Monday, October 09, 2006

Hey Hey, We're the Monkeys! Evolving and Adapting in Cyberspace

If the news didn’t exist, where would you start to look for it? If we didn’t have the New York Times to dictate what is important, how would we know where to direct our attention?

As I mentioned the other day, the news is not just the news, but the appropriation of an institution for the promulgation of a particular worldview. Although the left makes a big deal out of the existence of Fox Cable News, I frankly find little difference between Fox and the liberal media with regard to their implicit views on the nature of reality. Based on their allocation of resources, both think that the Foley scandal is of earth shattering significance. So too was the story of the nut who falsely confessed to the Jon Benet Ramsey murder.

Somehow, all the major newspapers and TV stations end up covering the same stories. The Foley and Ramsey stories would have been noted only in passing in the blogosphere, except perhaps by some people with very peculiar interests. (We are not discussing the left wing blogosphere here, as it is simply the MSM with profanity.) Likewise, Abu Ghraib would have been a one day story, in contrast to the New York Times, which had dozens of front page stories on it in order to mislead the public and advance their leftist agenda.

My father used to wonder how it was possible that all the gas stations sold gas at roughly the same price, within pennies of each other. How was this possible? Was there some kind of collusion, some kind of gentlemen’s agreement to set a certain price and not go any lower than that?

This occurred to me while reading the new book on the philosopher Michael Polanyi. Prior to officially becoming a philosopher at the age of 58 in 1947, Polanyi had been a very successful scientist, publishing some 200 or more papers. But his scientific background formed the basis of his emerging philosophy, because it was through his own scientific experimentation that he realized that the nature of knowing is not what people--especially scientists--believe it to be.

That is, Polanyi understood that the caricature of the detached and dispassionate scientific observer was all wrong. Rather, the creative scientist was “passionate in his quest to make contact with a reality that he necessarily believes is real and knowable” (Mitchell). Furthermore, he recognized long prior to the elite economists of his day that, just as a planned economy results in hunger and privation, a planned science would destroy science.

Rather, science could only be grounded in liberty, not just any liberty, but within a teleological liberty aimed at disclosing transcendent truth. One must be committed to truth while, at the same time, refrain from explicitly defining that truth at the outset. One of the reasons why Polanyi was such a creative scientist was that he came to science as an outsider, and was therefore not committed to certain widely held "truths" that had stymied other scientists. One can say the same thing for his philosophy, as he approached problems in an entirely fresh way, not knowing that he was “wasting his time.” In so doing, he avoided the institutionalized errors of professional philosophers.

Polanyi was fascinated by the paradox of how we can know truth before we know it, in the form of tacit presuppositions that guide our quest for knowledge. That is, 90% of the battle in science is identifying a deep and fruitful problem, one that can be solved. But how does one know ahead of time what is a good problem? One doesn’t actually begin with a random hypothesis, for if the scientist “were required to make a list of every possible solution and then test each one systematically, he would spend a lifetime on one or at most two very simple problems. In reality, the scientist eliminates the vast majority of possible solutions without testing them. How does he do this?”

In other words, a good--or bad--hypothesis is already a deep statement about one’s unarticulated beliefs about the nature of reality. Mitchell puts it this way: “When we seek understanding, we either know what we are seeking or not. If we know what we are looking for, we need look no further, for we already possess understanding. On the other hand, if we do not know what we are looking for, how can we proceed? It is impossible to pursue what we do not know, and it is unnecessary to pursue what we already possess.”

One may think that this is an arcane philosophical point, but many civilizations have been shipwrecked on its rocks. The Muslim world, for example, decided long ago that science was unnecessary, because if it discovered something that contradicted the Koran, then it was false, whereas if it discovered something that confirmed the Koran, it was unnecessary. With this tautology, Muslims said ta-ta ta' modernity.

In fact, I believe this epistemological problem is at the heart of the three-headed civilizational battle we are currently waging between leftism, Islamism, and classical American liberalism. The problem of Islam speaks for itself. But the same problem applies to the left, for it too attempts to seal the book of knowledge and prevent thought from straying into forbidden areas. Just as it believes in a topdown command economy, it believes in a “command intelligentsia” that enforces a particular view of reality from on high. Its means is the takeover of the elite media and of academia from preschool through graduate school, and its method is political correctness. And the higher you move up through the system, the greater the pressure to conform to a certain tacit worldview.

