graeber unpredictability/surprise law

a social theory of action where surprises/unpredictability are the basis of humanity – david graeber (interps/paraphrases)

need: org around legit needs sans any form of m\a\p


from m of care – aug 18 – reading group for david graeber and david wengrow‘s dawn of everything:

25 min – steve: yeah.. that’s one of the things that is so fascinating about the epistemology they’ve put together.. it’s a social theory of action and they define action as human actions that aren’t able to be predicted.. david has written elsewhere about what makes life worth living .. most magical .. are the surprises.. and so it’s an epistemology built on surprise rather than some other kind of presupposition.. t.. so they’re actually trying to construct.. at least my read of it.. based around moments/time there are alts.. time where societies get stuck.. but have w/in them the means still to surprise.. because *as long as someone’s human.. they’re capable of being unpredictable..

*huge.. am thinking today.. we’re all whales.. need a legit re\set to get back to that capability.. of unpredictability et al

50 min – steve: i love the quote you found because it answers a question that i wonder how people wrestle with.. the book is very critical of soc sci and says most of soc sci has started from the wrong source of questions and that intellectual scholars, policy makers in particular, used science to promote reformist goals that are starting from these unimaginative or dull questions.. and so hearing the word ridiculous used along side soc sci.. is really a wonderful thing.. it admits what a lot of policy makers and economists don’t want to admit and that is that their predictions really at bottom aren’t any better than anyone else’s statistically speaking.. that’s not to say sci doesn’t have a value.. but that if we think of an epistemology built around a social theory of action where surprises/unpredictability are the basis of humanity.. then it means *we really need to be looking for constant surprise in addition to the predictability that science does offer.. because yes.. science does offer predictability.. predictability can also be demo’d by the way the kings power is predictable.. ie: if have enough people who believe you are the king.. then you are the king.. graeber said ‘why should we be surprised unpredictability is mysterious’

*whoa.. predictability of what will happen in sea world.. what will happen with dead things.. we have no idea about legit free living things/beings.. that’s all surprise..

so.. we need to let go of any form of m\a\p.. any form of democratic admin.. all the red flags.. and swim-in/embrace uncertainty

aka: a nother way

ie: imagine if we


from predict\able page:

probably first place i started feeling more boldly about predict\able ness being a huge red flag.. david graeber‘s theory of value ie:

p. 50 – if objects are in constant flux, even precise spatial measures are impossible..tone can take an object’s measure at a particular moment and then treat that as representative, but even this is something of an imaginary construct, because such “moments” (in the sense of points in time, of no duration, infinitely small) do not really exist – they, too, are imaginary constructs. it has been precisely such imaginary constructs (“models”) that have made modern science possible

again.. if legit alive can’t be static.. so can’t be compared.. ie: graeber values law

we need to let go of any form of m\a\p

p. 51 – something ironic: what ricoeur is suggesting is that we have been able to create a technology capable of giving us hitherto unimaginable power to transform the world, largely because we were first able to imagine a world without powers or transformations. it may well be true. the crucial thing, though, is that in doing so, we have also lost something. because once one is accustomed to a basic apparatus for looking at the world that starts from an imaginary, static, parmenidean world outside of it, connecting the two becomes an overwhelming problem. ….bhaskar has been arguing for some years now that since parmenides, western philosophy has been suffering from what he calls an ‘epistemic fallacy’: a tendency to confuse the question of how we can know things with the question of whether those things exist.

intellect ness.. hubris ness.. et al.. making us all like whales

roy bhaskar

at its most extreme, this tendency opens into positivism: the assumption that give sufficient time and sufficiently accurate instruments, it should be possible to make models and reality correspond entirely.. predict precisely what would happen .. since *no one has been able to do anything of the sort, the position has tendency to generate its opposite.. a kind of aggressive nihilism .. saying.. if can’t come up w perfect descriptions.. impossible to talk about reality at all..  why most of us ordinary mortals find philosophical debates so pointless.. in contradiction w ordinary life experience.. 

*and won’t ever.. ie: what computers can’t do et al

graeber unpredictability/surprise law et al

.. most of us are accustomed to describe things as “realities” precisely because we can’t completely understand them, can’t completely control them, don’t know exactly how they are going to affect us, but nonetheless can’t just wish them away. it’s what we don’t know about them that brings home the fact that they are real.

grokking as ongoingly becoming rather than knowing in time/permanence/fragility et al.. which (to me) only happens when we let go of our focus obsession on intellect ness/understanding/meaning/defining/predicting.. any form of m\a\p

p. 52 – in alternative, heraclitean strain has always existed – one that sees objects as processes.. best-known .. via Hegel and Marx. but whatever form.. has been almost impossible to integrate with more conventional philosophy. it has tended to be seen as existing somewhat off to the side, as odd or somewhat mystical.

