Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Tao party

Golders Green Crematorium, Golders Green, Greater London, England
The ashes are buried under a rosebush, plot #39802. The rosebed is located at the far end of the crematorium complex,
next to the Chapel of Memory columbarium.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Tao Paradoxico-Philosophicus 3-4

    Un dieu donne le feu     
     Pour faire l'enfer;      
      Un diable, le miel     
       Pour faire le ciel.  


3 Niche: an organizationally closed unity specifies a possible domain of interactions (shared processes) with its own and other organizations and processes such that without this domain the unity disintegrates.
3.01 Call this domain the niche of the unity.
3.02 The unity shares processes with its niche.
3.1 Cognitive domain: consider the niche and all other intersections of an organizationally closed unity with other organizations and processes.
3.11 The unity shares processes with its cognitive domain.
3.2 Interaction: consider the activity of the processes shared in the intersection of the cognitive domains of one or more organizationally closed unities.
3.3 Perception: consider the activity within the closed organizations that form part of the cognitive domain of an organizationally closed unity.
3.4 Distinction: consider the intersection of a closed organization with one or more processes, thus separating them from their background (other processes).
3.5 Cognition: consider the generation of new closed organizations that share processes with and expand the cognitive domain of an organizationally closed unity.

4 Observer: consider an observer as an organizationally closed unity that shares processes with its cognitive domain.
4.01 An observer perceives, distinguishes and knows within its cognitive domain.
4.1 The cognitive domain of an observer may share processes with the cognitive domain of another observer, such that:
4.11 The observer may perceive, distinguish and know the other observer, which may perceive, distinguish and know the first observer.
4.2 Two or more observers may interact through their cognitive domains forming open organizations, closed organizations and even organizationally closed unities, all made of observers.
4.3 Trivial: consider one or more observers that respond predictably to stimuli.
4.31 Non-trivial: consider one or more observers that respond unpredictably to stimuli.

Tractatus Paradoxico-Philosophicus

A Philosophical Approach to Education
Un Acercamiento Filosófico a la Educación
Une Approche Philosophique à l'Education
Eine Philosophische Annäherung an Bildung

Ricardo B. Uribe

Copyright © by a collaborating group of people including the author, editing consultants, translators, and printers. All rights reserved.

Tao Paradoxico-Philosophicus 1-2

Tao for airports

Thursday, May 23, 2013

meta-Tao centers

The next metapattern introduced by Tyler Volk and Jeff Bloom are centers, structures which outline the centricity characteristics of a system:


Centers act to stabilize the whole, provide resistance to change, and provide for organization of the whole. They can act as attractors for autopoietic (self-generating, self-sustaining) systems. In a more general sense, they can imply importance or significance and a sense of centricity. As such, centers can radiate relations to other centers, information, and so forth.
Milann Dobrojevic, Psihodelic Style 2


  • In science: nucleus, strange attractor, queen ant or bee, fulcrum, dominant male in primate societies, center of gravity, heart within circulatory system, brain within nervous system, etc.
  • In architecture and design: main office, central meeting places, central structural supports (such as elevator shafts in skyscrapers), etc.
  • In art: the central figure or object as subject; the organizing principle or emotional focus of a piece of art, etc.
  • In social sciences: president, governor, major, dictator, leader, teacher, principal, central physical site of specific types of activity, heart as center of individual in many indigenous cultures, organizing principles of societies and other groups, brain as center of individual in most technologically developed cultures, focus of life or activity (e.g., individuals may consider self, family, work, sport, hobby, or spiritual efforts as center), ego or self centric, anthropocentrism, conceptual prototype, conceptual defining characteristics, etc.
  • In other senses: altar in a church, shrine in a temple, a deity or deities, sacred sites (Mecca, Bodhgaya, Jerusalem), shopping center, etc.


The Pattern Underground


Roy Babbington (bass), John Etheridge (guitar), John Marshall (drums), Karl Jenkins (keys)

the Tao Book: inside information - II


This feeling of being lonely and very temporary visitors in the universe is in flat contradiction to everything known about man (and all other living organisms) in the sciences. We do not "come into" this world; we come out of it, as leaves from a tree. As the ocean "waves," the universe "peoples." Every individual is an expression of the whole realm of nature, a unique action of the total universe. This fact is rarely, if ever, experienced by most individuals. Even those who know it to be true in theory do not sense or feel it, but continue to be aware of themselves as isolated "egos" inside bags of skin.
The first result of this illusion is that our attitude to the world "outside" us is largely hostile. We are forever "conquering" nature, space, mountains, deserts, bacteria, and insects instead of learning to cooperate with them in a harmonious order. In America the great symbols of this conquest are the bulldozer and the rocket—the instrument that batters the hills into flat tracts for little boxes made of ticky-tacky and the great phallic projectile that blasts the sky. (Nonetheless, we have fine architects who know how to fit houses into hills without ruining the landscape, and astronomers who know that the earth is already way out in space, and that our first need for exploring other worlds is sensitive electronic instruments which, like our eyes, will bring the most distant objects into our own brains.)(1) The hostile attitude of conquering nature ignores the basic interdependence of all things and events—that the world beyond the skin is actually an extension of our own bodies—and will end in destroying the very environment from which we emerge and upon which our whole life depends.
The second result of feeling that we are separate minds in an alien, and mostly stupid, universe is that we have no common sense, no way of making sense of the world upon which we are agreed in common. It's just my opinion against yours, and therefore the most aggressive and violent (and thus insensitive) propagandist makes the decisions. A muddle of conflicting opinions united by force of propaganda is the worst possible source of control for a powerful technology.
It might seem, then, that our need is for some genius to invent a new religion, a philosophy of life and a view of the world, that is plausible and generally acceptable for the late twentieth century, and through which every individual can feel that the world as a whole and his own life in particular have meaning. This, as history has shown repeatedly, is not enough. Religions are divisive and quarrelsome. They are a form of one-upmanship because they depend upon separating the "saved" from the "damned," the true believers from the heretics, the in-group from the out-group. Even religious liberals play the game of "we're-moretolerant-than-you." Furthermore, as systems of doctrine, symbolism, and behavior, religions harden into institutions that must command loyalty, be defended and kept "pure," and—because all belief is fervent hope, and thus a cover-up for doubt and uncertainty—religions must make converts. The more people who agree with us, the less nagging insecurity about our position. In the end one is committed to being a Christian or a Buddhist come what may in the form of new knowledge. New and indigestible ideas have to be wangled into the religious tradition, however inconsistent with its original doctrines, so that the believer can still take his stand and assert, "I am first and foremost a follower of Christ/Mohammed/Buddha, or whomever." Irrevocable commitment to any religion is not only intellectual suicide; it is positive unfaith because it closes the mind to any new vision of the world. Faith is, above all, open-ness—an act of trust in the unknown.
An ardent Jehovah's Witness once tried to convince me that if there were a God of love, he would certainly provide mankind with a reliable and infallible textbook for the guidance of conduct. I replied that no considerate God would destroy the human mind by making it so rigid and unadaptable as to depend upon one book, the Bible, for all the answers. For the use of words, and thus of a book, is to point beyond themselves to a world of life and experience that is not mere words or even ideas. Just as money is not real, consumable wealth, books are not life. To idolize scriptures is like eating paper currency.
Therefore The Book that I would like to slip to my children would itself be slippery. It would slip them into a new domain, not of ideas alone, but of experience and feeling. It would be a temporary medicine, not a diet; a point of departure, not a perpetual point of reference. They would read it and be done with it, for if it were well and clearly written they would not have to go back to it again and again for hidden meanings or for clarification of obscure doctrines.

