Cosmos Café [3/5] - Onset of Outsight

(Douglas Duff) #1


What theory or science is possible where the conditions and circumstances are unknown . . . and the active forces cannot be ascertained? . . . What science can there be in a matter in which, as in every practical matter, nothing can be determined and everything depends on innumerable conditions, the significance of which becomes manifest at a particular moment , and no one can tell when that moment will come?
Leo Tolstoy | War and Peace

Cosmos Chefs, affectionate confectioners and co-concoction-conspirators: we bit off more than we could chew last week. Let us let last week’s main course settle, simmer, ferment and crystallize. Tighten your astral belts and prepare for a deep nourishing fast in slow time. Our intention: to teach ourselves the art of outsight; to create a dish so “far-out” that it can be viewed from outer space. This may require us to develop farsighted vision, using our best utensils to map, predict and decide how we concoct a complex dish that is palatable on the planetary scale. Please BYOI (bring your own ingredients), i. e. list your preferences/tastes on the Chalkboard Menu…and don’t forget the yams!

Menu du Jour

Chalkboard Menu (Supplementary Sustenance)

Links to 2019 Cafes:

Agenda items

  • Introductions, check-ins, framing
  • Open Discussion

Cosmos Café [3/12] - Machine Learning
(LaughingCryingDancing) #2

Alex_Grey_Painting1aThis is the Edge of my Feet on the ground & the courage (Beat of inner Heart blending with the Unknown)Embrace Free Body-Mind-Spirit Thinking…Out Goes the Breath!Bridge%20to%20Now-Here

(Marco V Morelli) #3

I had wanted to say during our call, @Douggins; I think “onset” is actually a great way to talk about how “outsight” comes to us. It brings to mind Gebser’s notion of the “irruption” of time—which I’ve always interpreted to mean something like the inverse of an eruption, a sort of eruption from the outside in.

I believe “exo studies” broadly speaking concerns the irruptions we are all experiencing of the future, of time, of the cognitive nonconscious, of the alien and paranormal, of the liminal, or of Supermind.

There is also a long history of shamanic thinking & practice which views the “onset” of crisis as initiatory and transformational. The illness is the cure.

I thought the “Onset of Outsight” was a great way to frame this topic, and I bet we could do more with it.

(T J Williams) #4

I really need to delay lunch or avoid meetings or something on Tuesday afternoons…
I’ll catch up with the vid…

(LaughingCryingDancing) #5

Does this Vibe with U Sir Marco?

(john davis) #6

We really appreciate your reviews of our videos. You provide a much needed meta-perspective.

(Douglas Duff) #7

Just a bit of notes from the discussion yesterday + thoughts on Farsighted while waiting on the recording

I found Steven Johnson’s Farsighted to be a useful book directly related to our topic(s) of choice.@madrush mentioned Johnson’s story of Collect Pond in NYC, a bucolic location for centuries until commercialism (tanneries dumping chemicals and dead animals into the pond) required human decision-making skills to solve the issues of stagnant waters: should it be converted to a public park? High-end housing? Pierre Charles L’Enfant was hired and came up with a proposal that was turned down because of lack of support from investors….so they leveled nearby Bunker Hill and covered Collect Pond and developed high-class housing on top of it…only to have its merdo-issues arise a few decades later with sinking, stinking homes….ultimately leading to Five Points in the mid-1800’s, a slum Dickens wrote about, and later (present day) a collection of not-so-bucolic government buildings. Though we look with hindsight now…a good idea gone bad because of poor planning…can we proceed with farsightedness as we make large decisions now? L’Enfant later developed Washington DC and many Manhattan Parks….Collect Pond could have been one of these.

Johnson specifically hones in on a lack of farsighted. The developers proposing the leveling of Bunker Hill likely did not consult geologists, land surveyors, other scientific experts. Nor did they have the foresight into the future growth of Manhattan. No one mapped out an influence diagram, a full-spectrum tool we have in present-day decision making. Compare this case to Meadow Lake in Queens which underwent recent renewal by developing bioswale which collects highway runoff before entering the lake, and by filtering out algae-supporting phosphates from the drinking water which was causing algae blooms.

