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{Wednesday, October 22, 2003}

residual beads succeed the 'killing' of the lead

The Bread-and-Butterfly
Through the Looking Glass


"Hm?" says I.
Gregory Bateson: "A great addition to the Theory of Evolution - which theory Lewis Carroll I guess didn't like. The Bread-and-Butterfly has wings of bread and butter and a head made of a lump of sugar. Alice says, 'What does it live on?' The answer is, 'Weak tea with cream in it.' At this point she begins to perceive a difficulty: its head will dissolve in its food. So she says, 'What happens if it can't get any?' And the Gnat, who's acting as guide, says, 'It dies.' Alice says, 'That must happen rather often.' The Gnat says, 'It always happens.'
I think this was intended, you know, as a caricature of Darwinism, and it's not a bad caricature of Natural Selection, except that it adds an entirely new principle to the whole evolutionary process, which is in a word the principle of the Double Bind. The Bread-and-Butterfly does not die because its head dissolves in tea; it does not die because it can't get food; it dies because either its head dissolves in tea or it can't get food. You can't localize the cause of death."
Stewart Brand: "If paradox is the structure of the Double Bind, what drives it? Control?"
Gregory sighs. "At the first level, control, yes. To want control is the pathology, not that the person gets control because of course you never do."
II Cybernetic Frontiers - Random House/Bookworks, 1974, pages 15-16

Global Vision : Gregory Bateson : The Pattern That Connects
"Observing that the Earth's biosphere (including Humankind) is a self-organising system, Bateson remarked that "no part of (such a) cybernetic system can have unilateral control over the whole or any other part." This cybernetic law holds true not just for human attempts to control nature, but also for individuals, social groups, organisations, corporations and governments which - for whatever reason - would like to change the behaviour of others."
Michael O'Callaghan

The Creative Eye

"To know where the other person makes a mistake is of little value. It only becomes interesting when you know where you make the mistake, for then you can do something about it. What we can improve in others is of doubtful utility as a rule, if, indeed, it has any effect at all."
Carl Jung

On Fundamentalism
"But man seeks to bow down before that which is indisputable, so indisputable that all men at once would agree to the universal worship of it. For the care of these pitiful creatures is not just to find something before which I or some other man can bow down, but to find something that everyone else will also believe in and bow down to, for it must needs be all together. And this need for communality of worship is the chief torment of each man individually, and of mankind as a whole, from the beginning of the ages. In the cause of universal worship, they have destroyed each other with the sword. They have made gods and called upon each other: 'Abandon your gods and come and worship ours, otherwise death to you and your gods!' And so it will be until the end of the world, even when all gods have disappeared from the earth: they will still fall down before idols."
Fyodor Dostoyevsky

The Primordial Light: The Ecstatics' Quest

"In the dictionary of non-violent action, there is no such thing as an 'external enemy'."
M. K. Gandhi

Tunisian Intellectual Al-Afif Al-Akhdar On the Arab Identity Crisis and Education
Why Do Other People Love Life While We Love Death?
"Why is it that our countries are among the wealthiest in natural resources� and the poorest in human resources? Why does the world's human knowledge double every three years� while with us, what multiplies several times over is illiteracy, ideological fear, and mental paralysis? Why do expressions of tolerance, moderation, rationalism, compromise, and negotiation horrify us, but [when we hear] fervent cries for vengeance, we all dance the war dance? Why have the people of the world managed to mourn their pasts and move on, while we have established, hard and fast, our gloomy bereavement over a past that does not pass? Why do other people love life, while we love death and violence, slaughter and suicide, and [even] call it heroism and martyrdom�?"
The Sources of the Arab Identity Crisis
"[The answer] to many of [these questions] lies in a contrast-ridden and explosive mixture of a collective narcissistic wound and religious narcissism that has caused us collective mental paralysis� In the head of almost every one of us [Arabs] is something of Dr. Jekyll and something of Mr. Hyde: a mind simultaneously demented and wretched.
"An [historic] narcissistic wound is a frustration that makes its victim despise himself, a blow that makes [the victim] see himself as nothing� It is symbolic castration that causes a crushing sense of shame and inferiority, and in our case, a constant [sense] of this� The Arabs experienced their defeats by European imperialism and Israel on both the conscious level and the collective subconscious level� as a national humiliation whose shame can be purged only by 'blood, vengeance, and fire,' as the Arab national motto [states].
"Collective religious narcissism is distorted thought that leads the believer in a miracle-based religion [i.e. the monotheistic religions] to think that his nation is 'the best nation created for human beings'� that Allah designated it to guide and lead humanity. How then is it possible that such a nation would imitate [other human beings] and learn from them�?

