Missing Images on this Blog

It may be something of an intransigent irony that my own fascination with philosophy, art, emptiness and entropy should return to haunt me in the way it has. I have received legal emails concerning copyright an image on this blog. I removed the image immediately after receiving two emails concerning the same photograph.

So – I have removed images that I did not make myself, that I had not attributed ownership of the artist, photographer, tattooist, graffiti artist, Neolithic cave-painter, architect, city planner, mathematician, physicist, random scribbler (etc.) directly. I removed hundreds of images which were used to improve the experience and overall qualitative feeling of this little project of mine. I celebrate art and artists, so I will refrain from any reference or use of any more artists or photographers (etc.) work or any more images, just in case it becomes legally problematic – ironic, isn’t it?

I will begin to write without any images or visual aesthetic of colour and form. I will adhere to words only. There will be many missing images across the 500+ posts in this blog but there is nothing I can do about that; I will remove orphaned HTML references to them when I find them. Other than that – this blog has been a personal project for the cultivation and refinement of ideas and I receive no financial or reputational benefit from it. I think, I write and I refine ideas here – that is all.

If you find references to images which are missing, please comment on the related post – I will tidy it up. Apologies for any inconvenience.

Ex Nihilo

Communication is an interesting problem. For all but the simplest of statements and assertions, we find ourselves so easily adrift and lost upon a tide of ambiguity and uncertainty. This is of course as much a feature as it is a bug in the veritable software and logic of information, grammar and linguistic inflection that we live through and that just as much, if not more, lives through us.

Explanation of complex concepts is generally only verifiably true (or at least – factual) where and when we can reduce those concepts to the equivalent of an elementary arithmetic. What happens when we seek to perform such pseudo-mathematical concision and abbreviation in, and with, language is of course that we merely displace the implicit complexity and ambiguity of communication to another location, we incur an entropic cost of loophole and vulnerability which is nowhere as obvious (or as plausibly deniable) as when it manifests in, and as – for instance – legalistic frameworks such as constitutional or taxation law. These loopholes are always there and exist as much due to the endemic and enigmatic fallibilities and mischievously recursive curlicues of logic itself as by any irreducible uncertainty native to language, cognition and the complexities of information transmission as communication.

I find that attempting to communicate advanced concepts through the relatively primitive building blocks of vocabulary, nuance and metonymy provides a fascinating challenge and problem-space to explore. It is all the more intriguing in that the most interesting entity, artefact or system to explore with words is probably (and perhaps inevitably) the act of communication itself. A conceptual art of seeking to capture the meaning of elusively complex and reflexively self-replicating patterns of sentience, cognition and conceptual communication is that simplest logic of one mirror turned to face another and through which an acuity of parallel planes exponentiates virtual depth towards infinity. There is, however, only one mirror and it manages by some beautiful impossibility to envelop itself, to leap out of naked structure into flowing rivers and dancing colours (or are they flames?) of meaning. How this occurs is often-enough approached reductively, systematically and mechanistically – a valid enterprise but I suspect it is necessarily also always only half the truth.

There is no authentic pointy-end or substantive conclusion to the vanishingly small narrative and bootstrapped metaphor expressed here. In attempting to capture that ephemeral infinity of unbounded paradox and systemic mischief that we all might feel is implicit and intuitively present behind the dancing shadows of meaning and syntax that pass into, through, and manifest as us, we might also think that this should (or at the very least – could) be an entirely explicable theorem. But it is not, and this is for that reason also how you can invent something, anything at all – really, out of nothing and emptiness. It is an interesting problem.

On Tribal Narratives and Environmental Catastrophe

Context: Climate Disaster Is Upon Us

A core human psychological trait of small-scale tribal herding may work against the kind of global organisational unity and cooperation required to cultivate substantive industrial and economic change in the limited time available.

On one end of the behavioural and cognitive spectrum: the scale of the context and the consequences may be an order of magnitude beyond the narrative aptitude and comprehension of both the individual and the collective (i.e. cultural, social) minds with which emergent biological and deep historical processes have equipped us. Denying the existence of an unintelligible reality makes a gloomy kind of sense from that perspective; people cling to narratives they can understand and to which their reflexive neurophysiology or personal experience entrains and predisposes them.

Another, equally troubling but related, issue is that of a probable disassembly of existing large-scale narratives (such as they are) of international cooperation and global responsibility when faced with unrelenting environmental entropy. It is something of an endemic and pathological characteristic of our species to seek solace in simplistic abstractions and defensive tribal tropes when confronted with insecurity and uncertainty.

It is not all necessarily doomsaying, though. A key takeaway may be that creatively articulating an effective and persuasive global narrative on this topic has become more important than ever before.

Living through Language

Do we live through words or do words live through us ?

Every conceivable assertion concerning individuation and singular possession of unique identity is made through the logical sequence of symbols and grammatical rules of language. In this system of information formulation, compression and transmission, meaningful statements serve first the purpose of replicating and validating the structure by which those messages are encoded in human language. While experience and perception are the ground of our existence, the filter and logic of symbolic communication is the method and tool set by which we render this existence intelligible. Unconscious, unstructured or prelinguistic states of mind are conceivable, perhaps inevitable, but it seems that in some way once a viral system of information encoding organically emerges, is adopted or acquired – it performs a mischievous act of deception. It is through language that we reflexively identify our own selves but in so doing, both internally and externally with others, we replicate the logic and structured sequence of the information encoding itself. We inhabit language but it equally and inversely inhabits us.

