Technology and Governance

Monday, 26 February, Year 10 d.Tr. | Author: Mircea Popescu
Motto : En l'un, les principes sont palpables, mais éloignés de l'usage commun ; de sorte qu'on a peine à tourner la tête de ce côté-là, manque d'habitude : mais, pour peu qu'on l'y tourne, on voit les principes à plein; et il faudrait avoir tout à fait l'esprit faux pour mal raisonner sur des principes si gros qu'il est presque impossible qu'ils échappent. En l'autre, les principes sont dans l'usage commun et devant les yeux de tout le monde. On n'a que faire de tourner la tête, ni de se faire violence; il n'est question que d'avoir bonne vue, mais il faut l'avoir bonne; car les principes sont si déliés et en si grand nombre, qu'il est presque impossible qu'il n'en échappe. Or, l'omission d'un principe mène à l'erreur; ainsi, il faut avoir la vue bien nette pour voir tous les principes, et ensuite l'esprit juste pour ne pas raisonner faussement sur des principes connus.i

At some point in the immediate future I will utter the phrase "Hey, turns out ave1 is much better at compiler shenanigans than at advising management". I know this for a fact even though it hasn't actually happened yetii, and the difficulty you have in digesting that apparent dilemma is exactly the reason you should carefuly read, thoroughly deconstruct and utterly understand this article. Because yes, it is exactly for you.

It all revolves around a pointed line in the logs,

mircea_popescu: that's the skill involved here : reality consists of endless matrices, that for any practical purpose have to be heuristically collapsed, as they can't actually be calculated.

The business of the scientific mind (called "engineering" something or the other as per the fashions of the day) is of the nature of being paradropped upon an alien planet and collecting objects weighing exactly 1 kg. The practitioner will build himself a scale, which within some margin of toleranceiii splits any object presented to it in either the "1kg" or "not 1kg" sets ; then upon return with his collection he will have to answer some questions, chief among which whether he knows whether he has collected ~all~ such objects, and otherwise scalemaking minutia.

The business of governance (called all sorts of random things these days, for it is very much not "a mind" in the narcisist sense prior employed, and consequently all sorts of Scott Pilgrims have serious problems with it -- not "the world", at all, whatsoever, nononono ; but authority) is of the nature of being paradropped upon an alien planet and collecting interesting objects. The practitioner will build himself a story, and then come back with objects that within some margin of tolerance are interesting. No one with any sense will ask him whether he has collected all of them ; in fact the only question worth asking is whether he's left out any class of interesting items.

It should not even need pointing out that there's no such thing as "precision" or "exactness" or "rigid adherence to absolute truth and the facts of the matter" even possibly, however remotely, involved in discriminating between the two. Both, and both equally, unexceptionally and quite as necessarily rely on standards of tolerance. And both will use each other's methods, there's some measurement ("incorectly done!11") in the second like there's some storytelling ("but hey -- we call it paradigm!!") in the first and so on. It should not even need pointing out, yet it very much does need pointing out. Why does it ? And are you sure it's not because one is more amenable than the other to the Superman fantasies that constitute the whole of pre-school education in the entire sad lot today speaking this ruined language ?

It would be a happy ending to say that the Republic needs both engineers and leaders, and every little doobie is welcome to choose by himself and for himself which is he rather inclined to be. It would also be a lie -- a falsehood well proven by the misfortunate history of an item that once was the Republic itself, and meanwhile went to shit under the pressure of exactly that sort of hallucinated choice.

No one has such a choice. Nobody can choose whether to be fine, or else a geometeriv ; everyone has to be both. The only good news is that it's, of course, easy enough if you know what you're doing -- or rather, that contrary to what "talented" men and women think, there's no such thing as mass talent, and if you organized society the other way it'd be the girls that "have a talent" for math and the boys that have a great calling for homemaking.

It works if you work it and all that ; and so it goes.

