In the Spirit of Collegial Inquiry...

updated: 28 Apr 98

On Society and Socialization

CW:   I was thinking recently that the modern era (18th century and later) is characterized by attempts to create group dynamics that mimic the function of an individual human mind. In other words a group that can think the same way an individual brain can.

JCC:   That's an interesting consideration, perhaps in view of the different thinking styles modelled by the Myers-Briggs types, for example... that optimum results might be obtained from a certain mix of individual intelligences. And here too is the value of new approaches to intelligence(s) plural as Gardner and Sternberg are picturing.

CW:   Which leads to the question: to what degree do individual neurons know intent? This actually isn't as ridiculous as it might sound. Roger Penrose wrote at least one book on this question, The Emperor's New Mind. But I think if we can witness the initial evolution of the ability to think we will find similar attempts on a neurological level as the great (or notorious) social movements of the modern era.

JCC:   I don't know. Might there be some higher-level governing centers localized within various brain structures? The key might involve finding ways to read the "assembly language", the physical representation of ideas and symbols in the brain.

CML:   On a brighter note, Cal, ever heard of Teilhard de Chardin? The idea of a millennial quickening of a collective mentality is not new, and does indeed have neurological parallels. In the most recent issue of Noesis, the idea that the upper-echelon high-IQ community spans such a context is explored on the basis of specific improbable coincidences that have occurred recently among two or three groups. (Rather strange that you just came up with the same idea, isn't it?)

CLF:   These subjects (the quickening of a collective mentality, awareness of synchronistic events, etc...) are also discussed in The Celestine Prophecy.

JCC:   {smile}

CML:   Again, while the complete proof would occupy more space than we currently have, what it comes down to is this: we live in a universe in which space and time can be described as generalized forms of information and cognition. Because information and cognition are recursively defined concepts which cannot be separated - for one possible proof of this microassertion, I refer you to the theories of relativity and quanta - there exists a mathematical description of spacetime in which it has enough "hidden info-cognitive structure" to support a generalized version of what we call intelligence. By undertaking a similar generalization of the concept of purpose - the term "purpose" is merely a generic answer to why? questions regarding events in the absence of deterministic laws - this collective intelligence can be endowed with volition. Ergo, a group mind.

In principle, the same "transcendental mechanism" functions among neurons (Penrose actually offered a specific quantum-level biomechanical mechanism through which this might function). [Note that the preceding paragraph contains several specific assertions that you can challenge by making contrary assertions.]

WHK:   Is this how the Borg started? - If so, resistance really IS futile!

LDL:   Excellent points ... However, in an effort to keep Colloquy congenial I have written my last on the subject of Chris's assertions. He has failed to offer sufficient proof for me and that is enough. I can not in good conscience acknowledge he has proven the existence of a universal intelligence. Unlike Chris, I make no claim to have proven there is no universal intelligence and simply state my belief and my opinion that, without evidence to the contrary, I suspect there is no such critter.

CW:   One point we can't really be sure about is whether or not this universe exists as an independant entity. Intelligence, when refering to an individual entity, seems to imply independance of cognition.

When we talk about hiq societies, "group" mind in some sense contradicts the notion of individual achievement upon which selection criteria are based. I would say in that regard that HIQ societies are made up of many people who would like to participate on a group level in some way but are somewhat confused about it.

When I was talking about societal processes in some way mimicking neural processes I was thinking specifically about the widespread use of democracy and to some degree socialism as a way of making decisions on a mass scale. IN some sense they represent two ends of a spectrum (one end being self-organization the other being self-analysis). An important factor in human intellectual development has been the availability of high quality protein in the diet which in some societies has become the norm rather than the exception. We are the fattest civilization in history are we not?

But I think group process is going on all the time but up until now it has been on more of an animalistic level sometimes organized {Triumph of the Will} and sometimes not {On the Waterfront}. There seems to be a necessity right now to go beyond that if we plan on having a half decent place to come back to if we are to come back. However, as with human evolution there is no way to actively plan this possibility in advance. We actually have no idea what this possibility would actually be like any more than your cat can understand chess. But, in the meantime perhaps we could endevour to be a little more patient with each other???

