Friday, March 27, 2009

Planktons outfox Scientists (or "Why Labs are Rubbish")

I'm a bit worried that we're increasingly using the wrong tools - no, wait, the wrong paradigm for dealing with most of the "crises" we're facing. Is the divide between "systemic" thinking and "logical" (or "organic" vs "mechnical"?) getting larger? Or are we just increasing our dependence on simplistic thinking?

Now, for instance, scientists are re-discovering there's a food chain going on the Ocean - if you increase plankton population, how can you forget that more stuff will eat the plankton? This is the kind of shortsighted thinking that comes with - dare I say - the arrogance of a simplified, specialised view of the world.

The notion that everything is loosely connected and can be studied in lab, away from the system, should die. Quickly and painfully. It is no longer of any use to only analyse the nodes of the system, ripped from their context, because context is everything - we are context, not objects.

Trying to decipher the mysteries of bees, or the dark labyrinths of cancer, will require a far more organic approach, more akin to cooking than to calculating. Isolationism can never work, because it ignores symbiosis and interaction. Breaking things down into components is like putting a river into buckets to find out how the current flows.

Maybe it's time to dig out my old Philosophy-of-Science notes. I'm sure there are better approaches...

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

These chemicals won't be used in a bomb.

I made this. It's a very rough mash-up of Jared's RSS feed of Flickr interestingness and the message from this Police campaign urging you to be afraid of everyone and everything. This Register article is good reading.

Why did I create it? Where did it come from?

Desperation, perhaps. The thought that rational debate in the political sphere is long dead, and has been replaced by an impostor wearing a crown of surrealist thorns.

Amusement, maybe. The fact that mockery and ridicule is the best way to attract attention to a point, because the only thing politicians listen to is their reputation.

Technology, alternatively. We do, because we can. We do, because we want to. "Have your say" is dead. "Take your action" is alive.

Because overt surrealism is key to unraveling this whole bizarre mess we keep getting dragged into. Juxtaposition shines lights when all the lights have gone out. Contrast is a tool to remember what we've chucked into the bin of assumption.

Why?

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Lovepunk Manifesto?

Met Police keep database of protesters. In stellar conjunction with recent secret corporate databases, we can only assume one thing:

The Powers that Be are Afraid

What do those questioning the status quo have to gain? A change in the status quo. A silent revolution. A world in which certain jobs are no longer needed, and so those jobs set out to protect the status quo.

Change itself becomes dangerous

Recently I've become aware there are two ways this can be dealt with.

Firstly, there is change through force - revolution, in other words. Those who want change must force it in spite of those that don't want it. But this goes against a lot of principles I'm currently learning about. So.

The second option. This is, perhaps, "evolution" instead. But it is more than that. It is collaboration. Instead of "taking" change, it assumes we must realise that we are dealing with a bunch of people with power and who are actually very nervous about what will happen to them if that power is taken away.

The first option is always an option. But I don't believe it to be a particularly... enlightening one. Why? Because what's missing is growth, progress. It simply assumes that one system can be replaced with another like replacing one battery with another. But nothing fundamentally changes - it is blunt, a dumb transition that in turn will just be replaced in a similar manner.

On the other hand, we have an opportunity here to bridge the gap between those who want change and those who don't. There is a possibility to turn change into learning, and to achieve true "progress" through this learning.

What does this mean? It means seeing those who don't want change not as enemies but as nervous friends. It means we need to take re-assurance, collaboration, and comfort as our watch words. We have to start befriending the nanny police state. We have to start showing that there is a place for those in power, and that while we can no longer run on the same rules, there is still space under the new ruleset for those with the right experience and the right attitude. We have to become parental.

Currently we are preparing ourselves for war. But it is a civil war - the "enemy" are people we brush shoulders with, that we are friends with in very nearby social circles. If we prepare for war, then sides form, and the war will only get harsher.

We need a mode of engagement that is neither protest nor "democratic" engagement, as neither of these is balanced or encourages mutual understanding. Maybe this is "lovepunk" or something. I need to think more.

Friday, March 06, 2009

The correlation of time: surrealism = stats

Wait a minute. Are statistics and surrealism separated at birth? Is there a golden thread that inherently threatens to join the two if we're willing to accept it?

Surrealism is not surreal. Or rather, it is surreal but no more surreal than statistics. As both deal with symbols, representations of the world around us, or the world inside us. or the world that is us. We seek to understand. We symbolise. We paint pictures with the symbols, and the pictures turn out to be stuck on a canvas, or stuck on a spreadsheet. We form the links between the symbols and we call those links "SENSE". Or "NONSENSE", depending on whether we're looking in the right direction or not.

Is that it? Sense is just the direction in which you're looking?

And what of the surreality of statistics?

1 + 1 = 2. How perverse.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Copycat behaviour: Missed Opportunities?

Monkey see, monkey do. Apparently. The pseudo-science equivalent today is mirror neurons, of course. But what of it?

Recent research shows that people are more likely to drink if they see people on TV drinking. (Actually, "people" should be more specific: the research was carried out on 80 "young people" - most likely students - so generalisations are difficult to make, as you would know if you've ever observed yourself as a student around other students, in comparison to yourself not as a student, around other non-students.)

The "spin" on this is alcohol-focused:

"He said the findings suggested there may be an argument for restricting advertising and introducing warnings on films.

"But he added there needed to be more research to establish the long-term implications on drinking habits."


But I'd like to turn this around, for as it stands, the argument is couched in the now-traditional British perspective of "STOP DOING BAD THINGS, you fool."

How about, instead of getting people not to do bad stuff, realising for a change that we could get people to do good stuff by, well, doing it ourselves?

In other (person's) words, "We must become the change we want to see in the world." Rather than focusing on the censorship of alcohol adverts, why not show more examples of people we respect doing things we wouldn't otherwise do?

Take musicians, for instance. Everyone wants to be a rock superstar - but all we see is the final gig, so all we end up doing is pretending to play shit through Guitar Hero, Rock Band, and Samba de Amigo. The ideas of practice and learning to actually play have been relegated to an underground, smoky den where only the truly passionate and deranged actually bother to go through with the pain. Or so we would like to believe.

There are myriad other possibilities, but we've become blind to them, choosing instead to see our world in terms of what we shouldn't do. How dull.

We have a whole Internet here, and even greater than that, we have a whole World outside it. How can we start using them to think about things in the long term again? How can we get away from the notion of instant feedback, and doing things for the input, rather than the output?