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Is There More to Neuroexistentialism?

Professors Owen Flanagan (Duke University) and Gregg D. Caruso (SUNY Corning) penned an essay called Neuroexistentialism in The Philosophers’ Magazine. It briefly describes the project behind their recent book Neuroexistentialism: Meaning, Morals, and Purpose in the Age of Neuroscience from Oxford University Press. I haven’t yet read the book. But, having read the essay, I’m looking forward to seeing if the book offers other approaches to understanding meaning, morals and purpose than those alluded to in the essay. In the essay, Flanagan and Caruso seem to seek meaning in a trick box within which meaning would prove illusory.

There are two sides to this trick box. On one side of the trick box the search for meaning is trapped between the objective, observable – the work of scientific consensus and the sense making activity of meaning formation within single subjects.

To clarify, the neuroscientific approach, upon which we understand ourselves as 100 percent animal, to quote the essay, is a data driven approach. It is based on empirical, reproducible observations ostensibly free from subjectivity. Any observer of the data would come to the same conclusions.

Phenomenological investigations into meaning, upon which the essay seems to draw, stem from an analysis of the cogito or pre-reflective cogito. We see its appearance in Descartes through Sartre, both cited in the article. Phenomenological investigations place the creation of meaning within the subject.

We are thus trapped between two methodological approaches for conferring meaning on experience.

The other side of the trick box grows from the trouble with meaning. It is unclear, from a scientific perspective, why meaning is necessary. Proposing it as a fundamental, existential need is a statement of a subjective state. There are numerous examples of people who live without meaning or, at least, without meaning in the deep, existential sense to which it feels the authors of the essay allude.

Further, we can just as easily propose that meaning, in itself, is a memetic trick. It furthers the longevity and reproduction of ideas or sense patterns which have adopted ‘the meaning trick’ as a component. Evidence for this proposition is nearly tautological. However, it seems just as plausible, and potentially more satisfying to a data driven mind, as positing meaning as an existential need of the human condition.

We are here trapped in the definition of meaning. Though, that sounds like may well be a question the book covers which is not covered in the essay.

Both sides of the trick box point to a question on the role of the individual, whether as meaning maker, meaning seeker or carrier of memetic instruction. A question that does not, as yet, seem to have a naturalist answer. Namely, what makes one person behave differently than another?

Erich Fromm, in The Anatomy of Human Destructiveness, speaks towards this with the concept of character. He defines character as “the relatively permanent system of all noninstinctual strivings through which man relates himself to the human and natural world.”

This question may eventually find a naturalist answer. We may one day find there aren’t ‘noninstinctual strivings’ or more, that there aren’t any non-scientifically identifiable and observable causal relationships behind our choices and actions. But the answer is still, as yet, not there.

In the book, Professors Flanagan and Caruso seek “to satisfy our existential concerns and achieve some level of flourishing and fulfilment” in the face of ever more persuasive naturalism. This seems an important question space.

One source of answers may be in what remains unknown. It seems an exploration and celebration of the individual, of the diversity of individuals (e.g. understanding what individuals value, the choices individuals make and what individuals create) may provide a more rewarding, and fruitful avenue than the trick box the essay suggests. This, and others, may be among the answers in the book. I look forward to finding out.

Meme as Philosophical Heuristic for Romantics

Do memes have to be real to have value? [utility] [instrumentality]

The concept of a meme can be a thought experiment, an intellectual tool, to evaluate ideas.  Can it provide an easy threshold for approaching ideas, for seeding doubt?

For example, reading Hegel we can explore the proposition: “…we comprehend and express the true not as substance but just as much as subject.” Substance and subject. There is a unity between truth value (is it true?) and the concept of truth (what is truth?). An ongoing dialogue, an inter-relation between how we know and what we know. An underlying ebb and flow in the nature of thinking and that which we think about.

“And when,…,thinking unites with itself the being of the substance and comprehends immediacy or intuition as thinking, it still remains decisive whether this intellectual intuition does not fall back into inter simplicity and present actuality in a non-actual manner.”

“The living substance is, further, that being which is in truth subject or – to say the same thing in other words – which is in truth actual only insofar as it is the movement of positing itself, or the mediation between a self and its development into something different.”

