Sunday, May 3, 2009

Fools Rush in . . . Farewell to Jack Kemp

I want to tackle the big ones. I want to try the truth and beauty equation. Here's the plan: Beauty stimulates copulation, apparently. Copulation, when it's productive and not perverse, apparently has a lot to do with the processes of evolution. Controversially if you ever read Stephen Jay Gould, human intelligence seems like some pinnacle to the same evolutionary processes. So, in at least this minimal sense, intelligence and beauty seem like they might be linked. 

I'm thinking here that faceless animals don't copulate for anything like beauty. And I'm thinking beauty somehow overpowers pheromones and other organizers of ant farms to power aspects of human reproduction. 

And I have to accommodate, somehow, my absolute aversion to the stupid racist notion that beauty and intelligence are coupled. That winners always deserve to win. That's way way way too right wing for me, Jack. Lady Luck almost always deserves almost all the credit. Nor will I fail to notice that women do seem to trade on beauty; that there is some correspondence between social rank and hotness in this endphase capitalist dystopia. Which we will never see as such, because we live within the castle walls. Let them eat cake, indeed.

Sure part of this is that with enough money, almost anyone can be made to appear pretty good. Especially when the styles approach masquerade for daily life. Or when simple health equates to looking good in jeans, and when health is bought for money too. When you add to the dollings up, the bodily buffing up, you really can get something going. Not to mention airbrushings, and taking care about when and how you appear in public. Although it must be a lot of work, for certain. You have to give effort its due.

But let's just say, for starters, that the thing with beauty is that it turns your head. From there, doesn't there have to be something more? Or is it like the linkbacks here in the blogosphere, which I don't really care to get? The beauty gets you more starters. And how come so many really beautiful women are willing to trade on that?  Shouldn't it really just give you the strength not to? The confidence to go for something more than what you can get so easily? Or does risk always go along with nothing left to lose?

I know money is plenty hard to get, but the trouble with getting it by selling your looks or your skills or your talents is that you have to keep working harder and harder and always to deal with your insecurities that maybe he'll go elsewhere for what you once sold him. The Man. Old age should be relaxing. Unless, like me, you've dodged responsibility your whole life. Then you get what you deserve. Which is to work your way in to your dotage, armed only with what you never had, or lost in its true season.

How about this:  Beauty just stimulates the rest of us to copulate more? It's like a leadership role; like President Obama for instance, it sets a direction for our sweaty aspirations. Who would ever want that level of responsibility at this particular moment? But he stands up there, quite apparently keeping his good humor, and it kind of makes you want to work in that direction, doesn't it?  We'll set him straight eventually on the privacy stuff, and on the GNU public license, but in the meantime, what a beautiful mind, and it doesn't hurt a bit that he's quite black. It just makes him that much more believable, since no-one's been grooming blacks for long enough to have him descend from dynastic privilege.

Intelligence begets intelligence for sure, but not in the genetic sense, where everything regresses toward what's mean. It's the sharing which allows great things. Sometimes the showing off. The chasing after what might be better, and wanting to get there first. And at least a kind of working out from the kind of insecurity which provokes girls into flashing their tits as the one thing they know will get the guys attention, and maybe slow them down along the chase. Or cheer them on, stimulating the steroidal jolt. Or so it should. And guys should get over it already. Why not pick someone for better reasons than that everyone else wants her too? Save that for politics and shows. Alpha males must get fatigued from being everybody's target.

I do remain convinced that there is still a direction for evolution, but that it's not the one we're thinking. I'll have to do a lot more study, but I even think that intelligence is something more than something meta- riding like fluff on top of the survival of some fittest. There is this pattern re-cognition in the brain which makes it that much more likely that we can learn to avoid the pitfalls. Then something like invention, where we can take what we discover, and repattern it with tools, into something to give us huge advantage over what teeth nature can provide over eons of trial and mostly error. Tooth and claw into the wilderness, now beaten back by levity and light. Stirred but never shaken.

The gaffe we make right now is to mistake our proudest tools for that mind which made them. We act as if we invent what we discover, and as though our instruments can recognize patterns without us. They can't. They can only sort and filter among larger sets than we can handle all fleshy and alone. 

All machines are nothing more (or less) than elaborated levers to extend our power; our reach; our grasp. Information technology is nothing different, except that by replacing mind with brain in stupid overtheorizing about intelligence as though it were an isolatable thing, we've managed yet again to become hoist by our own petard, childish bootstrap style, into thinking that machines can think. (I swear I remember being read a childish story, about a boy who'd dreamed of flying that way, by lifting himself up by his bootstraps, or maybe I even tried it myself, though I could find no reference anywhere to either)

Mind is interactive, and depends on Proper Names at its centers, to propagate throughout the brainscape. Tools can help. Pen, paper, books and ethereal keys. There is some touching attachment, or should be, to the tools we like to handle. But these are not the same thing as human to human touch. And human touch should not be mediated by machines. Mind, sure. But mind is nothing without heart. And heart depends on more than depictions and other virtual renderings.

There was (at least) one intriguing part to that "What the Bleep" film wherein they demonstrated, sort of, that the eye will literally not see what it has not learned to. Their example was Native Americans not even able to see that Columbus' ships were on their horizon, because they had no category for ships. And perhaps there was also every sort of wild hallucination from which such things as ships might be difficult to distinguish. The shaman had to be consulted, and once authorized, then they could see!

Now, we've tamed the hallucinations, and created instruments to measure every kind of alien intrusion, even beyond the range of our native senses. Which only seems to guarantee that the thing we must remain blind to is ourselves, enslaved to us. We have no authority for that one.

We reward winning always most extravagantly. The beauty queens. Captains of industry. Superstars. Inventors. Discoverers. Monopolists. Gamers of our hearts. Vicariously, it's where we want to be, and really think we should be. We give a nod to Sherpas, provided they climb high enough themselves.

