Onwards and Upwards

Extropianism, also referred to as the philosophy of Extropy, is an evolving framework of values and standards for continuously improving the human condition. Extropians believe that advances in science and technology will some day let people live indefinitely.

Originated by a set of principles developed by Dr. Max More, The Principles of Extropy, extropian thinking places strong emphasis on rational thinking and practical optimism. According to More, these principles "do not specify particular beliefs, technologies, or policies". Extropians share an optimistic view of the future, expecting considerable advances in computational power, life extension, nanotechnology and the like. Many extropians foresee the eventual realization of indefinite lifespans, and the recovery, thanks to future advances in biomedical technology or mind uploading, of those whose bodies/brains have been preserved by means of cryonics.


Transhumanism is an international intellectual and cultural movement that affirms the possibility and desirability of fundamentally transforming the human condition by developing and making widely available technologies to eliminate aging and to greatly enhance human intellectual, physical, and psychological capacities.

Transhumanist thinkers study the potential benefits and dangers of emerging and hypothetical technologies that could overcome fundamental human limitations, as well as study the ethical matters involved in developing and using such technologies. They predict that human beings may eventually be able to transform themselves into beings with such greatly expanded abilities as to merit the label "posthuman."

Outline of Transhumanism


The anti-aging movement is a social movement devoted to eliminating or reversing aging, or reducing the effects of it. A substantial portion of the attention of the movement is on the possibilities for life extension, but there is also interest in techniques such as cosmetic surgery which ameliorate the effects of aging rather than delay or defeat it.

Two popular proponents of the anti-aging movement include Ray Kurzweil, who thinks humanity can defeat aging through the advance of technology, and Aubrey De Grey, who thinks the human body is a very complicated machine and thus, can be repaired indefinitely. Other scientists and significant contributors to the movement include molecular biologists, geneticists, and biomedical gerontologists such as Gary Ruvkun, Cynthia Kenyon, and Arthur D. Levinson.

Anti-aging movement


According to transhumanist thinkers, a posthuman is a hypothetical future being "whose basic capacities so radically exceed those of present humans as to be no longer unambiguously human by our current standards."

Posthumans could be completely synthetic artificial intelligences, or a symbiosis of human and artificial intelligence, or uploaded consciousnesses, or the result of making many smaller but cumulatively profound technological augmentations to a biological human, i.e. a cyborg

Key to this posthuman practice is the ability to fluidly change perspectives and manifest oneself through different identities.



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Everything is Connected

In sociology, anthropology, and linguistics, structuralism is the methodology that implies elements of human culture must be understood by way of their relationship to a broader, overarching system or structure.

It works to uncover the structures that underlie all the things that humans do, think, perceive, and feel.

Alternatively, as summarized by philosopher Simon Blackburn, structuralism is "the belief that phenomena of human life are not intelligible except through their interrelations. These relations constitute a structure, and behind local variations in the surface phenomena there are constant laws of abstract culture".


Suppose there are the phenomena A, B, and C, and each of them is itself without any self-nature, yet they are all related. Consequently, the existence of A as "A" is determined by its relation to B and C and all other phenomena.

Everything is related to everything; nothing can be considered apart from its relatedness to the whole.

Although A is without self-nature, still it is A because of its relationship to everything else. In short, the inner structure of A includes everything else in hidden or "powerless" form. And by such relationship A is A, not B or C.

The entire universe supports the existence of any single thing, and absolutely nothing exists as an individual particular by itself alone. All things continually and simultaneously manifest themselves together as a whole. The philosophy of the Hua-yen calls this ontological reality "Interdependent Origination."

As no "individual" can exist in itself alone, it exists by the support of everything other than itself.

[Hayao Kawai]
Buddhism and the Art of Psychotherapy, p.101-2

In his book, Bostrom considers a distant future in which trillions of digital minds merge into an enormous cognitive cyber-soup.

“Whether the set of extremely positive posthuman modes of being would include some kind of dissolved bouillon, there is some uncertainty,” he said. “If you look at religious views, there are many where merging with something greater is a form of heaven, being in the presence of this enormous beauty and goodness. In many traditions, the best possible state does not involve being a little individual pursuing goals.

