Top-down / Bottom-up

Top down                 -           Bottom up
Order                        -           Chaos
Conscious                 -          Unconscious
Solid                         -           Liquid
Determined               -          Undetermined
Planned                     -          Emergent
Known                      -          Unknown
Certain                      -          Uncertain
Closed                       -          Open
Theory                       -          Story  
Intentional                 -          Accidental
Centralised                -          Distributed
Authoritarian             -          Anarchic
Spiritualism               -         Materialism
Limited                      -         Unlimited
Mono                         -         Poly
Familiar                     -         Novel
Left hemisphere         -         Right hemisphere

The more intentional something becomes, the more idiosyncratic and limited it also becomes.

Cilliers - "instead of a program you have memory." Memory over a program; past over future. Memory implies learning from mistakes (traditional approach), whereas a program implies setting an ideal future goal (modern approach). The traditional approach is "unconscious", because it has no sense of an overall scheme - it 'tinkers' when necessary. The modern approach is "conscious" because it purposely plans to make the future different from the present/past.

Classical music, like classical architecture, like many other classical forms, specifies an entity in advance and then builds it. Generative music doesn't do that, it specifies a set of rules and then lets them make the thing.

In the words of Kevin Kelly's great book, generative music is out of control, classical music is under control.

Now, out of control means you don't know quite what it's apt to do. It has it's own life. Generative music is unpredictable, classical music is predicted. Generative unrepeatable, classical repeatable. Generative music is unfinished, that's to say, when you use generative you implicitly don't know what the end of this is.

Generative music is sensitive to circumstances, that is to say it will react differently depending on its initial condition, on where it's happening and so on. Where classical music seeks to subdue them. By that I mean classical music seeks a neutral battleground, the flat field. It won't be comfortable -- with a fixed reverberation, -- not too many emergencies, and people who don't cough during the music basically.

Generative forms in general are multi-centered. There's not a single chain of command which runs from the top of the pyramid to the rank and file below. 

There are many, many, many web-like modes which become more or less active. You might notice the resemblance here to the difference between broadcasting and the Internet, for example.

[Brian Eno]
'Evolving metaphors, in my opinion, is what artists do'

Our complexity-inspired workshop techniques make intensive use of the boundary between the complex and the chaotic, in effect cycling between the dynamics of the two states as a sort of pattern generator to create a rich variety of patterns among which to choose—to stabilize and to disrupt—in order to facilitate sense-making.

[Cynthia Kurtz & Dave Snowden]
'The new dynamics of strategy: Sense-making in a complex and complicated world'

Introspection's course and limits were set by a consciousness that insisted on unity. To hear the deeps not only affronted Christian tradition; it invited what had been declared the Devil, Hell, and madness.

Here we begin to see the staggering consequences of denial of the daimons: it leaves the psyche bereft of all persons but the ego, the controller who becomes super-ego.

No spontaneous fantasy, image, or feeling may be independent of this unified ego. Every psychic happening becomes 'mine.' Know Thyself shifts to Know Myself.

What Philemon taught Jung, however, was that there are things in the psyche that are no more "mine" than animals in the forest ... or birds in the air." Moreover, without images, the imaginative perspective itself withers, only reinforcing the ego's literalism.

The images which could teach the ego its limits, as Philemon taught Jung, having been repressed, only return unimaged as archetypal delusions in the midst of subjective consciousness itself.

The ego becomes demonic. It fully believes in its own power.

[James Hillman]
Healing Fiction, p.65

There's a necessary inferiority when you're in psychic reality.

[...] soul means inferiority - something sensitive, something ... well ... pathologized. Soul makes the ego feel uncomfortable, uncertain, lost. And that lostness is a sign of soul.

You couldn't have soul or be a soul if you couldn't feel that you have lost it. The person as the strong ego [...] doesn't feel that he's lost anything.

That's one reason I question the psychiatric process of developing a strong ego. That seems to me a monstrous goal for psychotherapy because it attempts to overcome the sense of soul which appears as weakness, a weakness that seems almost to require symptoms.

Violence or power or sadism or domination keep us from sensing soul, and until they crack from inside, don't work anymore, fall apart, as I have called it, we can't work with them.

[...] when you are suffering, when there's failure, dejection, and you are cast down, thrown back on yourself, left alone, wet, in one way or another - then you begin to feel, Who am I? What is going on? Why can't I? Why doesn't my will work?

