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Every act of rebellion expresses a nostalgia for innocence and an appeal to the essence of being. (Albert Camus)
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    The Future History of Individualism (Pt.1)
    Project: Polytopia
    “In the end, we self-perceiving, self-inventing, locked-in mirages are little miracles of self-reference.”

    Douglas R. Hofstadter (I Am a Strange Loop)

    This is part 2 of the new series, "Forays in Philotopia - exploring the possible Philosophy of a Polytopia"


    The premise presented is that the concept of individualism, as we know it today is a passing stage in the evolution of conceptual representation and is due for overhaul.
    Putting it simply, I believe we are passing through a transit stage in the evolution of the concept of the individual.
    This period appears to be closing and will soon come to an end.

    The idea I am exploring is that the very concept of individualism, a signifier of uniqueness and particularity, lacks the basics of mindfulness needed to comprehend itself in a virtual mind universe.
    The thesis is that the transformation of the concept of individualism will allow a transformation of the meta-narrative of our modern civilization as we proceed to undo and eliminate the restrictions imposed pell-mell by natural selection.

    As my readers would know I am a great fan of Albert Camus, especially his “The Myth of Sisyphus “, and for one particular reason, for in this short and enlightening essay, Camus, in front of meaninglessness and irrationality claims boldly that the absurd requires a revolt, and not just any revolt, a revolt of personal liberation:

    The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.”

    (A. Camus)

    The revolt Camus advocates ends in the form of: ‘we must imagine Sisyphus happy’, meaning that we must take pride and happiness from the struggle itself and in this I strongly disagree with Camus, not only that I do not accept happiness born of the acceptance Camus advocates, I advocate the contrary, namely: happiness can be born if at all only from rebelling (like Sisyphus himself) against the actual bondage of so called ‘natural acceptance’.

    As a specie we have never accepted nature’s constraints, we have developed modes and manners, tools and technologies, to bypass that which is natural, complex as it may be. Modern medicine for example, though far from it’s desirable state and potential has nevertheless, cured and cared for an immense number of illnesses and ‘natural’ occurrences and the future in this respect looks bright and shiny, bumps and obstacles on the road notwithstanding. We take enormous pains to overcome and surmount ‘natural limitations’; we invented air flight because we had no wings, and smart phones because we cannot shout across the Atlantic. Our current civilization with all its defaults and pitfalls has given us a world unlike any other in our short history, and though our minds are still Neolithic in their conceptualization we are in fact in a better state of affairs than ever before.

    Despite the latest controversy to shake and rattle the infosphere regarding reverse engineering of the human brain in the next two decades (read this “Neither Ray Kurzweil nor PZ Myers Understand the Brain” for a full coverage), it is patently clear that given the noticeable advances of the numerous groups actively researching the issue (such as the Markram group Blue Brain project), we shall get there.

    Whether within the next two decades or the next century, it is fundamentally a non-issue since the prospect itself of a full brain emulation and if so, simulation, is wrecking havoc with our age old philosophies of individualism, mind, self and conscious awareness.

    “People often say that this or that person has not yet found himself.
    But the self is not something that one finds. It is something that one creates.”

    (Thomas Szazz)

    2.Inhabiting the concept of individuality

    Individuality is a concept unlike any other; it is a concept that presently carries a wide array of implications. Implications that hint at our worldviews and perspectives in more ways than one, in fact it will not be untrue to state that the very concept of individualism we inhabit, is actually the reflection of our epistemic profile.
    Our epistemic profile or the structure of the epistemic phase space we call our own can be described as the actual architecture of the concept of individualism, in which and by which we self define.
    We have inherited a sort of continuum of existential times all coagulated under the same name and signified by the same body, a coagulation of habits both of thought and of action, behavior and attitudes. We presently regard ourselves as self-contained systems, decision makers and value assessors, as if in some unfathomable way we are or became somehow separated from the larger entities of the biosphere and the noosphere.
    Of course no such separation exists, we are as much a part of nature as the next bacteria or planet, we are as much a flow within a flow as a particular current in the ocean. However, we differ in a particular fashion, we differ in our conscious awareness, specifically in our historicity of self-reflection, in our memories.
    Memories, which are vivid and unclear, bright and fuzzy simultaneously, memories embedded in a complex and highly vulnerable wetware we call our embodied brains.
    This apparent encapsulation of our memories (and by consequence the continuum of our identity) is the grand illusion of individuality, an illusion being perpetuated by the hodgepodge language we use to refer to the individual we call ‘I’.

    The modern language of individualism, celebrating the stoic assumption of the so-called ‘natural self’ is as obsolete and as archaic as the antiquated views of teleology.

    “Language is legislation, speech is its code. We do not see the power which is in speech because we forget that all speech is a classification, and that all classifications are oppressive.”

