Music Property

The topic of intellectual property gets me every time. As much as I am opposed to the notion of property in general, intellectual property is a complete farce. Along with Rick Beato and David Bennet, Adam Neely is one of my three main music theory staples on YouTube. Here, he goes into more depth than I would have expected, but it’s worth hearing the perspective of a musician. I won’t break down his video fully because it speaks for itself. Instead, I’ll share my thoughts and pull out highlights.

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November 8th, 1548 is the day in history that the French King Henri II opened the door to intellectual property, an obvious giveaway to a benefactor, creating a publishing monopoly. He turned community cultural knowledge into property, turning the benefit of many into the benefit of one. This is the crux of capitalism—favouring the one over the many.

Before continuing, it seems that there is a schism in the legal system itself. In fact, it is very fractured even within this small domain. At the same time it wants to be precise and analytical, it’s dealing with a subject that cannot be analysed as such. To add insult to injury, it exempts musicians and musical experts and requires music consumers to decide the outcomes of trial cases. To be fair, even relying on so-called experts would lead to mixed results anyway. They might as well just roll the dice. This is what happens when right hemisphere art enters a left hemisphere world.

nature + work = ownership

Adam establishes a grounding on the theory of property rights à la John Locke’s ‘sweat of the brow’ concept, wherein nature plus work equates to ownership. He then points out how intellectual property has even shakier ground to stand on. It relies rather on notions of originality and creativity, two concepts that have no intersection with the left-hemisphere heavy legal and jurisprudence systems. Moreover, like pornography, these things cannot be defined. They need to be divined. Divination is no place for lay jurists. It’s a recipe for disaster. The entire English court system is rife with problems, but the left-brainers feel these are just trivial devils in the details. I beg to differ, yet I am voiceless because I won’t participate within their frame.

Adam also points out how out of date the law is insomuch as it doesn’t recognise much of the music produced in the past few decades. Moreover, the music theory it’s founded on is the Romantic Era, white European music that often ties transcriptionists in knots. If the absence of certain words to emote experience is a challenge, it’s even worse for musical notation.

In any case, this is a hot-button issue for me on many levels, and I needed to vent in solidarity. This video is worth the 30 minutes run time. His ham sandwich analogy in part V works perfectly. It’s broken into logical sections:

  1. 0:00 Intro
  2. 1:45 Part I – Rhythm-A-Ning
  3. 7:07 Part II – Property Rights
  4. 11:25 Part III – Copyright
  5. 15:58 Part IV – Musical Constraints
  6. 22:18. Part V – HAM SANDWICH TIME
  7. 26:51 Part VI – Solving copyright….maybe?

Give it a listen. Cheers.

The cover image for this is of Thelonius Monk (circa 1947), who features heavily in the video.

Tone Deaf

Real music comes from the heart. Rather, it’s a right-hemisphere affair. Beethoven was such a true musical genius, he had to express himself even when you couldn’t hear himself.

Above, Rick Reato gives us a little appreciation for Daniel Barenboim’s rendition of Beethoven’s Op.110 Piano Sonata. I’ve included the entire opus below. The entire 31st sonata can also be found on YouTube.

To be a musician and continue to write when deaf is the same as continuing to write as a deaf author. Musical notation is just symbols as words are symbols in a different medium. The inspiration happens in the right hemisphere and the left hemisphere translates them into symbols.

Musically speaking, I am more left-hemisphere. I have ideas that spawn from the right, but without an instrument, I couldn’t articulate them. Not even relatively. Many of my own compositions are left-hemisphere fare. I either take a mathcore approach or perhaps something along the lines of Schoenberg, where I want to convey a pattern—an example that comes to mind is Tool’s Lateralis, wherein the lyrical melody is based on the Fibonacci sequence—, or I let the instrument do the talking and transcribe the music after the fact. I know just about enough music theory to be dangerous, but not enough to be self-sufficient. This is why I always tended to collaborate with music directors or someone competent in this along the way.

My point is that the ears are not necessary to produce music—at least after you’ve figured out how to articulate it. For the record, there are blind artists and sculptors.


We hear about professionalism all the time–being professional, acting professional–, but we may not know what it means or its origin. Many people might describe it as an attitude or disposition, perhaps a way of dress. “She wasn’t acting very professional; he wasn’t dressed professionally,” are common utterances. These are subjective statements, so let’s see if we can determine where this term came from and maybe how it’s used in the contemporary world. 