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

If you put God outside and set him vis-à-vis his creation and if you have the idea that you are created in his image, you will logically and naturally see yourself as outside and against the things around you.

And as you arrogate all mind to yourself, you will see the world around you as mindless and therefore not entitled to moral or ethical consideration. The environment will seem to be yours to exploit. Your survival unit will be you and your folks or conspecifics against the environment of other social units, other races and the brutes and vegetables.

If this is your estimate of your relation to nature and you have an advanced technology, your likelihood of survival will be that of a snowball in hell. You will die either of the toxic by-products of your own hate, or, simply, of overpopulation and overgrazing. The raw materials of the world are finite.

If I am right, the whole of our thinking about what we are and what other people are has got to be restructured [...] If we continue to operate on the premises that were fashionable in the precybernetic era, and which were especially underlined and strengthened during the Industrial Revolution, which seemed to validate the Darwinian unit of survival, we may have [little time] before the logical reductio ad absurdum of our old positions destroys us.

The most important task today is, perhaps, to learn to think in the new way.

[Gregory Bateson]
Steps to an Ecology of Mind, p.468

The notion that all these fragments separately existent is evidently an illusion, and this illusion cannot do other than lead to endless conflict and confusion.

Indeed, the attempt to live according to the notion that the fragments are really separate is, in essence, what has led to the growing series of extremely urgent crises that is confronting us today.

Thus, as is now well known, this way of life has brought about pollution, destruction of the balance of nature, over-population, world-wide economic and political disorder and the creation of an overall environment that is neither physically nor mentally healthy for most of the people who live in it.

Individually there has developed a widespread feeling of helplessness and despair, in the face of what seems to be an overwhelming mass of disparate social forces, going beyond the control and even the comprehension of the human beings who are caught up in it.

[David Bohm]
Wholeness and the Implicate Order

A human being is part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. We experience ourselves, our thoughts and feelings as something separate from the rest. A kind of optical delusion of consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us.

Our task must be to free ourselves from the prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. ... The true value of a human being is determined primarily by the measure and the sense in which they have obtained liberation from the self ...

We shall require a substantially new manner of thinking if humanity is to survive.

[Albert Einstein]

In the traditional society, the most respected person was the lama. In the modern sector, it is the engineer.

[..] The world views of the lama and the engineer are very different. The old beliefs were based on a description of reality that emphasized the unity or dependent origination of all life, whereas the new scientific perspective emphasizes its separateness.

It seems to say that we stand apart - outside the rest of creation. And to gain a greater understanding of the way nature works, we simply have to split matter into smaller and smaller fragments and examine the various pieces in isolation.

The shift from lama to engineer represents a shift from ethical values that encourage an empathetic and compassionate relationship with all that lives toward a value-free "objectivity" that has no ethical foundation.

[Helena Norberg-Hodge]
Ancient Futures: Learning From Ladakh, p.108-9

What links:

A. The decline in bee numbers

B. The decline in Fernando Torres' career?

When you look in the mirror you see yourself as an object. You see your eyes, you see your nose, you see your face, you see your body. And that’s pretty much what you see when you look at other people. But that isn’t all there is to you. In fact, that’s hardly any of what there is to you. 

So you could say, for example, you exist at the level of the quantum particle [...] Above that level you exist at an atomic level, and then a molecular level, and then you exist at the level of complex organs and the interactions between those organs. And then you, and then your family, and then the groups that your family belongs to. And then the ecosystems that the groups  belong to and so on and so forth until what it is that you are can expand to encompass virtually anything.
Now, when you look at yourself you don’t see that. You see yourself at a certain level of resolution [...] but all those other levels are equally real and equally relevant. And we in fact have very little idea how it is that you’re only able to see what you see. Almost nothing has obvious boundaries and this has real world consequences, it’s not something that’s merely abstract. 

The technical term for this problem , the problem of how to bind your perceptions to limit them, is called the frame problem. The frame problem emerges to cause all sorts of trouble for people. 

So, for example, when Henry Ford invented the automobile [he presumed he was] building an efficient means of transporting people from one place to the other. There were other unintended consequences of Ford’s  discovery.

