Konstantin Tsiolkovsky and Cosmism

tsiolkovsky_OstankinskyDistrict

It appears to me that a single idea transpires through Isaac Asimov’s “New Guide to Science”, Carl Sagan’s book “Cosmos” and many more: this idea is Cosmism.
Konstantin Tsiolkovsky was a true legend, the inventor of astronautic and a pioneer of conceptualization of space exploration. He was anchored in the tradition of Russian Cosmism.
The (Soviet) film about him “Road to the Stars” was used (copied?) in several parts by Kubrick for his “2001:A Space Odyssey” as some researchers maintain.
At that time (mid 1950s) Soviet space research had the lead. Stalin had passed away since only 4 years when the Sputnik was launched: it was his posthumous triumph, for the good or for the bad.

Transhumanism is just the name we now give to this collection of ideas. They were well spread back then. Also thanks to Konstantin Tsiolkovsky (see here and here)

Notable ideas here: “zoo hypothesis” in

1) Ball, J.A. The Zoo Hypothesis, Icarus, 1973
2) Kuiper and Morris, Extraterrestrial Intelligence: An Observational Approach, Science, 1977

Grammars vs feedback control

There was a point in which the AI community adopted Chomsky grammars. Grammars are Cartesian universals.
The other approach (N. Wiener) would have been to use feedback control system (later: stochastic control) to interpret learning. It did not happen. It is happening now. Big data, correlation based strategies. Deep learning.

This very interesting article by David Auerbach about Summa Technologiae by S. Lem captures exactly this transition: the interaction in living systems, of on the one hand ORDER STRUCTURE SIGNAL and on the other morphism (in the sense of J. Lanier), PLASTICITY, NOISE.

This dyadic structure is everywhere:

  1. in educational systems (rigidity vs. creativity): Freud’s “Unbehagen in der Kultur” vs. Malinowski, Engels and Wilhelm Reich;
  2. in the definition of formal languages (grammar based a’ la Chomsky vs. feedback based a’ la Turing, Piaget, and mostly Wiener)
  3. in the ideas underlying political structures of the modern world: “for Lem, communism and capitalism are delusional twin faiths: communism, that we can collectively and centrally control chance and causality; capitalism, that chance and causality will intrinsically prove benevolent and productive for us.” (D. Auerbach)

See “Un paradiso Perduto”, by Marcello Cini and of course N. Wiener’s “Cybernetics” and “The Human Use of Human Beings”.

hoi polloi

Robert K. Merton, in Science Technology and Society in XVII Century England makes the point that Reformation, since it helped promote the idea that one had to follow his judgement as regards faith and not official doctrine, at the same time created the right subversive attitude towards traditional culture in general, by giving men the input to use their own reason to investigate the Ipse Dixit. Catholic Countries, as well as missing this positive feedback, got also the negative one of a institution that programmatically enforced double think, lying and undefensible positions. See Brecht, Leben des Galileo.That is why Southern European Countries lost their lead.
See als Russell, HWP. D. Cantimori, Eretici Italiani and A. Prosperi, Tribunali Della Coscienza

F. De Sanctis knew all of this (of course) very well. The fact is, post 1861 Italian state was under the control of optimates who had a clear agenda of reforms based on the French Revolution. See Legge Casati and Leggi di Eversione dell’Asse Ecclesiastico.

With the entrance of “people without history” in the political arena, ``hoi polloi” (compare Ortega’s “Rebellion of the masses”), the average level of consciousness about such issues lowered dramatically and in Italy we landed into Art. 7 in the 1948 Constitution.
Capitano Ercoli – i.e. Palmito Togliatti, leader of PCI – was in Spain in 1936-1939, so he knew what it would mean to attempt a secular government in Italy. He understood it right – according to me, and forced the PCI to vote for art 7. That was Gramsci’s “Guerra di posizione”, i.e “Attrition Warfare”.

Deus Sive Natura (again)

De natura et origine mentis
Dove si dice dell’ebreo maledetto

In Spinoza leggo che una successione di idee inadeguate -o di immaginazioni- e’
causa di distorta conoscenza ed ergo di distorta posizione dell’uomo nei confronti del mondo. La grande idea di Spinoza e’ che i problemi morali, cioe’ dell’agire, sono problemi clinici. Patisco perche’ la mia conoscenza della realta’ e’ inadeguata. I rimandi a Freud sono perspicui, dove das Unbewusste, essendo il motore delle mie idee inadeguate, e’ anche causa del mio patire, nel senso del mio non ‘agire’ ma ‘essere-agito’ da qualcos’altro.’ ( cfr. Ethica,Pars III,Prop. 3)

Cosi’ anche in Gramsci: ciascuno deve liberarsi dalla propria ‘Sardegna’, dagli elementi folcloristici, cioe’ inconditi nella propria concezione del mondo, ciascuno deve avere la sua rivoluzione copernicana, deve cioe’ lottare per una Weltanschauung adeguata alle cose, e non intrattenersi in sterili tolemaici orticelli conclusi. Lo stesso mi pare in Chomsky, nella sua critica alla propaganda su cui si regge la comunicazione pubblica, che impartisce idee inadeguate da cui bisogna liberarsi.

