October 01, 2005

Signing Up

A famous hypothesis, outlined by Benjamin Whorf (1956), asserts that the categories and relations that we use to understand the world come from our particular language, so that speakers of different languages conceptualize the world in different ways. Language acquisition, then, would be learning to think, not just learning to talk.

This is an intriguing hypothesis, but virtually all modern cognitive scientists believe it is false ...

- Steven Pinker, Language Acquisition

Lesson 1: Never trust a pomonaut
Lesson 2: ... ?

[Consider this a warm up for the HLC]

Posted by CCRU-Shanghai at October 1, 2005 01:51 PM | TrackBack




what does "Signing Up" refer to?

should we be qabbalistically concerned about this warmup?


Posted by: northanger at October 1, 2005 06:47 PM



Lesson Two: We are not tied to text

Thinking is not determined by, or dependent on, language. Meaning is produced in the brain, by neurons firing in the conceptual-intentional system (Chomsky), or mentalese (Pinker). It is translated into language obeying the commands of phrase structure (and other rules, e.g. morphological, phonological, sign-language) and is translated back into meaning in the recipient's brain. Language/text is merely a vehicle for meaning: the brain is the producer, encoder and decoder.

Thought is rephrased and paraphrased, and mutates in the process. It is perfectly feasible to have an excellent understanding of Darwin's theory of evolution without ever having read Darwin. His texts can be compressed into a core code. The theory is so powerful because the thought is so coherent and logical.

The intellectual community also reaches a general consensus about what the theory means. Citations support the consensus, but the accepted meaning of Darwin’s texts is independent of the texts themselves. The core ideas/code of the theory constitute the meme/paradigm. The theory evolves when mutant strains contest/infect the core code: Gould and Dawkins input new, conflicting meanings into the theory whilst claiming to merely be interpreting the original theory.

When 'philosophical' text is not susceptible to rephrasing it is because it has entered the realms of textbound poetry where the images and metaphors are inextricable from the words that they are expressed in. Some tales can be told in many ways because the structure and images are themselves so powerful: the telling is a conjuring that summons the message into the recipient brain. Other tales require specific words in a specific order and are to a certain extent untranslatable: the structure and images are tied to words which 'tickle our language instincts'. With the sonorous cadences of poetry, replication is by exact copy/repetition - there is no compression.

What philosophers stand the test of rephrasing and paraphrasing? Nietzsche would seem to be the first philosopher whose thought explicitly resisted these processes (though his thought was crudely and disastrously paraphrased).

Pomo text-quibbling blocks the transmission of meaning.

Hurtling into exponential growth, thought needs to be compressed and unpacked at breakneck speed.

Posted by: sd at October 1, 2005 09:17 PM



Some convergence: the bootstrapping metaphor has been used by

1. Carl Woese, in the context of RNA developing the translation mechanism which led to the evolution of DNA replication.

2. Kurrzweil, in the context of exponential growth

3. Pinker (in the link given above), in the context of children's language learning algorithms (syntactic knowledge used to work out semantics)

Isn't the metaphor of bootstrapping deeply hyperstitional? [I'm still not sure what hyperstition is, and am quite glad of the fact].

"It is the problem of starting a certain system without the system already functioning. It seems just as impossible as "pulling oneself up by the bootstraps" which Baron Münchhausen, according to stories, could do. However, solutions, accordingly called bootstrapping, exist; they are processes whereby a complex system emerges by starting simply and, bit by bit, developing more complex capabilities on top of the simpler ones."


Posted by: sd at October 1, 2005 09:31 PM



"Isn't the metaphor of bootstrapping deeply hyperstitional?" - Absolutely.
Extremely close to the concept of auto-catalysis, of which the same can be said.
Some productive criticism of H. to date based on slippery appeal to positive feedback mechanisms ('bootstrapping' a partcularly germane one). What would be required to rigorize these references?
This question of finding adequate and productively manipulable symbolic / notational form for conceptual-dynamic patterns originating outside the linguistic order seems as if it should be clarified by the present topic.

Posted by: Nick at October 1, 2005 11:22 PM



Should have added that 'recursion' intriguingly interconnected with these K-dynamic issues - it seems almost as if the HCF model has abtract cultural-cybernetic neurological machinery as its distinguishing human-linguistic module.

Posted by: Nick at October 1, 2005 11:35 PM



'What would be required to rigorize these references?'

Got to go back and have a good look at them and think about the similarities in the processes being described. Can't remember where Kurzweil refers to it - have to do some scanning.

Posted by: sd at October 1, 2005 11:37 PM



'recursion' - yes, but then it's getting to quite a spooky point where all the strands here are running in sync.

Posted by: sd at October 1, 2005 11:40 PM



Lesson Three: More respect for prehistory

Human languages are equally sophisticated, in terms of grammar. They share the basic components (nouns, verbs, subjects, objects, complements etc) and restrictions (Universal Grammar), but vary in their rules of how these components can be assembled (syntax), how new words can be formed (morphology) and how the words can be expressed (phonology). Individual languages also vary in terms of the size of their lexicons.

History begins with writing and tends to privilege literate societies. However, in evolutionary terms, writing is a recent cultural adaptation following from food production:

"The two indisputably independent inventions of writing were achieved by the Sumerians of Mesopotamia somewhat before 3000 B.C. and by Mexican Indians before 600 B.C.; Egyptian writing of 3000 B.C. and Chinese writing (by 1300 B.C.) may also have arisen independently. Probably all other people who have developed writing since then have borrowed, adapted, or at least been inspired by existing systems... All of the likely or possible independent inventions of writing... and all of the early adaptations of those invented systems...involved socially stratified societies with complex and centralized political institutions... Early writing served the needs of those political institutions (such as record keeping and royal propaganda), and the users were full time bureaucrats nourished by stored food surpluses grown by food-producing peasants. Writing was never developed or even adopted by hunter-gatherer societies, because they lacked both the institutional uses of early writing and the social and agricultural mechanisms for generating the food surpluses required to feed scribes. " (Jared Diamond, Guns, Germs & Steel, Chapter 12 'Blueprints and Borrowed Letters)

Humans may have started speaking as far back as 1.8 million years ago, or 200,000 years ago. Whether the human genetic bottleneck occurred 100,000 years ago, because of drought, or 70,000, because of the Toba catastrophe, it is clear that the human genome had evolved the equipment necessary to learn languages, and learn without being taught, tens of thousands of years before elite groups invented and learned writing (which still has to be forcefully taught and painfully acquired).


The plasticity and resourcefulness of the genome at this time may well have saved homo sapiens from extinction: extreme environmental pressure forcing the language faculty as adaptation. Yet prehistoric humans (and contemporary illiterate societies) are held in low regard:

"I maintain that the natural state of the human animal has nothing to do with Good or Evil...The distinction between Good and Evil already supposes a subject, and thus can't apply to it. It's always for a subject, not a pre-subjectivized human animal, that Evil is possible." Alain Badiou, 2001

One of the most positive sides to research in language acquisition and comparative linguistics is that it proves all humans are born with the same basic linguistic software and that the languages that trigger the installation of this software are grammatically equal.

Posted by: sd at October 1, 2005 11:41 PM



I love HCF's phrase 'discrete infinity'.

Posted by: sd at October 1, 2005 11:44 PM



'discrete infinity' - they all seem to like that (rather than say 'countable infinity')

found the whole HCF discussion of numbers - fragmentary and suggestive though it was - extremely interesting in this respect, adding compelling element to discussions of number / notation that we've had here - a recursive neural (or at least cognitive) 'engine' evidently necessary for numeracy to the scale of discrete infinity.
... but having made this HCF-style assertion, immediately begin to wonder. JP argue phonological strings have potential of discrete infinity without recursion ... [some head-scratching time necessary on this]

Posted by: Nick at October 2, 2005 12:36 AM



>>clarified by the present topic

oops. keep forgetting things don't get clarified around here.

Posted by: northanger at October 2, 2005 04:18 AM



northanger - Signing Up on model of "teching up" or getting "kitted up" - no rigid contractual obligations involved

Posted by: Nick at October 2, 2005 06:39 AM



think this needs to be in the main thread, to help anyone bamboozled by the sudden references to HCF and PJ:


think we should stick to the HCF convention of referring to Jackendoff and Pinker as PJ (it's the order their names appear in their first reponse), though something is bound to get mangled along the way.

Posted by: sd at October 2, 2005 08:41 AM



Bootstrapping as the initial phase of AI parsing:



The English bootstrap "enBoot" module may ease burdens on the Parser module by means of a stare decisis reliance on previously decided parsing problems.

Since there are lists available for the most frequent words of various natural languages, it makes sense, where possible and where convenient, to favor the bootstrap-inclusion of higher-frequency words over lower-frequency words.

Such a policy of bootstrapping higher-frequency words may become obsolete or "moot" as the bootstrap approachs saturation with essentially all the words comprising a full dictionary of the target language.

Gradually all prepositions for a given language and all irregular verb forms may be instantiated within a bootstrap module so that the AI Parser module may easily recognize and parse such special words.

Posted by: sd at October 2, 2005 09:40 AM



Carl Woese: On the Evolution of Cells, section 'The Evolution of Translation'

"The evolution of translation was a boot-strapping process, in which small improvements in translation led to improvement in proteins in general. These second-generation proteins then replaced (most of) their predecessors. Among them, of course, were proteins that further improved translation, and so on—ultimately giving rise to a translation mechanism having modern performance levels (25). Because large proteins of the kind that seem central to modern genome replication mechanisms and the like were initially absent, these information-processing systems were also initially imprecise (25). This fact means that primitive genomes would have been relatively small.

Translation would seem to be the leading edge of a wave of cellular evolution in which proteins evolve to greater and greater levels of complexity and specificity (25). Note that this is in essence the conclusion drawn above from comparative evidence, i.e., the evolution of translation led that of transcription, which in turn led that of modern genome structure and replication."

[can't find the Kurzweil ref to bootstrapping and it's driving me round the bend]

Posted by: sd at October 2, 2005 09:42 AM



Lesson Four: Learn from children

Language acquisition research has shown that children come into the world as fully equipped scientists: their brains come bundled with programs which 1) analyze seemingly chaotic streams of speech into phonological chunks and units; 2) assign the input of the target language to SOV or VSO parameters (so a child listening to Japanese will note the word order 'Kenji sushi ate' is the super-rule); 3) extract further syntactical patterns through forming testable hypotheses about the input and the application innate knowledge of phrase-structure grammar and morphology; 4) monitor the discrepancies between their output and the target language so as to reach fluency with very little feedback from competent adult language users.

