17 January 2010

The Embedded Mind: A Footnote

The above video is that of the Third Movement of the Second Piano Concerto by Beethoven preformed by well-known pianist Claudio Abbado with the conductor Mikhail Pletnev. The date and location is unknown How does the embedded mind go from the implanted RAM to produce music such as this that transcends one to another level of consciousness? Yet, the embedded mind in humans can cause war, destruction, poverty, murder, and despair. It can emerge in an individual such as the Dalia Lama to bring messages of hope, joy and laughter for mankind and likewise manifest itself in scores of horrific individuals such as Hitler, Pol Pot, Stalin, and others whose primary purpose to plunge whole societies into collective destruction. Attempting to uncover the reasons is an exercise in futility. To prevent such individuals from taking over the collective consciousness of whole societies is a worthy idealistic goal that should never be relinquished. In the present we must revel in the sublime creations of those such as Beethoven, Mozart, Bach and others to remind ourselves that we can rise above the mundane to great heights.

15 January 2010

The Disenfranchisement of Local Citizens

While viewing some of the on-line editorials of the local newspaper here, Corpus Christi Caller Times, I came across this editorial comments by a local citizen, a Mr. Johnson, titled “ Failed Resolutions”.

Failed resolutions

Here it is, just a few days into the new year, and already my resolutions are circling the toilet. No matter what I did to distract myself, I could not manage to fulfill these goals:

1. Be tolerant of an ineffective, unfocused and downright embarrassing Corpus Christi City Council.

2. Remain calm as Corpus Christi continues its slide ever farther down the slippery slope to nowhere.

3. Stop thinking that a little outburst of oligarchy might not be a bad thing if it helps the citizenry realize just how much power it actually has in the decision-making process.

4. Believe there is some traction in the GROW Corpus Christi movement — that is, believe it really does represent a movement.

5. Prepare for the next round of elections without thinking politics is no more than an end in itself — once the election is won or lost, actually doing something is either irrelevant or just so much icing on an otherwise tasteless cake.

6. Disbelieve that there are so many people who refuse to realize they are the true victims of bad governance.

So, all I can resolve is to be less petulant and more realistic. Darn, that’s not happening either.

J. Fred Johnson

There are some key themes in this editoral that are presumably echoed in other localities : 1) lack of citizen participation: 2) oligarchy of local politicians: 3) voting as a meaningless exercise to improve city governance: 4)quality of local decision-makers; and 5) boosterism groups which are have no effect in the direction of city change (in this GROW Corpus Christi). If I could travel back in time to the turn of the century, I would have seen these same themes presented, albeit in the language of that era. In these times city halls were controlled by powerful groups, the press controlled by local business, local politicians were responsive to special interests and boosterism was a puppet for self-interested local oligarchy. Sound familiar? The counter-balance to this situation was the Progressive Movement and to certain degree the Socialist Party presence at the local level (ie. Milwaukee). (Recently, the socialist mayor for Milwaukee, Frank Zeidler, died. An editorial by Roger Bybee, a Milwaukee writer and activist, documents Zeidler's accomplishments, but also chides the current local government for serving a few and ignoring the many. This editoriall can be found at http://www.milwaukeerenaissance.com/FrankZeidler/LastSocialistMayorInUS-FrankZeidlersRemarkableLegacy )

Where are the modern-day versions of Zeidler, Teddy Roosevelt, and Robert La Follette Sr.? The updated version of the Progressive Party could be found in the Green Party of America:
. Unfortunately, it is having very little effect on the local or national level.

The Embedded Mind: A Preliminary Discussion

In an earlier blog entry, I mentioned that I was interested in delving into “the embedded mind” and its relationship to complexity theory and urban planning (go to http://mcadamsfatih1.blogspot.com/2010/01/issues-on-emeddedembodied.html to see the original thread for the development of this concept). As all ideas, this one has a degree of simplicity and complexity. I would like to put forth my concept of the embedded mind, although it may vary from author to author.

The embedded mind can be explained with computational metaphors. It can be described as the collecitive Read Only Memory (ROM) inserted into all humans. While humans alter this depending on their circumstances and surrondings, there seems to be rudimentary commonalities that are at the root of all human actions and manifestations (such as the built environment). Human desires, based on the needs of the human body, are evident wherever humans settle. One such universal desire is the consumption of food. There is no civilization in the world where this is not true. Why? The answer is obvious—without food humans can not survive. Another would be some form of reaching out to another perceived reality (religion, collecitive memory, ideals etc.). This is grounded in the realisation of humans of their own mortality. (This maybe not only exclusive to humans as it appears that other high functioning animals (most mammals) such as elephants and apes appear to experience grief and are aware of death.) Language seems to be another portion of the embeded mind “chip”. Although languages differ greatly, no one could depute that humans possess the abiity and complusion to communicate through speech and written/symbolic forms. Another would be protection of other humans, particularly of a mother of a child. (This also is not exclusive toward humans, but can be seen in all high functioning animals.) There are many other examples of the components of the embedded mind. These elements have not changed for thousands of years in the development of humans. The sophistication and the permuations have changed but the primary elements of the emedded mind have not.

In future blogs, I would like to discuss some of the literature on the embedded mind. There is a substancial literatrue directly or indirectly related to this topic. I woud like to link the embedded mind to complexity theory and agent-based modeling metaphors, the urban environment and urban planning in a progressive manner. The ultimate goal of this endevor would be a published paper. I welcome my readers to follow along and natuarally to comment, as I develop these ideas.