Mind over Mullah
Jihad in Islam: Preemptive or Defensive?
The Nobel Peace Prize 2003 - Shirin Ebadi
Universal Islamic Declaration of Human Rights
Why Do Arabs Hate The West, Especially The U.S.? by Zuheir Abdullah
'Why Do People Hate America' by Ziauddin Sardar and Merryl Wyn Davies

"Never hate your enemies. It affects your judgment."
Michael Corleone - The Godfather Part III

America and the War by Tony Judt
from The New York Review of Books, 15 November 2001
"America is solidly organized egoism, it is evil made systematic and regular." Osama bin Laden? No, Pierre Buchez, a French socialist writing in the 1840s. Anti-Americanism goes back a long way. It was not born of American global domination -- when Edmond de Goncourt wanted to express his horror at Baron Haussmann's new Paris he observed that "it makes me think of some American Babylon of the future."
"Our brothers who fought in Somalia saw wonders about the weakness, feebleness, and cowardliness of the US soldier.... We believe that we are men, Muslim men who must have the honour of defending [Mecca]. We do not want American women soldiers defending [it].... The rulers in that region have been deprived of their manhood. And they think that the people are women. By God, Muslim women refuse to be defended by these American and Jewish prostitutes."
Osama bin Laden, December 1998, from an interview with al-Jazeera television

Interactive Essays: Akbar Ahmed: Islam on a Collision Course
[...] Why is it that Islam now appears to be clashing with so many neighbouring civilisations? Perhaps because we are entering into what I call a "post-honour" world. I think that the dangerously ambiguous notion of honour - and the even more dangerous idea of the loss of honour - propels men to violence. Simply put, global developments have robbed many people of honour. Rapid global changes are shaking the structures of traditional societies. Groups are forced to dislocate, or live nearby other groups. In the process of dislocation they have little patience with the problems of others. They develop intolerance and express it through anger. And this is not a problem unique to Islamic countries. No society is immune. Even those states that economists call "developed" fall back to the notions of honour and revenge in times of crisis ..."

Context: Reading Culture: Curtis White - Our 'Pure War' with Islam
[...] Our commitment to technological rationality as "progress" is in reality a commitment to the techno/military as fate. Coming to consciousness about these matters isn't an uncommon thing; in fact, it's so common and banal that we hardly recognize it for what it is.
[...] Virilio does offer an alternative and a way of confronting the present madness, but it is a strategy of resistance that is addressed not only to the Taliban but also to our own techno-military state. What he offers is this: a pacifism that works religiously in that it returns us to our "identity as mortal beings."

[Update] Who is afraid of Disneyfication? A response to Sonja Hegasy
In spring 2003, Sonja Hegasy argued in openDemocracy that Arab intellectuals' evasion of the challenge of globalisation was central to the Arab world's culture of victimhood. Here, Mona Abaza ... responds that the seizure of Enlightenment values by an American-led imperial project undermines the search for an equal relationship between east and west.

Fear and loathing: Arab cultures need a strategy of resistance - Sonja Hegasy
Concerned by the Arab world�s culture of victimhood, a German Arabist issues a vigorous challenge to the prevailing sentiment of 'anti-globalism' among the Arab intelligentsia, typified by the prominent Egyptian intellectual Sherif Hetata.