Children require input rather than instruction. They've got equipment to figure things out themselves.

Children are a great source for innovation. Children of immigrants grammaticize pidgins into creoles; deaf children have been seen to create complex sign language grammar from thin air. As children increasingly and effortlessly merge with computers they create their own techno-dialects which, though inaccessible to adults, are nonetheless highly-organized and rule driven.

Studying how children learn languages has ultimately led to a much greater understanding of human cognition. Reverse engineering the human brain starts with children. The trajectory from language acquisition also leads to analysis of other programs in the human brain (e.g. emotions) and then towards analysis of the extent to which culture programs our thinking with memes.

Posted by: sd at October 2, 2005 10:27 AM



"adequate and productively manipulable symbolic / notational form for conceptual-dynamic patterns originating outside the linguistic order"

what is the scope for this 'warm-up' topic? are we getting our scalpels out?

Posted by: sd at October 2, 2005 10:30 AM



sd - don't think scope is delimited in advance.
Agree with the importance of the children topic - lots of fascinating PJ material on this, for instance the different assumptions children make about words and concepts, intuitively presupposing a shared code for the former.
The PJ argument that words and sounds processed as intuitively distinct types of things seems (intuitively) highly plausible.

Still immersed in this material and yet to reach a clear discussion of (pinker's) 'mentalese' - but have an initial concern about this way of speaking - isn't it a problem to suggest (through '-ese' suffix) that the cognitive material coded by language is itself a kind of language? Seems like a hostage to pomo somehow.

Who gets scalpeled first?

Think we should try and fight HCF corner as hard as possible (resisting PJ moves as long and stubbornly as possible), precisely because Chomsky's contingent multidimensional unpleasantness can easily lead to an over-eagerness to see him thrashed.

Posted by: Nick at October 2, 2005 11:35 AM



> a clear discussion of (pinker's) 'mentalese'

there doesn't seem to be one on-line, but it's floating around in the HCF conceptual-intentional system and in PJ's references to "mental representations in the form of conceptual structure" p5 PJ (1) and 'the human conceptual system', (some of which is shared with other animals, as part of FLB).

The HCF/PJ debate is basically about whether language is an adpatation - they (seem to)agree that there is a non-linguistic system of thought which is processed into language, so it's not really the issue.

Agree that 'mentalese' does sound a bit daft. Well... Pinker describes it as a neuron network which is hardwired with concepts and roles for those concepts, which form propostitions, and recursion embeds propositions within compositions. It is a kind of Turing code, rather than a language - it can't really be called a language because it has no grammar.

I'll try to bash in some particularly relevant passages from The Language Instinct and How the Mind Works.

As PJs latest reply makes clear, the whole HCF/PJ debate comes down to Chomsky's understanding of adaptation, which is, IMHO, fundamentally bizarre. HCF slice up the language faculty to such an extent (and make so many dodgy moves) that they render the concept of adaptation utterly meaningless and unworkable.

The concept of adaptation, as expressed by Dawkins, Dennet and Pinker, seems so airtight to me that I have real problems understanding why anyone else has a problem with it (hence charges of teleology & Lamarckism which have appeared on Hyperstition). So I will find it very hard to not lay into HCF.

Posted by: sd at October 2, 2005 12:25 PM



Well here's an interview with Pinker on the topic of mentalese:


Posted by: sd at October 2, 2005 12:36 PM



from the interview:

"Certainly the contents of mentalese are supplied a lot by language, by learning about objects in faraway places and abstract concepts from conversations with other people and by reading. So it's like the entry port into the mind. The actual sentences of mentalese often derive from language, although not directly, because we never remember the exact wording of what we hear; we remember the gist, and the gist is probably something like mentalese. And I think probably in the evolution of the human species, evolution of language and the evolution of language in thought probably went together; each one helped the other. If you can think more complex thoughts, that puts pressure on you to be able to share them, and if you've got other people supplying you with complex language, that puts pressure on you to be able to have those thoughts. And you can imagine a kind of feedback loop, where each one helped the other."

Posted by: sd at October 2, 2005 12:49 PM



sd - really helpful on mentalese - more on this needed (what seemed like a major objection now coming over as more of a positively interesting theory)

Agree that PJ appear vastly more reasonable, realistic and plausible than HCF - maybe it's at least possible to make sense of the HCF agenda, even if rendering it sympathetic is too much of a stretch. The 'minimalist program' evidently highly motivated, and there're some strange aspects to the whole debate (the cryptic 7 page HCF appendix which seems to be bemusing everybody for instance). Feels like this could lead back into some interesting politics too.

Posted by: Nick at October 2, 2005 01:56 PM



currently doing a bit of scalpel work. will be ready soonish.

Posted by: sd at October 2, 2005 02:13 PM



First bit of scalpel work:

The basic claims that HCF make about FLN [faculty of language - narrow sense], or recursion are that:

1. FLN is the only component of language which does not appear in non-humans
2. FLN may not have been designed by natural selection 'for' communication. HCF agree that FLN is an adaptive computation, but suggest it may not be an adaptation for communication.
3. FLN may have evolved "to solve other computational problems such as navigation, number quantification, or social relationships," and if other animals apart from humans are shown to use recursion to compute these problems, then FLN has to be seen as FLB (faculty of language - broad sense), which means human language is not an adaptation for communication and is not unique to humans.

Key quote:

" a key component of FLN [faculty of language - narrow sense] is a computational system (narrow syntax) that generates internal representations and maps them into the sensory-motor interface by the phonological system, and into the conceptual-intentional interface by the (formal) semantic system... FLN takes a finite set of elements and yields a potentially infinite array of discrete expressions. This capacity of FLN yields discrete infinity (a property that also yields natural numbers). Each of these discrete expressions is then passed to the sensory-motor and conceptual-intentional systems, which process and elaborate this information in the use of language." HCF 1

Incision 1:

In this diagram there is a clear production line:

1. narrow syntax 'generates' internal representations/discrete expressions
2. narrow syntax maps the representations onto the two interfaces the sensory-motor system (phonological) and conceptual-intentional system (semantic)
3.the interfaces process internal representations into language

The HCF model does not outline a satisfactory process whereby thought can be transformed into language. Narrow syntax is just phrase structure, core computational mechanism without content, and as such it cannot generate any internal representations that will have any content to map onto the interfaces.

HCF and PJ agree that animal brains (such as those belonging to primates and dolphins) produce rudimentary conceptual thought. As animals do not seem to have evolved recursion or semantics, their thought must be couched in non-linguistic concepts which are entirely different from the human conceptual-intentional system . In the HCF model, the internal representations must be generated by a different component of the brain than the discrete combinatorial system of FLN. This would be mentalese, in the Pinker model.

Incision 2:

HCF define FLN (recursion) as the "core computational mechanisms of recursion as they appear in narrow syntax and the mappings of the interfaces."

PJ point out that (in both papers)"'mapping to the interfaces' is left vague in both articles." (p8 PJ 3/23/2005).

HCF state "These mappings themselves could be complex (though we don't know) because of conditions imposed by the interfaces. But our hypothesis focuses on a known property of human language that provides its most powerful and unusual signature: discrete infinity."

The HCF model suggests that the brain maps internal representations produced by recursion onto two independent (yet connected) interfaces. These interfaces are highly-organised, regulated systems. The conceptual-intentional system turns representations into semantic concepts (produced by neurons? by retrieving them from the lexicon?) which presumably obey the stringent rules of morphology as they are slotted into the phrase structure generated by recursion. The sensory-motor system turns phrase structure filled with semantic concepts into organized sound profiles (produced by the lungs, larynx, tongue, teeth, palates and lips) which obey the laws of phonetics (individual sounds) and prosody (intonation rhythm and connected speech).

How can HCF possibly doubt that these mappings are complex?

HCF do not question whether all the components - recursion, semantics, the lexicon, phonology - evolved (they just question what they evolved 'for' and 'who' evolved them) but they do not make any mention of whether or not the mapping machinery itself evolved. The HCF model needs to include mapping itself as a component of the language faculty, precisely because the language faculty is so complex.

PJ's picture of language as a complex adaptation hypothesizes that all of the components of the language faculty (recursion, the phonological system, the semantic system, the lexicon, physiological changes to the larynx, spinal cord and brain) may have evolved in different ways and at different times (for example 'on top of' common ancestor primate adaptations (e.g. the conceptual system), or independently, as adaptations which no primates evolved (e.g. widening of the vertebrae and a thicker spinal cord, which provided greater control over breathing)), but all of these adaptations working together amounts to a complex adaptation 'for' communication. Chomsky has described language as an organ consisting of complex components, but still refuses to accept that this organ has been designed, like all others, by natural selection. He now allows that some parts of it were designed by natural selection, but not the faculty in its entirety.

Steven Pinker, The Language Instinct, The Big Bang:
(capitalization in place of italics)

"...Could there be a language organ that evolved by a process different from the one we have been told is responsible for the other organs?...

...Natural selection is not just a scientifically respectable alternative to divine creation. It is the ONLY alternative that can explain the evolution of a complex organ like the eye. The reason that the choice is so stark - God or natural selection - is that structures that can do what the eye does are extremely low-probability arrangements of matter. By an unimaginably large margin, most objects thrown together out of generic stuff, even generic animal stuff, cannot bring an image into focus, modulate incoming light, and detect edges and sharp boundaries. The animal stuff in an eye seems to have been assembled with the goal of seeing in mind - but in whose mind, if not God's? How else could the 'goal' of seeing well 'cause' something to see well? The very special power of natural selection is to remove the paradox. What causes eyes to see well now is that they descended from a long line of ancestors that saw a bit better than their rivals, which allowed them to out-produce those rivals. The small random improvements in seeing were retained and combined and concentrated over the eons, leading to better and better eyes. The ability of MANY ancestors to see a BIT better in the PAST causes a SINGLE organism to see EXTREMELY well NOW.

Another way of putting it is that natural selection is the only process that can steer a lineage of organisms along the path in the astronomically vast space of possible bodies leading from a body with no eye to a body with a functioning eye. The alternatives to natural selection, in contrast, only grope randomly. The odds that the coincidences of genetic drift would result in the right genes coming together to build a functioning eye are infinitesimally small... It would be like the proverbial hurricane that blows though a junkyard and assembles a Boeing 747...

