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Mr. Tea
10-03-2007, 01:36 AM
A lot of the discussion going on in the Baudrillard thread has touched on something I've been thinking about for a long time now, namely: is there any inherent reason why developments in the fields of mathematics and the sciences - particularly the physical sciences - should have any effect whatsoever on the purely theoretical disciplines within the humanities?

I'm reading 'The Appropriation of Chaos Theory' posted by kpunk in the the other thread at the moment, and although it's too early for me to draw any conclusions from that text itself, I think it's still a valid question to ask: on what grounds do people seek to draw conclusions about, or identify trends in, human cultures and societies based on developments in scientific discplines which have nothing to do with human beings? I'm not after answers like "all science is to do with human beings, since it is developed by humans", I'm talking about the subject matter itself.

A good example of this supposed influence working the other way is the physicist David Bohm; it's said that his political convictions (a Marxist, in the days when they still called themselves Communists) led him to vociferously oppose the statistical/probabalistic interpretation of quantum mechanics, as this denied a fundamentally deterministic worldview.
So my question is: for what reason should ideas from (say) chaos theory inform sociology, beyond the fact that some of the equations might be useful to an economist trying to predict the behaviour of markets? In the same way, what *direct* consequence does quantum mechanics have for society, beyond enabling the microchips that have led to the 'information revolution'?

tryptych
11-03-2007, 09:30 AM
A good example of this supposed influence working the other way is the physicist David Bohm; it's said that his political convictions (a Marxist, in the days when they still called themselves Communists) led him to vociferously oppose the statistical/probabalistic interpretation of quantum mechanics, as this denied a fundamentally deterministic worldview.



As did Einstein, for i guess ideolgical convictions ("God does not play dice").




So my question is: for what reason should ideas from (say) chaos theory inform sociology, beyond the fact that some of the equations might be useful to an economist trying to predict the behaviour of markets? In the same way, what *direct* consequence does quantum mechanics have for society, beyond enabling the microchips that have led to the 'information revolution'?

Because as ideas from science penetrate into society, they produce changes in how people perceive fundamental things - e.g. the metaphysical aspects of quantum mechanics, the role of the observer. I guess in literature and sociology first, which gradually filter towards mainstream opinion. Views on non-determinism certainly seem to be gaining ground.

Eric
11-03-2007, 03:46 PM
Wouldn't the paradigm example of interactions like these be game theory: initially oriented (more) toward pure mathematics, but now with extensive applications in economics, philosophy, linguistics, etc, and with these fields being the places where the mathematics is being pushed further, generally speaking?

gek-opel
11-03-2007, 04:00 PM
Or Cantor's Continuum Hypothesis and its application in the ontology and ethic of Alain Badiou?

Mr. Tea
11-03-2007, 05:03 PM
Wouldn't the paradigm example of interactions like these be game theory: initially oriented (more) toward pure mathematics, but now with extensive applications in economics, philosophy, linguistics, etc, and with these fields being the places where the mathematics is being pushed further, generally speaking?

Oh, sure - there are going to be plenty of examples of actual applications based on ideas in physics and maths having profound effects on society. Equations once studied for purely abstract purposes are now routinely used to model animal population dynamics, for example. What I was getting at is more at the level of: why should someone thinking about political philosophy or psychology or sociology care what sort of physical laws apply on the atomic or cosmological scales? Other than, perhaps, providing new terminology as a source of metaphors and analogies? (If this is the whole deal, then fair enough But in which case, would a subject 'closer to home' like evolutionary biology or linguistics not be a more suitable source?)

dHarry
12-03-2007, 11:33 AM
A real intellectual scandal of our time is that scientists, by extrapolating from genetic research, measuring subjects' brain activity in reaction to images, or some experiment involving rats, are constantly making public pronouncements about gender or social issues about which they have absolutely no specialised knowledge, completely ignoring socio-cultural and psychological factors, blinded by their objective scientific method. This creates a false belief across our culture that science will soon know everything there is to know about Human Nature, if only they can conduct enough experiments on rodents or attach enough sensors to people's heads, and philosophers, sociologists, political theorists and psycho-analysts can be safely retired.

Mr. Tea
12-03-2007, 01:35 PM
A real intellectual scandal of our time is that scientists, by extrapolating from genetic research, measuring subjects' brain activity in reaction to images, or some experiment involving rats, are constantly making public pronouncements about gender or social issues about which they have absolutely no specialised knowledge, completely ignoring socio-cultural and psychological factors, blinded by their objective scientific method. This creates a false belief across our culture that science will soon know everything there is to know about Human Nature, if only they can conduct enough experiments on rodents or attach enough sensors to people's heads, and philosophers, sociologists, political theorists and psycho-analysts can be safely retired.

This is why I stick to elementary particles. Human beings are far too complicated.

(That's not to say, though, that studies of (for example) physical and chemical differences between healthy and schizophrenic brains are a waste of time, is it? As long as they conducted in tandem with, rather than instead of, studies of social and environmental aspects of the disease?)

nomadologist
12-03-2007, 02:09 PM
A real intellectual scandal of our time is that scientists, by extrapolating from genetic research, measuring subjects' brain activity in reaction to images, or some experiment involving rats, are constantly making public pronouncements about gender or social issues about which they have absolutely no specialised knowledge, completely ignoring socio-cultural and psychological factors, blinded by their objective scientific method. This creates a false belief across our culture that science will soon know everything there is to know about Human Nature, if only they can conduct enough experiments on rodents or attach enough sensors to people's heads, and philosophers, sociologists, political theorists and psycho-analysts can be safely retired.

