At the end of the question period yesterday, I said with under something which I would have to take up today. And this arose because we were discussing the problem of prediction. Which is of course related to the problem of control. I had made a passing reference in yesterday’s. Seminar, to the fact that the knowledge of time, the knowledge of the future, what Korzybski calls man’s time-binding ability is a an advantage for which we pay a very serious price. To know the future in a conscious way gives you obviously a survival advantage. But at the same time it gives us a vital disadvantage so that what you gain on the roundabout, you lose on the swings. You gain the ability to plan. Your future, say to invest to take out insurance to do all those things that are called provident. But the price you pay for it is anxiety. And you pay this price because you know that you don’t know enough. That you know as it were, enough about the future to try to be profit or if you don’t know enough about the future to be sure the chop Providence was correctly done. Therefore you worry. Therefore you are concerned with what will happen tomorrow and it’s so extraordinary that that passage in Saint Matthew’s Gospel where Jesus says, ‘Don’t make any anxiety about tomorrow what you’re going to eat what you can drink,’ and I am amazed about that because every minister I have ever heard discussed this passage says it can’t be put into practice. Is that the church simply never did teach that that’s they they the most a verse of passage in the Gospels which is swept under the carpet say. In a way because, Jesus told all sorts of stories in order to make people think. This one this this image of the flowers of the field and the birds that don’t make any plans. And he did another one for example the story of the Pharisee and the publican, very interesting because its effect is X. is extremely funny he says here is the Pharisees goes up to the front row of the church and stands up and sort of memorializes God on what a good guy he’s been. That he’s fulfilled all the duties and so on then there’s the public a new creeps into the back and beats himself on the breath and says only God be muzzled me as an see now having told that star the situation is completely reversed. Because then all the Prince creep into the back of the church and beat themselves on the grass and take up events of all to me as an insult or now we would have to tell the tale exactly the other way around and say now the honest guy is the one who simply walked straight to the front and addresses God man to man. But you see, what people don’t realize in what I would call guru manship the art of teaching is that the teacher tells tales not for their immediate obvious meaning that their later effect. What is the result of having told the story? In this story is completely deflated say humility. Where you try to be humble It’s a con.
So in the same way, that the passage on be not anxious for the morrow really asks you, why can’t you put this into practice. Here’s a precept, who contract nobody they say oh it’s impossible, we cannot give up making plans we cannot give up prediction. Of course we predict in a way. In a sort of unconscious fashion. The simplest act involves a kind of prediction. So in this case, we are simultaneously aware of things which if you do regard the present as a hairline would be called Past and Future at once. But if you not hung up on the idea that the present is this Helen thing which is purely abstract then you have no problem in accepting the idea that we are simultaneously aware of past events and future events. Because they’re all, just like you’re watching from a traveling vehicle and you can see where you’re going to be and you can see where you have been from where you are now. So in that sense then, we have a knowledge of the future when I move to pick up my glasses but that is a different kind of knowledge from when I speculate in an abstract way as to what I ought to do a month from now or might might happen a month from now, you see.
So then, the question then becomes we we predict those far future which are not within our present vision, by calculation. It may be astronomical, navigational calculation or as it was in all times astrological. People thought they had in astrology the means to foresee the future know what to do. And then the question arises, Well what of… Supposing there is a fine science of prediction whether it be scientifically respectable like navigation or meteorology which isn’t too hard. Or whether it be something like astrology. Are these really profitable sciences? Now I pointed out the problem is A, that when you know the future, you pay for it with anxiety. You know I am going to die. A creature that doesn’t make predictions like a cat or a dog, when seeing another dead cat will not necessarily in that’s going to happen to me. Because you see, a true animal a truly functioning entity, is not self-conscious in that way. For example, you all know. That only other people have head. Only, how do you become concerned with your head. Why, because you have been made conscious of your face. You looked in mirrors you’ve been talked about is the only part of our body that we live permanently. And even when we put gloves on you know their hands are covered. We always keep the face naked. And you learn that you’re there in terms of having enough. You can touch. For a good face and lose face all these things indicate the importance of the face is it one that every where as inside beyond the face where are you. If you were living naturally. You would be as unselfconscious as your head. You know even than the brain is not sensitive to probes.
