An Open Letter to Ivan Illich

Montréal, November 15, 1999

"I hope that the parallel now becomes clear. Just as the commons of space are vulnerable, and can be destroyed by the motorization of traffic, so the commons of speech are vulnerable, and can easily be destroyed by the encroachment of modern means of communication." - - - Ivan Illich, 'Silence is a Commons' [1]

~^~ ~^~ ~^~

Dear Ivan,

Like you, I have struggled for an understanding of the shadowy sources of both healthy harmony and dissonant pathology in community, though from a conceptual physics and mathematics orientation.

Like you, I have come to the realization that we use two different modes of perceiving the world, ... as a commons which contains us (an 'immersed' view) and/or, ... as a resource which can be regulated and used by us (a 'voyeur view). And I also sense, as you say, that "... transformation of the environment from a commons to a productive resource constitutes the most fundamental form of environmental degradation."

And, like you, I have come up with geometries of pathology which tie together the physical commons of space-time and the communications approach to the regulation of our 'use' of commons.

Unlike you, ... I am an independent, basically 'monolingual' transdisciplinary researcher, ... one who has been privately evolving, for the past several years since leaving the world of the global corporation, ideas and understanding of 'community as complex system', which tap thirty years of 'experiences' while working internationally as a 'geophysicist', 'R&D manager' and 'information management advisor' within a large multi-national petroleum company.

Recently, I have been able to 're-formulate' the concepts you express, and which have a common geometry to those patterns I, also, have perceived, ... in the language and notions of physics, .. i.e. 'relativity' and 'quantum mechanics'.

This reformulation is deceptively simple, ... so I would not only hope to gain your attention to this, ... but to gain your relaxed attention, ... without having you turn away from this or put your mind in gear for some horrendously complicated rationalist theory. All that's needed to follow this 'argument' is simple common sense, ... since it is nature at its most basic which I'm speaking to here. And since I don't know your whereabouts, I am going to copy this essay to professors David Hibbitts (University of Pittsburgh School of Law) and David Gabbard (East Carolina University, School of Education, Foundations Faculty) [2], who appear to 'co-resonate' with your views on perception, inquiry and social response and evolution, and who might, if they have time to read this, ... assess its reconcilability with your (and their own) work.

The kernal of this 'model' of complexity, in slightly more technical terms than used herein, will be published in the next issue of *Complexity*, a Journal of the Santa Fe Institute, in the form of a commentary entitled "Is Evolutionary Computing Evolving?", and the submitted draft of this commentary, which I've made available to an anthropologist web-friend, can be found at

Here goes, ... and I would ask that you just relax and loosen up the rational part of your mind, not by intention, but by resisting emergent tendencies to tighten up your rational mental muscles when you hit something you think is complicated; i.e. it's better not to try and understand it as you go through it, ... but to simply read it, accepting it with an open mind, as a 'reality sandwich', ... and letting it subsequently 'image' in your mind. There will be every opportunity to question it later, but first it is necessary to get the input 'inside' and avoid having it rejected via our normal suite of 'euclidian' rejection filters, ... of the type that has people reject the ideas of Ivan Illich that no-one can be fully free of when immersed in a euclidian culture such as we are.

... When we were young, ... as in Ivan Illich's reminiscences of earlier times on the island of Brac, ... we imagined ourselves at the center of things, where 'we were meant to be' as the following imagery from 'House Made of Dawn' (by Kiowa writer Scott Momaday) also conveys;

"... and you just looked around at all the new and beautiful things. And after a while, the trader put some things out on the counter, sacks of flour and sugar, a slab of salt pork, some canned goods, and a little bag full of the hard red candy. And your grandfather took off one of his rings and gave it to the trader. It was a small green stone, set carelessly in thin silver. It was new and it wasn't worth very much, not all the trader gave for it, anyway. And the trader opened one of the cans, a big can of whole tomatoes, and your grandfather sprinkled sugar on the tomatoes and the two of you ate them right there and drank bottles of sweet red soda pop. And it was getting late and you rode home in the sunset and the whole land was cold and white. And that night your grandfather hammered the strips of silver and told you stories in the firelight. And you were little and right there in the center of everything, the sacred mountains, the snow-covered mountains and the hills, the gullies and the flats, the sundown and the night, everything --- where you were little, where you were and had to be."