The Great Western Will - that I have been trained ever since I was a child to know what I want, to get it, and do it. To be independent!

It doesn't matter whether you're a man or a woman here. You're taught to be independent, to stand on your own two feet, to take what you need, to know what you want, and to know where you're going.

Now all of that gets defeated by the syndromes or the symptoms I'm talking about, the pathologizing. Suicide is one. Betrayal is one. Masturbation is another one [...]

[James Hillman]
Inter Views, p.12, 17

Adam and Eve then became almost drunk with excitement. This was the way to do things. Make a plan, ABC and you get D.

They then began to specialize in doing things the planned way. In effect, they cast out from the Garden the concept of their own systemic nature and of its total systemic nature.

[...] Eve began to resent the business of sex and reproduction. Whenever these rather basic phenomena intruded upon her now purposive way of living, she was reminded of the larger life which had been kicked out of the Garden.

[...] there is humility, and I propose this not as a moral principle, distasteful to a large number of people, but simply as an item of a scientific philosophy.

In the period of the Industrial Revolution, perhaps the most important disaster was the enormous increase of scientific arrogance. We had discovered how to make trains and other machines. We knew how to put one box on top of the other to get that apple, and Occidental man saw himself as an autocrat with complete power over a universe which was made of physics and chemistry.

But that arrogant scientific philosophy is now obsolete, and in its place there is the discovery that man is only a part of larger systems and that the part can never control the whole.

[Gregory Bateson]
Steps to an Ecology of Mind ('Conscious Purpose versus Nature'), p. 441, 443 

Mechanisation, bureaucracy, the increasing complexity of technology and scientific specialisation are […] typical phenomena of mass society today, ‘yet they seem to vitiate the authority of the individual, as well as the democratic power of the majority, in favour of an anonymous principle of organisation and discipline.’

If this is the case, the artist can’t hope for any privileges from mass society, or even from the concession of a marginal status […] Such a society won’t recognise the need of a safety valve.

[…] a mass society won’t have any need of the artist, and presumably won’t even bother to domesticate his mystery.

[Denis Donoghue]
The Arts Without Mystery, p. 91-2

Mill’s model of society follows his view of science as bottom-up: people express their sentiments, debate them, and negotiate compromises. There’s no predefined model of society, it emerges out of the discourse.

You can’t ban certain people from speaking, because you can’t know beforehand whether or not they have something of value to say. At the very least, people must be allowed to express their sentiments, which is information in itself.

Marcuse’s model of society, of course, follows his view of science, and his view is top-down.

For him, the desired end-state of society is defined in advance, so there is little need to listen to what people have to say; he can evaluate every person or movement on whether or not they are perceived to be working towards or away from his end-goal (which correlates strongly with Left and Right, respectively), and promote or censor them accordingly.

[Uri Harris]
'Wilfrid Laurier and the Creep of Critical Theory'

One theory from Thomas Sowell is that intellectuals tend to like systems where you can articulate a theory in a bunch of verbal propositions, and the government implements them.

Whereas there are certain phenomena in social life, like market economies, where the intelligence is distributed across millions of people. No-one actually knows how to make the system work, but people make things, look for buyers, set the price, and then over the entire society things kind of work out - but no single individual has the theory as to how that ought to work.

A language is another example - there’s no committee that designed the English language, there’s no theory of how the English language ought to work. It’s hundreds of millions of people just talking - and they invent new slang, and they slur, and they emphasise, and they borrow from other languages - and the language changes. And it works pretty well - here we are speaking in English, and no committee ever designed it.

So according to Sowell’s theory - I think he was influenced by Hayek - systems of distributed intelligence - where no one genius designed it, but millions of people cooperating give rise to a collective intelligence - run against the grain of the way intellectuals often think.

If your first impulse is “What’s the theory? What are the set of principles?”, then you’re going to gravitate to planned systems and be a bit oblivious to distributed systems.

[Steven Pinker]
Joe Rogan Experience #1073

If we can agree that the economic problem of society is mainly one of rapid adaptation to changes in the particular circumstances of time and place, it would seem to follow that the ultimate decisions must be left to the people who are familiar with these circumstances, who know directly of the relevant changes and of the resources immediately available to meet them.

We cannot expect that this problem will be solved by first communicating all this knowledge to a central board which, after integrating all knowledge, issues its orders.

