Contributions of embodied realism to ontological questions

This article fortuitously popped up in my email this morning, as we discussed this topic in our online discussion yesterday.  An excerpt from the introduction will explain its relevance.

“Emancipation is very much about reducing what Bhaskar calls the demi-real–beliefs and conceptions that do not correspond well with reality.  […] It is not enough to point out the demi-real or systemic biases in reason.  Ameliorating demi-reality involves identifying its sources, i.e. the causal and structural mechanisms that produce it. […] In this chapter I draw on trends in cognitive science-based embodied philosophy that reveal some of the structural sources of the demi-real. I draw primarily from Lakoff and Johnson’s embodied realism. […] The demi-real involves not just erroneous ideas but an erroneous certainty in ideas. “

Treatment with interferon-a2b speeds recovery of covid-19

As reported in my blog here from Frontiers in Immunology:

“Treatment with antivirals such as interferons may significantly improve virus clearance and reduce levels of inflammatory proteins in COVID-19 patients, according to a new study in Frontiers in Immunology. Researchers conducting an exploratory study on a cohort of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Wuhan found that treatment with interferon (IFN)-α2b significantly reduced the duration of detectable virus in the upper respiratory tract and reduced blood levels of interleukin(IL)-6 and C-reactive protein (CRP), two inflammatory proteins found in the human body. The findings show potential for the development of an effective antiviral intervention for COVID-19.”

Hanzi Freinacht on effective value memes

The author of the metamodern treatise Nordic Ideology. From this interview:

“I’d like to say then about effective value meme that a lot of people are familiar with something quite similar, namely value memes from the spiral dynamics thinking. And it’s not just in the spiral dynamics framework, it’s all over adult development psychology really, that people have noticed, and it’s not just actually in adult development psychology, it’s also in anthropology. Those anthropologists that still or again start believing in the stage development and the evolution of stages of societies. They notice that there is a pattern here. They notice that people in smaller societies and farther back in history tend to believe more in magic and rituals and rights, for instance, in spirits, and things go on from there to larger and larger core principles or universal stories or narratives and perhaps the gods, or perhaps one God over all gods, which unify many people, many perspectives, and so on, and find one higher truth, the truth higher than any person.
“And then people go on from there noticing that, “Hey, there are many visions of this one God, there are many visions of objective reality. And then in modern society, even that objective reality seems to break down under the weight of so many perspectives. Some people start to wondering into what’s called post-modern perspectives and ideas. So these things align anthropology, history, psychology and personality. They align around some kind of stages which are recognizable. And even in any society, people aren’t just of one stage that correspond to that kind of society. Rather, you can see on the one hand, that people have learned a certain code or demeanor or worldview from the society that we’ve been brought up in. But at the same time, we also develop differently as human beings, as persons. Some people never really grasp the society and the narratives we’re in and go back to ways of grasping the world which would have resonated more with earlier societies.
“Others go on and pick up more conventional views and some even start to experiment with post-conventional views, which may intuit, perhaps, societies of the future or future forms of human life and life philosophies. So an example would be that in late medieval times, there were some intuitions of the renaissance and modernity. For instance, Roger Bacon, this monk was before his time in, I believe, may have been the late 13th century. And he intuited that we will study nature and there will be wagons that roll without horses. And there will be machines flying in the air and boats made of metal traversing the sea with no sails, and so on. He didn’t really know about any of the technology or couldn’t guess on it, but he was before his time. He was thinking already according to, well, according to what, and there it is, a value meme which corresponded to a society after his own. He was before his time in that developmental sense.
“So in any population, let’s say you’re in Switzerland, you’re going to have some kind of a normal distribution that’s not exactly a normal distribution, but something along those lines with some people having simpler worldviews and effective value memes that come before, that would have resonated with earlier societies. A large bulk of people who resonate with what’s conventionally Swiss in the 2020s, for instance, and then a minority of people who already are hooked on to some kind of cultural resonance which perhaps is more of what is going to emerge or emerging already. And I call these then, effective value meme because the theory here I’m commenting upon is called spiral dynamics and it has these color codes for these different value memes.
“So you can have traditional values, you can have modern values, you can have postmodern values. Traditional values would be more authoritarian and you believe in maybe one God, one truth, one religion. Modern values would be perhaps more achiever-oriented and have to do with business and democracy and, well, a materialist reductionist world view for instance. And postmodern values would be seeing the world more relationally and having more egalitarian views and wanting to soften the hard and harsh sides and destructive sides of modern life and society. So the problem I noticed with this developmental view was that people seem to fit in some ways within these categories and in others, they didn’t. So some people were complex thinkers, but maybe spiritually relatively flat. Some people have profound emotional and spiritual depths, but they’re not necessarily super smart. Some people are very learned in terms of all the progressive ideas out there, but understand them in flattened ways so they’re reduced to cliches, and so on.
“There appear to be at least four dimensions then, that put together is not necessarily a value meme that is recognizable as such, but if you put them together there is still a pattern that is vaguely recognizable, and that’s why I call them effective value meme. In effect, this person will reproduce the values of modern society. Why? Well, because they are at a certain, you mentioned four dimensions. They are at a certain level of complexity in terms of their thinking. They have a certain worldview which they have imbued from our surroundings. They have a certain level of introspective individuation or divination as a human being, knowing their own emotions, and so on, and defining their own self and their own life philosophy. And they may have a certain level of subjective states or happiness which facilitate this kind of life and participation in these kinds of values.”

The story of our reality

Interesting article on how what we perceive isn’t always the reality. We make up stories that shape our perceptions.

“‘It’s really important to understand we’re not seeing reality,’ says neuroscientist Patrick Cavanagh, a research professor at Dartmouth College and a senior fellow at Glendon College in Canada. ‘We’re seeing a story that’s being created for us.’ Most of the time, the story our brains generate matches the real, physical world — but not always. Our brains also unconsciously bend our perception of reality to meet our desires or expectations. And they fill in gaps using our past experiences.”

“Why are we seeing a story about the world — a story — and not the real deal? It’s not because evolution made our minds flawed. It’s actually an adaptation.”

“‘The dirty little secret about sensory systems is that they’re slow, they’re lagged, they’re not about what’s happening right now but what’s happening 50 milliseconds ago, or, in the case for vision, hundreds of milliseconds ago.’ If we relied solely on this outdated information, though, we wouldn’t be able to hit baseballs with bats, or swat annoying flies away from our faces. We’d be less coordinated, and possibly get hurt more often.So the brain predicts the path of motion before it happens. It tells us a story about where the object is heading, and this story becomes our reality.

“What we experience as consciousness is primarily the prediction, not the real-time feed. The actual sensory information, he explains, just serves as error correction. ‘If you were always using sensory information, errors would accumulate in ways that would lead to quite catastrophic effects on your motor control,’ Hantman says. Our brains like to predict as much as possible, then use our senses to course-correct when the predictions go wrong. This is true not only for our perception of motion but also for so much of our conscious experience.”

“The big principles that underlie how our brains process what we see also underlie most of our thinking. Illusions are ‘the basis of superstition, the basis of magical thinking,’ Martinez-Conde says. ‘It’s the basis for a lot of erroneous beliefs. We’re very uncomfortable with uncertainty. The ambiguity is going to be resolved one way or another, and sometimes in a way that does not match reality.’ Just as we can look at an image and see things that aren’t really there, we can look out into the world with skewed perceptions of reality. Political scientists and psychologists have long documented how political partisans perceive the facts of current events differently depending on their political beliefs. The illusions and political thinking don’t involve the same brain processes, but they follow the similar overarching way the brain works.”

Rushkoff: We humans are things to the IoT

Meaning the Internet of Things. From Rushkoff:

“The algorithms directing these bots and chips patiently try one technique after another to manipulate our behavior until they get the results they have been programmed to deliver. These techniques haven’t all been prewritten by coders. Rather, the algorithms randomly try new combinations of colors, pitches, tones, and phraseology until one works. They then share this information with the other bots on the network for them to try on other humans. Each one of us is not just up against whichever algorithm is attempting to control us, but up against them all. If plants bind energy, animals bind space, and humans bind time, then what do networked algorithms bind? They bind us. On the internet of things, we the people.”

2020-06-06 Check-in topics

Here are some of the topic references Scott, Paul, Edward, and Mark discussed during today’s check-in. If these provoke any thoughts, please feel free to reply by comment below this article or by reply to all from the associated email message from Cogniphile.

Socio-economic and political:

  • Alternate social and economic system –
  • Dark Horse podcast (Weinstein) ep. 19 on co-presidency idea
  • How could a shift to voting on issues rather than representatives work? What are the potential challenges? How could it be better? (There’s not a lot of easily discoverable analysis on this.)
  • Perspective: Despite our challenges and structural societal issues, most people in the U.S. enjoy more security—i.e., most Americans don’t need to worry about being violently attacked or starving to death. I think we agreed on this general point. It in no way lessens the obvious needs for systemic improvements.

    I add an after note, however, that a succession of unfortunate events, especially if medical issues and their crippling expenses are involved, can quickly deplete the average American’s finances and put them on the streets. A homeless person’s capacity to be resourceful literally includes their ability to carry and protect resources which become much more difficult to retain due to space in a car (or backpack) and increased exposure to crime. Social stigma becomes self-reinforcing to the homeless person and we who encounter them. Nearly all doors close. ‘Structural invisibility’ results—’society’ just stops seeing them (or can only see them as choosing or deserving their situations) and predators take society’s disregard as open season on the homeless.

