- / -
Information overload and information underuse
Arbitrariness / Contingency
Attention as the primary scarce resource
Beyond knowledge: "wisdom"?
"Hyperconnectivity" | "Hyperreality"? | "Hypercomprehension" and "Hyperknowing"?
-- Annex: Modelling hypercomprehension
"Hyperspace" and memory architecture | "Hypercommunication"? | "Hypermarketing"?
Hyperorganization, hypergroups and hyperdialogue?
"Hyperaction"? | "Hyperdrive"? | "Hyperidentity"?
This is an exploration of a necessary response to the proliferation of knowledge in various forms through hypermedia, beyond the many simple measures to limit exposure to it. The constraints on such a response are reviewed, notably the mortality of proponents of particular views and their theories, the variety of preferences, complacency and the misguided efforts to mobilize others in support of a particular perspective. In this context, attention is seen as the primary scarce resource. This raises questions about the implications for "wisdom" of future hyperconnectivity, and any associated hyperintelligence, in a world increasingly dominated by hyperreality.
The focus is on possible forms of hypercomprehension, informing appropriately subtle hyperaction, capable of responding to the hyperproblems of the times -- including hyperexploitation and hyperviolence. This hyperaction is seen to be dependent on a new form of hyperdrive -- hypermotivation -- calling for a quality of creative thinking and innovation analogous to that currently deployed in relation to hyperdrive physics. The emphasis here is on "hyper" as indicative of a qualitatively higher order rather than on some normative measure of greater, even dysfunctionally excessive, quantity.
A model of hypercomprehension is proposed in an annex that explores the "plucking" of tensed strings (as analogues to the polarities that destabilize coherent responses). This highlights the possibility of significance associated with particular intermediate positions between the polar extremes. It points to a musical metaphor for the integration of more complex forms of value-based choice-making.
Nothing further needs to be said about the proliferation of information in a knowledge society. The theme of "Information Overload and Information Underuse" was a focus of a United Nations University project in 1985 -- prior to the development of the web. With the web, the challenge of "hyperconnectivity" has become more evident. Hyperconnectivity is the enabling technology that has been responsible for the success of the web in making the internet accessible to all (cf Mark A. Sportack et al. High-Performance Networking Unleashed, 1997). The challenge will certainly increase with the emergence of the semantic web.
Opportunity and solicitation: Now that many individuals and groups can create websites, there is the opportunity of visiting such sites -- possibly in response to solicitation by them -- as indicated by invitations to:
Increasingly we are faced with a knowledge space of innumerable wikis, listservs, blogs (>27 million), etc all somewhat desperately seeking and inviting input. These knowledge "space ships", whatever their size, orbit, trajectory or mobility, are successful to highly varying degrees at "flitting" or "trundling" around the universe -- imaginatively prefigured by science fiction media representations (Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica, Farscape, Star Trek) . Many may attract no visitors over extended periods -- as isolates in the knowledge universe. Others may be the subject of automated cross-postings -- possibly even extended in the way that Google's gmail affixes advertisements to e-mails according to their content.
Application of filters: There is necessarily a range of strategies through which to excuse any failure to respond to such opportunities. These include:
Implicit and explicit boundaries: Such procedures effectively establish a sense of relevance and irrelevance. Most elements of knowledge, and their associated information sources, necessarily become mutually irrelevant to varying degrees. What links to follow? Where? Why? and When? What is selected and relevant to whom? The consequences have been explored elsewhere (cf Dynamically Gated Conceptual Communities: emergent patterns of isolation within knowledge society, 2004). In effect everybody ends up cultivating their own "secret garden" -- a knowledge garden.
Ignorance and amnesia: Ironically every act of creativity in some part of society effectively renders the rest of society more ignorant -- until the new insight diffuses through knowledge space to them. Although ignorance is not a valid plea before the law, the proliferation of legislation is a form of collective creativity in governance that similarly increases ignorance in the population. Creativity, as exemplified by the development of a new web site, is therefore intimately related to the proliferation of ignorance. An associated phenomenon results from forgetting the value or location of certain knowledge -- exemplified by a web site -- or the loss of browser bookmarks. Whereas there is wide recognition of the tragedy of individual memory loss associated with alzheimer's disease, little is said about collective memory loss within a group or culture (cf Societal Learning and the Erosion of Collective Memory: a critique of the Club of Rome Report, 1980)
Questionable pressure to know "everything": This is illustrated by several phenomena:
Mortality: In this context of knowledge "busy-ness", it is worth remembering that:
The life span (or half-life) of theories is recognized as being relatively short. In fact theory, or paradigm, displacement is associated with the advancement of knowledge. The half-life of religious beliefs is far longer. However, it is nevertheless sobering to recognize the number of "dead gods" in whom people have believed.
Variety of preferences: The range of interests, views, agendas, and preferences of any kind in any society needs no description. Whether or not any single view or preference is considered the most desirable, the right to hold a wide spectrum of views is upheld in various international agreements. Beyond acceptance of such variety is the recognition that people are variously nourished by "satisfiers" of every kind -- from the most tangible to the most subtle. These may not lend themselves to ready definition. The coherence of a group, seemingly based on agreement on tangible well-defined satisfiers, may be undermined and destroyed by these more subtle differences.
Variety of knowledge bases: Depending on educational background and related influences, people clearly develop different sets of knowledge by which they guide their behaviour and decisions -- different orientations (cf Paul Feyerabend, Against Method: outline of an anarchistic theory of knowledge, 1975). This is as true in the case of manual skills as in the case of highly specialized education or of hard won survival skills (eg street wisdom). These skills may be most subtly manifest in "people-skills" and decision-making skills. They may be distinguished in terms of the theory of multiple intelligences
Difficulties of course arise when those with a particular set of skills claim their superiority over others -- who contest that judgement. Further difficulties arise in the case of various forms of extremism and exceptionalism.
