Saturday, 10 December 2016

A great #srhe16 ... BUT... A Failure to grasp the Brexit nettle??

This was my third conference for the Society for Research in Higher Education. It was the first one I didn't have to pay for myself (thank you Liverpool!) I'd always felt it was worth it - which is probably the best thing you can say about any conference.

However, this year I came away slightly uneasy. Brexit and Trump was in the background, of course. Two of the keynotes addressed this directly. I have to say that the best keynote was the one that didn't by ├ůse Gornitzka. Jonathan Grant's keynote took on the issue of 'Post-Truth'. We must fight the lies, he said, in a staunch defence of the truths and processes of the academy in the face of the democratic misbehaviour of the manipulated masses. As he pleaded for the academy to stand up for its principles, I was left wondering why scholars had largely ceded control of the academy to managers and business people with barely a whimper - until those people, now some of them Vice Chancellors revealed themselves in Trumpist colours. Many of those academics sacked by these characters, so many adjunct lecturers on pauper wages, many students conned out of a fortune and left with a certificate and little else... many of them voted for Brexit, rightly identifying a failure of government. Ibn Khaldun's principle of good government: "to prevent injustice other than that which it commits itself" (see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ibn_Khaldun) has clearly been broken. Indeed, globalisation has delivered almost universally bad government, and injustices in corporations, social services and Universities which government ought to have prevented, went unchecked throughout the world.

Many delegates at the SRHE have been victims of this. The SRHE feels like a kind of support group for thoughtful and clever academics who care deeply about universities. They gather each year in Wales and chew the cud over "What the fuck is happening to education?" I've always found it invigorating. If I was to imagine a "Fantasy University", taking all the people in the conference dinner (before the disco!) would do very nicely.

My highlight was actually the first session I went to. To my own surprise, the moment of  brilliance came with a paper on learning analytics by a young researcher from Pakistan who is working with the OU, Saman Rizvi. I am very worried by the state of the discourse in learning analytics - it simply lacks critical or mathematical rigour. Saman provided some mathematical rigour (if not yet critical - but it will come, I'm sure) by combining Markov chain modelling with machine learning on engagement data for online courses and MOOCs. I did push her on the whole issue of the difficulties with probabilities, and the problem of 'variable-ism', but I was hugely impressed by the detail of her analysis. There is potential for some deeper insights from crunching the numbers - and maybe even a more penetrating critical discourse.

On the whole, I found myself tiring of endless sociological rhetoric. I quite liked sociomateriality when I first encountered it in Karen Barad's writing (despite it upsetting a few of my Critical Realist friends). But now it's everywhere, and I still don't know what it means. (It's constraint, isn't it?) The same goes for the nods (and they are only nods) towards Foucault, Bourdieu, Derrida, Bhaskar, Latour, etc. The problem is that there is no real attempt to develop any of these theories; theory is instead used as a coat-hanger to make the mundaneness of education more interesting (for which, if you were unkind, you might read "pretentious"). In the end, it has the effect of saying "I've thought about education and I've read a lot of difficult books"

Education really is interesting in its own right. But it is really, really difficult and confusing. It deserves (and demands) its own theory - not the sociological cast-offs of others who (is this unfair?) didn't care much for teaching themselves, but rather more for their posturing, egos and status. Education deserves its own theory because it really matters. As Trump and Brexit have shown.

I presented on intersubjectivity and constraint. There was quite a lot to get through but people seemed to like it, and I got a lot of questions afterwards. I even produced a leaflet to accompany my talk! I delved into information theory, and used Spencer Brown's weird mathematical notation for thinking about the 'inside' (what is constrained) and the 'outside' (what does the constraining). Information theory and uncertainty have become very important to me.