For example, as a psychologist, I feel this pressure acutely, as my professional organization has been taken over by leftist activists who determine everything from the nature of mental illness to the ethics that must inform our practice--even if it means that illness must be called health and morality must be called unethical.

Back to our original question of why the mass media is so blandly uniform. Clearly, in order to move up the ranks of the liberal media machine, one must internalize a certain view of the world at each and every step of the way. This is why you can turn on ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, and it’s all the same--the same as the New York Times, Washington Post, L.A. Times, et al.

But this is also why these institutions are slowly dying, whereas talk radio and the internet will continue to grow and gain in influence. With regard to the internet, it will eventually bring down the liberal media because it mirrors the practice of science in obeying the laws of how our understanding of reality is deepened.

That is, just like science--and unlike the liberal media--the blogosphere is polycentric, made up of hundreds and thousands of individual minds, each with its own view of reality. However, a spontaneous order emerges due to the constant horizontal feedback between individual practitioners. Unlike the liberal media, no one is “calling the shots” and deferring to some ultimate arbiter of reality like the New York Times. While it is a very messy process, it is in the end a much more accurate one, since it will quickly evolve, adjust and adapt in ways that the rigid liberal media cannot possibly do.

It is well understood in complexity theory that rigid order produces disorder, while spontaneous order emerges from chaos. Just as an infinitely complex and ordered economy emerges from the chaotic free market, the same principle applies to the internet. The attempt of the liberal media to impose its view of reality on the rest of us leaves all sorts of interesting and critically important interstices and niches that are completely ignored by the MSM. People such as Charles Johnson at LGF have jumped in to fill those niches. And this is why Err America is such a dismal failure, because they are attempting to fill a niche that does not exist, as it is already filled to the brim with the bland and predictable views of the liberal MSM.

Rule One in evolution: if you want to evolve, identify a new niche that no one else inhabits. This is what pre-human monkeys did when they came down from the trees and began wandering around the savannah. As little blogging monkeys, we can look behind us and see our empty-eyed and slack-jawed big media furbears contentedly sitting up in their sky-scraping trees. But that is the past. They are like our present day monkeys and apes whose ancestors made that fateful decision to play it safe and scoff at the hairless little upright bipeds scurrying about chaotically below.


Will said...

>>Rule One in evolution: if you want to evolve, identify a new niche that no one else inhabits.<<

And that should come naturally enough to the spiritually cognizant individual. Our true natures decree that each of us *is* a new niche with unique capacities and capabilities, with a uniquely creative way of adding to Creation. I think that applies to the most "lofty" of endeavors such as philosophy/science, etc., right down to waitressing, horse smithing, door to door sales, whatever.

I think that "naturally unique niche-ness" also applies to nations, countries, geo-regions. That's one thing that's so disheartening about the proposed European Union - each Euro country has its own unique culture, and, in the larger sense, unique spiritual meaning and significance. This process of stripping Europe of its spiritual identity, ie. its Judeo-Christian heritage, is tantamount to stripping its countries/regions of their individual uniqueness.

Here in the USA where there's a vestige of the Judeo-Christian ethic still functioning, our regions, South, Midwest, Pac NW, etc., are still relatively unique and vibrant as they should be.

Jimmy J. said...

"That is, just like science--and unlike the liberal media--the blogosphere is polycentric, made up of hundreds and thousands of individual minds, each with its own view of reality. However, a spontaneous order emerges due to the constant horizontal feedback between individual practitioners."

By George, Gagdad, you've just described Adam Smith's invisible hand at work in free markets as it applies to the dessemination of information. Yes, onward and upward with the free market of information on the blogosphere.

Joan of Argghh! said...

Will, your comment is the bow on the gift of Bob's post!

Will said...

Thanks, Joan.

You'll note that it's a red/purplish bow.

Major Mike said...

The trap that has ensnared both the print wing of the MSM and the broadcast wing of the MSM, is that of formula.

Both editors and producers believe they know the "formula" for selling their media. Both, because of the mass appeal of the blogosphere and the un-formulamatic nature of talk radio, are dead wrong.

