Tuesday, October 21, 2008

I thought I was wrong once, but I was mistaken -OR- Churn Baby Churn

"Facts can be whatever you want them to be. This is the lesson of relativity."
-- BuSab Manual/ F. Herbert

The concepts of speculative fiction appeared in conjunction with man's attempts to standardize life. Playing "What if" without the restraints. Existing in a world hellbent on applying whatever binding was thought to codify life and its living for the masses. The real world did not adapt to a one-size-fits-all approach; therefore, the only logical thing to do is to ignore that which didn't fit? Label them non-conforming and mark them for later when proper methods can be used to bring about compliance?

How many other worlds were/are possible? How many exist today? Will any exist tomorrow? Can certain designs co-exist better than others? Can two or more absolutes do more than battle and counter each other?

Success As Failure
Frank Herbert

Planners often appear unwilling to believe that a history of success can produce the conditions for disaster. Rather, they believe that success measured in current terms is sufficient justification for any decisions about tomorrow. (To those who doubt that success can bring ruin to a community, look at the Boeing Corporation, a study of unusual poignancy in its demonstration of disaster brewed from success.)

You glimpse here a hidden dimension of powerful influences upon our survival. Here are the locked-up decisions predicated on capital investments and operating costs. Governments, large corporations, and service industries know they must build today according to long-range projections. Those projections tend to come from planners who know (unconsciously or otherwise) what the directors want to hear. Conversely, directors tend not to listen to disquieting projections. (Boeing's directors were being told as far back as the early 1950's that they had to diversify and that they should begin exploring the potential of rapid transit.)

Planning tends to fall into the absolutist traps I've indicated. Warm is better than cold, we'll listen only to the left hand. The limits under which powerful private assessments of "the future" are made predict mistakes of gigantic lethal magnitude.

If we define futurism as exploration beyond accepted limits, then the nature of limiting systems becomes our first object of exploration. That nature lies within ourselves. Some who say they are talking about "a future" are only talking about their own limits. The dominant pattern in current planning betrays a system of thinking that does not want to abandon old assumptions and that keeps seeking a suprise-free future. But if we lock down the future in the present, we deny that such a future has become the present-- and the present has always been inadequate for the future.

My explanation of this pattern goes partly -- where we commonly believe meaning is found -- in printed words (such as these), in the noise of a speaker, in the reader's or listener's awareness, or in some imaginary thought-land between these. We tend to forget that we human animals evolved in an ecosystem that has demanded constant improvisation from us. In all our systems and processes, including the human brain, our consciousness, and our thinking patterns. The virtuosity of our customary speaking tends to conceal from us how this behavior is dominated by improvisation. This non-awareness carries over into that "talking" with our universe by which we shape it and are shaped by it.

It dismays some people to think that we are in some kind of jam session with our universe and that our survival demands an ever-increasing virtuosity, an ever-improving mastery of our instruments. Whatever we may retain of logic and reason, however, points in that direction. It indicates that creation of human societies probably should become more of an art form than a plaything of science.

To plan for the future, to attempt to guide ourselves into "the better life" projected by our utopian dreams, we are involving ourselves with profound creative changes and influences. Many of these already are at their work unrecognized around us. Inevitably, we change our frames of reference, our consensus reality. It becomes increasingly apparent that today's changes occur in a relativistic universe. It is demonstrably impossible in such a universe to test the reliability of one expert by requiring him to agree with another expert. This is a clear message from those physicists who demonstrate the most workable understanding or our universe-in-operation. After Einstein, they tell us: all inertial frames of reference are equivalent.

This is saying that there is no absolute frame of reference (local reality) within the systems we recognize, no way to be certain you have measured any absolutes. The very act of introducing the concept of absolute into a question precludes an answer with sensible meaning. (Which hand will you believe, the "cold" hand or the "warm" one?) It serves no purpose to ask whether absolutes exist. Such questions are constructed so as to have no answer in principle.

Accordingly, both Pakistan and India could be equally right and equally wrong. This applies also to Democrats and Republicans, to Left and Right, to Israel and the United Arab Republic, to Irish Protestants and Irish Catholics. Remember: "We inevitably are led to prove any proposition in terms of unproven propositions." We do not like unproven propositions.

If we face up to this consciously, that might cut us away from everything we want to believe, from everything that comforts us in a universe of unknowns. We would be forced to the realization that the best logic we can construct for a finite system (which describes our condition at any selected moment) might not operate in an infinite system. No matter how tightly we construct our beautiful globes of local reality, no matter how many little Dutch boys we assemble to apply fingers to any holes that may appear, we still have built nothing more than a dike, impermanent and essentially fragile.

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