Ghosting Popper

From GM Davies’s post:
and my response below (with much-needed amendments and additions in red):

Hi Nigel,

Your thoughts in the above post have a lot going on in them. Ponderous.

First-off, I also think that time horizons are amongst the most overlooked aspect of the consideration in many areas, not in the least, trading, economics and politics.
[This idea can lead to the largest most universal of conceptions, or towards the tiniest un-sliceable point-interval… I dare not venture…]

And reading quickly through your post, I can’t help but be struck by several pertinent points you mentioned which recalls the central tenets used and taught by a modern thinker/philosopher (especially in the areas of the philosophy of the scientific method and its applications to social+political philosophy) — Karl Popper.

Empirical falsification is the capstone to Popper’s overarching methodology (in his philosophy of the scientific method) and decidedly informs his social+political views as well (in his primary social philosophy work: Open Society and Its Enemies ).

And in the field of probability science, Popper extended beyond ‘Frequencies’ towards ‘Propensities’ in his Propensity Theory of Probability. (While) Popper’s propensity theory has had more direct (though not wholly successful) applications towards resolving some of the paradoxes in quantum mechanics in providing a dispositional account of quantum states in the (Schrodinger) wave-function;
but in applying (his) probabilistic thinking/ideas towards social science, Popper’s words echoes what you said above regarding ‘significance’ and ‘impact’:

Popper argues, then, paradoxical as it may sound, the more improbable a theory is the better it is scientifically, because the probability and informative content of a theory vary inversely—the higher the informative content of a theory the lower will be its probability, for the more information a statement contains, the greater will be the number of ways in which it may turn out to be false. Thus the statements which are of special interest to the scientist are those with a high informative content and (consequentially) a low probability, which nevertheless come close to the truth. Informative content, which is in inverse proportion to probability, is in direct proportion to testability. Consequently the severity of the test to which a theory can be subjected, and by means of which it is falsified or corroborated, is all-important.

[Popper argues the above in his justification of the efficacy of Piecemeal engineering over large-scale (and potentially catastrophic) ‘paradigm shifts’ in the humanistic area of social engineering.
(Basically (the first consideration is): To do no harm.)

And in the comments (between you and the Rock) above, it is evident that the two views raised reflect the enduring questions asked ever since Plato asserted: Who Shall Rule (the state)?
Plato’s preferred solution is for a virtuous and most excellent (tongue-in-cheek, but I really meant ‘Arete’) Philosopher-King to be educated and groomed from youth. As we have seen in history, the actual sovereigns and monarchies we had since were but poor and pale shadows of this ideal. Popper, in Open Society, takes aim at Plato squarely:

“Plato’s theory of justice indicates very clearly that Plato saw the fundamental problem of politics in the question: Who shall rule the state? It is my conviction that by expressing the problem of politics in the form ‘Who should rule?’ or ‘Whose will should be supreme?’, etc., Plato created a lasting confusion in political philosophy.
First of all, such a reply is liable to persuade us that some fundamental problem of political theory has been solved. But if we approach political theory from a different angle, then we find that far from solving any fundamental problems, we have merely skipped over them, by assuming that the question ‘Who should rule?’ is fundamental. For even those who share this assumption of Plato’s admit that political rulers are not always sufficiently ‘good’ or ‘wise’, and that it is not at all easy to get a government on whose goodness and wisdom one can implicitly rely. If that is granted, then we must ask whether political thought should not face from the beginning the possibility of bad government; whether we should not prepare for the worst leaders, and hope for the best. But this leads to a new approach to the problem of politics, for it forces us to replace the question: Who should rule? by the new question: How can we so organize political institutions that bad or incompetent rulers can be prevented from doing too much damage?

–Karl Popper, Open Society and its Enemies, Chapter 7: Leadership

Apologies for the verbiage.

Don Chu

And here, to show Popper’s views on The Paradoxes of Sovereignty:

From Popper’s Open Society and its Enemies,
-Chap 6: Totalitarian Justice (section on Individualism)
-Chap 7: The Principle of Leadership
-Chap 8: The Philosopher King

But the most pertinent parts relating to the paradox of freedom, the paradox of tolerance and the paradox of democracy, are actually to be found in the Notes to Chapter 7: The Principle of Leadership.

