Legibility, Registration, Reality, Experience

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If you like the concept of legibility, found in James C Scott’s Seeing Like a State [1]. You may also like the concept of registration, found in Brian Cantwell Smith’s On the Origin of Objects [2]. I feel like OOO is what Ken Wilber would have written if he were a computer scientist.

Eugene Gendlin’s Experiencing and the Creation of Meaning [3] explores the interaction between reality, experience, and nonsymbolic representation, on the one hand, and legible objects and symbols, on the other.

Also related: Data and Reality [4] by William Kent; Notes on the Synthesis of Form [5] by Christopher Alexander.

Anything else?

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[1] http://www.amazon.com/Seeing-Like-State-Institution-University/dp/0300078153/

[2] http://www.amazon.com/On-Origin-Objects-Bradford-Books/dp/0262692090/

[3] http://www.amazon.com/Experiencing-Creation-Meaning-Philosophical-Psychological/dp/0810114275/

[4] http://www.amazon.com/Data-Reality-Perspective-Information-ebook/dp/B0086WGJ7W/

[5] http://www.amazon.com/Notes-Synthesis-Form-Harvard-Paperbacks/dp/0674627512/

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5 thoughts on “Legibility, Registration, Reality, Experience

  1. Hi Mark! I’m curious about how you came across Brian Smith’s book… I would have guessed that no one read it now, but maybe that’s wrong! We were colleagues and I think friends in the early 1990s. For various reasons there was a big delay in getting his book out and the intellectual world had moved in other directions; and I would have guessed that, with tempo lost, it would have ignored. But I went in other directions too, so I don’t know; maybe it’s been influential in some circles? I think it’s an important piece of work and deserves a wide readership.

    So, responding to a question you posed in a tweet storm today. I’m not totally sure what you are asking for… but I don’t know of anything interesting in the category “composable symbol grounding, artificial participatory meaning systems but not ML & not GOFAI” from the last 20 years. (Brian’s book really dates to the late 80s/early 90s, so it’s not from the last 20 years other than the publication date.) As far as I know, that area has been entirely dead. But I haven’t looked, because I figured rumors would reach me if anything was happening. Maybe it is but I’m no longer connected enough to hear about it. If you come across anything, please let me know!

    David

    • Hi David,

      I didn’t know you and Smith knew each other. That’s neat! I found Smith’s book through many hours of painstaking query crafting*, like I find most of the stuff that interests me. I didn’t come across his ideas in any academic context, or any context, unfortunately.

      *(google, google books, amazon, google scholar, scopus, etc., etc., etc.)

      And, that’s unfortunate, because, maybe I’m behind the times, but I find his ideas fresh and relevant! I’m fascinated by the mapping (and impedance mismatch) between phenomenology, reality, and computability/symbols.

      On Silver V/RivalVoices’ blog, there’s a comment thread about inferential distance. In that thread, it seems like you’re saying that you’re trying to lay down some “basics,” so you can then share and relate around the stuff that excites you even more.

      One of my questions was, what lies on the other side of the inferential gap you’re working to bridge? What are you excited about sharing, that’s driving you to lay down all the “basics” first, so you can actually share it? What are the conversations you’d like to have? What’s your bleeding edge that only you understand?

      And, is there a way to recapitulate your learning/developmental path to independently arrive at what you want to share and interact around? Books? Meditation practices?

      (When someone says, “Hey, you might experiment with reading these 10,000 pages, doing these problem sets, and then performing these inner and outer behaviors for like 300 hours,” sometimes I have a look and then do exactly that. So I’m curious if you have any ideas. 🙂

      ***

      Regarding my question about “composable symbol grounding, artificial participatory meaning systems but not ML & not GOFAI,” I’ll ask differently, which might make it sound like I’m asking an entirely different question.

      From a phenomenological perspective, and from a neuroscientific/physical perspective, I’m fascinated with the interaction between discrete symbols and conscious experiencing. (I *don’t* mean the “really hard” problem of consciousness, perceptronium.)

      Pragmatically, I have a crackpot intuition that, “words should be able to do more.” Like, on the one hand, every once in a while, you have a Karl Marx (for better or worse) or a Shakespeare: memetics. And, on the other hand, software is currently “eating the world,” spreading in a different sense.

      Software and language are symbolic technologies that are deployed to influence reality.

      But, I’m frustrated with the limitations of both software *and* language, and I wish there was a way to combine the strengths of both. Something, something, symbol grounding–I don’t know.

      What I like about Brian Smith’s book is not just his ideas, which are relevant to all of this, but also that he makes language scream. He pushes language to the absolute limit to get his ideas across. I would like to push language even farther. (This comment I’m writing is not a good example.)

      So, anyway, I’m aware that evolution has built some weird intuitions into humans (around, say, “naming” and magical thinking). And, I’ve taken plenty of CS classes with a sprinkling of machine learning and armchair computability theory. I think I get on a visceral level what symbols (“empty labels”) can and cannot do (not to mention unsupervised learning on high-dimensional spaces, etc.).

      And, yet, on an intuitive level, still, I feel like there should be a way to get the interior, felt, uncomputable dimension of language to scale with the raw, blind, power of Turing-style symbol manipulation.

      And, not in the usual, “novel cultural mechanism design” way, like ebay, craigslist, dating websites, etc.

      So what’s left??

      Maybe language can’t be pushed any farther than wikipedia, “I have a dream” speeches, and franchise operations manuals.

      Am I making any sense at all? You can tell me I’m a crackpot. 😀

      • I write partly to figure out what I think. (This is common, of course.) Until I’ve written something, I’m not sure it’s not just vague self-deception. So it’s hard to say anything about what I’m thinking until I’ve written about it! Parts of the Meaningness book I’d particularly like to be able to work on now: objects, boundaries, and connections; ethics; cultural/social/psychological shifts during the past forty years. I’d also like to advance the contemporary tantra project, but that’s held up more by lacking a social framework than my individual time/energy/productivity limitations.

        Regarding the second half of your reply… I don’t know! (Sorry not to be able to say anything useful.) FWIW, Heidegger spent the second half of his career mainly concerned with this question, but I don’t think he found any good answers. (Heidegger was a significant influence on Brian Smith too.)

  2. @David: I’ve come across OOO from an independent source.

    I’m really curious about your answer to “One of my questions was, what lies on the other side of the inferential gap you’re working to bridge? What are you excited about sharing, that’s driving you to lay down all the “basics” first, so you can actually share it? What are the conversations you’d like to have? What’s your bleeding edge that only you understand?”

  3. David,

    Thank you for your reply. I hope to read about all of those things as your Meaningness project continues. Regarding Tantra, I hope you end up in a context that supports your work. I think we might have resonant views about spiritual/transformative practice, and I’ve also found your writing helpful and clarifying.

    Below is a post sequence you might like, if you can get past my writing style. Feel free to ignore, depending on time constraints!

    https://meditationstuff.wordpress.com/2013/07/14/spiritual-stuff/
    https://meditationstuff.wordpress.com/2014/12/05/emptiness-one-taste-weirdness-dogmatism-choice/
    https://meditationstuff.wordpress.com/2014/09/11/cutesy-diagrams-and-mindfucking/
    https://meditationstuff.wordpress.com/2014/12/21/terrible-dark-excruciating-depressive-suicidal-emotions/

    I’ve gotten most of my phenomenology second-hand (albeit from excellent second hands). So I haven’t read Heidegger directly/translated. I’m going to give his timeline of work a closer look. Thanks very much for the idea!

    -Mark

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