One of the most unrelentingly tedious dimensions of human social existence is that of a polite and receptive silence in the presence of utterly uninteresting conversations or narrative recollections. Listening to an enthusiastic account of a round of golf, for instance – and acknowledging the diversity of personal interests, hobbies and sporting professions which exist – can be mindnumbing in the extreme. Beyond any intrinsic interest or reflective novelty invoked by observing the ways that people think and communicate, of the endlessly creative refabrication of memory and symbolic accounts of experience which recursively embed themselves as the episodic cognitive functions of memory, I find that considering the other layers and levels of information self-replication, communication and conceptual thought can rescue (almost any) boring conversation from complete stultification.
The logic of games and convention or cultural and technological expectations, the things which appear in many ways to be relatively static external artefacts and entities of our shared experience, are very much always conditioned by the probability of their own continuing environmental tenure. A game has rules, inputs and outputs, and while most games have very clear and unambiguous boundaries or teleological limits – the rules-set and cultural, temporal resonance of even the possibility of such an intelligible configuration of ordered, patterned information is always a microcosm of that larger flow of logic and self-propagation that provides cultural and cognitive systems with momentum and energy.
What we more often fail to understand is that it is not only that these games, competitions, adversarially reflexive self-definitions are not external to us, they are not the patterned configurations or cultural atoms that we inflate with meaning and that obtain reality and substance through us. It is also, simultaneously and with just as much evidence and causal or explanatory force, the case that we live, think and exist through the logical self-replication and autonomously self-propagating logucal and statistical or probabilistic patterning of games and an associated adversarial conflict.
The symbolic and culturally-rich decoration and expansive of logical self-replication with hype and commercially self-interested media frenzy tends to mask what is usually hiding in plain sight. Information and energy-processing systems are oriented towards their own optimally-efficient, distributed and redundancy-tolerant methods (or notionally – algorithmic functions) of recursive self-propagation. The patterns of information, of grammatical rules and of the effervescent entropy of cultural artefacts and narratives that orbit them – these are the methods of the continuing evolution and metamorphosis of a central or axiomatic and foundational principle. The mundane artefacts, logical patterns and systems of games (and the games of cultural and political systems) that we indirectly or wilfully participate in – these are the complex emergence of a living, liquid logic of material instances of an abstract principle of self-replication.
Consider a planet upon which a bipedal animal wandering around a paddock, hitting little balls with a stick under the auspices of a diminishingly small and readily-copied and understood set of rules, being watched and copied by other bipedal animals, entranced in a flowing stream of self-validation and entirely abstract significance. We take for granted a self-evident and unquestionable normality and rationality as underlying the presence of these games and competitions that we play. We rarely consider that these games play themselves as much, if not more, through us than we uniquely construct or control these games. It could be golf, gambling, stockmarkets or war – the logical oscillations and salient features of what we observe, and what is not lost to the unknowing entropy of unrecorded events that is most of history – this is a pattern of self-propagating complexity travelling through (and as) us and no one owns or fully understands it. It is indefinitely extensible, open-ended and anyone who suggests that they have found the one true system or logical method of interpreting, explaining and constructing a better world (or a better golf course, for those who are interested) is lying.
The beautiful twist in this tale is that it is the logic of a game which mischievously provides a false sense of control and comprehension. This sense of control provides reflexive self-validation and meaning to our lived experience. That is how the logic of the game has found a sweet-spot for self-replication in human culture and psychology. We build our worlds around these shallow meanings, we embroider significance through statistical and commercial extensions of recorded facts. We copy the narratives and we tell the stories which, like memory, are endlessly error-prone and shaped to context and present experience.
Golf is not (just) golf.