    So, while it is true the threshold of personal disaster is farther from the average American than from the average, say, Zimbabwean or Eritrean, once an American crosses that threshold it can certainly be a devastating and nearly intractable circumstance. There are many trap doors leading down and few ladders leading back up. Thoughts?

Entertainment we’ve enjoyed recently:

  • Edward: Killing Eve – Bored British intelligence agent, Eve, is overly interested in female assassins, their psychologies and their methods of killing. She is recruited by a secret division within MI6 chasing an international assassin who calls herself Villanelle. Eve crosses paths with Villanelle and discovers that members within both of their secret circles may be more interconnected than she is comfortable with. Both women begin to focus less on their initial missions in order to desperately learn more about the other.
  • Mark: Devs (FX network sci-fi thriller series) – Atmospherically dark and brooding exploration of the implications of a quantum computing system capable of peering into past and future. Also a meditation on two competing physics theories, deterministic and indeterministic (Copenhagen interpretation – aka, ‘many worlds,’ ‘multiple universes’). From a genre perspective, it is a thriller.
  • Scott: After Life (Ricky Gervais) – follows Tony, whose life is turned upside down after his wife dies from breast cancer. He contemplates suicide, but instead decides to live long enough to punish the world for his wife’s death by saying and doing whatever he wants.
  • Paul: Exhalation (book of short sci-fi stories) Ted Chiang

    Mark would like to base a few future discussions on the following stories:
    • The Lifecycle of Software Objects “follows Ana Alvarado over a twenty-year period, during which she “raises” an artificial intelligence from being essentially a digital pet to a human-equivalent mind.”
    • The Truth of Fact, the Truth of Feeling – A study in memory and meaning told from interwoven future and past stories. “a journalist observes how the world, his daughter, and he himself are affected by ‘Remem’, a form of lifelogging whose advanced search algorithms effectively grant its users eidetic memory of everything that ever happened to them, and the ability to perfectly and objectively share those memories. In a parallel narrative strand, a Tiv [African tribal] man is one of the first of his people to learn to read and write, and discovers that this may not be compatible with oral tradition.” (Wikipedia)
    • The Great Silence – Mutimedia collaboration version here. An earthbound alien wonders about humanity’s fascination with missing space aliens and lack of interest of intelligences among us.
    • Omphalos – On an Earth on which science has long-since proven the planet is precisely as old as the bible states, an anthropologist following the trail of a fake artifact stumbles onto a shattering discovery.
    • Anxiety is the Dizziness of Freedom (title is a Kirkegaard quote) – “the ability to glimpse into alternate universes necessitates a radically new examination of the concepts of choice and free will.” (SFWA)

  • Scott: Who are some of your favorite fiction authors?


Kuhn: The structure of scientific revolutions

This excerpt from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy entry on Kuhn about paradigms supports my claim that worldviews are transcended and replaced, not included. Kuhn, by the way, got his Ph.D. in physics from Harvard before going into the philosophy of science.

“The functions of a paradigm are to supply puzzles for scientists to solve and to provide the tools for their solution. A crisis in science arises when confidence is lost in the ability of the paradigm to solve particularly worrying puzzles called ‘anomalies’. Crisis is followed by a scientific revolution if the existing paradigm is superseded by a rival. Kuhn claimed that science guided by one paradigm would be ‘incommensurable’ with science developed under a different paradigm, by which is meant that there is no common measure for assessing the different scientific theories. This thesis of incommensurability, developed at the same time by Feyerabend, rules out certain kinds of comparison of the two theories and consequently rejects some traditional views of scientific development, such as the view that later science builds on the knowledge contained within earlier theories, or the view that later theories are closer approximations to the truth than earlier theories.”

What is metamodernism?

A few of you have wondered what is metamodernism? One of my FB friends wrote this piece giving a broad overview of the history of the movement and some of it’s implications. The opening paragraph:

“What is metamodernism and how can it help us collectively navigate these troubled, transitional times? The meaning of such a word must be disambiguated and its complexity foregrounded. At this point, there is no shortcut. As my colleague Hanzi Freinacht says, there’s no elevator pitch, you have to take the stairs. In this article, I will try to carry you, dear reader, up a few flights.”

Hanzi Freinacht on Nordic Ideology

We’ve briefly discussed metamodernism before. Hanzi has written two books on the subject. In this interview he discusses his latest book Nordic Ideology. There’s also a transcript available if you prefer reading. The blurb:

“Hanzi Freinacht, political philosopher, historian, sociologist, & author talks with Jim about effective value memes, cultural code, what it means to have high depth, dynamics of cognitive complexity, the changeability of culture & systems, social engineering, compulsion vs seduction, prioritizing subjective states, cultural attractor points & bad attractors, game acceptance vs denial & how they impact game change, relative utopias, a brief overview of Hanzi’s six types of politics, and more.”

Albuquerque Brain, Mind, and Artificial Intelligence Discussion Group