Complacency: Problematic circumstances do not necessarily evoke any sense of urgency. Strategies to be noted are tendencies to be satisfied with:
Misguided efforts to mobilize others: The dynamics of this context of arbitrariness are further destabilized by efforts, possibly vigorous (even absurd) efforts, to persuade others to subscribe to a particular belief or mode of action (of which this paper is merely another absurd example). However honourable they may claim to be, these efforts seek to ensure that people:
Complex dynamics: Within the above setting, typical dynamics for an individual or a group, include:
Each of the above represents a facet of the challenge of managing the ultimate scarce resource, namely attention. Umair Haque (The Attention Economy, Bubblegeneration: the strategy and economics of innovation, 2004) notes that:
Across consumer markets, attention is becoming the scarcest - and so most strategically vital - resource in the value chain. Attention scarcity is fundamentally reshaping the economics of most industries it touches; beginning with the media industry.
This may be expressed in terms of (lack of):
It could be argued that this "attention management" challenge is effectively avoided by reducing attention span -- possibly to a degree indistinguishable from what might otherwise be diagnosed as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). At what point is a group's focus on "short-term issues" -- and collective avoidance of medium and long -term issues -- to be construed as effectively a form of attention deficit disorder?
The tendency of governments to focus on short-term issues has been widely remarked, if only in relation to their status in frequent opinion polls but certainly in anticipation of the next election. A similar phenomenon is noted in relation to corporations preoccupied by financial reporting cycles and their stockmarket implications. In a different way it is noted with respect to the framing of academic research or social development projects -- dependent in each case on responsiveness to short-term, "flavour of the month", institutional funding priorities.
How is scarce attention time to be managed and allocated in response to competing demands? Are individuals and groups effectively to be characterized as having their own private "developing worlds" to which very little attention is accorded, despite having been "colonized" and "exploited" by them at some stage? How is the erosion of collective memory to be prevented? As noted above, whereas there is wide recognition of the tragedy of individual memory loss associated with alzheimer's disease, little is said about collective memory loss within a group or culture (cf Societal Learning and the Erosion of Collective Memory: a critique of the Club of Rome Report, 1980). How is the capacity to engage with longer-term cycles to be cultivated (cf Engaging Macrohistory through the Present Moment, 2004)?
Especially significant is the fact that the hourly cost of professional attention time may be of the same order as the annual income of many in need of such services in order to navigate in an increasingly complex soceity.
As a resource issue, even an energy resource issue, the management of attention resources could potentially be reviewed in the light of principles of economics. In a sense the conventional financial currency of economics -- through which confidence is attributed to particular tokens -- could be considered as but a particular instance of the more generic or fundamental energy of attention. This suggests the possibility of an interesting way of reframing the conventional economic transactions of "import" and "export" in attention terms, namely in relation to "important" and "exportant". *****
In this context of knowledge surfeit and attention scarcity, what kind of coherence can be usefully sought or advocated -- if any? What sort of whole does one seek to make of oneself -- or of one's group? For whom? Or is the challenge in the dynamic -- the dance -- rather than in any structure?
The challenge is dramatized in the legacy obsession of leaders of countries, dynasties, religions and schools of thought. What kind of monument is to be left -- for whose appreciation? How different is that from the preoccupation of the pharaohs with the construction of monuments to themselves and the decoration of their tombs?
The challenge is further dramatized in the concern about "dying with dignity" -- and the various legislative measures to prevent this, strongly supported by religious groups. Whereas knowledge may enable humanity to travel to the planets, it has proven inadequate to the challenge of determining the conditions under which prolonging life painfully is inappropriate. A striking demonstration of "wisdom deficiency"? This of course contrasts with the amount of intelligence and resources diligently applied for purposes of "defence" to ensure the painful termination of life on a massive scale -- and with any subsequent process of "commemoration"?
A number of spiritual disciplines attach meaning to the process of "dying to the world" -- as an indication of wisdom. This reframes the interesting challenge of what is "left behind" as a consequence of what evangelical Christians might choose to label as "rapture". What is the "remainder" that wisdom does not encompass and "raise up"? The question is further reframed by the experience acclaimed in the Hindu tradition as mahasamadhi, namely a yogi's conscious leaving of the body at death and total merging of any conscious attachments with the divine.
Irrespective of any individual exemplification of "wisdom", how is the dynamic amongst the "wise" to be characterized and distinguished from any dynamic of a lesser order? (cf Council of the Whys: emergent wisdom through configuration of why-question dynamics, 2006 )
Mark Pesce, as an Australian futures consultant, asks the vital question "what happens when we are all connected" -- namely the effect on "hyperpeople" as a consequence of "hyperconnectivity". He focuses on the nature of "hyperintelligence" (Mark Pesce, Hyperintelligence, 2 June 2006) in the light of the explosive growth of Wikipedia as a collective knowledge phenomenon:
But over the next several years, as we adjust to the gentle and pervasive invasion of hyperintelligence, we'll be learning what it means to be, if not omniscient, at least a lot more capable.
Much of what we'll be learning will concern how to deal with this unprecedented surplus of knowledge. Knowledge is everywhere, freely available, but hyperintelligence doesn't confer any great wisdom: this is the paradox, and the danger of hyperintelligence: it amplifies capability without a consequent increase in understanding. Understanding is distinct from knowledge, because understanding is knowledge embodied - it is knowledge plus experience. Understanding can't be stored on a computer, or even found in the pages of a book. Understanding is uniquely human.
If we had hyperintelligence without hyperconnectivity, the result could only be disaster; each of us would harness hyperintelligence with no sense of the wisdom of our actions.... In an age of hyperconnectivity we can reach out to someone who has understanding, who can guide us into understanding. We are all teachers, we are all mentors, just as we are all students and apprentices. Hyperintelligence and hyperconnectivity are the twin forces which are shaping the world of the 21st century; hyperintelligence creates opportunity, while hyperconnectivity transforms opportunity into reality.