We must solve it by some form of decentralization.

[Friedrich Hayek]
'The Use of Knowledge in Society'

Hillman: ... "You are out of control," "I am out of control," are big sentences now in this culture.

And the important thing is to be able to control your behaviour, get your shit together. I think control is one of the most dangerous words we've got right now in our vocabulary.

First of all, it's a word that belongs with Honeywell, it's a "control systems" idea - that the controls (not the psyche or the Gods) are what run everything, run the ship, run the air conditioner, run the factory.

Second of all, it's a word that belongs in the police world. So it's a combination of technological and bureaucratic or oligarchic or fascist. And it's become an ideal of therapy!

Ventura: When you're falling in love your life's out of control. And when you're falling out of love [...] You get fired or let go or have an accident, your life's out of control.

Hillman: When you have a breakdown of any kind - bankruptcy, a death, a big illness - your life's out of control. Do you realize the conditions we've just described are the great dramatic moments of life?

Ventura: Which we're supposedly living for!

Hillman: That's what we're living for. Falling in love, being heartbroken by love -

Ventura: - revelations that turn you inside out -

Hillman: - mourning and grief -

Ventura: - victory, defeat - because when you get a big victory you're often as out of control as when you're badly defeated -

Hillman: - losing it, finding it -

What is all this emphasis on control? Isn't that what they call secular humanism, to ban the Gods?

Ventura: We're banning the Gods -

Hillman: - with that control system.

Ventura: We want to control all the things you supposedly live for - all those things that, if you get to be an old person, and have not had them, you go, "What was my life about?"

So on one level what you want is to be out of control, and on another level you're fighting that. That's your dialectic.

[James Hillman]
with Michael Ventura
We've Had a Hundred Years of Psychotherapy - And the World's Getting Worse, p.203, 204

[...] it has been widely believed, and in our century more than any other, that rationality, logic, the scientific approach, call for a society which is centrally organized, and planned and ordered as a whole. Popper has shown that this, besides being authoritarian, rests on a mistaken and superseded conception of science.

Rationality, logic and a scientific approach all point to a society which is 'open' and pluralistic, within which incompatible views are expressed and conflicting aims pursued; a society in which everyone is free to investigate problem-situations and to propose solutions; a society in which everyone is free to criticize the proposed solutions of others, most importantly those of the government [...]

[...] the perpetual search for, and admission of, error at even the organizational level is hardest of all for authoritarian structures.

[Bryan Magee]
Popper, p. 77-8

Intentional fallacy, term used in 20th-century literary criticism to describe the problem inherent in trying to judge a work of art by assuming the intent or purpose of the artist who created it.

'Intentional Fallacy'

The conceptual operation that extracts 'themes' from writing has its counterpart in the notion that books exist as self-enclosed systems of meaning and reference, their signifiers all pointing back toward some 'transcendental signified' or source of authentic and unitary truth.

The traditional idea of the book is of a writing held within bounds by the author's sovereign presence; a writing whose integrity of purpose and theme comes from its acceptance of these proper, self-regulating limits.

What is at issue is not the intentionality of language - the precondition of all understanding - but the belief that texts must always point back to their source in a moment of pure, self-authorized meaning.

Language is intentional through and through, but not in the sense that its meanings either could or should be confined to what the author (supposedly) intended.

[Christopher Norris]
Derrida, p. 63, 113

[...] our acceptance of a degree of uncertainty is the very essence of being alive in the universe.

Many system have evolved through processes of self-organization. They were not put together in a mechanical way, by bringing various parts together and arranging them according to some hierarchical scheme and overarching law.

Rather they emerged through the interlocking of feedback loops and out of flows to and from the external environment. In this sense, the stabilities of our lives, of our organizations and our social structures, do not arise out of fundamental certainties but from out of the womb of chance, chaos, and openness.

Patterns in a pan of heated water and the vortex in a river are particularly simple examples of order emerging out of chaos. Likewise human society itself, with its cities, international governments, and global economics can only exist through this dynamical dance between chaos and order.

The contrast between versatility and flexibility of self-organization and the behaviour of mechanical systems can be illustrated by comparing life in a village to that within a traditional army.

