Moments ago, an interesting article appeared on The Guardian website and I can’t resist commenting on it. The article is entitled “Why it’s dangerous to outsource our critical thinking to computers”. It’s worth a read.

This kind of “outsourcing” concerned Socrates even in his day. He observed the paradoxical nature of the alphabet and of the printed word, lamenting that writing would lead to an atrophy of memory because the memory, once outered, externalised or objectified, would no longer be exercised. It probably accounts for why Socrates never wrote down anything himself.

Marshall McLuhan picked up and elaborated on that theme of Socrates with his notion of “technologies” or “media” as the “extensions of man” — literally outsourcing or outer-ance. It is a kind of magic. But, like Socrates, McLuhan thought that these extensions or “outsourcing” would also numb the function that was so “uttered”/”outered”, resulting in the atrophy, or obsolescence, of that particular organic function in the very act of its objectification.

This is the theme that the authors of the article pick up also in their concern about “outsourcing” our critical faculties in the form of computer algorithms in which we no longer take responsibility for our own critical thinking or reason once it is so “outsourced”, and much of this has to do with “post-rational” or “post-truth” society. This condition, however, was even prescribed as an ideal Brave New World by Rolf Jensen in his book The Dream Society: How the Coming Shift from Information to Imagination with Transform Your Business

So I have punned on the term “out-sourcing” as “out-sourcery” to emphasise Algis Mikunas’s point about “technocratic shamanism” as he described it in his Gebser-influenced essay on “Magic and Technological Culture”, for Gebser is right that once the critical faculties of the mental-rational consciousness are benumbed or becomes “deficient” in this sense, the “irrational” faculties in the form of magic and myth begin to take over, but without anyone understanding this.

The problem lies in our understanding of the word “critical”, as in “critical thinking”. Critical means crucial, what what pertains to the “crux of the matter”. The crucial or the critical is a cross or a crossroads. And this is why the Sioux Sacred Hoop or Rosenstock-Huessy’s “cross of reality” actually model “critical thinking” in its truest form. Unfortunately, “critical thinking” has largely come to mean negation or even cynical reason. But as Rosenstock-Huessy has demonstrated in his social philosophy, real critical thinking is the continuous effort to restore the “cross of reality” and the sacred balance whenever it threatens to disintegrate and dissolve. Even in Buddhism what we call “critical reason” is called “discernment” or “discerning reason”, and it amounts to much the same thing. We can’t do without it. And the elements of discerning reason are represented by the “Guardians of the Four Directions”, as illustrated here,

The Buddha receiving the  the Guardians of the Four Directions

The Buddha receiving the the Guardians of the Four Directions upon his enlightenment

These same guardians of the four directions, which belong to the four fronts of reality which form the “cross of reality” are equally represented in the Buddhist “vantra”

Buddhist "Vantra" -- Mandala of the Integral

Buddhist “Vantra” — Mandala of the Integral

which, as you can see is structurally very similar to the Sioux Sacred Hoop and Rosenstock-Huessy’s “cross of reality”. Critical Reason is, in this sense, our responsibility to uphold and perserve and to restore the integrity of the cross of reality — the two time fronts of past and future, and the two space fronts of inner and outer –, and no machine can do this. This is precisely the task of “integral consciousness” and it is in that sense that “critical thinking” and “integral consciousness” are really two aspects of the same thing.

The problem, then, is not “critical thinking” but the particular form this has taken hitherto. It has not been considered in its fullest fourfold character, but as “triangulation”, as euclidean mind or as dualistic rationality. This is not it at all, and if we are going to master technology, rather than be mastered by it and by the “Anthropocene”, we have to relearn the authentic meaning of “critical thinking” as the very meaning of “fourfold vision”.





46 responses to “Outsourcery”

  1. Scott Preston says :

    Now I think we see what Trump meant by “draining the swamp” — draining the swamp of politicians and putting in corporate CEOs instead — the corporatocracy, no longer shadowy, but visible — corporate takeover of government.

    Never thought I’ld live to see this actually. It was always somewhere off in the future, the stuff of science fiction.

    • InfiniteWarrior says :

      One of the great achievements of the doctrinal system has been to divert anger from the corporate sector to the government that implements the programs that the corporate sector designs, such as the highly protectionist corporate/investor rights agreements that are uniformly mis-described as “free trade agreements” in the media and commentary. With all its flaws, the government is, to some extent, under popular influence and control, unlike the corporate sector. It is highly advantageous for the business world to foster hatred for pointy-headed government bureaucrats and to drive out of people’s minds the subversive idea that the government might become an instrument of popular will, a government of, by and for the people. – Trump in the White House: An Interview With Noam Chomsky

      • InfiniteWarrior says :

        I would add that diverting anger to the corporate sector would be just as destructive and fruitless. Anger affects none but those who are angry.

