‘Bullshit makes the flowers grow & that’s beautiful’

“HERE FOLLOWS SOME PSYCHO-METAPHYSICS. If you are not hot for philosophy, best just skip it. Different philosophies use different grids. A culture is a group of people with rather similar grids… The Aneristic Principle is that of APPARENT ORDER; the Erisitic Principle is that of APPARENT DISORDER. Both order and disorder are man made CONCEPTS and are artificial divisions of PURE CHAOS, which is a level deeper than is the level of distinction making. With our concept making apparatus called “mind” we look at reality through the ideas-about-reality which our cultures give us. The ideas-about-reality are mistakenly labeled “reality” and unenlightened people are forever perplexed by the fact that other people, especially other cultures, see “reality” differently. It is only the ideas-about-reality which differ. Real (capital-T True) reality is a level deeper than is the level of concept. We look through the world through windows on which have been drawn grids (concepts). Different philosophies use different grids. A culture is a group of people with rather similar grids. Through a window we view chaos, and relate it to the points on our grid, and thereby understand it. The ORDER is in the GRID. That is the Aneristic Principle. Western philosophy is traditionally concerned with contrasting one grid with another grid, and amending grids in hopes of finding a perfect one that will account for all reality and will, hence, (say unenlightened westerners) be True. This is illusory; it is what we Erisians call the ANERISTIC ILLUSION. Some grids can be more useful than others, some more beautiful than others, some more pleasant than others, etc., but none can be more True than any other.DISORDER is simply unrelated information viewed through some particular grid. But, like “relation”, no-relation is a concept. Male, like female, is an idea about sex. To say that male-ness is “absence of female-ness”, or vice versa, is a matter of definition and metaphysically arbitrary. The artificial concept of no-relation is the ERISTIC PRINCIPLE.The belief that “order is true” and disorder is false or somehow wrong, is the Aneristic Illusion. To say the same of disorder, is the ERISTIC ILLUSION.The point is that (little-t) truth is a matter of definition relative to the grid one is using at the moment, and that (capital-T) Truth, metaphysical reality, is irrelevant to grids entirelyThe point is that (little-t) truth is a matter of definition relative to the grid one is using at the moment, and that (capital-T) Truth, metaphysical reality, is irrelevant to grids entirely. Pick a grid, and through it some chaos appears ordered and some appears disordered. Pick another grid, and the same chaos will appear differently ordered and disordered. Reality is the original Rorschach.” – Robert Anton Wilson

“Talk some shit so I can refute it!” Fact Wino

“There is no crime more infamous than the violation of truth. It is apparent that men can be social beings no longer than they believe each other. When speech is employed only as the vehicle of falsehood, every man must disunite himself from others, inhabit his own cave, and seek prey only for himself.” Dr. Johnson

“Let a hundred flowers bloom, let a hundred schools of thought contend.” Mao

‘ALLO MRS. PREMISE

For the better part of two months this, that, and the other have popped up right in front of my eyes making me wonder if I should blog or not. While I was held up by some things I had no control over (e.g. the flu) it was largely me being frustrated for not coming to terms with my own urgent need to loudly express my narcissism by failing to come up with some over-arching half-ass’d idea that would make sense of not just the present but the future as well.

For two months, and for the lack of a better term – that dog would not hunt.

What finally put things in motion was Bruce Sterling’s SXSW 2018 keynote. This year he said he wasn’t going to bring out some of the usual topics especially those topics which talked about where we’re all headed. As he succinctly said about five minutes into his talk – nobody in Silicon Valley is inventing the future – they’re all too busy trying to fix the future they came up with.

That got me to thinking that if you are to see what might happen in the future you do need to see some sense of order in the present. In finding that order then you might see a thread of related information that can lead to a conclusion, but right now peering into the future is difficult because the present looks like nothing less than a mud covered wind shield.

And we’re all out of wiper fluid.

Despite that those things that popped up in front of me did lead to one small thread about how most of us – of a certain age- are ill equipped to make sense of it all.

And what were those popped-up things?

– Last month I got an invite to a banquet celebrating the 50th anniversary of an event I used to be associated with many years ago. I was not there at the start 50 years ago, but my time more or less coincided with the event’s heyday. Time, work, and a mere 10-day notice of the event put it out of reach. Updates and photos of the banquet arrived in my inbox and provided me with great relief that once again the past had to the good taste to stay put in the past.

So, so many old guys trying so hard to act like they haven’t aged a day.

Put another way – imagine the old high school football team getting together. After a few drinks the general consensus states they could still play the game. Hell, they could even show these kids today a thing or two. That’s when Dave says he can still get down in his three-point stance so he takes off his jacket and huffs and grunts, and chugs and just at the very second he’s about to achieve a moment of middle-aged glory his blood pressure goes sideways and somebody has to call 911.

Kinda like that.

– Mom got her picture in the Sunday paper a few weeks ago. It was a good photo and there was a short blurb which she was pleased with because “At least they spelled my name right.” Since then many people have complimented her on making the paper – none of whom are under the age of 70.

– Speaking of the Sunday paper – Facebook took out full page ads in many of the Sunday papers in the larger cities to apologize for the Cambridge Analytica mess. I have no doubt that this lead to mad scramble by the readers of the Sunday paper (see above) to make sure Facebook is on the National Registry of do-not-call numbers.