And adaptive complexity, by the way, is also the reason that the evolution of complex organs tends to be slow and gradual. it is not that large mutations and rapid change violate some law of evolution. It is only that complex engineering requires precise arrangements of delicate parts, and if the engineering is accomplished by accumulating random changes, those changes had better had better be small. Complex organs evolve by small steps for the same reason that a watchmaker does not use a sledgehammer and a surgeon does not use a meat cleaver..."

Posted by: sd at October 2, 2005 04:10 PM



after a presentation of how a Turing machine can process the propositions:

Socrates isa Man
Every man ismortal

Socrates ismortal

by using "ink marks on paper as its representation and a copying-creeping-sensing machine as its processor," Pinker continues:

... In the brain there might be three groups of neurons, one used to represent the individual that the proposition is about (Socrates, Aristotle, Rod Stewart, and so on), one to represent the logical relationship in the proposition (is a, is not, is like, and so on), and one to represent the class or type that the individual is being categorized as (men, dogs, chickens, and so on). Each concept would respond to the firing of a particular neuron; for example, in the first group of neurons, the fifth neuron might fire to represent Aristotle; in the third group, the eighth neuron might fire to represent men, the twelfth neuron might fire to represent dogs. The processor might be a network of other neurons feeding into these groups, connected together in such a way that it reproduces the firing pattern in one group of neurons in some other group (for example if the eighth neuron is firing in group 3, the processor network would turn on the eighth neuron in some fourth group, elsewhere in the brain). Or the whole thing could be done in silicon chips. But in all three cases the principles are the same. The way the elements in the processor are wired up would cause them to sense and copy pieces of a representation, and to produce new representations, in a way that mimics the rules of reasoning. With many thousands of representations and a set of somewhat more sophisticated processors (perhaps different kinds of representations and processors for different kinds of thinking), you might have a genuinely intelligent brain or computer. Add an eye that can detect certain contours in the world and turn on representations that symbolize them, and muscles that can act on the world whenever certain representations symbolizing goals are turned on, and you have a behaving organism (or add a TV camera and set of levers and wheels, and you have a robot).

This, in a nutshell, is the theory of thinking called "the physical symbol system hypothesis" or the "computational" or "representational" theory of mind. It is as fundamental to cognitive science as the cell doctrine is to biology and plate tectonics is to geology. Cognitive psychologists and neuroscientists are trying to figure out what kinds of representations and processors our brain has. But there are ground rules that must be followed at all times: no little men inside and no peeking. The representations that one posits in the mind have to be arrangements of symbols, and the processor has to be a device with a fixed set of reflexes, period. The combination, acting all by itself has to produce the intelligent conclusions. The theorist is forbidden to peer inside and 'read' the symbols, 'make sense' of them, and poke around to nudge in smart directions like some deus ex machina."

The Language Instinct, Mentalese

Posted by: sd at October 2, 2005 07:36 PM



Suppose your long-term memory contains knowledge of the immediate families of you and everyone around you. The content of that knowledge is a set of propositions like 'Alex is the father of Andrew'. According to the computational theory of mind, that information is embodied in symbols: a collection of physical marks that correlate with the state of the world as it is captured in the propositions.

These symbols cannot be English words and sentences, notwithstanding the popular misconception that we think in our mother tongue. As I showed in 'The Language Instinct', sentences in a spoken language like English or Japanese are designed for vocal communication between impatient, intelligent social beings. They achieve brevity by leaving out any information that the listener can mentally fill in from the context. In contrast, "the language of thought" in which knowledge is couched can leave nothing to the imagination , because it IS the imagination. Another problem with using English as the medium of knowledge is that English sentences can be ambiguous. When the serial killer Ted Bundy wins a stay of execution and the headline reads "Bundy Beats Date with Chair" we do a double-take because our mind assigns two meanings to the string of words. If one string of words in English can correspond with to two meanings in the mind, meanings in the mind cannot be strings of words in English. Finally, sentences in a spoken language are cluttered with articles, prepositions, gender suffixes, and other grammatical boilerplate. They are needed to help get information from one head to another by way of the mouth and the ear, a slow channel, but they are not needed inside a single head where information can be transmitted directly by thick bundles of neurons. So the statements in a knowledge system are not sentences in English but rather inscriptions in a richer language of thought, "mentalese."

In our example, the portion of mentalese that captures family relations comes in two kinds of statements. An example of the first is 'Alex father-of Andrew': a name followed by an immediate family relationship, followed by a name. An example of the second is 'Alex is-male': a name followed by its sex. Do not be misled by use of English words and syntax in the mentalese inscriptions. This is a courtesy to you, the reader, to help you keep track of what the symbols stand for. As far as the machine is concerned, they are simply different arrangements of marks. As long as we use each one consistently to stand for someone (so the symbol used for Alex is always used for Alex and never for anyone else), and arrange them according to a consistent plan (so they preserve information about who is the father of whom), they could be any marks in any arrangement at all. You can think of the marks as bar codes recognized by a scanner, or keyholes that admit only one key, or shapes that fir only one template. Of course, in a commercial computer they would be patterns of charges in silicon, and in a brain they would be firings in sets of neurons. The key point is that nothing in the machine understands them in the way you or I do; parts of the machine respond to their shapes and are triggered to do something, exactly as a gumball machine responds to the shape and weight of a coin by releasing a gumball.

How the Mind Works, Thinking Machines

[this section is followed by a step-by-step description of how the system can work out whether or not 'Gordie is its biological uncle']

Posted by: sd at October 2, 2005 08:12 PM



The fourth format is mentalese, the language of thought in which our conceptual knowledge is couched. When you put down a book, you forget almost everything about the wording and the typeface of the sentences and where they sat on the page. What you take away is their content or gist. (In memory tests, people confidently "recognize" sentences they never saw if they are paraphrases of the sentences they did see). Mentalese is the medium in which content or gist is captured... Mentalese is also the mind's lingua franca, the traffic of information among mental modules that allows us to describe what we see, imagine what is described to us, carry out instructions, and so on. This traffic can actually be seen in the anatomy of the brain. The hippocampus and connected structures, which put our memories into long-term storage, and the frontal lobes, which house the circuitry for decision making, are not directly connected to the brain areas that process raw sensory input (the mosaic of edges and colors and the ribbon of changing pitches). Instead, most of the input fibers carry what neuroscientists call "highly processed" input coming from regions one or more stops downstream from the first sensory areas. The input consists of codes for objects, words and other complex concepts."

How the Mind Works, Thinking Machines

Posted by: sd at October 2, 2005 08:33 PM



In 'How the Mind Works' there's also a 7 page description of mentalese in neural networks, dealing with compositionality, quantification (variable-binding), and recursion (which shows why connectionism doesn't cut the mustard), but then this blog would definitely be over-pinkered.

Posted by: sd at October 2, 2005 08:39 PM



sd quoting bbc quoting Diamond: "Hunter-gatherers lacked .. . ." - Bull, they choose not to .... is more like it, analogous to what Pierre Clastres asserts/assumes reasons/proves about aborting state formation / delegation / differentiated tasks/rewards/allocations; his description of the great equalizer, the ritual dealing of giant wounds is a jaw dropping read.

Posted by: pro peace practitioner at October 2, 2005 09:51 PM







                      Joyce ^^"

ever since I happened to download a bluegrass song from a chinese server I have been getting spam like this. Is it a joyce quote?

it came from opensievepiet@somethingorother.

Posted by: pro peace practitioner at October 2, 2005 10:44 PM



Joyce - if you're reading this (hope you can understand my English): Editing completed, just waiting for Zhang Kun to help me get it back to you.
PS better to use private email for business purposes - just click on my name.
Thanks for your patience - Nick

sd - [processing]

Posted by: nick at October 3, 2005 05:47 AM



is that piglatin up there?

Posted by: northanger at October 3, 2005 06:23 AM



you are really quite exhausting, sd.

Posted by: northanger at October 3, 2005 06:34 AM



Rod Stewart?

Posted by: northanger at October 3, 2005 06:36 AM



"you are really quite exhausting, sd." i apologize from the depths of my computational soul.

"Rod Stewart" - it's one of his awful jokes (infinite thought is right about this).

Posted by: sd at October 3, 2005 06:47 AM



"Hunter-gatherers lacked .. . ." - Bull, they choose not to"

one of the first things Ghengis Khans Mongols did after they calmed their slaughter down was employ scribes so that they could codify laws etc.

Posted by: sd at October 3, 2005 06:51 AM



This material is already crying out for sub-division. More or less discrete lines of (potential) discussion include:

1) Mentalese. sd has won me over to Pinker's side on this. Seems mentalese is cognition cybernetically captured by language, undergoing co-modification through reciprocal thought-language feedback circuitry. Still arguable that it 'echoes' and (more precisely) complements language rather than constituting a language itself, but an important aspect of this process of capture seems to involve becoming language-like, quasi-linguistically articulated, abstracted and narrativized. Pomological extremist positions cut into this reality at an arbitrary stage and incompetently generalize from there (to "there's nothing beyond language").

2) The Chomsky project. Going out on a limb so far as to suggest language might be a 'spandrel' - accidental byproduct of a distinct adaptive lineage - suggests that there is a substantial investement in the minimalist programme, almost certainly of a metaphysico-political nature, requiring that humanity/language be rigorously isolated in principle from ongoing (continuing) processes of piecemeal transformation. This invokes infinity in an ultimately obscurantist fashion (which has become a fashion) to characterize human reason as essentially perfected.

3) HCF criticize PJ for adaptive storytelling. This reveals that Darwinism has generated an immanent biological narrativity, to be contrasted to the transcendent narratives of traditional-religious types (arguably including most contemporary political metanarratives). HCF 'demand' that language itself not be made part of a story.
This spirals off into huge spaces, for instance, what do the rigorous criteria brought to bear within 'adaptive storytelling' (concerning its initial validation, plausibility and comparability, testability, research re-orientation, amalgamation with existing theory, empirical modification / rejection) contribute to a more general methodology of rigorous narrative engineering (of the kind Hyperstition evidently requires).

Posted by: nick at October 3, 2005 07:24 AM



Big but extremely precise scalpel cuts. 1, 2 & 3 all very interesting projects. 3 particularly interesting to me (duh, why hadn't I thought of that?)

Posted by: sd at October 3, 2005 07:59 AM



I was happy to see you stopped confusing apple lovers with your favorite karikatured skape koat (switched to pomonaut) but now it's back to: "Pomological extremist positions cut into this reality at an arbitrary stage and incompetently generalize from there (to "there's nothing beyond language")."

pomo + say Vine Deloria doesn't happen under that brain pan of yours?