      • Scott Preston says :

        Very good interview with Chomsky. Thanks for linking. If Trump represents the merger of state and corporate power — it may no longer be possible also for the corporate sector to divert and deflect anger onto government any longer. That’s one of the hazards of assuming “direct rule” as seems to be the case with Trumpism. Essentially, the “corporatocracy” has now shown its hand, and that’s at least a good thing. It’s in plain sight now, and that could be its downfall.

        I think Trump showed during his campaign that putting in place direct corporate rule was what he intended all along, and what he meant by “draining the swamp”. So, yes, America, Inc — a limited liability company — is going to be run like a corporation for the foreseeable future. Things appear to be shaping up that way. At least the hidden hand and “Shadow government” is no longer hidden. And that’s the only good news in any of this mess.

        • InfiniteWarrior says :

          It’s been run like a corporation for quite some time and the top-down, corporate hierarchal model of management has seeped so deeply into the public sphere that the model has been adopted as the “governance” model of everything from social services to public schools to institutions of higher learning.

          the “corporatocracy” has now shown its hand, and that’s at least a good thing. It’s in plain sight now, and that could be its downfall.

          I hadn’t thought of it quite like that, but I think you may have just put your finger on what it is I’ve been hoping might actually — finally — bring Americans together in a common purpose and begin to heal the social rifts in this country…maybe. Trouble is, the fact that it’s in plain sight now doesn’t necessarily mean everyone will see it.

          • Scott Preston says :

            Trump boasted that he had bought all the politicians anyway. All he’s done by “draining the swamp” is eliminate the middle man. I’m sure that’s his thinking. But that means, no more veil as well. That’s why it looks so “surreal”.

            And actually it is quite surreal. If Marx shouted “workers of the world unite! You have nothing to lose but your chains”, this is what the Corps have done themselves. They’ve united and shed their chains, and have plunged the working stiffs into “universal competition” with each other.

            That’s why the whole thing now looks so “surreal” or “absurd” to people. It’s Marx, in effect, turned on his head — topsy-turveydom.

      • Scott Preston says :

        I think Chomsky made one goof in the interview:

        But that requires an honest ideologue, a Hitler type, not someone whose only detectable ideology is Me.

        Adolf was all about “Me” too. He didn’t have an “ideology”. What he had was a myth and a magical technique — propaganda. The reason fascism is so hard to pin down precisely is because it has no ideology, only a myth.

  2. andrew says :

    Back on the Zaadz site I asked whether we should be ‘free-trading’ with the communists. I would now argue that China and Russia are no longer communist; at least not in anyway that makes sense . They are systems of politics and economics run by State totalitarianism! I had always understood this system to be Fascism. At the time, on Zaadz, I predicted that we would become like them and not vice versa . It looks that I’m once again prescient; and sadly so:(
    Maybe under Trump the pretence of democracy will be entirely shattered.
    I would note, though, that this happened no matter which arm of political thought was in power. There was a good article in The Atlantic recently documenting the 100 year obsession of the Republican party corporatizing itself. It was the post-Nixon democrats who helped that process the most . It probably is also worth mentioning that Fascism need not look like the 1940 models; it is entirely possible that Fascism evolved!

    • Scott Preston says :

      O yes, fascism has “evolved” and changed its appearance and its methods in order to become more mainstream. Party “uniforms” are rather passe, and the contemporary uniform is shirt, tie, suit. No kidding. That’s how fascists march in the UK now. It’s what Bertram Gross described as “Friendly Fascism”, in 1980, which Chomsky also mentions in his interview. “Friendly” of course, being the kind of friendliness you get from a con-man.

      “technocratic rationality” (or “technocratic shamanism”) is just another contemporary phrase for “fascism”, because it, too, is concerned only with power and its application. Rationality and reason are not equivalent, and not interchangeable terms, any more than “totality” and “whole” are equivalent and interchangeable.

    • InfiniteWarrior says :

      this happened no matter which arm of political thought was in power

      Try telling that to a Democrat. You can “argue” yourself blue in the face that the Democratic party is just as beholden to corporate interests as the Republican party (they’ve just served different corporate interests until the last few decades — Republican=Military-Industrial, Democrat=Consumer-Industrial) and you’ll be run out of the room and impaled on a pike.