So you you would live in terms of all this is going on as you. But you’ve been taught or the idea you’ve been smashed back into your head, see, by social indoctrination, and your face has been made to stand for you. The real you behind the face is everything that you see and hear touch and sense. So the headless man, you have never had to go out of your head to lose your mind to see is in a way always characteristic of the wise man. Because he’s come back to his original emptiness, which is behind the face. See when you turn, to see your hand and what is behind the eye you can’t it’s not dark. It’s not light. You just can’t apprehended in any way at all. And that’s what it’s all about. But so then, when you start calculating and you resort to projection. You are now trying to get hold of all of us. But many people have an instinctive feeling say when confronted with a great astrologer who could tell them all the future I don’t want to hear. And rather not. And this is in a way a wise, if uninformed reaction. For the simple reason… Well let’s put the other point of view from another point of view would be a realistic person saying the trouble with you is you don’t want to know your future because you’re afraid of life. If you were know your future you could take practical steps to adapt things to it if you knew you were going to die next Tuesday, you would immediately put your house in order and make less trouble for your friends and relations. Face it. That sounds all right to begin with. It’s like all technology is initially a success.
But the real problem the kindly comes to is this. When the outcome of a game is known, the game is cancelled. Because the whole point of playing the game is that we don’t know the out. Because the known future is already past. And the higher the degree of certainty of knowledge as to the future to that extent it has happened, you had it. And we don’t want to put the future in that situation, not really. Because the how easy if you think of the cosmos as basically a game of hide and seek. Where the Lord God is creating the universe by forgetting that is God I’m imagining that if you. Then this is the the fundamental way of getting rid of the eternal boredom of knowing all about it. And of there being no surprises. The whole the whole vitality of being alive. Is that it is always surprising. To be enlightened is to be surprised at everything. That it is a wonder that everything is a miracle that it is highly improbable, and really shouldn’t happen the role but there it is. If there isn’t that sense, there is no vitality in any of it. That again of course we have the problem that I discussed yesterday in another form the problem of order and randomness and the drawing the line you see, where to draw the line between order and randomness so in the same way where to draw the line between the known and the unknown how much to predict how much to say well, I’d rather leave tomorrow to tomorrow. Sufficient unto the day is trouble.
So, you see again it is all a question of where draw the line of how much to control and realize that when you go beyond a certain degree of control when you go beyond a certain what I will call natural prevision such as. I described by the analogy of looking out of the when the train when you go beyond a certain degree of natural prevision, you will encounter a law of diminishing returns. The more you succeed the more you fail. And then you get into this sort of. I describe it yesterday from the academic point of view when scholarship acquires an exactness and a highly detailed degree of information. That constitutes an information bomb and nobody can keep track of it and the whole thing becomes a bore who wants to keep track of it any longer who gives a damn you know about those final details of Shakespeare’s use of the conjunction it. So in the same way, in practical politics, we have reached a state today where law is out of hand. There is too much paper there are too many whereas if Sands about subclauses and so on and nobody could keep track of it the whole thing is in a state of total confusion and this confusion exists in the name of sanity in the name of trying to set things in order because everybody shouts when somebody does something wrong there ought to be a law against it and soon there is indeed a law against it there’s a law against everything we are all at this moment doing something illegal. I don’t know what it is but it’s always there and somebody can find it out and invoke it if they wish to make trouble for us. I’m quite sure that my entire situation is illegal. And that’s a so for everybody. And this is the result you see, of wanting to pin everything down.
