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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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    Abstract

    The cyborgization process of becoming in which we presently take part has a long history and a very likely and highly plausible future, including wide arrays of options of radically enhancing our bodies and minds, however, the cyborgization becoming of our civilization is a multilayered, multidimensional progression that can be parsed in many ways, one of which is the hyperconnected virtualized enmeshed reality already in progress.
    Here I am looking at the virtualization of identity as part of the meta-layer of the conceptual framework of cyborgization, a kind of underlying semantic infrastructure of our cyber-evolution.
    More specifically I reflect upon certain linguistic needs such as the clear distinction between rigid and flaccid designators, by which we may, if we can be mindful enough and careful enough, manage a certain ambiguity into a possible liberating procedure.

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

    Background

    Not long ago a friend of mine came to ask my advice about an apparently simple issue which started as a local remark and became a deep philosophical conversation between her daughter and herself, and later between us, this conversation prompted this essay.
    Her daughter is a young person about to celebrate her 15th birthday and needed to fill some forms for a coming exam, in the form as is common, she needed to fill the box of gender and almost did, when she stopped and asked her mother:” why do I need to fill the box of gender? Why do they care about my gender in any case? And also what does my gender have to do with my exam, my knowledge and my understanding of the subject matter? (Before you raise your highbrows, yes she is a very bright young person).
    My friend, her mother, answered, that this was the norm and she needn’t make a fuss of it, it is probably used only as an indicator for statistical purposes and in any case it is the norm and accepted form of identification of the person involved and therefore one should completely disregard the meaning of the question and simply ‘get-on’ with it.
    She did ‘get-on’ with it, and proceeded to fill the form, but later that evening the conversation between them resumed to the deeper aspects of the personal identity issue to which ‘gender’ relates as a defining characteristic, and apparently the issue of personhood and its derivative functions in society.
    However the issue became complicated when said young person mentioned that in her online world she plays certain games and uses avatars that are predominantly considered male ‘just for fun’ (her words) she said, but really ‘it doesn’t matter, I don’t care if I play as a male or female, my character in the online game has no ‘real’ gender and even if it does, I don’t play as if I have a gender, I play as ‘me’ and I don’t want to have a gender in the game, its about my know how, my capability as a player and my knowledge, none of which should be correlated to my biology”.

    That is the point when I was asked to give my view of the issue, in light of my working on the Polytopia project.
    It is not my intention in writing this essay to deal with the issue of gender specifically but with the issue of transference (or indeed transposition) of identity designators between the actual and the virtual in general, an issue which I deem paramount for the sane evolution of our intersubjective cyborgization process.



    Rigid Designators vs. Flaccid Designators

    The Polytopian stance assumes a richness of mind that applies the distinction between rigid designators (Kripke) and flaccid designators (wiki) for different configurations of speech and thus dimensions of semantics.
    Rigid designators (rigid designation is a property of the way terms are used, not a property of the terms themselves, - wiki) imply that the same object carries the same identity and thus the same characteristics in all possible worlds. Flaccid designators are fluid and allow for multiple options of descriptions in different worlds. The aim here is not to confront the one with the other but to propose that rigid designators should be left to conventional speech only, for purposes of efficient communication and quick look-up taxonomies. Moreover, rigid designators should not be allowed to imply ontology and / or metaphysics but to remain on the normative dimension with no necessary traceable memory (see endnotes #2). This will assume that proper names have meaning application only in as much as they reflect the necessity of accurate empirical representation. Switching to flaccid designators it is proposed here that fluid terminologies are the way to go when dealing with hyper complex systems such as identity and more particularly identity as represented in virtualities and the inter relation between said identities, especially in hyperconnectivity.

    Within the motion of cyborgization in which we take part we can discern the advent of a semantic transposition from the actual to the virtual. A motion of transference of historical notions into a domain of existential realism to which those notions are not adapted and are factually obsolete. Such is the movement between terms pertaining to the conceptual category of rigid designators based on habitual ontologies that a sense of conflict rises and can be perceived when parsed in a virtual environments. No longer are we able to detect common indicators of identity, manners of representation, and styles of recognition for the simple reason that the virtual does not yield to fixed indicators. It is thus for example impossible solely by the fact of perceiving a given avatar to determine its gender, orientation, age, morphology, race and so on. In fact on first appearance it may seem that due to the motion from the actual to the virtual much information is lost and thus our capability of discernment and discrimination is the poorer for it. However, it is the Polytopian stance that this apparent paucity is in fact a false impression due to an analysis based on rigid designators not flexible enough to allow the creative value of the virtual to come into play.



