The Bishop and the Butterfly: Murder, Politics, and the End of the Jazz Age

    On Knowing and Not Knowing

    In the beginning, God made us a deal - you chill, I'll do all the heavy lifting.

    Who was this God dude anyway? Didn't matter - the uncertainty was replaced by someone in charge. Our job was to do (and to enjoy), not to know, not to decide. Above our pay grade.

    And thus it continued till some damn woman stuck her nose in and said "hey, I hear there's another way".

    Another way for what? There we were, minding our own business, heading out to the fields every day....

    And then someone says, "How does it work?" OMG, zoots - how *does* it work?

    And suddenly the men are wearing suits and wielding slide rules and carrying briefcases and asking about rules.

    ("Rules?" the bad hombre says to Butch. "First thing is, there are no rules", Butch replies with a kick)

    Rules. How this, how that, what size, for how long, in what stages, what color...

    We got so good at reckoning and lugging stone, building grain pyramids, we started building to the sky - wheeee!!!

    And then it broke. No one knows exactly why, it just done broke.

    All that machinery wasted. So we went back to the fields, got ourselves a few feudal lords. And waited.

    A long time. A *really* long time.

    Until some German cat came along, a rather dodgy character whose claim to fame was making shiny metal mirrors for pilgrims to walk around with. Vanity, all is vanity.

    He made a deal with Fust (Faust?) - a few coins and he could record your thoughts. Forever (or until warranty ran out).

    And thus doing vs deciding got a new friend - competitor. Well kind of.

    See, knowing is a black art. And that woman of yore could now come back and say, "didn't you promise....?"

    But now with Gutenberg's help, you could pile up a stack of paper taller than Babel and say, "huh? show me"

    More scandalous than the printing press, Gutenberg invented fine print.

    Scroll forward another 600 years, and we have a modern grudge match going on.

    But largely the same one.

    Amazon has introduced Alexa, an assistant par excellence. It will "do". Everything.

    Google has already introduced, well, Google, another assistant of sorts. It will "know". Everything.

    (Well, scratch that - actually it "decides")

    And then there's us, the consumer, the end customer, the target of all this tomfoolery, the "mark".

    What will we "do"? Where will we "go"? Ah, good question (to the woman whose hubby won't stop to ask directions).

    See, the slip up in the garden wasn't about do vs control - it was about knowing.

    The "why". The "how". The "this that and the other".

    That printing press breakthrough wasn't about needing more storage and trivia - it was about knowing.

    Our epiphany wasn't a larger metaphysical garage to store our virtual junk in - it was to be knowing.

    And all we've got is data, "facts", dark matter, a trove of fool's gold for the alchemically inclined.

    We are sifting sand.

    We can better predict the weather, but we can't predict our own kind.

    And we know too well about the fickleness and contrariness of our own nature. Can't trust *that*.

    And our daily knowledge of the world and its workings is barely better than someone a century ago, aside from a few better tools.

    What's missing is the learning machine. Not someone to think for us. Not someone to do for us. Not even tools to help us plough and raise a tower to heaven and fix our morning cup of coffee.

    Nope, we just need to understand. More and more and more. Not facts, but knowledge. Even as data multiplies like the stars, we need a way to multiply our understanding that much too.

    Not more machines, not more paper and bits and bytes. Understanding.

    Until we invent a tool that helps us know what's going on, helps us keep up with the ever accelerating growth of informational stuff, we're on the path to oblivion, a child riding helplessly on the crest of a tsunami.

    More toys won't obviate that. Uncertainty is not our friend. A new religion of faith won't help.

    We need a way to impart wisdom on an industrial scale. It's either that or the plague.

    Freedom or servitude.

    It's that dire. And damn tough.

    Think about it.

    When we look up at the stars, how do we know the goings on behind every one? And how to make sure every one of us has the same insight?

    How do we know we know? And what to know? And when? What's the next level of knowledge we need to reach?

    How do we keep from repeating the same old thing, the bits we already "know" but don't actually, the trivia we use to keep ourselves content at roughly the same cognitive level where we were in say 1870?

    That's our breakthrough - the next horizon - as Bateson used to say, learning about learning. Can we?


    [caveat - this is not a political piece - all irrelevant political musings will be deleted]


    I wouldn't have taken that first bite but the Devil made me do  it.


    I think the first requirement is to know that you don't know so many things.