The root word, profess, derives from a Latin root that means ‘to take a vow’. More specifically, it means ‘to declare publicly’ or ‘to declare openly’. It’s a religious term akin to fealty.

From profess, we get to profession, which in Old French means ‘vows taken upon entering a religious order’. This was extended from theology to include law and medicine and then sciences and education. Appropriately enough, prostitution was added to the mix. By this time, the meaning had evolved to ‘occupation one professes to be skilled in or a calling’. This is where we jump to professionalism, which is where we are today. The bar is a bit lower in sports and entertainment, or perhaps the skilled portion is assumed. In these domains, it is meant to separate paid from unpaid (read: amateur) participants. For the record, an amateur is a lover of something. These people are in it for passion rather than money. The cynic in me says that some amateurs do it for the love of the game and the hope for a lottery payout, shooting for the big leagues.

The question remains how do we go from being skilled in something to the appearance of being skilled. In my experience, some people would prefer to work with a minimally-skilled person who looks the part than a skilled person who doesn’t. Certainly, one might argue that they prefer both, but we can’t always get what we want.

Metaphor and Simile

Chapter 10 of The Master and His Emissary is titled The Enlightement, which is to say another chapter centred around a religious theme and paradigm shift. Only it isn’t. This chapter is focused mainly on metaphor and poetry, and that’s where I want to comment.

If you haven’t happened to have read the prior posts on The Master and His Emissary or The Matter with Things, I’ll summarise the functions of the left and right cerebral hemispheres. If you have, feel free to skip this paragraph. The left hemisphere is closing and convergent whilst the right hemisphere is expansive and divergent, The left is about naming, categorising, and analysing; the right is about experiencing the world as presenced. Where the right hemisphere is about presentation, the left is about re-representation. A challenge occurs when the re-presented view of the left supersedes the experiential view of the right. This is what occurs in a left-dominant brain.

Metaphor is a function of the right hemisphere. The left hemisphere considers metaphor to be a figure of speech. It trivialises it in one of two ways. Either, it reduces it to components that map to some other concepts—ignoring the parts that can’t be mapped—, or it assumes the metaphor to be whimsy and therefore without inherent value.

But metaphor is more than a figure of speech. It’s a figure of thought that can’t be reduced. Metaphor is like art or music and other residences of the right hemisphere. These things must be taken as whole entities and be considered in the manner of Gestalt.

Being analytical and representative, the left hemisphere can be educated. I could be wrong, but I don’t see how the right can be strengthened. It seems that its weakness is interference from the left, but the left is constantly wintering on that it’s always right, and all you need is to be more analytical. If you don’t have empathy, you can’t learn it. If you don’t understand metaphor, you’re pretty much out of luck. The same goes for anything in the experiential right hemisphere.

Might I be wrong? Sure, I’m no neuroscientist, but short of some external event, like a stroke, brain lesions, head trauma, or some such. I don’t see the vector. In a way, it’s like the advancement of technology. It’s difficult to stem the tide and reverse it. This is the challenge. In the West, we’ve been on a path to rationality and reason—left hemisphere fare—, which has shifted it further and further left. We just need more systems and processes.

Why the title, “Metaphor and Simile?” Metaphor resides in the province of the right hemisphere. Simile resides in the left. I remember listening to Joseph Campbell in the 1980s discussing the power of metaphor. Where metaphor is a mode of thought, simile is just a figure of speech. And it’s an analytical analogue. Love is like a rose. There’s a simple mapping. Love is a rose is more robust. John Lennon sings these lines in Mind Games.

Love is the answer and you know that for sure
Love is a flower you got to let it grow

Love is a flower. You got to let it grow. Grammatical structure aside—only an intractable problem for left-brainers—, this is a relatively simple metaphor, flowers grow and bloom; love grows and blooms. 

Follows are another few famous metaphors. These may feel more accessible than some others.

“All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and their entrances.”

William Shakespeare

“All our words are but crumbs that fall down from the feast of the mind.”

Khalil Gibran

This one is particularly interesting as it suggests how diminutive words are relative to that of the mind—mere crumbs.

“And your very flesh shall be a great poem.”

Walt Whitman

How shall your flesh be a great poem? No like a great poem, but to be a great poem.

I’ve talked about Robert Frost’s The Road Less Travelled previously.

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

This poem is replete with metaphors.

