Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Half-second stutter in the metaverse

  Forget, for the moment, the previous taxonomy, sethren.
Demon    thing    act    concept    map narrative    praxis    Culture
  If knapping a flint is the act, and arrow-head is the concept, then the apparatus of arrow-head production is that which is not lost with each death, but is passed through the metaverse to the ideoverses of the next generation by imitation and natural pedagogy, and spans the whole process from “we need more arrow-heads”, through quarrying and manufacture, to the finished product.  This apparatus includes both concepts and acts, and all are composed of demons.  Perhaps the narrative is just another sort of apparatus, a collection of demons, things, acts, concepts, which has a particular function, or functions.
  Let us look at, though it has been looked at so many times before that there may be nothing new to say, the myth.  And maybe we shall find that all narrative is myth.  That would be economical.  But not certain.
  Let us take a human polity, for example the mature nation state (actually a rarity). A mature nation state will have evolved over centuries, and many of its constituents over millennia.  These evolved constituents will include praxes.  A praxis, what is actually done, by custom and practice and lore, is a large and complex network of apparatuses, concepts and acts.  Agriculture is a praxis, as are engineering, cooking, law, art, music, bureaucracy, science and mathematics, government, literature, religion and war.  These praxes will be cross-, inter- and intra-connected in the nation state with other constituents, networks, family, friendship, occupation and interest, sport, that could be a long list.
  A mature nation state evolves through conflict and co-operation as complex as the waves and currents of all the oceans.  It is an emergent system that can be described in broad terms, but is also a continual interaction between the bodies and ideoverses of many millions of human beings, from second to second; from second to second, sethren, and every second counts; so while the broad brush stuff, national character and purpose, Margaret Thatcher being the saviour of the nation and other suppurating bollocks, what it means to be British and so on, gives an indication of what may be going on, the second to second uncountable processes of the zone of the metaverse that flows into those millions of ideoverses, and second by second is modified by them; that emergent process and its uninterrupted continuity is as vital to the nation state as is the continuity of government.
  Just imagine if there was a half-second stutter in that process, one that cleared the system entirely.  Within our national borders, each ideoverse wiped clean.  Nothing wrong with our brains, except that every demon has fled and, with nowhere to go, has died.  The national metaverse is now extinct.
  All would not be lost.  The metaverse is not just in human brains.  Initially, each organism would stare around and find no comfort.  Language would be still available, as a system, but because there was nothing on the ideoverse side of Wernicke’s and Broca’s areas, meaning, the infinity of irreducible differences, would be absent.  So, what would we do?  Well, being as we are, pretty close to robots, the organism would reach down, locate its mobile phone, switch it on, and stare at it open-mouthed.  Demons would fly out of the phone through the visible bit of the electro-magnetic spectrum, shapeshift in the retina, the ganglia, the optic nerve, but meet no friendly company in the cortex.  Meet nothing at all in the cortex, in fact.
  Not just our phones, but streets, buildings, cars, trees, animals, birds, all the libraries in the country, all the recording media, every record, would be without meaning.  Without interacting demons in any ideoverse, the metaverse would have closed down.  It wouldn’t be extinct of course.  As soon as the Americans, who might well have initiated the stutter, occupied these isles, the thing part of the metaverse, buildings, books, televisons, would be miraculously raised from the dead in the blinking of an eye, fraternising with the incomers.    We however would be helpless and useless.  Ideoverseless.  Which means, in traditional terms, lacking any vestiges of a mind.  We’d have to start from scratch, and without the advantage of the particular neural substrate with which neo-nates start from scratch.  They can compile an ideoverse at huge speed.  But we adults would have a neural substrate with a gargantuan architecture in place, somewhat plastic maybe, but dedicated, as they say in the info-tec business; dedicated to the acts, concepts, apparatuses which had been, each in our unique particularity, us, just a minute ago.  But now empty of those acts, concepts, apparatuses, because all the demons are suddenly dead.  All the loci of irreducible difference in the substrate, which were physical configurations in the E=mc2 universe, have just been dis-configured.
  I can tell you, the mature nation state would be a mature nation state no longer.  Utterly fucked.  It would have become, in a second, the utterly, permanently fucked nation state.
  I hope that’s clear, sethren.  I hope it’s clear that the nation state is totally dependent on the continual interaction between the bodies and ideoverses of many millions of human beings, from second to second, from milisecond to fucking milisecond.
  It follows that there is very little positive that a government can do to determine the direction of development of a mature nation state.  Thus, if we were to look dispassionately at government we might come to the conclusion that government has two functions, which alternate.  The first is to develop the nation, which it can only do by selecting what is harmonious and productive, and inhibiting what causes conflict and destruction.  And the second function, when the nation is at its apogee, flowing with milk and honey, is to enable the rich to consume everything that is consumable, and leave the nation, not necessarily as a corpse, but as a raddled body in need of long convalescence.  This second stage is currently known as neo-liberalism.
  This — okay, too trite, you say, sether Pritchard-Achebe-Wajda — is a simple, instantly recognisable evolutionary pattern.  Hawks and doves.  Too many hawks and too few doves, the hawks starve and their population collapses.  The dove population swells, easy feeding for the relic population of hawks.  Hawks increase, doves diminish.  The cycle flip-flops.
  Yea, of course it's simplistic.  Hawks and doves are not just agents but environments, and in the human population hawkishness and doveishness are metaversal, not merely behavioural.  In Britain, doves might wish to pay tax, knowing that without roads, schools, public services, our mature nation state will become a derilict dystopia.  But now we know, sethren, that Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs is, in its highest reaches, like government itself, a branch of corporate organised crime the purpose of which is to transfer all stuff of worth from the little people, as Government calls us, to the asymptotic-towards-zero rich, then the wisdom of voluntarily paying tax is put in doubt.
  And where is our entrée for cultural evolution in all this you ask, somewhat hungrily.
  Well, I ask you sethren, how do the rich rob we poor fuckers blind, and we stand grinning foolishly at them, and comply with their every demand, every increasingly vicious, smirkingly successful instruction?
The most honed, most instrumental form of the narrative, sethren, the myth.  The myth tomorrow.

