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    Introduction to the concept

    "The signal has been delivered."
    The Division Bell album was released by Pink Floyd in 1994. During the Division Bell tour a self-proclaimed messenger for Pink Floyd, "Publius", started posting messages on the Internet at the usenet newsgroup alt.music.pink-floyd. Publius promised a unique prize and treasure waiting to be unearthed, and spoke of an enigma to be solved. Publius also hinted at a designed solution in The Division Bell. The first messages were followed by real world demonstrations of Publius' validity, or relatedness to Pink Floyd. These include live in concert messages containing the words "Publius" and "Enigma", as well as the inclusion of these words in artwork released with music. The prize was never found and the mystery never conclusively solved, despite great efforts by Pink Floyd fans around the world working together through the Internet.

    The idea pushed here is that the messages sent by Publius, and the ensuing activities to locate the prize and solve the enigma, were part of an elaborate concept designed into The Division Bell. The concept involves a relationship between:

    * The Division Bell album
    * The Messages sent through "Publius"
    * The unique vision and ideas in the seminal book first published in 1950, Cybernetics and Society: The Human Use of Human Beings, by Norbert Wiener.

    The riches in The Division Bell can only be fully appreciated in light of each of these. The book is the key to thinking in a new way. Remarkably, the creation of the album was influenced by the vision and ideas in the book, and in anticipation of how the messages and ensuing activities would play themselves out through the Internet. The online event itself, combined with the book, become the key to the riches in the music. [Further on, I'll speculate on why the concept was created, and how the ideas may have originated - from the contribution of author Douglas Adams possibly.]

    A word of caution: The Division Bell concept is unprecedented and truly unique. I've tried to make this presentation as short and country simple as possible. More summary than thorough analysis. However, this concept is not easy to grasp. You might need to think hard to get it. You'll need to have some capacity for abstraction, a good sense of humor, as well as an open mind to see The Division Bell in a new light.

    The Human Use of Human Beings

    "First of all, as you read further,..." -Publius

    Cybernetics and Society
    Cybernetics and Society, 1954
    Norbert Wiener is often cited as the main founder of cybernetics. Cybernetics and Society (aka The Human Use of Human Beings) was written as an introduction to the science for a popular audience. Cybernetics is defined in the book as the science of communication and control in the animal and the machine. The word cybernetics comes from the Greek word for "steersman", as in the captain of the ship. Cybernetics now means many different things to many people, but to Wiener it was a new way of thinking, and a tool for dealing with challenges faced by humanity. A truly universal science. The ideas in the book have had a huge impact on science, thought, and culture in the second half of the 20th century. (More on that later)

    "But while the universe as a whole, tends to run down, there are local enclaves of whose direction seems opposed to that of the universe at large... Life finds its home in these enclaves."

    The tendency in the universe as a whole, and in any closed system, is to move from a state of order and organization to a state of chaos and disorder through time. (in physics this is expressed in the second law of thermodynamics, or the law of entropy) As chaos and disorder increase within a closed system, entropy is said to increase. Though the general tendency is toward greater disorder in the universe, pockets of temporarily increasing order exist. As order and organization temporarily increase, progress is said to take place.

    Feedback is the answer.
    The key to progress is the process of feedback - in its most simple form, two-way communication. This is true for living organisms, organizations, the earth, (if viewed as a complex self-regulating system) as well as for some automatic machines. (such as the digital computer) The two-way flow of information is the key to progress in any form: growth, learning, evolution, travel to a destination, etc. Note: this is absolutely true. Feedback is prevalent everywhere in our world, on so many levels, in so many ways.

    "When I control the actions of another person, I communicate a message to him,... if my control is to be effective I must take cognizance of any messages from him which may indicate that the order is understood and has been obeyed."

    Feedback is an essential ingredient of control. In order to keep the ship on course, the steersman (captain) must be able to see the results of his steering and correct course as necessary. Furthermore, in order to get anywhere in particular, the steersman must have some goal (destination) to steer to. (purpose) This is a basic example of the process of feedback at work leading to progress.

    "It is easy to make a simple machine which will run toward the light or run away from it, and if such machines also contain lights of their own, a number of them together will show complicated forms of social behavior..."

