Some random saturday article. Not staying here long.
It is kind of odd. I used to think, I would be able to follow at least a decently focused part of the world that I observed. But it is just not true any more. As time keeps on passing by, I realize that every mechanism that I learn to stay afloat in the ever-speeding up dynamics around me just doesn’t work. I wonder what that means. How do we have to behave in in the 2020s onwards? I sometimes feel I am getting too old or I just don’t know any more. Did I miss the exit route to focus? Or did things just change so radically?
This is an attempt to self-reflect the state of being lost that I am feeling when I drop the guards of self-manipulation and I admit that I don’t know what is going on any more.
The human heart has never changed.
Maybe things started with this quote. I believe – apparently falsely so – that the quote “the human heart has never changed” was to be attributed to Auden. Whenever I google that phrase, it doesn’t even seem to exist. I am quite sure it does exist. I just don’t know where I read it. Was it a greek classic? Was it a Brit poet? Where is it coming from? Why can’t I google it?
But it’s true. It was a key motivator for a first very excessive detour of 3 years studying humans, or as academics would say, I tried to cover a broad stroke of humanities and anthrophology, the foundations of political philosophy, ethics, etc. All that stuff that was around for 2000 years, assuming that the human heart would never change. I still believe the 3 year detour in my undergrad studies was worth it. The self-infused liberal arts education was slowing down my resume and didn’t make me – as “last generation” of the 13 year high school system, the 4-5 year Diploma system and the last year of military service guys – in a post 2008 area with crashing real wages for entry level positions make me look like a winner. Without my choosing and pretty much against my will, I was set to be 4 years older (high school + 1, military + 1, diploma + 2) than my peers. And I moronically added 2-3 years studying additional things. Oh my.
But anyway, it is one of the few things where I believe I can still cope with the changes. Yes, cultural overpinnings of what the western humanities would call a naturalist view on humans has proven that western ethics and naturalism didn’t really affect cultural evolution around the globe and the applicability of the knowledge on human nature wasn’t really there. While the stuff I learned is surprisingly accurate and analytically precise. The discourse of everyone around me doesn’t acknowledge that. So there is literally no connectivity ot anyone regarding this knowledge pool. It’s there. But is invisible to everyone you meet, unless they went through the same eduation. At least, however, it makes behaviour predictable and it makes it easier to control risk and reward of people around you. Once you learn the irrationalities that all those cultures bring with them. [The renaissance didn’t really hit most of those other cultures and the concept of enstrangement from the natural state doesn’t seem to phase anyone. Does it.]
But, let’s ignore this.
Foundations and what they called the “core curriculum”.
Probably inspired again by liberaral arts education, the “core” which they had at Princeton, or the “Caltech” approach of “learn what you want, tell us when you want to pass the exam.” was driving the idea that I should study whatever I could find to understand the conceptual underpinnings of science.
Basics in linguistics, theories of communication and arguments, stylistic and strategic aspects from sophistry to rhetorics and debates. The basis of analytical writing, legal frameworks of arguing cases mixing their induction an deduction ninja arts.
Basics in maths, from number theory, algebra, geometry, to general maps, functions, theory of spaces to topology and jumpf forward to graph theory, theory of representation and whatever you can find to applied areas of stochastics, algorithmic mathematics, and differential equations.
Basics in drawing, schematic representations in art theory, biology and medicine. To dominant model representations of the world from atoms to cells to social systems to ecosystems, to systems engineering and back to control theory. To economics.
Once you made it to a sufficient volume of readings and studies, you realized the limitations of the total set of reprsentations, concepts and models that were underpinning science and the entire body of human knowledge. Certainly, the discovery and evolution of fundamental systems of representation and concepts wouldn’t evolve that fast. And I also still believe this is the case. But the discourses around referencing those concepts have started to harness the power of obfuscation. The same scientists that were talking about a circle and a triangle 20 years ago, have found new words for the joint occurance and started hiding basic academic findings in more and more esoteric language. Something that appears to work well with an increasing influx of humans into the academic disciplins and the decaying relevance of most those disciplines.
So even here, I tend to get lost. And it takes me simply too much time to get that people are still talking about the same things.
The next big theory was “follow the best”.
Given that icons and “the best” likely had a larger overview of their domains, were being more precise, and likely more accurate in what they did, the idea was to follow the best. It is the concept when entrepreneurs try to emulate Musk, Ma, Besos and Jobs. When politicians study their old idols from Greek’s Alexander to Rome’s Adrian to US’S Wilson, or Stalinism and Maosim. The thing here is, it’s good to study history. But once you study the present, you realize two things:
- The authority has vanished. The real reasons of success have become obscure. Leadership is a figment. Things become esoteric. Similar to politics, the people on stage aren’t necessary the drivers of the success of the phenomenon they represent. The mechanics are hidden.
- Looking at those people is now equal to pressing the slow-motion button. Fixing the eyes on the best of today has become a reactionary thing to do. People, companies, systems nowawadays are by the moment they exist already in the museum. They are dead and in memory already. Without signifying anything. If there is any relevance left in the existence of these individuals in the moment, it is the influence of their state and status. It is never their achievement of the thing they represent.
So reading the latest magazine on tech trends, I am reading a museum piece’s words on something of the past. The writer being a museum piece. Studying a world leader of the moment, from China’s The Core Xi Jingping to Israels Netanyahu.
This also doesn’t give me the feeling any more, that I am getting what is going on. Because somewhere hidden in the lurking corners of irrelevance, I know there are growing seeds of tomorrow. The seeds, once I start seeing them, have become old.
Why is that? Maybe it is because the entire systems that are watching and sitting at the pule of mankind are so fast and complex and advanced, that I am already a thing that is living with a delay of 5-10 years. And on top of that, the interconnectivity of otherwise increasingly bifurcating streams of conceptual development are both completely blinding me. It is not only knowing the concepts, speaking the concepts, and attaching the concept work to individuals or algorithms any more, it is the shere unpredictability of the spontaneous synapses between priorly unconnected things that lead to what is happening.
Is this the age of heding and spreading? Do I have to consume millions of unrelated and irrelevant news items to potentially see the long-tail synapse in my head forming before it materializes?
Age and workload add to the problem
The more time you spend everyday of doing actually useless, generic and repetitive things, and the more consistently you do that, the further your get away from everything and the dumber you get by not using your brain. I even started to realize the impact of not regularly reading a thick newspaper on the synaptic inter-connectivity that kind of keeps my memories on different domain alive. Maybe or even probavly the reason why people read the feuilleton of their newspaper. It keeps their mind attached to things they haven’t really had the time to look into for 30 – 50 years .
So I have not found a conclusion to the problem yet. Leaders today probably shouldn’t do any work at all. Similar to back in the days. The competitive pressure and repetiviness of even the most demanding intellectual work appears to have made intellectual work kind of the “standing in the field” or peonage during the middle ages.
And I am quite sure having unlimited budgets to travel and be part of the techno-academic systems is important. But it appears that those staying in touch with academia fall behind on the techno-aspect, and those not in touch with academics, become victims of peonage.
How do you guys / gals stay on top of what is going on? Do you rely on blogs/authors/Industry research/paid expert networks/personal networks? Or still relying on free time and your liberal arts education?