Monday, April 29, 2013

What's the engine, what's the deed?

  I am pondering the relationship, sethren, but I’ll be brief, between act and concept.  Which is at the heart of human behaviour?  Like, among human beings, ordinary human beings, us, not great leaders like — I traverse the contemporary horizon, nobody comes to mind — like Babur or Justinian; among ordinary human beings, what is the effective working group?
  It’s like some real problem comes up, a public meeting is called, at first there’s a keynote speech, then come the ranting idiots who you get at any public meeting, they say the same thing each time, regardless of the context, the obsessives, the monomaniacs, genuine victims who have no theatre in which to fight back, sterile ideologues, racists and Decent People Like Us.  When they’ve all calmed down, or become exhausted, or flounced out, people stand up and say sensible things, give useful information, outline possible solutions.  You too thought you might say something once or twice, but you were a bit undecided and the moment passed, the focus had shifted, somebody more decisive and with a clear and practiced delivery was already on their feet.
  By the end, two or three sensible but mutually exclusive conclusions have been reached and resultant courses  of action outlined.  First you go with one, then with another.  Like most sensible people, you are undecided.  No solution is perfect, and none without its good points.  The meeting is adjourned, to be reconvened the following week when a decision has to be taken.
  You are an active citizen and want to see the right thing done.  What do you want to do next?  What you want to do, and what most people want to do, is to get together with the nucleus of your social environment, friends at the school gate, workmates, drinking mates; a small rabble of probably homeless probably druggy probably alcoholic certainly scruffy and unkempt scroungers who congregate in the hour before midday in a layby on the Huddersfield ring-road.  You know who they are, you know what they think, how they talk, what they want out of life, how they think things should be.  They’re not all alike, by no means, an odd and even some might say eccentric bunch, but you can work together, bees in bonnets are permitted but it’s easy to stop their buzzing with a joke, you’re good enough friends that nobody’s going to flounce out, even if they get angry, and by the end of the day, or the evening, or by the time the kids get tired of playing and want to go home for their tea, a consensus has been reached.  It’s provisional, it’s not bound by a vow of unity, when the next public meeting is convened minds might be changed, but by and large it is in this kind of group that work gets done.  Variation arises, selection takes place.  Acts ensue, in the metaverse certainly, and probably in the world.  A hand is raised, or not raised, in assent, to be counted.
  Clearly, the variation is only initiated, whenever it occurs, in each ideoverse.  But each ideoverse, when you are within the nucleus of your social environment, is wide open to the local zone of the metaverse, through eyes and ears, watching faces, expressions, registering tone of voice, emotion, and receptive and retentive of the demons, acts, concepts flying between you.  Your own ideoverse can reflect on the same things when you are alone, and indeed the evolutionary process may work much faster.  But the result may not be effective as an act.  You mention it to a mate in passing, at the water cooler (there’s a concept upon which a whole analysis of civilisations could be built.  Which the fuck of us has ever seen a water cooler?  Do we even have them outside the US conclave, Londinium?) or in the queue for MeatyBits, for which I hear we will soon be able to swap Big society food vouchers.  You outline you lucubrations to your mate in passing, and he observes, that’s fucking garbage, you daft twat.  Think on.  Or possibly, think on’t.  And you do.  And you realise that it is possible that, untrammelled by social context, your what we used to call the mind has run away with what we used to call itself, and it’s a good thing you mentioned it first to your mate rather than standing up on your hind legs in a public meeting and making a complete dick of yourself.
  It’s only an analogy, sethren, and we know that analogies are usually worse than useless.  But I am looking for the grouping in which demons get most evolutionary work done, and I have concluded, for the moment, that it is the act.  An act is not only a kinetic four dimensional amplification of a sequence of alliances of demons.  It is also:
  an established network of demons that provides its members with a functional pattern that does work, in the ideoverse, the metaverse and/or the world, and this work gives its constituent demons a bigger chance of being selected and so surviving.
  You know, sethren, when Richard Dawkins appeared to me on the road to Damascus all those decades ago, and I brooded upon logical certainty that in any area of knowledge, assumption, belief, if a fraction of Homo sapiens is correct about what is the case, then the vast majority must be in error, and questioned how this could be, given that we are a species blessed with the capacity to reason; and I began to realise that it might be because human culture is an evolutionary process, and cares little for truth (as we humans care little for truth) and pits everything on survival (pathetic fallacy is debilitating but tempting when discussing evolution); at that time I thought of the dominant collective of culture as the apparatus, as in intellectual apparatus.  That the ability to produce thought, ideas (my thinking was primitive, atavistic then) depended not only on the processing power of the brain, but on the apparatuses that worked within it.  And in my thinking here, the apparatus was the key unit.  An apparatus was:
  an established network of demons that provides its members with a functional pattern that does work, in the ideoverse, the metaverse and/or the world, and this work gives its constituent demons a bigger chance of being selected and so surviving.
  It could even be shortened to app..  But sadly that is already taken.
  Sethren, this was meant to be the briefest footnote.  But as usual I have wondered.  When the intellectual infirmities of age become too apparent, just hit me over the head with a hammer.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Running ape meets Evoculture