Further, “The true is its own becoming, the circle that presupposes its end as its aim and thus has it for its beginning -that which is actual only through its execution and end.”

It tugs at the soul. It feels like there’s depth. It makes one crave to explore further, dig deeper. It speaks to a yearning. Reading Hegel one can get swept up. One wants to get swept up.

Or, we can ask, is the depth a memetic trick? Is Hegel carrying a message that feels substantial, but when confronted, collapses at the prick of the memetic test? Is it trick for survival, replication of itself?

And that, alone, can break the spell.

And pave the path to well honed tools.

Subjecting Hegel to the scientific method we seem to search cultural processes, historic waves, interpretations of physical processes which exist only when conceived in a world encompassing whole, a totality (structuralized totality, to use Fromm). This seems tainted data.

When the consonance between observed phenomena and a hypothesis must pass through layers of interpretation of further hypotheses, through a totality, we seem on solid footing to reject that consonance and say the hypothesis is unsupported.

Hypotheses requiring data passed through believing is suspect. It calls for conformity of belief and interpretation rather than unfettered exploration of ideas.

Of course, one can get there with logic, with reasoned skepticism.

Russel: “Hegel thought that, if enough was known about a thing to distinguish it from all other things, then all its properties could be inferred by logic. This was a mistake, and from this mistake arose the whole imposing edifice of his system. This illustrates an important truth, namely, that the worse your logic, the more interesting the consequences to which it gives rise.”

But for a romantic, a stronger tonic is sometimes required to awaken reason. The memetic test can be that poison.

That being said, it is still intoxicating and pleasurable to partake of the illusion every now and then, dive into a little relaxation of the spirit.

Hegel: Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich, and Walter Kaufmann. 2003. Hegel: texts and commentary : Hegel’s preface to his system in a new translation with commentary on Facing pages, and “Who thinks abstractly?”. Notre Dame, Ind: University of Notre Dame Press. All quotes are from Section II.1, pages 28 – 30.
Russell, Bertrand. 1973. A history of Western philosophy. New York: Simon and Schuster. Page 746


Memes and Individual Psyches – Building of Fromm

Memetic Fromm role of communityErich Fromm, Escape from Freedom, page 51

A Dialectic from Community

Community, organizations are critical to human survival. They create and constraint. They form us.

On page 89 Fromm says, “ideas which are not rooted in powerful needs of the personality will have little influence on the actions and on the whole life of the person concerned.”

Psyche first then ideas. We could flip that.

Whereas Fromm would have them an outcropping of a psychological need, memetics would have them as the blind result of successful adaptation and spread by memes themselves, without human agency.  The psychological fades into being biological / memeticological. That is, humans as meme carriers.

Is that real?

Is the psychological real?

Is there an avenue for putting the psychological between physical and memetic, which helps us better figure out what a meme truly is and how it operates?

For example, does a meme only exist with humans? can bees/ bee hives organized as they are, be examples of a successful meme?

If so, what is the role of psychology/individual human psyche? Perhaps nothing. Is it, rather, what our physical brains do when encountering so many memes?

Psyches Evolve

Instead of memes evolving from interaction with individual psyches, psyches evolve from interaction with a world of memes.

That sounds consistent with Blackmore and Dennett.

Memetic Fromm psyche evolves from socialErich Fromm, Escape from Freedom, page 52

A Genealogy and Dialectic of Memes

Nietzsche (The Gay Science: We Fearless Ones, and other places) paints striving and comfort in a world of continual uncertainty. Comfort in striving, surpassing. Becoming and more.

The medium is the message. Current events as reactions to a change in the environment. When people or communities react to social media they are not reacting to it’s contents, it’s silos of information. Rather they are reacting to the existence of social media itself.

Fromm, in Escape from Freedom, argues in the space of the tension arising from individuation and belongingness / security within a society. Drawing on that tension from the Reformation to parallels in the 1930’s, 1940’s. It seems applicable today, 2018, with respect to social media evolving and other factors in the world.

Were that the case, it seems we could catalogue memes across time and potentially across species (bees, etc/). A Genealogy of Memes? Meme pedigree?

Memes such as ‘class’ may serve a specific purpose. But that may be all that they are. We could deny the existence of class ontologically. See Project Management as a Meme.

