On Flightless Birds

I have been thinking about this recently. Left-wing, right-wing – there will always be differences, there will always be dissonance and the creative disruption that this causes… the irony is that the more that entrenched camps set themselves up against one another in an unending battle to get one over on the opposition, the more that we define ourselves by our differences, the less we actually coordinate and focus on the root causes of the problems which divide us in the first place.

Caveat: the image above may imply that banks and money are the source of our divisions and that it is to the benefit of Big Money for the world to remain politically divided.  This may or may not be the case but it remains a fact that the world is (perhaps irremediably) divided and whether or not anyone specific is behind this, it always behooves us to ask: “cui bono ?”


Given what we now know about the absolutely critical role of the environment and the natural world in the continuing viability of the Human project (i.e. civilisation), any political system or theory which does not place the environment and environmental concerns at the center of their ideological matrix is displaying a short-sighted, selfish immaturity beyond measure.

Yet again, this all comes back to a monumental failure of insight and imagination.

Fake News

Fake News is the fictional troll under the media bridge, conjured to distract attention away from the fact that the real trolls are prancing around in the middle of the bridge, waving great banners of incompetence and hurling insubstantial vitriol with megaphones. The interesting thing about Fake News as a concept is that once someone has staked everything on the existence of this fake media as a way in which to devalue all opposing political positions (and through this to notionally create more value for their own ideological and political assertions), there is a corrosion of the more general cultural value of truth.   Calling into question your opponents’ assertions in this way and in what is essentially an immature manner creates just as much doubt about your own positions and opinions and, much as with most psychologically disruptive illness, this potentially leads to a descending spiral of desperate paranoia and insecure instability.

The takeaway from this: the defensive “Fake News” fabrication sweeps up with itself what may be genuinely questionable news, authentic journalism and also – the assertion of the existence of Fake News.  You can’t question truth without questioning everything including the assertion that Fake News actually exists and this will probably lead the purveyors of the untenable positions that require Fake News to improve their own political capital to fall into escalating and deteriorating, downward spiralling insecurity and desperation.  The projection of one class of falsehoods to attempt to protect the legitimacy of another is an utterly nonsensical position to assert.

This is ultimately not even about Left-Wing or Right-Wing politics – this is a reflection on the fact that if you can not sufficiently defend your own actions and statements in the public arena without resorting to infantile name-calling in lieu of constructing comprehensive, intelligent defence of your own ideological assertions and political positions – you are probably not qualified for the job.  This brings to mind the Dunning-Kruger Effect, which “is a cognitive bias in which low-ability individuals suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly assessing their ability as much higher than it really is. Dunning and Kruger attributed this bias to a metacognitive incapacity, on the part of those with low ability, to recognize their ineptitude and evaluate their competence accurately.”  Otherwise put: there are political figures who are themselves thriving on the construction of actual fake news while decrying opposing positions as Fake News and it is highly probable that these people may not be competent or intelligent enough to possess the metacognitive insight into what they themselves are doing.


Memes: Encoding Complexity

A meme is, more or less, simply a unit of information – a quantum of cultural communication.  This is information stored, compressed, perhaps encoded or encrypted in some way.  This information is encoded in such a manner that it can be unpacked or decrypted in useful ways.  This generation of meaning clearly already exists within language and the diverse semantics which may be extracted or translated from words, compound statements and narrative more generally – this is an unpacking or decrypting of complexity, of structured information into useful knowledge.

The encoding of a message in a way that meaning or useful communication can occur represents the storage of the potential energy that unpacking the complexity of the message would produce.  Understanding message or information storage as delayed communication is instrumental.  Genetic information storage effectively encrypts organic architectures across their double helix.  Cultural memes are different to genes in type but not in kind; this is to say that cultural models, maps, logics and vocabularies are encoded into artefacts and narratives as a different fundamental type of complexity storage but they still represent the same kind of complexity storage as instantiated in narratives, images, symbols, languages, books, magnetic storage or other incomplete logical systems.  Cultural objects are relatively simple in comparison to genetic information systems but when considered in their broader dynamic contexts, their complexity is comparable but is stored and encrypted in a far more decentralised manner.  It is possible to conceive that decentralised, dispersed information storage systems might convey some kind of selective advantage in evolutionary terms.

From our privileged point of view we tend to views memes as curious cultural or informational entities.  The broader context and reality is probably more that the stored and transferred (i.e. communicated) information encoded in a meme merely exists on a very wide spectrum of information storage and complexity.


Context: Thousands of emails detail EPA head’s close ties to fossil fuel industry

No great surprise there but still equal parts interesting, entertaining and tragic. It is completely flabbergasting the degree to which primitive psychological motivations drive so much of human political activity, on a spectrum from remedial tribalisms through to grandiose narcissistic and selfish fantasies of self-importance. There exists a profound lack of wisdom and intelligence at the core of this US administration, a poverty of authenticity and vision which will most certainly come back to haunt us all.

YouTube: Evolving Business Models

Context: YouTube to stop playing unskippable 30-second ads

The business models are finding themselves having to evolve almost as fast as the technologies they extract profit from.  This may be causing problems: commercial pressures and entrepreneurial opportunities drive a significant amount of technical progress but legal (i.e. Intellectual Property rights) and business pressures simultaneously seek to reign in and control the advance (or at least the direction and formal, legal specification) of information and communication technologies.

There is a subtle dissonance between the drive to greater technological sophistication and the desire to control this process and its products.  As with so many other things – the psychological desire for control here confronts the evolving complexity of the world and in this specific case the consumer appears to be the winner, to some extent.

The sheer massive commercial scale of the number of adverts being broadcast through YouTube would have to outweigh the need for longer adverts.  Market coverage is very broad, all that they require is more creative, more engaging and short-format commercials.  It will be interesting to see what direction this takes in regards to art direction, visual iconography and narrative construction.  I predict that more hybrid advertising/information and news or entertainment formats will be the commercially-driven YouTube advertising success stories over mid to long-range time scales.

Rhetorical Poverty

Context: Immigrants Do Not Increase Crime, Research Shows

I am posting this more as an observation of the comments thread below the original post (at the link above). Equal access to information entails equal opportunity to broadcast opinion, regardless of the sophistication or accuracy of the position taken.  Ad Hominem arguments are thrown around as if they achieve anything more than juvenile giggles or wilful narrative misdirection. The false attainment of strength sought through public assertions of vitriole appears to be ubiquitous in online forums and social media. An opinion voiced on the topic of immigration may be a valid assertion, be it for or against immigration, as long as it is supported by intelligent reasoning and evidence. It seems as though manifold immature insults and wishful thinking have overwhelmed rational public debate.

This great levelling of rhetorical quality is a consequence of the democracy of information access and the ease of broadcasting any opinion whatsoever. The flattening of the topography of contemporary debate in the political and public policy domain may actually be assisted by the presence of the lunatic fringe: things perhaps need to be stirred up a little for clever ideas to be able to also bubble up through the culpable inertia of intellectual stagnancy which sets in at the very first opportunity in governments and public debates across the world.

There may be a silver lining to this cloud: there is an old Chinese aphorism that proclaims that one cannot truly appreciate being healthy unless they gave also at some point been sick. Similarly, given the proliferation of poor argument and irrational thinking expressed online – we can learn to appreciate intelligent reasoning and authentic argument and cleverly expressed ideological assertions all the more in light of the proliferation of all of this online rhetorical poverty.