Posted by: spillinaworldpillpatient piet at October 3, 2005 08:26 AM



spillinaworldpillpatient piet - sometimes it is very useful to have you around in small doses: as an example of deliberate, non-communicative incomprehensibility, purporting to take itself seriously while jamming thought transmission with negative whinging.

Nick - the mentalese/subvocalisation distinction is v.imp, especially in the 'becoming language-like' feedback loop.

Posted by: sd at October 3, 2005 09:18 AM



wat je zegt (aangedaan te zijn) dat ben je zelf (aan het doen) www.regiobrugge.be/lappersfortpoets.php?p=74 ONE OF 262 HITS

what's Pinker (10= A GOOD LIAR) got on Deloria (10=A GOD STANDING UPON THE MOON)? Nothing. Nada. Zilch. So, who's on topic and who's winging?

Let me deluge you with a few words: embeddiment (8 of the first 30 google hits are mine, first one of those places 14th), local relevance (harmony as indeed any awareness with heart in it left at all is going to manifest locally no matter how much one may ledger/lecher into/after globaloney and beyoney).

Posted by: spillinaworldpillpatient piet at October 3, 2005 09:47 AM



total number for recordable uses of the word is 97; the next page (31-40) notes another 6 of the ones I posted hither and thither ... ."incommunicative"????

Posted by: spillinaworldpillpatient piet at October 3, 2005 09:58 AM



my mother taught my mongoloid sister (9 years older) to use the (dutch) phrase/folk wisdom / analysis key as a defense against the onslaught of a growing (more and more teazy and pesky) brother; it means 'you are what you wizz' and 'you want what you waned' doegedagela! One of the best songs of all upbeat tempos.

Posted by: spillinaworldpillpatient piet at October 3, 2005 10:04 AM



your accusations are really confessions .. . .happens to vastly more people than realize same.

Not a single accusation is legit really, specially cause most of them turn into or are taken rather as 'grounds' for attack.

.. . .can't be more concise, sorry, be patient, very slow acting crate, eh grate, G-rate, doos, eh, dose .. .yeah thaddit.

Posted by: spillinaworldpillpatient piet at October 3, 2005 10:20 AM



I suppose a coherent, analytical argument is out of the question. For example, could you give a clear outline of the problems you have with Pinker, with reference to the texts cited above or in the link Nick provided. You know, step by step, convincing?

Posted by: sd at October 3, 2005 10:23 AM



you know, the world is full of tense dealmaking right?
Arms reduction talks, drug deals, etcetera.
An expression that applies to the dutch juvenile version is 'gelijk oversteken'.

My opps and perks to get into Pinker have been lavish and tempting of course but I prefer working on presenting my hobbyhorses as irresistably; did you miss that grammar page I posted in the tangents of last item?

hey allowing a dumb digitoy like the numbographer to put

Pinker on a par with Deloria is high praise indeed. Of

course since this is an explicitly language evolution

dedicated topic it's easily more legit for you to do

without Deloria than for me to ignore Pinker, right?

I prefer care taken to not favor bias over balance, at least not to the exclusion of point,
I pick around in the crumbs

falling off an I fear all too richly laden table and

warn your paradoxical use of turf to jump off it for

good, shoot it down in the process if necessary may seem

expedient and inevitable but only cause you change language under beleaf into belief in language; the former don't allow abstract treatments to be taken seriously unless you like to loose all moring

thanatoid zombie arcade like and be jailed by the shadow

of your own symbols.

If you are merely looking for the sociological

equivalent of gunk which distributes pressure put upon

it in one location, thus preventing all too explosive

dislodgements start researching all the other clear juices of potential, anticipation, libido and joy, true enjoyment of which is fresh, local and out in the open; the world is stunk up with dickcheeseenvy and dickthickenerhate bad enough already.

Posted by: spillinaworldpillpatient piet at October 3, 2005 11:43 AM



oops, sorry nick

Posted by: spillinaworldpillpatient piet at October 3, 2005 11:45 AM



the cringe factor returns.

Posted by: sd at October 3, 2005 12:06 PM



I am trying to plextain that precisely those local practices have the potential to go global which manage to stay away from having to chalk up their comeuppance to the detriment and delinqenting of another .. . .is it time to trigger tithe of tenths talk and it's vain attempts to 'modestify' (watch this one follow embeddiment) the relentless turn to sight setting on space away from (sight)seeing through space

Posted by: spillinaworldpillpatient piet at October 3, 2005 12:26 PM



One aspect of the HCF account puzzles me (in multiple ways). They seem to always reel off the three functional fields 'social relations, number and navigation' when discussing possible lines of adaptation which narrow-sense language (recursion) might have split off from.
Social relations sort of self-evident (?), but distinction viz social communication / language perhaps especially intriguing, with plenty of room for blur. (D&G also stress noncommunication when talking about language.)
Number ref. v. interesting and gets into a massively unresolved space concerning number and semiotics from the other side. I'll definitely come back to this later (as an escape from the next crescendo of Dutch jazz poetry.)
But navigation? What's that about? Why should a power of recursion be especially relevent there? (Final q. could be dittoed for soc. relations)

Posted by: Nick at October 3, 2005 12:28 PM



... although 'X said that Y said that Z said ...' pattern could be a clue to that.

Posted by: Nick at October 3, 2005 12:29 PM



"The theorist is forbidden to peer inside and 'read' the symbols, 'make sense' of them, and poke around to nudge in smart directions like some deus ex machina."

Is he implicitly trying to forbid practical people to theorize here or even to restrain theorizers? Vica versa? Abundance through powder becomes power through scarcity? Reinstitute the priest caste? Establish a new holy of holies? Fuck that.

Why would I want to know the infinitesimal ineffable etcetera code (requires all sorts of unhealthy work environments, server farms and subway atmosphere is a coherence killer big time, besides they will attract terrorists for another little while) if I can get extatic and dirty combining batches of rock and testing them by way of observing the appreciation free to choose animal appetite will reward the plots with. If you still insist on Biblical I suggest Edenic gardening with a few twists: doses of redeemed dust and other darkness dignifying danktankin winkertinker.

Posted by: spillinaworldpillpatient piet at October 3, 2005 12:45 PM




Posted by: spillinaworldpillpatient piet at October 3, 2005 12:50 PM



spillinaworldpillpatient piet - there's a stage of language acquisition you'd be especially interested in - it's called 'babbling'

Posted by: Nick at October 3, 2005 01:37 PM



(very briefly)

'But navigation?' - A bit mistifying, but I've read somewhere it could be the conceptual representation of "the tree by the stream behind the hill at the end of the plain" complex reference that needed to be quickly processed (and then communicated)

Social relations also: "my mother's brother's children's daughter" has to be represented as concepts within concepts before it can be represented language - increasingly complex social relations increasingly required such relationships to be processed at lightning speed.

Posted by: sd at October 3, 2005 08:20 PM



number - the interesting difference here is that HCF focus on 'pure' numbers, whereas PJ focus on numbers in concepts which actually organize perception (e.g. a week). This could also be seen in the evolution form cardinal numners to ordinal numbers, e.g. the shift from basic maths: 'two wolves went into that cave and one came out' to more sophisticated cognition: 'this is the second time wolves have appeared here this week'

Posted by: sd at October 3, 2005 08:29 PM



(glossary also includes definition for "Fog of War". RTS = Real-time strategy)
Booming :: Economic RTS strategy, often seen in Age of Empires style games or Rise of Nation circles; also known as Powering in Blizzard game communities. Booming emphasises economic expansion and research (a.k.a "teching up") in preference to a large early force in the game. The objective is to a win by out-producing and out-teching your opponents with bigger and better equipped forces. They weaken short term defence for a superior long term economy which translates into a more advanced and powerful military. Booming players can find themselves vulnerable to early raids and rushes (depending on the game), but the payoff can be huge.

Posted by: northanger at October 3, 2005 08:49 PM



what is the deal with these lessons?

Lesson 1: Never trust a pomonaut
Lesson 2: We are not tied to text
Lesson 3: More respect for prehistory
Lesson 4: Learn from children

Posted by: northanger at October 3, 2005 08:51 PM





Posted by: northanger at October 3, 2005 09:41 PM




Posted by: northanger at October 3, 2005 09:46 PM



("conversational implicatures" came up in a review of chomsky, pinker books - i'll try & find that link)


Conversational implicature is a nonconventional implicature based on an addressee’s assumption that the speaker is following the conversational maxims or at least the cooperative principle.

Posted by: northanger at October 3, 2005 10:02 PM



>>"Rod Stewart" - it's one of his awful jokes (infinite thought is right about this).

what is IT right about?

Posted by: northanger at October 3, 2005 10:21 PM



northanger - IT made some comments about Pinker in a thread (way back in Feb I think - I found it when trying to find out what the Hyperstition brood thought of Pinker). One of her comments was that his jokes are awful.

Posted by: sd at October 3, 2005 11:56 PM



Nick - here's a relevant passage from The Language Instinct, where P addresses the charge that language is more sophisticated than it needed to be human for our ancestors.

"And grammatical devices designed for communicating precise information about time, space, objects, and who did what to whom are not like the proverbial thermonuclear fly-swatter. Recursion in particular is extremely useful; it is not, as Premack implies, confined to phrases with tortuous syntax. Without recursion you can't say 'the man's hat' or 'I think he left' Recall that all you need for recursion is an ability to embed a noun phrase inside another noun phrase or a clause within a clause, which falls out of rules as simple as "NP > det N PP" and PP." With this ability a speaker can pick out an object to an arbitrarily fine level of precision. The abilities can make big differences. It makes a difference whether a far-off region is reached by taking the trail that is in front of the large tree or the trail that the large tree is in front of. It makes a difference whether that region has animals that you can eat or animals that can eat you. It makes a difference whether it has fruit that is ripe or fruit that was ripe or fruit that will be ripe. It makes a difference whether you can get there and walk for three days.

Third, people everywhere depend on cooperative efforts for survival, forming alliances by exchanging information and commitments. This too puts complex grammar to good use. It makes a difference whether you understand me as saying that if you give me some of your fruit I will share meat that I will get, or that you should give me some fruit because I shared meat that I got, or that if you don't give me some fruit I will take back the meat that I got. And once again, recursion is far from being an absurdly powerful device. Recursion allows sentences like 'He knows that she thinks that he is flirting with Mary' and other means of conveying gossip, an apparently universal vice.