From Fromm, insects’ social organization created by instincts.

Memetic Fromm instinctsErich Fromm, Escape from Freedom, page 47


Human culture (memes) a function of our lack of instinct – biological weakness in Fromm’s terms. A relationship between biological needs and the beginnings of culture, that is, memetic opportunity.

Memetic Fromm evolution of cultureErich Fromm, Escape from Freedom, page 48

But Are Memes Real?

All this prods the question again of what is a meme? What is idea stuff? Can we really say memes are real?

If they were we could use a meme genealogy to identify changes in the underlying organism, the carrier, such as may be happening now with humans and social media/ electronic media. We could examine earlier incarnations of the tension between individuation and belongingness/security. For example, totalitarianism, may be various mutations of the co-evolution working itself out or manifestations of whatever the underlying meme is.

It would be great were there some experiments or method we could cling to to reality check this or ground it.


Memes: Blackmore, S. J. (1999). The meme machine. Oxford [England: Oxford University Press.
Memes and consciousness: Dennett, D. C. (1991). Consciousness explained. Boston: Little, Brown and Co.
Fromm, Erich. 1968. Escape from freedom. New York: Avon Books.
Nietzsche, Friedrich. 1974. The gay science. USA: Vintage Books.
Project management as meme: Whitty, Stephen Jonathan. “A memetic paradigm of project management.” International Journal of Project Management 23, no. 8 (2005): 575-583.

Inventing Ourselves, Our Environment

Memetic evolution of writing systems

From The Meme Machine page 206

Writing as an Artifact of Meme-Gene Co-Evolution

What can we learn about ourselves by studying writing? It makes sense writing started with accounting for food and the such. Those items are directly related to survival of the vehicle, to the organisms which we are. Attaching to survival is a trick for replication and helping survival helps longevity.

In the same way, the meme of business is so prevalent. It is directly connected to survival of the replicator and helps wit longevity of the vehicle and therefore of the meme. With the evolution of culture the way it is, business also helps fecundity. People want to be successful in business. Look at the number of business titles published every year, business schools, blogs, media, etc.

The reality of media discussed by Baudrillard is the next layer in our evolution as a vehicle and mechanism for replication of memes. The same can be said of the internet and, more specifically, social media. Being networked.

The Challenge of a Networked Society

In media and in supply chains and in a society. Being networked seems to help spread memes. But it’ll be an interesting experiment to see how long the networking lasts. Will the underlying, constituent nodes/vertices decrease in effectiveness of being a replicator if too deeply intertwined in a network? Do we somehow sense we lose ourselves? How do we see ourselves when we are part of a double helix of connection, a chain of replicators to carry the instructions, to reproduce? Will the vehicle reject it? Or does that ascribe too much intentionality?

But, in other words, playing out the evolutionary algorithm, will the networked vehicle, us as nodes/vertices, be the fittest design?

Seems the current state in America is a push against it. Anti-globalism. Anti-network. Questions on the veracity of information on networks. Questions of big tech’s responsibilities, obligations, where and how it fits in. All anti-network.

It is an interesting pairing of the business meme and big tech. Could social networks have come about in another pairing? France’s Minitel, Darpanet and other forms of network seem to indicate the pairing is needed for the network to thrive.

What happens when it encounters specific memes in politics or better, more accurately, when different memes arise in politics? Memes that are anti-network? We are seeing that now.

Memes will naturally battle it out. The state of the replicator, the vehicle, which evolves from that battle will be more resilient and able to carry a broader range of memes. It will be more general than specialized replication mechanisms which cater to only a specific set of memes. (Compare to early replicators before DNA.). Will all human life coalesce to one form of organization?

Do bees, for example, represent one form of networked existence perfected to replicate a very specific and rigidly defined set of instructions?

Are bees an evolutionary dead end for that specific memeplex? Nowhere or no way to evolve the replicator past what the bees are. Particularly in light of existence of other replicators like us, or even dogs, who evolved to live with us.

From a memetic point of view who are our ancestors? Why take a biological view of ancestry, a genetic view? Perhaps we can look at ourselves through a memetic view?

From that perspective we certainly seem unique and singular. A whole other level of creation. In the image of a Creator, as it were, because we can create. We are outstanding vehicles, like no other biological organism, for memes.

