Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Rentier Finance Capitalism

At the outset, I should say that I entirely lack the theoretical chops to enter this terrain. So, I will be making my observations from a layman practitioner point of view. Now it also should be said that this puts me on par with those, tending toward the right politically, who make what often sound to me like unsupportable pronouncements against the MSM-reported assumptions about how things work. 

I'm almost always impressed, and sometimes nearly taken in, by these cracker-barrel arguments, coming as they do from clearly intelligent people. In my observation, these arguments are made mostly by men and by many contractor types with whom I've been working. I respect the world-view, built on their personal experience getting ahead on hard work. And based especially on the genuine business harm caused by the evident dearth of responsible employees who genuinely want to learn their trade. Plumbers, electricians, carpenters, roofers, concrete contractors and so forth.

The arguments don't differ much from conspiracy theorizing, but I'll go along with them right up to the point where they declare their support for Trump. That just blows my mind every time. As though they're in on some secret conversation about what Trump really and genuinely advocates which is different from his obvious advocacy for himself and his very personal interests. Heck, that was the argument his hyper-expensive and way higher-class than him attorneys made, to prevent him from having to divest for conflict of interest. As I recall it, the argument went that he couldn't be separated from his corporate self, because he, personally, was the brand.

But I confess to a kind of solidarity that something stinks with the mainstream narrative, even though I'm coming from a Lefty point of view. 

As a worker in the trenches of IT, meaning only that I have a decent understanding of how that stuff works, I was obviously aware that something had changed when the incremental cost of additional product "shipped" approached nil. There was plenty of cost up front to develop the product, but once created and developed, there would be no further incremental piece-based and labor-based cost to mass-produce. 

So, all the funding went into the destruction of the competition, and the creation of ad-copy, which in turn created almost a zeitgeist about what was the best. And so we went through Netscape and Word Perfect and so forth leaving the creators of the underlying operating systems to be in charge of nearly everything. Again, I have no data. I have only the same observations that my contractor friends make. I saw it happening intimately. Meaning that it wasn't the best product which won out. Where did Lotus go? 

To my limited understanding of the concept, there is slight - and only technical - difference between the behaviors of a rentier and those of a tech patent holder. I don't think anyone had adequate theory to know what was happening. It seemed like they were making something useful and earning a profit on it. 

Then along came Google services for nothing. There's been some fretting about surveillance capitalism, along with some very serious attempts to determine just what it is now that was is turned into a product (you!) and how that could be legal. But, you know, money talks and so there was this vague, and ultimately triumphal, claim that all of this activity was good for the economy. Never mind the military and global capitalist hegemonies which were being built. You know, capital breeds capital.

Again, without a refined theoretical understanding, I'm also aware of the term vectorialism, which is related to the argument sketched out above. Unlike a capitalist, the vectorialist doesn't own the means of production, but rather controls the media by which the products of digital production get distributed. The medium becoming the analog to capital in this brave new economy. Distribution trumps production. Everyone works as an influencer.  

Again, the elision of actual-seeming product in the form of disks, slowly disappeared the way that, oh I don't know, the physical substrate of photographs did. Each of us can document this transference in and through our photo archives. 

Or if we live near Kodak and Xerox, we might have a more personal connection to the transformation. And then especially newspapers, which used to roughly charge the cost of the paper according to the cost of, well, the actual paper, with upwards of 50% profit margins built on advertising, and well, want-ads. 

So the solids of supply and manufacture and distribution melt into the ethereum of design and transmission. There used to be money in supporting the IT infrastructure and now that's all been reduced to truck driver wages without even the ethos of unionization. Because we IT trench workers identify with the designers, I guess. Like the way that franchise owners identify with corporate central.

Now I really really don't know anything about the ethereum of cryto-currency, but I know enough to be certain that it's evil on many levels. Like pyramid-scheme evil, or money laundering evil. It's at least the metaphorical equivalent of the transition of capitalism through vectorialism to finance capitalism, where money itself, representing nothing other than money (think gold standard) is meant to become the prime playground for the rentier class. Stripped of politics, stripped of even digital monopoly profiteering, stripped of social input, money itself stands in for still fictional but more real than money "merit." Think about it. 

