Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for May, 2015

Like most things Disney, Tomorrowland is a delicious snack of seeming subsistence. This movie is chock full of “I wanna believe” and “I must be a terrible person if I don’t believe” sentiments and relationships. “We are the future”, “I can make it work”, “Light and hope – the wolf you feed”, “You still have hope”, “Anything is possible” and “We make our destiny” – are just a few of the inspirational tugs. The story itself is cute, watchable and, by in large, moving. And herein lies The Problem.

Human Progress is Not A Thing

Human Progress is Not A Thing

In an ironic twist, if that’s even an American possibility anymore, Tomorrowland, violating its own story premise, espouses overly simplified, imagination-limiting Propaganda. The movie presents the future worth chasing as people standing in amber waves of grain aweing at a technological, automated city of industry and digitization out in the distance. Hard to be irritated by the vision all of us Americans have been sold since the nanosecond we were conceived. The irony of this vision in this movie is that the realization of this future, and the children sold into it, end up creating the technology that brainwashes the world into its own destruction.

The bigger philosophical, ethical issue is that humans by in large cannot imagine a future without humans at the center of it. And in America we can’t sincerely adopt a future without technology and industry made by humans. Americans, and most “developed” societies, mostly do not view non-human growth, creativity, and prosperity on the same level as human efforts. We justify our existence by our ability to continually re-wreak havoc on the world so our human solutions can prevail again! Us humans do have a remarkable ability to solve various issues, especially through technology. But is it remarkable enough to justify our existence, and more pressingly, our proliferation in time and space?

Tomorrowland and the millions of other political, cultural narratives will never be able to ask questions penetrating enough to even hint at a possible justification. These narratives survive and thrive by preying on cognitive bias – asking “is my existence justified?”, “is my worldview accurate?”, “is my limited perception sufficient for external imposition?” isn’t exactly the stuff of mega block buster movies, toy shelf marketing, school room pledges, company missions and political campaigns. And we as consumers and producers of these narratives will not be able to imagine, adopt and create a future worth having nor even a possible future if we can’t ask those questions. The future contemplated by this Dream of the Dreamers is not one that can exist – a perpetual recycle of humans at the center of everything isn’t really a thing has been clearly demonstrated by 13.5 billion years of the universe doing its thing.

Are there popular narratives and dialectics that seem to ask deeper questions – things like “Planet of the Apes” to “The Singularity” movement to posthumanism to mathematics to most philosophy books and departments? On the surface all these things all seem to contemplate non-human centrality but they still all have anthropomorphic aspirations at their core. Anthropomorphism is very hard, if down right impossible, to avoid.

The way forward may be not be forward at all. That is, progress is a very misguided, humanistic concept. Progress is at best a relative, self-serving concept, it is not a physical law or a feature of the universe. It is a misguided concept because it guides at all. The Dream of the Dreamers is always one of Progress, never one of restraint or contemplation or admission or apology or submission.

Inside of me there is a battle. All these questions well up and make me feel like a bad father for not wanting to pass on “wisdom” but only questions. I’m a bad capitalist for questioning the unending creative destructive power of markets. I’m a bad American for questioning The Dream of the Dreamers. I’m a bad creator of technology for anguishing over its ultimate value. I’m a bad person-person for not having an identify or a mission or end goal or a five year plan and question my own centrality to my own existence. I’m a bad artist and writer for lacking happy, hopeful endings and conclusions – never answer a question with a question! I’m a bad revolutionary for not fighting every fight. and I’m definitely a bad philosopher for having no particular philosophy at all. Right?!

The Dream of the Dreamers is potent because it certainly makes for pleasant sleep and a comfortable way to get out of bed and get on with the day’s work. But it is not reality it is marketing against reality. And it is more de-pressing than the struggle with unanswerable questions.

Read Full Post »

The edges of existence.

Everything is an edge – an edge of an edge – an edge of an edge of an edge. Existence is an infinite regress of edges encoding, decoding and recoding other infinite regressing edge networks. The explanations for the unexplained, even in their simplicity, are infinite regresses.

A dictionary is a book of words defining words. Where does a definition end?

Human language is a loose collection of rules to be excepted and exceptions to be ruled by effect. If a communication communicates it’s acceptable?

Sensory perceptions and the instruments of perception cannot be fully perceived. Are we to believe our eyes about our eyes?

Mathematics and its objects and relations are designed to perfectly articulate all that is the case and yet hiding with infinity are infinities and transcendentals that cannot be defined, systematically discovered, nor hardly described. (http://vihart.com/transcendental-darts/)

Our science modernized from the mystics (Kepler) and numerologists (Newton) and the faithful (Leibniz) strikes out, pathetically, against leaps of faith. This science likely has led to the heating of the planet via industry which now can only be reversed by more science?

Turing conceived computers to mirror the way humans thought – conceived when our collective knowledge of brains was rather small. Ironically, within a few lines of code computers (theoretical and physical) become nearly inscrutable in terms of what they might do. Are more inscrutable machines required to create and understand more inscrutable machines?

Currency is abstracted not just from physical objects but from any tangible value other than a sustained believe that this $ will be understood and honored by some anonymous entity beyond oneself. The beliefs sustained by what most label as “the dismal science” (economics) and its backer, the state.