Right, this is something I notice very often: scientists can be blind to their own reductionism when it comes to reducing "gender" to "sex." Those scientists who haven't studied sociology will talk about biological findings as if we are determined by our biology, and as if the evolution of our current biological traits couldn't have, in part, been influenced by cultural attitudes or traits that were valued on a cultural level. We will *never* know what is constructed in us as "gender" from what is a biological sex difference on the most fundamental level until scientists learn to parse those concepts and account for them in their studies. Even if this can never fully happen, the effort needs to be there...

nomadologist
12-03-2007, 02:19 PM
A real intellectual scandal of our time is that scientists, by extrapolating from genetic research, measuring subjects' brain activity in reaction to images, or some experiment involving rats, are constantly making public pronouncements about gender or social issues about which they have absolutely no specialised knowledge, completely ignoring socio-cultural and psychological factors, blinded by their objective scientific method. This creates a false belief across our culture that science will soon know everything there is to know about Human Nature, if only they can conduct enough experiments on rodents or attach enough sensors to people's heads, and philosophers, sociologists, political theorists and psycho-analysts can be safely retired.

Another intellectual scandal of our time is that, even when scientists are careful NOT to be reductionists when it comes to applying their findings about biology and gender, often a journalist untrained in science will (so as to get the good headline and grab the reader's attention) misinterpret the findings of a scientific study and wildly sensationalize it actual impact in such a way that only serves to support the status quo in the worst possible way.

Mr. Tea
12-03-2007, 02:34 PM
This is a very good point - I think scientists sometimes get unfairly blamed due to shoddy journalism on their work. The British press are awful for this, especially the 'middle-brow' tabloids. Scientists find preliminary evidence that some chemical found in a certain food increases the risk of a certain kind of tumour in rats by 5% and all of a sudden it's "OMG CHEESE CAUSES CANCER!!!111" all over the front of the Daily Mail.

nomadologist
12-03-2007, 02:42 PM
This is a very good point - I think scientists sometimes get unfairly blamed due to shoddy journalism on their work. The British press are awful for this, especially the 'middle-brow' tabloids. Scientists find preliminary evidence that some chemical found in a certain food increases the risk of a certain kind of tumour in rats by 5% and all of a sudden it's "OMG CHEESE CAUSES CANCER!!!111" all over the front of the Daily Mail.

The BBC is TERRIBLe about this. I've seen articles (I'm paraphrasing and exaggerating from memory, but maybe I could find some) where they will use a headline as stupid as "WOMEN REALLY ARE INFERIOR TO MEN: NEW STUDY FINDS" (of course, what the study found was that in one population of 110 people, women scored a few points lower on the spatial aptitutde section of a standardized test) or "MALE BRAINS INEPT AT DOING HOUSEWORK" (when they've determined that women have better hand-eye coordination).

It drives me absolutely insane. And I find on the BBC website, these articles are appended by dozens of troll-level comments where men (or people who claim to be men, sometimes I wonder if it's women playing a ridiculous role to make fun of chauvinists) decry the decline of civilization solely at the hands of "feminism."

Mr. Tea
12-03-2007, 02:45 PM
Pfft, come on, I've SEEN you guys trying to reverse-park, it's painful... ;)

nomadologist
12-03-2007, 03:00 PM
i wish i could find some of the best ones...

zhao
12-03-2007, 09:48 PM
no time for proper dissertation but for now:

the two are one. not mutually exclusive. there is no dicotomy.

both sides of the science vs. religion debate are morons.

shudder
13-03-2007, 03:34 AM
re: the second scandal nomadologist mentioned: Science journalism seems to be at an all-time low. For the last few months there have been countless crap stories related to Louanne Brizendine's best-selling book, The Female Brain. In it, she makes a lot of baseless claims about men and women's brains and the implications these differences have for their language use. The BBC, along with most of the crappy science reporters in the mainstream media, have been happy to report these totally unsubstantiated and usually totally false claims. (FWIW, I majored in linguistics.) The really excellent Linguistics group blog Language Log (http://www.languagelog.org/) has been documenting and repudiating many of the worst examples of these claims. One of the bigger and most-reported claims is that women use three times as many words in a given day than men do. Unsurprisingly, this is bunk.

The same blog posted (http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/%7Emyl/languagelog/archives/003297.html) an interesting report about people's suggestibility once neuroscience is invoked as an explanatory factor for a psychological process:

In a recent study, Deena Skolnick, a graduate student at Yale, asked her subjects to judge different explanations of a psychological phenomenon. Some of these explanations were crafted to be awful. And people were good at noticing that they were awful—unless Skolnick inserted a few sentences of neuroscience. These were entirely irrelevant, basically stating that the phenomenon occurred in a certain part of the brain. But they did the trick: For both the novices and the experts (cognitive neuroscientists in the Yale psychology department), the presence of a bit of apparently-hard science turned bad explanations into satisfactory ones

John Doe
13-03-2007, 12:53 PM
Another intellectual scandal of our time is that, even when scientists are careful NOT to be reductionists when it comes to applying their findings about biology and gender, often a journalist untrained in science will (so as to get the good headline and grab the reader's attention) misinterpret the findings of a scientific study and wildly sensationalize it actual impact in such a way that only serves to support the status quo in the worst possible way.