  3. andrew says :

    Apologies for some of my mis-wording. It be good if their was an edit button for comments:)
    It begs the question of who can stop this if all the major powers are in collusion. Berge’ Boy over at IPMS was quite correct when he noted the capitalist’s ( corporate fascism today) are the only ones who can escape their system .
    I’m also convinced that there is at least 100 years of oil left at the present rate of world consumption ; so really, the LOTR’s allegory is really quite accurate. We little Hobbit’s are @#$%*! Mount Doom looms larger and larger!

    • InfiniteWarrior says :

      capitalist’s ( corporate fascism today) are the only ones who can escape their system

      No, they can’t. They earnestly believe they can, but “the elite” everyone is talking about cannot escape climate change; they cannot escape “blowback;” they cannot escape the consequences of their actions. While they can buffer themselves from the worst economic effects, for the moment, they can no more escape “the system” than anyone else can.

      That’s what I like about Einsenstein’s, et al, approach. He doesn’t cast “the 1%” as “the enemy.” He points out the hollowness of the supposed “power” and “privilege” they pursue. That pursuit is no more “fulfilling” for them as it is for “the least of these.”

    • InfiniteWarrior says :

      It begs the question of who can stop this if all the major powers are in collusion.

      A miracle is a kind of a gift, an occurrence that is beyond our capacity to make happen. It is something beyond the normal rules of cause and effect as we have understood them. These include the rules of political and economic power that determine what is practical and “realistic….”

      Standing Rock has given us many examples of love in action that offer a hint of the miracle that is possible….

      Writ large, the situation at Standing Rock is the situation of our whole planet: everywhere, dominating forces seek to exploit what remains of the treasures of earth and sea. They cannot be defeated by force. We must instead invite a change of heart by being in a place of heartfulness ourselves – of courage, empathy, and compassion. –
      Standing Rock: A Change of Heart

    • davidm58 says :

      Hi Andrew,
      As you might guess, I disagree with your statement that there are 100 years of oil left at the present rate of world consumption. First, we don’t maintain a constant rate of consumption. Our current economic structure requires growth in oil consumption.
      Second, in spite of the currently apparent over-supply of oil on the world market, there are many indicators that we are on a very thin precipice here. The recently completed World Energy Outlook (Nov. 2016) prepared by the International Energy Agency provides scenarios for future oil demand and how the world markets might meet that demand, but buried deep in the report is that they themselves are engaged in wishful thinking that may not come to pass.

      From the report:
      “Declines in production from existing conventional crude oil fields are equivalent to losing the current oil output of Iraq from the global balance every two years, providing a powerful underlying stimulus for the current rebalancing of the oil market. Yet there is also the risk of an over-correction: the volume of conventional crude oil resources receiving development approval in 2015 fell to its lowest level since the 1950s and the data for 2016 show no sign of a rebound. There is scope to recover from one or two years of suppressed project approvals, but with the level of demand growth seen in the New Policies Scenario, prolonging this into 2017 or beyond could lead to more volatile oil prices and a new boom-and-bust cycle for the industry.” (aka enantiadromia, revenge effect, ironic reversal, etc. that Scott talks about here).

      They offer a chart (Figure 3.16) that shows, as Kjell Aleklett summarized, “Peak Oil will occur even if oil from fracked tight sources, oil sands and other sources are included.” I would add that this looks likely to happen very soon, based on this chart.

      Aleklett has a somewhat wonkish article about the report, but the second half of the article is worth reading:

      My own wonkish summary of 10 years of the annual World Energy Outlook reports, from the years 2005-2014.

      • Dwig says :

        David, thanks for the good work,wading through the data and verbiage to tease out the trends. I’ve been wondering about the persistently low oil prices since 2014. Some of that comes from the deliberate Saudi ramp-up of production, but it seems to me that the other half of the picture must be continually depressed demand. In effect, the consumers of the world aren’t able to take advantage of the low prices to produce a lot of “happy motoring”. So, a large amount of the production goes into storage.

        So, where have the consumers gone? Are we actually in a recession that TPTB are unwilling to acknowledge? I can imagine a time in the near future when production stalls due to normal depletion not being countered by increased production (the natural result of insufficient capital expenditures), which then draws down the stored petroleum and causes a wave of speculative price increases, similar to mid-2008, with a similar outcome: a global economic crash, with the financial establishment having no “ammunition” left to rein it in. I’m guessing that this could happen within the next two years.

        • davidm58 says :

          Yes, that’s what I expect as well. Right now the world can’t afford high oil prices – they stall economies. And yet, with the low prices, the oil companies have less to spend on exploring and developing replacement resources – all of which are MUCH more expensive, and with less energy return than conventional oil which is being rapidly depleted. As I said, a thin precipice.

