Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Jero's Demon

Jero's demon at rest
  Sethren, one of my disciples, oh yes, that learned lady with the complicated name, has pointed out that in my last revelation concerning how a piece of kindling wood may become a demon, I made an elementary error.  “The purpose,” she proclaimed to the street at large, and her voice is neither dulcet nor low, “of the collar which you were trying to hammer onto the seat tube using the intermediary of a so-called demon, has a purpose, which is to hold the seat post, which in turn supports the saddle, in a vice-like grip, transmitted by virtue of a lever and a cam.  In order to force the collar down onto the seat tube, you opened the cam.  The seat post was free.  Why, oh Brother Jero, did you not merely take the seat post and saddle out, leaving the collar open to the sky, and then wallop the fucker with a rubber hammer?”
  Sethren, I have always taught that women are equal to men in every way—you who have been with me from the beginning of my ministry will remember that this is why we say sethren and not brethren.  But this did not mean, sethren, that women were equal to me.  In wisdom, judgement, and understanding.  No, nor men neither, sether Albert.
  Nevertheless, here I have to bow to a greater wisdom, the wisdom of the metaverse, and events therein.  At a trivial level, sether Pritchard-Achebe-Wajda has a point.  But that point merely emphasises my rightness.  Suppose the piece of wood was pointless.  Suppose sether Pritchard-Achebe-Wajda’s method rendered that piece of wood entirely redundant in any logical, mechanical, methodological sense.  Why then, what do we have?  We have a piece of kindling wood that has seized its chance, become a demon, inserted itself into a niche in the metaverse where there was no demand, no call for it, and, despite the fact that I used the actual piece of wood to light the fire two nights ago, is still there, in the metaverse, allying with other demons, with concepts, transmission of force, with things, hammers and bicycles, with acts, hitting the fucker with a rubber hammer.  It is out there, its form and colour and use, in a digital image.  If I had not burnt it (kindling is scarce on the Huddersfield ringroad, and the nights are growing cooler) it might have been preserved, found its place in the first great Museum of Evoculture, as the first demon to become known to the general run of humankind.  But that is no matter.  It exists, and may do so as long as the human species.  It shall be called “Jero’s demon”, and in time, mayhap a Jero; and finally, when is fully integrated into the metaverse, just a jero, a common or garden ordinary word for a thing universally acknowledged.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Photo of a demon

Quick post, sethren, in some haste.  The wolves are after me, because I am about to reveal the idiocy of the symbolic realm, as in, "there is evidence that Neanderthals entered the symbolic realm".  Anyway, in some haste.
I have a photograph of a demon.  The technical details of how I took the image are not important.  The demon is the bit of wood in the left hand of the person who created the image, none other than myself.
This piece of wood is a demon.  Thus.  The collar that holds the seatpost of my trusty steed had worked it's way up the post.  It was hard to get back on.  I had a hammer, I needed a tool to convey the force of the hammer to the narrowness of the collar.  My eye alighted on a piece of kindling wood, ash, with a certain elegant and useful curve.  This piece of kindling entered my brain as a demon, which was, by the question "what the fuck can I use for this purpose?" guided into an alliance with the concept of a certain tool, somewhere between a punch and a tappet.  Fortified by this alliance, the piece of wood, previously kindling, became a specific tool, and thus as demon took position in an infinitesimal part of my brain.  Whether it survives or not depends on whether the collar works loose again.  But hang on a moment.  It's there, above left, for ever, or as long as the blogger server lasts.  It has journeyed, this demon, from non-existence, to my ideoverse, to the metaverse, or that portion of it which is the internet.
That is what a demon is.

Thursday, June 06, 2013


et encore, moi - Brtiannica 1911
Should you for some reason wish to read all this in the right order, sethren, it is here:  each word set down by my faithful amanuensis in the order that I spake it.