To function effectively during war, an army must have a predetermined and well-understood hierarchy [...] Each person entering the army fits neatly into a particular slot, so that during battles and campaigns the army machine continues to function despite a turnover in personnel. This also means that, with the exception of the highest ranks or individual acts of heroism, the skills and personalities of any particular individual have little significance.

Soldiers fit into the army, rather than the army accommodating them.

Whereas, in the army, soldiers are forced to sacrifice a measure of their personal freedom so as to fit in and obey, within the village a wide range of behaviour, even verging on the eccentric, can be tolerated. The former type of structure is a metaphor for mechanical, hierarchical organization; the latter stands for the self-organization seen in many natural and social systems.

[F. David Peat]
From Certainty to Uncertainty, p. 138-9

[...] in the first months following surgery, split-brain patients reported some rather disconcerting experiences. These took the form of an apparent conflict of will, displayed in so-called intermanual conflict.

Such was the case of a man who found himself in the unfortunate position of going to embrace his wife with one arm and pushing her away with the other. Other patients [...] reported instances in which the left hand closed doors the right hand had opened, unfolded sheets the right had folded, snatched money the right had offered to a store cashier, and disrupted [...] reading by turning pages and closing books.

What the stories of the split-brain patients in their first few months after operation also reveal is that it is the left hemisphere, Gazzaniga's interpreter, that is in control, at the conscious level, of the consistent nature of ‘our’ experience, even though we may have differing views, desires, and values in either hemisphere.

In inter-manual conflict, it is never the right hand that is experienced as the rebel, the ‘naughty’ hand, the one that is ‘out of control’: it is always the left, that pushes the other way, grabs the wheel, chooses the ‘wrong’ clothes.

[...] Once the script has been written and the play half performed by the left hemisphere, an incursion from the right hemisphere is bound to be disruptive and unwelcome from its point of view. 

It's the left hemisphere, ignorant of what is going on in the right hemisphere, that both decides what it is that ‘I’ want, and then judges any interruption from the right hemisphere as contrary to ‘my’ best interests.

But set it in another context, and who knows what might have happened had he actually listened a long while back to his right hemisphere and left his wife rather than embrace her; or – in another patient's story – had she closed the door, driven the other way, worn the flame-coloured dress?

At any rate, at least we can deduce that when she says ‘I know what I want to wear’, she means ‘My left hemisphere knows what it wants me to wear, and I am identified with my left hemisphere.’

Despite the asymmetry in their roles, in favour of the right hemisphere, there is an important opposing asymmetry of power, in favour of the left hemisphere [...] and it may even, mistakenly, see the right hemisphere's world as undoing its work, challenging its ‘supremacy’.

[Iain McGilchrist]
The Master and his Emissary, p. 211, 218-19

The mention of material substance naturally suggests the doctrine of 'materialism,' but philosophical materialism is not necessarily knit up with belief in 'matter,' as a metaphysical principle.

One may deny matter in that sense, as strongly as Berkeley did, one may be a phenomenalist like Huxley, and yet one may still be a materialist in the wider sense, of explaining higher phenomena by lower ones, and leaving the destinies of the world at the mercy of its blinder parts and forces. 

It is in this wider sense of the word that materialism is opposed to spiritualism or theism. The laws of physical nature are what run things, materialism says. The highest productions of human genius might be ciphered by one who had complete acquaintance with the facts, out of their physiological conditions, regardless whether nature be there only for our minds, as idealists contend, or not. Our minds in any case would have to record the kind of nature it is, and write it down as operating through blind laws of physics. This is the complexion of present day materialism, which may better be called naturalism.

Over against it stands 'theism,' or what in a wide sense may be termed 'spiritualism.' Spiritualism says that mind not only witnesses and records things, but also runs and operates them: the world being thus guided, not by its lower, but by its higher element.

[William James]
'Some Metaphysical Problems', Pragmatism and Other Writings, p. 44

Historically we find the terms 'intellectualism' and 'sensationalism' used as synonyms of, 'rationalism' and 'empiricism.' Well, nature seems to combine most frequently with intellectualism an idealistic and optimistic tendency. Empiricists on the other hand are not uncommonly materialistic, and their optimism is apt to be decidedly conditional and tremulous.

Rationalism is always monistic. It starts from wholes and universals, and makes much of the unity of things. Empiricism starts from the parts, and makes of the whole a collection - is not averse therefore to calling itself pluralistic. 