Knuckle, senescent white male
  Time, sethren, to consider the organism.
  The organism.  Raise your right index finger where you can see it clearly.  Keep it there, and rotate it clockwise as seen if you were looking out along your arm, which you aren’t, thus demonstrating the potential independence from the real  world of the ideoverse, where you are looking along your arm.  Dogs can’t do this, and only in part because of anatomical shortcomings.  Now rotate that finger about the metacarpophalangeal joint, the proximal knuckle, sether, bottom, bottom, no, not your arse, sether, and the wrist, and then about the elbow.  Just watch those interdependent hierarchies of concepts whizzing past in your ideoverse.  Metacarpophalangeal doesn’t often get much of an outing.  It’s hardly a familiar demon, but look how it’s hogging the limelight here.  Alas, in vain.  What chance does metacarpophalangeal (its last desperate mememe) have of ousting knuckle from any gang of demons.  Not room for both, I’m afraid, and anyway, there’s only one metacarpophalangeal joint in the human hand, there are fourteen knuckles.  Without the praxis of anatomy, I guess the metacarpophalangeal joint would be long extinct in the metaverse.
  With luck, your finger tip is now in contact with your nose, or thereabouts.  Or maybe your mouth.  Whatever, you are touching the human organism.  So are you sether Albert, but I should stop if I were you unless you want to be taken away for a good talking to by yon community police person.
  Try to imagine this organism upon which you have your finger, without Evoculture.  If you had been raised by a pack of wolves, or dogs, or even dolphins, were you sufficiently aquatic, that is exactly how you would be.  Totally devoid of Evoculture.  You would be a wolf, or a dog, or a dolphin but, in all categories, physically very ill-equipped.  If you were a wolf or a dog, you might be able to compensate for your inadequacies with the evolved hand, pulling out thorns for instance.  Your vastly superior processing power might prove useful in some situations, but that’s doubtful.  It, your brain, has access to very little of the stuff it has evolved over three million years to process, so the possibility of, say, doing a little building work round the lair may well not occur in the neural substrate, and would probably not be socially rewarded even if it it were translated into action.  To dolphins you would be even more useless, even though dolphins might have a developed but wholly proximate ideoverse, unlike dogs.  By wholly proximate, I mean the ideoverses are wholly organism-based.  Such ideoverses could for instance result in complex social interactions, games, hunting cooperation, even meeting groups of Evocultured-up human organisms for joint ventures, hopefully involving killing third parties, fish, rather than the humans killing the dolphins, as found among the Faroe- and Japanese.  But nothing uses the environment of the dolphin’s brain to evolve.  Nothing.  The downside of flippers, maybe.  On the other hand, put a human baby in a dolphin’s environment and the downside of everything else, including hands, becomes apparent.
So, the organism without Evoculture.  Homo sapiens with nothing but the brain and the real world, the world before the hominins.  Little more than a running ape with a good cooling system.  That’s what you would have your finger on, sethren, if it wasn’t for Evoculture.
  I want to call this human organism something that differentiates it from what we know the human being + Evoculture to be.  I want to call it the Ho!?, but Ho!? In our street culture, and that’s where we fucking are, sethren, has connotations.  Ma ‘ho.  Not good.  But Ha!?.  I like Ha!?.  The grunt of surprise, followed by that hardest concept, that concept at the heart of Evoculture, the question.
