Who's steering the ship?

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It is very easy to fall into the notion that if the new is viable, then there must have been something wrong with the old. This view, to which organisms already suffering the pathologies of over-rapid, frantic social change are inevitably prone, is, of course, mostly nonsense.

What is always important is to be sure that the new is not worse than the old.

It is still not certain that a society containing the internal combustion engine can be viable or that electronic communication devices such as television are compatible with the aggressive intraspecies competition generated by the Industrial Revolution. 

Other things being equal (which is not often the case), the old, which has been somewhat tested, is more likely to be viable than the new, which has not been tested at all.

[Gregory Bateson]
Mind and Nature, p. 194-5

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Are we heading toward a future where the barriers between linear and interactive entertainment come down?

Hmm, I don't know, I've not given it a lot of thought. I suppose you will get some form of convergence when the act of watching games is sufficiently fun. And we're getting closer to that. Games like LA Noire and Max Payne are pretty fun and spectacular to watch. A lot of people have said to me that they love playing LA Noire with their partners – that is a baby step toward convergence. Certainly there are areas of the multiplayer mode that are moving in a similar direction.

But again, we're so focused on what we have to do this week, this month, we don't have the time to think about that.

My job is to get the bloody game done and survive in the process. People often ask why don't you go to games conferences – we don't have the bloody time! This is relentless!

Grand Theft Auto 5: Rocktar's Dan Houser on Los Santos and the future

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Innovations become irreversibly adopted into the on-going system without being tested for long-time viability; and necessary changes are resisted by the core of conservative individuals without any assurance that these particular changes are the ones to resist.

Individual comfort and discomfort become the only criteria for choice of social change and the basic contrast of logical typing between member and the category is forgotten until new discomforts are (inevitably) created by the new state of affairs.

Fear of individual death and grief propose that it would be 'good' to eliminate epidemic disease and only after 100 years of preventive medicine do we discover that the population is overgrown. And so on.

[Gregory Bateson]
Mind and Nature, p. 238

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 Levy has very little time for jokes. Or, it turns out, for philosophy. 

“Are humans machines?” I ask him. He tells me he’s learned not to try to answer philosophical questions.

Ethics, however, he’s interested in. “People ask: is it cheating? Only if women using vibrators are cheating. Will sex workers be put out of business? It’s possible.” What about bigger issues though – what about sex and empathy? And: can a robot consent? “When AI advances, robots will exhibit empathy. People will feel towards them as they do towards animals.”

Sex, love and robots: is this the end of intimacy?

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The people who say that artificial intelligence is not a problem tend to work in artificial intelligence.

Many prominent researchers regard Bostrom’s basic views as implausible, or as a distraction from the near-term benefits and moral dilemmas posed by the technology—not least because A.I. systems today can barely guide robots to open doors.

Last summer, Oren Etzioni, the C.E.O. of the Allen Institute for Artificial Intelligence, in Seattle, referred to the fear of machine intelligence as a “Frankenstein complex.” Another leading researcher declared,

“I don’t worry about that for the same reason I don’t worry about overpopulation on Mars.”

The Doomsday Invention: Will artificial intelligence bring us utopia or destruction?
 
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“He was ultra-consistent,” Daniel Hill, a British philosopher who befriended Bostrom while they were graduate students in London, told me. “His interest in science was a natural outgrowing of his understandable desire to live forever, basically.”

Bostrom has written more than a hundred articles, and his longing for immortality can be seen throughout. In 2008, he framed an essay as a call to action from a future utopia. “Death is not one but a multitude of assassins,” he warned. “Take aim at the causes of early death—infection, violence, malnutrition, heart attack, cancer. Turn your biggest gun on aging, and fire. You must seize the biochemical processes in your body in order to vanquish, by and by, illness and senescence. In time, you will discover ways to move your mind to more durable media.” He tends to see the mind as immaculate code, the body as inefficient hardware—able to accommodate limited hacks but probably destined for replacement.

[...] The view of the future from Bostrom’s office can be divided into three grand panoramas. In one, humanity experiences an evolutionary leap—either assisted by technology or by merging into it and becoming software—to achieve a sublime condition that Bostrom calls “posthumanity.” Death is overcome, mental experience expands beyond recognition, and our descendants colonize the universe.

The Doomsday Invention: Will artificial intelligence bring us utopia or destruction?
 
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“I think political systems will use it to terrorize people,” Hinton said. Already, he believed, agencies like the N.S.A. were attempting to abuse similar technology. 

“Then why are you doing the research?” Bostrom asked.

“I could give you the usual arguments,” Hinton said. “But the truth is that the prospect of discovery is too sweet.” He smiled awkwardly, the word hanging in the air—an echo of Oppenheimer, who famously said of the bomb,

“When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it, and you argue about what to do about it only after you have had your technical success.” 

The Doomsday Invention: Will artificial intelligence bring us utopia or destruction?

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Perhaps the most radical of his visions is that superintelligent A.I. will hasten the uploading of minds—what he calls “whole-brain emulations”—technology that might not be possible for centuries, if at all.

Bostrom, in his most hopeful mode, imagines emulations not only as reproductions of the original intellect “with memory and personality intact”—a soul in the machine—but as minds expandable in countless ways.

“We live for seven decades, and we have three-pound lumps of cheesy matter to think with, but to me it is plausible that there could be extremely valuable mental states outside this little particular set of possibilities that might be much better,” he told me.

The Doomsday Invention: Will artificial intelligence bring us utopia or destruction?

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The fascination with talking to a computer that could answer any question was always there for me.

[Amit Singhal]
Head of Google Search

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In his view, public alarmism over AGI obscures the great potential near-term benefits and is fundamentally misplaced, not least because of the timescale. 