  4. Scott Preston says :

    I just remembered that my undergrad text in logic was entitled Creative and Critical Thinking and that was just perfect, because they knew that critical thinking was also creative thinking, which is correct. The only real problem was that they didn’t understand the meaning of “critical” in the sense I used it above — the crucial form of thinking which Rosenstock-Huessy also calls “survival knowledge”.

  5. Scott Preston says :

    I don’t hold out much hope for the near term. I’ve never seen such a coterie of bumbling fools as those now steering events and pretty much at the political helm — Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage, Donald Trump. They’re the real “creepy clowns”. And I’m sure they are yet to be joined by others just as bumbling and with just as little political ability or talent.

  6. Júlio (Ebrael) says :

    Good topic… Let me just point that critical comes NOT from crux. It’s an adjective word from crísis (Greek) and means an extreme condition just before a coming breakdown or ripping.

    More: even if a crux might to mean a “critical” condition, it means not always a rip-off or breakdown.

    • Scott Preston says :

      They are related words: crux (Latin) and crucis means both “cross” or turning point (as in a “crossroads”) signifying a moment of “decision” (related to the word “scissors” or also incision because a moment of decision also means something else is cut off — a path not taken, a choice has to be made)

      Krisis (Greek) has much the same meaning. “a turning point”, a decisive juncture, or a selection It is, in that sense, also related to the word “Christ” because it means “selected” or “chosen”, and so also to the meaning “criss-cross”.

      • Júlio (Ebrael) says :

        1) Christ doesn’t come from Krisis, but from khrestos (K is not equal to Kh in Greek), the “annoyed” (seemingly to “chosen”, but not identical).

        I guess you have meant “related meanings”, not related words. Soon, don’t you want to make related meanings (such a subjective issuem isn’t it?) look like related words (since they evoke the same roots).

        Cross/crux and krisis/kritiké DON’T SHARE the same roots (at least not the earliest). Soon, their pretended related meanings seem not to have sense.

        • Scott Preston says :

          Not according to Partridge’s A Short Etymological Dictionary of Modern English (short meaning only 4,246 pages). It takes some sleuthing, but words like crisis, chrisma, christ, chronos (time), criterion, certain, and even “cream” (related to chrism) are etymologically related words, traceable to common phonetic roots in Indo-European — most *gher-, *ghar-, *ghri- all signifying the notion of “separation” in all its inflections — discernment, judgement, to cut, or some change in course.

          Even, apparently, the word “riddle” is a related word (which surprised me when I looked it up).

          The phonemes *gher-, *ghar-, *ghri- constellate a related meaning in much the same way Gebser shows that the phonemes ma- or me- constellate meanings related to “mind” (including “man”) or things pertaining to the mental, or mass and measure.

          It would take a treatise to trace the geneaologies of the words pertaining to “crisis”, crucis, critical, chrism, chronos, etc but the central meme here is discernment, decision, separation or especially selection and the act of choosing.

          And this is reflected not only in the meaning of “Christ” (who says, for example, he comes not to bring peace “but a sword”, to separate “sheep from goats”, “wheat frm chaff”, to bind and to loose, and so on). This is even reflected in the name “Christ”, which pertains to the “chrisma” (the “cream”) as the consecrated oil — that which is separated or extracted or sieved out.

          In fact, Gebser did spend some time discussing the etymology of words related to time and the IE *gher-, as I recall, in his EPO showing how Chronos, the god, is always depicted with a knife or a scythe to signify “cutting”, or “decision” or “separation” related to the meanings of “crisis”, for it is Chronos who separates the sky father from the earth mother

  7. Scott Preston says :

    How quick they change their tune when it comes to being flattery, vanity, titles, honours, etc


    and now the man who called Trump a “marketer of fantasy” himself speaks like Donald Trump. I see here the makings of a great big bubble.

    • InfiniteWarrior says :

      Doesn’t the article more or less say Liveris intended that as a compliment? He hasn’t changed his tune so much as he’s (apparently) witnessing a dream come true…for corporatists.

      • Scott Preston says :

        I see some potential internecine conflicts brewing there in Trump’s cabinet not least the pro-Russia and anti-Russia factions.

        Have to admit I’m a little relieved that this boil has finally come to a head (and not just in the US). It’s the last stage before it bursts, of course. And that’s messy, but then the healing begins (that is, as long as it doesn’t get infected). I think the analogy is quite fitting. Maybe even a tumor rather than a boil.

