Struggling with motivations for and concentration on several large tasks / projects in my lap:
The Robert Pirsig Association – with 2024 being the 50th Anniversary of his seminal work in ZMM – “we” have only recently createdthe RPA and plans for #ZMM50th – “P”.
Writing The Book(s) – two in fact – Book “F” a fictional (historical & fantasy) narrative and Book “T” a systems-thinking philosophical text. “T” first with key aspects then worked into the “chautauqua” inside “F”. Both have significant outlines and section drafts. Both a long way from finished.
Doctoral Research – I have “D” the “Systems Thinking (Mental – Personal and Cultural) Ecosystem” doctoral research proposal and personal statement created and already shared with interested systems and management, practitioners and academics. Remaining problemis tailoring the scope to academics who are not only interested but have the understanding and bandwidth to be doctoral supervisors at their academic institution. (Oh, and then actually achieving it.)
They’re not unconnected of course.
Pirsig informs my intellectual journey (but see *) and some aspects of his thesis are explicitly developed in mine, both books and the research. Obviously the chautauqua within the novel is a model inspired explicitly by Pirsig as well as implicitly by many other writers of philosophical novels. Similarly the systems thinking shapes (architects) the whole as well as being theimportant subject matter – Pirsig was a systems thinker. The doctoral research lends credibility to the wider writing, and so on.
I was prompted to summarise the state of play following a chat yesterday with Anatoly Levenchuk and Victor Agroskin – two Russian colleagues I’ve previously referred to as the smartest guys I’ve ever met. Not simply reinforced but positively inspired by two aspects: firstly by the fact that the connections above were immediately evident in just a brief chat and already noted almost two years earlier in the chat history, and secondly that, in that same time Anatoly has created a tremendous amount of relevant material.
Now I have
— Modeling and attention management
(by Medvedeva and Lubenchenko, not by me. This is informal ontology course.)
— Systems Thinking
— Systems Engineering
— Personal Engineering
— Systems Management (=organizational engineering)
— Intellectual Stack
All of it share the same ontology based on 3rd generation of systems thinking. Here is the text in English of short description of 3rd generation systems thinking literature: https://arxiv.org/abs/2310.11524
Even personal productivity and attention management in there 🙂
(*) Of course the thought journey and subject matter these past 20+ years has been a lot more than Pirsig, so much so that until the RPA / #ZMM50th idea took off I had effectively left explicit Pirsig considerations behind: Cybernetics to 3rd Generation “Systems Thinking”; Human individual and collective, thinking and agency, physio-biological and cultural; From system ontologies to fundamental (metaphysical) realities of existence – process and informational / epistemological “ontologies”. Not to mention the 30 years of full-lifecycle real-life systems working experience, physical facilities, management systems, technology systems and information models. (Austin to Zeman by way of … too many to name drop here.)
Anatoly and I have quite different motivations despite deep alignment on the subject matter. He is very much focussed on the applied and the mechanistic, on methodologies and textbooks – a practical resource. I am much more focussed on the philosophical foundations and architecture of the whole systems thinking ecosystem – an intellectual resource.
The Resolution: to prioritise my own deliverables. Maybe the priority is “T” (The Technical Text) which may contribute not only to “F” (The Fictional Narrative) but years of prior research and writing into a potentially shorter version of “D” (The Doctoral Thesis)? My involvement in “P” (The Robert Pirsig Association) can only be short-term / part-time.
24 Nov – Obviously these priorities are bound around by all the usual domestic priorities, and(aaaggghhh!!!) by yet another new “freethought” project just arrived Thursday evening. I support, but so far said no to active participation, until “T” is done, anyway.
Saw Queens of the Stone Age at Stockton Globe Theatre last night. Proper sweaty moshing affair and a great gig on many levels.
Two supports. First-up Deep Tan. Female 3 piece. Pretty weak unfortunately. Too thin on content, technique and sound and no variation in their 6 song set. Had they been younger I might have said they could do with more practice in front of a crowd, and a bit of production / arrangement, but nah. The bassist seemed to know how to do it. Sadly, the roadies and techs checking and tuning the gear for the next act got a bigger response.