This perception of reality, where we see ourselves within the 'field' of our own observations is a perceptual geometry we must get to in our scientific investigations, according to quantum physics (Heisenberg, Schroedinger), where we 'include the tools of our inquiry in our inquiry', ... these tools including our sensate, perceiving apparatus.

What is required for this type of perception is for us to shift from a 'material based perspective' to a 'field-based perception', ... to become the 'eyes of the field'. Mathematically, this has been described by Dr. Denis Gabor in his 1946 paper on quantum physics-compliant information theory in the Journal of International Electrical Engineering entitled 'The Theory of Communication'. This 'field-oriented' way of perceiving led to his discovery of holography for which he was awarded the Nobel prize in Physics in 1971, after the physics community scratched their heads over it for 23 years (and mainstream physics still doesn't 'get it').

What Gabor's paper says is rather simple, ... translated from the mathematics to common language; it says that in order for the information 'signal' to be quantum physics compliant, it must be 'complex'; i.e. it must have both a real and an imaginary component so that it can portray information through the 'eyes of the field' (the 'common' space-time 'container' of material things).

Complex signal is needed wherever you have to describe the 'phase relationships' of interfering 'things', ... how 'things' which are in harmonious (in terms of 'whole-and-part') motion 'relate' to one another to give rise to 'interference patterns'.

In human perception, our 'relational intelligence' (as opposed to 'rational intelligence') is what we use to perceive ourselves as being, ... 'in the center of everything, . . . where you were and had to be.' The process by which we put this view together is a 'relativistic' one does not depend on any fixed reference frame, ... wherein we 'bring a multitude of real and imaginary experiences into connection in the mind' [3], and these latter words in quotes are taken directly from Einstein's description of how we visualize relativistic curved space-time.

We take this 'relativistic perceptual power' for granted but the fact is, when we put this 'unique' 'immersed' visualization of ourselves together, it is not a 'sum-of-the-parts' type of operation, like putting a jigsaw puzzle together, but one in which our relational intelligence allows us to confluentially synthesize a combination of 'imagination' and 'real' observations so that we can conceive of ourselves as being a participating constituent within our common, evolutionary space-time 'container'

Mathematically, this combined use of the imaginary and real to develop an interference pattern is what Gabor speaks about in terms of 'complex information signal'. But we don't need to understand the mathematics to understand the process, ... we can understand it simply by observing what our mind is doing in developing a visualization such as the following one, ...again by Scott Momaday;

"It was dawn, The first light had been deep and vague in the mist, and then the sun flashed and a great yellow glare fell under the cloud. The road verged upon clusters of juniper and mesquite, and he could see the black angles and twists of wood beneath the hard white crust; there was a shine and glitter on the ice. He was running, running. He could see the horses in the fields and the crooked line of the river below. .... For a time the sun was whole beneath the cloud; then it rose into eclipse, and a dark and certain shadow came upon the land. And Abel was running. He was naked to the waste, and his arms and shoulders had been marked with burnt wood and ashes. The cold rain slanted down upon him and left his skin mottled and streaked. The road curved out and lay into the bank of rain beyond, and Abel was running. Against the winter sky and the long, light landscape of the valley at dawn, he seemed almost to be standing still, very little and alone."

What we take for granted then, is that our ability to perceive ourselves as being a participant and interpreter [4] within our environmental space-time container, our 'commons', is both 'relativity' and 'quantum physics' 'compliant'. The use of 'compliant' is kind of a backwards 'terming', of course, since our sensory abilities are 'natural' while relativity and quantum physics are simply conventions for describing natural reality.

Now, these perceptual aspects of relativity and quantum mechanics have not yet been assimilated into mainstream physics or science, ... thus mainstream science, in their investigatory approach, is still in the mode of looking out at reality as a 'resource' (as Illich refers to this 'flatspace' view) which does not include the observer in his field of observation. This mode of perception is the familiar 'perspective' of the post-enlightenment, which excludes us from what we are looking out at, and makes of us, in Donald Kunze's terms [5], 'the parasite of the visible'.

