simon ings

simon ings.png


intro’d to Simon here (first para grabbed me like .. taken in..):

New Scientist (@newscientist) tweeted at 6:18 AM – 15 Oct 2016 :

What do our natural laws really say about the world? (

natural laws

JUST how much does the world follow laws? The human mind, it seems, may not be the ideal toolkit with which to craft an answer. To understand the world at all,

we have to predict likely events and so we have a lot invested in spotting rules, even when they are not really there.


If there is a lawfulness to living things, few plants and animals seem to be aware of it.


with the elucidation of underlying biological process came the illusion of control.


But Carroll is understandably flummoxed when it comes to explaining how those rules might apply to us. “How can we possibly hope that 7 billion people, in more than 190 countries, rich and poor, with so many different political and religious beliefs, might begin to act in ways for the long-term good of everyone?” he asks.

a nother way

How indeed: humans’ capacity for cultural transmission renders every Serengeti rule moot, along with the Serengeti itself – and a “law of nature” that does not include its dominant species is not really a law at all.


One big complaint about science – that it kills wonder – is the same criticism Ghosh levels at the novel: that it bequeaths us “a world of few surprises, fewer adventures, and no miracles at all”. Lawfulness in biology is rather like realism in fiction: it is a convention so useful that we forget that it is a convention.


the world is wilder than the laws we are used to would predict.


2013 – cupid’s dart

when what we can see/touch is only a tiny fraction of what’s out there.. where does this lead the western intellectual project..?

this level of unknowing is a state of nature..

1909 – von uckshul (? – can’t find..).. the significant world of an animal is the sum of things to which it responds.. the rest of things go virtually unnoticed..

state of nature.. whatever progress.. is a sensual journey.. rather than a point of arrival at perfect knowledge..

however well informed we become.. we go thru same process: we see something.. by seeing something we realize we’re failing to see something else.. so need to imagine that invisible structure.. posit it.. map it.. have faith in it.. try it against real world.. and see how well two match up.. sometimes get to see more things.. sometimes it’s a disaster..

panel.. to prove point..

for just short of 2000 yrs we saw w/o light.. light first entered eye about 500 yrs ago.. sight has something to do with light entering the eye.. seems obvious to us.. but sometimes forget enormity of its implications.. theories of vision that predated optics.. offered an understanding of mind/attention/emotion.. and when models of mind got thrown out as we developed a better optic.. all those theories of mind.. went into the bin.. story .. not how we lost 96% of universe.. but how we lost 96% of selves..

first thing about light.. cannot see it… it is true that things that are lit can be seen.. and things not lit cannot be seen

model of perception: we can see things that are lit.. there are things lit we cannot see.. the sun is doing it.. therefore sun is god seeing.. an act of divine witness itself makes individual witnesses possible.. but it’s hand waving and doesn’t get us very far.. reduces to.. we see because we see

sight resists more naturalistic explanations because it’s so weird.. not like other senses.. thru sight we apprehend things at a distance that don’t seem to be reacting with environment at all.. ie: an empty chair..not making sound/smell.. yet i see it.. seems to contradict von uckshall’s statement that we only see what we need to see..

7 min – naturalistic physical explanations don’t sit well with free lunches

early physical theories had to manage w/o idea of nervous system/brain/computation/optics/radiation.. first naturalistic explanation: everything is an object

how do ideas enter.. via eye like a picture postcard.. works well.. except if have to explain the rest of the universe..

8 min – throwing matter into confusion simply to explain vision.. is just not a reasonable trade off..

11 min – the moment the ray comes out of the eye you can explain attention (and what we can’t see)

how to see objects and not their constituent parts.. ie: how to see a beach and not grains of sand

and how do you remember objects as 3d categories rather than endless piles of snapshots.. once have category in mind.. you don’t loose it.. that means the mind.. has to be so organized..

enter the disappointed politician.. plato..

13 min – no one knows what this dark cognition looks like.. but the problem of it is not going to go away..