I've found one of the most interesting, and telling, case studies is the recent attempts to establish that there is some sort of universal ideal of the female body that constitutes 'attractiveness'. It's a debate I've kept half an eye on over the past few years and often it surfaces in the pages of the newspapers along the lines of: 'experts have established that there's a certain ratio of size of breast to size of waist that men universally respond to as attractive'. Such work is carried out and promoted by the ethno-biologist school and, to echo Shudder's point above, is little more than cultural value masquerading as hard science. Their project seems to be able to reduced to the fact that 'evolution' has made 'us' as a society value Kate Moss, say, as a paragon of beauty and not another body type.

Mr. Tea
13-03-2007, 01:28 PM
I've found one of the most interesting, and telling, case studies is the recent attempts to establish that there is some sort of universal ideal of the female body that constitutes 'attractiveness'. It's a debate I've kept half an eye on over the past few years and often it surfaces in the pages of the newspapers along the lines of: 'experts have established that there's a certain ratio of size of breast to size of waist that men universally respond to as attractive'. Such work is carried out and promoted by the ethno-biologist school and, to echo Shudder's point above, is little more than cultural value masquerading as hard science. Their project seems to be able to reduced to the fact that 'evolution' has made 'us' as a society value Kate Moss, say, as a paragon of beauty and not another body type.

Moss certainly doesn't do much for me, and I know I'm not alone in this.
Fashion designers like skinny models because it's easier to design clothes for them, and because they then show off the clothes without the model's own body distracting from them too much, IMO.

(I know you picked her as an arbitrary example, just saying.)

Mr. Tea
13-03-2007, 01:31 PM
no time for proper dissertation but for now:

the two are one. not mutually exclusive. there is no dicotomy.

both sides of the science vs. religion debate are morons.

Rubbish. I hold scientific ideas because they make logical sense and are backed up by observation, not because a holy man told me or because I read it in an old book of fairy-tales. That's it.

nomadologist
13-03-2007, 07:00 PM
In an odd coincidence, I just had to transcribe a debate (http://www.sendspace.com/file/0u7522)between a few scientists about Popper vs. Kuhn and the role of speculation in science yesterday. I'd get in trouble for this, so don't distribute it, but read if you like. These scientists (one of whom has a Nobel prize, you know, the layperson's idea of "cred") seem to think speculation, not just in the form of spin and politics, always threatens to corrode science.

nomadologist
13-03-2007, 07:03 PM
Rubbish. I hold scientific ideas because they make logical sense and are backed up by observation, not because a holy man told me or because I read it in an old book of fairy-tales. That's it.

You have to be careful when you talk about "logical sense." In ancient Egypt it made perfect logical sense to believe the universe was sitting on a lotus bud. What seems "logical" to someone is always only whatever that person already thinks, whatever their thought process already allows. Everyone always thinks their own ideas "make sense." I'm more impressed with people who can find a reason to make me believe something even when it's counterintuitive and doesn't make sense. I think science often plays this role, rather than the role of arbiter of all things sensical.

Mr. Tea
13-03-2007, 07:42 PM
Ahh, OK - by 'make logical sense' I meant 'is consistent with logic and mathematics'. I did *not* meant 'conform to common sense', which has very little to do with logic (eg. computers operate on principles of pure logic, yet they have no common sense whatsoever).

For example, Newton's laws made perfect logical 'sense' when he formulated them, even though they violated the 'common sense' view at the time that a moving object will eventually stop if there's no force pushing it along.
Two hundred years later Newton's ideas (which had become 'common sense' to physicists) were superceded by Einstein's, who'd found that logical inconsistencies arise if you try to combine the Newtonian idea of absolute space and time with Maxwell's theory of electromagnetism. Einstein's theories, which were at first deeply counterintuitive despite being logically sound, eventually became 'common sense' (again, to physicists), and so on and so forth.

It's the fact that accepted scientific ideas evolve (largely) through rational processes that distinguish them from religion, which does not really 'evolve' at all (Christians today largely believe the same things they did 1,900 years ago: scientists do not), but changes by the 'random mutation' of schisms, wars and so on (like Henry VIII breaking away from Rome so he could divorce his first wife and get his hands on the monasteries' cash, leading to the creation of the Church of England).

nomadologist
13-03-2007, 08:26 PM
Yup.

gabriel
14-03-2007, 11:44 AM
One of the bigger and most-reported claims is that women use three times as many words in a given day than men do. Unsurprisingly, this is bunk


the guardian newspaper in england did a thing on this a few months back where they got a bloke known for being a bit shy, not very talkative, and a woman whose friends thought of her as quite a chatterbox, then taped them each for a day, counted the words they spoke, and found no significant difference at all. here it is - http://www.guardian.co.uk/g2/story/0,,1957827,00.html

ben goldacre's bad science column (in the guardian) and website deserve a mention here too - http://www.badscience.net/

nomadologist
14-03-2007, 04:30 PM
that one study isn't enough to indicate what happens in general, though, gabriel. i'm sure that idea about words spoken per day is complete bull--but probably especially as you take a bigger and bigger data set

HMGovt
14-03-2007, 05:44 PM
I'm looking forward to Manuel Delanda's latest hitting my doormat in the next few days. It appears to tackle ideas in this thread.