The road itself is a metaphor for life, and the forks are the choices we make. Interpreted from a post-Modern perspective, and as Frost said himself, the trick is that it doesn’t matter which path is taken. In any case, irrespective of which paths you take, it will still make all the difference.

I’ve digressed.

McGilchrist says societies and people are moving too far into a left-dominant worldview, which only reinforces and accelerates this worldview. I don’t know how reversible it is. It’s swung both ways before, but that was prior to Scientism. This and hubris are not a great combination. In the end, the probability of teaching someone metaphor is on par with teaching someone to appreciate a work of art or a piece of music.

McGilchrist says we need to regain this capacity for metaphor—and empathy and so on—, but this requires (in my mind) a paradigm shift. I don’t see it happening at an individual level. There would need to be a cultural shift, and that is unforeseeable from here at the moment.

Here’s the challenge as I see it. In saying that we need to regain the ability to understand metaphor without assuming it can be deconstructed without a loss of meaning, he doesn’t provide a path—at least not yet. I’ve got two chapters remaining, so perhaps he’ll offer some guidance or conceptual framework in one of them. Otherwise, the future looks bleak. Of course, humans are adaptable. Evolution works that way, but you can also veer down an evolutionary dead end without knowing your journey has no viable future until you get there. And that will make all the difference. 

Education is an admirable thing: Oscar Wilde

“Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught.”

— Oscar Wilde

I’ve loved this quote since I first read it however many years ago. I used to have a plaque with this inscription hung on a wall. This quote came back to mind when I was reading more McGilchrist. I expect to post the summary of chapter nine of The Matter with Things by the end of the weekend. I’ve read it and am now extracting a summary. But I digress.

“Education is an admirable thing.” This is a testament to the left cerebral hemisphere, although it provides fodder for the right as well. Instruction is about categorisation and structure; language and rote; stuffing out brains with facts and trivia.

But “nothing worth knowing can be taught.” This is a right hemisphere conceit. It can’t be taught because it must be experienced.

One can’t teach allegory.

One can’t teach allusion.

One can’t teach metaphor.

One can teach simile.

One can teach poetry, but one can’t teach a poem.

One can teach art, but one can’t teach a work of art.

One can teach music, but one can’t teach the qualia of music. That’s a minor key. You’re supposed to feel sad there. That’s a major seventh chord, doesn’t that uplift you? And what about this raga?

What can’t be taught lay in the realm of intuition and feeling. Emotional response.

“Nothing worth knowing can be taught.”

Bang the Jrum Slowly!

I was riding a chrain down a shchreet banging a jrum and eating shrimp.

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If you keep up with English language morphology—and let’s be honest here, who doesn’t?—the opening sentence is a phonetic respelling of ‘I was riding a train down a street banging a drum and eating shrimp’ but for a new generation. Dr Geoff Lindsey created a video, which includes material drawn from his book English After RP: Standard British Pronunciation Today. But don’t be fooled by the RP reference. There is plenty of relevance to the shifts in General American English if ever there was such a thing.

As noted previously, the principle of least effort tends to be a guiding factor for language morphology, and we’re witnessing the conservation of effort driving this shift.

Technically, what’s happening is that, traditionally, we performed some lingual gymnastics gliding (or not) from an alveolar consonant to a post-alveolar shift. The new fashion is to shift the entire structure into a post-alveolar space. Lazy wins. Of course, I’ll expect to hear from vocal prescriptivists, the traditional grammar Nazis, who will insist, “If I see a T in train, I’m going to pronounce it like a T, dammit. No ch-ch as in choo-choo for this ‘adult’.”

I’ve summarised the italicised words in a table.


Traditionally—which is to say the language spoken by older native English speakers—, the consonant clusters are pronounced pretty much as written. One would pronounce the T or TR in train; the DR in drum; and the STR in street. Shrimp had already made the shift, so we can think of it as a trendsetter.

Notice how the T in train shifts to a CH sound (/t͡ʃ/) or how the D in drum shifts to a J sound (/dʒ/). As the video shows, Michelle Obama is a bit ahead of the change curve, as she’s already shifted the S in street to a post-alveolar-friendly Sh Ch (/ʃt͡ʃ/), replacing the ST with a Sh-Ch combination, the S becoming Sh and the T becoming Ch. This trend has not caught on more broadly, but it seems it may be inevitable and allows us to keep this in a nice and tidy box.

In the video, there is a clip recounting a story of a seven-year-old just learning to write (and evidently into Star Wars) who wrote the following.