[Popper again cast aspersion on Plato, this time on his ‘altruistic collectivism’ and follows through this thread in his critique (lightly) on the early empiricists and their clinging onto Historicism (ie: to various modes of monarchies in their fear of Anarchy/the masses — eg. Robespierre’s horrendous Revolution & Reign of Terror) and then (heavily) attacking Marx’s ‘dialectic materialism’ in its inexorable march towards the ideal synthesis of Socialism from the initial thesis and antithesis of Feudalism and Capitalism.


Everything and Everyone has signatures.

There are signatures in everything: radar signatures, heat signatures, movement signatures, timing signatures… …everything leaves a mark.

There are signatures in everyone: signatures in the way we act, talk, sing, move, even think; and especially signatures in the way we perform learned behavior (sports, chess, card games).

And not in the least, the way we write.

Every word we write, is a mark. (Even the ones we don’t.)



we leave in between, ornot.

Every man’s thinking, speaking and writing plays to a timing and cadence, a rhythm and rhyme that is his own. Especially if its discordant.

With right observing, measuring, perceiving, and above all, apprehending, one may see clearly.
But even more important than seeing, is knowing how to react.
To measure+perceive but not apprehend and react in the right way –- Fail.

Failure am I.

1000 Miles

500 Miles/The Proclaimers:

But I would walk 500 miles
And I would walk 500 more
Just to be the man who walks a thousand miles
To fall down at your door


Okay, I can’t walk 1000 miles, not continuously at least.
I can walk 10 hours everyday, at a steady easy pace of 6 km an hour; which works out to be about 600 km (~400 miles) of ten days walking. Which is perfect for a nice rambling 2 or 3-week walking-holiday over some of the most beautiful trails in the world.

While I’ve heard a lot about the Via de la Plata in Spain and am awfully intrigued by the idea of retracing the ancient steps of a pilgrimage/spiritual journey, there are of course many just as interesting journeys and routes nearer afield.

In the younger days, I have already done the backpacker thing with the requisite 70-liter Deuter packs and slept in 2-dollar rooms with a full welcoming committee of the commonwealth bloodbank of bedbugs and fleas (I must have donated up to half my body-weight of the red stuff).
Now, older, less foolish and a more delicate constitution demands lighter packs and cleaner beds.

Am still an island-boy at heart, and the scent and sound of the sea is still the most clarifying.

A solitary cabin on Christmas Island from which you can base hours and days of serene walking;
or trekking the coastal byways from village to village of coastal Taiwan and Green Island…
Heaven on earth.

Old School Money Men: John Locke & Issac Newton

[Newsflash] 10th Jan 2010:
Central Bank to release testimony of Chairman on “the central bank’s strategy for ending its policy of low interest rates”.

Rather than a Benny B. at the Central Bank and a Timmy G. at the Treasury, perhaps some old-school and real thinking men are needed at the printing presses (or in those days, printing mills):

John Locke — philosopher and secretary to the Chancellor of the Exchequer (Lord Ashley), secretary/commissioner of the Board of Trade, adviser to the Great Recoinage of 1696;
Issac Newton — mathematician and Master/Warden of the Royal Mint, who enforced the Great Recoinage of 1696.

Locke apparently wrote quite a fair bit on money, including, “Some of the consequences that are like to follow upon lessening of interest to 4 per cent (1668)”.

And the Great Recoinage of 1696 itself, with Locke’s role in it.

林夕/Lin Xi — (梦/dream)

林夕/Lin Xi, Hong Kong cantonese and mandarin lyricist. Possibly the most prolific lyricist in Chinese music in recent decades. Undisputed commercial and critical success.

I consider 林夕/Lin Xi to be another genius writer-artist, with his better works showing his literary style and philosophical influences from 禅/Chan Buddhism and the 道/Tao. If 林夕/Lin Xi had not become a lyricist under the big bright city lights, he’ll probably be a monk somewhere, scratching out his beautiful lines on the temple walls or in the sand.