By these measures, gamers should be our new overlords. Hey, I think maybe they are. But then there are classes of gamers, and so forth, from slacker gamers through sporting gamers through finance gamers. Our most lavishly praised and lauded and celebrated mathematicians have been engaged in game theory. Applied to the military and the economy in the end. 

So, we're worried about Artificial Intelligence now. I'm not positive, but I'm pretty sure that I'm not so worried. In my observation, we've been running on AI for as long as the corporation has thrived at the expense of the worker. Artificial intelligence is just that aspect of human intelligence which can be mimicked by machine. To paraphrase Jack Nicholson as he portrayed a Maxim Male Chauvenist, strip out the emotion, the integrity, the character, the grit and you have machine intelligence. That's how corporations work, run on automatic to maximize profit. Massively well-compensated CEOs are rated on the reliability of their machine prediction. Have a heart and you're done.

Oh-so-recently, we nearly destroyed our economy when the likes of General Electric divorced themselves from actual tangible physical production with actual profits and turned to management of financial capital exclusively. And we celebrated Jack Welch.

I don't think that machine intelligence is like human intelligence in the very same way that I don't think cryptocurrency is like money. They both ride on the same ignorant and obsolete paradigm, which gets called capitalism, and gets called it the same way Jesus gets called God, even though Jesus has long-since been reduced to a branded meme. The only thing you can't do is to question the dogma. That would be to sin.

But then this is how paradigm shifting works, right? Just before the shift there is a flourish of 'normal science' where all practitioners feel ultra close to a kind of epic near apotheotic culmination. We're almost there! Jesus is almost here. The end of history. Huzzah!

I'd say that the project ought to be focused on understanding better what human really means. I can't use the term intelligence or even consciousness, since these have such dogmatic interpretations already. That's why I go for love, which is not likely ever to be made dogmatic in its meaning. I could be wrong.

Be that all as it may, let's just say that we've celebrated the evident intelligence of our elaborations on the physical plane of our existence, while almost utterly ignoring the destruction of the affective plane. Some nitwits even sacrifice their actual life in the insane pursuit of physical immortality. Zombies. This being the very essence of contradiction in terms. Find me life that is perpetual, and I'll either show you the cosmos as a whole, or I'll show you a rock. You decide which you want to emulate.

Look around you and you'll see a flourishing world. If you want to see the flourish, you'll have to convince yourself that global warming is a hoax, climate change is a hoax, peak oil is a hoax, political institutions will sort themselves out, autocracy is not a danger, warfare will never encircle the globe, technology is our savior, and China is our enemy. I think the only quibble is on technology as our savior, but certainly intelligence has to rule!

Technology, especially big tech, feels pretty skeezy just now. To some maybe because the Democratic party seems to be so in-bed with it. Tech leaders tend woke, in a way, don't they? Well, except for the ones who've earned a single name epithet. The really rich ones make us all nervous. 

The surveillance aspects of Big Tech make us all nervous. The algorithmic rearrangements about how we get our news and which to trust. Nobody is quite sure that tech is a good answer.

But I digress. I want to focus on what would be a more enlightened understanding of humanity's essence that doesn't fall down the rabbit hole of intelligence, unless you wish, as perhaps I do, to declare all of life intelligent. There is a certain direction in which life moves which is the opposite to physical entropy. The opposite to the entropy of information theory then too, by definition. 

It is persistently difficult to prove that there is a direction for life which leads inevitably to something like humanity. It will only seem that way if we think that our very clever behaviors toward the alteration of the very nature of planet earth in our seeming favor are what is meant by natural evolution. Here's a clue; it's not. 

Persistent life arises from a stochastic brew of random. We persistently mistake random on an individual level with random as it impacts the whole, as Gregory Bateson might have pointed out. To move further in the direction of this argument, we are currently at odds with our environment, when the goal of life - distinctly not the teleological direction for life - is to fit the environment without which nothing can be distinguished as an entity at all. At present and for the foreseeable future, we are misfits, at odds with everything which defines us. Which doesn't bode well for the species, never mind individuals among us.

"Goal" is a taboo word when talking about evolution. Maybe "direction" would be a better term. Is there even a direction for evolution? Canonically and scientifically, I think the answer is no. But I don't think the answer is no. I think that the direction for the anti-entropic moves made by the processes of evolution is love. 