The Chats, 3 no-nonsense lads on a tour from Australia’s sunshine coast had their one off shot supporting QOTSA and smashed it. Quite a few knowing their songs made for a good rapport with the crowd and full of energy and dynamic range despite the pretty standard fast and shouty 3 piece “garage rock” material. The lead bassist fella – contrary to his pasty-ginger-in-beach-shorts persona – and the whole heavy sound, put me in mind of Brisbane’s legendary dark and low-slung F111s, but I can find no link. Worth another listen.
QOTSA brought their own elaborate set and lighting to this old provincial theatre. Beautifully renovated it has to be said, overlooking the budget and schedule scandals from a couple of years ago. In fact the two worked well together. In total control of the lights from pitch-black to blazing white-out, the whole space was part of the set. Josh remarked on it a couple of times amidst his trademark rambling commentary on life. And in fact being a fan of QOTSA on sound alone it was interesting attention to detail in the lighting tone to support their range, not just dynamic range in volume, but in tone, pace and rhythm too. Loud, obviously, but what makes Josh such a great front man is that he’s not shouty – a proper communicator and people person. Professional job and very effective all round.
And then there was the crowd. So many familiar riffs and lyrics, the packed floor was bouncing and singing along from the first bar of most of them. A long time since I’ve been in such a boisterous crowd, moshing and crowd surfing. A good work-out standing your ground against toppling over those smaller / frailer folk in front. Dealing with too many of the most mobile thugs, too pissed to control themselves or where they and their drinks crash landed anyway. Chaos is fun, but know your limits?
A night to remember.
Failed to get tickets for Halifax Piece Hall this summer and, can it really be true, 18 years since I last saw them? In Australia (Perth) coincidentally. And the F111’s at “The Globe Theatre” coincidentally too – in Brisbane. It’s all connected.
Like the original Twitterstorm the prompt was a heated dialogue involving Sabine Hossenfelder, this time with Philip Goff (all publicity is good publicity if you’re selling a book I guess) – but a lot of the usual “scientists don’t need / don’t understand philosophers” garbage. Lots of people posting the Dennett meme – no metaphysics-free science, just scientists ignorant of their metaphysical presumptions.
Like Kevin I avoided interjecting until he re-posted this.
To which several wags responded “Yes”.
But I responded:
I like it. My short version.
Nothing is “just” anything (other than itself).
Emergent complex stuff depends on – supervenes on, emerges from – simpler foundation layers, but is not “reduced to” or “determined by” (only) the laws, states and histories of those simpler layers.
He uses “historicity” half a dozen times. I tend to use ergodicity, a more formal “system-states” version of the same idea. In emergent layers, history matters, not just current states of lower layers.
Anyway, really just posted to ensure I have a searchable link to it for future writing. Has lots of references to others I’ve used.
The “just” qualifier – disguises some debate about what fundamental physics is anyway – dynamic information patterns rather than matter and energy anyone? Also disguises individual < class < class-of-class ambiguities. (Scientists conflating concepts with empirical realities. Theorising vs ontological commitment when the rubber hits the road.)
And, coincidentally during the same ongoing on-line debate, Kevin Mitchell was lined-up to speak with Robert Sapolsky, infamous for his new book “Determined: Life Without Free Will”. (I’ve tried to avoid the latter, but it might be interesting to see how the dialogue went?)
(Interesting that Sapolsky opens with admitting he takes “an extreme position”. Trolling? – not convinced so far that his story on physical brain manifestations of our developmental life history – and cultural influence on those – actually says anything about our free-will? All obviously influence and constrain how we work without determining it. Continuing. Listening to all of it – the recurring point of Kevin’s in response to Sapolski – examples of the negative cases don’t negate the positive case. It’s not a binary all freedom-and-conscious-will or none. Personally – after Dennett – there is probably less than 0.001% free will in world activities – the kind of free-will worth having is no surprise? Supervisory free-won’t. All the slippery slope of moral relativism stuff is irrelevant, a separate topic. Hypocrisy too – is an evolved “skill”.)
The essay itself is excellent, whether you believe her claimed belief or not. 20 years an avowed atheist since the aftermath of 9/11 having previously been a Muslim across the whole spectrum from passive to jihadi activist.