"Manuel DeLanda is a distinguished writer, artist and philosopher. In his new book, he offers a fascinating look at how the contemporary world is characterized by an extraordinary social complexity. Since most social entitles, from small communities to large nation-states, would disappear altogether if human minds ceased to exist, Delanda proposes a novel approach to social ontology that asserts the autonomy of social entities from the conceptions we have of them. This highly original and important book takes the reader on a journey that starts with personal relations and climbs up one scale at a time all the way to territorial states and beyond. Only by experiencing this upward movement can we get a sense of the irreducible social complexity that characterizes the contemporary world."

Most interesting for me at least "as a secondary task a sustained criticism of the primacy of post-modernist linguistic analysis in social science (the theory of the linguisticality of experience)."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_New_Philosophy_of_Society:_Assemblage_Theory_and _Social_Complexity

shudder
15-03-2007, 03:53 AM
that one study isn't enough to indicate what happens in general, though, gabriel. i'm sure that idea about words spoken per day is complete bull--but probably especially as you take a bigger and bigger data set

well, yeah, it wasn't really a study at all (sample size = 2, and both participants knew the point of the experiment), but various language log posts have looked at actual literature on the subject, and done corpus analyses... Unsurprisingly, men and women seem to use roughly the same number of words per day, with men having a slightly higher mean, and with within-group variation being much wider than between-group variation.

mixed_biscuits
15-03-2007, 08:32 AM
I've found one of the most interesting, and telling, case studies is the recent attempts to establish that there is some sort of universal ideal of the female body that constitutes 'attractiveness'.

Beyond the thin/fat issue, I dare say that there are characteristics that are universally unattractive (or universally highly likely to be unattractive):

- (highly) unsymmetrical features
- signs of disease
- signs of disability

In any case, the very fact that we find things attractive/unattractive at all tells us that attraction is not just determined by culture.

John Doe
15-03-2007, 01:09 PM
Beyond the thin/fat issue, I dare say that there are characteristics that are universally unattractive (or universally highly likely to be unattractive):

- (highly) unsymmetrical features
- signs of disease
- signs of disability

In any case, the very fact that we find things attractive/unattractive at all tells us that attraction is not just determined by culture.

My point was that this is little more than aesthetics masquering as science.

As for your list: who is this 'we' that wouldn't find such features attractive? That was the point of my post: that such universalisation is little more than a totalising strategy designed to impose a contemporary western model (in this case of beauty) across all cultures at all times. Even the smallest familiarity with any evidence shows it to be nonsense.

Mr. Tea
15-03-2007, 02:23 PM
I can't think of any cultures where signs of disability or disease would be considered actively attractive, can you?

I guess the cosmetic scarring common in some cultures might look like a disease to the uninitiated, that's different because it's deliberate. I suspect if you'd never seen a tattoo or an ear-piercing before they'd look pretty weird, too.

Also, Marilyn Monroe had a famously asymmetric face.

/my 2 cents

DigitalDjigit
15-03-2007, 02:33 PM
I can't think of any cultures where signs of disability or disease would be considered actively attractive, can you?


The fevered imagination of J.G. Ballard and Cronenberg and anyone who watches the latter's movie and enjoys it.

I don't think a mole counts as assymetry.

nomadologist
15-03-2007, 02:35 PM
she did have an assymetrical face--her profile is different on different sides

Mr. Tea
15-03-2007, 02:46 PM
The fevered imagination of J.G. Ballard and Cronenberg and anyone who watches the latter's movie and enjoys it.


I'm talking about human cultures that have arisen naturally, not sci-fi obsessed nerds who get off on the idea that they disgust other people.



I don't think a mole counts as assymetry.

No, her actual face was asymmetric. There are images made by taking 'mirror images' of one side of her face or the other, they both look totally different from what she actually looked like.

John Doe
15-03-2007, 05:54 PM
I can't think of any cultures where signs of disability or disease would be considered actively attractive, can you?

I guess the cosmetic scarring common in some cultures might look like a disease to the uninitiated, that's different because it's deliberate. I suspect if you'd never seen a tattoo or an ear-piercing before they'd look pretty weird, too.

Also, Marilyn Monroe had a famously asymmetric face.

/my 2 cents

Disease might not be considered attractive - it has little to do with aesthetics and is irrelevant to this debate. As for disability, well there's plenty of testaments from amputee prostitutues or those born with congenital defects (eg lack of legs) about their multiple successes with countless clients. On the level of the individual, it seems, anything and everything can be constituted as 'attractive' albeit in a festishistic fashion (although all 'beauty' when you think of it can be considered fetishistic on the level of both the individual and the culture).