    At present the fact that our minds are embodied in a particular physical configuration stands as the main culprit in our habitual usage of identity indicators as rigid designators. Irrespective to the future technological possibility of mind uploads and similar post physical existences we need see that already at this stage the networked infocology in which each and every one of us to different extents exists, is already a form of non physical existence. In perceiving virtual existence as a dimension separated from traditional actuality we need assume a different set of contextual representations and thus epistemic structures that though can be bridged to regular style embodiment cannot be fully mapped to said body. This distinction if clarified allows us now to embed a re-definition of the concept of identity on the net that is distinct, different and only partially co-extensive with our physical embodiment. The issue here that we need reflect upon is that certain of our identities in virtuality are not extensions of our physicalities but have as it were, an independent or semi-independent as the case may be (such as an avatar in an online game, or SL ) existence to which, a contextual state of affairs need be defined.

    No longer can we assume a central locus indicated rigidly by our bodily location to which all our identities are bound. Moreover, from a different perspective no longer can we assume that the motion of intelligence is still, in all cases, directed from the actual to the virtual. In fact, in many cases (“you are what you pretend to be … you are what you play (Turkle, 1997)#3) we will discern quite the opposite, a motion of intelligence from the virtual to the actual. And let us remember that though it is an interplay of flows, in no fashion is symmetry implied, quite the contrary in fact, in the relation between the virtual to the actual and the actual to the virtual, asymmetry reigns supreme. In some instances the flow of actuality into virtuality will gain the upper hand whilst in others the opposite will be the case. Nevertheless our effort here must emphasize the tension between those two motions and the clarification of directionality.

    Whilst embodied identities maintain a formal highly structural and therefore rigid set of indicators, defined primarily as body, gender etc., our virtual identities are factually indicated in a fluid manner and thus pertain to the flaccid designators category. The initial condition of the human thus has changed and can no longer be theorized based on immovable objects of identity. What the Polytopian stance suggests is that our virtual identities are in fact social entities in and of themselves allowing a co-present, inter-subjective, hyper-connected, state of affairs, radically rewriting the codes of social encounters.

    A number of different perspectives exist as of today desiring different application of the correlation actual-virtual. Some of these would like to maintain a rigid continuity of identification assuming wrongly that only such rigid continuity will allow valid confirmation of identity and thus trustworthiness (see Obama's-internet passport). Whilst there are certain domains to which such view is applicable (banking for example) in most cases pertaining to the evolution of our cyborgization this will be untrue. Same goes for the opposite view that the virtual domain should be totally and uncompromisingly free and detached from any rigid correlation and continuity to actual embodied identity. In fact most of the social entities considered as domains of interest extended in time in the infosphere pertain to neither perspective but to a middle ground grey area which is, to use the old adage, neither this nor that. Most of our cyborgization process of becoming, manifested primarily via the networked hyper-connected infocological state of affairs is fundamentally: ambiguous, uncertain, oscillating and fluctuating, and should be considered as a flow of in-betweens. The flow of in-betweens is actually comprised of multiple domains of interests, passions and relations, but more importantly perhaps, of radical creative encounters. This is the domain where the cross-pollination, cross-fertilization of human endeavor finds its home. This home, at present a fragile realm, fuzzy in its orientation yet passionate in its desire to explode into new forms of life, contains a fundamental structural instability. Though it may seem that this structural instability also called inherent approximation, is a fault line indicating a potential problem possibly degenerating into the chaos of indeterminacy, it is in my view a feature rather than a bug.



    Indeterminacy is a feature not a bug

    I submit to you the idea, that there is no direct continuity between an avatar and its originator, or for that matter the possibility of fully mapping an avatar, as a ‘stand-in’ symbol of representation, to the person that originated that same avatar. (And though at present it probably is possible to trace back an avatar to its originator, it is highly likely that given enough time and diversification, including mutations, alterations and transformations, none such will be possible or indeed desired.)
    An avatar has a quasi-infinite variety of possible interpretations depending on context, on semantics and syntax, but more importantly at this stage is the understanding that the relationship between the avatar and its originator is an indeterminate relationship that inherently exhibits the characteristics of ambiguity and fuzziness.