[As] different from the preachers of the Muslim Brotherhood as one could imagine. The more time I spent with [New Atheist types] — people such as Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins — the more confident I felt that I had made the right choice. For the atheists were clever. They were also a great deal of fun.
So, what changed? Why do I call myself a Christian now?
Her alignment with the New Atheists was my problem with her for years – from one kind of activist extremism to another. Like all extremists their main sin is failure to understand anything other than the extreme caricature position of the other side with an extra dose of intellectual smugness – they were “clever” (by their own limited intellectual standards). (Ditto Maajid Nawaz – whatever happened to him?) The problem is extremists, not their religion.
Personally, it was 9/11 (explicitly) set me too on the road to understanding this, in an active research sense, although the recognition that we had an everyday problem intellectually predates this by another 10 years – over 30 years ago in my case. 9/11 was just the kick in the pants. I was never more than a passive cultural Christian myself growing-up, though I’ve (explicitly) been a humanist since 1979 – what’s that 44 years? (I’ve been explicit too about my matured position in this minefield of belief.)
The whole section following that question, :
“Part of the problem … [global poly-crises] …”
“As Tom Holland has shown in his marvellous book Dominion, all sorts of apparently secular freedoms — of the market, of conscience and of the press — find their roots in Christianity.”
Is spot on. OK, so Christianity probably borrowed most of it from Plato and Aristotle (The Virtues, The Ethics et al) – and probably failed to acknowledge pilfering from other scholarly sources who also borrowed from the Greeks – but they preserved and maintained it for two millennia.
And so I have come to realise that Russell and my [new] atheist friends failed to see the wood for the trees […] Russell’s critique of [Christian doctrine] is serious, but it is also too narrow in scope.
Absolutely – I could have written that myself. In fact I hope my skeptic friends recognise that accusation of narrowness in “our” critical rationale? Self-ID atheists absolutely fail to see what they don’t understand.
[The] freedom of conscience and speech is perhaps the greatest benefit of Western civilisation. It does not come naturally to man. It is the product of centuries of debate [… it doesn’t matter who by].
As I always say, the UN Declaration of human rights, including freedoms of speech and belief, are the pinnacle of any global constitution.
atheism is too weak and divisive a doctrine to fortify us against our menacing foes …
… and Islam [unlike Christianity] hasn’t escaped its dogmatic phase.
For me personally, I’m not sure if the Christian story doesn’t already have too much distracting baggage beyond / after humanity and the virtues / virtue. I notice she only mentions God in her own history in Islam or when quoting the “too narrow” atheists. She doesn’t mention it as part of her Christian affiliation, still less belief. I still live in hope that some transnational secular entity like the UN can become the custodian of “our story” but we’d have to start taking it a lot more seriously than recent populist chancers. UN with its new found care for humanity andthe planet. And as Rabbi Sacks concluded, however we solve this problem it will be “a religion by any other name” – something to which we declare affiliation, value, defend as sacred in its current state, even whilst we critique and evolve it.
This final choice, of where to put the effort to preserve and maintain that story, is ultimately pragmatic – where’s our best chance of making it work – but the decision to recognise the need for it is not.
And Dawkins has responded on behalf of the “New Atheists”.
One of the critical responses (echoes my “smug cleverness” criticism above):
“You’re an intelligent, brave person who has changed your mind about where the solid ground lies, and even courageously stepped off the ledge of unbelief, towards the unknown. But here are the same old arguments you’ve heard a thousand times because I know better, you idiot.”
And, this is one version of the approving summaries:
“No, Ayaan, you are not a Christian, you are just a decent human being who mistakenly thinks you need a religion in order to remain so.”
Predictable. The idea of being a “decent human being” is central to our freedoms of thought and behaviour. Culturally / institutionally we need a narrative that maintains (preserves and evolves) what that entails – beyond individual lives and democratic cycles. I “wish” the UN could take on that custodianship, but it’s simply a pragmatic choice which institutional arrangements might best guarantee such a thing. Judeo-Christianity has a track record, Islam less so, all have baggage. Whatever equivalent we set up. it will be (per Sacks) “a religion by any other name” that WE subscribe to as humanity. (Obviously this is about needs, AHA’s or mine, beyond our individual life, a need for our fellow humans now and in future.)
