Thank you. I’ve been out of town recording, so if I’ve been absent I apologize. Trying to catch up on some of the reading. I’d love to read the Muhlmann book in its entirety but it’s difficult to find and very expensive. The Notre Dame burning has me thinking a lot about the event as a means of rectifying a new metaphysics. I think the event and widespread political exhaustion could help point us in a new direction. Heidegger’s fifth causal quality of technology, it’s property of revealing, is ushering us into a place where we have to react “now”, in its current state because of how quickly technology evolves and the ways it frames the event… It’s own form of embedded and guided survival instinct and one that may not seem “natural” , but should be taken as such. In a time when people seem very interested in planning because of a loss of purpose is just the moment planning and guidence may be most necessary? It’s like being a firefighter on standby, waiting for the next dry brush fire, knowing it will happen, roughly around what time a year it will happen, but not knowing exact logistical details.
so I was thinking if you want to follow the track “metaphysics/Piaget/Gebser/history” and link it up to the expansion of operational chains I’d suggest this summary of Descola’s anthropological ideas on cosmologies and a section of Hallpike in which he talks about abstraction and its boundaries in “primitive thought” (as the book is also titled, as attached, 4 pages)
Thank you. I’ve been out of town recording, so if I’ve been absent I apologize. Trying to catch up on some of the reading. I’d love to read the Muhlmann book in its entirety but it’s difficult to find and very expensive. The Notre Dame burning has me thinking a lot about the event as a means of rectifying a new metaphysics. I think the event and widespread political exhaustion could help point us in a new direction. Heidegger’s fifth causal qhality of technology, it’s property of revealing, is ushering us into a place where we have to react “now”. It’s its own form of embedded and guided survival instinct and one that may not seem natural, but should be taken as such. In a time when people seem very interested in planning because of a loss of purpose is just the moment planning and guidence may be most necessary? It’s like being a firefighter on standby, waiting for the next dry brush fire, knowing it will happen, roughly around what time a year it will happen, but not knowing exact logistical details.
No need to apologize! I thought I saw you pick up a guitar once and keyboards in the mirror on some split screen shots when I was trying to get my camera working. If that’s what “recording” refers to, that is awesome!
Good point. In my moments of pessimistic ‘ah, we’ll never have the collective wisdom and will to make present changes for a better future’, I try to remember that our history is a product of societies that have done just that (why we have any history, as painful as much of it has been). Ian Morris observes in Why the West Rules - For Now: cultures do in fact tend to apply the necessary thought to problems as they arise.
I imagine that as we bring attention to our collective unconscious our collective unconscious changes. Notre Dame is an example of what happens before , during, after collective traumatic episodes. The burning of the Cathedral is like the collapse of the old Mythic Structure, which has been the glue for our Modern World. We are an unstable and indeterminate mix of movies, stories, theories, some far away and some in close proximity. Memory is not a recall of certain facts but a creative act of comparing values and shared narrative spaces. We put these random events into some kind of sequence. How we do this as individuals or as nation-states, is far from obvious but I am hopeful that our intentions, as intra-acting agents, when made conscious and shared with others, can create conditions for coherence rather than de-coherence.
Once again, thanks to everyone for a very good talk. Thanks for the link, John. I had Alexander Wendt confused with Kenneth Waltz, who has also written several books/essays in international politics.
And thank you, Davor - I know my last question was a bit imprecise and broad but the image at which we arrived of developments simply outgrowing the containers designed long ago to hold them was a burst of clarity for me. (That’s how history works! LOL)
I also see a bit of your criticism of Descola; there is a sense in which he has come up with creative solutions for the problems of 20th century anthropology. Ultimately his “periodic table” may be another brilliantly designed but now too-small container.
I imagine that you are right about this, TJ. I think Descola is coming out of a Naturalist ontology that is grounded in materialism. It is a way of thinking that made the atomic bomb the central event of the last century. Chemistry is the science that he compares his model to. Another look at a different kind of future is focused upon in this Weird podcast. Jeffrey Kripal, whom I mentioned before, is a religious scholar, who delves deep into the taboo subject of the paranormal. He explores the magical and mythic without falling into the materialist trap of trying to normalize these strange events or label and dismiss them. An appreciation for synchronicity and serendipity and the odd dynamics of social dreaming maybe a new attractor that could bring forward cultural capacities. I imagine that if we were less afraid of how weird life can be , we would be better able to handle the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.