  The question goes back through evolutionary history.  An African Hunting Dog asks questions.  Want to hunt?  Tougher than me?  Scared?  But the repertoire is limited.  The Ha!? asks the question thus.  The two of us are looking in the same direction.  Concerning that which is before our eyes, what is the case?
  Or rather, it’s not the Ha!? that asks that question.  It’s the Ha!?-Evoculture symbiosis.    

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Jesus Saves, Kill Sodomites: a note on narrative function

  A narrative is a distributed locus of stability.  It is a structure that inhibits variation.  It is an agglomeration of acts in the metaverse from which stories can be derived.  A story evolves by natural selection from a narrative, and is distributed about one or several related time lines, with a coherence selected by its environment as a recognised conformity, at least partial, to the social, political, economic, technical and ethical situation at the time of its telling.  If I said, sethren, tell me about Romeo and Juliet, you’d tell us a story.
  The acts recounted in a narrative are disposed far more at random.  They are only loosely connected to any time line, and their beginnings and particularly their ends are inchoate.  They contain stories, often repeated in different forms, with variations, often inversions, often in your face contradictions.  They may contain tropes of extraordinary beauty.  Between the stories is a huge amount of what appears to the recipient who is not of the culture of origin of the narrative to be junk.
  Within a narrative is often identifiable a claim of exceptionalism, ownership or being absolutely right about something.  Examples of narrative are the Old Testament, British  neo-liberal, in fact all neo-liberal Economic Policy, American Foreign Policy, Mein Kampf, The Book that shall be Nameless, any collected folk tales of a single ethnicity— particularly English, Facebook, any Imperial History, Bollywood, "African Culture", Coronation Street.  Some of these would be better company on a desert island than others.  Anybody who tells you the Old Testament is a great work of literature hasn’t read it.  It has the odd beautiful trope, and a few good stories.  Most of it is junk.
  As in the genome, narrative junk may not actually be junk.  It will have some complex quasi-epigenetic function in the evolution or the originating culture.  It’s just that if the originating culture has no presence in your ideoverse, the junk won’t function because it is unattractive to the resident subset of Evoculture.  It does not signal to enough resident demons any potential for alliance and proliferation.  This in no way discourages Bible study classes of a fundamentalist bent all over the world, where instructions as to the necessity of genocide merely set a big screen flashing; Jesus Saves, Kill Sodomites.
  The evolved function of a narrative is to fix, in a photographic sense, and make permanent a landscape; a landscape either social, geographical, historical, political, economic, ethical, religious, or various combinations of all these things. 
  Narratives relate strongly to the survival of the originating and onward-transmitting hosts, their human population.  The more complete and coherent a culture is, and the more the case that a human carrier of that culture can be fully educated in every part of it, the more these components of the narrative can all be present and fused.  I know very close to nothing of the Australian Dreamtime before the interlopers arrived, but it sounds like the most complete narrative that has survived so far.