Meanwhile, mathematical physics, as Henri Poincare points out in 'Science and Hypothesis' is made possible by assuming that matter is 'homogeneous', and Poincare cautions that this is an assumption which does not hold true to nature, ... but one which allows the convenience of generalizing things in terms of mathematical equations, ... which is often a very great convenience AS LONG AS THIS CRUDE SIMPLIFICATION IS APPROPRIATE TO OUR INQUIRY. Clearly, in dealing with 'community as complex system', ... mathematical physics and the homogeity assumption is not appropriate to our inquiry, because this unique 'centeredness' of each individual by virtue of his unique space-time centered experience means that the 'variable' of individual, ... cannot be generalized as an 'independent variable' because it is innately 'attached' to its common container. Trying to explain the behavior of society in terms of the behavior of its 'individual' constituents is therefore like trying to explain the behavior of Siamese twins by the sum of the behaviors of each of the twins taken separately.

These two different ways of perceiving the world, ... as a common container which we as individuals are uniquely 'centered' within ... or as a 'resource' out there 'in its own right' which we can use (non-relativistically) to reverse-engineer our own identities on the basis of our 'behaviours', are actually complementary options which have a naturally 'nested' relationship. 'Flat-space' or 'Euclidian' perception is a special case of 'curved-space' or 'non-euclidian' perception, ... the case where the 'self-referentiality' of space-time goes to zero and 'space' becomes detached from 'time'; i.e. in 'flatspace' we define material 'things' out of the context of time, whereas in curved space-time, we see ourselves as participating in the evolutionary space-time flow.

Given that we have these two different, yet complementary ways of perceiving reality, ... where there is a natural primacy of the 'immersed' view over the 'voyeur' view, ... we must be very careful how we evolve a shared view of our society. This 'care' is the crux of the native american tradition, as implied in the imagery in 'House Made of Dawn', ... which leads to a 'sharing' of perceptions in order to get to a coevolutional, common-container oriented view of society. And since the broader the space-time phase relationships the better 'resolved' is the view (as in holography), it is important to share on a multi-generational basis, not just elders with adults with children, ... but also with the ancestors and the not-yet-born who are still in the earth, through continuing oral tradition which incorporates space-time geometries in terms of myth and ritual. What this means is that we have it in our power to to sustain this implicit immersed understanding over multiple generations by remembering the perceptions of those now departed and by imagining how what we are doing and how the world is changing will impact our grandchildren several generations forward, so that our present actions can be guided help cultivate a healthy space-time container or 'commons' for them.

This space-time phase relationship dependent view of where we're coming from and where we're going to with respect to the view of society as 'immersed' within a common container, is not just true for humans but also for animals and inorganic matter. For example, in the case of animals; "It was (and still is in England) illegal to sell off a complete hirsel [large mixed flock of sheep] from any mountain, because it takes several generations of sheep to learn their individual 'sheepwalk', and some of the older, experienced sheep must be left to guide the newcomers, who would otherwise starve. The small narrow sheep trails through heather (that can easily mislead walkers) are definite sheep roadways to and from their special grazing grounds, resting places, and dormitories."

Now there is a problem here with respect to the 'communications values' in western society, as noted by many writers, ... David Abram (The Spell of the Sensuos), Marshall McLuhan, Ivan Illich etc., in that western communications values, unlike the oral-tradition transported values of aboriginals, are based on euclidian visual perspective. Bernard Hibbitts [6] cites McLuhan in this respect;

"As our age translates itself back into the oral and auditory modes...we become sharply aware of the uncritical acceptance of visual metaphors and models by many past centuries." - - - Marshall McLuhan, The Gutenberg Galaxy

The problem is put very succinctly by Ivan Illich in terms of how we are using technology to build our visualisations of society and the world by broadcasting visual perspectives, and so constraining the view not just by the narrowness of visual perspective, ... but compounding this narrowing of perception by allowing the 'broadcasts' to be dominated by 'insiders' who have favoured access to the tools of communication. This is not an insinuation of conspiracy, but simply one of 'complex system' effects which people are often caught up in unknowingly. Citing McLuhan once again;

"Once we have surrendered our senses and nervous systems to the private manipulation of those who would try to benefit from taking a lease on our eyes and ears and nerves, we don't really have any rights left. Leasing our eyes and ears and nerves to commercial interests is like handing over the common speech to a private corporation, or like giving the earth's atmosphere to a company as a monopoly." ('Understanding Media' (1965);

Speaking on the issue of the loss of imagination in business leadership, Harriet Rubin adds further contextual depth, in an essay entitled 'The New Merchant's of Light' to McLuhan's views on our handing over of what, in Illich terms, might be referred to as 'Darkness as a Commons' (;

"Four centuries after Bacon wrote about the Merchants of Light, Marshall McLuhan, drew a valuable distinction between learning and knowing (mechanically aggregating knowledge). All work would become "paid learning," said McLuhan, which has come to pass. Leaders, then, have to distinguish themselves by knowing. Imagination is knowing: sensing, suspecting, seeing into the darkness where all new things begin, just as our world was born out of darkness. McLuhan himself said that light was the purest form of knowledge. Having no characteristics itself, it enables others to see. To be a merchant of light is to have few limits and vast advantages. It is to be able to penetrate everywhere, even darkness, and be bound by nothing."