IMAGE: Watch out for the stormtrooper as written by a 7-year-old native English speaker

Notice that he is trying to capture a quasi-phonetic rendition of the word TROOPER that he hears (correctly) as CHROOPER. Again, this might cause grammar Nazis to go on a rampage. I don’t expect any spelling back-formation reformation to follow suit. We’ll just add this to the “English is not a phonetic language and has a lot of spelling exceptions” adage.

If you are a native English speaker, is this something you notice? If you speak English as a second language, have you noticed this trend? Which camp are you in? Old school or new school?

English Weak Forms

I have been so utterly distracted by YouTube this weekend. In this case, it’s a video by Dr Geoff Lindsey explaining weak forms of the English language.

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Much of my work life involves speaking either with non-native English speakers or speakers of English who may be quite well versed in English and yet have a certain rigidity in their execution. Along with local accents, this makes the language feel unnatural to a native speaker.

A common challenge is the adoption of weak forms. Following the principle of least effort, language speakers are lazy. In fact, one may extrapolate this morphology to predict where language may drift next. One example that comes to mind is the American habit of uttering flap Ts over ‘real’ Ts that require slightly more effort to produce.

In English, one says the words, butter, water, doctor, and sister as /ˈbʌtə/,/ˈwɔtəɹ/, /ˈdɒktə/, /ˈsɪstə(ɹ)/ whilst in American English, using the flap T sound, one says (respelt in parentheses) /ˈbʌdəɹ/ (buhd-er), / ˈwɔdəɹ/ (wahd-er), /ˈdɔkdɚ/ (dok-der), /ˈsɪsdər/ (sis-der). Whether the pronunciation of the R is rhotic or non-rhotic is another issue altogether.

But this is about something a bit different. It’s about weak forms, particularly vowels that can be weakened from the strong vowel sound to the shwa (/ə/) sound. It turns out that we do this a lot. In fact, more often than not. Rather than a rehash from the video, I’ve cued it to where Tom Hiddleston recites Lord Byron’s So We’ll Go No More a Roving.

So, we'll go no more a roving
   So late into the night,
Though the heart be still as loving,
   And the moon be still as bright.

For the sword outwears its sheath,
   And the soul wears out the breast,
And the heart must pause to breathe,
   And love itself have rest.

Though the night was made for loving,
   And the day returns too soon,
Yet we'll go no more a roving
   By the light of the moon.

As it happens, much of the difference between native English and English as spoken by non-natives is the hyper-diction heard by choosing the strong rather than the weak form of certain words.

The Matter with Things: Chapter Eight Summary: Creativity

Index and table of contents


Creativity is the eighth chapter of Iain McGilchrist’s The Matter with Things.

In the last chapters, the topics were about different intelligences. As we’ll see, intelligence is one of the factors for creativity, but there are more. Let’s crack on.

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Creativity is an elusive phenomenon that cannot only not be summoned at will, the very act of trying inhibits it. Unlike left-hemisphere-oriented intelligence, there are no simple tests for creativity because of their very nature. Assessing the left-hemisphere is relatively simple because it is systematic and any tests have definite known solutions—whether calculating some figure, solving a puzzle, choosing analogies, or recounting some trivia. There is no such test for creating something not yet created, but there are some proxies that most people categorically fail.

Psychologist, Colin Martindale, had this to say about the personal characteristics of creativity

Creativity is a rare trait. This is presumably because it requires the simultaneous presence of a number of traits (e.g., intelligence, perseverance, unconventionality, the ability to think in a particular manner). None of these traits is especially rare. What is quite uncommon is to find them all present in the same person.”

— Colin Martindale

Whereas the left hemisphere is analytical, the right hemisphere (hence creativity) is a Gestalt. When given a difficult time-boxed challenge, the left hemisphere dominant individual who does not arrive at the expected response on time will commit to and defend an incorrect response (think escalating commitment), and the right hemisphere dominant individual will simply not commit to a response under the thought that there were still options to be explored.

Effectively, creativity can be broken down into three phases: preparation, incubation, and illumination.

In essence, for the creative individual, the best we can do is to leave well enough alone. Anything but space and permission will kill the creative impulse.

Preparation is simply the accumulation of a particular domain of knowledge. For an artist, it will be to understand, perhaps, colour, shape, texture, form, shadow, media, or so forth; for a musician, it might be to understand melody, harmony, tempo, timbre, dynamics, and so on; for a mathematician, it might be basic arithmetic, theories, proofs, and on and on. It’s also important to note that accumulated information in multiple domains also forms a foundation leveraged by many polymaths.

