Thursday, January 31, 2013

balinese Tao

The chinese symbol of Taijitu, expression of the circularity of polar opposites such life and death, is expressed in different ways in other eastern traditions and cultures.
For example in Bali, Indonesia, it is commonly observed drapes with a black and white chequerboard or clothes of the same type worn for ceremonies, to mean the inextricable mixing between opposites.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

the system of Tao

The symbol traditionally associated to Tao or, more specifically, to the Teh del Tao - the knowable manifestation of it, is the Taijitu, commonly known as the Ying-Yang symbol, tied to the male/female duality but - more generally- representative of any opposite duality.
The historical association between the symbol and the Taoism, and to its main text - the Tao-Teh-Ching - is not clear, however it represents then completely in its simplest and most synthetic form.
Drawing the symbol can be made by drawing an external circle and two internal circles of half radius, erase the two semicircles on the opposite sides and coloring - usually by white and black - the two remaining parts:
Graphic drawing of the Taijitu symbol.
The symbol represents a polar duality between opposite elements, different and distinct, and describes in general the eastern traditional vision of the polar duality opposed to the western logical one:
Symbolic representation of polar dualities
according to logic western vision (left), intermediate (center) an eastern (right).
In the western vision of classical logic of greek origin, symbolized by the circle to the left, it is drawn a distinction through two opposite and symmetrical elements/processes which, by logical definition, are not mixable and that together describe the totality where the dual distinction is drawn. For example dualities like day/night, negative/positive, war/peace, femminine/masculine and so are composed by opposite elements or processes and completely described the reference context where they apply. The resulting vision is completely static ande binary.
A further improvement starts from the consideration that these dualities are processes, and as such are dynamical; the circle to the middle illustrates a more dynamical vision between the polar opposite processes of the duality.
In the Taijitu symbol the dynamical vision of the polar duality processes and elements reaches at the same time its maximum simplicity and dynamical complexity of representation. Not only the polar processes have a recursive but there's also an interaction between polar processes and elements, shown by the two circular dots internal to the process of opposite sign.
The Taijitu symbol may be considered as a system, and therefore analyzed in its systemic characteristics:
  • System elements
They are symbolized by the two internal polar circles placed at the center of the symbol two semicircles, where the corresponding process of opposite sign reaches its maximum amplitude.
  • System processes
They are symbolized by the two polar symmetrical recursive polar shapes which together divide the external circle of the symbol. The reppresented dynamic is  è both of process and between processes.
  • Processes-elements interaction: system dynamics
The most complex feature of the symbol is the contemporary representation both of polar elements and processes, linked together through a specific dynamic.
At the point where an increasing process reaches its maximum and starts to decrease there's the presence of an element of opposite sign. This type of dynamics may be understood in different ways:

at the peak of its growth a process generates an element of opposite sign;
the presence of an element breaks the opposite sign process growth and makes it decreasing till reset;
lthe presence of an element induces an increasing process of the same sign which reduces the one of opposite sign;
  • Process amplitude
To determine the process dynamic is necessary to compute its amplitude as a function of some evolution variable. To define them the following model is used:
Model to compute process amplitude for the Tao symbol.
within the external circle Cext of radius R one draws the red C1 and blue C2 circles with radius R/2. To define a coordinate which is always in the middle of the process the green C3 circle is used with the center moved to the left of R/4 and 3/4R radius. The upper green semicircle defines a radial coordinate which remains always central to the process and that may be assumed as its evolution coordinate s for the upper semicircle of the symbol. For the lower semicircle the central coordinate is a vertical line segment of length R/2 perpendicular to the horizontal axis from the circle C2 center to its border.
The process amplitude may be defined, for any coordinate s=angle*3/4R with angle that varies from 0 to 180 degrees, as the distance between the P1 intersection point of the C3 radius extension withe external circle Cext and the intersection point P2 of the C3 radius with the C1 circle. For any s value in the upper semicircle the P1-P2 segment is perpendicular to C3 and to compute it the sine and cosine theorems are applied on the triangles defined by P1 and P2, where two sides and one angle are known.
For the lower semicircle the amplitude calculation as a function of s is immediate and coincides with a decreasing quarter arc of circle function with radius R/2.
The result for a symbol circle with radius R=1 is:
Process amplitude as a function of evolution for a unitary radius circle.
The process starts from zero, reaches its maximum value R for a s value of 3/4πR and decreases as a quarter of circle to  zero at the value 3/4πR+R/2.
The progress for the two opposite symmetrical processes is:
Polar two-processes amplitude as a function of evolution for a unitary radius circle.
which repeats itself indefinitely radially rotating clockwisee, where the beginning of a process coincides with the other's maximum.
The recursion may be displayed also by drawing in a linear way the shapes of the opposite processes:
that seems a wave, though it is not since not sinusoidal but composed by alternate semicircles.
  • System border: closure
The system border is the external circle Cext of radius R, which implies as the system dynamic is of the operational closure type. The two possible directions of rotation - clockwise and counterclockwise - are traditionally, like other symbols such the swastika, associated to a further polar duality - creative if clockwise, destructive if counterclockwise -.
  • System matrix
It is represented by the infinite plane external to the symbol and represents, in a necessary metaphorical way, the indescribable and unknowable Tao which the emergent symbol is the Teh:

- 25 -

There was something formless and perfect
before the universe was born.
It is serene. Empty.
Solitary. Unchanging.
Infinite. Eternally present.
It is the mother of the universe.
For lack of a better name,
I call it the Tao.

It flows through all things,
inside and outside, and returns
to the origin of all things.

The Tao is great.
The universe is great.
Earth is great.
Man is great.
These are the four great powers.

Man follows the earth.
Earth follows the universe.
The universe follows the Tao.
The Tao follows only itself.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Tao mapping

The long-distance network of the Macaque monkey brain, spanning the cortex, thalamus, and basal ganglia,
showing 6,602 long-distance connections between 383 brain regions.

from: Dharmendra S. Modha and Raghavendra Singh,
"Network architecture of the long-distance pathways in the macaque brain", PNAS vol. 107 no. 30, 2010
Understanding the network structure of white matter communication pathways is essential for unraveling the mysteries of the brain’s function, organization, and evolution. To this end, we derive a unique network incorporating 410 anatomical tracing studies of the macaque brain from the Collation of Connectivity data on the Macaque brain (CoCoMac) neuroinformatic database. Our network consists of 383 hierarchically organized regions spanning cortex, thalamus, and basal ganglia; models the presence of 6,602 directed long-distance connections; is three times larger than any previously derived brain network; and contains subnetworks corresponding to classic corticocortical, corticosubcortical, and subcortico-subcortical fiber systems. We found that the empirical degree distribution of the network is consistent with the hypothesis of the maximum entropy exponential distribution and discovered two remarkable bridges between the brain’s structure and function via networktheoretical analysis. First, prefrontal cortex contains a disproportionate share of topologically central regions. Second, there exists a tightly integrated core circuit, spanning parts of premotor cortex, prefrontal cortex, temporal lobe, parietal lobe, thalamus, basal ganglia, cingulate cortex, insula, and visual cortex, that includes much of the task-positive and task-negative networks and might play a special role in higher cognition and consciousness.
“We have successfully uncovered and mapped the most comprehensive long-distance network of the Macaque monkey brain, which is essential for understanding the brain’s behavior, complexity, dynamics and computation,” Dr. Modha says. “We can now gain unprecedented insight into how information travels and is processed across the brain.

“We have collated a comprehensive, consistent, concise, coherent, and colossal network spanning the entire brain and grounded in anatomical tracing studies that is a stepping stone to both fundamental and applied research in neuroscience and cognitive computing.”