I am not unaware that the overall course of human development would make for a hard call between love and hate, and yet still we seem to thrive. Could it be that love has been generally in the ascendant? I'd like to make that claim myself, though I think we're over a cliff the way that Wile-e-Coyote hovers over a cliff with legs churning. 

Anyhow, I don't think that AI is dangerous in itself. It doesn't relate to nature, it only relates to human nature; meaning that aspect of our lived environment which is a human production. In relation to humanity, AI can clearly be a force for good. Sure, it could make machine phone attendants even more predatory and dismissive, but it doesn't have to. Sure, it could help pump more money up to the top, though we don't have to let it do that. The issue is not to control or fence in the development of AI, but rather to take hold of how we deploy it.

I think we have a problem of scale and not so much of kind. Building a habitation feels very human. Even building a city. But building out to overtake our environment seems plainly destructive.

If we don't take charge, it's almost certain that AI will exaggerate and distort all those processes I outline above to make the grotesquery of how we live even more obvious. Which isn't obviously a bad thing. Right now many of us are unsure if Elon of Bezos or Zuck or Gates are good or evil. AI unbound will make it obvious. Our very souls will be disclosed and not just our marketable marketing behaviors. Red pill or blue kind of thing.

Meanwhile, while he fell into the trap of a representational mind, Bateson is certainly correct that mind must be homologous with nature. Which is to say that the entity of a human mind and the collectivity of all human minds in a society is, pretty much by definition homologous with any other entity in nature. I don't even think it would go too far to say that the mind of a human is, or could be, the cosmos in microcosm, though I don't know if Bateson would go so far. 

And if our mind is a natural mind then we are built for love as much as for reason. Indeed, not so very many entities have gotten so far as to be able to embody love. I've written too much already about how unlikely it is that robots will ever be the object of "true love" ho ho. Sure, we might have warmish feelings for R2D2, but almost anything is narratively possible. Just not in the pesky details, as in a new mother's love.

Well, that's about as far as I go for now. I'm simply not sufficient as an expert-system adept in any and all disciplinary fields. You can bet I'll harness AI, if and when that becomes possible. Over and out for now.

Friday, October 20, 2023

Joe Gould and Me

Why me? There is a fascinating interplay among Joe Gould, his chronicler Joe Mitchell, and Jill Lepore, whose own read on history feels bright. Joe Mitchell seems to mirror himself in what he makes of Gould, while Jill Lepore despairs of history's sinkholes. Imponderables all. Not everything has an answer.

Father/son there are these imponderables whereupon Big Decisions get made. Mitchell puts me somehow in mind of Cormac McCarthy, maybe based on shacks in the South they both wondered in and about. When I think of my Big Decisions, they get made in the same way I might think through an engine mount, or a piece of furniture that I'm fashioning or refashioning, or how to rig part of my new old sailboat. I can get angry if someone sees it differently.

But the Big Decisions have big consequences, like buying the little travel trailer in which I lived for a while. Or the sailboat which still weighs me down for its puzzles upon both my present and my memories of bolder sailing. I seem to enter into these matters blithely, as a kind of thinking experiment until it's a done deal. Very much not like falling in love, which is how you might think it should be, given the consequences sometimes.

But then, whatever is the material consequence, I do always find it fetching and rather cathect myself upon the object, more blithely than compulsively. Managing to find the perfect motorcycle though it morphs from Honda to Harley, like as though I went from blond and thin to curly and fat.

I suppose it necessary to conjecture yourself into this new future and find it more attractive than others you might already be in possession of, as it were. Like, what the hell, let's give it a whirl, always leaving an exit strategy; falling short of absolute commitment. 

Like Joe Gould's father, my grandfather also sunk too much money into gold prospecting schemes. I think Dad had to work through some of that. It must be like how tech enthused kidlets blithely put their purchase on the ephemera of bit-coinage, little understanding what an economy is and how much harm can come from crowd beating.

Children must never be possessed of so much choice, and yet adults may also resent their fathers' ministrations. Is the excitement of investing in a gold mine more similar then, to falling in love than something navigated more within one's means? I suppose it must be. 