"AlanWatts was not a buddha, but he could be one day. He has moved closer to it. THE BOOK is tremendously important. It is his testament, his whole experience with Zen masters, Zen classics. And he is a man of tremendous intelligence; he was also a drunkard. Intelligence plus wine have really created a juicy book."

the Tao Book: inside information - I

minimal Tao

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Tao subsystems - V

After extero-interoception, input processing, memory and subconscious Charles T. Tart introduces the fifth subsystem of the consciousness system, evaluation and decision-making:


Evaluation and Decision-Making
The Evaluation Decision-Making subsystem refers to those intellectual, cognitive processes with which we deliberately evaluate the meaning of things and decide what to do about them. It is the subsystem constituting our thinking, our problem-solving, our understanding. It is where we apply a logic to data presented to us and reach a conclusion as a result of processing the data in accordance with that logic.
Note that a logic is a self-contained, arbitrary system. Two and two do not make four in any "real" sense; they make four because they have been defined that way. That a particular logic is highly useful in dealing with the physical world should not blind us to the fact that it is basically an arbitrary, self-contained, assumptive system. Thus, when I define the Evaluation and Decision-Making subsystem as processing information in accordance with a logic, I do not intend to give it an ultimate validity, but just to note that there is an assumptive system, heavily influenced by culture and personal history, which processes data. In our ordinary d-SoC there may actually be several different logics applied at various times. I might apply the logic of calculus to certain kinds of problems in electronics, but not to problems of interpersonal relationships.
We should also note, as honest self-observation will reveal, that much of what passes as rationality in our ordinary d-SoC is in fact rationalization. We want something, so we make up "good" reasons for having it.
The discussion that follows is confined to intellectual, conscious evaluation and decision-making. Some aspects of this become automated and go on in the fringes of awareness, but they are potentially available to full consciousness should we turn our attention to them. Other subsystems, such as Emotions and the Subconscious, also evaluate data, classify them as good or bad, threatening or benign, etc. We are not concerned with these here, however; we shall consider only conscious, intellectual kinds of decision-making and evaluation.