An alternative perspective is offered by Peter Voss (Why Machines will become Hyper-Intelligent before Humans do, 2001). There is a need to clarify any distinction between hyperintelligence and "hypergifted" -- namely beyond "supergifted". Hypergiftedness has been tentatively defined as an IQ of "four+ sigma", namely in excess of 180 (The Role of the Hyperbright in a Rational Society) [more]. A question is then, given the possibility of hyperintelligence, what is to be expected from supergifted and hypergifted groups -- "hypergroups"? Research consideration has been given to a "collective intelligence quotient" (or "cooperation quotient"). Pointers include:
There is however little direct reference to a "collective intelligence quotient". How might such an assessment be made in the light of available data. Possibilities include:
One approach takes the form of a Harnessing Team Intelligence Scorecard. Another emphasizes emotional intelligence in teamwork [more | more]. There is widespread concern with "business intelligence", notably in relation to "competitive intelligence", but seemingly no sense of how it is to be assessed -- or how it is related to "team spirit". Exceptions include:
At issue is the possibility of establishing a scale from extremes of "collective stupidity" to extremes of "collective intelligence". A test of this scale might be the capacity to position on it the "intelligence failure" recognized in relation to detection of "weapons of mass destructiuon" (cf Report on the U.S. Intelligence Community's Pre-War Assessments on Iraq, 9 July 2004) [more | more]
And yet -- without surprisingly high levels of collective intelligence becoming evident -- it could be said that forms of hyperconnectivity already exist:
A ghost haunts networked politics: the ghost of the supernode. If networked politics is based on communication flows, the supernode can be seen as 'not only routing more than their 'fair share' of traffic, but actively determining the 'content' that traverses them.' The definition already points to one attribute of the supernode: hyperconnectivity. In other words, some individuals are 'more networked' than others, a quality that can be derived from material conditions... (high mobility, time-flexibility, etc.) and others that are more contingent, such as knowing the people who are particularly relevant in a situation, 'having been around longer', being friends with other individuals or whatever. To these one might add personal attributes, such as being a good speaker, charisma, and so on.
These examples help to contrast distinct connotations of the prefix "hyper" in the argument that follows:
The argument in what follows is that there are potentially positive connotations to be explored in uses of "hyper" that are currently obscured by tendencies to focus on normative (negative) connotations -- whether or not there is need to be attentive to the latter. The use of "hyper" in marketing hyperbole is considered irrelevant to this discussion -- although potentially signalling functional possibilities worth exploring (hyperperformance, hyperservices, etc).
In practice, use of the prefix "hyper" in a particular case may emphasize any one of the above connotations. Type 1 variants will tend to obscure Type 2 variants, and those of subtype (a) will tend to obscure those of subtype (b). The potential significance of uses of "hyper" cited below needs therefore to be considered in terms of all variants -- but especially Type 2b.
In the case of "hyperconnectivity", for example, this may be considered as pathological when there is potentially dysfunctional misconnection of some form (as with autism or potentially problematic emergence of "supernodes"). On the other hand, when the creative challenge is to "connect up the dots" in an unforeseen higher order pattern of new significance, hyperconnectivity is much to be welcomed -- unless it is a case of groupthink (cf Groupthink: the Search for Archaeoraptor as a Metaphoric Tale, 2002). This is especially the case where the essential nature of challenging problems of society lies not in the fact that they are "mega-problems" or "super-problems" in a quantitative sense but rather that they are "hyperproblems" of a higher order -- the "crisis of crises" as first envisaged by John Platt:
What finally makes all of our crises still more dangerous is that they are now coming on top of each other. Most administrations...are not prepared to deal with... multiple crises, a crisis of crises all at one time...Every problem may escalate because those involved no longer have time to think straight. (What we must do. Science, 28 November 1969, p.1115-1121).
However the point with respect to "hypercomprehension" in what follows may well be the need to "think curved" -- or at least laterally -- rather than "think straight" as recommended by Platt.
It has also been suggested that the hyperconnectivity catalyzed by the web is accelerating the emergence of a form of "hyperreality".
In semiotics and postmodern philosophy, this can be described as a symptom of an evolved, postmodern culture, namely the way the consciousness interacts with "reality" (cf Umberto Eco, Travels in Hyperreality, 1975) [more]. Specifically, when consciousness loses its ability to distinguish reality from fantasy or simulacra, and begins to engage with the latter without understanding what it is doing, it has shifted into the world of the hyperreal. For some writers it refers to the idea that it is no longer possible, in a media-saturated world, to distinguish between what is real and what is not (what is, in essence, a simulation of "reality"). Hyper-reality, therefore, is a situation in which nothing and everything is "real"; it is a situation in which we have lost the ability to distinguish reality and fiction. [more]
... conventional definitions of reality represent a larger problem in the attempt to locate the real on the most basic level, for they are wholly circular, a set of signifiers reflecting back at each other lacking the grounding necessary to render meaning. This problem is not unique to the word 'reality,' indeed almost all words and signs are only able to refer back towards the internal exchange of other signs in order to produce a theoretical anchor. The slippage of reality, its elusiveness encountered even in a basic search for a definition, is an element of the hyperreal - a condition in which the distinction between the 'real' and the imaginary implodes. There is no static definition of hyperreality, and the interpretations employed by theorists vary on some of the most essential terms.
The nature of the hyperreal world is characterized for some by an "enhancement" of reality. Hyperreality may then be understood as "more than real". Described in the words of Izel Sulam, for example, hyperreality is:
... the existence of semantic connections between every concept that we talk, write or think about. This consciousness transcends people, books, and as far as we know, even human cognition. The closest human civilization has ever come to emulating hyperreality has been with the World Wide Web, and although it contains more pictures of people's pets than worthwhile notions, it makes its point. It's possible to get from one idea to an associated idea fairly instantaneously, without having to wrestle with categories.