The desired progress of all of the above can be summarized as “prediction”. If something is predictable it is controllable is the underlying point of most modern obsessions with science, technology and information. Even though our most precise and abstracted efforts have shown prediction, by in large, is impossible. Not just for complex systems of the natural world but the very simple mathematical objects we create. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sHYFJByddl8

Despite all the empirical evidence over hundreds of thousands of years and the theoretical proofs of the 20th century as a whole, our culture – primarily in the US but spreading elsewhere – simply refuses to give up control through prediction. It persists, likely, because we are limited beings in energy and time and need whatever perceived advantage we can get. Right? Seeming identification of a pattern reinforces that identification when paired with the perception of reward or advantage. That is learning itself is an edge of an edge of an edge and fully infinitely regressive to its own contradiction.

Prediction and learning and control are all about probability. For a prediction to be useful it must tell us something about the probability of conditions coming to be. For us to do something based on a prediction we must believe that prediction to be as accurate at least as much as the probability of events it predicts. That is, our beliefs should only be as strong as the probability predicted. Or so logic would suggest. However, probability itself turns out, with no surprise here, to be an infinite regress. Probability is really a statement about lack of information. (Sure some people argue that chance/randomness is implicit to existence while others say it’s an artifact of our limited perceptions. In either case our ability to say anything about the existence of things comes down to ignorance and the infinite regress of existence.)

This information remains forever out of reach. It is both at the heart of everything and is the edge of everything. We cannot know. We can only play with these edges, find more of the edges, recode edges into edges. Our struggles philosophically, scientifically, spiritually and educationally come down to this straightforward non-fact. Should we continue our answer and prediction seeking efforts in spite of their impossible hope? That is a personal question that each will have to answer over and over for themselves. For me, I will, not so I can be right or in control, but because I enjoy the edge want to live outside of control. I paint to paint, not because the painting says something about reality. “The good life” is proportional to the number of edges explored, clanged to, jumped from, thrown away, revisited, and combined.

Read Full Post »

In 2002 my wife and I decided having children might not be the worst possible decision we could make in life (turns out we got two amazing, intelligent, engaged daughters).   I pushed pretty hard for us to at least try, especially because we were relatively young and I had at least an inkling that parenting (not sleeping) couldn’t get easier as you aged. (I was almost 26 so I didn’t know that much mind you.)
What I really didn’t know, and probably didn’t really understand at all until this year with my mom’s own life hanging in the balance, is that I was pushing for an impossible sacrifice.   Asking a woman to have a child seems almost natural until you actually think about it.  Beyond the basic What To Expect When Your Expecting fluff the sacrifice is a total self-exchange of the woman for the child.  She will not only dramatically give her body over to the child for 10 months, she does so forever.  She gives over her career, spiritual life, social status, friends and pretty much everything else.   And we ask her to do in some sort of manifest destiny “of course this is what you always wanted” way.
In the end, it turns out ok. For the most part.  If she’s fortunate enough that the pregnancy and birth don’t kill her or diminish her.  And if her economic situation can afford it.  And if she has tremendous support around her, in her family in her community and her work.   And if her hormones and nervous system keep up to the task.  And if her body can withstand the adjustment to post-birth life.  And if the media and pop culture don’t twist her into self-loathing for failing to be good at everything AND have a kid.   I might turn out ok.
I have a tattoo on my left arm.  It’s a phrase in cuneiform, “Redeeming Sacrifice.”   I got it a couple of years ago with the idea that in life I could only possibly ever hope to scrape the surface of such a sacrifice by trying my best to do whatever it took to not only provide for my family and my community but actually help them thrive.  I fail most days, in my opinion. The sacrifice made by my mom and my wife and countless other women around me to give me life, give my children life, support me, somehow get themselves to an ok place is of a magnitude greater than anything I’ve ever done.   The tattoo isn’t meant as a signal of a one time event but instead as a life long, infinite commitment to try to even approach the impossible sacrifice that is being a mom and being a woman.
My wife is an amazing mother.   Whatever the criteria you have for that distinction I’m pretty sure you’ll rank pretty highly.   She has given everything to these children and to me.   And as far as I know her mom did the same for her kids and I know my mom did for her kids.
What have we given them, really, in return?  A life long wondering whether they’ve done enough.  Whether they are doing enough.  Whether there’s someone else they have left behind. Whether they deserve the vacation or money they get.  Whether they’ve earned out respect and love.  I’m as guilty as anyone on that front too.  I want to blame our culture, which is pretty blame-worthy, but I cannot. Maybe blame or responsibility isn’t the right phrasing, but again I do feel all of us, especially males, need to think really hard about our own existence and decide to sacrifice more to make the pressures of being a female go away. Pushed to my most honest position we need to relinquish our patriarchy totally because we have not even come close to this impossible sacrifice.  We’ll never make up for the past but we certainly can leave the future with a slightly better chance that if you’re a female you can be just as much of Homer Simpson as I am or a leading Dr. or cheating football player or a president or whatever you damn well please.   As long as you’re taking on the burden of existence of ALL OF HUMANKIND you can and should do whatever you damn well please.
Happy mother’s day.  And really happy women’s everyday.  I don’t deserve it but I hope all of you will keep letting me try to redeem the existence you give me through my own self-sacrifice.
much love.

Read Full Post »