Perhaps that explains the persistence of religion ( can only speak to biblical based religions). There is something inherently valuable in them for us as vehicles and for memes as replicators.

Is that playing out? Not a science versus religion, globalism versus nationalism… but rather an evolutionary mashing up of elements that contribute to finding the right combination / patterns of organization optimized for meme replication, for being the best vehicles possible?

Psychologically our sense of self is stretched. Is plastic, surface only enough, sufficient to be successful vehicles? Or does it impact survivability of the organism, the vehicle? Like in The Matrix, there needs to be an illusion of sense of purpose, of independent existence. Baudrillard again.

[McLuhan talked around the mechanism of the interplay between media and our development. Hall’s extensions. ]

The Role of Civil Rights

Is the erasing in society of apparent, physical differences as stratification in inter-personal relationships, in the way we look at and treat each other, a move towards greater connectedness, greater plasticity, greater surface? Seems to also bring greater creativity and flexibility in what each of us, as a node, is and can be for the whole network. It expands creativity, the expanse of the potential project of our being.

Civil rights, and the expanding sphere of what it covers, as this movement of erasing differences. And again, the memetic evolutionary thrashing accompanying it. Networked, anti-network. Individual, anti-individual. Definition of community, of connectedness up in the air. The algorithm running to try out different patterns to find that which best serves the memes.

Memetic genetic societal co-impact

From The Meme Machine page 209

Where Do We Go from Here?

If analogy holds true we will tend towards a “uniform high fidelity copying system capable of creating a potentially infinite number of products”.

Is that the future of societal evolution, being that high fidelity copying system? What would that look like?

The different ways of organizing knowledge (Foucault) and the anguish of shedding the societal impact those organizing principles have to individuals (critical theory) can be seen as part of the evolutionary thrashing.

Literary analysis, comparative literature, literary studies as analysis of the co-evolutionary interplay between memes, people, communities and societies. [e.g. Sioned Davies on The Mabinogion]

Of course, so what? There is no totality (Benjamin). The push back of the individual (Baudelaire, Rimbaud). And most importantly, to me, the value in reducing suffering and pain. Why paint ugly pictures? The individual matters. Each individual matters.

[From a scientific, meme/gene, consciousness as meme, perspective the individual mattering is an illusion or perhaps part of the altruism or being nice trick. But so what? Whether illusion or not, it is a choice to believe I’m making. And who knows, perhaps Kant was right (or meant it) that free will is outside the realm of reason. And doubt is a fundamental element of consciousness (Descartes).  Curiously, doubt serves scientific reasoning (Popper). A case where normative and descriptive coincide (Thaler)?]

[Perhaps it itself is all a neat trick where meme gene co-evolution makes this feel enjoyable to me. 🙂 ]

Going back to the connection between business, cuneiform, and increased survivability of the organism… perhaps that’s why instrumentalist perceptions win out? Memes, ideas that work in the physical world win out. They increase survivability of the transmitter, the vehicle – and their society, i.e. the organizing pattern, the network, in which they operate.

Increasing who can participate in that network increases potential variations (number of potential inventors in Jared Diamond’s framing). It increases the number of potential transmitters and potentially, longevity. More organisms to carry the memes increases the number that could numerically survive some event that harms other carriers.

Self Aware Nodes in a Unique Copying and Creating Network?

Thinking about spell checkers, autocorrect and the interplay with AI, us learning to speak better AI as AI learns to speak better human (see ‘More or Less Human‘ Radiolab podcast). It seems a natural progression and fine tuning, from a memes perspective, to find the right balance in fidelity, fecundity and longevity in a copying system.

Scribes and political system around writing, its uses. Who could write? The flowering of novels, poems, etc. These seem good examples of the interplay between the physical survival needs of the vehicle and the memes. Finding the right balance. And as food supply and other physical needs became less of a concern ( more predictable and stable) the balance could tilt towards replication of memes and development of better ways to develop memes, transmit them, etc. Greater playing field for that element of the network design.

It could be a false dichotomy. It could be the interaction of memes, genes and individuals. The network may not be a factor. How to test and research?

