- / -
This speculative comment was produced on the occasion of the activation of the CERN Large Hadron Collider in Geneva which happened to coincide with the production of an animation prepared for presentation to the World Academy of Art and Science (Hyderbad, 2008) in a Panel on Ethics and Policies for Sustainable Futures (Dynamic Exploration of Value Configurations: interrelating traditional cultural symbols through animation, 2008). A comparison is made with that animation in terms of the discipline required for appropriate fundamental learnings regarding psychosocial systems.
The emerging global knowledge society and civilization is recognized as being subject to the dangerous dynamics of clashing values that has been termed the "clash of civilizations" (Sam Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations, 1993). These and other factors are recognized as leading to possible civilizational collapse (Jared M. Diamond, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, 2005; Thomas Homer-Dixon, The Upside of Down: catastrophe, creativity, and the renewal of civilization, 2006). Relatively little intellectual effort is devoted to an integrative approach to these challenges and possible remedial measures.
There is therefore a degree of irony that, by comparison, unprecedented research funding ($9 billion) and intellectual resources have been devoted through the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) over recent years to the construction of the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) (put on line on the day the prototype of the more complex animation was first put on the web). The LHC is the world's largest and highest-energy particle accelerator. It has been theorized that the collider will produce the elusive Higgs boson (popularized as the God Particle), the observation of which could confirm the predictions and missing links in the Standard Model of physics and could explain how other elementary particles acquire properties such as mass. Beyond insight into "anti-matter", also of interest is insight into the 25% of "dark matter" and the 70% of "dark energy" of which it is inferred that the universe is composed
Basic to the research initiative is a process of directing two beams of protons, circulating at near-light speeds in opposite directions, into each other in order to observe what is produced -- hopefully replicating conditions at the origin of the universe at the time of the Big Bang. Of particular interest is possible confirmation of the 10-dimensionality of the universe.
It has been argued by some scientists that this research is an indulgence at a time when there are major societal and planetary challenges that are not being effectively addressed, as is the case with the former government chief scientist of the UK, Sir David King ('Climate crisis' needs brain gain, The Guardian, 8 September 2008). Such remarks are considered "misguided" by others (Martin Rees, Reach for the stars, The Guardian, 8 September 2008). Some physicists have expressed concern at the risk of generating black holes endangering the planet. However it is interesting that those physicists in favour of the project are absolutely certain that the project is free of any such larger risk -- curious for a discipline that has introduced the world to inherent uncertainty and bases its most fundamental thinking on the Uncertainty Principle. Alternatively, pehaps that it is that they consider the risk is "statistically acceptable" -- irrespective of other perspectives and understandings by other disciplines of the Precautionary Principle.
It is also curious that it is the "weight of evidence" that has persuaded what is presumably a majority of physicists of the insignificance of the risk involved -- in a project that is designed to enable understanding of how the constituents of matter acquire "mass". It might be argued that different belief systems are equally persuaded, with absolute certainty, of the weight of evidence in support of their respective understandings -- despite views to the contrary (considered misguided) and with seemingly no more sophisticated means of "weighing the evidence".
As documented by the evidence of Jared Diamond and Thomas Homer-Dixon, it might be argued that global civilization is already in process of collapsing into a black hole -- although many, holding contrary value systems, would also consider such interpretations to be misguided. It is appropriate to ask to what degree these issues should be left to those who claim specially relevant expertise (Issues too Important to be Left to Specialists: selected web resources, 2004).
This may be seen as a process of cognititive displacement and misplaced concreteness in the application of collective intelligence, in an effectively unconscious civilization (John Ralston Saul, The Unconscious Civilization, 1995). However it may also be argued that this research focused on use of the CERN Collider may -- by analogy -- also offers unforeseen insights into "colliding civilizations" and value systems (cf Robert D. Romanyshyn, Technology as Symptom and Dream, 1989). These may be as fundamental as those expected in the domain of fundamental physics, if not more so. Given the level of abstraction, both cases may be understood as dealing with "values"..
In both cases the focus is on phenomena of the highest subtlety -- fundamental to the organization of the mundane world as it is known. An interesting counterpart to the God Particle might, for example, be greater collective insight into the implications of the Monster Group, also known as the Fischer-Griess Monster, or the Friendly Giant (Potential Psychosocial Significance of Monstrous Moonshine: an exceptional form of symmetry as a Rosetta stone for cognitive frameworks, 2007).