Figure 8-3 illustrates the typical operation of the Evaluation and Decision-Making subsystem for the ordinary d-SoC. The process starts (lower left-hand corner) when you encounter some kind of problem situation in life. The stimuli from this situation, coming in via the Exteroception subsystem, are subjected to a large amount of Input-Processing, and some abstraction of the situation reaches your awareness. Assume this initial abstraction is puzzling: it doesn't make sense to you and you don't know what to do. So the Evaluation and Decision-Making subsystem draws upon information stored in the Memory subsystem in order to evaluate it. Figure 8-3 shows information both coming from Memory and going to memory to guide the retrieval of memory information, making it selective and relevant. Further assume that, given the presented information and what is available in Memory, the situation still makes only partial sense. You decide to seek more information. Controlling information is sent to Input-processing to produce more information about the situation, to look at it from another angle. Getting this further information, you again compare it against what you already know, and one of two sequences results. If the situation still does not make sense, and you have no way of getting further information, you may take the option, shown by the upward-slanting arrow, of simply not acting on the situation for the time being. If it doesn't make sense, in accordance with whatever logic you are using, you can then consult your memory for criteria for valued or appropriate kinds of actions, given your understanding of the situation, and then act in that appropriate way. Your action modifies the situation, which changes the data reaching you from the situation through Exteroception and Input-Processing, and the whole process may be repeated. Continuous cycling through this sort of process is what we call thinking and action. In the ordinary d-SoC, the operation of the Evaluation and Decision-Making subsystem is often hyperactive to the point of constituting noise—noise in the sense that the overinvestment of attention/awareness energy in this process lowers the ability to notice and deal with other sources of relevant information. You cannot hear your sense over the noise of your thoughts. The cycle shown in Figure 8-3 tends to be endless and self-perpetuating. Something happens, you think about it, reach a decision, and act, which changes the situation and makes you reevaluate it. Or you do not act, but thinking about it reminds you of something else, which reminds you of something else, about which you make a decision, which results in action that modifies another situation, which starts more evaluation and association processes. For example, someone on the street asks me for money, which starts me thinking about disinterested charity versus the work ethic ("Why doesn't he get a job? I work for my money. Maybe he is unfortunate, but he could also be too lazy. Maybe I'm being manipulated; I've been manipulated before, etc. etc.") and I'm so involved in this thought process that I do not notice various perceptual cues that would inform me about this person's actual situation and intentions.
Earlier, in discussing the stabilization processes that maintain a state of consciousness I pointed out that this endless thinking process is a major source of loading stabilization in an ordinary d-SoC. It continually reinforces consensus reality, for we tend to think continuously about the things we have been reinforced for thinking about, and it absorbs such a large amount of our attention/awareness energy that we have little of that energy available for other processes. This Evaluation and Decision-Making subsystem activity has an extremely large amount of psychological inertia: if you are not fully convinced of this, I suggest that you put this book down right now and try to turn the system off for five minutes. Don't think of anything, don't evaluate anything for the next five minutes. That also means don't think about not thinking.
Now, unless you a rare individual indeed, you have seen the difficulty of stopping activity of your Evaluation and Decision-Making subsystem. This enormous psychological inertia is excellent for maintaining your social membership in consensus reality, but if your personality structure and/or consensus reality is unsatisfactory and/or you wish to explore other d-SoCs besides you ordinary one, this endless activity of the Evaluation and Decision-Making subsystem can be a tremendous liability.
Within the ordinary d-SoC, there is some quantitative variation in the activity of the Evaluation and Decision-Making subsystem. Some days you feel intellectually sharp, and your mind is quick and you solve problems accurately on the first try. Other days you mind seems dull; you fail to grasp things right away, have to think a lot just to understand elementary points, have a hard time putting things together. There is also some variation within the ordinary d-SoC in the overall quantity of thoughts: some days your thoughts seem to race, other days they are a bit slower than normal. There is probably also quantitative variation in the redundancy of thinking, the degree to which you use multiple, overlapping processes to check on your own accuracy. And there is a quantitative variation in the degree to which you logical evaluation is distorted by emotional factors. When you are in a situation that activates conscious and subconscious emotions, your logic borders on pure rationalization; in a less threatening situation your logic may be relatively flawless. But these variations all stay within an expected range that you have come to think of as your ordinary d-SoC.
All the above relatively quantitative variations in the functioning of the Evaluation and Decision-Making subsystem may be exaggerated in various d-ASCs. Your thoughts may seem to race faster than you can comprehend them; the slowing down or accuracy of your logic processes can seem much more extreme than in your ordinary d-SoC. A drunk, for example, may not be able to think through a simple problem, while someone intoxicated on marijuana may have crystal-clear insights into a formerly baffling problem. I cannot be more specific about this, as there has been little quantitative research on it so far. However, experiential reports suggest that the quantitative variations can be large.
Even more interesting are qualitative variations in various d-ASCs. One of these is the substitution of a different logic from one ordinarily used in your b-SoC. Martin Orne has reported some interesting demonstrations. A deeply hypnotized subject is given a suggestion—for example, "The number three no longer makes any sense, the idea of three is a meaningless concept." The subject is then given various arithmetical problems such as two plus one equals what? Depending on subsidiary assumptions the subject makes, he rapidly evolves a new arithmetical logic that does not involve the number three. To the question, "What does two plus one equal?" he answers, "Four." To the question, "Sic divided by two equals what?" he answers either, "Two" or "Four," depending on the subsidiary assumptions. Thus a whole new logic can be readily programmed in the d-ASC of hypnosis. Various state-specific logics have been reported for meditative and psychedelic states, but they do not seem communicable in the ordinary d-SoC.
In the ordinary d-SoC, we are intolerant of contradictions in logic; in a d-ASC, tolerance for contradictions may be much higher. Again, an example from hypnosis is illustrative. I once suggested to an extremely susceptible subject, while he was in the hypnotic d-ASC, that mentally he was getting up from his chair, going down the hall and outside the laboratory building. he described this experience to me as it was happening. He experienced himself as being in the yard in back of the laboratory, where he reported seeing a mole come up to the surface from its tunnel. I asked him to catch the mole and hold on to it, and he said he had. Later I had him in his mental journey come back into the laboratory, walk upstairs, reenter the room where we were sitting, and stand in the middle of the floor. I asked him what he saw in the room, and he gave a general overall description of the room, omitting any mention of the chair in which he was sitting. Something like the following dialogue then occurred:

CT: Is there anyone sitting in the chair?
S: I am.
CT: Didn't you just tell me you were standing in the middle of the room?
S: Yes, I am standing in the middle of the room.
CT: Do you think it's contradictory to tell me you're standing in the middle of the room and sitting in the chair at the same time?
S: Yes.
CT: Does this contradiction bother you?
S: No.
CT: Which one of the two selves is your real self?
S: They are both my real self.

This stumped me until I finally thought of another question.

CT: Is there any difference at all between the two selves?
S: Yes, the me standing in the middle of the floor has a mole in his hands.

It is tempting to view this tolerance for contradictions as a deterioration in logic, but remember that contradiction is itself defined in terms of a particular logic, and since logics are self-contained assumptive structures, thinking in a pattern containing contradictions according to one system of logic may not necessarily mean that the thinking is useless or absolutely invalid. Indeed, some investigators have hypothesized that an increased ability to tolerate contradictions is necessary for creative thought. It should also be noted that many people who experience this ability to tolerate contradictions in d-ASCs believe it to be a transcendent, superior quality, not necessarily an inferior one. Sometimes they feel they are using a superior logic. Nevertheless, the ability to tolerate contradictions per se is not necessarily a superior quality.
Since this book is written in ordinary, Western d-SoC logic, there are difficulties in writing about d-ASC logics. New logics can emerge, appropriate to a particular d-ASC. New sets of (implicit) assumptions and rules for handling information in accordance with these assumptions seem to be inherent or learnable in a particular d-ASC. Within that particular d-ASC, and in repeated experiences in that d-ASC, these rules may be quite consistent and illogical. But writing about this is difficult because new state-specific logics may not seem like logics at all in other d-SoCs. From the viewpoint of some other d-SoC (usually the ordinary one) the logic is apparent, consistent, and useful. The existence of such state-specific logics is obvious to a number of people who experienced them in d-ASCs: they have not yet been proved to exist in a way acceptable to ordinary d-SoC evaluation.
The question whether there are state-specific logics or merely inferior, error-ridden logics in d-ASCs is further complicated by the tendency of new experiencers of d-ASCs to overvalue their experiences in those d-ASCs. The experiences are so fascinating and often so emotionally potent in a d-ASC that is new to you that you tend to accept uncritically everything about it. Clearly, the sense of "This is a remarkable, obviously true and wonderful truth" is a parainformational quality, like the quality "This is a memory" discussed earlier, and can attach itself to various contents regardless of their logical truth value. The feeling that something is true, no matter how emotionally impressive, is no guarantee of its truth. The final test of whether a state-specific logic exists for a particular d-ASC will involve not only the sequential validation and replication of a logic of an individual experiencer as he reenters a particular d-ASC time after time, but also his ability to communicate that logic to others in that d-ASC and have them independently validate it, a point elaborated later in connection with state-specific sciences.