Testing the Importance of Individuality

If there is a memeplex that is my consciousness and is me, combined with the genes that gave instruction to the cells that make my body and my brain, why is that any less unique? That memeplex which is me is unique. Just because it is explainable by a theory doesn’t make it any less unique and individual. That is, just because there is a set of organizing patterns that accurately describe the fact patterns / perceptions of the world, it doesn’t impact a sense of self.

Can the same apply to an AI we build?

Can we test the importance of individuality by running simulations with varying degrees of invention? Individuals invent and experiment. Individuals provide the variation needed for the evolutionary algorithm to work. Individuals create the memes ( so far, human individuals) we are the imitators but also the creators and experimenters.


Memes: Blackmore, S. J. (1999). The meme machine. Oxford [England: Oxford University Press.
Networked Society: Castells, Manuel. 2010. The rise of the network society. Information Age. Economy, Society and Culture. 1. Chichester, West Sussex: Wiley-Blackwell.
Networks: Caldarelli, Guido, and Michele Catanzaro. 2012. Networks: a very short introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
McLuhan’s Extensions: McLuhan, Marshall, and W. Terrence Gordon. 2015. Understanding media: the extensions of man. Berkeley, Calif: Gingko Press.
Hall’s Extensions: Hall, Edward T. 1977. Beyond culture. New York: Anchor Books.
Organizing Knowledge: Foucault, Michel. 2006. The order of things: an archaeology of the human sciences. New York: Vintage Books.
Literary Studies, Sioned Davies’ introduction: Davies, Sioned. 2018. The Mabinogion.
No totality: Walter Benjamin. One Way Street. The Arcades Project.
Baudelaire: Les Fleurs du Mal: The Flowers of Evil: the complete dual language edition, fully revised and updated Paperback – May 16, 2016. Charles Baudelaire (Author), John E. Tidball (Editor, Translator)
Rimbaud: A Season in Hell & The Drunken Boat (English and French Edition) (French) 1st Edition. Arthur Rimbaud (Author), Louise Varèse (Translator), Patti Smith (Introduction)
Kant, Immanuel, Werner S. Pluhar, and Patricia Kitcher. 1997. Critique of pure reason. Indianapolis, Ind: Hackett.
Doubt: Descartes, René, Frank Edmund Sutcliffe, and René Descartes. 1971. Discourse on method and the Meditations. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books.
Doubt: Popper, Karl. 2002. Conjectures and refutations. Routledge Classics.
Diamond, Jared Mason. 2017. Guns, germs, and steel the fates of human societies. New York: Norton.
Normative and Descriptive Theories: Thaler, Richard H. 2016. Misbehaving: the making of behavioral economics. Pages 25 – 27

Why We Go Deeper

meme machine

It could be we ask why, look deeper than surface, because that is a trait of successful memes.

To occupy our mind, to be spread, successful memes beg for more.

More mindshare. More processing power. More thinking about only them.

Them, relative to everything else. They are central.

Them, alone. They are all we need.

Them, still hidden behind even something new. Resurfacing, resurgent, after years.

More transmission. Whatever the format.

The media is malleable. The meme remains.

Mutated. Perhaps. But alive and growing.

Is depth a comfortable (or consuming) illusion of successful memes?

Not the illusion of obscurity, of muddy waters. Rather, the illusion of depth. That there is such a thing.

When we begin sense-making or way finding, encounter new data, access or create mental maps, we reach for patterns. Successful memes may be those patterns.


Memes: Blackmore, S. J. (1999). The meme machine. Oxford [England: Oxford University Press.
Memes and asking why, brains as prediction machines: Dennett, D. C. (1991). Consciousness explained. Boston: Little, Brown and Co.
Way finding: Morville, P. (2005). Ambient findability. Sebastopol, CA: O’Reilly.
Encounter new data: John R. Boyd, “Patterns of Conflict,” briefing presentation, December 1986, available at:
Mental maps and patterns:  Spencer, Donn (2009) Card Sorting: Designing Usable Categories. Rosenfeld Media
Young, Indi (2008) Mental Models: Aligning Design Strategy with Human Behavior. Rosenfeld Media
Neuroscience of mental maps: Search for ‘brain.’