“We’re still decades away from anything like human-level general intelligence,” he reminds me. “We’re on the first rung of the ladder. We’re playing games.”

[Demis Hassabis]
Deep Mind Technologies (owned by Google)
The superhero of artificial intelligence: can this genius keep it in check?

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Related posts:-
Guiding Fiction
Lines and Circles
Ideas With Weight 
Re-write It
Fear Visions 
Imagine Something Better
Limited/Limitless
Twisted Out of Shape 
Masters of the Universe 
The Earth's the Limit 
Live Forever? 
The Tyranny of Novelty 
Fuck It
Lost Tribe

Yin/Yang



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QUANTITY - How much?

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Balance - Amount - Opposites - Rhythm - Pendulum - Ideas - Gender - Difference - Duality

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Unity                                 -                     Division
Together                           -                      Separate
Attraction                         -                      Repulsion

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From unity comes duality. One becomes two.


 1. Opposites


The yin/yang symbol represents the idea of polarity. 

Polarities situate our world by defining its boundaries. They describe the states and qualities of things, but never the things themselves. The qualities of a rock - hard, heavy - may have their opposites - soft, light - but 'rock,' as a thing in itself, has no opposite.

This is because a rock is the sum of its qualities. 'Rock' is shorthand for all of these various attributes.

We perceive things through their qualities, which is another way of saying that we perceieve them through their differences. A specific set of differences makes a 'rock' a 'rock'; but tweak a few and it may become something else altogether.

By virtue of its attributes, every thing is two-faced, caught between multiple pairs of opposites, like a spider at the centre of a web.


2. Rhythm & Balance


In everything there is a measured flow, a backwards and forwards from one state to another; sometimes more, sometimes less. A deficiency of one thing is always an excess of another, and vice versa. Too much of any one thing is an imbalance, and leads to ill health. Health itself can be defined as a state of balance between two opposites, or extremes.

True balance is impossible because it implies a standing still. Nothing in this world stands still; if it appears to do so it is only because we cannot perceive its movement.


3. Gender


Gender is a way of talking about the interactions between things. 

In some teachings, the numbers one and two are regarded as the parents of all of the other numbers. We can see One as a latent thought, or idea, emerging from the nothingness of Zero as a point of potentiality. We can see Two as a receiver, or womb, for this thought. From it is birthed Three (the firstborn), along with its infinity of siblings.

The idea of gender suggests that for creation to occur - in other words, for things to exist - there must be a pair of complementary, and fundamentally different forces that interact with one another. These are the poles of life - positive and negative, life and death. Each strives to unite with the other, and from their union new forms emerge.

1 + 2 = 3.

If we accept that everything is connected - that every thing interacts with other things - then it becomes apparent that everything must both give and receive (everything has inputs and outputs). Thus, in all things there is an active force (Yang) and a passive force (Yin). Gender is a way of characterising these forces: the active force is regarded as masculine, and the passive as feminine.

Thus the principle of Gender manifests in all things.


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Main posts:-
The Principle of Polarity
Masculine - Feminine
The Middle Path
Balance
Shades of Gray
In-between



The Colour Wheel



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QUALITY - Who are we?

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Types - Diversity - Position - Relations - Communication - Jigsaw - Connection - Devotion - Order -

Chaos

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Part                            -                      Whole
Mono                         -                      Poly
Absolute                    -                      Relative

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1. Connection and Separation


A simple colour wheel may only show a handful of colours, and may separate them, each to its own segment. In separating its colours and attributing labels (“red”, “blue”) it speaks to us about types; about how the things of this world can be separated and categorised. Each takes a position within the wheel. We can describe this kind of wheel as Euclidean, Newtonian, or Classical, and can see it as representing order.

A more complex wheel will show all possible colours, each merging into the other. It reminds us that our categorisations and positions can be ‘seen through’, and transcended; and that, in spite of our boundaries, we are all connected. It suggests that perhaps these boundaries are not as definite as we may take them to be; that they are, at bottom, no more than temporary vessels atop a turbulent sea.

However, it also reminds us that without boundaries there are no colours; that it is only through separating things - saying, 'this part is green, this part is red' - that we are able to see them at all. We can describe this kind of wheel as Non-Euclidean, Einsteinian, or Quantum, and can see it as representing chaos.


2. Point of View


Each colour has its opposite, and yet all are contained within the overall Truth of the wheel. No one colour holds the truth, rather each contributes toward something greater than itself.

All earthly truths are dependent upon our viewpoint, which in turn is defined by our intentions or goals. When we are in red, we may think red to be 'true' and green to be 'untrue'; yet when we move to green the truth moves with us. This points toward the idea that all things are true and at the same time untrue, and that our 'truths' are relative: what is true for you may not be true for me.

We can define relative truth as "Things as the highest reason of Man understands them."

Yet some believe that there is a Truth - with a capital 'T' - that transcends both of us, in which our differences are united. This is absolute Truth, and it is not relative, nor contigent upon our individual viewpoint.

We can define absolute Truth as "things as the mind of God knows them."

Thus, when all colours are merged together they produce the pure white of Truth. If any are left out then the picture is incomplete: all are necessary.


3. Relationship


The colours of the wheel sit in relation to one another, merging, mingling and communicating. Thus, the wheel can also be used to think about relationship; the relationship between individuals - colour to colour (opposing, complementing, neighbouring); and the relationship between part and whole.


4. From centre to outskirts


Some wheels combine the principles of separation and connection. On these wheels the centre is the area of greatest overlap, a place of merging and homogeny. As the wheel radiates the separate colours become more distinct - more saturated - the further they get from the centre. At the edge of the circle the colours are less adulterated, and more ‘unique,’ or pure. If the centre is a complex polychromatic synergy, then the outskirts are altogether more ordered and simple.

