A Sumtyme Blog of Knowthing

Text your mettle

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Sometimes its better not to say anything, I mean know words are just the same. If too many people are looking for that same piece of emptiness it will surely be found and that is why  its best left to the few who will search but never find.

Written by Steve

April 16th, 2014 at 8:12 am

The lone lee plan it

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misconverswayshuns with my dark side

David Riesman in his book The Lonely Crowd developed  a theory of the evolution of social-personality types (as opposed to psyhcological personality types) known as tradition directed, inner directed and other directed.  These personality types were related to the type of society in which they appeared. I am going to suggest a fourth to this list— the personal career directed.

In our society now personal career seems to be the evaluation of life-meaning for individuals and society. Any behaviour which you can do in pursuit of your career is not just acceptable now it is considered successful, as long as you can get away with it.  Imagine the dean of a prominent business school  admonishing  a daughter with aspirations to be a Hollywood actress not to make a sex video and distribute on the WWW —come on, its just another business tool for success in the field.

I do not mean that everyone has the same standard  or perhaps relative to more traditional society a lack of standards, but rather the continuum  of acceptable/non acceptable behaviour  for individuals and society is qualitatively  different from previous societies as regards what is considered acceptable behaviour in pursuit of career.

When I was at university in the 1960s I was interested in the sociology of automation/cybernation and in my readings I came across an interesting  longitudinal study (from the Upjohn institute) concerning attitudes of  “higher educated business executives and lower educated blue collar workers (remember when we had them?)  and their attitudes toward  promotions and family. Overwhelmingly  the former would not refuse a promotion which would require them to leave their hometown and extended family relationships while the latter overwhelmingly would not take a promotion if it meant leaving their hometown and extended family relationships. The former valued career advancement as an opportunity not to be missed while the latter did not consider career advancement as important as family relationships.

In the decades since then personal career advancement is increasingly  the “holy grail” of modern life and while not everyone is willing to behave unethically, immorally or illegally, some are, and for the rest there is a continuum  of behaviour which would have been  considered “unacceptable” in the 1950s is now considered acceptable.

In my example above concerning the Upjohn study, both groups  believed they were acting ethically, or morally. The educated business manger  believed that their obligation to wife and children was to take the promotion even if it meant moving away from “ extended family  while the blue collar believed moving from their extended family for a better job  was unethical/immoral.

The specifics may differ on a continuum but for most people in society this  qualitative shift has occurred to some degree. things that previous generations believed were not acceptable behavior have become commonly acceptable in pursuit of career.

I think it is in a direct line with Reisman’s  theory considering that this behaviour further weakens  the transmission of the unifying  forces of Culture (the sociological/anthropological definition) and makes us more alone in the crowd. When we look at the divorce rate and the acceptance of extra-marital affairs it could be said that career success is more important than successful marriage and family. Even the opposite may be observed as many in public lie stay in an unhappy marriage because it would negatively affect their career.

I will write in more depth  on this later. However we can also consider McLuhan’s input on this.  For him it was print that created the cultural forces of individualization/specialization which, concerning behaviour and social personality type was a similar observation about society as Reisman’s.  Preprint society was  sociologically tightly knit—the village—and post print society was individualistic. McLuhan predicted electronic media would create/bring back a Global Village, i.e. a return to a society in which human behaviour  generated sociological forces of cultural unification rather than the forces of cultural division as generated by print society.

I have always liked McLuhan, in the 1960s  I heard him speak  and took a one time  seminar with him, but I think in this case he is wrong. I think face to face contact is necessary for the generation of unifying cultural forces. As our society becomes more individualist and computer code increasingly becomes a barrier between direct communication among people, the meaning of being human is being removed from human communication and human experience becomes intellectual thinking and not doing.

The Standard, and as it becomes a written standard it increasingly becomes “perfect” which computerized machines do well, especially when the standard is defined in writing, as words  themselves are abstracts about Reality and not the Reality. The Standard increasingly becomes what computerized machines can do and people will always fall short of “perfect.’

