding” but action. There is no understanding without action. And I am a perceptual learner. It dont mean a thing if it aint got that swing. And I am often the odd man out. There are more styles in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in the Ivory Tower.

And is there a way to admit our confusion without shutting down other people, who may have a different style of presentation than our own?

And when do our “stuck states” become a form of hogging the microphone?

This is a very deep question, Ed. The experts, that we paid a vast fortune to fix our future with, have completely been proven wrong. So, what can we learn from the failure of the Human Genome Project?

We are in a great battle and we are in deep shit and the forces of stupidity that failed with the Human Genome, have mounted an aggressive Neo Liberal campaign. However, I am fascinated by new developments emerging in the field of Biosemiotics. There is a ground swell of information that I find is absolutely breathtaking. There is a relationship between the sparrow, the Crow who cracked the nut and the Ornithologist. The subject of Biosemiotics comes out of Bateson’s work in meta-communications and I am currently studying this difficulty area. I am using Bateson’s ideas here in this Cafe. This is what Davor refers to as Second Order Culture. I have a lot of knowledge around the Bind and the Double Bind. I performed this knowledge in complex and unstable social systems and I have taken notes. But this is hard work and I dont sense a keen incentive to risk anything here at the Cafe. I dont want my decades of hard work labelled and ignored. I can go to my grave with my secrets. I believe, I am much, much more cynical than you are, Ed.

And I would be reluctant to bring this kind of investigation to the Cafe as I have yet to feel that Davor’s hard work ( and mine) has been properly sponsored. Millions of people, through out history, have loved and lost. And I have had to face that harsh reality. And I am sick and tired of endless critique.

And why should you take the time to figure this out, Ed? Maybe you shouldn’t bother. And then what happens to the Cafe Society?

Frustrated by this, Ed, and I am ready to let it go and get out my top hat and my tux and go out for a stroll on Fifth Avenue. But I do feel there is a social space that can allow sponsors between well intentioned academics and non experts to come together and share knowledge, maybe even wisdom. But it hasn’t happened yet on a large enough scale. That i believe is a point that Davor is making, but you would have to take the time to read the subtext. And that is a stretch for most of us, certainly is for me. I feel the window of opportunity is closing. As the saying goes, you use it or you lose it. Life is majestically brutal,.


(Marco V Morelli) #31

Reading through this thread, I find it difficult to know what to pick up on. There are so many it seems to me valid points; and I also see now, that @achronon and @patanswer have been reading the text with a much closer and more critical focus than I did the first time around.

Admittedly, I am drawn to the big, bold ideas—the details concern me less, though I know they’re important.

The question concerning post-human discourse is an important “detail.” Does the “human” have some essential role to play (or even eternal identity) within the Cosmos, or are we merely and truly a transitional form? Where one falls on this question determines a lot.

What I find attractive in Löffler’s analysis is the generative part. He is not just saying that we can formally predict aspects of the future (extrapolating from the complexification of machines & mental logics), but that in our next phase we can virtualize multiple futures in advance (through a kind of broadband scenario planning capability), and then weight or emphasize those futures which are more desired.

In fact, he is saying, that this is what we’re already doing. We are already on the cusp of a ‘generative time regime.’ However, this capability—to generate the future and not just react to the past—needs to be more widely operationalized.

Revisiting Davor’s shorter text, I think there is a lot about the translation that could be improved. We don’t have to read his 1600-page tome—but I’m glad he wrote it, because it means his condensed ideas are backed up by more extensive thinking, which theoretically would be available for anybody to consult. I like the idea of sponsoring more succinct and penetrating dispatches from the anterior future. So I do hope this discussion is useful to Davor in communicating his theory.


(T J Williams) #32

As the desired outcome of my historiography is a collection of “big, bold ideas” that put humanity on the ‘inside’ as it were, that call for a recognition of the commonalities -and challenges - which bind us together on this rock (and in the face of the very real cultural differences in our species, no less), I remain interested in giving Loeffler his due by respecting what he has written and said as carefully as I can manage. I do not know enough about anything to bring more than questions as they occur to me and these, I repeat, are driven by curiosity rather than criticism. I realize that I only cast pebbles on the surface of a deep lake at this point - we haven’t even gotten to the “generative realities” yet! LOL

On second thought, at least a selective reading of Loeffler’s book if I can get my hands on it now appeals to me personally.
In the meantime, I continue my efforts to generate the reality of two young men I wish to send respectful, confident, fear-less, and observant into the world that they will shape… Off to work…


(john davis) #33

I like this idea, too, Marco.

