In the last couple of posts I’ve talked a lot about the rise of the Magical and its contribution to the craziness afflicting the modern West. The nudge units, spin doctors, psy-ops and other shenanigans all fit into the category of applied Magic, as does the modern propaganda machine consisting of what’s left of the mainstream media plus the various attempts to influence public opinion through the manipulation of social media.
After writing last week’s post, it became clear to me that I needed a separate post to address what I think is the other primary contributor to the modern madness which we can call the deficient Mental Consciousness. The Mental Consciousness arose with the emergence of logic and dialectic in Ancient Greece, Christianity and especially the activities of the Church in Europe, the scientific method and the patriarchy. It is this Consciousness which is breaking down right before our eyes and thus it’s no coincidence that science, logic, law and gender issues are at the forefront of that breakdown.
I gave a general overview of the Mental in a recent post. But in this post I want to focus in more detail on just two just two aspects of the Mental which I think are representative of the current problems. At the risk of traumatising people with memories of high school maths class, we’re going to start with the calculus.
Recall that calculus is all about little bits; increments of different degrees of smallness. The way my high school maths teacher explained it was by reference to the “minute”. The word minute comes from Latin minutus which means “small”. Minuta had already been in use in geometry to describe small degrees of a circle. It then got applied to time with the appearance of the now familiar circular clock face. The word “second” was originally secunda minuta which means the second order of smallness. Since then, we’ve added milliseconds which is derived from the Latin mille meaning “thousand”. The point is that these are all different degrees of smallness.
To return to beginner’s calculus, we start with the simple equation:
y = x2
Then we add the differential:
y + dy = (x +dx)2
When we expand this, we get :
y + dy = x2 + 2x * dx + (dx)2
At this point the teacher informs us that we don’t need to worry about that (dx)2 on the end because it is a second order smallness. It’s too small to matter. So, we can just cross it out. The same goes for equations like y = x5 where we get to leave out the second and third order differential. So, we solve some equations leaving out the smaller derivatives and eventually the teacher shows us that we can apply a short cut for solving such equations, which is nx(n-1).
Now, as a high school maths students who’s already sick of solving equations, this is music to your ears. You eagerly embrace the short cut, whizz through your homework and go and play computer games or upload a video of yourself dancing to TikTok. But that shortcut is based on having excluded the higher order parts of the equation. Strictly speaking, all of the answers given by the shortcut are a little bit wrong. But your maths textbook doesn’t reflect that and your final grade for the subject doesn’t require you to know it. No doubt most students forget it instantly. But it always bugged me. When, some years later, I read Gerald Weinberg’s Introduction to General Systems Thinking, I realised that this trick of leaving things out was more fundamental than I had realised.
Excluding things that were too small to matter was how Newton arrived at his law of universal gravitation: F = G(Mm/r2). Firstly, Newton deliberately ignored all the other celestial bodies in the solar system and focused on just the seven planets. Next, he assumed that because the sun is so huge relative to the planets only the pairwise relation between each planet and the sun was relevant. This allowed him to rule out all other combinations and reduce the number of calculations required. In essence, he did the same thing that we see in the calculus, he simplified things down by excluding elements that were assumed to be too small to matter. Just like in calculus, the simplifications free up our time and cognitive resources to solve more difficult problems. It’s only in this way that we are able to calculate anything because when there are too many variables the number of calculations grows astronomically (see the Three Body Problem as an example of that).
This use of simplifications is the secret to what is now known as classical mechanics. Recently, I randomly stumbled across a thread on an online physics forum. Somebody posted a question in relation to a university level physics problem which went something like this: “Are we supposed to leave out this part of the equation?” There followed a long conversation where people tried to remember why that part was left out but ultimately nobody could remember the reason. The resolution of the thread was that it should be left out but nobody could remember why. So, we see that this business is simplifying and excluding things that don’t matter is still a core part of the way physics is done.
Simplifying things is not a problem but it becomes a problem when we forget that we have simplified. Newton and others at that time knew the simplifying assumptions he had made. But sometime between then and now this knowledge seems to have been lost and science became reified into the quasi-religion that we see nowadays. Models which are descriptions of the behaviour of objects have come to be seen as if they are the word of God himself; as if they are reality itself. But the map is not the territory.
