Archive for the ‘Learning’ Category

Why Climb? To Study Life In Full!

September 17, 2020

I have climbed a lot, for decades, from the age of 6. Each climb is a life, with its potential death attached. It doesn’t matter how easy: the easier climbs kill more, because there are more of them, and one’s guard is down, because they are easy. Also easier climbs are harder to protect, because the hardest climbs would not go without some protection. 

Never let the guard down, expect danger from the expected and unexpected, try to keep a safety margin because sometimes it will erode or disappear, all of a sudden. Some deranged feminists working for The Man, have argued that climbing was “toxic masculinity” . As we will show, all that they are promoting is toxic weakness and lethargic non-examination.

Girls do it as well… The lady is climbing solo, no rope. One mistake, death. Any serious mountain climber ends up climbing solo, because sometimes having a rope is too much of a drag, or pointless (no anchors), or too time consuming (I have climbed down entire quasi-vertical mountains fast, solo, because doing it with a rope would have been ten times slower and thus increase the danger ten times…)

Climbing teaches to master one’s hubris. It forces the otherwise arrogant, uninformed human mind to listen to the universe, to take instructions from it, to become one with the universe. 

Why climb? Why live? Each climb, well done, should feel like a life… because it’s a life. But mostly it reveals unknown powers. Ours, and those of the universe…

Once I was torn off a mountain by an enormous rock avalanche, the largest I have ever seen: my double ropes had been hit by rocks… Also I was running a one hundred meters wide ice gully… in rock climbing shoes, not proper ice equipment, and the belay was horrendously bad. I  faced certain death: the ice gully below, the most notorious in the Chamonix area, is a mile high… I remember the event, it was as if it happened three seconds ago, although it was three decades… Miraculously, I was able to wedge myself between an ice wall and a rockwall along the side of the gully… and stopped! At the time I was an excellent Yosemite chimney climber… After this I stopped mountain climbing proper for years. But the fact remains that I discovered my brain could mobilize absolutely superhuman strength. When I remember exactly what happened, if someone else than myself described it, I would not believe it. 

The original superstar solo female super climber was the Algerian born French climber Catherine Destivelle (she is now in her sixties), who climbed all over the world, at the highest level. She nearly died falling off a peak she had just made the first ascent of… while taking a victory photograph, she went backwards too much, and fell off until the end of the rope to her partner… in icy, lonely Antarctica (self-rescue was more than problematic). Another time she got broken up falling in a rimaye, a Bergschrund, in Chamonix. Somehow she stopped on her way to oblivion.

So I learned something from what should have been my end, I could never have learned in books, because I don’t believe in superstitious religions: sometimes the thoroughly impossible happens. For a hard core rationalist such as yours truly, this is an astounding lesson, nearly as astounding as the miracle of life itself.  

The entire pillar next to the gully, the Bonatti Pillar, on which I made a first ascent, later entirely collapsed.

Many more lessons can be learned from climbing, or activities similar to it: mountain running, which I still practice between smothering smoke clouds, requires similar neurology. In mountain running one of the dangers is to trip and head head first towards a rock, or off a cliff, it happened to me more than once… although emergency reflexes saved me with fractions of seconds to spare… In general, whereas danger in climbing can appear in seconds, in mountain running, it can appear in hundredths of a second, and one needs to think with one’s body much faster than in climbing. 

What are older folks going to do? Well one can climb into very old age, and of course the best climbers are the oldest, as climbing is a survival school. And to replace mountain running, there is always hiking. There is actually a rule among professional mountain runners: if you can’t see the top of a rise, you walk (high angle running is less efficient an walking).

I have argued earlier that climbing makes us into gods. The picture accompanying the essay is of Ueli Steck, a Swiss climber who died, soloing up a similar face, in a similar way: he fell off, maybe because of wind slab, on Nuptse, the mountain facing Everest. At least climbing sure makes us feel that way, like gods, when done maximally. We need divine powers, to muster all we need to resist gravity. Even time loses meaning, for example, in solo climbing: we become a force that goes, beyond smarts, a second can feel like a lifetime. Each climb is an occasion of contemplating life in its entirety.

We, and the universe. To be human beings in full, we need to be reminded all the time of the following: we are at our best, when we are one with the universe. Be it from a relationship with a pet, or from enjoying a landscape, or experiencing a wilderness, nothing replaces reality, and especially not virtual reality.