The usurping of silence-as-a-commons by technology is well described by Illich, in the following account of his youthful remembrances;

"On the same boat on which I arrived in 1926 [on the island of Brac on the Dalmation coast], the first loudspeaker was landed on the island. Few people there had ever heard of such a thing. Up to that day, all men and women had spoken with more or less equally powerful voices. Henceforth this would change. Henceforth the access to the microphone would determine whose voice shall be magnified. Silence now ceased to be in the commons; it became a resource for which loudspeakers compete. Language itself was transformed thereby from a local commons into a national resource for communication. As enclosure by the lords increased national productivity by denying the individual peasant to keep a few sheep, so the encroachment of the loudspeaker has destroyed that silence which so far had given each man and woman his or her proper and equal voice. Unless you have access to a loudspeaker, you now are silenced." ('Silence is a Commons' by Ivan Illich).

Now that brings us, within the flow of this essay, to the suspension of discussion (only because language is 'single issue at a time' as Schopenhauer and Wittgenstein have, frustratedly, noted) on the first of two simultaneously related issues, communication/perception, (physical container-constituent dynamics will follow momentarily) which Illich brings together in his statement;

"Just as the commons of space are vulnerable, and can be destroyed by the motorization of traffic, so the commons of speech are vulnerable, and can easily be destroyed by the encroachment of modem means of communication."

Now that we have discussed communication and perception in 'new science' terms, what can we say about the physical commons vis a vis 'relativity' and 'quantum mechanics'?

Well, 'relativity' suggests that our space-time reality must be 'curved' like the finite yet unbounded surface of a sphere, and since we live on the finite, unbounded surface of a sphere, this should not be foreign to our comprehension, ... and in fact, it is not at all foreign to our 'relational' comprehension, ... but it is very foreign to our 'rational' comprehension which is based on what Poincare terms 'the most simple of space-time conventions'; i.e. 'Euclidian' space, ... a notional space which splits apart space and time and gives us a 'flatscreen' like visual perspective.

But let's look at life on the surface of a sphere in terms of a familiar 'model' which emulates the relativistic curved space-time view, ... the game of pool. Imagine that you had a pair of magnetic shoes, and a set of magnetic balls and you were playing pool around the curved outer surface of a 'pool sphere' which was about ten feet in diameter or so. In fact, this would no be so different from playing on a pool table since each of the four 'banks' of the pool table is like a 'mirror' into an imaginary or virtual table which is phase-shifted 90 degrees with respect to the 'real' table. That is, since the angle of reflection of a ball hitting the bank equals the angle of incidence, ... one could imagine that the ball, instead of deflecting, continues on in a straight line into a virtual table which is shifted by 90 degrees in 'phase' relative to the real table.

Thus. if one shoots a ball into the corner so that it goes across the corner, back down the table to the opposite corner, across that corner and back up again towards the now opposite corner, ... the ball can pass through the same point it started out from, going in the same direction. The geometry of the pool game thus gives you the same effective geometry as playing on the outer surface of a sphere, as in relativistic curved space-time.

Now the big difference in looking at things in terms of relativistic curved space-time, ... i.e. in looking at things in terms of a game of pool, ... is that each ball has a unique identity, ... not just because of the name-label painted on it ('7' or '9' etc.) but because of its 'geometric relationship' to the whole configuration which is termed by Einstein 'reciprocal disposition'. It is the same thing as the unique 'centering in the common environmental container' which we have just spoken about via the 'House Made of Dawn' citations.

Whereas in Euclidian space, all we have is 'matter' and 'void', ... in this non-euclidian curved space-time, ... our notion of space (space-time) is now one which involves a 'shape' which is unique depending on the position of the individual constituent relative to the overall containing 'ensemble'. In pool, one says that 'shape is everything', ... since the shape of the configuration, relative to where the particular ball 'sits', represents the 'topography of opportunity' for that ball. Given this unique 'shape' associated with its containing space, it may have plenty of 'openings' to fulfill its purpose, or it may be 'snookered'.

