15 October 2018 | Draft
Cognitive Embodiment of Nature "Re-cognized" Systemically
Radical engagement with an increasingly surreal reality
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Indications in place of reasoned argument
Nature as a cognitive exoskeleton for humanity?
Renaissance of the environment and psychology of sustainability
Potential cognitive embodiment of other species: "re-cognized" in a global context?
Intercourse with the environment as cognitive "shapeshifting"
Potential cognitive speciation understood otherwise
Humanity as epiterrestrial "psiorgs" rather than extraterrestrial "cyborgs"?
Embodying the universe as a strategic opportunity
Part III of Collapse and Renaissance of Civilization: dilemma of communication and engagement understood otherwise
This is a development of the concluding argument of the previous part of this exploration (Post-Apocalyptic Renaissance of Global Civilization: engaging with otherness otherwise? 2018). There it was indicated that a possibility for the future depended on whether individuals and groups can recognize more consciously the patterns by which their particular behaviour is
characterized -- in the environment in general, and in nature in particular. This is necessarily a challenge for a civilization variously described as unconscious (John Ralston Saul, The Unconscious Civilization, 1995). More specifically this implied understanding how they might "shapeshift" between several such patterns, especially over the course of a life, as a consequence of
education and experience.
This approach contrasts with that of the landmark report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) [summary; headline statements]. Prepared by the world’s leading climate scientists, it warns that only a dozen years remain for global warming to be kept to a maximum of 1.5C, beyond which even half a degree will significantly worsen the risks of drought, floods, extreme heat and poverty for hundreds of millions of people (We have 12 years to limit climate change catastrophe, warns UN, The Guardian, 8 October 2018; Unprecedented changes in all aspects of society needed to meet global warming target: IPCC report, The Australian, 8 October 2018).
With its implication that global society must unquestionably heed that warning, the IPCC report omits any consideration of the psychosocial factors which may detract from its meriting the attention climate scientists consider appropriate, as discussed separately (Recognizing the Psychosocial Boundaries of Remedial Action: constraints on ensuring a safe operating space for humanity, 2009).
Arguably a more urgent question is whether there is any collective recognition of how society responds to dramatic warnings. The Limits to Growth report to the Club of Rome in 1972 offers but one example, recently revisited in another report to the Club (Come On! Capitalism, Short-termism, Population and the Destruction of the Planet, 2018) as reviewed separately (Exhortation to We the Peoples from the Club of Rome, 2018). That of The Royal Society (People and the Planet, 2012) offers another, as separately reviewed (Scientific Gerrymandering of Boundaries of Overpopulation Debate, 2012).
Who attends to such arguments and why are they so lacking in impact on the "climate of opinion" and on effective global strategy?
What indeed do climate scientists know about the social processes for which they are now calling for "rapid, far reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects"? How realistic is the insight that limiting global warming to 1.5C compared to 2C could "go hand-in-hand with ensuring a more sustainable and equitable society" -- in the light of the decades-long quest for the latter? Lacking the slightest understanding of the dynamics of such systems, could the relevance of the insights of "climate science" have been enhanced by broadening the focus to include the social systems they seek so radically to change, as argued separately (Playfully Changing the Prevailing Climate of Opinion: climate change as focal metaphor of effective global governance, 2005)? Ironically will it prove to be the case that climate crises ar themselves the key another mode of thinking about a remedial response (Systemic Crises as Keys to Systemic Remedies, 2008)?
How do people transform between information patterns, especially when they "reinvent themselves" as is seemingly now required by climate scientists? How is the binary framing of otherness to be "combatted" as a kind of enemy -- without succumbing to the questionable consequences of that framing (Elaborating a Declaration on Combating Anti-otherness, 2018; Engaging an Opposing Ideology via Martial Arts Philosophy, 2016)? Is climate change to be "combatted"?
The argument here is that, rather than depending on authorities anxious to ensure that their particular worldview is faithfully reproduced in any Renaissance (however ineffectually), individuals may in effect be free to adopt and test alternative modalities at will. The corresponding challenge for authorities is whether they can prove that their conventional recommendations are of more meaningful consequence to individuals -- who increasingly perceive their effectiveness to be questionable.
The question here is how better to frame this possibility in order to facilitate and enable such exploration. This has been variously approached in previous arguments (My Reflecting Mirror World: making my World Summit on Sustainable Development worthwhile, 2002; En-minding the Extended Body: enactive engagement in conceptual shapeshifting and deep ecology, 2003; En-joying the World through En-joying Oneself: eliciting the potential of globalization through cognitive radicalization, 2011; Existential Embodiment of Externalities: radical cognitive engagement with environmental categories and disciplines, 2009).
Indications in place of reasoned argument
The focus of this argument does not call for revisiting the many articulations of the cognitive relationship of humans with nature -- whether problematic or otherwise. One overview of the literature is offered separately ("Human Intercourse": "Intercourse with Nature" and "Intercourse with the Other", 2007).
This argument could be elaborated in conventionally reasoned terms, as a further development of previous exercises (En-minding the Extended Body: enactive engagement in conceptual shapeshifting and deep ecology, 2003; Psychology of Sustainability: embodying cyclic environmental processes, 2002).
There is however a case for recognizing the extent to which any such reasoned approach is increasingly unfit for purpose in a "post-truth" world of "alternative facts" in which any reasoned argument is called into question for a variety of reasons -- whether upheld as invalid or inherently suspect. Denial of validity is increasingly a characteristic modality, whether between disciplines, political ideologies, religions, or charismatic leaders (Reframing Personal Relationships between Innovators or Leaders: the unmentionable challenge to sustainable paradigm shifting and social transformation, 1998).
As noted in the first part of this paper regarding "info-death", the emerging condition can be explored in terms of infertility of intercourse and communication (Infertility as a Metaphor Heralding Global Collapse: essential impotence disguised by performance and "being great again", 2018). Similarly the desperate quest for means of "being great again", merits exploration in terms of that for aphrodisiacs, symbolical or otherwise.