We can see the centre as the middle path; that is, the neutral point that mediates between opposites. In this sense, the centre is a position from which the entire wheel - and all its various colours - can be seen dispassionately. When we are at the centre we can move freely in any direction, and so all possibilities are open to us. It is a watery place, with nothing certain to lean upon. Here the colours are ill-defined, their boundaries confused, and they merge into one another, producing new combinations. Its indeterminacy makes it a fertile and latent place, from which novel forms can emerge.

The outskirts, on the other hand, are dry places, with solid forms that can be relied upon - red is red, and green is green; and of that much we can be certain. Things here are clearly defined, with strong borders and strict segregation. They are easily seen, grasped, and known. Enduring familiarity is valued over fleeting novelty.

The boldest examples of each colour are found at the edges, suggesting that the further we travel in one direction the more vividly we manifest the particular colour that we’ve chosen (an idea that has an analogue in Carl Jung's notion of individuation). Looked at this way, extremity is synonymous with differentiation and uniqueness.

However, the further we walk a particular path the harder it is to return to the centre. It is easier for those who are not as devoted to see things dispassionately; for those who are not as attached to be indifferent. Inasmuch as we must devote ourselves to a particular colour, then our challenge is being able, when necessary, to see through this colour; to loosen our grip and to return to a place of impartiality.

The centre is the meeting point, the place where real communication takes place. Here is where all colours merge to produce white (all views merge to produce God's view), suggesting that it is here, and only here, that Truth is to be found.



5. One/Many


In view of the larger balance, it is important that red be red, and green be green; and that neither worry too much about their lack of blue, yellow, purple, and so on. In putting forward an argument (i.e. speaking from a position) it may be tempting to try and make our argument as invulnerable as possible, by anticipating and accounting for all of the possible counter-arguments that may assail us.

But if all truths are contingent on our viewpoint, then no single position can ever be truly invulnerable. Inasmuch as assuming a position requires us to come down from the fence and move in a direction, then our position will always be lacking something. After all, one thing cannot be every thing: every point has its counter-point, every argument its detractors.

To choose a direction is to forsake all others. Thus, to the extent that you have an excess of red, you will also, to the same extent, have a shortage of green.

However, the wheel warns us against becoming lost in any one colour, insisting that there are always other ways of seeing and being. It may be tempting to think that our way of seeing the world is ‘correct’ - that our colour is the ‘right’ one. But a glance at the wheel shows us that no one colour is privileged over any other. The holism of the wheel is an antidote to fundamentalism. It encourages both the ‘mono’ and the ‘poly,’ each in good measure.

Whilst sometimes it may be necessary to devote ourselves to one thing - to take the red path and forsake the green -  it is important to remember and acknowledge those colours, those ways, that we didn't choose. Whilst red may be the one we favour, green still exists; and, importantly, still has a place, and a voice, within the wheel. It may not be as important to us, but it remains a crucial element in the overall balance. When we deny - or repress - it, we do not make it disappear: we simply reduce our field of vision, making ourselves colour-blind.

Although no one colour has a greater inherent value than any other, there are times when one may be better than another. For instance, if you are wanting to create a calm and soothing atmosphere, it may be that blue paint is a better choice than red. It is our goals that determine the value of things, rather than an inherent value within the things themselves. Thus, how we look at the wheel - the intention that we bring to it, and the stories that we tell about it - determines how we see it.


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Main posts:-
The Colour Wheel
Everything is Connected
A Higher Power
Separation
Connection 
Mono / Poly



Circle / Spiral / Line


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PROCESS 

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Growth - limits - evolution - progress - movement - direction - culture - storytelling - autonomy - The Act - journey - development

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Circle                        Spiral                      Line
Birth                           Life                       Death
Being                       Becoming                Nothing 
Finite                             -                          Infinite
Limited                          -                          Unlimited
Deflation                       -                          Inflation
Perfect                     Imperfect                  Perfect

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1. Expansive / Limited

The line represents the idea of expansiveness. It heads in a straight line, forever. It inspires us to keep moving; to progress, advance, and evolve.

The circle represents the notion of limitation. It always ends up coming back on itself. It reminds us of the importance of limits.

The spiral can be seen as a combination of the line and the circle. It brings together the ideas of expansiveness and limitation. The path of the spiral evolves, but does so by revisiting familiar territory. As we work our way around the spiral we end up back where we began, but we return changed. Things are the same, yet different. It has been said that ‘all progress is a returning home.’ The spiral shows us how we can both progress into the new whilst returning to the old.


2. Life / Death

Within every living thing there is a tug of war, consisting of the the pull towards life, and the pull towards death. The life urge is conservative, the death urge expansive.

Life is defined by the process of limitation; a thing is only a thing because of all the things it is not; from a sea of infinite possibility certain characteristics are chosen, at the expense of others. Infinity is bounded.

Death is the return to infinity; the unbinding of what has been bound. If life is synonymous with 'limited', then death is synonymous with 'unlimited.'

As humans we have an urge towards expansiveness - the need to constantly explore new territory - that must be balanced by the imposition of limits. A lack of boundaries allows us to adventure to far flung places, full of mystery and novelty - but whenever we travel to extremes we also dance with death.


3. Process

The Line, the Circle and the Spiral talk to us about process, development, evolution; about getting from one place to another, or one state to another; and about journeys, and the different kinds of journeys we can make. A journey is often preceded by a mission, or a story; and the stories that we tell ourselves can determine the paths that we then choose to walk down, along with the subsequent twists and turns that we make on our journey. Our stories are our guides, leading us towards certain things and away from others. “We see what our ideas allow us to see.”