Writing as a physicist, Alan D. Sokal ensured the publication of an article For Transgressing the Boundaries: towards a transformative hermeneutics of quantum gravity (Social Text, 1996) as a purportedly serious contribution to the debate on postmodernism. The author then revealed the article to be a hoax (A Physicist Experiments With Cultural Studies, Lingua Franca, May/June 1996), to the embarassment of many exploring this intersection, and reinforcing the view of sceptics (cf Sokal Hoax, The Sceptics Dictionary) [see Sokal Affair]. An entry in the FreeDictionary on the Sokal Affair however points to limitations in any comments by a qualified physicist on philosophical issues on which he is not comparably qualified (and makes no claims to be):
Mathematician Gabriel Stoltzenberg has written a number of essays with the stated purpose of "debunking" the claims made by Sokal and his allies. He argues that Sokal and company do not possess a sufficient understanding of the philosophical positions that they criticize and that this lack of understanding renders their criticisms meaningless. Defenders of Sokal have responded that postmodernists have a vested interest in denying the validity of his criticisms, which could not be accepted without serious harm to many careers and incomes.
The contemporary difficulty for those promoting an exclusively evidence-based understanding of "reality" is that a high percentage of what they believe it to be is only accessible to the majority, and communicated to them, through hypermedia of some form. Children, for example, are claimed to live in a world dominated by hyperreality (cf Eugene F. Provenzo, Jr, Children and Hyperreality: the loss of the real in contemporary childhood and adolescence, 2001). This might be said to be increasingly true of adults -- especially given the acknowledged role of fantasy in the imaginal life and the cultivation of it by marketing and cultural products. Whether this is to be understood as a "hyperreality" or a "hyped reality", would seem to be increasingly irrelevant.
Irrespective of scientific controversy over potentially dramatic global problems, such as climate change, only a very small minority have been exposed "in reality" to the melting icebergs typically presented as examples -- through hypermedia. Much of life in modern organizations may be experienced and described as "a game".The evidence communicated through hypermedia seldom meets standards of scientific or legal proof. Indeed evidence via hypermedia is characteristically vulnerable to tampering or fabrication. Failure to seek appropriate validation is tantamount to acceptance of hyperreality.
The difficulty is further aggravated in that increasing proportions of the population define and engage in their reality through games -- enabled by hypermedia. The challenge of governance may then be to render credible problems such as climate change "through hyperreality" -- and to engage people in their solution through hypermedia (cf Playfully Changing the Prevailing Climate of Opinion: climate change as focal metaphor of effective global governance, 2005). How might a global hypersociety "come to grips" with such "real world" challenges through hyperreality?
It might be asked how different is this comprehension of hyperreality from the currently favoured comprehension of reality in faith-based governance (cf Ron Suskind, Without a Doubt, The New York Times, In The Magazine, 17 October 2004). It might also be asked to what extent global terrorism is primarily a phenomenon of hyperreality.
How might one go about imagining the existence of a form of high order comprehension that would reframe and bypass the challenge of the proliferation of knowledge? In its response to "hyperreality", how might it be understood to encompass that which is "more than real"? How to distinguish dysfunctional quantitative forms of "knowing too much" and "too quickly" from hypercomprehension as a qualitatively subtler form of "unknowing" -- to which many spiritual disciplines allude? How does the typology above distinguish between different forms of "hypercomprehension"?
What might be some of its characteristics? Would they necessarily include (in no particular order):
Some of these possibilities have been explored in relation to "grokking" (cf Authentic Grokking: Emergence of Homo conjugens, 2003 ). Another approach is with respect to the nature of "cognitive fusion" and an understanding of the possible conditions required for it (cf Dematerialization and Virtualization: comparison of nuclear fusion and cognitive fusion, 2006).
A number of these suggestions point to possibilities of a much higher degree of self-reflexiveness as suggested by George Quasha and Charles Stein (Cut to the Radical of Orientation: twin notes on being in touch in Gary Hill's [Videosomatic] Installation, Cut Pipe, Open Space Magazine, Spring 1999):
The Klein Bottle may be thought of metaphorically as a topological form in four dimensions whose nature as continuous surface is to house the space that shapes, allows, and houses it. The video artist and eco-activist Paul Ryan, an early associate of Gary Hill, has for many years meditated on variations of the Klein Bottle he calls 'Klein forms.' Such forms have suggested to him a path of ecologically sensitive thought, for to model the relationship between thought and world, language and sense via Klein forms is by that very act to change the intuitive context of the way we think of the world, thus to change the world itself. It is to place the mind out in the territory, to reconnect intellect and touch, spirit and earth; to break the magnetic vise of all the bleak dichotomies and, by passing through a space that reconvenes beyond polarity, to heal the 'cut' of thought.
Related arguments have been articulated by Michael Schiltz (Form and Medium: a mathematical reconstruction, Image [&] Narrative, 6, 2003) and by Steven M. Rosen (What is Radical Recursion? S.E.E.D. Journal: Semiotics, Evolution, Energy, and Development, 2004).
The question might be asked as to whether "hypercomprehension" or "hyperknowing" should in some way be considered as a high order of "culture" -- especially in the light of the necessarily aesthetic ordering of associative comprehension -- dynamically binding together a vast domain of knowledge and providing instantaneous access to it. The skill might be that allusively envisaged by Nobel Laureate Hermann Hesse (Magister Ludi, 1943) as required for "The Glass Bead Game". This would be consistent with the understanding of "hyperlogic" as popularized by the cultural theorist Darren Tofts to describe the radically non-linear or non-naturalistic techniques of some 20th century artists and writers (eg James Joyce, Marcel Duchamp, John Cage). By analogy with hypertext, it provides for complex cross-referencing allowing for multiple, open-ended reading. For Tofts (Where are we at all? and whenabouts in the name of space): It is a form of thinking based on association, on accident, on suggestion. It is exactly the kind of logic usually implied by the term brainstorming. "Logic" is here understood in the much looser sense it carries in critical theory, as a general kind of narrative or structural rationale.
Given that forms of "hypercomprehension" are likely to have been recognized under other names in various cultures at different times, it is worth considering whether the set of characteristics enumerated above might together have formed the basis for archetypal pantheons of the past -- each characteristic encoded into the (possibly secret) attributes of a different deity. The Olympian Dodecatheon is an obvious candidate in which dynamic complementarities between the characteristics are traditionally highlighted through myth. The challenge of hypercomprehension in this case is ironically evident in the fact that the names of all such deities are now trademarks of clothing (cf Politicization of Evidence in the Plastic Turkey Era: al-Qaida, Saddam, Assassination and the Hijab, 2003).