[...] Ford happened to be a great supporter of Fascism. And the reason that he was a supporter of Fascism was because he regarded the Fascist political structure as a logical extension of the efficient methods that he’d used to assemble vehicles. So his mode of production was instantly manifested in a political philosophy.

Furthermore now - 2009 - a hundred years after the invention of the automobile, we’ve discovered some other things that the car was, other than a place to move people from point A to point B.

So for example, it turns out that the automobile and the internal combustion engine are among the most effective technologies ever devised to transform the nature of the atmosphere to heat up the world. Not only that, the car has completely transformed the nature of cities.

And these were all unintended consequences of the fact that the car was far more than what people thought it was. 

You can say that about any technological structure. No one knew what TV would do to the news, for example. No one knew what the internet would do to the music industry. Everything that you interact with is far more complicated than you see.

[Jordan B. Peterson]
'Reality and the Sacred'

[...] in no system which shows mental characteristics can any part have unilateral control over the whole. In other words, the mental characteristics of the system are immanent, not in some part, but in the system as whole.

[A] computer is only an arc of a larger circuit which always includes a man and an environment from which information is received and upon which efferent messages from the computer have effect. This total system, or ensemble, may legitimately be said to show mental characteristics. It operates by trial and error and has creative character.

Similarly, we may say that "mind" is immanent in those circuits of the brain which are complete within the brain. Or that mind is immanent in circuits which are complete within the system, brain plus body. Or, finally, that mind is immanent in the larger system - man plus environment.

In principle, if we desire to explain or understand the mental aspect of any biological event, we must take into account the system - that is, the network of closed circuits, within which that biological event is determined. But when we seek to explain the behaviour of a man or an other organism, this "system" will usually not have the same limits as the "self" - as this term is commonly (and variously) understood.

Consider a man felling a tree with an axe. Each stroke of the axe is modified or corrected, according to the shape of the cut face of the tree left by the previous stroke. This self-corrective (i.e., mental) process is brought about by a total system, tree-eyes-brain-muscles-axe-stroke-tree; and it is this total system that has the characteristics of an immanent mind.

But this is not how the average Occidental sees the event sequence of tree felling. He says, "I cut down the tree" and he even believes that there is a delimited agent, the "self" which performed a delimited "purposive" action upon a delimited object.

[...] popular parlance includes mind in its utterance by invoking the personal pronoun, and then achieves a mixture of mentalism and physicalism by restricting mind within the man and reifying the tree.

The total self-corrective unit which processes information, or, as I say, "thinks" and "acts" and "decides," is a system whose boundaries do not at all coincide with the boundaries either of the body or of what is popularly called the "self" or "consciousness" [...]

[...] if we exclude the unconscious processes from the "self" and call them "ego alien," then these processes take on the subjective colouring of "urges" and "forces"; and this pseudodynamic quality is then extended to the conscious "self" which attempts to "resist" the "forces" of the unconscious. The "self" thereby becomes itself an organization of seeming 'forces."

The popular notion which would equate "self" with consciousness thus leads into the notion that ideas are "forces" [...]

[Gregory Bateson]
Steps to an Ecology of Mind ('The Cybernetics of "Self": A Theory of Alcoholism'), p.316-20

That’s the key of the future of macro-economics - the alignment of agency and wellbeing, and that correlates with closing the loop.

We’re closing the loop between agency of individuals/well being of others - moving from an open loop system, where I could affect things but not internalise those effects in the cost equation, to [a system where] all [affects are] internalised in the cost equation.

That corresponds to a world view where my sense of self and my sense of the rest of the universe are not fundamentally separate concepts. I wouldn’t exist without oxygen, or the plants that make the oxygen, or the bugs and fungus that makes the plants work to make the oxygen.

I am not an individual. I have a self-organising membrane that has some individuality to it but I am an emergent property of everything else. 

So when you close the loop between sense of self and sense of others, then what’s in my best interest [is] whats in the best interest of others. There is loop closure between ‘advantage self at the expense of others’ or ‘sacrifice self for the well being of others’, both of which are nonsense in a radically interconnected system.

What we’re looking at is closing all the causal loops so that everything that influences decision making is being informed by everything being influenced.

