Friday, December 31, 2010

What I Wish I Could Resolve To Do

The year is almost over, and the time for resolutions is here.

I never make any.

The things I need are outside of my ability to achieve exclusively on my own.

I would love to resolve that I will have a job that pays more and makes use of my degrees, but that's entirely dependent upon someone else chosing to hire me. Once I've sent out of C.V.'s, there's not much else I can do other than follow up.

I would love to resolve that I will have more money. That will only come about if I get a new (or another) job. Or if money were to just suddenly appear. Anyone who would like to make money just appear for me, please let me know. :-) I promise to use it to pay off bills. Seriously. That's my big dream with extra money. To pay off bills.

I would love to have some plays performed. I can send them out, but it's entirely up to the producers/directors at the play houses to accept it for production. It would perhaps make a difference if I could attend more plays locally, as that would help me to develop relationships with those playhouses. Unfortunately, with my working 3rd shift, I have a hard time getting to any plays. Also, I don't have any money.

I would also love to resolve to spend more time with my wife, but that is dependent too upon getting another job, so our schedules can match.

About the only things that are entirely within my control, I have little doubt that I will do: write. In that case I would resolve to do what I do. Perhaps I should try to write more plays and scholarly articles. Certainly I should try to send more things out. I've been getting better at sending things out, but I need to do even better.

Monday, December 27, 2010

New York City (Here We Come?)

My wife and I would love to move to New York City (or very, very close nearby). We are finished with Dallas. It is time to move on. I visited NYC and loved it. I felt like I was finally home. I want to move there. It is time to move on.

Of course, my wife and I need jobs. She has a Bachelor's degree in psychology and a Master's in organizational development. She has worked as a social worker and, most recently, as a Spanish/bilingual elementary school teacher (she has taught preK, K, and 1st). I have a Bachelor's in recombinant gene technology, M.A. in English, and Ph.D. in humanities. I wrote plays, poems, and fiction, as well as scholarly work applying Austrian economics to literary production, neuro-Hayekianism, and (upcoming) spatial economics. I have taught college English composition and literature in a charter school, and I am currently working at a hotel at the front desk (I would obviously like to do something else, but I do have this experience). If anyone knows of anything in the area either of us could do, we would appreciate it.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

It's You

You wail and gnash your teeth and say the world
Is lacking love -- but are you showing love?

Lament, lament the loss of love the world
Once had for truth -- but do you seek the truth?

You would deprive yourself if but the world
Would embrace virtue -- are you virtuous?

You fill the world with your complaints the world
Is lacking beauty -- but are you beautiful?

You chastise, finger raised, all of the world
For its ingratitude --are you thankful?

You wail and gnash your teeth, lament, deprive,
Complain and chastise -- yes, the world's like you.

Enjoy and love and seek and celebrate
And then the world will seek its joy in you.

Merry Christmas!!!

Merry Christmas to all my family, friends, and readers.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Strings, you, and the universe

"The eternal hourglass of existence is turned upside down again and again, and you with it,speck of dust". -- Nietzsche

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

On the Winter Solstice Lunar Eclipse -- A Poem

Orion watches Luna's face grow dark
And dark, and finally turn copper-red.
The Earth has cast her shadow on her. Mark
The longest night when Luna hid her head,
Apparently enraged at something in
The stars. To frighten her, Orion shoots
An aster arrow. Will she now begin
To show her face? What darkness dares, pollutes
Her joy? Why does the Earth deprive her of
The Sun who loves to shine his light upon
His love? I stand upon the Earth. Above
The moon begins to lighten. Will the dawn
Arrive before the dawn? I stand alone
My mind creating truth from facts well known.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Ethics to/and Politics

We get the word "political" from the Greek word "polis," meaning "city." Politics thus originally dealt with the relations people should have with each other in order to live among a large number of strangers. Certainly, if this is what politics is about, then the nature of ethics must be raised. This suggests that ethics and politics are in fact deeply intertwined and cannot be so easily separated. One's ethics affect one's politics, and vice versa. Or, at least, one can learn much about another's ethics by understanding their politics, and vice versa.

1. Is and Ought -- The Fallacy of the Naturalistic Fallacy

Whatever is natural is not necessarily good. Beginning with this statement, people derive the naturalistic fallacy. However, if the naturalistic fallacy is true, then how does one derive ethics from an evolutionary model? There has to be an "is" or a set of what is from which ethics emerges if humans evolved. Thus, one has to address what it means to be human.

First, humans are a social species of ape. This in fact gives us a wide range of social structures: chimpanzees with their male-dominated political hierarchies, bonobos with their somewhat female-dominated make love not war heterarchies, gorillas with their male-dominated harems, and orangutans with their isolated living. And where do humans fit into all of this? We seem to fall somewhere between chimpanzees and bonobos, leaning a bit toward the chimpanzees. At the same time, the degree to which we do lean toward bonobo behavior is the degree to which we have developed human ethical behavior (one could argue that our politics more resembles chimpanzee politics). Bonobos treat each other more equally; chimpanzees have clear hierarchies which are, nevertheless, changeable through power struggles.

And what of humans? Well, at the tribal level, it seems that ethics and politics are practically inseparable. There is a great deal of equitable treatment at the tribal level. Of course, at the same time, other tribes are considered mortal enemies who should probably be killed on sight. However, humans share with chimpanzees the tendency of young females to immigrate to other groups. Among chimpanzees, that is that, and the female is now a member of that other troop, and an enemy. However, among humans,familial ties are not broken, and thus friendly relations are established with the local tribes to which one's daughters have gone. This is reinforced through trade -- something we see at a very high level of development in bonobos as well. A consequence is the spread of ethical behavior.

Of course, I still haven't said what ethical behavior is. Ethical behavior involves treating non-family as we would treat our families. When it comes to our families, we do not murder them, steal from them, rape them, or lie to benefit ourselves at their expense (the true meaning of "bear false witness"). Each of these things breaks our bonds with them -- and as a social mammal, we have to have strong social bonds. A human by himself on the savanna is as good as dead. Man cooperates to hunt and find food, to protect himself, and to raise offspring. This is an evolved strategy very common among mammals. Indeed, social behavior is more common than are isolated individuals. Various behaviors are quite common to mammals for this very reason: grooming/touch is very important to well-being, and induces the production of stress-reduction hormones; rituals to avoid harmful conflict to resolve territorial disputes and mating rights; cooperation to find food, which then includes sharing of food. We see all of these in humans, developed into a wide range of behaviors. Human ethical behavior thus encompasses all of these, and can result in a wide variety of behaviors that one would call ethical.

I have discussed the issue of murder and capital punishment before, and while I happen to think that we should not have capital punishment for a variety of reasons, at the same time, I cannot agree with those who argue that it is "murder," for the very reasons given in my previous post. We should have a discussion regarding the legitimacy of the ritual, the fact that the presence of the death penalty creates a culture of death, which is unhealthy for society (and unethical, as it break social bonds), and one can even, if you want to get purely practical about it, talk about how it does not deter anyone from doing anything, and that it costs more. There is nothing to recommend it other than as revenge, being handed out by the state. And while revenge makes for good theater and opera, it doesn't make for good ethics. Indeed, note that most revenge stories are in fact revenge tragedies.

Humans are full of evolved behaviors, all of which are designed to ensure our survival as a social ape on the African savanna. However, as our population grew, and we came into more and more contact with strangers, some of those behaviors became better used in such a social situation, while others were better discarded. Collectivist notions, such as tribalism, racism, nationalism, and, more and more, statism, have had to fall by the wayside precisely because they made us judge people as other than individuals, which weakened our social bonds with them. At the same time, one could argue that the strong bonds of those groups we used to belong to have weakened greatly. Indeed, that has happened to some extent. But which would you prefer: a set of really close-knit group of racists who really like each other within the group and know each other very well, or a society of relatively unknown individuals who don't care what race, religion, etc. you are and thus believe in live and let live? It is the latter which allows us to live together in cities, nations, and globally. Consider how amazing it is that practically anyone from anyplace can travel anywhere in relative safety (or at least no more danger than the locals). This is precisely because of our evolving ethics. We are a social species that extends to everyone the gift of being "in our tribe." It comes about because we can trust strangers, and that trust coincidentally, comes about through trade. If we thus go back, we can see how there has been a ratcheting up of mankind throughout history: women marrying outside the tribe gave rise to friendlier relations with other tribes, strengthened through trading, which helped create even more trust, which resulted in yet more trading, and more trust, and further expansion of who is "in our tribe." Over time, this resulted in the creation of cities. And then something interesting happened.

Humans started acting more like chimpanzees than bonobos. More hierarchical forms of government formed as certain people learned they could take advantage of the city's citizens, threatening to use force if the citizens did not allow them to protect them. This behavior is much like that of dominant male chimpanzees, who form gangs who terrorize the group into submission, threaten the weak, and go on hunting expeditions and raids. The majority of chimpanzees may not be in the gang, but the violence and threat of violence from the gang keeps the rest in line (unless a new coalition forms to overthrow the lead chimpanzee). If this sounds like how most governments act and have acted, well, it is because humans are just naked, bipedal chimpanzees. With the rise of cities, the social conditions were such that more chimpanzee-like rather than bonobo-like behavior could come to dominate. However, as social complexity increased and more and more people came into contact with more and more people (and ideas), such behavior becomes less and less adaptive. In the end, for a species which is social like humans are social, chimpanzee behavior is sociopathic. Such behaviors break social bonds for personal gain. This is the very definition of sociopathic behavior. Sociopathic behavior is thus unethical -- and it is unethical regardless of stated intentions.