But could these exchanges really produce the rococo complexity of human grammar? Perhaps. Evolution often produces spectacular abilities when adversaries get locked into an "arms race," like the struggle between cheetahs and gazelles. Some anthropologists believe that the human brain evolution was propelled more by a cognitive arms race among social competitors than by mastery of technology and the physical environment. After all, it doesn't take that much brain power to master the ins and outs of a rock or get the better of a berry. By outwitting and second-guessing an organism of approximately equal mental abilities with non-overlapping interests, at best, and malevolent interests, at worst, makes formidable and ever-escalating demands on cognition. And a cognitive arms race clearly could propel a linguistic one. In all cultures, social interactions are mediated by persuasion and argument. How choice is framed plays a large role in determining which alternative people choose. Thus there could have easily been selection for any edge in the ability to frame an offer so that it appears to present maximal benefit and minimal cost to the negotiating partner, and in the ability to see through such attempts and to formulate attractive counterproposals.

Finally, anthropologists have noted that tribal chiefs are often both gifted orators and highly polygynous - a splendid prod to any imagination that cannot conceive of how linguistic skills could make a Darwinian difference. I suspect that evolving humans lived in a world in which language was woven into the intrigues of politics, economics, technology, family, sex and friendship that played key roles in individual reproductive success. They could no more live with a Me-Tarzan-you-Jane level of grammar than we could."

Chapter 11, The Big Bang

Posted by: sd at October 4, 2005 12:56 AM



and here are my comments, with HCF your questions about in mind:

1. “communicating precise information about time, space, objects, and who did what to whom” - if this precise information is to be communicated, it has to be represented precisely in the mind. The loop suggests that linguistic precision, honed through the demands placed on communal transfer, would feed back on non-linguistic representations, making them more precise in turn. Precision was a matter of life or death. If you push the P model a bit, recursion as an abstract potential for embedding concepts within concepts would be a mechanism whose potential would grow in proportion to the developing complexity of phrase structure grammar and semantics (morphology, but also lexical grammar in the form of idioms and chunks of language such as collocation, which are grammaticized and stored in the lexicon, to save processing power). The more precise the non-linguistic concepts, the more precise the language; the more precise the language, the more precise the non-linguistic concepts.

2. “the trail that is in front of the large tree or the trail that the large tree is in front of” – this is perhaps the navigation that HCF hint at. The need for cognition to process such information once humans were upright and roaming considerable distances on the ground may have been a selection pressure which forced a proto-recursion – navigational - to evolve: one which embedded images of geographical location within other images of geographical features, which would amount to visual imagination. Pressure arising from the increasing ability communicate such information would select for communicators, and in this way the recursion of syntax would be built onto navigational recursion.

3. “if you don't give me some fruit I will take back the meat that I got” – such communication is actually extremely complex: it is a conditional threat made on the basis of an assessment of a) the current situation and its possible future outcomes; b) the recipient’s trading history, the likelihood of them repeating the moves of previous trades; c) their physical strengths and social strengths; and d) whether the entire trade and resorting to threat is actually worth the risk. A conditional threat it’s not as simple as “She’s my cousin” - it is the end product of a sophisticated process of reasoning and assessment. Complex social relations which involve trade require the participants to assess hypothetical situations as possible outcomes of alternatives open in the present situation. Foresight uses embedding in its assessments of the situations latent within situations. This is the complex end of recursion necessary for anyone to think about a conditional threat, let alone utter it.

4. “And a cognitive arms race clearly could propel a linguistic one.” In this model, HCF are right – recursion may not have evolved for language, but that doesn’t help their program very much, because it has to lead to the conclusion that recursion evolved ‘for’ something – if not language, then cognition. So maybe it will turn out that the language faculty is an adaptation for communication that emerged as a part of the adaptation for cognition.

Posted by: sd at October 4, 2005 12:57 AM



'with your comments about HCF in mind' there are probably other glaring typos - sorry, I need some sleep.

Posted by: sd at October 4, 2005 12:59 AM




Posted by: Nick at October 4, 2005 02:10 PM



all highly speculative. but if HCF don't mean this, then what the hell do they mean?

Posted by: sd at October 4, 2005 02:33 PM



sd - my suspicion is HCF don't want to admit recursion as an adaptation because that would be to concede the core human language faculty lacked metaphysical perfection - with intriguing political consequences. It's interesting to me how 'progressive' (leftist) politics seems to be systematically allergic to any potential for improvement - Gould's saltationist refusal of piecemeal improvement is analogous (metaphysico-political refusal of adaptation camouflaged by apparent scientific agenda). This is not to say that either HCF or Gould lack interesting stuff to communicate - it's just that realism gets overridden by an alternative agenda at crucial and telling moments.

Posted by: nick at October 5, 2005 03:49 AM



PJ tend to focus on all the linguistic (hence cogntively high-level) processes that can be construed without appeal to recursion, but rather through elaborate concatenation.
"Just as every language has an unlimited number of syntactic structures built from a finite collection of morphemes, every language has an unlimited number of phonological structures, built from a finite repertoire of phonetic segments. One can always concatenate segments into longer and longer well-formed phonological sequences (whether meaningful or not). We note that the segmental and syllabic aspect of phonological structure, though discretely infinite and hierarchically structured, is not technically recursive." (From: The Faculty of Language: What’s Special about it?)
This very narrow sense of recursion is worth examining in more detail - it strikes me as a little strained.
Isn't it at least as likely that recursion is required for a wide range of non- and sub-linguistic processing, for instance perception and motor-strategies (especially those involving predation)? Almost anything beyond the level of basic reflexes surely draws upon non-linear cogntive circuitry that exhibits recursive patterns?
Some of sd's examples above look to me as if they drawn upon cognitive schemas that would be found among a fairly wide range of cephalized vertebrates. For instance, the calculations suggested in #3 cannot be entirely distinct from those required in the mute cunning of social interactions or hunting among felines, for instance.
In general, animals capable of strategic anticipation ('if X does Y and I respond by Z what does X do next?') down various pathways must employ some capacity for recursion to track outcomes forward beyond an immediate - reflex - future. Modelling (the many) environmental nonlinearities requires a nonlinear cognitive 'engine.'
While recursion naturally switches over from recursive modelling to modelling recursion (itself), i.e. patterns of self-reference (key to definition of infinity) - there still might be reason to spin out this distinction to some degree. A perceptual system might depend upon certain nonlinear processing submodules without representing anything displaying the same pattern within the construed perceptual field, for instance, a certain accelerating motion or trend curve might require nonlinear processing (recursion) without appearing as anything other than a vector intuited immediately as such. Language, however, represents self-referential patterns in much the same way it employs them (?), from the beginning and intrinsically, which seems integral to the basic HCF point, accounting for their immediate move from recursion to infinity.

Posted by: Nick at October 6, 2005 02:06 AM



[apolgies for 'For instance ... for instance' structure - clear symptom of quite severe cognitive fraying]

Posted by: Nick at October 6, 2005 02:15 AM



And on the subject of recursion, apolgies for 'apolgies'

Posted by: Nick at October 6, 2005 02:17 AM



the point about phonology is that a phoneme cannot be inserted in another phoneme: phonemes can only be blended (e.g. dipthongs, such as /aU/ in 'now', where the vowel glides from 'a' to 'oo') and fused (e.g. the 'ch' in chop is 't' and 'sh' stuck together) to form phonological chains - unlike syntactic recursion, where a noun phrase can be embedded in another noun phrase (e.g. 'Nick's last post').

The sensory-motor system and the nature of phonology itself make recursion impossible with phonemes: we can't put the sound /p/ inside the sound /d/ - it just becomes a chain of /pdpdpd.../ and even if we could, the resultant sound would just become a new phoneme.

Syntactic recursion is possible because it is abstract. There is a closed system of grammatical shapes (noun phrase, verb phrase, prepositional phrase, adverbial phrase, adjectival phrase, auxiliary phrase) which are not tied to the body or time. Embedding is infinite, but there are restrictions on how these elements can be combined together in phrases (e.g. SVO languages, such as English, have prepositions, SOV languages, such as Japanese, do not). In contrast, the phonological system is a closed system in which the components (consonants, vowels, stress, rhythm and intonation) are defined either by their place of articulation, their energy profile, their timing, or their pitch.

'recursion is required for a wide range of non- and sub-linguistic processing/perception and motor-strategies/mute cunning/animals capable of strategic anticipation'

The nonlinear cognitive engine you refer to could probably be labelled 'the imagination'. Running scenarios through in the brain and assessing possible outcomes seems to require abstract, recursive processing.

[It would be interesting to think about how much memory and prediction both depend on embedding structurally identical mental schemata within each other. For example, memory of a person contains representations of what that person represents now (even if they are dead or absent now - they are represented as dead/absent now).]

The hypothesis that animals have imagination powered by recursion is perhaps difficult to test or prove empirically - maybe this works in HCF's favour: the scolding refrains of 'we don't know' and 'adaptive storytelling.

Posted by: sd at October 6, 2005 08:29 AM



"The principle underlying grammar is unusual in the natural world. A grammar is an example of a "discrete combinatorial system." A finite number of discrete elements (in this case, words) are sampled, combined, and permuted to create larger structures (in this case sentences) with properties that are quite distinct from those of their elements. For example, the meaning of 'Man bites dog' is different from the meaning of any of the three words inside it, and different from the meaning of the same words combined in the reverse order. In a discrete combinatorial system like language, there can be an unlimited number of completely distinct combinations with an infinite range of properties. Another noteworthy discrete combinatorial system in the natural world is the genetic code in DNA, where four kinds of nucleotides are combined into an unlimited number of different genes. Many biologists have capitalized on the close parallel between the principles of grammatical combination and the principles of genetic combination. In the technical language of genetics, sequences of DNA are said to contain 'letters' and 'punctuation'; may be 'palindromic,' 'meaningless,' or 'synonymous'; are 'transcribed' and 'translated'; and are even stored in libraries.' The immunologist Niels Jerne entitled his Nobel Prize address "The Generative Grammar of the Immune System."

The Language Instinct, Chapter 4 'How Language Works'

Posted by: sd at October 6, 2005 09:06 AM



Just to tie some of the threads together:

1. The evolution of ‘DNA>protein translation’ propelled chemicals into life: from the molecular RNA driven world to the cellular DNA driven world. RNA evolved translation through a bootstrapping process involving aggregation and improvements in encoding. (Woese)

2. The evolution of ‘mentalese>human language translation’ propelled life into inorganic technoculture. The symbolic, non-linguistic computational codes of the imagination are translated into syntactic and semantic structures implemented in real time by the phonological system. Genes were selected for their ability to communicate memes. Language was/is learned through bootstrapping algorithms which facilitate the growth of complexity.