They focused on the long-distance network of 383 brain regions and 6,602 long-distance brain connections that travel through the brain’s white matter, which are like the “interstate highways” between far-flung brain regions, he explained, while short-distance gray matter connections (based on neurons) constitute “local roads” within a brain region and its sub-structures.

Their research builds upon a publicly available database called Collation of Connectivity data on the Macaque brain (CoCoMac), which compiles anatomical tracing data from over 400 scientific reports from neuroanatomists published over the last half-century.

“We studied four times the number of brain regions and have compiled nearly three times the number of connections when compared to the largest previous endeavor,” he pointed out. “Our data may open up entirely new ways of analyzing, understanding, and, eventually, imitating the network architecture of the brain, which according to Marian C. Diamond and Arnold B. Scheibel is “the most complex mass of protoplasm on earth—perhaps even in our galaxy.”

The brain network they found contains a “tightly integrated core that might be at the heart of higher cognition and even consciousness … and may be a key to the age-old question of how the mind arises from the brain.” The core spans parts of premotor cortex, prefrontal cortex, temporal lobe, parietal lobe, thalamus, basal ganglia, cingulate cortex, insula, and visual cortex.
Innermost core for the undirected version of our network. The innermost core is a central subnetwork that is far more tightly integrated than the overall network. Information likely spreads more swiftly within the innermost core than through the overall network, the overall network communicates with itself mainly through the innermost core, and the innermost core contains major components of the task-positive and task-negative networks derived via functional imaging research.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

meta-Tao tubes

The second metapattern introduced by Tyler Volk and Jeff Bloom are tubes, structures with linear/lineal shape.
Neuronic pattern.


As physical forms, tubes seem to have three fundamental aspects, which, in some cases, appear as one aspect and, in other cases, are combined in one form. One aspect involves the notion of strength and support along a linear dimension. The second aspect is that of bidirectional or unidirectional transport of energy, materials, or information. The third aspect involves the ability to penetrate, extend, or grow along a linear dimension. In biological forms, they increase the surface area to volume ratio, compared to spheres. In a more general sense, tubes involve the concepts of linear strength, linearity, extension or bridging, transfer or flow of information, and connection or relationship.
Jeroen Anthoniszoon van Aken, called Hieronymus Bosch,
Ascent of the Blessed, 1490-1516, Palazzo Ducale, Venezia


  • In science: nerve cells and fibers, blood vessels, appendage and some other bones, branches, hair, cilia, flagella, digestive tract, streams and rivers, lava tubes, pine needles, eels, snakes, worms, spider webs (tubes making sheet), bodies of airplanes, rockets, etc.
  • In architecture and design: hallways, internal support structures, elevator shafts and stairwells, highways, trails, tunnels, bridges, electrical wires, pipes, networking cables, utility poles, suspension bridge (traffic flow, support structures, support cables), etc.
  • In art: shape, brushes, pottery forms, sculpting forms, etc.
  • In social sciences: relationships between people, connecting lines in concept maps, patterns of interaction, lines of communication, patterns of movement, support mechanisms, etc.
  • In other senses: tobacco pipes, cigars, syringes and needles, etc.
Facebook network patterns of interaction.





The Pattern Underground

Friday, January 11, 2013

Tao without Self

© Igor Morski
Following the Abhidhamma analysis of the five aggregates of subjective experience, the search for a Self come out empty handed, with the following consequences for cognitive sciences:

The Aggregates without a Self
It might appear that in our search for a self in the aggregates we have come out empty handed. Everything that we tried to grasp seemed to slip through our fingers, leaving us with the sense that there is nothing to hold on to. At this point, it is important to pause and again remind ourselves of just what it was that we were unable to find.
We did not fail to find the physical body, though we had to admit that its designation as my body depends very much on how we choose to look at things. Nor did we fail to locate our feelings or sensations, and we also found our various perceptions. We found dispositions, volitions, motivations-in short, all those things that make up our personality and emotional sense of self. We also found all the various forms in which we can be aware-awareness of seeing and hearing, smelling, tasting, touching, even awareness of our own thought processes. So the only thing we didn't find was a truly existing self or ego. But notice that we did find experience. Indeed, we entered the very eye of the storm of experience, we just simply could discern there no self, no "I."
Why then do we feel empty handed? We feel this way because we tried to grasp something that was never there in the first place. This grasping goes on all the time; it is exactly the deep-rooted emotional response that conditions all of our behavior and shapes all of the situations in which we live. It is for this reason that the five aggregates are glossed as the "aggregates of grasping" (upadanaskandha). We – that is, our personality, which is largely dispositional formations-cling to the aggregates as if they were the self when, in fact, they are empty (sunya) of a self. And yet despite this emptiness of ego-self, the aggregates are full of experience. How is this possible?
The progressive development of insight enhances the experience of calm mindfulness and expands the space within which all experiential arisings occur. As this practice develops, one's immediate attitude (not simply one's after-the-fact reflections) becomes more and more focused on the awareness that these experiences - thoughts, dispositions, perceptions, feelings, and sensations - cannot be pinned down. Our habitual clinging to them is itself only another feeling, another disposition of our mind.
This arising and subsiding, emergence and decay, is just that emptiness of self in the aggregates of experience. In other words, the very fact that the aggregates are full of experience is the same as the fact that they are empty of self. If there were a solid, really existing self hidden in or behind the aggregates, its unchangeableness would prevent any experience from occurring; its static nature would make the constant arising and subsiding of experience come to a screeching halt. (It is not surprising, therefore, that techniques of meditation that presuppose the existence of such a self proceed by closing off the senses and denying the world of experience.) But that circle of arising and decay of experience turns continuously, and it can do so only because it is empty of a self.
We have seen not only that cognition and experience do not appear to have a truly existing self but also that the habitual belief in such an ego-self, the continual grasping to such a self, is the basis of the origin and continuation of human suffering and habitual patterns. In our culture, science has contributed to the awakening of this sense of the lack of a fixed self but has only described it from afar. Science has shown us that a fixed self is not necessary for mind but has not provided any way of dealing with the basic fact that this no-longer-needed self is precisely the ego-self that everyone clings to and holds most dear. By remaining at the level of description, science has yet to awaken to the idea that the experience of mind, not merely without some impersonal, hypothetical, and theoretically constructed self but without ego-self, can be profoundly transformative.
Perhaps it is not fair to ask more of science. To borrow the words of Merleau-Ponty, the strength of science may lie precisely in the fact that it gives up living among things, preferring to manipulate them instead. But if this preference expresses the strength of science, it also indicates its weakness. By renouncing a life amid the things of experience, the scientist is able to remain relatively unaffected by her discoveries. This situation has, perhaps, been tolerable for the past three hundred years, but it is fast becoming intolerable in our modem era of cognitive science.
If science is to continue to maintain its position of de facto authority in a responsible and enlightened manner, then it must enlarge its horizon to include mindful, open-ended analyses of experience, such as the one evoked here. Cognitivism, at least at the moment, does not seem to be capable of such a step, given its narrow conception of cognition as the computation of symbols after the fashion of deductive logic. It would do well to remember, then, that cognitivism did not emerge ready made, like Athena from the head of Zeus. Only a few of its exponents are sensitive to its roots in its earlier years and to the decisions that were subsequently made about which avenues of research to explore. These earlier years, however, have once more become a source of inspiration to a new and controversial approach to cognition in which the self-organizing qualities of biological aggregates play a central role. This approach sheds new light on all of the themes we have touched so far and takes us into next part of our exploration.

the Tao of programming: Book 3 - Design

Geoffrey James, 1987
Book 3 - Design

Thus spake the master programmer:
When the program is being tested, it is too late to make design changes.


