If we wanted to derive an anthropic principle for sense, we could say that only the universe in which sense and motive happen to exist and relate to each other in a sensible, motivating way* will allow the possibility of any decreasing entropy at all. Without that statistical probability shaking out to at least one physical actuality, every universe would maximize its entropy instantaneously (if we assume that a universe without sense could even exist, which I do not).
What I’m trying to say is that a sensory-motor capacity is the minimum possible ingredient for any realizable universe – not just because intuitively the idea of an unsensed universe cannot withstand serious inspection, but now, with this equivalence of sense-motive and the possibility of negentropy, it can be understood from a stochastic perspective. Sense is the only capacity which can shift the odds of absolute instant entropy from 100% to 100%-ae, where ae is the qualitative depth of the private sensitivity (a) times the magnitude of its public effectiveness, (e). The more sensitive a system is to the difference between increasing and decreasing entropy, the more its efforts will end up decreasing entropy, even if some sensitivities lead to pathologically pursue entropy increase. An entity which selectively destroys order is still more orderly on balance than a non-entity, since its very selectivity leaves an unintentional trail of coherence.
- Universes with no sense
- Universes with impotent sense (affect without effect)
- Universes with sense but unrelated affect and effect (effect orphaned from affect is no better than chance, so causes no entropy decrease).
- Universes with minimally sensible sense (affect overlaps effect, but only under rare conditions)
- Universes where strong sensory-motivation (nested consciousness) is possible.
It seems like there is a cutoff between 3 and below and 4 and above, where the former has no chance to lead to the universe we find ourselves living in, and the latter has no chance of not leading to 5 eventually.
*i.e., a universe in which care and significance are married to intention and physical power
Some conjectures on entropy and sense:
Often, when peripheral vision is being explained, an image like the one on the right is often used to show how only a small area around our point of focus is defined in high resolution. The periphery is shown to be blurry. While this gets the point across, I think that it actually obscures the subtle nature of perception.
If I focus on some part of the image on the left, while it is true that my visual experience of the other quadrants is diminished, it is somehow less available experientially rather than degraded visually. At all times I can clearly tell the difference between the quality of left image and the right image. If I focus on a part of the right hand image, the unfocused portion does not blur further into a uniform grey, but retains the suggestion of separate fuzzy units.
If peripheral vision were truly a blur, I would also expect that when focusing on the left hand image, the peripheral boxes would look more like the one on the right, but it doesn’t. I can see that the peripherized blocks of the left image are not especially blurry. No matter how I squint or unfocus or push both images wayy into the periphery of my sight, I can easily tell that the two images are quite different. I can’t resolve detail, but I can see that there is potentially detail to be resolved. If I look directly at any part of the blurry image on the right I can easily count the fuzzies when I look at them, even through they are blurred. By contrast, with the image on the left, I can’t count the number of blocks or dots that are there even though I can see that they are block-like. There is an attenuation of optical acuity, but not in a way which diminishes the richness of the visual textures. There is uncertainty but only in a top-down way. We still have a clear picture of the image as a whole, but the parts which we aren’t looking at directly are seen as in a dream – distinct but generic, and psychologically slippery.
What I think this shows that there are two different types of information-related entropy and two different categories of physics – one public and quantitative, and one private and qualitative or aesthetic. Peripheral vision is not a lossy compression in any aesthetic sense. If perception were really driven by bottom up processing exclusively, we should be able to reproduce the effect of peripheral vision in an image literally, but we can’t. The best we can do is present this focused-in-the-center, blurry-everywhere-else kind of image which suggests peripheral vision figuratively, but the aesthetic quality of the peripheral experience cannot be represented.
I suggest that the capacity to see is more than a detection of optical information, and it is not a projection of a digital simulation (otherwise we would be able to produce the experience literally in an image). Seeing is the visual quality of attention, not a quantity of data. It is not only a functional mechanism to acquire data, it is more importantly an aesthetic experience.
What makes that which is authentic more significant than that which is ‘false’? Why do proprietary qualities carry more significance than generic qualities? Commonality vs uniqueness. Cardinality vs. ordinality again.
The notion of authenticity seems to carry a certain intensity all by itself. Like consciousness, authenticity can be understood on the one hand to be almost painfully self-evident. What does it really mean though, for someone or something to be original? To be absolutely novel in some sense.
The Western mindset tends toward extremism when considering issues of propriety. The significance of ownership is exaggerated, but ownership as an abstraction – generic ownership. Under Western commercialism, rights to own and control others are protected vigilantly, as long as that ownership and control is free from personal qualities.
The thing which makes a State more powerful than a Chiefdom is the same thing which makes the Western approach so invested in property and so fearful of people. In a Chiefdom, every time the chief dies, the civilization is thrown into turmoil. In a State, no one person or group of people personifies the society, they are instead public officials holding public office, for a limited time. Political parties and ideologies can linger indefinitely, policies can become permanent, but individual people flow through it as materially important, yet ultimately disposable resources.
The metaphysical and social implications of this shift from the personal to the impersonal, are profound. For the metaphysical, or perhaps mathematical, there is a shift from the cardinal to the ordinal. In a Chiefdom, rule is carried out by specific individuals, so cardinality is the underlying character. In a State, ordinality is emphasized, because government has become more of a super-human function. It’s an ongoing sequential process, and the members within it (temporarily) are motivated by their own ambitions as they would be as part of a Chiefdom, but they are also motivated to defend the collective investment in the permanence of the hierarchy.
