Me, Myself, and I

Posted on July 14, 2014. Filed under: Animals, Nature, Self-awareness, sociology | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , |

LIARS* from the elite and restricted club of The Great Learned** have decreed that, if a living entity cannot recognize the reflection in a mirror as itself, it cannot be self-aware.  Such evaluations ignore that…

  • Humans are born not knowing squat about anything except screaming and kicking.
  • Human babies, like all mammals, learn by mimicking what others around them are doing.
  • Human babies finally see the grooming utility of mirrors after much coaching from older persons.  More importantly, they are taught the satisfaction of admiring the fine creature-form looking back at them.  (Oooh!  From this angle I have a Roman god-like profile.  And check those pec definitions…   uh, sorry!  Having flashbacks.)
  • Most life forms, including non-human mammals, depend on other senses than sight to describe the world and their particular placements in that world.
  • A wide variety of life forms have survived on this planet for millions upon millions of years.  Had they not been able to delineate the boundary between SELF and the surrounding environment, they would not have survived for one single day.
  • Being alive is about being SELF-ish.  Didn’t anybody read anything in that book The Selfish Gene?***

But, the Great Learned maintain that if an entity does not perceive the world as the Great Learned perceive it, then that entity must be simply a robot-like biomass bound to instinctive action and programmed reaction.  So, I repeat my question from a previous post:

  • If a blind homo smart sapiens cannot recognize its reflection from a reflective surface, is that h. smart sap. NOT self-aware?

The world in which non-humans live is fast-moving and dangerous.  Lethal even.  Quite often.  The only creatures goofy enough to kill time staring at their reflections are those who are not constantly on the lookout for predators and have the leisure time and safety to amuse themselves…   with themselves.  The ability to even see that reflection in the first place is a biggie, too.

All living entities know about Numero Uno.  The only ones in the dark on this have been converted to Numero Dos.  All others not SELF (the perceiving Numero Uno) are accorded different degrees of trust in keeping with their genetic and social distance from SELF.  These are my classifications of sentient entities:

  • self = me, myself, and I; numero uno; an entity’s awareness that it is separate from other stuff
  • near-self = siblings and other kin and relations bonded to SELF during the growing years.  Accorded the highest degree of trust
  • other-self = distant relatives and casual members of the self, near-self group.  Accepted, but regarded cautiously
  • far self = others that sort of look like me and my group, but, I don’t know them and I don’t trust them;  unrelated others of my species

Through the years, I have been out and about at all hours of the day and night.  Taking public transportation some years ago put me out on the streets around dawn and dusk when certain birds (grackles) flocked from sleep mode and, later, flocked in from their far feeding ranges.  At first, the view was just a noisy din of chatter and fluttering feathers amid a chaotic and frantic in rush of bird bodies.  Over repeated inclusions in these social interactions, a pattern began to resolve itself:

  • MORNING.  Great rushes of feathered bodies rose from the various night lodgings (trees to you hardcore city dwellers) and began chattering and swooping, then briefly settling on electric power lines.  There, you could see strings of bird-beads arrayed in varying proximity to each other.  These “beads,” bit by bit, eventually took flight and joined a selected group of passing flyers as they left the area to begin the day’s business.
  • EVENING.  This was almost an exact reversal of the morning start-up.  One by one, flocks of varying sizes returned to the same area swirling, diving, coasting a-wing as though in play.  On the power lines, a few birds began perching, typically with a large separation between them.  Early arrivals settled on a spot that was equidistant from bird-left and bird-right.  As more birds settled in, I began to see little groups separated by gaps.  Groups of birds would take off as one, join a passing group of flyers and wing off to sleeping quarters.

But there is more to this ordered disorder than meets the  eye.  After more and more flocks arrive, the beads are closer packed on the power line, with two, three and four or more parked side by side.  An arrival might fly up to one bead excitedly and the two might carry the flitting above the rest spot, then both settle down side by side.  New arrivals seem to do a fly by of all the parked beads then either move on to another area or settle in with or near previous arrivals.  But, the process is not always peaceful.  Sometimes a new arrival drops in close to a bead only to have the original arrival jump him and run him off.  Toward night fall, pretty much all the flyers have settled in — peaceably — on the power lines and are pretty much packed shoulder to shoulder with a gap in the string here and there.  Then, segments of the string take off as one and move on to the various bedrooms.  In the morning, from bedroom to assembly area, this same process is repeated with departure to foraging areas the goal.