    The second is to have curiosity, and then to prioritize areas that you want to pursue.

    The third is to do the work of choosing good sources to educate yourself.

    The fourth is to make the effort to learn and to build on what you learn to learn more.


    However, without curiosity none of the others are possible.


    i have a friend who was my roommate in nursing school.  She has a curiosity about various things, including math theory, String theory, mindfulness, the JFK assassination, and many other things.  She changed the way I saw the world 30 years ago, and I admire her unrelenting search for knowledge.  I am lazier than she is, but I credit her with helping me go off in directions (literally and figuratively) that I had believed were out of my reach.

    PP, I agree with you that knowledge should be a goal of all of us.  Opinions aren't knowledge, but the two are conflated often.  Interesting that you say we are no closer to true knowledge than we were ages ago.  Once it began to think about it, it makes sense.  If there is a drought or a flood there MUST be some explanation.  How about that the rain gods are mad?  It's actually not that different today.


    Here is a thought excercise :  When was the last time you actually changed your mind about something that you formerly believed, by learning something that you did not know before?


    But I'm not talking about personal development - that just creates more haves and have-nots. I'm talking about exponentially jump-starting the learning process, a world full of relative supermen. How much faster can we learn a language than in 1817 - half the time? Pathetic. It takes longer to make a doctor than in 1817 - sure, we know much more, but we're running backwards against all that data - and the worst thing is when we don't know, we just start faking it, no matter how smart. Our brains even do it automatically without even informing us.

    Re: what I change my mind on, I was wrong about a government requirement I had to apologize for yesterday, I thought homes were good investments until Nate Silver showed otherwise, I've changed my mind about several matters at this blog, etc.

    Ah, yes.  I see what you mean.  Although I think that unless we have an invasion of aliens who would like to help earthlings learn to stop self-destructing, it will be up to individuals to at least start this process.

    When I was given this experiment I came to the conclusion that the printing press had done the most to change the world.  I was surprised to see that others suggested "the wheel," "boats,"  "the ability to start fires,"  "weapons that could kill from a distance," etc.  I couldn't really argue with any of the other ideas, but I still thought the printing press was the invention that, by allowing dissemination of facts and ideas; motivated people to learn to read, and also spread knowledge. At least it USED to.  

    Now, as to the thing I changed my mind about, having discovered new facts:  I am ashamed to say that I used to think that tobacco companies were not to be blamed for the many health risks of smoking because, after all - everyone always knew that cigarettes were bad for you.  So, if anyone knowingly started smoking, why should BIG tobacco be to blame.  When I saw "The Insider," which was about the intensive effort the tobacco industry made to include chemicals that would assure addiction, I began to do my own research.  It was true.  This is what I am talking about.  Not a factual correction, but a paradigm shift.

    I have had more since then, but am more aware than before.  I love to learn stuff that changes the way I see things.


    Actually, PP, I got distracted from what I originally wanted to say.  If you go to a rice paddy in Vietnam; a tiny apartment in Calcutta; a lovely horse farm in Aix en Provence, or a Tastee-Freeze in South Carolina, there is a common denominator.  It is the cell phone.  

    No other "thing" compares in its ubiquitousness (is that a word?). If there is a chance, this is it.  Do you have a proposal?  There are so many different realities.  

    The only time I am truly hungry is when I am on a diet.

    The only time I am truly thirsty is when I forgot to bring my water bottle when working out.

    Although I have been enormously sad, I never saw a child of mine drown, or  die from lack of care.

    I think the other thing I need to add to my original list is this:

    You must have Empathy for others

    I honestly think the only way we can deal with people who think so differently than we do is to try to empathize with them.  I can't always do it, but it helps occasionally.

    That said, if there is any way to communicate with all these disparate people the cell phone awaits.

    Read Michael Lewis's The Undoing, if you haven't already. Very eye-opening on the question of what we know and how we know we know. Certainty and uncertainty.

    I just ordered it from Looking forward to a good read.  Thanks!  

    BTW! Are you interested in the question I proposed above?  It originally came from a website I found some time ago.  I think it was named The Question.  I was fascinated to read responses from scientists, historians, politicians, well-known thinkers as well as ordinary people like me.  The first question I saw was, "What do you think was the invention that most changed the world, and why?"   The rule s that you have to give your answer before reading any others.  Also there was a word maximum...I think 500 wds.

