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Patterns: knots in wood, eddies in river flow

Wednesday, February 14th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — Gen Mattis gives Pres Trump pause ]
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Reporting that Secretary Mattis influenced President Trump regarding the number of troops in Afghanistan, WaPo made a remarkable comment that caught my eye:

In the end, Trump decided to nearly double the size of the force in Afghanistan to 15,000 troops. In announcing his decision, Trump said he was acting against his “original instinct.”

That last remark, with President Trump admitting that he’s acted “against” his celebrated flow of instinctural utterances, struck me as pretty much unique in my reading — and as akin to a pattern I’ve long had an interest in: that of knots in wood and eddies in flowing water.

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The point about eddies that interests me is that they represent a reversal of flow within a larger flow-stream. And the point about Trump is that if he goes against a previously unbroken (or seldom broken) flow of some particular behavior, that’s something we should take special note of.

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From here on in this post, I’m exploring matters of pattern, with no necessary relationship to Trump or natsec.

I’ve long thought of eddies as equivalent to knots in wood: now I’m not so sure — I’m learning, or at least I hope so. Eddies are commonly caused by some upstream perturbation — a rock in mid-stream, for instance, or the arrival of a flowing source in an otherwise calm body of water. It may be that the heart of a knot is some such “rock in mid-stream” in wood, in which case this “drag force” diagram may give us a better picture of the knot and eddy:

Knots in wood commonly have a vertical (oblique) dimension, as when they represent the formation of a branch or twig that’s oblique to the main trunk or branch..

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In all this, we are getting close to the Karman Vortex Street which may be familiar from the cover of Gary Snyder‘s (wonderful) poetry book, Regarding Wave (a study of Snyder’s book covers would be a study in a variety of natural patterns):

or from my own favorite DoubleQuote, between the Karman Vortex Street (here represented diagrammatically) and Van Gogh’s night sky:

Ah, from wood and flowing water to the sky.

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Okay, as I said, this is my learning curve this am, and I am humbled to add one more DQ to this small collection, this one featuring a Vortex like Kelvin-Helmholtz cloud formation (upper image, below):

and a lenticular cloud formation (lower image, above).

Clouds.

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And (liquid) water.

Hey, in his far subtler and more complex way, Leonardo was a keen observer of these phenomena of flow and eddy too:

Kayfabe is an analog for war and love maybe, not a model

Sunday, February 11th, 2018

[ by Charles Cameron — hat-tip to Ferdinando Buscema, magician and therefore cognitive science specialist extraordinaire ]
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Occasionally one reads a truly stunning article — stunning, I mean stunnng.

Eric R. Weinstein‘s 2011 Edge answer, WHAT SCIENTIFIC CONCEPT WOULD IMPROVE EVERYBODY’S COGNITIVE TOOLKIT? is one such article, and as such I have retained the full caps in its title.

The theoretical background is :

Evolutionary biologists Richard Alexander and Robert Trivers have recently emphasized that it is deception rather than information that often plays the decisive role in systems of selective pressures. Yet most of our thinking continues to treat deception as something of a perturbation on the exchange of pure information, leaving us unprepared to contemplate a world in which fakery may reliably crowd out the genuine. In particular, humanity’s future selective pressures appear likely to remain tied to economic theory which currently uses as its central construct a market model based on assumptions of perfect information.

If we are to take selection more seriously within humans, we may fairly ask what rigorous system would be capable of tying together an altered reality of layered falsehoods in which absolutely nothing can be assumed to be as it appears. Such a system, in continuous development for more than a century, is known to exist and now supports an intricate multi-billion dollar business empire of pure hokum. It is known to wrestling’s insiders as “Kayfabe”.

Evolutionary biology, okay — I have other preferences for go-to model theory, but this one seems popular among non-magical realists on the cutting edge.. and the analog proposed in this article is kayfabe.

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Which is?

What can be seen as “tying together an altered reality of layered falsehoods in which absolutely nothing can be assumed to be as it appears”? What, in other words, can model all these altered realities? And kayfabe cannot be the answer, since it is one of those altered realities itself. No — for sure, it may provide a superb analog for professional wrestling and those others — “war, finance, love, politics and science” — mentioned later in the piece:

Kayfabrication (the process of transition from reality towards Kayfabe) arises out of attempts to deliver a dependably engaging product for a mass audience while removing the unpredictable upheavals that imperil participants. As such Kayfabrication is a dependable feature of many of our most important systems which share the above two characteristics such as war, finance, love, politics and science.