    Not only do I think that the relationship Avatar-Originator, is inherently ambiguous I propose to make this particular ambiguity, a kind of benchmark reflection on the concept of identity. A radical motion towards a possible liberating procedure, in which our consciously aware usage of the ambiguity of relationship Avatar-Originator, replaces the closely coupled, rigid designations, we still transpose from the actual to the virtual.

    The indeterminacy of our identities in the hyperconnected infocologies we are presently enmeshed in, is, I believe, only an indication or the beginning, if you like, of a much greater fuzziness that is waiting for us in the process of cyborgization, to which the virtualization of identity is a crucial step.

    It is my view that the evolution of intelligence, is currently undergoing a dramatic shift towards a greater uncertainty and openness, a deeper ambiguity and larger indeterminacy, a new state of affairs of mind, through which we may, if sensibly and wisely managed, become more free.

    There are many ways to understand intelligence, and in many contexts, issues of problem solving, capacity of reasoning, adaptability to new environments, learning from experience, pattern recognition, judgment exercising, imagination, originality, artistic and abstract perception, complex interpretation and so on, are all possible interpretations, definitions and usages of the concept.

    However for the purpose of this essay I am using a semi-poetic interpretation of the term intelligence. Here I refer to intelligence as a luxury of mind, a bonus if you like, that I use in a very specific manner. I refer to intelligence as a luxury here because I see the capacity to exist in ambiguous situations, to extract relevant information from fuzzy circumstances as non-linear and highly relevant to the new state of affairs we have co-created.

    The hyperconnected virtually enmeshed infocologies, upon which we are projecting our newly minted avatars, are oscillating representations that slowly but surely are disengaging from their points of origination.
    This disengagement process, itself part of our cyborgization becoming, opens new options, fresh possibilities and a wide array of potentials for the evolution of our self-descriptions into new horizons of freedom.

    Issues of gender (such as the one mentioned in the little anecdote above), of race, of creed, of ethnicity, of status, of age and any other rigid designators, ought to be relegated to the conventional, indeed to the material, as it is now, to the actual. The hyperconnected virtually enmeshed infocologies, present no inherent necessity for such, unless highly specified in functionality (as in the banking example) or so chosen (as in creating an avatar with specifically chosen characteristics). In every other context the disengagement process of an ambiguous identity, is the luxury of intelligence we can finally afford, and to my eyes should passionately apply.

    Finally, whether we are hard core Singularitarian, futurists, Transhuman or Extropians, philosophers, artists, AI designers or just any modern day person, using the mediums of our currently available technologies to hyperconnect we are factually performing acts of luxurious intelligence application.
    It does not so much matter what exactly it is that we believe concerning the coming future of our civilization and our very nature, what matters is the manner we understand the process of becoming a better specie, a better human, a more empathic mind, rational, passionate and conscious, open to the beauty of the great uncertainty that is life.

    “The only thing that makes life possible is permanent, intolerable uncertainty; not knowing what comes next.”

    Ursula K. LeGuin

    shortly to be continued..


    Endnotes :

    # 1. Let me be clear here, whilst I advocate a total freedom of self-representation on the net, there are certain kinds of social interaction in which gender representation, as an example, are fundamental for the purpose of the designated interaction. Though a dating site might require the knowledge of your gender, there is no inherent reason for a requirement of gender identification in an online game. Moreover, as I see it, it is high time that we put into question most of our assumptions about identity representation and their correlated implications especially in situations where common sense dictates that no such identification is indeed necessary. This goes far deeper than the privacy versus transparency debate, this goes to the very root of the personhood perception mechanisms that we have put into place, millennia ago and need be upgraded to fit our modern day hyperconnected interfaced minds.

    # 2. No necessary traceable memory I use here to designate the rigid factuality of designation of a particular individual in the original dimension of the actual that does not transpose into other possible worlds especially as refers to the virtual hyperconnected dimension. Hence though it will be true to state that person P is a female in actuality this description may not necessarily be transposed unto the virtual, and thus does not carry traceable memory.