Within this observed process, I see the SELF, NEAR-SELF awareness playing out.  The variable spacing between the beads is directly related to the relationship of one bead to another:  the shorter the distance, the closer the relationship.  This explains the ejection of an arrival by a sitting bead.  The assault says:

  • I don’t know you that well.  GET LOST!
  • I’m sorry, but that seat is taken.  GET LOST!

The swirling, chattering fly bys are a sorting out process.  I surmise that the sleeping group has a different composition than the foraging group.  In the morning, the sleeping group hits the assembly area and looks for those it prefers to hang with during the day.  In the evening, the various foraging groups meet at the assembly area and begin locating the members of their  sleeping group.  My guess is that the sleeping group is close kin to each other.  Like humans, there is a domestic life and a separate work life.

And all that chatter is excited TALKING, not just generalized, instinctive noise.

 

_________________________________________

*LIARS = Learned Individual Ascribing Refinement to Self

**The Great Learned = that association of self-proclaimed experts, as in “See my sheepskin from the University of Great Humans?”  (UGH for short)

***Author Richard Dawkins.  And, all I have read of the book is the title.

 

Advertisements
Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )

Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

Posted on May 9, 2014. Filed under: Nature, Psychology | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , |

…who is the smartest one of all?

Aw, shucks!  That is just too easy.  Why, it’s Homo smart sapiens, of course.

Your proverb for todayKnow thyself.

(It’s Greek; a Delphic maxim from the Temple of Apollo at Delphi.  That means it is very, very old so it must be highly respected.  Actually, I would not have thought those old Greeks would speak in King James’ lingo.)

Your words for the day:

  • Narcissus = a Greek-myth guy with a thing for himself
  • mirror = a reflective surface that says, “Right back atcha, big guy.”

The vaunted, and much invoked, mirror test for self-awareness is an exceptional choice for scientist to use in validating their superior observations about the lesser smarts of other life forms.  Of course, the test is useless without defining the parameters of “self-awareness.”  Who better to define those parameters than the League of The Great Learned?  What better standards to use than those that define The Great Learned themselves?  I mean, they are the epitome of H. smart sap., are they not?

“Okay, Lesser Beings, here is the mirror that Narcissistic types (such as we scientists) like to drool at.  Do you understand that you are beholding your very own self?  C’mon, show us the drool.”

  • The lizard, who gets attacked by almost anything its size or bigger, has only a split second to respond to the presence of another.  It has no time to see if all its scales are in place or which angle presents his best profile (take that, Geico gecko).  There is also the matter of lizard social protocol that must be adhered to, and, since the image looks like a good matchup to himself, he figures he can take the other guy and goes on the offense.  This lizard may not give any thought to killer asteroids or last days on the Mayan calendar — big subjects for the science dudes — but you can bet your sweet bippy he gives a lot of thought to the care and maintenance of HIS ass.  To be concerned with HIS, he has to be aware of HIMSELF.
  • The pasture cow, who lives day in and day out with a herd of very peaceful look-alikes, says, “Ho hum.  If you want me to show interest here, slip in an image of the Big Bull out there and sprinkle this thing with some of that cologne he uses.  Now, that’s something I could stand still for.  Otherwise, get this thing out of my face and get me another wad o’ cud.”
  • Tomcat domesticus, full of tomcat hormones, might go for the glass like the lizard; yet, that same tomcat, relaxing in the shade and giving his best impersonation of The Great Sphinx (over there in the mother of all sand boxes) with tail stretched out behind him, can take time from his busy schedule to fiddle with the last 3 inches of that tail.  It stands like a snake, tip twirling slowly, then dipping to the side toward the ground, then back up.  Tomcat looks like a stone lawn ornament, but, you know he is having a good time.  One short kitten leg away from the tom’s twitching extremity is a kitten, and it just knows he can swat that wiggling thing.  For quite a while, this tableau continues.  The tomcat, looking ever so stoic, knows full well the excitement he is creating in the kitten’s mind, and he is enjoying the game as much as the kitten.  The tomcat knows who he is and where his personal boundaries are.  He is aware of HIMSELF.

I could do this for quite a while, given the number of different creatures that have survived on this planet for a lot longer than H. smart sap., but I hear that, for maximum effect, you repeat something no more than 3 times.  The law of diminishing returns, or something like that.  Maybe I heard it from Johnny Carson.