Striving, Trust and Management

Critique of Pure Reason

Precursor Questions

Does Kant, in the Critique of Pure Reason, still hold together if we consider knowledge is all communication? Is knowledge purely a means of communication?

Is there a different knowledge if disconnected from communication?

Why would God communicate?

Is communication purely a product of the need to survive or is there a different sense of communication when we think about something beyond? Why would a contented God communicate? Or, rather, does this point to another reason for communication or another definition, one that is outside of the need to survive/be fit in an environment? A non-primal, perhaps more idealistic/metaphysical need?

When thinking about the existence of:

  • the spirit
  • soul
  • eternity
  • communication that is more than survival
  • God
  • knowledge being something more than a system that accurately describes the way things work.

That is, when thinking about anything being more than it is.

Why do we do that?

Why does it sometimes feel that there is more there? Why is there a drive away from the describable, away from low context? Reaching for high context? Is that simply part of how we discover? Is it the wiring of our particular consciousness, our particular style of prediction machine? Something we should accept and cease to wonder about; Or if we find it bothersome, move on to another style which makes this observation less interesting?

Poetry’s Role

[‘More or Less Human‘ Radiolab podcast]

Interacting with current AI’s fosters low context. Changes us.

To stay human / expand being human
We need new words
New ways of using words
New ways of communicating together

This is the challenge of poetry
Since it’s words
Since the Turing test is texting
Since AI recognizes certain phrases and intonations more than others

Since my son became “Call son mobile” on CarPlay
And my mother “Call ICE mom home.”

This is poetry.

The act of writing, in one’s own voice, adds new ways to describe things. To be human.

It may or may not resonate with anyone or find an audience. But the act itself creates.

Poetic Management

There is a relationship between communication and orientation toward uncertainty/ the approach toward uncertainty. Certain communication environments lend themselves much more to experimentation.

Too much fear of meeting sales quotas impacts this. Can companies with aggressive sales quotas have development groups that embrace uncertainty/ failure/ experimentation?

The sales orientation of the company and drivers of growth i.e. how important aggressive sales are to the company, impact the environment. Are customers a trusted community or revenue to extract? If one part of the corporate ecosystem, particularly one that is stressed as most important, lacks trust, can trust be established anywhere else in the company?

Without trust, experimentation falters. Cohesion moves from enthusiastic pursuit of something amazing to huddling together in fear. Disengagement occurs. Following the rules becomes appealing.

The model of a prediction machine is useful. In our particular style of prediction machine, we drive to low context. Towards a low context that fosters inefficiency. Decay. Declining margins. Declining quality. Declining revenue.

It seems an entropy we must continually and actively work against – by being human, embracing quirks, paths, journeys and strivings.

Is it contagious across cultures as the use of the same techniques, technologies and processes spread or are some cultures/models of consciousness resistant?

Building cultures, communication environments, shapes the consciousness. It shapes the prediction machine. It shapes how we invent and strive and trust.

At its apotheosis, it is poetry.

The alternative is succumbing. Going under.

Eternal Recurrence and the Effect of Forever on Spirit

The Gay Science

Eternal recurrence calls for a magnanimity of spirit. A great height and capacity to absorb all, be content with all and more, to embrace all that is life. All the decisions, events, outcomes, happenstance.

It follows from the placement of this section in the book and previous imploring to embrace all aspects of life. He is setting a high water mark, a threshold and test by which to judge if are reaching far enough, grand enough.

He needs it as an end-all to make life eternal-like. To have a standard against which to call for that great a height of spirit, that tremendous a capacity. In other traditions one could connect one’s actions to an Eternal Being. By being attached to the Being or the will of such a Being, even when executed by an everyday person, the actions, outcomes, decisions, life, take on an aspect of eternity. Of being ‘forever’ actions, ‘forever’ decisions, etc.

This is not to say the actions and decisions will be perfect. But that one should strive to expand the capacity of one’s spirit to encompass the whole of human existence.  The striving for capacity of spirit is further given credence in a system governed by an Eternal Being. Whether it be recurrence or otherwise, attachment to ‘eternal’ supports a call to a capacity of spirit that encompasses the ups, downs and all around of life.

Response to ‘The Wicked Monk”

“My soul is a tomb…
I wander in for all eternity(1)”
But only if you choose not to change.

