Thursday, 15 October 2009

Flames of narrative technology.

How to put on fire your party. Vol. 1 technology. Vol.2 narrativity

Vol. 1 .You’re a primate. Life isn’t easy. All these guys chasing you (and they aren’t creditors, they are lions), all this time spent searching for food. It’s cold, and dark. Then your Research and Development department finds the first improvement: fire. Fire is the first technological step. The release 1.0 of Homorama. With fire you gain time (as any technological improvement, see operations consultancy), you make your life easier (less cold, cooked meal: that means you can eat meat), you become less victim: less lions in chase of you. You gain self esteem, technological self esteem. It’s not any more about who has the biggest arm, or the biggest tail. You can show off your discovery. And the curiosity of the first improvement successfully leads you to try again. Without a success, curiosity is pure fantasy. A successful curiosity is promoting itself. Try again. Spend time in research.

Vol. 2. You’re the same primate. Life isn’t easy for you either. You feel the pressure of this boredom and meaningless life. Too much danger, too few rewards. At least give yourself a chance: do something different. I’d tell story, but I’m not sure I have the whole device required, the phonation is still primitive; probably my brain is not yet ready to invent plot and communicate tales. But I can’t stand to gather fruits, flee from lions and be scared all my life. There is a storm, it’s raining, a thunder. Pure courage, pure adventure. And only one step from death. Yes, why not? Why not facing your death? A close thunder , a flash. A burning monster, the hurting demon. You are there to face your death. Why not getting closer to this demon? Facing death, courage, meaningless all this brought you fire. And when you mastered fire. You first communicate your feelings. You started to share. Not just fruits and grooming. You started to share a space, a virtual space, a cognitive virtual space. We are mates not because we’re afraid together. We are sharing a narrative.

Vol. 1. The strange case of life on earth is a case of bio-technological warfare. Every species is escalating the conflict. Just give me one thousand years, I promise, my venom will be more poisonous, my jaws will be more inescapable… Primates were clever and agile. Curious and vulnerable: they needed to escalate dramatically: they needed to do something new. Courage, tools, in one word: they needed to shorten the technological process. Stop with the thousand years: individual life span to measure progress. You need to find something. And when you is involved, we know a mind is just round the corner. Accelerating the technological process, permits to amass a critical cognitive potential.

Vol. 2. The fight for life is a circle. We’ve seen dinosaurs. We’ve seen bacteria. No matter how big, how resistant , the game is written. No fun. But if you can just put apart some minutes, like the dust of your hole in prison. Hide your spared time, like a prisoners hide the dig of a tunnel. And when time is enough, you can go. You have a new world, a world of narratives. This is the fire every man brings with a story. And every man tells a story: himself.

Vol. 1 & 2 During the ages, every man who speaks, every man who tells, is bringing with him this sparkle, old more than 15 000 centuries. Yes, my friend. When you tell a story, you’re passing to your mate a sparkle. Passing the fire is a technology: it’s a narrative technology. A lobster is passing technology to its spring via generation. Our way to pass technology is narrative: every advancement, every improvement, every new trick, it’s a new story. And every story is the deployment of a technology. Every narration is the showing off of a prowess, of technique. In order to tell, you need a stage and a character. And a plot. And a voice telling the story. In other words you need the technology of a mind, the technology to accelerate primate brain with fire. A narrative technology. Fire it up!

Monday, 12 October 2009

The halo of narrativity on the way to become a character

In philosophy of language and logic there is a original sin (shared with common sense): that contents can be identified and described. Clearly, precisely, analytically. In other words that the origin of the meaning of content could be translated digitally. You can translate meanings in digital form. Yes. But they weren’t born that way (at least, up to now. Interestingly in the future we could start to create content digitally: programming is a way to produce digitally content. But you inhabit a world of meanings that are not created that way. Up to now).
Contents are the emissions and the feedback of an informational exchange with the environment. Contents are the exchange: this is why we exchange meanings and not things. We exchange an essence, a spirit, an abstraction. A virtual tool. But this virtual and informational environment is not univocally determined. Everyone with his personal experience changes and modify the environment: contents are dynamic. The bundle of stories and their exchange produce a shared meaning, a shared content: analogically with your social environment and individually mastered. But the analogy preserves the dynamics.

Contents are per definition stories of our experience, of our lives. Our lives are stories of stories. But sometimes this narrativity doesn’t produce living narrative: it’s lifeless, it’s a verbalism. A story of a story that never saw the light: shadows of shadows.
What is the method to tell a verbalism from a story? We are sure there is one? Narrativity is populated by characters.
What is the difference? There is one? Maybe one is a good story and the other is a boring one? There is a method to tell which one is more rooted in our experience ? And it’s a good thing to be rooted?

