Overview: Project Themes
What is real?
For at least hundreds of thousands of years, we living creatures have found meaningful, if radically differing, ways of being.
The sense of the real — in actuality, its meaning — is correlated with happenstance. Patterns of relationships among particulars of our lives inform a social sense of belonging. Factors of location, available resources, heredity, social groupings, biographical details and so on provide the sense of who and what a person is. Or they may convey the contrary measure of relational dysfunction, alienation.
But both poles are relevant to the larger sense, meaningfulness. As used herein, meaningfulness is the meta-prospect of any kind of relationship at all, including its seeming lack. Meaningfulness conveys a rich potential for construing connections and associations among items given in some circumstance. Meaningfulness relies upon an underlying grasp of organic structure. It gauges the wholly-appropriate fitness of part-to-part-within-whole that characterizes integrity.
Individual meanings may vary within associated patterns of incidentals, but meaningfulness, comprehensively, is a symptom, an aura of harmonized fit, of belonging, within some context — or not. Individuals initially learn patterns of attentiveness from their cultural context, then later influence those patterns as they communicate experiences with others during the course of their lives. Over generations cultural notions of “common sense” grow and change organically from attentive contributions of individuals active within community life of a group.
In the negative instance of meaningfulness, it seems, we now pay the piper for centuries of exclusively reductionist C4 Western thinking. [See table Cultural Orders of Pragmatic Paradigm, below.] An atomized anti-meaningfulness haunts our kaleidoscopic contemporary world, where a new era unfolds into more complex C5 vitality.
Many suffer other-reality in vain and seemingly pointless mirrorings of divergent media-fueled fantasies where even the tried-and-true notion of fact often seems suspect. To animate staged radio talk confrontations rudderless and unanchored selves flail in a media-borne sea of schizo-tribalistic opinion. There, little seems relevant until displayed on, or shouted from, some virtual media platform.
In schizo-tribalism, unique specifics of a person’s life can seem feeble and unrelated, divorced from any sort of organic belonging until bathed in ersatz validation such as conferred by reality TV or postings on Instagram or Snapchat. The core crises of contemporary C5 cultural sensibilities, schooled in concerts of anti-meaningfulness, reek of existential un-belonging.
Once Upon A Time
As typically used with regard to human populations, the term "culture" somehow suggests a great trans-generational, relatively homogeneous, and interactively thrumming collection of people at work or at play, in service to similar or related goals. People often look back nostalgically to “good ol’ days”, lamenting loss of some estimable quality now long gone.
But, in actuality, in a vigorous and vital culture, at its beginnings, rarely is there homogeneity until it emerges from creative interplay of clashing social and cultural dispositions, as when immigrant populations converge and bring unique vibrance to some locale.
Social confrontation, where it is able to avoid violence, incites innovation and mutually beneficial solutions that, as they become habits that are copied and spread, confer homogeneity as side effect. Seeds of vigorous culture that are planted grow harmonious only in consequence of concerted effort and aspiration to resolve hobbling contrasts and differences among peoples. It is the later recollections of the survivors and their descendants that harmonize and polish “the old ways”. At the time they seemed just as disconcerting and challenging as present concerns.
Communi -ty depends upon -cation
Cultures depend upon human communication. They emerge amid communal transactions that happen via age-old, still evolving, sets of transactional media (See the Table of Cultural Evolution of Pragmatic Paradigm, below). Such media may dominate, shape and facilitate an era by favoring specific tendencies of concerted action within social groups.
Individuals always have communicated intentions to others. Such signification is essential to the cooperative work that underpins any vital culture. But each communications medium exhibits specific properties that peculiarly characterize and skew (a la Marshall McLuhan) potential meanings that guide scenarios of cooperation, tool making, commerce, resolution of conflict, and all other factors of collective life.
Enhanced and more fluent media technologies facilitate ever more complex orchestrations of joint endeavor. And they foster each next emergent plateau of cultural accomplishment. But at each plateau, their expressive capacities and characteristics infect and shape the so-called "spirit of the age". And so, the cultural process flows on.