But of course, while Lin Xi may be a genius and has penned some of the most memorable lines in chinese/asian music, as a ‘property’ of the major record labels and by extension also under the thrall of the large entertainment/production houses and TV networks, he is guilty of some really bad songwriting; especially those cringe-worthy theme songs of the HK drama serials.

From his english wiki entry:

He has been a cantopop lyricist since 1985, using the pen name Lin Xi. The Chinese characters for this name, 林夕, written vertically, look like the compound character 梦 (pinyin: mèng), meaning “dream”.

He has written over 2500 song lyrics. He is well-known for composing lyrics very quickly. […] he admitted that his fastest record for writing the complete lyrics to a song is 45 minutes.

His slightly more substantial mandarin wiki entry.

I said the following some time ago, regarding a dispute over whether Lin Xi’s cantonese or mandarin works are better (he is known for writing 2 sets of lyrics, canto and mandarin, for many of the same piece of music):

Have to agree with (the view that Lin Xi’s cantonese works are better) here.

林夕/Lin Xi’s native tongue is 粤语/cantonese and his cantonese lyrics have always been better expressed than his mandarin works. While his mandarin lyrics can be adequately ‘metaphoric’ as well, his real poetic skills really comes through in his cantonese works, which goes beyond simple symbolism and reaches for the deeper evocation of 林夕/Linxi’s primary influence from 禅/Chan and 道/Tao.
Basically, 林夕/Lin Xi’s 粤语/cantonese lyrics reveals higher restraint and always have a more 脱俗(ethereal, sublime, away from the mundane) feel.

In this case of “富士山下/At the Foot of Mount Fuji”, the cantonese lyrics also have much better 韵律(rhythmic + rhyming scheme) than the mandarin lyrics and a stronger control of the 词(wording, imagery) balance.

Most of 林夕/Linxi’s mandarin lyrics have always been written in a ‘language’/manner that is easier to understand; while his canto lyrics are a more authentic reflection of his philosophical influences.

Another example (there are so many canto/mandarin lyrics he wrote!) are the canto and mandarin lyrics he wrote for the 王菲/Faye Wong song — “冷战/Cold War”
Check it out, this one is obvious.

And here is the song referred above, “富士山下/At the Foot of Mount Fuji”, performed by Eason Chan, in cantonese.
(the video/visuals really bad, the music fair, the lyrics sublime):

林夕/Lin Xi’s enduring Muse may be 王菲/Faye Wong (the Teresa Teng or the chinese Edith Piaf of the 90’s). I particularly liked one song Lin Xi wrote for Faye early in her career. More later.

[While 林夕/Lin Xi is no Wagner, I wager that possibly some time in the future, he may be at least as avidly studied as a living Sondheim.]

蘇打綠 Sodagreen

One of the better post-80s generation band and music.

[I actually posted one of their songs earlier here, on Time.]

The lead singer and songwriter, the androgynous 吴青峰, writes some of the best lyrics in mandarin music for his generation. I hate to say it, but this kid (he’s younger than I am !) is good… He writes lines that stretches through time and disciplines and reaches for allusions from classical poetry, literature and history. This political science major is very good.

I’ve been sitting on translating his lyrics… gonna sit some more…

Here are some of their songs (all written by 吴青峰):

(from previously)

迟到千年 A Thousand Years Too Late

[The lyrics of the above song (see comment below) is one of my favourites in recent years. The cadence, imagery, word-play, allusions… it is amazing.
The video is also, very good.]

頻率 Frequency

空氣中的視聽與幻覺 Air
(the chinese title actually translates as: The Looking Hearing and Hallucination of Air)

小宇宙 Little Universe

[I like how the video starts, sharpening from a blurry out-of-focused wide-pan shot to zooming and clarifying into a close-up of the singer’s face…and his wide-shut eyes — truly in his little universe.
And with eyes closed, he leads you into his perspective of his world, flipping quickly through the four images he presents in the four lines of the first stanza.