@John: thanks, interesting article. The question is only in what way this world-state can be realized, and due to the complexity of a world of 10 billion people it cannot be done by humans, the human mind and all institutional protheses cannot “contain” or map or regulate or govern the complexities. There was just another recent take on this by Nick Bostrom (he is a bit too speculative in his assertions usually). But I think that there can be absolutely no doubt anymore that we are entering an age of algorithmic regulation of everything, it is simply the only option given the complexities we are dealing with. The political though still comes back in the question on the decisions about the parameters of regulation (so what are the goals, what is good and what is detrimental - in other words: somebody needs to program values into the algorithms).
… “expert says” - neither is he an expert nor does he need to call for it: this IS the historical trajectory, no matter if someone calls for it or not.
In addition to that: it might be that once we are entering the realm of the “algorithmic craddle”, that is when the environment is entirely tamed and all stress reduced (work etc entirely externalized), then maybe we may see the “weird” parts of life clearer, since then the ephemeral traces of it are not being covered by everyday problems and needs.
@ TJ: no no, your question was not imprecise but actually getting to the core of it, it iwas only too broad to be answered quickly. Yes, Descola’s theory is inherently plausible, but not aligned with historical knowledge and also it is based on some questionable axiomatic assumptions about how minds and societies work (he seems to rely rather on dogmas of the field then to knowledge produced in other fields), so it is rather a “language game” in the field of elitist anthropology and less a useful description of anything (I’m saying this because I was surprised to see that he apparently did not know or mention the dozens of theories that have dealt with these types of cosmologies and their relations already, both in a relativist and more fruitful in a historical sense).
Yes, so it is all about breaking up the containers! This is what I meant with breaking out of the pathdependency of the systems, of which one aspect is the Baldwin-effect (Yam roots, Mühlmann) on the hormonal-metaphysical-pleroma level.
@ Doug: I think it is ok to discuss all these issues closely in relation to the ongoings in the US, for one because this superpower is of course pivotal, but also because here one can easily carve out the general problems and resistances, and also because it can be put into nice contrast to what is happening in other parts of the world, as in China, which actually does already prepare the technologies of the world state and in general the technological civilization, since they adopted the technologies developed in the west in a state where they had to entirely rebuilt their “country”, so they can fully employ and exploit the potentials which are being blocked in the west due to institutional and metaphysical path dependency. In 10 years already the west will run after them, not the other way round, as they are mercilessly pushing forward in increasing their efficiency (they have to because they simply have real problems to solve). So there is a lot to dig out from these contrasts.
And this is a faith based initiative and that is fine with me. I, also, have heard this since I was a teenager. I have less faith in high tech interventions than you do. I strongly doubt algorithms are the royal road to utopia, sounds like just more high modernist hype. The algorithmic spin meisters are everywhere. And after the “algorithmic cradle” is there an “algorithmic graveyard”?
Clarity at our current level of development may not be such a good idea. I am open to dialogue, however, and welcome strong differences. As minds that are entangled in language, we shall not reach clarity on any of this any time soon. That we can co-create paradox and impasse is of great aesthetic interest and I hope we can do this on purpose, rather than try to solve problems at the level of the problem. The algorithm is just that-an algorithm-it is not like the river or the mountain. It is not a strong brown god. A bunch of numbers. Rather than an algorithm I prefer a Klein bottle.
And is there a relationship between algorithm and a Klein bottle?
Greta is an astute politician and she triangulates from the margins really well. Her capacity for creating a double bind in her elders is a very good sign. She is a biotic system that is worth working hard to preserve. And she is not an algorithm. She appears to be quite real. And I hope an inter-generational dialogue is underway. And perhaps an intra-active dialogue will occur as well. We contain multitudes.
And what happens when we have theory of mind and a theory of matter that are not split? So far, it appears to me, that we are still wrestling within a widely shared deficient mental structure. Weirdness that disrupts that mental structure is good,
Thanks for the link on body culture. This feels a bit narcissistic though there are no doubt some healthy forms of such obsessiveness. We have plenty of body cultism here, too.
I think it already has gone horribly wrong. And a good belly laugh is probably the antidote to so much unnecessary suffering. And can the abiotic system laugh or tell a good joke or give me a kiss good night?
I don’t think this junk science is inevitable and we may have missed something that is just underneath, above, below, after, before our assumptions that we can pay attention to. The quality of our attention ( an invisible and anticipatory capacity) is our greatest asset in this brave new world we want so much. And how long have we wanted this? And where does that want come from? I suspect, for many of us, this desire for something better comes from the future.