Just now still, and for a long long time before, I wonder about consciousness; that thing about ourselves, as humans, which makes us count for more than any but God could have wanted. I make a narrative more compelling even than yours, when it comes to me. Of course I know the survival value of that fact. But the me remains even though I'm as crazy as Joe Gould, who might also have had no real choice in the matter.

Personality imposed, but still self-manufactured overall, might you say? Can we ever be other than ourselves? None other. 

Joe Gould seems to have edited himself to death. Never turning to the exclaimed task at hand, though surely always intending to, in some sense. 

Me too, right? I rehearse those truths which religionists have always rehearsed, though while they jump to true belief, I remain always trying for some kind of scientific precision. My chapbooks are all up here. Enough to prove that I don't have the words to prove what I know. What I know. 

And all the world seems perverse, to me, in all the basic assumptions about humanity and intelligence and consciousness, unexamined as I might say. And so I too am on the outs, like, forever I suppose. Though I do like tinkering on my boat my bike this house as those are the things which give real meaning. Of a sort.

But look. You and I agree that questing for physical immortality can only guarantee that you'll waste the life you have. That however special you have made yourself and no matter the popular acclaim you'll never be more than me in the basics. That too much money is the biggest diversion of all. While too little is terribly painful. And that sometimes the most freakishly intelligent people say and do the stupidest things. 

Wednesday, October 18, 2023


SuttreeSuttree by Cormac McCarthy
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This prefigures everything, I suppose. The Road. That the entirety of Western Civ leads to a new sort of void, from which life must rise again. Suttree falls from economic Grace, though I couldn't really follow the narrative, requiring the sanctioned one written all over the place. I was too distracted by the words made new and fresh against the putrefaction thereby descried.

This beats Faulkner, whose writings were bequeathed to me by occult ways having nothing very much to do with words. Bequeathed by Granddaddy who gloried, so he did tell me, riding the rails under the cars when still not far from hillbilly roots. But then I find lately that my highschool buddies did that too, making their way to and from a Catholic highschool from which interest I was barred by cause of faith. Not mine.

I was such a good boy, wanting to be like Granddaddy, an engineer. Spoiled by the despoiling I witnessed in my youth along Lake Erie's rotting shores where war machines for Vietnam were proofed. My uncle waggling the wings of his 'flying boxcar' whenever he overflew our beachhead. Hovercraft at dusk to foil the spies for the Mekong, where the atavist Sturgeons were far larger than ours.

Now we hover among the idiot winds of Artificial Intelligence, as though it weren't already the end for that deadly process. Reading Cormac (one name is enough, no?) gives the eternal lie to that as a definition for what humanity is about. Sure, our intelligence has become artifice by way of renting out our thinking for the sake of a dime, Buddy, for the sake of a dime.

Cleanth Brooks helped me to recover my ability to read by way of Faulkner. Now I discover so very lately, even his better. I'd better go back and try to finish Joyce again and The Recognitions, impossible again at my age. I'm glad it won't matter.

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Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Yet Another Unpublished Goodreads Review of Nicholas Humphrey *Sentience: The Invention of Consciousness*

Hey, I just read that the guy who invented the AR-15 was able to do so because he was unbound by the dogmas of the engineers. I tinker with words, and he tinkered with guns. Weirdly, this gives me hope.

Goodreads has been convenient for me. I've trimmed my bookshelves across too many moves, and I read now mostly on Kindle, mostly from the public library. I was a bit distressed when Amazon took over Goodreads, just as I was a little distressed when eBooks edged into the realm of paper. Of course, I was far more distressed when Internet advertising destroyed local newspapers.

Do you also have a sense that things are falling apart? That something's gonna give? Whether it's climate change, global warming, the chaos of our crumbling democracy or worse, of the autocracies. We keep sucking up oil, and using up water, and our lifespan is now shrinking.

I do believe that such times and such anxiety are also the sign of impending shift. In my little mind, the shift could be of or about consciousness, using the term here in a very broad way. But for sure we need to change something about how we believe and what we believe if we are to change our nasty and often brutish behaviors. 