    Ah, but that's the past. What invention will most change the world, that's what I want to know - even participate in.

    See above.  But the only way in that I can see is through cell phones.  How else can you reach a maximum number of people in 2017.  How can we make KNOWLEDGE a goal for all people, rather than a challenge to debunk?

    Seriously, I think it comes down to the joy of certainty (heaven). vs the certainty of joy (science).  If only people could come to the understanding that "We all die."   It ends at that point, and so the whole notion that we can live forever because.... well, I have to ask why only humans (who are less humane than most animals)  So this is supposed to make us all

    Any look at history and science will let people realize what we have all gained over time, but objectivity is not something we all have.  

    Our smart phones get smarter while we get dumber. Bad tradeoff despite or because of the convenience. They don't teach us anything - they're just tools.

    You mean the question about the most pivotal invention? Or...?

    If you mean this question, then it's a fun question, and there are clearly many valid answers to it. You'd have to confine the question to a period in time. It's almost like over determination. You see this in explanations for why Gore lost or why Hillary lost. There are so many different causes any one of which could have resulted in the loss, it makes little sense to single out just one, e.g., Nader.

    But maybe I'm straying from YOUR question...

    The question was of at it's date


    Could you rephrase that? Still not getting...sorry!

    Yes, I'm working from Kahneman (working through his book Fast and Slow Thinking) and others - how to absorb their understanding to make our education and training conform to how our brains actually work, as discovered in the last 10-100 years, rather than how we and the ancient Greeks assume they work. What's 1 improvement in standard education we've added since the birth of modern psychology? What's 1 lesson the educational or training communities have taken from Kahneman's many insights? It's great to discover new stuff, but if we don't put it into practice, it's just trivia and parlor tricks.

    If you read the Undoing Project, you see that while their experiments were abstruse (especially Tversky's), Kahneman's whole purpose was to find practical applications. In fact, he sort of got his start consulting with the Israeli Army on their selection process for commanders and pilots to improve their success rate.

    You'll also read about applications in medicine (brought up by a doctor who was influenced by their work and co-wrote papers with them) where doctors might (understandably) leap to certain diagnoses that are clearly indicated by the symptoms and therefore miss OTHER causes that are less obvious, but which may be the real causes of the illness.

    The problem becomes one of fastening onto an idea (even a very good one) and thereby excluding other ideas. Tunnel vision. This idea isn't new now, but I guess it was at the time. Nevertheless, we are as susceptible to it now as we ever were because it's part and parcel of the way the brain works.

    NOT to add politics to this, but I've been aware of all the many explanations for Hillary's loss. People have gotten very attached to their explanations and eager to exclude others with the same intensity. It's only worth chewing over the loss (IMO) if it can yield insights about how to do better next time(s). In particular, we should keep two questions separate, at least at first: 1) questions about winning elections, 2) questions about the principles and values we want to run even if they don't produce wins, at least not immediately.

    A lot of their work had to do with asking the right questions. They had a phrase that went something like: Everyone sees the same things. The key is to think about them differently.

    Yes, practical application for mass adoption.

    Kurzweil's Singularity is a wet dream for technology. What's the mass wet dream for people?

    We need a way to impart wisdom on an industrial scale.

    That’s not possible, Peracles, any more than naming what is wise and what isn’t – it’s always subjective.  Perhaps the best way to better ourselves and our existence for the future is to remember the basics; the necessities of life itself.  Food, water, clean air and shelter.   

    The Global Seed Vault is an example of forward thinkers considering what’s required to live should we destroy our current food sources.  As you know far better than I, there are constantly people focusing on how to not only conserve water but to spread it around … how can we use the rain?  Large swaths of the planet are continuously dry while others are literally awash in water falling from the sky.  Is there a way to even that out a bit?  Save lives, economies and peace?  The “tiny” housing footprint is taking off, as is the use of alternative sources for less expensive multi-unit and family housing.  Oddly interesting that necessity is still the mother of invention.  Clean air.  That’s a tough one.  We could stand more wisdom about that, starting with listening, learning and building on what we've started.

    Do you regularly listen to conservatives of all stripes "in their own write"?

    I don't mean the pols, but the regular folk?

    Do you recommend it?

    I'm not sure I understand your question(s) ... in regard to something I wrote?