    Some machines are also able to utilize feedback to achieve goals, like people. A tropism machine is a simple example of a machine that exhibits goal oriented behavior. The machine is programmed to either run toward the light or run away from it. A simple automaton.

    "Organism is opposed to chaos, to disintegration, to death, as message is to noise."

    The basic unit of communication is the Message. Messages are subject to the forces of chaos in the form of noise. Just as living individuals are subject to the advance of entropy and eventual death, messages in a communication system are subject to deterioration due to noise. The living individual, like a message, consists of a pattern. (DNA was later discovered) Signal is the physical form the message takes. Through the metaphor of the message we might see all manifestations of progress as message.

    "where man's word goes, and where his power of perception goes, to that point his control and in a sense his physical existence is extended."

    The boundaries of humans extend beyond the flesh. Boundaries are defined by the flow of information through feedback. This idea gave rise to the concept of the cyborg. (cybernetic organism) In a sense, we are all cyborgs. This thinking also predicted concepts of informational space, and virtual environments - cyberspace.

    "Speech is the greatest interest and most distinctive achievement of man."

    Language is the cornerstone of human progress. Language is the basis of human relationships, groups of people, communities, civilizations, our systems of knowledge, etc. Without language we would be more like our closest relatives, the apes. Human beings have an innate drive and need to communicate.

    "We have thus established the basis in man for the simplest element in his communication: namely, the communication of man with man by the immediate use of language, when two men are face to face with one another. The inventions of the telephone, the telegraph, and other similar means of communication have shown that this capacity is not intrinsically restricted to the immediate presense of the individual, for we have many means to carry this tool of communication to the ends of the earth."

    Communication technologies and man-machine communication have further enhanced human progress.

    "It is the thesis of this book that society can only be understood through a study of the messages and the communication facilities which belong to it; and that in the future development of these messages and communication facilities, messages between man and machines, between machines and man, and between machine and machine, are destined to play an ever increasing part."

    Feedback is the answer.
    The advancement of communication technologies and infrastructure, including "high-speed computing machines", will continue to serve human progress if utilized effectively. These very technologies may also be used as instruments of control. It is crucial that technologies benefit the many and not the few, at the expense of the many. People must be aware of their purposes and goals and not blindly accept those imposed on them. Open, free, and organized communication is the key to optimizing the growth and lifespan of humanity. This vision inspired work that eventually led to the development of the Internet.


    Publius and THE MESSAGE

    The book (Cybernetics and Society) provides a framework for seeing Publius, the messages, and the online discussion, in a totally new way. A changed perspective. The discussion can be seen entirely as an expression of messages, control through feedback, and progress at work.

    "publius 'the chief man of the island' of Malta (Acts 28:7),... The word here rendered 'chief man' (protos) is supposed by some to be properly a Maltese term, the official title of the governor."

    "Hence 'Cybernetics', which I derived from the Greek word kubernetes, or 'steersman', the same Greek word from which we eventually derive our word 'governor'."
    -Norbert Wiener, Cybernetics and Society

    Publius is clearly the steersman. As Publius comments: "I will be able to help steer you from time to time." Publius, literally, steers (controls) through "MESSAGES". (THE MESSAGE, THE NEW MESSAGE, etc) Publius also describes himself as guide and messenger, whose actions include monitoring, directing, leading, instructing, supervising, watching. (To keep the ship on "course", notice the terms: "beacon" and "landmark")

    Publius establishes a goal or purpose: "prize", "treasure", "bounty", to be sought - an "enigma" to be solved.

    While Publius steers, progress toward the goal is achieved by the interaction of the fans, more so as time passes. Progress includes organizing, arranging, moving forward, travel, thinking creatively, speculation, investigation, research, discovery.

    The key to the progress is feedback: exchanging information, working in concert, discussion, discourse, debate, participation, negotiation, applause, flames (and arrows), jeers, battle, advice, positive response, agreement, congratulation, tip of the hat, connecting relationships, answers, etc. (many questions: a question presupposes feedback)





    (it's feedback)

    The messages, and the ensuing discussions and acitivities, express a process. That's the key.