I have but a few virtual bookshelves here on Goodreads. One of them, I find, is labelled "Consciousness." I guess that must be a main interest of mine. There is no rhyme or reason to my random "bookshelves," just as there is no program to my reading. My actual bookshelves are pretty scattered too. 

Given the virtual sea of good reading available to me, I might even suggest that random is a better program than deliberate choice. In any case, I've skated across too many academic fields and, more generally, too many career paths to have real expertise about anything. Perversely perhaps, I now consider my lack of specific expertise an asset.

Scholars and scientists who know enough to build credible new knowledge can only do it following a massive intellectual investment in some particular disciplinary field. Advantage amateur if we truly are at an inflexion point.

I confess that I don't have any desire to write reviews. I do have a desire to keep notes for myself, and doing it this way is convenient. There is no obligation for anyone else to pay attention, and no desire for that on my part. I simply can't organize myself by myself. Thanks Amazon!

Anyhow, consciousness is far too general as a target for study to be contained by any one discipline. Happily, Nicholas Humphrey skates about in several of them, but lands squarely on the science side of various philosophical divides. I find his overall conception of what distinguishes human consciousness from other sentient creatures to be compelling (I may be deploying the Buddhist usage for sentient here, in place of Humphrey's, which is more specific and restrictive).

I have swung back and forth myself from believing humans to be a special case (as Humphrey does) to believing that humans are delusional about the exceptionalism of what we call intelligence. When I have felt we are special, that has been first because of language, following on an exciting read of Julian Jaynes long ago, but more importantly because of art. Language is surely the sine-qua-non for humanity, and art our proudest production.

Nevermind if there is animal language and animal emotive feeling, there is almost certainly nothing like art beyond humanity here on earth. But what is art "like?" Philosophers and scientists of consciousness like to ask 'what is it like to be conscious.' As in, what is it like to be human. What is it like to be a bat?

We are so strangely poised, because of language, between the identity-free schooling of social species (birds and bees and fishes, right?) and the apex predation of eagles and prides of lions. Language makes us social on a very different level than we started with. But combined with our social context is a lust for recognition which defines the global economy now, even more than ever. We don't want to be part of a school or a flock or a cult. At least I don't.

The extremes of individualism are causing social fracture. Ironically enough, they may also be causing our seemingly increasing cultishiness. Religion gets discredited, and technical language gets inscrutable, and we have to put our faith - our energy, our exhuberance, our anxiety - into something.

My first reason, if there is a reason, for an interest in consciousness is that I believe that our misconceptions about what it is and isn't are a main reason for our social, societal, fractures. We need to fix those fractures if we wish to have a future. I mean, we are wrecking the planet, and I actually think we're doing so because we're living delusionally. We live as though the entire cosmos thinks that we are special.

So my next reason for an interest in consciousness is that there is a kind of consciousness which can change very fast and in a way that spreads equally fast. We used to talk about 'consciousness raising,' which is probably related to woke-ness, except that I think that what we used to mean by consciousness raising was a more cosmic awakening. Not the local political and justice-related awakening (important though that certainly is) but more of a seeing through of all the pandered belief structures by which we are held in thrall.

One can never be too rich or too thin, if you're from the Ivy League, but for sure one can never be too wealthy. And the things that the wealthy do with their wealth are decidedly not what has ever been meant by consciousness raising.

My own entry to consciousness studies was Chinese classical literature, which study I deliberately entered because I felt - no I sort-of knew - that the Chinese tradition must be the only qualified "other" to Western Civ, broadly conceived. Of course, there was also a heavy dose of random, as there always is.

Once I proved myself, ahem, correct in my choice, I lost interest in the actual discipline of it, which required, internal to its study, more discipline than even a monk might ever acquire. I wanted to sail. Literally. And I have. Anyhow, as exciting as the study of Chinese lit was - and it truly was exciting - my passions (were they ever really passions?) drew me elsewhere. 

At some point, while living aboard the first sailboat which I'd rebuilt, I combined my passing knowledge of the civilization-jarring reconceptualizations provided by relatively theory and then more recently (for me and for the world) quantum theory, from physics, with the equally jarring insights I'd gained from Chinese cosmology (for lack of a better word here). I did a bit of writing which changed my life. I mean that it happened during writing and in the writing, not that the writing was very good. 

