Burgess – Fellow Traveller ?

Hmm. After Greenteeth (don’t ask), here’s Paul Burgess. Interesting that he’s a beat generation fan who’d read The Tractatus, but like me didn’t read Pirsig until after he was 40, and a good thing too he says …

[Quote] Yes, Pirsig in his former pre-psychosis persona of Phaedrus is a near dead ringer for your humble narrator, back in my late teens and early twenties. And his eventual philosophical solution to the subject-object dichotomy– which is not a bad solution at all!– smells uncannily like my eventual turn to the symbol, and then to Peirce. Pirsig’s “Quality” smells a good deal like Peirce’s category of Firstness. Pirsig also clarifies a question that has exercised me greatly in recent years: “What the hell has gone wrong with modernity?” He thinks, as I do, that the problem lies not in science, technology, industrialization as such, but rather in the mindset we bring to their application– a mindset which fragments us, which fragments our world, into all sorts of polar dichotomies. [Unquote]

Yes, yes, the divisiveness of superfluous dualisms. Me too.
(Must browse around the rest of his site and blog of “pseudo-philosophical” ramblings. Know how he feels, he even has a page called “How Do We Know What We Know”, which is spookily close to Psybertron’s own tag line.)

EGG (Electro-Gaia-Gram) Project

Or more officially the GCP (Global Consciousness Project). Princeton, serious science (?) with some wonderfully whacky content – Princess Di’s funeral and the O J Simpson trial linked to random events detected in electronic networks apparently arising from the fact that “… a small effect of consciousness on the electronic REG (random event generator) isn’t diminished by distance or shielding, so it apparently isn’t brought about by something physical like temperature changes, or sound waves, or electromagnetic radiation. Instead it seems that the information itself is the important thing …”

I happen to believe that final sentence, about non-local information being the most fundamental level in physics, but can this whacky noetic / noosphere stuff really be empirically proven ? I kinda hope so. What does Josephson make of it I wonder ?

Today, American scientists announced, “send us the money”. Hmm.

Teilhard de Chardin gets top billing, but this Poetic History page includes many luminaries and other phaedra including personal hero Ned Lawrence with a quote I remember oh so well

“All men dream: but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds wake in the day to find that it was vanity: but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men, for they may act their dream with open eyes, to make it possible. ”

I’d actually forgotten how much of an impression that had made on me. (to whit my still unwritten review of Seven Pillars of Wisdom – “It Is Written“.

Thanks to Platt at MoQ for providing the link.

Erich Fromm and Michael Maccoby

Some very interesting material brought to my attention by Alice’s comments, so important I brought it onto the main page. Too much material to assimilate and do justice in any summary, but …

As recently as Feb 2005 Maccoby is writing “Creating Moral Organisations” for Research Technology Management, whilst as an ex student of Erich Fromm he reviewed the “Two Voices” of Erich Fromm in this 1994 piece for Society.

The Fromm piece links in Adler, Freud and Jung as well as James, Maslow, Zen, Suzuki, Ortega y Gasset and a Mexican anthropological connection. The Moral Organisations piece links the Nasa Decision Making stuff with Enron and Sarbane-Oxley. Organisations as “psychopathic individuals”. Committees of moral men making immoral decisions as one J Z DeLorean once said.

As a spiritul atheist Fromm ” … viewed neurotic symptoms as a partial rejection of oppressive or alienating authority. The psychoanalyst’s role was to help give birth to the revolutionary within the neurotic.” Hope for anyone there ?

A tremedoulsy rich seam deserving of some serious prospecting.


It’s a little difficult to explain how I came to be Googling for Greenteeth, and you’d never believe it anyway, too spooky for words, but I’m glad I did. A certain Ian Thorpe runs a very entertaining blog in the name of Jenny Greenteeth the Boggart, or is that Bloggart.

Roll on. Toilet humour isn’t dead after all.
Even the tagging raises a smile.
(Must check out www.blog.co.uk too.)

A very small sample for you …
“Everyone’s Gone To The Moon was Jonathan King’s first hit record. I the years that followed we all wished he would go to the moon. Or at least fuck off somewhere…anywhere.
Time passed and King did eventually go, not to the moon but the next best place, Wormwood Scrubs Prison, convicted of sexual offences involving minors. Now just in case anyone is thinking “hmm, fading pop star becomes kiddie fiddler – are we looking as parallels with Michael Jackson here?” it should be made clear that Jonathan King was born to look like a pervert; Jackson paid a fortune in order to look that way.”