But recently, in our American time, we did learn that it is wrong to use other human beings for our service to the winners.  Humans should not own other human beings, this much we know for certain. But for a good enough price, and if the bargain is straight up, winners might be able to rent their slaves, perhaps at an hourly rate. Perhaps for better and for worse. Beauty betrays the terms. It would be more honest, wouldn't it, if the money were to change hands more boldly and the terms were more straight up? Though none of it, except for the money, seems worth the paper it's written up on.

Still, we dream of machines at our service, which can provide us colder drinks and more pure mixes, and no dirt upon our souls. Except that they foul the earth, finally, with non-digestible transmuted waste which concentrates our most toxic qualities, most toxic of all of which might be our insecure desire just to be served in the first place. As if God were meant for me personally. As if there can be that pinnacle from which all dirt has been banished, but the air remains breathable. As if.

And so, upon this Internet, we are certain we must remain anonymous, cloaked and firewalled away from those who would pry our secrets, or even worse, steal our very identity. I am, at least still for a moment longer wanting to remain anonymous. Wanting to abstract my words so perfectly that they can true all hearts away from cosmic dreams of removal from all dirt and germs that would digest our bodies, sometimes before we're quite ready for that earth to earth return on investment.

But think of this. What if we actually were accountable for all our searches? What if it weren't just Google sneaking into my thoughts and offering up advertisements according to what I've been thinking, and reading and writing and historically searching. What if we called that what it is; an unconscionable invasion of privacy no matter what they promise to do or not to do with my identity. This Googling of my soul, which I shall not abide very much longer. This tapping of my phone lines without my knowing. This unaccountable theft of our commons.

What if I were to true my searchings with other identifiable souls who might also hold me accountable for my misplacings of mouse among rodents; black holes among non-celestial ethers. What if, in other words, humans were to contact other humans who would be held accountable for transgressions? A sort of alternate Internet of love instead of greed and fear and embarrassment. Where DNS sought out, first, actual names of actual people, and less particular and more abstracted, their place of business, and after that, what they like to do with their time.

What if we were to start a movement where instead of being afraid to announce where I live and how to contact me, I were to publish almost everything about myself, and you did too? What if I let almost everyone see into my life if they really cared to, and what if that turned out to be the very best defense against identity theft because no-one could hold your secrets, as they now do, even from you? You would be publicly you and I would be publicly me, and my holdings would be there for anyone and everyone to count and every transaction would leave a bright red trail, so that you could even leave the door unlocked again like they do in Canada where they must still somehow know their neighbors, even still.

What if names were geographically located too, and after that ideologically, for civil civic purposes so that we might debate without hating one another? What if intersections among actual people were tracked, and texts and pictures and things to buy were catalogued where they belong according to the interests of the parties who want them. What if we were to find that some right wing interests actually do cross lines with left wing? In reading his obituary, I find that Jack Kemp doesn't seem such a bad guy, although when I met him in person he had some sort of vocal diarrhea worse than mine and jumped all over the place and never made any full sense. Such a champion of all Richies Rich.

But I can buy the idea that creativity and industry both are released by some rewards for them. I can also buy that some of the best and truest words were never motivated by anything at all, other than some beauty in their utterance. The best of art is never known because its baseline requires getting out from the contest, and in to that kind of beauty which kindles far away and off from any field. Why can these things not both co-exist? There are more kinds of beauty than those which provoke our loins and pocketbooks. There are other ways to arrange our co-existence on this planet than conquest, glory, and abstract removal.

What if we were to find that human metaphoric categories work ever so much more smoothly than machine-made approximations and that nothing we can ever invent will be a match for our own pattern recognition accomplishments. Certainly not for speed, where I can almost always recognize friend at 1000 paces, which helps at least to distinguish from unknown and possible foe.

What if the machine were realigned in service to all mankind and not, Sherpa like, only in service to the winners? And what if we were once again to risk riding in cars with strangers because most of our germs have already travelled the world around and our best defense is a kind of orgy of interinfection to build up our natural defenses against all viral mockings of our designs, since, I'm pretty sure, these interbreedings - tending in the end to brown I'm sure - guarantee more instead of less diversity, as long as diversity is not so much measured by the color of one's skin. 

I am so tired of superstar talents. I am so tired of wanting that kind of supercharged beauty. I am so tired of overelaborated super intelligence which needs to be checked by something more from the manual arts. I am so tired of measures for intelligence, which, like contests for beauty only show up parochial prejudices and miss the breakthrough minds every time. I am so tired of stigmas made against everyone who's not a winner, for whatever it is they're supposed to lack. I'm tired of being a winner without portfolio too, and needing always to reinvent myself. It's all a crass stand in for beauty to transcend our baser cartoon-like common denominators. I'll sing for Leaves of Grass.

Lets have a demasquerade! Let's let each of us be himself, and accept that Mom will always love us, no matter what we do. Sheesh, I make about as much sense as Jack Kemp talking supply side. But not only is beauty in the eye of each beholder, and intelligence for each reader to decide, what we can do to improve upon nature cannot be simply to strip it bare and purify its essentials. There must be more to art that drives us.


David said...

While I would never have voted for the guy, he was the last of a certain sort of "principled" conservative, with deep roots in Adam Smith and John Locke (whether he knew it or not). The sort of conservative that in the 17th and 18th centuries would have entitled him to be called a liberal. He was also the smarter half of the Dole/Kemp ticket, alas.

David said...

I am torn often between the desire for technological solutions, and some sort of silly nostalgic return to the green. Not sure if both are possible, but I hope so. There are elements of the movie AI where the two seem well integrated, but then it ends so dismally.