A long, long time ago (if you knew my age, you might want to add one more “long” in there) I devised a couple of mental exercises to illustrate self-awareness in other creatures.  Now, don’t tell me that mental projections prove nothing, ’cause H. smart sap., sub-species science dudes, have built veritable cults around an imaginary dead/alive cat* and an imaginary razor** purported to be so sharp it can slice intangible arguments right down the exact middle.  My tests are a little different…   they can actually be tested in real-time with real subjects.  If real-time is opted, these tests for self-awareness can only be performed by real representatives of The Great Learned.  Only they can truly appreciate the outcomes.

TEST 1.  THE SILVERBACK CHALLENGESetup:  A line of 3 strong cages.  Cages Number 1 and 3 each contain a very contented silverback gorilla.  Cage Number 2 in the middle is empty.  Our observer/actor (preferably a Great Learned One with a Ph. D. in something or other that sounds real smart) has been outfitted with a medium weight baseball bat, a note-book and pencil for note taking, and a hit of Valium — it is the humane thing to do.  Oh, yeah!  And a mirror for later reference.  The test proceeds thusly:

  • The observer/actor enters Cage Number 3, walks over to the contented silverback, who looks at him with only slight interest.
  • The observer/actor lifts the bat and attempts to get a base hit using the silverback’s head as a baseball.
  • This is the critical part:  The observer/actor will now take detailed notes as to whether the gorilla in Cage Number 3 reacts as though it was the gorilla way over in Cage Number 1 that took the bat upside his head.
  • If the gorilla in Cage Number 3 has NO sense of self-awareness, the observer/actor can exit the cage, leaving the mirror for the bleeding gorilla to play with later.
  • If the gorilla in Cage Number 3 DOES have a sense of self, the observer/actor can keep the mirror so that someone else can hold if for him at the hospital where he can see what self-awareness really looks like.

TEST 2:  THE FIRE ANT CHALLENGE.  Setup:  2 fire ant mounds 10 feet apart.  One observer/actor as in test number 1, equipped with that note-book and pencil and an assistant holding a syringe full of a local anesthetic.  The test proceeds thusly:

  • The observer/actor walks up to one of the mounds, his choice.  Removing the shoe and sock from one foot and rolling up the corresponding pant leg, he vigorously and with great gusto stomps the selected mound back into the ground.
  • The observer/actor leaves his bare-naked foot and leg in the middle of the destruction, and, lifting that note-book and pencil, takes detailed notes on whether the ants in the stomped nest reacted as though it was the OTHER NEST, 10 feet away that got the crap stomped out of it.
  • A Giventhe ants in the stomped mound would flunk the mirror test, if anyone could figure out how to administer one to them.
  • If the disrupted colony has no sense of SELF, the nervous assistant will not have to moonlight as an EMT.

A human-vanity mirror test to determine whether other life forms are self-aware, science dudes stating emphatically what a life form IS or IS NOT thinking…   give me a break.

__________________________________

*Schrödinger’s cat                      **Occam’s razor

 

 

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 1 so far )

English: Split Infinitives and Egos

Posted on February 7, 2013. Filed under: English, grammar, Journalism, language | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , |

Your words for the day:

  • infinitive = the word “to” followed by a “verb form” (e.g., to go)
  • split infinitive = an infinitive verb form with an element, usually an adverb, interposed between to and the verb form (e.g., to boldly go)

To improve my smarts before opening my mouth, I went to the web to see what the Great Learned had to say on the subject.  From search results, I clicked on a Yahoo! item which was sponsored by a Yahoo! affiliate Houghton Mifflin.  Since this article defined my subject AND ALSO echoed my rhetoric about the Great Learned‘s LIARS status (LIARS, Feb 24, 2012)…   that’s as far as I researched.  Don’t rock the boat ‘n’ all that.

How luscious.  That article provided two delightful fruits for my cynic’s taste buds:

  • Usage History.  The split infinitive has been around since the 14th century.
  • Ruled out.  The Great Learned gave it a name and condemned its use in the 19th century.

It took 500 years for the Great Learned to get snooty about the argot of the Great Unwashed (i.e., all those ignorant Not Great Learned…   the General Public).  Noting that the claimed impetus for this pre-emptive action was grounded in the Latin usage for the derivative, Mifflin‘s article stated that “English is not Latin” and is premised differently.  The ruling, then, is arbitrary and incorrectly applied.  That appraisal also coincides with my earlier assertions in Why Not Me? Feb 27, 2012.