One way to think about the territory is that it is the testing part of the process. There are simplifying assumptions built into the theoretical models. Then there is the testing of those models and this introduces further difficulties. Newton worked out his theory of gravitation in relation to the massive bodies of the planets of the solar system. Down here on Earth, the force of gravitation is much weaker and this makes testing a problem because the equipment we have lacks sensitivity. This means that the empirical evidence is not conclusive that the law of universal gravitation holds for objects smaller than a human body. There’s no evidence that it doesn’t. But we just don’t know.
And this is the key point to be made. We need to know the simplifying assumptions we have made in the theory and we need to know what level of accuracy we have achieved in the testing. In other words, we need to appreciate that there is uncertainty. This is true even of something as fundamental as the law of universal gravitation (which isn’t really “universal” anymore since we know it doesn’t hold for black holes, to take one example).
Here we see the first element of the deficient Mental Consciousness. It’s the hubris of supposing that physics held the keys to the universe and that we would soon be able to calculate everything. The second element is related to the first and came to be known as physics envy. We took the methods of classical mechanics and began using them in other scientific domains including the life sciences. This led to an attempt to measure anything and everything, including things which could not and should not be measured. But the more damaging problem was related to the simplification trick.
In maths class, nobody’s life depends on us ignoring the second order differential. And in physics class, the other celestial bodies in the solar system are not going to get upset if we don’t include them in the law of universal gravitation. But if we are testing a new medication, let’s say a brand new type of vaccine, simplifying assumptions become a matter of life and death. If I told you the “safety calculation” was that the vaccine was 99.999% safe, that seems pretty good. A 0.001% fatality rate sounds pretty small. Is it “too small to matter”? Well, if we are going to give the medication just to people are who are on death’s door, it probably is too small to matter. But if we are going to give it to “everybody on Earth” including healthy people, then even a fatality rate of 0.001% mean tens of thousands of people will die. Who gets to decide that this is “too small to matter”? Who gets to the decide that any other injuries caused by the vaccine are too small to matter? Context matters and simplifying assumptions become questions of politics and morality.
The deficient Mental Consciousness counts things which don’t count and ignores things which do. It reached its peak in late 19th and early 20th century materialism but lives on in the idea that the calculating power of computers will enable us to reach into domains previously inaccessible. When that didn’t work as planned, we heard it would be quantum computers that would solve the problem. More computing power is all we need. Or smarter computing power. Somebody fetch me the AI.
This is a familiar pattern in science. A new theory comes on the scene, addresses some well entrenched problems that weren’t previously able to be solved and opens up new horizons. There’s a period of excitement and “progress”. Then the theory is pushed into new areas where it doesn’t work so well. It starts to accumulate “debt” and the beautiful simplicity of the original formulation gets lost as explanatory additions are tacked on to try and explain the parts of reality that just don’t seem to work. Eventually a new theory comes along and the process starts over.
Sometimes this process happens within a single discipline. Sometimes, it happens to an entire worldview. The mechanical theory of the universe that constitutes classical physics was, at the time, a revolutionary change of worldview. We know that because the Church fought hard against it for centuries.
One of the things it entailed was a new understanding of Earth vis a vis the heavens. When Newton compared the moon to an apple, he was implying that the same laws applied to both. But for millennia the heavens had been seen as more perfect than the Earth. This idea has strong religious and cosmological roots (e.g. The Fall) and also had a basis in theory as the movement of planets was seen to be more geometrically ideal than movement on Earth. The revolution Newton, Galileo and others brought was that the movement of the heavenly bodies and the movement of objects on Earth were subject to the same laws. The heavens were, at least in this respect, not more perfect than Earth, just different (frictionless).
These days we have divorced science from theology, cosmology and philosophy (another aspect of deficient Mental Consciousness). Thus nobody cares about these kinds of issue any more and they don’t get taught about them in school. As a result, few people can recognise that the Newtonian revolution looks incredibly similar to a pattern implied by the emergence of the theory of relativity and quantum mechanics. That is, there are technical and mathematical advances but those advances imply an entirely new world view. The change of worldview implied by relativity and quantum mechanics could be as revolutionary as the change that happened around the time of Newton. But this time it is not the Church that is working to prevent the emergence of the new worldview but the scientific establishment itself which is married to the materialist view of the universe. History has a sense of irony.
We can summarise the arrival of the deficient Mental Consciousness as follows.
