Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Socialism Would Be Easy If Not for F*cking Creativity

"The very nature of creativity is that it always comes as a surprise to us" (Gilder).

Right? An antiquated machine that extrudes the identical lame product over and over -- say, Tom Friedman -- is the antithesis of creativity. If something can be predicted by its antecedents, it isn't a creation, it's a mere effect of something else, fully reducible to predetermined causes.

Science, strictly speaking, explains everything but creativity. Not only that, but in its reductionist mania, it generally attempts to explain the creative via the uncreative, the intelligent via the mindless, freedom via necessity, and the living via the lifeless. It just waves a magic wand over the ontological discontinuities and pretends this is an explanation.

I noticed this yesterday while thumbing through a recent Scientific American in the orthopedist's office. No matter what subject they touched -- the Big Bang, the origin of life, the intersection of ideology and science -- every author had the same adolescent tone of smug superiority to go along with their dull absence of style and their one-dimensional shallowness of thought. The magazine seems to exert a heavy editorial hand that banishes seriousness of thought; or that affirms a frivolous certainty.

To put it another way, their minds are entirely lacking in creative surprisal, so perhaps the metaphysic they embrace is just a massive projection of their own experience and limitations. As the left likes to say, they are indeed speaking their truth. Which no one should confuse with Truth. Rather, these are just fairy tales for the tenured, chicken shit for the scientistic soul.

But to be trapped in that sort of mind would be a kind of living hell for anyone who has made it to freedom, or who has rotated in Plato's cave.

Freedom means nothing to someone who has never experienced it, which is why it is so difficult to export it to places where it has never existed, e.g., Islamistan. For such peoples, freedom has an entirely different connotation, meaning essentially the freedom to live in their traditionally unfree manner. For them, the alternative to such oppression is social chaos. What we think of as individual liberty doesn't enter the equation.

My own racket of psychology is no more a science than is global warming. Psychologists have no difficulty explaining something after it has happened. The trick is predicting the event before it happens, which is what a genuine science does. The best historian in the world cannot predict the future.

What this means, of course, is that man can never be exhaustively described scientifically. True, it is useful to consider certain human parts in a mechanistic/deterministic manner, but the soul -- or a person, if you like -- is quite clearly beyond any human calculation. A person is not reducible to an ape, just as taking a shower is not reducible to rubbing oneself with hydrogen and oxygen.

The same is true of the climate, but for different reasons -- not because the earth has a soul (although it may have some analogous, emergent large-scale interior unity), but because of the infinitude of variables, i.e., because of the complexity and non-linearity of the system. Climate cannot be predicted for the same reason we have no idea what the global economy will look like 100 years hence. In both cases, the researchers simply don't know what they don't know -- which swamps what they do know.

Scientism is afflicted with a bad case of WTSIATI: what they see is all there is. How sad!

If we could predict surprise -- a contradiction in terms -- then we could organize and plan for it. Nevertheless, despite the intrinsic contradiction, this is precisely what leftists presume to do, i.e., control the uncontrollable and predict the unpredictable. In short, socialism would work beautifully if only creativity didn't exist.

Or, to paraphrase Larry Sanders' self-serving agent, "our job would be so easy if it weren't for fucking talent!"

"In a free economy," writes Gilder, "a high degree of apparent randomness does not mean actual randomness. An apparently random pattern is evidence not of purposelessness but of an entrepreneurial economy full of creative surprises."

Again, it's just like a person, only worse. If you kick a rock, you can pretty much predict where it will roll. But if you kick a man, you have no idea what he might do. Freedom is a terrible thing. No wonder most cultures -- and most people -- hate it.

One of the most succinct definitions of a person is provided by Nicolás Gómez Dávila; it is simultaneously the least and most you can say: a person is the permanent possibility of initiating a causal series.

Now, to initiate a causal series is to create, since an "initiation" is not preceded by anything else. In other words, it arises in a genuine space of undetermined freedom of choice. This, of course, is one of the deeper meanings of being in the image and likeness of God, for only God and man have this power to freely initiate a causal series (God absolutely, man in a relative analogue).

So, just as knowledge and power are intimately related, so too are freedom and creativity. Only in a free-market liberal democracy are they all present and accounted for. The left wants the power but not the knowledge, the freedom but not the creativity. Mere power + freedom results in precisely the type of lawlessness we see in the Obama regime. e.g., Obamacare for thee but not for me. (Or Clintonworld, where the powerful trade their StupidPower for more of it.)

Ironically, the most important scientific developments of the 20th century should be a lesson in epistemic humility, not an excuse for promethean omniscience. Gilder catalogues some of these:

"In physics, mathematics, cosmology, and psychology, reason collided at every turn with an insuperable barrier of incompleteness, uncertainty, paradox, incomputability, or recursive futility."

Raccoons know the drill: Gödel's incompleteness theorems, Heisenberg's uncertainty principle, Bohr's complementarity, Polanyi's tacit knowledge, Matte Blanco's symmetrical logic, the irreconcilability of quantum and relativity theories, the irreducibility of Slack, etc., etc.

It takes a big mind to know little -- or to unKnow a lot, to be precise -- the reason being that the largest spotlight has the largest area of surrounding darkness. But in a way, that darkness is a measure of our freedom, or at least makes it a permanent possibility. It certainly means that no one can shove us into their little prefabricated boxes -- boxes of class, or gender, or homophobia, or white privilege.