Which brings me back to universities and Brexit. Rosemary Deem gave the final keynote which was entertaining, but rather shallow - much in the manner of the remain campaign itself: "don't be a fucking idiot and vote leave!" Of course it turned out that 51% of us were fucking idiots (and had it not been for my 16 year old daughter's petition to me to vote remain, I would also have been a fucking idiot). I asked Rosemary afterwards "Where are we in history?". She didn't think it was a very sensible question, but I disagree. The fear in Universities about Brexit is a palpable fear arising from the realisation that the world they thought they existed in is not the world as it actually (now) is. These shocks - where society (or its leaders) realise their model of the world is wrong - occur throughout history: we've been here before, and if we find out when in history we were here before, we can prepare ourselves for readjusting our model of the world.

The people who spoke about Universities and Brexit do not appear to yet accept that their model of the world is wrong. So Jonathan Grant wants to "challenge the lies", convinced of the truth of the academy, whilst today's science - which has been transformed by computers - only speaks of uncertainties and contingencies (this is the nature of information). Expressing uncertainty is not something academics are good at (Grant seemed very certain about his arguments, as did Rosemary Deem): they would prefer to appear to be experts. To express uncertainty is to make oneself vulnerable. And most importantly, it is to tune-in to the uncertainties of others.

Rosemary Deem's presentation mentioned widening participation as a way of reaching out to disenfranchised groups - as if sitting the disenfranchised in classrooms and inducting them into the noble ways of education will ensure that they play the establishment game! But maybe the disenfranchised Brexit voters saw the deeper truth of it: that education, more often than not, is a bit rubbish; that experts often offer "no shit, Sherlock" posturing, or make claims with the confidence of Old Etonians, which are quite patently misguided (and sometimes cruel).

Post-truth may be a deeper truth, in the way that in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, the White Witch knew the "deep magic", but Aslan knew the "deeper magic". The deep magic is in the financialised, managerialist university. The deeper magic is in the hearts of those who used their democratic right to fight the system. Scientists and artists will always be concerned to understand the deeper magic better. The financialised, managerialist university has become an unfriendly place for those kinds of scientists - it's sacked many of them - there are no grants for what they do. There are big and scary changes to come - this is all very much like the 1600s - we have Puritanism (Trump?), regicide (King Charles III?) and civil war (the US?) to come! The SRHE would make an interesting kind of "invisible college"!

Wednesday, 30 November 2016

On Reading, Being Alone, and Social Media

I had an interesting conversation with one of the doctors who I'm working on a project with as I showed her some Agent-based models of blood flow which I'd created. We got on to talking about the reflexivity and curiosity of students. She loved the models saying she thought it might spark their curiosity. She then said something along the lines of: "When I was a student, we read books. Today's students don't do this - the medics go on the web, but they seem strangely uncurious about the things they study, and whilst they know all the terminology - which they've committed to memory - they seem to understand less about underlying mechanisms." I've experienced something similar amongst students in the past - my automatic response is to say that the education system has knocked the curiosity out of them (and these are the kids who did everything they were told and got three As). Maybe it isn't so simple. Then I thought about "reading" and remembered a comment by C.S. Lewis:
"We read to know we are not alone"
My own experience of reading - rarely fiction, but lots of philosophy, science, etc - was precisely this. I was weird, I had weird thoughts (I thought) - I wanted to find other people who were as weird as me. Wittgenstein and Douglas Hoffstadter were as weird as me, I found. The driver for intellectual engagement was a fear of being alone.

This sense of loneliness has been changed by social media.  There is a sense in which Sherry Turkle's "Alone Togetherness" of technology has a dimension which interferes with the fundamental drive for pursuing knowledge and understanding.

If my drive for reading books was to find others who were as weird as me, then that task is so much easier on social media. There are a multiplicity of groups shouting "I am as weird as you!". In joining one of these groups, one can feel 'together', no longer alone. Does the impetus for reading and pursuing deeper knowledge suffer as a result? It's not inconceivable.