Firstly, the success of classical mechanics went to people’s heads. We forgot about the simplifying assumptions and came to believe that physics was reality and not just a more or less approximate description of reality. Through the phenomenon of physics envy, the model of physics was used in other sciences where it did not belong. Applying simplifying assumptions to inanimate objects isn’t going to cause any problems. When you apply simplifying assumptions to domains involving living beings, especially human beings, you are treading into very dangerous territory not just from a technical but also from a moral point of view. It is no coincidence that early medical experiments and procedures were carried out on marginalised people i.e. those who were deemed “not to matter” (in the same way that people injured by or who refused to take the corona vaccine have been made to feel that they don’t matter).
Of more technical importance is the fact that, once the low hanging fruit of the mechanistic model had been picked, what was left were the domains where simplification could not occur and therefore the number of variables could not be brought down to a level where computation was possible. This is most notable in the living sciences: biology, medicine, psychology, ecology. These are the medium number systems talked about by systems theory. Models which attempt to simplify these domains don’t give us reproducible results; hence the reproducibility crisis in modern science.
On top of these problems there is the fact that science is now a career-path and most of the people who call themselves scientists earn their living from the system. It is said that science progresses one funeral at a time and this points to the fact that human beings really don’t like changing their mind, especially about deep elements of their worldview. But when you earn a living from the scientific establishment, you are even less likely to change your mind as this will likely hurt your career prospects, especially when the money that is paying your salary comes from sources that have a vested interest in certain outcomes.
Money, prestige and power now infest science. As we saw in the last two years, the number of scientists and “experts” willing to challenge the system that pays their salaries is small. Such dissenters were “too small to matter”. They were easily character assassinated by the propaganda machine, kicked off social media and relegated to the sidelines.
It all starts to look a hell of a lot like history repeating and the last two years have a lot in common with the psychology of The Inquisition. It is the view of Gebser and others that quantum mechanics and relativity are part of a larger change of worldview known as the Integral Consciousness. It is this which is trying to emerge but because it is such a threat to the existing worldview it is being fought tooth and nail. If this comparison is true, the change awaiting us could be as fundamental as the Earth no longer being the centre of the universe.
Viewed this way, it looks as if there is a quite specific dynamic in modern society that has developed as a way to prevent the Integral Consciousness (or something like it) from manifesting. On the one hand, we have postmodernism. There are some good ideas in postmodernism that fit with the broader concept of the Integral Consciousness but these are buried beneath a set of theories whose only reason for existing seems to be to sow division among the public (always a useful tool for politicians looking to divide and conquer).
Because postmodernism arose out of the arts disciplines, it is by definition relegated to second-class status in the general culture where only the rigor of “real science” matters. The arts are no longer thought of as a vehicle for new ideas (a notion which is not surprising given the current state of the “high art” in the West). The result is that postmodernism, and the grains of truth about the Integral that it contains, is easily written off.
Meanwhile, the idea of science based on the principles of classical mechanics as eternal and infallible truth about reality continues to hold sway in the general culture. This idea is, of course, promoted by all the practitioners of science who wish to partake of the prestige and power that comes with it and all the business interests who earn money from the system promote the idea through their propaganda efforts while beating into submission anybody who dares challenge the dogma. It’s not hard to see that such a system serves financial and political interests. But what is less obvious is that it also serves to uphold the worldview of western culture. That worldview is the deficient Mental Consciousness. It had metastasised so much that when it was challenged in early 2020 it had to respond with all the hubris and cluelessness that we have seen in the last two years.
The general culture no longer understands how science (classical mechanics) worked, has reified science into a religion, and is willfully blind to the fact that science no longer produces the goods. With corona, all of these elements came to the fore in the most spectacular fashion and the result has been a dismal, comprehensive failure of nearly all the institutions of society at the same time. All done in the name of “science”. Although many people are still in denial, you couldn’t hope for a more comprehensive defeat of the worldview of modern Western culture. For that reason, I think that corona represents a major turning point. In the next post, I’ll finally get round to explaining what I think that is.
15 thoughts on “The deficient Mental Consciousness”
You just reminded me what made me love math and dislike physics. Actually, if you do a more theoretical version of calculus, you get to play with the precise definition of a limit (with epsilons and deltas), and then you don’t actually ignore anything. In physics, as I recall it, it’s all handwave-handwave-handwave. 😛 But of course, all those lovely epsilons and deltas are just theoretical constructs to make geeks of a certain type happy. In the real world, you really do have to ignore a whole bunch of stuff, because otherwise, you can’t get anything done.
