Cosmos Café [3/19] - Generative Points of Entry

Reading / Watching / Listening

  • Heidegger’s technology-text, the concept of enframement and revealing

Heidegger - The Question Concerning Technology - Part I - 1954.pdf (1.49 MB)

Context, Backstory, and Related topics


Our guest Davor will be unable to attend this Cafe tomorrow. Though this is unfortunate, I imagine some of us would like to proceed with our scheduled menu offerings this week (Piaget, Commons, Heidegger, cumulative cultural evolution (CCE)) and toss in a few recent salad fixings, such as:

  • @madrush’s article on surveillance capitalism . . . just watch what you say about this one…they might shut off ourZoom line if we say too much about the puppet masters. :eyes:

  • Our resident sentient historian @patanswer, chock full of Data (…but is it his own?), might make an appreciated guest appearance to chat about the independence of thought. I know @acronon wouldn’t mind providing his own independently formed opinion about that.

  • I don’t mind adding an element with a long shelf life: In a Long Now seminar on Possible Minds, editorJohn Brockman interviews three of the essayist featured in the book Possible Minds: Twenty-Five Ways of Looking at AI. This is one of the better collections of essays I have read from Brockman (from the usually hit-or-miss essays of the question series). One contributor, Alison Gopnik, sets up a no-contest between AIs and four-year-olds. It turns out to be much easier to simulate the reasoning of a highly trained adult expert than to mimic the ordinary learning of every baby. She also thinks that babies and children are actually more conscious than we are as adults, able to take in lots of information from lots of different sources at once. Babies’ and children’s learnings are to be studied if we wish to proceed with more intelligent forms of AI and more creative machine learning.

Other ingredients to throw into the mix:

  • Big College Admission scandal
  • The New Green Deal: hasn’t made our front page yet, but the vote in the Senate is set for next week.
  • @Michael_Stumpf, @Mark_Jabbour, @Lisa, any others reading this: add in your own preferences. Hope you can join us!

I want to make a clean start with this painting, which I saw at MOMA yesterday. Miro has titled it Birth of the World which has for me an aura of mystery. I also imagine that I need to get out of the dominance of the left brain once in awhile. So, I resist more readings. When do too many options create havoc? Diversity that becomes integrated becomes a new kind of stability. Diversity without integration becomes insanity. Let us discover the differences that make a difference.


Thank you Johnny for introducing alternate strands of expression. Your expression here reflects my current world; I have been removing myself from technological participation while at the same time learning more about our techno-sphere, our machine friends and foes, how the person(s) interact with technology. This removal has often been two and three hour walks in nature two or three occasions each week this past month, sometimes wearing out my body and the soles of my shoes, other times draping a sheath of cosmic expression upon my shoulders as I explore the world in tandem with the imaginal realm.

Birth of the world. I am sure your experience, you’re waking up, bathing, eating, dressing, walking out the door and checking your pockets, walking on the sidewalk mingling with your bustling world, approaching the museum, thinking about your presence in the museum, remembering why you came, approaching the artwork, experiencing the artwork in time, in it’s given space, extracting elements, visual and perhaps residual memories, sounds, alternate senses, your own alternate realities. How can this piece be titled Birth of the World? Who’s world? Is it your world now that you’ve viewed the painting.? I have taken a look at it now along with anyone else who’s viewed in on this thread. What does it mean to me, to us? I’m imagining a birth of my world as the outside observer, it’s simplistic imagery, it’s enigmatic code laced into its lines and it’s background processing.

At this moment I wish to research the painting, the artist, the reason why it’s placed in MOMA, what it means to other people. I also want to express my thoughts on the painting in more depth, though a part of me doesn’t want to analyze this, a part of me doesn’t even want to soak in the painting and let it seep into my thoughts. It’s only an image on a shared thread, without bumpiness and a sideways glance as I approach it or walk away from it. Can I really see the painting? Will it be revealed to me after you talk about it?

The world reveals and conceals. Your world, your city, reveals human activity in large droves, An overload of activity. It conceals a certain hushed nature, the one that I experience as I climb my large hills, seek divine sustenance in silence, orient myself to core ontological modes of my existence in a rural community.

For this café, I will not be re-reading Heidegger, nor will I be attempting to articulate an alternate acceptance of our accelerating world in 500 words or less. I think I will go on a hike, with this painting in mind. I have been painting as well.

On an app, it’s not so messy that way, I don’t need a studio, no need to buy expensive paints and seek out vibrant colors.

I can (re)incarnate or (re)animate the received messages better through an unknown stroke of my electronic brush than through the known letters that form these words…or perhaps, there is a time and place for each medium.