As a massive fan of PiL to this day – I missed the period between Metal Box and Album. Wobble and Levine originally and McGeoch briefly – with session musicians on Album (late-1985) inc Ginger Baker and Steve Vai – and later (to this day) Lu, Bruce and Scott, but this popped-up randomly from a pre-Album 1985 Tokyo “Anarchy” gig with a tour line-up I’d never heard of (!).
Not the best audio-visual recording, but looks and sounds like an excellent tight PiL set, with a couple of Pistols classics thrown in. I know John’s a bit Marmite (and he don’t care) but he represents an amazing body and continuity of work.
Set List 1985 Tour
0:03 Intro/Bad Life 4:55 Lowlife 8:34 Memories 16:11 1981 23:53 Tie Me to the Length of That 31:00 Bodies (Pistols) 34:14 Public Image 37:37 Annalisa 41:58 Flowers of Romance 48:50 This is Not a Love Song 55:35 Under the House 1:01:01 Religion 1:08:18 Attack 1:11:48 Anarchy in the UK (Pistols)
Personnel 1985 tour:
Mark Schulz – Guitar
Jebin Bruni – Keys/Guitar
Bret Helm – Bass Martin Atkins – Drums
I was left with a pretty negative view of Larry Krauss after his collaborations with Richard Dawkins – “The Unbelievers” (2013) and Dawkins breathless afterword to Krauss “A Universe From Nothing – Why is there something rather than nothing?” (2012)
In that recommendation – oft repeated in public sessions since – Dawkins concluded “The title means exactly what it says” despite the fact Krauss himself doesn’t claim that. It’s not unusual for publishers and editors to hype titles and headlines, but we’d hope for more honesty from professional scientists. Sadly in the whole New Atheists’ publicly declared war against God, the gloves were off – all’s fair in love and war apparently – so honesty and factual science are sacrificed. See “The Unbelievers” Dawkins and Krauss, (2013)
The most Krauss claims here is that the more complex structures in the cosmos evolved Darwinian fashion from our understanding of its simplest elements of space, time, energy, matter, particles, waves etc, without need of any intelligent design. I agree. (Any “intelligent design” has itself evolved the same way in the same time – after Dennett). What he is at pains to point out is that even “empty space” is full of potential and virtual instances of these elements. He’s talking about evolution of complex reality from empty space. Not from nothing.
Empty space is not nothing.
Frankly myself, I’m more interested in epistemology – what do we really know – than picking sides in a war, so I put this whole unfortunate episode behind me when in 2014 he was advertised to appear at the “Bang Goes the Big Bang” themed HTLGI event. I’d already had issues with Krauss science from back in 2006 / 2010 (below) and having failed to get his attention during the Unbelievers circus with Dawkins I had another try. To no avail. Sadly he appeared only by video link for a single session. Doubly disappointing there was no overlap with other physicists at the event, relevant to his 2006/10 work. Trebly sadly, he was lined-up against two philosophers, and was defending the line that science had made all real human progress since the time of Plato and even Aristotle had got most things wrong, so philosophy and philosophers were entirely redundant and discredited today. Science has no need of philosophy.
Strangely in 2017 – the Humanists UK “Darwin Day” lecture, also hosted by Dawkins, Krauss was pretty honest despite Dawkins over-selling Krauss claims again. He did a potted version of his 2012 (something from nothing empty space) work only very briefly before spending most of his time on the population evolution arguments of science and his heroes from Galileo & Faraday onwards. Fine and honest. (Plato again the only philosopher he’s prepared to acknowledge and even then I suspect his lesson from the cave was the reverse of mine.) He’s a great communicator, but I’d really already left him behind in 2014.
As I say, I’d first noticed him as a great communicator between 2006 and 2010 and it was this work I had been trying to follow-up.
Following the “Confronting Gravity” conference of hand-picked physicist colleagues – across the whole range and scales from quanta to cosmology, theoretical and empirical – he was interviewed by John Brockman (of The Edge dot org) with the title:
(The page has a partial transcript and a partial video version of the same interview – embedded top right – they’re not inconsistent in any contradictory way, but as a result of editing they have different content & omissions – eg @ ~13mins? Worth reading / viewing both.)