Rationalism usually considers itself more religious than empiricism, but there is much to say about this claim, so I merely mention it. It is a true claim when the individual rationalist is what is called a man of feeling, and when the individual empiricist prides himself on being hard-headed. In that case the rationalist will usually also be in favor of what is called free-will, and the empiricist will be a fatalist - I use the terms most popularly current.

The rationalist finally will be of dogmatic temper in his affirmations, while the empiricist may be more sceptical and open to discussion.

[William James]
'The Present Dilemma in Philosophy', Pragmatism and Other Writings, p. 10

The wisdom of the crowd is the collective opinion of a group of individuals rather than that of a single expert. 

This process, while not new to the Information Age, has been pushed into the mainstream spotlight by social information sites such as Wikipedia, Yahoo! Answers, Quora, Stack Exchange and other web resources that rely on collective human knowledge.

An explanation for this phenomenon is that there is idiosyncratic noise associated with each individual judgment, and taking the average over a large number of responses will go some way toward canceling the effect of this noise.

Wisdom-of-the-crowds research routinely attributes the superiority of crowd averages over individual judgments to the elimination of individual noise, an explanation that assumes independence of the individual judgments from each other. Thus the crowd tends to make its best decisions if it is made up of diverse opinions and ideologies.

[...] when the diversity in a group is large, the error of the crowd is small.

Experiments run by the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology found that when a group of people were asked to answer a question together they would attempt to come to a consensus which would frequently cause the accuracy of the answer to decrease. i.e. what is the length of a border between two countries? One suggestion to counter this effect is to ensure that the group contains a population with diverse backgrounds.

Crowds tend to work best when there is a correct answer to the question being posed, such as a question about geography or mathematics.When there is not a precise answer crowds can come to arbitrary conclusions.

'Wisdom of the crowd'

In his book You Are Not a Gadget, Jaron Lanier argues that crowd wisdom is best suited for problems that involve optimization, but ill-suited for problems that require creativity or innovation.

In the online article Digital Maoism, Lanier argues that the collective is more likely to be smart only when

1. it isn't defining its own questions,

2. the goodness of an answer can be evaluated by a simple result (such as a single numeric value), and

3. the information system which informs the collective is filtered by a quality control mechanism that relies on individuals to a high degree.

Lanier argues that only under those circumstances can a collective be smarter than a person. If any of these conditions are broken, the collective becomes unreliable or worse.

'The Wisdom of Crowds'

Lanier accuses Web 2.0 developments of devaluing progress and innovation, as well as glorifying the collective at the expense of the individual.

Lanier also argues that there are limitations to certain aspects of the open source and content movement in that they lack the ability to create anything truly new and innovative. 

For example, Lanier argues that the open source movement didn't create the iPhone. In another example, Lanier further accuses Web 2.0 of making search engines lazy, destroying the potential of innovative websites like Thinkquest, and hampering the communication of ideas like mathematics to a wider audience.

'Jaron Lanier'

Swarm Intelligence

Swarm intelligence systems consist typically of a population of simple agents or boids interacting locally with one another and with their environment.

The inspiration often comes from nature, especially biological systems. The agents follow very simple rules, and although there is no centralized control structure dictating how individual agents should behave, local, and to a certain degree random, interactions between such agents lead to the emergence of "intelligent" global behavior, unknown to the individual agents.

Examples of swarm intelligence in natural systems include ant colonies, bird flocking, hawks hunting, animal herding, bacterial growth, fish schooling and microbial intelligence.

Enabled by mediating software such as the SWARM platform [...] networks of distributed users can be organized into "human swarms" through the implementation of real-time closed-loop control systems.

[...] such real-time systems enable groups of human participants to behave as a unified collective intelligence that works as a single entity to make predictions, answer questions, and evoke opinions. Such systems [...] have been shown to significantly amplify human intelligence, resulting in a string of high-profile predictions of extreme accuracy.

Academic testing shows that human swarms can out-predict individuals across a variety of real-world projections. Famously, human swarming was used to correctly predict the Kentucky Derby Superfecta, against 541 to 1 odds, in response to a challenge from reporters.

'Swarm Intelligence'

“Sometimes it seems like everyone’s a manager,” says Karl Marginson, who has been FC’s team manager since the club was established, as he sits on the team bus on the way to a fixture at Whitby.

