samedi 27 novembre 2010

Breaking taboos

Breaking taboos, breaking taboos... But culture is a system of taboos. Do we have a culture that wants to destroy itself? Is it an intrinsic feature of every culture? Or only of some cultures? Only of the so-called Western culture? Thoughts that make me feel uneasy.

vendredi 26 novembre 2010

Prokuröri ja ahukaadi

Ku kaet televusserit, koh näid juriste iks näüdätäs, sis paistus nii, et 90% prokuröre omma Eestih noorepoolitse naise, 90% ahukaate jälki mehe. Tiiä-i, kas prokuröre valitas vällänägemise perrä (vällänägemise üle ole-i põhjust nuriseda) määndselgi iludusvõistlemisel või om asalugu kudagi tõisilde. A nii timä om.

Knowledge ruins its object

There are many reasons to be optimistic about the future of mankind and of our planet. Human beings are quite smart, and so far have been able to find a way out of severe crises, be it ecological, social or economical. Coal mines saved the forests from over-exploitation, mineral fertilizers saved us from hunger, antibiotics saved us from many infectious diseases. But there is something that may put this optimism into question. This is something I would call “stupidity factor”. If we are able to find a positive solution to a problem, we can sometimes express it with a positive number. Be it rise of standard of living, survival rates of cancer patients, productivity of crops, e.t.c. But this positive number must always be multiplied by another number that is necessarily smaller than 1. This positive number s: 0 < s < 1 is the stupidity factor. We must take it into account in all our predictions connected with human activity, human decision-making. Predicting that the GNP of a nation rises for about 10% in next decade, we must multiply it with s. The result is less than 10%. More information does not always mean more knowledge, the s comes in here too.

The s is not something that can be avoided, it is an intrinsic part of the human condition, and certainly of the most fundamental laws of the universe we inhabit. It is a corollary of the law of increase of entropy that is valid in the universe as well as in our brain, a micro-model of this universe, a microcosm simulating the processes of the macrocosm. The principle of increase of entropy means that the value of s must be less than 1, it has a negative influence on our productivity, on the results we want to achieve. It introduces mistakes into our texts, faults into our ethnology, into our theories, economies... In principle, these mistakes can be corrected, faults faulted. Our brain is not a closed system, we can put into it some information, some negative entropy harvested from outside. But this comes at a price, the price means that something in a bigger system must be changed, degraded, some of its positive measures (as e.g. its complexity) must be multiplied by s. We can learn, diminish our stupidity by reading books, surfing in the internet, listening to wiser people, thinking, trying to find solutions to our problems. But we cannot be sure that what we learn is free of mistakes, whether we want it or not, we take over some of other people's faults. And unavoidably we introduce some more “mistakes” into our environment. Having more books means destroying more trees, surfing in the internet means wasting more energy, increasing the entropy on our planet. And as ourselves, our civilization, our culture and any ecosystem can survive and thrive only in limited conditions, in a limited interval of temperature, moisture, pressure, the degradation of our environment means that we are diminishing the chances of our own survival in future. Our knowledge is always infected with stupidity, the s is present in everything we think and do. Constructing something, we deconstruct it or something else. Our actions have always some negative results. Our knowledge ruins its object.

samedi 13 novembre 2010

Olessi nigu peris luuletaja

Üle tükü ao löüse üte luuletuse, mis mulle miildü. Veronika Kivisilla luuletus Sirbi viimätsel lehekülel. Hää luuletus ja intelligentne ka. Ku nuur inemine tiid, kiä olli Hildegard von Bingen ja misasi olli ordoviitsium, sis tege iks hääd miilt küll!

dimanche 7 novembre 2010

Where autocracy comes from?

We men-women are not adapted to the life in big societies. Our normal social environment is small groups, be it families, peer groups, kins or small tribes. In these groups there is no need for formal regulation of social relations, no need for strict etiquette, law and law enforcement. In big societies we need a lot of formal rules, otherwise these societies cannot function properly. In fact, they fall apart, become just loose assemblies of such smaller groups. Often people tend to look on the society as if it were a small group. Sometimes a small group can effectively seize power in a society, sometimes its leader becomes the leader of a big tribe, of a nation. He cannot rule just by himself, he needs the support of his close entourage, his own small group. Here, the relations are not formal. Stalin, Hitler nor Saddam Hussein had their own kins, peer groups, politbureaus and used these to seize power and secure their hold of it. And they tried to rule a nation, a country as a small group, ignoring formalities, ignoring the existence of different views, interests and personalities. There are many types of autocrats from paternalistic father-figures like the Estonian president Päts to paranoid dictators as Stalin or Saddam. But, in my opinion, their common feature is a kind of atavistic tendency not to accept the real complexity of a society, but to try to rule it as if it were simply an extended family or a tribe. The secret of their success seems at least partly to be due to our inborn, instinctive disposition to assume a role in a small group, most often the role of a subject, of somebody who obeys the alpha-individual, sometimes even the role of a slave. But some of us are well ready to assume the role of a leader, of an alpha-male. Which is analogous to the role of a father in many traditional families or the role of the leader in a male peer group. In my childhood, our ruler was a man often called Father, Leader or Teacher. Thus, comrade Stalin assumed a couple of age-old traditional roles, in fact degrading the whole Soviet society to the role of his descendants, his children, subordinate members of his peer group or his pupils.