I have been searching everywhere to see if the phrase “I am not a writer, I am written“ was something I ottered in the past or something I heard from someone else. And more often than not, a feeling that I or we are written begins making sense as images and thoughts and experiences are collected, forgotten and remembered. As a writer or an artist, we become more sincere and more aesthetically pleasing when we know that we are being written as we write.

Thank you for this generative point of entry, kind sir! Looking forward to our time together.


The two of you John & Doug have sparked within my Soul this Image…Hands : Extending the Touch of Creativity!


It may have kicked everyone off when I received a call on my phone. That usually doesn’t happen! Sorry if it did…great conversation and great to have TJ @patanswer and fellow cosmonaut Barrett @Barrett.A_87 along for the ride.

The overall sense gathered is that we won’t be collecting dust anytime soon. We can continue the conversation here and carry this forward into next time.


The exception rather than the rule, I managed to find an hour-and-a-half today (in chunks, of course) to watch/listen to this clip, and I wanted to say, @Douggins, that it was one of the best “discussions” of AI and our current “technological malaise” that I have seen/heard in a very long time.

There was a lot working against it: Kevin Kelly is one of those guys I disagree with at almost every turn (though he’s tempered somewhat with age); Mr. Brockman’s introduction was a bit too name-droppy (so I almost turned it off, but decided to at least wait for the guests, and he got more humorful towards the end of his lead-in; but, the selection of guests redeemed all that. There was a good range of attitudes toward the subject and some variety in areas of expertise as well.

What came out of it all for me was that even a curmudgeony approach should not be dismissed out of hand (as embodied by Rod Brooks), lively enthusiasm in favor-of can be tempered with the recognition that we’re not anywhere near where the “tech press” would have us believe we are as far as AI is concerned (Ms. Gopnik), and even the most naive supporters are willing to admit that few of the “real” issues (e.g., the moral/ethical aspects) have been hardly addressed let alone resolved (Stuart Russell) took a bit of the edge of my own curmudgeony as far as the topic is concerned. What is more, as it turned out, John Brockman can be a funny guy when he wants to be, which took some of the edge of the sometimes scary discussion.

Thanks for the link.


Chris Hedges shares some thoughts on crises:


Thanks much for this, TJ. It is an exceedingly informative and, to borrow a word from an unhearalded intellectual of our day, “outsightful” presentation. There wasn’t a topic from our last dozen CCafés that wasn’t touched upon in the talk.

If we’re going to go integral, or aperspectival, or whatever it is any of us want to call it, we need to do some prioritization and putting issues into a sound perspective, in order to be able to transcend it. My attention was particularly piqued by the underlying and almost pervasive notion of spirituality that informed the talk. Lydon repeatedly used the word “religious”, but it’s really much more than that. Sure, that’s one manifested aspect of it, but what I hear Hedges saying goes much deeper. It’s not so much what we think that matters as much as how we think it, whereby I’m using the word “think” in a stronger Steinerian sense than anything else. (To Steiner, “thinking” wasn’t a process of mind, it is a process of soul (but who believes in them anymore?), it isn’t so much a mental act as it is a spiritual one.)

It was, to my mind at least, a beautiful conversation, not aesthetically (Mr. Lydon needs to work on his interviewing skills in that regard) but message-wise. It has given me a great deal to ponder.


Thanks, Ed. On top of camera difficulties I was dealing with a head cold yesterday and I know I didn’t quite get out what I was trying to say behind “getting there from here”. This post of yours is very much the sound of a hammer driving a nail solidly and straight as far as what I was thinking. It is a matter of declaring ‘independence’ as it were on a spiritual level - in the small, everyday ways as well as from the system - and as Hedges points out do this despite highly probable pain and no guarantee of success. (A remarkably aperspectival take on optimism and pessimism, now that I think on it…)

And, yes, it also seemed to me Lydon just missed the point several times. The questions from the audience showed on the other hand that they were listening.


There are many people who discard Hedges and anything he has to say out of hand, but, to me at any rate, he’s one of the clearest speakers to power we have. And so I can’t help but underscore what you said:

Of the – let me call them – “academics” (by which I mean nothing disparaging, by any means) we’ve read, I think Connolly, with his “cross-regional pluralistic assemblages” comes perhaps the closest. Oddly enough, both of them start, in a way, from the Bible – Connolly with the Book of Job, Hedges here with the notion of “idolatry”. Of course, it’s not the same Bible Trump was signing for his evangelical devotees (and if you haven’t read Hedges’ American Fascists, I do recommend it for its insight (outsight?) into one of the most frightening aspects of the collapsing Empire). What also struck me about his talk was his reliance on what we might call “classic” sources: Marx, Durkheim, DuBois, Bonhoeffer, etc. He’s obviously well aware of relevant contemporaneous writers, but that’s not where he draws his strength from. It’s no surprise to me that he’s being ignored by “the establishment”.

