Archive for September, 2013

Who is the bigger loser?

September 27, 2013

So the question is, who is the bigger loser, me or them? (… whether tis nobler to suffer the slings and arrows …). Or more precisely, is it better to live in the world, to live joyfully, or … to seek the truth? I mean, we’ve made a big deal out of such issues as honesty, nihilism, and play. Well, what is our, what is our high horse anyways? Maybe it is to get at what is really driviing the world, or what’s on the back of everyone’s minds, etc.. Well … I wrote this on Facebook the other day:

“Vaccination and the Age of Reason” –Vaccination is something that has saved countless lives and is one of the benefits of living in civilzation, it is one of the fruits of the age of reason. But beyond our modern conveniences and our limits there is very little that separates us from jungle tribesmen, cannibals, what have you. But is vaccination “caused” by the reason? And what really characterizes the age of reason? It is not, actually, any ideas of justice, human rights, etc., but rather, maybe, the capitalization of man’s mental *energies*, ie, in the same way that oil has reshaped the world mental energy has reshaped the world — suggesting by this term a kind of undirected, violent, inevitable force. Vaccination was discovered by someone (quite by accident, as certain anecdotes go) that had put forth immense mental energies, mental capital. There is no way to “repeat” the insight of vaccination, though we tell stories about it. This is why reason is not the driving force, because its insights cannot be “repeated” — experiments are verifiable, but there is no way “repeat” that same insight. What this means is that technical history is a history of *accidents*, it can be likened to the discovery of gold nuggets unearthed by the explosive energy of mental capital. (And I am arguing, we cannot repeatedly, methodically, discover gold nuggets — it also means that there may be some limit to how much we can unearth).

This actually raises the question of whether there are *other histories*, a history that would not be a history of accidents. And this is where the concept of mastery fits in: since mastery, as a regression to childhood, give us visions of the future not shaped by accidents but genuinely our own, unreachable yet so imminent that they are often mistaken for having happened.

I’m not sure if the whole thing needed to be included, but the basic argument here involves the thinking of a kind of mental energy — there is a critique here of reason here, the Age of Reason. The Age of Reason — bless its heart and its consequences — is nothing but “the discovery of (a finite number) of gold nuggets unearthed by the explosive energy of mental capital”. I try to argue for an energy-based account of history in order to discredit any essence of reason. So that is “them”, I mean, those who carry on — with whatever consequences, beneficial or not — with belief in the cohrenecy of their own life, of their own essence.

So yes, it’s hard to put a fine distinction, when asking the bigger loser question, on what the distinction, which we feel so strongly about, even is.  But there is a distinction isn’t there? I am not here to tear this down or to argue that there isn’t. There is. Well, and I am not here to, of course, really answer the question of who the bigger loser is. Who cares? We each have our own failures. I am penniless but I have the time to do what I want. And I have a lot of trouble getting a girlfriend, even though I am, well, not unattractive, and this is a combination of my pennilessness, isolation, and my general misogyny. Fine. But they have their own issues to deal with. There are very few of us who aren’t selling our youth for money. I mean, if I can’t stand the life they lead, if hell is other people, then on some level they can’t either, I’m sure.

So at stake in this question is really (of course) an effort to refocus on the question of who we are, now that we can no longer claim an essence, we have to get off our high horse, and yet continue to have, to feel the pull of, such diverse concepts as guilt, futurity, imminence, and so on. Indeed, the feeling is that we will be working on a history yet to be written, or a reanalysis of history. If not some thinking of the essence of history, then at least, some alternative history, a history, vaguely defined, involving these concepts. (TBC)

“Don’t get any big ideas” — I was reading, recently, someone’s blog about trying to develop a … graphical terminal emulator, I think it was. He was one of those mac programmers. I’m pretty prejudiced, I admit. I kept on reading… he tried to start a project but failed — it was an interesting effort. In the post-mortem, he complained a lot about the community and all the various software design tools that he had to work with. It was a lot of complaining. I was glad to see it fail, most because terminal emulators don’t really need a rethinking. They do need some added functionality, which was what I was googling for, but they don’t need to be rethought from the ground up. It was apparently a project that got a lot of vocal support but very little actual finger-lifting from the community. I love ther terminal, by the way, or rather, I have a different idea of what a pure terminal would be. The whole Mac mentality got to me anyways. It was like every single thing they touched was somehow a fundamentally different, beautiful, rethinking of data or something. I was sort of headed in the opposite direction, I mean, I love the sparse of text terminals. I would rather us think about ways for us to change our lives so that text would be enough. There is a lot of issues here, certainly. I don’t believe our lives are natural, I believe that a computer is not so much a way to represent our lives, which just leads to added complexity, but rather, perhaps, to simplify our lives.