Just to clarify: I’m not propagating algorithmization or a techno-utopia of any kind PERSONALLY. As a humanist I agree with all the critique as developed in the 1920s and earlier, as for example by Heidegger as mentioned recently, that the pure “apparatization” of life, quantification and instrumentalization does not enrich life but leads to the opposite. My work is and always was a metaphysical endeavor, the problem is only that I found that it is inevitable and I’m looking for potentials to use it in an enriching way, not only as enhanced biopolitical management (objectification, or as you say: death). What I meant with the algorithmic cradle is that it could be that the human feature and tendency of “niche construction” (= cultural evolution), that is the taming of nature (inner and outer) will continue in algorithmization, but that its consequences and applications are yet open, they don’t need necessarily to be only adopted by the technocapitalist world with its functional-instrumental aims. So, if people were not stressed so much by the artificially (or not) induced striving to survive (or simply taking part in society, or consumerism) they, that is a broader demographic, could eventually find and uncover other intensities and realms which are still covered by the perceived or induced needs of everyday life (the old Marxist thought that a more fair distribution leads to a more human world, that is a world in which potentials can be freed and not channelized instrumentally). But, of course, as a realist I would not really bet on a purely positive outcome of all this.
Good old nudism was just an example or sample of the anti-civilizational, emancipative and life-experimental movements of these times, a compression of it. Today it is not so much a big thing here anymore, more like an outdated tradition (certainly not with any spiritual or revolutionary intentions any more), and I personally have no connection to it at all, it is really only on rare occasions or special places that one would nowadays still encounter this (it was banned in West Germany during capitalization after WWII, while at first in the GDR too, but the people were rising up against it and so it became a hallmark cultural and mental trait of the socialist East Germany. It is interesting to notice though the differences in body-perception of people in the west and east: in West Germany the body is rather conceived as a commodity, while in the east especially due to the nudist movement it is rather considered as some sort of natural “interface”, something open and not fully quantified or discretized, there is less or no shame and hysteria about it and no market value perspective – at least in the older generations, I don’t know what the people who were born after the wall came down feel).
The reason why I pointed you at this was just to show that there were many so called “life-reform” movements (the root of the hippies, as emigrants to the US brought it over there, also this was the time when Steppenwolf was written, Asian and Indian cultural practices introduced on a large scale etc.) that were explicitly holistic and integrative, and now the quest could be to look for what prevented them to be successful in changing the entire structure of society, at least why the quantitative and qualitative degree (number of people and depth of transformation) in which they did change something was not enough to change more.
So, both would present a line of inquiry, but of course I’d be open to being convinced that I’m thinking too sociologically here. !
And here another article in this vein, a more moderate take on the potentials of AI:
Haven’t read this but also maybe an addendum: Western vs. Japanese evaluation of robots
The point is that probably in the end it will be as always. These postcards from 1900 show how people imagined the future, and the extrapolations are of course not correct, but partially. One can say that in every generation something is being blown up into the absolute and then only tendentially realized under the constraints of reality. They wanted communism and they got unions, they wanted flying cars and got airplanes, they wanted the singularity/AGI and they got smart little apps:
And is there a relationship between a humanist who is not propogating a techno-utopia…and the realist who would not bet on a purely positive outcome?
And a quote from the Wired article.
“We need to embrace the unknowability – the irreducibility – of the real world that artists, biologists and those who work in the messy world of liberal arts and humanities are familiar and comfortable with.”
" We must question and adapt our own purpose and sensibilities as observers and designers within systems for a much more humble approach: humility over control."
I basically agree with this article, except rather than value humility over control, I would value influence over control. We may not control much, but we influence a lot. There does seem to be an awareness in the article between the efficient and deficient mental structure at play in behaviors of those who want to control and predict a complex system and those who want to participate and design with a more ecological awareness.
And is there anything else, TJ, about that broad and imprecise question?
And when a burst of clarity, then what happens?
Is there anything else about that argument, that you wanted to build?..and when build an argument, is there anything else about build?
I add another voice to the mix, the voice of our friend, Mr. McWhorter. I sense that he is definitely an articulate spokesperson from an efficient mental structure. He is able to triangulate from the margins. Would you care to respond, TJ?
And when we can integrate the humanist and the realist and build better arguments and have a burst of clarity, what happens next?
And can we make sense of any of this?
And what needs to happen for us to make sense?
And what are the patterns that connect?