4. Personal growth

“Going round in circles” is used to convey the idea of moving without progress. If we go round in circles too much then we may become stuck in a rut. ‘Moving without going anywhere' is also a way of describing the pattern of game-playing. Games can be fun and, in the right context, healthy; but they can also be a form of denial or avoidance - we play them so as not to move forward.

Equally, we can get stuck in linear movement, in a continual tearing up of new territory. We can get addicted to novelty, always wondering what’s round the next corner. No sooner have we landed then we’re off again. To get stuck in this mode is to forget the importance of boundaries. We “go too far” and, like Icarus, run the risk of flying too close to the sun. Our towers become too high, ripe for a thunderbolt or two to bring them down to size.

The growth of the spiral, balancing as it does the two extremes, can be seen as an ideal. It covers new territory whilst staying within certain boundaries.


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................................................................................................................................................................................

Main posts:-
Lines and Circles
The Mature Individual
Guiding Fiction
The Tyranny of Novelty



Land and Sea



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STATE - What is it: solid, liquid, or gas? Or something in between?


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Change - Becoming - The Sea - Shaking Up - Absolutes


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Life                           -                      Death
Solid                         -                      Liquid
Stability                    -                      Plasticity
Certain                      -                      Uncertain
Permanence              -                      Change
Rigid                         -                      Flexible
Cohesive                   -                      Random
Fundamentalism        -                      Relativism
Order                         -                      Chaos


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Change is in the nature of all things. Like the Sea, nothing stands still. It is speculated that all life began in the sea; and without water there would be no life. The land stands as a counterpoint to the sea. Nothing is permanent. All of our structures are castles made of sand, destined to one day be washed away. Everything is forever becoming, but nothing ever truly is.

To get from one state to another you must be prepared to sail the turbulent seas; to abandon your structures, say goodbye to the land beneath your feet, and journey to somewhere new. From certainty to uncertainty; known to unknown.

The Sea is a fertile place. It is the place from which new structures emerge, and into which old structures fall. It is the negative space between our structures. It eludes definition, and cannot be pinned down. It is a place from which alternatives emerge; where other things can be tried out.

1. Solid and Liquid

Every thing is composed of other things. Imposing order is like telling a story, weaving together separate elements to create something new. Order is, then, synonymous with fusion; and whenever we make connections between things we are creating order. The stronger the connections the more solid the totality.

I use the image of Land to represent this idea of order and solidity. If we want to build structures then we need Land - solid ground - to build upon. Our structures act as bulwarks against the uncertainty and chaos of the outside world, sheltering us from the elements, and providing safety, security and familiarity. They are sanctuaries in which we can express ourselves - our view of things - without fear of rebuke. They are predictable places, where things are arranged just as we like them. Each structure is a little ordered world, with its own set of rules, preferences and meanings; its own culture.

For a structure to feel safe, it must be well built. Each element - from the foundations up to the roof - must be put in place with a crucial amount of care and attention, by trustworthy builders. Faulty foundations can cause paranoia and insecurity, a constant worry that at any moment our structure could crumble to the ground. They necessitate an inwards looking mentality, a pathological need to support, defend and maintain. Every blow becomes potentially life-threatening. Firm foundations, on the other hand, allow us to look - and venture - outwards, safe in the knowledge that our structure will remain standing, in spite of our lack of vigilance. A strong, resilient structure allows the odd blow to be absorbed here and there.

We may be so afraid of the outside world that we become reluctant to travel beyond the familiarity of our own four walls; at which point our little world becomes the whole world, and we see everything through its prism. Our vision becomes monocular, and all meanings are conflated with our own. If red is our colour, then all we see is red.

Entering someone else's structure can be like a trip to a foreign land, a place of strange sounds, smells and tastes. When the 'otherness' of foreign structures becomes threatening, then our santuary may become a castle, a fortified position from which we go to war. With its reinforced walls and elaborate defences, a castle is the zenith of solidity: its purpose is to endure; to keep the inside in, and the outside out.

To prevent an embattled mindset, lines of communication must stay open. We must allow an opening in our defences - an entry and exit point - through which we give and receive messages. Dialogue is an invisible thread that connects us to the outside world, allowing a mutual exchange of influence. It stops us from taking our little world too seriously, by reminding us of its relativity.   

Our sanctuary can also become a prison: comforting familiarity can slide into dull habituation. Sometimes things need to be shaken up, constricting bonds loosened.

The Sea stands as a counterpoint to Land. A return to the Sea means a breaking apart of what was held together. Looser bonds allow more movement, and so as things come apart they become more fluid and flexible, and less solid. Water is formless and adaptable, assuming the shape of whatever vessel it is placed within. It is an antidote to the fundamentalism of solid matter.

However, we cannot build upon, or with, water. It is indecisive, enamoured with novelty - here, then there; this, then that - and so cannot be relied upon. In this sense, solid matter stands as an antidote to the relativism of liquidity.


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"stuck in your ways," "firmly rooted"


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Main posts:-
All is Change
Status Quo
Escaping Uncertainty
Solid Ground
Everything and Nothing



The Pyramid










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LEVEL - SCALE - How high/big?

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Viewpoint - Position - Hierarchy - Games - Logical types - Roots - Development - Growth -

Size - Scale - Distance - Proximity - Infinity - Limits - Borders - Planes - Order -

Resolution

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Short                          -                       Long
Concrete                    -                      Abstract
Pragmatic                   -                      Ideal
Narrow                       -                      Wide
Small                          -                      Large
Together                     -                      Apart
Close                           -                      Far
Facts                           -                     Values
Particular                    -                      General
Individual                    -                     Collective
Chaos                           -                     Order
Hot                              -                     Cold 


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1. The Short View and the Long View

I like to imagine a town at the bottom of the pyramid. When we are at ground level we are able to walk within the town and take in various features; the smells drifting from its eateries; the sounds of its markets; the patterns of its cobbled streets; the cracks in its walls. Perhaps we come across a park, and stop and sit on the grass, feeling its blades tickling our neck as we lie down. If we look close enough we can see insects wriggling their way past us. If we are so inclined, we can dig our fingers into the dirt, and, bringing our hands close to our eyes we can see its residue lining the grooves of our fingertips.