Johnson lists eight factors that make farsightedness a challenge.

Complex decisions:

involve multiple variables,
require full-spectrum analysis,
force us to predict the future,
involve varied levels of uncertainty,
involve conflicting objectives,
harbor undiscovered options,
are prone to failures of system 1 (or gut-feeling, shortcut-like) thinking;
are vulnerable to failures of collective intelligence (groupthink, etc.)

Mapping of the complex situations is necessary. Some of us are great mapmakers, explorers of the territory, guides. Restoring Meadow Lake required full-spectrum mapping…a very complicated mapping, but not an impossible one.

To create a map of the future or of the unknown, though, we need a core collection of prediction skills. Johnson reminds us that we are the only animal that demonstrates decision-making based on future prospects on the scale of months or years. We naturally predict…but how do we predict with precision, with the knowledge that our predictions have a wide-ranging effect on our world, especially as the decisions scale up beyond the individual levels and into community decisions, government decision, global level decisions?

For the long view, we need full spectrum source analysis. On the human level those of us with an openness to experience (a Big Five trait) have a better chance at being successful forecasters. But this does not mean that we can be ultimate prediction, though some percentage better than those without the trait. SF writers tend to be open and often provide us with new ideas…though hundreds of predictions never arrive.

When making the hard choices, we use the spectrum at hand to run simulations that utilize scenarios. Medical, meteorological, other natural science tend to have the upper-hand on prediction. Imagine the farsightedness required to get to the moon. As various sciences of mind and sociology become more explicit (bio- or eco- semiotics, anyone?!), can we learn to utilize these sciences to boost out predictions of futures?

Gaming, scenario planning; accepting and rehearsing for uncertainty; premortems (acting as if x has already happened —> see results); forecasting; literary explorations: all provide the territory for virtual scenarios. How do we decide? We perpetually search for guides as we go along for the ride, weighing values and risks; reviewing scenarios; mulling over and taking the long view.

We need to learn how to make long term decisions, emergent decisions. And it is about time we start learning how to make these decisions. Johnson’s book is useful as a gentle mapping and how to proceed. But he guides us back to ourselves…how do we make these hard decisions into an artful science? Simulations make us better at predicting, and successful predictions make us better decision-makers. How, then, can we simulate the personal or collective choices that matter most in our lives?

What do we want to have happen?
What wants to happen?
What needs to happen?

Or Tolstoy’s query:

What science can there be in a matter in which, as in every practical matter, nothing can be determined and everything depends on innumerable conditions, the significance of which becomes manifest at a particular moment , and no one can tell when that moment will come?


  • are we in an era that requires full species participation? Are the climate predictions accurate enough for us to reconsider the direction of the entire movement of the human species upon the earth? Is this era more of the same and to attempt prediction or speculation is to play a game (of some sort)?
  • Where (or when, Or why) does outsight begin (at what point is it a necessity)?
  • Who or what else observes from outsight?
  • Does the crow cracking the nut demonstrate learning, foresight? Do we need full-species education?

(Ed Mahood) #8

Just for (my own) clarification: Johnson’s case is for more technology in addressing the really big problems confronting us? It has all become so complex that we won’t be able to “save ourselves” (yes, there’s a bit of hyperbole in there) without it. Have I understood what was intended?

(Douglas Duff) #9

He is more focused upon other issues than technology, mainly how humans use what they already have at the ready. He would not be against using technology. In the book, he uses (for example) these examples:

  • Darwin’s weighing of the pros and cons to decide upon marriage, or not
  • Benjamin Franklin’s moral algebra
  • Bentham and Mill’s “greatest happiness for the greatest number”

all as precursors to “linear value modeling”. Each pro or con would be given a set weight or value. As it becomes more mathematical, more precise calculations can be determined for the various scenarios, resulting in one scenario with more value than others. Once we go algorithmic, we see more complex decisions being made.