Viewpoint: Islam and modernity
The question is not whether Muslims need to modernise, or how much they can learn from the West so much as whether we all need to find new, less confrontational ways towards progress."
Arzu Merali

Wired 10.01: In Gold We Trust - Julian Dibbell
"[...] The international gold standard was one of the technical wonders of the highly globalized late-Victorian era - a sophisticated, elegant mechanism for transmitting value from one end of the civilized world to the other. National monies existed, of course, but in effect were just local network protocols running on top of the internetwork layer that connected them all. Or as the Nobel Prize-winning economist Robert Mundell has put it, "Currencies were just names for particular weights of gold." The dollar, for instance, was fixed by statute at 23.22 grains (about one-twentieth of an ounce), the pound sterling at 113.0016 grains, and so on. Local payments were made in local units, but all cross-border deals ultimately were settled through international bank-to-bank shipments of the universal currency - bullion.
[...] It's a hot high noon in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Faint, muggy breezes are blowing in off the Persian Gulf; and in the shopping malls, Mercedes dealerships, and air-conditioned Starbucks of this deliriously prosperous city-state, loudspeakers are discreetly broadcasting the muezzins' call to prayer.
The call can also be heard, if you listen hard enough, inside a 12-foot-square, steel-and-concrete-walled storage vault located in Dubai International Airport's heavily guarded cargo-holding facilities. But if you're inside the vault, your mind is probably on other things. Like, for instance, the $7.5 million worth of precious metal piled up around you: five flat bars of chrome-bright palladium; two large plastic jars full of powdery platinum sponge; 160 fat, tarnished loaves of silver; and - on a single shelf, laid out one next to the other like babies in a maternity ward - 58 slender, radiant bricks of 99.9 percent pure gold, about 400 troy ounces each and altogether worth more than $6.5 million.
These assets represent nearly half of the e-gold system's physical reserves, and there are, arguably, sound business reasons for storing them in this part of the world. Dubai, sometimes called the Switzerland of the Middle East, offers the financial sophistication of a major commercial hub, the low overhead of a mostly immigrant labor pool, and the high security of a politely authoritarian mini-monarchy.
But the truth is, the gold is here because Allah commanded it. Or at any rate, because the passionate believers behind e-dinar - the network's Muslim-friendly frontend - believe He did."

The Schumpeterian Gap and Muslim Economic Thought
by Ameer Ali and Herb Thompson
"At present, entire economies are organised, more or less, on Islamic principles. Islam is explicitly concerned with material life and provides numerous guidelines for the conduct of economic affairs for millions of people. While it is not the aim of this paper to examine the methodological or epistemological content of these principles, we argue that, at the very least, the history of economic thought should incorporate the work of Arab/Islamic thinkers.
The material foundation of Islam cannot be understood by students of a discipline which continues to promote a positivist, Cartesian, mathematical formalism, at the expense of understanding its contextual origins. The economies in which hundreds of millions of people live, work and produce, are being guided, for better or worse, by the epistemological premises of Islam. Until these premises are comprehended, and then critically evaluated, economists educated in the industrial west continue to marginalise themselves and their students in a manner which is no longer excusable."

Come the revolution - Interview with Abdolkarim Soroush
New Scientist: Only in a few countries could a philosopher of science be seen as an enemy of the state. Abdolkarim Soroush, one of Iran's best-known intellectuals, argues that science cannot progress under totalitarian regimes. His greatest "crime" is to suggest that this is a legitimate Islamic view.