When tightening a bolt you can tell the machine to tighten it to a very specific  torque level, even say 0.000235784… ” and it can do it. But if one mechanic says to another, “Snug it up,” the  mechanics know what is meant but the machine will never understand and increasingly there is even less chance the human  computer coder will understand.

For each mechanic “snug it up” may not be exactly the same as measured by a computerized best practices torque standard measure. While each mechanic may have a different muscle power in their hand and ability to feel  “snug,”  because the mechanic  spent time learning under another mechanic these secrets  which can only be learned by doing,  and usually doing the grunt work at an entry level  hands on job, they come to know by feel what is means. Knowing by feeling (I do not mean feeling happy or sad) is increasingly being removed from the work place while “knowing by meeting a pre set standard” which is beyond the capabilities of men is replacing that ability.

Machines run by computers will never “know by feeling,” that is a human quality that can only be passed from one person to another and I think there is a chance that at some point humans will not be able to do that either—then we are no longer human.

In 1909 E.M.Forster wrote “The Machine Stops,” I remember reading it in high school, and everyday it seems we increasingly live in that world he described. Excuse me while I plan it, i.e.  my next career move.

“Men carried swords about with them, to kill animals and other men.”

“It does not strike me as a very good idea, but it is certainly original. When did it come to you first?”

“In the air-ship—–” He broke off, and she fancied that he looked sad. She could not be sure, for the Machine did not transmit nuances of expression. It only gave a general idea of people – an idea that was good enough for all practical purposes, Vashti thought. The imponderable bloom, declared by a discredited philosophy to be the actual essence of intercourse, was rightly ignored by the Machine, just as the imponderable bloom of the grape was ignored by the manufacturers of artificial fruit. Something “good enough” had long since been accepted by our race.

Written by Steve

April 15th, 2014 at 12:53 pm

All in a row and its not a pile of turtles

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Light misconverswayshuns with mydarkside

I listened to the Roger Penrose interview, “Cosmic Inflation is Fantasy” with Ira Flado on a  Science Friday show. http://www.sciencefriday.com/segment/04/04/2014/sir-roger-penrose-cosmic-inflation-is-fantasy.html).

He offered an alternative view of the “history and nature of the universe,” basically agreeing on the accepted empirical observations of scientists but suggesting a different interpretation for them.

For example one disagreement with “string theorists” was that they answered their “unanswered questions” by suggesting there were more dimensions than the  The Three Dimensions— height, width and depth—and space time.

His suggestion was that there  are only the three dimensions and space-time. While there may be “other dimensions” or universes each are still three dimensional and are connected in a linear relationship with each other through qualitatively different periods . Even more he suggested that maybe “expansion and contraction” generate the qualitatively different universes and that what the “string theorists” describe as multiple dimensions are simply things left over from previous universes.

This is not a new idea. The Vedas from thousands of years ago, long before writing, described the universe in a similar way, as a series of expansions and contractions with each qualitatively different period called a Kalpa and suggested this process of expanding and contracting has been going on forever.

If as Penrose suggests, there is stuff in this universe from a previous universe then it might be possible that its a message from a previous universe and it might be possible for us to send the next universe a message.

Well Roger, my question would be “Are you working on how send a message to the next universe?”

Add to this discussion the early Asimov story “Nightfall.” I don’t know if I should spoil it for you but basically the society in the story  has two suns and is “almost” always light, except it periodically experiences an unexplainable period of total  darkness which results in a large number of deaths and a major technological step backwards.

The hero who seems to be a “scientist”  has a continuity theory and is preparing for the next “Dark Destruction” event in order to try to live through it or at least leave an important communication for the next society. As you read the story  and the period of “Dark Destruction” approaches it becomes clear that the “Nightfall” is just the suns at some point being in some critical alignment which blocks the light for a while,  but the darkness is so qualitatively different people go crazy and destroy themselves and society.