Good point about domains in which you cannot simplify sufficiently to make computation possible. The other thing to keep in mind is that we/they keep trying to solve ever smaller problems. When you do that, the odds that the cure will be worse than the disease go up quite significantly. When it comes to vaccines, we’ve seen two camps (well, three if you count the “there are no downsides to vaccination” camp): one claims that if the benefits of a vaccine are slightly higher than the harms, then it’s worth it; and the other one claims that, to gain approval, the benefits of a vaccine should be orders of magnitude greater than the harms. If we had perfect knowledge, then the first group might have a point. But of course we don’t have perfect knowledge. We have to simplify to make computation possible. Unless the vaccine benefits absolutely dwarf the harms, you can never be sure if all that stuff that you chose to ignore would in fact flip the balance if you had bothered to include it. (Actually, it’s even worse than that, because whenever you intervene in a complex system, etc.)
Nitpick: That 0.0001% should be 0.001% (you have one zero too many).
Irena – it’s also true that most people don’t use their minds in a directed fashion. Rather, what they do is start with a conclusion and then look for reasons why it’s true. Now that we have the internet, everybody can find some evidence to justify their conclusion. As you point out, that somebody could very well be an “expert” who happens to have a theoretical model that leaves out the right combination of elements to get the answer desired. The one conclusion that nobody wants to hear is we just don’t really know.
Ah, yes. If person A says “unfortunately, we don’t really know” and person B says “of course we know, here’s the answer,” then person B is very likely to be believed, even if he pulled his story out of thin air. It’s the same with “solutions.” Nobody wants to hear “yes, this sucks, but unfortunately, there’s not an awful lot we can do about it.” You have a problem, and A, B, C, D, and E are on the table as potential solutions. If you can show that A, B, C, and D won’t work, then there’s your evidence that E must be right! Even if it’ll just make the problem even worse.
The other thing to keep in mind is that, even if the general public understood how science works (or is supposed to work), it wouldn’t really help if scientists couldn’t be trusted to be honest. If you never know if they’re simply faking data, then why believe anything they say? And even if you assume a baseline of honesty (i.e. no outright data faking), understanding how science works (or is supposed to work) in general isn’t all that much help in understanding the specifics. To understand the specifics, you need domain expertise, and for any given field, an overwhelming majority of the population lacks domain expertise. So, what are you going to do? It all boils down to whom you can trust. Unfortunately, our expert class cannot be trusted, at least not on anything with policy implications. At this point, I fully expect them to take incomplete (possibly partially faked) data, choose a course of action based on priorities and special interests that I am not privy to, and then tell me whatever they think will maximize the probability of me doing what they want me to do. They think of it as a “Noble Lie,” but in reality, it’s a mixture of truth, lies, and honest mistakes. Alas, figuring out which is which is anything but easy. So, for me at least, the outcome is a generalized skepticism toward anything they say.
Nitpick (continued): Ah, so you added an extra 9, rather than deleting a zero! But 0.0001% is 1 in a million. For a population of 8 billion, it translates to 8 thousand, which is thousands, not tens of thousands. 😉
Re: the last paragraph of your post
Here’s a guess: scientists will come to be trusted to about the same extent as lawyers. Is that where you’re going with this?
Thanks, Simon! Great post – it’s reminded me of Iain McGilchrist’s research, in The Master & His Emissary, that links schizophrenia (& magical thinking) w/ left-brain dominance. Which may seem counter-intuitive, w/ the left hemisphere’s rational, manipulating, analytical bias. But if McGilchrist is right that we live increasingly in a left-brain world, you’ve outlined it pretty neatly & comprehensively here.
So many artists I know have been imitating themselves for decades, & one by one, they’ve begun to achieve success, some just financially & others in terms of recognition too. But they couldn’t have done it if they’d developed as artists (in terms of innovation rather than reliable reproducibility).
Bizarrely enough, many years ago at art school, I once got attacked by some righteously postmodernist students who objected to the fact that I’d been working through different styles. Well hey, that’s what those modernist dinosaurs did, like Picasso, Braque, Dali etc. 🙂
Irena – This is actually why I enjoy both. I see Math like language, with its percise definitions and grammar. Physics is like litereture written in the language – it tells a story, and as such being gramatically correct is not as important as telling the story – Much like authors sometimes intentionaly make gramatical errors for style or realism.
Simon – Today even phisicists often make the mistake of thinking linearly. When Corona started being an issue in Israel, a politician published a tweet where he explained the virus will spread exponentially. He then proceeded toillustrate his point by typing the first 10 values of e to the x power to illustrate his point. He must have thought he was being clever, as e to the x is not a linear function.