Why you can decide one is a verbalism and one is a story? A verbalism is the insane prison of a mind that never met characters, that never become one. A mind maskless. The schizophrenic story of a divided mind: an incomplete character that never touched the light of existence. A narrativity full of puppets instead of characters. There is hope to find light? I’m not sure. Sometimes narrativity is simply lazy to appear. Sometimes lacks of talent. Still ,you can develop a character. But if a character never appeared, what happened? If you don’t learn how to speak until 20, it’s likely you’ll never do. Becoming a character could be affected in the same way?

Theory of knowledge and minds out of synch

You are Norman, a scientist, a mathematician. You are slightly autistic, with a clear disconnection from normal social procedures with other human beings; you are very clever in doing the math. For this, you’ve been hired by the government to invent some awesome trick with physics and warfare. Your disconnection get worse. You become paranoid, you see things, you build an articulated and complex belief about a conspiracy, the government, some of your friends involved: usual stuff. After some years you become completely nutter. Nothing of what you see has the minimal pertinence with reality. The funny thing is that actually some guys of the government were looking at you, some of your friends actually worked for an enemy State, some episodes of your life have been disturbed by this plot. What can we say? Did you have an intuition of what was happening? Were you right, to some extent? No, not all. You were mentally high as a kite AND accidentally and parallelly, facts in real life were similar to your hallucinations. I’m sorry.

You are Rosemary and you’re pregnant. Your husband does something strange; not patently, just a bit. You are nervous, exhausted; you see things are not completely in order, but don’t understand precisely where. A couple of clues leads you to a morbid, delirious , impossible version: your husband sold your baby to the devil. Come on guys!, back to reality. You think you’re mad: too weird, too unacceptable, too unreal, too mad. But true!

Have you ever been in situations like Norman or Rosemary? Congratulations all of you are intensely disturbed. If you needed a confirmation, here we go: in your mind a bunch of crazy monkeys are inventing stories to have fun of your life (if only they had 100 000 years these stories would be very interesting…wouldn’t they, oh my Bard?). You are a lunatic if you believe you’ve been in similar conditions. Because every one of us is more or less in those conditions. But we are unaware of being there. Let me explain.

First, Norman and Rosemary are in a condition of building theory of how things are (we normally do this, but not often). This is an (implicit) theory of knowledge. Norman's mind is affected by a stete of disorder (a large chunk of the population is affected by state of mental disorder more or less pronounced); Rosemary’s version is fictional (a large chunk of what we believe scientifically and with good proofs, is fictional). When you dramatically diverge from the theory of how things are of your social environment, you start to have problems. If we believe what others believe, we are fine. But if we miss some coordination, some accordance, some synchronization, we get lost. Why Norman got lost? He simply dissociated himself from his social environment and so became mad and paranoid. The fact his paranoia was similar to reality doesn’t count. Isn't it ironic? We normally are more lucky: our paranoia is less severe and the parallel facts with reality give us the false belief we are right. It’s only we don’t experience the extreme verification Norman did: the verification your beliefs are paranoid (Everyone is telling Norman is mad and when he starts to accept this, the reaction of his social environment is positive: Norman is still seeing the same but now calls himself paranoid either.) Rosemary is simply discovering something to weird to be accepted: let’s just think to quantum theory or the degree of corruption in Italy. Alone is too difficult to manage the building of shared theory. Einstein didn’t believe to accept what he helped to discover. Judges Falcone and Borsellino have been killed by the mafia (large sectors of power said mafia doesn’t exist…).

OK now we have our stage: Norman and Rosemary aren’t more disturbed than us. They simply miss the beat. One too much. When you go out of synch, you see things. You see others dancing but you realize there is no music. It’s only the synchronized movement of everyone that is giving the perception of music to dance for. But there is no music. Or better there is only the multiple coordination of your social environment. The multiple movement gets the resonance of the mind involved: everyone is convinced to hear the music. But there is none.

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Habits, alibis

Play safe, play habitual. Habits are the highways and the boundaries of social living. They improve the speed and the easiness to do something. If you don’t need to think to what you do, you’ll do it better. “You” it’s a very heavy operative system; every time you require the use of “You”, the entire system is called. Think to driving: a set of relative complex cognitive tasks, with manual ability. The first time is a nightmare, because “You” is involved. And when “You” is involved, you are driving and you are feeling emotions, you remember, you pay attention to the street, you see details, you are there. And all this is extremely tiring. After a while, you drive “You-less” . It’s not You, it’s just yours (body, cognitive system, user-friendly electronic device, etc. etc.). You drive in absence of You. It’s a zen experience.