    "On the day the wall came down
    The Ship of Fools had finally run aground"

    As fun as it might seem, Pink Floyd are playfully fooling the fans. If that's not entirely obvious, ask yourself: What exactly is it that is being sought? Indeed, there is no enigma. Pink Floyd do not know something you don't know. There is no missing information - no uncertainty - no question about it. The great secret is that there is no secret. It's totally absurd! Reads like a Douglas Adams novel. Pink Floyd wants You to know they are just normal people.

    "Because there'll be no safety in numbers
    When the Right One walks out of the door"

    Though it may so seem, the point is not to manipulate people just for the sake of manipulating people. The Pink Floyd fans and experts were given a purpose and goal, and controlled. Like an automaton. The reasonable response for the fooled is to stop the foolishness and decide ones own purposes and goals in Life.

    "A long road lies ahead; begin to chart its course..." -Publius

    But what about the unique prize - you ask? What could Pink Floyd possibly have to offer in the form of a unique prize? Pink Floyd are musicians. The only unique prize they could possibly offer is the music of Pink Floyd.

    On to the prize, treasure, bounty, in The Division Bell...

    The Division Bell

    "I really like 'The Division Bell' myself, although I wouldn't say it's an immediate album. You have to put a bit of work in to get out of it the riches that are there." -David Gilmour

    Being familiar with the key ideas in the book, (Cybernetics and Society) and the online component of the concept, is the key to enjoying the riches (prize, treasure, bounty) of The Division Bell.

    Note: You should be familiar with The Division Bell to appreciate the ideas here.

    On first impression, many of the lyrics seem to refer to past band members. Also, there is not much recognizable continuity of theme, from song to song, or even within songs. This changes once you are hip to what is happening. Another level of meaning hides underneath the surface throughout.

    Consider the following comments by David Gilmour in Interview Magazine:

    Interviewer: The album could easily be interpreted as an allegory about the split with Roger.

    David Gilmour: I don't think that it is. There are a couple of hinted mentions that could or could not have something to do with him. But all that I read from people working out what they think it's about has been either fairly or wildly inaccurate. I enjoy that. I'm quite happy for people to interpret it any way they like. But maybe a note of caution should be sounded because you can read too much into it. 'A Great Day for Freedom,' for example, has got nothing to do with Roger or his 'wall.' It just doesn't. What else can I say?"

    Pink Floyd is communicating to You

    The music is communication from band to audience. (message) This is already apparent in "What Do You Want From Me". You means the audience. The song clearly concerns the band-audience relationship. In the next song, Poles Apart, You seems to refer to Roger Waters or Syd Barret. Seen in the new light, though, You means You in all of the songs, atleast in those verses cited by Publius. Pink Floyd is communicating to You.

    Furthermore, there is more continuity of theme than meets the eye. A new level of meaning to be unearthed. David Gilmour comments:

    "I suppose you could say that, you know, there's a, a theme throughout the album which involves communication. And um, *all*, pretty much, *all* the songs are connected to the theme of communication, in some way or another."

    Previously, it was difficult to see how the theme of communication relates to the songs "Take it Back" and "High Hopes", for example.

    [Rather than providing analyses of the songs, I'll show how new interpretations are now possible. I'll try to keep things as simple as possible, just enough to open the door.]

    Cluster One (Instrumental)

    Noise to Message. (Need I say more?)

    What Do You Want From Me

    Clearly communication from band to audience. Notice the lyrics to the second half of the song, though, including:

    You can have anything you want
    You can drift, you can dream, even walk on water
    Anything you want

    You can own everything you see
    Sell your soul for complete control
    Is that really what you need

    The only place you can have complete control is in a virtual environment. We are in cyberspace here. (controlspace)

    "The research on cyberspace is a quest for God. To be God. To be here and there." -Paul Virilio

    Poles Apart

    In the new light, You means You in this song, as Pink Floyd fan and enigma sleuth. The music was made knowing how people would respond to the messages. Programmed to seek a goal, analogous to an automaton:

    "It is easy to make a simple machine which will run toward the light or run away from it, and if such machines also contain lights of their own, a number of them together will show complicated forms of social behavior..."
    -Norbert Wiener, Cybernetics and Society

    Did you know . . . it was all going to go so wrong for you
    And did you see it was all going to be so right for me
    Why did we tell you then
    You were always the golden boy then
    And that you'd never lose that light in your eyes

    Hey you . . . did you ever realise what you'd become
    And did you see that it wasn't only me you were running from
    Did you know all the time but it never bothered you anyway
    Leading the blind while I stared out the steel in your eyes

    Finally, having come to ones senses:

    "I never thought that you'd lose that light in your eyes"

    Marooned (Instrumental)

    At sea.