Sounds to me like a metaphor for one way science advances. Science thinks it knows something and then finds it does not know it. And fortunately, as science seems to be very valuable for society, a basic tenet of science is that it is open to criticism and change, unlike most other “human ways of knowing.”

And then bring into this  Camus in “The Myth of Sysiphus ”  where he suggests that science, even though it promises  one day to know the universe, its very process results in creating new things to differentiate and define and it will be a never ending process.

And then Kant who noted the human condition is that we know through our senses  (science is empirical) which is the human experience. An “independent universe,” i.e. something that exists independent of human experience is something we may not know, indeed we may not know that we don’t know it. Science after all may just be a diary of human experiences and have little to do with “knowing the universe.”

Finally for me personally, the process of differentiating one thing from another and giving it a name, which is pretty much what science is, is what gave people the survival edge and its human nature. We cannot help doing it, but I think its no so wise to think its Truth, or it makes us any“higher on some  meaningful scale” than other living things.

After enjoying the  interview I was disappointed about one thing, not in Penrose or Flado but rather that many of the comments that followed were quite crude and disrespectful of Penrose and in this way quite disrespectful of Science, its process and methodology.


Written by Steve

April 13th, 2014 at 7:37 am

Tran samer ica misconverswayshun

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Light misconverswayshuns with my dark side

A war between nations that support free speech, free markets and  capitalism, democracy and common law, separation of religion and state, and civil rights AND those that do not—west against east. That would be a sad future.

What would a  political compromise be to avoid a world war?

Written by Steve

April 7th, 2014 at 11:59 pm

The price is neither right or left but somewear in the muddle

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Light misconverswayshuns with my dark side

Sometimes it seems to me that people confuse moral and political issues. Moral  or ethical issues, what you believe is Right, are chosen for commitment  by the individual.these are things you believe are Intrinsically Right and you will behave in conformance with them no matter what. It makes no difference if others agree or disagree with you. its a personal commitment and  you behave in accordance because you believe its the right thing to do. When someone disagrees with you they are morally/ethically  wrong but you do not force your perspective  on that person.

Political issues on the other hand are issues which are in the political domain. There is discussion and laws are passed and enforced, using violence, by government. You behave in accordance because its the law which, using violence will be enforced by the state. Political issues are neither right or wrong, and where we have freedom of speech there will be different opinions and these opinions are not Right or Wrong but different. When issues are in the political realm at the level of free speech people have the right to express their point of view.  When someone has a different political point of view on a political issue, they have a right to “express  it”  and they are not morally or ethically wrong.

When you bring an issue into the political space then you need to tolerate the expression of a different opinion. And when it becomes a law,its not because its Right or Moral or Ethical but because of political power.

Individuals may be moved to work towards political change because they believe its the Right Thing to do, its Moral  or Ethical. While that may be what motivates them, its still political and when you invoke the use of “the legitimate Violence of the State”  you are using violence on others to get your way—you are forcing your way on others.

In  democracies with free speech,  constitutional  individual rights , separation of religion and state, and a history of common law, such as we see in the  western world, the political process, which is about using “ legitimate violence”—the violence used to enforce laws—for the commonweal, we have seen political change  happening  in a more peaceful manner than in other forms through history.

This is a good thing for individuals and societies, but still I believe there needs to a place for people to act according to their beliefs as long as they behave within the law or (always there seems to be  an exception)  within the domain of “nonviolent disobedience.”

Morality is what the individual believes is Right and an individual, by commitment tries his/her best to live by that and it is enforced because the individual takes personal responsibility. Law is what society compromises on, its neither Right or Wrong and is enforced by the legitimate violence of the state.

And its another blog post where the visual is interesting and the words are just the price the reader has to pay.

Written by Steve

April 6th, 2014 at 7:24 am