These are the experiences that are available to us at the bottom of the pyramid. We are able to rejoice in details.

At the top of the pyramid awaits an altogether different experience. The details of the town are now lost to us; we can no longer see its cracks and crevices; smell its various odours; or touch its surfaces with our fingers. However, from up here we suddenly notice something new. We see that the streets of the town, those streets that we once walked through, make a pattern. And that the park is positioned in a very particular place within that pattern, along with a number of other landmarks. We see how everything fits together in order to create something larger. Up here another level of sense, of meaning, opens up to us.

I often use this analogy in order to illustrate different ways, or levels, of thinking. The sort of thinking that is associated with a ground-level view is pragmatic; concerned with details, and the here and now. It does not see the bigger picture. The thinking associated with the loftier view is idealist, or generalist. It is more concerned with how things fit together, and with long-term considerations. I call the view at the bottom the short view (short-term thinking) and the view from the top the long-view (long-term thinking).

I do not see one as being better than the other; rather, heeding the lesson of the colour wheel, both are necessary for a complete picture. Where one is proficient, the other is deficient. Working together they form a formidable team.

2. Abstraction

Another way of describing the change that occurs as we move up the pyramid is to say that things get more abstract. I like to imagine a pyramid that is constructed from different sized blocks. The very bottom level of the pyramid (‘Level 1’) consists of many small blocks. The next level (‘Level 2’) contains slightly fewer, larger blocks. A single block on Level 2 is large enough to contain a number of blocks from Level 1. Thus, a unit of information from the second Level encapsulates several units from the first.

In subsuming multiple blocks under one larger block - one ‘heading’ - we connect things that were formerly separate. In other words, we tell a story about them; which is another way of saying that we make sense of them. A 'story' is, in this sense, synonymous with a 'concept', or a 'category': it is a binding together of separate things.

However, the pay off is that in making sense we lose detail. Thus, as we travel up the pyramid, each level is more abstract than the one beneath it. The blocks continue to increase in size and decrease in number, resulting finally in a very large capstone. The capstone is akin to universally binding truth; it encapsulates everything beneath it, but only in a very general, or abstract, way. Such a truth could be something like “everything is connected”, or “universal love.”

The process of abstraction, then, is one of travelling upwards and away from the ground - away from concrete tangible reality and up toward the heavens. Its opposite is concretisation, which is a downward move; a grounding.

If we have our head in the clouds for too long then we may lose sight of reality. And too much time spent examining details may lead to us forgetting the bigger picture. As ever, balance is key.

3. Chaos and Order

As things become more abstract they also become more ordered, and so we can see the movement up the pyramid as one of increasing levels of order.

At ground-level we are presented with a chaos of details, but as we move upwards these begin to disappear from view. Movement becomes stillness; chaos becomes order. It is not that there is no movement, only that we are no longer able to perceive as much of it.

What this shows us is that the more we abstract - the further we move up the pyramid - the more we are able to hold things still (or to fool ourselves into thinking that we have done so). Looked at this way, our concepts are ways of solidifying, or fixing things.

This may explain the comfort that some people find in general concepts or overarching stories that appear to explain (hold together) many seemingly separate things. The chaos of change can be bewildering, and we all, to some extent, seek the comfort of solid ground, and the sanctuary of strong walls. However, the more a story seeks to include (the more abstract is the concept) the less in touch with empirical reality it becomes (the further it gets from ground-level).

4. Resolution


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"Touching base"
"Head in the clouds"
"Can't see the forest for the trees"
"Seeing the bigger picture"
"Keep it real"
Being "well grounded"

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Main posts:-
Abstract / Concrete
Only Playing
The Real Thing
Digging Deeper
Scale
A Higher Power



The Front Door


Knock knock! Is anybody there?

Ah, its you. I've been expecting you. Please come in. Put your feet up for a few minutes. The internet can be an exhausting place, and you must be tired.

I am actually, its just one thing after another out there. Now then, what exactly is this place?

Good question. Foreverbecoming is a storehouse for the various bits of information that I come across on my travels; those that I find interesting enough to want to save.

I do my best to link all of the separate posts up to one another, creating threads - or constellations - that make (to my mind) greater sense out of the various bits of information.

By linking things up - gathering separate elements together to make larger wholes - a higher, more abstract layer is created on top of that which already exists.

Essentially, I am using specifics to get at generalities. And sometimes generalities to get at even greater generalities.

I see it as akin to building a pyramid, where every subsequent layer of blocks gets larger and fewer in number. It culminates in a single block at the top - the capstone - which could be seen as a universal binding truth (such as the golden rule, "harm no one, help others as much as you can"). A true capstone is something that can in some way encapsulate everything beneath it, albeit in a very general way. It contains no details.

I'm not sure what the capstone of foreverbecoming is, although I suspect it may be something like "L O V E."

That sounds rather wishy-washy. Who the devil are you?

I am an enthusiastic amateur. I have the kind of mind that needs to make sense of things. My default mode is to be a step back from the world, looking, listening, and taking notes. Hence the site you see before you. It is, basically, a way in which I make sense of the world.

Sounds dubious. So where do we go from here?

Below are the central themes of the site. They are much like the main branches of a tree; each one leading to smaller branches, with those branches leading to still smaller branches, and then on to its many leaves.

Most posts can be found through these starting points. Alternately, there is a temperamental search bar up to the right there - if you have a subject of interest then just type it in and see what comes up.