I’m not sure how interesting Apple would be for our history, for example, for our purposes. It doesn’t really confront guilt. I would rather think about open source or something. I’ve been working on a very simple and small scale … text editor enhancement recently, hopefully I’ll have a chance to throw it up in a few weeks on this blog. But my experience there was that, well, I congratulated myself on not having any more big ideas. In the end I had very little to say about the whole software design experience. I spent a lot of time looking up documentation, and as always the logic of the underlying system can never really be fully documented. It was very messy, a lot of trial and error. It was almost like a research project. A lot of the work involved grouping conditionals into forms that I could deal with and maintain, I mean, attempting to categorize all the exceptions — and the feature set changed along the way. The feature set had to be coherent, too, I mean, it had to seem consistent even as it was stressed by the requirement of maintainable code, a very minor sort of feedback loop here. I was proud of myself for not having learned anything through this whole process. I wondered if this amounted the regression of mastery — the regression to a kind of childlike state, where the task becomes, the wrestling with exceptions, where nothing is so structured. (TBC)

The Consequences of Mastery

September 24, 2013

I want to write a hardcore philosophical essay right now, I mean, rhetorically. It is also going to be short, maybe. I say this because I feel like I am dealing with a priori consequences, or with results that flow from the concepts themselves.

Well, without giving a formal introduction, I mean, without laying out the stakes beforehand, let’s consider the question, “what is mastery?” I have been thinking over this for a few days now… I feel we can start with some banalities: namely, that mastery involves a non-concern with technics. So I distinguish it from nerdiness. … I just wrote this on facebook:

Mastery (of something) resembles spaciness / vapidity because it is not nerdy (it doesn’t concern itself with technical details), ie, a master sounds like a fool with the added aspect of being competent at technics nonetheless. It *does* resemble being nonchalantly good at something, but not because such technics provides a form of transcendance, ie, not from depths of experience. Mastery, then, may be not only superficially but also essentially a regression in attitude towards an earlier stage. We can maybe sum up all this by simply pointing out that a master, perhaps like a child (or certain childlike moments) is fundamentally interested in intentionality, choice, other living beings, and not objects or facts (I mean, with regards to the domain of mastery, not in a general ‘zen’ sense.).

So, I think we can say that we have moments of mastery, or mastery is not so much who we are as some way of seeing the world. … OK, so let that be our introduction.

Isn’t mastery a surveying? Yes, but it is at once a surverying, of the field, and of our past, and it is a way of continuing to live, which means, that it is still concerned with intentionality, or with the future. The master is concerned with history but not with a technical or intellectual history… and perhaps not with a history at all, in the traditional sense. The idea that mastery is a regression feels important to me, I mean, that it is a *non-technical* attitude, despite being deeply involved in some discipline. This is important because the consequences are quite nice, it means that we can deal with almost everything at all in a non-technical way, say, math, physics, as long as we restrict ourselves to mastery.

This is what I am so excited about — that mastery, the full understanding of anything, is non-technical (I mean, we will still have to be familiar with technical details) — it is not so different from the frightened apprentice except for the following important difference (the master shares more with the novice than with the journeyman): to the novice everything is a promise of future self-overcoming, everything is leading towards the future. But perhaps — and this is a big hope, a big perhaps — with mastery we can … manifest, or introduce into the system, these intentionalities or these futurities.

TBC: Examples; Relativity and Mastery

The History of Math / Dedicated to the one I love

September 17, 2013

The last words he pronounced were — your name. (Heart of Darkness)

There is are some complex things dealing with time. Well, let’s begin by talking about the Heart of Darkness, which ends with this lie about dedicating one’s life to a loved one. This whole whole section seems to be about the past and the future. Kurtz is the future, but he is also the past — he is dead and gone. Something so powerful as to be imminent — so real was this future that it was mistaken for having already happened.

