Maureen's Question:

If the world is constantly evolving, and we continue to see new and more universes,
if change is the only constant, what can we rely on?
What can ground us? Anchor us? And if there is nothing, does it matter?
Are our concepts of "anchor" and "grounding" mere illusions to make us feel better?

Maureen's Question takes me pretty far afield, into just the sort of digressive romp that burnishes the brightness of life, brings the irreverent and allusive into play, and finds connections for things of various pasts (remembered videos and songs, rabbit holes of different shapes and sizes, and even some unthunk thoughts). And, as per usual, it's the process that fascinates me: the leaps linking the previously unconnected, the sequencing into a Narrative, and the openings for orthogonalities: abrupt changes of direction, funhouse mirrors, wacky and whimsical juxtapositions. The whole megillah.

What can ground us? Anchor us?

I can remember that I once thought the Answer might be found in The Calculus (since it's a mathematics of Change, Fluxion, and Rates), and over the years I've made a number of efforts to teach myself the magic—all unsuccessful and indeed pretty foolish and ill-informed. And for 50+ years I've thought that Cybernetics and General Systems Theory and Ecology were the roadmap to understanding our place in terrestrial complexity, the anchor to windward for whatever was coming next, and the basis for defining agendas for study. I imagined these frameworks as Tools to do battle with the vast spectra of Information coming at us: the Calculus as elegant abstraction, and the CyberEcology to build models of interlinked subsystems through which sense-able and measurable quantities and qualities flowed. These betoken a touching faith in ratiocination, in the very knowability of things and processes, and in the possible construction of explanations. And they might work, but we really don't know what's coming. As we've remarked before, nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition. And really it's Gertrude Stein who saw most clearly:

What can we rely upon? is the heart of Maureen's question. And we can rely upon more of the unexpected and unanticipated as we mere players continue to strut upon the stage, so perhaps the Answer to anchoring and grounding rests somehow in embracing our capacity for Surprise and Wonder at the marvelous complexities we have some idea about (the Webb telescope is the most recent jaw-dropper in that realm). Recently (as I was considering how Futurists might think about the Question) it occurred to me that one thing we can surely rely upon is not being able to know how it will all come out: we can be surprised by the future until we run out of it, and have no more personal future. Exeunt omnes, as Shakespearian stage directions put it.

Thinking of analogies for the balancing act required to be anchored and grounded in constant change, I thought of the dude riding a surfboard: the board latches on to the energy flux of a shore-bound wave, and the rider is at the centroid of a dynamical system—bending, twisting, catching a ride by sensitivity to the complex dynamics of fluid motion, being IN the moment until you're not: until it gets all gnarly and you get pitted. Micah Peasley lays it out for you:

(at 2:22 of the second video) ?What does 'get pitted' mean?

Oh 'get pitted'? OK, it's almost like ... actually can be... reaching the point of no return,
so deep in the barrel that you're not making it out,
but it's so aggressive and large and chaotic and crazy
it's like you're in the beast of a monster in his belly and you're in its belly
and you're getting digested and ground up...

...and then one of those orthogonal leaps, as the little voice in the head reminded me of Christy Moore's song 'Delirium Tremens' which has the wonderful line

...As I sat lookin' up at the Guiness ad, I could never figure out
how yer man stayed up on the surfboard after 14 pints of stout...

so you hafta see a couple of YouTube videos:

(see also The best surfing commercials of all time)

And then see Christy sing the song:

Delirium Tremens

Christy Moore

I dreamt a dream the other night I couldn't sleep a wink
The rats were tryin' to count the sheep and I was off the drink
There were footsteps in the parlour and voices on the stairs
I was climbin' up the walls and movin' round the chairs.
I looked out from under the blanket up at the fireplace.
The Pope and John F. Kennedy were starin' in me face.
Suddenly it dawned at me I was getting the old D.T.s
When the Child o' Prague and Michael Flatley began to dance around the mantlepiece.


Goodbye to the Port and Brandy, to the Vodka and the Stag,
To the Schmiddick [Smithwick] and the Harpic, the bottled draught and keg.
As I sat lookin' up the Guinness ad I could never figure out
How your man stayed up on the surfboard after 14 pints of stout.

Well I swore upon the bible I'd never again touch a drop.
My heart was palpitatin' I was sure 'twas going to stop,
Thinkin' I was dyin' I gave my soul to God to keep.
A tenner to St. Anthony to help me get some sleep.
I fell into an awful nightmare - got a dreadful shock.
When I dreamt there was no Duty-free at the airport down in Knock.
George Seawright was sayin' the rosary and SPUC were on the pill.
Frank Patterson was gargled and he was singin' Spancil Hill.