And then I moved on.

The proof of how jarring the physics has been is in the scope and sale of the second world warring. In particular the ending of it. Leading up to that point were the incredibly bloody industrial and then the scientific revolutions. A very WEIRD Western thing. Both in the fighting and in the holding off from fighting, but also in all the technological spinoffs from war. Things do change when we're frantic.

The proof from China seems a bit more subtle. China continues to struggle with its own past, even as it echoes parts of that past even more than it appropriates our tradition. Like surveillance and censorship and the banishment of free-thinkers.

Random stands out as an ordering principle (oxymoron alert!) for physics, for I Ching (English spelling), and especially for evolution, which is Humphrey's concern in this book that I'm not quite actually reviewing.

Random is what human consciousness largely contests. And we're good at it, the contest. Surely consciousness must be our basis. Humphrey pretty adequately proves that consciousness carries evolutionary valence, even quite apart from our problem-solving which really couldn't have flourished until the question of its evolution was resolved. Consciousness seems to be the egg for Humphrey, and problem-solving the chicken. Hmmmm. Couldn't it be the other way around?

In my life, I'm good at only one thing anymore, which is trouble-shooting. Not invention, and certainly not academic scholarship, but fixing things. That's the intelligence I'm stuck with, because I'm not very good in my pursuit of any particular discipline or career. But I can trouble-shoot boats and cars and houses and computers and networks, and I'm pretty good at it. And I've gotten by.

I feel almost physically ill when I can't figure out some system. As happened recently with the electrics of my most recent (OK, it's only the second) decades-old sailboat. The 70's tech hadn't changed much from the 30's tech of the first one, but I never had to trouble-shoot the electricals on that one. I did resolve the trouble this time, and I feel better now, thanks.

Now in my trouble-shooting of consciousness theories, I find Humphrey's to be among the most sound. As in seaworthy! But he remains stuck in a few ways, I think. And I extend this stuckness to all sorts of things about the world which make me feel ill. Our political divides feel like fundamental disagreements about what it even means to be human. And so it seems like the problem of consciousness needs serious trouble-shooting. Even this one.

I even retain the hope that were we to have a better understanding of how humanity works down to that level, we might be able to survive ourselves; we seem pretty hard to survive as we are behaving right now. Wouldn't it be nice to get beyond toxic me-ism and the cultish worship of personality?

I think it would. But we have to get beyond the absurd notion that random is meaningless. For many people, meaningful coincidence is what God means. For many scientists, random is the process behind evolutionary change. And I am certainly not one who would challenge the facts about how random works. But it is interesting to me that computers only do pseudo-random, 

Anyhow, given how much of me is composed of random encounters - many with an uncanny resemblance to meaningful - I can't discount random events as totally random. Or rather I don't discount them, even as I accept that they strictly are mathematically and scientifically random. Wave/particle kind of duality here.

Humphrey remains stuck on the brain as the seat and locus for human consciousness, to which opposable thumbs, recognizeable faces, and vocal apparatuses are but appendages. That's trouble number one, for me. I see brain as being organized by body, and therefore appended thereto rather than body appended therefrom. Let's just say body and brain are of a piece, with body more responsible than mind to sort the random from the meaningful so as to present to the mind, as it were, a pre-sequenced proto-narrative that mind can work with.

I must say that I consider my mind to be spread far and wide; spread most certainly among the books I've read and the people I know and have known, but also among those things and places with which I've interacted. I have no memory at all, most of the time now, without its being prompted by its artifacts, in this case meaning not what I left behind, but what formed me in the first place. Artifacts of the future; all of them outside of me. The artifacts which we are hell-bent on destroying, even if we are a tiny bit more conservative about it than the Chinese are just now (for instance). 

The brain may organize and generalize all of my perceptions and conceptions, but I don't think that means that the brain in any way holds them. The brain extends throughout the body by way of much more than feedback loops, just as the overall self extends well beyond the body-boundary of our skin.

As sick as I am about how se humans are collectively behaving just now, I also feel sick about the bees, until I learn that the very human reaction to shepherd more honeybee hives is killing more pollinators than it rescues. That's how well our evolved media helps us to understand what's going on. So I withhold judgement just a bit when Bill Gates, who believes his mind is his brain which is a CPU, denounces planting trees as idiotic.