It is possibly NOT a coincidence that a number of famous writers are cited in the article as being perpetrators of this heinous infarction…   infraction…   heinous infraction of infinitive usage, which really wasn’t an infraction until the Great Learned said that it was…   after considering it for 500 years.

Published writings became widely available and popular in the 18th and 19th centuries, and, authors who, by and large, were NOT university scholars became the Madonnas and Justin Biebers of then pop-icon-ism (stay with me; I make ’em up as I go).  Until then, it was the educated scholars of recognized universities who were the darlings of media offerings, which, if you don’t count the town crier, was pretty much limited to printed stuff. Distressingly for The Learned, about all this new breed needed to become a published somebody was basic understanding of a written language, some knowledge about the selected subject, and a commercial appeal to make it sellable.  Those works were fiction and human interest, and, as such, not subject to being criticized on procedural or technical grounds. 

The famous authors cited in the Mifflin article delighted in the use of the split infinitive and utilized it to turn a neat phrase and make their offerings more picturesque.  The scholarly Great Learned, who had entered at the ground floor of the university and spent their whole lives making their way upward into the musty attic of the academic ivory tower, were no longer the sole beneficiaries of public adoration.  Disgustingly, they had to share that limelight with upstart, under-educated “writers.”

These Great Learned, basically, had an institutionalized mentality and found it difficult to think “outside the box.”  Eventually, one  of them observed that it was the impressive and descriptive use of English that made the new darlings shine.  So, to redirect the spotlight, the Great Learned cornered a popular and long-lived grammatical construction, labeled it a “split infinitive” and summarily declared it “unacceptable.”  The Great Learned’s new mantra:  “Split infinitive bad;  famous writers not so hot.”

…that would be the same motivation as a toddler banging a metal spoon against a metal pot:  “Look at me; look at me!”

The Mifflin article concludes that split infinitives are fine (and colorful) so long as one does not displace the adverbs; too close to the wrong noun, and, the intended meaning of the sentence can be changed.  With that, I gotta split from this article.

___________________________

Next up:  Puppet Masters?  Knee Jerks?  Arrogance?  Decisions, decisions…

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )

The Big “P” Does English

Posted on January 21, 2013. Filed under: Journalism, Nezza at Hella | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Your words for the day:

  • risqué = sexually suggestive; indecent.
  • condescending = superior, disdainful, supercilious, pompous

The day after the day after the day of is Thursday, December 27, 2012…  that is one of those inane bits of information that actually started out as a thought-train for my next article.  It got derailed.  Regardless, bad poetry is bad poetry.  Best I could do on short notice.  Maybe Tim Burton could turn it into an enduring Christmas classic…   like Nightmare Before Christmas.

There are several reasons for my enjoyment of Nezza’s posts: 

  • really cool pics,
  • skewed take on life,
  • and, that special brand of risqué and irreverent impertinence that does not shy away from self-deprecation for a good story line.

MOST IMPORTANTLY, she does it all in pleasing, flowing English.  I would say “perfect English,” but that would imply that I consider myself to be perfect also.  I am half-way decent at English, and, I find that reading her site is a smooth, seamless experience from start to finish.  There are no linguistic pot-holes to jar the flow of information.  This is the primary reason I return often to her site…   that, and her sideways picture.

Incongruities in sentence construction have the same jarring effect as a pot-hole in a road surface;  hitting one causes the reader to lose focus, forcing a re-read of the sentence to find the correct bridge over the gap.  Several of those in a single article can take all the fun out of reading.  Nezza (hella@sydney), however, is all fun in perfect English (said it anyway, didn’t I?)  No pot-holes.

There is one construction that is quite often incorrectly expressed — the gerund phrase.  I have searched for that one in Nezza’s articles, fully expecting to see it properly presented.  To date, my grazings on her luscious tidbits…   uh…   luscious literary tidbits…   has not revealed even one.  Apparently, when it comes to being a user (of gerunds), she just says, “No!

Now, bloggers, for the most part, are not professionally trained wordsmiths;  skimming just a few sites makes that pretty obvious.  When I hit the inevitable pot-hole, I continue past it without agitation.  These writers are largely just pouring out their impressions of the rapids-infested River of Life in which they find themselves unwittingly immersed.  We are being given a view of restless waters and transient shore-lines as revealed from their individual — and painfully fragile — rafts of existence.