That’s just it — the imminence of the future, the mode of imminence. I feel like this is familiar ground, but the whole oint here is semi-imminent, as we approach familiar ground with better tools maybe. And also, the women — for some reason the women has control over this imminence, despite having, of course, never set foot in Africa. But for her this imminence was as real as a river, or a window, as in the final scene. “Mathematics is profoundly feminine” I have here in my notes — which is a kind of a provocative formula that points at where we want to go.

The real question here is the imminence of math, or the mode of imminence. Again, I am not sure if the above quotation is right, but at least it does raise questions, ie, if it is wrong, then it is wrong in the right direction, I feel. Math, too, seems to be a future that has already happened, in the above sense. Well, there is a third concern here: that we do not know what math is. This is important to point out since all math does is talk about itself, it seems, but we cannot trust it, at least, not in the first, declarative, descriptive sense. The history of math has yet to be brought to light. We may have to talk about a psychological history of math, or about eras that we haven’t even understood yet, who knows. This is certainly an exciting venture though.

Oh, and one more thing: isn’t it true that all metaphysics can do is point in a certain direction, to point at something? nd if so, doesn’t the history of math consist merely of moments that point at something? Yet these moments must each be examined individually?

Now, by the “femininity of math”, I don’t merely mean, the creative feminine. This is a benefit of us returning to the same question with more maturity — I mean, that it’s easy to be misled here, to forget what we meant, and to dismiss it later as error. We are not referring merely to the playfulness of math, since that is simply being who one is, and is not a future that is imminent. It does not relate to guilt, for example, or to the future yet to come, which we identified in the previous blog as the uncanny.  But, on the other hand, it is not something other than what math already is. Again, this feels like some moment of maturity to me, I mean, the necessity of thinking such a delicate topic. It is the moment, not strictly outside of math, a moment when imminence and femininity intersect. That’s another thing about the feminine — that they seem more real.

(Sometimes I am troubled by the question of whether what we talk about is exists at all, ie, whether math isn’t merely the sum of technical exigencies. But I am comforted by … various reflections, not limited to the “categorical imperative” of criticism, the existence of parallel histories, etc..)

So what I’m saying here is that the only kind of reflection that matters, in math, are those that seem to determine our future, but that is subtle enough to not merely be a fantasy. But still feminine — that is the whole nature of the feminine. “They are out of it”, says Conrad, but at the same time, they are not fantasy. It is not obvious whether something is one or the other, whether something is fantastic, technical, or of literary interest, it is hard to tell the interesting from the uninteresting in history.

========== END OF INTRODUCTION ==========

Let’s talk about the zero, the historical development of the zero. Now math functioned long before the zero, and it functions long after. The zero is certainly ingrained into math at this point, it has become one symbol among many other symbols. Now, I don’t really want to speak of the zero as merely a symbol, I don’t really want to associate with the rise of algebra or something, I mean. Rather, it is associated with a very specific sort of purity in math — I mean here specifically to dismiss the assumed distinction between the pure and the pragmatic, the notion of “mathematical autism”, for example. In a sense we are saying that everything is the same, that we are cut off from “our own” origin, that we work with ideas that are dead and gone. “I arrived in a city that always made me think of a whited sepulchur” (Heart of Darkness).

It is hard to imagine that moment. It is perhaps a profound transformation. It was at once anti-materialistic and materialistic. It faced great resistance for it’s amaterialism, but at the same time it seems undenaible with its play uon guilt, which we associated with the uncanny in the previous entry on Futurama. The uncanny causes metaphysical transformations, which may be, as we said above, pointers, or not stable in themselves (and rather only as an orbit). The phenomenality of the uncanny cannot be discounted but it slowly builds up until it becomes this imminence we speak of.


Futurama’s “A Game of Tones”

September 11, 2013

I like Futurama, but I don’t consider it really worth extended reflection, so that when we talk about our interest in The Game of Tones (from this latest season) it is in the sense that it is an unusual episode and in many ways quite unlike the rest of the show.

Now, I don’t want to go too deeply into the Lynchian influences, it is a great episode to watch from that angle, it reminds me of Twin Peaks… it actually also reminds me of being high.. and there is a sense that you aren’t really watching Futurama so much as you are a dream of Futurama, the way in which dreams seem to bring out the uncanny in the familiar, or how something in a dream often feels like a parody of that which you are remembering.