    A Great Day For Freedom

    On the day the wall came down
    The Ship of Fools had finally run aground

    On the surface, a reference to the fall of the Berlin Wall. Symbolically, centrally controlled, command, communist systems radically transformed into self-governing, dynamic, democratic (feedback based) systems.

    In the new light, a further reflection on the band-audience relationship. Life in the aftermath of the online concept. Pink Floyd is communicating to You. Pink Floyd did not know something you don't know. You're on your own now. Pink Floyd doesn't have the answers.

    Now frontiers shift like desert sands
    While nations wash their bloodied hands
    Of loyalty, of history, in shades of gray

    Globalization. Through the proliferation of communication technologies and infrastructure, including the Internet, the world is more closely connected and inter-related.

    Wearing the Inside Out

    Human boundaries are extended, transformed, in this song. (Need I say more?) Pink Floyd is indeed "Wearing the Inside Out", as are we all in this environment.

    Take It Back

    The earth as complex self-regulating feedback system. (Gaia)

    Coming Back to Life

    While you were hanging yourself on someone else's words
    Dying to believe in what you heard
    I was staring straight into the shining sun

    Remember, Pink Floyd is communicating to You. What is the real relationship of Pink Floyd (a group of human beings) and audience?

    Time to get a life.

    Keep Talking

    "Speech is the greatest interest and most distinctive achievement of man."
    -Norbert Wiener, Cybernetics and Society

    Communication is a basic need and drive of human beings - the cornerstone of relationships, human progress, etc.

    Not to mention the fact that Stephen Hawking, cyborg, speaks.

    Lost for Words

    Reflections on being in cyberspace. Or, an individual cut off, not alive to what is happening in the world through communication. Lack of communication (feedback) means a dead relationship. (progress eventually succumbs to entropy)

    High Hopes

    In light of universal themes of progress and entropy - applies to: Pink Floyd as band, pioneering of the Internet, human civilization, life on earth, etc.

    "The Greeks regarded the act of discovering fire with very split emotions..."

    "Beauty, like order, occurs in many places in the world, but only as a local and temporary fight against the Niagara of increasing entropy."

    "We are but whirlpools in a river of ever-flowing water. We are not stuff that abides, but patterns that perpetuate themselves. A pattern is a message, and may be transmitted as a message."
    -Norbert Wiener, Cybernetics and Society

    The water flowing

    The endless river

    Forever and ever

    But Why?

    Themes of control and reflection are not unique to The Division Bell for Pink Floyd. Grandiose concepts are not new to Pink Floyd either.

    "What did you dream,... it's alright we told you what to dream" -"Welcome to the Machine"

    The song "Welcome to the Machine", on Wish You Were Here, concerns the theme of control and reflects upon the music industry.

    Almost entirely, The Wall concerns the band-audience relationship, and the experience of being rock star. The wall is a barrier to communication. Lyrics are directed to the audience as You. (Hey You) The leader of the band is presented as a control bearing dictator. The song "Run Like Hell" plays on the theme of control with the audience.

    David Gilmour thinks in terms of feedback and control in 'Live at Pompeii':

    "but always things are down to how you control them, and whether you're controlling them, and not the other way around ... the equipment isn't actually thinking about what to do any of the time. It couldn't control itself."

    "Where would rock and roll be without feedback?"

    Cyborg Musician
    David Gilmour speaks through "Talk Box" during performance of "Keep Talking"
    As innovative electronic musicians, Pink Floyd are pioneers of man-machine communication in their own right.

    The songs of Pink Floyd also contain enigmatic references and effects that lead some people to seek secret messages in the music. As one of the most successful rock bands ever, the band has gathered a cult-like following in some circles. Pink Floyd are just a group of human beings playing music, though. One picketer protested at a Pink Floyd concert: "Worship God, not Pink Floyd!"