There once was a man who went to a computer trade show. Each day as he entered, the man told the guard at the door:

I am a great thief, renowned for my feats of shoplifting. Be forewarned, for this trade show shall not escape unplundered.”

This speech disturbed the guard greatly, because there were millions of dollars of computer equipment inside, so he watched the man carefully. But the man merely wandered from booth to booth, humming quietly to himself. 

When the man left, the guard took him aside and searched his clothes, but nothing was to be found.
On the next day of the trade show, the man returned and chided the guard saying: “I escaped with a vast booty yesterday, but today will be even better.” So the guard watched him ever more closely, but to no avail.

On the final day of the trade show, the guard could restrain his curiosity no longer. “Sir Thief,” he said, “I am so perplexed, I cannot live in peace. Please enlighten me. What is it that you are stealing?”

The man smiled. “I am stealing ideas”, he said.


There once was a master programmer who wrote unstructured programs. A novice programmer, seeking to imitate him, also began to write unstructured programs. When the novice asked the master to evaluate his progress, the master criticized him for writing unstructured programs, saying: “What is appropriate for the master is not appropriate for the novice. You must understand the Tao before transcending structure.”


There was once a programmer who was attached to the court of the warlord of Wu. The warlord asked the programmer: “Which is easier to design: an accounting package or an operating system?”

An operating system”, replied the programmer.

The warlord uttered an exclamation of disbelief. “Surely an accounting package is trivial next to the complexity of an operating system”, he said.

“Not so”, said the programmer, “when designing an accounting package, the programmer operates as a mediator between people having different ideas: how it must operate, how its reports must appear, and how it must conform to the tax laws. By contrast, an operating system is not limited by outside appearances. When designing an operating system, the programmer seeks the simplest harmony between machine and ideas. This is why an operating system is easier to design.”

The warlord of Wu nodded and smiled. “That is all good and well, but which is easier to debug?”

The programmer made no reply.


A manager went to the master programmer and showed him the requirements document for a new application. The manager asked the master: “How long will it take to design this system if I assign five programmers to it?”

It will take one year”, said the master promptly.

But we need this system immediately or even sooner! How long will it take if I assign ten programmers to it?”

The master programmer frowned. “In that case, it will take two years.”

And what if I assign a hundred programmers to it?”

The master programmer shrugged. “Then the design will never be completed”, he said.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

incomplete Tao

Thirty spokes converge at the wheel’s hub,

to a hole that allows it to turn.
Clay is shaped into a vessel,

to enclose an emptiness that can be filled.
Doors and windows are cut into walls,

to provide access to their protection.
Though we can only work with what is there,

use comes from what is not there.
Tao Teh Ching, XI
A key point in describing the emergence of mental processes and consciousness, by no means obvious - in fact, invisible -, in that of absence, as described by Terrence W. Deacon:
Science has advanced to the point where we can precisely arrange individual atoms on a metal surface or identify people’s continents of ancestry by analyzing the DNA contained in their hair. And yet ironically we lack a scientific understanding of how sentences in a book refer to atoms, DNA, or anything at all. This is a serious problem. Basically, it means that our best science — that collection of theories that presumably come closest to explaining everything—does not include this one most fundamental defining characteristic of being you and me. In effect, our current “Theory of Everything” implies that we don’t exist, except as collections of atoms.

So what’s missing? Ironically and enigmatically, something missing is missing.

Consider the following familiar facts. The meaning of a sentence is not the squiggles used to represent letters on a piece of paper or a screen. It is not the sounds these squiggles might prompt you to utter. It is not even the buzz of neuronal events that take place in your brain as you read them. What a sentence means, and what it refers to, lack the properties that something typically needs in order to make a difference in the world. The information conveyed by this sentence has no mass, no momentum, no electric charge, no solidity, and no clear extension in the space within you, around you, or anywhere. More troublesome than this, the sentences you are reading right now could be nonsense, in which case there isn’t anything in the world that they could correspond to. But even this property of being a pretender to significance will make a physical difference in the world if it somehow influences how you might think or act.

Obviously, despite this something not-present that characterizes the contents of my thoughts and the meaning of these words, I wrote them because of the meanings that they might convey. And this is presumably why you are focusing your eyes on them, and what might prompt you to expend a bit of mental effort to make sense of them. In other words, the content of this or any sentence — a something-that-is-not-a-thing—has physical consequences. But how?

Meaning isn’t the only thing that presents a problem of this sort. Several other everyday relationships share this problematic feature as well. The function of a shovel isn’t the shovel and isn’t a hole in the ground, but rather the potential it affords for making holes easier to create. The reference of the wave of a hand in greeting is not the hand movement, nor the physical convergence of friends, but the initiation of a possible sharing of thoughts and remembered experiences. The purpose of my writing this book is not the tapping of computer keys, nor the deposit of ink on paper, nor even the production and distribution of a great many replicas of a physical book, but to share something that isn’t embodied by any of these physical processes and objects: ideas. And curiously, it is precisely because these ideas lack these physical attributes that they can be shared with tens of thousands of readers without ever being depleted. Even more enigmatically, ascertaining the value of this enterprise is nearly impossible to link with any specific physical consequence. It is something almost entirely virtual: maybe nothing more than making certain ideas easier to conceive, or, if my suspicions prove correct, increasing one’s sense of belonging in the universe.

Each of these sorts of phenomena — a function, reference, purpose, or value—is in some way incomplete. There is something not-there there. Without this “something” missing, they would just be plain and simple physical objects or events, lacking these otherwise curious attributes. Longing, desire, passion, appetite, mourning, loss, aspiration—all are based on an analogous intrinsic incompleteness, an integral without-ness.

As I reflect on this odd state of things, I am struck by the fact that there is no single term that seems to refer to this elusive character of such things. So, at the risk of initiating this discussion with a clumsy neologism, I will refer to this as an absential feature, to denote phenomena whose existence is determined with respect to an essential absence. This could be a state of things not yet realized, a specific separate object of a representation, a general type of property that may or may not exist, an abstract quality, an experience, and so forth — just not that which is actually present. This paradoxical intrinsic quality of existing with respect to something missing, separate, and possibly nonexistent is irrelevant when it comes to inanimate things, but it is a defining property of life and mind. A complete theory of the world that includes us, and our experience of the world, must make sense of the way that we are shaped by and emerge from such specific absences. What is absent matters, and yet our current understanding of the physical universe suggests that it should not. A causal role for absence seems to be absent from the natural sciences.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

meta-Tao spheres

The first metapattern - a pattern which describes other patterns - introduced by Tyler Volk and Jeff Bloom is the sphere, characterized by minimizing the surface/volume ratio and intrinsically trascendental, since based on the irrational number π with infinite figures.
Meditation Hall, Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry, South India.

Interior views.


Spheres and the tendency towards sphericity are common forms in the sciences, as well as in other disciplines. As physical forms they maximize strength and durability, have a reduced surface area to volume ratio, and minimize environmental contact. In more general terms, the fundamental meanings underlying this form involve equanimity, omni-directionality, simplification, and containment. Spheres and sphericity can be actual physical forms as well as invisible and metaphoric senses of form. In contending with the sense of sphericity, the forms can range from near perfect spheres to partial spheres to squared-off and box-like forms. When nested together, spheres can form holarchic layers.