Long story short – the inability of quantum theory and general relativity to combine to accommodate gravity in any consistent way – explain the gravitational constant and/or the energy of “empty space” – is (or should be) a major headache for fundamental physicists. (Why isn’t it zero? why is cosmic inflation at an accelerating rate? etc). Clearly then for Krauss it was the headache he was focussing on, but many simply appeared to have thrown up their hands (his words) as just one of those things we’re never going to solve by observation from our circumstantial human perspective in the universe we happen to inhabit. If ever there were an aspect of 21st C fundamental science that might be interested in philosophy, this is surely it? Anyway I’m interested. Metaphysical questions around the ontology of existence, what it means to exist as something rather than nothing, never go away. Something that can never be objectively verified by science isn’t science but a metaphysical choice.
Now, mentioned in the transcript but not the recording is the question I’ve been trying to get Krauss to revisit since 2006. Any mention of it is even missing from his 2012 work, despite many mentions of the importance of Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB) observations (as reverberations from the Big Bang). Because the question is in Krauss’ words:
There appears to be energy of empty space that isn’t zero! This flies in the face of all conventional wisdom in theoretical particle physics. It is the most profound shift in thinking, perhaps the most profound puzzle …
… when we look out at the universe, there doesn’t seem to be enough structure not as much as inflation would predict …
… when you look at CMB (Cosmic Microwave Background) map, you also see that the structure that is observed, is in fact, in a weird way, correlated with the plane of the earth around the sun. Is this Copernicus coming back to haunt us?
That’s crazy. We’re looking out at the whole universe. There’s no way there should be a correlation of structure with our motion of the earth around the sun, the plane of the earth around the sun, the ecliptic …
… telling us that all of science is wrong and we’re the center of the universe, or maybe the data is simply incorrect, or … maybe there’s something wrong with our theories on the larger scales.
He mentions the word “Anthropic” just once in the video recording edit, and this claim of “craziness” at the heart of physics is doesn’t make the video edit either. As I say, nor does any of this appear in his 2012 book, despite 30+ references to CMB and even addressing “fine tuning” Anthropic anomalies, in his story of cosmic evolution. That’s weird.
I’ve written lots about this before (see below) and I’m not an advocate of (any of) The Anthropic Principle(s) but I see an Anthropic anomaly in our scientific observations that needs explaining?
In some sense “our” model of physics does appear to have some dependency on “our” place in the cosmos. This undermines scientific claims of objectivity and, as above, the possibility or validity of empirical observation. Gödel was there before everyone. As Brandon Carter, the originator of Anthropic discussions, pointed out in 1974, science’s decision to ignore this non-scientific question is actually a political one.
In ignorance of metaphysics, science is compromised by politics.
In the absence of detailed references above this 2010 post contains many important linked papers: “Before The Big Bang?“. (Since Rick Ryals has died since then, I may need to secure copies of his work.)
UPDATE 9 Nov: Assuming this is the talk we are seeing tonight – no science is fundamental at all scales, all is always contingent, so science must always be changing its mind, revising its model – is this one?
Awful “New Atheists” (!) production – but– a fine talk on the same content I mentioned from the 2006 Brockman interview above. And mentioning several “crazy” observations and predictions about the gravitational constant / cosmic expansion / energy of free-space that led to radical re-framing of fundamental laws / equations – and indeed completely new concepts like dark matter and dark energy needing to be added. Except – the one crazy observation he never responded to from 2006 to 2010 nor even in his 2012 book.
QUESTION For Larry Krauss (question updated 9 Nov in line with the above). A question about whether you’ve changed your own mind:
A lot of what you described in your talk was the same as you shared with John Brockman (at The Edge) in 2006 following your “Confronting Gravity” conference with the great and the good of fundamental physics – all scales theoretical and observational. Several “crazy” things that demanded new elements in the theories and equations of fundamental physics – dark matter, dark energy, energy of empty-space etc.
After that, your 2012 book “A Universe from Nothing” covered the whole Darwinian evolution of the universe from the vacuum of empty space (not from nothing incidentally, despite the publisher’s title and the Dawkins afterword, but we can ignore that here). A great book, I reviewed and recommended at the time.