Johnson is for more technology being used in smart ways. He would agree with your statement, but he would also say “the fact that we are capable of making these decisions should not be an excuse to rest on our laurels.” He supports human attention on the matter and ends on a couple high notes. One: sometimes (or more often than not) literature speak scenarios better than any machine could. He uses the character’s progress in Middlemarch … those of us who have read the Octavia Butler’s Parable series gained a few key insights into the decision making process through the leadership of Lauren Olamina. And two: “we might as well get good at it (decision making)”, thus the need for an education that teaches farsightedness.

Edit: to be honest, I do not really care about Johnson’s view all too much in the grand scheme. Maybe, because it is easy to compile a book with a catchy cover with insightful stories and semi-creative writing, because it is easy to become influential by becoming a best-selling author, I will hold an aversion to someone working within this frame. I do not wish for his ideas to hinder the discussion here. His framing is useful, but by no means the final word.

(T J Williams) #10

As always, gents, another banquet table of mind food… :clap: No meta-perspective this time; I’ll just add a few hip-shots to the mix.

@achronon Agreement: Planning for “the future” depends on scale. A day of battle (tactical), a month of campaigning (operational), and a year of war (strategic) require different approaches. It’s another example of the importance of making the question clear so the answer has a ghost of a chance of making sense.
@Mark_Jabbour Agreement: Lots of ‘moving parts’ complexity to history but many, probably most, human decisions can be understood by looking at what was or was perceived to be the immediate problem, situation, and need. On any level, one has to survive to make the next decision.
@madrush Agreement: Technology has a way of continuously expanding the immediacy of the problem, situation, and need. Yesterday the tribe; today the globe. Carl Sagan’s question: “Who speaks for Earth?” is one that deserves attention - and an answer.
@Michael_Stumpf Agreement: I especially liked how you linked a level of artistic perception to the creation of technology itself. One of the points Loeffler makes is that we have always been ‘hybrid’ in this regard - going forward this connective thinking will only become more important.
@Douggins Agreement: Algorithms are here to stay. We sure as hell aren’t going to be able to process all the information on which we have grown dependent. :sweat_smile:
@johnnydavis54 Agreement: Mindfulness of “final causes”/purposes needs to make a comeback indeed. Fragmentary approaches to education/life (to be distinguished here from taking small bites of big problems) tend to inhibit the flexible improvisation we need to deal with life.
That said, however, I don’t know which to fear most, machine “learning” or an increase of robotic mindsets among machine-using humans. LOL!!
Frank Herbert’s Dune is my favorite sci-fi novel not written by Asimov. Yet again, I quote the Bene Gesserit Reverend Mother Gaius Helen Mohiam: “Once men turned their thinking over to machines in the hope that this would set them free. But that only permitted other men with machines to enslave them.”

A thought on far-sightedness:
In the face of the unknown future, the ‘wise’ decision is the circumspect one which assumes the unmitigated operation of Murphy’s Law… :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:

(LaughingCryingDancing) #11

Balance-Art-By-Michael-Grab_06 Is This the Connective Thinking you are pointing to T J?

(T J Williams) #12


Where was this pic taken / how did they do that?

(LaughingCryingDancing) #13

I actually was watching a You Tube video of a guy in Asia(Thailand I think) display his skill of doing this live in a stream/river.Then found a site had some finished works.I 've forgotten the site’s name or the You Tube name… I’ll check out where it might be…found it You Tube-Rock Balancing:the ephemeral art…maybe a metaphor for balancing our concepts beginning with that anxious -fixated one we call Ego?

(Douglas Duff) #14

@hfester turned some of us towards the artwork of Andy Goldsworthy

In case we wish to get musical with it…Goldsworthy’s art was featured in Peter Gabriel’s Ovo album cover/liner notes

…is this the shelter we discussed in the call?

Heather also mentioned Michael Grab (I think), who is current based out of Boulder, CO (fitting place, right?!). Baffling creations! @Michael_Stumpf’s image above is attributed to him.