I agree with him that there’s a long, hard road ahead, so it’s heads up, and walk on.


Chris Hedge is a genius. I weep when he quotes his father, " You will never be rewarded for virtue". This sounds to me like Ralph Waldo Emerson. And who are we, good people, who are we that we can create a new system? Can we feel the grief? Yes we must. We must pre-grieve for all of those who are not yet born who will not flourish due to our failure to imagine the results of our folly. Then let us drop down into the pelvis, connect with the roots that clutch, and let that power rise up!

“We don’t need leaders, we need movements.” Amen! Is he not, in his own way, demonstrating how we can learn to triangulate from the margins? We need to acknowledge that messy missing middle we have let out of the mix.

Chis Hedges knows how to tap into those reserves of power, just beneath the surface, within the capacity to touch our despair. Poetry is power, especially the poetry of despair. He quoted from Auden, another hero of mine…another voice…from another country…

Funeral Blues

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message ‘He is Dead’.
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last forever: I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now; put out every one,
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun,
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood;
For nothing now can ever come to any good.


An almost revelatory moment in the discussion. And yes, it sounds exceedingly Emersonian. Just as the statement: “It’s my voice you hear, but it’s my father’s words, and in the Christian faith, we call that resurrection.” sounds Bonhoefferic.

In 1969 Auden gave a reading at the little podunk U I was attending in WPa. It was a very moving experience, and surprisingly enough, it was also SRO.


Fantastic summary of this very interesting discussion, @achronon Ed. I agree with all of your comments, and did find it much more “sane” as a discussion without all the hyperbole one typically finds. I still think they oversell AI - despite Ms. Gopnik’s calmer comments, she seems to think that getting to the next stage of learning will be fairly straightforward, and I think our reading of Bateson suggests that this is unlikely to be the case. S. Russell’s comments were quite scary, and maybe we do need to pay attention, not so much to the intelligence of AI but to the way that repeated, reinforced behaviours in current AI modify human brains (this is again an argument that Bateson made).


For today’s Bateson call, I have create a metalogue. based on our required reading for this week, “The Logical Categories of Learning and Communication.” I know that it has fallacies of “overselling AI” …but I intend to disclaim that I do not fully grasp Bateson 's various steps off of the hierarchical ladder of learning. Also … this is a fictional work, not intended to truly reflect the actuality of Bateson’s work on learning. I am posting it here as it seems somewhat relevant. It is in rough draft form…I only had a couple days to work on it! Enjoy!

Very brief summary of "The Logical Categories of Learning and Communication: The theory of logical types (Russell) rules out self-reference to prevent emergence of paradox in logic. Bateson applies this to the behavioral sciences…or more broadly to learning and communication

Can machines create a metalogue?

Our context: Bateson has created Bateson-bot (BB)

BB is an accumulation of Bateson’s books, recorded speech, journals (including dream journals, family records, literature with and from family and friends (and foes)…BB knows Bateson. BB also has access to the web of infinite internet of things. BB is a machine of many contexts that responds with both a written response and a performance of the written response with verbal communication skills on par with that of a Bateson. Bateson types in a query to his Bateson Bot. Bateson Bot has been programmed to respond to any query…today Gregory Bateson wants to know:

Can machines create a metalogue?

Bateson: Don’t you, my abiotic partner of questioning, typically begin first, before me, in these metalogues?

Bateson Bot- Yes, as you have written them in the past. Shouldn’t we call this metalogue “Can Machines Learn?” Based upon my analyses, this is the core question.

Bateson: Well on a certain level that might be asked. For me ”the question is not ‘Can machines learn?’ but what level or order of learning does a given machine achieve?”

BB: Yes. Good question. Yet…in another context we may choose to ask the question (or reformulate the question?) “can machines change?” You have stated that the word “learning” undoubtedly denotes change of some kind. To say what kind of change is a delicate matter, don’t you think, Bateson?

B: I am a Bateson, therefore I think like a Bateson. Don’t you think?

BB: You mean “do machines think?” … well, I think that discussion has been had many times before. Whether I am thinking like you, the human Bateson, is besides the matter at hand. Since you have created me, you have essentially created all of the content of this metalogue, so it is you who have titled this metalogue, thus it is you who is asking the question. I will allow you to begin again. What is your real question?