An exciting finding of recent psychological research is the apparent existence of two discrete modes of cognition associated with functioning of the left and right cerebral hemispheres, respectively. In the normal person there are a huge number of interconnections via the corpus callosum between these two hemispheres, and on that physiological basis a person should be able to alternate between two modes of thinking quite readily, choosing whichever is appropriate for a problem. Our culture, however, has greatly overvalued the style of thinking associated with left hemisphere activity—linear, sequential, rational, intellectual, cause-and-effect, analytical thinking. Right hemisphere functioning seems more concerned with pattern recognition, with wholes, with simultaneity rather than sequence, and with bodily functioning. The right hemisphere mode is more an analog mode than a digital mode. Since each mode of evaluation is highly valid when appropriately applied to a problem it is suited for, we become limited and less effective if we overvalue one mode and apply it to problems more appropriate to the other mode. In the ordinary d-SoC, especially among Western academics, linear thinking is greatly overvalued, so we exist in a unbalanced, pathological state. The reasoning behind this is complex, and the interested reader should consult Ornstein's The Psychology of Consciousness and the sources he draws upon.
Many d-ASC experiences seem to reflect a greatly increased use of the right hemisphere mode of cognition. Experiencers talk of seeing patterns in things, of simultaneously and instantaneously grasping relationships they cannot ordinarily grasp, of being unable to express these things verbally. The experience is usually reported as pleasant and rewarding and often is valued as a higher or more true form of cognition. Apparently left and right hemisphere functioning is more balanced or there may even be a shift to dominance of right hemisphere functioning. The experience does not lend itself to verbal description, but may be communicable in other ways, as through music or dance. It should be noted as a major shift in the Evaluation and Decision-Making subsystem that can occur in d-ASCs.
In the ordinary d-SoC, constant, repetitious thinking absorbs a great deal of attention/awareness energy and acts as a form of loading stabilization. Since attention/awareness energy is taken away from this left hemisphere type of activity in d-ASCs, and the energy becomes more freely available, psychological functions that are only latent potentials in the ordinary d-SoC may become noticeable. They are made noticeable not only through the availability of attention/awareness energy, but also because the noise of constant thinking is reduced. These new functions may resemble instincts giving us information about situations or, since a right hemisphere mode of functioning may emit some of its output in the form of bodily sensations (a hypothesis of mine that I believe future research will validate), they may enhance sensitivity to such sensations. It is as if in our ordinary d-SoC we are surrounded by a crowd of people talking and shouting continually. If they would all quiet down, we might be able to hear individuals or to hear someone at the edge of the crowd who is saying something important.

Ordinarily Evaluation and Decision-Making activity consists of a sequential progression from one thought to another. You think of something, that draws up a certain association from memory, which you then think about; this draws up another association, etc. In this temporal sequence of the Evaluation and Decision-Making process, the progression from one thought to another, from association to association to association, it probabilistically controlled by the particular structures/programming built up by enculturation and life experience. Thus, if I say the word red to you, you are likely to associate some word like blue, green, yellow, some color word, rather than iguana, or sixteen-penny nail, or railroad track. The association that occurs to any particular thought is not absolutely determined, but since some associations are highly likely and others highly unlikely, we could, in principle, generally predict a person's train of thinking if we knew the strength of these various associative habits. Thus, much of our ordinary thinking/evaluation runs in predictable paths. These paths of likely associations are a function of the particular consensus reality we were socialized in.

Figure 8-4 diagrams, with the heavy arrows, ordinary thinking processes. Given a certain input stimulus for thought, a certain deduction or conclusion is likely to be reached that will draw highly probable association 1, which will result in certain deductions, which will draw up highly probable memory association 2, and so on until conclusion 1 is reached. The light arrows represent possible branchings not taken because they are weak, improbable, not made highly likely by habits and enculturation.
In various d-ASCs the rules governing the probability of associations change in a systematic and/or random way, and so progress along a chain of thought becomes much less predictable by ordinary d-SoC criteria. This is shown by the lower chain of light arrows in Figure 8-4. An unlikely association is made to the same input, which calls up different memory associations, leading to different deductions and further memory associations, etc., until a quite different conclusions, conclusion 2, is reached. Given the same presented problem in two d-SoCs, two quite different conclusions may result. This is creative, in the sense of being unusual. Whether it is practically useful is another question.
In some of the more stable d-ASCs, like hypnosis or dreaming, I believe the rules for associations may be systematically changed. In d-ASCs induced by powerful psychedelic drugs like LSD (which may not be stable d-ASCs) there may be a relatively random interference with the association processes that may still lead to creative conclusions but that may show no lawfulness in and of themselves.
Note that the Evaluation and Decision-Making subsystem controls Input-Processing to some extent in order to find "relevant" data to help solve problems. This can be useful or it can merely reinforce prejudices. Our evaluation of a situation may distort our subsequent perception of it and thus increase our faith in our evaluation, but at the price of distorted perception. In our desire for certainty, we can throw out the reality of the situation.