LDL:   Short Range: We are the fattest people in history because of a variety of reasons; certainly more available food, meat in particular, moreover meat often loaded with estrogen, and less strenuous lives, vocationally as well as recreationally. Estrogen seems to be some factor in the equation and there are many undetermined effects on what trickle doses of estrogen might do to males and females. Sperm production, I've read, in American males is down 50%. Population, however, is still increasing, but violent crimes have dropped. Cyclical, or other factors? We may be doing strange things to ourselves, all with the best intentions. Will they ultimately be for the good, or for ill? Any guesses?

Long Range: With the human genome project we may soon be able to create remarkable human beings as different from ourselves as we are from neanderthal ... are we the seed of our own destruction? Could we embrace our own artificially created children if it was for the ultimate good, and allow ourselves to quietly disappear from the scene? Perhaps we might be revered as the benevolent fathers of the next evolutionary step by those we create!

EM:   I see the debate rages on for membership in this august conclave. I once was truly clever, but God punished me for my intellectual arrogance, now I must limp along at the 99.5 level, and strain to understand the arguments of those securely ensconced in the intellectual firmament. Sic transit gloria, alas, it was fun, but nothing lasts forever:):):)

I will be on television tomorrow. How's that for an attention grabber? Anyhow, I will be, all the same, a local station in Hazleton, PA, to talk about my newsletter. I am very pleased with it, my apprenticeship with The Baltimore Freethinker Journal has been turned to very good account. My book sells for $9.95, a complete set of all issues of the Anthracite History Journal is $15, and we have only produced eight of them so far. The next issue, June, will begin the 3rd year of publication. I did what I meant to do, establish a publication that would bring together all the diverse activities of people concerned with anthracite history, and provide a forum to express any views they might hold.

Actually, I just unintentionally touched on the meaning of life there, in case you didn't notice. Expression, expression, expression, that is what we live for, that is what we long for, that is what we bash each other in the head for. To gather in a small group and hold forth our ideas about anything is expression, quite as much as how we array ourselves to appear before our fellow humans. How we dress, walk, talk, dance, sing, write poems, write books, play basketball, fornicate, conjugate, and subjugate are all forms of human expression.

The fount of all this industry is the preservation and enhancement of the individual egos of the collective organism we participants choose to call humanity, the wellspring of course, is power, or our idea of power. Some of us think there is a higher power, or external power, or, if Hindu an all-pervading internal/external power. Others are pleased to relax, or languish, in the serene disapproval of those needing such powers.

I have always been puzzled by the true believer, but I do admit to being equally puzzled by the true non-believer, in that I see it as quite as much a leap (saltatory) of faith as that of the believer. I got a solicitation in the mail today from the American Humanist Association to re-subscribe, and I would be presented with a handsome 2nd Humanist Manifesto. I detested the first one, why would I want a 2nd? I didn't care much for Karl Marx's, or Martin Luther's, either. If I want to be conventional, I could go back to the Evangelical Church and mutter the Apostle's Creed every once in a while, and be in familiar surroundings.

I read something surprising recently. About 300 years ago, the difference in per capita income between the wealthiest and poorest nations was not very large, perhaps five to one. This year, it is 400 to 1, Switzerland compared with Mozambique. I see this as placing an unbearable strain on human relations between nations. Even in our own nation, there is a vast disparity between the distribution of resources between the various classes. Few among the public realize how great is this disparity.

JPr:   I am not surprised, and I agree with you that it puts an enormous strain on human relations between nations. Moreover, it puts a significant strain on relations between groups within the boundaries of our own nation.

I noted this phenomenon with respect to school district funding disparities in 1979, when in my doctoral program I took School Finance (in Illinois). I commented in class that I felt the rich districts within Illinois appeared to be getting richer at a stronger pace than the poor districts appeared to be getting richer, thus increasing the disparity. He seemed astonished at the time, and commented to the class it would make a great dissertation topic for me to pursue. I had the good sense not to do it, since I would have been bored to pieces with that topic, but my comment proved to be true in the next several years for Illinois school funding. Many states have had lawsuits regarding funding equalization.

Now, that phenomenon is becoming so pronounced generally that it is obvious to people like you and me in relation to general economics, not just school funding (which of course is essentially general economics for communities!). I am told that this phenomenon occurred at the end of the last century and resulted in the Great Depression. Someone told me there is a book on the history of this at the turn of the century, but I can't remember who told me (my sister, I believe) or the name of the book.