On the cultural level the operation of constructing ideals of beauty remains specific to that culture. It is not universal nor is it a-historical. In what are termed 'cultures of scarcity' for example there are many examples today where the ideal womanly body would be termed, by our culture as at best voluptuous, at worst overweight. And my point of citing Marilyn Monroe was to illustrate that our own culture's ideal of beauty changes constantly with time: only 50 years ago she was considered the most beautiful and attractive woman in the world*: her body type today would not be considered ideal but would be judged wanting (legs too short, waist and backside too wide, breasts too big etc). Beauty and attractiveness are fluid concepts between cultures and within cultures over time - as I've said, even the most cursory familiarity with the subject illustrates this.

Edit: * by our culture, obviously...

John Doe
15-03-2007, 05:56 PM
I'm talking about human cultures that have arisen naturally.

Human cultures that have arisen naturally??? Hmm, that's a new one on me. Human cultures, surely, arise culturally, otherwise they're not cultures, are they?

mixed_biscuits
15-03-2007, 07:34 PM
Human cultures that have arisen naturally??? Hmm, that's a new one on me. Human cultures, surely, arise culturally, otherwise they're not cultures, are they?

Yes, but if you want to have the two concepts separate, nature must 'precede' culture - if not, there is an infinite regress (which cannot stand, as obviously humans must have come into existence at some point - at which point human 'culture' did not exist to show them how to behave). This is where social constructivism is revealed as being capable of only shallow explanations.

In any case, the two terms are not separable. As we are natural animals, 'culture' is merely nature revealing our natures. Part of our nature is the hard-wired inclination to find beauty in something, which drives the 'beauty culture.'

There was an interesting study recently that found that those feted for their good looks (Tom Cruise, Angelina Jolie etc) had faces that were closest to the mean of everybody's faces ie had the best genes - no hint of congenital disease/disability.

Bear in mind that Tom Cruise and Angelina would be rejected for the present-day catwalk, so there are limits to seeing the 'size zero' type as the consensus view on beauty, especially since the models in fashion are merely asexual hangers for the designers' clothes. In fact, Marilyn Monroe is very much the type that is still found most attractive - the busty beauties in Zoo, Nuts or on page 3 are more reliable indicators of what men find attractive than fashion shows. (Science says a high bust:waist ratio is also linked to fertility - and just look at the old fertility goddesses!)

A challenge for the dyed-in-the-wool social constructivist would be to see if they can 'learn' to find their most unappealing type the most appealing eg. go from Monroe to McManus (with an eye missing). ;)

Guybrush
15-03-2007, 08:07 PM
There was an interesting study recently that found that those feted for their good looks (Tom Cruise, Angelina Jolie etc) had faces that were closest to the mean of everybody's faces ie had the best genes - no hint of congenital disease/disability.

This reminds me of this (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Image:Hotornot_comparisons_manitou2121.jpg) image:

http://img238.imageshack.us/img238/4535/123el8.jpg

These women do not exist. They each are a composite of about 30 faces that I created to find out the current standard of good looks on the Internet.
On the popular Hot or Not web site, people rate others’ attractiveness on a scale of 1 to 10. An average score based on hundreds or even thousands of individual ratings takes only a few days to emerge.
I collected some photos from the site, sorted them by rank and used SquirlzMorph to create multi-morph composites from them. Unlike projects like Face of Tomorrow or Beauty Check where the subjects are posed for the purpose, the portraits are blurry because the source images are low resolution with differences in posture, hair styles, glasses, etc, so that I could use only 36 control points for the morphs.
What did I conclude about good looks from these virtual faces? First, morphs tend to be prettier than their sources because face asymmetries and skin blemishes average out. However, the low score images show that fat is not attractive. The high scores tend to have narrow faces. I will leave it to you to find more differences and to do a similar project for men.

hundredmillionlifetimes
16-03-2007, 03:44 AM
In the same way, what *direct* consequence does quantum mechanics have for society, beyond enabling the microchips that have led to the 'information revolution'?

Current digital microchips/CPUs have no connection with quantum mechanics, but are based on simple binary exclusion [on/off bits]. Quantum mechanical computers [still at the very early experimental stage] measure data by vectors of qubits (quantum bits) that utilise such quantum phenomena as entanglement and superposition. In the classical digital computer, the memory is made up of bits, where each bit represents either a one or a zero, and computation occurs by manipulating those bits, that is. by transporting these bits from memory to and from different logic gates. On the other hand, a quantum computer contains a vector of qubits, each of which can hold a one, a zero, or, most importantly, a superposition of these, so enabling the number of classical states encoded in a quantum register to grow exponentially with the number of qubits. But no fully working quantum computer has yet been convincingly demonstrated.

As for societal impacts, this is what many of the posts at the previous Baudrillard thread were attempting to demonstrate , for example, the direct correspondence [ indeed, almost viscerally astonishing association] between Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle and the inaccessibility of the Real, as previously noted by K-punk in that thread, here:


Now Baudrillard's point about the real is to do with the inability to get to a real 'in itself'. Modern culture is fixated upon 'reality', Baudrillard says, but it is faced with paradoxes whenever it attempts to confront that reality in the raw as it were. The obvious example is reality TV; Baudrillard's example is the 'fly on the wall' documentary. Do such documentaries give us an accurate picture, or has the presence of the camera completely altered how people behave? The situation is undecidable. But if such cultural products - ostensibly stripped of all artifice and fictionality - do not give us 'reality' what would?