It is important to recognize that this 'shape' of space relative to the individual, ... this 'opportunity topography' relative to individual purpose, ... is a SIMULTANEOUS function of the position of the balls and does not depend on material causal dynamics. If you change by the smallest amount, the position of a single ball, ... if one ball 'occupies' a new piece of the 'commons', ... then this changes the whole 'opportunity topography' even though no material-causal action is involved.

As Einstein says [7], ... when you shift from the primacy of 'matter-over-field' to the primacy of 'field over matter', ... the old theory is not 'replaced', but is subordinated to a single feature within the new 'englobing' topography of the more comprehensive theory. Thus, shifting one's perception, in the direction of greater comprehensiveness, from the primacy of 'voyeur perspective' over 'immersed participant' to the primacy of 'immersed participant' over 'voyeur perspective' is the same shift as when the pool player gathers experience and shifts, naturally, from 'shots-over-shape' to 'shape-over-shots'. In his growth of experience, he realizes that his narrow focusing on 'shots' disturbs, in an unthoughtful and dissonance-inducing way, the 'topography of opportunity' or 'shape' of the configuration, and that if he instead, cultivates the 'topography of opportunity', the 'shots will 'fall out' naturally from this cultivation according to the unpredictable, yet consciously inducible evolution of the overall configuration. In other words, ... by orienting one's perception, inquiry and response to improving the health of the 'opportunity topography', the fulfillment of the purposes of the individual constituents can be much improved, ... but in order to do this, the individual must not 'get ahead of the evolutionary pulse or 'beat'' which is predominantly established by a diversity of factors beyond the control of the individual.

This experiential lesson which comes in playing pool is an experiential lesson in relativity and quantum physics at the same time, ... thus it applies to nature and phenomenal behaviors in general, as we understand them through modern physics in this twentieth century. Meanwhile, western society, including its mainstream science are still, by this analogy, 'poor pool players', who focus directly on 'shots' (material causal dynamics) and degrade the commons, ... the 'topography of opportunity', in the process. This degenerate 'shot-over-shape' focus is what transforms western man from 'homo symbolicus' (Joseph Campbell) to 'homo economicus' (Ivan Illich).

Now, after having split apart 'communications/perception' and physical container-constituent interplay, how do we bring them back into connective synthesis in the mind?, ...i.e. how do 'relativistic communications' come together with a 'relativistic commons'?

Imagine that we are now driving magnetic cars over the surface of a somewhat larger sphere, ... let's say one hundred metres in diameter so that we look out upon an area about the size of a football field. If we are alone on the sphere, ... no problem, ...but as the number of cars grows (as the population grows), congestion becomes a problem and when we speed over the horizon, ... just as we might speed over the crest of a hill on a two-lane road in basin-and-range country, the probability of coming upon another car coming over the 'horizon' in the other direction grows.

We now have a traffic management problem on our hands which we could manage, in a degenerate sense, by controlling the trajectory of each car and telling it in advance how it had to move, ... but if we want to leave some freedom for each of the drivers, how do we approach this traffic management challenge?

It turns out that, in this thought experiment, we run smack into the issue of 'relativity' because there is no fixed (non-relativistic) reference frame which is capable of fully describing the motion of these cars. That is to say, ... there is no way to give the driver generalized rule-based 'knowledge' of how to drive, in terms of traffic reports etc. which, when used in conjunction with his view through the windshield, will ensure the 'harmony of whole and part' (of the unity and plurality of the full ensemble). This lack of a rational solution is provable mathematically by reference to Goedel's Theorem.

Let's say that we make one of the cars the 'center' of the reference frame and with reference to this car we establish on a continuing basis, the azimuth and range to each of the other cars. This 'polar coordinate system' based monitoring of traffic, we then feed into an anti-collision computer program (a regulatory source) which anticipates collisions and sends out reports to the drivers so that they can take avoiding action.

[Whether we want to centralize or distribute the rational anti-collision computing capability makes no difference to the ultimate 'incompleteness' of rational capabilities in navigating harmoniously in a relativistic space-time frame.]

That is, it turns out that there is no RATIONAL (logical or mathematical) solution to this problem and the 'Russell's Paradox' form of Goedel's theorem would express it this way; "The driver of the car who provides reference coordinates for all those who cannot provide reference coordinates for themselves, ... cannot provide reference coordinates for himself, yet he cannot avoid doing so. (i.e. he cannot avoid doing so if he wants the system to be fully described, or, in this case, if he wants to avoid a collision).