And what kind of anterior future?
And what was future before it was an anterior future?
And is there a difference between virtual and objective?

And operationized by whom?

And when operationalized, does that operationalized have a size or shape?

This is where ( I imagine) we could generate many hours of conversation. Without a theory of of how Biosemiotics work ( we are sign systems all the way up and all the way down) ,we are doomed to crank out algorithmic time regimes which will produce a consortium of slave robots to support the making of bigger yams, which have lost their nutritional value. We are rapidly losing the differences that make differences between biotic and abiotic systems. A careful analysis of analogue and digital interplay are necessary if we want to actually live well in an anterior future that knows the difference between objective and virtual. The analogical is always richer and more complex because embodied and embedded in an an Eco-culture.


(john davis) #34

I like big, bold, too.

Curiosity is the most important value that we perhaps both share. Good criticism is an important player as the Artist and the Realist take their seats at the table. I would prefer to have the Artist/Visionary and the Realist at one end, the Critic at the other end of the table. New ideas is not what the Critic comes ups with. Good Critics know this and are respectful of how they can function best in an ensemble. When the Critic tries to take over we usually have a mess. The mind is made up of inhibitory reflexes and we need to keep them in balance and that is what the Realist does best. The Realist protects the Vision while paying careful attention to the Critic’s postive intentions. This ensemble works within and without in a dizzying array of symbolic systems coupled with technology. This is what Davor is trying to bring forward and he is a critic of the current regime, Neo Liberalism.

Unfortunately, our educational systems are out of synch with these rhythms and the Imagination is given scant attention. We lack an adequate theory of the Imaginal. Imaginal is not just fantasy or make believe but has, as Davor has labored to point out, a logic of becoming, not just chaotic but with an order and a direction and a rhythm! This Imaginal capacity is where our best ideas come from and is the source of all of our morality and common sense.

This has been invisible work. Can we make any of this backstage business visible? That is what I am endeavoring to do with my annoying tendency to want to evade premature cognitive commitments. We need to contact the Under Commons as Fred Moten says. A new metaphysics and a new subjectivity is emerging. Can we get a felt sense of this? I think many of us are feeling it and it is intensifying.


(T J Williams) #35

Definitely, not “perhaps”. :sunglasses:

I cannot agree more with this.

Or this, which is why I am in a perpetual balancing act between “appreciations”: historical/cultural fact in my ‘left-brain’ and vision for planetary consciousness in my ‘right’. But the two are (fortunately so, in my very humble opinion) not exactly separate, are they?..

Spengler’s “second religiousness”, Gebser’s integral, Aurobindo’s supermind, De Chardin’s “omega point”…
In some ways timeless, in other ways watchmen for the crises of a past century… Is Loeffler a voice for what ails this one? This inquiring mind wants to know.


(Marco V Morelli) #36

I echo Löffler’s language here; his notion of “operational chains.”

Part of what’s happening (which is illuminated by Mühlmann’s paper too) is that we are teaching computers to replicate life systems, using “evolutionary algorithms,” and allowing a system to evolve, rather than program the outcome in advance.

So the notion of “operational chains” takes on a whole new complexity when networks of machines are taught to be recursive and begin to self-organize. This is objectively happening, however we experience it virtually, through the cultural layer, through its effects.

For example, the way people feel “followed” by Google and Facebook. You’re having a conversation with a friend about golf. 2 hours later, you start seeing ads for golf clubs everywhere you go on. How did this happen? We know they CAN do it, but did they, or is the mind playing a trick on itself? It’s fuzzy.

The machine is learning to anticipate and predict your behavior. It watches you (colllects data) and learns. It runs multiple simulations, then acts on the ones that are reinforced by positive feedback (i.e., your behavior). It generates new hypotheses and tests them. Think of it like the scientific method miniaturized and run billions of times a second.

Then you click the ad.


(T J Williams) #37

:thinking: :face_with_raised_eyebrow:

“He loved Big Brother.”

:fearful: