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The Mystery of Consciousness - Not so mysterious?
Posted: 01 December 2011 12:05 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 451 ]  
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Heres a summary of this thread so far (for people who dont want to read hundreds of posts):


- many people believe that consciousness emerges in brains. They never really thought about it, they just think its true.
- srrr has shown that it is not true
- the many people still believe their beliefs, and get angry when someone threatens the core of their faith
- srrr says “tough shit peoples, im just sticking to science and rationality, wherever it takes me”.


Thats about it.

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Posted: 01 December 2011 02:32 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 452 ]  
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Lexie,

I’ve been thinking about your last post.  You listed barriers to fulfilling our credos - which I guess could also be seen as barriers to any organisation (love that word - sounds so essentially emergent doesn’t it?).  For instance these barriers to credo fulfillment could apply to a business or political party or to Johnson & Johnson as well:

* Our ability to self-deceive
* Xenophobia
* Fear of Change
* Impulsive Judgments
* A tendency towards short-range thinking
* Our attachment to self
* Our need to unreasonably defend self

What I find interesting here is that when we form extrospective concepts (e.g. about the brain as an object) then the Scientific Method keeps us in check.  When we compete, risk management keeps us in check.  When we cooperate, normative mores, etc. keep us in check.  But when we form introspective concepts (e.g. about our own feelings and concept of self) there is no universal Method to keep our errors in check.  What I would advocate to battle the problems of introspective consciousness is what I call “The Emergent Method”.  But I’m going to be busy up until Xmas as well, so maybe, if you’re interested, we can discuss this later in another forum or thread…

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Posted: 01 December 2011 03:34 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 453 ]  
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srrr - 30 November 2011 06:17 PM

emergence debunked:

http://i41.tinypic.com/161ard4.jpg

Srrr - a man, call him Sysiphus if you like, was charged with getting a long, heavy log up a craggy hill.  He found he had to drag it or carry it, but if he carried it, he spent so much time balancing between crags, there was no improvement in efficiency anyway.


Tell me, do you think two (rather biblical - see Eccl. 4:9-10 -) men could be more efficient in their organisation of subatomic particles than Sysiphus acting alone?  And do you think the measure of their efficiency would be more than twice that of Sysiphus?  If yes, then this difference is the proof and reward of emergence!  No magic required.  This is the same as the organisational reward of 2NaCl as opposed to Na2 & Cl2. 


Panpsychism’s opposition to emergence debunked!

[ Edited: 01 December 2011 04:14 PM by Michael Kean]
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Posted: 02 December 2011 01:29 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 454 ]  
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Michael Kean - 01 December 2011 08:34 PM
srrr - 30 November 2011 06:17 PM

emergence debunked:

http://i41.tinypic.com/161ard4.jpg

Srrr - a man, call him Sysiphus if you like, was charged with getting a long, heavy log up a craggy hill.  He found he had to drag it or carry it, but if he carried it, he spent so much time balancing between crags, there was no improvement in efficiency anyway.


Tell me, do you think two (rather biblical - see Eccl. 4:9-10 -) men could be more efficient in their organisation of subatomic particles than Sysiphus acting alone?  And do you think the measure of their efficiency would be more than twice that of Sysiphus?  If yes, then this difference is the proof and reward of emergence!  No magic required.  This is the same as the organisational reward of 2NaCl as opposed to Na2 & Cl2. 


Panpsychism’s opposition to emergence debunked!

You say so yourself: MORE efficient. A quantitative difference.

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Posted: 02 December 2011 01:52 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 455 ]  
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srrr - 02 December 2011 06:29 AM
Michael Kean - 01 December 2011 08:34 PM
srrr - 30 November 2011 06:17 PM

emergence debunked:

http://i41.tinypic.com/161ard4.jpg

Srrr - a man, call him Sysiphus if you like, was charged with getting a long, heavy log up a craggy hill.  He found he had to drag it or carry it, but if he carried it, he spent so much time balancing between crags, there was no improvement in efficiency anyway.


Tell me, do you think two (rather biblical - see Eccl. 4:9-10 -) men could be more efficient in their organisation of subatomic particles than Sysiphus acting alone?  And do you think the measure of their efficiency would be more than twice that of Sysiphus?  If yes, then this difference is the proof and reward of emergence!  No magic required.  This is the same as the organisational reward of 2NaCl as opposed to Na2 & Cl2. 


Panpsychism’s opposition to emergence debunked!

You say so yourself: MORE efficient. A quantitative difference.

Ah - but this “quantative difference” is of an entirely different kind to the one you were talking about - i.e. the static differences in the positions of purple or red dots on a page.  This quantative difference relates to a process; to work done and thus to emergence. Your quantative differences did not.

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Posted: 03 December 2011 01:39 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 456 ]  
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Michael Kean - 02 December 2011 06:52 PM

Ah - but this “quantative difference” is of an entirely different kind to the one you were talking about - i.e. the static differences in the positions of purple or red dots on a page.  This quantative difference relates to a process; to work done and thus to emergence. Your quantative differences did not.

“work done”?


You dont mean energy do you, which (even though its an abstract mental concept) exists universally? E=MC²


Quantitative differences apply to processes just the same. A car that accelerates from 10km/h to 11 km/h still just goes a bit faster, which is a quantitative difference in the motion. Motion has been around since the big bang. Even objects which appear entirely motionless to us, for example parked cars, have motion in every part you can imagine.

[ Edited: 03 December 2011 01:49 AM by srrr]
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Posted: 19 December 2011 04:56 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 457 ]  
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My friends often go to the “emergent property” argument. Here’s a problem with it. Saying something is an emergent property doesn’t tell us anything about it. Broadly speaking, everything is an emergent property of a few fundamental laws and particles, plus, of course, time. It’s not that it’s a false argument, it’s worse than that; it’s a boring argument, usually offered as a way to shut down further inquiry into something that feels too intellectually squishy and “soft” somehow.


Not that   that’s what you’re doing here.


I think it’s important to reflect on the fact that the final, ultimate reality of the things we experience may not be knowable by humans.


This is not a dig against science in any way, and especially it’s not an attempt to open the door to some sort of mysticism that in principle is somehow to be removed from scientific investigation and even less is it meant to open the door to extraordinary claims of revelatory knowledge of the sort fundamentalist religions bludgeon us with.


All it is is the basic acknowledgement that human’s ability to comprehend the stuff of the universe, in the fullest sense of that phrase, may fall short of what is required just because of the way our brains are wired, or what they’re made of, or how they’re otherwise constituted.

A goldfish can’t understand human intent. It can’t understand Shakespeare no matter how much time you give it. It’s not that Shakespeare doesn’t make sense, it’s that the goldfish is literally not so constituted so as to be able to comprehend it.


So it is with all animals; they’re limited in variety and types of things their brains will ever let them make sense of, that is, understand the essence or meaning of.


The goat will eat the paper the science is written on without ever being able to grasp that he’s just make most intimate acquaintance- literally touched in fact - the cure for the brucellosis that ails him. 

 

  There’s nothing in principle to stop some equivalent form of that from being true of us also. We may literally touch something,  every day, yet not understand the real meaning of it, or even that is possess a meaning.

Or perhaps it might be clearer to say that it possess a gorpfurl via ellis pur, since we don’t know what a gorpfurl via ellis pur IS and never will.


It’s like that. It just is.


It’s not our job to shoehorn all possible things into the little box of things we can comprehend.  If ti’s comprehensible, it’s comprehensible through science, not to say experienced through rationality, which is a whole different conversation.

 

How consciousness relates to the universe really impresses me at potentially one of the things that is just beyond us. Potentially. I am not claiming that I know; I am not claiming special knowledge. I am merely stating a basic truth about the limitations of human knowledge that people sometimes overlook. Or never though of in the first place. Or pretend doesn’t exist.

[ Edited: 19 December 2011 05:03 PM by softwarevisualization]
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Posted: 20 December 2011 11:02 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 458 ]  
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softwarevisualization - 19 December 2011 09:56 PM

A goldfish can’t understand human intent.

Ever try to catch one? wink

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Posted: 25 December 2011 04:29 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 459 ]  
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[ Edited: 31 January 2012 06:16 PM by ...]
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Posted: 25 December 2011 10:05 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 460 ]  
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Lexie_99 - 25 December 2011 09:29 PM

Once we assign the label, everything tends to go through that filter, and we either shade what the other person is saying or don’t hear it at all.


If you’re around, please do tell! Making my New Years resolutions and plans all that, this might be quite helpful! smile  In the meantime, happy holidays, merry Christmas, happy New Years!

Yes Lexie!

Let us make a New Years resolution to be here now and not mistake the map for the territory, which is what I think you refer to above.

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Posted: 26 December 2011 05:52 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 461 ]  
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[ Edited: 31 January 2012 06:17 PM by ...]
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Posted: 26 December 2011 09:21 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 462 ]  
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Heres my resolution: preventing the spread of disinformation, such as emergence.

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Posted: 26 December 2011 11:21 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 463 ]  
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Lexie_99 - 26 December 2011 10:52 AM

Let us make a New Years resolution to be here now and not mistake the map for the territory, which is what I think you refer to above.


Not mistaking the map for the territory - that’s a great saying eucaryote! I think I will make that my resolution. smile

Let me rush to inform that is not original with me. I think I first read it in Gregory Bateson, “Steps to an Ecology of Mind”.

I think that by coupling that thought with the idea of physical memory yields some perspective on how an organism can learn to interact with it’s environment. That’s why I have always distinguished between cognize and re-cognise. Recognition being the process of pulling information from memory to fill the experience rather than constantly re-freshing that information as if it were being appraised for the first time.

I think one can see the natural economy in this. Original experiences are hard won, bred into us from before birth. The world we live in is very much the world, the ecology, that we have learned to live in. That which we re-cognize.

Your comments about “blind sight” are also right on I think. Somnambulism and sleepwalking is another example of the same thing. How much “consciousness” does it take operate the organism? How much of our experience is substituted from memory? We are so deeply immersed in this ecology, this “matrix”, that we can’t ever really know the difference.

I looked up Bateson on Wikipedia and take this from the article.

