Monday, November 10, 2014

Continuously Re-Distribute Ounces Of Cheap Cultural Preparation ... Or Pound Ourselves With Expensive Cultural Rehab?

If you've ever wondered how natural selection can proceed, if we don't always produce enough diversity beforehand to select from after the fact ... then read on. In the end, this should also remind any thinking person of the need to provision culture with distributed spending first ... and clawing back (capitalism) later. In fact, both those examples illustrate one, singular logic. Sow widely, to reap adequately.

Now let's diverge, so we can find some new circuits leading back to the same path.

Do you like puzzles? How about this one?

What links '60s rock music, parallel Roger Ericksons, Korzybski & Wittgenstein, LSD, network logic and capitalism?

Why, with a few extra links, this does! You'll laugh when you see how.

This is actually fascinating, not just comical.

"Science And Sanity", by the Polish-born mathematician Alfred Korzybski
5th edition (Institute Of General Semantics, New Jersey)

All this rehashed in a 1967 acid-rock album - written by a chem-engineer student! :)

"Since Aristotle, man has organized his knowledge vertically", the famous liner notes differ markedly from the juvenile poetry/hype that made up the average 1966 rock LP back covers. Written, though uncredited, by Tommy Hall, the liner notes go on to observe that our language has been used primarily to identify - and consequently distinguish between - objects, rather than to focus on the relationship between them. Such a way of thinking, Hall states, is keeping man from enjoying the perfect sanity which comes from being able to deal with life in its entirety. 
The terminology is Korzybskian, but the implementation is brand new. It definitely wasn't something they would teach you at alcohol drug rehab.
Hilarious! Who knew what acid-rock was really all about!
"The goal is to resystematize our knowledge so that it would all be related horizontally."
Ironically, they may have missed the point, and been wrong all along, by assuming the solution was to go too far in either direction.

Why? This story makes you wonder if the supposed appearance of dialectic mainly in Indo-European cultures was an accident of the discovery - or wide-spread use - of certain psychedelic drugs.

After all, many other tribal languages never embodied the distinction of simplified summary mappings and classifications vs coordinating ALL objects, and hence didn't NEED dialectic. :) 

The two strategies impose different amounts of complicated overhead, at different scales. 

How and why? Consider this. The process of sensory system evolution is always to reduce sensory-receptor bandwidth to that minimal range allowing adequate navigation. Humans, for example, didn't need ultraviolet or infrared vision, or ultra-sonic hearing or echo location to survive. We forsook those individual skills and instead invested in a more complex neocortex allowing more post-processing of limited-frequency sensory input.

If we apply that analogy to human language and human culture, not just human physiology, then a similar conclusion is apparent. The key to navigating increasingly complex cultural contexts with lean linguistics may be to limit group-discourse bandwidth & focus cultural-cognition on that skeletal backbone of context which is adequately vs totally relevant. 

To scale up any system, some micro-level features have to be sacrificed, as useless burdens on macro agility. No system scales unchanged.

The evolutionary advantage of aggressively "classifying" languages & cultures may be their ability to focus on what does vs doesn't scale, and hence allow accelerated evolution.

For those unfamiliar with these analogies, try using another, more similar one. There are advantages of delegating some aspects of micro vs macro context management to dedicated specialists, such as human genders - where "males" cannot possibly master the details of pregnancy & neonatal care, while "females" cannot as deeply grasp the details of large territory management - not to mention the many segments in the spectrum between those and other arbitrary behavior sets.

If nothing else, visualizing those system anomalies as necessary features, and not unwanted bugs, points out that arguing for either paternalistic or maternalistic cultures misses the bigger context. Rather, all human cultures feature interleaved as well as interdependent maternal & paternal subcultures, as well as all the intermediate variants demanded for retaining resiliency, via biological diversity.

Meanwhile, back to our Texas pyscho-rockers.
"In an intellectual quantum leap he suggested a modern and tangible way to effectuate the non-Aristotelian lifestyle that remains painfully abstract in Korzybski - psychedelic drugs."
Too bad that didn't work out for them. Being narrowly educated, they weren't aware of the different mental health dangers of disrupting basic neural-reward systems vs the more diffuse psychedelic (peripheral neural-ordering?) drugs.*

Intellectual quantum leap? Or tragic, juvenile generalization?

Their mistake - mixing heroin & LSD- was as fundamental as not appreciating the differing repercussions from tampering with foundation/plumbing/electrical building codes vs experimenting with interior design. Sad, but true.

Pity we can't get back to simply providing all students with:

1) awareness of infinitely changing & fleeting contexts;

2) familiarity & comfort with navigating change, as Context Nomads, and

3) joy in surfing accelerating change with boundless curiosity & fascination, PLUS

4) enough early feedback to appreciate the difference between foundations, and frontiers of exploration.
Why is it proving so difficult to have our growing culture and keep it too?

That observation holds for group brains as well as groups of neurons, i.e., an individual brain. Does that vaguely remind you of our two political parties? Even if in different ways at different times.

Perhaps the core purpose of cultural politics is to keep a population in the survival zone within the closed circle spanning passive-aggressive belief and anarchic-repressive cynicism?

* However, being at an early stage of cultural-dialectic, it might well be useful to imagine what the cultural equivalent of cultural-psychedelic drugs are. Diversity in student travel during their critical periods of cognitive development, their formative years?