Tao subsystems - IV

Thursday, May 16, 2013


The Banqueting House - Whitehall London (1987)
George Frederick Handel's "THE WATER MUSIC"
English Bach Festival Dancers:
Sarah Cremer, Ursula Hageli, Alison Pooley, Angela Robinson, Chris Evan, Ray Holland, Rai Harell, Richard Slaughter
Choreography: Belinda Quirey
Dancers Costumes from original designs
Realised By Derek West
The English Bach Festival Orchestra
Directed By and Solo Violinist: Christopher Hirons.

a legacy for Tao - VI

Change of Season
Angels Fear Revisited:
Gregory Bateson’s Cybernetic Theory of Mind
Applied to Religion-Science Debates

Mary Catherine Bateson

Learning and Evolution as Mental Processes
The question of teleology (design) brings me back to the final chapter of Mind and Nature (1979), in which Gregory talks about the “two great stochastic processes” that combine randomness with selectivity. Having in many different ways, in the course of that book, discussed the mind-like properties of natural systems, he compares evolution with learning. And it strikes me today that he is saying that of course there is something that looks like intelligent design in evolution, because the mind-like properties of systems are unfolding. In this sense one can see mind at work in the structure of the eye, or in the structure of the cell and what have you. But in this understanding the mind is not external. Mind is a characteristic of the unfolding organization and process, immanent and emergent.
When Gregory spoke about the two great stochastic processes – learning, involving trial and error and involving something like reinforcement to determine what is retained, and evolution, where natural selection has the same effect, he was proposing yet another aspect of the pattern which connects all living things, recognizing in our own mental processes of thought and learning a pattern which connects us to the biosphere rather than an argument for separation. This recognition is inhibited by the dualistic assumption that what happens in the natural world is mechanical. It is inhibited in a deep way by the Cartesian body – mind distinction, as if the natural world were purely material instead of being shaped by process and organization. Having over simplified our description of the natural world, we open the door to a compensatory leap from the recognition of the complexity around us to the insistence on a mind external to it – a deity – shaping it. “Miracles,” said Gregory, “are dreams and imaginings whereby materialists hope to escape from their materialism.”

Friday, May 10, 2013

the Tao of the village

Mosammat Taslima Begum (left), representing Grameen Bank, and Muhammad Yunus
pose with their Nobel Peace Prize Medals and Diplomas.
Copyright © The Norwegian Nobel Institute 2006
Photo: Ken Opprann
The Nobel Peace Prize 2006 was awarded jointly to Muhammad Yunus and Grameen Bank "for their efforts to create economic and social development from below"

Nobel Lecture, Oslo, December 10, 2006.

Poverty is a Threat to Peace
Ladies and Gentlemen:
By giving us this prize, the Norwegian Nobel Committee has given important support to the proposition that peace is inextricably linked to poverty. Poverty is a threat to peace.
World's income distribution gives a very telling story. Ninety four percent of the world income goes to 40 percent of the population while sixty percent of people live on only 6 per cent of world income. Half of the world population lives on two dollars a day. Over one billion people live on less than a dollar a day. This is no formula for peace.
The new millennium began with a great global dream. World leaders gathered at the United Nations in 2000 and adopted, among others, a historic goal to reduce poverty by half by 2015. Never in human history had such a bold goal been adopted by the entire world in one voice, one that specified time and size. But then came September 11 and the Iraq war, and suddenly the world became derailed from the pursuit of this dream, with the attention of world leaders shifting from the war on poverty to the war on terrorism. Till now over $ 530 billion has been spent on the war in Iraq by the USA alone.
I believe terrorism cannot be won over by military action. Terrorism must be condemned in the strongest language. We must stand solidly against it, and find all the means to end it. We must address the root causes of terrorism to end it for all time to come. I believe that putting resources into improving the lives of the poor people is a better strategy than spending it on guns.

Poverty is Denial of All Human Rights
Peace should be understood in a human way − in a broad social, political and economic way. Peace is threatened by unjust economic, social and political order, absence of democracy, environmental degradation and absence of human rights.
Poverty is the absence of all human rights. The frustrations, hostility and anger generated by abject poverty cannot sustain peace in any society. For building stable peace we must find ways to provide opportunities for people to live decent lives.
The creation of opportunities for the majority of people − the poor − is at the heart of the work that we have dedicated ourselves to during the past 30 years.

Grameen Bank
I became involved in the poverty issue not as a policymaker or a researcher. I became involved because poverty was all around me, and I could not turn away from it. In 1974, I found it difficult to teach elegant theories of economics in the university classroom, in the backdrop of a terrible famine in Bangladesh. Suddenly, I felt the emptiness of those theories in the face of crushing hunger and poverty. I wanted to do something immediate to help people around me, even if it was just one human being, to get through another day with a little more ease. That brought me face to face with poor people's struggle to find the tiniest amounts of money to support their efforts to eke out a living. I was shocked to discover a woman in the village, borrowing less than a dollar from the money-lender, on the condition that he would have the exclusive right to buy all she produces at the price he decides. This, to me, was a way of recruiting slave labor.
I decided to make a list of the victims of this money-lending "business" in the village next door to our campus.
When my list was done, it had the names of 42 victims who borrowed a total amount of US $27. I offered US $27 from my own pocket to get these victims out of the clutches of those money-lenders. The excitement that was created among the people by this small action got me further involved in it. If I could make so many people so happy with such a tiny amount of money, why not do more of it?
That is what I have been trying to do ever since. The first thing I did was to try to persuade the bank located in the campus to lend money to the poor. But that did not work. The bank said that the poor were not creditworthy. After all my efforts, over several months, failed I offered to become a guarantor for the loans to the poor. I was stunned by the result. The poor paid back their loans, on time, every time! But still I kept confronting difficulties in expanding the program through the existing banks. That was when I decided to create a separate bank for the poor, and in 1983, I finally succeeded in doing that. I named it Grameen Bank or Village bank.
Today, Grameen Bank gives loans to nearly 7.0 million poor people, 97 per cent of whom are women, in 73,000 villages in Bangladesh. Grameen Bank gives collateral-free income generating, housing, student and micro-enterprise loans to the poor families and offers a host of attractive savings, pension funds and insurance products for its members. Since it introduced them in 1984, housing loans have been used to construct 640,000 houses. The legal ownership of these houses belongs to the women themselves. We focused on women because we found giving loans to women always brought more benefits to the family.
In a cumulative way the bank has given out loans totaling about US $6.0 billion. The repayment rate is 99%. Grameen Bank routinely makes profit. Financially, it is self-reliant and has not taken donor money since 1995. Deposits and own resources of Grameen Bank today amount to 143 per cent of all outstanding loans. According to Grameen Bank's internal survey, 58 per cent of our borrowers have crossed the poverty line.
Grameen Bank was born as a tiny homegrown project run with the help of several of my students, all local girls and boys. Three of these students are still with me in Grameen Bank, after all these years, as its topmost executives. They are here today to receive this honour you give us.
This idea, which began in Jobra, a small village in Bangladesh, has spread around the world and there are now Grameen type programs in almost every country.