In his book Steps to an Ecology of Mind, Bateson applied cybernetics to the field of ecological anthropology and the concept of homeostasis.[15] He saw the world as a series of systems containing those of individuals, societies and ecosystems. Within each system is found competition and dependency. Each of these systems has adaptive changes which depend upon feedback loops to control balance by changing multiple variables. Bateson believed that these self-correcting systems were conservative by controlling exponential slippage. He saw the natural ecological system as innately good as long as it was allowed to maintain homeostasis[15] and that the key unit of survival in evolution was an organism and its environment.[15]
Bateson also viewed that all three systems of the individual, society and ecosystem were all together a part of one supreme cybernetic system that controls everything instead of just interacting systems.[15] This supreme cybernetic system is beyond the self of the individual and could be equated to what many people refer to as God, though Bateson referred to it as Mind.[15] While Mind is a cybernetic system, it can only be distinguished as a whole and not parts. Bateson felt Mind was immanent in the messages and pathways of the supreme cybernetic system. He saw the root of system collapses as a result of Occidental or Western epistemology. According to Bateson consciousness is the bridge between the cybernetic networks of individual, society and ecology and that the mismatch between the systems due to improper understanding will be result in the degradation of the entire supreme cybernetic system or Mind. Bateson saw consciousness as developed through Occidental epistemology was at direct odds with Mind.[15]
At the heart of the matter is scientific hubris. Bateson argues that Occidental epistemology perpetuates a system of understanding which is purpose or means-to-an-end driven.[15] Purpose controls attention and narrows perception, thus limiting what comes into consciousness and therefore limiting the amount of wisdom that can be generated from the perception. Additionally Occidental epistemology propagates the false notion of that man exists outside Mind and this leads man to believe in what Bateson calls the philosophy of control based upon false knowledge.[15]
Bateson presents Occidental epistemology as a method of thinking that leads to a mindset in which man exerts an autocratic rule over all cybernetic systems.[15] In exerting his autocratic rule man changes the environment to suit him and in doing so he unbalances the natural cybernetic system of controlled competition and mutual dependency. The purpose driven accumulation of knowledge ignores the supreme cybernetic system and leads to the eventual breakdown of the entire system. Bateson claims that man will never be able to control the whole system because it does not operate in a linear fashion and if man creates his own rules for the system, he opens himself up to becoming a slave to the self-made system due to the non-linear nature of cybernetics. Lastly, man’s technological prowess combined with his scientific hubris gives him to potential to irrevocably damage and destroy the supreme cybernetic system, instead of just disrupting the system temporally until the system can self-correct.[15]
Bateson argues for a position of humility and acceptance of the natural cybernetic system instead of scientific arrogance as a solution.[15] He believes that humility can come about by abandoning the view of operating through consciousness alone. Consciousness is only one way in which to obtain knowledge and without complete knowledge of the entire cybernetic system disaster is inevitable. The limited conscious must be combined with the unconscious in complete synthesis. Only when thought and emotion are combined in whole is man able to obtain complete knowledge. He believed that religion and art are some of the few areas in which a man is acting as a whole individual in complete consciousness. By acting with this greater wisdom of the supreme cybernetic system as a whole man can change his relationship to Mind from one of schism, in which he is endlessly tied up in constant competition, to one of complementarity. Bateson argues for a culture that promotes the most general wisdom and is able to flexibly change within the supreme cybernetic system.[15]

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Posted: 26 December 2011 08:21 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 464 ]  
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[ Edited: 31 January 2012 06:16 PM by ...]
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Posted: 31 December 2011 10:31 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 465 ]  
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First of all, Happy New Year everyone! 

I’m going to try to respond to all intervening posts via the following one.

softwarevisualization - 19 December 2011 09:56 PM

My friends often go to the “emergent property” argument. Here’s a problem with it. Saying something is an emergent property doesn’t tell us anything about it. Broadly speaking, everything is an emergent property of a few fundamental laws and particles, plus, of course, time. It’s not that it’s a false argument, it’s worse than that; it’s a boring argument, usually offered as a way to shut down further inquiry into something that feels too intellectually squishy and “soft” somehow.


Not that   that’s what you’re doing here.

Hi softwarevisualization.  Ok, heard this argument before, but I’m not trying to defend what unnamed/unquoted others have said about emergence - and like you, am looking for further inquiry into how reality works.  Emergence may have been made out to be magical by others, but not by me (please read prior posts in this thread if you wish to confirm).  In a nutshell, emergence is a fully natural thing brought about by the interaction of entropy and matter’s structures within our self-organising and self-contained universe.  But perhaps the important thing here is not the definition, because as you say this should be boring rather than surprising. 