Many posts will also have labels attached to them. These can be found at the bottom of the post. Clicking on one will bring up all other posts associated with that label.

To the right there's also an index of all authors featured on the site. If there's someone in particular you're interested in then click their name and all posts featuring them will be shown.

I hope you enjoy exploring this place. It has some interesting nooks and crannies. But don't get lost! That can happen all too easily around here ...

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1. Yin/Yang

2. The Colour Wheel

3. The Pyramid

4. Land and Sea

5. Circle / Spiral / Line




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Imagine something different

By 'insight' we mean there is an understanding of (1) what went wrong with the previous system and why, as well as (2) what resources are now available for handling the problems better. Until people have a rationale for understanding why the prior system was embraced initially and why it was eventually undermined, lasting change into the next order is fitful. Insight keeps the old problems in focus and clarifies the new ones.

Different patterns and models, as well as step-by-step processes for implementing them, are essential to moving into a new system. These alternative scenarios must be active in the collective consciousness before they can be considered. Too often they are guarded in the minds of an elite few 'planners' or 'decision makers.'

People need mental pictures of what things might be like for them in their own real Life Conditions, not for some distant Hollywood stars or textbook case studies.

[Don Edward Beck & Christopher C. Cowan]
Spiral Dynamics, p. 84

Individual v Environment

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Conservative         -                     Liberal
Individual              -                     Environment
Internal                  -                     External


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[...] when it comes to the cause of human suffering, liberals tend to believe in exterior causes, whereas conservatives tend to believe in interior causes.

That is, if an individual is suffering, the typical liberal tends to blame external social institutions (if you are poor it is because you are oppressed by society), whereas the typical conservative tends to blame internal factors (you are poor because you are lazy).

Thus, the liberal recommends exterior social interventions: redistribute the wealth, change social institutions so that they produce fairer outcomes, evenly slice the economic pie, aim for equality for all.

The typical conservative recommends that we instil family values, demand that individuals assume more responsibility for themselves, tighten up slack moral standards (often by embracing traditional religious values), encourage a work ethic, reward achievement, and so on.

The important point is that the first step toward an integral politics that unites the best of liberal and conservative is to recognize that both the interior quadrants and exterior quadrants are equally real and important. 

We consequently must address both interior factors (values, meaning, morals, the development of consciousness) and exterior factors (economic conditions, material well-being, technological advance, social safety net, environment) - in short, a truly integral politics would emphasize both interior development and exterior development.

[Ken Wilber]
A Theory of Everything, p.84


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I would say that the second rule of moral psychology is that morality is not just about how we treat each other (as most liberals think); it is also about binding groups together, supporting essential institutions, and living in a sanctified and noble way.

When Republicans say that Democrats "just don't get it", this is the ‘it’ to which they refer. Conservative positions on gays, guns, god, and immigration must be understood as means to achieve one kind of morally ordered society. When Democrats try to explain away these positions using pop psychology they err, they alienate, and they earn the label ‘elitist’. But how can Democrats learn to see - let alone respect - a moral order they regard as narrow-minded, racist, and dumb?

I [...] began to think about liberal and conservative policies as manifestations of deeply conflicting but equally heartfelt visions of the good society.

In several large internet surveys, my collaborators Jesse Graham, Brian Nosek and I have found that people who call themselves strongly liberal endorse statements related to the harm/care and fairness/reciprocity foundations, and they largely reject statements related to ingroup/loyalty, authority/respect, and purity/sanctity.

People who call themselves strongly conservative, in contrast, endorse statements related to all 5 foundations more or less equally.

We think of the moral mind as being like an audio equaliser, with 5 slider switches for different parts of the moral spectrum. Democrats generally use a much smaller part of the spectrum than do Republicans.

The resulting music may sound beautiful to other Democrats, but it sounds thin and incomplete to many of the swing voters that left the party in the 1980s, and whom the Democrats must recapture if they want to produce a lasting political realignment.

The Democrats must find a way to close the sacredness gap that goes beyond occasional and strategic uses of the words ‘God’ and ‘faith’. But if Durkheim is right, then sacredness is really about society and its collective concerns. God is useful but not necessary.

The Democrats could close much of the gap if they simply learned to see society not just as a collection of individuals - each with a panoply of rights - but as an entity in itself, an entity that needs some tending and caring. Our national motto is e pluribus unum ("from many, one").

Whenever Democrats support policies that weaken the integrity and identity of the collective (such as multiculturalism, bilingualism, and immigration), they show that they care more about pluribus than unum. They widen the sacredness gap.

[Jonathan Haidt]
What Makes People Vote Repulican?


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What I think happens however, in most political debates that polarise around these issues, is that people differ on which aspect of causation needs emphasising in any given situation. It is the legitimacy of the emphasis on interior/exterior factors that is often questioned.

We can see that a more integral approach would be to recognize that in most real life policy debates there are both interior and exterior factors at play. 

Which factors are the most pressing and need to be focussed on and solved is what any mature debate should be about. (Of course we need to trust one another that we are all trying to make society less miserable and not scheming to further the interests of a special group).

When people get very attached to an identity of being either a liberal or a conservative they become unable to objectively assess these factors. They habitually emphasise their preferred side of the argument and thus render true dialogue extremely difficult.

[Marc Pontin]
'Beyond Left and Right 1'


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[...] whereas only a maniac from the right would pretend that the behaviour of certain banks did not contribute to the present global downturn, a diminishing number of figures on the left seem willing to concede that excessive personal or national debt (with very little to show for its accumulation) were another cause of the same. Bad banks driven by bad capitalism are the only causes of our calamity.

Oddly enough, the recent batch of left-wing doom and conspiracy books, from those of Russell Brand and Owen Jones to the more serious and informed Mason, point to a unified worldview. This sees human beings in democracies not as people with free will and unimaginable potential, but as inanimate beings to whom things are done.