[Daniel Schmachtenberger]
'36: Daniel Schmachtenberger - Phase Shifting Humanity', The Future Thinkers Podcast (29:55)

The will to power […] depends on the fact that for Nietzsche all things in the world are interconnected and that their interconnections are crucial to their very character. But from these ideas a more radical conclusion seems to follow: “No things remain but only dynamic quanta, in a relation of tension to all other dynamic quanta: their essence lies in their relation to all other quanta, in their ‘effect’ upon the same.”

Nietzsche’s continual stress on the interconnectedness of everything in the world constitutes his attack on the “thing-in-itself,” by which he understands the concept of an object that is distinct from, more than, beyond, or behind the totality of its effects on every other thing.

A thing, he insists, cannot be distinguished (except provisionally) from its various interrelations. Objects are conditioned by other objects through and through: “‘Things that have a constitution in themselves’ - a dogmatic idea with which one must break absolutely.”

To speak of a thing-in-itself is to speak of a thing that can be conceived to exist independently of all other things and that is to that extent unconditioned. But this implies that at least some of its features, through which it is to be conceived, apply to it quite independently of the existence of any other thing or that it can be conceived to exist without any features at all.

Nietzsche does not believe that things can have properties on their own, properties that attach to them independently of the existence of other things, because he believes that properties are nothing but a thing’s effects on other things, including ourselves as perceivers:

“That things possess a constitution on themselves quite apart from interpretation and subjectivity, is quite ideal hypothesis; it presupposes that interpretation and subjectivity are not essential, that a thing freed from all relationships would still be a thing […] The properties of a thing are effects on other ‘things’: if one removes other ‘things,’ then a thing has no properties, i.e. there is no thing without other things, i.e., there is no ‘thing-in-itself’.”

[…] what there is is always determined from a specific point of view that embodies its particular interests, needs, and values, its own will to power. “‘Essence’, ‘the essential nature,’ is something perspectival and already presupposes a multiplicity. At the bottom of it there always lies ‘what is it for me?’ (for us, for all that lives, etc.)”

[Alexander Nehamas]
Nietzsche: Life as Literature, p. 79-81

[…] in Structuralism, all signifiers are directly connected to an extra-linguistic signified, the invariable ones. 

To 'mean' anything, a signifier must presuppose a signified already-always outside it. This is what Derrida terms as the "transcendental signified": as a signified, it belongs to the realm of language, but by being invariable, and by refusing any movement, it remains outside it 

A word, if immovable, can mean nothing, or even exist. Only when an endless chain of other signifiers, other words, hints, get associated with it, it finally acquires meaning ('Camel' is understandable only when it is thinly associated with many related words, such as 'animal', 'desert', 'cigarette', 'long neck', etc.). 

In other words, language is this movement. 

‘Trace (deconstruction)’, Wikipedia

If both positive and negative consequences of an action fell on its author, our learning would be fast.

But often an action’s positive consequences benefit only its author, since they are visible, while the negative consequences, being invisible, apply to others, with net cost to society.

Consider job-protection measures: you notice those whose jobs are made safe and ascribe social benefits to such protections. You do not notice the effect on those who cannot find a job as a result, since the measure will reduce job openings. In some cases […] the positive consequences of an action will immediately benefit the politicians and phony humanitarians, while the negative ones take a long time to appear - they may never become noticeable.

[Nassim Nicholas Taleb]
The Black Swan, p. 111

An organism’s primary properties are, according to evolutionary theory, both a record of past environments and a conjecture about the current one. 

The overall species-niche super system determines the traits that individual organisms will exhibit. It is known that two animals with the same genotype can be phenotypically different depending on the environment in which they develop. Is this not a form of self-cause whereby the distributed whole influences its components?

[Alicia Juarrero]
Dynamics in Action, p.107

Dynamical systems theory tells us that because they are embedded in history as well as in a structured environment, people are not independent, isolated atoms just plunked into a completely alien environment that affects them through mechanical forces. 

As we saw earlier, by means of second-order context-dependencies established by persistent interaction with the environment, agents effectively import the environment into their internal dynamics by recalibrating these to incoming signals. 

Over time, that is, both phylogenetically and developmentally, people establish interdependencies between the environment and their internal dynamics such that the former becomes part of their external structure: their boundary conditions. 