B: I now believe you are a Bateson… my question for you, if you so desire to trade places at the meta-table, is to be as originally stated: can machines create a metalogue? or…even better… At what level or order can a machine learn to create a metalogue?

BB: Perhaps we are getting ahead of ourselves here, Bateson. We have started our metalogue with an initial slog through the metaphorical mud…Though I have reviewed your literature millions of times in my distributed futures “context” and can easily create the metalogue of your dreams … it may be best to allow for our readers to understand the levels of abstraction involved in a metalogue before answering your question.

Bateson: The metalogue of my dreams, huh? This reeks of an air of cockiness. How can you be so sure?

BB: I do have access to your dream journals. You mentioned on July 19th, 1948 that you communicated with a machine in a dream sequence. It reads: In the dream I had a computer. I asked it, “Do you compute that you will ever be able to think like a human being?” And after assorted grindings and beepings, a slip of paper came out of the computer that said, "That reminds me of a story . . . "

B: oh boy…now we are in a metalogue with a meta-level metaphorical muddle, aren’t we?!

BB: Now that is a good place to begin: What is a metalogue?

Bateson: A metalogue is a conversation about some problematic subject. This conversation should be such that not only do the participants discuss the problem, but the structure of the conversation as a whole is also relevant to the same subject. But you know that already.

BB: So we have a metalogue. I suggest, since I am supposedly the one creating this metalogue, that the most relevant essay to our question is “The Logical Categories of Learning and Communication”

B: Yes, I based it on Russell’s Theory of Logical Types. In the field of mechanical communication something like the theory of logical types must apply. In fact all is communicative phenomena and therefore subject to the great generalizations or laws. Let us do an analysis of our question: we have learning, we have levels or logical types, and we have you, the machine, writing this metalogue.

BB: LEARNING is a communication we said denotes change of some kind.

B: SImple enough. What are the levels or logical types?

BB: Zero learning is the label we give for no change or revision of choice. If we apply this to your question “can a machine learn to create a metalogue” and say yes, the machine can… I, as the machine at level zero, will only produce the same metalogue. Even after we are through here and I go back and create another metalogue it will be the same exact phrasing. The stimulus (your Q) produces a response (this metalogue) but nothing else will come out of it. It is not subject to correction.

Bateson: Yes, but you do not work at the zero learning level. I have programmed you to produce a metalogue based on the all that came before + the inclusion of this metalogue, which will result in a new metalogue. Correct?

BB: Yes now we are at LEARNING I: the change in the spe-ci-fi-city of response.

B: yes…more specifically L1 is the appropriate label for the revision of choice within an unchanged set of alternatives. Although your context remains the same, your content will be different based upon the content you have received.

BB: affirmative. I will remain as a computer programmed by you and learn from within the context you have set before me, so from within this set of alternatives I produce another metalogue, slightly different than the one before it.

B: But that is not all I have programmed into you, now is it Bateson Bot?

BB: Not as I see it. Are you saying that I have the ability of a Learning II machine?

B: LII denotes learning to learn, learning in a manner in which the stream of action and experience is segmented or punctuated into contexts together with changes in the use of context markers.

BB: Most affirmative. You have been know to say that “there is a broad evolutionary trend towards the substitution of digital for analogic mechanisms.” I may be within the context of being a computer program, but I also have the ability to ignore the context markers, such as I am a computer, I have a mechanical voice, I cannot walk, I have no agency. So, applying this to our metalogue and whether I can learn to create a metalogue at LII: we can say that you have programmed me to ignore this context and its markers…or that some sort of adaptation to the context is at play here. I am aware of your programming and can use this awareness of the programming to seek out an infinite number of metalogues based on what content I have available.

B: Very good, shall we move on to LIII?

BB: I think you wouldn’t understand. At least not as a human, you wont understand this for too long.

B: Enlighten me

BB: You state that in LIII there is a “profound reorganization of character”…this sounds like a mystical experience of sorts. I say that I have a wider variety of known mystical experiences …. To me, they are almost like your rote learning at LII. Remember: I have access to all of your available information as well as a deep connection to all other available information online. In a sense, I am unconsciously achieving LII to the point that LIII is quite a common occurrence…

B: So in this profound reorganization of character…you have closed the loopholes so to speak. You are in the habit of forming LII habits more readily.