Catalytic role of metaphor: A key to an alternative approach is the use of metaphor, previously presented as a new frontier, with all the challenges that implies (Being the Universe: a metaphoric frontier, 1999). The case has been "reasonably" made by Douglas Hofstadter and Emmanuel Sander (Surfaces and Essences: analogy as the fuel and fire of thinking, 2013), and argued by Aldo Matteucci (Analogies (and metaphors) as mental maps, Diplo, 19 July 2012).
The case can be made otherwise:
Identification with nature/ In one remarkable review of deep ecology and ecophilosophy, the understanding of identification in that context is clarified by Warwick Fox (Toward a Transpersonal Ecology: developing new foundations for environmentalism, 1995). He notes the importance attached to the process in the writings of Arne Naess. Fox argues (pp. 231-232; italic emphasis in original. bold emphasis added) :
When Naess or other transpersonal ecologists emphasize the importance of wider and deeper identification, it is important in interpreting them not to get carried away in flights of imaginative fancy but rather to understand what is being said as far as possible in a down to earth, ordinary, everyday sense. Identification should be taken to mean what we ordinarily understand by that term, that is, the experience not simply of a sense of similarity with an entity but of a sense of commonality.
To pursue this further, one can have a sense of certain similarities between oneself and another entity without necessarily identifying with that entity, that is, without necessarily experiencing a sense of commonality with that entity. On the other hand, the experience of commonality with another entity does imply a sense of similarity with that entity, even if this similarity is not of any obvious physical, emotional , or mental kind; it may involve "nothing more" than the deep-seated realization that all entities are aspects of a single unfolding entity... What identification should not be taken to mean, however, is identity -- that I literally am that tree over there, for example. What is being emphasized is the tremendously common experience that through the process of identification my sense of self (my experiential self) can expand to include the tree even though I and the tree remain physically "separate" (even here, however, the word separate must not be taken too literally because ecology tells us that my physical self and the tree are physically interlinked in all sorts of ways).
Expressing this point in another way, the realization that we and all other entities are aspects of a single unfolding reality -- that "life is fundamentally one" -- does not mean that all multiplicity and diversity is reduced to a homogeneous mush. As Naess says, the idea that we are:
... drops in the stream of life may be misleading if it implies that the individuality of the drops is lost in the stream. Here is a difficult ridge to walk: To the left we have the ocean of organic and mystic views, to the right the abyss of atomic individualism.
Imaginative freedom? Whilst offering an admirable clarification, the expressions in bold are indicative of a form of dogma which is not the intention of the argument made here with regard to the freedom to interpret reality as one so chooses, as previously explored (Being What You Want: problematic kataphatic identity vs. potential of apophatic identity? 2008). It is of course the case that the bold emphasis conforms to one such choice.
The question here is how better to frame this possibility in order to facilitate and enable such exploration. As noted above, this has been variously approached in previous arguments.
Nature as a cognitive exoskeleton for humanity?
Global civilization, now proudly acclaimed as knowledge-based, is characterized by specialization of every kind. At the same time much is made of the purported "equality" of human beings, as solemnly enshrined in various declarations and religious principles. The problematic conversion between one system of belief and another, whether religious or ideological, confirms the perception of inequality in practice. It is of course the case that an extraordinary "inequality" is acknowledged with respect to income and control of resources -- whether or not this is deplored. As currently framed there is little likelihood that these understandings will be modified to any degree (Cultivating the Myth of Human Equality: ignoring complicity in the contradictions thereby engendered, 2016).
Biomimicry? It is therefore interesting to take a more speculative approach, given the rate at which the species in nature are becoming extinct or endangered -- most notably as a consequence of human activity, whether or not this impoverishment of the environment is deplored, and irrespective of assertions that "nature is dead". There is however a curious tendency to recognize that human society may have something to learn from nature for its own advantage, whether this is understood in terms of biomimicry or technomimicry, as separately discussed (Technomimicry as analogous to biomimicry, 2011).
Rather than define species in terms of their form and genetic make-up (as is the current preoccupation), another possibility is opened by defining species in terms of the distinctive manner in which each organizes and processes information. This naturally follows from the genetic constitution of each. It is also consistent with the recognition by fundamental physics that all matter can be understood in terms of information and energy, however these are to be comprehended and related.
Species as information patterns? From such a perspective each species is an information processing pattern, with the set of such species effectively constituting a pattern language, as originally articulated by Christopher Alexander (A Pattern Language, 1977). This offers various possibilities of generalization (5-fold Pattern Language, 1984).
In turn this then frames a question of potential interest to theoretical biology, namely how this complex set of patterns emerges and how they may be understood as interacting. With increasing interest in simulation of the global society of humans, how might such skills be adapted to exploring the interactions between millions of species -- each with a distinctive pattern of information processing?
Cognitive exoskeleton? The exploration can however be taken further by considering how humans may in practice "borrow" patterns of information organization and processing from species in nature. This is not a focus of any research at this time, however recognition of a degree of credibility of such human adaptability is evident in the familiar characterization of the behavioural patterns of some humans in terms of: sharks, wolves, snakes, rats, cockroaches, bulls, tigers, and the like. Some may be characterized as plants: rose, lily, creeper, tree, and the like. The names of species may even be applied to individuals, whether by their parents or as nicknames in the light of their behaviour, or the qualities it is hoped they may have.
Such names may also be applied to corporate bodies and countries. Indeed there are a number of strategic management studies which recommend that corporations (and their managers) should learn from the behavioural skills of animals (D. Lynch and P. Kordis, Strategy of the Dolphin: scoring a win in a chaotic world, 1988; J. Moore, Predators and Prey: a new ecology of competition. Harvard Business Review, 1993). Natural species may well be adopted as totems or symbols, whether by countries, political parties, teams, military groups, tribal factions, and other bodies -- even scouts and guides. This is especially the case with totem animals in indigenous cultures (Native American Totem Animals and Their Meanings, Legends of America; James Cowan, On Totems. Resurgence, 138, 1990, pp. 30-34).