        I look on Trump and his cabinet appointments like a scientist looks on lab rats — as an interesting experiment in social dynamics. Since I can’t do a thing about it, might as well learn something from it about social dynamics.

        • andrewmarkmusic says :

          I don’t think the corporation is evil in and of itself. There was always the possibility of healthy corporate models– at least to some degree. There could be Co-op models or models where employees became partners by shares as long as they worked for any corporation . It’s the model which developed in America and projected on the world over the last 100 years which is toxic, imo. This model immuned itself from criminal prosecution for wrongdoing by co-opting the court system . It also developed in juxtaposition to vast systems of usury which became normalized in the same time period which created a world economy premised on the casino.
          So any solutions need to look at these two issues which, of course, by their very nature, make it close to impossible to change . I’ll give the ‘archons of the apocalypse’ this much: they know exactly what they’re doing!

          • Scott Preston says :

            As was said of the “Emissary” or ego-consciousness may be said of the corporation for very similar reasons: it makes an effective servant but a lousy master. The corporation does, in fact, model the consciousness structure that conceived it and made it real, and it takes on those egoic characteristics itself as a “corporate person” — an egregore or golem type thing. It’s “brand” is its personality or personhood, in that sense and as brand personalities they assume archetypal meanings and exist as mythical entities with “magical” properties. Branding is in that sense mystification barely disguising the fact that the “corporate person” is simply the old gods returned as corporations.

        • InfiniteWarrior says :

          A long and often pedantic piece, Trump’s Second Gilded Age: Overcoming the Rule of Billionaires and Militarists is nonetheless worth a read…as are some the comments.

          • Scott Preston says :

            I was going to write up something about Trump’s penchant for the gilded stuff, and what it might predict about his style of government. I finally thought better of it.

  8. Scott Preston says :

    Peter Thiel, acting on behalf of Trump, has convened a meeting of tech CEOs


    I would be very concerned about this, given Thiel’s well-known antipathy to democracy and his dystopian “techno-fascist” proclivities. Something to watch closely.

  9. andrewmarkmusic says :

    Hi David! Thanks for the links:) If these are facts they can’t possibly be true! If they were true every world power would be invading and destabilizing every country that had rich oil reserves! Oh, wait….
    And furthermore, every sane politician that new about these facts would be implementing policies like Home-Stead Acts with grants available to make sure the new homesteaders could install solar and compost plumbing.
    They certainly would be passing Basic Income laws tied to ‘green’ living! Perhaps signing a no personal vehicle clause in exchange for the Basic Income.
    Educators and Universities would drastically alter their curriculums! Calling for emergency re-education so that 7 billion people can adjust to 1850 living!
    Also, the Oil CEO’s with integrity would be taking out full page ads in all major news outlets and would speak honestly and with clarity about the end of this resource! They would obviously have the integrity to let 7 billion people know that the world they’ve been used to for 100 years is coming to an abrupt end .

  10. andrewmarkmusic says :

    I predicted O’Leary 3 years ago. He will be our next P.M. As I predicted Trump some time ago.
    Not really happy with any of my predictions even though I continually get them right:(
    Time to invest in equestrian stocks……One of my rich stable owning customers said she couldn’t wait for the collapse ! How romantic is neo-feudalism!

    • Scott Preston says :

      Well, you may be right, and it’s quite suggestive. Why do people think that television celebrity qualifies anyone for the practice of statesmanship? How do you translate the one into the other?

      What it suggests is that the boundary between the virtual and the actual has pretty much dissolved, and that the fantasies of TV land (or the internet for that matter) simply emigrate from the one into the other without missing a beat.

      Can you imagine a scenario like “Game of Thrones” emigrating from TV land into actuality? (Actually, it does look like that since GoT is all about “chaotic transition” too, which is why I find it so fascinating, even though I’m three seasons behind).

      This is, unfortunately, very much beginning to look like Jensen’s Dream Society in the making.

      If the mass media is the “dreaming” that prefigures a transition from virtuality to actuality, even if this is mostly unconscious process, that suggests the need indeed for new dreamings — which is where the artists come in.

  11. Scott Preston says :

    This is quite interesting….

    Beijing has warned Trump that “pride goeth before a fall”.

    And, actually, if the news reports are right, Trump’s motto (taken from Blake’s Proverbs of Hell of all places) is “the road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom”.

    I’m sure Trump has misunderstood that “the road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom” corresponds to “pride goeth before a fall”.

  12. Scott Preston says :

    Note what is happening to speech in our time and you will sense the incipient disintegration and havoc in the making. The crisis is, in many ways, a crisis of speech and language.

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