Wednesday 20 May 2009

Evolutionary consciousness, Lamarck and unfortunate ideas

The 'inheritance of acquired characteristics' is something which effectively underpins any view of humankind that sees consciousness as 'evolving'. "Look at the wonderful technology we now have, all the social reform, etc, etc" - human consciousness must be evolving! In other words, the acquired achievements of one age are inherited by the next.

This is a debate which raged in biology (it takes me back to Bateson, so comfortable territory!), concerning the development of Giraffes' necks and Elephants' trunks. Because one giraffe had to stretch, its descendants grew longer necks.

It is merely an idea, but a powerful one (which has for some time been discredited by the scientific community). It still exists in various forms - particularly in Dawkin's work.

What are it's political implications? The real problem for me is that it suggests that one idea is more enlightened than another, and that this idea will be inherited by future generations. Whose idea? Why theirs? It's an open invitation to manipulative people to expoit and abuse positions of power.

All-in-all, these political problems are a testament to the causal powers of ideas, which in many cases must be guarded against. The defenders are always human conscience and decency.

The social efficacy of some ideas is clearly better than others. What that means is that some distinctions are more effective than others at any particular point in history. At this point in history, Lamarck serves us poorly. Luhmann might be more interesting...

This improvisation is set to a diagram I did with Jim on the relationship between Shiva, Vishnu and Brahman and the VSM.

Tuesday 19 May 2009

Izzy did this diagram of a machine, so I've combined it with an improvisation. Not been feeling well today (another cold - hope Astrid doesn't get it!) but progressed well on SPLICE report and other outstanding jobs... Astrid's discovering Auden at the moment partly thanks to wonderful documentary the other day...

Monday 18 May 2009

Mere ideas

I got into an argument over the weekend about whether humans are 'evolving'. I got quite heated about it, which was interesting to me... it was probably because I felt my identity challenged (and so did they). My challenge to the 'evolutionary' idea is that it is merely one way (a rather western post-Descartes way) of making distinctions, which glosses over individual human experience.

The sensuality of human life is, it strikes me, a constant dimension, not an evolving one (indeed, we may be less attuned to our senses, including 'common sense', than we used to be). Sensual lives are played out against a continually changing context, reproduced and transformed by individual lives (technology, social change, etc). Ideas, including evolutionary ideas, can be dangerous because they risk disconnecting our senses, and become over-reliant on rational abstraction. This is where fundamentalism begins.

This all started me thinking about the role of ideas in forming our identities. We get attached to ideas, or ways of making distinctions, because they help us navigate our experience. Getting too attached is dangerous - it's quite easy to become 'fundamentalist': that means when the idea outweighs basic conscience, human decency or 'common sense'.

I love ideas, and they form part of my identity (particularly certain philosophical ones, or cybernetic ones). I play with distinctions as a way of probing my conscience. Some distinctions I find useful. And everyone is a bit like this: we all have ideas, some of them silly, some of them well-grounded... and they can affect the way we act. At best, however, they are regulated (and if necessary over-ruled) by our senses: our sense of others' ideas and feelings being different from our own; our sense of ways to organise ourselves; our sense of fairness; our sense of right and wrong... and (basically) love.

Related to this, this is my attempt to explain creativity using the distinctions of the Viable System Model...

Thursday 14 May 2009

Transforming Silence

I was thinking about the disruptive (or even transformative) role of silence in the abstract improvisation a few days ago. To what extent does a silence transform... are we in a different place?


Did a movie on creativity today to try and explain my experience of being creative using the VSM. Here's part of the video with a music improvisation I did yesterday (very Shostokovich-like). The disruptions are interesting, as are the coercions, which I think are related to the melodic line...


Here's an abstract improvisation (with a movie about java programming which I made for RAK). What's the difference between the figurative and the abstract? For me, the abstract is continual disruption (and this was the point of the serial method in Schoenberg): it's constantly interfering with our preconceptions - allowing little recognisable to form. The figurative disrupts too - but often in the detail (I think of Constable here). Where the prime reaction to the abstract is disruption, the prime reaction to the figurative is recognition, cognitive, rational... in saying "this is a chair", it is in a sense coercive.

Friday 8 May 2009

attack from all sides

work is slightly overwhelming at the moment... too much going on; too much I should have done by now. The improvisation recalls the strange sound of the call to prayer in RAK - always disrupting; always coercing...

Wednesday 6 May 2009


Astrid is now in Manchester and things domestically are going well. Still recovering from RAK - there's a lot to do...