Or even more relevant to Psybertron, he posts a far more entertaining piece than I on good ole Radio 4’s search for the “Greatest Philosopher“. A great excuse to ressurect the Pythons ..
The Philosopher’s Song —
Immanuel Kant was a real pissant
Who was very rarely stable.
Heidegger, Heidegger was a boozy beggar
Who could think you under the table.
David Hume could out-consume
Schopenhauer and Hegel,
And Wittgenstein was a beery swine
Who was just as schloshed as Schlegel.
There’s nothing Nietzsche couldn’t teach ya
‘Bout the raising of the wrist.
John Stuart Mill, of his own free will,
On half a pint of shandy was particularly ill.
Plato, they say, could stick it away
Half a crate of whiskey every day.
Aristotle, Aristotle was a bugger for the bottle,
Hobbes was fond of his dram,
And Rene Descartes was a drunken fart:
“I drink, therefore I am”
Yes, Socrates, himself, is particularly missed;
A lovely little thinker
but a bugger when he’s pissed!

Question is, is Ian from Doncaster ?

Positive about Maslow

Piers at Monkey Magic made a positive reference to Maslow, being valuable because he’d studied successful / advantaged people, and therefore his psychological outcome was inherently more positive, looking toward progress, rather than wallowing in “failure” or “sick psychology”. Part of my “Criticisms of Maslow” memewatch.

Of course muggins here, didn’t spot that was Piers’ point when I first read it. See the comment thread on Piers’ post.

Strategic Loops – Mothers of Invention

Hofstadter’s GEB has a thread – his eternal golden braid I guess – on strange loops from the outset, mathematical, visual and musical at the obvious level of his title, and clearly from the content, he’s leading to the idea of emergence of “intelligence” from multi-layered (recursive, cyclical) patterns of complexity.

I noted a clear strategic / tactical game-theory angle in the “evolutionary” cycles of development. Whether it’s the mathematical quest for a model to completely contain all others, or a record player to play all records designed to break it (GEB shows its age there), or a model that humans know more than any formal system can, or the game between advertisers “honesty” and their target audiences, or a bio-evolutionary battle for survival, they are all battles of (metaphorical, anthropomorphic) wits. The key point that at any given “level” of current strategy, it’s a matter of trading tit for tat tactics, until either side finds a different strategy, and moves the game on a level. The other side may intially cry “foul”, but must find a new tactic that acknowledges the new strategy. Strategy continuously leap-frogs tactic, until it finds itself to be just another outmoded tactic in the face of a new strategy. It’s an inevitable driver for evolution.

The aspect that creates the drive is the desire for a “response” that is the response to beat all responses. ie it accomodates all previous responses, but for good measure claims to include the defintion of (or response to) itself, so that no further response can trump it. It really is the Russelian set of all sets vs Godel’s incompleteness. You can’t win, but you can’t step out of the game either. (NB out of the “frame” … frame analysis here, and a Pirsigian connection too, and for me the original metaphysical “bootstrapping” problem.)

Two other corollaries …

(1) The problem is when you give the concept, “the idea of the mother of all responses” a name, a definition. because you are always then back in the linguistic game. Any conceptual high ground is lost. (Hence the attraction of Zen, at least as a concept, if not a solution ;-))

(2) Talking of mothers, it is also in fact a manifestation of a conundrum that I’ve called the parent / sibling problem in classification / ontologies. Supertype is called “a widget”; a popular subtype is also commonly known as “a widget”; a less common subtype (of the supertype) is also a widget by inheritance, but is usually know as a “special widget”. Special widget gets very confused about the identities of its mother and sister. (Also the “I am my own Grandpa” variation on that theme.)

The really attractive positive conclusion of all this … there can never be a complete formal model of everything or a metaphysics with solid foundations and defences … get used to it … forget that, but do we really have “mechanism” to explain the emergence of intelligence from physical patterns ? Wow.

[Post Note : Of course this links directly to the “learning organisation” and “theory in use” cycle stuff in the original business context in my dissertation – low-level adjustments within the current “model” as loops within higher loops of “strategic shift”. Bullshit baffles brains, but that doesn’t make it wrong.]

It’ll be on-line log-tables next.

Apart from historical education as museum pieces (which is fair enough), why would anyone want an on-line slide-rule, several on-line slide-rules in fact ?

I remember using one for real, but not beyond high-school and university days, when electronic calculators became widespread. Also remember finding one in an old briefcase about ten years ago and trying to explain to the kids how to use it. I could just about remember how to multiply two numbers, and reverse to divide, but that was about it.

Another example of the breadth of things Jorn gathers together on Robot Wisdom. Only Rivets comes close in my experience.