Second Generation
It is 30 years now since we began. We keep looking at the children of our borrowers to see what has been the impact of our work on their lives. The women who are our borrowers always gave topmost priority to the children. One of the Sixteen Decisions developed and followed by them was to send children to school. Grameen Bank encouraged them, and before long all the children were going to school. Many of these children made it to the top of their class. We wanted to celebrate that, so we introduced scholarships for talented students. Grameen Bank now gives 30,000 scholarships every year.
Many of the children went on to higher education to become doctors, engineers, college teachers and other professionals. We introduced student loans to make it easy for Grameen students to complete higher education. Now some of them have PhD's. There are 13,000 students on student loans. Over 7,000 students are now added to this number annually.
We are creating a completely new generation that will be well equipped to take their families way out of the reach of poverty. We want to make a break in the historical continuation of poverty.

Beggars Can Turn to Business
In Bangladesh 80 percent of the poor families have already been reached with microcredit. We are hoping that by 2010, 100 per cent of the poor families will be reached.
Three years ago we started an exclusive programme focusing on the beggars. None of Grameen Bank's rules apply to them. Loans are interest-free; they can pay whatever amount they wish, whenever they wish. We gave them the idea to carry small merchandise such as snacks, toys or household items, when they went from house to house for begging. The idea worked. There are now 85,000 beggars in the program. About 5,000 of them have already stopped begging completely. Typical loan to a beggar is $12.
We encourage and support every conceivable intervention to help the poor fight out of poverty. We always advocate microcredit in addition to all other interventions, arguing that microcredit makes those interventions work better.

Information Technology for the Poor
Information and communication technology (ICT) is quickly changing the world, creating distanceless, borderless world of instantaneous communications. Increasingly, it is becoming less and less costly. I saw an opportunity for the poor people to change their lives if this technology could be brought to them to meet their needs.
As a first step to bring ICT to the poor we created a mobile phone company, Grameen Phone. We gave loans from Grameen Bank to the poor women to buy mobile phones to sell phone services in the villages. We saw the synergy between microcredit and ICT.
The phone business was a success and became a coveted enterprise for Grameen borrowers. Telephone-ladies quickly learned and innovated the ropes of the telephone business, and it has become the quickest way to get out of poverty and to earn social respectability. Today there are nearly 300,000 telephone ladies providing telephone service in all the villages of Bangladesh . Grameen Phone has more than 10 million subscribers, and is the largest mobile phone company in the country. Although the number of telephone-ladies is only a small fraction of the total number of subscribers, they generate 19 per cent of the revenue of the company. Out of the nine board members who are attending this grand ceremony today 4 are telephone-ladies.
Grameen Phone is a joint-venture company owned by Telenor of Norway and Grameen Telecom of Bangladesh. Telenor owns 62 per cent share of the company, Grameen Telecom owns 38 per cent. Our vision was to ultimately convert this company into a social business by giving majority ownership to the poor women of Grameen Bank. We are working towards that goal. Someday Grameen Phone will become another example of a big enterprise owned by the poor.

Free Market Economy
Capitalism centers on the free market. It is claimed that the freer the market, the better is the result of capitalism in solving the questions of what, how, and for whom. It is also claimed that the individual search for personal gains brings collective optimal result.
I am in favor of strengthening the freedom of the market. At the same time, I am very unhappy about the conceptual restrictions imposed on the players in the market. This originates from the assumption that entrepreneurs are one-dimensional human beings, who are dedicated to one mission in their business lives − to maximize profit. This interpretation of capitalism insulates the entrepreneurs from all political, emotional, social, spiritual, environmental dimensions of their lives. This was done perhaps as a reasonable simplification, but it stripped away the very essentials of human life.
Human beings are a wonderful creation embodied with limitless human qualities and capabilities. Our theoretical constructs should make room for the blossoming of those qualities, not assume them away.
Many of the world's problems exist because of this restriction on the players of free-market. The world has not resolved the problem of crushing poverty that half of its population suffers. Healthcare remains out of the reach of the majority of the world population. The country with the richest and freest market fails to provide healthcare for one-fifth of its population.
We have remained so impressed by the success of the free-market that we never dared to express any doubt about our basic assumption. To make it worse, we worked extra hard to transform ourselves, as closely as possible, into the one-dimensional human beings as conceptualized in the theory, to allow smooth functioning of free market mechanism.
By defining "entrepreneur" in a broader way we can change the character of capitalism radically, and solve many of the unresolved social and economic problems within the scope of the free market. Let us suppose an entrepreneur, instead of having a single source of motivation (such as, maximizing profit), now has two sources of motivation, which are mutually exclusive, but equally compelling − a) maximization of profit and b) doing good to people and the world.
Each type of motivation will lead to a separate kind of business. Let us call the first type of business a profit-maximizing business, and the second type of business as social business.
Social business will be a new kind of business introduced in the market place with the objective of making a difference in the world. Investors in the social business could get back their investment, but will not take any dividend from the company. Profit would be ploughed back into the company to expand its outreach and improve the quality of its product or service. A social business will be a non-loss, non-dividend company.
Once social business is recognized in law, many existing companies will come forward to create social businesses in addition to their foundation activities. Many activists from the non-profit sector will also find this an attractive option. Unlike the non-profit sector where one needs to collect donations to keep activities going, a social business will be self-sustaining and create surplus for expansion since it is a non-loss enterprise. Social business will go into a new type of capital market of its own, to raise capital.
Young people all around the world, particularly in rich countries, will find the concept of social business very appealing since it will give them a challenge to make a difference by using their creative talent. Many young people today feel frustrated because they cannot see any worthy challenge, which excites them, within the present capitalist world. Socialism gave them a dream to fight for. Young people dream about creating a perfect world of their own.
Almost all social and economic problems of the world will be addressed through social businesses. The challenge is to innovate business models and apply them to produce desired social results cost-effectively and efficiently. Healthcare for the poor, financial services for the poor, information technology for the poor, education and training for the poor, marketing for the poor, renewable energy − these are all exciting areas for social businesses.
Social business is important because it addresses very vital concerns of mankind. It can change the lives of the bottom 60 per cent of world population and help them to get out of poverty.