In the case of climbing, becoming one with the universe is a requirement, because death is the alternative poor execution leads to. Other dangerous sports such as sailing, diving, surfing, require this mind meld with the universe too. Being one with the universe forces our wisdom to work, and to learn, in the most exacting circumstances, that of the universe in full…

Socrates opinionated that the unexamined life was not worth living. Socrates promoted daily investigation of virtue or morality. However, examining his life in turn, we can see that the philosopher examined himself in battle, and was not found wanting. Socrates killed four enemies in combat. He also saved a friend during a dreadful retreat, and fought rear guard actions, to great risk for his own life after the Athenian army had been defeated.

These are extreme circumstances. Extreme circumstances enable us to see until the ends of what we really want, meant, and are. Combat is indeed helpful to find out about ourselves and the universe, it reveals lesser minds, and raise others above their own existences. Examining life is important, but the important examinations go to uncomfortable depths and have a hefty price.

So what is the most important? Gathering more wisdom, or denying a deeper grasp on reality? As usual, the devil is in the details of the consequences of whatever we do.

But, ultimately, even the most placid love depends upon enough wisdom to experience it, and project it. We are not called “Homo Sapiens” for no reason. The deepest reason is that even our roughest emotions should be wise, and they become wise because they are informed and have been examined

Patrice Ayme

 

Why To Climb? Because It’s a Life Which Makes Us Gods

May 8, 2017

Climbing is hard, and it’s a life. That’s why it’s there. But it’s a there we climbers chose, not one we just submit to. Normal life, the life common people live through,  is something we have to submit to. Climbing life, and the potentiality of the death it is attached to, we chose.

God While You Last. South Face of Annapurna, Ueli Steck, Solo. He carries a rope, and a friend is taking the Picture… but he is not ON the rope. Why so? It is often safer to solo steep slopes where one cannot the slightest mistake in the mountains, with the objective of going faster over dangerous terrain. I soloed faces nearly that big, up, and down, in the name of… safety! After nearly dying in two pesky avalanches, I have encouraged myself to undertake less adventurous climbing…

Climbing is a chosen life-universe. This is why, deep down inside, more than for simple bragging, people pay $65,000 to drag themselves up Everest. They are helped by countless servants, and various technical devices, from gel insulated boots to carbon fiber axes, bottled oxygen, dehydrated foods, bottled methane, fixed ropes, and looming helicopter service and rescue. Still more than 400 climbers have died in the giant horseshoe formed by Chomolungma (Everest), Lhotse-Nuptse horseshoe. Many of them most famous, and the best. My best friend, also at the time the best mountaineer, died not too far from there, when part of a mountain he was doing the first ascent of, broke. Climate change can strike the heart.

The 2017 climbing season in that highest of all horseshoes, was inaugurated by the death of Ueli Steck, 40 years old. At the time he started to careen down that icy abyss, Mr. Steck, a Swiss, was viewed by many as the greatest living mountaineer. One of the many greatest living mountaineers to die within a few miles of there.

All true and genuine breakthrough philosophers are solo climbers, they risk death. And if not death from their contemporaries, they have to create the threat, because menace is the essence of human existence.

Nietzsche was climber, and a solo climber. He would regularly climb Corvatch, a peak which is still glaciated, from the Upper Engadin valley floor, a mile down. I have skied there in summer: a cable car brings the modern faineant up there. When Nietzsche was climbing alone, it was clearly dangerous: no helicopters at the time.

The extremely gifted Ueli Steck fell a full kilometer on Nuptse, a peak on the Western side of the horseshoe-shaped Everest-Lhotse-Nuptse CWM. Steck was apparently within 200 meters of the summit, and had climbed up there, starting at 4:30 am, with astounding speed. The face is very hard, very steep. During such solo climbs, if one slips on an ice lens, or one is hit by a fist size rock from up high, one will fall, and, most probably die (although some have survived falling all the way down the Matterhorn, this sort of feat is rather rare).

Dangerous physical activities such as climbing require full cerebral engagement. Paradoxically, although such tasks look like the less intellectual, they are exactly the opposite, the ones where the intellect is fully engaged in a massive way, which no sedate activity ever brings.