For if our souls are indeed
connected to the Divine
They are indefinable, unfathomable
Full. An infinite well
of rediscovery, reinvention
Through the tales we tell
ourselves, each other
The thoughts we think.
We can recreate, re-form ourselves.
Our actions are our ink.

We have left Egypt.
We are no longer constrained.
We can ever reconstruct the meme
in our mind, in our brain.
We can follow the unknown
Into the desert
and embrace ourselves.

There is no quantity to soul.
There are no rules to soul.
There is only wandering, if we choose
It. If there is eternity, there is no tomb,
other than inaction.

(1)  From The Wicked Monk by Baudelaire, translated by Barbara Gibbs

Life with an Eternal Being can support other behaviors as well.

So, when does it support that capacity, entrusted to an individual and attainable by an individual? Perhaps when there is sufficient distance and clarity that the Eternal is unknowable. Just is. And when one’s conception of the Eternal is such that it allows for such a spirit.

Where does that come from, in an individual, to have that type of conception?

Do we need that type of conception to foster that level of capacity of spirit?

(Then again, would help to start by defining spirit.)

Riffs off Baudrillard, Dennett, McLuhan and Graeber

Ecstasy of Communication
Baudrillard seems to say that since the medium is the message and there is a tremendous amount of medium around, then there is an overabundance of message.

Everything interconnected.  This was written before social media. Social media made explicit what was already there.

That in this overabundance of message the subject/object dichotomy is crushed and there is no more inner or outer space, no self. Or at least that the self, the subject object has a ton of weight around it, which may make it hard to emerge from.

Not sure this all follows – not sure it is necessarily a logical conclusion. It is certainly a risk but why is it an accurate description of what is happening?

He says theory coaxes/seduces reality out of the real.

Makes it more objective, more real.

Is he saying the for-itself seduces the entire order of things around us, the logic, the causality, etc?

If so, is this so different from Sartre? In his collapse of object and subject, is he an updated retelling of Sartre?

According to Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, the difference is that he says there is no subject. Subject itself is a function of/ “produced by language, social institutions, and cultural forms and was [is] not independent of its construction in these institutions and practices.”

The Perfect Crime
If there is nothing there and reality/causality is created by our discourse with the world simply giving itself to our seduction (and in turn seducing us with the illusion of meaning) then how come it works? [Kant]  What determines what, from an instrumentalist perspective, actually works?

How can a rocket fly to the moon? How come a car gets us from one place to the other?

Is this seduction by reality?

How come other causalities by previous discourses didn’t work e.g. longevity of an instrumentalist reality?

Or is the metric we use to determine what works part of the grand discourse i.e. our threshold for what works is custom tuned to the discourse we’re using?

The system of measurement within the system creating the reality.

“The first reaction of the fathers of quantum physics at the aberrations coming our of the equations (collapse of the universe of reference: time, space, the principle of identity and of the excluded middle, inseparability, non-locality of particles) was to regard the microscopic world as radically strange and mysterious. Such an interpretation is not, however, the most logical. For the microscopic world is to be accepted as it is. If we cannot derive a conception of the macroscopic world from it, then the mystery lies in the macroscopic world. From that point, we have to think that the strangest thing is not the strangeness of the microscopic world, but the non-strangeness of the macroscopic. Why are the concepts of identity, excluded middle, time and space operative in the macroscopic world? That is what we have to explain. (Du micro au macro – le mystère des évidences) – Bruno Jarrosson, as quoted in The Perfect Crime.

AI Explainability. Move beyond linear compared to non-linear explanations. Consider sensemaking. Explainability compared to sensemaking.

Ecstasy of Communication
The Ecstasy of Communication ends with a call for a truly imaginative theory/theorizing, one that can again create something with meaning – in the hyperreal. That is, outside the control system that is the medium and existent ideas of meaning.

Simulacra and Simulation

[Dennett and Dawkins]

Was there ever a real? (The premise of The Perfect Crime).

Or was it a construct of the meme of consciousness which is, if accurately described

Though what is accurate?

i.e. which is, in one way to describe it,

about communication.

Consciousness is communication within ourselves, amongst ourselves. Consciousness is the control system.

