Member 3
22 entries

Rene Daalder
Los Angeles, US
Immortal since Jan 18, 2007
Uplinks: 0, Generation 1

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    The Search for Polytopia
    Project: Polytopia
    When we launched SpaceCollective towards the end of 2007 we had no idea whether the “forward thinking terrestrials’’ we were hoping to attract were actually out there. All we had to go by was our sense of the zeitgeist and the hypothesis that we are currently living through a period of exponential change that has the potential to transform human nature, using as our reigning metaphors the networked intelligence of the web, technology-induced evolution and the new space age.

    Image from Node Garden by Jared Tarbell, 2004

    While students at UCLA in Los Angeles and Vienna’s School for the Applied Arts were in the early process of beta testing the site, scores of aspiring members somehow found our unpublicized URL and were applying for membership to our yet to be launched invite only community. Without any publicity or public beta, an instant network of forward thinkers from all over the world had spontaneously sprung into existence. Since then SpaceCollective has become a veritable think tank about the future hosting thousands of highly astute contributors and hundreds of thousands of page views per month.

    The community we established appears to be filling a gap in the culture, which relegates almost everything that lies in the future to the realm of science-fiction. Our ongoing involvement with major universities made it clear that the academic environment, which routinely passes on the wisdom of the ages, offers no formal curriculum that addresses the future. The same can be said about other institutions like the government and even the Internet itself, which offers few opportunities for future-oriented discourse.

    The consensus appears to be that the future is based on conjecture rather than empirical observation and therefore has little or no relevance to academia or the general populace.

    As a result, the precious preserve of the past is left in the respectable hands of tenured professors, while most known futurists are outsiders making a living as fiction writers (i.e. Neal Stephenson), musicians (Brian Eno), journalists (Joel Garreau) or inventors (Ray Kurzweil).

    SpaceCollective appears to be a similar ragtag group of individuals, coming from various creative backgrounds and sharing the interests and concerns of these avowed futurists.

    Unlike the majority of people whose lives tend to be rooted in the past, and the more blessed among them who manage to exist in the here and now, these forward thinkers appear to be living on the threshold of the imminent future. Not because of their superior intelligence, but because of their intuitive capacities. Where others experience the world in terms of the fixed and the firm, they see reality as a scrim revealing the future potential of things.

    Although this mindset may offer some people the advantage of a certain foresight, it also puts them at odds with the establishment, whose job it is to preserve the status quo rather than promote potential. Thus, in order to exercise their autonomy of thought, it makes perfect sense for them to retreat beyond the scrim to the parallel universe of the internet to dream up new strategies for transcending the stagnant world at large.

    “In the future, the importance of geography will be matched by the importance of values and ideas,” writes Alan Smith in a recent SpaceCollective post about a foreseeable Nationhood made up of “overlapping islands of thought.” meganmay brings his point home by observing that “more than any other website, SpaceCollective is where minds meet outside of bodies.”

    Image from Nationhood: The future of Nationalism by Alan Smith

    In what seems to be like an update to virtual reality, which transports simulated “bodies” to alternate worlds, many internet users share the familiar sense of extending their minds into a virtual head space which they collectively inhabit.

    This sensibility is articulated in a couple of video Epiphanies by Richard and Xárene who call this online space “home,” while the most commented upon post, Proposal for a New Society, features several manifestoes for an online state called InterNation.

    Both of these notions were recently expounded in separate posts by one of the site’s most prolific futurists, Wildcat, who tackles the concept of an interactive home for what is becoming a society of mind with unprecedented clarity:

    The infoverse is where we will live. And we need a home. A mutually supportive habitat of sorts. A mind habitat, an infotat for our minds, for we are infonauts.” He goes on to wonder whether “the little corner in the vast infoverse” we’ve come to know as SpaceCollective may be the home he has been looking for.

    Over time an unspoken consensus about the nature of Wildcat’s “mind habitat” has taken shape in several extensive posts by SpaceCollective members. For example, in “My cranium is open source?” versatile futurist philosopher Spaceweaver writes that "in the future the very definition of individuality will probably be derived not from the arbitrary conditions of one’s biological makeup, but rather how one is connected and to what. The degree of individuation will depend on (the) difference in interconnectivity.” In conclusion he observes that “becoming interconnected minds who share all resources (i.e. computation power and bandwidth) might become an increasingly attractive existential option.”

    Following up his post about a “mutually supportive mind habitat,” Wildcat has a go at the unresolved Proposal for a New Society and takes a leap forward by drawing up an ad hoc constitution while coining a brilliant catch-all name for his project. Here’s an excerpt of the thought process that brought him to this point:
    “My aim in this proposition is to emphasize that the concepts of Utopia and Dystopia are anachronistic, outdated and outright obsolete. In their stead I shall try and propose a fresh perspective on the notion of the future of humanity, a natural humanity, perpetually evolving. The future of humanity I propose is one of Polytopia, a term designating an open ended and emergent process of co-evolution and cross-fertilization considering all and any conscious aware entities.”

    The word Polytopia is a derivation of the Latin terms Poly (many) and -topia (places, or states of mind), which according to one of Wildcat’s definitions suggests “an open source collaboration between consciously aware entities towards an increase in combined interactive intelligence.”

    There have been many attempts by the collective to infuse shopworn words with new meaning for purposes of future discourse. Al advocated an online dictionary for “new words and new understandings of old ones,” while Obvious proposed “hyper-textual mind maps" as a representation of his thoughts”, and Spaceweaver maintained that “metaphors are the landmarks of the evolution of language.”

    In an earlier post Wildcat himself announced that “the emergence of a new language, is nothing less than the emergence of a new human being. These two must come together.”

    So he kept struggling to coin new words for the different conditions he has been trying to articulate. At one point he defined the inter-connective mind as the ColleX which among other things is meant to be “a descriptive term designating the fundamental emergent direction of a group of sentient beings.” But despite the usefulness of its meaning, the word apparently lacked the required ring to enter into SpaceCollective’s consciousness. Until further notice the same may have happened to his “Transbeing” (to replace Transhumanist) or to Al’s coinage of the “Internation.” Yet occasionally someone happens upon a phrase that has the potential to establish a new paradigm, like Jung’s Collective Unconscious, William Gibson’s Cyberspace or Vernor Vinge’s Singularity. And as far as I’m concerned Wildcat’s Polytopia should go down in history as just such a term because it so well describes the inter-connected future we are pursuing in this little corner of the vast infoverse.

    I am a Polytopian.

    Thu, Aug 14, 2008  Permanent link

    Sent to project: Polytopia
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    meika     Sun, Aug 17, 2008  Permanent link
    Note for comparison:—-

    Samuel R. Delany's "heterotopia" in his novel Trouble on Triton: An Ambiguous Heterotopia, a work which was the most influential SF work of my early adulthood, certainly destroyed any vestiges of my provincial homophobia.