For the short months of summer, adieu

  Sethren, summer has come at last, and it is time for me to go on pilgrimage, to wend eastward from Huddersfield, beyond even Grimsby, further than the North Sea, to the lands of the Franks, the Lombards and the Slavs.  You may, if you will, follow, or you may choose to stay here, savouring the dust and oncogenic miasma of the ringroad, mumbling disconsolately about the clownish self-aggrandisement of the political class until, if you survive, I return in the Autumn.  Then I will attempt to complete what I have here started.  So far I have looked upon culture and its evolution as though it were a self-sufficient process, and the humanity which it inhabits merely a passive environment for that process.  Next, when the time comes, I shall investigate the human organism, and then finally attempt to derive, from the hypothesis concerning the co-operation of human organism and evolving culture, which more scientifically can be called their obligate symbiosis, a representation of what it is to be a human being among the whole set of human beings, all seven billion of us.
  Why do we do it?  For no purpose but to acquire knowledge.  And why do we acquire knowledge?  Because we are Homo sapiens.  That’s what we do.  Or, as Francis Bacon said of knowledge, it ‘is not onely the excellentest thing in man, but the very excellencie of man’.  Aye, and woman too, sether.  The queen he served could reflect upon the nature of things for three hours at a time, in Latin.
  Aye, bacon, sether Albert, we can smell the butties of it on the June breeze, even if it is beyond our depleted purses, and we must still make do with MadamMeMe’sMeatyBits, now dispensed in noisome slurry by ill-paid and angry semi-slaves coerced by the plump pink plutocrats into drudging for less than a working wage, so even this miserable condition of labour has to be subsidised by tax, so that the tax-free corporations can become even more hideously deformed by cancerous wealth.
  But it is not of dead pig that I speak.  It is of that prophet of the Enlightenment, of the way we who are at the leading edge of evoculture think and feel, Francis Bacon, who lived more than four hundred years ago.  He would have understood evoculture.  To hear him quoted is to get glimpses of our present seen from nearly half a millennium ago.  We could, maybe we will, take his sayings and of each one ask, and how does evoculture account for this?
  I leave you with some of them, sethren.  They are taken from a review, in the London Review of Books Volume 35 Number 3, by Keith Thomas, of The Oxford Francis Bacon Vol. I: Early Writings 1584-96, edited by Alan Stewart with Harriet Knight.
  Keith Thomas’s first quote for sure deals with something we will need to explain by cultural evolution.  Sethren, for the short months of summer, adieu.

  Bacon had a keen understanding of the bonds that held political societies together… :  ‘Relligion and Conscience restinge in the devine ordinaunce whereby princes raigne; Feare of the settled power of the present estate; Love in Recognition of benefittes enioyed, with apprehencion of the manyfolde evills of Innovacion; and Custome of obedience fortefying all the rest’.
‘The monumentes of witt survive the monumentes of power.’
  …acquire knowldege, ‘which is not onely the excellentest thinge in man, but the very excellencie of man’.
  The scholastics were men of ‘ great wittes, farre above myne own’, but they had produced nothing.  ‘All the learneinge that hath byne thiese many hundered years’ had not resulted in a single invention or brought to light ‘one effecte of nature before unknowne’, but the crucial inventions of printing, gunpowder and the mariner’s compass were ‘stumbled vpon and lighted on by chance’. The ‘Souerraignetie of man’ still lay ‘hidd in knowldege’.
  In Graies Inne Revells Bacon projects the in-the-world apparatus of the Enlightenment and the Encycopaedia to enable a  systematic exploration of  ‘what soeuer is hidden and secret in the world’.  This apparatus would include ‘a most perfect and generall librarie’; ‘a most spacious and wonderfull gardin'; ‘a goodlie huge Cabinett’ of ‘whatsoeuer the hand through exquisit arte and engine hath made rare in forme or motion’; and a ‘still-house’ or laboratory, ‘furnished with mills, furnaces, instruments and vessels’; all this for ‘the knowledge of Causes, and secret motions of things; and the enlarging of the bounds of Human Empire, to the effecting of all things possible’.
  ‘A contentious retayneinge of custom is a turbulent thing aswell as innovation.’
  And again, much later, ‘a Froward Retention of Custome is as turbulent a Thing as an Innovation.’