    The idea of relating a book to an album is not new to, atleast the former members of, Pink Floyd. Some people draw a connection between Animal Farm, by George Orwell, and Animals. More recently, Roger Waters was influenced by the book Amusing Ourselves to Death, by Neil Postman, in making Amused to Death. (1992) Both Cybernetics and Society and Amusing Ourselves to Death, can be classed as communication theory books that are critical of society and culture.

    OK, but why would Pink Floyd create a concept influenced by a seemingly obscure book written decades ago?

    The ideas in Cybernetics and Society have had a major impact on science, thought, and culture in the second half of the 20th century, and are all the more significant today as we set off to homestead the Internet. (the new frontier) See what others have to say:

    "Because of the discoveries of Norbert Wiener and his colleagues, ... software has come to mean much more than the instructions that enable a digital computer to accomplish different tasks. From the secrets of life to the ultimate fate of the universe, the principles of communication and control have successfully been applied to the most important scientific puzzles of our age."
    -Howard Rheingold, Tools For Thought

    "The rise of cybernetics in this broad and interconnected community of scientists ... was the manifestation of a deep current in Western philosophy and culture."
    -David Porush, "The Bomb was a Cyborg"

    "There are works that come along once in an age and influence much of what comes later. Norbert Wiener's Cybernetics and Society is one of these seminal works for the information age... Wiener shows a prophetic understanding of the nature of information, communication, and automated control of our environment. If you want a book that tells you about the future of the Internet, buy the one that was written in 1950, thirty years before the Internet became a reality."
    -Neon Alley on Cybernetics and Society

    "In my own life, there was a book that did more than UNIVAC to revise my understanding of information and the machinery that manipulated it. In 1950 the mathematician Norbert Wiener wrote a pioneering and widely read study called The Human Use of Human Beings"
    -Theodore Roszak, The Cult of Information
    (author of The Making of a Counterculture)

    UCLA Cybernetics
    Image from former UCLA Department of Cybernetics website.
    "This was the original premise of purposive systems as expounded by Norbert Wiener and Julian Bigelow in 1943: intelligent behavior evolves as a consequence of the ability to measure and keep account of the effects of a given signal through feedback loops that return a message signifying the magnitude of the result. These principles are common to automatic anti-aircraft guns firing at a moving target, neurons seeking to make the right connections inside the brain, laboratory animals facing a maze, corporations facing a free-market economy, or any other situation where it is possible to place a value on an objective at which to aim."
    -George B. Dyson, Darwin among the Machines

    "The result of Wiener's book (Cybernetics, the technical version of Cybernetics and Society) was that the notion of feedback penetrated almost every aspect of technical culture. Though the central concept was both old and commonplace in specialized circumstances, Wiener gave the idea legs by generalizing the effect into a universal principle... Within a year or two of Cybernetics's publication, electronic control circuits revolutionized industry."
    -Kevin Kelly, Out of Control

    "It is fairly easy to see how the concept of feedback can be further extended to the realm of social groups such as families, firms, and indeed whole societies... Since Wiener wrote his book, the economic policies of this and indeed many other technologically advanced nations have increasingly become feedback controlled..."
    -Walter A. Rosenblith, Afterword to the 1967 edition of Cybernetics and Society

    "Man was nudged from the center of the universe by Copernicus; Darwin drew man's physical nature within the natural evolutionary process; man's unique claim to rationality was greatly reduced by Freud; and now, it seems, man is nothing but a highly complex communication-control system."
    -Harold Hatt, Cybernetics and the Image of Man

    "As communicators (of any type) and as communicatees (of any type), about all that we can do, as Norbert Wiener suggests in The Human Use of Human Beings (1954), is to try to create 'islands of decreasing entropy,' where messages retain or gain, rather than lose, data."
    -J.C. Merrel, John Lee, E.J. Friedlander, Modern Mass Media

    "A bureaucracy and a factory are automated machines in Wiener's view. The whole world -- even the universe -- could be seen as one big feedback system subject to the relentless advance of entropy, which subverts the exchange of messages that is essential to continued existence"
    -M. McAdams, Wiener: Ideas