2. Intentions, means, and ends.

There is a great deal of confusion in ethics because too many people think that good intentions are good enough. However, Adam Smith showed that one does not even have to have good intentions, be civic-minded, or care one whit about anyone other than oneself in order to behave in such a way that one is behaving ethically, contributing to society, creating social bonds, and creating wealth to improve everyone's lives. So in a sense, good intentions may not even be necessary to have a good society. Worse, good intentions combined with bad means can be (and has proven to be in practically every case) destructive. Further, there are unintended consequences. One may intend to help the poor, but act to keep them impoverished. One may intend to grow rich, not caring about anyone else, but act to improve others lives by providing a service or product they want and which makes their lives better. Of course, even in this case, one has to have a certain idea of strengthening -- or, at least, not weakening -- social bonds in order to grow wealthy. One person may certainly grow wealthy by providing a good others want, yet another may grow wealthy by threatening to take away one good unless another is given up (your money or you life, for example).

In "Human Action," Mises argues that praxeology is interested only in human action, in what means one must undertake if you are going to reach your goal. Thus, it has nothing to do with ethics per se. One does not judge the value of the goal to understand the best way to achieve the goal. While this understanding may itself have nothing to do with ethics per se, avoiding as it does any kind of judgment regarding the goals -- it is not entirely divorced from morality. Consider the fact that praxeology tries to understand what actions are good for achieving a certain goal. Note that "good" and "bad" have to come into play here. One way to achieve the goal is good, another is bad. The first is good because one will actually be able to achieve the goal in question; the second is bad because one will not actually be able to achieve the goal in question.

What, then, of the goal? Well, the goal too involves good and bad (and evil too, perhaps, as I have explained in a different context). But good and bad for what? A sociopath's goals are all good -- for him. But they are likely to be bad for everyone else. For one's goal to be ethical, then, it has to be good for the maintenance of social bonds, and not just for oneself (though it can be both). As we have seen, though, this changes depending on whether you live in a tribe, an ancient city-state, an empire, are a member of a particular religion (which extends bonds to many unknown others, but at the expense of keeping out others who may be either known or unknown -- consider Medieval Europe where a Christian stranger would be treated better than a Jewish neighbor), live in a nation-state, or consider oneself a global citizen. A person who creates a business (benefiting himself and others) is ethical; a person who gives money away (benefiting others at none his own expense) is ethical; a person who steals from Peter to give to Paul (benefiting one at the expense of another) is unethical. Note, then, that one can be ethical while depriving oneself, but not if one deprives others, as the latter weakens or breaks social bonds. Whatever else one's goals may be, they cannot be ethical if they weaken of break social bonds. If social bonds are weakened or destroyed, then no matter what your intentions, your actions are unethical. To be ethical, then, one's means have to align with one's ends. We seem to have forgotten what the road to Hell is paved with.

3. Nonzerosumness

Another way to understand ethics is through the kinds of games one's behaviors can be defined as. There are zero sum games, positive sum games, and negative sum games. In a zero sum game, you have someone who wins as much as another loses. This is the nature of certain kinds of sport competitions. In a baseball game, one team wins, another loses. The team that wins probably feels as good as the team that loses feels bad, and the same is probably true of the fans. Zero sum all around. (This is of course a simplification, as it is really a positive sum game, since everyone enjoyed watching the game while it was being played, thus improving everyone who loves baseball's lives for being played.)

My last parenthetical actually points to the reality of the world. I suspect that in reality there is no such thing as a truly zero sum game. There are either positive sum or negative sum games. In a positive sum game, if I do well, you do well. That is an ethical interaction. That is the nature of all voluntary trade. Economic transactions are all positive sum games. Even a conversation, where both people benefit, could thus be seen as an ethical transaction. Social bonds are strengthened in a positive sum game. Yet, the opposite is true in negative sum games. In a negative sum game, there is a net loss. If I rob you, this is not a zero sum game (I win and you lose the same amount of money); it is a negative sum game, because by robbing you, I am making you less trustful, more wary of others -- thus weakening social bonds. You will likely change your behaviors, perhaps spend money on things to prevent getting robbed, etc. There is a net loss. Certainly this doesn't address other arguments one can make against robbery (or murder, rape, etc.) -- but it is something we should consider. Especially as it has everything to do with my conclusions.

4. Cosmic Ethics

The tendency of the universe is toward ever-greater complexity. Energy become simple atoms, which become complex atoms, which become molecules, which become chemical cycles, which become living organisms, which evolve complex behaviors through the evolution of complex neural networks, which includes the human brain/mind and our social structures. Humans too have evolved ever-greater complexity of social organization. We increasingly move into cities, which become increasingly complex.

In our behaviors, are we contributing to this inherent tendency of the universe to create ever-greater complexity, or are we working against it? This of course opens up all kinds of questions. If there is a murderer, one has to ensure the murderer does not commit any (more) murders, as his actions reduce the complexity of the world. While one may argue that the state killing him through capital punishment in fact reduces the world's complexity, since they could just lock him up, one can certainly also argue that if the police officer trying to arrest him has to kill the murderer, the police officer has not acted unethically (naturally, the police officer would have to believe his own life to be in danger to legitimately kill the murderer in question). Further, how does this relate to any number of behaviors we might engage in? And what about political action?

Certainly we should be able to see the role of nonzerosumness in this equation. The more connections a network has, the more complex the network. Under positive sum conditions, more connections are made in a network. This is thus a complex systems/process approach to ethics.

In the end, there is an interaction between our evolved evolutionary psychology and the complex social systems in which we live. I make this argument here (on pg. 3), where I basically argue, with Hayek, that

moral instincts --> moral spontaneous order --> moral reasoning

Of course, once moral reasoning emerges, it in turn informs the moral spontaneous order. The moral instincts remain as a tether, keeping the spontaneous order within bounds. It may not be impossible that after a while a moral spontaneous order would affect the moral instincts, as those whose moral instincts allow them to fit well into the order in question might have a selective advantage (and those who do not would of course have a selective disadvantage). In fact, we would expect a changing environment to have a biological, evolutionary effect on those living in and making up the environment. But that's on a longer time scale, of course, meaning slower, and acting as a foundation in relation to the faster-evolving spontaneous order.
This treatise here, then, is the moral reasoning which necessarily comes after the fact of my instincts interesting in the moral order.

So where does this leave politics? Well, if as I argued that the political is necessarily ethical as well -- and this is consistent with my argument that ethical action strengthens social bonds -- then there is a necessary consequence for political action. The first thing we should expect from government would be "first, do no harm." Do nothing that would decrease the number of or weaken social bonds. If a policy is seen to do that, it must go. Intentions do not matter -- consequences matter. Does a policy strengthen social bonds? Create greater complexity (which is completely different from complicating things, which bureaucratic government does almost by definition)? Ignorance is no excuse. More, ignorance of our necessary ignorance is no excuse. If our lives become better as the world becomes more complex (and I believe it does), then we should understand 1) that that means we are necessarily ignorant of how the world actually works, 2) interventions will have unintended consequences which we cannot predict, 3) those unintended consequences are more likely than not to be bond-breaking/weakening, 4) complicated rules result in the breakdown of systems, while simple rules create complexity, and 5) power destroys social bonds, but trade creates them. My politics are thus a natural extension of my ethics -- or, to be more accurate, the two are necessarily intertwined (as are yours).

Reflection on Naturalistic Ethics

David P. Barash's article Two Cheers for Nature is a very thought-provoking piece. Here are a few of my thoughts on it:

1) Good for him for overturning the Rousseuean fetishization of nature as good.

2) The is-ought distinction is much more complex than being a mere fallacy. Not all ises result in oughts, to be sure, but all oughts must come from some is.

3) He is wrong that life is a zero-sum game. Or, more precisely, he is wrong that it is merely a zero-sum game. There are many positive-sum games (and some negative-sum games). In fact, that might be a good way of defining the good -- anything that results in a positive-sum game. Another way of putting this is Alexander Argyros' formulation of ethics as the good being anything that results in greater complexity and the bad being anything that reduces complexity (negative-sum).

4) His reflections on tragic ethics reminds me of Frederick Turner's reflections on them. Perhaps zero-sum ethics are tragic ethics?