One approach to modelling such "hypercomprehension" might be through the dynamics of vibrating strings fundamental to the harmonics of many musical instruments -- as first explored in western culture by Pythagoras (ca 500 BC). This is discussed separately in an Annex.
D C De Roure, et al. (On Hyperstructure and Musical Structure, 2002) report on investigations into the relationship between musical structure and hyperstructure, based on a series of open hypermedia systems research projects, providing a general overview of the intersection between hypermedia and musical structure, drawing also on ideas from narrative structure. The authors consider techniques for building hyperstructure from musical structure and, conversely, building musical structure from hyperstructure -- as well as experimenting with the sonification of hyperstructure.
What might be the relation between hyperspace and hypercomprehension? Michio Kaku (Hyperspace: a scientific odyssey through parallel universes, time warps, and the 10th dimension, 1995) discusses the challenge of comprehending hyperspace (see also T.B. Pawlicki (Where Is Hyperspace?; Saul-Paul Sirag, Notes on Hyperspace, 2000).
It is possible that the challenge lies in recognizing that these views constitute an external (objective) projection of an intuited set of internal (subjective) forms of order -- one that individuals could embody consciously (cf George Lakoff and Mark Johnson, Philosophy In The Flesh: the embodied mind and its challenge to western thought, 1999). The alternation between external and internal foci can be seen as an integrating attribute of classical Chinese approaches to such dilemmas (cf Hyperspace Clues to the Psychology of the Pattern that Connects, 2003; 9-fold Higher Order Patterning of Tao Te Ching Insights, 2003; Musical Articulation of Pattern of Tao Te Ching Insights, 2003)
Insights into the potential relevance to comprehension of the prefix "hyper" may be obtained from the early use of a "hypercube" in the coherent management of highly connected modules of virtual memory in the architecture of supercomputers [more more]. A hypercube is a generalization of a 3-cube to n dimensions (cf Russell Towle, Polytopes, an exploration of themes unifying the theory of higher space). It is a topology of which each node is the vertex of a n-dimensional cube [more]. Essentially "hyper" then implies high order connectivity between modules configured to be minimally distant from each other. The degree of connectivity may be achieved physically through some form of wiring (or optical connection) and/or through virtual organization of memory.
Such connectivity is the key to the operation of parallel computers (cf Ralph Duncan, A Survey of Parallel Computer Architectures, 1990; Jose Segovia-Juarez, et al, The hypernetwork architecture as a model for molecular computing, 2001; Hyper-Threading Technology, 2006). Topologies may be created such as to maintain the topological properties of hypercubes yet improve flexibility by enumerating the nodes of the network in number systems whose base can be varied [more]. Some of the issues from this perspective are helpfully articulated in terms of the temporal properties and spatial properties of complex systems. Given recognition of the parallel processing capacities of the human brain, the question is whether computer memory architecture offers insights into possible "rewiring" of human memory to be achieved through certain disciplines or paradigm shifts.
This question may perhaps be contrasted with the focus of the ambitious new IBM Blue Brain Project to use a supercomputer to model the brain (cf Matthew Hamblen, Blue Brain Power: modeling the brain with a supercomputer, Computerworld, November 2005). The suggestion here is rather that theoretical possibilities for the optimum memory architecture of supercomputers (as noted above) might point to unusual ways in which the brain could be "rewired" as a basis for "hypercomprehension".
Such rewiring might be achieved through a form of biofeedback -- cognitive resonance -- in response to templates of a higher order organization of knowledge. The possibility of such "rewiring" might be said to be well recognized in the traditional yogic meditation on yantras. As a simple geometric design, these "schematic mandalas" are considered to be a "support" or "instrument", acting as a highly efficient tool for contemplation, concentration and meditation. They are held to be a focal point or a window into the absolute. They might be understood as "cognitive wiring diagrams" -- of which the circular configuration of I Ching hexagrams provides a striking example of an effort to encompass all change processes (cf Relationship between Hexagrams of the Chinese I Ching, 1983). Incidentally John Cage made early use of the I Ching structure in his musical compositions (Music of Changes for Piano and Imaginary Landscape, 1951).
There is the possibility that "sacred geometry" might derive its "magical" coherence and significance by a form of resonance through some form of cognitive hyperlinking (cf Sacralization of Hyperlink Geometry, 1997). Another approach is the search for an appropriate "hyperlanguage" for which sacred languages are seen as prime candidates (cf The Formative Hyperlanguage of the Hebrew Alphabet of Creation) -- and hypertext as a precursor. The challenge of such a language would be to meaningfully embody the proverbs and aphorisms of the world's cultures.
Hypercomprehension implies the possibility of some form of "hypercommunication". An extensive review of one understanding of hypercommunication, based on convergence of communication technologies, is provided by Dean G. Fairchild (Convergence of Traditional Telephony, Enhanced Telecommunications, Private Data Networking, and the Internet into Hypercommunications: Implications of the New Economics of the Network for Florida Agribusinesses, 2000). He cites Alan Stone (How America Got Online: politics, markets, and the revolution in telecommunications, 1997). in distinguishing one "true", or "pure ideal" of hypercommunications:
Virtually any person who considers the future agrees that the world is in the process of major social and economic changes and that telecommunications is a driving force of those changes. If that is the case, the study of telecommunications is not simply the examination of one more sector, like pulp and paper, clothing, or automobiles. Nor is public policy for telecommunications just one more branch of public policy studies, like civil rights, airlines, or education. If the experts' projection of the future of telecommunications is a correct one, the sector will be the leading one in shaping our social, economic, and political futures. No reasonable person would attempt to predict the future with precision, but we can certainly surmise certain probable trends…the nearly uniform considerations of the experts do portend a dominating future for communications --- domination so extensive that we call the sector hypercommunications.
