21.32, Wednesday 27 Oct 2004

Taming the Wild was just on, an informative and clever slice through the history of Britain and human impact on the land. I've snagged o one segment, about burial mounds (called burrows). Ancestors were buried in the burrows (being: a couple of rocks weighing tonnes, moved several miles, with thousands of tonnes of rubble behind it, in a heap, with tombs in tunnels underneath), for many generations. But they weren't just spiritual, and this was the bit I liked.

Monuments were beacons in the landscape, saying "this land is taken." These symbols of ownership cropped up wherever fields replaced woodland.

Aha, and that's why the ancestor stuff. Ancestor worship is important--it's a very human thing (story telling at old age, use of grandparents). There's a coevolution: we operate in groups to do well; attributes of our behaviour don't work unless there a group structure around [learning, social structures]. Families are important because they cohere better than a random group (relationship quotients).

So given that, you can take advantage of the fact there is this unarguable fact - ancestor worship - and build things off it. In this case, family ownership.

A previously smooth landscape is pucked because ancestor worship (virtually immovable) is extruded into the physical immovable (a combination of land + thousands of tonnes of rubble + time). The tomb is a spacetime knot that binds the family to the landscape.

At that point, if someone wants to take the land, you go "no, and we'll fight to the death for it because our ancestors are there." And they know you aren't bluffing because, well, they'd do the same, and they know you've backed yourself into a corner.

It's the same as emotions: If you display you're genuinely, truly furious, your opponent knows you can't be reasoned out of a violent and damaging response. If someone threatens your kid, you are genuinely and utterly furious, and this is displayed as a genuine expression, and at that point you've painted yourself into that same corner: Back off, or there's no telling what I'll do as I'll stop at nothing.

It's also the same as mutual assured destruction, and the announcement that nuclear missiles are computer controlled and outside human control: If you bomb us, we must bomb back, we can't do otherwise. (Or winning at playing chicken by discarding control, cf the beginning of Flashdance.)

A common pattern then, which I imagine occurs because all of these systems involved multiplicities and time binding. Multiplicities means that there can be two families, one with an ancestral mound bonded to the land, and another without. Or two nations, one that can go the MAD route, and another that can appear persuadable to appeasement. Or early humans, with more or less expressionful faces*. The time-binding means situations can be tested against once another, the better bonded ancestral mount will win, and evolvability can occur, which is the important factor. So are these two features associated with every instance of evolvability, or is this just one way it can arise?

I wonder whether we can extend the concept of property, and our understanding of it, into the non-human, like this, as entropy/ethics can be. A philosophy of the non-human.

* Again, here's a mark that something physical and immovable (chemical/hormonal changes in the brain and body, either being used for group coordination or activity readiness) can get translated into something virtual (facial expression) so long as the physical/virtual transformation is unfakable without lots of cost**. There's a pattern here in how the physical becomes virtual, and the layers of virtual--communication by facial expression is virtual from the perspective of hormones, so maybe the virtual is subjective, or at least based on non-human pov. So the real is transformed into the virtual [I'm insisting on using 'real' here, to mean 'the reality where we are' rather than some objective reality, so there can be many different reals], and the virtual is defined by some qualities which involve patterns/patterning/surfaces (? perhaps the virtual is defined by it's task: to act as a symbol/sign/index to the real?). Then the join between the two breaks, they diverge, act independently, which means the virtual merges back with the real (or they combine to create a new real, which is the same thing), then the process begins again. Still considering this, but it's a use of virtual I haven't considered yet, and possibly another way into the s9y.

** That's one way the physical immovable can go (get used by being translated to the virtual). Another is that is can be used for lies--there's quite an advantage in pretending that you're furious beyond control, after all, to appear to lock in a decision. What I suspect happens is that the physical immovable - the face - is gamed, at a cost, then a new immovable constructed, which (after some time) is gamed, and so on, until eventually the cost of lying is so great that the only possibility is the physical-virtual join. (It's not really possible to lie about the time it takes to construct a mound weighing thousands of tonnes, and the ancestral feeling bound up in that.)