Another example. The opinion poll. Do opinion polls simply reflect or represent a pre-existing reality? No - even if they accurately record people's views, that very recording cannot but intervene in the very process they are supposedly only representing.

Both these examples are what Baudrillard means by hyperreality. Not the departure, the diminution, the evaporation of reality, but its metastization - the more real than real.

One of the direct societal implications being that ...

[B]There Is No Such Thing As Representation ...

mixed_biscuits
16-03-2007, 09:03 AM
Why does Baudrillard stop at the use of media to record? Surely the real or imagined gaze of the Other is enough to affect behaviour? The effect of the real/imagined Other is produced by society (the present or past presence of the concrete Other). In any case, the social (directly/indirectly observed) me is just as 'real' as the asocial me (if such a thing can exist - even feral children act under observation).

Re opinion polls, polls don't just 'intervene' in the process of the 'real', they 'create' the 'real' - eg. ppl might be led to settle upon a view that they previously didn't hold. But yet again, that's just a societal interaction effect - which effects, per se, cannot be expunged to leave some kind of pristine noumenal 'realness' (which Kant rightly said cannot be apprehended directly anyway).

I reckon it's just cos he doesn't like Davina McCall.

Mr. Tea
16-03-2007, 12:02 PM
Current digital microchips/CPUs have no connection with quantum mechanics, but are based on simple binary exclusion [on/off bits].

That's not true at all. All semiconductor electronics are based on technology that could only be developed once physicists had a fully quantum-mechanical theory of solid-state physics.

John Doe
16-03-2007, 12:52 PM
Yes, but if you want to have the two concepts separate, nature must 'precede' culture - if not, there is an infinite regress This is where social constructivism is revealed as being capable of only shallow explanations.

In any case, the two terms are not separable. As we are natural animals, 'culture' is merely nature revealing our natures. Part of our nature is the hard-wired inclination to find beauty in something, which drives the 'beauty culture.'

There was an interesting study recently that found that those feted for their good looks (Tom Cruise, Angelina Jolie etc) had faces that were closest to the mean of everybody's faces ie had the best genes - no hint of congenital disease/disability.

A challenge for the dyed-in-the-wool social constructivist would be to see if they can 'learn' to find their most unappealing type the most appealing eg. go from Monroe to McManus (with an eye missing). ;)

Nature may well 'precede' culture (and as Levi Strauss points out, the moment when food moves from the raw to the cooked is the moment 'nature' ends and 'culture' begins) but to state that 'culture' is merely 'us' (who's is this us you keep mentioning?) revealing our 'nature' is laughable. Oh really? Seeing as human cultures are astonishingly and infinitely diverse either our 'natures' are utterly multi-faceted, polymorphous and dizzyingly diverse, or your argument is nonsense. You mention that our nature is 'hard wired to find beauty'. Is it? I would have thought it is hard wired to reproduce (which is not the same thing at all). The 'beauty culture' as such is the projection and realisation of desire in culture (which is not, and should not be confused with, whatever 'hard wired' reproductive drives we possess as a species). You ethno biologists have no adequate explanation/account for desire at all: as it is always desire which is both formed by and within culture (culture preceding our desire) then it is evident that our figures of desire are by definition shaped and specific to that culture. Ehtno biologists avoid this question: they are obsessed with attempting to define norms [of beauty in this case] that are universal and a-hisotrical (witness your nonsense about face shapes, asymmetry etc) in order to make the point that what is specific to our time and culture is somehow 'natural'. And as Roland Barthes said, whenever culture masquerades as nature, what it hides is ideology. You don't have to be the most perceptive of cultural critics to identify the ideology that lies behind the ethno-biologist project.

mixed_biscuits
16-03-2007, 08:25 PM
John Doe - once people start calling the other's arguments 'nonsense,' then I give up. If I want a slanging match, I go down the pub and start one. Hmm, pub...:D

hundredmillionlifetimes
16-03-2007, 11:34 PM
That's not true at all. All semiconductor electronics are based on technology that could only be developed once physicists had a fully quantum-mechanical theory of solid-state physics.


Well then, we seem to be talking about two completely different processes, as it would be news to learn that Turing machines are based on quantum mechanics, which I assume you're not actually saying here.

What I was saying is that digital computation is based on discrete, deterministic processes, ideas that have been around long before quantum mechanics. Technology is not the issue here [especially when it is just used for classical computation], but the scientific paradigm: digital computers do not use the quantum properties of particles in order to represent and structure data nor to perform operations on such data.

Quantum computation is based on stochastic, indeterminate processes, and has yet to be fully implemented [though D-Wave Systems' (http://www.dwavesys.com/)"Orion quantum computing system" claims to be the world's first working quantum computer, which incidentally operates as an analog computer].

Mr. Tea
17-03-2007, 08:28 PM
Technology is the issue here, since digital electronics in general (and computers in particular - not to mention fibre-optic cables, CDs, DVDs, mobile phones, digital cameras, etc. etc.) rely on technology that could not possibly have been developed without quantum mechanics.

I wasn't talking about quantum computers, as they have obviously had no significant effects on society since they haven't been invented yet (or, at best, are in the very, very early stages of development).

hundredmillionlifetimes
18-03-2007, 01:46 AM
Technology is the issue here,

No, such technology is still based on the classical computational paradigm: binary processing. How such technology is constructed to enable the mere continuation of classical processing is thus irrelevant (whether analogue abacus or digital processor). A camera is still a camera ...