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Critical -- A Poem

Neither determined nor random --
neither strictly ordered nor disordered --
in the realm inbetween
where rules emerge,
where true freedom exists --
in the far-from-equilibrium state --
as so many of us have already argued --
yes, animals are free,
and so are humans,
and so is the universe itself

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Interruption -- A Poem

I'm caught up in the iterates of things
I live a life of constant interruption
But one must meditate on beauty lest
One's poetry degrades into corruption

I can't reflect upon the beauty of
My daughter or my son
My rhymes have lately failed to catch the love
Of my wife that I won

I rush
To work
My work
I love
Is in-
Ted verse
And thought

I write this poem here at work and though
It's early morning almost two this work
Has already been interrupted twice
This broken verse of a hotel desk clerk


It's not what I could write
If I had time to think
On beauty in the night
My art is out of sync

Friday, December 17, 2010

Random Play Dialogue

Possible conversations for a possible play:

Her: Tonight I want to go out.

Him: Where you want to go?

Her: Don't really care. You pick.

Him: You sure?

Her: I'm sure. You pick.

Him: Well, how 'bout sushi, then?

Her: Not sushi. I'm really not much in the mood for it.

Him: No seafood, then?

Her: Not really.

Him: Mexican?

Her: No.

Him: You should pick.

Her: No, you pick. I don't really care.

Him: I'd say you do.

Her: You pick.

Him: Perhaps some Thai?

Her: Too spicy. I'm not in the mood for spicy.

Him: Well, you pick, then.

Her: Wherever you would like.

Him: Of course.


There was another one, but I forgot it. Annoying.

Entrepreneurial Professorships

Some interesting ideas on higher education reform here,, but I would like to focus on the idea of the professor as entrepreneur. I like the idea, but wouldn't taking this idea seriously require that instead of departments hiring faculty, that they be open to people coming in from the outside. For example, I have a Ph.D. in the humanities, but I do not have an academic position. Suppose I could convince 15 grad students to take a class on evolutionary aesthetics from me. Then what? Should UT-Dallas or Southern Methodist, both of which I leave near, hire me? Or what if someone wanted me on their dissertation committee, but I was not a member of any faculty? Free-lance/free agent professorships? I like the idea. I think I could succeed in that kind of system.

Books Ngram Viewer

New frontier in the digital humanities, thanks to Google. Can't wait to start playing around with it. Here is the Books Ngram Viewer itself. And here is a Reason article on it.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Supporting Mises' Methodology Using Hayek's Mental Model?

I have just come to realize that one of the main things Hayek does in The Sensory Order is provide the mental basis for Mises' a priori propositional methodology of deduction from the axiom of action. The entirety of the book up through the following quote describes the brain as a classificatory organ. Then, Hayek observes that, because of how the brain classifies and relates concepts,

It is probably no accident that the formation of classes and the relation between classes were first studied in the attempt to analyze the principles of conceptual reasoning. It should be clearn now that the same kind of relationship which in logic has been developed as the theory of classes and relations is immediately applicable to that physiological process of multiple grouping or classification which we have been examining. (6.48)

In other words, logic is the natural extension from how our brains do in fact work. One of course in turn can use logicl to further clarify and refine thinking. Now, if logic is in fact how we perceive the world and logic is how we think and categorize the world, then one should use logic to try to understand the world. This is Mises' argument for what is and should be the proper methodology of economics -- for which it seems Hayek is providing the mental foundation. All things within our perception, then, are properly understood using logic; if economic behavior is properly understood as emerging out of action, then one needs to use deductive logic.

If this is true, might Hayek have been more of a Misesian than most people realize? Or, perhaps, more than even he realized?

Shermer on Hawking's Hayekian Theory of the Mind

Am I wrong, or doesn't this description of how the brain works -- including the model theory laid out -- agree almost entirely with Hayek's The Sensory Order?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Thoughts on Hayekian Subjectivism

In The Sensory Order F.A. Hayek suggests that "anticipation" is a central element to the sensory order (6.26, 6.27). This is in agreement with the thesis laid out by Jeff Hawkins in On Intelligence, commented upon here by Matt Ridley. What Hayek then goes on to say, though, is that attention is connected to disposition (6.28). That is, what we pay attention to is determined by our disposition -- which itself is partially inherited and partially learned/developed through experience. If this is true (and I think it is), then there are going to be differences to the extent to which we see, understand, and respond to the world.

Basically, Hawkins' thesis is that our brains send information to the senses, anticipating what they are going to experience. This is based on past experiences. If nothing changes, fine. But if there is a change in pattern, take notice. Now, what consistutes a "change in pattern"? If that is in part determined by disposition, then this is significant as far as the thesis that our subjective experiences are what are central to our decisions and to what is best for us. Indeed, what we would have would be our subjective dispositions, which develop in the interactions between our own individual genetic redispositions and our subjective experiences, create subjective anticipation of patterns. Even if we assume the patterns are themselves objective, if the anticipation of those patterns is subjective, then there is a certain selection bias necessarily at work (Nietzsche observed that when we read we typically only confirm our beliefs, no matter what it is we are reading -- making this a particular instance of what I am talking about here). Since we all have a selection bias, we cannot say for certain that our interpretation is the right one for anyone other than ourselves. This does not mean that everything is purely subjective and relative -- no, there are species-specific elements that result in everyone seeing things in similar ways (meaning there is species-specific selection bias). This allows us to be able to communicate at all -- as Hayek notes in his discussion of mutually shared symbols being necessary for communication (6.9, 6.10). But the subjective element also means that we will have our own particular interpretations -- and this also means there will be some miscommunication.

If all of this is true, then it becomes impossible to justify imposing one's own view of order on others. If attention to patterns is determined by disposition, and disposition is determined by a combination of genes and experience, then how indeed can you justify imposing your world view on me? At the same time, this does not negate the reality of species-specific dispositions that allow for enough similarities to allow for the existence of human universals and communication. This latter allows people to think that it is in fact legitimate to impose their own world views on others, as it allows them to overapply those commonalities.

It is interesting to note that either of the two extreme views -- the blank slate view, in which anything at all can be written on the human mind through proper education/experience, and the absolute commonality of experience -- allows people to believe that they can impose their world views on everyone. However, if people are combinations of species-specific and individual dispositions created through the combination of genes and experiences (resulting in limited neural plasticity), then there can be no such justification. Freedom exists in the borderlands between order and randomness yet again.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Happy Birthday Melina

Today is Melina's birthday.
She is 4.

Her favorite things are:
baby dolls, crocodiles, dresses, ballet, "T-saurus rex", everything on Nick Jr. (most favorite: Yo Gabba-Gabba and The Upside Down Show), music (classical, pop, metal, and punk), her friends Walker and Jayden, Mrs. Barbara, her imaginary baby sister "Sally," and her imaginary entourage: goblin, baby fox, baby wolf, and the smoogies (of which there are now six). ( I leave out the obvious: family, immediate and extended.)

But wait! What are smoogies, you ask? Well, according to Melina, they are "part baby bird, part baby dragon, part baby parrot, and part duck." If you keep in mind that she has no idea what a real baby parrot looks like, and that she is probably imagining just a tiny parrot, you probably have some idea of what they might look like.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Time Preference and Emergent Psychosocial Complexity

I have written before on the ideas of J.T. Fraser here and of Clare Graves (through Beck and Cowan's Spiral Dynamics) here and here and here, with references to Fraser in the postings on Graves' ideas, but I have been asked an interesting question hereabout Fraser and time preference, and I decided the best way to answer that would be in the main blog.

I have in fact touched on this question, combining Fraser's ideas with Graves' ideas, in my book Diaphysics Let me begin with the excerpts from Diaphysics relevant to this issue.

J. T. Fraser proposes a model of emergent reality that ties into this idea of emergent complexity, while explaining the evolution of time over time in the universe. From his model, we learn that the experience of time changes over time, and that evolution evolves. In brief, if we start from the Big Bang, the moment of pure energy, pure randomness, we begin with no time experience – as we learn from Einstein’s theory of relativity, anything traveling at the speed of light will not experience time passing. As the universe expanded and cooled, quantum physics with its many forms of particle-waves emerged – and with them, a probabilistic time experience. In the wave-form, there is no time experience, but in the particle-form, there is deterministic time experience. As atoms, and then chemistry, emerged, deterministic time emerged – this is the experience of time Newton described. With the emergence of cells from complex systems chemistry, an experience of time as happening in a particular direction emerged. And with the emergence of human intelligence, there was the emergence of the experience of past, present, and future in a very strong way – since we can think about things that happened before we were born, and things that will happen after we die. The more spacetime folded in on itself, the more time was gained by each level – first, the present was gained and then, with animals, a limited past and future, and then, with humans, even more past and future. One would expect the next level of complexity, having even more folds of spacetime, to have even more time experience.

But even this is only a simplified description of the world. The deterministic level is not purely deterministic, but also contains elements of the probabilistic and the truly random, from the two levels below it. Only the strictest of solid-state physics acts in an almost purely deterministic fashion. But complex systems chemistry makes strong use of probabilistic elements from the quantum physical state. In the same way, with living organisms, there is not only the emergence of freedom in life, but deterministic, probabilistic, and random elements as well. Darwin focused on the random elements in his theory of natural selection, but more recent work have shown that there are probabilistic, deterministic, and even primitive choices in evolution as well. And all of these elements are also present in the emergence of human intelligence, in which emerged even greater freedom in the ability to model many more multiple futures from which to choose. The universe does not get rid of lower levels of complexity, but rather builds on top of them, enfolding and incorporating the lower levels into the new emergent levels. Further, the spacetime field, with each folding into more complexity, becomes increasingly individuated. What we see in the emergence of each new level of complexity is the emergence of even more individuation and even greater freedom – and that is what we would expect in the emergence of the next level of complexity as well.