    Of course it's possible. We just don't even try. All our voucher discussions, STEM subject and testing focus etc is nothing the Germans weren't doing in 1870 long before Freud dug into our subconscious. Which vitamins and other nutritional basics do we need to best assimilate information (using the 5% effort produces 50% of the results point on the Pareto curve) and does anyone in the world follow this? A 90 on a test is "very good" means you have 10% accumulating error over time (pity the C student). What are the 5 biggest logical flaws in our reasoning that Kahneman points out, and do we drill their importance from Kindergarten on? And none of this is the space/computer/nanotech/neogenetics/something else age breakthroughs that I'm referring to. We can build a new leg - why not a new mind? Compare the state of mainframes to smart devices over 50 years, or simple databases to Google search and language recognition - why can we reprogram our devices but not our cognition, our brain cells? Why should my mind be content with 1970's level performance in information retrieval?

    Once our dream was cute little Jetson bubble planes we could fly around the city. Now it's "you won't *have to* [be able to] drive", Google or Uber will do it for you.

    I want to drive drunk 300 mph knowing I won't hurt anyone. *That's* an example of control. Not taking the keys away. That's just a glorified taxi... I hate taxis. Would rather hitch.

    Where is the Life we have lost in living? 
    Where is the wisdom we have lost in knowledge? 
    Where is the knowledge we have lost in information? 

    - That Missouri boy

    Dear Ob, go fusc yourself. See you ate her, obfuscator.

    The Shao Mi state (Good Man of Sechuan?)

    PP my good man, Happy New Year! And likewise to the Den of Iniquities over here. 

    Great question. Been thinking about it much more often, now that I'm >55. Not as a "sitting down and concentrating on it" kindof question, but rather just as something which spontaneously comes to mind kindof thing. A few thoughts that have flowed through.

    My Dad was wise. Genuinely. And widely regarded as being so. The man the village called when it truly needed a dispute worked through, a crisis averted, wild children handled, etc. He had a few things that he consistently passed on to me.

    1- For instance, patience. Him saying that there was a TIME for things. It's an incredibly hard concept to accept, actually. As our whole society pushes towards "instant." And for me, the most speed-focused, aggressive child in the tri-state area, impossible to absorb.

    So I have tried to cope by replacing "patience" - a concept of time - with one of a "door." Something in space. Something any gamer can understand. That faced with certain difficulties or issues, there will come a time when it can best be resolved. Translated -> a DOOR will appear. When conditions are right.

    We - me and others - seem better able to cope with metaphors built around space than time, I think. 

    2- He used to say Learn-Love-Laugh. The phrase - and variants - that you see on T-shirts now, my old man Nova Scotian farmer was drilling into me 50 years ago. But thing is, he emphasized all three. He felt excited about learning something new each day. Was thrilled to interrupt anything to share a laugh.

    And he read and thought about love, seriously and in depth, his entire life. He read on it, read on the kinds of love, read on how best to nurture love, he soaked in it, plumbed it. 

    3- He emphasized how much people were... animals. This, from a Conservative Baptist. He turned me into our farm's shepherd boy, always bring animals in or driving them out or shifting them across fields. He had a voice that could call cattle from miles. But he would always, every day, put his HANDS on the animals. Calming them. Checking out their health. And he'd tell me, even after I was off in England and college, to never forget that fundamentally, people are animals. That you can calm them through touch. that there are stages in life when children especially need to be held, others when they need to be let go. And that how these very physical things ran far deeper than where our heads were racing. 


    Ok. I'll stop this note now. And just leave it as a few of my Dad's thoughts. 



    Nice. While I make it seem time is of essence, I mean quality. St. Augustine's Enchyridion and all. We are animal, and these solutions will tame our animal nature in some reasonable way, or enhance it, or something...

    Ok, 3rd Wave of thoughts - after Teddy's quote and my Dad.

    I'm really not confident that we can achieve what you're after, PP.  That very thought went through my mind this week, first time, ever. I had, until now, thought that humans would sooner or later find ways to climb the golden staircase into the mind of God. 

    I'm really not sure anymore. Recent thoughts as follows:

    1- In the quest for wisdom, we really don't seem to be gaining a lot of ground. That's what the political and entertainment side of the world-cube seems to show at least. Trump is so obviously a figure that could have existed in 1937.... 1837.... 1437.... 2037 BC... that he has personally crushed much of our sense of optimism. That people were getting better at some heart level. And I say that not so much a "politics" thing as a "wider consequence of politics" thing. That is, whereas a while back we could think we were getting "over" racism and sexism and the like, now it feels rolled back.