I introduced my 16 year old daughter to Peter Cook and Dudley Moore's outrageous "Derek and Clive" the other week. ("Worst job I ever had? Picking lobsters from...") She's become quite politically active in the feminist society at her college, and I was interested to know what she would think of Derek and Clive's shocking un-PC-ness. She thought it was hilarious of course. But then I asked her "could you play this to any other members of your society?" - Her instant reaction was "Oh God No! They'd go ballistic!". She might be wrong - but it is a challenge for her to find out. Like many of us, my daughter's on a journey, and reconciling what she finds very funny with ethical struggles and the political principles of groups will no doubt keep her thinking and reading more.

Social media gives us a lot of nonsense to read which continually feeds us the message that we are ok and we are not alone. It takes something from outside to create the strength to challenge the ok-ness of "being ok". And often, people appear ok when they are really not: there are too many happy, smiley facebook posts from people who kill themselves days or hours later. Maybe we need a corrective which reminds each of us that we are not as "not alone" as we thought we were. It's not to be anti-social media - but it's to become more aware of how it changes us. 

Monday, 28 November 2016

Truth and Post-Truth: Some thoughts about "counting" and "information"

The current vogue for 'post-truth', (and post truth commentary about post-truth) is really a symptom of the post-modernist malaise which has afflicted universities for many decades. If it has become mainstream, it is not because of Trump or Brexit, but because of some very confused thinking about data analysis and information (I hinted at this here: http://dailyimprovisation.blogspot.co.uk/2012/09/appetite-will-and-intellect-journey-of.html). Now we have people like Nick Land spouting the language of second-order cybernetics and using it as an intellectual foundation for the alt-right. David Kernohan is partly right to say "This is us!" (here http://followersoftheapocalyp.se/its-good-to-be-king/) - but this isn't some kind of 'restoration'; it is simply madness, bad theory and weak thinking. This was always the danger with second-order cybernetics! So it's time to do some deeper (first-order?) cybernetic thinking and get back to the maths and to the detail of cybernetics - first and second-order. The place to start is at the root of the data fallacies and the assumptions about probability and counting.

When we count anything, a distinction is made between an inside and an outside. To count 2 of something is to perceive an analogy between thing 1 and thing 2. Ashby notes that:
"The principle of analogy is founded upon the assumption that a degree of likeness between two objects in respect of their known qualities is some reason for expecting a degree of likeness between them in respect of their unknown qualities also, and that the probability with which unascertained similarities are to be expected depends upon the amount of likeness already known."
In other words, to say that a = b is to say that:
Here, the bracket around "Outside a" and "Outside b" (which encompasses a and b) represents a limit of apprehension of the outside of a and b. This limit, and the equating of the outsides of a and b are hypotheses. Even when we might think the similarity between things is obvious (as say between eggs), it remains a hypothesis. Which means that counting is a measure of the assumptions we make about perception, rather than any kind of indication of reality.

Information theory, which sees information as a measure of uncertainty about a message, and upon which much of our contemporary data analysis sits, is fundamentally about counting. This is what is represented in Shannon's formula:
Shannon does have an 'outside' for his measure on uncertainty (H) which he calls Redundancy (R). So we might write:

But there are a number of problems. Firstly, the Shannon formula represents a count of similar and dissimilar events; it is in effect a measure of the average surprisingness within a message. Each identification of similarity or dissimilarity is hypothetical (in the way described above), or unstable. Secondly, the denominator in the redundancy equation, Hmax, is a hypothesised number of the maximum possibilities for variation (as opposed to the observed variation).

For a system with N possible states, the number of total possible information (Hmax) is log(N). In identifying "a system" we have already made a distinction between the inside and the outside, and that in counting the number of possible states, we have already made a hypothesis about the context of similar states being the same. This is what we do when we describe something. 

How many possible descriptions are there? Let's say there are M possible descriptions, which means that the total maximum entropy of the system + its descriptions is log(N x M). We may then produce descriptions about descriptions, which makes it log (N x M x O)... and so on. 

