Friday, March 31, 2017

How Deep is the Snow; the Ontology of Accident

It is indeed taking me a while to master this book's rhetoric. I am mostly distracted, and tired from my galley serfdom. Email the oars, and the computer the shackles. Scant pleasure apart from drink.

I am, at this moment, in the midst of his explication of the Earth Layer of The Stack, feeling as though my mind is at its sharpest; most equal to making sense. I am reasonably both educated and experienced now, albeit on the cusp of mind's recession back into the soup. Or perhaps I should say the snow from which it did - my mind - primordially emerge once, and was named for that.

Snow is liquid crystallized, noise against signal, and still it may be formed into whitish simulacra. Though it was far deeper when I was young, the seasons have grown even stranger since that mini ice age, and we are about to experience an April fool's dump; our second as the season means to turn to spring.

I mean nothing, though I thought I did once. I have better clarity about these things now. I work to quell only the terror of people loving guns and hating librals as I fix to enter our nether regions to go exploring. It is true that I am more Chinese than American in my loyalties, but they won't have me by reason of bloodline. I don't think the DNA tests would prove otherwise, although perhaps I could claim some share of Native American gambling windfalls, and then track it backwards. Don't care.

During my formative years, surrounded by adepts in the ways of American Capitalism, also by virtue of bloodline, I was one among diminutively few who opted for Chinese, from where you might at least hold your own against the oligarchs.

It was there among the professorial riches of Yale, that I discovered a better Turing test than the one now on offer. Standing in the food line at some classical Chinese poetics meeting or other, I struck up a conversation with the older gentleman next to me. This was during the heyday of structuralist poetics; an attempt to bring the study of literature within the sphere of the enforceable rhetoric of scientific methodologies.

This older fellow - he must have had an accent, and for some reason I imagine him flying over from England, though I think I have conflated him with someone else - declared that he doesn't really care to read the poetry he studies. Although his vocabulary might have been equal to that of my own professors,' what he did was to feed the poems into a computing machine. It would have had to have been a main-frame. I think this was post punchcards, but certainly pre-PC.

It is in the nature of Chinese classical poetics that there are many rules which are quite amenable to encoding in machine language. It is also true that resonances among words, the way that they are written in Chinese, can also be sketched with far more accuracy and temporal endurance than is the case in other written forms. By no stretch of any imagination is it hard to see why all but the most adept readers might be fooled, even unto adoration, of what the computer might spit back.

It is Benjamin H. Bratton's contention that we are engineered by our creations at least as much as we have engineered them. We create, as it were, new occasions for accident, and already our structures exceed our ability to predict their computed outcomes in reality.

And so I do suppose that education has receded sufficiently into the soup of schooling that actual humans are susceptible more and more to a mistaking of machine poetics for human. Perhaps human rhetoric may even start to seem slavish to the overlords, as Chinese poetics most certainly was.

But you know, between Trump and Xi, I might still choose Xi.

I did once own the literal responsibility to decide which drivers should or might drive the school bus. It was a measure of moral accountability and reliability against my estimation of mastery against the machine. In simpler terms it was my responsibility to estimate the likelihood of going off the road because of incompetence as a driver or by virtue of some mysterious moral failing of a competent driver who would, however, lie to my face in defense of some secret horror which might get him to go all ISIS suddenly.

Although I still have nightmares of myself at the wheel of a school bus, I exited that responsibility with honor intact, and a pocket full of personally accountable receipts after the school's bankruptcy left my name on the company credit card. I do hope my psychopath driver did enjoy his personal sound system at my expense! A small price to pay, praise Allah!

Well, it's about to snow here, and I must off to work, hi ho! The sharpness of my mind to be measured against those more competent than I, by virtue simply of their belief and trust in the institutional machinery.

Post Scriptum:

My little school was for "the gifted" and used IQ testing as a way to see through the fog of  race, culture and obedience. I have always puzzled the SAT, which has scant predictive value in itself for performance at school. It dawns on me as my personal sun is setting, that what the SAT does measure near perfectly is some combination of that mythical raw intelligence metaphorically hinted at by IQ testing, combined with subservience to the machinery of schooling, and its regime of testing and evaluation, plus a true desire to internalize the written rhetoric of the ruling class.

Clarity at last! The snow might have been no deeper back in the day, but I'm pretty sure it lasted longer. At least long enough to tunnel into it and build a cave for cozyness. Parents now are terrorized by its collapse, the snow cave in which we snuggle.

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