Any counter-argument is also formulated through structured thought and an associated private or public language. You can not *not* participate in the replication of a viral system of language and communication. Is language innate in the brain or purely a learned system ? It doesn’t matter – the primary purpose of any self-propagating information or energy pattern is that of autonomous self-replication and the method by which the structure reproduces itself is less important than the self-validating fact of that continuity. A self-propagating soliton is merely a materially happy coincidence of energy and context and we too, for all of our deeply narcissistic attachments to unique self-importance, are also (for the most part) merely happy concidences of self-propagating patterns and structure in matter and energy.

It is a genetic, axiomatic and foundational fact of our minds, our science and our technology: we live through words and structured self-replicating patterns of information and energy live through us.

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Out of Context

Taken out of context (or explicit authorial intent), anything can appear (or be construed as) false. A perennial problem of effective communication appears to be in finding a useful balance between brevity and depth. A reduction of language and sentences to their most atomic form appears to sterilise the utility and flexibility of the tool set to some extent. Just how can we balance concise expression with a rich contextual semantics ?

Our internal associative word-clouds are dynamic, diverse and for the most part interpersonally divergent. Does consensus communication and its necessary related pool of shared interpretations and meanings effectively limit communication to a narrow aperture by which only those agreed-upon concepts can ever successfully self-propagate in or through media and speech or written conversation ? In what ways does a requirement for a significant pool of shared meanings shape possible future states of these communication spaces ? Active selection pressures of shared semantic intelligibility may adversely influence the range and depth of shared communication.

 

Impossible Things

Given sufficient complexity, energy or information flow and time, the logical end-state of any particular process need not itself under analysis appear as though rationally derived or even substantively plausible. Of all possible worlds, we should be less surprised (than we invariably are) to find ourselves embedded within a strange and tangled constellation of events and entities such as that within which we actually do find ourselves. This state of affairs is something which did happen so it is self-evidently something that could have happened. It is stranger by far to attribute a necessity to the narrative that this particular (and in all phenomenological humility, at the very least – apparent) state of things is inevitable or fated when it could all quite easily have been otherwise. The world simply is what it is and we do not know why; no retrospective causal or projective semantic anchor exists upon which to reflexively build our own story, through which to validate our own selves. We will build such a narrative anyway and regardless – it is what we do and it is how we self-propagate ourselves, viscerally; that is also what all of these digital communications and strings of symbols as words and self-assembling meanings are (even) to myself. In this particular end and halting alphabet string, a silence of no-thought and existential disassembly is a terrifying vacuum but it is not irrational, unexpected or in the slightest bit impossible.

Latency

I do like a good waffle. The fine line between writing a complex text with substantive meaning and the ineffectual convolutions of what may rapidly devolve into mere playful word-games is a significant distinction to clarify.

If the written word represents stored semantic or referential energy, then the act of writing is a little like drawing a bow, creating potential energy. The embedded meaning is always only ever potential as stored, structured information and the act of interpretation and translation generates meaning; this effects knowledge as an entity or object of mind. Information remains sterile until actively engaged and it is at that point that knowledge comes into play.

Writing is not always of some object or concept which in any sense pre-exists whole and fully formed but somewhat more as Michelangelo Buonarroti put it: “(…)every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it”; which is to say – the meaning and conceptual sophistication of the text (and the associated thought process) is revealed through the process of composition. We create, craft, sculpt and knead the form of the meaning from the potential of language where it lies dormant, drawing out meanings and relationships from the inherent ambiguities of language and idiom. The meaning and potential knowledge is not necessarily pre-existing in language but is most certainly set free or generated through thoughtful, creative, competent expression.

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Another feature of writing is that in the act of putting words into sentences and paragraphs, in aggregating and recombining concepts and various vocabularies, idioms and the like – we are very often producing those thoughts, we are encoding them – generating concrete forms from which further thoughts may (or may not) themselves take flight. The act of writing is, or can be, the creation of the concept and the actual instantiation of an idea in ways in which it may not be able to exist purely in the mind or without some record and external presence and persistent reference.

The value of the complex text, of the convoluted and layered narrative or description, is in the extent to which it evidences and admits the compression of sophisticated thoughts and ideas into smaller sequences of words. Using complex expressions and language allows us to say more with less, however (and ironically) at the cost of increasing internal textual and referential complexity. Limericks and click-bait headlines (for instance) have their place, but the generation and progressive refinement of complex written ideas allows for the cultivation of sophistication of thought. To some extent, we generate our thoughts as we speak or write them and the content of a thought (on a very broad spectrum, for instance – from 140-character Tweets through to Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason) demonstrates intelligence and effective problem-solving at a competency level appropriate to the complexity an author might perceive or understand in the world. Some statements are appropriate as simple constructs designed (for instance) to evoke instinctual emotional response, some (other) statements are appropriate as complex characterisations of complex and multi-layered or otherwise multi-dimensional realities; use what you are comfortable with but try to see the relativity of the relevance of any specific context and its appropriate construct. Learning to write complex statements (which are still intelligible and “sensible”) is a way of training your own mind to comprehend more complex realities. Learning to understand complex texts is, similarly, a way of training and “upskilling” your own mind.

Writing for it’s own sake is not, I suggest, entirely without merit but does require a constant retrospective analysis and open-ended creativity through which to nurture individual and shared conceptual vocabularies.

Fresh waffles with fruit and cream are quite pleasant, too.

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