Very often this kind of experience is even more pervasive. Your social role, your character are built in the environmental infrastructures. You are a salesman, after your day, seated with a drink in your hand, in the other, your head. While you're drinking your pint (of wine), you remember the days you wanted to write, the days of your warm thinking and feeling, then your boss, "you're clever, boy", the good sales, the good money. Before finishing your drink, you want to kill yourself. Really. And you’re right. But your alcoholism is stronger than your wisdom and you pour a second one quicker than any possible suicidal plan. The day after you’ll start again in your habits. Everything is fine.

The point is: you can’t be present in every moment of your life. Too heavy (for your operative system), too dangerous (for you and society). You are required to do things: you require to do things! And of course You too, requires to do things: you know what to do, because You knows what to do. You is the boss, delegates and leaves automatisms to do the dirty job. The environment and your cognitive system know how to take care of your actions. These are habits. And you should be grateful to them: you’ve been built and designed by your habits. But from the entanglements of your habits, the shadow of You emerges. Nothing wrong, nothing bad, nothing atypical. It’s normal, it’s you.

As soon as You takes the driving seat, we see the troubles. If You is driving, he wants to feel, he accelerates, he changes route, he overtakes. Bad, bad, bad boy. The same if you take You to your job place. Try to speak with your boss in the You shoes. Go to hell. I’m not interested. Not my problem. You know what you can do with the company's vision? I’m not mad. I’m You, You is in charge now, You and I now are free men.

Exactly, fired. Changing habits at work is redundancy (unless you pay someone else to change your organization, hire consultants to put in place new habits as new clothes, without You involved).
Habits are also damningly innocent: you can’t do wrong until you follow them. The definition of committing crimes could be: breaching the habits. Every crime committed is a diversion from habits. Every time You appears, he wants to try something different. Let’s see what happen if I hammer the head of the sweat Mrs Gonzalo. But also: my life is more than this, I deserve more, I can do it. Let me see what there is round the corner: please let me turn! If you permit You coming out, you accept the risk: you’ll see your creativity, you’ll see You in the process of building new places, maybe future habits, maybe not. It’s you.
Where were you last night? As usual, I went home, it was 7,30, like every day; a quick stop to the drugstore, say at 7,53. Stairs, keys, door. Light, a glass, two fingers, scotch. 8,01. Mrs Gonzalo has been killed at 7? I’m innocent then. Your alibi. Your habits. It was You.

Friday, 9 October 2009

I lost my mind. Again. Alfred, a new mask.

Where is my mind? Probably the best article about that is Where I am, from Dan Dennet (one the best philosopher in town), with a rigorous reasoning and a funny wit: a good sci-fi story, with strong foundations. A part from the philosophical issues, where is you, in the majority of situations is where is your living brain. There are small exceptions . After your death, your legacy can be transmitted (say, with a book).It’s not you as a whole, but traces, sometimes important of your mind, of your reasoning, can survive the death of your brain. A second situation is when you notice someone damaged your favorite car . In this case it’s not “you” affected. Still your mind can suffer as if affected. You extended your mind to a thing.

Alles klar? If we are convinced a mind is a individualistic device, complex but a unit, yes, we’re done. Unfortunately this is simplistic. The concept of a single mind, the “I”, a single item, with maybe fading boundaries, but a clear identity, is not a good concept. It’s very useful : you can address bills to someone in a unambiguous way. It’s rational: you can ask and give commitments. In general there are good reasons why it’s good to ascribe a unit to the concept of mind. Still, this is far from being a good description of this cognitive environment.
Your mind is not milked from your brain (well, there are very strong relations, of course). It’s a process of reciprocal manipulation from environment to you and vice versa: your environment shapes you, you digest this manufacturing and design some modifications to your environment: a reciprocal re-programming.