Climbing often requires full neurological mobilization, especially when soloing is involved. This is an important aspect of its charm. It makes one feel fully alive as nothing else does!
This full neurological mobilization is all too often the only way to avoid death.
Once I complained, while climbing, to two female mountain guides in the Alps that so many of my friends died climbing, and they scoffed that, once one reaches 40, many of one’s climbing friends are dead.

Yet, feeling that full neurological power, is feeling divine.

The climber, especially in a desperate situation, especially when falling towards certain death (as happened to me once after being hit by a rock avalanche) has incomprehensible powers. Those powers come from a fully mobilized brain, all neurons firing out commands with superhuman power. It has to be experienced, to be believed.

As part of the Dru spire fell on me, and I therefore thereafter tumbled down an ice chute, I was able to stop myself. However, should anyone else tell me the same story, I would not believe it (being short of believing in God-ordered miracles). Without any question a philosophically stimulating experience.

Climbing is not a game. Or then, it is the game of life. Each Climb is miniature life, but with the climber free to select it, as she, or he, were God. Each climb is an entire life, an entire universe, in miniature. It starts with hope and power. It ends with fatigue, accomplishment. Yet, all along, death can strike said life

Aristotle claimed that man was a political animal. Whatever. In truth, Aristotle was the animal, an animal, a ravenous beast, whose friends, the worst of the worst, fed out of politics, like pigs out of a through. Aristotle didn’t know that Polis, the City, Civilization, was less than 10,000 years old, and humanity, millions of years old. All Aristotle wanted is to foster monarchy, especially when, as was the case, those monarchs (Alexander, Antipater, Craterus, etc.) are family.

Humans are creative, labouring, and this thanks to hard and very deep thinking, the essence of humanity.

The point of life is to survive it. Day to day. We, and who, and what, we love. Such is the engine of human motivation. But “life” itself has to be defined. The discovery of those who seriously climb is that they are the ones who define what life is. In climbing, it’s the climber herself, or himself, who decides what “life” is going to be: climbing this, or that peak, or this, or that route. Climbing with this, or that, companion(s). 

The mountains are there. More exactly, the potential lives they offer are there. They are there for us to pick. If we so decide, as if we were gods. Which we are, in a deep sense, as far as climbing is concerned. We may be the only free agents in the universe, and we are free, because we chose what the universe is. And this is what the climber does. Hence the fascination and importance of climbing, which is found in all civilizations, from South America, to Africa, to China.

We can’t yet reach for the stars, but we can reach for the peaks, and this is what humanity has been about, all along. Going where no stupid animal would ever go. Precisely because their brains are too stupid to make the universe what they want it to be. Climbers make universes as others make pizzas, just because they can, and no other agent in the universe is crazy enough to do so.

Patrice Ayme’

Bees Learn From Culture & Experience

October 25, 2016

When “INSTINCT” IN BEES:TURNS OUT TO BE LEARNING JUST AS HUMANS DO. Bees Practice The Experimental Method, Observe Others & Transmit Knowledge To Others!

Bumblebees can experiment and learn to pull a string to get a sugar water reward and then pass that skill on to other bees.

This comforts a long-held opinion of mine. See: https://patriceayme.wordpress.com/2013/10/02/instinct-is-fast-learning/.

There I claimed that:

“Innate Knowledge” is a stupid idea. The truth is the exact opposite: LEARNING IS EVERYWHERE, OUT THERE. Learning is the opposite of innate. This insight has tremendous consequences on our entire prehension of the world.

My reasoning was typical philosophy: well-informed general reasons. Now there is increasing evidence that not only big brained vertebrates, but smaller brained invertebrates learn.

Conclusion: we humans do not differ from other animals, even insects, in kind, but in the amount of capability we enjoy. Thus, if we want to be truly human as much as we cannot just lay there like cows.  If we want to be fully human we must learn more of what is significant, and learn how to learn it. We cannot just sit on our hands and do as Barack Obama, the do-not much not-so-funny clown in chief, did, obsess about easy one liners and sport scores.

***

Intelligence Is A Fact, Instinct Just A Vague Theory:

For years, cognitive scientist Lars Chittka was intimidated by studies of apes, crows, parrots, and other brainy giants. Crows make tools. And they obviously talk to each other (my personal observation in the mountains). From the latest research in Brazil, parrots seem to have advanced language among themselves (which we don’t understand yet, as it too fast and high pitch for humans to hear it, and there is too much “austerity” around to pay scientists to understand the world as much as they could).