3. ?

[Turing code; AI; meme evolution is exponential and outpaces the human brain – but what is the translation mechanism?]

Posted by: sd at October 6, 2005 09:08 AM



sd - phonology point taken, but it is actually conceptually intricate. The formal definition of discrete infinity requires self-sameness - that a whole is embedded as a part of itself - which is certainly a recursive property in any reasonably broad sense. So PJ have to choose in the end either to abandon their claim that phonological concatenation is characterized by a potential to the power of discrete infinity or to moderate their assertion of its non-recursiveness (unless they want to define recursion in such a way that it loses conceptual relation to discrete infinity - but then they have stopped communicating with HCF entirely).

Discrete combinatorial systems make a fantastic topic for all the reasons you suggest. Evidently at the core of innovative dynamics in all domains.

Posted by: Nick at October 6, 2005 09:21 AM



maybe I'm being a bit dumb, but isn't the PJ point that the phonological system works through discrete combination, but that it lacks recursion because phonemes can't be embedded within each other. where's the conceptual intricacy?

Posted by: sd at October 6, 2005 09:43 AM



sd - problem is that for HCF discrete infinity follows from recursion - and in this they are conforming to standard mathematics of infinity and associated terminology. If PJ want to break this connection they are implicitly abandoning accepted definitions either of infinity (replacing mathematical definition with a merely colloquial one) or of recursion (replacing conceptual definition with a narrowly technical one - 'pointer stacks' etc.). Which is it?

Actually think answer may be that the discrete infinity PJ refer to deserves this cardinality (aleph-null or 'discrete infinity' strictly speaking) only after analysis employing concept oif recursion at a higher level, rather that through intrinsic recursive operations / mechanisms. Still seems to me that HCF win a conceptual clarity / consistency point over PJ on this one though.
[... interrupt ...]

Posted by: Nick at October 6, 2005 10:52 AM



PJ distinguish between between discrete infinity and discrete combination.

Syntax and phonology both arise from discrete combination, but only syntax has discrete infinity and recursion

Seems airtight to me. Especially as phonology gets its hands dirty, doing all the dirty work of implementation.

In the HCF model phonology is the last stage in the production - it has to be finite because it is limited by the body and time. Theoretically, syntax could go on forever, embedding "he said that she said that he said that she said ..." for eternity, whereas phonology is limited to the capacity of speakers saying this.

Posted by: sd at October 6, 2005 11:14 AM



and even if it were possible for a speaker or a chain of speakers to embed "he said that she said that he said that she said ..." for eternity, they would only be implementing the discrete infinity of syntax.

If phonology had discrete infinity, it would mean embedding /h/ inside /h/ for ever and /i/ inside /i/ forever, when saying 'he' - impossible as far I can see.

Or maybe we're just missing each other's points here?

Posted by: sd at October 6, 2005 11:51 AM



sd - you're tidying up PJ on their behalf:
[from paper quoted above]
"The set of phonological structures of a language forms a “discrete infinity,” a property which, in the case of syntax, HCF identify as one of the hallmarks of language. Just as every language has an unlimited number of syntactic structures built from a finite collection of morphemes, every language has an unlimited number of phonological structures, built from a finite repertoire of phonetic segments. One can always concatenate segments into longer and longer well-formed phonological sequences (whether meaningful or not). We note that the segmental and syllabic aspect of phonological structure, though discretely infinite and hierarchically structured, is not technically recursive."

Your version sets my query entirely to rest - their version keeps it alive ...

Posted by: Nick at October 6, 2005 12:23 PM



"though discretely infinite and hierarchically structured, is not technically recursive."

Maybe PJ conceive of of phonological structure as discretely infinite in the sense that you could can create endless new words by combining and recombining phonemes, so the limited number of elements can multiply out to infinity, but the elememts themselves cannot be embedded within each other, so it's not technically recursive. [interpretative tidying up?]

Well, Pinker's giving a talk in Wroclaw next week. I'll try to have a word with him about this (if he isn't mauled by Polish psychology students). I'll be the annoying git at the back with awkward questions, or the annoying hoverer trying to get a brain picking spot.

Posted by: sd at October 6, 2005 12:34 PM



sd - excellent. can't wait for the report. (don't annoy him to the extent it interferes with the broader interrogation process - but he seems a really nice guy, so that would probably be difficult)

a lot lies in notion of 'embedding' - of course, sounds can't (easily?) be directly embedded in each other, but they can enter into relations of isomorphy that are semiotically indistinguishable from self-referential structures

Posted by: Nick at October 6, 2005 01:03 PM



"relations of isomorphy that are semiotically indistinguishable from self-referential structures"

Help please.

Posted by: sd at October 6, 2005 01:23 PM



"don't annoy him to the extent it interferes with the broader interrogation process" - I imagine he'll be dealing with timeworn questions about determinism and the extent to which personality is shaped by genes etc., so questions about recursion and phonology might be slightly out of the blue.

Posted by: sd at October 6, 2005 01:47 PM



sd - "help ..." - a little pause for reflection on my part will help prevent total departure over the BS precipice (trying to relate PJ recursion (seemingly conceived predominantly through an infotech analogy) to Cantor recursion (understood as an abstract mathematical structure))

what's your expectation for the Polish reception of Pinker-type ideas?

Posted by: Nick at October 6, 2005 03:01 PM



I guess the reception will be pretty good - How the Mind Works and The Blank Slate are both translated into Polish. The latter was well-publicised and got positive reviews.

[e.g. www.swiatnauki.pl/pdf.pdz?pokplik=4071 - you can see what a difficult language Polish is!]

I've slipped Pinker passages to students from time to time and the discussions are always quite fruitful - even if you disagree with him, at least he's interesting. Pinker's down-to-earth/cut the bullshit attitude seems to appeal to Poles. Also, as Lee Harris (not Evans) points out, it is possible to accept the theory of evolution and believe that God triggered the mechanism of natural selection. I know molecular biologists who twiddle and count genes all day, who tell me all about the nasty things my genes could have in store for me, and who also believe in a benign God. Baffling.

Polish Academia is in a weird state. Some departments are still run by tyrannical former party members. Some departments are in a kind of weak pomo eclectic honeymoon. Pinker might be a breath of fresh air. We'll see.

I guess The Blank Slate must've sold quite well because he's giving three lectures here next week. From his timetable it looks as if he's going to spend a few days in Krakow (which'll probably include a trip to Auschwitz).

There are some good-quality streaming videos on his Harvard page, by the way.

Posted by: sd at October 6, 2005 10:31 PM



Pinker starts talking about Chomsky in this video at about 1.10 mins and about Chomsky and evolution at 1.18 mins. Pinker does emphasize that his theory is a 'story of language'.


Posted by: sd at October 6, 2005 11:23 PM



and talks about Chomsky's politics at 1.29 mins. Pinker puts his cards on the table.

Posted by: sd at October 6, 2005 11:42 PM




intuitive physics?

Posted by: northanger at October 7, 2005 06:29 AM



"Commonly, when people unschooled in Newtonian physics are asked to make predictions about certain sorts of motions involving inertia, their responses are more likely to reflect the theories of Aristotle than of Newton."

"His [Hal Abelson] book Turtle Geometry, written with Andrea diSessa in 1981, presented a computational approach to geometry has been cited as 'the first step in a revolutionary change in the entire teaching/learning process.'"

Andrea diSessa is an education researcher who has authored Turtle geometry and Changing Minds (2000). diSessa has made many significant contributions to research on intuitive physics and physics education.

Common sense clarified: Intuitive knowledge and its role in physics expertise

Conceptual Change & Language Use in Learning

Posted by: northanger at October 7, 2005 06:48 AM



northanger - these 'intuitive' (hard-wired) schemas have important consequences. Pinker outlines an intuitive physics and biology, which can both be corrected by scientific method, an intuitive psychology which doubtless contributes to certain religious and metaphysical memes, and an intuitive economics which deserves a dedicated post ASAP since it plays an enormous role in organizing ideological disputes and resistance to rational social change.
Infinite Thought once asked why, if capitalism made so much sense, resistance to it was so persistent and widespread. The basic answer is intuitive economics, which identifies 'fairness' with exchange of identical goods, absence of interest (as expressed by the anti-usury principles of the Abrahamic faiths and systematized by Marx), and the suppression of intermediary functions (which are denounced as 'parasitic' even though their emergence and perserverance in an unwelcoming environment attests to their functional necessity).

Posted by: Nick at October 7, 2005 09:47 AM



economics (plus attendant social 'sciences') are arguably the only intellectual disciplines in which widespread Lysenkoism (ideologically driven lying) is broadly supported in the wider society and politics - although professional economists tend to be comparatively rational

Is there an 'intuitive politics'?
Expect it would also be fairly ghastly

Posted by: Nick at October 7, 2005 10:19 AM



There seem to be ghost traces of my past comments all over this thread...don't have time to get involved in the Pinker/linguistics debates sadly (though have spent a little of the past couple of years pondering some of this stuff - though more Chomsky than Pinker). Anyhow, just with reference to the last couple of things Nick wrote:

One, I'm just not clear what you mean by this: 'suppression of intermediary functions (which are denounced as 'parasitic' even though their emergence and perserverance in an unwelcoming environment attests to their functional necessity)'. Clarification?

And with reference to this:
'absence of interest (as expressed by the anti-usury principles of the Abrahamic faiths and systematized by Marx)' - sounds like 'crude communism' to me - of which Marx was incredibly critical: 'Communism deprives no one of the power to appropriate the products of society; all it does is deprive them of the power to subjugate the labour of others by means of such appropriation'....crude communism (the levelling of property and seemingly 'fair' distribution) is understood by Marx to be merely the inversion of the reign of private property - and as such based on resentment/envy (interesting parallels with Nietzsche on this point).

I suppose the question is really what do you mean by 'interest' in this context?

Posted by: infinite thought at October 7, 2005 06:42 PM



p.s. only thing I can suggest re 'intuitive politics' is the tendency of ethnic minorities (particularly - and famously - poor black voters in the States - when their names haven't been mysteriously wiped from the roll) to vote democrat, regardless of who the candidate is or their policies - mind you, hard not to see this as a rationally intuitive position in many respects....

This might be understood as a peculiarly negative form of intuitive politics, tho (in the sense of 'anyone but those guys')...

Posted by: infinite thought at October 7, 2005 06:51 PM



nick - "corrected by"?