    The same with respect for science, for learning. 

    So our sense of "progress" has just taken an enormous hit. And we feel it, in our guts, as a loss of hope in not just politics, but in history.

    "History" being code for "our human story."

    2- Machines. Alongside that, the machines keep coming. And some of our best minds, not just the crackpot ones, are now saying, "You know, this AI business.... errrmmm..... it's coming rather quick, eh?" It may sound funny, but I was quite affected by the enormous 50 to 0 beating the computer laid on the world's best "GO" players the other day. In essence, machines can now handle a staggering array of human activities BETTER than we can. 

    Even areas where we earlier felt we had some "implicit" knowledge or deep human skill, they can now do, and do better. They can beat us at any game - chess, GO, whatever. They can out-golf us. They can make cars better and DRIVE cars better. etc.

    And you know? I don't entirely mind this curve they're on. Standing back from it all, it's damned impressive. Imagine if we decided to feel about all this silicon-stuff the way we would with our own children. That we have given birth to them. Raised them. Taught them.

    Our metal-head kids.

    And maybe that's a thing to have a bit of pride about. We helped create them.

    3- The deeper difficulties in humans. We have a deep animal nature. Yup, there's an enormous cultural overlay, or better put, an enormous cultural shaping which is done to all that DNA-clay. But the animal is powerful in there. Many of the center-left don't really want to grasp this, accept this, when it comes crashing in against the ideals we hold. But - just to take one example - if you don't think being a physical animal matters that much, I encourage you to go take some testosterone. You know, double your levels up. And then report back with how it made you feel. How it made YOU. Same with 00's of other chemicals. The chemicals that come with birth, or the chemicals that go wrong during post-natal depression. The impacts of chemicals like LSD, with the NYT today reporting on how people are micro-dosing with it in order to improve their day. Or my nephew, his life changed by ketamine.

    So, we're animals, and chemicals matter to us. And the import of that is, THOSE CHEMICALS ARE REALLY NOT, AT A FUNDAMENTAL LEVEL, GOING TO CHANGE. We are just going to remain this same rough beast, slouching towards our own personal Bethlehems.

    How can I put this better?

    Even if we change chemicals enough to stave off cancer and Alzheimers.... and extend life say, another 50 years each, and keep our dicks hard and our breasts pert, and enhance our senses a notch and keep our spirits up and all that.... we are still, fundamentally, going to be an animal out of Africa, out of the coastal swamps and high plains of East Africa, and we are going to see the world as apes, modified and extended in time.

    And not as birds. Or whales. 

    For example, our brain maps are going to have massively greater areas given over to vision than sound. And our "vision" will only extend out to the edge of the ultraviolet, and forget about directly seeing x-rays and the like. And our sense of time will be shaped by the speed at which we walk and reproduce and grow into adulthood. 

    i.e. We're the same damn ape, under it all.

    And there are aspects of being that animal which are fundamentally troubling - such as violence, or dealing with differences in sex, race, etc. - as well as aspects which means our experience of the universe is just fundamentally LIMITED. 

    Or "skewed."

    So. 3 things that limit or challenge our shot at human progress. 1) We feel a bit as if progress was dented. 2) The machines just keep on coming. 3) And we remain animals.

    I'll put this up, and write more separately. Just thinking out loud... for fun.



    All good fun til someone puts an eye out...

    In the 60's we had much more fun with chemicals. Now that we're all grown up we're rather boring in our conceptions and perceptions. Bring on the mutants.

    Yes, Trump is timeless - though maybe time-limited. He exists because we don't yet have a serious consciousness upgrade 2.0 available. All this he said-she said stuff. There's 2 villages in India separated by athe stream that gather each year to chuck stones at the other side, maiming, blinding, occasionally killing - doing it this way a thousand years.

    We *are* animals. Cool, revel in it. But what happened to Darwin, *our* evolution. When a kid I grew gills in my sleep and could survive hours underwater. Sometimes even fly. Will not accept it as unreality. Will not settle to be Kafka's bug rolling in bed. Machines are fine as long as they're *my* machines. Otherwise the animal in me is gonna go full Luddite on their metal asses.