I dreamt that Mr. Haughey had recaptured Crossmaglen
Then Garret got re-elected and gave it back again.
Dick Spring and Roger Casement were on board the Marita-Ann
As she sailed into Fenit they were singin' Banna Strand.
I dreamt Archbishop McNamara was on Spike Island for 3 nights
Havin' been arrested for supportin' Travellers' rights.
I dreamt that Ruairi Quinn was smokin' marijuana in the Dail
Barry Desmond handin' Frenchies out to scuts in Fianna Fail.


I dreamt of Nell McCafferty and Mary Kenny too
The things that we got up to, but I'm not tellin' you.
I dreamt I was in a jacuzzi along with Alice Glenn
'twas then I knew I'd never ever, ever drink again.


[In Christy's live versions, the previous 2 verses are replaced with the following; ]

I dreamt I was in ecstacy in Heaven, and in agony in Hell, I was bored in Limbo and then I was in Purgatory as well And there was original sins and venial sins and mortal sins by the score So I tied barbed wire around my underpants and flagellated myself on the floor Then I dreamt I was in the confessional box and the auld Bishop said to me; 'Any impure thoughts, my child?' Sure the f**king barbed wire was killin' me! And then I dreamt I was in the jacuzzi with that auld hoor from No. 10 And then I knew I'd never ever, ever drink again.

(all that courtesy of my many years of study of Celtic music...)

Digressive enough for you? But wait, there's more. We're surfing on the edge of the transhuman, heading more and more in the direction of becoming cyborgs ourselves... the waves come incessantly, bigger in some places than others, and we're challenged to ride them, to Hang 10. (n.b. it's time to re-watch Dogtown and Z-Boys)


So what can help us with how to think about the complexities we're enmeshed in? One of the candidates now before the public eye is "AI", which (among other things) opens up semantic fields for investigation and play. Pose a word or phrase to the black box of an AI and turn the crank to see what happens... We get answers, and the problem is to make sense of them. It's like an oracle, a vastly more complex and intertwingled version of that ball that gives answers in a little window, or casting the I Ching, or looking at a pig's liver... a lot of -mancy. I personally feel a good bit of hesitancy about AI as an emergent technology, but I'm realizing that it's necessary to try to discern what they're doing and how they work with the human minds now experimenting with them. The rash of image-generating programs is a (relatively) harmless on-ramp. Once you've signed up with one of these AIs, just type a prompt in the box and see what the AI returns:




Not so bad, really

Here's a bit snagged from Mike Slavin at Down The Rabbit Hole (no, really...):

How would an AI see anxiety?

My curiosity wouldn't allow me to leave this question unanswered.

I used a generator called MidJourney that creates images based on a text prompt.

I typed the words...

"This is how anxiety feels"

A few minutes later I was looking at this image...

Far from sunshine and rainbows...

These images provoke a sense of...

Of course, it's subjective but that's what I'm seeing.

Is there anything that stands out to you?

One of the things we're focusing on in the Anxiety Masterclass is social anxiety.

I had to ask the AI about it... especially since it is so common.

"What social anxiety feels like"

Here you can clearly see isolation.

Only one image has other people in it.

And even there, the foreground character is facing away. The body language is slumped over and looking downward.

These images communicate how disconnected a person can feel through social anxiety.

Okay, one more image...

Because I didn't want to just dwell on the bad.

We all know how tough things can be.

One of the main reasons we're releasing the Anxiety Masterclass is so people realize they don't have to remain stuck in these places.

That there is a path forward and they can release the grip anxiety has on their lives.

So I entered the prompt

"Freedom on the other side of anxiety"

Flowers, butterflies with our character moving onward into the light.

Now that's more like it!

Peace of mind is possible and not only that, the path of working through our anxiety can be deeply meaningful.

And if you're still not satisfied, take a look at AI artist manifests monkeypox at Burning Man.

from O'Reilly Radar:

Public (beta) access to DALL-E is beginning! It might take a while to get in because there are over a million on the waitlist. Accepted users get 50 free credits the first month, 15/month thereafter; a credit allows you to give one prompt, which returns 4 images. Users can buy additional credits.
Something is happening here, but you don't know what it is... Do you, Mr. Jones?

Of course there's more to say, but I hafta think it first... so this may be continued, or not.