“Everybody who comes along to football has an opinion. They’re very quick to tell me how I should be doing things. I’m sure it’s the same for Louis Van Gaal.”

Marginson says he will listen to anyone’s opinion. Though rather like Brian Clough, once he has listened, he then does what he believes is right. A couple of years ago, the then Conference club Ebbsfleet did an experiment whereby they invited supporters to vote weekly on who should be in the first team. Had FC’s members not been tempted to try the same thing?

“There’s a difference,” Walsh says of the Ebbsfleet idea. “We’re serious.”

“Listen, that could never work,” adds Marginson. “If you give out 200 pieces of paper to 200 people and asked them to work out a team, you’d get 200 different combinations. At some point there’s got to be one person making those decisions.” 

[Jim White]
'How FC United rose to the brink of the big time'

There’s a whole world of philanthropy out there and I think its one of the least well functioning sectors of the American economy.

So much of it is bureaucratic and risk averse, and people doing the same things. I thought, let’s go back to earlier models of giving, from the Renaissance or the eighteenth century, where in essence there was no bureaucracy.

One person says yes or no […] the evaluator is me, there’s no panel, no bureaucracy, it’s thumbs-up or thumbs-down. I think far more philanthropy should work this way. 

[Tyler Cowen]
'Tyler Cowen on Rationality, COVID-19, Talismans, and Life on the Margins | The Tim Ferriss Show'

The libertarian-authoritarian axis on the Political Compass is a tradeoff between discoordination and tyranny.

You can have everything perfectly coordinated by someone with a god’s-eye-view – but then you risk Stalin. And you can be totally free of all central authority – but then you’re stuck in every stupid multipolar trap Moloch can devise.

The libertarians make a convincing argument for the one side, and the monarchists for the other, but I expect that like most tradeoffs we just have to hold our noses and admit it’s a really hard problem.

[Scott Alexander]
'Meditations on Moloch'

FAT TONY: “Then, my good Socrates, why do you think that we need to fix the meanings of things?”

SOCRATES: “My dear Mega-Tony, we need to know what we are talking about when we talk about things. The entire idea of philosophy is to be able to reflect and understand what we are doing, examine our lives. An unexamined life is not worth living.”

FAT TONY: “The problem, my poor old Greek, is that you are killing the things we can know but not express. And if I asked someone riding a bicycle just fine to give me the theory behind his bicycle riding, he would fall from it. By bullying and questioning people you confuse them and hurt them.”

“My dear Socrates… you know why they are putting you to death? It is because you make people feel stupid for blindly following habits, instincts, and traditions. You may be occasionally right. But you may confuse them about things they’ve been doing just fine without getting in trouble. You are destroying people’s illusions about themselves. You are taking the joy of ignorance out of the things we don’t understand. And you have no answer; you have no answer to offer them”

[Nassim Nicholas Taleb]
Antifragile, p. 253

[…] things that grow in a natural way, whether cities or individual houses, have a fractal quality to them. Like everything alive, all organisms, like lungs, or trees, grow in some form of self-guided but tame randomness.

[…] fractals induce a certain wealth of detail based on a small number of rules of repetition of nested patterns. The fractal require some jaggedness, but one that has some method to its madness. Everything in nature is fractal, jagged, and rich in detail, though with a certain pattern.

The smooth, by comparison, belongs to the class of Euclidean geometry we study in school, simplified shapes that lose this layer of wealth.

Alas, contemporary architecture is smooth, even when it tries to look whimsical. What is top-down is generally unwrinkled (that is, unfractal) and feels dead.

[Nassim Nicholas Taleb]
Antifragile, p. 324-5

Evolution proceeds by undirected, convex bricolage or tinkering, inherently robust, i.e., with the achievement of potential stochastic gains thanks to continuous, repetitive, small, localised mistakes. 

What men have done with top-down, command-and-control science has been exactly the reverse: interventions with negative convexity effects, i.e., the achievement of small certain gains through exposure to massive potential mistakes.

Our record of understanding risks in complex systems (biology, economics, climate) has been pitiful, marred with retrospective distortions (we only understand the risks after the damage takes place, yet we keep making the mistake), and there is nothing to convince me that we have gotten better at risk management.

Simply, humans should not be given explosive toys (like atomic bombs, financial derivatives, or tools to create life).

