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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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    Gaining new insights – The mental alchemy of Techno-Metaphors
    Project: Polytopia
    Looking at the present from the perspective of the future is probably one of the most interesting capabilities of the human mind, how much more so when the amount of interest we have invested in our futures has grown exponentially.
    Looking at the present from a future vantage point assumes we can project ourselves into an indefinite state of observation that demands no clarification, for it is fictional by nature, hence its privileged position.
    But though fictional, this panoramic viewpoint remains as its name implies a huge and highly rewarding vantage position.

    The fact that we are living today a life of Liminality, of hyperconnectivity and multiculturalism is beyond any doubt the single most salient aspect of our current civilization. Above all this fact implies one critical change from the past, namely, for a growing majority it is no longer natural to feel at ease only in ones’ ‘original’ culture.
    Being constantly bombarded by new science and technology, discovery and inventions, we are moving into the multicultural even if unaware of this motion.
    The motion into the multicultural operates on many levels and many aspects of our existence, technology in this sense is not only a tool created by us for us, moreover it is not even a tool that creates a new ‘us’, it is ipso facto an instrument that generates a phase space of new options in the great game of evolution.

    This phase space of new options allows in the words of F.Kafka :”.. not to stand still with arms raised, pressed again a crate wall.”

    “No, I didn’t want freedom. Only a way out—to the right or left or anywhere at all. I made no other demands, even if the way out should also be only an illusion. The demand was small; the disappointment would not be any greater—to move on further, to move on further! Only not to stand still with arms raised, pressed again a crate wall.”


    Franz Kafka
    A Report for An Academy

    Momentarily playing the game of being rational entitles us to a number of basic premises, namely that evolution has no inherent direction, and more importantly perhaps, the fact that we are not, never have been and never will be the very centre of creation, the universe, life and just about everything else.
    That this is a no-brainer is not the point, the issue we need center upon is that in our ascension, or more appropriately, in our subjectified evolutionary embedded state, we, the human species that is, are part and parcel of a larger evolutionary flow, one that is fully unrelated to anything we believe.
    The fact that this is so is not a problem for a view that embraces Darwinism and imports its structure and principles only to overcome it by symbiotically re-organizing itself into a new form of association.
    The re-organization of the life form we currently depend upon, as the substrate of our conscious activity, is nothing special, it is just another day in the motion of interestingness. In this sense, the cyborgization process with which we are currently occupied and proactively seeking, is not in itself anything different than any other specie that has found for itself a manner of correlating its existence with another form of existence. Being a cyborg, in the sense of man machine symbiosis, is no more different than the human bacteria symbiosis; these are just different instances of the same phenomena allowed in the phase space of evolutionary options.

    Just as bacteria have learned to adapt and co-evolve within a larger organism, so does technology embeds itself within the larger adaptation of human society, human civilization, our networked minds, and indeed a co-opted form of life as a society, of supposedly conscious aware entities.
    However as the inexorable motion of our evolutionary progress increases both in speed and options our symbiotic relationship with all life is receiving a long overdue re-interpretation. For it is not only that we are becoming more connected with everything else, other humans, and other objects, and soon other forms of life as well, but the very meaning of otherness is being re-described.

    Otherness or more appropriately alterity is being re-described and will vastly imply upon our manners and fashions of existence in every single act of metaphorical thought, for it is by metaphors that we change and gain new insights.

    “Metaphor is for most people device of the poetic imagination and the rhetorical flourish—a matter of extraordinary rather than ordinary language. Moreover, metaphor is typically viewed as characteristic of language alone, a matter of words rather than thought or action… We have found, on the contrary, that metaphor is pervasive in everyday life, not just in language but also in thought and action. Our ordinary conceptual system, in terms of which we both think and act, is fundamentally metaphorical in nature. ”


    "Metaphors We Live By" George Lakoff and Mark Johnson

    The difficulty

    Gaining a new insight is not unlike convincing our minds to accept a new metaphor, and though our language is suffused with metaphors, the difficulty arises when the sense perception that we have is insufficiently contained by the common metaphor of a particular subject.
    Metaphors contain many riches, and good metaphors are a true treasure of meaning and connotations, significance and value, finding the right metaphor is therefore a challenging task of inventiveness and creativity meant to provide the ultimate container for a particular insight.
    Coining a new metaphor for a familiar and shared experience is difficult enough, how much more so when the insight gained is itself new and shared by few. If the background of the metaphor is contextual, and known, accepted and exhaustively recycled, the metaphor is easily grasped and efficiently disappears or becomes opaque whilst conveying the meaning, or sense perception it was meant for. However, when the background is itself novel, and the insight is anything but common experience, the task becomes truly herculean.
    Given that a good metaphor is a vehicle of sense-thought as much as it is an assistant to sense-thought, the creation of a genuine poetic and descriptive metaphor, carrying the evocative power of the insight for which it is meant, is crucial in communicating an idea. But there is more to metaphors than simply being a vehicle of expression, recent research in the neuroscience of metaphors shows clearly “..that metaphor comprehension is grounded in our sensory and motor experiences.” (See: Metaphors Can Light Up Brain’s Sensory Area ).
    Moreover, if metaphor comprehension is indeed as the research shows, grounded in our sensory and motor experiences, and if our brains change accordingly it might well be the case that our metaphorical mind is the recursivity instrument by which we evolve. It is highly probable in fact that as our experience of the world via technologies changes, our minds change accordingly, even though we may not be totally aware to this state of affairs.