Objects with fractal geometry have self-similarity regardless of scale. If the universe itself is fractal in its geometry, we would expect self-similarity to be expressed in the emergence of new levels of complexity as well. In other words, there should be two sublevels of complexity at the quantum physical level, since it is the second level of complexity, and three sublevels of complexity at the chemical/macrophysical level, since it is the third level of complexity.

The first level, the pure energy of the spacetime field, has but one level – that of pure energy. It gives rise to the second level of reality, that of quantum physics, and with it two sublevels of reality – that of free particle-waves, such as photons and electrons, and from them, the emergence of much more complex atoms, which are particle-wave systems. From here we get the emergence of chemistry in the reconciliation of the paradoxical need to have both full electron shells and charge neutrality. At this level, we get the emergence of three different sublevels of chemical/physical reality – fluid dynamics, solid-state physics/chemistry, and complex systems chemistry (which emerges on the borderlands between fluid dynamics and solid-state physics/chemistry). From complex systems chemistry, we get the emergence of biology. And since it is the fourth level, there are four sublevels – single-celled life forms (eubacteria, archaebacteria, and eukaryotes), multicellular life forms (such as plants, animals, fungi), and, in the animals, we have the line that led to vertebrates, invertebrates in the line that led to those with exoskeletons, and the predecessors of both, and in the vertebrates, we have schooling/herding, territorial independent, and territorial social animals. I will note only in passing that each of these four subdivisions themselves have three subdivisions.

The next level of complexity is that of human intelligence – what Fraser calls nootemporality. In this level have emerged five levels of human mental complexity, as outlined by Clare Graves, Don Beck and Christopher Cowan. Actually, they have come up with six levels, but the first level of mental complexity is actually that of social mammals, particularly that of the social apes, as ethological research continues to show. Thus, there are in fact only five levels of emergent mental complexity in humans, into which I will go into more detail later. I will only point out that the last sublevel of mental complexity is what prepared the groundwork for emergence into the next level of complexity, what Graves, Beck and Cowan have called Second Tier thinking, and what I am calling a new level of complexity on the same level as the emergence in complexity from the animals to humans.

Clare Graves, Don Beck and Christopher Cowan recognize six levels of emergence in human thinking. Again, I recognize five, since the first one is actually the same level of thinking as chimpanzees and bonobos (possibly even social mammals in general), though it also belongs to humans. Beyond that first level, which belongs in the biotemporal level, there are five distinctly human levels of emergently complex thinking. The first is tribal/familial thinking. The second is the heroic/egocentric level, the time when writing is invented in a culture, when we hear tales of people typical of this level, such as Achilles, Odysseus, and Gilgamesh. The third is the level of truth from authority, typified by such thinking as that of the medieval Christian church and social conservatives. The fourth is the level of capitalist and deterministic scientific thinking, typified by materialism and liberal/libertarian thinking. The fifth is the level that promotes human bonds, and typically is anti-hierarchical, egalitarian, relativistic, perspectivist, and typically respectful of differences among people (at its best; at its worst it is dehumanizing, politically correct, fascistic, and Marxist). This fifth one is a smooth fitness landscape, of flattened hierarchies, and thus is the groundwork for emergence into the next level of complexity.

Just like with the biological level of humans – where we are social mammals, vertebrates, multicellular, and cellular simultaneously, as well as chemical and quantum physical and ultimately made up of energy – emergence into each of the new levels does not mean elimination of the lower levels. Rather, we have a nested hierarchy. If we take someone who is at the top level of human thinking – the egalitarian level – we see that they can contain all of the lower levels as well. In addition to promoting human bonds and having a multidisciplinary view of the world, they typically believe in science as a way of knowing the world and are disciplinary, they still need ethics and believe in categories, they still have mythic needs, and they also have the need to belong to a family and have rituals. The difference is, each of these levels tends to be more inclusive of other people. The first level is that of the family and tribe – and thus quite exclusive. The second level expands into wider cultural contexts, such as being Greek, being Egyptian, etc. The third level expands into a wider group of fellow believers, regardless of culture or language, such as being Christian, being Buddhist, etc. The fourth level expands into including anyone who will trade with us, or who will engage in the pursuit of scientific knowledge with us. The fifth level includes all people in the world – but especially those who are of the same level (there is a bit of a tendency at this level to suggest that all animals are equal, but that some animals are more equal than others – though, officially, everyone is in fact the same). But in each, the family (lowest level of thinking) remains – even if our ideas about the family change in each new level. In the same way that biology affects the chemistry that gives rise to it in a bidirectional feedback loop, each new level of thinking affects lower levels of thinking that gave rise to it. The family for a fifth level person is different than is the family for a second level person.

Each of the physical levels of existence are also environments. Humans create a cultural environment humans have to live in, though if this environment were to disappear, it would harm nothing on earth except humans (which is actually to get it backwards since, so long as there are humans, there will be human culture, so it takes the destruction of humans to get rid of human culture). Plants, fungi, prokaryotes and animals, including humans, all create and affect the biosphere and all the various regional bio-environments. Humans are imbedded in this environment as well, and cannot survive without it, being biological organisms. Life and the biosphere are in intricate, intimate interconnection. But this bio-environment is also embedded in a larger chemical environment. There are geological processes going on (many of which are affected by the biosphere in a nonlinear feedback loop), atmospheric chemistry and weather, water and hydrophilic chemistry, etc., which create the baseline on which life emerges and engages in its own kind of chemistry. Without this environment, there would be no biological nor cultural environment. Next, the chemical environment is imbedded in a quantum physical environment of particle-waves, which creates the background and baseline on which chemistry and macrophysical processes occur. And quantum physics emerges out of an environment of pure energy. None of the new, emergent environments could exist without the environments below them – thus, a sort of environmental pyramid emerges. If any of the levels are removed or damaged, everything above that level collapses with it. Thus, humans have to learn to live better in each of these environments, and to see themselves as living in these environments. Further, each of the levels of human thinking create their own cultural environments – which we have to learn to live in even as we emerge into new levels of thinking. However, it is the top levels that are obliged to live in the environments of the lower levels, not vice versa, as the lower levels can and will continue to survive even if more complex ways of thinking emerge. Attempts to eliminate lower levels will result in tragedy.

All five emergent levels of human thinking also reflect the time experiences of all the levels, below and including the human. Time is experienced by pure energy as atemporal, meaning the time experience is circular. Incidentally, the tribal way of thinking experiences time as circular in an eternal return of the same things. The second physical level of probabilistic time, going between circular and linear time, is also shared by the second level of human thinking as an eternal return of similar things (circular time linearized into a spiral or helix). The third physical level of chemistry/macrophysics’ experience of time as deterministic is shared by the third level of human thinking, where human lives and history are understood to be on a certain path, often one already prepared by God. The fourth physical level of biology, which experiences a slight forward direction of time, is also shared by the fourth level of human thinking, since for the first time life and history are understood to change and be changeable. Finally, the fifth physical level – the human level – is doubly experienced at the fifth level of human thinking, where past, present, and future are beginning to be brought together into a single model (which sometimes has the ironic outcome of giving rise to ideas of an “unchanging state of nature” that does not exist and never has and never will). And, just like in the physical world, the human experience of each of these levels bleed through into higher levels, creating even more complexity than these apparently simple divisions indicate. But do not forget: models, like math, are only precise approximations of reality. Models are digital representations of a digital-analog world.

With this model we see some of the parallels between the human levels of thinking and their emergent complexity, and the emergent levels of physical reality. Further, we have seen that each new emergent level has become more internalized, and individualized, ending with the emergence of one particular species into complex intelligence. One would expect, if new levels of emergent complexity emerge as past levels have, with each emergence becoming even more individualized, that individual humans would be the ones emerging into the next level of complexity – Graves, Beck and Cowan’s Second Tier thinking. And this leads us into my proposal that this Second Tier thinking is in fact the emergence of a new level of complexity.

J.T. Fraser says the next level of emergence is the sociotemporal level, which he says emerges from the interaction of humans in society. But this makes as much sense as saying the level emergent from the biotemporal is the world ecology level of time experience. The social actually evolved prior to humans, in the social mammals, and the way that Fraser uses “sociotemporal,” it is clear that he means something like the world culture. But as we have already seen, the culture is merely the environment in which the nootemporal lives. The nootemporal level, the actual next level of complexity out of the biotemporal, evolved from a particular kind of animal, and the next level of complexity will evolve, not from all humans, as the idea of sociotemporality suggests, but from particular humans – those who, after reaching the highest level of human thinking, have seen and resolved the paradoxes of human thinking, and have thus emerged into the next level of complexity. In fact, I would argue that it already has evolved in Graves, Beck, and Cowan’s Second Tier thinkers. The first two sublevels within this new level of complexity are integrationism and holism. Others will follow and, if the same pattern that has been found in the universe throughout its entire history holds, it will have six of these sublevels before the paradoxes inherent within this level create the conditions for emergence into the next level. And, just like humans have all the other levels below them, including the biotemporal level, making humans in that sense indistinguishable from animals, the Second Tier thinkers are indistinguishable from other humans, except in certain aspects of their thinking. I would propose calling this new level not sociotemporal, but intertemporal, since it is the first level self-aware in understanding both the depth of its own thinking, through all the sublevels of the nootemporal, as well as the nested hierarchical temporality of the universe as a whole. In this sense, the intertemporal level is also neotenous, in that it takes on the fully “adult” way of human thinking, but also every other level under it, as well as embracing every other level of reality, and not just the “adult” one of nootemporality.