Promise or threat of a new era?
Now we find that cultural fount gushing prospect of a rendingly novel, communications-borne potential: artificially augmented pluripotency.
Nanobiotech, in concert with artificial general intelligence (AGI), promises to revolutionize what heretofore has been the essentially personal and private character of attentiveness. Interplay of powerful technologically-endowed cognitive facilities bodes prospect of a multi-sourced, transhuman, digitally-architected, subjectively unrooted, prosthetic type of pluripotency. Such artificial endowments will confer abilities above and beyond any natural prowess, particularly among privileged enclaves of human power groups. Their threat lies in the specter of an unprincipled rootlessness underlying their debut, liable to exacerbate existential crises already woven-in among current Western C4 cultural manifestations that now build toward C5 social holarchies.
Part of a widely anticipated onset of technological Singularity, this rapidly approaching collective convulsion very likely will prove to be exceptionally disruptive. And such wrenching disruption historically has engendered crisis in civilization itself.
Advances of technology, along with enhanced understandings of biology and emergent systems, will rouse a new order of attentive competence unattainable to any that lack appropriate technological augmentation. The greater part of living humanity could be relegated to a taxonomic out-caste, becoming mere Vox Animalia — protesting animal voices.
Once Upon A Telepath
Able to wield multiple streams of thought in common with other artificially pluripotent beings, orchestrated via artificial intelligence systems, such transhumans will know multi-layered concerts of conceptualization and expression, along with multi-focal attentiveness. Will they choose recklessly or well? In benevolence or with indifference? Will their aspirations seek to further organic wholesomeness, cultural integrity, or will they incite new levels of rootless existential anguish?
It is possible, in the case of some more harmonious rendition, that we might approach a profoundly benign cultural threshold, as given in Hermann Hesse’s Das Glasperlenspiel (The Glass Bead Game). But, conversely, if wholly divorced from any sense of of organic belonging, sentient life likely will veer into never-ending and virtually-recursing nightmare. Our choices pivot on how we make sense of living on this planet, in this cosmos. Truly, future reality will be whatever we think it is.
Each manifest order in the table below denotes a stage of cognitive dexterity that is personally learned and formed into habit. Habit that underlies and facilitates (or fails) formation of individual adaptive prowess. (Note that while natural pluripotency is availed in traditions of M10 enlightened wisdom, artificially induced, unanchored pluripotency remains, as yet, unbirthed and purely speculative.)
But, bearing smartphones and portable tablets of a nascent C5 global culture, already we push toward an artificially pluripotent communalization of attentiveness itself. Trending-nows, tweet-wars and viral-videos are but a foretaste of what yet may be — assuming that disruptions don't rend the very fabric of social order and plunge us back into C0 savagery, C1 predatory gang wars, or coercive C2 scriptural strictures. In contrast with those dark age atavisms a failure back into C3 medievalism would seem a blessing and a comfort.
Cultures, in symbiotic synchrony with emergent individual potentials, gradually have evolved from primordial sentience into ever more convolved and capable orders. They tend to emerge with novel architectures of enlarged and habituated communal sensibility — despite unfortunate occasions of failure into cultural atavism.
Featuring a notation built upon and evocative of that of the personal Manifest Orders, the Table of Cultural Orders of Pragmatic Paradigm, below, summarizes stages emergent from an interplay of individual sensibilities within and across social groups. Guided by particular and peculiar properties of communications media that happen to dominate an era, such interplay of transactions has driven, slow, if erratic, evolution of cultural potentials up through the ages.
Now, as globally we build C5, also we set in motion behavioral vectors that subsequently will guide emergence of C6.
Karma. It happens. And, seemingly, ever more rapidly
These ideas first appeared under the title "Evolution of the pragmatic paradigm: The agency of graphic media in cognitive development", pages 109-116, LEONARDO: Journal for the Arts, Sciences and Technology , vol. 26, No. 2, 1993.
Cultural Orders of Pragmatic Paradigm