— but it cannot model them.

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Let’s take a closer look at the analogy, though:

What makes Kayfabe remarkable is that it gives us potentially the most complete example of the general process by which a wide class of important endeavors transition from failed reality to successful fakery.

That’s skirting the “model” concept again, but:

While most modern sports enthusiasts are aware of wrestling’s status as a pseudo sport, what few alive today remember is that it evolved out of a failed real sport (known as “catch” wrestling) which held its last honest title match early in the 20th century. Typical matches could last hours with no satisfying action, or end suddenly with crippling injuries to a promising athlete in whom much had been invested.

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The idea was to avoid two “paradoxical risks”:

  • Occasional but Extreme Peril for the participants
  • General: Monotony for both audience and participants
  • Think about that in the context of war — extensive boredom punctuated by episodes of extreme risk? Try these descriptions from WWI:

    Since then we have been doing infantry work in the trenches. We have been out of work on our trenches; only shrapnel and snipers. Some one described this war as “Months of boredom punctuated by moments of terror.” It is sad that it is such a bad country for cavalry.

    and:

    “Months of boredom punctuated by moments of terror” : such is a description of life in the Navy which a naval lieutenant quotes as exactly fitting the facts.

    That covers army and navy, both from Where does the phrase of “boredom punctuated by moments of terror” come from? — but what about the air? It’s not from WWI, but anyway:

    In Barry Lopez’s essay “Flight” (published in About This Life and originally in Harper’s October 1995) he quotes pilots describing flying as “hours of boredom punctuated by minutes of terror.

    And what of love — after, as they say, the honeymoon is over?

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    For that matter, and at an entirely different scale, what about the heartbeat?

    That’s “boredome punctuated by excitement” in a nutshell, iterated, and becoming a (mostly) relable rhythm..

    Iterated. Rhythm.

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    I’m unconvinced that the heartbeat is an example of “the general process by which a wide class of important endeavors transition from failed reality to successful fakery”.. And that’s a crucial element of the general process, eh? It has to do with the way in which “important endeavors transition from failed reality to successful fakery.”

    I’d read that as potentially covering the transition from failed Mueller to successful Fox, if things go that way. YMMV:

    But “general process” — again, what’s the mnodel? And more preciseluy, what would the model look like in “stocks and flows” system dynamic form, say in STELLA? See Donella Meadows, Leverage Points: Places to Intervene in a System?

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    Or HipBone?

    I’m not convinced Mueller / Fox is a “boredom then excitement” example, much less that Mueller and Fox are allied in producing their result, whatever this may turn out to be — but Democrat and Republican, perhaps..

    And my search for the abstraction, the underlying model of the general process proposed continues..

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    KAYFABE in Professional Wrestling tells us more:

    To lift the veil on the world of professional wrestling, we need to take a look at the term ‘kayfabe‘. Kayfabe is a wrestling word coming from the early carnival days of wrestling for the word “keep”, originally used as “keep quiet”, or “keep secret”. Kayfabe is often seen as the suspension of disbelief that is used to create the non-wrestling aspects of the business, such as feuds, angles and wrestling gimmicks (or in layman terms, a wrestler’s on-screen persona from their personality down to their attire). In relative terms, a wrestler breaking kayfabe during a show would be likened to an actor breaking character on camera.

    In the past, it was common for wrestlers to adhere to maintaining kayfabe in public, even when outside the ring and off-camera, in order to preserve the illusion that the competition in pro wrestling was not staged.

    Kayfabe breaking as analogous to “an actor breaking character on camera”? And kayfabe transitioning from “virtual” to “real” — another of our favorite themes? Here we are again, from our first source:

    Importantly, Kayfabe also seems to have discovered the limits of how much disbelief the human mind is capable of successfully suspending before fantasy and reality become fully conflated. Wrestling’s system of lies has recently become so intricate that wrestlers have occasionally found themselves engaging in real life adultery following exactly behind the introduction of a fictitious adulterous plot twist in a Kayfabe back-story.

    So “wrestlers have occasionally found themselves” — wrestlers, plural, found themselves engaging, plural — in adultery? Our model needs to accomodatee this plurality along with all the rest.

    Adultery?

Trump blowback — not boustrophedon but enantiodroma?