Beck and Cowan say that Second Tier thinkers have several qualities. While human thinking has its fears and each level knows that it has the answer, in metahuman thinkers, fear drops away, and what is known is precisely how much is not known – such thinkers know so much, they realize how much is inherently unknown, and even unknowable. This emergent level is where emergence becomes understood and known. This is where it is most self-reflexive; it is the first level of emergence that comes to be fully conscious of emergence as such. And it becomes aware of its own self-emergence from human thinking, whether it has found the words to articulate the idea yet or not. Here too there is the first real awareness of time – no effort is made to eliminate time from consideration, as human thinking tries to do in notions of eternity, timelessness, and “unchanging nature.” Further, Beck and Cowan point out that the Second Tier person “sees too much, from too many new angles to accept simplicity that is not there” (273). There is an inherent interdisciplinarity in metahuman thinking. Interdisciplinarity is different from postmodern (egalitarian human) multidisciplinary thinking in that postmodern multidisciplinary thinking is pluralist, postrustructuralist, and anti-hierarchical, making it tend to make false connections and incorrect associations since everything is considered to be on the same level and is therefore fundamentally the same. Postmodern thinking tends to be deeply reductionist (like deconstruction) and ahistorical (since, if nothing has changed, why bother with history?). For it, everything has the same level of complexity – meaning, if we understand quantum physics, we will understand the complexities of biology, human thought, and culture. As opposed to multidisciplinary thinking, interdisciplinary thinking is based on fluid and nested hierarchies which place everything in proper relation to everything else. Thus, quantum physics is at a level of complexity below chemistry. Humans are not divided up according to race, but according to complexities of thinking, which occur based not on race, but on life conditions. Interdisciplinary thinking is emergentist and complex, as well as historical and evolutionary. It is information- and knowledge-driven. It understands the world is nonlinear, meaning top levels affect lower levels once the top levels emerge, but the lower levels are what give rise to the top levels. Thus, there is both bottom-up determinism (which is foundational), and top-down determinism (which emerges), both working in a nonlinear, and thus chaotic or biotic, fashion.

There is an exponential (sigmoidal, actually) difference between linear, human thinking, and nonlinear, metahuman thinking. “With the shift toward Second Tier thinking the conceptual space of human beings is greater than the sum of all the previous levels combined with a ‘logarithmic’ (Graves’ term) increase in degrees of behavioral freedom” (Beck and Cowan, 276). Although Beck and Cowan then go on to deny that this is a “new breed of human” (and in a real sense, they are correct that it is not a “new breed” of human per se – as this new level of complexity cannot be bred for), this is precisely the description of emergence into a new level of complexity. Each new level is logarithmically more complex than the previous level. In Time, Conflict, and Human Values, J.T. Fraser proposes that there have been 101000 organisms through the history of life on earth (he also suggests we would get a complexity of 10 at the quantum level, and 1010 for the level of chemistry/macrophysics), while for humans, we would get a level of complexity of about 1010,000, for the number of possible brain states. This then suggests that the next level of thinking would be at a level of complexity equal to 10100,000. If the brain is emergent in complexity from life itself, then the brain should give rise to the next level of emergence in its own complexity. Thus internalized, this new level of complexity would be very difficult to detect – and could not be detected by just looking at different people – but only by seeing how certain people think and behave.

What is metahuman thinking like? Unlike at human levels, there is an understanding for such people of the legitimacy of all levels of thinking and existence, as well as an understanding of these levels’ importance and proper position in the world’s natural hierarchies. They have a sort of extreme self-awareness that is accompanied by self-acceptance. And they are adept at integrating complexity, explaining parallels, and creating and seeing connections among things. Such thinking is thus at least highly interdisciplinary, and even holistic in nature. Ideas are multidimensional, paradox and uncertainty are not just seen, but understood, and even enjoyed. Chaos and order are understood in their proper relation to each other – not as in annihilatory opposition, but in creative conflict. Multiple perspectives are considered simultaneously, given proper weight, and used to inform each other before a decision is made. Thus, difference is of utmost importance, though the mistake of thinking that difference necessarily means either good or bad is not made, as it is understood that difference just means difference. The world is understood to constitute particles and entities as well as groups, fields, and waves, and it is understood that there is a “‘holistic’ wisdom within systems” (Beck and Cowan, 284), and that this wisdom is not in conflict with knowledge – that the two together in fact constitute beauty. The world consists of fractals, the laws of nature that apply throughout the universe supplant doctrinaire laws, and it is understood that everything connects to everything else. Fortunately, with the higher level complexity thinking involved, all of this can be done extremely rapidly.

What is perhaps most interesting is the issue of communication of information. With each new level of complexity, there is the emergence of new forms of communication. Quantum physical bodies communicate with each other using particle-waves – electrons communicate using photons, for example. Chemistry communicates with other chemicals using both quantum physical elements, but also topology. Biology uses both of these, plus chemicals and, for some, sound to communicate. Humans use all of these, plus grammatical language – which is to say, combining sound communication with the narrative structure required to make active decisions and choices. And what of metahuman communication? First, it appears that metahuman thinkers ar able to think while communicating. But there is more. In reading the next part, one must keep in mind that, to other metahuman thinkers, this will make sense, while to human thinkers, it will make as much sense as human language makes to other animals. This is not an insult – it is the nature of emergence into new levels of complexity. And the fact that I have to communicate this in language only makes it more difficult, as it is not the proper form in which to communicate this kind of information. But please bear with me on this, as what will appear as borderline insanity to many will make complete sense to some. But this is no more or less insane than building a space station is insane to a cat – a space station makes sense to the human way of thinking, but to a cat, if you can’t eat it, drink it, or have sex with it, then to do something like build a space station is at best nonsensical; at worst, madness. Beck and Cowan in fact argue that 2nd Tier thinkers are practically invisible to 1st Tier thinkers, just as more complex 1st Tier thinkers are practically invisible to the least complex 1st Tier thinkers. The less complex thinkers just can’t see what the more complex thinkers are thinking.

Frederick Turner, in The Culture of Hope, talks about some things that, at first glance, from a human way of thinking, appear borderline mad. He talks about how the poet is able to communicate with trees, stones, mountains, etc. What many would take to be a poetic metaphor, Turner means in a literal sense. What I once took as poetic I now understand much more clearly and concretely: the metahuman thinker is actually able to communicate with trees, stones, mountains, etc., which do not communicate using human language, but in their own languages. The metahuman thinker is the first to be open to such communication, and is the first to be able to understand across the levels of complexity. This can be understood if we really understand what is meant by spacetime being more folded with each new level of complexity – this is to say, spacetime is in contact with itself more and more. Thus, a more complex level than humans should be able to communicate even more, and more clearly, with and through more levels of spacetime. This leads us to what appears to be an even stranger form of communication at the metahuman level. With human language, there is a limited reflexivity – the present refers to a close past in order to push into the future. This gives humans a great deal of freedom, and an ability to greatly order the world. Each new, emergent form of communication has increased in reflexivity, and given more freedom, and more order, to the world. Thus, we should expect the new, emergent form of metahuman communication to fit that criteria as well. And it does. Beck and Cowan talk about how Second Tier thinkers are more intuitive – such thinkers know what they should be doing at any given time, especially when dealing with big decisions. Frederick Turner suggests that these intuitions are people in the future communicating backwards in time to the present to guide us. This makes sense if we realize that communication for the metahuman has become even more reflexive, so that all potential I’s in the future are able to reference my past I (which is actually my present I) to guide me into the best path(s) to create a better future. Perhaps even more complex future levels are more capable of communicating through time this way, having even more spacetime folds in them – and this new level of complexity is the first to most clearly receive this form of communication, having now been deeply folded enough into spacetime to do so. The way to understand this is to see the future as branching, and all our future selves as well as others’ future selves on all the branches. Some of the branches are better futures than others. For the metahuman, the future I’s (perhaps not just theirs, but others’) are able to communicate back to let the present I know what would be the best path. If there is a bad future, that particular I would either be silent, or discourage such a path as would lead to that future, while for good futures, those I’s would encourage decisions that led to them. Spacetime folds back onto itself in greater complexity than we now understand, and thus, because we are able to communicate with ourselves backwards through time, sending these “feelings” or “intuitions” back to let us know which paths are best to take, we have both greater freedom and more order in the universe. Now, all of this would be confusing to those who first encountered such communication – the same way, I would imagine, those who first emerged into grammatical language found it confusing and disconcerting though, as they grew used to it, and played with it, and learned how it worked, it turned into a great and powerful tool that molded not only their thinking, but future human generations’ thinking. As the metahuman level comes to understand this new form of communication, and how to use it better and more efficiently, they will grow more comfortable with it, and more able to communicate with it.