In ancient China, the Confucians had a thing they call the rectification of names. And they were the Confucians are curious people because while they have some marvelous ideas there’s certainly lacking in humor. And they’re rather ponderous and puritanical and stuff in. The Taoists on the other hand have humor. And always making fun of the confusions are they the rectification of names was that Confucius said we must be sure when we use words that their meaning is established. So this means the dictionary. And so they were they were the first real serious thinkers about dictionaries, about definitions about laying down what the words mean but the Taoist pointed out by saying if you’re going to rectify the words, What are you going to rectify them with? Well they said with words well then they said what are you going to how are you going to rectify the words you used to rectify the words. Well I thought about that. And then they said well their words are self-rectifying. That is to say, you rectify words with words and the words you use to rectify the words are rectified with the other words it’s a close circle.
So you can’t play a game called Vish. In which you supply the players each with a copy of the same dictionary. And then you have a lot of words written on slips of paper and a hat and somebody pulls a word out of a hat and everybody looks it up in the dictionary. Then they take the definition and they look up a key word in the definition. And look that up and so on until they get back to the word They started with. The first person to get back to the word that everybody started with calls out Vish, short a vicious circle. And then there is an umpire present to rule on whether they cheated in other words whether. They looked up. When they saw our knowledge to observe to record on looked up the word to instead of record or observe or whatever. So far the dictionary only. Gets out of a vicious circle where there is a picture beside the word. Then it escapes. But otherwise all attempts to pin down words are simply going in a vicious circle.
So, one uses words effectively by not trying to pin them down too hard. But, we are always saying. Put it in writing. If we’re really serious about an agreement between two people put it in writing. Because I can trust the document but I’m not sure if I can trust you. Do you exist prove it have your birth certificate passport card of identity if you can produce this wretched piece of paper you’re there if you can’t you’re not. Well obviously it was a good idea to record things that we could be sure that people wouldn’t be dishonest. But all this started from people being the sun. And in if we are going to stop people from being dishonest. There’s only one way to do it. And that’s what people not to be dishonest. No other way there is ever that event it will prevent. And if. You think you can go on living by preventing people from being dishonest with you by rules and regulations and laws and police and all this can you eventually you succeed in the short run once again in the long run you run into a total tangle. United States is the country in the world with most laws. And yet our police are completely mistrusted by every saying they’re crooks and scoundrels and violent, fascist kind of people. With exceptions, you know everything has exceptions, you know, a nice cop on the corner…That by, and large through. The state in which say people say oh well the law will take care of. The law won’t. You have to take care. And you can only be a law abiding citizen by trusting our fellowmen. And if you don’t do that no one will trust you. And therefore a system of mutual mistrust will exist which of its very nature must fall apart. It cannot operate.
So once again, you see this is a quite a problem of the confusion between physical reality and symbolic reality. The law says this therefore it must happen and if it doesn’t happen somebody is there with a club see that it does. Maybe, unless you one go out can see conceal it find a loophole in the literature. Get a good lawyer. That means a man who can say that the law didn’t say what it was intended. So that then of course, everybody is accountable and that means keeps accounts. And. I are increasingly find that it’s difficult to operate. Because of all the records that have to be kept one spends more time recording than one does doing. So, this is to say then that the symbolic method, prediction, recording or prediction is based on recording and on it’s like you take a graph of the movement of air of a stock or of anything anything you want to graph and then you establish a trend to see where it’s going.
So recording is the basis of prediction but if you go into this beyond a certain point. The process cancels itself out because it’s no longer worth doing. So the wonderful Jewish idea, of the Year of Jubilee, you know, when all debts are cancelled and that begin again. That’s what we need now we need a new chemical or you know in a lot of people talk about putting nerve gases in the air which will immediately paralyze the enemy what we need is a gas that will destroy all paper whatsoever. I wonder what would happen, I’ve often thought about it. Even though I depend for my living to some extent on paper writing books. I think on the whole the benefit to humanity from the complete disappearance of paper at this point. Wouldn’t have been true absent some other time but now I think that much would be said and it would have to include plastics celluloid film and all that other things well. Yes all recording to disappear in other words the book of the recording angel is to be eaten up by God. If they are this is the thing.