Wednesday, August 2nd, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — with a stinger from Bucky Fuller in the tail ]
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Here’s boustrophedon

— since it’s harder to find a decent illustrations for enantiodromia.

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Boustrophedon is the motion of an ox ploughing a field, up to the top and then back down: it’s a motif of reversal, but the farmer’s volition is the same both going up and coming back down. Enantiodromia, o the other hand, is just straight reversal as I understand it, a sudden switch of direction not caused by continuing intent, but by balance restoring itself after excess.

Hence, Trump blowback as described in WaPo’s Behold the Trump boomerang effect would fall in the latter category of form.

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Fred Hiatt opens his piece under that title:

Did your head spin when Utah’s Orrin Hatch, a true conservative and the Senate’s longest-serving Republican, emerged last week as the most eloquent spokesman for transgender rights? Credit the Trump boomerang effect.

He carries on:

Much has been said about White House dysfunction and how little President Trump has accomplished in his first six months. But that’s not the whole story: In Washington and around the world, in some surprising ways, things are happening — but they are precisely the opposite of what Trump wanted and predicted when he was sworn in.

The boomerang struck first in Europe. Following his election last November, and the British vote last June to leave the European Union, anti-immigrant nationalists were poised to sweep to power across the continent. “In the wake of the electoral victories of the Brexit campaign and Donald Trump, right-wing populism in the rich world has appeared unstoppable,” the Economist wrote. Russian President Vladimir Putin would gain allies, the European Union would fracture.

But European voters, sobered by the spectacle on view in Washington, moved the other way. In March, the Netherlands rejected an anti-immigrant party in favor of a mainstream, conservative coalition. In May, French voters spurned the Putin-loving, immigrant-bashing Marine Le Pen in favor of centrist Emmanuel Macron, who went on to win an overwhelming majority in Parliament and began trying to strengthen, not weaken, the E.U.

Meanwhile, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, whom Trump belittled for having allowed so many refugees into her country, has grown steadily more popular in advance of a September election.

There’s more, of course, but you get the picture.

Unintended consequences.

There’s a huge industry that advises us to shoot for the goal — but yachtsmen know that sometimes to get places, you need to tack with the wind. And Buckminster Fuller said [Critical Path, chapter titled “Self-Disciplines of Buckminster Fuller”] the most interesting effects occur in a manner that’s orthogonal to force applied:

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What a fascinating world we live in!

Systems, loops, forms, diagrams, games

Wednesday, July 5th, 2017

[ by Charles Cameron — among other things, a great lecture on complexity / complicity in a complex world ]
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I am always on about form, practicing ways of seeing form, of recognizing pattern in the very structure and logic of events — as though that practice were practical, had some eventual fruitfulness in practice, in the world of worldly affairs. And it may seem strange, erratic, off-course to many of my readers here, especially those who arrive in mid-stream, or with expectations of specifically strategic insight.

The other day I watched a lecture a friend of mine gave a couple of years back, and I wanted to bring it here because — tangentially — with its loops and diagrams it shows underlying form as it in-forms the games we play, the worlds they conjure, the ways we understand and navigate them, and the world around us — in which we find ourselves, and on which they are, however remotely and ingeniously, based.

My friend Mike has been lead designer on Sims 2 and Ultima Online among other games, and is currently a Professor of Practice in game design at Indiana University, Bloomington.

Mike Sellers..

More from Sellers’ bio:

He has a Bacon Number of 2 and hopes someday to have an Erdos Number.

Oh — and he was an extra — lucky dog, sorta — in Francis Ford Coppola‘s Apocalypse Now.

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My own analytic approach, my insistence on monitoring form as well as content, and my own HipBone Games all work at the underlying / subconscious level at which Mike pitches his talk. I hope this helps you understand what I’m about — but even if it doesn’t, it’s a fine introduction to game design and the understanding of a complex world by the man who famously reminded his fellow game designers:

An idea isn’t a design. A design is not a program. A program is not a product. A product is not a business. A business is not profit. Profit is not happiness.

Good thinking, from a good friend.

Burqa Burqa Jihad

Sunday, September 11th, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — how ISIS imitates the French state ]
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Laïcité! Jahiliyyah!

tablet-dq-600-burqa

Once again, the jihadists are borrowing our western ideas, only to turn them against us — this time, after a lapse of fours years.

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My title? How could you forget..


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