Let us then get (finally!) to the issue of time preference. We see lower time preference with increasing complexity of thought. And we should be able to see why that is. Those with a tribalist perception of time as circular do not see things as changing. It is hard to get such a person to think about the future, since to them the future is just more of the same exact thing over and over and over. The heroic individual, however, has a slightly lower time preference precisely because time does not repeat, though he certainly would argue (with Mark Twain) that it rhymes. One would have a similar problem here, though, as with the tribalist thinker, since there is not a lot of difference between things being identical and things being practically identical. There is no real notion of improvement, which we at least see in the authoritative level. With the linear, teleological idea of time, there is at least a notion of change occurring. Such a person might be convinced to invest and save -- but only if you can convince this person that it is "God's will" or the equivalent thereof. The problem is that for this level there is also a certain degree of fatalism -- that things are as God intended them. With the fourth level, we get ideas of progress, meaning that we now have an even lower time preference, which allows people to really think about the future in a positive way. It makes sense to save and invest, because there is a better future ahead if you do. The fifth, or egalitarian, level of psychological complexity is consumerist and thinks in aggregates. There is a much lower time preference -- but sometimes it is to the point of thinking generations ahead, at the expense of the present. At the same time, there is a "we have to do something" mentality that can result in rash deicisions about the present. The second tier thinkers, however, are the only ones fully conscious of time and its consequences. Theirs is a very low time preference, which is all-encompassing and complex. Needless to say, those who consciously have time in mind have the lowest time preference of anyone.

This may be more than was really asked for, but I think it is good to think about these things, as they have real consequences for ideas in economics. For example, what happens when you have a significant number of each level in high concentrations, as we see in cities? What are the social and economic consequences? If we group people according to their psychological complexity, what socioeconomic patterns do we see? what educational patterns? what employment patterns? what ideological patterns? How does this kind of heterogeneity fit into our economic theories? What theories might it fit best into?

How might one develop these ideas further?

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Interdisciplinary World-Wide Web

This week's top countries who have visited Interdisciplinary World:

United States 350

United Kingdom 20

Russia 14

India 12

Moldova 12

Germany 8

Netherlands 8

Canada 7

Greece 6

Philippines 6

I'm not at all sure why I'm so popular with Moldova and the Philippines this week. :-)

Friday, December 03, 2010

Becoming Comfortable Living in the Open Society

The "genetic makeup [of humans] evolved over millions of years to work in small, closed, enduring, inward-looking, solidaric circles of 20-100 people. The unsubtle mind of band-man sees society as organizational, not a network of spontaneous relationships. It years for an encompassing coordination of sentment, not a cosmos of intersecting romances. It yearns for common knowledge, and is uncomfortable with disjointed knowledge. It years for social justice, and is not satisfied with merely procedural or commutative justice. It presupposes a configuration of collective ownership, not one of individual ownership. As the band passed to the tribe and the nation, the unsubtle mind was taught restraint, social hierarchy, and increasing complexity, and the closed society of the tribe and the nation eventually developed into the open society, and ideas of the subtle mind flowered in the 7th and 18th centuries and developed into what would be called liberalism" (Klein, Daniel B. "From Weight Watchers to State Watchers: Towards a Narrative of Liberalism" The Review of Austrian Economics (2010) 23:408)

Liberal here meaning "classical liberal," meaning someone who supports free markets. Please note that the "unsubtle mind" is definable as either Right-conservatism or Left-liberalism. The differences between those two world views are that the former sees itself as pre-capitalist, the latter as post-capitalist -- yet both in fact yearn for the same primitive state. Both want someone to rule, someone to take care of them, someone to tell them that everything is alright, just follow me and do as I say. The only difference between the two is that the former is exclusive, the latter inclusive (unless you disagree with them on ideology, of course, in which case they are as irrationally discriminatory as the Right is on race, religion, gender, etc.). But both yearn for a more primitive life.

They do so despite what should be overwhelming evidence that the open society provides greater wealth, well-bring, security, health, happiness, etc. than has any society to ever come into existence. They do so because they give into their primtive yearnings. Yet the soul of civilization itself is born from the repression of those yearnings.

What does it take to become comfortable with a spontaneous order not of our design, yet of our making? What does it take to become comfortable with the necessary depth and breadth of our ignorance, which we will never be able to overcome? What does it take to become comfortable with commutative justice, rule of law, and forgiveness? What does it take to become comfortable with private ownership, including that of one's self and one's mind, which were necessary for society to recognize for the very flowerings of culture and wealth?

I have already ventured an opinion on these questions here. If beauty is the answer, then we need a more beauty-based education. More, we need more beauty-based art. The anti-beauty movement that has dominated since the advent of Modernism, and especially in postmodernism, is part and parcel of the anti-market intellectuals' war against classical liberalism. We need an art and literature that helps make us comfortable living in the open society. We can evolve beyond our primtive drives -- and great art is what allows us to do just that.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Profit Means Disequilibrium

Israel Kirzner argues that the entrepreneur makes a profit when he finds a state of disequilibrium and moves the system toward equilibrium. This is the essence of arbitrage. If we understand this insight, then we can see that the economy is necessarily in a state of disequilibrum. At least, it is in every single industry where profit is being made. In other words, if Kirzner is right about how profit is made, the existence of profit demonstrates that the economy is in a state of disequilibrium. Where does this leave equilibrium as a valid method of analysis?

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Agonal Truth of Plotted Literature

"Art tells the truth in the general form of a lie." -- Nietzsche.

Along Nietzschean lines, truth comes out in the agon -- the struggle -- between two arguers. Plotted literature uncovers truth precisely because it presents the agon between the antAGONist and protAGONist. Truth does not lie with the hero-protagonist, but in the struggle the hero-protagonist has with the antagonist. This is how art tells the truth.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Disequilibrium Economics

When you have agents engaged in multiple interactions over space and time, you get a strong dynamic nonlinear, non-equilibrium process, which results in structures and patterns, also known as self-organization. This arises entirely from interactions internal to the system. If we then cause the system to change due to external inputs, we get turbulence in the system, making the system even more nonlinear, throwing it into a far-from-equilibrium state. It is when it is in the far-from-equilibrium state that it is most creative. If the economy is a spontaneous order, it is a self-organizing system/process. And if it is a self-organizing process, it is a non-equilibrium process. And if it is a creative process, it is likely to be in a far-from-equilibrium state (and if it is a dynamic, self-organizing process with external inputs, it is likely to be in a far-from-equilibrium state).

Of course, neoclassical economics is based on the idea of equilibrium. However, I have noticed that the following result in disequilibria:

entrepreneurship involving new ideas/products
different cultures and subcultures

Now, since these are features of any real economy, and each causes diseqeuilibria, piling diseqeuilibria on disequilibria, does it make any sense to discuss equilibria? It is argued that it is a "useful fiction," but one does have to wonder how useful it really is, if it creates a consistently false picture of the economy. Worse, it creates "ideal conditions" which are unachievable, creating the fiction that there is such a thing as "market failures." Market failures are impossible except in the utopia of neoclassical equilibrium theory. That makes it a theory failure.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Fraser and Libertarianism.

It turns out that the connection between J.T. Fraser and libertarianism was closer than I thought. Though Fred Turner and I are both libertarians, I know that not everyone who loved Fraser's ideas were, and Fraser himself never gave a clue as to what his politics were in anything I read of his (probably for the best in the grand scheme of things).

J.T. Fraser and David Nolan, RIP

Saturday, November 20th was a sad day for me ideologically. David Nolan, founder of the Libertarian Party, and J.T. Fraser, philosopher of time, both died. No doubt there would be libertarian ideas out there without the LP, but the LP helps give libertarianism some political definition. I was introduced to Fraser in my Ph.D. program, through Alexander Argyros (later my dissertation chair). His ideas have been central to my thinking across the board.

Now, it may not seem likely that the two are connected, but for me they are necessarily so. I believe the world is self-organized from the bottom-up, with new emergent levels of complexity (Fraser's umwelts), and that top-down imposed order is unnatural. Taken to its logical conclusion in economics, society, culture, and government, that naturally lead me to libertarianism. Of course, I discovered libertarianism before I discovered Fraser, but Fraser's ideas really provided me with a full structural world view, showing me how it all tied together.

Overall, my debt to Nolan is fairly indirect. I came to libertarianism through my Introduction to Philosophy class with Ronald Nash, which led me to read Walter Williams, Milton Friedman, and Ayn Rand -- and eventually to the Austrian economists. My debt to Fraser, though, is far more direct.