Incubation is simply waiting for something to grow in the prepared garden. Incubation is an unconscious activity and cannot be controlled or accessed by the conscious mind. In fact, conscious effort and introspection will serve only to impede cultivation. Digging up planted seeds to see how they are growing will only hinder the process.

Illumination is the final phase. Again, this is unwilled. Prepared and incubated flowers bloom. Of course, this is an imperfect metaphor because the ground must already have been fertile at the start. Tossing seeds on fallow ground still yields no blooms no matter how carefully attended.

In essence, for the creative individual, the best we can do is to leave well enough alone. Anything but space and permission will kill the creative impulse.

McGilchrist discusses generative, permissive, and translational requirements.

“The key element in generation seems to be the ability to think of many diverse ideas quickly, demanding breadth, flexibility and analogical thinking – seeing likeness within apparent dissimilarity.” This can be summed up as divergent thinking. This is the openness afforded by the right hemisphere as opposed to the convergent behaviour of the left. As it happens, this is where artificial intelligence falls flat as it is predicated on convergent activity.

The right hemisphere Gestalten surveys the environment and notes otherwise unperceived parallels. It is not a systematic approach. In the words of Oscar Wilde, “Education is an admirable thing. But it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught.”

“Talent hits a target no-one else can hit;
genius hits a target no-one else can see”.

Arthur Schopenhauer

Schopenhauer sums it up nicely, “Talent hits a target no-one else can hit; genius hits a target no-one else can see”.

Citing Isaac Asimov writing about Darwin’s insight, he notes that before Darwin, many people had read Malthus and studied species, but they lacked the creative spark that Darwin had.

Steve Jobs noted that

“Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things … A lot of people in our industry haven’t had very diverse experiences. So, they don’t have enough dots to connect, and they end up with very linear solutions without a broad perspective on the problem. The broader one’s understanding of the human experience, the better design we will have.”

— Steve Jobs

This is a failing of the business world and of specialisation more generally. McGilchrist writes, “Linear approaches and analytic thinking, characteristic of the left hemisphere, are fine in the right context, and may at a subsequent phase take part in creativity by narrowing things down and eliminating some of them, but on their own will not achieve creativity”.

There is a direct link between intelligence and creativity. Ego crushes creativity.

There is a direct link between intelligence and creativity. Ego crushes creativity.

He again cites Asimov:

“My feeling is that as far as creativity is concerned, isolation is required. The creative person is, in any case, continually working at it. His mind is shuffling his information at all times, even when he is not conscious of it …The presence of others can only inhibit this process, since creation is embarrassing.”

— Isaac Asimov

Some people excel at maths, but many are systematic and procedural left-hemisphere types; they apply logic and reason—insert tab A into slot B. The famous mathematicians understand the procedures, but their ideas come from intuition rather than reason. The left hemisphere doesn’t recognise this as a viable vector, and therein lies the rub. “Math is not about following directions; it’s about making new directions,” writes mathematician Paul Lockhart.

This is why we hear so many accounts of aha moments, something coming to one person in a dream or Isaac Newton’s falling apple anecdote.

“These thoughts did not come in any verbal formulation. I very rarely think in words at all.
A thought comes, and I may try to express it in words afterward”

Albert Einstein

Einstein told Max Wertheimer, founder of Gestalt psychology, “These thoughts did not come in any verbal formulation. I very rarely think in words at all. A thought comes, and I may try to express it in words afterward”. Words are a left-hemisphere phenomenon.

Many accomplished musicians hear a piece whole. All they need to do is to compose it to staff paper or perform it. We hear this regularly: “I was driving from here to there and it just came to me. All I needed to do is to remember it long enough to get it down.”

I found McGilchrist’s inclusion of hemispheric damage quite interesting. He provides many examples of artists, composers, and poets, but I’ll only summarise them. For musicians and Artists with right hemisphere damage, those who even retained the urge to create did so at a lower quality level. However, those with left hemisphere damage operated at the same level and oftentimes at a higher level, without the inhibition and censorship of the left hemisphere.