If you have over-borrowed, then some mean lender made you borrow. If you are an individual, a loan company will have been to blame; if you are a nation, then the fault is Germany’s.


[Douglas Murray]
'Paul Mason's Postcapitalism is proof that the left is out of ideas'


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[...] conservatives are more fearful by their nature.

A DNA analysis of 13,000 Australians found that liberals and conservatives had marked difference in genes that related to neurotransmitter functioning, particularly glutamate and serotonin, both of which are involved in the brain's response to threat and fear.

[Ed West]
The Diversity Illusion, p. 251 (Notes, #132)


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Why has evil been such a hard concept for many on the left to accept? The basic agenda of the left is to change external conditions. But what if the problem is internal? What if the real problem is the cussedness of human beings?

[Thomas Sowell]

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Related posts:-
Lines and Circles 
The Colour Wheel 
The Colour Spiral
Everything is Connected  
Scale
A Higher Power 
A Healthy Body 
A Healthy Environment
Go Your Own Way
You ought to be more like me 
Individual + Villager = Balance
Rights and Responsibilities
Addiction: the Long and Short of it 

The Colour Spiral

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All of these memes [developmental stages] has something to contribute.

But what none of the first-tier memes can do, on their own, is fully appreciate the existence of the other memes. Each of the first-tier memes thinks that its worldview is the correct or best perspective. It reacts negatively if challenged; it lashes out, using its own tools, whenever it is threatened.

Blue order is very uncomfortable with both red impulsiveness and orange individualism. Orange individualism thinks blue order is for suckers and green egalitarianism is weak and woo-woo. Green egalitarianism cannot easily abide excellence and value-rankings, big pictures, hierarchies, or anything that appears authoritarian, and thus green reacts strongly to blue, orange, and anything post-green.

All of that begins to change with second-tier thinking. Because second-tier consciousness is fully aware of the interior stages of development - even if it cannot articulate them in a technical fashion - it steps back and grasps the big picture, and thus second-tier thinking appreciates the necessary role that all of the various memes play. Second tier awareness thinks in terms of the overall spiral of existence, and not merely in terms of any one level.

[Upon reaching second-tier thinking one can] vividly grasp the entire spectrum of interior development, and thus see that each level, each meme, each wave is crucially important for the health of the overall Spiral.

[...] without second-tier thinking [...] humanity is destined to remain victims of a global "autoimmune disease," where various memes turn on each other in an attempt to establish supremacy.

This is why many arguments are not really a matter of the better objective evidence, but of the subjective level of those arguing. No amount of orange scientific evidence will convince blue mythic believers; no amount of green bonding will impress orange aggressiveness; no amount of turquoise holism will dislodge green pluralism - unless the individual is ready to develop forward through the dynamic spiral of consciousness unfolding.

[Ken Wilber]
A Theory of Everything, p. 11-14

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Transcend and Include


An integral synthesis, to be truly integral, must find a way that all of the major worldviews are basically true (even though partial).

It is not that the higher levels are giving more accurate views, and the lower levels are giving falsity, superstition, or primitive nonsense. There must be a sense in which even 'childish' magic and Santa Claus myths are true. For those worldviews are simply the way the world looks at that level, or from that wave, and all of the waves are crucial ingredients of the Kosmos.

At the mythic level, Santa Claus (or Zeus or Apollo or astrology) is a phenomenological reality. It will do no good to say, "Well, we have evolved beyond that stage, and so now we know that Santa Claus is not real," because if that is true - and all stages are shown to be primitive and false in light of further evolution - then we will have to admit that our own views, right now, are also false (because future evolution will move beyond them).

But it is not that there is one level of reality, and those other views are all primitive and incorrect versions of that one level. Each of those views is a correct view of a lower yet fundamentally important level of reality, not an incorrect view of the one real level. The notion of development allows us to recognize nested truths, not primitive superstitions.

[Ken Wilber]
A Theory of Everything, p. 111-12




While Gebser’s major work, The Ever Present Origin (1949), sets out these structures in evolutionary sequence, he did not wish to imply that they are historical developments leading to integral consciousness as the ultimate human achievement.

While he presents his theory as a theory of the evolution of consciousness, he is adamant that he is not doing so within a fantasy of historical “development” or “progress”. Our tendency to think in such terms is an artifact of our dominant mental consciousness, in which our experience of time is linear and quantified.

Rather, reality is unfolding process, and the archaic, magic, mythical, mental and emerging integral structures are all valid ways of apprehending it.

From the point of view of rational-scientific culture, magical and mythical thinking are primitive and inferior forms of thinking which have limited value in the contemporary world.

However, we can argue that it is our capacity for mythical, and even magical, thinking that enables us to find meaning in our lives and gives us a grounding in the concrete world. Magical and mythical consciousness are neither better nor worse than mental-rational consciousness. They are simply older and different.

Re-owning and re-valuing them is a necessary step towards their integration in a new structure.  

The complexity of human behaviour comes out of the interplay of these several “layers” or “levels” of consciousness in whatever we do [...] Most significantly, all of the structures have both “efficient” and “deficient” forms [...] The later, more complex structures of consciousness are not better, or superior or “higher” than the earlier, simpler ones. They are simply later (in evolutionary and developmental terms) and more complex.

[Bernie Neville]
'Out of Our Depth and Treading Water: Reflections on Consciousness, Culture and New Learning Technologies'


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I am often asked, why even attempt an integration of the various worldviews? Isn't it enough to simply celebrate the rich diversity of various views and not try to integrate them?

Well, recognizing diversity is certainly a noble endeavour, and I heartily support that pluralism. But if we remain merely at the stage of celebrating diversity, we ultimately are promoting fragmentation, alienation, separation and despair. 