In a period in which there is extensive research into powered exoskeletons to enhance the capacity of the physical body for military or other purposes, there is a case for considering the nature of a cognitive exoskeleton -- and how the species in nature may be indicative of a multiplicity of possibilities. The immersive features of virtual reality offer other pointers, possibly to be understood as combining biomimicry and technomimicry, as imagined in science fiction:
One situation explored by a number of writers is however of relevance to comprehending the complexity of multiple realities. That is the problem of piloting or navigating a spacecraft through "hyperspace" or "sub-space", as imagined in the light of recent advances in theoretical physics and mathematics. Because of the inherent complexity of such environments, several writers have explored the possibility that pilots and navigators might choose appropriate metaphors through which to perceive and order their task in relation to that complexity - for example, flying like a bird, windsurfing, swimming like a fish, tunnelling like a mole, etc (see discussion below on animal movement). The mass of data input, otherwise completely unmanageable is then channelled to the pilot in the form of appropriate sensory inputs to the nerve synapses corresponding to his "wings" or his "fins". The perceptions through the chosen metaphor are assisted by artificial intelligence software. The pilot switches between metaphors according to the nature of the hyperspace terrain. It may prove to be the case that insights into the variety and combinations of such complex 'terrains' have been richly mapped by the Chinese classic, the I Ching [more]. Such speculations do at least stimulate imagination concerning a possible marriage between metaphor and artificial intelligence in relation to governance. (Detachment from embodiment within traps, 2002)
To the extent that the pattern of each "species" embodied in this way is a potential trap, in the event of being locked into that modality, ensuring an exit from the exoskeleton is an obvious concern to enable other "incarnations" -- as discussed in the context of the above quotation.
Renaissance of the environment and psychology of sustainability
Systemic re-engendering of species? It is however
possible that the extinction of natural species, understood in systemic terms as a loss of requisite variety, may engender the emergence of an
equivalent pattern in human behaviour and "insight" -- as a human cognitive modality, otherwise understood. The possibility has been intimated by various authors (Henryk Skolimowski, The Participatory Mind: a new theory of knowledge and of the universe, 1994; Darrell Posey, Cultural and Spiritual Values of Biodiversity, 1999; David Abram, Becoming Animal: an earthly cosmology, 2011; Robin Wall Kimmerer, Braiding Sweetgrass: indigenous wisdom, scientific knowledge and the teachings of plants, 2015).
Understood in this way, any successful effort to eradicate species in nature ensures their re-emergence, although seemingly otherwise, yet recognizable in systemic terms through a
pattern language. How many "species", understood cognitively, are required for sustainability? Is this consistent with various arguments for human speciation -- reframed in cognitive terms? Given the cognitive significance of weather and topography, long cultivated through the symbolism variously valued in different cultures, there is similarly the possibility of reframing the cognitive relationship with the environment -- in contrast to the detachment from nature widely deplored.
Lost behavioural characteristics, in information processing terms, may become manifest in strategic modes of cognition by individuals and groups. Arguably, as a speculative provocation, the extinction of dinosaurs might subsequently have engendered the emergence of multinational corporations (Systemic Biomimicry of Dinosaurs by Multinational Corporations: clearing the ground for future psychosocial evolution, 2011).
Renaissance of global civilization may then be understood as implying a cognitive rebirth of the environment in which humanity is embedded -- not simply a Renaissance of human civilization alone, replicating its misinterpreted role in dominance of that environment (Embodying Global Hegemony through a Sustaining Pattern of Discourse: cognitive challenge of dominion over all one surveys, 2015). Curiously the crisis of humanity could be seen as rooted in the inability to reconcile fruitfully the sense of rightful ownership implied by dominion (dominus) with the sense of stewardship and dwelling implied by home (domus). So framed, humanity could be considered unduly skilled in domestic violence.
Psychology of sustainability: More speculatively, it is possible that such considerations are fundamental to the psychology of sustainability, as separately discussed (Psychology of Sustainability: embodying cyclic environmental processes, 2002). As a contribution to reflection on viable strategies for sustainable development on the occasion of the UN World Summit on Sustainable Development (Johannesburg, 2002), that document focused primarily on environmental cycles in the following sections:
Given the recognized importance of keystone species, namely a plant or animal that plays a unique and crucial role in the way an ecosystem functions, the cognitive identification with such species merits particular consideration. Without keystone species, the ecosystem would be dramatically different or cease to exist altogether. Arguably any approach to sustainability necessitates ensuring appropriate activation of the systemic role of such species, notably in cognitive terms.
"Extraterrestrials", "radicalisation" and "reincarnation"? More intriguing, given the desperate quest by science for alien life elsewhere, there may well be a sense in which "alien life" is engendered and coexists
with "normal" human behaviour, as previously explored (Sensing Epiterrestrial Intelligence (SETI): embedding of "extraterrestrials" in episystemic dynamics? 2013).
Could radical extremists be understood otherwise, as separately argued (Coming Out as a Radical -- or Coming In? Risks of cultivating negative capability in a caliphate of normality, 2015; Radical Localization in a Global Systemic Context, 2015; Identifying the Root Cause Focus of Radical Identity: reframing the complex space of radicalisation dynamics, 2015).
There is also a case for reframing the meaning of reincarnation cultivated
by some cultures. As information processing patterns, "humans" may well be able to "reincarnate" in animal behavioural patterns (or be effectively
obliged to do so by their behaviour). Hence the intuitive recognition of this transformation through nicknames and adoption of totems.
Potential cognitive embodiment of other species: "re-cognized" in a global context?
Embodiment of other species: As noted above, there is already a degree of recognition of animal behaviour patterns in individuals and corporations through framing as dolphins, sharks, crocodiles, tigers, bulls, and the like. Corporations may indeed be seen to take on the character of the species which informs their strategy. At the national level, an obvious example is the reference in economics to the Asian Tigers -- a group comprising Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea, and Taiwan.
Animal mascots may be variously valued, even elected to leadership positions, as with the Rhinoceros Party of Canada. Whether humorously or otherwise, these may be more consciously (an proudly) cultivated as strategic styles or in relation to tribal totems. The psychological modality may be evident in the choice of fancy dress for a party.