Posted by: northanger at October 7, 2005 09:11 PM



>>p.s. only thing I can suggest re 'intuitive politics' is the tendency of ethnic minorities (particularly - and famously - poor black voters in the States - when their names haven't been mysteriously wiped from the roll) to vote democrat, regardless of who the candidate is or their policies - mind you, hard not to see this as a rationally intuitive position in many respects....

IT, great example. which may explain my first query - "corrected by"?

Posted by: northanger at October 7, 2005 09:13 PM




damit. more stuff to read. cracking open my intuitive handbook on economics: capitalism is profit-driven & therefore not neutral. makes sense to resist capitalism when considering Matthew 6:24. since it's either one or the other.

Posted by: northanger at October 7, 2005 09:35 PM



-infinite thought. hello.

'suppression of intermediary functions'

The middle men who operate between the producer and consumers. There is intuitive outrage against paying a supplier more than the supplier paid the producer. Making a profit on something you didn't produce, just for merely making it possible for consumers to buy the product, has often been viewed as a kind of cheating.

It was suppressed by the Bolsheviks, in their war on 'speculation' and the black market. The Russian famines of 1917-1922 (which killed around 5 mln people) were a direct result of Bolshevik grain requisitioning (which menat that peasants had no surplus)and their persecution of middle men (e.g. you could be shot for selling currency). Because there was a total breakdown in supply, workers had no choice but to 'cut out the middle man'- often they dismantled their factories and took parts to the villages to exchange for food.

To prevent utter social breakdown which would have threatened the life of the party, Lenin introduced the New Economic Policy, which allowed peasants to keep a surplus to trade after they had supplied the government with a specified quota. The NEP was an acknowledgement that capitalism, in some form, is necessary (if only to keep the party alive).

The fact that no form of implemented Communism has never managed to eliminate black market trading attests to the fact that intermediary functions are necessary (often to prevent starvation).

European Jewry can also be seen as middle men - they were always viewed with suspicon because they made money from money: an utterly mysterious process for intuitive psychology. The Jewish money lenders were, of course, condemned as immoral and persecuted through history. However, Jewish money was essential for Europe (particularly for war funding, building projects etc.). Banking is the intermediary function par excellence.

Regarding the Chomsky/Pinker clash, would you agree with Pinker that in order to be an anarchist of Chomsky's ilk you need to have a romantic view of human nature and ignore certain obvious facts about evolution?

Posted by: sd at October 8, 2005 09:50 AM



Infinite Thought -
1) Intermediaries (often incarnated in 'middleman minorities' or 'market-dominant minorities'). Thomas Sowell has an excellent discussion of the predicamant of these people in his Race And Culture (e.g. Jews in Europe, Chinese in East Asia, Vietnamese and Koreans in US Black Ghettoes etc.) who typically enter an area, build from scratch a commercial tier by providing an unmet need to the locals, get accused of everything from monopolization to clannishness, get persecuted and leave (accused of 'making money and getting out') or killed by idiot majority. This situation, replayed innumerable times through history, is a classic example of the tragedy of economic hard-wiring (intuitive economics), leading even to genocide, and at the very least to the systematic persecution of people providing what majority locals were unable or unwilling to provide for themselves.

2) Interest (= returns to capital). Marx's entire intellectual edifice rests on the fundamental definition of returns to capital as exploitation. IMHO the appeal to 'crude' (versus sophisticated?) communism a red-herring in this context. Marx's critique of 'utopian soci*lism' (one which has no understanding of the 'scientific laws of social development') is essentially political rather than economic per se. Marx actually provides almost no discussion relevant to organization of post-capitalist societies (bits in Critique of the Gotha Programme on work chits, otherwise mostly bizarre snippets of utopian nonsense that can go head-to-head with Proudhon any day) so such distinctions have little weight when it comes to nuts-and-bolts. Essential thing: If capital is entitled to anything beyond refunded depreciation on investment or return of loans (without interest) the arithmetic of Das Capital (calculation of 'intensity of exploitation') totally disintegrates.

3) Intuitive Politics. Don't think your example quite fits. A hard-wired politics would have to conform to schemas at work in pleistocene hunter-gatherer societies - perhaps concerning ideas of leadership and authority, maturity and prestige, gender roles, limits of humanity, legitimate violence etc. Afro-American political strategies - however brilliant or ill-conceived they may be - are altogether too sophisticated and historically variant to credibly fit the bill. Remember, the Republicans were the African-American party until the 20th century (Dem. break with Dixie). Democratic representational politics - mass politics in general - is too elaborate to draw directly on hunter-gatherer schemas IMHO (although exceptions might include 'taller candidate wins' (except that would be Kerry)).

Posted by: Nick at October 8, 2005 10:04 AM



sd - we crossed, sorry for repetition

Posted by: Nick at October 8, 2005 10:04 AM



i was intruding on your turf anyway - the question was for you...

Posted by: sd at October 8, 2005 11:14 AM



northanger - "corrected by?"
unfortunately it isn't corrected by anything, hence the problem
There's a degree of amelioration in the cross-dynamic of democratic politics (or rational autocracy) with the bitter lessons of history, but economic reason doesn't 'take' naturally - education would help, but that terrain is so politically contested that no easy answer is available

Posted by: Nick at October 8, 2005 11:39 AM



"Pinker starts talking about Chomsky in this video at about 1.10 mins and about Chomsky and evolution at 1.18 mins. Pinker does emphasize that his theory is a 'story of language'.

I can't listen to that guy too long the eeeehp eeeehb eeeeehm gets too irritating fast.

at 1.35 he contrasts Chomsky (creative spontaneity and diversity of anarcho-syndicalism) with his own view of politics (we need libdem cause there's a dark side to human nature).

Well, that says it all, donnit? Jorn Barger is linking to a Huffingtonpost suppository claiming Bush is confessing when he pretends to accuse, projecting when pointing to scape goats.

Dark clothing is most popular with those having no ties and bonds with dark soil whatsoeva!!!!!!!

Jorn Barger links to burial 'doubling' as fertilizer. Hey, in the soil servicing and big cycle game doubling takes a turn for the better and could be the best growth pace modulating concept to come of thinking ever.

Dutch media is manic and moronic these days, Ben Bot the foreign minister has said the invasion of Iraq was, with hindsight, not the smartest thing. The cabinet makes him retract (2 days worth of radio and tv distracting from anything less shallow and obvious filled).

Reports of hundreds of Africans who have been camping in the woods of Marocco to make a run for the fence are getting desperate cause the police and army there are getting more and more brutal and take away their women and children when they are out for a run. These people, it is claimed are multi-ethnic sub-saharans with a good education but can't find work back home. Is this a case of the split between head and heart, man and wife, consumer producer where the absence of connector/sparker and currency conjurer 'middle man' of earlier in thread repute appears to shine all the more brilliantly in his absence?

He is essential and needs to be integral part of any person who consumes and produces at least and even if nothing more than a personal demand as much as possible. No cheat there, much less parasitism. To the contrary. If the education of these africans really would have been good they 'd have seen some Rittershausen and managed to mediate between their skills/needs and those of I am sure dearly beloved country men in as far as desertification isn't the real reason for their troubles.

Requisitioning grain with the excuse of hard times ahead for instance, a la josef can make a farmer lose autonomy and even his land, after which he'll willingly swell the labour reserve army to keep the price of it down and help the pyramids rise and the desert spread in order to not starve.

Happened to see a lot of Bolshevik name calling yesterday, by a man called Marcel Roele, a nationally published journalist. Excellent article but the last sentence spoils it all, he claims Jewish promotion of multi-culturalism is blowing up their faces, it is a form of self-hatred. Not a word about double standards in Israel in favour of praise for the smart move to load the palette of minorities and have more of em to choose from when in need to renew the world order of peckpickpock pock pock pock clock lockage.

I think Nick might be confusing the tax-collector (bemiddler ((bemiddelaar is a title for jesus by the way)) bed midler stood model for the Nazi poster I described a few months ago) go between court and country; peddler of tonics and meme-bombs with common entrepeneurs, retailer, petite moyenne, middenstand.

Posted by: piet at October 8, 2005 02:46 PM



piet - you really think I'm talking about tax-collectors? (because if you're zapped on weed half-tuned to a Dutch conversation it sounds almost the same? - think we're still short of a few essential communicative protocols)

Posted by: Nick at October 8, 2005 03:02 PM



... from your account Pinker was obviously convincing (= realistic)

Posted by: Nick at October 8, 2005 03:04 PM



No he wasn't, a minor childish flaw that goes unnoticed uncorrected, or even sancti- and glorified can go a long way to wreck societies.

Pinker, like the guys in black, doesn't understand the trueest substance and stimulus of that colour. Have you ever seen dutch or other river delta soil?

Why does everybody keep accusing me of smoking weed? I admire hemp as a plant, crop and medicine but I took mine long ago and declared myself cured.

I't like that LeRoy dress up author I just read about for the first time says: writing is the best drug.

Primairy Tax-collection is a joy and thrill; bring your rock, we'll pulverize some for you and roll on.

It's the type done to fill a warfare-treasury I object to and don't pretend you don't know.

Posted by: piet at October 8, 2005 03:19 PM



Nick, sd, great dialogue going on here, am hoping to copy, paste and print out for more dedicated reading, though have to say Piet's interuptions increasingly vexing. Not only do I have to painfully edit out his crap comments - your contributions worth saving and filing to be honest - but it cuts into the flow of the productive rhythm you and sd are sharing. Can I make a suggestion to have all irrelevant incomprehensible drivel deleted out, as Reza suggested to me long ago. It seems noone wants to do it. Though I am happy to if noone else is :-)

Posted by: Tachi at October 8, 2005 03:24 PM



whinge, whine and whingey winkwank some more, come on I can take it

Posted by: piet at October 8, 2005 03:49 PM



if you're too lazy to edit you should choose a holy book and stick it to yourself

Posted by: piet at October 8, 2005 04:09 PM



Tachi - I agree. Piet's presence here is completely baffling. I don't know why

a) ... he bothers posting comments here, as he seems to dislike most of the lines of thought being explored here and has no real interest in any of the topics.

b) ... he is tolerated here in any shape or form. He has nothing productive to say, is entirely negative, can't think, communicates with nobody, seriously disrupts the flow and is an all round embarrassment to anyone trying to take this blog seriously.

Piet is a severe 'why do I bother?' factor. I find his comments so cringeworthy that I've seriously considered giving up contributing. However, it's been so engaging of late that I just keep getting sucked back in.