    # 3. Turkle, S. (1997). Constructions and Reconstructions of Self in Virtual Reality. In S. Kiesler (Ed.), Culture of the Internet. Hilldale, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

    # 4. second image in text: Double Pendulum with LEDs by Michael G Devereux

    # 5. third image Succulus by Robert Pepperell

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    I am currently reading one of (probably) the best books in the hard sci-fi genre, it appears that somehow it escaped my attention but here I finally put my mind to it and am exploring the intricacies of this ‘funny’ book.
    The book is called Dragon’s egg, written by Robert Forward and published in 1980, and basically is the chronicles of the accelerated evolution of a species known as the Cheela having evolved on a neutron star with 67 billion times the surface gravity of earth, a fact which of course changes everything (read the book, you will not regret it.)
    What I find in the book fascinating is a particular aspect of the lives of the Cheela, specifically the fact that they live a million times faster than humans, and thus all of their evolution happens in human terms between May and June 2050.



    The issue of speed and relativity in terms of duration is fascinating for a simple reason, for it is my view that something very similar, metaphorically speaking, is happening right here and now, partly within us, partly outside of us.

    The part within us, our minds, and the part outside of us, our civilization, are only two of the dimensions within which it is possible to perceive, differences in speed, distinctions of velocity, variations in rates, disparities of pace and ultimately, divergence in directionalities based on these divergences.

    The sense thought I get from current realities, juxtaposed and coinciding is that different philosophies and worldviews are operating concomitantly and interactively and yet because of the differences in speed that I mentioned above apparent contradictions appear to surface when in fact none such are. The appearance of contradictions in fact is one of the hallmarks of the differences in velocity and variations of pace.

    Some of the ideas currently being promoted in various extrapolated spaces of thoughts are on the extreme wing of the fast forward approach, such as certain brands of transhumanism, whilst others, are on the extreme wing of bio conservatism or indeed full fledged traditionalism.
    It is of course quite obvious that most of the current thoughts, based on philosophies of old, react or better yet re-enact certain known paths of intellectual pursuit and thus constitute the bulk of what is aptly termed the middle ground.
    The middle ground in this respect is what can be called ‘the current fashion’ or alternatively ‘the accepted consensus of reality now’. If we take the grand volume of what is the presently congruous we can, without doubt, perceive an amalgam of concepts from science and religion, so called politics and somewhat misappropriated philosophies of life, or of art, of criticism as well as of envisioning.

    As I see it, there is a pattern there, or more accurately a pattern of patterns, a meta- pattern of sorts; a complex and highly volatile transitory coagulation of our civilization history, both in thought and in action. The meta-pattern I look upon now, involves a flow of traffic, or traffic of flows if one prefers, motions within motions, streams of sensations and torrents of thought with no apparent center or for that matter apparent direction.

    The traffics of flows, of ideas and thoughts we can observe, differ from each other not so much by content as by speed, not so much by context as by velocity, in fact looking upon the different kinds of flows with a certain (necessary) detachment from the implied value of each flow, we can see that flows of ideas, mesh and interact, mutate and fertilize each other, giving birth in the process to yet other flows.

    These flows of course have names, pointers and signifiers that apparently distinguish them from their predecessor’s parent flows or indeed from their siblings and eventually from their offspring. What is important at this stage however is to understand that the differences in these flows can be mapped in different ways, using different benchmarks for different purposes, resulting and here is the crucial point, in different kind of understandings of the state of affairs at play.

    For our ability of analysis and parsing to be conceptually sound and integrated within a larger framework of sustainable action we first need escape the freeze frame fallacy.

    The fallacy of freeze frame:

    The fallacy of freeze frame refers to this most common practice of the mind to dissect a flow of events at a particular time T and implying from it about the flow itself. Consider the fact that a particular group of humans in the process of discussion can be seen to differ in stages, first about ontology and or perhaps metaphysics, then about semantics, later about the ideas and finally about the direction they will or will not take. At each point of the discussion if the frame is in freeze, the conclusion will be that the group is incompetent, unable to reach a decision or alternatively is not adapted to the task at hand, if alternatively the group flow is in freeze frame at the exact moment of consensus, the conclusion will be that this has fallen under the groupthink malady and is not an evolving organism.

    It is highly difficult to escape the fallacy of freeze frame mainly because our minds are limited in the amount of flow dynamics that are perceivable per time per space and thus an easy escape route out of this limitation is the freeze frame method. We give or concoct our opinion of a process based on the moment we need give such an opinion, this creates a fixed point of observation from which future points are derived, the frame so freezed becoming a bench mark for our sense thought.