If there is something in nature you don’t understand, odds are it makes sense in a deeper way that is beyond your understanding. So there is a logic to natural things that is much superior to our own. Just as there is a dichotomy in law: innocent until proven guilty as opposed to guilty until proven innocent, let me express my rule as follows: what Mother Nature does is rigorous until proven otherwise; what humans and science do is flawed until proven otherwise.

[Nassim Nicholas Taleb]
Antifragile, p. 348-9

Although Kant criticized Leibniz and the rationalists for believing that reason alone without sense experience can calculate the universe (for, Kant argued, knowledge requires acquaintance with particulars), he also criticized Locke and the empiricists for believing that sense impressions alone, without a priori concepts of the understanding, could ever lead to knowledge (for particulars are meaningless without general concepts by which they are interpreted). 

Locke was correct to deny innate ideas in the sense of mental representations of physical reality, but wrong to deny innate formal knowledge. As thought without sensation is empty, so is sensation without thought blind. 

Only in conjunction can understanding and sensibility supply objectively valid knowledge of things.

[Richard Tarnas]
The Passion of the Western Mind, p. 345

Samuel Johnson famously said that "the first Whig was the Devil." If the left is chaos and the right is order then naturally things tend toward entropy over time, right? But human institutions aren't closed thermodynamic systems - there must be a mechanism causing chaos to emerge

To understand the mechanism, you must first understand what "left" and "right" mean. Some people say that this is a vestigial artifact of the French Revolution. In specific details, that's correct. But it doesn't explain why you can look at the Roman Republic and tell who's who

I submit to you that there is substance to the concept of "right" and "left." I say that being "right" means believing in the superiority of *evolved* systems and being "left" means believing in the superiority of *planned* systems.

The right is the philosophy of tradition, of religion, of hierarchy, of burkean incrementalism, of survival of the fittest, of primitivism. Each of these are in tension with each other on specific points, but they are all about the maintenance of evolved value systems.

The most fundamentally right-wing thinker is Nassim Taleb. #Lindy is a right-wing ideology. The rightist understands that the world is a strange and horrifying place and that the tools we use to navigate it were bought with generations of human suffering

We do not have complete theories of anything. All we have are heuristics. Man cannot produce absolute truth, it is the domain of God alone. The best that man can do in this world is "true enough." True enough to survive. True enough to be filtered until it becomes tradition.

The left is the philosophy of expertise, of science, of "progressing" past the beliefs of our hidebound ancestors, of individual freedom and self-expression outside inherited rules, of caring for those who cannot survive, of man as the beginning and the end of all things

The left believes that man is perfectible in principle. That man's ability to reason can produce better and more effective morality than what has been selected for over the generations. That the "rational" maximization of pleasure and minimization of pain is the whole of morality

If this were so wrong that anyone who embraced it died quickly and painfully, we wouldn't have a problem. But human societies are like commercial jets - they can glide for a long time before they crash. And in the meantime, you don't have to listen to those dreadful engines

So, back to our original question. Why does Cthulhu
always swim left? Because to *do* politics is an essentially left-wing act. To make changes to what has been selected for in favor of particular human interests is to trade the robust for the ephemeral.

Sometimes it's not a big deal. Plenty of beliefs are probably pretty arbitrary, and taken individually rather than as part of an interconnected system they may seem especially meaningless. But over time - and that is all that matters - the tendency is toward chaos and fragility.

Democracy accelerates this process because it makes power (always desirable) contingent regular concessions to particular ephemeral human desires. But monarchies face this pressure as well. The gap between the interest of a person and the interest of a people - that is politics.

And that is why you live in a time that offers you great somatic pleasures, but faces collapse on all fronts. Collapse of families, collapse of institutional trust, collapse of supply chains in the face of even predictable complications. All the result of Cthulhu's endless drift.


To "give style" to one's character - a great and rare art! It is practiced by those who survey all the strengths and weaknesses of their nature and then fit them into an artistic plan until every one of them appears as art and reason and even weaknesses delight the eye.
[…] In the end, when the work is finished, it becomes evident how the constraint of a single taste governed and formed everything large and small. Whether this taste was good or bad is less important than one might suppose, if only it was a single taste!

It will be the strong and domineering natures that enjoy their finest gaiety in such constraint and perfection under a law of their own; the passion of their tremendous will relents in the face of all stylized nature, of all conquered and serving nature. Even when they have to build palaces and design gardens they demur at giving nature freedom.