In the book you mention the importance of Cosmic Microwave Background Radiation (CMBR) observations many times, and you also address several Anthropic questions of apparent “fine tuning” (most people just dismiss Anthropic questions, but you addressed them).
BUT YOU DID NOT mention (so far as I can see then or since) your position – restate, correct or explain – the Anthropic anomaly in the CMBR Map. That the observations themselves displayed a “crazy” correlation to the place of our planet and solar-system – in the cosmos? Are you still haunted by Copernicus? Or how have you since satisfied yourself with an explanation of this specific Anthropic anomaly?
Have you changed your mind, Larry?
(Or did I miss something in your book or since?)
Krauss Answer: (1) Stopped worrying about it, no-one talks about it any more. Assume later measurements (eg by Planck) have not reproduced the local ecliptic correlation in the CMBR anisotropy observations. And (2) even if there were correlations in angular alignment of the anisotropy with the earth’s solar system there would be enough circumstantial reasons to conclude that’s just how it ended up, without need of further explanation.
(2) is the dismissive response to Anthropic views, where I just believe we deserve more sophisticated causal arguments in either direction, the cosmos to us or us to the cosmos? Even that meta-argument – that such an argument is or isn’t needed – is worthy of discussion, philosophically even if not empirically? Certainly Krauss took many other Anthropic indications seriously enough to address them in his 2012 book. (This is actually my main agenda about science’s political motivations in providing public explanations – Brandon Carter’s original point – no space for more here.)
(1) Is what leads one to question motivations – the passivity? Clearly it was such a “crazy” scenario, and massively disruptive – a disaster – for much of the foundations of cosmology and cosmogeny, the whole of science – that one way or another science hoped it would go away. Hence Krauss’ Copernican jibe. But, given that hope, you’d maybe think people would be actively looking out for the disconfirmation and an explanation of the effect of previous observational arrangements that caused the spurious anomaly?
Now, as I said, I left this behind in 2014/16 and only revisited it given the opportunity of Krauss’ appearance at TS-SitP. And I was never close to the empirical science, nor even expert enough, just concerned for the philosophical question of what counts as a “quality” explanation.
Looking at (say) these two more recent post-Planck papers, lots of discussion of interpretation of many different kinds of anisotropy, but not one direct reference to the particular prior “ecliptic” anomaly. Surely it would be easy for an expert like Krauss, to construct a conclusion of the form “[This observation / reference] shows that is statistically most likely the ecliptic anomaly was spurious and caused by [some local effect of the observation arrangement]”. Still seems odd not to want to do that?
I think the better model of the cosmos at all scales – including humanity within it – is essentially epistemological rather than ontological. Primarily about what can be known, with what exists and happens relegated to our secondary “model” based on that primary view. So those most fundamental elements of existence – space, time, energy, matter, particles, waves etc – are themselves derived from even more fundamental particles of knowledge – bits of information.
With this metaphysics, limits to knowledge are more properly recognised and anthropic limits with what we humans can know are also more properly explained- and in fact many other existential “human” questions in the cosmos – and on the planet – are better addressed.
It’s pretty clear why the scientific “sacred” attitude to empirical objectivity resists this politically, but equally clear (from so many other “sacred naturalism” issues beyond this post) that this is where many of our real human problems lie.
As the result of collaborations, planning and coordinating activities to mark the 50th anniversary in 2024 of the publication of “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance” ( #ZMM50th ) it was decided to immediately implement the Robert Pirsig Association (RPA) at robertpirsig.org So, as of now, all news related generally to the work of Robert Pirsig and specifically to the #ZMM50th activities will be posted there and emailed to subscribers (and shared on social media channels, including ZMMQuality on Facebook.)
I’ve been using “the memetic problem” for the idea that “bad ideas win over good ideas” in the battle for attention and adoption for at least two decades. Science itself suffers from this addiction quite generally, before we get into socio-political minefields. Basically simplistic ideas are much easier to capture and share in a few memorable words and images than better ideas which are invariably more complex and subtle. So bad wins over good, and that’s a degenerate state of affairs for humanity as a whole, an inevitable slide to lowest common denominators.
“Woke” wins over “everything before / after the but”.
Until today, I hadn’t noticed someone had in the meantime coined a word for that memetic problem – “Dysmemics”.