 You go your way, I go mine, we both fly apart - which is often what has happened under the reign of pluralistic relativists, who have left us a postmodern tower of Babel on too many fronts.

It is not enough to recognize the many ways in which we are all different; we need to go further and start recognizing the many ways that we are also similar. Otherwise we simply contribute to heapism, not wholism.

Building on the rich diversity offered by pluralistic relativism, we need to take the next step and weave those many strands into a holonic spiral of unifying connections, an interwoven Kosmos of mutual intermeshing.

We need, in short, to move from pluralistic relativism to universal integralism - we need to keep trying to find the One-in-the-Many that is the form of the Kosmos itself.

[Ken Wilber]
A Theory of Everything, p. 112


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Piaget started to understand that it was more important, not so much to understand the given structure of a knowledge structure, but to understand the manner in which knowledge structures transformed.

And that was partly illustrated in his description of stage theory, because stages were really movement from one set of axiomatic presuppositions with which the child was structuring the world, into a state where that system failed because it wasn’t sufficiently comprehensive; and then into the development of a new stage that could do everything that the previous stage could, plus account for all the things that the previous stage couldn’t.

That’s also why Piaget believed that knowledge actually accumulated, because each time there was a transformation the new structure had a wider range of applications than the previous structure, even though it kept all the advantages of the previous structure.

And that’s a good way of conceptualising progress […] if you think about a more sophisticated structure as being able to do more things properly, then you can certainly map out progress […]

[Jordan Peterson]
2017 Maps of Meaning 7: Images of Story & MetaStory


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Third Order Thinking


Early adolescence marks the stage when schools and the broader culture demand of us that we undergo [a] transformation in our consciousness. We are expected to become capable of the cognitive complexity which Kegan calls third order thinking.

[The adolescent] can reason abstractly but cannot disidentify from her own reasoning […] She is capable of holding a coherent set of assumptions about life, a coherent disposition towards ultimate reality, but she is not capable of standing outside of it.

Third order thinking rationalizes a particular consensus view of reality, a particular way of imagining the world which is common to the family, tribe or culture. There is a taken-for-grantedness about the way the world is.

To stand outside this narrative, the adolescent must “leave home”, and experience the isolation and exhilaration of fourth order thinking.


Fourth Order Thinking


The contents of [the adolescent's] mind become the object of her knowledge, and she identifies with her capacity to reflect on them. Her thoughts become something she has, not something she is.

Her thoughts become the thoughts of an autonomous individual who does not depend on the authoritative voices of her culture to give them legitimacy, but can rather look at the evidence, whatever its source, and make successive approximations to the truth.

Not all of us manage to achieve this transformation, or if we do achieve it we tend to slip back into second order or third order consciousness for a good deal of the time. Our demand that students demonstrate this capacity for detached critical reflection may a source of stress for adolescents on the threshold of fourth order thinking. Others simply will not know what we are talking about.


Fifth Order Thinking


Our way of thinking, our way of determining the truth, is relativised as only one out of many ways of constructing reality. We cease to see ourselves and our truths as complete. Our truths are only complete in dialectic with other truths and our selves only exist in our interaction with others.


Summary


As a third order thinker I accept without question the truth as I have absorbed it. As a third order thinker you believe in your truth in the same uncritical way. I am right and you are wrong, and at best we tolerate each other.

As fourth order thinkers we each maintain a critical stance towards our truths, and our concern is to look critically at these truths and all other versions of the truth and decide which one best accords with the evidence.

As fifth order thinkers we regard all truths as partial, and if we find ourselves in dispute we are capable of constructing a truth which resides not only in both your partial truth and my partial truth but also in the tensions and contradictions between them.

In pre-scientific societies third order thinking was perfectly adequate to meet the demands of the environment. Fourth order thinking both enabled and was demanded by the Age of Science. The culture in which we find ourselves at the end of the twentieth century demands that we be capable of dialectical, post-ideological, transpersonal, fifth order thinking.

[Bernie Neville]
'Out of Our Depth and Treading Water: Reflections on Consciousness, Culture and New Learning Technologies'


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[...] complex structures - whether intellectual, artistic, social, administrative or whatever - are only to be created and changed by stages, through a critical feedback process of successive adjustments.

The notion that they can be created, or made over, at a stroke, as if from a blueprint, is an illusion which can never be actualized.

[Bryan Magee]
Popper, p. 67


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['Aufhebung'], often translated as sublation, literally means a ‘lifting up’ of something, and refers to the way in which the earlier stages of an organic process, although superseded by those that come after, are not repudiated by them, even though the later stages are incompatible with the earlier ones.

In this sense the earlier stage is ‘lifted up’ into the subsequent stage both in the sense that it is ‘taken up into’ or ‘subsumed’ into the succeeding stage, and in the sense that it remains present in, but transformed by, a ‘higher’ level of the process.

In a famous passage near the opening of the Preface to The Phenomenology of Mind, Hegel illustrates it by reference to the development of a plant:

The bud disappears when the blossom breaks through, and we might say that the former is refuted by the latter; in the same way when the fruit comes, the blossom may be explained to be a false form of the plant's existence, for the fruit appears as its true nature in place of the blossom. These stages are not merely differentiated; they supplant one another as being incompatible with one another.

But the ceaseless activity of their own inherent nature makes them at the same time moments of an organic unity, where they not merely do not contradict one another, but where one is as necessary as the other; and this equal necessity of all moments constitutes alone and thereby the life of the whole.

[Iain McGilchrist]
The Master and his Emissary, p. 203-4


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Related posts:-
Lines and Circles 
The Colour Wheel 
Everything is Connected 
The Pyramid
Pre/Post
Tasteful Distance
You ought to be more like me