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Wednesday, May 09, 2007

What's on this tape, sweetie?

I have no doubt that I've bored you with this before, but it is a simple fact that error is a primal force in engineering; and as in electronics, so in Life. Error is a product (well, a sum really) of feedback: you plug something in to your magic box, then feed some fraction of its resultant output back to the input and subtract one from the other. This difference - input minus fedback output - is termed error, because it tells you, in its arcane way, how wrong your output is at the moment, and how to correct it. So, what you really put in to your magic box is not so much your input signal, but rather the error signal: and so long as you do that your box will do its best to correct itself and give you the output you want.

This principle of subtracting output from input and feeding off error is termed Negative Feedback; and from a control point of view, or even from an aesthetic or philosophical point of view, negative feedback is a Very Good Thing.

Its corollary - adding that fraction of output to the input, rather than subtracting - is termed Positive Feedback. And as you might guess, from a control point of view, positive feedback is an evil that needs to be stamped out. Positive feedback, by reinforcing the input ("Hey - you're so gooooood! You're terrific! You are so the Best!") does not lead to happy campers skipping hand-in-hand into the sunset, as we hippies like to muse, but to instability, to continuous oscillation between one extreme and the other. Great for Casio PlinkPlonks or Jimi Hendrix fans, lousy for everyone else.

There is a third option, of course, which is to do nothing: to let the output be whatever the output shall be, and feed nothing back at all. We would term this Open Loop, where you just don't care to fiddle and finagle, whereas the former with its feedback would be Closed Loop.

Now, in the flawed philosophy of R. Fatcnt Beardielaw, feeble instance of the archetype, who in his idiot-savantism knows no better, Life moves through a cascade of controllers that want to be closed, offering all kinds of feedback that one is mostly free to accept, or ignore, or corrupt; but many of which the wider system will act upon regardless. Throwing you in jail, whatnot.

During the early part of our lives we find ourselves deeply embedded within an all-powerful Parental controller. And though there be a huge body of Parental models on the market, we don't get to choose the one we're shot through. They are highly untrained circuits that usually come in pairs, one tough cop (female) and one sap cop (male) - although by no means always, in either measure. Their unstated purpose perhaps best summarized by Larkin, The Poet, who wrote [turn away now, children, turn away]: "They fuck you up, your mum and dad."

Luckily for all of us, beyond a certain point the Parental Circuits kick out and give way. At least they should: if yours have not done so yet, you would be well-advised to counter-turn the bedding screws yourself. Parents fade away and follow their own screwball paths back to earth, where they likely land crushingly on some poor Earlybird Buffet, throwing You on a ballistic trajectory of your own, but - they hope - with a bunch of corrective motors and flying manuals packed handily in your knapsack.

In other words, to belabor the point to dullness, past your eighteenth birthday, they keys to the car are yours; and it's up to you to drive with your eyes open or your eyes closed, or with rosey-tinted shades that are rilly, rilly cool even at night!

Now, he breathes ominously, quite possibly wrenching the works of at least one reader who thought they knew where this was leading, Now: it would kill me to discover that one of my daughters had somehow managed to get herself [un-]wrapped-up in porn, even one of those dumbass bimbette "College Bazoombas Run Wild" thingys that prey on Spring Breakers. Kill me - not in the sense of Hardy Har! Har!, but in the sense of clasp chest and turn toes titsward on the spot.

There's one of those "debate" thingies flowered this week over a suggestion, in a WSJ opinion piece I think, that the law should be changed to prohibit young gels under the age of twenty-one from appearing in porno flicks, specifically of the "Gone Wild" genre; the argument being, I guess, that before twenty-one they're too sweet and innocent and stupid to resist the charms of some leering reprobate millionaire whose magic video camera, when suitably pointed, can persuade all those unsuspecting drunken girlies clothes to fall off. See Yglesias and other suspects for the thread, and I suppose, for my take. Because despite the risk of coronary failure at the heart of the Xenoverse, this writer would most definitely NOT want to see such matters written into Law. Indeed he - he being me - thinks the recourse to Law and Prohibitions at such times is far worse for society at large, and especially for its children or young adults - than would be his [were-they-to-do-it] dumbass daughters getting wasted on tequilas, flashing their whatsits, and never ever EVER being allowed to live it down ad aeternam.

No: they ought to know better; they need to know better; but in the end it must always be up to them to do better. Not the Law. Not even you. As parents you can't watch them all the time, you can't be with them all the time, you can't follow them all the time. And past a certain age you need to Stop, because it just gets creepy if you don't. And later, malign.

Hell, you have those eighteen years: that should be enough. After that, it's their turn.

Neat little trick once your girls are cusping, 'case your asking "But what-what-whaaat can I do to save my little angels, Beardie?", is to stroll with them through the Mall and nod surreptitiously towards some random old guy, or some raggedy-arsed numpty with patchy facial hair, and mutter "That's the kind of guy watchs on-line porn". If you really want to freak them, point at someone who looks like you.

But that's an aside. It really is up to them to live their lives. Which is where we come full circle; we proclaim once again that Trial and Error - not Right First Time! nor any mealy-mouthed Zero Tolerance Of Anything platitude nor any of that Nanny-to-the-Grave handholding - is the driving force of civilization. As in circuits, so in life.


Blogger Cowtown Pattie said...

I raised four daughters, and so far, so good - no porn films.

However, one adventurous little extrovert surely loves seeing herself on film, and in mirrors.

7:14 PM  
Blogger Whisky Prajer said...

Contempt for the leering plebe is a worthy value to instill in the young 'uns - so long as it doesn't yield to a dominatrix impulse, of course.

11:34 AM  
Blogger DarkoV said...

Hey CP,
Sounds to me that your child-raising goals were in line with Chris Rock's.

His proclaimed aim and measure of parental success is to, in his words, Keep my girl off the pole.

12:33 PM  

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