Because honeybees are husbanded creatures, under the control of industrial-scale farming, and most pollinators aren't, the honeybess aren't what needs saving. It's like we're solving problems with inhumane pig farming by raising more pigs. Um, something like that. I suppose Pulitzer was no better on paper than the Googles are now with the web.

Yes, sure, I am losing my mind. For the very best of reasons, which is that I've lived so long. But I do find the equation between the brain and mind to be an almost entirely Western conceit. It's an analytical conclusion that we can't seem to escape. This is related to our certainty that random means meaningless. And so we can't really conceive of evolution, for instance, as but a roll of dice. And it certainly is that for any given individual creature, but something still takes shape which endures.

Brain as mind is of a piece with God as teacher and it's time we moved beyond both misconceptions. If we don't, we'll never find a personal locus; the way we conceptualize it now is blasted physical impossibility. Not just God, but the self as existing in the brain as physical medium for mind. Dennett is quite right that the self is an illusion. I can't always find where Humphrey would disagree.

But it's a kind of real illusion, not unlike - I mean philosophically now, and not as an equation - the real illusion of God.

Now I'm sure you know that those Chinese sure do love to gamble. It may descend from throwing yarrow stalk readings of reality beyond the mind; what the I Ching is about. We all do know in our heart of hearts that hitting the jackpot is always by way of lady luck and almost never by way of merit. But we'll claim merit when we can, and especially when it's sanctioned. We pray when we're desperate, or we throw dice, or pull yarrow sticks. We keep the winnings because that's how capitalism thrives.

It could be that it strikes me that Humphrey's "attractor" in the brain, his "ipsundrum," upon which his theory of phenomenal consciousness depends, is also abroad in the world; that we have innered something already out there. My candidate for what gets innered would be whatever it is that drives evolution "forward," or rather attracts it so. A thickening of time, as he calls it.

We seem shy to confess that we, and even each of us individually, are cosmic wonders well beyond whatever we might discover in the vast wastelands of "outer space." Shy to confess that accidents which tend toward a complexity that cannot be likened to physical entropy aren't the same as accidents which might disorder and destroy.

Mind is microcosm and not some ex-nihilo production from some original creator.

Now I know that there is likely no scientific program which can pursue this line of thinking. And I hardly wish to undermine anyone's livelihood. Well, except for those who lie and cheat their way to the top, claiming credit not just for their fortune, but for the complicity of the rest of us.

Once upon a time, we did think that the mind could be imitated by a machine, so enamored were we with our machines. And now we think we've finally done it, by way of silicon-based logic engines. 

And I say nope, the brain may be a good imitation of a machine, but it's a lot more like the innering of a cosmic process which still does and likely always shall exceed our grasp. Else what's a meta for?

HaHa. Chinese poetry isn't so centered around metaphor.

. . . in that we are more alike than different from all that lives. But confessing that we cannot order the natural world better than it orders itself would make the finest form for progress, don't you think? There is a boundary beyond the skin - the body surface, in the words of this book - which can be our rightful limit. That proper limit is defined by way of clothing and housing and even communication. By means of tools. 

But don't you think, also, that our ordering goes too far when it wishes to take over from the natural order? I sure do.

Consciousness was never invented. But it's trivial to destroy. 

Well, I'm picking nits. Which is a very social behavior. But I do think that understanding consciousness is critical now, because if we get it right we might be motivated to stop doing so many bad things to that natural order which is also our order. If only we knew how we know. We'd know that the sophomoric division between nature and artifice is, well, artificial. We have never been apart from our ends.

Anyhow, it seems useful to imagine what post-human might look like. I sure don't wish to imagine the kind of techno trans-humanism to which so many libertarian tech-enthusiast youngsters devote themselves, though I have no real objection to their fantasies. The fantasies of the young are always fascinating.

I imagine us ever-evolving in the same direction that all life evolves. Which is in the direction of love. I am confident because I know that time's very direction is the direction of love. Time has no physical direction. But I've used up my words.

Not all of life's difficulties can be addressed by technology. And technology can't control the flow of evolution. I imagine humanity as more loving in our future. It's inevitable!