The Ideal of Design

4 Jul

The idea that human beings have ‘created their own values’ is a common idea among people who think primarily in terms of top-down dynamics.  This idea is misleading, and it undersells the role of the involuntary aspects of life.  People ‘create'(mumbo jumbo metaphysical term) a lot of stuff, and most of it is fairly random and shoddy.  The complex stuff that survives is then perceived, by some, as having been deliberately planned out by rational genius.  However, the markets of ideas, religion, economy, politics, war, etc, should get a lot of credit for this ‘genius’, too.  Do not imagine that we can necessarily recognize a good idea or method when it smacks us in the face.  This is a very bad assumption.  Lucky for us, naked competition has a way of dispensing with pretense.  It is often in the spaces between the competitors that the truth is revealed and not in the competitors themselves.

Sometimes the top starts at the bottom.  This alludes to the critical role of liberty and independence in measure.  Rivals are annoying, but rivals are incentivized to inform us about our weak spots and failings.  Someone may simply notice something important which other ‘offended’ parties did not.  In that case, antagonism is in the eye of the beholder.  When adequately organized, the distributed critics and creators are performing a great service which we probably must outsource, anyway, as one is liable to believe fervently in oneself and one’s own ways and probably must in order to live with healthly initiative and ego.  Explicit zealotry is out of fashion, but implicit zealotry is still going strong.

Our egos all have their Dorian Gray portraits locked away somewhere.  Yet in the exiled ugliness there may well be hints to higher beauty.  In the short-term it may appear otherwise, but in the long-term it’s a disaster to premise ego entirely on this political expediency.

I suppose the assumption is that if something was not by design, then it must be inferior to what humans will eventually design.

But imagine how odd this type of thinking is given that human beings are themselves the products of a great deal of ‘undesigned’ bottom-up factors.  Such is also the case in the economy.  Our own brains probably have something of this sort happening as well, but that will have to be demonstrated by scientists through a lot of intense work.  I have total respect for the scientists now working on complex systems.  I can’t believe there aren’t more people obsessed with the topic — it will surely yield huge results this century.

The spiritedly festooned ideal of control has some resemblance to the old ideal of teleology.  It plays to our native desires for security, predictability, intention, meaning, self-importance, ego/group/sanity solidarity, and so on.  There are important top-down considerations, but they cannot be properly understood except when combined with bottom-up considerations.

This understanding will probably come out of science and philosophy, but I expect it will also have quasi-religious elements.


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