    The fallacy of freeze frame is a fundamental perceptual disability afflicting all of us to different degrees at different times and to my mind is the corner stone of the problems we are facing when trying to understand the state of affairs of the world and how to go about it.

    We are all well aware, I think, that being subject to the necessity of action we use the freeze frame paradigm to create for ourselves a set of values (and from that a set of ethical imperatives and moral actions) from which cathedral we judge the reality we apparently perceive. Said judgment of course leads us to so-called ‘realizations’ or ‘insights’ or alternatively beliefs in our own understanding that we deem both universal and true (we need deem these as such since only if they are universal and true would we have, or so we believe enough justification to muster the energy needed for action).

    The first question we need address if so is why escape the freeze frame fallacy in the first place since it is actually a tool of our minds that helps us make sense of the world.
    The answer is not as simple as we may desire it to be; it is fundamentally a necessary transition to a different kind of mind, a Polytopian mind that sees traffic of flows as the foundation of hyperconnected intersubjectivity.

    The cross pollination of flows within the traffic of flows is the answer to the riddle, for without allowing a directed cross fertilization we end up within one particular flow, oblivious to the relevancy of simultaneous evolutions, and thus miss the opportunity of openness to alternate interpretations of possible outcomes.

    Openness in this respect implies a sort of coherent ambiguity, and fertile uncertainty, an evaluation not of the flow to which we ‘apparently’ belong but of the interplay of flows, and intersubjective scenarios.

    If we are to have clarity of mind that engenders the entanglement of an open posthuman future, the view we need uphold is one of multiplicity of forms and functions, simultaneous visions operating in tandem but on different scales of change and pace of actuation.
    It is in fact a different kind of stance, to which quantification of action releases its hold upon us to permit a qualification of acceptance to the ‘other’; the ‘other’ in this case being not an individual but a flow of events.


    Fostering such a polytopian stance is part of the raison d’être of the Polytopia project.

    shortly to be continued..


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    “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"

    1.Abstract

    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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    If only you could see what I have seen with your eyes

    The off-world replicants in Ridley Scott's film Blade Runner

    This essay is part one of a new series of writings temporary called: " Philotopia - the philosophy of Polytopia"

    1. Deploying the Mind Simulator

    In what can surely be described as one of the most important papers in the philosophy of mind of the 20th century, Thomas Nagel asks, “What is it like to be a bat? Essentially an argument against total physicalism and apparently dualistic in its approach, I do not think he was a dualist nor do I think that the argument is correct in as much as it concerns consciousness, however I have found the argument interesting from a completely different perspective.

    I refer to the fact of the state of affairs of mind that is represented by the question itself, namely the very fact that we can ask such a question as:” what it is like to be [..insert whatsoever]..?” is to my mind the most salient point at play.

    It should be clear that the evolved capability of our minds to project an idea of ‘what it is like to be something’, that is other than ‘me’ the projector, is the most extraordinary phenomena we can pinpoint with a certain accuracy.

    But what is so special about this particular ability?

    My take at present is that this particular ability of human minds stands erect as the pillar foundation of empathy and recognition, simulation and imitation, and can be said to be the base root of all human communications.
    Furthermore I will state clearly that to my understanding the very fact that our minds have evolved in such a fashion as to be able to deploy an inner simulator of an other, mind, thing or thought, behavior or idea, defines the very uniqueness of sentiency.
    Whether we actually ask the question of:” what it is like to be..” or simply state a negation such as ‘I cannot possibly imagine what he or she is feeling’, or “I have no idea what a bat feels like’ or even “stupid question, there is no such thing as..” this very particular form of reflection represents a process of beingness that acts as the cornerstone of connectivity and by corollary more so of hyperconnectivity.

    The salient feature we need regard here concerns the minds capability to transport a narrative of experience across time and space into another localized and perceived reality or imagined reality and back to us for analysis. This feature of narrative transport, allows us the motion of visions across time, and permits us to in fact position alternate scenarios of conscious awareness as represented by other forms than ourselves (whether these are forms of life or not is a different question).
    The alternate scenarios we construct and posit as extensions in times stand for our capability both as individuals and as a race to devise futures (see futures as such), these futures can be construed to be an ‘other’ than ‘me’ or ‘other’ than ‘us’, as in ‘future me’ or ‘future us’.
    A ‘future me’ or a ‘future us’ is as much an ‘other’, separated in this case by the linear time continuum of perceived experience, as an ‘other than me’ that is concomitant in space and time but differs in perceived form or behavior or indeed conscious awareness.