Related points were made by R Nakatsu (Toward the creation of a new medium for the multimedia era,. Proceedings of the IEEE 86, 5, 1998). The term is now used for marketing broadband communications as in the following example:
Using a revolutionary new approach known as "hypercommunications," Intermind Communicator allows subscribers to easily select Web content that is of most interest to them, and then automate the retrieval, filtering, sorting, displaying, and updating of personalized information and multimedia content right inside their browser. This intelligence is built into distributed objects known as Hyperconnectors...
Fairchild points out that "hypo", as signifying "under, beneath, below, …less than, subordinated to", suggests that, "the status quo of communications is hypocommunications, below or beneath the developing world of hypercommunications". This usage of "hypercommunications" corresponds to a distinction occasionally made between "communications" (with an "s") and "communication" as is to be seen in the following alternative connotations. As with communications, typically there is no concern with the issues of comprehension that tend to be a focus of communication.
There is a case for exploring the possibility of other more complex modes of communication that might be referred to as hypercommunication (without "s"):
Other significance currently attached to hypercommunication (without "s") includes:
Sepp Hasslberger (Is DNA hyper-communication a native internet? 2003) develops the above argument on which others have commented, notably Mike Emery. The view has been espoused by the Reiki movement [more] and by Astanga Yoga [more]
The human DNA is a biological Internet and superior in many aspects to the artificial one. The latest Russian scientific research [by Pjotr Garjajev and colleagues] directly or indirectly explains phenomena such as clairvoyance, intuition, spontaneous and remote acts of healing, self healing, affirmation techniques, unusual light/auras around people (namely spiritual masters), the mind's influence on weather patterns and much more....
These are tunnel connections between entirely different areas in the universe through which information can be transmitted outside of space and time. The DNA attracts these bits of information and passes them on to our consciousness. This process of hypercommunication is most effective in a state of relaxation. Stress, worries or a hyperactive intellect prevent successful hypercommunication or the information will be totally distorted and useless. In nature, hypercommunication has been successfully applied for millions of years. The organized flow of life in hyperdrive
insect states proves this dramatically. Modern man knows it only on a much more subtle level as "intuition". [see also Vernetzte Intelligenz]
The so far linear experience, connected with a fixed time, becomes now nonlinear. Even if the starting point were an alleged experience from the past... the experience changes now to a spontaneous transition to "here and now". People may interact directly with... virtual reality and/or with the apparent intelligence acting therein using a kind of hypercommunication.... This is not a normal discussion dialogue, but answers to questions posed are directly accessible to the consciousness of humans.
Distinct from the understandings above is that relating to behavioural consequences as noted by Jeff Davies (The Internet might just save the planet, Xtreme, 2003). He comments on a "a strong almost invisible undercurrent in part caused by the communications revolution buoying up the global economy" and refers to hypercommunication as "giving rise to nano-niches". As an example he cites the manner in which hypercommunication over the Internet allowed small numbers of people spread disparately over the world to join together working on large software projects. He refers to Linux as the obvious example. "Hypercommunications" has also been used to indicate that splinter groups now get commented on "almost before they are born".
Missing from these understandings would appear to be the semantic implications of hypercommunication. One possibility is that these would have characteristics akin to the hypothesized operation of "wormholes" across the universe -- popularized in the form of "stargates". Hypercommunication might then be understood as a form of "semantic wormhole". It is however interesting that a hyperlink between documents on seemingly unrelated topics may seem to function like a "semantic stargate" between "distant" parts of knowledge space. But the question is how an erroneous link, without any semantic implications, is to be distinguished from one in which the significance is not immediately apparent (requiring a learning process), or from one whose significance derives only from an aesthetic pattern as a "semantic collage".
Marketing might be understood as the operating interface between communication and action -- even though (as commercial "marketing") it is primarily understood in relation to economic products and services, and has only achieved marginal acceptance in its extension to "social marketing". Nevertheless "marketing" in one form or another is a major factor in promoting beliefs, projects, policies and political candidates. Synonyms for "marketing" might however include a range of widely recognized promotional and persuasive processes, notably relating to personal relationships, whether for purposes of bonding, status or career advancement. What of "hypermarketing"?
As might be expected, hypermarketing (to the extent that it is not simply "hype" about "marketing") is currently understood (cf Jaymz Dilworth, From Marketing to Hypermarketing, 1996; Donna L. Hoffman and Thomas P. Novak, A New Marketing Paradigm for Electronic Commerce, 1996) to include a much more integrated and coordinated approach to marketing [more], taking full advantage of the web, with characteristics such as:
There is however evidence of a growing consumer backlash against "hypermarketing," in the form of lapsed users and aware non-triers in response to overly rapid addition of features or flavors to their products -- faster than consumers can absorb the changes [more]. Another critic, Bill Schweber (Are we dissing ourselves again? EDN, 4/18/2005) remarks:
This type of hypermarketing soon consumes itself and everything associated with it. It distorts the reality scale to the high end. It often diminishes and demeans everything it touches, because everything is in the same category of breathlessness. It makes you wonder if, when you look behind the curtain, perhaps the actual products are mediocre. And so we have to kick the public-relations machine into overdrive to compensate. Maybe we're afraid that if the audience strips away the noise, it may decide there is less substance left than we'd like to acknowledge.
Whatever the downside of hypermarketing, it has necessarily become associated with "hypermarkets" or "hypermarts" and criticism of them as an invasive social phenomenon to an even greater extent than the supermarkets that preceded them. Ironically it might be asked what processes that are valued in hypermarketing have not always been characteristic of traditional bazaars.
The more fundamental question for the argument here is whether the current manifestation of hypermarketing obscures a new interface between hypercommunication and hyperaction that might prove appropriate to the response to hyperproblems.
