Complexity Explained


With my good chum Péter Érdi at The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers mega shindig. Check out Peter’s excellent book (the title is as bold as Dennett’s Consciousness Explained) and now that Peter is head honcho for Cognitive Systems Research consider submitting something to them — it’s a very ecumenical journal with a nice balance between the philosophical and the empirical.


Deirdre McCloskey and Don Boudreaux on ‘Bourgeois Equality’

I’m a literary, quantitative, postmodern, free-market, progressive-Episcopalian, Midwestern woman from Boston who was once a man. Not ‘conservative’! I’m a Christian libertarian.

That description would flummox the regressives’ crude social ontology and their perversely illiberal hierarchy of victimhood. Anyway, it’s well-worth listening to the very kind and deeply talented Deirdre McCloskey whom I had the good fortune to meet in person some six years ago at a San Diego conference and who recently (and surprisingly) remembered me when we resumed our correspondence. Deirdre is frank, funny and quite scathing — always enriching listening to her and of course learning from her work.

Scottish equality vs French equality — I guess that’s an ongoing tension within Western political economy.


Website (everything you wanted to know about Deirdre but were afraid to ask)


Chuck Norris vs Communism

Very roughly analogous to the corrosive effects that the internet has been to our out-of-touch and typically regressive gatekeepers, so too was VHS the corrodent to the Romanian communist state. Now, as then, these gatekeepers entertain the shallowest of insights into the dynamics of situated moral psychology, deluded by their lazy rationalistic disparaging of “low brow” culture, the elites of all political persuasions are now caught like deer in the headlights of an oncoming vehicle. The words “hoisted” and “petard” spring to mind. Here is the homepage for the film — a film that stands as a timely reminder of a very recent illiberal past, an illiberalism that has now morphed into a homegrown trojan-like rabidly recreational censorious swarm behavior of faux outrage and cheap virtue-signaling.


Eric Ravilious 1903–1942

Born on this day — IMHO one of the greats.

Ravilious photo by Phyllis Dodd from Fry Art Gallery

(b London, 22 July 1903; d off Iceland, 2 Sept. 1942). British watercolour painter, printmaker, and designer. In addition to paintings, his highly varied output included book illustrations and book-jackets, and designs for furniture, glass, textiles, and the Wedgwood pottery factory (notably a mug commemorating Edward VIII’s coronation; this was withdrawn following Edward’s abdication, but the design was used in revised form for the coronations of George VI and Elizabeth II).

He was one of the outstanding wood engravers of his time, his book illustrations in this medium making striking use of bold tonal contrasts and complex patterning. In 1940–2 he was an Official War Artist, and he produced some memorable watercolours of naval scenes off Norway (Norway, 1940, Laing AG, Newcastle upon Tyne). His plane disappeared on a flying patrol near Iceland, in 1942, and he was officially presumed dead the following year. His wife Tirzah Ravilious (née Garwood) (1908–51) was a painter and illustrator. She gave up her career for motherhood (they had three children), but she started work again after Eric’s death, even though she was already suffering from the cancer that caused her own early death.

 — The Oxford Dictionary of Art and Artists


The Emergence of Groups and Inequality through Co-Adaptation

The title of this post denotes a newly published open access paper. Especially of note is section 2 The Stigmergy Game. Good to see more and more applications of stigmergy to the human-human dimension. I’d be interested to hear from my economist chums on their take on this paper since I have mentioned economics as a star example of a stigmergic system here — Stigmergy 3.0: From ants to economies and here Stigmergic epistemology, stigmergic cognition. Speaking of which, here is another plug for our recently published special issue on Human-Human stigmergy that features the open access Stigmergic coordination in FLOSS development teams: Integrating explicit and implicit mechanisms and as such has become the most downloaded article from Cognitive Systems Research in the last 90 days.

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Walker Percy Wednesday 93


Lewis knew a great many things, could read signs like an Indian but unlike an Indian he did not know what he could not do. He thought he was a good poet but he was not. He thought books could tell him how to live but they couldn’t. He was a serious but dazed reader. He read Dante and Shakespeare and Nietzsche and Freud. He read modern poetry and books on psychiatry. He had taken a degree in English, taught English, fought in a war, returned to teach English, couldn’t, decided to farm, bought a goat farm, managed a Confederate museum in a cave on his property, wrote poetry, went broke, became a golf pro. Lewis showed him some of his poetry once. It was not good. There was one poem called “New Moon over Khe Sanh,” which was typed in the shape of a new moon:

Screen Shot 2016-07-19 at 11.41.10 AMHow could Lewis who could locate others so well, so misplace himself? How could he read signs and people so well, yet want to be a third-rate Rupert Brooke with his rendezvous with death at Khe Sanh? Why would he even want to be a first-rate Rupert Brooke? On the other hand, what was Lewis supposed to do? be an Indian scout? goatherd? English teacher? golf pro? run a Confederate cave? Lewis didn’t seem to know. But what was good about him was that he remained himself despite himself. Books had not spoiled him. He knew a great deal he hadn’t learned from books. The trouble was he didn’t set store by it.


If belief is shitty and unbelief is shitty, what does that leave?
No, Lewis was even more demented than the believers. Unbelieving Lewis read Dante for the structure. At least, believers were consistent. They might think Dante is a restaurant in Asheville but they don’t read Marx for structure.


Wasn’t it possible to believe in God like Pascal’s cold-blooded bettor, because there was everything to gain if you were right and nothing to lose if you were wrong?