It’s true, as it is the solution to the linear differential equation dx/dt = c * x, in other words, a function proportional to its own derivative. The thing is that in the study of nonlinear systems, this is only an approximation with the unamed assumption we are at the begining of the feedback loop – most exponential growth will end once the energy is gone, and then the dynamics tend to change, because factors that were neglected start taking over to balance the growth. In the dynamixs of viruses for example, this happens when the virus runs out of vanerable hosts (the nimber of hosts who die before transmiting the virus to anyone starts mattering), or when herd immunity kicks in (the concentration of possible hosts with immunity starts mattering).
The thing is, that if all you know is the final result of e to the power of x without understanding this is actually a linear model that assumes the begining of the outbreak, you could think we really will end up with e to the 30 power cases in a month.
Irena – ok, I’ve fixed the nit for good. Now you’re giving me traumatic memories of maths class 😛
I saw a talk once with Daniel Kahneman where he told a story that can be summed up as follows “We had an answer. We knew it was wrong. But we had an answer.” I think this fits with what you’re saying about people’s inability to accept uncertainty. Actually, this is a great example of what I mean by Magic. The “answer” does not exist on the Mental plane. If it did, we would acknowledge it was wrong and look for a right one. Instead, it operates as Magic: it releases and channels energy. I think this is especially the case with groups of people because herd psychology dictates there must be something to focus the group and keep it together.
Shane – interesting. I really do need to get around to reading McGilchrist. I’m curious what you mean by the artists “imitating themselves”. Normally we imitate others by default, especially when we are beginners. In fact, I would have assumed it’s almost impossible not to imitate a style that is already present in the culture when you are starting out. So, how do you imitate yourself?
Bakbook – yes, that was a key part of what got me thinking about The Plague Story. Scientifically speaking, you have to know your model assumes the virus is “new” and you have to know what the definition of “new” is. In the case of viruses, these days it’s a mathematical analysis of the genome, except there’s more than one algorithm and different algorithms give different results. And just because your genomic analysis says “new”, does not mean the human body thinks it’s “new”. So, “new” doesn’t necessarily say anything about the immune system’s ability to respond and therefore the likely amount of illness in the population.
In other words, the whole idea that corona was “new” implies a complex theory with differing levels of uncertainty. I’m not surprised that politicians are unable to understand that. What surprised me was how few public intellectuals, including scientists, could understand it. Michael Levitt did some interesting videos right back at the start of corona using some different mathematics to show how, by the time we even realise there might be a problem with a “new” virus (i.e. “cases” going up), the rate of growth of transmission is already declining. So, now you have a complex model with different levels of uncertainty that is also changing over time.
Interestingly, this inability to factor in time and dynamics seems to be at the core of the problem with the deficient Mental Consciousness. Everything is a static “law” never to be changed.
Thanks Simon for an excellent essay.
I’m with you, I have often wondered at how the practice of leaving off the ‘insignificant’ lower decimal places changes the tone of the result.
Much of the time we aren’t sensitive enough to notice, but other times, it is like the difference between grape soda and eating a real concord grape.
So, good, I’m glad that you are bringing this up.
And there is no better time for it, since we see the Culture Wars claiming Science to endorse their opinions on whatever side of the battle lines.
You speak of ‘the practitioners of science’. I’m not sure where to draw the circle around such practitioners, but I’m confident that many of the people making arguments on the internet aren’t inside that circle.
And certainly not people who might want to collar me at a social event and hit me with their opinion about this or that science-related topic.
As for “…the hubris and cluelessness that we have seen in the last two years…”, yes, exactly.
Around 1999, Wes Jackson (Land Institute, Salina Kansas) began talking about ‘Ignorance-Based Science’.
A catchy phrase, which largely amounted to the Precautionary Principle.
Keep asking “What’s the worst that could happen?”
Start from the premise that we don’t know what is happening. Seems like a good approach to me.
So in 2020, when I heard people talking like they were certain about this or that fact, I took it to be a sign of hubris. I was much more comfortable with the people who admitted that things were complicated, but there was certain evidence to suggest this or that.
It’s now 2 years later and the battle lines are drawn.
They are not drawn ‘scientifically’ as far as I have seen.
Let’s just look at opinions about two topics: ‘vaccines’ and face masks.
Anyone who claims that ‘vaccines’ are a simple, fool-proof solution to Covid, is clearly not paying attention.
Anyone who claims that they are simple anything is leaving out a bunch of data.