Now I said we could not solve this traffic management problem with a computer program, but how could we achieve it in practice? What we would do would be to put a monitor in each car which displayed the traffic patterns over the surface of the whole sphere (e.g. by displaying two hemispheric projections or etc.), ... using a reference frame such as azimuth and range from one of the cars. The reference car would then broadcast the positions of all cars relative to itself and these would be displayed on the monitors in each car. But this time, by means of a coding system, each car would have have a unique 'identity' and the identity of the particular car the driver was in would be highlighted on the monitor screen saying 'this is you here', .. and the driver would then be able to steer his car so as to avoid collision with the other cars.

For example, if he was racing ahead over a horizon, he would look at his symbol on the monitor and see if there were any cars coming towards him over the horizon which he could not yet see. In this case, he has two nested views of the world, ... the more comprehensive, 'relativistic' view by which he can see himself as a participating constituent within the common containing space, ... and the flatspace view of the 'world out there' which shows up like on his windshield as if he were at the cinema. In fact, as in the mathematics of quantum duality, ... the 'immersed view' on his monitor 'contains' the flatspace view (the 'wave interference' view contains the 'particulate material-causal view). And he could theoretically navigate safely without ever having to look out through his windshield. Of course, what makes this approach work is that all 'players' in the game 'have a voice' and that he is hearing all their voices (they are all registering on his monitor) and bringing them into connection in his mind, so that he will not come into collision with 'invisible' others who are moving about in the commons.

[That this 'giving of voice' should not be limited to homo sapiens is the message in native american stories such as 'And Who Shall Speak for Wolf' (Paula Underwood) or collections of 'poetic thought-stories' as 'And Who Shall be the Sun' (David Wagoner)]

In this above schema, the driver becomes a 'participating interpreter' in the 'commons environment' and rather than driving by a set of rules and commands which he applies relative to the flatspace vision through his windshield, he uses, instead, the 'immersed view' which is RELATIVE TO THE 'COMMONS' OF SPACE-TIME.

This simple thought experiment can be compared to the following excerpt from a dialogue between Jerry Brown, Carl Mitchum and Ivan Illich (March 22, 1996), a transcription of which is at

* * *

. . .

Mitchum: I think that when Ivan talks about the importance of artifacts, or objects, and how they influence the way we experience ourselves and relate to others that's the thing in Ivan's work that has been continually most challenging to me because as I've tried to reflect and think about the world in which I live, a world in which a hundred years ago, even fifty years ago, when I was growing up there was a predominance of natural objects around. Rocks, trees, animals, chickens. Even in the city there was a predominance of natural vegetation and that's all changed. We live in a world in which the artifice of our environment overwhelms the natural foundation or context of the past. As Ivan has pointed out, that artifice is undergoing a fundamental transformation in what he referred to as context sensitive help screens. We spend more time now in front of a screen of one kind or another than we used to spend face to face with other humans beings--either the screen of the television set, the screen of the computer, the screen of my little digital clock right here in front of me.

Brown: And then even the city that we see is some kind of a screen with the billboards, the buildings. It's a mirror of the technological change and manipulation of nature. We're seeing this--what is this thing that we're seeing?

Mitchum: And we begin to experience the world, like when we're driving in a car the windshield becomes a kind of screen. The world becomes flattened to that screen. What was the term that Barbara used, Ivan?

Illich: The windshield gaze, but I found at the Penn State Library a report on the Texas meeting of windshield technicians. Last year we had three volumes with some 870 contributions about how to engineer the windshield view which always makes you be where you're not yet.

Brown: So you're looking ahead.

Illich: You're looking at what lies ahead, where we are not yet, which of course makes us with terrible feeling like when you are with somebody and he always wants to know where we will be next week, where we will be the next hour, instead of being right here. It makes facing each other increasingly more difficult because people can't detach themselves anymore from the idea that what we look at has been manipulated and programmed by somebody.

Brown: But people have always been subject to domination in one form or another in society. Now this is a different form of this kind of control.

Mitchum: It's not domination. It's transformation.