Which perhaps helps describe why there is so much resonance when Baudrillard or McLuhan describe media as a system of consciousness: of a control system [Baudrillard] or extension of us which can elevate us to a new consciousness [McLuhan].

Critique of discussions on communication in management/project management books. They describe communication as one way, linear, sender-receiver. Communication is invisible and ongoing, all directional. It is the everyday chatter, etc. That’s why we speak of a communication environment. Which is how some people speak about culture. But we find it more instrumentalist valuable i.e. more productive and effective to speak about it as communication environment since this has definitive variables/levers which can be controlled. They can be measured, studied and optimized/manipulated, for specific outcomes.

Project management is communication management. It is often called creating a culture.

Executive leadership is communication management. Communication management is creating the communication environment which is the overall control system of an environment. There is instrumentalist value in thinking about it as communication environment since is focused on items which can measure, monitor and manipulate.

McLuhan sharper 2
“As we know more, we rely less on any one food or fuel or raw material.” Marshall McLuhan, chapter on Money.

This seems to connect knowledge with survival. Seems like a good addition to the argument for how consciousness (and communication, particularly lineal, phonetic alphabet, then follow-on technologies) contributes to survival – per Dennett.

How consciousness, not just by helping us be good at prediction but by increasing knowledge

Via our extensions

Interesting topic in that the structure of consciousness, and likely different outlooks, which translate/lead to different activities related to our extensions i.e. invention.

That is, the outlook that allows for experimentation, learning, innovation or, their opposites

is evolutionarily successful.

Can’t find it right now, but interesting that somewhere between pages 100 and 200 he mentions a quote to the affect that humans are the carriers of technologies or the such.  Very reminiscent of the idea of a scholar as a carrier (reproductively necessary) for the meme of a library.

Debt by Graeber

As McLuhan talks about roads, paper, number and money, he brings up many of the same themes Graeber does on Debt.

For example:

slavery/enslavement, individualism, breaking family/clan/tribal ties, commerce, societal organization that allows for a market, treatment of women, sea travel, conquest, empire vs city state.

Store of value, physical commodity compared to media of communication of societal/cultural values, or at least those of a particular group.

And he goes straight to Keynes.

Yes, McLuhan seems to talk about credit evolving after physical money – the myth of barter. But beneath and within it he seems to allude to the connections of a society that are necessary to have an economy without commodity money or paper money i.e. the kind of tribal/communal relationships Graeber describes pre-money.

There is likely rich ground there between the two for research.


Media analysis of AI.  That is, AI as an extension of us

Page 320 Understanding Media. Uncertainty drives increased compliance to rules/makes the rules seem reasonable and rational [Utopia of Rules].  Do folks with different levels of orientation toward uncertainty have different compliance to rules? How about folks with different risk attitudes (revealed and stated).

This would suggest a management technique: increase uncertainty get increased compliance.

Not sure evidence supports that. May be a different sense of uncertainty, referring more to fear.


Exploring Truth

The Gay Science

Nietzsche challenges us to find truth separate from what we use to live (121, The Gay Science, gai sabor [dandy] [flaneur]). How can we do that? By creating life distinct from ours. But how would we communicate with that life, without trapping lessons back in what we use to live? That is the challenge. Like the hope some hold of something completely alien, novel, from a visitor from another planet. Something so distinct and original. We must create a completely new form of communication to uncover a truth separate from what we use to live.  [the striving of poetry?] Is truth that important? It is a frontier, for exploration. Like space, like the depths of the ocean.

Why Print?

With the incredible growth of knowledge and resources online, the question inevitably comes up: Why have something in print?

Print is a unique medium for carrying the written word and ideas. The nature of the medium lends itself to a very different experience than knowledge online. A book can have a personality. This is particularly true for books that contain many voices. It can be an engagement with an entire community. And, given the physical nature of a book, readers can engage with that personality, with that community, very much on their own terms and at their own pace. There is a great degree of interpretation and discovery in the pacing of working through a book. This creates space for a reader. In that space, there is freedom, time for reflection and time to make the ideas, the contributors’ voices, personal. To internalize them and live with them.

The answer is based on things Marshall McLuhan and Seth Godin have written about as well as my personal feelings on books and ideas. I love books and ideas. I find the written word magical and ink on paper fulfilling.