Dall’altro lato vedo invece una critica all’idea di questa Bildung progressiva (sic), di questa persuasione che ci siano direzioni in cui salire nella propria coscienza, in cui depurarla e renderla adeguata alle cose. Nietzsche, Foucault. A livello di forme del sapere e di concezioni del mondo: il ‘paganesimo psichedelico’ e’ una forma incondita di concezione del mondo, ma se e solo se l’idea di un adeguamento, della fondatezza di un adeguamento e’ difendibile. E se la Riforma di Lutero, invece che atto di liberazione intellettuale, volto a
sdoganare il pensiero critico, non fosse altro che il sintomo di un rancore ancora piu’ profondo, di una stortura ancora piu’ basilare nell’animo di un livoroso agostiniano tedesco?

De origine et natura affectuum
Dove si parla di Biologia o Storia, ovvero Nature vs. Nurture

Insomma, l’epistemologia sembra avere ripercussioni politiche. E dunque: se siamo cartesiani -o meglio, kantiani, se pensiamo che l’uomo abbia una struttura mentale che non deriva interamente dall’esperienza e se ad esempio il linguaggio e’ una forma che concresce con me e non si
apprende (di nuovo Chomsky e la linguistica cartesiana), allora esiste un limite irredimibile per cui l’uomo ha un sostrato che non puo’ essere interamente riformulato/plasmato/ricodificato dalla realta’ che lo avvolge (tipo la frase gesuitica: dammi un bimbo dai 5 ai 10 e faro’ di lui quello che vuoi). Ergo la tessitura delle relazioni sociali non puo’ piegare l’uomo nella direzione che essa vuole, ma un fondo di non eterodirezione __deve__ sussistere.Se invece, intuizioni intellettuali e forme a priori del conoscere non ci sono, ma tutto e’ tabula rasa e costume (del resto ‘abito’ in tedesco e’ Gewohnheit, da Wohnen ‘abitare’, ‘risiedere’), allora ogni direzione in cui io venga plasmato e’ legittima, quale che sia.’Vi era
ben poco da dire contro le atrocita’. Ai lati della via Appia erano state poste file di schiavi crocifissi, e laggiu’ a Birkenau si diffondeva l’odore dei cadaveri bruciati. Non eravamo i Crasso ma gli Spartaco della situazione, tutto qui’ (Jean Amery sul ruolo
dell’intellettuale ad Auschwitz). Una struttura conoscitiva senza a priori rende difficile ogni argine contro il tiranno. Gli a priori sono conservatori ma senza e’ la frammetarieta’ dell’impressione e la tirannide dell’automa.

[Di questo mi piacerebbe approfondire con un testo incredibile,
‘Language and Learning. The debate between Jean Piaget and Noam
Chomsky’, il resoconto di un incontro tenutosi all’Abbaye de Royaumont
nel 1975 fra i due (e molti altri).
Gli apriori come fossili storici di un evoluzionismo adattivo dal passo geologico].

De potentia intellectus seu de libertate humana
Dove si precisano i contorni della questione

Di nuovo Chomsky: ‘at every stage of history our concern must be to dismantle those forms of authority and oppression that survive from an era when they may have been justified in terms of the need for security or survival or economic development, but that now contribute to -rather that alleviate- material and cultural deficit’.
(Prefazione a Daniel Guerin, ‘Anarchism’).O invece: gli enormi movimenti tellurici nella coscienza umana registrati da ‘Sein und Zeit’ di Heidegger, i teoremi di incompletezza di Gödel, Furtwängler che dirige Beethoven o Wittgenstein potevano venire a generazione senza il tiranno? Buchenwald era a dieci chilometri dalla residenza di Goethe a Weimar.

Dirac on religion

“I cannot understand why we idle discussing religion. If we are honest—and scientists have to be—we must admit that religion is a jumble of false assertions, with no basis in reality. The very idea of God is a product of the human imagination. It is quite understandable why primitive people, who were so much more exposed to the overpowering forces of nature than we are today, should have personified these forces in fear and trembling. But nowadays, when we understand so many natural processes, we have no need for such solutions. I can’t for the life of me see how the postulate of an Almighty God helps us in any way. What I do see is that this assumption leads to such unproductive questions as why God allows so much misery and injustice, the exploitation of the poor by the rich and all the other horrors He might have prevented. If religion is still being taught, it is by no means because its ideas still convince us, but simply because some of us want to keep the lower classes quiet. Quiet people are much easier to govern than clamorous and dissatisfied ones. They are also much easier to exploit. Religion is a kind of opium that allows a nation to lull itself into wishful dreams and so forget the injustices that are being perpetrated against the people. Hence the close alliance between those two great political forces, the State and the Church. Both need the illusion that a kindly God rewards—in heaven if not on earth—all those who have not risen up against injustice, who have done their duty quietly and uncomplainingly. That is precisely why the honest assertion that God is a mere product of the human imagination is branded as the worst of all mortal sins” (P. Dirac)