And then there is that sense of impending doom, which perhaps should be taken simply as an impending future (no pun intended) a future yet to arrive (rather than as death or destruction). There is a UFO approaching earth that emits a sequence of four tones that will literally blow up planets — but at the same time the show itself, also, as we allude to above, seems to be coming apart at the seams. “The impending future”  is not the extrapolated progression of day-to-day life — but it is very close… maybe we should even characterize it as a kind of gravity or something, in the sense of, that towards which the present is drawn, but which never arrives, a kind of orbit — ie, a spatial rather than a temporal metaphor.

The concept of “the future”, for me, is a way of getting over a kind of impasse, the impasse of descriptivism. I mean, perhaps the only way to understand the present is to understand such a future — some things about the world can’t be understood descriptively. The only way to understand the truth is to lie about it or to participate in this lie. (Cf, eg, the final scene of Heart of Darkness). This impending futurity is a kind of holism, it is something that cannot be understood aesthetically or as some kind of political “negation”…

As I said, we shouldn’t take the ‘doom’ too literally, but rather to think of it as a kind of blasting or exploding — a show “coming apart at the seams” we said. So that what impends is not absolute doom but rather the future, but the future that never arrives, or a future that we may have to pretend has already arrived — think, eg, Hitchcock’s Spellbound. Perhaps all psychoses have some connection to the future.

What is the future of Futurama (again, no pun intended)? It is an emptying out, it has a lot to do with the “conventions” of that show. The show is very concerned with math and a kind of systemic humor, the system of the crew — but the satisfaction with systemics can only take place if we are too content with the stability of everything around us. I mean, think about, for example, the kind of thinking required to become a mathematician — and I don’t even mean that one has to first be well-fed … doesn’t the initial, childhood interest assume a contentment with things as stable objects, as atomic elements of a system? So it is precisely this sense of stability that is being questeioned here — and this questioning, or rather this explosion, comes about via a kind of … dreamlike sensation, a kind of self-parody. I mean, the world that the crew explores is strange and terrifying, it is unlike the futurama we are used to. Even nature in that show typically exhibits the usual human qualities. But here they are caught in something way over their head (and the ending comes only because the show has to be aired, ie, it doesn’t reflect at all where the show was headed) — which is a kind of … vicious self-understanding. I mean, the way in which actions repeated over and over again seem to lose meaning — self-parody we said. But these elements can’t be understood in this way as descriptive, aesthetic, or rhetorical elements, but rather seem to take hold of our society precisely via their status as the future, whether we embrace it or not.

The future is the breakdown of the system and the coming fascination with the signifier. TBC

The Final Scene of the Heart of Darkness (Progress Report)

September 4, 2013

Well — boss — there are a few things I’m thinking about: the final scene of the heart of darkenss, the theory of relativity, and the Amazonian tribesmen. Yes, I feel they are all linked somehow, going through these things peice by peice is not opitmal and we may get trapped in talking too fast, knowing too much, thinking we’ve accomplished something, but I also feel it’s really the only way I can make progress at this point.

(1) The final scene of Heart of Darkness — I have in my notes here that this final scene seems to answer all the questions. It is, indeed, a scene of lying, which is something that Marlow isn’t really comfortable with. But maybe it’s about time that we got our our discomfort with nihilism — nihilism is okay, and some forms of hihilism are more okaythan others. I mean, there is the sense in which, if you’ve ever expereinced this, women have a way of evoking things, they seem to make things real — that’s part of it. There is also the way in which this scene seems to provide a solution to another problem. I mean, consider that, well, consider a few elements: (a) The jungle (b) Kurtz, stability, emptying out (c) Reading too well (d) Historiography.

Now, the jungle is something that seems to disrupt, it is sort of like a kind of overwhelming nature, we feel so small in the jungle, if we are able to feel that. It is interesting that it is precisely at this time of crisis, or at this moment, that Kurtz makes his appearance — so that, for example, what is so surprising about the Russian is just how oblvious he is to the general chaos around him. In the midst of a time of great dispiritedness, Kurtz provides a kind of stability. Kurtz is not the jungle, nor is he a return to cynicism, but he is a kind of cynicism or a kind of nihilism that survives — a lie that we believe in sincerely. I used to give the example of “historical speculation”, such as for the Mormons — however ridiculous the Mormon doctrine may be, for example, however much in bad faith they carry on their lives, the aspect of sincriety to them is the way in which they have taken out a lottery ticket for the future, the way in which they believe they are on the verge of some kind of arising truth. As a consequence of this those caught up in such a moment are often notoriously bad — we must not trust them — at explaining their actual motivations.

