Evolution of Ideas: a collection of essays

(ACD) #1

“Human history was formerly all about divergence; now, as cultural differences are eroded, we are converging. The result, according to his hypothesis, will in the end be a slowing down of the imagination and ideas.”


What is an idea? How do you experience having one?
(Bill Ames) #2

We need someone to stir the pot!

Ghengis Khan, the founder of the Mongol Empire – the largest contiguous empire in history. He created such a huge empire by uniting many of the nomadic tribes and confederations in northeast Asia while also asserting his dominance with a sword in his hand.

He lived from 1162-1227AD.


Having neighbors like this will motivate many ideas. Get them away from their TVs or computers. Leave Facebook in the dust. Give the people something to look forward to that is better than free everything. Join an army, everything is free there and you don’t have to pay taxes.

(Mark's Myth) #3

Thanks for sharing this article @ACD!

“Three things, he claims, swelled the imaginative faculty in our species. We have poor memories, or rather the tendency to select and distort what we recall. Anticipation, on the other hand, is our great skill; early hominids learned to picture their prey when it was not there, to imagine its movements — and then to develop elaborate strategies for trapping it. Such solutions meant growth in the capacity for idea-making, and have enabled us to overcome the disadvantage of our fairly feeble frame. Language is the third requisite: sharing ever more complicated ideas has required a sophisticated system of communication, while that system, the magic of words, has itself helped the creation of ideas.”

(Bill Ames) #4

So, as a member of the human population, your posts are suffering from these problems. How can we find posts on Ideapod that are not suffering from the issues (which you identify and I agree with) that make these posts and articles very suspect? I have noticed that when I go back and read something I posted, sometimes very good, I do not remember writing it. I do find distorting things as that allows new ideas to be formed. So, Ideapod is now a place where we can see things in a new light. As if Alice smeared petroleum jelly all over the mirror.

(ACD) #5

“… behind the whole monumental enterprise of human endeavor lies ‘the power of seeing what is not there’.”

(Bill Ames) #6

We can not see which slit the photon passes through as it knows if we are watching. So we know it is going through both slits and it does. Our ability to see the impossible, a wonderful skill. They have done it with atoms so that makes it even more interesting. I think I have figured out “spooky action at a distance” but so far no one else has posted my idea. Perhaps too advanced for today?

(ACD) #7

Heisenberg and Einstein

(Mark's Myth) #8

Memory might be a misleading word. It used to be thought that memory was truth. It never will be.

(Bill Ames) #9

I really do not understand this. I read things literally, I look for meaning in a sentence. Truth has a meaning, memory has a meaning, I see no connection between their meanings. What “it” never will seem to lack context. Truth can be hard to pin down. If you say something is green I ask what is the frequency of the light from the object. You give a frequency and I say both we and the object are moving so there is a Doppler shift and how fast it is moving may cause time to be moving differently… So the truth is not always easy. Memory is just a record but this memory must be interpreted by something imperfect so we have a memory but it is fuzzy. So many of the articles here on Ideapod seems to be a combination of fuzzy memories told by a well-intentioned liar.

(Mark's Myth) #10

Memory in the context of a human (not a device that stores data and can recall it) is always fuzzy as you say. This is part of the reason it can never be truth.

The other reason is obvious: memory is a replication of senses triggering synapses conjuring up a replication of the sensations… it is not the actual event that is being remembered.

Then again there is the equation of interpretation of memory which will pit the memory against the reality of what is being remembered. And we know this equation will become even fuzzier when more than one memory is applied to the same event.

Are we lying… well intentioned or not?


But I am not sure this is the correct word either for this context.

(Bill Ames) #11

In 1981, an Indian man named Rajan Mahadevan accurately recited 31,811 digits of pi from memory .

Sounds like humans can remember things very accurately.

(ACD) #12

“We have poor memories, or rather the tendency to select and distort what we recall. Anticipation, on the other hand, is our great skill; early hominids learned to picture their prey when it was not there, to imagine its movements — and then to develop elaborate strategies for trapping it. Such solutions meant growth in the capacity for idea-making, and have enabled us to overcome the disadvantage of our fairly feeble frame.” https://spectator.us/history-ideas-becoming/

(Bill Ames) #13

An interesting article and I think I can relate to many of the thoughts. I use my imagination to travel through the future. I have a very good memory and my dreams are often on the level of cinema. The world we live in today is so different from one square mile to another square mile that it is nearly impossible to keep track of the boundaries and rules. It is much too messy for me to think about, I have neither the time or resources to do anything about it.

(ACD) #14

Perhaps the creative part of you will produce a meliorative idea in response to stimulus from otherwise apparently overwhelming facts.