Nearly all sitcoms mimic each other, until there is a "breakout hit," then all, as a comet trail, follow the "new" formula. Producers flood the market with the same "new" product, until the market is bogged down in look-alike shows of inferior quality. There is little risk taking, and as a result, very little innovation or change.

TV news is not exempted. They have a heavy formulamatic approach, which the seem unable to adjust, let alone abandon...blood, scandal, war, fluff.

The paper media is the same...layout formulas, story formulas, sectional divisions (Frontpage/business/sports/leisure/etc.) are all formulamatic and boring.

The MSM is dying because its formulas are boring, and the internet and blogoshpere offer a wider choice of input, and a much larger choice of talent.

Who wants Katie C, when Victor Davis Hansen or Gagdad Bob are "on the air"?

If they want to resusitate the MSM, they need to drop their reliance on formulas, personalities, and fluff...true insight, variation, uniqueness, interaction, and challenging dialog are driving the MSM out of well as the MSM's failure to recognize this and adapt.

Van said...

I'll not Argghh-U with what Joan said - accomplishes three compliments in one, my invisible hand is clapping.

ben usn (ret) said...

Complexity theory is also why the Algorian global warming scared-mongers are dead wrong.
It is often described as unforeseen or unintended consequences.
When the rigid left attempt to tattoo their problematic paradigm on reality to make it theirs,
all hell breaks loose.
They cannot see, comprehend or adapt.
When reality fails to follow their script, they are lost.
The left's solution? More money, more indoctrination, more regulation, more emotion, all the while stifling liberty, freedom and creativity.
They will dash themselves against cold hard reality and break.
There is no complexity in the left. They are all too predictable in their methods and outcome.
All they have to offer is misery and death.
Super post, Bob!

tugboatcapn said...

I totally agree, although I do not have time to hunt up my thesauraus in order to attempt to correspond with you on your own level.

Suffice it to say that I have added you to my Blog Roll, and have been reading your blog regularly for the past two weeks or so.

From my limited exposure to your thoughts as posted here,(and my admitted lack of education with which to understand them,) you have yet to be wrong, about anything, Bob.

You are a brilliant man, and this is a brilliant post.

Keep it up!

When I grow up, I want to be smart like you guys!

gumshoe1 said...

Bob -

this AT article on "Honor"
struck me as a topic you might consider.

"The Foley Flap and the Honor Wars"
- Christopher Chantrill
October 9th, 2006

Petey said...


Bob is wrong about many things. You just don't know about them, because I intervene before he applies his fingers to the keyboard and makes an ass of himself.

Gagdad Bob said...

Very good.

I would only add that each of the four cardinal virtues--prudence, courage, justice and temperance--becomes warped in the absence of the others. For example Bill Mahar famously said that the terrorists were "brave," which is neither here nor there in the absence of justice, temperence, etc. Courage easily becomes the opposite of a virtue in such circumstances.

John P. said...

Order spontaneously emerges out of chaos? Hmm!

Bob and all this is somewhat tangential to your subject, or not; you might find it interesting.

I will just quote from a source if you don't mind. If I tried to paraphrase I would just screw it up:

A little long, but hey, paper is cheap. URL at the end. Here:

"In physics, there is a present that is identical to eternity, and that is at the velocity of light. This is why massless particles do not decay. Massless particles, like photons or gravitons, instantaneously travel at the velocity of light, and time does not pass for them. This is an extraordinary feature of Relativity. If we could exist at the velocity of light, the entire history of the universe, however long, even eternal, would pass in less than the blink of an eye. This sounds like one of Socrates' reflections on death, that "...all eternity would then seem to be no more than a single night" -- if death is like a dreamless sleep. It is definitely noteworthy that there is a place in nature where time doesn't exist. This also happens to be the place where we find the field quanta of energy, like photons and gravitions. The universe may have started as a simple flux of such energy, which then had its symmetry "broken" into matter and the various different forces of nature (as a deeper symmetry was "broken" into perfect and imperfect, past and future?). Energy itself, which began as (perfect) substance in Aristotle and then seems to become its (imperfect) opposite in physics, actually seems more like a union of perfect and imperfect. It cannot be created or destroyed, though it can be diverted into matter, where mass itself cannot be created or destroyed -- unless back into energy. This is still very hard to fathom. Energy is essentially the life of the universe. And the low entropy energy reactions on the earth are, indeed, life itself. Us. Photons stream from the sun, hit me, and then cease to exist, but give up their energy to my skin. I warm up. Maybe get sunburned. This is like nothing imagined by Plato or Aristotle, or even Descartes or Newton.