But of course N, M or O cannot be known fully: there are an infinite range of descriptions and possibilities - we can only count the ones we know about. However, it is also true that descriptions N, M and O constrain each other. A description of the number of possible states is dependent on the number of possible states, and so on. These interactions of constraint may be analysed.

This can be illustrated with the example introduced by Jerome Bruner, of the mother playing with a child, presenting a dolly to her and saying "see the pretty dolly" (in "Child's Talk", 1983). The game is never played only once. It is repeated:


Each repetition is framed by previous repetitions. The mother (and probably the child) recognise that this is a repetition - except that it isn't exactly. In the diagram above, the differences in intonation, emphasis, timbre, etc are illustrated by the relative size and height of the words. Coming back to Ashby's comment about analogy, what assumptions are made if we say "the mother repeats the phrase three times"? 

We can analyse each episode and describe each aspect. Calling the rhythm R, the pitch P, the timbre T, the dynamics D (and there are many other descriptions), then we might say that behind each of the utterances is a context RPTD.
Now the question is that in order to determine the similarity between these different utterances, an assumption is made about the similarity of the context. But for each description of each aspect of the context, there is also an assumption of similarity which is an assumption about its context. As so we get a recursive pattern:
(This misses out the final T). And on it goes. So each description constrains each other description. Might it then be possible to determine how each description might affect each other description?

One way this might be done is to consider the way that changes to one kind of description (say the rhythm) might be reflected in changes to another (say the pitch). To do this, it is not necessary to measure the redundancy. One only needs to measure the information as an index of the effects of the redundancy that sits behind it. If there are correlations between increases in information content (uncertainty) then there are is an indication of the mutual constraint between descriptions.

The next thing to consider is how it is that similarity is determined between these different variables. This can also tell us how new descriptions, and indeed surprises, might emerge.

The similarity between things - and their countability - is determined by the observer. Shannon information is not objective, and this, following Ashby, is an assumption about the unknown variables (the constraints) bearing upon the perception of something. The recursive pattern of distinctions and descriptions presented above is unstable because there is variation among the different recursions of the variables. Similarity is continually having to be asserted - a selection is made as to whether the latest utterance is the same or not. It may be that all one can say is "it might be" - and this is the essence of the game played between the mother and child. 

So what when something surprising happens? What when half-way through playing this game, the mother says "BOO!". The child's question (and ours) concerns the assumptions they made about the context of the utterances "see the pretty dolly", and the fact that whatever context this was has now permitted a completely different kind of utterance. The surprise means that the assumptions about the context are wrong and need to change. "BOO!" cannot be admitted into the information system until a new understanding of the constraints of communication can admit "see the pretty dolly" and "BOO!" together. 

Finally, what does this mean for truth? At one level, what we see as true fits the contextual knowledge we already possess. If the contextual knowledge is formed by the "echo chamber" of social media, it is quite easy to see how one might believe things to be true which others (with a better perspective) see as false. What we have become resistant to is to change and query our understanding of the context from which utterances emerge. Deep down this is an autistic trait: our society has become unempathic. The mother and child example, on the other hand, is the epitome of empathy. 

Friday, 25 November 2016

What would Ivan Illich say about Ken Robinson? A response to @thinkdif

When everyone is deeply confused about education, we should be on our guard for "thought leaders". These are people who are usually more interested in their egos than in society. They want to tell a story about education where they emerge as the saviour. Ken Robinson is such a person (he gave a talk with Peter Senge here: https://www.thinkdif.co/headliners/education-21st-century). Am I simply jealous in saying this?