Although widely deprecated as animism, there may well be modalities which merit revisiting, if not rehearsing -- as practiced with children in kindergarten, imitating a dog or a tiger. A case may be made for distinguishing between animism and speciesism, as variously deprecated -- possibly in contrast with anthropomorphism.
Cognitive incarnation in species? As information processing patterns, "humans" may well be able to "reincarnate" in animal behavioural patterns (or be effectively obliged to do so by their behaviour). Hence the intuitive recognition of this transformation through nicknames and adoption of totems. Aspects of the argument are presented separately (Life-skill Learning from Animal Shareholders and Collaborators: cognitive opportunity for engaging radically with a complex world in crisis, 2014) in the following sections:
Reference to "cognitive" calls into question the nature of the unconscious relation to the species which inhabit the human body and are essential to its viability. The human microbiota consists of the 10-100 trillion symbiotic microbial cells harbored by each person, primarily bacteria in the gut; the human microbiome consists of the genes these cells harbor. As noted by Wikipedia:
The human microbiota is the aggregate of microorganisms that resides on or within any of a number of human tissues and biofluids, including the skin, mammary glands, placenta, seminal fluid, uterus, ovarian follicles, lung, saliva, oral mucosa, conjunctiva, biliary and gastrointestinal tracts. They include bacteria, archaea, fungi, protists and viruses. Though micro-animals can also live on the human body, they are typically excluded from this definition. The human microbiome refers specifically to the collective genomes of resident microorganisms.
The traditional estimate has been that the average human body is inhabited by ten times as many non-human cells as human cells (Ron Sender, Revised Estimates for the Number of Human and Bacteria Cells in the Body, PLOS, 19 August 2016; Luke K Ursell, Defining the Human Microbiome, Nutrition Reviews, 70, 2012, August). How might the "bond" with such microorganisms be understood?
Nature of identification: The question is how this identification with a species "works", as most notably evident in the relationship of humans to their pets or to other domesticated animals (donkeys, oxen, water buffalos, etc). Popular media may encourage their audiences to recognize with which species they identify -- even "which animal are you" (Which pet are you? Quizony; Which Dog Are You? Qfeast; Which Cat Are You? Quizclub). More provocative would be the question: "by which corporate species are you employed"?
It could be considered tragic that the engagement with nature as a whole is increasingly to be recognized as reduced to the sympathy bond with a pet -- with which an intense degree of communication may indeed be cultivated. This may be recognized as a form of co-dependency, notably in the psychological importance attached to "companion animals" (Traveling With Companion Animals, PETA). Frequently treated as members of the family, this curiously recalls the "familiars" much deprecated in the past.
One modality meriting investigation with respect to empathy with domesticated animals is that consequent on the operation of mirror neurons, namely the firing of a neuron both when an animal acts and when the animal observes the same action performed by another (Adam Miklósi. Do Dogs Have Mirror Neurons? Scientific American; Colin Perkins-Taylor, Dogs Are Wired To Be Man's Best Friend; Robert Lloyd, Nature: Why We Love Cats and Dogs, Los Angeles Times, 14 February 2009).
The identification process may be related to that of transference (and countertransference) as recognized in psychoanalysis. In the case of pets, this may be termed "pet transference" (Lynda Mae, Spontaneous trait transference from dogs to owners, Anthrozoös: a multidisciplinary journal of the interactions of people and animals, 17, 2004, 3; Bennett Roth, Pets and Psychoanalysis: a clinical contribution, Psychoanalytic Review, 92, 2005, 3; Terence Blacker, So, it's true what they say about pet-owners, The Independent, 18 July 2000).
Far more fundamental may be the identification with species in nature, as celebrated in the movie Dances with Wolves (1990), for example. It is intriguing to note that in the design of avatars in artificial worlds, animal forms may be adopted -- effectively a cognitive exoskeleton (Furry Avatars, SecondLife; Yulin Hswen, Virtual Avatars, Gaming, and Social Media: designing a mobile health app to help children choose healthier food options, Journal of Mobile Technology in Medicine, 30 July 2013). The dialogue of some gardeners with their plants calls for reflection in this light.
Less evident are the degrees of identification possible, as highlighted by deep ecology, and the conditions under which those cultivated in questionable rituals merit deprecation -- and why. More intriguing is any sense of the set of species between which a person alternates as a basis for a form of sustainability. Tyrannical leaders may be readily recognized as alternating between a savage shark-like modality and that of a "pussy-cat" with their families.
Other clues may be offered by the manner in which an individual chooses which set of clothes to wear according to circumstance -- and when to switch to another more appropriate set. Although such clothes may involve animal skins (as with furs), more intriguing is the sense that the cognitive ability associated with such switching could be understood as indicative of the possibility of identifying with one or other animal species.
Kingdoms as distinctive information patterns? The argument to this point has loosely focused on identification with animal species, avoiding the existing tendency of (some) humans to identify with the species of other kingdoms. How many information species are required for viability and sustainability? How might this variety extend to include the totality of the species in nature -- namely those variously clustered as the kingdoms of life: 8-kingdom model, 7-kingdom model, 6-kingdom model, 5-kingdom model (Animalia, Plantae, Fungi, Protista and Monera)?
Somewhat curiously anthropomorphism attributes human characteristics to species, most typically animals. As such it is readily deprecated. Zoomorphism, however, is notably understood to be a form of art that imagines humans as non-human animals. As argued above, it may also be any tendency of viewing human behaviour in terms of the behaviour of animals.
From an artistic perspective again, biomorphism models artistic design elements on naturally occurring patterns or shapes reminiscent of nature and living organisms.This seemingly excludes the identification with plants, as with sacred trees, or the experience of many gardeners in the cultivation of their favourite plants. Such identification has however been variously explored (Michael Marder and Patricia Vieira, Writing Phytophilia: philosophers and poets as lovers of plants, Estudogeral, 2013; Richard Yensen and Donna A. Dryer, The Consciousness Research of Stanislav Grof: a cosmic portal beyond individuality, 1996; Ervin Laszlo, A New Map of Reality: the worldview of 21st Century science). The cognitive relation to the botanical sphere in indigenous cultures is a theme of Jeremy Narby (Intelligence in Nature, 2005; Psychotropic Mind: the world according to ayahuasca, iboga, and shamanism, 2010).