Now, that’s of course I’m being please understand I’m being somewhat facetious. And that this mustn’t be taken quite literally, but it is saying this point. Look at it look at a different group of tourists. I take people to Japan every so on, and the Japanese are absolutely with wherever you go the tourist the Japanese, everybody, they carry cameras. And the very nice to have a camera and photography is a fine art but there’s a certain kind of people who never never look at any except with a camera they go around capturing reality in this box. And there was one man who was a magnificent photographer who came along with me who never did anything but photograph. And he was always late and dawdling behind the other people even though we moved with a very leisurely pace because he was interminable photographing photographing photographing capturing the world stuff and making a still see with his box and movies and the another kind of still is a more complicated. So the clutch box you go around with as a result I find that people do not relate to the environment is the only thing that you should ever carry when you’re strolling is it is a scarf or a crane to help you climb your hand should otherwise be completely free of income. So should your eyes and ears and everything then it will really happen. But otherwise, if you go around with a recording instrument all the time it won’t happen. The only good recording instrument will be one that you were completely unconscious of. That you didn’t have to focus and flip and study instead of looking directly at things were going on participating directly with people in social relationships.
So in the same way, when you have… you’re seeing wonderful landscapes and works of art and antiquity also when people have very good times have a picnic at the beach and it’s a delightful landscapes, someone should have brought a camera, to prove that this really did happen. But what happens instead nowadays when somebody gives a great party and all sorts of people are invited they are sure that the society reporter comes from the press. Then they can read about it in the paper the next day and look back and say now that really did happen it’s in the papers or the same way a young adolescent who feels that he doesn’t really exist commits a crime in order to get his name in the papers there will be headlines as a great hero and villain. And you know he’s there he’ll be recognized. It didn’t happen if it wasn’t recognized therefore, some very bright person pointed out all the while ago we have many pseudo events events that are created for the sole purpose of their being reported in the press. Like life goes to a party, remember those things all those parties were organized by staff of people who came up from Life magazine and said this would make a good target that set it up this way and they get various people to cooperate and all the and they have the party in the same way publishers instead of looking around for creative authors think up books then they find a hack to write them as if this would make a good book. And it’s a pseudo-book. A non-book. There is all kinds of work done like this. Foundations invent projects, Suter projects. Because instead of you see what happens is that. Instead of going around with a kind of field staff looking for what artists and scholars and people actually doing that is creative they stay in the office, and they get masses of applications come in and which are too boring to read. So finally, they sit around think up what would make a good project to give all this money to and. Then they think up a project then they go around and try and find people to do it and all those people they find are frustrated Ph D.’s from Harvard and elsewhere who are sort of academically competent but don’t have very much on the ball they have to be told something to do investigative research.
So it’s the same principle, all along, which translates life into a system of symbols. To predict the future for us. Then it makes us anxious to see how the vicious circle operates and having made a sanctions we turn back to it and say you solve this problem we don’t want to be and we want a full proof system. Back to the recorder that are closer study of the symbols how can we are with the future. But you see? It’s a complete vicious circle the law it’s a seed the more it sails the more you are quite sure where you’re going and the plane won’t crash under any circumstances. By the time you can travel from here to anywhere in the world in an absolutely assured won’t-crash plane, I assure you, there’ll be no point in the. In the region. Because the place you will go to will be the same place and started this will look exactly like. Answer more. It will already. Let that journey in the completely full-proof plane, because it is absolutely planned you will have already taken that. That’s why the place you are going to will be identically the place you came from. And so, who will then pay for their lines by travelling on nobody. There has to be the risk in it for there to be any point in taking. So this is the most important thing for all technologists to understand. That technology is a process, like cooking, like polishing, which you must do for a certain time and then stop. Then it’s done, it’s ready. It’s created. But if you keep on keep on keep on keep on you you know supposing I have somebody I love very much and I like to stroke. They’re not strong but if I keep on stroking are others going up. Up to a point it’s fine, beyond that too much. And [this is] so simple I mean I feel I’m talking in platitudes. But this is a thing the people have simply neglected, when it comes to technology when it comes to law when it comes to the whole philosophy of prediction. Well, let’s take an intermission.