* * *

It's definitely 'transformation' and it's a 'Euclidian' transformation which, while already constrained by comparison to our natural, relativistic curved space-time immersed perception, is further warped by the effect in the citation from Illich above; ". . . so the encroachment of the loudspeaker has destroyed that silence which so far had given each man and woman his or her proper and equal voice. Unless you have access to a loudspeaker, you now are silenced." And the result is that, by being invisible, you will be 'driven over'.

One might indeed ask, as Illich does elsewhere, how many children today have access to the silence they need to build a sense of who they are, ... of being '... at the center of things, where 'we were meant to be', as the Kiowa child Abel had access to in 'House Made of Dawn', and the access to register their being and becoming in the commons.

Beyond the question of distorted 'loudspeaker access' which warps both the child's perception of the 'containing environment' (commons) and his access to 'register' on the commons, ... is the follow-on question of 'loudspeaker access' relative to the discussion of these very topics. Not having met messieurs Hibbitts and Gabbard, ... I am not aware of their views on loudspeaker access for such ideas as presented herein, ... but since David Gabbard writes on the topic of 'intellectual exclusion' (I have not yet read the book), ... my suspicion is that he will be familiar with the problem that those of us who would like to discuss the type of issue in this essay, ... that we have little 'loudspeaker access', since the content matter speaks to the basically dysfunctional nature of the modern media through which we must request our 'loudspeaker access'.

This brings to a temporary close, my open letter to Ivan Illich, ... and Ivan, .. if you chance to read this, ... I hope you enjoy it, ... as I am certainly enjoying reading your very congruent notions which, in your case, are grounded in history as perceived through a rich, multilingual life-experience.


ted lumley

[1] Excerpt from Ivan Illich's speech 'Silence is a Commons' at a forum on Science and Man in Japan in 1980?, the theme of which was "The Computer-Managed Society. The URL of the full talk is;

Silence is a Commons by Ivan Illich

Computers are doing to communication

what fences did to pastures

and cars did to streets.

by Ivan Illich

Minna-san, gladly I accept the honour of addressing this forum on Science and Man. The theme that Mr. Tsuru proposes, "The Computer-Managed Society," sounds an alarm. Clearly you foresee that machines which ape people are tending to encroach on . . .


This man who speaks to you was born 55 years ago in Vienna. One month after his birth he was put on a train, and then on a ship and brought to the Island of Brac. Here, in a village on the Dalmatian coast, his grandfather wanted to bless him. My grandfather lived in the house in which his family had lived since the time when Muromachi ruled in Kyoto. Since then on the Dalmatian Coast many rulers had come and gone - the doges of Venice, the sultans of Istanbul, the corsairs of Almissa, the emperors of Austria, and the kings of Yugoslavia. But these many changes in the uniform and language of the governors had changed little in daily life during these 500 years. The very same olive-wood rafters still supported the roof of my grandfather's house. Water was still gathered from the same stone slabs on the roof. The wine was pressed in the same vats, the fish caught from the same kind of boat, and the oil came from trees planted when Edo was in its youth.

My grandfather had received news twice a month. The news now arrived by steamer in three days; and formerly, by sloop, it had taken five days to arrive. When I was born, for the people who lived off the main routes, history still flowed slowly, imperceptibly. Most of the environment was still in the commons. People lived in houses they had built; moved on streets that had been trampled by the feet of their animals; were autonomous in the procurement and disposal of their water; could depend on their own voices when they wanted to speak up. All this changed with my arrival in Brac.

On the same boat on which I arrived in 1926, the first loudspeaker was landed on the island. Few people there had ever heard of such a thing. Up to that day, all men and women had spoken with more or less equally powerful voices. Henceforth this would change. Henceforth the access to the microphone would determine whose voice shall be magnified. Silence now ceased to be in the commons; it became a resource for which loudspeakers compete. Language itself was transformed thereby from a local commons into a national resource for communication. As enclosure by the lords increased national productivity by denying the individual peasant to keep a few sheep, so the encroachment of the loudspeaker has destroyed that silence which so far had given each man and woman his or her proper and equal voice. Unless you have access to a loudspeaker, you now are silenced.

I hope that the parallel now becomes clear. Just as the commons of space are vulnerable, and can be destroyed by the motorization of traffic, so the commons of speech are vulnerable, and can easily be destroyed by the encroachment of modem means of communication.

. . .

* * *

[2] Gabbard, David, 'Silencing Ivan Illich : a Foucauldian analysis of intellectual exclusion',San Francisco : Austin & Winfield, 1993.