Grameen's Social Business
Even profit maximizing companies can be designed as social businesses by giving full or majority ownership to the poor. This constitutes a second type of social business. Grameen Bank falls under this category of social business.
The poor could get the shares of these companies as gifts by donors, or they could buy the shares with their own money. The borrowers with their own money buy Grameen Bank shares, which cannot be transferred to non-borrowers. A committed professional team does the day-to-day running of the bank.
Bilateral and multi-lateral donors could easily create this type of social business. When a donor gives a loan or a grant to build a bridge in the recipient country, it could create a "bridge company" owned by the local poor. A committed management company could be given the responsibility of running the company. Profit of the company will go to the local poor as dividend, and towards building more bridges. Many infrastructure projects, like roads, highways, airports, seaports, utility companies could all be built in this manner.
Grameen has created two social businesses of the first type. One is a yogurt factory, to produce fortified yogurt to bring nutrition to malnourished children, in a joint venture with Danone. It will continue to expand until all malnourished children of Bangladesh are reached with this yogurt. Another is a chain of eye-care hospitals. Each hospital will undertake 10,000 cataract surgeries per year at differentiated prices to the rich and the poor.

Social Stock Market
To connect investors with social businesses, we need to create social stock market where only the shares of social businesses will be traded. An investor will come to this stock-exchange with a clear intention of finding a social business, which has a mission of his liking. Anyone who wants to make money will go to the existing stock-market.
To enable a social stock-exchange to perform properly, we will need to create rating agencies, standardization of terminology, definitions, impact measurement tools, reporting formats, and new financial publications, such as, The Social Wall Street Journal. Business schools will offer courses and business management degrees on social businesses to train young managers how to manage social business enterprises in the most efficient manner, and, most of all, to inspire them to become social business entrepreneurs themselves.

Role of Social Businesses in Globalization

I support globalization and believe it can bring more benefits to the poor than its alternative. But it must be the right kind of globalization. To me, globalization is like a hundred-lane highway criss-crossing the world. If it is a free-for-all highway, its lanes will be taken over by the giant trucks from powerful economies. Bangladeshi rickshaw will be thrown off the highway. In order to have a win-win globalization we must have traffic rules, traffic police, and traffic authority for this global highway. Rule of "strongest takes it all" must be replaced by rules that ensure that the poorest have a place and piece of the action, without being elbowed out by the strong. Globalization must not become financial imperialism. Powerful multi-national social businesses can be created to retain the benefit of globalization for the poor people and poor countries. Social businesses will either bring ownership to the poor people, or keep the profit within the poor countries, since taking dividends will not be their objective. Direct foreign investment by foreign social businesses will be exciting news for recipient countries. Building strong economies in the poor countries by protecting their national interest from plundering companies will be a major area of interest for the social businesses.

We Create What We Want
We get what we want, or what we don't refuse. We accept the fact that we will always have poor people around us, and that poverty is part of human destiny. This is precisely why we continue to have poor people around us. If we firmly believe that poverty is unacceptable to us, and that it should not belong to a civilized society, we would have built appropriate institutions and policies to create a poverty-free world.
We wanted to go to the moon, so we went there. We achieve what we want to achieve. If we are not achieving something, it is because we have not put our minds to it. We create what we want.
What we want and how we get to it depends on our mindsets. It is extremely difficult to change mindsets once they are formed. We create the world in accordance with our mindset. We need to invent ways to change our perspective continually and reconfigure our mindset quickly as new knowledge emerges. We can reconfigure our world if we can reconfigure our mindset.

We Can Put Poverty in the Museums
I believe that we can create a poverty-free world because poverty is not created by poor people. It has been created and sustained by the economic and social system that we have designed for ourselves; the institutions and concepts that make up that system; the policies that we pursue.
Poverty is created because we built our theoretical framework on assumptions which under-estimates human capacity, by designing concepts, which are too narrow (such as concept of business, credit- worthiness, entrepreneurship, employment) or developing institutions, which remain half-done (such as financial institutions, where poor are left out). Poverty is caused by the failure at the conceptual level, rather than any lack of capability on the part of people.
I firmly believe that we can create a poverty-free world if we collectively believe in it. In a poverty-free world, the only place you would be able to see poverty is in the poverty museums. When school children take a tour of the poverty museums, they would be horrified to see the misery and indignity that some human beings had to go through. They would blame their forefathers for tolerating this inhuman condition, which existed for so long, for so many people.
A human being is born into this world fully equipped not only to take care of him or herself, but also to contribute to enlarging the well being of the world as a whole. Some get the chance to explore their potential to some degree, but many others never get any opportunity, during their lifetime, to unwrap the wonderful gift they were born with. They die unexplored and the world remains deprived of their creativity, and their contribution.
Grameen has given me an unshakeable faith in the creativity of human beings. This has led me to believe that human beings are not born to suffer the misery of hunger and poverty.
To me poor people are like bonsai trees. When you plant the best seed of the tallest tree in a flower-pot, you get a replica of the tallest tree, only inches tall. There is nothing wrong with the seed you planted, only the soil-base that is too inadequate. Poor people are bonsai people. There is nothing wrong in their seeds. Simply, society never gave them the base to grow on. All it needs to get the poor people out of poverty for us to create an enabling environment for them. Once the poor can unleash their energy and creativity, poverty will disappear very quickly.
Let us join hands to give every human being a fair chance to unleash their energy and creativity.