It’s complicated, and much of the important information resides in the .001%, as you say.
Does the benefit justify the cost?
We don’t know, because we haven’t determined what the costs and benefits are, exactly.
Masks are a different story.
What are the costs?
You look silly, and breathing is a tiny bit more difficult.
There is statistically significant data that suggests that a good face mask will reduce the amount of airborne virus that you inhale.
How much? In what situations? Is it enough to keep you from getting sick?
But unless you are teetering on the brink of respiratory collapse (or terminally afflicted by peer pressure), a face mask has no downside, but some possible upside.
So we are seeing all the serious, ‘Science-Based’, informed citizens rejecting (or not, as they choose) the MRNA ‘vaccines’, but wearing face masks where airborne virus concentrations are likely to be high, right?
Ha! Not where I live.
What I see is most people just being tired of it and acting like nothing is happening.
Some people are anti-vax and anti mask.
Some people are pro-vax, so figure they don’t need a mask.
Some people are really worried and mask up and vax up.
Do you see anyone who refuses the ‘vaccine’ but wears a mask?
This is not about science.
It is just more culture war.
And who does it serve to get caught up in a culture war? I don’t see any benefit from it.
Thanks for your well-reasoned post.
Eric – thanks for that reference to “Ignorance-based science”. I’ll have a look at Jackson’s stuff as I’m interested to see who is thinking on these lines. My take is influenced by the original systems thinkers and I call it the “heuristic approach”. Not a very catchy name, I’ll admit.
It goes like this.
If you’re dealing with a medium number system, you assume that any model is fallible. All models then become heuristics that have questionable predictive value but are nevertheless useful. Thus, the “calculus heuristic” (any model based on calculation) becomes one lens to view an issue. The risk-based heuristic is another and there would be many more. You look at the data and the models that explain it and take that view into account. Then you apply the risk heuristic “what’s my exposure to the situation/what’s the worst that can happen”. You might also apply the politics heuristic: follow the money/cui bono; and so on. I’ll be outlining this approach in more detail a couple of posts from now.
Simon, funnily enough, at an exhibition preview today, I met an artist who isn’t represented by a gallery, having tried that path before & found it too restrictive, when each new series of work she produces involves a different approach. What I meant by the idea of artists ‘imitating themselves’ is that if, at some point early on in their career, they get enough approval – high grades at art school, offer of representation from some high-profile gallery, a sell-out solo show, positive reviews etc. – they keep on doing the same kind of work because if they don’t, they’ll probably disappoint their audience/gallerist & sink back into obscurity. So the muse, or the creative originality or whatever you want to call it moves on & leaves the artist behind to imitate the work that brought them approval in the first place. Their work becomes a sound investment, they can be relied on, & they become a fixture on the scene, always hung in the Archibald or what-have-you… And their predictable method hardens into a philosophy; a lot of them teach. And, sure, others – relative beginners – imitate them. Yet, often, their early work is their best – they end up like actors who ‘phone in’ a performance.
Shane – I see what you mean. I remember going to a Sonic Youth gig some years ago. I was never much of a fan of theirs but went along with a friend. Apparently, they were doing something very different that night because they were getting booed after every song. I remember the singer at one point saying something like “settle down, rock fans” when somebody thew something at him. I guess the audience was expecting them to play the usual songs. Same thing happened to Bob Dylan when he went electric. Pretty funny, really. A crowd of stoned, folk music hippies getting angry.
Hey, Simon, I guess that’s how capitalism aka the deficient Mental Consciousness works: you pays your money & you takes what you’re entitled to. Another way it works seems to be that while so many professional artists apparently can’t help endlessly & faithfully reproducing what began as experiments, scientists, e.g. pharmaceutical researchers, often seem unable to. What do they call it, the replication crisis? 🙂
Shane – it’s probably more fundamental than that. Upsetting people’s expectations causes cognitive dissonance which is somewhat equivalent to pain. There was a riot at the opening night of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring so even ballet can get people fired up – https://www.openculture.com/2020/01/how-stravinskys-the-rite-of-spring-incited-a-riot.html
Wow, Simon – that’s wild. But sounds like Stravinsky meant to shock, & that, in the context, his production was way more radical than anything Sonic Youth could offer…? Also sounds like he deliberately set out to invoke violent pagan archetypal energies, & that the publicity machine of the time had cued the public to expect to be outraged.
Shane – true. Still, I find the idea of a group of ballet attendees rioting quite amusing.