    Roland Barthes

    3. The modern individual is everywhere at once

    In the modern world we inhabit, we play a multiplicity of roles, simultaneously and consecutively; we operate a rapid succession of selves and identities on multiple platforms all correlated by the infocology we have co-created. The platforms we use however carry a new role, a role that once was relegated to our brains only and now extends into the infosphere.
    I speak of course of our memories, some of which as of now reside with Google, or FB, or Myspace or any other platform of what is rapidly becoming a real life streaming process having its core online. These memories, embedded as photos or comments, blog posts or clicks of like, or tweet and retweets, have a very large impact on our conceptualization of individuation. The reason for that is that whilst a few years back, not being online meant that my existence is mine alone and therefore the self reflection on myself as an individual was fairly simple, at present not being online does in no way diminish the access of others to me. In other words, part of me, let us call it the disembodied infosphere me, keeps on thriving automatically and without my conscious awareness.

    This has tremendous ramifications. For it implies that the modern concept of the individual is everywhere and at once.
    This I call: ‘simultaneous everywhereness’ a new state of affairs we have never before found ourselves in.

    The apparent ‘simultaneous everywhereness’ of our individuality is actually a reflection of the manner by which our minds operate, it is the narrative of self-representation extended across times and spaces. Constructing maps within maps, interacting with other maps, continuously update and evolve our meta-narratives.

    See what noted neuroscientist Antonio Damasio has to say in The Brain: A Story We Tell Ourselves

    “Gene networks organize themselves to produce complex organisms whose brains permit behavior; further evolution enriches the complexity of those brains so that they can create sensory and motor maps that represent the environments they interact with; additional evolutionary complexity allows parts of the brain to talk to each other (figuratively speaking) and generate maps of the organism interacting with its environment. Within the frame of those interactions, the conversation among the maps spontaneously and continuously tells the "story" of our organism responding to and being modified by the environment. (The story is first told without words and is later translated into language when language becomes available, both in biological evolution and in every one of us.)”

    The work of Antonio Damasio notwithstanding, we do not as of yet have a complete picture of the transition from the neuronal to the mental, we have some kind of narrative, partial and open to revision, and yet we can imply a number of significant clues.
    It is clear that whatever the final narrative of the process of creating minds will be, a few fundamentals will be insisted upon.
    These in no particular order include: Flexibility and Plasticity, Complexity and ambiguity, Uncertainty and volatility.
    What all these terms have in common is one particular mode of thought that runs contrary to the common thought of hierarchy and stability. What these terms imply is that our very own neuron network combines and recombines, forms and reforms, fashions and refashions, the structure of the brain and by consequence the mind.

    It is clear that our individualism is a work in progress, ever expanding and ever increasing in both complexity and narrative. We operate as a multiplicity in a multiplicity, and this very multiplicity of our world requires of us to operate on the basis of multiple selves.

    We have multiple networks inside our brains extending into multiple external networks mediated by electronics. Multiple networks in multiple networks, nested and co-evolving, mutually and inter-subjectively co-adapting to allow a multiple form of individuation process in which eventually no particular point of reference will be the original nexus of beingness. To describe such a situation, new in our civilizations evolution, we need reformulate the concept of the individual so as to better be adapted to the world we actually inhabit.

    shortly to be continued..

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    Wildcat     Thu, Sep 2, 2010  Permanent link

    Thanks to Daniel Durrant over at Amplify’s open intelligence which both posted this essay and asked a number of important and pertinent questions.
    I shall try and answer some of these questions noted under #DD

    #DD :”Is a virtual mind universe composed of these disembodied selves (memories printed in social media), somehow generating ‘simultaneous everywhereness’? “

    W: well yes and no, the concept of simultaneous everywhereness I use to describe a new fact in our lives, namely that ‘other minds’ have access to some of our thoughts, some of our published material, photos, likes and dislikes and so on, when we, ‘the actual author or aggregator’ are not directly connected to these memories anymore and if so a part of us (at present it is partial but as life-streaming goes mainstream, in due time all of our lives will be accessible) is readily accessible even if our immediate conscious awareness is not.
    This new situation of simultaneous everywhereness heralds a new state of affairs for our minds, for in the past we were always correlated directly to our memories but in the new state of affairs we find ourselves in, our memories are somehow disembodied. At present I do not think that the virtual mind universe generates simultaneous everywhereness by itself, but as the evolution of the net progresses and our co-involvement in it, I firmly believe that it will, this will eventually change us and in certain senses already does.

    #DD :”If these memories are coming alive then how does that alter the passage of time? “

    W: as I see it, the times we operate upon within our minds cohere via our embodiment, in other words we operate as multidimensional minds in a plethora of times, however at the end of the day we still revert to our bodily functions as the anchor point of the passage of time. However when simultaneous everywhereness is factored in, the body as the anchor point loses its primary locus, at this point we cannot control the propagation of our memories as time stamps anymore, time becomes a fluid of perception (both of self and others), it is in a sense a form of liberation from the constraints of embodiment.