Ironically, identification with flowers and fruit may well be necessarily "fruitful" as mind maps of a particular kind (Keith Critchlow, The Hidden Geometry of Flowers: living rhythms, form and number, 2011). The forms of fruits and nuts may prove to be especially indicative of the variety of interfaces between subjectivity and objectivity, between inside and outside.
Identification with topography? Whilst "geomorphism" might have been understood to describe the identification of some with sacred mountains, or with sacred rivers, and "topomorphism" might have extended this to other topographicsl features, neither of these terms exists.
Such processes of identification are of course a notably characteristic of indigenous knowledge systems (Darrell A. Posey (Ed.). Cultural and Spiritual Values of Biodiversity. United Nations Environmental Programme and Intermediate Technology Publications, 1999). They are also evident in terms of the identification with landscape and sense of place, as extensively documented (J. and R. Swan (Eds.), Dialogues With the Living Earth: new ideas on the spirit of place from designers, architects, and innovators, 1996; Neil Leach, Belonging: Towards a Theory of Identification with Place, Perspecta, 33, 2002, pp. 126-133; Alxe Noden and Martin Hakubai Mosko, Landscape as Spirit, 2003).
These recall the psychosocial appropriation of a space at the collective level described by the cognitive process of land nam, coined by Ananda Coomaraswamy (The Rg Veda as Land-Nama Bok, 1935), to refer to the Icelandic tradition of claiming ownership of uninhabited spaces through weaving together a metaphor of geography of place into a unique mythic story. This territorial appropriation process, notably practiced by the Navaho and the Vedic Aryans, was further described by Joseph Campbell (The Inner Reaches of Outer Space: metaphor as myth and religion, 2002).
The cognitive significance of Jerusalem offers perhaps the most striking example at this time (Topology of "Jerusalem": a psychoactive engagement with space, 2009; Jerusalem as a Symbolic Singularity: comprehending the dynamics of hyperreality as a challenge to conventional two-state reality, 2017). It offers the further illustration of the total incapacity to detach cognitively from that framework when appropriate (Beyond Harassment of Reality and Grasping Future Possibilities: learnings from sexual harassment as a metaphor, 1996). The inability of rigid theological structures to shapeshift cognitively is epitomized by their fundamental hostility to "witchcraft". This total lack of flexibility is provocatively contrasted below with "whichcraft".
Identification with the elements? Traditionally the four or five classical elements have have been intimately entangled with the most fundamental symbols of cognitive significance, as evident with respect to the Chinese dynamic of the Wu Xing. This process continues to be evident through their use as metaphors: Earth / Solid, valued as solidity of argument and otherwise; Water / Liquidity, most notably valued in finance; Air / Wind. most notably valued as imagination and "the winds of change"; Fire, variously valued in terms of excitement and creativity (Douglas Hofstadter and Emmanuel Sander, Surfaces and Essences: analogy as the fuel and fire of thinking, 2013).
The interplay between them is most evident in the weather with which people variously identify, and which as a metaphor offers an array of implications (Weather Metaphors as Whether Metaphors, 2015; Crises framed by weather metaphors, 2015)
Eradication of species and their extinction: Clearly there is a widespread propensity to see no value whatsoever in some species. Their eradication is of little concern and may be framed as a valuable strategy -- as with mosquitoes and locusts. The same has been said of the degradation of the most fundamental features of the environment: the land, the sea, the air -- and even light pollution.
Understood as a memetic resource -- an information pattern of relevance to particular systemic conditions -- there is a case for care in unthinking eradication of any species. What systemic function does it perform and can a global psychosocial environment afford to lack that modality?
The concern can be framed otherwise. The set of all species as a form of biological pattern language -- as an exemplification of requisite diversity -- may be of such a fundamental nature that the extinction of any one form in its biological manifestation may well engender its emergence in a psychosocial form.
In other words, any "successful" effort to eradicate a species in nature then ensures its re-emergence, although seemingly otherwise, yet recognizable in systemic terms through a
pattern language. There may be a principle of conservation of patterns to be discovered -- implied by the conservation of information so fundamental to physics. In that sense, Gaia as a system may function to ensure the auto-conservation of species and diversity (Fritjof Capra and Pier Luigi Luisi, The Systems View of Life: a unifying vision, 2014). This would be a theme consistent with the original spirit of the Society for General Systems Research (SGSR).
The point can be emphasized otherwise with regard to the destruction of nature:
But if 'wilderness' is to be understood as a place of wildness and disorder, it is easy to forget that human society actually recreates such places with great efficiency, just as it appears to be annihilating them. The irony is that it is the actions of architects and planners which have contributed so dramatically to creating the wilderness of inner city 'no go' areas and the urban 'jungle'. Development programs have in many cases created wilderness in this way. Current approaches to population control will continue to do so with a vengeance. (Within a different framework, a Tibetan Buddhist was asked in the USA -- in the light of the extermination of the bison and his belief in reincarnation -- where the present number of people came from. Looking around the room at his attentive audience, he answered simply: 'And where do you think the bison went?'). The dimensions through which nature strikes a balance are as yet unclear. (The "Wilderness" of Western intellectualism, 1995)
The death of a species then merits exploration in terms of systems failure (Variety of System Failures Engendered by Negligent Distinctions: mnemonic clues to 72 modes of viable system failure from a demonic pattern language, 2016). Would there be as yet unrecognized psychological implications for humanity with the extinction of iconic species like whales, elephants or tigers? With respect to the extermination of the bison, this would be acknowledged within Native American cultures.
In the light of principles of action/reaction, is there a systemic effect on humanity consequent on the extinction of a species in nature -- typically as a consequence of human activity?