The unresolved outcome of hypercommunication is the nature of the psychosocial implications of the evolution in communication. Where are the clues to the emergence of a form of hypercommunication, sufficiently based on disciplined intensity to be supportive of hyperaction? Possible clues include:
Hyperstructures are defined by Nils A. Baas and Claus Emmeche (On Emergence and Explanation, Intellectica 1997/2, no.25, pp. 67-83) as multi-level emergent structures providing a general framework for description of higher-order structures, including mechanisms of observation, and which may allow for self-generation in such systems of new observational frames. They add:
Within the living realm, one can observe hyperstructures as realized by multicellular organisms and the community structure of ecosystems. Consciousness may be seen as a hyperstructure of mental representations embodied in the central nervous system and capable of self-observation and self-interaction. Hyperstructures may be thought of as an organizational scheme or design principle.... The point is to combine the notion of emergence and hierarchy into the notion of hyperstructure... the notions of emergence and hyperstructure depend critically on an observer.... More informal examples may be the emergent properties of hyperstructures of biological and social systems which are deeply dependent of the existence of observers intrinsic to the system.... most if not all institutions of a human society have self-observing mechanisms (e.g., evaluation and assessment in research and production), as well as mechanisms for observing other institutions.
Approaches to an understanding of hyperorganization, in contrast to any dysfunctional sense of over-organization, include:
In examining marketplace communication we find compelling evidence of the formation of something we call a hyperorganization, a communicatively constituted social network that exists across or outside the boundaries of a formal organization and whose members engage in meaningful coproduction and consumption. A theory of the hyperorganization has the potential to unify such similar constructs as consumption subcultures and brand communities with such disparate constructs as boycotts and supply chains. We discuss the discovery of the hyperorganization and some of its implications for consumer behavior and marketing.
The argument centers on interdependence and how interdependence is affected by available information technology, by the effects of rapid change on goals, and by how environmental changes affect the management of interdependence. Virtual-like organizations exist within organizations as virtual positions, virtual processes, lateral coordinating mechanisms, and patronage. Virtual-like organizations also arise among organizations in the form of virtual organizations, industrial districts, strategic alliances, virtual teams, and latent organizations. A virtual-like organizational arrangement creates a commons among its members which survives if the welfare of the commons is ensured. Non-governmental organizations are viewed as a type of virtual-like organizational arrangement.... As the number of virtual positions climbs, the organization resembles a hyperprocess. As the number of virtual processes becomes large, the organization becomes a hyperstructure. When an organization is both a hyperprocess and a hyperstructure, it becomes a hyperorganization. In a hyperorganization there is no discipline, and little order, as people and processes swirl in a chaotic jumble of ad hoc adjustments and politics.The appeance of "chaotic jumble" may however result from a failure to recognize the hidden ordering provided by the hyperstructure.
Other possibilities illustrative of hyperorganization might include:
Perhaps of greater interest is the possibility of increasing recognition of varieties of "hyperdialogue". Again this would not be primarily characterized by rapidity or quantity of dialogue, whatever the appearances. Rather it would be characterized by qualities indicated by terms such as "deep dialogue", typical of "quality time" -- perhaps associated with "intensity" and "game-playing" of a high order, possibly to be termed "hyperinteraction". Pointers include:
In the light of these pointers, does the focus on the emergence of a "knowledge society" in the 21st century obscure the psychosocial implications of the emerging hypersociety -- even a hypercivilization? On the other hand, is a hypersociety to be understood as the "network society" (of primarily metaphorical significance over past decades) now to be enabled by hypermedia (possibly with equally limited implications)? Pointers include:
Again, rather than implications of excessive organization in conformity with a single global plan, global ethic, and the like -- in pursuit of distant objectives -- is it possible that "hy-per" might be better understood as an abbreviation of "high personalization" of a more intense form conistent with hyperdialogue focused on the here and now? This would be contrasted with the current low personalization ("lo-per") presented as the ideal of many forms of organization.
"Hypergroups" in mathematics are simple algebraic objects much like groups except that the product of any two elements is a probability distribution on the set, not a single element. [more]. The point is that many problems that involve non-Abelian groups can be tackled using ideas of harmonic analysis on commutative hypergroups. In psychosocial terms, however, what would a "hypergroup" look like to those unfamilar with this mode -- and how would it be experienced by those who were? Would it constitute a form of "strange attractor"? How could its dynamics be distinguished from those of a cult -- especially by those concerned by their understanding of a cult's mode of operation? As an early proprietary software application, the term has however been applied to relatively simple communication in online communities (cf R Miller and B Robin. HyperGroups: a new tool for enhancing communication in an electronic community of learners, 1999; C White. Hypergroups for Social Studies Teachers: a critical issues dialog for technology integration, 2000)
Of particular current relevance is the possibility that the "al-Qaida network" of "global terrorism" may well be best understood as a hyperstructure partly enabled and sustained by hypermedia. Adam Curtis presented in 2004 a series of BBC documentaries entitled The Power of Nightmares that showed how the fantasy image of the "al-Qaida organization" was created, arguing that the real threat came not from a network but from individuals and groups linked only by an idea (The making of the terror myth, The Guardian, 15 October 2004). This would suggest that the "network" is effectively a "hyperorganization" suggesting the need for an appropriate hyperstrategy of matching subtlety (cf Transforming the Encounter with Terrorism, 2002).
Hyperactivity is conventionally described as a state in which a person is abnormally easily excitable and exuberant, typically with a very short span of attention, possibly associated with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). Such dysfunctional hyperactivity can be usefully contrasted with:
These may be variants of the same psycho-physical phenomenon -- as implied by the adoption of "hyperactive flow" as a descriptive trade mark by some rappers. Whether or not this is rendered possible by a form of hypercomprehension, the concern here is with the existence of non-physical forms of hyperactivity that are enabled by such comprehension, for groups as much as individuals. Significant collective forms have been described:
Both examples point to the emergence of little known forms of understanding sustaining the global financial markets through the use of highly sophisticated financial trading algorithms with which competitivity is indeed ensured by speed of response to detected trading opportunities (cf Barton Biggs, Hedge Hogging, 2006; HEDG: Hyper-Economy Development Group). This is associated with what is termed "hypertrading", namely an increasing focus on very short term returns in the buying and selling of stocks notably under pressure frolm pension funds and mutual funds. It has been argued that hypertrading may be adding 10 to 20 percent to the market price of oil (Trading Frenzy Adds to Jump in Price of Oil, New York Times, 29 April 2006).
But whilst rapidity may indeed appear to be a prime characteristic of hyperaction, of potentially far greater interest is a form of action that is associated with the comprehension, navigation and/or enactivation of complex patterns -- possibly of a higher order. It might prove to be a form of action appropriate to the "more than real" aspects of "hyperreality". Such an understanding of hyperaction may be usefully illustrated by:
There is widespread concern about "hyperexploitation", promulgated by the current system, through which more and more intensive efforts are made to find and liquidate the last remaining environmental and other resources at a grossly inflated market price -- notably through "precariousness, hyperexploitation, mobility" of labour. This is seen as leaving a vast majority of humankind without hope. The subtle invasiveness of hypermedia -- and its addictive characteristics -- may also be seen as a particular kind of cognitive hyperexploitation. But there is a possibility that hyperaction, as envisaged here, might offer a means of switching from the present dysfunctional "quantitative" form of exploitation to a "qualitative" form -- more acceptable as a challenge for the future. It is clear however that hypercomprehension is required to detect hyperexploitation and to envisage the most appropriate form of remedial hyperaction. The same could be said of "hyperviolence", potentially a way of reframing certain forms of "structural violence".
The kinds of strategic thinking associated with any form of "revolutionary" action, including "terrorism" -- and the imaginative new thinking required in response, may have attributes that history will understand as "hypercomprehension" enabling "hyperaction". With respect to hyperexploitation, the insights of those opposed to the globalization agenda of multinational corporations may also be understood as a form of hypercomprehension leading to hyperaction (cf David Harvie, et al. Shut them Done: the G8, Gleneagles 2005 and the movement of movements, 2005). The covert globalization strategies of such corporations, the high order game-playing suspected by conspiracy theorists, may also be considered as hyperaction empowered by hypercomprehension.
Of particular relevance in a cognitive environment, increasingly organized for comprehension through hypermedia, is the nature of the hyperaction enabled by that context. Hypermedia do provide a degree of cognitive credibility to otherwise improbable connections -- essentially ensuring a form of hyperconnectivity independent of the constraints of any sense or any single mode of intelligence.
The question is the kind of action that is then enabled. One form of research on "cognitive fusion" focuses on the enhanced decision-making consequent upon development of "data fusion" and "information fusion", namely the dynamic analysis of data combined from multiple sources in order to recognize complex dynamic situation patterns, construct models or hypotheses of unfolding situations, and take action in response to situations such as those encountered in the management of a battlespace, surveillance of complex technological systems, and mobilization of countermeasures in real-time emergency situations in health care and homeland security applications (cf G. Jakobson, et al. An Approach to Integrated Cognitive Fusion, 2004). This might be said to emphasize a form of cognitive "hyperintensity".
Especially relevant to any understanding of the potential significance of hyperaction in relation to hypermedia is the insightful work on multi-term systems of John G Bennett (The Dramatic Universe, 1956-66), culminating in a focus on "hyparxis", namely ableness-to-be and cyclicity (cf David Vernon and Dermot Furlong, Relativistic Ontologies, Self-Organization, Autopoiesis, and Artificial Life: a progression in the science of the autonomous) [more]. Anthony Blake (The Information Field and Time) comments on hyparxis as follows:
To apply energy is to engage in an action which, in physics, is measured as energy x time. If we can associate thinking with 'act', then we have the quasi-sequence: act, action, actuality. Act comes from what is possible; action comes from available energy and actuality is a result. Action marries together form and matter.
Now, it is difficult to speak about the 'sequence' of operations, since more than actualisation in time is involved. For that reason, we bring into our discussion Bennett's concept of hyparxis. Hyparxis is defined as 'ableness-to-be'. It can be identified with action. Hyparchic action is able to change the content of the information field. This is not a change in time. It is a change in 'inner time'. Eternity is subject to the operations of hyparxis. That is why hyparxis is associated with the human sense of 'will' and 'choice'.
Hyparxis combines what is actual with what is virtual, thus defining a 'present moment'. We have the sense that the present moment is more than what happens. St. Augustine did not see the present moment as a tiny instant, but as copious.
Whatever the similarities between "hyparxis", "hypercomprehension" and "cognitive fusion" (as discussed in Dematerialization and Virtualization: comparison of nuclear fusion and cognitive fusion, 2006), it would be unfortunate if the possibilities of "hyperaction" did not extend to the subtler forms that may be vital in response to complex open systems characteristic of many social and environmental challenges. Such "magical" qualities of hyperaction have been related elsewhere to the challenges of the complexity sciences and higher dimensionality (cf Walking Elven Pathways: enactivating the pattern that connects, 2006; Douglas Hofstadter, Metamagical Themas, 1985).
Such qualities may perhaps involve a cognitive equivalent to the spanning capacity of the "seven league boots" that feature so widely in European folklore -- hopefully a repository of collective wisdom -- and increasingly in role playing games. Given the "string plucking" metaphor for value-based choice-making (see Annex), the cognitive span in question may refer to the ability to shift up or down octaves, spanning the seven intervals between the notes of each octave -- a possibility perhaps consistent with bypassing the classical constraint identified by George Miller (The Magical Number Seven, Plus or Minus Two: some limits on our capacity for processing information, 1956) [more]. Alternatively they may point to the capacity to use isomorphism, as highlighted by general systems theory, to transpose between systems of different scale. "Seven league boots" might then be understood cognitively as "general systems boots" (cf Metaphors as Transdisciplinary Vehicles of the Future, 1991).
Faced with current challenges, both individuals and society now give attention to ways of approaching reality as suggested by terms with the prefix "hyper". These have effectively become "strange attractors" in a complex knowledge space (cf Human Values as Strange Attractors, 1993). Physicists and cosmologists feel free to speculate on the fundamental nature of spacetime in such terms. Musicians draw attention to "hypermusic". Globalization is leading to "hyperconnectivity" which will enable the kind of "hyperintelligence" fundamental to the emergent global brain and the challenge of "hyperreality". