I'm truly enjoying riffing as I will from here on out, on Steven Berlin Johnson. He understands why. On page 47 he introduces one of those charts I think everybody needs to know like Maslow's Pyramid. He calls it The Long Zoom of Culture. It looks like this.
You might remember, if you were a geek like me, the old saying about how stupid people talk about themselves, ordinary people talk about other people and intelligent people talk about ideas. A presumably intelligent person would share this idea with you. I've heard it several times and find it impossible to resist the temptation to talk about myself hearing the idea several times. Paradoxical, that.
Nevertheless it's a good start. The question becomes, what ideas are worth talking about when you finally sit down with your brainy mates and not talk about yourselves and other people? Well, I like this long zoom because as you may know I got into the Long Now a year or so ago transitioning off politics at Cobb.
At that same time, I started reading Iain M. Banks' Culture novels and began looking at the sorts of social contexts from which scientific discovery might take its clues. Banks happens to be all the way out there at energy flows. Specifically, what happens to society if, relatively speaking, infinite energy and mindpower is at human disposal? I concluded that it becomes pleasure-seeking, which is to say fairly unhinged from the disciplines we have generated throughout history on Earth.
This also dovetails to the question I had not long ago about the cultural predisposition of what is considered a good solution to any social or personal problem. In that post, The Dirty Clothes Cycle, I asked what to do when my clothes, for lack of space, lie putrefying in the washing machine for hours:
Which solution to this problem I select depends upon my cultural favoritism. I might admire chemists and demand the detergent. Or I might admire carpenters and expand my closet. Or I might admire self-improvement and increase the throughput. Or I might admire child labor and make my kids do it. Or I might admire a revolutionary pose and rant against all parts of the the clothing cycle at once. ... Or I might dig on Christian charity and give more to the Salvation Army.
All of that supports my theory, inspired by Charlie Levy, inventor of the Xerox Documentor, that brains are a cheap commodity. But complicating that is the premise of Outliers. There is a deep sociological component to the successful individual. The right place, the right time, the right combination of luck and persistence; all the genius is not all you. People forget that their stomach doesn't work without microbes; our minds don't work in a vacuum either.
So just in case you're a researcher wondering if I understand, let me repeat the Sun God Theory. God is in the middle of the Sun and He communicates to other stars via electromagnetic propagations beyond our spectrum - nevertheless these forces act on our minds, they are part of a substrate of information that travels faster than light. Synchronicity (plate of shrimp) is remote entanglement.
Brains being a cheap commodity are therefore to be herded like cattle and directed from grazing to grazing. We just haven't mastered the greater methods, and all that paradigm is shifting in our information revolution. A nice Lorite Interrogator would be useful now that I think of it, because it enables conservatism without the benefit of an actual social network of people. Everybody needs a Club of Honest Whigs, but only a few of us can afford the time. I certainly can't but it's been what I've been wishing for forever.
I'm going to have to just leave this as a riff. It's too loaded to complete, and I haven't finished the book. My point is that I recognize the substrate of progress. I am only too aware of those forces that disrupt the links in the chain from the energy flows to the microbiologicals.