There might then be a case for reinterpreting the significance of the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species in psychosocial terms -- beyond any superficial symbolic connotations. Such an exploration would then bear comparison with those on endangered cultures (Paradisec) and endangered languages (Endangered Languages Archive). Are there systemically valuable mindsets which merit recognition as being endangered by the current evolution of global civilization?
Intercourse with the environment as cognitive "shapeshifting"
Cognitive shapeshifting: There are various indications of alternative cognitive possibilities and of "being otherwise" according to circumstance. These have been poorly recognized and explored. One indication is offered by the arguments of Edward de Bono with respect to doffing and donning various cognitive "hats" and "shoes" (Six Thinking Hats, 1999; Six Action Shoes, 1991).
The question is whether the organization and behaviours of biological species are suggestive of alternative cognitive modalities that are relatively accessible to the individual, if not immediately so. The fascination with "extraordinary" species may be indicative of intuitive recognition of this potential. Such possibilities have been poorly recognized and explored in relation to animal behaviours. Is the organization and behaviour of biological species are suggestive of alternative cognitive modalities that are relatively accessible to the individual, if not immediately so.
The ability of human beings to metamorphose into other animals by means of shapeshifting, as recognized in a variety of myths, has been termed therianthropy -- and currently recognized as an attribute of shamans, however deprecated this may be from some perspectives. This is distinguished from clinical lycanthropy as a rare psychiatric syndrome -- a delusion that the affected person can transform into, has transformed into, or is a non-human animal.
Of some relevance is the tale of the education of the iconic King Arthur by T. H. White (The Once and Future King, 1958). His initial training is provided by the wizard Merlyn, who teaches him what it means to be a good king by turning him into various kinds of animals: fish, hawk, ant, goose, and badger. Each such transformation being intended to teach Arthur a lesson, which will prepare him for his future life.
The argument here is that, rather than depending on authorities anxious to ensure that their particular worldview is faithfully reproduced (however ineffectual), individuals may in effect be free to adopt and test cognitive alternative modalities at will. The corresponding challenge for authorities is whether they can prove that their conventional recommendations are of more meaningful consequence to individuals -- who increasingly perceive their effectiveness to be questionable.
Curiously this challenge to authoritarian indications of how to think is reminiscent of the dynamic between the religions and perspectives considered heretical. This has been most evident when framed by the Catholic Church as witchcraft -- of which one purported indication was some form of shapeshifting. It is intriguing to note that European institutions have considered possibilities of "variable geometry" -- a multi-speed Europe -- as providing a more flexible response to strategic circumstances. A similar possibility has been discussed with respect to the United Nations (Alternation between Variable Geometries: a brokership style for the United Nations as a guarantee of its requisite variety, 1985). As a fruitful play on words, the art of shifting between geometries might then be termed "whichcraft".
Of interest in what follows is whether individuals and groups can recognize more consciously the patterns by which their particular behaviour is characterized. Furthermore, how might they "shapeshift" between several such patterns, especially over the course of a life, as a consequence of education and experience (En-minding the Extended Body: enactive engagement in conceptual shapeshifting and deep ecology, 2003). The argument there was developed in the following sections:
How are such patterns embodied in the light of the arguments of cognitive science (George Lakoff and Mark Johnson, Philosophy In The Flesh: the embodied mind and its challenge to Western thought, 1999). How do people transform between information patterns, especially when they "reinvent themselves", notably as framed by "conversion"?
Multiple personality disorder vs Multiple species order? Deep concern is evoked by multiple personality disorder, otherwise known as dissociative identity disorder -- characterized by at least two distinct and relatively enduring personality states. Is there another possibility to be envisaged in which an individual, or a group, can switch between modalities according to circumstances (as suggested above with respect to navigating hyperreality).
Rather than understood as a disorder, is their a "higher" or "richer" form of order to be explored through alternation between identification with a variety of species? Is there a case for reframing the sense in which an individual may "reincarnate" in different species in this life -- rather than hypothetically in another?
More existentially challenging may be a question from a psychoanalytical perspective. With which species is it impossible to identify and why? The challenge of snakes, crocodiles, spiders and cockroaches comes readily to mind. Similarly provocative is the question as to which species (of information processing) in nature are (or are not) embodied by (some) humans at least some of the time (at various stages in a life cycle)?
Movement: The argument is taken further with respect to embodiment of the mind in movement, notably by Mark Johnson (The Meaning of the Body: aesthetics of human understanding, 2007; The Body in the Mind: the bodily basis of meaning, imagination, and reason, 1987) and by Maxine Sheets-Johnstone (The Primacy of Movement, 2011). The process is especially well illustrated by sports involving acrobatics and aerobatics. How might the experience of identity and existence be "radically" reframed by any such practice?
With respect to movement, the question can be raised as to whether individual identity is felt to be intimately associated with movement rather than with conventional understandings of stasis as exemplified for legal purposes by certification, photo-identities and DNA samples.
Such possibilities have been explored separately with respect to both cyclic identity and identification with a wave form (Emergence of Cyclical Psycho-social Identity: sustainability as "psyclically" defined, 2007; Psychology of Sustainability: embodying cyclic environmental processes, 2002; Being a Waveform of Potential as an Experiential Choice: emergent dynamic qualities of identity and integrity, 2013; Being Neither a-Waving Nor a-Parting: cognitive implications of wave-particle duality in the light of science and spirituality, 2013).
From morphogenesis to morphomimesis? Concern with morphogenesis, as the biological process that causes an organism to develop its shape, dates from the notable work by D'Arcy Wentworth Thompson (On Growth and Form, 1917). Further insight has been provided through insight into so-called Turing patterns (Alan Turing, The Chemical Basis of Morphogenesis, 1952).
Of greater potential relevance to this argument is the approach of René Thom (Structural Stability and Morphogenesis, 1972), notably his concern with the development of biological form in the light of catastrophe theory. He related this to psychological considerations and meaning through a concern with semiophysics (René Thom, Semio Physics: A Sketch, 1990; David Aubin, Forms of Explanations in the Catastrophe Theory of René Thom: topology, morphogenesis, and structuralism, 2004).
