Academic experiences could seem like a conference, where a mechanical mouse happened to be on one of the large tables, otherwise nearly empty.
The first time the mouse approached the edge of a table, whatever person happened to be there, while still occupied as usual in conversations, in getting food and drinks for friends or colleagues, and even despite knowing it isn't a live mouse, might anyway not have been prevented by any particular circumstances from putting out a hand to deflect it, so it does not crash to the floor.
Over time, after a few people had done the same, then in times of idle reflection, an unconscious understanding was perceived, if anyone thought about it, that no-one will let it fall, like in the episode of 'friends' which is called 'the one with the ball.'
Robert Frost's poem, which starts, "Whose woods these are, I think I know," talks about the horse being curious why they have stopped when there was no farmhouse near, and shaking the harness bells to ask if there is some mistake.
Communication with a horse does end up with the carriage and horse arriving in this or that wonderful place, and, one can partly credit the insight and intelligence of the horse for knowing how to take the carriage and rider, even to a destination in town.
My neighbour who lives on one side, is beginning to tell me of the 'culturalists,' and he speaks of Shakespeare's ideas, and of 'innovation,' but not in the way the "Department of Innovation and Skills" uses the word. The way my next-door neighbour uses the word, is more like how one uses a word like suffering or worse.
My neighbour on the other side told me there is a day in Tunisia once a year, when everyone plants trees. My first trip to England, Ken Brown brought me to a plantation of Scandinavian trees not far from Loch Lomond. We had been able to drink some water from one of the streams, and then went into the woods there. He observed, "There is nothing living here." The pine-needles from the trees had acidified the soil, it was just dust.
On my trip to Alberta, Al Weiss had said, he is depressed because the Prime Minister had sold all the Canadian forests for logging.
When I was a child, my understanding of relativity is, if there were only one object in the universe, it could not have any velocity.
An analagous concept would be that if there is only one mind in the universe (say, one person) then that mind can not have any consciousness.
There is a tradition, when someone has a PhD student, never to try to ask, which part of the thesis came from the student's
ideas, and which part came from the advisor's ideas. There can be layers of deception, of trickery and magic, with each trying to trick the other into thinking they are the original one, that cannot be unwound
to the beginning.
In Maths education the notion of formalism is, once an idea is proven to work, instead of painfully going through the whole idea each time it is needed, a little codification or abstraction can take place instead. A notation like
putting extra digits in a sum to denote carrying of digits, can substitute for needing to go through the concept.
Using a theorem then, like that, substitutes and replaces understanding the idea, or re-understanding it each time.
The application is something that could be done by a computer program, then, and the element of consciousness is
One might say, it should be removed, because *each* time we do a calculation, we don't want to re-enter the confusions like that a negative of a negative is just a positive.
The decision to invoke the theorem instead, because it removes the conscious element, we could say, it is like
trying to conserve consciousness and attention, by not wasting it where it is not needed.
A remaining little question is, how did it get decided where conscious attention was not needed?
The concept of 'innovation' which my neighbour spoke of is the same as what a recent news story said is 'malus' in Latin, which had been mis-translated as 'apple' in stories of the garden of Eden and other stories. The idea seems like what my neighbour is saying about 'innovation.'
For a long time, I had an over-simplified vision of the problem. I had imagined a vector field of intentionality becoming non-conservative once human minds had choices not precedented during the significant time of human evolution.
My neighbour from Tunisia said, chemistry doesn't only cause pollution. Intensive agriculture is good. It means we *don't* need to use agriculture on large areas of land, we *don't* need to displace so much nature.
To me, in the way I was thinking earlier, this type of seeming paradox is an *example* of the vector field of intentionality becoming non-conservative. We cannot define a scale of goodness anymore, and know which choices lead to goodness.
When one sees what intuitively to me looked like behaviour in a non-conservative vector field, it looks like one can view the earth the way Chomsky described it for a while, with American and European influences being at the heart
of the contradiction.