  1. Let's do the whole thing :

    Tous les géomètres seraient donc fins s'ils avaient la vue bonne, car ils ne raisonnent pas faux sur les principes qu'ils connaissent; et les esprits fins seraient géomètres s'ils pouvaient plier leur vue vers les principes inaccoutumés de géométrie.

    Ce qui fait donc que de certains esprits fins ne sont pas géomètres, c'est qu'ils ne peuvent du tout se tourner vers les principes de géométrie; mais ce qui fait que des géomètres ne sont pas fins, c'est qu'ils ne voient pas ce qui est devant eux, et qu'étant accoutumés aux principes nets et grossiers de géométrie, et à ne raisonner qu'après avoir bien vu et manié leurs principes, ils se perdent dans les choses de finesse, où les principes ne se laissent pas ainsi manier. On les voit à peine, on les sent plutôt qu'on ne les voit; on a des peines infinies à les faire sentir à ceux qui ne les sentent pas d'eux-mêmes : ce sont choses tellement délicates et si nombreuses, qu'il faut un sens bien délicat et bien net pour les sentir, et juger droit et juste selon ce sentiment, sans pouvoir le plus souvent les démontrer par ordre comme en géométrie, parce qu'on n'en possède pas ainsi les principes, et que, ce serait une chose infinie de l'entreprendre. Il faut tout d'un coup voir la chose d'un seul regard, et non pas par progrès de raisonnement, au moins jusqu'à un certain degré. Et ainsi il est rare que les géomètres soient fins et que les fins soient géomètres, à cause que les géomètres veulent traiter géométriquement ces choses fines, et se rendent ridicules, voulant commencer par les définitions et ensuite par les principes, ce qui n'est pas la manière d'agir en cette sorte de raisonnement. Ce n'est pas que l'esprit ne le fasse; mais il le fait tacitement, naturellement et sans art, car l'expression en passe tous les hommes, et le sentiment n'en appartient qu'à peu d'hommes.

    Et les esprits fins, au contraire, ayant ainsi accoutumé à juger d'une seule vue, sont si étonnés, - quand on leur présente des propositions où ils ne comprennent rien, et où pour entrer il faut passer par des définitions et des principes si stériles, qu'ils n'ont point accoutumé de voir ainsi en détail, - qu'ils s'en rebutent et s'en dégoûtent.

    Mais les esprits faux ne sont jamais ni fins ni géomètres.

    Les géomètres qui ne sont que géomètres ont donc l'esprit droit, mais pourvu qu'on leur explique bien toutes choses par définitions et principes; autrement ils sont faux et insupportables, car ils ne sont droits que sur les principes bien éclaircis.

    Et les fins qui ne sont que fins ne peuvent avoir la patience de descendre jusque dans les premiers principes des choses spéculatives et d'imagination, qu'ils n'ont jamais vues dans le monde, et tout à fait hors d'usage".

    Now then... tell me... do you read French ?

    1670, you realise. How, just how could he have known back then ? []

  2. If your first explanation goes along the lines of "evidently he can know what he'll do afore events, it's a direct consequence of how fucking hardheaded he is" you are at considerable risk of running into the wrong end of the immutable machine in short order -- because the sort of error that misjudgement is based on and requires for its subsistence is exactly the sort of error that gets one in the soup. []
  3. You think, perhaps, that the February crisis was "sudden". You read the words "impudently ignored warnings" and somehow they do not speak to you. Yet consider -- I was harranguing alf as to the infinite cost and ultimate futility of "absolutely accurate weighing" years ago. Why ? No, it's not just because I'm bored and assuage it by typing in the little box. []
  4. Hey, did anyone ever before understand the irony in calling that Fantozzi recurring character geometra Calboni ? No ? Well... you're welcome, eh. []
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7 Responses

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  6. [...] technology and governance, as originally stated by Blaise Pascal and with direct application to daily life in the Republic as [...]

  7. [...] attempt is liable to convey other meanings, because meaning's a complicated thing under subtle yet numerous rules they're all well familiar with. No, instead he speaks of the excellent use of the point and [...]

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