Chittka worked on bees, and almost everyone assumed that the insects acted on so-called instinct, not intelligence. Instinct? Come again.

As Bumblebees Can Learn To Pull Strings, So Can Plutocrats. Thus We Need To Outlaw Such Pluto Strings

Hillary Pulling Out Her Reward? As Bumblebees Can Learn To Pull Strings, So Can Plutocrats. Thus We Need To Outlaw Such Pluto Strings

Sophisticated behavior from “instinct” is a rather stupid assumption, because it is a superfluous assumption: Who needs instinct to explain an animal’s behavior, when we have simple, old fashion intelligence to explain it? Well, speciesists! (Same as who needs the Big Bang, a theory, when we have Dark Energy, a fact, to explain the expansion of the universe.)

Indeed we know of intelligence (some people, and certainly children, can be observed to have it). We can observe intelligence, and roughly understand how it works (it works by establishing better neurology, that is, neurology which fits facts better).

We can define intelligence, we cannot define instinct. But what is an instinct? We can neither observe “instinct”, for sure, instead of learning. Nor can we give a plausible mechanism of how “instinct” would generate complex behaviors (DNA does not code for “instinct”).  

When carefully analyzed, complex behaviors turn out to be learned. In humans, social motivations such as the Will to Power, are primary, thus Chitkka was motivated by : “…a challenge for me: Could we get our small-brained bees to solve tasks that would impress a bird cognition researcher?”

***

Einstein Bumblebees & Their Superstrings:

Now, it seems his team has succeeded in duplicating, with insects, what many birds and mammals are famous for. It shows that bumblebees can not only learn to pull a string to retrieve a reward, but they can also learn this trick from other bees, even though they have no experience with such a task in nature. Christian Rutz, a bird cognition specialist at St. Andrews university in Scotland concludes that the study “successfully challenges the notion that ‘big brains’ are necessary for new skills to spread”.  

Chittka and his colleagues set up a clear plastic table barely tall enough to lay three flat artificial blue flowers underneath. Each flower contained a well of sugar water in the center and had a string attached that extended beyond the table’s boundaries. The only way the bumble bee could get the sugar water was to pull the flower out from under the table by tugging on the string.

The team put 110 bumblebees, one at a time, next to the table to see what they would do. Some tugged at the strings and gave up, but two actually kept at it until they retrieved the sugar water: two Einstein bees out of 110! In another series of experiments, the researchers trained the bees by first placing the flower next to the bee and then moving it ever farther under the table. More than half of the 40 bees tested learned what to do with the strings. See: .Associative Mechanisms Allow for Social Learning and Cultural Transmission of String Pulling in an Insect.

Next, the researchers placed untrained bees behind a clear plastic wall so they could see the other bees retrieving the sugar water. More than 60% of the insects that watched knew to pull the string when it was their turn. In another experiment, scientists put bees that knew how to pull the string back into their colony and a majority of the colony’s workers picked up string pulling by watching one trained bee do it when it left the colony in search of food. The bees usually learned this trick after watching the trained bee five times, and sometimes even after one single observation. Even after the trained bee died, string pulling continued to spread among the colony’s younger workers.   

But pulling a string does not quite qualify as tool use, because a tool has to be an independent object that wasn’t attached to the flower in the first place. Yet other invertebrates have shown they can use tools: Digger wasps pick up small stones and use them to pack down their burrow entrances, for example.

***

Bees: New Aplysias For Intelligence & Culture?

Nobel laureate Eric Kandel, following a mentor of his in Paris, worked on the brain of the giant California sea snail, Aplysia Californica with its 26,000 neurons. This enabled to progress in the understanding of basic learning and memory mechanisms. However, Aplysias are not into tools and culture. Bees are. Bees have a million neurons, and a billion synapses.