My neighbour, the one who spoke of the culturalists, had once had an opportunity to start a business school, mainly for students from other countries like India and China. The proposal was that a business education is the same as an education; students should learn langauges, philosphy, art, music, mathematics, physics, chemistry, law, and should
read literature. But the proposal failed, and business schools in England for overseas students teach
management practises instead.
The largest recent steps, regarding people having choices not precedented during the significant part of evolution, were the internet and genetic modification.
In a one paper, I spoke of the example of Volkswagen-Audi keeping the operating system of their cars private. Now we know that there had been deception about emission levels built into the software.
In truth, the issue is larger than any trivial example of deception. Regarding the internet, if we really believe that consciousness is not a feature of one mind, but of the combination of minds, then it would be a mistake to just immediately conclude, without any thought on the matter, that it is best if any mind can be given the new ability to communicate with any other electronically.
In a recent article, the otherwise insightful David Nutt spoke what seems analagously of how patients given LSD and put under an MRI scanner exhibit what he interprets as all parts of the brain connected to all other parts. This improves thought, he wants to conclude.
However, anyone who has lived where there are small towns distributed across a natural countryside, without a modern motorway network, has seen something like a depth
of human thought and interaction. This does not really exist anymore in England. English villages are meant to be like hotel rooms in an efficient hotel, with all rooms connected together by an efficient system of hallways, comprising the motorway network.
The fact that we couldn't open a door and say 'hello' to a neighbour who is 80 miles away, seemed like a restriction worth removing.
But, we learned that the things that had imposed that restriction were not walls, they were rivers, streams, hills, bushes, and animals.
To sweep away the restriction on being able to modify DNA, removes with work, but also relatively quickly, problems that had caused blindness, starvation.
Then, though, afterwards, what is left is not a meaningful model anymore, where giving people each new choice allows greater levels of health or happiness.
My neighbour from Tunisia said it this way, in our conversation: you do not love your child more if he gets higher grades.
It is only when you have, say, a transport policy, and a committee has agreed on what are the objectives, that you can talk like that.
In the case of chemicals, every change, such as introducing organophosphate pesticides into farming sheep, which had seemed good, and been approved, has later been predominantly reversed, and had been understood to be a mistake. We'd checked for types of damage caused by earlier generations of pesticides, but the damage caused by each new generation, such as chronic fatigue and central nervous system damage in sheep-farmers, took us by surprise. Another example is the editing of fats using hydrogenation.
The existing regulations about GMO's will be reversed, because no-one knows of any sensible regulation that ought to be applied. Everyone who knows about science understands that you will not get sick if you eat them.
It is a certainty that, subsequently, the same phenomenon that took place with each generation of chemical pollution is poised to occur, and unlike chemical pollution, the result will be irreversible.
There was a time when background gamma radiation levels in nature were elevated; yet for nearly 100 years they have been back to normal, because of an agreement known as the above-fround nuclear test ban treaty.
Some articles argue that it is unknown to us whether it is better, or worse, that mutation rates in nature should have for a short time been allowed to return to the higher level matching an earlier time of pre-history, and they are higher now because of stone mining anyway.
The prospect now is mutations responding to human cognitive control.
The phenomenon where addictive behaviour can occur even when the subject knows that it leads to disease or death is not caused by misjudgement or foolishness of the subject. A generalization of addictive behaviour would accompany virtually any mutation caused by people. The simplest example is how farmers behave when they have planted roundup-ready corn, being inconsiderate of what they call weeds. But not only the cognition of humans being affected. And the significant effects being ones which we are completely unaware of.
When you see a farmer who has already planted roundup-ready corn later annihilating weeds with glyphosate, you can truthfully say that, as striking and noticeable as the effect on this farmer's cognition has been, if nature is not separate from this, there will be consequences of the same mutation unobservable without more years of research than possible, acting upon symbioses among more than the three species which were originally intended to be involved. As such chosen modifications are expected to eventually accrue, you can say with certainty, the consequences will be more pervasive and forceful than the ones we understood while choosing the mutations.