Posted by: sd at October 8, 2005 09:05 PM




Posted by: northanger at October 9, 2005 12:53 AM



guys - at considerable personal risk, if I could put in a word or two for piet:
(a) he's completely lacking in the malignant snarkiness that characterizes objectionable trolls (and we've had plenty)
(b) he often provides interesting links, for recent e.g. the debate on 'real bills' and money theory
(c) he responds to criticism, for recent e.g. stopping that gddmn annoying double-spacing thing
(d) [perhaps] there's a continual fascination that one day the mask will slip and we'll actually get a lucid exegesis of the dustoid rhenish cosmic banking theory [OK, just kidding]

maybe we could cut a deal that the jazz poetry remains off topic for the first 100 posts or so? or at least, express appreciation for restraint in this regard

Posted by: Nick at October 9, 2005 01:01 PM



(b) he often provides interesting links, for recent e.g. the debate on 'real bills' and money theory

thank northanger (the personified version of what Chris King says about the clit: 'intimate diviner of genuine indicators of fitness) who doesn't let much slip by her unsampled and not scrutinized.

Posted by: piet at October 9, 2005 02:01 PM



piet - your defence lawyer must love you

Posted by: Nick at October 9, 2005 02:49 PM



a perfect context for the phrase: 'to fight a losing battle'

Posted by: sd at October 9, 2005 04:14 PM



Sexual Paradox
... of biological fertility, like the penis, but a fickle discriminator of male
attention - an intimate diviner of genuine indicators of fitness (p 181). ...
www.dhushara.com/paradoxhtm/intro.htm - 54k - In cache - Gelijkwaardige pagina's

how about you start to battle your failing grade big guy

Posted by: piet at October 9, 2005 05:20 PM



piet - if you were in a lecture or seminar you'd be ejected, if you were in a pub everyone would move to the next table or club you to death with pool cues.

if you are going to hyperstition's pet troll and are allowed to keep infecting this blog with your fuck-witted comments, can we make a deal?

We ignore each other. And I mean completely. I don't comment on your comments and you don't comment on mine.

Posted by: sd at October 9, 2005 07:41 PM



nick, you come to piet's defence and that's the respect you get? wow. as for 'interesting links' - think mostly irrelevant and self-indulgent. so have to disagree here, sorry. happy to wait for reza's verdict on this, but it is a reoccuring matter that i don't think will go away easily.

sd - think you are wasting your time trying to bargain with piet, and in any case, the point of the blog is surely to foster dialogue, so agreeing not to comment on each others posts seems at best a compromise on the spirit of the blog.

IMHO the problem lies with not having any ground rules and thus not having any crystal clear method for arbitrating. though i thought that having a tangents section was to filter relevant from irrelevant posts. whats the point in having a tangents section if anyone can come in and trash the place without any repercussions?

Posted by: tachi at October 10, 2005 02:29 AM



tachi - think your point about the tangents zone is an important one in this context, evidently problems arise when people lack elementary agreement about what constitutes a 'response' to a comment or topic

I'm probably being somewhat perverse about the issue, but the social management of a radically open space such as this is quite intriguing in its own right, even serving as a microsocial laboratory of sorts - can't help taking some satisfaction from the fact we've managed to remain open when so many other blogs have abandoned the effort - question is, how much chaos and disorder are we willing to tolerate? answers clearly vary

Posted by: nick at October 10, 2005 05:24 AM



2.3 more whinges after posting a link that has such a huge amount of clarity on sociobiology and the various flavours of language to offer is quite baffling but I am the proverbial pearl caster ain't I? Mustn't 'fall out of my role' (dutch one) must I? I too think I must just that though, set the swine free, turn 'm loose*.

halfway page 81-85 www.dhushara.com/paradox/homo.pdf (password: model) offers more relevant stuff on language than all the items I have ever read here altogether, just my humble opinion submitted to my peers here.

*If we emptied all our prison's content as far as they hold Maroccan passports into busses and lobbed them across the fences in southern spain with notes attached saying 'give us your illegal subsaharan migrants in exchange for these non-integrants' (instead of turning em loose into warravaged and empty nomanslandstrips between borders that are closed to them) and (oh by the way) here's a few society wreckers that can't seem to lose their native ways and get with the multicultural program, ergo, a much better fit (and perhaps saving face) for both of us.

Posted by: piet at October 10, 2005 08:38 AM



Nick - valuable points, though which blogs you refer to I am not sure. I just don't know of any blogs that have this persistent issue, whether or not it is because of rigorous policing or self-discipline of the contributors ... The Anglosphere blog for example.

Posted by: tachi at October 10, 2005 08:42 AM



We propose the driving force for human brain growth was the complexification of the entire world of Homo brought about by the involution of semantic language into consciousness (and thus society) as an outgrowth of gesture and emotional vocalization and that it has been driven principally by social complexity, expressed in mate selection and social standing. Mirror neurons have been cited in this regard (p 385). In this description, the evolution of language is a crisis of social interaction generated by genetic systems through the dynamic capacity to encapsulate language as ‘memes’ rather than hard-wired genetic determinism.

Posted by: text version available too. at October 10, 2005 08:47 AM



There's plenny to gripe about, his music isn't something I listen to more than once for curiosity sake and his formulationzeal leaves me bored a lot of the time or even annoyed at the weird convolutions of 'phrasage' that occurs in the last portion of this passage: "We again have the idea of god in the plural as 'Elohim, with humanity female and male in their likeness, implying both a feminine and masculine presence, confirmed in the exhortations of Hochmah, or Wisdom, in the proverbs:

The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old.
I was set up from everlasting, from the beginning, or ever the earth was.

This motif continues in the complementarity between the unity of the tree of life standing in the centre of Eden (p 297) and the binary division of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, whose two realities together would make us even 'as god' - forming a complementarity between coherent synthesis and analytical knowledge, whose supremacy in dominion has led inexorably to our Fall from paradise. A complementation as fundamental as the binary division between a pregnant, vaginal, encircling 0 and a discriminating, divisive, penile 1.

Taoistic thought invokes continual transformation and change and decries any attempt to hierarchically organize or analyze into ordered categories, as flawed in this cosmology of flowing interdependence (p 407).

I just love the (manhandling type) manipulation minimization that permeates this man's beef (glad he found another mate too).

I'll leave you to ponder the last lines of the intro:

Although human culture appears to have flowered through runaway aspects of sexual paradox in human evolutionary origins among gatherer-hunter clans, a male reaction has subsequently occurred from the earliest foundings of Jericho and Sumeria with the growth of militarized urban societies, through the great civilization of the East and West to the present day against sexual paradox, and its implicit paternity uncertainty. Patriarchal human cultures have endeavoured since to assert paradigms of order over these primal contradictions. A continuing trend throughout our cultural history has been for the climax diversity of sexual paradox to become undermined, or made degenerate, by patterns of male sexual domination, which lead to breakdown of the complexity and verdant instability, into ordered patterns of control, and often of repression, violence, and genocide which lead to planetary rape and exploitation and compromise the living genesis and emergence in complexity sexual paradox evokes. We shall thus explore, along with sexual paradox itself, all the many ways in which its breakdown leads to double jeopardy and how sexual paradox is a koan and oracle for our social transformation to a sustainable society.

Posted by: Chris's content page hypered at October 10, 2005 09:08 AM



another serious gripe I have with Chrissie (besides the ones I noted long long ago, not here) is he mentions demography only once (!!?!?!?!?!) in this work (a Meg, even in flat text), ironically enough near a Pinker quote:

We also need to consder the possibility that migrations, even in small waves of bands of warriors could alter the sexual demography of a migrating group to make them more patriarchally exploitative of societies they over-ran, for example abducting or seizing the women, consistent with Sanday’s findings of increasing patrarchal emphasis in migrating peoples. Pinker (R490 327) notes also that in the context of herding and social chaos, more severe rules come to the surface:

“Cultures of honor spring up all over the world because they amplify universal human emotions like Pride, anger, revenge, and the love of kith and kin, and because they appear at the time to be sensible responses to local conditions. Indeed, the emotions themselves are thoroughly familiar even when they don't erupt in violence, such as in road rage, office politics, political mudslinging, academic backstabbing, and email flame wars. In ‘Culture of Honor’, the social psychologists Richard Nisbett and Dov Cohen show that violent cultures arise in societies that are beyond the reach of the law and in which precious assets are easily stolen. Societies that herd animals meet both conditions. Herders tend to live in territories that are unsuitable for growing crops and thus far from the centers of government. And their major asset, livestock, is easier to steal than the major asset of farmers, land. In herding societies a man can be stripped of his wealth (and of his ability to acquire wealth) in an eyeblink. Men in that milieu cultivate a hair trigger for violent retaliation, not just against rustlers, but against anyone who would test their resolve by signs of disrespect that could reveal them to be easy pickings for rustlers. Scottish highlanders, Appalachian mountain men, Western cow- boys, Masai warriors, Sioux Indians, Druze and Bedouin tribesmen, Balkan clansmen, and Indochinese Montagnards are familiar examples. A man's honor is a kind of ‘social reality’ in John Searle's sense: it exists because everyone agrees it exists, but it is no less real for that, since it resides in a shared granting of power. When the lifestyle of a people changes, their culture of honor can stay with them for a long time because it is difficult for anyone to be the first to renounce culture. The very act of renouncing it can be a concession of weakness and low status even when the sheep and mountains are a distant memory.”

However if the evidence of the Hittite arrival upon the Hatti culture of Anatolia is any indication, there was a great deal of cultural merging. The Hattis are believed to be the one of the indigenous peoples in Anatolia. They lived around 2500 BC in walled city kingdoms and small tribes. The Hittites came to Anatolia over the Caucasus around 2000 BC. These newcomers did not invade the land suddenly. They settled alongside the existing people and established their own settlement units over time. Only after about 250 years, as many Hittite principalities emerged, did they claim the rule of the land. Rather than destroying the existing people and their cities, they mixed with the Hattis and other people of Anatolia. The Hittites were influenced by the Hatti culture in religion, mythology and literature. They even shared their gods, goddesses, art, culture and many words from Hatti language. Not only did they take the names of mountains, rivers and towns from them; Hittites preserved the country they lived in as “the land of Hatti”. The Hatti art gives us the examples of a human-shaped pottery type (anthropomorphic) rather than an animal shape or a hybrid form. They worshipped such statues and figurines, and each one of them carried his or her name.

Posted by: Chris's content page hypered at October 10, 2005 10:20 AM



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