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A E C  F O R U M - "F L E S H F A C T O R"

"Direct evidence for mental phenomena can lie only in linguistic usage."
(Eric Havelock, 'Preface to Plato'.)


Oh people, people -- What I've been trying to say (obliquity, I'm afraid, is
my modus) is that we've already done it, we've already built the 'Giant
Brain' the AI projectors were dreaming of, now it's only a matter of waking
up to the fact that -- * WE * ARE * ALREADY * HERE * -- (I hope that's
explicit enough!)

We have been termites in a mound, each carrying our own small cargo of
pebbles (words, images, musics, symbols, techniques) and adding it to the
nest, unable to see from within it how incredibly vast it has become, how
many and various are the corridors of knowledge it contains, the designs its
convolutions make, how they branch off from one another, only to join up
again at some unexpected turning -- who could keep track of it all?!! (It's
a fractal too of course.)

What Norm [White] wrote, way back at the beginning of this list -- 

"... I believe the MOST important way the Net can inform us is in the way it
leads us back to Nature ... not by its content, but by the way it WORKS."

Exactly. Yes. 


As someone said, the words are all we have. Oh, there's a lot more than
words, but words are the only way we know how to say a thing so that other
people can get it. (And by drawing too, visual language. Even paintings from
the height of European 'retinalism' are strictly comic art, a sign-language.
Even photographs aren't "what is", only "as if".) And though it's impossible
to ensure that the sense of words will be understood as we intend them,
still -- they are the most subtle, precise instruments we possess.
(Mathematics? You still need the words to tell *about* the mathematics, to
define terms and rules, to give the sense and the rationale 'behind' the

It's become a cliche, this metaphor of Net as Global Brain, a 'Noosphere'.
But what if it were true? Can we find the courage to take our metaphors
literally? What would it take to make it real, or 'real enough' to make no
difference that anyone could tell? (That old boojum 'consciousness', the
debate always seems to degenerate into a contest of solipsisms; maybe it's
time to lay it to rest.)

What if the 'Noosphere' had been all around us, for millennia? What if we
called it rather, 'culture': our entire public memory of artifacts,
practices, ways of being human, shared conventions and notations, diagrams
drawn on cave walls or in spilled beer on table-tops, and all of it visible,
naked as the eyes in your face. For some reason I'm thinking of Steven
Spielberg's "E.T." -- who, of the millions of people who have seen the film,
ever noticed that the little savior figure, E. T. the extra-terrestrial with
that glowing extra-long middle finger, the erectile neck and legless body,
all made of some sort of soft purply-brown scrotal tissue ... who noticed
that this runty cinematic alien was, in fact, a penis? It's possible that
Spielberg himself failed to see it. But there it is anyway, deny it at your
peril. (Shall we talk then about 'consciousness'?)

We are disbarred from the direct, introspective knowledge of our own or
others' mental processes -- including language (what causes us to 'choose'
the words we speak or write) and perception (how we can interpret this group
of lines drawn on a page as a human face or figure) and logic (why we feel
compelled to infer 'x', given 'y') -- ergo we must arrive at our 'ideas'
about what goes on in our own minds and in the minds of others from
observing how people (including "me") act, the things they say, the words
they use together with which other words, the events taking place in
consequence of the words, the feelings evoked in us by the words. (None of
these necessarily or even primarily consciously!) Words are after all
'symbols', standing in place of the aggregates of circumstances, the
'contexts', which we have learned to associate with this or that 'word' or
image or sign. 

If we want a 'picture' of what the mind looks like, how it works, we need
look no further than the vocabulary we use, as revealed in the texts people
produce, the material records they leave behind them, what they talked
about, the manner of their saying. The rigging of the 'mental lexicon' (the
word-hoard of phantom voices in the head) is the rigging of the soul. In
this our common 'tongue' we can see, if we know how to look, the shape of
our unconscious, dreaming-awake, 'undermind'. (Or 'overmind', as you
prefer.) With statistics and computers, we can turn the millions upon
millions of words making up the cultural record into an atlas of the human
psyche, by appealing to this principle: that those parts of the world which
matter to us, which constitute 'reality' for us, will have been *named* by
us. Moreover, the relations found to obtain between the 'names' we've given
'things' will define a vastly reticulated multidimensional 'space', which,
to an approximation, we can, I'd say, identify with 'the mind'. (If we
perform this exercise, I think we'll find that we know quite a lot more than
we thought we knew -- that we are all, simply by virtue of our possession of
the common language, geniuses. As Vico I believe maintained, and Joyce after


Consider, for example, the Magellan 'Voyeur' web-page -- which appears to
have been discontinued, a shame -- which would give you a random sample of
20 or so current web searches, every 20 seconds or so. It was a pretty good
snapshot of "what's on people's minds" -- e.g., about half of the queries in
a given sample would be for 'Hot Blondes' or 'Naked Babes' or other sex
stuff -- no doubt this has something to do with why the feature is no longer
offered!! But hey, ain't it the truth? Isn't this essentially what Sigmund
Freud told us was going on in there? (And of course, exactly the same
picture would be found if you looked at video store rentals, or gross movie
profits (no pun etc.), or magazine sales, or etc. etc. Or for that matter,
the frequency of use of words in ordinary speech. (Fuck shit piss fuck shit
piss fuck shit piss fuck shit piss.) Are we shocked?? Pretty strange bit of
business I'd say, that the basis of our biological being should have been so
girded about by taboo for so long -- of course, the rawest sex I've ever
seen was that PBS nature show about the baboons, whew! Gets real naked!! The
equation of power and sex and social standing (the 'pecking' order, to
commit a euphemism) -- they're identical! It's funny too, to notice that the
last taboo to fall was the depiction of an erect penis, the sacred totem of
the secret society of big white male pricks, so to speak -- the staff of
office, or holy rood. Bill Clinton and Paula Jones have been doing us all a
great service, don't you think? (Or at least, putting on a great show.)

A lot like Kevin's dots really ...


Gender, for example, is not a biological but a grammatical category. There
are languages that have up to 16 or more different genders (talk about
polymorphous perversity!) which are all about the rituals of address, of who
gets to talk to who, and how they'll comport themselves, depending on their
respective stations on the great totem-pole. (I understand that in Hungarian
it isn't even possible to address someone, at least politely and with all
due decorum, unless you know that person's income. Now that's raw!!)


I'm going to cut it short -- too many things to do today, I've noticed the
post is getting long. Intending to get back to it soon --

Derek Robinson   <drdee@interlog.com>


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