At the same time, cardinality can apply to the State, and ordinality would apply to a Chiefdom (or gang). The state imposes cardinality – mass producing and mass controlling through counting systems. Identification numbers are produced and recorded. Individuals under a State are no longer addressed as persons individually but as members of a demographic class within their databases. Lawbreaker, head of household, homeowner, student, etc. This information is never explicitly woven into a personal portrait of the living, laughing, loving person themselves, but rather is retained as skeletal evidence of activities. Addresses, family names, employment history, driver’s license, dental records. It is essential for control that identity be validated – but only in form, not in content. The personality of the consumer-citizen (consumiten?) is irrelevant, to an almost impossible degree – yet some ghost of conscience compels an appearance of sentiment to the contrary.
World War II, which really should be understood as the second half of the single war for control of human civilization on a global level for the first time, was a narrative about embodied mechanization and depersonalization. The narrative we got in the West was that Fascism, Communism, and Nazism were totalitarian ideologies of depersonalization. The threat was of authentic personhood eclipsed permanently by a ruthlessly impersonal agenda. Different forms of distilled Statehood, three diffracted shadow projections of the same underlying social order transitioning into cold automatism The mania for refining and isolating active ingredients in the 20th century, from DNA to LSD to quantum, ran into unexpected trouble when it was applied to humanity. Racist theories and eugenics, Social Darwinism, massive ethnic cleanses and purges. Were we unconsciously looking for our absent personhood, our authenticity which was sold to the collective, or rather, to the immortal un-collective? Did we project some kind of phantom limb of our evacuated self into the public world, hiding in matter, bodies, blood, and heredity?
So what is authenticity? What is an imposter? Does a blue rose become less important if it is dyed blue rather than if it grew that way? Why should it make a difference? (we tell ourselves, with our Westernized intellect, that it shouldn’t). If you never found out that the rose was ‘only’ dyed blue, would you be wrong for enjoying it as if it were genuine? Why would you feel fooled if you found out that you were wrong about it being genuine but feel good if you found out that you were wrong about it being ‘fake’.
Who is fake? Who is phoney? Who is sold out? (does anyone still call anyone a ‘sell out’ anymore, or are we now pretty comfortable with the idea that there is nobody left who would not happily sell out if they only had the chance?) These are terms of accusation, of righteous judgment against those who have become enemies of authenticity – who have forsaken humanity itself for some ‘mere’ social-political advantage.
There is a dialectic between pride and shame which connects the fake and the genuine, with that good feeling of finding the latter and the disgust and loss of discovering the former. The irony is that the fake is always perpetrated without shame, or with shame concealed, but the genuine is often filled with shame and vulnerability…that’s somehow part of what makes it genuine. It’s authority comes from within our own personal participation, not from indirect knowledge, not from the impersonal un-collective of the Market-state.
Where do we go now that both the personal and impersonal approaches have been found fatally flawed? Can we regain what has been lost, or is it too late? Does it even matter anymore? If mass media is any indication, we have begun not only to accept the imposter, but we have elevated its significance to the highest. What is an actor or a model if not a kind of template, a vessel for ideal personal qualities made impersonal? It is to be celebrated for acting like yourself, or being a character – a proprietary character, made generic by mass distribution of their likeness. Branded celebrity. A currency of deferred personalization – vanity as commodity. Perhaps in the long run, this was the killer app that the Nazis and the Russians and the Japanese didn’t have. The promiscuous use of mass media to reflect back super-saturated simulations of personhood to the depersonalized subjects of the Market-state.
More than nuclear weapons, it was Hollywood, and Mickey Mouse, and Levi’s and Coca Cola which won the world. Nuclear memes. Elvis and Marilyn Monroe. This process too has now become ultra-automated. The problem with the celebrity machine was that it depended on individual persons. Even though they could be disposed of and recycled, it was not until reality TV and the new generation of talent shows that the power to make fame was openly elevated above celebrity itself. Fame is seen to be increasingly elected democratically, but at the same time, understood to be a fully commercial enterprise, controlled by an elite. The solution to the problem of overcoming our rejection of the imposter has been a combination of (1) suppressing the authentic; (2) conditioning the acceptance of the inauthentic, and most importantly, (3) obscuring the difference between the two.
I’m not blaming anyone for this, as much as I might like to. I’m not a Marxist or Libertarian, and I’m not advocating a return to an idealized pre-State Anarchy (though all of those are tempting in their own ways). I’m not anti-Capitalist per-se, but Capitalism is one of the names we use to refer to some of the most pervasive effects of this post-Enlightenment pendulum swing towards quantitative supremacy. I see this arc of human history, lurching back from the collapse of the West’s version of qualitative supremacy in the wake of the Dark Ages, as a natural, if not inevitable oscillation. I can’t completely accept it, since the extremes are so awful for so long, but then again, maybe it has always been awful. Objectively, it would seem that our contemporary First World ennui is a walk in the park compared to any other large group in history – or is that part of the mythology of modernism?
It seems to me that the darkness of the contemporary world is more total, more asphyxiating than any which could be conceived of in history, but it also seems like it’s probably not that bad for most people, most of the time. Utopia or Oblivion – that’s what Buckminster Fuller said. Is it true though anymore, or is that a utopian dream as well? Is the singularity just one more co-opted meme of super-signification? Is it a false light at the end of the sold-out tunnel? An imposter for the resurrection? Is technology the Blue Pill? I guess if that’s true, having an Occidental spirituality which safely elevates the disowned authentic self into a science fiction is a big improvement over having it spill out as a compulsion for racial purity. A utopia driven by technology at least doesn’t require an impossible alignment of human values forever. Maybe this Blue Pill is as Red as it gets?