    "Cybernetics is simultaneously the most important science of the age and the least recognized and understood. It is neither robotics nor freezing dead people. It is not limited to computer applications and it has as much to say about human interactions as it does about machine intelligence. Today's cybernetics is at the root of major revolutions in biology, artificial intelligence, neural modeling, psychology, education, and mathematics. At last there is a unifying framework that suspends long-held differences between science and art, and between external reality and internal belief."
    -Paul Pangaro, New Order From Old

    Yeah or Nay?
    Image from Homage to Norbert Wiener, by Roman Verostko
    The ideas of Norbert Wiener have influenced art and literature too. Pioneer of algorithmic art, Roman Verostko, created "A Decision Machine Suite" of interactive electronic sculpture in homage to Norbert Wiener. Philip K. Dick was greatly influenced by the ideas of Norbert Wiener, eventually conceiving a vision of VALIS. (Universe as vast-active-living-intelligence-system) Kurt Vonnegut was influenced by the book. The concepts for Sirens of Titan and Player Piano can be traced directly to Cybernetics and Society:

    "Vonnegut's earliest novels hint strongly at his familiarity with Wiener's work, The Human Use of Human Beings, especially his first novel, Player Piano (1952), which shows his concern for the social implications of automation, the replacement of human beings with machines."
    -David Porush, The Soft Machine: Cybernetic Fiction

    Indirectly, the ideas have had an impact throughout the genre of science-fiction (Star Trek and teleportation, for example) and cyberpunk literature and film. (The Matrix etc.)

    Perhaps most interestingly, though, the vision of Norbert Wiener, expressed in the book, influenced work that led to the development of the Internet.

    "I have always understood that the Internet was founded on the precepts of respecting other community members..."

    "... another computer pioneer, J.C.R. Licklider, who would play an important role in the developing computer revolution, was working on a paper exploring the concept of human-computer interaction that Norbert Wiener had stressed was so crucial."
    -Ronda Hauben, Cybernetics, Time-sharing, Human-Computer Symbiosis and On-line Communities Creating a Supercommunity of On-Line Communities

    "In a few years, men will be able to communicate more effectively through a machine than face to face. That is a rather startling thing to say, but it is our conclusion... And we believe that we are entering a technological age in which we will be able to interact with the richness of living information--not merely in the passive way that we have become accustomed to using books and libraries, but as active participants in an ongoing process, bringing something to it through our interaction with it, and not simply receiving something from it by our connection to it."
    -J.C.R. Licklider and Robert Taylor, The Computer as a Communication Device (1968)


    Compare the image on the left above from The Computer as a Communication Device (pdf) to the cover image from the "High Hopes" single. The table tennis represents interactive communication - feedback. The table tennis game in the "High Hopes" picture could be another variation of the feedback theme seen throughout The Division Bell artwork.

    At the time The Division Bell was being made, computers, cyberspace, and virtual reality, were the happening thing. As much as many fans would like to forget, Pink Floyd was originally a psychedelic rock band. In leugue with the likes of the Grateful Dead, and in tune with the followers of Timothy Leary.

    "Technology is the new drugs." -Jerry Garcia

    "Personal computers and the PC industry were created by young iconoclasts who had seen the LSD revolution fizzle, the political revolution fail. Computers for the people was the latest battle in the same campaign."
    -Howard Rheingold, The Virtual Community

    "Leary was stepping up to microphones in his white sneakers, telling audiences that the liberation and exchange of knowledge by electronic communication would free their brains and souls from the oppressive orthodoxies of education, religion and politics ... He hailed cybernetics as the new vehicle of expanded consciousness, played with virtual reality, designed computer games and started a software company."
    -Timothy Leary Obituary, The New York Times

    "It was sex, drugs and rock and roll all over again, only worse."
    -Barrie Sherman, Virtual Reality and its Implications

    "Creative excitement has gone elsewhere - to science and technology: new ways of seeing things, new understandings of the universe, continual new revelations about how life works, how we think, how we perceive, how we communicate. So this is my second point.

    Where, thirty years ago, we used to start up rock bands, we now start up start-ups and experiment in new ways of communicating with each other and playing with the information we exchange. And when one idea fails, there's another, better one right behind it, and another and another, cascading out as fast as rock albums used to in the sixties."
    -Douglas Adams, Turncoat

    So long and thanks for all ...