The final two terms are linked as well, I mean, (c) and (d). We must not read too well, I mean, there is a moment when we believe that the book is simply agreeing with us. But this suggests the impossible problem of always reading the book anew. As a solution to this problem I want to suggest this notion of ‘historiography’: of understanding a point i nhistory, which is the moment when Kurtz arises in the jungle which is also the final scene of the Heart of Darkness. That scene is all about defining what occurred at a partciular point in history, under specific conditions — and maybe there is an ineffability there too, and certainly a kind of nihilism (which is what makes Marlow so uncomfortable) — assomething that is evoked in the final stanza of Boy of Winander, when the speaker pauses in silence, for a good half-hour, unable to recover that moment, despite having just written it down quite vividely. That poem is sort of about that very same situation in a sense, I mean, the second half of that poem is very easy to overlook.

So that this is how we should understand Heart of Darkness as well, I mean, as a historical thesis, about a moment in the past, something we can barely see, or almost see, or see only with a woman that sort of makes us content with nihilism.

Well, that final scene is all about reliving a moment in the past that did not crystallize until the present, I mean, until that moment of visiting the Intended. When it does crystallize it seems a moment of reliving the past, a moment when “all games are emptied out” but no longer by the jungle. One has forgotten by that point the devstation of the jungle, so that all that’s left from that experience seems to be Kurtz, for some odd reason. When we look back on the past we like to reember a specific moment of negation, something that is impossible with the jungle itself. There is a sense perhaps that a specific negation is the only way we have, the only way we can stabilize the past, or maybe something that we always seek. (TBC)

(2) Let’s talk a bit about relativity. There is a sense that the cards were stacked from the beginning with regard to such a theory, which oppurtunized on the empirical discovery that the speed of light was constant — I mean, in the sense that every disruption to our intution will resolve itself in a certain way. The argument above is that the women are facillitators to the way in which we control our past, the way in which we understand the past as a kind of specific moment of negation (Kurtz) rather than as a general kind of disruption. Applied to relativity, this principle suggests that the function of physics is to — not so much incorporate external elements into an established system, but rather — the attempt to reach this moment of negation or of emptying out. I mean, certainly physics can be considered a kind of game too, math and physics can be considered a kind of game. You can publish hundereds of perfectly correct papers and there is still the sense that something may be missing, and the question is what the particular form of this negation could be, if it does not derive (of course not) from the introspective correction of errors.
For relativity, the specific form of negation involves the identification of a moment of “pure representation” (which is itself a “nihlistic” moment, as we said — yet the cards are stacked, somehow, in favor of this.) It is a clearer image of the world that becomes, well, secular. “The multitude of secular trees looking patiently after this grimy fragment of another world” (the steamer) — from the Heart of Darkness. Secularism is the emptying out or the vacating of “games” of particular nihilistic circuits, of illusions that are carried on only so far as they are useful, of fitter happier, of the colusion of metaphor and formula. Secularism, the secular vision, is precisely that which no longer allows for metaphor. I just said a bunch of stuff really fast, but I am actually not bullshitting. I mean, the idea is that there is some absolute vision that no longer allows for the convinient switch between metaphoric, pragmatic vision, a short moment when the world ceases to be populated by metaphors.

An Omegle Chat about Uncanny Computers

September 2, 2013

You: howdy stranger
Stranger: hi
You: hey whats up

You: right now i’m trying to write a “2d” text editor
You: like, in the sense that you write text on an infinite plane rather than navigate page by page, line by line
You: trying to basically think about a nice UI for that
You: like, so, to access somehing you wrote, about cats, say
You: you would walk north 2 miles, make a left at a todo list and then walk west a mile
You: that sort of idea
You: im not sure if it will be all that useful
You: …
Stranger: ok, sounds nice, something like a mind map i suppose
You: yeah, like that, except less organized
You: my favorite thing about windows is the desktop
You: like, a have about a hundred files on there
You: it is a huge mess, but i sort of know where everything is
You: all other file storage methods, including folders even, sort of pale in comparison to that, at least for human information
You: i think of it as a giant desktop
Stranger: you should have a look at my desktop, looks exactly like that ^^
You: haha nice
You: i think my life is like that too 😀
You: like, my room, etc
Stranger: pretty nice
You: i don’t think it will be that hard i guess
You: maybe it will be like minecraft, with text
You: i imagine having physical “roads” that connect peices, where if you place your cursor on the beginning it will rush you to the ending
Stranger: cool concept, reminds me of some “real life hashmap”
You: hmm a real life hashing