    Therefore, when we think of devising a future and essentially acting out the futurist in us, we actually use the capability of projection of awareness across time and space into a different reality than the one perceived in and at present.

    In the case I will try to elucidate here, the transport of narratives concerns the common vision of a better world.

    The vision of a better world so common and yet so elusive, is the act of deploying our mind simulator in the question of :”what is it like to be..” But simulated as a future to be envisioned.

    Deploying the mind simulator in this fashion demands of us a very special kind of mindset, a certain very special mindset, a mindset in which the projection of the future human civilization is a direct reflection of our understanding the meanings embedded in the term a better world.

    So: “ what is it like to live in a better world?”

    Let us start by simulating a future nostalgia, the description of which may make all the difference.

    The way we describe our world shows how we think of our world.
    How we think of our world directs how we interpret our world.
    How we interpret our world governs how we participate in it.
    How we participate in the world shapes the world.


    Robert Fripp in a salvaged “Notes to Myself” file, cited in his diary (November 30, 1998) at Entersection.)



    2.Future nostalgia

    Let us for a moment imagine the implementation of our visions, those, without false and undue humility, we may call visions for a better world.
    But first, a relevant question need be begged here: ‘In what fashion are we to understand the term ‘better’ in the context of a ‘better world’? What would in fact constitute betterment?

    Not being a believer in identity in the concept of self, the basic understanding I carry is that identity if at all relevant as a subject of inquiry into betterment lies in the gaps between concepts or in the tension between contexts.

    The meaning of the above is that identity can be described as an event of the gaps.

    Identity as an Event of the gaps

    As a start let us consider that identity in the abstract sense needs a concurrency and congruency of contexts working in tandem under the aegis of a particular mind (itself at present subjugated to the body sustaining it). Though this is not a dualistic approach it will make sense to reflect that the existential space we claim as our own is not confined to the localized sense thought perceptions of our own materiality or mentality.
    Between the axis of objectification (or the demand for such) and the axis of subjectivity (or the belief in such) lies an insurmountable gap, an event of emotionality that we call identity.
    The gaps between contexts, the void between sense-thoughts, in and within the stream of our minds might be the only space for chaos to preside, we may also call this the choice event.

    The choice event

    Though neuroscience is increasingly performing the task of demonstrating that the concept of free will is outdated (at least as it is commonly used), the actions of performing decisions of directionality still (and for an extended future will) bear relevance, especially as concerns the extension of our identities (as the event of the gaps) into the infosphere. The relevance pointed to here is concerned with directions of what we perceive as enhancement of our state of affairs, decisions and choices, which we ‘believe’ will make our world better.

    Hence the correlation to the betterment concept;

    To reiterate then, our identity can be said to lie as an event of gaps, gaps between concepts, gaps between contexts, a tension between the desire of objectivity and the belief in subjectivity. If as I surmise above, the very directionality of our actions finds its core in the event of gaps, it follows that the influence of certain particular concepts, in this case the concept of ‘better’ is particularly strong in the event of gaps.

    The important thing is to understand life, each living individuality, not as a form, or a development of form, but as a complex relation between differential velocities, between deceleration and acceleration of particles. A composition of speeds and slownesses on a plane of immanence.


    Deleuze

    What does this mean?

    It may mean that we need reconfigure our understanding of the semantic phase space in which resides the term ‘better’ to fit a different understanding of the concept of identity. The reason we need do this is implicit in our desire for betterment as relayed by the term: ‘a better world’, for how can we perform the activity required of and for a better world, if we have no comprehension of the meaning we ascribe to and in the term betterment?

    At present my take on the issue is that the meaning we ascribe to ‘a better world’ is a direct manifestation of the inherency of the event of the gaps. Put differently, since we exist as an event of gaps, there is no meaning to ascribe that is not already in the interrelation of all our conceptual semantic phase space. And again, ‘better’ in the semantic phase space of the event of gaps means simply the free flow of in-betweens.

    Of course it follows that not only that there is no ‘self’ to speak of, there is of course no such animal as a ‘true self’ or correlated derivatives, what there is, if ‘isness’ as a signifier is to be invoked at all, is a metamindsphere of events of gaps, or an ecosphere of identities, all flowing as a mind stream of in-betweens, a flow of gaps and voids if you like.