(Bill Ames) #15

Well, when I noticed the AI chess program Alpha Zero it seemed to me this was the tip of the AI iceberg. I have discussed how we will need our AI staff to manage our world, it is too complicated for just bean counters, pencil pushers and tax collectors. In my screenplay I have solved all the worlds problems. This just gave me an idea for another Ideapod Question.

(ACD) #16

“Our land is not more the recipient of the men of all countries than their ideas. Annihilate the past of any one leading nation of the world, and our destiny would have been changed.”


(Bill Ames) #18

We really should all be Roman and rule the world.

(ACD) #19

The Romans were one of many pasts. I was surprised to learn that the economy of the entire Roman empire was a small fraction of China’s contemporary (around 0 A.D) economy.

(ACD) #20

More grist for the mill:

“Human beings are extraordinarily good at deceiving themselves and possibly never more so than when they think that they have had a new idea, as Poole makes clear in this fascinating compendium of new ideas that aren’t new at all… his subject is the way that we have seen them all before. He ties together what he concedes is a “highly selective snapshot of the looping evolution of ideas” with the observation that: ‘Any culture that thinks the past is irrelevant is one in which future invention threatens to stall.’ Originality, he argues, is overrated… So, perhaps we should start to ask ourselves why so many proposed solutions remain unimplemented after what seem to be thousand-year development programmes.”

“Where once the philosophical, political, and aesthetic nature of ideas was the sole source of their appeal, that appeal now seems to derive from something far more tangible and local. We have shifted our focus from the meaning of ideas to the means by which they’re produced. The same questions that always intrigued us—What is justice? What is the good life? What is morally valid? What is free will?—take a back seat to the biases embedded in our neural circuitry. Instead of grappling with the gods, we seem to be more interested in the topography of Mt. Olympus.”


“To pull out of this tailspin, writers and their patrons both will have to make some necessary changes—and quick. With so many newspapers and magazines closing, with so many commercial publishers looking to nonprofit models, a few bold university presidents could save American literature, reshape journalism, and maybe even rescue public discourse from the cable shout shows and the blogosphere. At the same time, young writers will have to swear off navel-gazing in favor of an outward glance onto a wrecked and lovely world worthy and in need of the attention of intelligent, sensitive writers. I’m not calling for more pundits—God knows we’ve got plenty. I’m saying that writers need to venture out from under the protective wing of academia, to put themselves and their work on the line. Stop being so damned dainty and polite. Treat writing like your lifeblood instead of your livelihood. And for Christ’s sake, write something we might want to read.”

(ACD) #21

Two articles on the rate at which ideas are generated and consumed:

“A little Luddism would go a long way; but so, too, would a society obsessed less with innovation and more with stasis, retrenchment, deceleration. It would be one ruled by immovabilities, by basics: income, care, housing. Can a society desperate for time learn to care for the things that might guarantee it, before it is too late?”

"… because of the internet, we have become very good at collecting a wide range of factual titbits, we are also gradually forgetting how to sit back, contemplate, and relate all these facts to each other. And so, as Carr writes, we’re losing our ability to strike a balance between those two very different states of mind. Mentally, we’re in perpetual locomotion.’ … what’s clear is that our era’s technological diarrhoea is bringing more and more slow readers to the fore… after a conversation with some of her students, she discovered that ‘most can’t concentrate on reading a text for more than 30 seconds or a minute at a time. We’re being trained away from slow reading by new technology.’ "

… and then there is this:

“The unfocused seems to include — or to inspire — a new sense of freedom. Whatever this freedom is, I would like a little of it. More than a little.”

… and this:

The American crowd has little taste for difficult ideas. It’s an old problem, one that has shaped literary history.

“Suspicious of the tastes of a mass audience as well as the techniques by which publishing houses transformed authors into marketable commodities for that audience, ‘they desired to publish in ways that preserved their total control and ownership of their work.’ By refusing to sell out, Kearns argues, they were able to write works governed by their own autonomous aesthetic criteria, works that ignored popular trends, that aspired to art for art’s sake. To accomplish this, however, they had to content themselves with small, private audiences capable of determining their respective works’ design and intentions.”


… and this:

“The problem with our thinking, Jacob argues, is not a problem of overcoming our biases, as some critics would have it, but of overcoming our discomfort. Thinking deeply exhausts us, and we instinctively avoid considering ideas that might complicate our lives and our relationships. ‘The person who wants to think,’ Jacobs claims, ‘will have to practice patience and master fear.’ He cites Marilynne Robinson to explain the agita of our frantic life in the cloud, which accelerates our ‘hypertrophic instinct for consensus.’ We are hard-wired to be clannish, and our online habits exacerbate these penchants—for inclusion, for status, for affirmation—and strengthen their hold on us.”