A similar argument has previously been made in greater detail with respect to the significance of another major research project ITER into the application of fundamental physics to nuclear fusion (Enactivating a Cognitive Fusion Reactor Imaginal Transformation of Energy Resourcing (ITER-8), 2006). In that case the analogy was explored in a set of complementary studies (Complementarity and Self-Reflexivity between nuclear fusion and cognitive fusion, 2006; Dematerialization and Virtualization comparison of nuclear fusion and cognitive fusion, 2006; Cognitive Fusion through Myth and Symbol Making, 2006).
Given the degree of isomorphism, is the CERN initiative to be seen as a splendid metaphor of the degree of extreme denial characteristic of conventional scientific thinking at its best? To what extent is the degree of focus on the most fundamental secrets of the known universe and its origins to be seen as comparable to the much-cited tale of the person searching at night under a lamplight for lost keys, because it was "easier" to search there all the person knows the keys to have been lost beyond the lighted area where the search was more difficult?
The scientific and technical problems of the CERN initiative are indeed "easier" than the open system psychosocial problems with which civilization is faced -- and which physicists consider irrelevant to their fundamental preoccupations. Curiously physicists do indeed hypothesize the existence of a multidimensional universe beyond their ken -- characterized by 25% of "dark matter" and 70% of "dark energy". These might be considered very appropriate metaphors of the psychosocial portions of the universe on which physicists have turned their back and are consequently much challenged to understand --but in which many are obliged to "live and move and have their being". It is perhaps no wonder, given the exclusively material focus of physicists, that it is also the abode of a form of "anti-matter".
The brilliant intellectual light of the CERN initiative in exploring the "unknown" would seem to cast a deep shadow which calls for other modes of understanding. However it is that initiative that will "highlight" pointers to the kind of disciplined collective thinking that is required for its exploration -- and the challenges of dealing cognitively with "dark matter", "dark energy" and "anti-matter" -- as the "unknowns" of human civilization.
Despite their seeming incommensurability, the core technological challenge of the CERN Collider is to ensure the circulation of a coherent beam of high-energy particles at near-light speeds in a 27 km circular tunnel at temperatures close to absolute zero -- in order to observe the outcome of collisions between particles moving in opposite directions.
A project that might be named as DISCERN, could fruitfully be concerned with how to envisage the conditions appropriate to "controlling" the sustainable circulation of a coherent beam of collective attention -- in collision with another such beam moving in the "opposite" direction (perhaps exemplified by the "clash" between Christianity and Islam, in which each frames the direction of the other as "evil"). That attention, essentially virtual rather than material, is intimately related to the necessarily subtle values that inform psychosocial organization -- typically destabilized by colliding value systems. The cognitive discipline required to respond to the challenge in the first case is therefore potentially very suggestive of that required in the second case.
The basic point is whether the CERN initiative is indicative of new ways of thinking -- with its enabling technology of requisite complexity commensurate with the challenge of colliding value frameworks. Does it indicate the kind of configuration of carefully applied thinking required for the challenge of the times -- the kind of thinking that is being systematically avoided?
Given the manner in which faiths frame those of other persuasion as "evil" and a deadly threat, justifying thr severest action by faith-based government, it might be asked whether such new thinking in pursuit of understanding of "dark energy" and "anti-matter" would enable more fruitful responses to what is currently beyond conventional comprehension (Global Strategic Implications of the "Unsaid": from myth-making towards a "wisdom society", 2003).
Framed in this way, the animations may be seen as offering a view longitudinally "down" the DISCERN tunnel "through" a cross-section of it. The cross-section highlights schematically the configuration of "magnets" through which the coherence of the beam of collective attention down the tunnel is ensured. These are necessarily variously called into play in response to instabilities in that beam. As a complex multidimensional container the configuration of elements, around the circumference highlighted by the cross-section, may simultaneously be understood as an atemporal representation of the circular tunnel as a whole. The two views may be understood as resulting from two intertwined tori (Comprehension of Requisite Variety for Sustainable Psychosocial Dynamics: transforming a matrix classification onto intertwined tori, 2006) -- with the mutlidimensional complexity of the "tunnel" then recalling the paradoxes of the Ouroboros and the significance of modern variants modelled by the Klein bottle.
More schematically, encoding the 6-fold Star of David pattern into 64 distinct possibilities offers another way of recognizing how coherent passage of the beam of attention "through it" is ensured through counter-balancing the attraction and repulsion of its components under different conditions -- represented more specifically by the 64 I Ching hexagrams and the commentaries on them (Transformation Metaphors derived experimentally from the Chinese Book of Changes (I Ching) -- for sustainable dialogue, vision, conferencing, policy, network, community and lifestyle, 1997). The LHC tunnel cross-section highlights an 8-fold configuration magnets, possibly to be considered an alternative design to ensure beam stability. Such an 8-fold configuration was the subject of an earlier animation of the BaGua configuration of trigrams that is fundamental to the set of 64 hexagrams (Animation of Classical BaGua Arrangements, 2008).