[The bee brain is only .5 mm; whereas the human brain is ~ 400 larger, thus 4x 10^2 larger, its volume is thus ~ 10^2 x 10^6 = 10^8 larger than that of the bee brain; thus scaled up, with the same neuronal density, the human brain should have 10^14 neurons! Which is the number of synapses in the human brain. The density of the bee brain Thus we see, in passing, that human neurons pack up much more power than bee neurons! That has got to be a quantitative difference…]

The discovery of bee culture involved almost 300 bees, documenting how string pulling spread from bee to bee in multiple colonies. Cognitive studies of vertebrates like birds and monkeys typically involve smaller tribal units (30, not 300). Thus the bee studies on culture, more broadly based, show better propagation (at least at this point). .

Clearly bees are equipped, psychobiologically, for the meta behavior known as creative culture: learning from others, while experimenting on one’s own. Thinkers of old used to believe these behaviors were exclusively humans: animals were machines (Descartes) and only man used tools (Bergson, who called man ‘Homo Faber”, Homo Worker)

That insect can learn and experiment, and have culture was obvious all along, according to my personal observations of wasps’ intelligence: when I threaten a wasp. It gets the message, and flies away (I have done the experiment hundreds of times; it does not work with mosquitoes). Reciprocally, if I try to get a wasp out from behind a window, it somewhat cooperates, instead of attacking me. Whereas if I come next to a nest, I will be attacked when my intent is deemed aggressive (reciprocally if a nest is established in a high traffic area, the culture of the local wasps makes it so that they will not attack).   

What is the neural basis for these “smarts”? Some say that the insects might not be all that intelligent, but that instead, “these results may mean that culture-like phenomena might actually be based on relatively simple mechanisms.” Hope springs eternal that, somehow, human intelligence is different.

Don’t bet on it. Studying how bees think will help us find how, and why, we think. And the first conclusion is that it matters what we do with our brains. If we want to rise above insects, we cannot mentally behave as if we were insects all day long. Being endowed with human intelligence is not just an honor, but a moral duty. (Learn that, clown in chief!)

Patrice Ayme’


Artificial Turf At French Bilingual School Berkeley

Artificial Turf At French Bilingual School Berkeley

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in truth, only atoms and the void

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ianmillerblog

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an evolving guide to practical Stoicism for the 21st century

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Artificial Turf At French Bilingual School Berkeley

Artificial Turf At French Bilingual School Berkeley

Patterns of Meaning

Exploring the patterns of meaning that shape our world

Sean Carroll

in truth, only atoms and the void

West Hunter

Omnes vulnerant, ultima necat

GrrrGraphics on WordPress

www.grrrgraphics.com

Skulls in the Stars

The intersection of physics, optics, history and pulp fiction

Footnotes to Plato

because all (Western) philosophy consists of a series of footnotes to Plato

Patrice Ayme's Thoughts

Striving For The Best Thinking Possible. Morality Needs Intelligence As Will Needs Mind. Intelligence Is Humanism.

Learning from Dogs

Dogs are animals of integrity. We have much to learn from them.

ianmillerblog

Smile! You’re at the best WordPress.com site ever

Defense Issues

Military and general security

RobertLovesPi.net

Polyhedra, tessellations, and more.

How to Be a Stoic

an evolving guide to practical Stoicism for the 21st century

Donna Swarthout

Writer, Editor, Berliner

coelsblog

Defending Scientism

EugenR Lowy עוגן רודן

Thoughts about Global Economy and Existence

Artificial Turf At French Bilingual School Berkeley

Artificial Turf At French Bilingual School Berkeley

Patterns of Meaning

Exploring the patterns of meaning that shape our world

Sean Carroll

in truth, only atoms and the void

West Hunter

Omnes vulnerant, ultima necat

GrrrGraphics on WordPress

www.grrrgraphics.com

Skulls in the Stars

The intersection of physics, optics, history and pulp fiction

Footnotes to Plato

because all (Western) philosophy consists of a series of footnotes to Plato

Patrice Ayme's Thoughts

Striving For The Best Thinking Possible. Morality Needs Intelligence As Will Needs Mind. Intelligence Is Humanism.

Learning from Dogs

Dogs are animals of integrity. We have much to learn from them.

ianmillerblog

Smile! You’re at the best WordPress.com site ever

Defense Issues

Military and general security

RobertLovesPi.net

Polyhedra, tessellations, and more.

How to Be a Stoic

an evolving guide to practical Stoicism for the 21st century

Donna Swarthout

Writer, Editor, Berliner

coelsblog

Defending Scientism

EugenR Lowy עוגן רודן

Thoughts about Global Economy and Existence