The amazing thing is that we see the way the universe gets things done, e.g. inside the human brain (by bringing asymmetric dissonance to systems in equilibrium and thus probabilistically, i.e. every now and then, taking it to higher levels of systemic order), but we insist on doing things entirely differently.  As Lexie & Eucaryote say, we lock ourselves into judgments, “truths”, stereotypic discriminations, adversarial stances, grudges, arguments, etc. that also lock us into self-destructive behaviours out of step with our environment.  By way of contrast, the universe doesn’t seem to get fixated on these backward-looking “truths” at all - it is always blindly pushing forward, either destroying what is or creating new levels of order in small pockets such as planet Earth.  And with these higher levels of order new values are made implicit for the first time (and then explicit as conscious entities recognise their worth).  The entrepreneurial analogy is rather obvious.  An entrepreneur looks to design & create a new product that will bring new, previously unrealised value to his/her customers.  So “emergent thinking” is a kind of forward-looking “design thinking” through a desire to make values explicit via creative synthesis or at least experimental endeavour, whereas our failing old way of thinking is backward-looking and wanting to justify already accepted truths through endless analysis and logic.  A great book on this topic is Edward de Bono’s “New Thinking for a New Millennium”. 

I think it’s important to reflect on the fact that the final, ultimate reality of the things we experience may not be knowable by humans.

I’m sorry, but doesn’t this comment strike you as also boring or lazy?  Or maybe arrogant?  If I can put any positive spin on it at all, then it would be to motivate a re-assessment of our past patterns of backward-looking thinking / judging / analysing / stereotyping / typecasting.

This is not a dig against science in any way, and especially it’s not an attempt to open the door to some sort of mysticism that in principle is somehow to be removed from scientific investigation and even less is it meant to open the door to extraordinary claims of revelatory knowledge of the sort fundamentalist religions bludgeon us with.

Agreed.

All it is is the basic acknowledgement that human’s ability to comprehend the stuff of the universe, in the fullest sense of that phrase, may fall short of what is required just because of the way our brains are wired, or what they’re made of, or how they’re otherwise constituted.


A goldfish can’t understand human intent. It can’t understand Shakespeare no matter how much time you give it. It’s not that Shakespeare doesn’t make sense, it’s that the goldfish is literally not so constituted so as to be able to comprehend it.


So it is with all animals; they’re limited in variety and types of things their brains will ever let them make sense of, that is, understand the essence or meaning of.


The goat will eat the paper the science is written on without ever being able to grasp that he’s just make most intimate acquaintance- literally touched in fact - the cure for the brucellosis that ails him. 


There’s nothing in principle to stop some equivalent form of that from being true of us also. We may literally touch something,  every day, yet not understand the real meaning of it, or even that is possess a meaning.


Or perhaps it might be clearer to say that it possess a gorpfurl via ellis pur, since we don’t know what a gorpfurl via ellis pur IS and never will.


It’s like that. It just is.

Maybe so, but what would you suggest?  It is so much easier to analyse and logically criticise than to create new value.

It’s not our job to shoehorn all possible things into the little box of things we can comprehend.  If ti’s comprehensible, it’s comprehensible through science, not to say experienced through rationality, which is a whole different conversation.

Ah - so here is the point.  When we get fed up with shoehorning, what are we to do?  Just pull our horns in? Just diminish ourselves - maybe by going back to some past golden age?  I suspect a wise person will find something worthwhile to do with her mind-body.  That person will find some way of adding value to herself, society and the environment.  This is a very different exercise to the endless analytical search for some truth that may somehow rationalise actions or thoughts.  Or to just a retreat from life.

How consciousness relates to the universe really impresses me at potentially one of the things that is just beyond us. Potentially. I am not claiming that I know; I am not claiming special knowledge. I am merely stating a basic truth about the limitations of human knowledge that people sometimes overlook. Or never though of in the first place. Or pretend doesn’t exist.

How are you sure that is a “basic truth”?  Maybe it is a temporary truth.  I think the battleground of our survival as a species over the next few generations is consciousness itself.  Consciousness has gone awry in its scholarly focus on the past and “what is”.  It has become fixated with an adversarial “this vs that” way of thinking that was useful in an environment we knew little about, but is now doing us damage.  We now play greedy/envious/vain mind games divorced from our environment with the same device (our consciousness) that was intended to enable us to form discriminating concepts about our environment so we could survive within & with it.