    "Its a, a division bell, it divides the yeses from the noes."
    -David Gilmour

    Douglas Adams, best known as the author of the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy series of books, is listed in the album credits of The Division Bell. Adams reportedly coined the title of the album and David Gilmour in turn donated funds to a charity of Adams' choise.

    "Dave Gilmour asked me to fiddle around with some of the lyrics, which I did, though I don't think he used any of my suggestions in the end. The only suggestion of mine that I know was used was that the album could be called 'The Division Bell'. I didn't think up the title, of course, I merely pointed out that the phrase was lying there in one of the song lyrics and would make a great title.

    In fact, there's a story there. I had given a talk at the Royal Geographical Society in aid of the Environmental Investigation Agency's work on rhino conservation. Both Dave and Nick came along and we all went out to dinner afterwards. Dave was a bit preoccupied about the title problem - they had to have the title by the following morning, and no-one could decide what it should be. I said, 'OK, I'll give you a title, but it'll cost you a £5,000 contribution to the EIA.' Dave said, 'well, tell me your title and we'll see'. So I suggested 'The Division Bell'. And Dave said, 'hmmm, well, seems to work. Sort of fits the cover art as well. Yeah, OK'.

    So, it's called the Division Bell."

    -alt.fan.douglas-adams FAQ

    To speculate a bit, Douglas Adams may have had a role in the concept behind The Division Bell. Douglas Adams might even have thought of the concept, suggested to Pink Floyd how the lyrics could be used to make the online component work, and wrote "the messages" signed "Publius". Of course this is just speculation. You decide.

    First of all, Douglas Adams was a big fan of feedback. Look:

    "One of the most powerful forces in nature is about to come into view in the online medium: the feedback loop - where the input stage of one iteration is the output stage of another iteration,... Feedback loops are what drive evolution..."
    -Fast Company, The Hitchhikers Guide to the New Economy

    "He establishes points that are so fundamental, most people will probably have not even stopped to consider them ... Interactive may be a term severely lampooned by those sick of e-this and e-that hype ... But 'interactive' makes for individual empowerment. Where the telephone is one-to-one communication and newspapers and television are one-to-many, the Internet is many-to-many."

    Growing through evolution

    "The Net is like the British constitution, not set in stone but constantly evolving. And while feedback through the polling booth is a slow, grinding process, the Internet allows for immediate reaction with what Adams calls feedback loops."
    -UK Hitch-hiker's guide to the Internet

    How do you see the Internet changing your world?

    "Tight feedback loops. As a novel writer I’m used to feedback loops of about a year. As we at The Digital Village start to produce interactive content for the web, I’ll be able to respond to feedback loops measured in minutes. Feedback loops are the most powerful process we know of, being responsible for everything from guitar howlround to the evolution of life. As their power begins to invade all of the electronic transactions of our lives, the effect will be, I’m convinced, as fundamental as the invention of printing, broadcasting, and telephony."
    -Douglas Adams, AppleMasters

    "This subjective view plays odd tricks on us, of course. For instance, ‘interactivity’ is one of those neologisms that Mr Humphrys likes to dangle between a pair of verbal tweezers, but the reason we suddenly need such a word is that during this century we have for the first time been dominated by non-interactive forms of entertainment: cinema, radio, recorded music and television. Before they came along all entertainment was interactive: theatre, music, sport – the performers and audience were there together, and even a respectfully silent audience exerted a powerful shaping presence on the unfolding of whatever drama they were there for. We didn’t need a special word for interactivity in the same way that we don’t (yet) need a special word for people with only one head."

    "Interactivity. Many-to-many communications. Pervasive networking. These are cumbersome new terms for elements in our lives so fundamental that, before we lost them, we didn’t even know to have names for them."
    -How to Stop Worrying and Learn to Love the Internet, from The Sunday Times on August 29th 1999

    "The silicon chip enables us to do mathematics tremendously fast, to model the, as it turns out, very very simple processes that are analogous to life in terms of their simplicity; iteration, looping, branching, the feedback loop which lies at the heart of everything you do on a computer and at the heart of everything that happens in evolution—that is, the output stage of one generation becomes the input stage of the next."
    -Douglas Adams, Is there an Artificial God?
    [Speech at Digital Biota 2, Cambridge U.K. - September 1998]

    On the BBC Radio 4 broadcast The Internet: the last battleground of the twentieth century, Adams expresses towards the end of Programme I his "own little speculative vision", which is "best described by analogy". The analogy involves piloting a plane, thermostats, and the concept of "feedback loops". Adams concludes that "My belief, perhaps I should say my hope, is that the speed of response will reintroduce us to that from which our political systems have separated us for so long, i.e. the consequences of our own actions. Feedback loops will be the foundation of an entirely new form of electronic democracy."