Ten years ago I went to UT-Dallas to work on my Ph.D. I signed up for a class on Existentialism with Alex Argyros. I loved him and the class so much I took him again for Foundationalism and Antifoundationalism. It was there where I first read J.T. Fraser -- Time, Conflict, and Human Values -- and Fred Turner (who I also met that semester, of course). I had an undergraduate degree in recombinant gene technology with a minor in chemistry, I had been reading about quantum physics and chaos theory and dissipative structures and complex systems on my own, I had just finished a M.A. degree in English, and I was starting my Ph.D. in the humanities. Though I believed that they should all fit together, Fraser's work showed me how they all fit together. I went from a vague postmodernist, multidisciplinary thinker to an integrationist interdisciplinary thinker through Fraser's work (both directly and indirectly, through Alex's book "A Blessed Rage for Order" and Turner's "The Culture of Hope"). I am now a structuralist thinker -- and the structure is Fraser's umwelt theory. It is behind all of my scholarly work, whether directly stated or not. Fraser is omnipresent in my dissertation, "Evolutionary Aesthetics," and I went to my first ISST conference in Cambridge just to meet Fraser (since I had not submitted anything, and thus was not presenting anything). He was a good and generous man, excited at meeting a budding new scholar interested in his ideas. He was equally generous when I attended my next ISST conference, at which I presented, in Monterey Bay. I was sad that I could not afford to go to the ISST conference in Coasta Rica -- and I am now even sadder I could not attend.

Inspired by Fraser, and seeing how his work fit beautifully into the work of psychologist Clare Graves, I wrote my own book: Diaphysics. He continues to inform my thinking, even as I have moved into doing more scholarly work influenced by Austrian economics (a tradition in which time is central -- making it potentially rich soil for Fraser's ideas). My intellectual debt to Fraser is profound (my pantheon of influences: Fraser, Fred Turner, Nietzsche, Aristotle, Clare Graves, Hayek, Milan Kundera). One of the greatest thinkers certainly of the 20th century has passed from us. He will be sorely missed.

Some of Fraser's work:

Time, Conflict and Human Values

The Voices of Time

Of Time, Passion, and Knowledge

Time: The Familiar Stranger

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Validity of Abstract Terms

I have gotten into an argument here about the validity of using the term "wealth." Rodger Mitchell argues that "wealth" is a meaningless term. I argue that economics is the science of wealth creation. If true, this means we need to define wealth. But is that really possible?

Consider the following:

Biology is the science of life.

Aesthetics is the science of beauty.

Natural law is the science of justice.

Psychology is the science of the mind.

Now, define life. Define beauty. Define justice. Define mind.

Is it a coincidence that all our specialized areas of study are of terms we cannot fully define? Is it not then the definition of folly to argue that we should abandon the terms? Or is the point of the science to try to define the terms?

My Little Node in the World Wide Web

The rotating globe at the bottom of my page is a lot of fun to watch. I get to see where my readers live -- and they are from all over the globe: Australia/New Zealand, Asia, Europe, and North America. I have an idea of who some of the people may be, and some are a complete mystery to me. However, I have noticed that there are two major places where I have not had a single hit: Africa and South America! The Middle East is also noticeably unlit with red dots. Some interesting patterns are definitely emerging.

After checking my stats, I noticed one hit from Turkey, and two from Brazil, so the Middle East and South America are now included.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Writing for the Social Sciences

I have been reading complaints by law and economics professors about students' inability to write. They are right, of course, to complain, because schools have for the most part abandoned everything necessary to teach students how to write. Students don't have to learn grammar or logic. The only thing they have to learn is how to "express themselves," for which no judgement can be made. In college they get "rhetoric", but it is a pale version of Aristotle's ideal (it more resembles what Plato complained about).

So what to do? I suggested that if the social sciences (broadly defined) wanted to teach their students how to write, they needed to have their own writing classes. No doubt this would cause s turf war with the English department, but one has to decide if the battle is worth it. While I would most certainly love to work and teach in an English department, I would also like to say that if anyone is bold enough to have a writing professor in, say, their economics department, I would be more than happy to teach such a set of classes -- especially if I could design the class and set up the requirements. First, the department would have to require my class for this to work at all. Second, I would require grammar and logic as prerequesites. If poetry writing classes all taught formalist poetry, I would even require that (being, in my opinion, the best way to introduce structural rhetoric -- the rest of rhetoric I would introduce in my class). In my writing class I would discuss both reading strategies (hermeneutics) and department-level vocabulary, discussing the ambuguities in the terminology used. Much can be made of the fact that many of the words used by economists can also be used in ethics and in psychology, for example.

These are a few ideas. If anyone wanted to set up such a class within their department, I would love to jump on board and really create a writing program that works.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Digital Humanities

Here is an interesting article on the digital humanities. I would like to welcome them to work I was doing 6-7 years ago for my dissertation. I wish I could have followed up on it. My most recent work, on the spontaneous orders of the arts, is quite amenable to this kind of methodology. Maybe as the rest of the humanities catch up with my methodology, I will be able to get a job.

Revising Poetry

To be a poet of any worth whatsoever, you have to revise, revise, revise. Rare is it that the first things that come out are gems. Let me give some personal examples.

One summer I wrote a sonnet a day without really understanding the form. I have been revising those poems for a while, and while I am finding that some revisions hold the sonnet form, others result in new forms. Consider the following original (sonnet) and revision (villanelle):

Lost Time

We waste time and we spend it – what’s it cost?
We pass the time and fill the time, there’s no
Lack of excuses for all the time lost
(Even as Proust searched for it we all know
It can never be recovered again) –
What we never seem to want to renew
Among all the filler and endless din
Is to make up for all the time that flew
From tree to tree until we could not see
Where all the time had gone. Do we have time
Enough for love? – or is it on the sea,
Caught up in its rhythm, or in this rhyme?
Despite the time we’ve spent together, I
Wonder where the time’s gone, and wonder why?

Lost Time

We waste time, spend time, fill and pass the time
We’re trapped in all its waves and ebbs and flows –
We’re caught up in its rhythms and its rhyme.

We treat time like it doesn’t cost a dime
When we’re in debt to it. Lord only knows
We waste time, spend time, fill and pass the time.

Our minds and bodies are set to its chime,
Connected more to poetry than prose:
We’re caught up in its rhythms and its rhyme.

We think we can control it, then we mime
All that has come before: it’s all a pose –
We waste time, spend time, fill and pass the time.

When will we learn to use it as a prime
And natural source of life, which always shows
We’re caught up in its rhythms and its rhyme.

We’re monkeys in the tree of time and climb
The limbs, the places where each of us grows.
We waste time, spend time, fill and pass the time –
We’re caught up in its rhythms and its rhyme.

Now, I'm not saying that the villanelle is a great poem, but I think we can agree that it's better than the sonnet from which it was derived. Such a drastic revision makes this a new draft, so it probably has to undergo some more revision (and suggestions are, of course, welcomed), but I think I'm moving in the right direction with this particular poem.

With my sonnet "Wedded" I transformed the poem from a sonnet into a blank verse poem with a rhyming couplet at the end. Here is the sonnet:


In an old white Dutch Masters cigar box
Lies what looks like a Bible, tiny, white,
Pink silk flowers and a gold cross that locks
Away a secret that slips out, a sight
I had not seen, but heard about, a ring
Not a ring – a tab from an old pop can,
The tab my dad gave my mom, that would bring
Them together in marriage, and began
The life that ended in her too-early
Death by cancer, asbestos brought to her
On clothes by her husband unknowingly
From his work. Still, I know that she’d prefer
To have lived this same life over again,
Beginning with this little tab of tin.

Here is the revised poem:

The Engagement Ring

Although my parents never smoked cigars
Or even cigarettes, I have their white
Dutch Masters cigar box, and wonder what
It holds. I lift the lid and look inside –
I find a small white Bible there with pink
Silk flowers and a golden cross that locks
Away a secret. This false Bible is
A box that holds a metal object I
Had never seen, but heard about, a ring
That’s not a ring – a pull tab from an old
Pop can, that tab my dad gave to my mom
When he asked her to marry him. She slipped
It on and told him yes and cut him on
The thumb with it when she gave him a kiss.
This tab brought them together for a life
That ended in her early death by cancer,
Asbestos brought to her as dust by her
Beloved on his clothes unknowingly
From work, destroying her through her weak lungs.
But still, I know that she’d prefer to live
The life she did with this same death again
Beginning with this little tab of tin.

But not all my sonnets have changed form. Take the following sonnet:

Why Bother

Words fall silent on those you love the most,
Those who don’t are the most attentive.
At home you’re ignored or seen to just boast
About all you know. There’s no incentive
To share knowledge or wisdom, it will go
Unheard by those you most wanted to hear
Everything you had to say. And now so
Much harm falls upon those you hold so dear.
What should you expect? For Jesus himself
Said a prophet is not without honor
Save in his own country – full of the wealth
Of knowledge of you, even the horror
That you could possibly have within you
A wisdom they don’t, a knowledge that’s new.

Which I have revised into the following sonnet:

The Prophet at Home

The prophet’s words cannot be heard by those
Who love him most and know him growing up.
At home, they think you only boast – who knows
You as they do? They ask, “Who is this pup?”
Why share with them the wisdom you have gained?
It goes unheard, all that you wished to share –
Their inattentive ears have only pained
Their lives – but also you, because you care.
But those who do not know you are attentive
To what you have to say, and take the most
Of all your wisdom. They have an incentive
To listen – growing, they don’t think you boast.
For Jesus too said that a prophet’s not
Without his honor save with his own lot.