Fantastic, now we are able to be really in control. We just need to re-programming our environment as we wish. Easy, isn’t it? Mmmmmmm. Well, y-yes. It’s what we do: re-programming our environment. The problem is : “as we wish”. The process of re-programming is a narrative. Our environment in order to shape us, tell us a story: this is a dynamic blueprint. It’s living, it’s a living story. We digest this narration, but we don’t digest the story: we are the story! The story (i.e.: Us!) becomes able to narrate. The story tells a story. But these are not “just words” (thank you Barack, my favorite speech!), these are our lives, our feelings, our emotions, our loves, our battles. The story-tells-a-story is the environmental re-programming that builds roads, houses, satellites, etc. etc. To act, to make a difference, (at least in our cultures), you need to be an “I”. You need to be a character. That’s why the environment shapes a mask, permitting you to play a role. The mask is not an disguise: without you’d be faceless. We are characters on stage, without a mask, we’d be speechless ghosts. So a mask, it’s fine. The problem is, our environment is bigger than intentions. Your family, is an environment. Your parents could have intentions (maybe contradictory, but it’s ok..). But also situations are environment. Also discipline, tension, pressure, obstacles are environment: all this forces are environment. And they don’t have intentions. We meet a lot of actors dealing with us, but the environment is more than the actors. The multiple forms of the environment gives us the art of masking (of masking the speechless faceless with a character). And we start to possess many, many masks. We change them, sometimes. But we have the masking art. We can build a new mask. We can modify the old one. We age. We change.
Everyone in few years (20?30?) is in possess of several masks. When you know who you are, you decided your mask. Good. There is no reason the other masks will leave you. There is no reason the other masks will wait for you either. Is it good to have only one? Is it funny to change constantly many? Just a matter of tastes. I personally quite enjoy the mindshake. It’s a funny exercise and very interesting. Do you remember Fight club? Or Nikolay Stavrogin? It’s a classic in art to shake minds. Think to “La Vida es sueno”( Life is a Dream) of Calderon de la Barca or Pirandello So It Is (If You Think So) or Six Characters in Search of an Author.
Mindshake is a good way to complicate your days (and nights…). Where is my mind, after a mindshake? The good news is that if you get lost (if you lose your mind), just remember where are the other, disposable minds. The bad news is that when you lose your mind, you tend to be annoyed by the masking art… Are we safer with the masking art? Or more in peril?
Shake, shake, shake

Thursday, 8 October 2009

The healthy grooming of social patterns

Ravaged land, broken branch, spread of infective hotbeds. This is the activity, say, of a herd of wild boars and it doesn’t look a thorough gardening. You’d prefer land in order, cozy and spotless. But to turn the soil inside out is good: it brings oxygen in lower levels, it makes the earth breath. Moreover it moves the upside down, it put the bottom at top. Randomly, intentionless, without a plan. Pure, casual revolution; not always good, not always helpful, but occasionally vital.

You’d prefer to cut precisely your trees, maybe giving them desired shapes. Round. A spike. A dinosaurs, whatever you like. But you don’t have roots; you don’t transform sunlight in energy; and you don’t grow incessantly. In other words, you aren’t a plant. A tree doesn’t want a shape. A tree grows, grows and grows. This is its only thought, the only will, the only desire. How does a tree understand when it’s time to stop and to cut? There is no method. Or better, there is one and it is outsourced. To suppliers like boars.
You’d prefer to avoid epidemics. Flu is bad. But sickness is learning. Under normal circumstances the organism works: it lives. Under the condition of sickness you test the organism, you put the metabolism under stress. From an engineering point of view, it’s good for a machine to be tested. Not only to eliminate the ones that fail the test. It’s good for the machine to be tested, because only through the test it becomes a machine, from the metaphysical, platonic, logic existence of a project. A living organism must incur in viral attack, from time to time.
Indeed the grooming of a forest consists also in local situations of chaos, disruption and chaos. The forest is healthier after the ravage of a wild herd.

Our forest, our social forest, our cognitive environment of logical projects and algorithmic procedures, requires a similar grooming. We are sociopathic primates; we suffer from nightmares, deliria, panic and these, in part, are the sources of creativity and invention. To placate our fears, we invent. To entertain our madness, we develop complex architecture. And to survive in these environment, our inventions must be organized, precise, reliable. But again, we can’t leave ourselves alone in our own creations. They become crystal prisons. Our thinking can become so clean and geometrical , fanatically perfect that they could threat our survival.

And here comes the wild herd. Groups of individual that locally tend to disrupt the geometry of social patterns. They are infectious, they break things, they bring chaos:they destroy. Do we need to like the mischievous situation? Of course not! But from a different angle, less local, this destructive activity is helpful, is healthy. Because to turn inside out things is at least an opportunity: sometimes you discover that you were walking with your head and the turn allows you to try your feet; sometimes you know how to grow and you don’t know how to stop; sometimes you are tested. It’s difficult to plan all these helpful diversion from the normal, linear, crystal activity. Crystals are clean, but not that imaginative. And we need to invent to create; the disruptive activity of revolution therefore is a grooming of our social, cognitive habits. Revolutions are necessary, occasionally.