It’s important to note that most people rely on both hemispheres. When I write left hemisphere dominant, I mean to say that either the right hemisphere simply underperforms or that the left hemisphere does not cede control back to the right hemisphere. Generally speaking, both hemispheres experience the world, and a strong right hemisphere will act as air traffic controller, or perhaps have the right of first refusal, but this is a loose metaphor because sometimes the left hemisphere just fields an experience and takes its best guess how to handle it even if it should have been fielded by the right hemisphere and even if the left hemisphere provides the wrong answer. The left hemisphere is the hemisphere of the ego and identity, so it is somewhat relentless and defensive even when it is wrong.

As a side note, I trust that political identity and escalating commitment are left-hemisphere activities and why modern Western politics feel so intractable.

After a strong argument for right hemisphere dominance and divergent thinking being hallmarks of creativity, he offers some counter-evidence and counters some of it.

A paper by Arne Dietrich and Riam Kanso co-authored a book citing instances of convergent thought processes that led to something innovative or creative. At the onset, McGilchrist calls them out for conflating problem-solving with creativity. In the end, the left hemisphere does play a role. He calls this the translational phase. Essentially, this is Mozart having heard his symphony and needing to put his thoughts to paper. Or the poet.

He goes off on a bit of a tangent noting how words pale concepts, and divergence and convergence are no exception. This fits in with my own insufficiency of language theory, but McGilchrist and I have different rationales for our arguments, so I’ll not side-track this summary.

He cites some statistics correlating creativity with mental health disorders and incidences of suicide. This will set the reader up perfectly for the next chapter about schizophrenia and autism.


In summary, creativity has got me riled up more than in the previous chapters. This is partially due to how it comports with my own observations. I have always felt that humans are not very creative or innovative despite protests to the contrary. In fact, I’ve often commented when I’ve heard people say something like “artificial intelligence will never create the next…” Fill in the blank: Mozart, Picasso, Michelangelo, Nabokov, Wordsworth. Or Einstein. Of course, neither will a human be the next of these.

All these people are right cerebral hemisphere dominant. AI operates systematically, in the manner of the left hemisphere. None of these people built up systematically. Instead, their ideas were wholly formed, and their creations were reductive rather than additive. Famously, Michelangelo was to have said, “The sculpture is already complete within the marble block before I start my work. It is already there. I just have to chisel away the superfluous material.” He sees the solution first and then builds towards it.

In my professional life, I have been a strategist as a management consultant as well as a business analyst. In each case, I could quickly assess a situation and then spend weeks or months defending my intuition with words, diagrams, and numbers.

As a business analyst, I would offer a recommendation, and this would need to come with an estimate to deliver the recommendation. This figure would come to me in a matter of minutes. Then, per protocol, I would need to enter micro-level details into a pricing model so it could calculate from the ground up. First, this was time-consuming. Second, this would be circulated for review where different people would (almost invariably) reduce the number of hours estimated, typically due to pressure to reduce the cost. Ultimately, a number would be output and tendered to the client or the person footing the bill. Again (almost invariably), the number initially intuited was more accurate and reflective of what was ultimately invoiced. Unfortunately, business is a left-hemisphere endeavour, and that will be its Achilles’ heel and denouement.

This wraps up the chapter on Creativity. The next chapter is “what schizophrenia and autism can tell us”, and is the end of part one of The Matter with Things.

What are your thoughts and experiences with creativity now that you’ve heard McGilchrist’s take?

Leave comments below.

Moral Binaries

At heart, I’m an Emotivist. Following Ayer, I don’t believe that morals (and their brethren ethics) convey more than, “I like this, and I don’t like that.” Stevenson’s Prescriptivist extension makes sense, too: “I think this is good, and so should you.”

It seems that Hilary Lawson and I share this perspective. He makes the further point, one I’ll surely adopt, that morals and ethics are effectively ‘designed’ to shut down argument and discussion. It’s akin to the parent telling the kid, “Because I said so”—or “because it’s the right thing to do”.

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I’m a moral non-cognitivist, but people have difficulty enough grasping relativism and subjectivism, so I’m only going to reference moral relativism here. As a moral relativist, right and wrong were both subjective and contextual. One person’s freedom fighter is another person’s terrorist. I won’t derail this with obvious examples. Once one adopts a position, they enjoy the luxury of turning off any critical thinking.

I’ll presume that morals predate religion and deities, but now that the thinking world has abandoned the notion of gods, they’ve replaced it with morals and ethics—and nature, but that’s a topic for another day. The faith-based world retains a notion of gods, but that is fraught with the same relativism of my god is right, and your god is wrong.