    All of our efforts are to have things do stuff for us - not to make us individually more powerful. Sure, give the crip a new leg, the blind a pair of eyes. But where's my GO implant in my brain, my antifreeze blood transfusion so I can hike the Klondike in short sleeves? Instead of snipping foreskins at birth, it can be like a Formula 1 pitstop installing night vision, extra memory, disease-resistant chromosomes, mosquito-repellent skin... Be like Thor, hurl lightning bolts - it's just a matter of photovoltaics and a proper battery pack. Let's stop sucking. I know this comes across as a fantasy rant, but the singularity stuff *will* happen, soon enough (say 2100 latest). It's just we haven't booked a place on our own ride.

    We just measured gravity waves for the first time last year. We mapped the human genome just 15 years ago. Early days. Except those goddamn machines. Gotta rein them in.

    Ok. Imagine we get all those implants and upgrades. So we get reduced disease, longer lives, higher IQ's, better senses, better ability to handle extremes. 

    You know who we'd become?

    Well.... basically, ourselves. 

    Because when you Bell curve it, basically we already KNOW people with many of those individual upgrades. e.g. Large numbers of women ALREADY can see further into the Ultraviolet than most men can. e.g. Significant numbers of people ALREADY have much higher IQ's. e.g. Large numbers of people ALREADY can handle cold weather [ahem.] e.g. Lots of people ALREADY live relatively disease-free lives, and die of rough old age. 

    That stuff isn't going to get us there. Even packaged together. And it's not going to get us anywhere "post-human" or "up the staircase" or whatever.

    And in terms of wisdom or deep life insight or elimination of baser tendencies.... I'm not seeing it.

    Which means that even if we DO get uploaded into the machinery,  we're still going to be.... us.

    i.e. We really are going to be uploading Trump's. And the Putin's. And all those other nasty fricking billionaire types and the mindlessly selfish and the useless genetic spawn of said individuals and.... 

    So. What else is needed?


    [sad you didn't like my antifreeze blood transfusion Klondike Joe idea]

    We need a way to impart wisdom on an industrial scale.


    So maybe we need to paint a clearer picture of what wisdom is. So we have a clearer--and agreed upon--target. I don't think that having all these new abilities, mental or physical, makes us any wiser. In fact, a lot of wisdom comes from giving up on trying to overcome our limitations and accepting them. Identify them and accept them or maybe embrace them. I dunno.

    Less distorted perception; more conscious control of thought processes; ability to shift into and out of emergency survival mode intentionally; 10x improvement in learning/digesting information. 10x improvement in relevant useful pattern recognition. Self-modification of neural pathways as needed. Conscious interaction with our bacterial microbiome/ (epigenetics). Anything that gives us much better control, survival & excelling skills.

    Okay, I would definitely like all that, but doesn't its value depend on whether one uses all these abilities for good or ill? Or do you believe that evil is just ignorance? IOW, could someone have all that and still think Trump was the better candidate? Just asking; obviously, I don't know.

    Not a political discussion. Evil just ignorance? Hardly. But presumably we're talking about uberwisdom, and the conditions that invite buying into a higher order. Sure, some will be greedy, no idea what that means in practice since this is such an absurdly conjectural diary anyway. Buy them pizza till they go away?

    Anyway, instead of autotrepanation, I've decided mental mutation is more my speed. Let the rest eat cake if need be, though happy to share.

    Love this, dude. 

    Much to think about, but my first reaction is a gut feeling. One that your conclusion feels dark and not empowering despite the superpower talk - being a combination of Thor and Ironman should sound appealing. We were aiming too low with those jetpacks we put on the wishlist way back eh. 

    So I kinda sorta want to pick at your conclusion: "See, the slip up in the garden wasn't about do vs control - it was about knowing."

    It was about knowing ourselves, which turned out to be somewhat embarrassing, because we had parts we weren't in control of - bits that got excited all by themselves, and bits whose effect on others some of us couldn't quite control (boobies, mostly, as far as my sunday school memory serves). These were just the most salient examples of the general idea of what was gained at the price of paradise lost - self knowledge and self-control which brought also knowledge of the limits of our control over ourselves and others. Sure we're animals, and our animal nature is to some extent outside of our control, and there is nothing we can do to fully excise it - like a problematic prostate, excising too much leads to ... dysfunction of a different sort. Equally, faster, deeper knowledge of the wider world won't get us what is important, it gives power but not controlled use of it. Ferchrissakes, every damn superhero film is waving this well-worn moral in our faces. 