    Metaphors are in continuous migration from realm to realm, from fields to fields and from languages to other languages, metaphors are actually memetic nomads, never belonging absolutely to any particular context or territory, therein lies their greatest strength and simultaneously their weakest point. For whilst it is highly rewarding (for comprehension and gaining new insights) to apply concepts of biology for example to computers, such as 'computer hygiene', 'genetic algorithms' and 'evolutionary programming', other migrations maybe pernicious to understanding.
    Using metaphors of land ownership for example, such as ‘domain’ or ‘commons’ imply instantly the governance and lawful aspect of that particular metaphor.

    “Discussion of cyberspace in terms of physical space both reflects and encourages the notion that it can be either circumscribed and dominated or kept open and free, notions we see embodied in what are perhaps the most enduring cyber metaphors, cyberspace as a domain, and the internet as a ―global commons.”

    WHEN GOOD METAPHORS GO BAD:
    The Metaphoric “Branding” of Cyberspace by Adriane Lapointe* (pdf)


    The transformative power of excellent metaphors

    My premise here is that the fast paced technological and scientific infocology we currently reside in both socially and culturally involves a wide array of new metaphors that are literally changing our brains, our minds, our thoughts, our actions and eventually our behaviors. This change in perception and consciousness has a wide variety of manners of expression and involves much more than just a fleeting change of linguistic props. I am a strong believer in the idea that a good enough metaphor is, as its name implies, ‘good enough’ and thus changes little, but an excellent metaphor can carry us into a totally new dimension of being and experience.

    An excellent metaphor is a high quality vehicle of sense thought, having the exceptional capability to transform the mind of the bearer of that same thought. Moreover, I firmly accept that an inspired metaphor can by itself alter the mind into a privileged and radically different envisioning, in the process gaining an insight previously inaccessible.

    Hence, gaining a new insight requires the immersion of the thought process in an excellent metaphor, fitting the insight in question.

    "When the love affair of the mind with the body is over, when reason and imagination are in love with each other and have no eyes for awkward flesh, when the hardwiring of the brain into the nervous system is overtaken by its prosthetic connections to the telecoms system, art has a new function. With or without bodies, we have been moving as a technological species into the human universe for a hundred and fifty years. Now we have to decide what luggage to take with us on the journey, and what has to be left behind. Will we need space? Will we need time? Will we need the distinction between them? Will we need our human senses to register the old certainties, when there are new uncertainties to survive and challenge? This is, in large part, what the new media arts exist to understand: a kind of Research and Development laboratory for the next phase of human evolution. "


    The Angel of Mediation - SIMON BIGGS Sean Cubitt

    The mental alchemy - from metaphors to techno-metaphors

    When William Blake said that “the eternal body of man is the imagination”, little did he realize the future understanding and development of that statement, the merging of body and poetry, art and science, technology and mind.
    I do not doubt that even today it will be difficult to realize the import of a technological metaphor becoming objectified. I do not mean a linguistic metaphor but a literal metaphorical process of becoming made available by technology.
    In an age when wireless implants for the release of medicine in the body are already with us (link), and matrix style virtual reality learning is soon to become accessible (link) we need take a fresh look at the techno metaphorical mind.

    A thought is ‘like a code’, is an analogy, but a thought ‘is code’ is a metaphor, this transforms into a techno-metaphorical process with the advent of brain machine interfaces by which a thought, literally becomes a code, able to operate objects in the real world, to act in the world and on the world. This is not merely some science fictional idea for the future but a very real and very immediate reality with which we will have to come to terms with and adapt accordingly.
    Controlling machine interfaces directly with our minds is a disruptive revolution precisely because it disturbs the old fashion of separation of body from other (hence revolutionizing alterity).
    Moreover, the advent of techno-metaphorical thought will permit an understanding of interconnection and hyperconnectivity in manners not previously readily obtainable to the common mind. The difference created in the mind will be gradual but fundamental, no longer will we need to teach the truth of connectivity for it will become a real and immediate experience, resulting so I surmise, in an elevated sense of empathy.
    To fully engage in the process of techno-metaphorical thought we will need to allow the metaphor (literally ‘carrying over’ from the Greek root ‘meta’- (beyond, above) and "pherein" (carrying, or bearing)) to work both ways, from our minds into and unto the world and from the world into and unto our minds.
    This motion of codes as metaphors will be performed by brain machine interfaces but will result in the literal expansion of the sense of self into new domains of experience, for which our inadequate worldviews are unprepared.

    The development of a techno-metaphorical mental alchemy, which I view as part of the cyborgization process, will transform us into a new variety of being, the Technoshamans, a different kind of creature indeed, a new species on this planet.

    (More on techno-shamans to come soon)

    On a more personal note

    No matter how much we may be convinced to offer the concept of sustainability for example our vote of confidence, as long as the sense of self is separated from, say, a tree, we will never feel the full empathy required for real restraint.
    Some of us will, most of us will not.
    I believe that with the advent of the techno-metaphorical process we will enter a new form of sensing the other (in this case the tree) through which our new nature will overcome the old boundaries of alterity and result in a much improved form of human containing an inherent ethic of sharing the universe.
    This may save us from ourselves...

    “When you will have made him a body without organs,
    then you will have delivered him from all his automatic reactions
    and restored him to his true freedom.”
    — Antonin Artaud


    to be continued..

    (This essay belongs to the thread "Forays in Philotopia - exploring the possible Philosophy of a Polytopia")

    EndNote:

    1. for more on BMI- go watch : Science Bulletins: Tapping In—The Promise of Brain-Computer Interface.
    2. read: Brain Computer Interfaces: Melding Man and Machine



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    Spaceweaver     Sun, Feb 26, 2012  Permanent link
    An interesting perspective on the subject can be found in Douglas Hofstadter's lecture analogy as the core of cognition Skip the introductions to min 13:30
     
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