  • In science: cells, many fruits (e.g., apples, spheres, cherries, tomatoes), planets, stars, eyes, droplets, heart, skulls, eggs & spores, bubbles, biosphere, ecosystem, inflated puffer, jellyfish, sea urchin, etc.
  • In architecture and design: domes, geodesic domes and spheres, atria, light bulbs and fixtures, etc.
  • In art: halos in Renaissance paintings, spherical forms in paintings and sculpture, etc.
  • In social sciences: spheres as communities, spheres as context, spheres as schemata (as in schema theory), etc.
  • In other senses: sphere of influence, sphere of friends, sphere of consciousness, sphere as neighborhood, etc.
"egg" scheme


The Pattern Underground

Monday, January 7, 2013

complex conscious Tao

The complexity of perception.
The Complexity of Consciousness

Figure shows the complex view of perception (and, to some extent, of the consciousness behind it). In the center of the drawing are depicted various stimuli from others and from the physical world impinging on the individual. These stimuli produce effects that can be classified as mental, emotional, and bodily. The innermost reaction circle represents clearly conscious experiences. At this moment, as I write, I hear a pneumatic drill being used to break up the pavement outside my window. I mentally speculate about the air pressure used to operate such an interesting tool but note that it is distracting me; I emotionally dislike the disturbance of my writing; the muscles of my face and ears tighten a little, as if that will reduce the impact of the noxious sound on me. While the three-part classification of effects provides a simplification, in reality the mental, emotional, and bodily responses to stimuli interact at both conscious and less than conscious levels. My mind notices the tension around my ear and interprets that as something wrong, which, as a minor emotional threat, aggravates the noxiousness of the sound, etc. Immediately behind fully conscious experiences are easily experienceable phenomena, represented by the second circle. The mental effect of these phenomena relates to the individual's explicit belief system: I believe that noise is undesirable, but I am fascinated by the workings of machines. Their emotional effect relates to the things he readily knows he likes or dislikes: loud noises generally bother me and make me feel intruded upon. Their bodily effect relates to consciously usable skills and movements: I can relax my facial muscles. These phenomena affect the individual at a level that is not in the focus of consciousness, but that can be easily made conscious by paying attention. These two levels are themselves affected and determined by a more implicit level of functioning, implicit in that the individual cannot identify its content simply by wanting to and paying attention. Where did I get the idea that noise is an intrusion? Why am I fascinated by the workings of machines? I do not know. I might be able to find out by prolonged psychological exploration, but the information is not easily available, even though these things affect me. Why do I have an immediate emotional dislike of noise? Is there some unconscious reaction behind it? How have I come to maintain certain muscle sets in my face that are affected by stress in certain ways? The outer circle in Figure represents basic learnings, conditionings, motor patterns, instincts, reflexes, language categories, and the like, which are so implicit the individual can hardly/ recognize their existence. This is the level of the hardware, the biological givens, and the basic enculturation processes. The distance of these things from consciousness makes it extremely difficult for him to discover and compensate for their controlling influences: they are, in many ways, the basis of himself. If the stimulus in the middle of Figure is a cat, this whole complex machine functions, a machine designed by our culture. We don't "just" see the cat! Our ordinary state of consciousness is a very complex construction indeed, yet Figure hardly goes into details at all. So much for the naturalness of our ordinary state of consciousness.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Tao cannot be mocked - IV