I wasn't talking about quantum computers, as they have obviously had no significant effects on society since they haven't been invented yet (or, at best, are in the very, very early stages of development).

Well then you've answered your own question, or rather, contradicted your earlier assertion.

Yes, microchips are not based on quantum computation, because, as I said earlier (and which you repeat above), such quantum computers remain in the realm of theory.

Mr. Tea
18-03-2007, 12:03 PM
You're like a stuck record, you are.

If you knew even the first thing about computers you'd know that (modern) computers are based on semiconductor technology. This could no more have been invented without knowledge of quantum mechanics than the internal combustion engine could have been designed without the aid of thermodynamic theory (or, as I mentioned elsewhere, lightbulbs without electricity). No-one, least of all me, is claiming that computers operate according to quantum-mechanical computational procedures. I fail to see how I've 'contradicted' myself, since the only thing I've contradicted is your garbled mangling of my original statement.

But no doubt you're going to do what you always do, i.e. ignore everything I've said and launch some completely spurious attack about how 'ignorant' I am.

tht
18-03-2007, 01:27 PM
the superposition could resolve itself classically by suggesting that quantum theory did not inform early computer science (theory) in a conceptual fashion analagous to its co-option within the writings of [ ] and had to content itself simply with faciliating transistors, a paltry end

'Philosophy has no specificity, no proper territory, it is within literature, within art or science or theology or whatever; it is this element which contains a capability to be developed. In a sense, philosophy is scattered in every territory.'

(agamben)

Mr. Tea
18-03-2007, 07:32 PM
I certainly wouldn't say 'paltry'. The theory has a lot going for it quite apart from the (amazing) technologies that its discovery has allowed to be invented.

borderpolice
18-03-2007, 08:05 PM
the superposition could resolve itself classically by suggesting that quantum theory did not inform early computer science (theory) in a conceptual fashion analagous to its co-option within the writings of [ ] and had to content itself simply with faciliating transistors, a paltry end

For whatever it might be worth, the first ever computer, understood as a turing-universal machine, Zuse's Z3 (http://www.epemag.com/zuse/part4a.htm), was not using transistors at all, but rather electromechanical switches.

In fact, you can implement computers using just about anything, including water (http://www.blikstein.com/paulo/projects/project_water.html), or rocks, if Putnam is to be believed (http://www.springerlink.com/content/ql4047230q675124).

It is however also true, that computers as we understand them now, are essentially inconceivable without extremely fast switching elements like transistors, all known instances of which currently rely on quantum mechanics.

Mr. Tea
18-03-2007, 08:27 PM
This was my point exactly. You can make a Turing machine by moving plastic counters around on your dining room table if you really want to, but all modern electronics (since the 1950s/60s, at any rate) have made use of technology based on the quantum theory of electrons in solids.

hundredmillionlifetimes
19-03-2007, 11:47 PM
If you knew even the first thing about computers you'd know that (modern) computers are based on semiconductor technology. This could no more have been invented without knowledge of quantum mechanics than the internal combustion engine could have been designed without the aid of thermodynamic theory (or, as I mentioned elsewhere, lightbulbs without electricity). No-one, least of all me, is claiming that computers operate according to quantum-mechanical computational procedures. I fail to see how I've 'contradicted' myself, since the only thing I've contradicted is your garbled mangling of my original statement.



Let me put it starkly: I've been teaching computer science/information theory for over twenty years and during that time I've never come accross such a deranged dimwit such as yourself. Your very first post here claimed that semi-conductors "operate according to quantum-mechanical" principles. Now, your mistaken assumption exposed ["No-one, least of all me, is claiming that computers operate according to quantum-mechanical computational procedures] you still "fail to see how I've 'contradicted' myself."

You are a troll, evident since you began posting on this forum. No more discussion with YOU ...

Mr. Tea
20-03-2007, 12:29 AM
Oh fuck off. If you know that little about how computers work, you shouldn't be teaching the subject. If you don't know the difference between the concepts 'computers work by semiconductor electronics, which could not have been invented without quantum theory' and 'computers work by quantum-computational procedures', then you don't belong in the teaching profession.

Look, dickhead, the word 'quantum' appears five times in the following article:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Semiconductor
If semi-conductors don't work according to quantum-mechanical principles, then exactly how do they work? Do microscopic pixies ferry the electrons around at exactly the right energy levels? Does Santa Claus maintain the Fermi energy and band-gap structure of gallium-doped silicon? Do you even have the faintest idea what I'm talking about here?

It's obvious that your modus operandi is to spout a load of pretentious bullshit, get shot down in flames for talking rubbish and then try and cover your tracks by calling your detractors 'ignorant' in an attempt to disguise the fact that you don't know your arse from your elbow, all the while obfuscating the debate with references to postmodern philosophers and God knows what else.

I bet you a million pounds you reply to this post.

Edit: fucking hell, am I psychic or what?