    #DD :”If we’re no longer going to be individuals, should we abandon mentally abandon the fetish of our embodied selves?”

    W: not yet no (btw love the fetish analogy) but in due time we will have no choice but to do so.

    #DD : “Are we considering ascension? Is the meta-narrative of the individual to come to an end, reconnecting us with the technologies of our mind? “

    W: if by ascension you mean mind upload, and the ensuing disembodiment I am not certain. I think we are still far from that point in time, we lack both the science and the technology for that, however as the science and technology in understanding our minds progresses I am quite certain that some kind of ascension will be available. At that point the meat narrative of the individual as such will transform into an aggregate like system of multiple coherencies to which we will need address the question of designation of identity and such. To your last question I offer the answer that I see us not reconnecting to our minds technologies but increasing and extending their reach, depth, and access, in the process transforming both the technology and ourselves (and by consequence the civilization we have originated and the specie we are).

    #DD : “Reconnecting us with the nature our individual selves so brutally left behind? If we abandon our concepts of individuality, do we become more connected to other species, and/or more connected to each other? “

    W: as a rule I see hyperconnectivity as the great game changer that our civilization has created in order to rebuild (or restructure) our connectivity to all, this of course will include not only other humans but other species as well. There is no need to leave the concept of the individual all together but change it or upgrade it so it can encompass a larger entity, extended via hyperconnectivity across times and spaces.
    In fact as I see the individual as ‘a naturally evolved’ multidimensional being, hyperconnectivity is simply a reflection of this inherent state of affairs extended via technology into realms not previously accessible.

    #DD :”What are the pros and cons of all of this?”

    W: I shall try and answer this question in my next post in this series.

    Thank you for a set of interesting and challenging questions.

    LED     Sat, Sep 11, 2010  Permanent link
    Via Mauro Fuke

    klaitner     Tue, Oct 19, 2010  Permanent link
    so nice to sit down and read, thank you for a wonderful article Wildcat

    "so a part of us (at present it is partial but as life-streaming goes mainstream, in due time all of our lives will be accessible) is readily accessible even if our immediate conscious awareness is not."

    this is the moulted shell not the bug - I get that it is interesting that we are 'accessible' in a manner of speaking when we are offline, but this goes back to the value of concurrency, the 'splash' of two minds meeting in real time (originally wrote meating, perhaps more interesting..) this is not the same as correspondance in a context asynchronously. our memories, being constructed not stored are far more interesting than what actually happened (and I don't mean that in the simple sense of embellishment or revisionist history). I have read stuff I have written even only a year ago and accidentally missing the author, thought I was reading someone else's comments, very strange feeling indeed. you cannot step in the same river twice.

    "At present I do not think that the virtual mind universe generates simultaneous everywhereness by itself, but as the evolution of the net progresses and our co-involvement in it, I firmly believe that it will"

    "our memories are somehow disembodied"

    something far more interesting than uploading our brains is afoot, but an uploaded brain snapshot complete with dynamics would indeed be disembodied memory, living in the same sense as our own minds, but perhaps without the decay and subsequent sensory accumulation, it would indeed be interesting to talk to that former-self-in-stasis.

    "the times we operate upon within our minds cohere via our embodiment"

    exactly why I think uploading a brain will be dispersive and as such 'unsuccessful', there will be no coherence, we would have to program a virtual meat sack for the program to function - what is more interesting is the liberation, gradually of the coherent mind within its meat sack, and the 'enlightenment' that would represent. we already feel the lessened grip of time on us with asynchronicity so well managed on the web. next up is loosening the grip of identities (single to multiple to (next step) emergent). once time and identity are loosed there is only sustaining this meat sack, which I hope to fix with *net. what we will do as a species at that point is quite unknowable, but exciting.

    " At that point the meat narrative of the individual as such will transform into an aggregate like system of multiple coherencies to which we will need address the question of designation of identity and such"

    on what basis will these processes cohere in any meaningful way without the meat container? as a "point of curiosity" - selfish patterns? attractors? where is beauty?

    "There is no need to leave the concept of the individual all together but change it or upgrade it so it can encompass a larger entity, extended via hyperconnectivity across times and spaces."

    The individual as generative will remain (and should) the individual as evidenced will evolve (and should). if we are able to generate a coherent (contained) artificial replica of mind, generative may transcend the individual - this would be a strange existence for the meat mind to be a part of. ringing of ringing. may lead to insanity in undeveloped meat minds (perhaps catastrophic incoherence in the artificial ones?). there will be no room for clinging.

    "#DD :”What are the pros and cons of all of this?”