The cognitive control challenges may come to be understood through the emerging discipline of knowledge cybernetics (Maurice Yolles, Knowledge Cybernetics: a new metaphor for social collectives, Intellect, 3, 2006, 1; Y.Zude and M. Yolles, From Knowledge Cybernetics to Feng Shui).
Again, as noted above, the animation exercise is an attempt to configure the "pillars" with which values are associated for institutional strategic purposes. In that sense the configurations of the hexagrams (whether in the form of Star of David or I Ching) are indications of the complex alternation between decison-making conditions through which coherent governance is sustained "between the pillars" -- in progress "along the tunnel". More powerful however is the implication of an atemporal or cyclic condition appropriate to sustainability. The challenge for collectivew intelligence is then one of understanding how to sustain "circulation of the light", as explored metaphorically in the Secret of the Golden Flower (Tai Yi Jin Hua Zong Zhi).
Given the fundamental importance to value systems and cultural identity associated with the particular religious symbols evoked during the course of the more complex animations, the challenge is whether these are indeed individually associated with particular modes of the circulation of awareness. Are they, as speculatively implied, indicative of particular stabilizing conditions and/or vulnerabilities to instability?
A suggestive lead to further reflection is the documented association made between the set of I Ching hexagrams as a binary coding system and the genetic code, notably with respect to the amino acids essential to human life. As summarized from other studies by Tony Smith (I Ching (Ho Tu and Lo Shu), Genetic Code, Tai Hsuan Ching, and the D4-D5-E6-E7-E8 VoDou Physics Model), the genetic code may be represented by a six-dimensional boolean hypercube in which the codons occupy the 64 vertices (nodes) in such a way that all kinship neighborhoods are correctly represented and are labelled with the corresponding amino acid.
As a fundamentally atemporal focus of attention on the multidimensionality of the "here and now", are the symbols engendered within the geometry of the animation indicative of the essential role (under particular conditions) played by modes of understanding especially promoted by particular religious disciplines that attach high value to those symbols (to the point of identifying with them)? Do the forms of syncretism, that are typically a focus for current criticism, obscure the complex dynamics through which various subtle perspectives are called into play in particular phases of that atemporal cycle? Given the hypotheses whose confirmation is sought through the LHC Collider, is conventional syncretism of value systems necessarily totally inappropriate to a pattern of interrelationships that can only be satisfied within a 10-dimensional framework -- of which the 6-dimensional hypercube represents and approximation?
The 8-fold configuration of BaGua, basic to the 8 "houses" of the I Ching coding system (Organization of I Ching hexagrams in terms of traditional "houses", 1995). In this light, might these be fundamental to a periodical organization of belief systems analogous to that of the chemical elements? In which case is one way of understanding the kind of "syncretism" called for best rendered comprehensible through metaphors based on sound, as discussed elsewhere (Tuning a Periodic Table of Religions, Epistemologies and Spirituality -- including the sciences and other belief systems, 2007)?
"Black Hole" displacement and dematerialization
the case for magical thinking regarding correspondences and coincidences?
(Precautionary Principle: Don't turn the Hadron Collider back on?)
Large Hadron Collider Activation
|5-8 Sept||Reports confirming safety (notably regarding misguided concerns of "black hole" creation)||Warning of financial black hole relating to Fannie and Freddie||7 Sept|
|10 Sept||Circuit of first LHC beam (10.28 CET)||Lehman collapse to bankruptcy; "black holes of value" recognized [more]||12-15 Sept|
|11-18 Sept||Testing of LHC||Share prices slumping worldwide; black hole consuming jobs, shares, pensions; financial black hole foreseen||16-18 Sept|
of LHC following unforeseen
incident resulting in large helium leak
|Partial share price recovery||19 Sept|
|23 Sept||LHC re-start scheduled for 2009 (due to need for 2 month warm-up for necessary repair)||Credit freeze; bank failures;
bailout planning discussions
|.||Further bank failures; fall in share prices||1-3 Oct|
|3 Oct||Bush signature of $700 bn bailout||3 Oct|
|.||.||Bailout recognized as financial black hole -- posing a challenge to escape ; black hole in Russian banking||5-8 Oct|
|.||.||DOW crashes 700 points in minutes||10 Oct|
|21 Oct||Formal inauguration of LHC||Black hole recognized for pensions||31 Oct|
This work is licenced under a creative commons licence.