Saturday, January 14, 2012

Filet Mignon Readers

   The plate is occupied with what appear to be 8 filet mignons. What is that? Is that for me? Yes, each of us gets the same. I look at what my fellow conference participants are eating, and it is confirmed. And what is it? Pork without fat. It's a Hungarian specialty.

About a pound a meat. I am a last minute participant at this Budapest conference on education of engineers and architects in the need for energy saving. I am a member of the press, and you are my readers, coincidentally numbering, as far as I can tell, judging by number of responses, 8 people.

The way this works is, as a member of the press I am supposed to write something about the conference. But not really as an exchange. They are nice to me, and this is a very nice expensive restaurant we are at, and they temporarily have formed a community with me. I don't owe them anything. But I like people who appear to like me, so I will do something nice for them, as long as they stay in a community to with me. Actually they are the only community I have at the moment.

The reason for this is that what I just explained is only the first step in community relations. The second, what typically happens, is that in my opinion being nice to someone in my community is telling them the truth. That usually is the end of the community. My 8 readers, you out there, as my legitimation have bought me my eight mignons of meat and I like you for it, but we'll see if we're still friends by the time we get to the end of this.

Sitting next to me is a physicist from Germany. I tell him he's just the person I want to talk to.

- There's a physicist at Oxford that says people like those at this conference, who seek to conserve resources, are obstacles to progress. He identifies people like you with political repression, in effect calls you fascists. According to him people are naturally creative, and repressive societies work with ideas that destroy creativity, for example, conservation and sustainability. Keeping things as they are, and not progressing.
- And you agree with this argument?
- Absolutely not. I wrote to the Oxford physicist and objected.
- Did he answer?
- He did. He wants to improve his theories by defending and adapting them to falsifying evidence.
- What was your falsifying evidence?
- I said his theory was wrong because technical progress leads to social corruption.
- How?
- You're a scientist, so you're going to have trouble with this explanation. I said to the physicist at Oxford, David Deutsch by name, that his theory left out love, and love does not progress.
- I can see that he wouldn't know what to make of that. Did he answer?
- Yes. He referred me to a certain page in his book, where I read, "if you can't program it, it isn't real."
- And what did you respond?
- That his response was a good example of the problem. The problem is, when you love someone, have a friend, the experience is perfect. We don't progress. There is a kind of technology in our social lives, but is a defensive technology.
- What do you mean?
- I mean we in our politics are perfecting a machine that better and better, we hope, will leave us alone, as individuals, to experience the perfection of love and friendship we can have any time any place in any society.
- That's one theory.
- That's my theory. And what if it is the truth, what are the consequences for David Deutsch and his theory of the need for constant progress? That is what I asked him.
- What are the consequences?
- To the scientist, the politician who is an expert in the techniques of getting the job as politician, social life is anarchy, a jungle. There is no progress there. But as technologists, they are experts in coming up with new theories, hypotheses, guesses. So in personal life, since there is no progress, they settle disputes with whatever "understanding" works at the moment. The understandings don't progress into greater understanding, there is no progress. In effect, there is a contempt for social life, which shows itself in rule breaking, which is explained, justified by new rules, hypotheses of necessity.
- Seems very abstract.
- That a scientist, a politician of progress, would lie and cheat?
- That it would be any worse, and interfere with progress.
- The politicians institute repressive policies because they want to protect the direction of progress they've set out on, and they use force because they have no understanding of the life that does not progress, because they are afraid of it.
- What did Deutsch say?
- He didn't. He ended the communication. He had nothing further to say. It wasn't his path.
- Well, it wasn't, was it?
- But what exactly is this path? This "if you can't program it, it isn't real"? I say it leads to the opposite he says it leads to, political repression. I say it leads to intellectually dishonesty, he says it leads to an honest sense of one's own fallibility. Who is right? How do we decide?
- How do we? I have a doctorate in physics, but you know, I don't deal in theory, but with the practical problem of achieving energy sustainability.
- I deal in theory. I'll tell you what I wrote to Deutsch. I've matched my theory with his theory. I say the idea of progress for progress sake leads to political corruption, he says political corruption arises only from the repression of progress. What does the evidence say? He didn't answer, he cut off contact, so we have to answer for him. He'd said already, "if it can't be programmed it isn't real". His answer is, "there is no evidence to answer the question."
- So then what?
- I say there is evidence, plenty of it. It is all over the news, it is in the thoughts and feelings of every individual.
- That is very general.
- Destruction of the American Constitution by the Patriot act. Legalized torture. Secret prisons. Destruction of the economy. Fragmentation of society into parties. Politicians, with their scientific advisers, protect their progress against other forms of progress. They become gangsters of progress. You tell them the truth, you are out of their community.
- But unprogressive societies are more corrupt.
- That's true. But what we are talking about here is whether or not it is a fact that progress, which also really is progress against corruption, can be lost when progress becomes its own goal. Do you understand?
- Yes. You want to save progress from itself.
- Make it sustainable.