Ivan Illich might also be considered to be a "thought leader". Except that there's a difference. Illich talked but also knew the pointlessness of talking. He knew the futility of education. It's worth being reminded of this passage from Deschooling Society:
"Universal education through schooling is not feasible. It would be no more feasible if it were attempted by means of alternative institutions built on the style of present schools. Neither new attitudes of teachers toward their pupils nor the proliferation of educational hardware or software (in classroom or bedroom), nor finally the attempt to expand the pedagogue's responsibility until it engulfs his pupils' lifetimes will deliver universal education. The current search for new educational funnels must be reversed into the search for their institutional inverse: educational webs which heighten the opportunity for each one to transform each moment of his living into one of learning, sharing, and caring. We hope to contribute concepts needed by those who conduct such counterfoil research on education--and also to those who seek alternatives to other established service industries."
There's an 'emptying' of ego in this statement: the sharing and caring is Illich's own. He's saying that education isn't scarce - it's abundant. When it's seen to be abundant, the idea of learning and "the learner" is seen to be a construct of education. As soon as we talk of school or university, we participate in the fabrication of the scarcity of education and this construction of "learning". This participation even corrupted the interpretation of Illich's message - it's unfortunate that his "learning web" was misconstrued as a kind of functionalist educational internet - that clearly isn't what he meant. Illich's position remained that of a priest, but not, I think, a guru.

Why do universities and schools talk of "learners" and not simply "persons"? The distinction is simply drawn on economic grounds as to whether one is signed up for a course. (Managers of institutions are never "learners") As soon as this distinction is drawn, the theory lunatics get to work on defining what "learning" is. Then we are really in trouble. What they produce are varieties of Kant's "transcendental subject" - a fabricated, disembodied, hollow abstraction of a person. Then institutions take this abstraction and create bureaucracies and technocracies around it which only serve to make everybody miserable, and create a market for "Ken Robinsons".

Robinson doesn't appear caring or sharing - he's feathering his own nest! Meanwhile the misery of school (and university) goes on, reinforced by his pronouncements of its deficiency - and as long as it does, he stays in business. He ought to be intent on putting himself out of work, along with all the other gurus. The state of fuckedness of the world is proportional to the number of gurus.

We need to stop talking about education and learning and to fight for a better society which doesn't need to contain these things. That, I think, is a society which is more aware of 'status' and 'scarcity'. Lets talk about status and scarcity instead (not that I want to be guru about that). Let's talk about the haves and have-nots, why the haves have what they have and why the have-nots don't. Let's listen to the voices of the dispossessed and the Trump voters, and have a dialogue about the uncertainties, worries and doubts of everyone.

Let's get angry and give up on education - it's an addiction which is killing our society. And when we do all of that, we will find that we've turned towards a new age of science. 

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Laws of Form of Music

*Update 26/11/16 - Sadly, Pauline Oliveros died yesterday. She will continue to be a source of inspiration - http://www.factmag.com/2016/11/25/pauline-oliveros-dies-deep-listening-composer/?utm_source=social&utm_medium=twitter&utm_content=v1buttons *

George Spencer-Brown's death in September (see http://www.telegraph.co.uk/obituaries/2016/09/13/george-spencer-brown-polymath-who-wrote-the-landmark-maths-book/) prompted me to think that I really ought to work out what his Laws of Form is really about. Coupled with that, I've been doing some thinking about music which invited some comparisons to the idea of distinction and constraint which is at the heart of Spencer-Brown's work (see http://dailyimprovisation.blogspot.co.uk/2016/10/the-information-science-of-music-and.html).

So on a cramped, delayed train journey back from London to Manchester (via Leeds!) I puzzled over his little book. I still don't understand it but I'm gradually getting a feel for where my questions lie. But in the notes, he says quite a lot about music as he defends the style of his writing. He adopts what he calls a style of "injunction" which he explains:

It may be helpful at this stage to realize that the primary form of mathematical communication is not description, but injunction. In this respect, it is comparable with practical art forms like cookery, in which the taste of a cake, although literally indescribable, can be conveyed to a reader in the form of a set of injunctions called a recipe. Music is a similar art form, the composer does not even attempt to describe the set of sounds he has in mind, much less the set of  feelings occasioned through them, but writes down a set of commands that, if they are obeyed by the reader, can result in a reproduction, to the reader, of the composer's original experience.
When Wittgenstein says "Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent", he seems to be considering descriptive speech only. He notes elsewhere that the mathematician, descriptively speaking, says nothing. The same may be said of the composer who, if he were to attempt a description (i.e. a limitation) of the set of ecstasies apparent through (i.e. unlimited by) his composition, would fail miserably and necessarily, But neither the composer nor the mathematician must, for this reason, be silent. 
Spencer-Brown then highlights Russell's scepticism about Wittgenstein's statement, pointing out that Wittgenstein in fact manages to say a good deal about what cannot be said. Spencer-Brown highlights the importance of injunction in natural science and music:
"the professional initiation of a man of science consists not so much in reading the proper textbooks, as in obeying injunctions such as 'look down the microscope'. But it is not out of order for men of science, having looked down the microscope, now to describe to each other, and to discuss amongst themselves, what they have seen, and to write papers and textbooks describing it.[...] When we attempt to realize a piece of music composed by another person, we do so by illustrating, to ourselves, with a musical instrument of some kind, the composer's commands"
I am convinced of the power and importance of music for our time and perhaps part of this power lies in the injunctive mode in which the composer operates. This is partly why things like Pauline Oliveros's "Sonic Meditations" are so powerful. The injunctions are crystal clear here... and what a wonderful effect!



Russell suggests that there may be "some loophole though a hierarchy of languages" and Spencer-Brown suggests that the loophole is the "injunctive faculty".

Is this why we're so torn by social media, fake news, and so on? The semantics (or the description) and the injunction become confused. "Vote Trump" or "Vote Clinton" were injunctions after all.

What if  our political language was injunctive and not descriptive? You could probably re-represent the script from "I, Daniel Blake" as a set of injunctions:


  1. Consider a man who has recently had a heart attack and cannot work
  2. Apply welfare qualification rules (see appendix 1) to enable him to survive
  3. Introduce x amount of complexity and noise
  4. Consider output from stage 2 and apply next layer of rules (appendix 2)
  5. Amplify complexity and noise
  6. Consider output from stage 4 and apply next layer of rules (appendix 3)
  7. Observe algedonic emergency
  8. Apply emergency procedures for dealing with 7
  9. Amplify complexity and noise ...
  10. ...
  11. eventually... hold inquiry



Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Where are we now in history?

I keep coming back to this question - as I've been sitting in a completely weird medical trade-show - which makes me think of the genius of Jacques Tati (there's a wonderful trade-show scene in "Playtime)...




Despite spending my day trapped in this parallel universe, I've had some pretty amazing discussions. Yesterday a discussion with a very bright young woman ranged from the big bang to cybernetics, music, Jung, tarot, sex and Trump (he's practically obligatory these days!). It was the kind of thing that gives you hope for the future - much needed at the moment. The world needs people like her.

Today, I found myself talking to an exasperated doctor who had borne the full monty of managerial pathology and had had enough. He had clearly thought about things a lot, and we talked about Trump, Brexit, psychotherapy and management (how we need psychotherapy in management!), and I asked him the question about where we are in history. He said the 1930s - which I think is the big fear of a lot of people. I expressed my view, which I've been writing about recently, that it may be more like the 1600s, the prelude to civil war, puritanism, and eventual enlightenment. I think it cheered him up - he seemed to enjoy the discussion!

The conversation yesterday evening turned around the mystic symbolism of Trump. I really think this is very helpful. Jung lived through a time when the archetypes were so obvious strutting around the world stage that it helped to make distinctions about the shadow and so on. Overt revealing of an archetype is a powerful moment - and that is what we have now. We can point to Brexit, Trump, the horrible evangelical fanatics, and not only give it a name, but ask ourselves uncomfortable questions about how it has come to be, how the veneer of middle class self-satisfaction could be shattering in front of out eyes, what our role in it has been, and so on. This is all good.

