Saturday, January 17, 2015

Raw notes while reading Paul's book

Here's some decidedly gray literature: my raw notes about Paul Saint-Amour's new book.

Reaching page 6, I was struck by a hypothesis: people's tendency to underestimate the likelihood of unlikely negative events, although irrational, is nevertheless adaptive.

Reaching page 9:

What about Carthage? What about Vietnam?

In the more recent modern era, have people found new strength from being targeted by total war or by a merciless or indiscriminate enemy with massive destructive capability? Namely, the clarity of the choice to fight when flight is no option. Or is there nothing recent about that response, other than new technological means of responding -- the tools of what we call terrorism?

Back to page 8, footnote:

maybe later I’ll look up "perdure" and "sequelae"
(earlier I looked up "frisson", and "index" as a verb)

noting his use of scare quotes: "conventional" wars

transgenerational injury -- are the long-term effects of America's slavery another example?

somewhere in here… “longue durĂ©e”

page 10:

"unprecedented proliferation and destruction of written records" -- DARPA anticipated the need for communication resiliency, and created internetworking. (Did I get this history right?) Organizations like and Long Now noticed the fragility of our digital information riches. I wonder how well we are collectively doing at their goals.

page 11:

I’m reflecting now on how Paul took ten years to create this. Maybe I should work on a project or two like that.

page 14:

Will these encyclopedic works be the only suggestion of hope? What about the optimism of literally designing or inventing the future?

page 16:

I’m skimming now.

I’m interested in how the subcortical parts of the brain give rise to these responses to war, and how the cortex attempts to integrate them into a concept of reality.

Ah, here we go, application to today.

By the way: a few of us saw through the Threat Level from the start. (The colors were transparent.)

All this about anticipation. We could use some Landmark Education here: be -> have -> do. Of course we put our past into our future, but it’s a choice.

Page 19:

I notice I’m biased against Freud, and against the language of literary criticism.

Page 20:

So far I’m seeing too much focus on fear of one’s own death. What about caring for others? Seeing harm inspires some to love more generously.

Page 21:

I’m emboldened to be smart. Yet I’m also reminded of the feeling of when Ben beat me twice at Countermine: it can feel uncomfortable in the presence of towering intellect. Do I want others to feel that?

Page 22:

I googled and found “counterfactual history”

“What if… the debris left by the catastrophe of history were partially constituted of futures seen by the past as barred?” I’m getting it, it’s sinking in. To me, this is very hopeful.

I should note what I’ve been reading:

Page 23:

I agree. Contemporary dialog about global warming is certainly evidence that a population’s views of the future can influence historically significant events in the present.

That's all Google Books will let me read for free. Ah well, it's probably enough fun for me.

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