The ultimate result of such a great disparity in resources is often war. That is probably why I am so socialistic at heart. I prefer sharing to war in re-distributing wealth. I don't mind paying taxes that are used to support people; I also support the concept of a military for national defense, but not at the expense of human lives back home where some welfare efforts are important.

Oh, dear...there it is, I'm on record as a ...liberal!

EM:   ... A subject I once wanted to use for a book was My Baltimore. Had I done it, or if I ever do it, the approach would be sociological, though not in the usual academic sense. I was looking at a zip code map of Baltimore about 10 years ago right after I had been studying a census map. At the same time I was working in the Baltimore County Health Department, a small part of my assignment at the time was to file hospital admission records for mental illness. On my own time, I was gathering information for a book on alcoholism. My wife then attended the Smith College annual book sale at the Towson Armory, an event certainly known to Julia, whereupon she brought home a miscellaneous collection of books including some recent issue Baltimore Blue Books, the social register for this city. I noticed a distinct pattern of addresses for the membership of that august body. I have just revealed I am not one of them, or I'd have had my own current issue, wouldn't I?:):):)

For the alcoholism book, I had the then current AA Directory of all meetings in the city, and it was an easy matter to get the NA Directory as well. I then went to the phone book, and made a zip code list of all churches. Then I got crime lists for the year, made a zip code list of that. I made a zip code list of everything else. I made a zip code list of Baltimore Mensa, I had the directory for that year. My interest was in who does what, when, how often, how many, and why by zip code in this city and contiguous counties as defined by zip code for Baltimore. There was a mechanical approach in all of this, the book would have a clear plastic overlay with the zip code boundaries defined, which could then be put over each page of information to reveal quickly and graphically the particular body of information on that page. Which zip code had the most Mensa members? Which zip code had none? It has been my observation in life that in general conversation, any statement that begins with the word "people" is usually erroneous or uninformed. My book would give a picture of this city, what groups of people in particular sections do more or less of, and who they are by various divisions and stratifications. Even in my small amount of research, there were some surprises ...

KB:   I find one of my Problems with social Situations (and thusly [perhaps wrongly] I avoid them or remain distant until approached) is "male camaraderie." "Hello you ugly so-and-so", "Boy you look like ****," etc... I have found two men Friends (more appropriately, soul-mates) in my twenty-eight Years that I can talk with about anything. It's not that I can't communicate on various Levels--rather, I do not want to communicate at some Levels.

Unfortunately this Plane to wit I am suspiciously absent is where most, IMHO, dwell. Occasional good natured barbs are most welcome. When the barbs become the foci of the relationship I take my emotional leave--this of course being viewed as aloof, moody, erratic, ad naseum. Many call me "thin-skinned." Perhaps--however, as I'm sure many here must have had similar Experiences in earlier life (say, School) that has made them guarded (thin-skinned). Well now, isn't that quite a little rant I've spent way too much time upon?

EM:   I do so love a heartfelt rant! It's not the content so much as the style and passion that moves me. I loathe the hearty whap on the back and the bone crushing handshake, followed by the shouted inquiry, "Whaddya think o' them O's?" during baseball season. The truth is I never think of "them O's", never did and never will. I found baseball dull in childhood, the few times I engaged in it.

JPr:   I'll second the motion! Educational experiences are some of the worst for kids who are bright, aren't they? Even the teachers barb! (educator for 25 years)

EM:   Julia {noted that another list} became inactive, with the participants retreating into lurk mode. Does this relate to new member Lisa's comment that people rarely want to really "talk"? If so, why, and what can be done about it? You know I have opinions and theories about everything in the universe, known and unknown, and this situation is no exception. When we "talk", we express ourselves. Everything we do, and don't do, is a form of expression. We try, usually, to arrange this expression so we will be well regarded by our fellow primates, the moreso if they share a peculiar intellectual abnormality. Once we have had the audacity of committing our words to print and the gaze of others, we run the risk of our skill in expression being examined and the merit of our content being weighed or debated ( mene, mene, tekel, upharsin?). If our expression meets with ill favor, we may find our ethical and moral qualities under scrutiny, as well as parentage, upbringing, and the validity of standardized test scores proffered. I respectully submit this is the genesis and sustenance of the practise of lurking.

More discussions to be appended soon ...

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