Islam - Bearing witness to the Truth - Curious Minds
Mahathir calls for peaceful Islam

Revealed Libertarianism
Minaret of Freedom tries to square the Quran with the free market. A Reason interview
[...] Wahhabism tends to get blamed for the worst excesses of Islamism today. Is that a fair assessment?
Imad A. Ahmad: "I think it's an oversimplification, but it's an understandable one, because there's one sense in which it's true. The Wahhabis have used their oil money to influence if not dominate the Islamic movement around the world. That effort has been very harmful, and has supported the most reactionary elements in the struggle to map out a direction for the Islamist movement. They very much hurt the need for a revival of original thinking in Islam by imposing their own form of taqlid, or blind imitation. It's ironic that the Wahhabi movement was founded by a man opposed to the blind imitation that had taken over the Muslim world. But as soon as he had laid out his own ideas, his followers tried to impose them by a process of blind imitation."

Re: Darwin and Lamarck - Ton Maas
"The main intellectual manoeuvre Bateson has undertaken in his book "Mind & Nature: A Necessary Unity", is to draw a formal parallel between the process of natural evolution and the process of learning. He does, however, emphasize at least one fundamental difference between the two ..."

Oedipus Rem - Rem Koolhaas's IIT McCormick Tribune Student Center
"Mies is about reduction and subtraction, Koolhaas about addition and multiplication. A Mies building is like a Bach cantata, perfect and crystalline. A Koolhaas building is like a Mahler symphony, an attempt to capture the complexity of the world in a single work."
Lynn Becker - from the Chicago Reader, September 26, 2003

Why Peace Isn't Covered: An Interview With Sam Keen (1991)
"There will always be conflicts between persons and nations, but no gene condemns us to dehumanize or destroy those with whom we differ."
Sam Keen - Faces of the Enemy: Reflections of the Hostile Imagination

"Imagine the vanity of thinking your enemy can do you more harm than your enmity."

The Origins of Evil by Michael Maciel
[...] "To understand the origins of evil, we must first understand the origin of the ego. If evil is a matter of perspective, then the ego creates it, because the ego is what makes perspective possible. Without going too far into it, we might say that ego is what happens when Being intersects with matter. It is a virtual self having only an apparent existence, like the image we see in a mirror. The ego wants to cohere the images it perceives into a meaningful picture, and then protect that picture for the sake of its own identity (it tends to identify with what it sees). Like a living cell, the ego forms a "membrane" around its set of perceptions and meanings, warding off anything that doesn't fit and searching endlessly for things that do. This "membrane" distinguishes the ego as separate from the whole, which, of course, prevents us from seeing the world as it actually is. Nearly every spiritual discipline begins and ends with the attempt to dissolve this membrane, or at least render it transparent, so that we can glimpse, perhaps for the first time, reality. When we do, everything appears as it is - infinite ..."

To Infinity and Beyond - by Margaret Wertheim
"As early as the ninth century, the Islamic mathematician Thabit ibn Qurra pointed out the paradoxes lurking within infinity, which unlike any other number can be split into multiple parts, each in itself as large as the whole."

Magical numbers in nature
Mathematician Ian Stewart talks to Nature Science Update about snowflakes, sticklebacks and a new kind of science.
[...] Do biologists, with their focus on detail, neglect general mathematical explanations?
"I think they do. Historically they were right to. Before genetics, the kind of mathematical descriptions that I like, such as Alan Turing's models of spots and stripes, were in favour with biologists. They looked at the organisms, and the patterns, and made guesses about the general principles.
But that doesn't have much predictive power. Current mathematical models don't correspond very closely to genetics and biochemistry. When biologists began to look at DNA and protein structure it opened up a different way of thinking. Unfortunately, biology went so overboard for molecular descriptions that it lost sight of other things.
Now biologists are starting to put it all together again, which is very encouraging. Many people working in DNA sequencing say that to understand how proteins fold [& climb], we need a lot of maths. A sequence alone doesn't tell us anything about the geometry of a protein, which is the important thing.
There are other areas of biology where it's beginning to dawn on people that the same thing needs to be done. Development is full of things where the dynamics of growth matters. Understanding the genetics will give you some information, but there are mathematical constraints on how it will happen.