    For the BBC, Douglas Adams also presented
    The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Future. Go check it out. "Let Douglas Adams give you a steer..."

    Another point worth mentioning - Kurt Vonnegut was influenced by the book Cybernetics and Society in his earlier works. Kurt Vonnegut was one of Adams' biggest influences.

    Douglas Adams is widely acknowledged as a computer guy. Well known as such in Apple Mac circles. Not too big of a leap to suspect he could have conjured an online concept circa 1994.

    From an atheistic point of view (Adams was an Atheist) the online concept might be seen as a play on the absurdity of blind faith. ("Have faith... It for those of you who now believe... There is an enigma... Trust")

    Douglas Adams was a pioneer of multimedia concepts.

    "Moving something from one medium to another is very interesting -- it's a lot like carrying a picture or a piece of clothing from one bit of lighting to another. Suddenly it looks very different. What interests me a bit further down the line is the way in which the different media interrelate -- you can hand things off from one to another, you can exploit each other's strengths and weaknesses."
    -Douglas Adams, Salon.com: starship trouper

    The concept reads like a Douglas Adams novel. It's totally absurd. There must be a brilliant, creative, comic mind behind the thing, and it sure as heck is not me. I couldn't have just thought this up. I'm not that creative, or out of my mind. Am I? I suspect that 99.99% of humanity isn't either.

    A final byte to chew on:

    Feedback is the answer.
    "The thing about evolution is that if it hasn't turned your brain inside out, you haven't properly understood it ... Then to my surprise I discovered that it was converging with my growing interest in computers ... The connection lies in the counter-intuitive observation that complex results arise from simple causes, iterated many times over. It's terribly simple to see this happening in the computer ... it all grows out of simple lines of code that start with adding one and one, testing the result, and then doing it again. Being able to watch complexity blossom out of this primitive simplicity is one of the great marvels of our age, greater even than watching man walk on the moon ... It's much more difficult to see it happening in the case of evolution ... our invention of the computer has for the first time let us get a feel for how it works ... It's all part of the same underlying process that we in turn are a part of."
    -Douglas Adams, Turncoat

    So, it's called The Division Bell.
    alikaleeon January 20, 2009   Link
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    General CommentIt's just calm, "marooned" meaning you're stuck in the middle of nowhere, can't get to anybody else. It goes with "The Division Bell" album theme of communication.
    iwantouton December 08, 2004   Link
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    General CommentFor winning all those awards, I thought there would be more posts than one...
    TenYears_Goneon January 08, 2005   Link
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    General CommentI've never had an instrumental that "spoke" to me as much as this one, it's easily one of my favorite songs ever.
    ushmelon February 21, 2005   Link
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    General Commentone of the most soul stirring instrumentals i've ever heard. this is without a doubt one of my favourites by floyd.
    violentfornicationon April 09, 2005   Link
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    General Commentmoving song. i have all of the floyds work and this is one of the best.(even if all the members werent present when this one was recorded) i think this one was going to be called the whale song or something like that. kinda makes sense.
    caramelprisoneron June 18, 2005   Link
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    General CommentSends chills up my spine for sure...
    Philadelphia Eagleson July 30, 2005   Link
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    General CommentI think it may be about Waters leaving the group. He left them "Marooned", all alone without his help, to deal with the fame that they had aquired.
    WYWHon March 10, 2006   Link
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    General Commentgreat song, but Any Colour You Like is better. They should hae put tha in Echoes instead.
    thedanman344on May 16, 2006   Link
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    General CommentIt's decent, the only thing I like on Division Bell outside of High Hopes.

    Signs of Life is better, as are most of those that came beforehand. It would seem to me that Pink Floyd was running out of ideas musically at this point. Still the best band ever though.
    inpraiseoffollyon May 24, 2006   Link

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