    I don't think the solution to anything is a turbo charged knowledge machine. Control. It's still about control. Self-control. Which is knowledge of a sort - knowledge of what is in our power, the acceptance of the things we cannot change, the courage to change the things we can... etc. 

    Just a first shot at what you bring to mind. Grinding once again at my neural grooves. 


    One reason (not the only) we have to control so much is we know so little and learn so slow. We've had what, 3000 years since the Greeks and our evolutionary breakthrough is being able to tap on glass instead of stone?

    We've settled for parlor tricks, not knowledge, the Walmart bargain bin version of the mind.

    The freedom or servitude thing has been going on for some time now. I am not sure that there has been much progress since Spinoza pointed out that people get trapped in self defeating ideas about the "will" and hope for things that will only be crushed by the unfolding of the world.

    Bateson was also a thinker who tried to separate the process that leads to different kinds of life coming into being from presuming to explain everything that happens.

    Maybe Ivan Illich is a good person to listen to in regards to what "understanding" should mean:

    Efforts to find a new balance in the global milieu depend on the deinstitutionalization of values.

    The suspicion that something is structurally wrong with the vision of homo faber is common to a growing minority in capitalist, Communist, and "underdeveloped" countries alike. This suspicion is the shared characteristic of a new elite. To it belong people of all classes, incomes, faiths, and civilizations. They have 'become wary of the myths of the majority: of scientific utopias, of ideological diabolism, and of the expectation of the distribution of goods and services with some degree of equality. They share with the majority the sense of being trapped. They share with the majority the awareness that most new policies adopted by broad consensus consistently lead to results which are glaringly opposed to their stated aims. Yet whereas the Promethean majority of would-be spacemen still evades the structural issue, the emergent minority is critical of the scientific deus ex machina, the ideological panacea, and the hunt for devils and witches. This minority begins to formulate its suspicion that our constant deceptions tie us to contemporary institutions as the chains bound Prometheus to his rock. Hopeful trust and classical irony (eironeia) must conspire to expose the Promethean fallacy.

    From Deschooling Society

    In other words, who "understands" things for themselves? The vision of the homo faber serves individuals and corporations alike. Illich is saying that something else is needed. It won't simply be given to us.

    Spent a lot of time on Bateson at one point. The story of the trainer trying to teach the dolphin to do *new* tricks, metalearning, the dolphin's frustration with do-reward-do-no reward. I want that breakthrough moment where all of a sudden the dolphin gets it, *new tricks*, and in a flash does 5 new tricks. I want this for humanity, all people, a step up.

    Even in our sleep, pain which cannot forget
    falls drop by drop upon the heart
    until, in our own despair, against our will,
    comes wisdom through the awful grace of God.

    But why is wisdom painful, and in drops rather than rivulets or buckets? Who are these Gods dispensing grace as if it were gold or crack cocaine or food rations to the starving? Are they real? Do they still hold sway over our destiny, keeping us in preschool until we're ready to progress to the mental major leaguea?

    Peracles... nice... very very nice...

    How do we know we know? And what to know? And when?

    Here's something of mine from 1966 while I was in the Navy in Memphis.

    The "crystal turns to clay" ???

    See: BBC 2016 - The idea that life began as clay crystals is 50 years old

    See: " the end is wept In a South Asian night"

    The "frog choir" ??? Note: Long before Harry Potter.

    The "Golden Decoy" ???


    I remember some ceremony in an ashram in rural India, stepping outside the chaotic din of conch shells and gongs into the quiet night with the amazing swaths of gleaming stars above, my head exploding - alone but not alone. No one drew from my epiphany, no references on episodes of Mad Men, but still remember. SE Asia can do funny things to one's mind. I remember drinking gin in Cambodia, the geckos pasted on the sliding glass door, peering, wanting to get in. We are the geckos - tiny lizard brains, just need a drink, something on TV, be where the action is...

    Were you that sobbing solitary soldier pretending to be a golden Buddha, maybe being Buddha? How much of your soul is still in that rice field? I've got mine scattered all over the world.

    PP... I as you...

    Many many scattered pieces...

    Throughout the Universe.


    Seems our evolution is focused on getting taller and taller basketball players (or in the US' case, body mass - bigger and more like a couch potato or football offensive lineman) rather than say mental / psychic expansion.

    Or maybe no one's measured it? How big's your aura compared to great-grandma?

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