As Hilary notes, we’ve transferred the authority, per Nietzsche, from gods to morals in and of themselves, so it again becomes a device for the unengaged. He notes, as I do, that some absolute Truth is a fool’s errand. Echoing Donald Hoffman, what we need is fitness—what Lawson calls usefulness—, not Truth, which is inaccessible anyway—even if it did exist, which of course it doesn’t.

He cites the position Wittgenstein arrives at in his Tractatus. There is and can never be a place where language—words and symbols—intersect with ‘reality’, so the best we can do is to talk about it in a third-person sort of way.

As I consider the works of McGilchrist, it feels like Lawson is establishing moral simplicity as a left hemisphere function. Seeing beyond this is a right hemisphere activity, so that’s not promising. There seem to be few right-brain thinkers and then it comes to convincing the left-brain crowd. In a poor metaphor, the challenge is rather like trying to convey the maths of special relativity to the same crowd. They are going to tune out before they hear enough of the story. The left-brain is good at saying, ”la la la la, la la, la”.  

Without getting too far off track, a major challenge is that systems of government and laws are facile left hemisphere-dominant activities. These are people in power and influential. Rhetoricians have right hemisphere dominance, but they understand that their power depends on defending the status quo that has elevated them to where they are. As Upton Sinclair said, “’It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.” This holds true for women and non-binary others.

In closing, Lawson asserts that apart from comic book supervillains, people tend to do what they believe to be good, and yet all goods are not created equally, nor all bads. And in the manner that one person’s trash is another’s treasure, one person’s good is another’s bad.

This moral discourse is not benign. It’s dangerous. I don’t want to steep this in contemporary politics, but this is being propagandised in things like the Ukraine conflict or the Covid response. If you’re not with us, you’re against us. This is divisive and creates a rift. That governments are propagating this divide is even more disconcerting, especially when they unapologetically backtrack only a few months later in the wake of people suffering economic impacts, including getting fired, for opposing a position that has turned out to be wrong and that was being asserted in the name of science and yet with little empirical support. These people are politicians and not scientists but attempting to hide behind science like a human shield, it serves to erode trust in science. Trust in science is a separate topic, so I’ll leave it there.

I recommend watching the complete video of Hilary Lawson to gain his perspective and nuance. My point is only to underscore his positions and to say that I agree. What do you think about morals? Are they a device to assert power over others, or is there something more to it than this? If not moral, then what? Leave a comment.

Whitewashing Spoken English

An AI startup is facing allegations of racism and discrimination after being accused of manipulating non-American accents to sound “more white.” The company uses speech recognition technology to change the user’s accent in near-real time. (Source)

Podcast: Audio rendition of this page content

Friction is an impediment to a perfect customer experience. Removing this friction is always welcome, but homogenisation by a dominant culture is a bit more sketchy. It’s laudable that someone aims to remove friction from communication. Raze that tower of Babel—or does it need constructing? I’m no biblical scholar. I’m all for fostering communication, but this control should be an option for the customer receiving the call, not the sender—press 1 if you don’t wish to hear a foreign accent.

When it comes down to it, translation services have the same challenge. Which accent comes out the other end? (I’ll guess it is similar to this one.)

And what American accent is being represented? The neutral accent of the flyover states, the Texas drawl, or the non-rhotic accent of Harvard Yard? I’m guessing it’s not California cool or urban Philadelphia or down on the bayou. Press 7 for Canadian English, eh?

It’s bad enough that US English, despite having a minority of speakers, is running roughshod over World English

It’s bad enough that US English, despite having a minority of speakers, is running roughshod over World English spelling and pronunciation, colonising the world via streaming services and infestation on the internet.

The BBC relaxed its RP requirements in 1989 for the purpose of regional cultural inclusiveness. Which direction do we want to go?

In the end, this is another example of businesses being more concerned with business than customers and the human experience.

As for me, I prefer an accent I don’t have to work so hard to discern. But at the same time, I’ve worked with many people whose first language is not English, and though it does take a bit more effort, it’s really not that difficult. Besides, I’ve heard native English speakers with regional accents and dialects that are just as taxing.

I sent a survey a month or so ago asking which regional accent people preferred. As it turned out—and not unsurprisingly—, people preferred the English they are used to hearing. Continental Indians preferred continental English; Americans wanted neutral American English; Jamaicans preferred Jamaican English, and British speakers preferred modern RP. And so it goes.

What’s your take?