Perhaps the simplest and most suggestive definition of entropy is as a measure of freedom of choice: the higher the entropy, the larger the bandwidth or range of selection (Gilder).


JP said...

"If we could predict surprise -- a contradiction in terms -- then we could predict and plan for it."

You can plan for surprise.

That is to say, you can predict spiritual awakenings.

What you can't predict for is the content of such awakenings.

Meaning that you know that a surprise is going to happen, but you don't know what the surprise is going to *be*.

So, it's a known unknown.

In other words, the risk of a new Weather Underground or a new Charles Manson is approximately zero this year due to current cultural-spiritual weather.

It's not the right season.

julie said...

For such peoples, freedom has an entirely different connotation, meaning essentially the freedom to live in their traditionally unfree manner. For them, the alternative to such oppression is social chaos. What we think of as individual liberty doesn't enter the equation.

Neo linked the other day in a roundabout way to an excerpt from Phyliss Chessler's new book, My life of hell in an Afghan harem.

Notably, this happened back in the pre-Taliban, "enlightened" days when it was supposedly alright for women to go out in public and even get an education.

I get the impression that it wasn't - and isn't - entirely uncommon for Middle Eastern men to woo and marry Western women, only to bring them back "to visit the family..." permanently. Of course, the visit comes across as imprisonment to the new wife, but in a way it's simply the ultimate clash of cultures. She is accustomed to freedom; had she been raised as unfree as her new family, she wouldn't know what she was missing.

mushroom said...

Finally catching up. This is a great series. As JP says, you can know black swans are coming and that they won't be black or swans.

A rigidly centralized society or economy has a lot more trouble dealing with the unexpected than one that is looser, more localized and flexible.

I saw it first hand when we moved to Texas in the '80s. At the time, oil was cheap, defense spending was being cut, and people had been hurt by the Savings and Loan crisis. Yet the Dallas area was able to not just recover quickly but to boom. No state income tax, openness to innovation, and a mostly hands-off regulatory environment were all factors.

Rick said...

Hmmm. But wouldn't it be a heck of a surprise if there were no more surprises...

You were all thinking it, so it doesn't count.

julie said...

With the title of today's post in mind, yesterday I came across this illustration of Imagine.

Imagine someone drew the place the poet sang about, and made it a hundred times more vapid than the original...

Anyway, just looking again at the lyrics I can't help thinking Lennon imagined himself a world completely and utterly lifeless. And so of course, millions of people hear it and think, "Gee, wouldn't that be great!"

Nice daydream, wrong species.

Gagdad Bob said...

Imagine there are no surprises.

Sounds like hell.

Besides, imagination is always surprising.

Open Trench said...

The Muslims do have the good sense not to endorse alcohol drinking.

They deserve snaps for that. It's good for them, that is. I like booze. It never does the children any good, though. Not even innocuous sensible drinking; families are better off without a drop. Dry is good.

John Lennon's song "Imagine" is a Buddhist hymnn, really. The main draw back of Siddartha's shtick is that it seems bland and boring as described. Imagine no heaven? Really?

What? No desire? No attachment? Whachoo goan do then?

The Buddhist insist once everything is emptied out, emptiness feels darn good.

They call it "Basic Goodness."

I've looked to try it, can't quite get it, so....

I debauch. Yadda Yadda

But really, a massive shift has taken place. What Bob is REALLY up against is NOT LEFTISM.

the Master Coon has encountered the masssive wall of neo-buddhist America, the millions who feel compassion is a way of life, and who strive for a middle path with not too much of this and not too much of that, and that there IS NO SUCH THING AS GOD.

However, they will admit that there is karma and that meditation is good.

But really, they have replaced God with Basic Goodness and the two are somewhat similar.

The Leftist is gone, never to return. Now we have Siddarthas massive (and stealthy) North American takeover.

All other new-age drivel was window dressing concealing the massive elephant underneath.

It ain't such a bad thing except these folks just WON'T GET AS LOADED AS I LIKE TO. Pshaw.

Gagdad Bob said...

Related: science can't handle critique:

'A politically motivated, decades-long war on expertise has eroded the popular consensus on a wide variety of scientifically validated topics. Everything, from evolution to the origins of climate change, is mistakenly up for grabs again. Scientific certainty is just another thing for two people to "debate" on television. '

This exemplifies exactly what I said about Scientific American. You're not disagreeing with principles, assumptions, and conclusions, you're disagreeing with expertise: the logical fallacy of argument from authority is the end of the discussion.

I think she doesn't understand the meaning of "scientifically validated," unless she just means "tautology."

Gagdad Bob said...

Not to mention that science only advances because of skepticism about "consensus."

Open Trench said...

Scientists have brought us many goodies so we don't want to step on their game if we can help it, but trying to follow along with their literature is dull and uninspiring, except for astronomy.

Astronomy touches up against the Cosmos in neat ways, as does particle physics. Reader Mr. Harvey has noted this.

I've a smart phone, I-pod, lap-top, desktop, and a Kindle.

How many of us are all gadgeted up? Do we love it, or what?

However, the pharmaceauticals people are getting wild and are putting stuff out there that isn't any better than what we already have.

The synthetic MJ is ghetto, for instance. Give it up. Go to the source and enjoy au natural.

Then there's pacemakers. No, we don't all need one. However, there are 86 new reasons to have one now listed. Reason 87 is $$ to the maker.