Foundations Faculty: - - -Dr. David Gabbard, Ed.D., joined the School of Education at East Carolina University in 1995. He teaches graduate and undergraduate courses in the historical, philosophical, and social foundations of education. His current research agenda focuses on educational policy in the era of globalism, which enables him to incorporate his concern for social and environmental justice into his analyses of power.

[3] Einstein notes that in the finite curved space-time view of relativity, a SIMULTANEOUS 'reciprocal disposition' geometry emerges. This geometry governs the opportunities for which members of a material ensemble can engage in causal-dynamics with others; i.e. 'reciprocal disposition' sets up an 'opportunity landscape' wherein causal dynamics are a subsidiary feature. Einstein, Albert, 'Geometry and Experience', 1921 Presentation to the Prussian Academy of Sciences.

"Can we picture to ourselves a three-dimensional universe which is finite, yet unbounded?

The usual answer to this question is ``No,'' but that is not the right answer. The purpose of the following remarks is to show that the answer should be ``Yes.'' I want to show that without any extraordinary difficulty we can illustrate the theory of a finite universe by means of a mental image to which, with some practice, we shall soon grow accustomed.

First of all, an observation of epistemological nature. A geometrical-physical theory as such is incapable of being directly pictured, being merely a system of concepts. But these concepts serve the purpose of bringing a multiplicity of real or imaginary sensory experiences into connection in the mind. To 'visualise' a theory, or bring it home to one's mind, therefore means to give a representation to that abundance of experiences for which the theory supplies the schematic arrangement. In the present case we have to ask ourselves how we can represent that relation of solid bodies with respect to their reciprocal disposition (contact) which corresponds to the theory of a finite universe. There is really nothing new in what I have to say about this; but innumerable questions addressed to me prove that the requirements of those who thirst for knowledge of these matters have not yet been completely satisfied. So, will the initiated please pardon me, if part of what I shall bring forward has long been known? "

. . . "In this way, by using as stepping-stones the practice in thinking and visualisation which Euclidean geometry gives us, we have acquired a mental picture of spherical geometry. We may without difficulty impart more depth and vigour to these ideas by carrying out special imaginary constructions. Nor would it be difficult to represent the case of what is called elliptical geometry in an analogous manner. My only aim today has been to show that the human faculty of visualisation is by no means bound to capitulate to non-Euclidean geometry."

[4] Lumley, Ted, 'Comments on 'Chaos, Emergence, and Life' (Letter to the Editor), Complexity (Santa Fe Institute), Vol 4, No. 5, May/June, 1999

"The manifest 'relativistic' nature of subjectivity and objectivity in complex social systems has been described by Bergson in terms of there being "two profoundly different ways of knowing a thing. ... the first one implies that we move round the object; the second that we enter into it... ", ... by Varela in terms of fractal circularity, ... "Tradition would have it that experience is either a subjective or an objective affair, that the world is there and that we either see it as it is or we see it through our subjectivity. However, when we follow the guiding thread of circularity and its natural history, we may look at that quandary from a different perspective; that of PARTICIPATION and INTERPRETATION where the subject and the object are inseparably meshed.", and by Erwin Schroedinger in terms of there being "... an unavoidable and uncontrollable impression from the side of the SUBJECT onto the OBJECT ... "What remains doubtful to me is only just this: whether it is adequate to term one of the two physically interacting systems the 'subject'. ... FOR THE OBSERVING MIND IS NOT A PHYSICAL SYSTEM, IT CANNOT INTERACT WITH ANY PHYSICAL SYSTEM. And it might be better to reserve the term 'subject' for the observing mind."

[5] Kunze, Donald, 'Representation'

[6] Hibbitts, Bernard J., Associate Dean of Communications and Information Technology, Professor of Law, University of Pittsburgh School of Law, 'Making Sense of Metaphors: Visuality, Aurality and the Reconfiguration of American Legal Discourse'

[7] Einstein, Albert and Infeld, Leopold, 'The Evolution of Physics: from early concepts to Relativity and Quanta', 1938;

"To use a comparison, we could say that creating a new theory is not like destroying an old barn and erecting a skyscraper in its place. It is rather like climbing a mountain, gaining new and wider views, discovering unexpected connections between our starting point and its rich environment. But the point from which we started out still exists and can be seen, although it appears smaller and forms a tiny part of our broad view gained by the mastery of the obstacles of our adventurous way up."

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