Conversely, it is the weak characters without power over themselves that hate the constraint of style. They feel that if this bitter and evil constraint were imposed upon them they would be demeaned; they become slaves as soon as they serve; they hate to serve. 

Such spirits—and they may be of the first rank—are always out to shape and interpret their environment as free nature: wild, arbitrary, fantastic, disorderly, and surprising. 

And they are well advised because it is only in this way that they can give pleasure to themselves. For one thing is needful: that a human being should attain satisfaction with himself, whether it be by means of this or that poetry and art; only then is a human being at all tolerable to behold.

[Friedrich Nietzsche]
The Gay Science, 290

Our scientists incessantly tell us with the utmost assurance that everything around us has evolved by small mutations sieved out through natural selection. Even the Almighty is not credited with having been able to create anything complex. Every complexity, we are told, is the result of evolution. 

Yet our development planners seem to think that they can do better than the Almighty, that they can create the most complex things at one throw by a process called planning, letting Athene spring, not out of the head of Zeus, but out of nothingness, fully armed, resplendent, and viable.

[E.F. Schumacher]
Small is Beautiful, p.138

Unlike covering-law explanations of behaviour, which abstract away time and space in favour of universalities, hermeneutics explains by highlighting and showing the concrete and temporal, context-dependent dynamical interrelationships that give the action its unique character.

[Alicia Juarrero]
Dynamics in Action, p. 231

Theory - explains through generalities, top down, compressed (cooked)
Story - explains through specifics, bottom up, uncompressed (raw)

Dupré (1993) is […] correct in proposing that we think of free will as human ability to project meaningful distinctions into behavior. To act top-down from the intentional level in which meaning is embodied is thus to exercise free will […] 

Because all self-organizing systems select the stimuli to which they respond, behavior constrained top-down is to that extent increasingly autonomous of forceful impacts from the environment. Self-organized systems act from their own point of view. 

The more structured the entity, the more complex its organization and its behavior, and the more decoupled from and independent of its environment: the more autonomous and authentic, in short. 

[Alicia Juarrero]
Dynamics in Action, p. 249

As a distributed whole, a self-organized structure imposes second-order contextual constraints on its components, thereby restricting their degrees of freedom. 

As we saw, once top-down, second-order contextual constraints are in place, energy and matter exchanged across an autocatalytic structure's boundaries cannot flow any which way. The autocatalytic web's dynamical organization does not allow any molecule to be imported into the system: in a very important feature of self-organizing dynamical systems, their organization itself determines the stimuli to which they will respond. 

By making its components interdependent, thereby constraining their behavioral variability, the system preserves and enhances its cohesion and integrity, its organization and identity. As a whole it also prunes inefficient components.

[...] By correlating and coordinating previously aggregated parts into a more complex, differentiated, systematic whole, contextual constraints enlarge the variety of states the system as a whole can access [...] Second-order contextual constraints are thus in the service of the whole. 

[Alicia Juarrero]
Dynamics in Action, p.138, 143

Whereas formal systems apply inference rules to logical variables, neural networks apply evolutive principles to numerical variables. Instead of calculating a solution, the network settles into a condition that satisfies the constraints imposed on it.

Neural nets have no central control in the classical sense. Processing is distributed over the network and the roles of the various components (or groups of components) change dynamically.

Every symbol in a rule-based system has a precise, predefined meaning - this constitutes a local representation. In a connectionist network individual neurons have no pre-defined meaning. Changing patterns of activity over several nodes perform meaningful functions. This is often referred to as distributed representation.

Formal systems have well-defined terminating conditions and results are only produced when these conditions are reached. Connectionist systems tend to dynamically converge on a solution, usually in an asymptotic fashion. The process does not have to terminate; as a matter of fact, usually it will not arrive at a single, final conclusion.

Apart from the fact that formal rule-based models have to be interpreted on a semantic level, the model itself is divided into two levels: that of the symbols and that of the rules; or the data and the program. In connectionist models there is only one level, that of the neurons and their weights. Instead of an 'active' program and 'passive' data, you have numerical weights that are dynamically adjusted through interaction. Instead of a program you have memory.

For those accustomed to the high level of abstraction and the crispness of logical inference, the connectionist approach often appears vague, shallow and too sparse.

[Paul Cilliers]
Complexity and Postmodernism, p.19

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