Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Finally, I think I Understand Bratton

I have only random. I try hard not to control what I read, but then I follow threads. I try hard not to look at social media, as if averting my eyes might somehow contribute to the downfall of their corrosive force. But I fail, even while I try to let the random in.

So Bratton tweets. So does my daughter, and she doesn't think she's so great. I should get over myself.

Meanwhile, here is something readable and coherent from Benjamin H. Bratton, which actually betrays a stance. In my attempts to read him, I have slowly developed some confidence that he is compassionate and thoughtful.

Now I know how I think he's mostly wrong (well, I'd have to say "wrong" only in the final or absolute sense, since he's otherwise 99 44/100% right). Via Twitter, he says this bit of writing is from the same time that Bill Gates did this on TED. I don't like websites which don't date their posts. I shouldn't care so much.

My trouble with his position regards the why of human survival. His view is so long - from such an altitude relative to cosmic evolution - that humanity becomes like another bacterial strain. Our strain jumps out from the evolutionary swamp and threatens not just some species or other, but the entire planet.

Implicit seems to be the notion that cognition is what needs rescuing. Agency. He does a glancing credit to Donna Haraway to envision a kind of cyborg future if we hope to survive as a species. An altered, evolved species. It strikes me that Haraway's position was rather more compassionate. Not sure.

My issue is with the supposition that cognition is what humanity is all about. I believe that Bratton falls prey to a pitfall in his very own argumentation here. He's essentially arguing that cognition is why we can and should and must survive, but not because it's at the apex of a long and now discredited chain of being. Rather, his claim is that we should survive simply because we can.

Same thing, no? But the real question is "can we?" Really? So man really does become God, then?

What if humanity is not about cognition? What if humanity is about love? What if our failing is not about not getting the politics right, or the technologies properly aligned, or re-establishing homeostatic balance for our planet by conscious means?

Consciousness is seated in the most primitive structures of the brain. These are the parts whose genetic progenitors go the widest and the deepest. Agency serves consciousness, and not the other way around, and even still our bodies are over 90% not what we consider to be ourselves, when we think in genetic terms. That sort of genetics covers only one aspect of evolution, as Bratton seems clear about.

There is only co-evolution among myriad species.

The wanting to survive which we now feel is the selfish anti-love part that we project into our collective future. In truth, we crave survival as a species for the very same reason that we live life as though it would last forever. We have nothing but what we call our personalities to project, and we mistake the pain of losing those as something somehow worse than the pain of death. Sex, love, rock and roll and personality the way we now live these are very very local and limited. We have mistaken personality for soul, and - as always - we have mistaken God for a cognitive being. A being with a plan.

Talk about anthropocentrism! God in man's image. But it's a funhouse mirror image.

I, too, am 99 44/100% materialist. But I also know that the pure random of evolutionary processes (more broadly understood than just Darwinism or neo-Darwinism or anything else that we think we already know more about than we really do) has not been guided by cognition.

It is consistent with any materialism you may wish that the process of evolution is "guided" by love. You don't need to call it God's love. It's just a proper naming for what's been going on across billions of billions of years to where "years" don't mean a thing.

This evolution is "present" in us. We are not its apex, because we are not its end.

It is perfectly consistent with materialism to reconsider the standard model of physics as a kind of limit to materialism. There are motions in the cosmos which cannot be construed as related to forces. There are no bosons - no messenger particles - to be found, no matter how we stretch our statistical methods for detection based on hyper-complex instrumentation.

These "motions" are actually "e-motions" and the relations are conceptual rather than perceptual. Conceptual relations are always in the perpetual "now," which only means simultaneous across all time and space.

That doesn't mean that mind cannot evolve. But two plus two will always equal four (depending, of course, on some consistent process for designating units).

It is more useful to think of mind as microcosm than as agent. Holograms are more informative here than schematics could be. We persist despite the degradation of the media. Gravitons fade in probability for detection. Zero is never quite zero, is it? Nowhere in the cosmos.

But human mind cannot comprehend the cosmos. That doesn't mean we aren't important.

I'm not about to say or even suggest that agency is not important. We should feel humiliated by what we've done to our planet. We have been humbled. That doesn't mean that we should stop being human. We just have the wrong notion about what it means to be human. Mind includes the emotive center; the heart.

Mind is not only cognition. Emotion is not limited here. It remains doubtful that earth is alone in the cosmos, but we are surely looking for friends in the wrong way. Reading the mind of God has always been a futile exercise.

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