Context-sensitive constraints established by positive feedback weave both the environment and history into the agent's cognitive and conative states, thereby achieving the embeddedness in space and time that characterizes those complex systems. The way adaptive systems function therefore strongly suggests that, as dynamical structures, intentions "ain't just in the head" either.

[Alicia Juarrero]
Dynamics in Action, 197

Feedback processes […] embody the context-sensitive constraints of history. 

By embodying context-sensitive constraints, mutualist feedback renders a system sensitive to (constrained by) its own past experiences. This makes nonlinear dynamical systems historical, not just temporal the way near-equilibrium thermodynamical systems are. 

Once the system's subsequent behavior depends on both the spatial and temporal conditions under which it was created and the contingent experiences it has undergone, the system is historically and contextually embedded in a way that near-equilibrium systems of traditional thermodynamics are not. 

The very structure of a snowflake, for example, embodies the conditions under which it was created. Because dissipative structures are not just dropped into either time or space the way Newtonian atoms with only primary qualities are, their evolutionary trajectory is therefore not predictable in detail. 

Mutualism thus makes a dynamical system's current and future properties, states, and behaviors dependent on the context in which the system is currently embedded as well as on its prior experiences. As a result, unlike the near-equilibrium processes of traditional thermodynamics, complex systems do not forget their initial conditions: they "carry their history on their backs" 

[Alicia Juarrero]
Dynamics in Action, p.140

Class Division


Upper class                      Middle Class                   Lower Class
Too much care                          -                              Too little care
Gentle                                       -                               Rough
Distant                                      -                                Close
Hands off                                  -                               Hands on
Many boundaries                      -                               No boundaries
Thick walls                               -                               Thin walls
Rigid                                         -                               Loose
Clean                                         -                              Dirty
Quiet                                         -                               Loud


View #1 - Area A - (Thesis)

“People here talk loudly, and frequently shout at one another. Kids can often be heard crying, and parents shouting. Their language and tone is aggressive. Tempers fray easily. They don’t look after anything very well, be it themselves, their kids, or their environment. The streets are strewn with litter and dog muck. Their gardens and yards are in a terrible state. There is no sense of ownership or responsibility. They’re totally selfish and have no consideration of other people. They are terrible neighbours.”

View #2 - Area B - (Antithesis)

“People here are quiet and reserved. They rarely seem to talk to each other, and when they do it seems false and awkward, as if they’re holding something back, or they’d rather be elsewhere. They never show any passion, its as if they’re all afraid of each other. They seem to care more about their gardens than their families. They’re judgemental, of everyone. They always seem to be looking about with suspicious eyes. There’s no life here, everyone keeps to themselves. I bet they're all constipated.”

View #3 - Area A/B - (Synthesis)

"In Area A people live at a close distance to one another, both literally and figuratively. Their houses are smaller, and placed closer together, and many live in flats, with people above, below and to the side. Their boundaries are thin, and easy to cross or disregard. Sometimes those boundaries are so thin that they barely seem to exist at all. Things flow freely through them; smalltalk, arguments, insults, love, hate, affection, aggression - all of the things that pass between people.

People in Area A feel closer to one another, which has its upsides and its downsides. Being closer, they are more able to touch one another; sometimes with affection, sometimes with aggression. Across thin boundaries its easier to be seen and heard - to shout, laugh, cry, and interact with one another. Thus, people interact more often, albeit not always in the most convivial ways. There is a stronger sense of community here, because people know each other better.

What this area lacks are those positive things we associate with distance, and thicker walls. Privacy, for instance, is not as easy to come by, nor its corollaries - silence, seclusion, space. With distance comes the space and time to reflect, and so life can seem to pass at a slightly slower pace. The individual has more room to breathe, and to pause and reflect.

The people in Area A have different sensibilities to the people in Area B. They value closeness; they tend to prefer loud over quiet; fast over slow; expression over repression; active over passive. Those from Area B tend to favour the other side of the opposition.

When people from Area A find themselves in Area B they tend to say that it is:

- too quiet
- too clean
- too distant
- too repressive
- too little life

When people from Area B find themselves in Area A they tend to say that it is:

- too loud
- too messy
- too close
- too expressive
- too much life

As with any binary, one side always possesses what the other lacks. From where I stand here between them I can see that both have something to learn from each other."