14 min – al kindi – insight into behavior of life.. if going to separate matter and energy.. how does radiation behave.. he started to explain seeing in perspective.. best known for error in thinking..

15 min – the moment you develop a vision of optics.. no longer need the ray

18 min – we see thru light.. that’s easy.. not quite so easy.. trouble with eye that sees upside down..  dangerous.. no longer can apprehend what is out there.. have to manipulate.. a view of perception that drives a wedge between world itself and apprehending mind.. if everything is manipulated before we see it.. if everything is a rep of what’s out there.. what’s out there…. we don’t know..

20 min – this vision of world reduces all philosophy/science into a sort of users manual.. a description of how we interact w world.. which says nothing about way world really works.. science study phenom.. in no case do phenom/theories.. dictate nature of real world.. we might hope they might converge on true theory.. but not hope yet realized.. not a hope that can be proved true.. this is why journey will never .. this is why 96% of something important will always be missing.. the world is unknowable.. just not entirely unknowable..

21 min – and how far we embrace/revise/celebrate/critique ideas of progress.. .

however much we look to future/posit/explore it.. is not down to the world/history.. it’s simply down to us.. how curious do you want to be..

tech facil\ing curiosity.. in the cityas the day.

ie: hosting-life-bits via self-talk as data


2012 – Under Tomorrows Sky Think Tank Introductions

what we’re trying to get away from is a .. future as policy..

fiction not just a means of engagement with future but a means of exploration/analysis..

trying to present a human face on a movement that has a tendency to slip into the radical simplifications of lived life.. the metrification of lived experience.. something we find not threatening .. but uninteresting.. trying to bring back a sense of texture/ambiguity into way we think about future.. fantastic opp to play with policy.. and to mix individual consciousness with those kinds of ideas..

on capitalism – in 5 min – … cities are our market places.. if going to talk about city have to talk about econ that makes city possible..

capital as it works thru a city can incredibly diversify..

the way in which capital seems to be radically simplifying life..  hyper ness.. forgetting that its actually in the grit that human happiness is possible.. happiness comes with engagement with rich/diverse world.. it doesn’t come with simplification..

irresistible to think of capitalism as starting to come uncoupled in the city.. couple the cultural aspiration to consumption of capital.. no necessarily a bad thing.. but in end you run out of stuff..

the context less.. the a political nature.. quite disturbing..  a sort of mech you read about in accounts of failed revolution in 1905..

why am i not living in a society where capitalism/aspiration generating radical enrichment.. then i saw.. cities are essentially market places.. and you can make a market out of anything.. ie: doesn’t have to be out of materialism..

8 min – on running out of bones.. i like the fact that capitalism has gone from selling (bones) to selling antibiotics..

10 min – how to keep a vibrant/complex city thriving.. ie: of a question fiction is really good at asking.. rather than policy.. fiction can cope w/variety/contradictions..  delivers a very fuzzy result and is comfortable with that fuzzy result..

11 min – my immediate answer.. i think the new market will be in companions..on robotics.. anthropomorfism.. the ability to read – fill our world with human like stuff…

12 min – city that pinnochio came from.. the wooden boy exposed to pain/challenge/rigor.. learning to be human..


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Writes. Weeps. Edits. Sleeps. When absent here it’s usually because he’s tweeting as

wikipedia small

Simon Ings is an English novelist and science writer living in London. He was born in July 1965 in Horndean and educated at Churcher’s College, Petersfield and at King’s College London and Birkbeck College, London.

He has written a number of novels, short prose and articles for national newspapers. His non-fiction book The Eye: A Natural History delved into the science of vision exploring the chemistry, physics and biology of the eye.

Ings has collaborated with M. John Harrison on short fiction including “The Dead” (1992) and “The Rio Brain”. The latter was published as a separate booklet by Night Shade Books and was available only with the limited edition of Harrison’s collection Things That Never Happen.

He has also collaborated on short fiction with Charles Stross.