Energy in its elusive and paradoxical nature, making all change and life possible, but often carried in the form of particles for which time does not pass, is rather like a living fossil of a union of perfect and imperfect in the transcendent. It is pregnant with all the laws of nature and the history of the universe. The light in the darkness. The warmth of the hearth, or the heart. A strange business, and very far from the "atoms and the void" of the Greek Atomists. Not much of the atoms left, to be sure, but space, fields, and energy. As a union of perfect and imperfect, energy has structure and form, but also unlimited potential. Only energy makes things happen. What goes along with the question, then, why the universe exists, is the question why energy exists. In it we have neither a Perfect nor an Imperfect Fallacy, but we also have the metaphysical question without an answer, an answer that would resolve the antinomy of possible and actual, past and future, free will and determinism, existence and non-existence. Energy is pregnant with all those things. It does not speak to us, but then again it does. For energy can be high entropy or low entropy. Low entropy is the beginning of the universe -- the Big Bang, as a "white hole," was a very low entropy event -- and the beginning of life. As entropy among life gets lower and lower, we have consciousness and knowledge, religion, philosophy, and science, art and ethics, etc. Out of our own energy, then, come our thoughts about it. Stuff like this."

Quig said...

I read what has been written, some one mentioned honour. I went to Bill Whittle’s site, and read his essay on honour. Then I read through a few more.
Why does reading him make my heart swell, my throat constrict and my eyes tear?

Is it because I feel “prudence, courage, justice and temperance” in his homilies?

Or am I just a sentimental old fool?

Toby said...

Cool post! Some of what you said about Polyani reminded me of Thomas Kuhn's "The Structure of Scientific Revolutions." Do you know if their insights are dependent on one another in any way?

Gagdad Bob said...


For reasons I don't have time to explain, they were opposites. Kuhn was a moonbat relativist.

Anonymous said...

ed in texas

'planned science will destroy science'...
String theory, anyone?

Anonymous said...

>>Rule One in evolution: if you want to evolve, identify a new niche that no one else inhabits.<<

My example for this is the dot-com boom-and-crash. Besides the infamously stupid dot-com ideas, there was a secondary string dot-com failures that had workable ideas and a possible market niche.

But because of the "bandwagon effect", you'd get 100+ dot-com startups in a niche that could at most support two or three.

Kerry said...

Regarding comments from Major Mike,(a 'hooah!' to you MM), it seems the Dinosaur Media is trapped in an echo chamber, or a feedback loop. From such a place, is change capable without hitting bottom? Like an alcoholic, can they only change when denial shatters? The Romanian dictators, the Ceaucescu's supposedly were in still denial even as the bullets struck the wall.

Anonymous said...

Dear Bob,

Love this site -a good friend pointed me here. I had an idea just now as a pseudo model of mental issues. I have a meth using / drug selling neighbor who is more than a few fries short of a Happy Meal. Just now a motorcycle went by and he had to yell out that the bike had only one break light working.

I reflected on this concept.

Then I considered strings of Christmas lights. How in some cases (based upon parallel or series wiring) either the whole string fails, or one light is out -due to bulb failure.

Hence the mental Christmas Tree can appear rather well lit -yet has missing lights, or missing strings (chains / trains of good thinking) missing!

As for those wacky Romanians we all loved to hate, a good read is "Red Horizons" by Pacepa.

Also "Tower of Secrets" by Victor Sheymov has a great chapter where he discusses Communism's failures.

And for real thinkers, "Evidence and Inference for the Intelligence Analyst" David Schum (2 volumes) is a good one too, which applies in a cross disciplinary manner.

Okay, its late, and I need to stop posting now!


Anonymous said...

Oh so sorry.. I forgot a cool source of analytics. The LAMP method. Which is the "Lockwood Analytical Method of Prediction" -you can find it on lamp-method dot com. I had John as an instructor at some point and built it into an Excel sheet, and into a MySQL database system. -Hey, I -AM- an analyst / nerd!

More later...