Friday, 11 June 2010

A Persian Trick to Save Authorship

The Persian Army had one his own Elite Special Forces, the “Immortals”, a group of 10 000 soldiers highly trained, highly motivated and with a legendary record of success. They were so feared, that they've been nicknamed “the Immortals”: no chance against them. They were actually quite impressive, but they could die. Simply, after every battles, the dead ones were replaced with new guys. The army was then composed by “the same”.
When we speak of the possibility of saving the memory of our consciousness after the death of the material support (the body), a similar trick is in play. Indeed: what we are talking about? Information? OK.

Minds differ from brains, because we spread our intelligence in the sorrounding environment, both temporaly and spatially. My mind is extended in the cultural tools of its society. My brain has been accelerated by a hosting culture to become a mind. In the infrastructured environment of a culture, per definition “memory” of consciousnesses are saved. We talk about Achilles and Siddharta Gautama. Their consciousness have been handed down all along the centuries. A possible refusal of this concerns the “incompleteness” of the consciousness arrived to us. Fair enough, you can argue that we got only fragments of, say, the mind of Jesus Christ or Plato. That's why it's difficult the intepretation...

Good point. Let's take something closer. Wittgenstein or Ivan Karamazov. I personally would say that “I know” what Wittgenstein would say about something and the same for Ivan Karamazov. It's because I dedicated to these subjects a lot of time and passion. Refusal: we appreciate your effort, but we don't give you credit to be the only voice of Wittgestein or Ivan Karamazov. It's easy to image someone else, with the same authority and an opposite view. 100% true. OK. So now try someone really close: a dad, a brother, a spouse. I really know what they would say. I'm one of the most autoritative storage of their consciousness. If I weren't, then I would be in crisis about myself...

Welcome. Indeed it's not difficult now to figure out a situation where your dad/brother/spouse hid you something. Or even better: you will be a reliable substitution of their consciousness in the majority of case, but not in all the cases. Your algorithm to substitute your family consciousness is not perfect, it's good, but not perfect. Do you think we are just missing chunks of information? Do you think that the perfect substitution is just a matter of filling all the boxes? Your consciousness is a sequence of episodes, randomly embodied in a region of space-time. This is what we call “I”. If every information about me would be stored and replaced in another material support, I'm pretty sure the new puppet woul behave precisely how I'd have. The puppet will show some philosophical behaviour and for the rest of the world it would be pretty much the same. Except for me. I wouldn't “re-open” my eyes, this time in the new puppet, it wouldn't be “season 2”.

The very fragile subjective experience is not informative. It's a random breeze, a stigmergic production of the environmental narratives. Our cultures generate the sense of authorship of the narratives: there are protagonist, there are narratives, there must be authors. It's like when in a story, the character starts to quest: not matter my importance in this tale, I could be just an invention of the author. The 20 century literature is precisely dealing with this form of deconstruction: a character is talking directly to his author. Now we can do the same to our authorship.

The fact that autorship is alive, doesn't entail every author is. Remember the Persian trick....

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Impiety of representation

In front of you there is a Buddhist monk; it's nearly done with his 3 years work: an astonishing series of diagrams made of sand, with breath taking details and a mind blowing conception. What is the worst thing you can do it? Take a shot of it, immortalize his effort. Whaaat?? The bald dude spent 3 years and because he's naïve, he's simply destroying a master piece...What a shame...

OK let's have a chat.

The bald quiet guy is Buddhist. So he thinks this reality is an illusion, at least in the way it appears to our eyes. He respects the fact we have a mind and we can think about a lot of things...but, they are pretty much all...random vanishing draft on a beach, shaped by an ephemeral breeze. The mandala is helping him to remind this, it's a tool to handle the vanity of being minded. And being minded is clearly being narrative.

A mind is the human form of cognition; cognition is a technology of human being to navigate through differences in the world to survive; the differences in the world are projected by the same cognition in the form of representations: differences are cognitive representations. The human form of cognitive representation is narrative. If you want to tame a human mind, then you need to hollow your narrativity. Being minded is a constant projection of representations; that's it. But of course idolizing the representation activity makes you losing the grip on what is important, that is: nothing.
This is the reason the many prohibitions about representations in religion, from iconoclasm or ban of portraits of god and prophets.

A Buddhist monk when is working at his mandala, he's playing with fire. He's exalting his representativity through his work; the more his mandala is beautiful, the more is telling you something, the more is moving your conscience, the worst:it's culminating the vanity of representation. At the very peak, the righteousness of the monk coincides with the one of Paris Hilton: the item is carrying moral values. The blasphemy, it's worthwile to remind, it's not about an item carrying moral values:it's about carrying moral values!
Many authors realized that the true essence of being minded, narrativity, is just the mere vanity of being. David Foster Wallace or Cesare Pavese clashed against the nothingness of authorship: the unbearable lack of sense of representing nothingness.

But the monk knows it; as soon as the mandala is done, he will gently blow it away. And it's important to create a very good mandala, in order to make sense of this annihilation. Otherwise it would have been a symbol, a cognitive shortcut reaffirming the power of the mind. The supremacy on the illusion of mind and reality is to run towards the bullet, not avoiding them. If you can move faster than the bullets, reality is an illusion, if you chase the bullet with your body, mind is an illusion. And you'll become the Michael Jordan of Russian Roulette.

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Fetishism of Signs

Signs, as any other fact in the world are pretty much inexpressive. In all the universe, in every single molecule or particle, you won't find any meaning. Not even in the big bunch of stars. You won't find any in the methane seas of Uranus or in the ammonia wind of Jupiter. Sadly enough you won't find meanings in our beautiful blue planet. Meanings are extracted like a drug by living Turing machine, self-organizing systems that for living are supposed to see information in the surroundings. And to detect information, you need to spread it all around.

The case of meanings is even more complex. Meanings are more than information; they are folded in the environment and subsequently extracted. All the environment is re-mapped to be a meaning-storage. OK funny enough: what is stored, how and most of all by whom??? Let's start by the “simple” one: meanings are stored by complex cognitive architectures of narrative systems, that is to say: the folk, the dudes, us. How. OK, how and what are simultaneous. So what are we storing in the environment? Tools, clues, to facilitate our actions. Let me give you an example: scissors are clearly made to cut: it would be difficult to do it so sharply with bare hands! But in scissors there is more: their shape is supposed in part to guide your movements.If you “wear” a pair, you'll find yourself incredibly in the mood of cutting sharply(this example if from Richard Gregory). You need intelligence to build a tool but also you spread intelligence in the tool and a mate will retrieve some.

Image now to build an entire habitat of such tools. Start with a village. Then go in the forest and tag every plant and animal, with a name and a story. Now bring your little human cub and tell him the names and the stories. You know what you did? I tell ya. You just created a perv. Exactly, the most common human action is just this. The forest now is populated by believes, theorems, songs. You little semiotic monster will see an augmented reality. First he was biting the back of his monkey friend, now he's seeing an environment overpopulated by signs. Now signs are telling him things. Voices. The baby now will see in every fact, a story. Every portion of reality is a narrative fragment. Every meaningless fact in the world is whispering in the overheated head of the baby a clue. The overheated brain will start to pretend he's a mind. Every fragment of a narrative environment is accelerating a brain in to a mind. Now your little big head is a man. He's a semiotic perv: he thinks there are signs and meanings. He's able to see'em, while it's his accelerated overheated brain that is projecting furiously meanings in the fact of the world. And in the projection is able to represent a mind: pure sign fetishism.