I'm tempted to think that what happened in the 1600s was a kind of Jungian individuation process within society. Again, music helps me. In Tippett's opera 'The midsummer marriage', the main characters, Mark and Jennifer, undergo a ritual preparation before marriage: one ascends to the heavens (light), the other descends into a cave (shadow); and then exchange reverse roles. The villain is (effectively) the Fisher King (called Kingfisher) - a empty-hearted businessman. Trump is very much like him (I encountered him before in my previous workplace). The doctor I spoke to had also been a victim of this kind of character. The point is that this is a necessary process, and despite the confusion and disorientation (particularly in the dark times when everything is shadow), one gradually comes to know what is happening. Mark and Jennifer are ready to get married when they have become whole.

Creativity is a powerful defence mechanism - it may be the only way in which we do not go insane. Yesterday I also learnt about this - http://www.filthyfilthylucre.co.uk/. This is great... there are amazing things we can do to express ourselves. For all the horribleness around us right now, at some point we will look at ourselves and our technology and see its beauty and extraordinary potential in a way which is quite different from the technocratic nightmare which we are caught in at the moment.

Monday, 21 November 2016

Corbyn's Rite of Spring and 400 years of music

Jeremy Corbyn made an interesting speech last week attacking what he called the "fake anti-elitism" of Farage and Trump. He made a clear distinction between their cynicism and his own anti-establishment position:
"Politicians and political parties have a choice in this age of understandable cynicism. Do we play on people's fears and anxieties? Or do we take what might be the more difficult approach - to restore hope?"
Among the weird connections and coincidences I have experienced in the last week, powerful musical resonances to our current situation have been prominent. I went to a performance of Stravinsky's Rite of Spring at the weekend. I haven't heard it live for a long time. When I was growing up, this was "modern" music (although it wasn't really). Now it is over 100 years old - and still 'modern'! Our violent and tormented 20th century has produced some of the greatest music ever. I was also thinking that the class-ridden classical music scene is pretty horrible too - I really wish they'd fuck off with their tailcoats and black dresses.

I realise that little of the music I love dates before 1600 (apart from Machaut and Perotin). For most people, we have 400 years of music. That's basically from the early seeds of the enlightenment, or from Bacon's On the Advancement of Learning and Guy Fawkes.

In this time the fundamental paradigm of our thought and our science hasn't changed; technology has changed the context within which we live, and our society has been transformed as a result. But we have a 400 year story of science and scientific education which our universities are tied-up with.

Change to a 400 year habit of thought is like an "Ice Break" at the end of winter, or the thawing of the Russian permafrost. The former made me think of Tippett's opera of the same name of which I attended a fantastic performance in Birmingham a year or so ago (see http://dailyimprovisation.blogspot.co.uk/2015/04/living-lines-tippetts-music-and.html) I went to see it shortly before losing my job, and in the midst of the nastiest behaviour by the 'leadership' at the University of Bolton (thank God I'm not there any more!). Tippett's political conscience spoke of the race riots in the 1970s and social fragmentation. His 1941 oratorio, A Child of Our Time, begins with the words:
"The world turns on its dark side: it is winter"
 The message of hope here is a Jungian one:
"I would know my shadow and my light, so shall I at last be whole"
Is this Corbyn's hope? Personally, I'm not sure he himself knows his shadow and his light, but here he has said the right thing - the thing to focus on is the light. Trump is the bringer of shadows. His supporters are consumed by the darkness that has been brought about through the irresponsible power of governments and corporations.

The enlightenment was a new spring. It was the beginning of a cycle - our musical history has documented its seasons, and winter has been brought about by the confusion resulting from enlightenment's scientific model falling apart. Is winter always confused?

It perhaps seems odd to think that a new hope rests with a science of uncertainty. But it is the admission of uncertainty in science which can create the solidarity and social cohesion which Corbyn hopes for. In the coming "new enlightenment", we will not make the distinction between science and politics: we will see that they are fundamentally inter-connected.