samedi 6 novembre 2010

Genetic and memetic drift in small populations

Genetic drift is a statistical phenomenon: especially in a small population, some genotypes become more frequent, sometimes even dominant by pure chance, without any connection with their survival value. In the same way, some genotypes can be eliminated, when, for example, a storm destroys some nests of a tiny and isolated colony of birds. Such gene drift interferes with natural selection. Natural selection, as a force based on stochastic mutations, can do its work in a orderly manner in a big population where random changes balance one another.

There is a clear analogy to the gene drift in the cultural changes in human societies. Some such changes, some memes have a positive value, help the society to function in a more efficient and smooth way, minimizing the possibility of harm to its members, enhancing their happiness, creativity, etc. Some changes are harmful. In a big society, there are more changes, more innovations, but each of such innovations has a smaller effect on the society as a whole. In a small society some innovations can influence the behaviour of the society as a whole. It means also that single persons can more easily become influential in a small society. The culture of a small nation can more easily be influenced by a strong personality. I think we can find good examples of such influential personalities in Estonian culture. I can mention the “language engineer” Johannes Aavik who introduced into the standard Estonian several dozen memes, new words of his own creation and some grammatical forms. There are other examples. Some scientists have had an exceptionally great influence on the development of biology, physics or philology here. Botanical studies in Estonia on the second half of the Xxth century wouldn't have been what they were without the works of the great botanist, one of the great figures of plant sociology, professor Teodor Lippmaa. The fenno-ugric studies developed under the aegis of Paul Ariste, our oriental studies have been shaped by the influence of two major scholars – Linnart Mäll and Rein Raud. The problem is that such leader figures in their respective fields can be broad-minded and tolerant, but sometimes this is not the case. Then, their authority can become an obstacle, they become gurus, their students become their disciples more or less blindly accepting their ideas and attitudes. There are simply no other persons of similar authority, no good colleagues, no rivals, no adequate criticism of their achievements.

Could we also find analogies of such a situation in Estonian politics? I hesitate to answer, but my tentative answer is no. Despite all the fuss and noise around politics, it still has a definite survival value, and no politician is capable of monopolizing the scene here. However, in politics too, some ideas, some memes can become influential more by chance than by their real value, and as such, shape to a significant degree, the life of our society. One such idea is the neo-liberalist ideology imported and spread in Estonia by some active supporters of Milton Friedman, although these people had little understanding of Friedman's work in economics. But thanks to the activity of our Friedmanian politicians, Estonia is now a kind of an experiment in neo-liberal economy and politics. So far this experiment has been successful, despite some very serious problems on the horizon. But as such, the Estonian experiment can serve as a good or bad example for other nations, even for the bigger ones where different views and their proponents to a much greater degree balance one another, creating a society more based on the aurea mediocritas.

jeudi 4 novembre 2010

Our non-Aristotelian dreams

I believe that most, maybe even more than 90% of what people tell and write about their (and other people's) dreams is not authentic. Dreams cannot often be described in our common language, common conceptual system. Why? Because our language, our semantics is "Aristotelian", based on presumption that everything is what it is, is identical with itself. A = A. A dog is a dog, a rose is a rose is a rose. A dog is not a cat, a cloud or a chair, at least not at the same time. Of course, not everything can be described and defined in such Aristotelian way. There are things that demand we use a kind of a "fuzzy" logic to describe them. There are chairs that are also to some degree, e.g. 40% tables. But even such a fuzzy thing, even a mythological chimaera, even a cloud or a wave are themselves, are identical to themselves in their definiteness or fuzziness. But in dreams things are sometimes not identical to themselves, they can be 100% A and 100% B at the same time. Oddly enough, the person dreaming doesn't usually notice any contradiction, any absurdity here. I remember having dreamed of a place that was both a room in a house with bookshelves standing at the walls, and a town square surrounded by high buildings. How to describe such a scene? How to call these shelves that are also buildings? To describe dreams we should invent a different language, use words in an unconventional way. But as a rule, dreams are not meant to be communicated extensively and exactly. Nobody can check whether the description of a dream is correct or not. Dreams belong to our private world, not to the world we share with others. And when we want or to have to share it with others, it is difficult, sometimes even impossible. But can these difficulties, these problems have a sign of our need of something really private, of our need to isolate ourselves from communication, to live in a world that does belong only to us? Can the dreams also be a means to escape from the inexorable Aristotelian logic of our everyday world where we everything has to be itself, where we too have to be ourselves, having no chance to escape from our identity that is largely imposed on us?