The Great Approximator

I was on the bus yesterday morning trying to think up a new song. I had a particular thought in my head, about how all human culture, no matter how noble and unnatural it may seem, was completely determined by physics and evolution. We are not adding machines, nor are we computers; we are animals honed by the blind processes of natural and sexual selection to have what seems to be an amount of self-awareness and intellectual ability that exceeds that which we might need to live. Some (I’m looking at you, Vonnegut) might even say that we’ve become peacocks in a hedge-maze: our sexually selected cleverness is becoming a serious threat to our continued survival.
This all comes back to Jeff’s recent post in which he called himself a ‘cynical optimist’. Short term cynicism and long-term optimism is something that I’ve long held to, but riding the bus I came up with a sort of framework for this set of beliefs.

This is what cynical optimists believe, illustrated

Do you know how an alligator stalks its prey? It eyeballs it, submerges and heads towards the prey, surfaces and repeats the process, zig-zagging its way inexorably towards murder. That’s how our magic stock market ends up zoning in on the near-perfect values for so many companies, by the blind actions of millions of investors buying and selling, zig-zagging towards proper valuation, the same way a drunk wends his way to the door.
It just occurred to me today that that’s the way humans go about a lot of things. When we set out to learn something the path is soften bumpy and the journey marked by extended periods of inactivity. The process of growing up is a long series of small successes, hopefully leading ever upward. It’s just a thought, albeit a powerful one.
Anyway, that’s why the title of the song is The Great Approximator, and true to form I have been able to write the lyrics but it seems I will have to wait for the music to come to me.
(Update: I’m just going to use the ever-“save as draft”ing Blogger window to write the music in. Clever, eh?)

The Great Approximator

C
I’ve got my little plan written I’m an itinerarian
lo-F
I’ve got my little book, I’m a librarian
C
Got an idea where I’m going where I’ve been

G
I know a lot about something only sometimes worth knowing

C Am
Know a little bit about how the world works
F G
Carving a little piece, for whatever it’s worth
C G
I’m looking at a landscape that I’m not equipped to savvy
Am A#
I’m a little artifact of a billion years of history
F G C Am
I may have missed the point in fact consider it a certainty
G
Sooner or later everything you know erodes
F C
I’m the great approximator and I’m never alone
C Am F G

C Am
I’m trying to overlay a bullseye on everything I see
F G
aware of the limitations constantly proscribing me
hi-C A#
I like to draw my lay lines make my little calculations
Am G
Choo choo, I’m the Great Approximation
C
duh duh dun dun dun

C
I like to make it seem like I’m making something happen
lo-F
Oh, something just happened, oh oh something just happened
C
I’m an active participant, somewhat inconsistent
G
I’m a little scientific I’m a lot shamanic mystic
C Am
Know a little bit about how the world works
F G
Carving a little piece, for whatever it’s worth
C G
I’m looking at a landscape that I’m not equipped to savvy
Am A#
I’m a little artifact of a billion years of history
F G C Am
I may have missed the point in fact consider it a certainty
G
Wouldn’t be surprised if everything I know was wrong
F C
I’m the Great Approximator fairly barreling along
C Am F G

G
As an educated guesser I just barely qualify
F C
I’m the Great Approximator and I will be till I die

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~ by Joshing on July 30, 2007.

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