And here is another well known international voice that is speaking, I believe, from an efficient mental structure about our current dilemma .
Is there anything that we are missing?
And is there a relationship between what we are giving our attention to and a Second Order Culture?
Yes, sure: the humanist ethos calls for enabling the realization of potentials beyond functional instrumentalization, while the realist outlook would be that algorithmization fortifies the current or new exploitative systems instead of mitigating and changing them (in the direction of the humanist ethos).
Referring to Gebser’s deficient mental structure. That could be loosely described as attachment to quantification, control, predictability, objectivization, reductive materialism, rejection of magical and mythic. Efficient forms of mental structure can take perspectives and can be more flexible and accepts that there is much more going on than the mental. Many scientist and artists can testify to the mysterious nature of creative breakthroughs and eurekas that are beyond the manipulation of algorithms. Kekule’s discovery of the benzine ring, for example, or Einstein’s thought experiments with a heightened sense of kinesthetic awareness, etc, draws upon imagination and affect. The Integral would be a balance of vision and logic. My feeling is that we are not in an Integral wave yet but that there is, as you say, a recognition that the Modern is kaput. Gebser would probably say that the final phase of a structure appears in a deficient form as the new structure has already started to arise. Thanks for asking, Davor, and I hope this is useful. My feeling is that we are collectively caught in the arrested development of a science caught in deficient forms of the mental. There are efficient and deficient forms of the previous structures, too. There is a logic of becoming in Gebser that is different from Piaget’s more cognitive-scientific approach. Gebser primarily identified with being a poet! I would say the Second Order Culture would recognize and encourage the interplay of all structures, appreciating paradox and impasse and dilemma, without getting lost in the undertow of fundamentalism generated by Big Science or Big Religion.
And what kind of potentials? How would we know that we are realizing those potentials? How would we know that she is beyond functional instrumentalization? Who are exemplars?
And how does changing them in the direction of humanist ethos happen? And can this happen? And who decides upon this humanist ethos direction? And what about the other than human?
I am not offering any easy answers to our dilemmas but listening for those who are going in the direction of an appreciation for complexity rather than control and over simplification and competition for vanishing resources. I think there are many kinds of margins in our current culture and a spirit of experiment is welcome. I try to seek out persons who are triangulating from the margins. That’s my effort here. Can this person or group deal with the splits, anomalies, para normal events happening? Can they be concrete and abstract? Or do they favor one over the other? Is he aware of his blind spots? Or do they try to paper over conflicts and wish they would go away? I sense that most of us are in this zone of tension between different styles of communication. Gebser imagined the next phase of civilization would not be about the expansion of consciousness but the intensification of consciousness. A Post-Money world may not be full of relaxation and infinite bliss!
Some of us are hitting rock bottom, as described in this video. I think this is perhaps another sign that this widespread depression heralds that the Modern has reached a dead end.
It really boils down to combining the visionary and the realist in one’s own head, and presenting that combination in a convincing way to someone, anyone…
The visionary sees the acceleration of climate change (sure Earth goes through ‘mood swings’ all the time but attention must be paid to the fact that it should take thousands of years to melt a glacier rather than twenty) or the persistence of collectively anarchic worldviews (someday, someone explodes a dirty bomb in a major urban center for whatever political, religious, nationalist, or ‘watch the world burn’ point) or any other of a dozen issues and declares, rightly, that a better world is desirable. The realist looks at modernity and antiquity, the 500 years it took to put current economic and political models into widespread practice as well as the 5000 years it took to create and sustain the large-scale, complex society and tries to assess whether that better world is probable. Of course these two orientations are not necessarily opposed, but they do often seem to get in each other’s way.
I agree with Davor that if a world-state truly is in the future then it will need institutions that enable it to function. Even should that ‘state’ be benevolent and decentralized, say, some sort of representative democratic federation, the amount of sheer information it will need to make utilitarian decisions would be enormous. (Access to information that “technological civilization” has made available would itself be one of the factors that would make possible the building of the world-state, as Wendt argues.) So I can see that an “algorithmic cradle” (if not already here) is coming. As I have no idea what that will mean in the long run for the future of my species, I can only hope that “we” (they) allow for the increase of individual and collective imaginative wisdom to go along with that. Maybe our descendants will do just that. Maybe the “algorithmic graveyard” (a historical probability according to the ‘what goes up comes down’ principle (LOL)) will simply usher in further improvements. In any event, to my mind this is the real key: without cultivation of imaginative wisdom it really doesn’t matter what we do or what happens to us, does it?