At the beginning ... I said that the focus would be upon validating the existence of very large systems. This goal may now be made more specific by asking what features of human religions, ancient and modern, become intelligible in the light of cybernetic theory and similar advances in epistemology. It is time to reverse the trend which since Copernicus has been in the direction of debunking mythology, to begin to pick up the many epistemological components of religion that have been brushed aside. In doing so, we may come upon important notions partly displaced by trash (particularly the kind of trash produced by religious people pretending to scientific authority, which is not their business) or partly lost by the failure to understand what religion was about, that has characterized most of the scientific debunking. The battle over the Book of Genesis is a piece of history of which neither the evolutionists nor the fundamentalists should be proud. But I have discussed that matter elsewhere and intend here to pick up what can be picked up after the battles are over – would that they were!
Religion does not consist in recognizing little bits of miracles (miracula, “little marvels”), such as every religious leader tries to avoid providing but which his followers will always insist upon, but vast aggregates of organization having immanent mental characteristics. I suggest that the Greeks were close to religion in concepts such as anangke, nemesis, hubris, and diverged from religion when their oracles claimed supernatural authority, or when their mythologists embroidered the tales of the various gods in the pantheon.
Can we on our part recognize among the scientific findings enough of the basic principles of traditional religion to give a base for some rapprochement? In the thinking that has led to my present position, I‘ve used a combination of approaches – logical, epistemological, and traditional – going from one to another as the circumstances of my life provided the opportunity and as the form of the argument suggested. I am trying to investigate the communicational regularities in the biosphere, assuming that in doing so, I shall also be investigating interwoven regularities in a system so pervasive and determinant that we may even apply the word “god” to it. The regularities we discover – including regularities and necessities of communication and logic – for a unity in which we make our home. They might be seen as the peculiarities of the god whom we might call Eco.
There is a parable which says that when the ecological god looks down and sees the human species sinning against its ecology – by greed or by taking shortcuts or taking steps in the wrong order – he sighs and involuntarily sends the pollution and the radioactive fallout. It is of no avail to tell him that the offense was only a small one, that you are sorry and that you will not do it again. It is no use to make sacrifices and offer bribes. The ecological God is incorruptible and therefore is not mocked.
If we look among the necessities of communication and logic to find what might appropriately be recognized as sacred, we must note that these matters have been investigated long and ponderously by a very great many people, most of whom do not alt all think of themselves as students of natural history. One class of those people call themselves logicians. They do not draw distinctions between the phenomena of communication and those of physics and chemistry; they do not assert, as I do, that different rules of logic apply in the explanation of living, recursive systems. But they have laid down a large number of rules about what steps shall be acceptable in joining together the propositions to make the theorems of tautology. Furthermore, the have classified the various kinds of steps and kinds of sequences of steps an have given names to the different species of sequences, such as the different types of syllogism discussed... [Their taxonomies are not unlike the taxonomies constructed of insect or butterfly species, and indeed these different species of syllogism live in different niches and have different needs for their survival.] We might well adopt this classification as a first step towards a natural history of the world of communication. The steps that the logicians have identified would then be candidates for the role of examples in our search for eternal verities that characterize that world, more abstract than the propositions of Augustine.
But, alas, logic is blemished, particularly when it attempts to deal with circular causal systems, in which the analogs of logical relations are causal sequences that proceed in a circle, like the paradox of Epimenides the Cretan, who declared, “All Cretans are liars.” This paradox the logician dismisses as trivial, but the observer of “things” – even things that can hardly claim to be alive – knows that Epimenides argument is a paradigm for the relations in any self-correcting circuit, such as that of the simple buzzer or house doorbell.
I have taken the presence of such circuits to be one of the criteria by which I define a mind, along with coding, hierarchical organization, and collateral energy supply. Such circuits can be found in many mechanical and electrical forms, such as the house thermostat … or the device that controls the water level in the tank of a toilet, but more significantly they arise in the physiology of organisms that must correct for variations in temperature, blood sugar, etc., and in ecosystems where different populations (say snowshoe rabbits and lynxes) vary in interconnected ways keeping the whole in balance. Logic tends to be lineal, moving from A to B or from a premise to a conclusion; logic frowns on arguments that move in circles. [Similarly, formal logic rejects as invalid the metaphorical connections that are so pervasive in the natural world.]
I am therefore unwilling in the description of life to trust to logic or logicians as a source of verities. It is, however, interesting to consider the properties of the self-corrective circuit itself as an example of profound abstract verity, and this is the subject matter of cybernetics and the first step in using cybernetics in moving towards new ways of thinking about nature. Perhaps we may be driven later to some still more profound and abstract set of descriptions of relations – but the relations of circuits will do for a starter, always remembering the verity that there are inevitable limitations on any act of description, which we have yet to spell out in detail.