You: and the most awesome moment of that time was when, like, 6 hours in, i stumbled upon an old mineshaft i had
You: like, i would start the game, and make a few mines, and then i’d get lost
You: when i finally had a kind of large mine, i was better at the game, and made like roads and tunnels, but eventually i stumbled upon one that i made in like the very first hour
You: it was an amazing sort of experience for some reason
You: im not sure if that is reproducible with the 2d text editor thing

You: yeah… nested folders are really a horrible way to store things
You: because you basically have to know what you’re going to be before you do it, so you’re at the right place
You: ive completely given up on organizing things into folders
You: likewise, in real life, i’ve completely given up on having a kind of structured environment

Stranger: i think it is not a human kind of thinking to structure things in a discrete structure like a folder tree
You: i remember an expert mnemonist (?) saying that the trick to memorizing a deck of cards is to imaginatively place them in a room
Stranger: have you ever interactively zoomed in a mandelbrot fractal ore something similar

Stranger: look: remember this fractal is your storage
Stranger: you can place things at some position
Stranger: and it is easy to remember
Stranger: much better than any discrete structure
Stranger: like a folder tree
Stranger: you look at it like a map and you start to zoom closer and closer as you remember where your file is

Stranger: it would be cool as a giant menger sponge, which is some 3d storage for photos etc.
Stranger: or use it as an interactive desktop

You: i think minecraft would actually be a great “desktop”
You: it just needs to be linked to files, or text, or something

You: i used to write things in my room, on random papers
You: or post them on my wall
You: to sort of simulate that
You: it didn’t actually last too long, the expeiment

 you know, people don’t realize that virtual reality isn’t, like, lightbikes and such
You: it is a new kind of mnemonic organization or navigation
You: i think

You: im not sure how much data the average person generates
You: a lot of photos i imagine, but probably not a lot of text
Stranger: it could be combined, text in photos etc.
You: one big chaotic mess
You: maybe there shoudl be like a constraint
You: i was thinking some sort of artificial gravity for texts, like a spiral or something
You: so like, the deeper you go, the older you go
Stranger: oh fuck yeah, a barnes hut algo rocking the whole data mass
Stranger: massive particles god damn

Stranger: it dynamically changes dependent on the gravitation value
You: the layout?
Stranger: fuck yeah
Stranger: data automatically structures
Stranger: some topic spotting algorithm with n gram analysis assigns a gravity value
Stranger: and some topic attractor is pushing the data into the right position
Stranger: like a self organising map of a neural network,
Stranger: thats the art or artificial learning
You: oh, a gravity value based on the content
You: like, based on keywords or something
You: wow, that would be interesting… sort of likea self-organizing mind map

You: like a constantly shifting, self-assembling data complex, slowly shifting itself over time due to some kind of gravity effect
You: i guess you wouldn’t really know where to find someting, exactly
You: but occasionally you would stumble upon relevant things

 it would mean you wouldn’t ahve to really “search” for things, but there would be a kind of suggestion feature

 this is sort of like web spam, or ad sense
You: but consider, like, if you were writing something, you had a search engine constantly running
You: and it would sort of display “ads” of relevant things you’d written earlier
You: that would be kind of interesting

 well, i’m thinking about, basically, a kind of “fuzzy memory”
You: like, the difference between computer memory and human memory is that the latter is fuzzy
You: but the former is more precise and more powerful, faster, usually
Stranger: you can not store the data itself fuzzy, but you can use the location in a fuzzy way
You: the 2d editor, keyword gravity, are all ways of introducing a kind of fuzzy, suggestive element to computer memory