This revision has the sonnet's dialectical development, and resolution in the ending couplet. The subject suggested the retention of the sonnet form in this case, and I abided by that content-form connection. In the two above cases, there were elements in the original poems that suggested different forms, and I listened to them. In the case of the villanelle, though, I did have the form in mind and searched through the poems I had printed out to revise to see if any could fit the form.

What does all of this suggest about form and content? The two are undoubtedly connected, but which comes first? Is it always one, or the other? I am certain others have written poems in one form and then revised into another. Does the presence of the former form get remain somehow present, though transformed into a new form?

Of course, any suggestions regarding revisions are more than welcome!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Late Weekend Nights at the Hotel

The prostitutes all come, but do not rhyme --
They go upstairs for a short time and climb
Into the warmth with bare legs, wooly boots,
A standard mini skirt, and silver roots.
Such models of efficiency I see
Them each return and leave so rapidly
You'd think they're paid by piecework rather than
The hour (no doubt they are, paid man by man).
They never speak -- they have a job to do --
Indeed, they do, the faster ones. And through
The night their sisters come and disappear --
But they are paid with whiskey shots and beer.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Earth Below

Go to the very bottom of the page and you will see the earth and the location of everyone who, from the time I post this on, has been to this site.

Friday, October 22, 2010

In Praise of Peter Thiel

For those who have read my articles in the Dallas Morning News on education, here and here, you know that I have been increasingly questioning the basic value of certain kinds of education. I value the education I received in the humanities, but I'm not so narcissistic as to believe that, therefore, everyone should have my kind and level of education. Of course, most highly educated Leftists are so narcissistic; thus, this screed against Peter Thiel. Who is Peter Thiel? Well, among other things, he's the founder of PayPal and a founding investor of Facebook. That is internet genius. More, he's a strong libertarian -- one willing to put his millions to work to create a more libertarian world. The issue in the article -- the attitude of which is no doubt more connected to Thiel's being a libertarian rather than a good, feels-shame-at-his-wealth leftist billionaire -- is the Thiel Fellowship, which "will give entrepreneurs under age 20 a cash award of $100,000 to drop out of school and pursue their business ideas." Whether expressed this way in his announcement, the Thiel Foundation's website doesn't say anything about "having" to drop out of college. But it does point out that they will help educate those who win. They will no doubt receive the kind of education that entrepreneurs really need -- which cannot in fact be achieved at a university. Invention and creativity are two things that cannot be taught at any university, by any professor. A university education can teach you skills, structures of known things, and challenge your thinking. You can participate in discovery in the sciences, of course, and it can teach you what it known so you become aware of the existence of gaps in knowledge -- two things very necessary for the sciences to advance -- but it cannot teach you how to be innovative, entrepreneurial, creative. All too often, I have seen formal education kill those very things. I have seen great painters, poets, and fiction writers become technically much better, but conceptually much worse. To remain innovative, you have to manage to retain a rebelliousness that education is often designed to crush. And if you retain it, you are likely to suffer once you graduate, since it is the conformists who get the jobs, not the rebels. Thus, I celebrate Thiel's Fellowship. It's the sort of thing that will in fact help grow our economy and, thus, improve people's lives -- something few university professors (especially the anti-growth leftist ones) are able to accomplish.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

All Is Force -- The World View of the Left

The Left cannot tell the difference between voluntary exchange and the use of force. That is why they think there is no difference between slavery and working for an employer for pay. That is why they think it is valid to replace voluntary exchange with force. If it is all force anyway, it might as well be MY force. How does one combat this? If they cannot see the difference between a voluntary economic exchange and the use of force to accomplish your ends, how can you begin to have a discussion?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

How the Humanities are Useful

Never mind the nonsense about economics (this crisis is of course causing questions, but increasingly they are questions about the nature of macroeconomics -- thankfully), this article on how the humanities are in fact useful (contra Fish) is fantastic. It certainly explains my obsession with rules and rule-changing. :-)

Saturday, October 16, 2010

From Trivium to Triviality

I have a new article at The Pope Center: From Trivium to Triviality

Benoît B. Mandelbrot, Father of Fractal Geometry, has Died, Age 85

One of my heroes, one of the greatest scientists of all time, who will no doubt be mentioned in the same breath as Netwon and Einstein, Benoît B. Mandelbrot, has died at age 85. The Mandelbrot set is an image of infinity, and image of the finite -- of the paradoxes that lies at the heart of beauty. It is a shame that such a great mind has to pass -- but, like his Mandelbrot set, though finite in life, he will live on into infinity because of his contributions to knowledge. There are a few people who change the world to such a degree that one can recognize a time before his work, and after. Mandelobrot is one of those great people. RIP

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Why I Chose to Be an Artist

Just because one can identify the chemicals and the neurological structures involved in the creation of emotions, that doesn't mean one has "reduced" everything to those structures and chemicals. Reductionism is only one side; the other is emergence. What is then interesting is how these elements and structures creates this emergent quality. But perhaps that is best understood by the arts, and not by the sciences.

To Do List

My task:

"All sciences are now under the obligation to prepare the ground for the future task of the philosopher, which is to solve the problem of value, to determine the true hierarchy of values." -- Nietzsche

My challenges:

"A subject for a great poet would be God's boredom after the seventh day of creation." -- Nietzsche.

"Art is not merely an imitation of the reality of nature, but in truth a metaphysical supplement to the reality of nature, placed alongside thereof for its conquest." -- Nietzsche

Why I am a poet: "I do not know what the spirit of a philosopher could more wish to be than a good dancer. For the dance is his ideal, also his fine art, finally also the only kind of piety he knows, his "divine service." " -- Nietzsche

"The essence of all beautiful art, all great art, is gratitude." -- Nietzsche

"For art to exist, for any sort of aesthetic activity to exist, a certain physiological precondition is indispensable: intoxication." -- Nietzsche

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Not Yet -- A Poem

The caracaras circle. Surely I'm
Not facing death. I'm scarcely half through time.
They land and flush and throw their heads far back
And screech their call. What do I surely lack
That I can't move, that I'm mistaken on
The midday of my life for carrion?
Or is it I who am mistaken? Fate
Does not bring them for me, but for a mate.
I've granted meaning where none could exist.
I look around. I wonder what I've missed.

Friday, October 08, 2010

The Socialists' Favorite Mammal: Mole Rats

Often when arguing with socialists (here I am talking about self-professed socialists), I bring up the problem that socialism seems to demand of people that they act like social insects (i.e., ants and bees) rather than social mammals. This typically results in their denying that that is what they really mean. However, recently, I have run into an entirely new argument: "what about the mole rat?" Indeed, there are two species of mole rat which are considered to be "eusocial," in the same way that social insects are. (I find it interesting that once a mammalian example was found, the socialists I have argued with happily abandoned their denial about trying to make us like social insects, and have embraced practically the same model just because it's a mammalian one -- which suggests to me that I was right about their wanting to make us like social insects, with a central ruler and everyone else equally ruled by that ruler.) I am considering writing an article on the issue of the eusocial mole rat, and its (ir)relevance to evolutionary biological arguments for or against socialism. Or am I the only one getting the mole rat argument?

Thursday, October 07, 2010

The Importance of Startups in Job Creation and Job Destruction

The Kauffman Foundation has a research article, The Importance of Startups in Job Creation and Job Destruction, that makes an even stronger argument than I did below regarding the importance of new products and ideas driving the economy. Specifically, the author argues that, "net job growth occurs in the U.S. economy only through startup firms." That's a pretty strong statement. If true, then, again, we have a pretty clear reason why the economy cannot be jump-started through Keynesian methods.

Monday, October 04, 2010

Economies are Driven by Supply

Peter Smith points out that, "Keynesians believe that economies are driven by demand." Let us take a few seconds to demolish this nonsense, shall we?

What was the demand for the iPod before the iPod was invented and, afterwards (as it necessarily had to be), supplied?

What was the demand for the iPhone before the iPhone was invented and supplied?

What was the demand for the internet before the internet was invented and supplied?

What was the demand for the car before the car was invented and supplied?

Hector Sabelli points out in Bios that "creation necessarily precedes destruction." Schumpeter's concept of the dynamic economy as "creative destruction" requires creation before there can be destruction. To put it another way: there has to be supply before there can be demand. Once the supply is made available, demand increated, and demand can then drive the creation of more supply.

In a recession or depression, there is widespread destruction. Creation/supply must occur for there to be demand. Therefore, Keynesian policies are going to have no real effect on the economy, as any demand will be for what is already created. Thus we will see what we are now seeing: some economic growth without a change in employment. We will see growth in already-existing companies (indeed, we see greater profits), but no creation of new companies and new products. Keynesianism is why we get such things as "jobless recoveries." It is why we have reports from experts that the economy is out of recession, while there is little evidence from the real economy that any such recovery is or has been underway. Now we know why.