Ladies and Gentlemen,
Let me conclude by expressing my deep gratitude to the Norwegian Nobel Committee for recognizing that poor people, and especially poor women, have both the potential and the right to live a decent life, and that microcredit helps to unleash that potential.
I believe this honor that you give us will inspire many more bold initiatives around the world to make a historical breakthrough in ending global poverty.
Thank you very much.

Copyright © The Nobel Foundation 2006

Friday, May 3, 2013

Cartesian Tao anxiety

© Igor Morski
The search for a middle way to the description of consciousness in the enactionist perspective put a dilemma between two extremes which causes the Cartesian anxiety for an absolute ground for the representation: a small island which represents the land of truth ultimately grounded, surrounded by an ocean of darkness and confusion, the home of all the illusions:

Steps to a Middle Way

The Cartesian Anxiety
The nervousness that we feel is rooted in what, following Richard Bernstein, we can call lithe Cartesian anxiety." We mean "anxiety" in a loosely Freudian sense, and we call it "Cartesian" simply because Descartes articulated it rigorously and dramatically in his Meditations. The anxiety is best put as a dilemma: either we have a fixed and stable foundation for knowledge, a point where knowledge starts, is grounded, and rests, or we cannot escape some sort of darkness, chaos, and confusion. Either there is an absolute ground or foundation, or everything falls apart.
There is a marvelous passage from Kant's Critique of Pure Reason that conveys the power of the Cartesian anxiety. Throughout the Critique Kant builds the edifice of his theory of knowledge by arguing that we have a priori or given, innate categories, which are the foundations of knowledge. Toward the end of his discussion of the "Transcendental Analytic" he writes,
We have now not merely explored the territory of pure understanding [the a priori categories] and carefully surveyed every part of it, but have also measured its extent and assigned to everything in it its rightful place. This domain is an island, enclosed by nature itself with unalterable limits. It is the land of truth-an enchanting name!-surrounded by a wide and stormy ocean, the native home of illusion, where many a fog bank and many a swiftly melting iceberg give the deceptive appearance of farther shores, deluding the adventurous seafarer ever anew with empty hopes, and engaging him in enterprises which he can never abandon and yet is unable to carry to completion.
Here we have the two extremes, the either-or of the Cartesian anxiety: There is the enchanting land of truth where everything is clear and ultimately grounded. But beyond that small island there is the wide and stormy ocean of darkness and confusion, the native home of illusion.
This feeling of anxiety arises from the craving for an absolute ground. When this craving cannot be satisfied, the only other possibility seems to be nihilism or anarchy. The search for a ground can take many forms, but given the basic logic of representationism, the tendency is to search either for an outer ground in the world or an inner ground in the mind. By treating mind and world as opposed subjective and objective poles, the Cartesian anxiety oscillates endlessly between the two in search of a ground.
It is important to realize that this opposition between subject and object is not given and ready-made; it is an idea that belongs to the human history of mind and nature that we mentioned. For example, prior to Descartes, the term idea was used only for the contents of the mind of God; Descartes was one of the first to take this term and apply it to the workings of the human mind. This linguistic and conceptual shift is just one aspect of what Richard Rorty describes as the "invention of the mind as a mirror of nature," an invention that was' the result of patching together heterogeneous images, conceptions, and linguistic usages.
These Cartesian roots become quite obvious when we have reason to doubt the appropriateness of this metaphor of mirroring. As we set out in search of other ways of thinking, the Cartesian anxiety arises to dog us at every step. Yet our contemporary situation is also unique, for we have become increasingly skeptical about the possibility of discerning any ultimate ground. Thus when the anxiety arises today, we seem unable to avoid the turn toward nihilism, for we have not learned to let go of the forms of thinking, behavior, and experience that lead us to desire a ground.
We saw in our previous discussion that cognitive science is not immune from this nihilistic tendency. For example, the link between nihilism and the Cartesian anxiety can be seen very clearly in The Society of Mind when Minsky confronts our inability to find a fully independent world. As he notes, the world is not an object, event, or process inside the world. Indeed the world is more like a background- a setting of and field for all of our experience, but one that cannot be found apart from our structure, behavior, and cognition. For this reason, what we say about the world tells us as much about ourselves as it does about the world.
Minsky's response to this realization is a mixed one, in a way that is similar to his response to the lack of a Self. He writes, "Whatever you purport to say about a thing, you're only expressing your own beliefs. Yet even that gloomy thought suggests an insight. Even if our models of the world cannot yield good answers about the world as a whole, and even though their other answers are frequently wrong, they can tell us something about ourselves." On the one hand, Minsky uses the impossibility of finding a fully independent and pregiven world as an opportunity for developing insight into ourselves. But on the other hand, this insight is based in a feeling of gloominess about our situation. Why should this be?
We have been portraying these ideas through the words of Minsky because he is an outstanding modem cognitive scientist and has actually taken the time to articulate his ideas clearly. But he is not alone. When pressed to discuss this issue, many people would accept that we do not really have knowledge of the world; we have knowledge only of our representations of the world. Yet we seem condemned by our constitution to treat these representations as if they were the world, for our everyday experience feels as if it were of a given and immediate world.
Such a situation does indeed seem gloomy. But notice that such gloominess would make sense only if there were a pregiven, independent world-an outer ground-but one that we could never know. Given such a situation, we would have no choice but to fall back on our inner representations and treat them as if they provided a stable ground.
This mood of gloominess arises, then, from the Cartesian anxiety and its ideal of the mind as a mirror of nature. According to this ideal, knowledge should be of an independent, pregiven world, and this knowledge should be attained in the precision of a representation.
When this ideal cannot be satisfied, we fall back upon ourselves in search of an inner ground. This oscillation is apparent in Minsky's remark that whatever one purports to say is only an expression of one's beliefs. To say that what one thinks is a only a matter of subjective representation is precisely to fall back upon the idea of an inner ground, a solitary Cartesian ego that is walled in by the privacy of its representations. This particular tum is all the more ironic, since Minsky does not believe that there exists a self that could serve as an inner ground in the first place. In the end, then, Minsky's entanglement in the Cartesian anxiety requires not only that we believe in a self that we know cannot be found but also that we believe in a world to which we have no access. And once again, the logic of such a predicament leads inevitably to a condition of nihilism.