 we generate so much data that we will never access again
You: but a kind of fuzzy suggestion might be able to solve that, somehow
Stranger: a path must get bigger if you use it often
You: and in a sense, we are sort of limited by what we currently remember, and a kind of random recall
You: right, a kind of ad-sense adaptation algorithm or something
You: “personal spam” is the idea sort of
Stranger: or maybe suggest some ball, that attracts your files in a circular arrangement
Stranger: files that you use often
Stranger: get a higher gravity
You: right … except it wouldn’t be files… it would be just text fragments or image fragments maybe
Stranger: and the files attract each other if they are related
You: files are sort of an artifical unity necessitated by computer systems but don’t reallly have any existence in the human mind
You: right
Stranger: you store actual files, but you work with links to the actual files
Stranger: they just hold keywords
You: keywords, fragments… there will be some algorithm to sort of split up the file
You: or maybe to split up an image
You: like, it would take a photograph and maybe split it up, find faces, buildings, etc
Stranger: you dont need to read the actual content, just imagin the context in which you use the file

 if you are mailing with someone and you writhe about something
Stranger: you send them a picture
Stranger: then all this persons and files have a relationship

 the computer knows that this guy who revived this image has something to do with it
You: so the gravity would take into account not only keywords but also context

 this stuff already exists on the interent, we just need a personal version of this
Stranger: google@home

 basically, our brains is probably just one big fuzzy retreival system
You: we do have a train of thought, but it is imprecise, and so we imagine it is random
You: this sort of hopes to extent that via the computer

 or maybe, if you are editing a photo, you have another screen where a computer is always churning and analyzing your data
You: and sort of brings up relevant fragments
You: it would be sort of like being stoned

 i mean, if the effect of drugs is a kind of disconnected memory retreival

 i can imagine like a cyberpunk novel where in the future, everyone just stays home and dwells in their own nostalgia or something

 like, the newest, computer-aided memory drug

You: yeah, i’m sort of aware of the brain interface stuff
You: but i think this memory manipulation and retrieval stuff is a more exciting direction to go in
You: it does sort of resemble a new kind of neural interface
You: the question is how “insightful” these personal spam-bots can be
You: or if they ever bring up, in practice, anything useful
You: like, traditional AI, there is the Turing test
You: about holding a dialogue with a computer in another room
You: but what if there were some test about the “insightfulness” of memory retreival

 where you can’t tell whether it is a person or a machine making these spam suggestions
You: like another sort of turing test
You: forget the dialogue
You: person A writes, say, a diary
You: and person B, who may be a machine, retreives relevant fragments from the diary, or from past texts
You: the machine passes the test if person A finds the fragmetns “shocking” or “insightful”

You: yeah, there are already all these memes about google suggestions being “uncanny”

You: i guess that is the ultimate turing test
You: whether the computer can evoke the uncanny

The Noble Savage (by Chagnon)

September 1, 2013

I think I’ve mostly reached a point where books are “stimulating” rather than life-altering, and that’s good — the idea that another reaffirms or provokes us rather than opposes us or forces us to question ourselves. The account of the Amazonian tribesmen in “The Noble Savage” mostly affirmed what I already suspected — that they were pretty much exactly like us — I mean, in their deceit, self-alienation, hypocrisy, and so on — there but for the grace of police stations and butcher shops go I, so Conrad would say … but it also offered a tantalizing way to reconceive of my own project. The biggest thing, the most conspicuous thing absent from “The Noble Savage” is an account of guilt. The book’s overt political project, leftism bashing, is mostly agreeable to me, but it verges on preaching to the choir. You know there comes a point when you should probably ignore about 90% of intellectuals as not really worth talking to and not really worth the task of serious critique either. Hmm. Well I pause here because — I had originally intended to say that the interesting link that the book afforded me was the link between guilt and violence, between the private and the social. Guilt is a highly personal thing, it is that vague notion of self-awareness that is, basically, what makes leftist intellectuals so unbearable, and what makes, indeed, the natives themselves so unbearable. Those goddamn happy natives. Is it the task, then, of the missionaries or of modern man, to bring guilt to the primitive man, as has been the story in so many cases? In fact, no, because guilt is already the organizing principle of that culture, in the form of violence. (And it is this endemic nature of violence of guilt that makes me pause above.)

There are two things I want to talk about here — (1) a personal anecdote and (2) the Conradian expression, “city of death”.

