Thursday, March 21, 2013

The needle in the skull

The brain in 1911 - Encyclopaedia Britannica
  Always at my back I hear, sethren, those chariot wheels, time, thundering.  We’ve just got a photo of that, apparently, time so old it has hardly begun, a time when time had only been about for 380,000 years, less than twice the time, that, our species has occupied the earth, and the thing I’m talking about, Evoculture, has occupied our species.  So the thunder of time, those chariot wheels, it’s not just the ringroad and its burden of death, the rumble and hiss of butyl on bitumen, one futile hydrocarbon on another, it really is time, getting shorter, and we have far to go.  Onwards.
  A sewing needle; a simple thing.  It is differentiated from a pin by having a hole in it, and differentiated from a hypodermic needle, and the fang of a snake, and the sting of a bee, by the placing of that single hole.
The needle is a shaft, pointed at one end and rounded at the other.  Because its function is to pierce and slide through woven or felted material or hide, it should be as thin as possible, firstly, so as not to damage the material needlessly, and second to do the least possible work.  There are three constraints on this thinness, the strength of the material from which the needle is made, the calibre of the thread, gut, leather lace, which it has to pull through the material to be sewn, and the thickness and toughness of that material.  But when I say, sethren, a needle in a haystack, I’m guessing the standard demon, the needle in your head, is about… that long, and about… that thick, and it is silvery steel, a tiny highlight shining off it, and it's got an elliptical hole at the rounded end, and a point the other, and there's just the echo of that sharp prick in the skin of your finger.  And maybe, if you’ve ever done any sewing, a button on a thick coat for instance, that almost uncomfortable pressure, turning to, not pain so much, but a pointed region of discomfort in the side of the middle joint of the index finger as you push it through.  Which is why thimbles evolved along with needles.
  So, there are all the demons in a needle.  Function, topology, shaft, length, diameter, aspect ratio, hole, point, substance, surface, reflectivity, silver, receptor nerve stimulus.  Thirteen in all.  Thirteen demons make a needle in the metaverse
  No, we don’t call all those things all those names, sether, of course we don’t.  That’s just language, and the metaverse is not composed of language, not at all.  You’ve got to get hold of this; compared to the complexity of the metaverse, which is entirely a function of the complexity of the human brain — astrocytes indeed, sether — language is a very simple system, and it's all open to us, we know what it is, we know how it works.  The metaverse, and the node of it inside each of our heads, is of at the moment incalculable complexity, and its workings are almost entirely hidden from us.  That is, the meeting place, the self, the I, I’m going to carry on calling it the work space, is almost entirely insulated from the incalculable processes of the brain.  If it wasn’t we couldn’t think.  I know analogies only cause more confusion, but here goes, look at it this way.  Imagine if, when we were watching the television, we didn’t just have to follow the complexities of the programme, as it might be Come Cook with Me, but we also had to perceive, analyse, calibrate in real time the internal processes of your flat screen LED HD telly, down to the last electron, the last quantal whatsit.  You’re right, sether, not fucking possible.  I gather we’ve dropped the partially deceased.  So be it.  Natural selection will have its way.  Verging on extinction already.
  So that’s what it would be like, multiplied a million fold, if we had to watch the processes of the metaverse; as well as the question which I’m sure you’ve spotted already, the question of what it would actually be that was watching this process?  For both those immutable reasons, we, being the workspace, are for ever insulated from the metaverse.  And that is a cogent reason why we always have, and always have had, way back to our origins as a species, a sense of, a yearning for, the beyond; the reality on the other side of the membrane of the cave wall.
  Demons are summoned, or arrive unbidden, into the workspace, in small platoons, a needle, in almost infinite hosts, the Standard Theory.  They do their work, they are sent back whence they came, crowded out by more instantaneously apt demons, or by a process of the organism, get the gone.
  That’s the metaverse.  Language on the other hand is a simple system in which demons travel through the world.  Between each ideoverse and the world there are portals.  Two of them, on inwards along the neural high roads from the ears and the larynx, lungs and mouth, let language in and out, but they are insulated, constricted, filtered, firewalled, we have no idea what they are or how they work.  They are just areas of the brain, we call them Wernicke’s area and Broca’s area.  There is one kind of thing one side, in the neural substrate, in the ideoverse; Evoculture; and another kind of thing in the rest of the organism and in the world; language.
  So when I anatomise a needle into thirteen demons, that is language, that is labelling.  And when we summon up the demon needle, the natural concept, thank you sether Lev, I merely surmise that in the metaverse these thirteen demons associate in a fairly ready way with needle.  It’s language (not that for a moment I want to diminish the role of language, look what I’m using here), it’s a crude, functional representation of what goes on on the other side of Broca’s and Wernicke’s areas.
  And I do not say, sethren, that that parade of thirteen demons is all and only what gathers round a needle.  Each ideoverse is unique, dynamic, ever changing.  Every time we mention complexity, that complexity is an order of magnitude less complex than the complexity of which it is a part.   We’ve just got to live with that.
    What?  I can’t hear you, sether Cavilia.    I thought that’s what you said.  A knitting needle.  Fuck.  No hole.  Fuck.  See what I mean?  Lunchtime.

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