  And of all of us, sethren:
  ‘He doth like the ape that the higher he clymbes the more he shews his ars.’

Thursday, May 30, 2013

What next?

  Sethren, that’s the Jeroan taxonomy dealt with.  So what? you will say.  Just stood up like that, it don’t amount to a can of beans.  Why you should say that in an American accent, sethren, I do not know, but you do, you do.  And I have no quarrel with a can of beans.
  Taxonomies are powerful things.  None more powerful than Linnaeus’s, who gave us the whole kingdom of biological life, laid out just so.  And from the other end of the telescope, Mendel, who gave us something just this side of nothing, but an infinitesimal so powerful that it can anatomise all that Linnaeus named.
  And then there is Jorge Luis Borges.  Here is his taxonomy of animals, which I’m sure you know, but has that strange quality, that every time you come across it, there seems to be something there that was not there before, while the list is no longer, and nothing is missing:
(a) belonging to the emperor,
(b) embalmed,
(c) tame,
(d) sucking pigs,
(e) sirens,
(f) fabulous,
(g) stray dogs,
(h) included in the present classification,
(i) frenzied,
(j) innumerable,
(k) drawn with a very fine camelhair brush,
(l) et cetera,
(m) having just broken the water pitcher,
(n) that from a long way off look like flies.

  This may at first seem unscientific.  However its purport is to demonstrate that a constant of all taxonomies is fallibility.
  I have suggested
Demon    thing    act    concept    map narrative    praxis    Culture
and you, sethren, could well ask, but then, what kind of thing in your taxonomy is a scientific law, or a mathematical proof, or a rule of thumb such as that of a good man of Cork, John Punch: “entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem”.
  I could try, sethren, like the scholasticists of old, or like Procrustes, to fit these succinct, recognisable, bounded and coherent cells of the metaverse into the Jeroan taxonomy, thus:
  A scientific law is the sequential coupling and obligate linkage of  a series of concepts, any of which may and probably will themselves be composed of a series of concepts, possibly recursively until, once you get down to simple enough concepts, demons begin to appear; ergo, a concept (in the sense of the Jeroan taxonomy).
  Same goes for a mathematical proof.
  And for a rule of thumb.
  But that is all trivial circularity, sethren.  What we need to do next is to explore the ways in which the descriptees of this taxonomy, collectively evoculture, co-exist with and within the collective of human organisms.  The space that they configure is the metaverse, which is continuous, through the nexus of all functioning human neural substrates, with the rest of the universe.  Evoculture must account for not just stone knapping and sewing, but family, friendship, art and science, agriculture and warfare, love and hate.  All right, all right, sethren, do not flee.  Quite right, this is the work of ages, and I do not intend to even attempt it, especially as summer has now been deferred until at least July and we may all die of vitamin D deficiency before the sun shines again.  While our fuckhead Prime Minister talks of more wars and his soft pink lust for fracking.  Evoculture must account not only for the wonderful in humankind, but also for the criminals who have superseded bankers, and the political class.
  What I shall try to do, sethren, and that very briefly, is to delineate, not with a fine camel hair brush, but with a yard broom dipped in road grime, some ways in which evoculture might account for human nature a lot better than sociology or religion does.  And I am too pessimistic (though not about the political class), for tomorrow the sun shines.  A pic-nic, maybe, sethren.  Away with you, while I call up Fortnum & Mason upon my phone.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Neither group nor kin: how altruism arises in Homo sapiens