This appraisal is not an instance of condescendingly “cutting them some slack” for their perceived “lesser” linguistic skills.  Languages are built by usage, and the Great Learned, who observed this, created rules based on that natural evolution.  Then, the Great Learned, assuming their “rightful” places as experts-entitled-to-adulation, take credit for giving order to the structure and expect the masses to adhere to their edicts — or be subject to public snickering and finger-pointing.

I snicker not, nor do I point.  (Any intellectual high ground from which I may be speaking is along the order of a soap-box;  the Great Learned will not allow me on their dais.)  These soul-pouring bloggers are, to me, like another group of entities cast with us onto the raging River of Existence, individuals who have met the tragedy called Life and have created their own societies to deal with it and commiserate about it.  I refer to canis lupus, the gray wolf, whose soulful songs linger long and often in Nature’s wilderness air.  In that wilderness called cyber-space, bloggers raise their voices — often alone, sometimes in unison — to rail at Nature or to voice their pain, bewilderment, pleasures and triumphs, all, like the wolf, for the sake of simply expressing.  I celebrate that chorus and do apologize for my socially tone-deaf ear and possibly off-key ululations.

It’s that OTHER group that pulls snickers and finger-pointing from me.  Experts, and their caduceus-carrying heralds, The Media, hereinafter (and, hopefully, unflatteringly) referred to as “The Press (with the big P)” or, simply, “The Big Pee.”  They KNOW EVERYTHING and assume that we, the people, do not.  And, we need to be indoctrinated educated according to their insight — ON EVERYTHING.

That irks me.  It is always a delight to find they are either ignorant of what those other Great Learned have decreed, or they do not proof-read their work…   deadlines, you know.  Gotta get something out there to get a buck from the Great Unwashed.  (That be us, the general public).  We will buy anything that is broadcast, printed, or posted to the internet.  That is common knowledge among experts, you know.

Ergo, this vessel, The Queen Mary, charts a new heading;  all ahead full to giving the raspberry to the elite among us, the EXPERT KNOW-IT-ALLS (professional and free-lancing).

Next up:  To be announced.

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )

Why Not Me?

Posted on February 27, 2012. Filed under: General Interest, language | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

segueTo make a smooth, almost imperceptible transition from one state, situation, or subject to another,  (se-gway; mid 18th century, Italian/’Latin)

So, what do you think:  Going from whining about the Great Learned to actually sliding into a brief discussion about a specific word, and using “segue” as the opener?  Smooth, huh?

The first time I heard this word, it was pronounced as a single syllable, “seg.”  That articulation seemed to fit the dictionary definition nicely.  So, I kept that template in my mind as the proper enunciation.

Then came that two-wheeled scooter, the Segway.  Since I was happy that segue was a single syllable word, I did not connect that scooter with my neat-sounding smoothie.  Shortly after that, segue became popular in celebrity speech (it was “in” so it must have sounded refined), and now, carefully – even painfully – pronounced se-gway. My, how that grated on my nerves; from a smooth, single-syllable sigh to a harsh two-syllable thought-stopper that sounded like a donkey’s bray or a pig snort.  The dictionary pronunciation takes away from the simple symmetry of the meaning.

The dictionary credits Italian and Latin as the root for the word.  The Great Learned used the spelling from Language A, and called it Language B even though the B people pronounced that spelling differently.  Italians can pronounce their language any way they wish, and Latin is a dead language (Ancient Rome) so no one really gives a hoot how they pronounced it.  Over here, we do not pronounce “league” as lee-gway, “Teague” as tee-gway, or “fatigue” as fa-tee-gway.

Give it a try.  Segue as though you are sighing.  Let other, more refined persons SE-gway like a braying jack-ass or snorting pig.

Why not me?  Why not you?  As previously noted, there is no manual for how we conduct LIFE.  It is truly done “on the fly.”  The Great Learned do not have a lock on its protocol.  We can do it on our own terms, or the terms of others.  That choice belongs to each of us.  Always has, always will.  As for this very incidental side issue, I will single-syllable segue into the next topic.  (ASIDE:  The spell-checker in this authoritarian PC took exception to all my hyphenated words and suggested I do them in accepted format.  It was a pleasure to click ignore suggestion repeatedly.)

Next up:  Passion — A real pain

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 1 so far )

Liked it here?
Why not try sites on the blogroll...