A Second Order Culture starts by laying out these concerns - as issues and as opportunities…
I almost never remember my dreams, but on those occasions I tend to wake up with complete and vivid details. This May 2, for whatever reason, was one of those mornings - as if the subconscious sensed that my rational mind would not do better:
I am in a small room with tables, like some kind of old tavern, surrounded by wood and brick and a comfortable, homey feeling. There are four boys with me, aged between 12 and toddler. I know, without knowing how I know, they are mine (though none resemble either of my sons). I know, without knowing how I know, that their mother is no longer present. I cannot see my face. I feel old, the aura of some prophet-sage, and my first thought is to wonder how one so old has such young children. I sense something imperturbable and important about the aura.
I sense a deep dejection, a palpable bitterness and loss in the air. My dream mind knows it is Virginia here, and “the war” has just ended. A group of men appears at the door. They wear tattered plaids and flannel, and mournful expressions. The tallest of them has dirty gold braids on faded gray sleeves. I direct the three oldest boys to prepare some tables. I make a generous meal (apparently possessing the culinary skills I lack while awake). The men eat slowly and silently with careworn faces. But the food fuels a few tight smiles as my boys attentively remove and replace plates and refill pewter cups. They finish and stand. The tall one places three silver coins on the table. I bow, take one of the coins and thank him. I point to the other two. “Special prices today, sir,” I say. The man, with a gratitude that must for some reason remain silent, nods his head once as he pockets them. They leave.
I know, without knowing how I know, that something is coming. I sigh deeply, letting go… I order the boys to sweep the floors, then I tell them to get the satchels from near the door. I tell them to put traveling clothes in the satchels and to wrap up any small items they wish to have with them. The boys do not ask me why, although I sense the oldest would have but changed his mind. There is something in the way the boys look up to me with unquestioning trust that makes me sad. The sun touches the western horizon.
Then there is a semicircle of men in white hoods and robes around the windows and door of the tavern. I know, without knowing how I know, that these are not the visitors from before. There is an outraged, high-pitched drawl. “To think we marched so far and fought so hard to come home and see… this!..” This. Yes, this small piece of safety and comfort. Owned by someone who does not look the way people who own things should look. I order the boys to pick up the satchels. I scoop the youngest into my arm and, deliberately in the line of sight of the hooded figure at the nearest window, run a hand over a mantelpiece I must have made or placed there in a happier moment. I pick up the family Bible and exit. The men step back from the door to let us leave but one reaches for the small parcel my third son wrapped. The boy looks up at me. “That which can be taken can be replaced,” my dream voice comes out with unwavering softness. “We must be strong.” The boy hands over the parcel. He only says, “Momma gave me that,” as he moves to stand behind me. Of all the things I know in this dreamscape, I do not know what is in the parcel. To my surprise, it is too much for one of the men. “Let him have it,” is said in a low growl. “Let 'em take what they want to carry.” My oldest clenches his jaw, unable for a moment to mask helpless frustration. “I don’t want to take anything,” he announces. I look past his eyes directly into his pain. “Then take courage, my son,” I say simply. “We must be strong.” I put the fading daylight to my left and move forward across a wide field toward a line of woods beyond which I know there to be a dirt road. I do not choose to look behind me toward the sound of crackling flames. Their glow casts a greasy dark shadow across shifting, gathering clouds overhead.
It is the malevolent serpent of hatred there, cold and coiled in the sky.
I am now conscious of a fourth-wall break in the dreamscape; I am trailed by children in a Virginia field in another century, but my mind echoes with thoughts: Bosnia, Northern Ireland, Palestine, Rwanda, the Pakistan-India border, Tibet, the Rohingya of Myanmar…
The prophet-sage inhales. I feel… power. I address the snake. “Only those who imbibe your venom are vulnerable. We will survive. You are mortal.”
A cold, reptilian visage turns toward me, but I sense great fear. I have locked eyes with Tiamat, the dragon of chaos herself… but it is Marduk speaking. “Yes. You are mortal.”
McWhorter gets no argument from his fellow American black 50-something male whose weapon of choice is a good book. As I see it, his bottom line is that until we are free to add context to our issues, whatever they may be, we will be unable to identify and deal with real culprits. Sometimes, the reality we generate should start with the hard inner work of wrestling greatness out of our own reluctant souls before pointing any fingers. Only then would we be able to shoot lightning.