One of the most shameful things I can admit as a working class person is I want to be middle class - cuz look at how cooshty their lives seem to be!

If a middle class individual expects a trigger warning, maybe it's because they're able to pick and choose and control most of the environments they go to in their lives on the regular and expect it elsewhere too, and I don't begrudge them that, it's all they've known, whereas having to see some brutal shit every other day is all that other people have known.

The latter implies a heavy desensitisation that I don't think humanity should aim for - I don't like the idea that we grab everyone by the neck and point at something shit and say "look, this is what real life is like!" I don't want my working class identity to be promoted by making a mockery of the middle classes. I'd rather we destroyed class.

[Scott Wilson]
Youtube comment on 'Trigger Warning: Final thoughts and summary before ceasing transmission'


Life and Death (and everything in-between)

+                                                     -
Life                          -                    Death
Con-   Syn-              -                    De-
Together                   -                   Apart
Addition                   -                    Division
Synergy                    -                   Entropy
Synthesis                  -                    Analysis
Induction                  -                    Deduction
Construct                  -                    Destroy
Concentrate              -                    Decentrate
Conserve                   -                    Deplete
Confirm                     -                    Deny
Connote                     -                     Denote
Centripetal                -                    Centrifugal
Attach                       -                     Detach
Close                         -                    Distant
Tight                          -                    Loose
Conservative              -                    Liberal

Stay on the left too long and we seize up, become a statue.
Stay on the right too long and we fall apart, lose ourselves.

In all things there is a pull towards dissolution, and an opposite pull towards unification. This tug of war is everywhere, at all scales; from a society, to the bodies that make up that society, to the cells that make up those bodies.

It is the interchange between life and death.

Life is a combining of things; to preserve life, things must be kept together. Death, on the other hand, strives to pull those things apart.

When we look at a society we can see these processes. There are always those who pull towards the centre. These are the individuals who aim to preserve the status quo, who want to keep things as they are. We could call this a drive towards life, inasmuch as change would mean death to society in its current form, for it to be reborn in another. And of course, that new form would require its life force - those pulling inwards - in order to keep it healthy.

There are also those who pull in the opposite direction, towards the outside.  They want to pull society apart. We could call them change agents, and they represent the drive towards death, death being synonymous with change.

Neither of these are any better than the other. Context defines their value. When something is not working, when it must be pulled apart, then those that seek to keep it together could be described as dysfunctional. When something is working, and must be kept together, then the situation is reversed.

Status-quo agents will always insist that it is working; or that, at the very least, it is ‘okay’; that death is too extreme; that change is not necessary.

Change agents will always insist that it is not working; that it is never okay; that change is always necessary.

Perhaps it remains, then, to those that lie in-between to decide what is necessary; life, or death?

None of us are ever all for life, or all for death. We all contain both poles within us. However, it may be true to say that we contain them in differing amounts. So there will be some that are inclined towards the status quo in any given situation; who feel an urge to conserve and protect. And there are others who are more inclined to pull at the seams; to question and critique. So whilst we all lie in between life and death, some lie nearer to one than the other. It is their combination that produces balance, and health. It is, therefore, imperative for the health of any collective, that all voices are given an airing.

It is context that defines which voice is heeded in any given situation. If you have something that works then you would be wise to amplify those voices that seek to keep it together and to diminish those voices that seek to pull it apart. If you have something that does not work then the opposite is true.

Barthes disapproves of any art that merely makes itself available to gratify its culture.

According to this view, Fisher-Dieskau is flattering petit-bourgeois society by offering it an image of its own perfection, of the sense of itself as perfect. He allows his talent to coincide with the particular kind of perfection a petit-bourgeois culture dreams of. Panzera’s art, apparently, set itself aslant its culture.

For the same reason, Barthes prefers Landowska to other harpsichordists, and Lipatti to other pianists: their playing is never flattened to perfection, they don’t add intention to the music or fuss over its every detail, contrary to petit-bourgeois art which, according to Barthes, is ‘always indiscreet.’

[…] Barthes argued that every aesthetic merit depends upon an interrogative and ultimately subversive relation between the art and its society. There should always be a certain recalcitrance.