Robert and Ellen Kaplan: Extreme Maths: The Art of the Infinite
"Calculus, that wonderful invention of Newton (and independently, of the German diplomat, philosopher, and mathematician, Gottfried Leibniz), comes to grips with change as Seurat and the Impressionists did, by reducing reality to flickering points, and then rebuilding the world more profoundly."

Notes from G o T o 0 - Nik Gaffney
"... When bricks become pixels, the tectonics of architecture becomes informational. Worlds are portals. Woven through the worlds are several webs of non linear narrative."

Relationships: Point and Line
Point. It is the most rudimentary element of design. It may or may not derive from something seen in nature, although nature does embellish many of its forms with this device: bird feathers, sea shells, flowers, and fish. A point could arouse a certain fascination on its own, especially when viewed very closely. Yet it is too small for sustained esthetic interest. It is almost always seen in combination with other elements, with other points, lines, and shapes. Like a single note in a musical composition, the point is only one of a group or a series, of a chord or a melody -- important because of its place, its position, mainly. As Stravinsky says in Conversations with Igor Stravinsky: "The individual note determines the form only as part of the group or order."
Calvin Harlan - Vision & Invention: An Introduction to Art Fundamentals
(Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1986, page 21)

Pixelvision: A Meditation by Andrew Zolli / for Core77
"Though it may seem like a more recent creation, the pixel first appeared in New Jersey in 1954, the same year that Elvis cut his first record and the transistor radio was invented. At Princeton's Institute for Advanced Study, mathematicians and engineers created the first computer graphic -- and the first instance of digital typography -- on a computer the size of a Manhattan apartment.
The Princetonian pixels were as primitive as one could imagine -- literally the glowing filaments of the machine's vacuum memory registers -- but they marked the beginning of a sea-change in how we represent and see the world."

Points (Lucretian Codes)
"One cannot perceive points and atoms. One only perceives their blend, shapes and shades (simulacra). [...] Collage is a fascination with detachable elements. At the same time it works with elements of larger scale than atoms. It combines simulacra. And if the world is the context of particular elements and recontextualisation means the changing of a world, then collage is the pluralisation of worlds. Furthermore, since the elements which it uses are themselves certain contexts, collage means the putting of worlds into worlds. Collage is therefore the true Leibnizian art (and James Joyce is the true Leibnizian writer), going beyond Leibniz in that it explores the plurality of possible worlds."
Ondrej Galuska

Evolution and the Medium
"Evolution is a process that explores the possibilities inherent in the medium in which it is embedded. Evolving populations of replicators constantly explore variations around their current forms, without the limitations of preconceptions. When embedded in the medium of carbon chemistry, evolution "sees" the physics of the natural material universe: the laws of chemistry, such as that carbon forms four single bonds in a tetrahedral configuration; the laws of thermodynamics, such as that entropy spontaneously increases, etc.
However, when embedded in the medium of digital computation, evolution "sees" a completely different universe with different laws. There are no laws of thermodynamics. There is no material on which to base a chemistry. It is a logical informational universe rather than a material universe. The "physics" that evolution experiences when embedded in the computer consists of the logic implemented by the processor, the unique non-Euclidean topology of the memory space, the rules for resource allocation embedded in the operating system, time based on the CPU clock cycle, etc.
[...] The topology of a space can be understood in part by examining the distance relationships between sets of points. In computer memory space, there is no meaningful concept of linear distance. The most appropriate analog of distance is the time that it takes to move information between points. Thus time becomes the metric for distance in memory space."
Thomas S. Ray

Re-embodied Intelligence Within Recombinant Poetic Networks
"Computer-mediated networks present an artistic medium that heightens the potential for an intermingling of the knowledge of the viewer with the "Re-embodied intelligence" of an author or authors. We will consider "networks" in an all inclusive manner, from the scale of a network of poetic elements housed within a single computer, to that of the distributed housing of the World Wide Web. Such computer-mediated environments can potentially facilitate new forms of inter-authorship ..."
Bill Seaman

posted by Andrew 10/22/2003 05:59:00 PM