    Taken together then, a better world as a statement carries the potential meaning of a clearer stream of in-betweens, the stream of in-betweens is a manner of describing the flow of events in a clear fashion, a fashion which can potentially allow us to re-describe the future we desire.



    3. A clearer stream of in-betweens.

    The fact that we have evolved the mental emotional capability to ‘put oneself in somebody else’s shoes’, as the common folk saying goes, is nothing less than tantalizing, even if the mirror neurons theory is correct it still remains somewhat of a mystery.

    The reason it is such a mystery concerns what is commonly called the paradox of change, or relative identity in identity theory:

    The Ship of Theseus Paradox:

    "Imagine a wooden ship restored by replacing all its planks and beams (and other parts) by new ones. Plutarch reports that such a ship was "… a model for the philosophers with respect to the disputed arguments … some of them saying it remained the same, some of them saying it did not remain the same" (cf. Rea 1995). Hobbes added the catch that the old parts are reassembled to create another ship exactly like the original. Both the restored ship and the reassembled one appear to qualify equally to be the original. In the one case, the original is "remodeled", in the other, it is reassembled. Yet the two resulting ships are clearly not the same ship. (See the Stanford Encyclopedia of philosophy for more)"


    The ship of Theseus metaphor is possibly the best illustration we can use to describe the kind of mind we are and the kind of world we live in at the beginning of the 21st century.
    We are a mind in flux continuously changing, evolving and mutating, a mind coherently and consistently influencing and being influenced by a world that is itself continuously in just such a flux, being transformed, evolving and mutating.
    How much more of a truism the above is when it comes to the hyperconnected infocology we have evolved to exist in.
    The fast pace of innovation, the tantalizing scientific discoveries, the rapid advancement and introduction of new technologies, and above all the hyperconnected infosphere all in tandem, have increased the speed of fluctuations, the actual flux of existence of our minds and identities, to such an extant that for all immediate purposes the stability of our old conceptual frameworks has been shattered.
    Our dilapidated contextual and abstract frames of reference have been shattered and yet we still use old formulations to speak and contain a new state of affairs.
    None more so perhaps than our old perspectives on what it is like to live in a better world.

    If the flow of in-betweens of our so called identities is in continuous flux and the world in which said identities is in continuous flux, isn’t it time to change our worldviews to match this transition?

    4.Changing our perspectives

    The hyperconnected infosphere has created a new state of affairs in which the question of “what is it like to be..” or ‘putting oneself into somebody else’s shoes’ has been reformulated to mean a hyper-meshing of flows of events of identities, in which not only our motion of gaps as flux has been transformed but also the very meaning we have attributed to the motion itself, namely the meaning attributed to betterment.

    In the new perspective suggested here, the worldview of base is one in which hyperconnectivity as the foundation of thriving in flux infocologies is said to stand as a reflection for the inner event of the gaps described above.

    The correlation is simple enough: the apparent identity of a particular mind as the event of gaps is reflected in the identity of the infocology that same mind resides in as the event of gaps in-between the different minds partaking of the same infocology.

    From a different perspective we could say the following:

    Voids between concepts are the actual spaces where meaning resides; these voids have shapes, tensions and form. The motion of these voids represents the underlying infra-flows of minds in hyperconnected mode.

    Infra-flows and hyper-flows are the two initial states of the infosphere, it is within the exchange of these two flows that we need look if we are to understand the term better in the context of ‘a better world’.
    The clarification of our semantic existential phase space, by which we explicate what we mean and from which we take our motive strengths of action is a fundamental necessity if we are to create a better world.
    Visions of a better world, like Theseus ships, are in constant flux, so are we, so is the world, the hyper-complex intersubjective relationships emerging from these different fluxes need redirect our gaze to a much broader and deeper understanding of that which we are creating.

    Polytopia as a Rhizomatic Hyperconnected state of affairs is the ground of engagement upon which and from which we will eventually rise as a better specie that has in due eventuality created a better world and a new form of wisdom.


    shortly to be continued..

    notes:

    For the term Philotopia (the Philosophy of Polytopia) I am indebted to Syncopath for the actual coining of the term Philotopia in a recent chat.

    Images in text:
    1. Information leak by Richard Evans
    2. Antony Gormley
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