Nobody wants some punk on the phone tryin’ to sell ’em a Facebook subscription.

No sir!

Oh the Hume-manity! or How did We get Here Part I

We’re not living through a crisis about what is true, we’re living through a crisis about how we know whether something is true. We’re not disagreeing about facts, we’re disagreeing about epistemology. The “establishment” version of epistemology is, “We use evidence to arrive at the truth, vetted by independent verification (but trust us when we tell you that it’s all been independently verified by people who were properly skeptical and not the bosom buddies of the people they were supposed to be fact-checking).” The “alternative facts” epistemological method goes like this: “The ‘independent’ experts who were supposed to be verifying the ‘evidence-based’ truth were actually in bed with the people they were supposed to be fact-checking. In the end, it’s all a matter of faith, then: you either have faith that ‘their’ experts are being truthful, or you have faith that we are. Ask your gut, what version feels more truthful?” Cory Doctorow

God knows there’s been no end of hand wringing over fake news. The usual conclusion among my ilk is to immediate deploy people who will teach media literacy. Most of them are put off by my response that you can’t teach media literacy – you can only inflict your bias on others. If you get some high school English teacher to do an exercise where he or she runs out A Story from His or Her Preferred Brand of News to compare against A Story from His or Her Least Liked Brand of News all you have in the end is an argument for Coke vs. Pepsi. What’s needed is to teach some sort of rudimentary form of epistemology to get the kids thinking about how a thought resides in the mind and how that thought and all the others form a larger patchwork of ideas that lets them navigate the world.

A couple of weeks ago at SXSW MFST’s Danah Boyd gave a fabulous speech on this very topic.

She said:

“It’s one thing to talk about interrogating assumptions when a person can keep emotional distance from the object of study. It’s an entirely different thing to talk about these issues when the very act of asking questions is what’s being weaponized. This isn’t historical propaganda distributed through mass media. Or an exercise in understanding state power. This is about making sense of an information landscape where the very tools that people use to make sense of the world around them have been strategically perverted by other people who believe themselves to be resisting the same powerful actors that we normally seek to critique.”

Video and a transcript of the speech can be found here. I don’t agree with the whole thing, but it is an excellent insight in how we should move forward with the simple fact path we can no longer trust all the printed words that appear before us.

“I used to be with ‘it’, but then they changed what ‘it’ was.”- Abe Simpson or How Did We Get Here Part II

A few weeks back I came across the term “savvy gap” which can trace its roots back to the term “generation gap” which disappeared at about the end of the last ice age. Simply put the kids know stuff and the oldsters don’t.

Example?

Many years ago pre-recorded music came on plastic coated aluminum discs. These discs were sold in something called a “record store.” (The word “record” was an accepted atavistic use for an earlier form of mechanically reproduced sound.) While looking around one of these “record” stores I heard an older man yelling at the clerk. A local band which went by the name, The Kidney Thieves would be performing at the store later in the day. It seems the clerk behind the counter explained the origin of the band’s name and gave a thumbnail description of the well know urban myth.

The old guy kept yelling, “Who would think of such a thing? Who would think of such a thing?”

Oh hell Gramps, if we knew that I wouldn’t be here typing right now, would I?

Keep that one in your back pockets because we’re getting close to our destination.

‘ALLO MRS.CONCLUSION

We’re screwed no matter how you look at it.

Boomers have passively ingested media for most of their lives. The newspaper arrived daily and it was busted up into sections. The big stuff was up front, then there was the part with the sports, and behind that lurked Ann Landers and Beetle Bailey. TV was no different – it too was pre-chewed food. Every night you got the same thing – big-ass story right off the top … stuff … stuff … weather .. stuff… sports …. oh look, some guy taught his duck to whistle … Johnny Carson.

As such everybody gobbled up what was put in front of them because that’s all there was. That’s either gone or on its last legs which means Boomers are in a similar situation to a 14 year-old dog turned loose in the woods.

Gotta go find your own Alpo now, Bowser.

Are we equipped?

There’s probably a few here and there, but mostly it’s another edition of ‘Who Moved My Cheese?”

The kids know what is and is not bullshit because they never consumed information in the same way as their parents, but this doesn’t necessarily mean they have an understanding of their own own epistemology – their own internal fact checking.

But that’s not the end of it.

As Ms. Boyd points out you cannot stand aside yourself, you will always bring your biases along even if you know that they are biases. Meanwhile there’s the age-old problem that any system which can be identified as flawed must use itself to prove that it it’s flawed. Given that humans are – very much in fact – flawed we cannot come to any conclusion about how we see the world without having to admit that our own human thinking is flawed.

What constitutes “fake news” is something that needs you to think about – not in relation to what any given article says – but how you own the thought process lead you to that article and how you use that same thought process to sift through the content.

And then understand that your conclusion could very well be bullshit. (QED)

Between now and then let’s all agree on one thing.

We all want those shoes.

One Comment

  1. Th' Perfesser

    Thanks, Gassaway, you’re my favorite grouch. I always find your insights useful and funny (I smirk a little bit more than I guffaw, but it’s all good). I also checked out that media literacy talk from SXSW and found it illuminating. What pesters me is that it’s unfair to both the oldsters and the youngsters to lump them . . . you give the young folks too much credit and the oldsters not enough, even though there are glistening chunks of insight peering out from your generalizations…I can say that because I am The Perfessor.

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