But no doubt you're going to do what you always do, i.e. ignore everything I've said and launch some completely spurious attack about how 'ignorant' I am.

hundredmillionlifetimes
20-03-2007, 03:22 AM
tht, to quote you from the "War In Iran" thread, "why do you engage -however derisorily- with the likes of this nudnik cunt?"

tht
20-03-2007, 04:23 AM
that seems unfair, since that invective was in response to a callow apologist for political violence

the flaw in suggesting that quantum theory facilitated the development of semiconductors is redundancy (as if the theory is useful infosar as it is utile) - the assertion is essentially true nonetheless

Mr. Tea
20-03-2007, 12:13 PM
the flaw in suggesting that quantum theory facilitated the development of semiconductors is redundancy (as if the theory is useful infosar as it is utile) - the assertion is essentially true nonetheless

Cheers for the backup, although I'm not sure what you mean by 'redundancy' - I certainly never claimed quantum mechanics was developed in order to facilitate semiconductors and hence computers. Christ, I'd have to be a, an engineer *spits* to think like that! :eek:

tht
20-03-2007, 01:32 PM
that quantum theory is applied in technology isn't very surprising since almost all physics will have some technological use eventually

if concepts from physics are considered to be poetically or epistemological useful by writers eg pynchon, musil, gadda, like the poets of old, then that is not comparable to technology employing the same concepts, or even the transposition of a theory from physics to finance simply to predict a different type of variable - the epistemology of the three fields is completely different

how much of this discontent comes from the use of the term theory (not even critical- or literary-) to refer to hyper-allusive writing that syncretises different types of (post)structuralist thought (such that lacan, derrida, jakobson, bakhtin, althusser are all theorists after the fact, though they might have contentedly thought themselves linguists, psychoanalysts, philologists, phenonemolgists etc) ?

Mr. Tea
20-03-2007, 02:05 PM
how much of this discontent comes from the use of the term theory (not even critical- or literary-) to refer to hyper-allusive writing that syncretises different types of (post)structuralist thought (such that lacan, derrida, jakobson, bakhtin, althusser are all theorists after the fact, though they might have contentedly thought themselves linguists, psychoanalysts, philologists, phenonemolgists etc) ?

Er...about twelve? :slanted: I have to say, you've lost me a bit here.

My original point, before Alan Turing here led us off on a jolly tangent about how computers work, was the question: for what reason would academics working in fields totally unconnected to physics - historians, psychologists, sociologists, philosophers of the humanities - start saying to themselves "There's this new idea called the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle which applies to subatomic particles, therefore we need to start thinking differently about society, the human mind, literature and the arts" (to put it in an unrealistically literal turn of phrase, of course).

I mentioned the computers thing as an example of what I was not talking about, i.e. the very obvious tangible impact science has, via technology, on society. The fact that the atom became the pre-eminent symbol of physics, and science as a whole, in the 20th century tells you all you need to know about this - especially when you consider the atom's natural corollary, the mushroom cloud.

gabriel
20-03-2007, 02:07 PM
that one study isn't enough to indicate what happens in general, though, gabriel.

oh really? thanks for pointing that out to me, nomadologist, i had no idea about that :D

tht
20-03-2007, 03:47 PM
for what reason would academics working in fields totally unconnected to physics - historians, psychologists, sociologists, philosophers of the humanities - start saying to themselves "There's this new idea called the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle which applies to subatomic particles, therefore we need to start thinking differently about society, the human mind, literature and the arts" (to put it in an unrealistically literal turn of phrase, of course)

the latent wish that atoms ergo chromosones, aphids, nebulae, fixed income bonds, single mothers, cathars, superegos etc are all somehow symmetrical? fuck knows

Mr. Tea
20-03-2007, 03:54 PM
fuck knows

Heh, I appreciate the honesty. :)

hundredmillionlifetimes
21-03-2007, 12:21 AM
that seems unfair, since that invective was in response to a callow apologist for political violence

the flaw in suggesting that quantum theory facilitated the development of semiconductors is redundancy (as if the theory is useful infosar as it is utile) - the assertion is essentially true nonetheless

On the contrary, your original invocation of same was unfair: quietism and resignation in the face of such militant apologists. I quoted you here precisely because you are now engaging with "a callow apologist for political violence" (or are you under the illusion that you have failed to notice?).

As to the original, hilarious flaw in this thread - the "information society" being based on quantum mechanics - the poster in question has compounded his error by resorting to unacceptable personal abuse and slurs to deflect from his inane, untrue assertion, which is why all further discussion with him is terminated [and not because he's a political retard]. Good luck in your endeavours.

Mr. Tea
21-03-2007, 12:54 AM
hahaha 'political retard' hahaha! :) That's like being called a cripple by Stephen Hawking.

The funny thing is you were on the verge of admitting you'd got the wrong end of the stick:

Well then, we seem to be talking about two completely different processes...
(i.e. the process I was talking about, and the one you mistook for it), but of course a full admission was just a bit too painful, wasn't it?
May I remind you that you're the one who started the personal abuse? (as generally seems to be the case)

You've been proven wrong and now you're just grandstanding to try and cover it up. I don't think it's working too well, either.

vimothy
22-03-2007, 02:57 PM
tht, to quote you from the "War In Iran" thread, "why do you engage -however derisorily- with the likes of this nudnik cunt?"

Yeah no fair - that was my insult, Mr Tea has to get his own.

Mr. Tea
22-03-2007, 03:00 PM
Can I be a 'bogbug arsehole'? :)