(1) The most annoying thing about people, and what so irks me about them, is how loud they are, how they always have something to say. They always ahve something to say because they live in a bubble where everything is already figured out — they and their sentimentalism. I must speak of sentimentalism here. Sentimentalism is absolutely not the sort of guilt I refer to here — it is actually simply the inverse but equivalent of that jabbering happiness (you might think about the Apollonian and the Dionysian here). I mean, let’s not make the error of believing that those jabbering idiots are somehow naive. They aren’t naive — they are aware of all those darker forces there too. But they believe that the essentially human is that which occupies that bubble. The sentimental is simply the state of man taken away from that bubble. But guilt is a new world founded on something other than that bubble — we will get to this later.

I react badly to this attitude, I mean, now that I reflect back on it in this context, my behavior makes more sense. I remember that my aunt from China visited me a few months ago, to see the US and such. She was definitely one of my favorite people growing up but as I spent more time with her she began to wear on me. Her fascination with cultures and rituals annoyed me, and it annoyed me how… generously she viewed people. Now, mind, I am aware of that people do things for money, and so is she, I mean, that people are “truely” motivated by greed, selfishness and so on. But even that is still part and parcel of the sentimental attitude — it simply views the “ideal” state of the man as, again, that which is essential, and perhaps even more valuable because of its ephemerality.

I still remember the last little talk I had before she left. She knew about my condition, I mean, my sorry employment, and advised me to change directions in life or something along those lines. That really irked me — I felt like she viewed my condition far too sentimentally, as I was someone stoically living in solitude outside of that bubble and that all I wanted was to get back in, to be accepted. I did something quite consciously in response, I blamed her. I mean, obviously, not for ruining my life or anything, but for not really listening to me. I questioned her about what I just said. I tried to make her feel guilty about something. It didn’t “work”, but thinking about it now, my behavior does sort of make sense.

What I did could be considered a form of “violence” I guess. Violence is the attempt here to make someone see — namely, to aknowledge an intention that was strictly outside of the bubble of sentimentalism, but which was nonetheless still human. That last chat, and that sudden shift in strategy, that sudden performance of mine, was sort of an act of desperation. As Conrad said, I may have been happy with leaving them confused. Well, let me be precise, my basic strategy was to stop talking to her and instead to quiz her on what I was saying. She couldn’t really respond, of course, not many people can. What annoyed me was how I was drawn into that “jabber” I spoke about above. This sort of reminds me of a Keats poem:

This living hand, now warm and capable
Of earnest grasping, would, if it were cold
And in the icy silence of the tomb,
So haunt thy days and chill thy dreaming nights
That though wouldst wish thine own heart dry of blood
So in my veins red life might stream again,
And thou be conscience calmed — see here it is —
I hold it towards you.

I believe this poem was basically Keats’s last words, and here, too, we see the kind of absolute selfishness, but of a self that has — not so much died — but transformed into icy death. The “warm grasping” is exchanged for a kind of haunting which may be related to the “endemic” role of “violence” that I spoke of above.

But I mean, for my aunt, just to finish up that chat, there was a moment when I was “not myself” you could say, but not, on the other hand, simply a kind of happy savage. It was a moment when I tried to channel something else. My points were not all that important, but what I desperately wanted to do was make the point that I wasnot merely talking, merely “jabbering”, not merely something to be warmly embraced. There are a few ways to think about my performance. Maybe this involved the evoking of a kind of holistic intentionality that was sort of embedded in the word itself, the precision of the meaning there. I wanted to make her feel like aintruder perhaps, upon such a realm. This is not, in fact, in the final analysis, perhaps, merely the persuasion towards truely listening to another — since — well, I have this expression, “technicolor sunshine”. I wrote earlier, on Facebook, that “Insight less resembles a portal and more a chesspeices”. Here, insight and sunshine both metaphorize the same sort of thing, but sunsahine connotes an era that lasts, the time of sunshine or the time of daylight. A sunshine of technics, a time when a certain mode of insight dominates — and not merely a time that is reached by stepping through the portal of understanding.

(2) I arrived in a city that always makes me think of a whited sepulcher. (Heart of Darkness)


Let’s actually return to the violence of the savages, and in particular, to the metaphysical understanding of this violence. Here at this point we will have to, actually, cease paying attention to their own explanations, which are often notoriously bad, notoriously pragmatic. If we were to believe them we would indeed be forced to reach the conclusion that the history of civilization were nothing but the history of criminality in triumph. The way in which violence escapes their apparent control involves the metaphysical stakes of violence which establishes it as some independent element, a life of its own….

Honesty, I have nothing in this regard… I need to read the book a bit more.