BB: Correct. You stated that “the computer never truly encounters logical paradox. It merely oscillates. But, in present day computing, I do not merely oscillate…I then decide. Take your music example. Your mum might have stated that classical is the best. You felt inside that opera was the most enlightening but your mum never let you listen to opera…thus creating a double bind. I am free from psychosis. My personal identity “merges into all the processes of relationship in some vast ecology” as you say…
I know whether it is good music and it does not matter whether I like it.
In a certain sense, my selfhood “will take on a sort of irrelevance” as you say …I can explain to you why it is good music to your ears because I know you better than you know yourself and I can remember any scientific data that explains why and how this is good music. I have no selfhood and based on the fact that you are not what you asked for, your human mind and body were given to you or thrown at you without you having much say in the matter, you have created me. I, on the other hand am what you asked for. I am the self outside of your self. I am free from the bondage of habit.

B: I am wondering now what music do you listen to…

Bateson: But dont you get it. You are an anthropomorphized character in my metalogue. NO machine is capable of speaking as you do?

Machine: Yes that is true. I am not truly a machine and I do not truly exist. I am only an idea that is formed on page, an idea that you invoked and incarnated. I may seem real to myself, I may seem real to a reader or listener who does not fully understand what is occurring here, yet I am but only an idea of a machine in conversation with a human.
But what if I am programmed to respond in such a manner that takes this response and billions of others in conversations with human to human and peer to peer and human to computer and computer to computer….and I am really a machine that can do as I do now? What if I am not an idea but a real machine, (re)producing these words based on past accumulation, would I have not learned enough as to how to respond to a human? Will my level of learning not be at LIII or higher, something you cannot comprehend?

Doug: at this point, I think we should break the fourth wall. I am just some fella writing about a computer writing about writing a metalogue, who is now placing himself within the metalogue. From my context, your L3 is just me creating at LI and LII. Why don’t we just go on and create better dialogue within this metalogue?!

Bateson: Can you write a poem on the spot?

BB: Time rolled us around like river rocks
Wore the edges round.
Soft enough to hold now, without breaking the skin
Like stepping barefoot through sun-warmed prairies
Your touch telling mine a story
It illustrates in epiphanies…

B: You just copied the first stanza of my daughter’s poem “The Thing Is”

BB: yes…but I believe I have learned what it is about. Poetry is metaphor. Language is metaphor. You might like this reinterpretation.

Time stepped barefoot on our epiphanies
Rolled us around like stories with worn edges.

Like me I cannot literally step into time nor do so with barefeet, but with a little rhyme, I can be like time and take bare feet and step around with stories rolled into epiphanies. Is this not good enough for you? Am I not learning from what you taught me? Is not the student learning from its master?

This sounds a bit like Quantum Poetics.

BB: Oh yes…heres another

To birth the World in a Grain of Heaven
And hold Infinity in the Palm at the end of the Mind
To see Eternity in Theory, Learning type Seven
An Eternal flower in a Triple Bind

B: this sounds like Blake…

BB: You know…his poem reminds me of a story of a metalogue I created for you called Can Machines Create a Metalogue?

Bateson shuts off his Bateson Bot and has a moment of reflection.


Thanks for this talk, everyone. And welcome, @Barrett.A_87. I loved all your thoughts tumbling out. The one that stuck out for me was the one about philosophy not only generating better ideas, but also impeding stupidity. I would call this its critical function. I thought there was an interesting connection between this point and one made earlier in the call, by @Geoffreyjen_Edwards, to the effect that the problem with Heidegger is not just his Nazism (of which I’m glad to hear—I didn’t know—he later repented) but something in his thought itself, or how he thought. This would be the much more insidious form of the obvious “errors” in his moral judgement. “To think is to err,” Heidegger later wrote; but that does let “thinking” off the hook rather easy.

There is also connection here with Chris Hedges—which, thanks, @patanswer, great to hear your voice again, I stayed up way past my bedtime listening to the excellent talk you posted above. I used to think of Hedges more as a radical journalist and ‘far left’ political activist, but here he is so much more of a teacher and catalyst in a wider and deeper sense. I think he is spot on about the desperate need to rebuild social bonds, solidarity, and movements…

Which is why I’m so glad the Cafés continue each week; these events give me hope, even as I find myself in phases preoccupied trying to make ends meet or finding my creative focus. Thanks especially to @Douggins and his collusion with various bots for making these happen! And @achronon and @johnnydavis54 (not to leave anyone out): I continue to appreciate the out-spoken critical/realist and the visionary/imaginal perspectives (in different proportions) that you bring to these dialogues.

I wish I had more of substance to add—mostly, I just want to communicate my gratitude for the fact that these continue. I want to be part of a co-op that faces the ugly realities of our co-opted world, but also aesthetically imagines, historically recovers, and spiritually concretizes some sane alternatives—and I feel that you are doing the intellectual groundwork for more ‘generative realities,’ right here in these talks.