Moi - in altruisitic mode
  Sethren, I have spent the night in study.
  You must excuse me if I forego the usual honeyed pleasantries.  I'm fucked.
  Here is the final word on group selection.  The red herring is rotten, good only for compost.  Group selection is merely a convenient trope magicked up by sociologists and the religious.
  A group is not an entity.  It is a conceptual envelope, permeable and polymorphous, that bags up individuals, typifying them by certain shapes, behaviours or other categorising concepts.
What needs explaining:
  Population viscosity (low dispersal) can cause altruism (relatedness) but also intra-group competition (proximity).  Don't let it bother you that this seems opaque.  I have compressed an apparent contradiction, soundly expressed, until it is almost empty of meaning.  It is merely a flag for the sort of conundrum Groupies pretend can be explained only by Group Evolution.  In fact, all human behaviour which is not an expression of innate structures, ultimately genetically and epigenetically determined, is a derivative of culture (think the difference between blinking and wiping your arse, sethren).  Quite, sether Sampath.
How altruism arises in the Homo sapiens organism.
  Altruism is a misleading word, redolent of human sentiment such as “Greater love hath no man [sic] than this, that he will lay down his life for his friend”.
  When a prairie dog or whatever it is gives a warning of an approaching eagle, it is not laying down its life for its kin group.  It is merely genetically predisposed (variation) to shriek when it sees a predator coming.  That is all.  If the putative [shriek when you see a predator] gene is recessive, it may be carried by a large proportion of the shrieker's kin, who will adventitiously have benefited from its warning.  If the eagle then zaps it, the shrieker will not have died altruistically, it will have died from responding sub-optimally to a dynamic episode in its material environment.  But it may well not die anyway.  The eagle guidance system may be switched to vision, not hearing.  The shrieker may not be the closest dawg to the predator.  Also, the shrieker clearly saw it coming, and may have time to shriek and take evasive action.
  I don’t at the moment have to hand the several pages of equations that prove this.  I must tidy my desk.
  Of course all the dawgs in the shrieker's vicinity may not be kin, and they will benefit anyway.  The whole group benefits.   But it beats me, sethren, how you could possibly argue that selection on the shrieking trait is by the group.
So, how altruism arises in the Homo sapiens organism.
  Two Homo sapiens organisms lifting a stone — by the way, for this explanation, cultural evolution has to be taken seriously, not just as phatic gobshite. 

  Two Homo sapiens organisms lifting a stone.  There arises in one of them (variation) a genetic and epigenetic tendency with a [lift a stone when another Homo sapiens organisms lifts a stone, and make it the same stone] attractor (here is a place where mirror neurons might be useful); but the attractor, once the stone has been lifted, becomes part of evoculture, as an act in the metaverse (in the senses used in the Jeroan taxonomy of evoculture).  It is on the act that selection in the metaverse can be made.  The results of the act, which in this case can be made by, minimally, two humans, may become part of the physical environment; a shelter, an arrow head.  This alteration of the environment (result of an act which was the result of a predisposition in the organism) may in turn select on the organism, and other organisms like it.  But it is the act, which may become part of a praxis (in the Jeroan taxonomy) such as building or stone knapping, or indeed of a superordinate praxis, co-operation, which may differentially benefit any human organism whose ideoverse includes that act.
Note that it would be inexplicable if the concept (let’s lift the stone together) preceded, in evolutionary space, the act (one human lifts a stone when another lifts a stone, and it is the same stone).
  If you actually accept cultural evolution (see note on phatic gobshite above), then in Homo sapiens there is no necessity to explain cooperation as something evolving at the level of the group.  Reiteration and variation of ideas, behaviour, things, take place only at the level of the neural substrate.  The processes of each neural substrate are an individual ideoverse, and each ideoverse, in an E=mc2 universe, is in a continuum with the metaverse and with the world.  The third evolutionary stage, selection, can take place in a number of spaces; the ideoverse where the reiteration with variation initially took place; another ideoverse; the solid world (a better mousetrap, perhaps).
  Anything else is sociology or religious bias.
  I realise that some new terminology may sound sci-fi/religious bonkers.  In fact it is, I hope, quite practical, and an attempt to get away from camouflaged essentialism.