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All posts for the month July, 2003

A little delay in communication is a good thing. A post via Lilia Effimova and Jim McGee from Rory Perry. Not quite the original point, but one I’ve made recently. [and here]

Speed of light interaction does not leave enough space (ha, space again) for memetic cultivation. A little time is need for organisation to weed out the meaningless from the meaningful in appropriate contexts and establish meaningful links. Survival of the fittest is a great filter, but the fittest will evolve to look a little odd if their environment is to spend their entire life standing on a cliff-top in a hurricane, if I may mix my metaphors.

Small Pieces, Loosely JoinedDave Weinberger was never short of web hype (eg in the Cluetrain Manifesto), but that doesn’t mean he’s wrong. Far from it, this quote about the web in his latest book [Quote] Why has this simple technology sent a lightning bolt through our culture? It goes far beyond the Web’s over-hyped economic impact: 500 million of us aren’t there because we want a better “shopping experience.” The Web, a world of pure connection, free of the arbitrary constraints of matter, distance and time, is showing us who we are – and is undoing some of our deepest misunderstandings about what it means to be human in the real world. [Unquote]

Undoing some of our deepest misunderstandings in a world of pure connection.

Not read the book yet, but this perspective and those of his many celebrity reviewers (Tom Peters, Lawrence Lessig, Don Norman) reflect my own manifesto and research proposal for being in this space. (Ha, space – yeah, what is it like to be a bat ?) Some of the deepest ingrained issues about how people make decisions in the world, are thrown into stark and immediate relief by the ubiquity and speed of the web. They were always there, nothing new under the sun, just inescapable in a world of pure connection.

The same book also includes a Chapter on “perfection” with this quote from TBL [Quote] The Web will always be a little broken says its creator, Tim Berners-Lee. Just like us mortals.[Unquote] I’ve been debating with MOQ Philosophers on the MOQ Discuss board, about whether or not a Metaphysics which includes its own definition can ever be complete without some absolute underlying reality beyond its own description. My perspective is that an “ideal” description of perfection can only ever be a vision; something to aim for; something whose representation can be used as a tool, but which can never actually be seen as an end or reality in itself. To use the language of MOQ, that would make reality a static pattern, whereas we surely know it is dynamic quality – pure connection. (Connection, like information, knowledge and awareness, is rooted in a dynamic, transitive verb.)

Just an observation, but bloggers posting rates seem to be really down this summer. I’m down to one or two a week, typically because I’m doing work on other pages, or just too busy. Scary when Jorn, the granddaddy of them all, is only posting once a fortnight.

That old Brain vs Mind debate updated. You’ll know I’ve been following “Quantum Information Processing” for the past couple of years, well, “neurophilosophy” (previous post) got me thinking.

Is it a “one” ? Is it a “zero” ? Yes its a Qubit QuBit Image

I’ve been corresponding with Peter Marcer at the British Computer Society – Cybernetic Machine Specialist Group, about that group’s latest agenda building on Quantum Information Processing and “Holochory”, and the extent to which it concerns itself with fundamental questions of (i) the nature of “information” itself and (ii) the information processing principles used in brains. I guess neurophilosophy might embody my doubts at a scientific explanation making the leap from “information processing principles used in brains” to “how the mind works“.

You see, the published mission statement from this group (extracted above) is actually summarised on their home page as

“The Conscious Brain as the role model for the Computer. Information as Meaning. What Brains Process. Quantum Information Processing/Holography – an explanation of the morphology and dynamics of Living Systems, DNA, the Biological Cell,…..the Brain, Consciousness, Natural Languages and Creativity.”

Information as meaning ? A physical science explanation for consciousness, natural language and creativity ? A breathtaking leap in anyone’s book. Thinking with meat ? What do you think ?

The Rorty piece (“Wild Orchids and Trotsky“) which I blogged yesterday because of the Pirsig link, I read in its entirety last night. It’s an excellent insightful read so much so that I wonder why I’m struggling to read his “Mirror of Nature”. Any suggestions for a better lead into Rortian philosophy ?

So much better to synthesise alternate viewpoints than to set any one up as a strawman to be vilified.

Picked-up from an anonymous hit on the blog, I found this link between Rorty and Pirsig. Including the following from Rorty [Quote] At fifteen I escaped … by going off to the so-called “Hutchins College” of the University of Chicago. (This was the institution immortalized by A. J. Liebling as “the biggest collection juvenile neurotics since the Childrens’ Crusade.”) … I was very confused, but reasonably sure that at Chicago I would find out how grown-ups managed to work the trick I had in mind. When I got to Chicago (in 1946), I found that Hutchins, together with his friends Mortimer Adler and Richard McKeon (the villain of Pirsig’s Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance [ZAMM]), had enveloped the University of Chicago in a neo-Aristotelian mystique. The most frequent target of their sneers was John Dewey’s pragmatism. [Unquote] From a 1993 essay by Rorty entitled “Wild Orchids and Trotsky”. Seems McKeon’s group was already notorious, as Pirsig discovers while researching and contemplating choosing philosophy as his Chicago PhD subject in the mountains of Montana during the summer of 1961. [“at fifteen” ?? does that make Rorty another child prodigy ? Still haven’t finished The Mirror of Nature yet BTW. Enjoying William James at present.]

Without detracting from the power of ZAMM it does tend to re-inforce critics of Pirsig’s narrow view of philosophies available to him at the time. Evidence is that not until after ZAMM did he discover or at least consider pragmatists, through Williams James, much influenced by Peirce and Dewey, not to mention Nietzsche and the existentialists. Clearly the skewed environment he found himself in at Chicago locked him into that ancient greek debate between the Socratic rhetorical and Aristotelian logical views.

Unless Pirsig set out to deceive us with his apparent ignorance of philosophers which had in fact influenced him, it makes his original thoughts in ZAMM and Lila all the more impressive.

Pirsig Pages Update – I’ve added a significant update to my Pirsig pages to include a link to my new map of the ZAMM route. (It’s a frames page, to enable a changing information panel as you move across each of the points en-route, but I think I’ve done the decent thing and ensured all links spawn new browsers so no-one should get trapped.)

Incidentally I’ve spent a good deal of time recovering from MS-Office version 9, which adds a tremendous amount of redundant garbage to simple web pages if you make the mistake of editing a page using (say) Word. It appears Office-XP shows some real promise of intelligent use of XML with reference schemas et al, but in this current form it really would be better manners if it checked with the user if this MS controlled schema and style-sheeting stuff were actually required.

Tell us something we didn’t know. This just in – politics is a cynical business apparently. A review in the Grauniad of Mark Curtis “Web of Deceit“. [via Jorn] Documented evidence is always handy though.

More evidence of the power of metaphor too, linking this to the current WMD spat between government spin-doctor Campbell and the BBC ? It is no coincidence that spin and web both speak of deception. Web’s are spun to trap the unwary – the antidote is not to be outraged at the spin, but to be aware of the web.