bhaskar – and those who have since taken up some version of his ‘critical realist’ approach: have been trying for some years to develop amore reasonable ontology.. some of his conclusions:

1\ realism – rather than limiting to what can be observed by senses.. ask ‘what would have to be the case’ in order to explain what we do experience.. ‘why are sci experiments possible/necessary’

2\ potentiality – reality not limited to what we can experience (empirical).. so even to sum total of events said to have taken place (actual).. rather third level (real).. that there’s no end to the pursuit does’t mean reality doesn’t exist; rather.. simply means one will never be able to understand it completely

3\ freedom – reality can be divided into emergent stratum: just as chem presupposed but cannot be entirely reduce to physics, so bio presupposes but cannot be reduced to chem.. diff sorts of mechs are operating on each.. each achieves a certain autonomy from those below.. it would be impossible even to talk about human freedom were this not the case, since our actions would simply be determine by chem/bio processes


4\ open systems – real world events occur in open systems..  there are always different sorts of mechanisms, derived from different emergent strata of reality, at play in any one of them. as a result, *one can never predict precisely how any real-world event will turn out. this is why scientific experiments are necessary: experiment are ways of creating temporary “closed systems” in which the effects of all other mechanisms are, as far as possible, nullified, so that one can actually examine a single mechanism in action.

5\ tendencies –  so best to not refer to unbreakable scientific laws.. but rather tendencies..which interact in unpredictable ways. of course, the higher the emergent strata one is dealing with, *the less predictable things become, the involvement of human beings of course being the most unpredictable factor of all..t

*huge..and *huge .. thinking we have predict\able ness as huge red flag we’re doing it/life wrong.. because essentially we’re killing the alive ness of it/life/us

roy bhaskar

critical realism

graeber unpredictability/surprise law

p. 53 – ..not a matter of abandoning science but is, rather, the only hope of giving science a solid ontological basis. but it also means that in order to do so, those who wish to make claims to science will have to abandon some of their most ambitious – one is tempted to say, totalitarian, paranoid – dreams of absolute or total knowledge, and accept a certain degree of humility about what it is possible to know. reality is what one can never know completely. if an object is real, any description we make of it will necessarily be partial and incomplete. that is indeed how we can tell it is real. the only things we can hope to know perfectly are ones that exist entirely in our imaginations..t

… bhaskar’s ultimate interest is social; he is trying to come up with the philosophical ground for a theory of human emancipation, a way of squaring scientific knowledge with the idea of human freedom. here, too, the ultimate message is one of humility: critical realists hold that it is possible to preserve the notion of a social reality and, therefore, of a science able to make true statements about it – but only if one abandons the sort of positivist number-crunching that passes for science among most current sociologists or economists, and gives up the idea that social science will ever be able to establish predictive laws.


dang.. graeber’s writings/findings are where all my deep thinking is found/ed.. where it’s resonated.. oh my

and so too.. bhaskar’s.. unpredictability ness.. et al.. can’t know ness

we say predict in order to be more ie: efficient.. or whatever.. but really all about control.. any form of m\a\p

graeber unpredictability/surprise law


from david graeber‘s lost people:


no one’s knowledge of anyone else can ever be quite complete/accurate.. always remains an approx.. people will always retain their capability to surprise you..t


he fundamental measure of our humanity lies in what we cannot know about each other..t.. to recognize another person as human would them be to recognize the limits of one’s possible knowledge of them. their humanity is inseparable from their capacity to surprise us..t


would anyone really want to live in a world where it was possible to have this kind of total and encompassing knowledge of another human being?  by the defn i’ve been developing in particular, it would be the ultimate dehumanization..t


it is from this unknowable place – in the heart, the head, the throat, the liver, wherever one happens to place it – that actions, ideas, new unpredictable things emerge..t

need: a means to undo our hierarchical listening.. so we can hear/see/be that


fromm spontaneous law et al

taleb makes sense law et al


via jon fb share (

But he is highly sceptical about artificial intelligence and where it might be leading us: “What you get is all the mediocre ideas mixed into something like a fusion, where there is no character and you avoid all mistakes. That is really dangerous to humanity, because we are all equal but we are all created differently. The difference is the beauty. Art, literature, poetry design – they are rooted in human mistakes, misjudgments, or character differences if you prefer. They should be dangerous and sexy and unpredictable. That’s totally against the AI world. – ai weiwei

graeber unpredictability/surprise law

discrimination as equity

Ai’s love of art is not really about the end result. “I don’t even look at the final product,” he says. “I don’t care about that much. The process is sensuous, it has blood. But the final is just a corpse to me.”

rheingold (mom) art law