12 January 2010

Looming Fiscal Problems for US Cities

On the PBS News Hour today (12 January 2010), there was a report of the financial situation of states around the nation. There are many states that are having significant budget problems that will have an effect on public services in cities around the nation. “Under the radar” is the budget problem for cities. In September 2009, the National League of Cities stated” In the face of declining revenue and increasing expenses, city finance officers are pessimistic about cities’ abilities to meet their financial needs. Nine in ten (88%) say this year will be difficult in meeting fiscal needs, while 89% expect the same in 2010. This is the worst outlook the report has detailed in 24 years (http://www.nlc.org/PRESSROOM/PRESSRELEASEITEMS/CFCSept2009PR9.1.09.aspx ) ".
This will inevitability result in decreased services, hiring freezes, laying off of public employees, privatization, and increased taxes. A League of Cities report, City Fiscal Conditions in 2009, documents fully the impending crisis (http://www.nlc.org/ASSETS/E0A769A03B464963A81410F40A0529BF/CityFiscalConditions_09%20%282%29.pdf ) The economic problems of cities is directly related to the main source of their revenue, property and sales taxes states the report. While we bailed out banks for trillion of dollars, should not some been left over to bail out states and local governments? The Federal Government is considering taxing banks. It would be appropriate that some of this revenue could be used to lessen the burden being soldered by states and local government, which was caused by recklessness of banks. Nevertheless, this are “stop gap” solutions. Efforts must be taken by bodies such as the National League of Cities and “think tanks” to investigate how cities can lead the economic recovery. The obvious key to this situation is to bring about a healthy housing market, and improve the job market. However, other solutions that would be geared toward reorienting the role of the US cities within the global market (such as developing green oriented technologies, encouraging urban cultural economies). It is recognized that the US is one of the most creative societies in the world. It is time for all levels of government to consider this crisis as an opportunity to re-gear in a different direction and entertain innovation.

11 January 2010

New Urbanism can Save the City?????

Here is link I discoved while "googling" for urbanism:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/isabel-cowles/can-new-urbanism-save-ame_b_372363.html from the Huffington Post.
I will amend this post later with my comments on New Urbanism.

09 January 2010

Congestion Taxing

This is a informed discussion by Mr. Lee Munnich, "who chairs the Transportation Research Board's Subcommittee on Pricing Outreach. He played a primary role in developing Minnesota's I-394 MnPASS Express Lanes, a high-occupancy toll (HOT) lane project, in 2005 (Google comment on video, 2008). " There are some interesting comments by participants in this discussion.

Traffic Congestion Demonstration by Doug McDonald, Secretary of Washington DOT

This is a very good explanation of traffic congestion and possible solutions.
This ties very well into agent-based modeing of traffic flow. The solutions are easy.
The ultimate solution is to elimnate automobile trips entirely. This is by designing communities where people can walk or bicycle to their destinations. For those trips that are too length, public transport can accomodate the great majority.

The issue of controlling traffic demand by appying tolls, as discused in this video, is a well researched and documented method to control the time of occurance of trip making. The best known case is cordon tolling by time of day in Central London. The unfortunate thing is that our elected officials are reluctant to pursue such alternatives, as mentioned by Secretary McDonald. I think that most citizens do not understand that they elected their represetatives and must take responsibilty if the politicians are not bringing innovative ideas for consideration to their legislative body. Citizens must take it upon themselves to bring up the issues and possibe solutions for them. Most citizens have the ability to research and develop alternatives on their own. If you wait to be empowered by the politicians, you will have a long wait. But, citizens can empower themselves and bring about change. Unfortunately, many politicians do not want direct citizen involvement in decision-making, because that would limit their abiity to havd out favors to special interest groups and wealthy individuals that helped them to get elected.

05 January 2010

Permaculture for Urban Places

Very interesting perspective of urban life. A co-founder of City Repair explains how the organization takes a holistic prespective to urban revitlalization.

Introduction to Complexity Theory

Introduction to Complexity Science

author: Seth Bullock, University of Southampton, U.K

This is an introductory university lecture on complexity science.

Fractal Zoning

Thia is a video which presents its message without titles or other explanation other than animation and music. The beginning is somewhat obscure, but the network and comparison between natural and urban fractals is interesting.

Issues on the Emedded/Embodied Mind, Complexity and Urban Planning

In this blog section, I would like to start to develop a metaphorical link between the embedded or embodied mind and complexity theory. Some of my questions are:
1.What is the embedded or embodied mind?
2.Does the metaphorical context of complexity integrate with the embedded/embodied mind?
3.Can the embodied mind concept combined with the application of complexity theory aid in our understanding of urban areas and urban planning?

At the present time, I am in the process of exploring the provocative works of Andy Clark on this subject. An interesting review of Clark's book, Being There: Putting Brain, Body and World Together Again , is one by Gerard O’Brien entitled “The Mind: Embodied, Embedded, but not Extended” (Metascience 7:78-83 (1998)) and found on line at: http://cogprints.org/1451/0/Commentary_on_Clark_Being_There.pdf
If you of aware of other interesting research on the embedded mind, please contact me.
I am also in debt to my friend and colleague Dr. Vassil Anastassov, who is presently doing research on the embedded mind and language, for introducing me to these concepts.