To me most of Bob’s work focuses on communication. He discusses what we might understand by clear communication (with different levels or degrees of certainty in the transmission) and ambiguous communication (with multiple possible meanings, or noise and randomness).
He studies and discusses accuracy, truth and proof – but also uncertainty and deception (conscious or unconscious, of self or others, intentional or accidental).
Studies of channels of communication lead to an examination of consciousness and awareness, and the use of tools to improve what and how you communicate with others, (and your self!) As this involves feedback it also means we have to study how alert and astute we feel when on the receiving end of communications (from authority figures, peers, pressure groups, advertising propaganda, etc).
So Bob’s interest in the psychology of perception, magick, neuro-linguistics, drugs, brain-training machines, poetry, etc all seem like the tools he used to explore these realms.
Even his apparent interest in conspiracy, for instance, seems more an example of looking at material you could use to test your own gullibility, or rigour, or desire to believe. You could investigate one of these rumoured cover-ups yourself, and set your own targets for evidence that might convince you, either way. You might also come to realise how easily people adopt beliefs on the flimsiest of evidence, and how strongly they stick to such beliefs, once chosen (not only beliefs in God, or UFOs, but (say) ‘the scientific method’). And then go back and look at your own ‘certainties’ again.
As one of his favourite references he offered Orson Welles’ film ‘F For Fake’ as an example of how difficult it is for us to make accurate assessments and reality checks, particularly in the hands of a magician. To avoid getting cheated you need to know a little about how cheats work; to avoid getting hypnotised and manipulated you need to understand something of how that works, too. An effective policeman can think like a criminal.
Some of the most intensive study of communications occurs in wartime – both how to transmit clear and unambiguous orders and information (securely) and how to intercept your opponent’s attempts to communicate securely. This takes us into the area of codes, and code-breaking – disinformation, misinformation, scams, cons and magic tricks.
I have expanded these notes into a piece for MQ#11 - called The Mind Playing Tricks On Itself - which will come out (unlike the sun in the UK) for The Solstice.
[Later] This edition now available online...also see permanent link top right of the blog.