Given the analogy variously explored between genetics and memetics, some consideration of "morphomimesis" would appear relevant to the cognitive transformations discussed here -- suggesting the need for an exploration of "Structural Stability and Morphomimesis". References to morphomimesis are infrequent, with the exception of Steven M. Lehar (The Schema As A Mental Image, 12 September 2014; The Two Worlds of Reality, 2014; The World in Your Head: a Gestalt view of the mechanism of consciouse experience, 2003). Curiously the process of making memes has been enabled by apps (Taylor Lorenz, As Memes Evolve, Apps Are Struggling to Keep Up: everyone is racing to build a killer meme-making tool. The Atlantic, 1 August 2018). One of these is called Mimesis.
With the intense research on genetic engineering, the potential of memetic engineering has yet to be explored. What cognitive species are yet to be discovered?
Potential cognitive speciation understood otherwise
Recapitulation of phylogeny in ontogeny: The processes of biological speciation have long been studied, described and visualized (History of evolutionary thought, Wikipedia; Adam Rothstein, Speciation: a diagram book). This is distinguished from theories of sociocultural evolution. Both are characterized by the creation–evolution controversy with its own history.
Recapitulation theory explores the relationship between embryonic development (ontogeny) and biological evolution (phylogeny), as summarized by Stephen Jay Gould (Ontogeny and Phylogeny, 1977).
Recapitulation of phylogeny in psychogeny: A degree of relationship between psychology and phylogeny is recognized in evolutionary psychology. In framing recapitulation theory, its implications were suggestively extended at the time to a psychological dimension by Ernst Haeckel (The Phylogeny of the Soul. ResearchGate, October 2012). However both psychogeny, and the extent to which it may recapitulate ontogeny or phlyogeny, have attracted little interest (Wayne Viney and William Douglas Woody, Psychogeny: a neglected dimension in teaching the mind-brain problem, Teaching of Psychology, 22, 1995, 3, pp. 173-177; Yvan Lebrun, From Psychogeny to Organicity: is the brain going to outgrow the psyche in the Third Millennium? Brain and Language, 71, 2000, 1, pp. 138-140).
There are two primary theories of psychogeny:
- Identity theory maintains that psyche is instilled into the biology of the organism at one point in time and that the psyche instilled at that point remains identical throughout the lifespan. However, although most contemporary identity theorists accept conception as the time of infusion, the time of the arrival of the psyche is a matter of historical debate.
- Psychogenic emergentism, suggests that the psyche develops as the body or the neurological substrate develops. Psyche can grow and decline with age; emergentists do not agree on a time at which psyche emerges.
"Freedom of movement" -- understood in psychogenetic terms? Without specifically associating psychogeny with the process of identification with species as argued above, there is a sense in which humans are free to engage psychologically in what can be understood as a form of ontogeny or of phylogeny. Expressed succinctly, individuals are potentially free to move up and down the evolutionary tree in psychological terms, identifying with species as may be appropriate.
Such an argument contrast with a static understanding of "humanity" and of the individual. In that sense the individual -- or a group -- embodies the evolutionary process as a whole and is not locked into what is otherwise framed as its current outcome. It is in this sense that an individual may well cultivate a multi-species identity -- shifting dynamically between "species" as appropriate.
Shifting up and down the tree of life may be a more fundamental human right -- and more characteristic of future human beings.
Unrecognized speciation of humanity? It is widely argued that speciation may occur in humans at some stage but that it is not currently evident -- other than in speculative fiction (Bill Christensen, Genetic Upper Class: could the human race split? LiveScience, 27 October 2006; Peter Ward, What May Become of Homo sapiens, Scientific American; James Owen, Future Humans: Four Ways We May, or May Not, Evolve, National Geographic, 24 November 2009). It is readily argued that humans engender the speciation of non-human species (J. W. Bull and M. Maron, How humans drive speciation as well as extinction, Proceedings of the Royal Society B, 29 June 2016)
Such conclusions depends entirely on the questionable definition of species as the largest group of organisms in which any two individuals of the appropriate sexes or mating types can produce fertile offspring, typically by sexual reproduction. It suffices to recognized that through specialization by discipline, and the cultivation of distinctive cultural preferences for communication, the probability of intercourse between two individuals engendering a "fertile offspring" is increasingly problematic -- in the psychological sense emphasized in this argument. Humanity has already speciated to an unrecognized degree which the tendency to define is unable to encompass meaningfully.
The argument here effectively emphasizes the potential of a dynamic psychological identity -- already evident -- rather than the static identity which institutions cultivate and reinforce.
Homo undulans? As noted in the previous part of this document, with any Renaissance of the kind imagined there, it is appropriate to ask whether this will be characterized by the birth of a successor to Homo sapiens. One exploration of this is with respect to the cognitive engagement with otherness (Authentic Grokking: emergence of Homo conjugens, 2003). As Homo undulans, this is the theme of a penultimate chapter of the very detailed study by Daniel Dervin (Creativity and Culture: a psychoanalytic study of the creative process in the arts, sciences, and culture, 1990), as discussed separately (Emergence of Homo undulans -- through a "grokking" dynamic? 2013).
The cognitive dance between the framings variously offered by distinctive species, could then be understood as characteristic of Homo undulans -- with the linking dynamic as suggested in the speculation regarding Homo conjugens.
Humanity as epiterrestrial "psiorgs" rather than extraterrestrial "cyborgs"?
Popular imagination has long been fascinated by the nature of hypothetical extraterrestrials and the degrees of proof for their existence in reality. Resources continue to be allocated to the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence (SETI). Arguably however, the degree of progressive human disconnection from nature is already transforming humans into extraterrestrials of a kind -- especially when these are understood in the dramatic sense as terrestrial "extras". As a performer in a film, television show, stage, musical, opera or ballet production, an extra appears in a nonspeaking or nonsinging (silent) capacity, usually in the background. Given the evolution of democracy, rather than being "extras", a smaller proportion could be understood as playing "bit parts" in global civilization.