But like de Bono I believe the error of consciousness can be corrected - with a different way of thinking.  This way of creative thinking first of all fully accepts our limited moral agency rather than surrender it to some god or despot and his/her unquestioned “standards” or “truths” or stereotypes or prejudices or fixed perceptions.  Secondly it takes responsibility for our (environmental & social) stuff-ups rather than explain them away (such as we often see happen in political conferences on the global environment or the global economy).  Thirdly it sees a quest for adding value and living by values as now more worthy than a quest for finding yet more “truth”.  It is interesting to note that you can’t easily pronounce a truth directly against our meta-cultural values such as love or happiness or self-esteem, but you can easily reject a religious myth presented as a truth.  Once technology was seen as the key to human progress.  Now some of us have so much technology, we are bored with it.  And perhaps the same can be said of much of Western or Eastern “truth” as well.  If human progress is not a dirty or passe concept, then I suspect finding, expressing & adding value (rather than truth) is its new key.


As suggested earlier, our subjectivity is both the cost and reward of our limited moral agency.  We are limited gods: All gods must deal with their ultimate subjectivity - there is no ultimate appeal to a higher being.  There are no “moral standards” for gods other than those of their own making within the environment of their own subjective making!  This applies to us also.  For us limited gods however, the environment that we are now controlling/making was here before us and did provide us with our modes of survival (including conscious thought).  This environment implicitly built our values within us before they were somewhat sullied by modern man’s useless mind games (anxieties, etc. brought about by our habitual & adversarial modes of thinking, etc. - which I see as quite different to perhaps outmoded and sometimes inappropriate instinctive biases).  So there are meta-cultural values within each of us emanating from our instincts that contribute to our human flourishing & emergence as a line of species.  In a sense these values are both objective and subjective.  Maybe we need a new word for them - omnijective!  It is from these values that all subjective value, worth & meaning in any thing or endeavour emanate.  The environment & global society of our making is full of (objective) information but becoming almost devoid of (subjective) meaning.  An entrepreneurial quest to create value is also a quest to make explicit & expand our implicit, omnijective, meta-cultural values (such as productiveness, integrity, patience, etc. in appropriate circumstances).  At the same time, such values cannot remain unexpressed concepts and still retain significance within any finite, self-organising & self-referencing system.  This is why for each of us, as a mind-body system, a satisfying life is a morally congruent one.  Not moral in a static “compared to a religious standard or political dogma” sense, but moral in the explorative, expanding sense of an ongoing quest - i.e. in the emergent sense of a god growing in his/her self-actualisation.  We are inevitably moral beings because we can subjectively judge & value and then assign & pursue meaning.


So fourthly this new way of thinking seeks to reinsert a respect for our own subjectivity in the same sense as intended by Einstein when he said “imagination is better then knowledge”.  (He also said “everything has changed except our way of thinking”.)  However we can’t afford to fall for the same trap we did before - to divorce our new thinking from the reality of the environment which nurtures our incarnation.  Imagination remains passing fantasy and of no consequence while it remains unfettered or untainted by reality but as Victor Hugo once said “All the forces of the world are not as powerful as an idea whose time had come”.


Lexie - I hope the above gives a few clues about my thinking behind the Emergent Method.  De Bono also said “90% of our errors in thinking are not errors in logic at all but errors in perception.”  How can we change our (fixed but recurring) perceptions?  Firstly we have to shake up or provoke the given equilibrium over and over again, just like entropy does & just like the evolutionary struggle for life does.  Next we have to try something new - just like mutations in genes or new reactions in new environments caused by entropic decay.  Then we have to use & replicate the emergent & worthwhile changes - just like sustainable emergent properties or successfully self-replicating new species.  This is the mechanism of Emergence Method - but the Method itself is a lot more than this.


I would appreciate +ve/-ve feedback from all readers…

[ Edited: 31 December 2011 11:17 PM by Michael Kean]
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