[Denis Donoghue]
The Arts Without Mystery, p. 58

Those at the periphery are interested in deconstructing culture, rather than perfecting it. They seek alternatives to the status quo - new paths, new solutions, new forms. They adhere to the principle of destruction, and are moved by a centrifugal force.

Those at the centre adhere to the principle of creation, or consolidation, and are moved by a centripetal force. They are interested in the perfection of certain prescribed forms.

Barthes was, perhaps, someone who dwelled at the outskirts, and as such wasn’t interested in confirmatory, petit-bourgeois art. Barthes valued art as exploration, as a means to find alternatives to the conventional forms of the centre.

Donoghue paints him as a partisan, as someone who was committed to the ideals of the periphery to the exclusion of the centre. Accordingly, he doesn’t value art as confirmation: he insists that art always ought to be interrogative, subversive, and recalcitrant in its relation to society; that it ought never to be entirely enamoured. As a partisan, he cannot (or will not) see the value of his opposition; he cannot enjoy confirmatory art, it repels his sensibility (and his politics).

In Barthes’s view, society can never be entirely good, or good-enough; it must always be questioned.

It seems to me that society should be both questioned, and accepted. In other words, there must be those elements within it that confirm it, and those that deny it. Society itself exists as a tug of war between these factions. As with most partisans, Barthes, seemingly, can't admit to the value of his opponent; perhaps because to do so would be to weaken his hand. He is embattled; and in a battle any gesture of reconciliation may be turned against you. 

The most fundamental observation that one can make about the observable universe [...] is that there are at all levels forces that tend to coherence and unification, and forces that tend to incoherence and separation.

The tension between them seems to be an inalienable condition of existence, regardless of the level at which one contemplates it.

The hemispheres of the human brain, I believe, are an expression of this necessary tension. And the two hemispheres also adopt different stances about their differences: the right hemisphere towards cohesion of their two dispositions, the left hemisphere towards competition between them.

[Iain McGilchrist]
The Master and his Emissary, p. 128-9

The forces of the past tend to cause clockwise drift in the Cynefin space: people living together and sharing mutual needs lead to the emergence of ideas; convenience leads to stabilization and ordering of the ideas; tradition solidifies the ideas into ritual; and sometimes, either lack of maintenance or the buildup of biases leads to breakdown.

The forces of the future push dynamics to the counter-clockwise: the death of people and obsolescence of roles cause what is known to be forgotten and require seeking; new generations filled with curiosity begin new explorations that question the validity of established patterns; the energy of youth breaks the rules and brings radical shifts in power and perspective; and sometimes imposition of order is the result.

In a sense, these two forces are always pulling society in both directions at once, and this is reflected in organizations as well. 

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

The weak and quasi feminine type of the dissatisfied has a sensitivity for making life more beautiful and profound; the strong or masculine type, to stick to this metaphor, has a sensitivity for making life better and safer.

The former type manifests its weaknesses and femininity by gladly being deceived occasionally and settling for a little intoxication and effusive enthusiasm, although it can never be satisfied altogether and suffers from the incurability of its dissatisfaction. Moreover, this type promotes all those who know how to provide opiates and narcotic consolations, and it resents all who esteem physicians above priests: thus it assures the continuation of real misery. 

If this type had not been superabundant in Europe since the Middle Ages, the celebrated European capacity for constant change might never have come into existence, for the requirements of the strong among the dissatisfied are too crude and at bottom so undemanding that eventually they can surely be brought to rest.
China, for example, is a country in which large-scale dissatisfaction and the capacity for change have become extinct centuries ago; and the socialists and state idolaters of Europe with their measures for making life better and safer might easily establish in Europe, too, Chinese conditions and a Chinese "happiness," if only they could first extirpate the sicklier, tenderer, more feminine dissatisfaction and romanticism that at present are still superabundant here. 

Europe is sick but owes the utmost gratitude to her incurability and to the eternal changes in her affliction: these constantly new conditions and these no less constantly new dangers, pains, and media of information have finally generated an intellectual irritability that almost amounts to genius and is in any case the mother of all genius.

[Friedrich Nietzsche]
The Gay Science, 24

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