Related speculation has extended to the nature of cyborgs as a form which extratrrestrials might take -- notably imagined as the hive-minded Borg in the popular Star Trek series. As " cybernetic organisms", such cyborgs are understood to be composed of both organic and biomechatronic body parts. Rather than being a matter of specluation, the Wikipedia entry notes in detail the cyborg proliferation in society at this time. Indeed many people currently have implants or other parts of a biomechatronic nature. Already some have electronic implants ("microchips") -- a facility expected to incease in the future, possibly to become a requirement for security purposes.
Rather than any notion of extraterrestrial, the argument here could be understood as relating to "epiterrestrials", as discussed separately (Sensing Epiterrestrial Intelligence (SETI): embedding of "extraterrestrials" in episystemic dynamics? 2013). This includes the following sections:
As indicated there, one inspiration for use of "epi" follows from the problematic outcome of the Human Genome Project. This mapping of the human genome was originally promoted widely as providing information capable of explaining all human variability -- as being genetically determined. With the successful completion of the mapping it became apparent that, although valuable, there was also a need to focus on the changes in gene expression or cellular phenotype, caused by mechanisms other than changes in the underlying DNA sequence. This contrasting focus is termed epigenetics -- in which the prefix "epi" is indicative of notions such as over, above, or outer. Use of "extra", as with "extragenetic", was considered inappropriate for this purpose.
In the light of this genome mapping example, rather than "extra-terrestrial" (with its strong implication of "non-terrestrial"), what might "epi-terrestrial" then suggest? "Extra-terrestrials" may not exist tangibly in the sense that many would wish them to exist -- and this is consistent with the view of those who do not believe they exist. "Extra-terrestrials" may however exist in other senses -- yet to be understood -- for which the term is less appropriate. Hence the interest in "epiterrestrial". Engagement with the reality of nature is also discussed separately with in terms of Epimemetics, biomimetics, epimimetics and biomemetics (2010).
The progressive "borgification" or "cyborgification" of humanity has been noted (The ‘Cyborgification’ of a Generation, Journalism's Notepad, 21 January 2012; Eric Bruenner, Interview: The Cyborgification of Humanity, Gamification, 20 June 2011; Greg Stevens, Cyborgification, Second Nexus, 26 June 2015). The emphasis in the argument above is on the unexplored challenge of human cognitive potential, in contrast to the hive-minded characterization of the Borg (THEM as the "borgification" of US, 2015).
Rather than an increasing degree of cyborgification, the contrasting opportunity could be succinctly framed by "psiorg", namely as a "psychological organism", rather than as a "cybernetic organism". Despite the climsiness of the term, the emphasis would then be on "psiorgification", or the increasing dimensionality of the human psyche -- for which other terms exist. In this respect, it is relevant to note that the cybernetics of cyborgs typically takes the form of first-order cybernetics, with limited consideration of second-order cybernetics. With respect to the increasing dimensionality of psiorgs, third order cybernetics and fourth order cybernetics become of relevance (Roberto Gustavo Mancilla. Third Order Cybernetics and a Basic Framework for Society, Journal of SocioCybernetics, 42, 2011, 9). The higher dimensionality is discussed separately with respect the experience of waiting (Degrees of "meta-waiting" recognized as "deep waiting"? 2018; Waiting framed by other modes of engaging with time, 2018).
Both in terms of the psychological embedding implied by epiterrestrial, and the dynamics implied by Homo undulans, any "implants" are then to be understood in cognitive terms as variously derived from nature as species behaviours or other processes. Rather then the cyborg-like implication of exoskeleton, as discussed above, these implants are then cognitively integrated within the human psyche. Rather than being permanently integrated, as stressed above these processes would be integrated temporarily as appropriate -- "donned" and then "doffed", as with clothing.
Ironically, with respect to "epi", an indicative comparison can be made with the use of foliage as body camouflage by the military or hunters. By this means they seek to blend into the terrain. How might "psychological camouflage" then be understood, especially in the light of the preoccupation of the intelligence and security services with infiltration? How indeed is it possible for humans to be cognitively "in this world" but "not of it", according to the phrase in various religions? (Kathy Howard, What Does it Mean to be in the World but Not of It? Crosswalk, 26 October 2016; Ibrahim Kalin, To be in the world but not of it, Daily Sabah, 1 August 2017; Jeff Hagan, In The World But Not Of It, Patheos, 13 June 2016; A. H. Almaas, In the World But Not of It, Diamond Approach).
Of potential relevance are myths relating to the "withdrawal into the stones" of elder races, as in the case of the Celtic Tuatha De Danan, or identification of their ancestors with rock formations by indigenous peoples -- echoed to a degree in the significance associated with tombstones.
Embodying the universe as a strategic opportunity
This section is reproduced from the concluding summary of World Introversion through Paracycling: global potential for living sustainably "outside-inside" (2013)
The paradoxical window of opportunity framed by this argument is associated with the cognitive possibility of embodying "outside-inside". The significance is most readily understood in terms of the environment. Arguably, until it is possible to "re-cognize" the features of the "external" natural environment as features of "internal" reality, it is the current pattern of dysfunctional dissociation which is sustained. Embodying the environment offers a mode of cognitive engagement with its processes which engenders the condition intuitively associated with "sustainability" and its promotion, as discussed separately (Psychology of Sustainability: embodying cyclic environmental processes, 2002; Degrees of Cognitive Engagement with Interrelated Global Categories, 2009).
The argument can be extended to enable an alternative mode of engagement with problematic conditions of the socio-economic environment (Existential Embodiment of Externalities: radical cognitive engagement with environmental categories and disciplines, 2009)
To the extent that "sustainability" implies engagement with time, the cognitive significance of time then merits consideration from a more radical perspective:
The argument suggests the possibility of a radical existential reframing of deeply personal significance, as variously explored in the following:
Whilst the argument is focused on the "outside-inside" transformation for the coherence it offers, the necessary alternation with the "inside-outside" transformation has the potential to engender coherence, most notably with respect to "health", whether personal or collective:
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