Blog 56. Ravens and the rate of change

Most of these blogs have been concerned with the progress (or regress) of society, where most of us notice that our communications, demands, and obligations seem to be increasing.  As noted by Gleick, society and daily living are changing, and the rate of change is increasing, too.  That is, the rate of change of the rate of change is increasing.

That’s something a mathematician would call the second derivative, but it isn’t the erudite mathematics that confounds us.  Rather, the difficulty is keeping up with whatever it is that’s changing, or what it is that’s changing the changing, like the internet is changing journalism, advertising, marketing, and personal connections.  There’s a feedback here, where whatever it is that’s going faster becomes some kind of cause to make other things go even faster.  Do we ever have time to sit on the porch and watch the birds?  Let’s just do bird stories as we contemplate change.

Change makes me think of ravens and crows.  The bird population has changed.  When I was a child in southern Colorado, I had to ask my dad (who was from Illinois) what a crow was.  If any crows lived in that valley, I hadn’t seen them.  Dad told me a crows were so smart that they recognized the difference between a fishing pole and a gun.  Crows live well with people, living off the human leavings, so to speak.  Today, my boyhood valley is populated with crows.  Likewise, when I brought my own children to the Jemez mountains of New Mexico in the 1960’s, I saw only ravens, not crows.  Now I see crows, not ravens.  These are the dynamics of the complex human-crow complex system, generating situations (like traffic jams and stock market boom-busts) that no one deliberately intended.

When you see a crow, ask yourself why they are so prevalent.  Also ask yourself where your garbage goes.  Perhaps crows and people both have a population problem.  From people to crows, the economy is a trickle-down.  And, from what I see reported in the news and  in more scholarly reports, from high  people to lower people, there’s less and less trickle-down, which leads either to severe oppression or to catastrophic unrest.   For crows, ravens, or people, some stability is comforting, while living on the leavings violates a sense of justice.

Ravens are aloof, shy of people.  I claim ravens are more philosophical than crows.  If you would like to read about that, click on this short story about a man watching ravens (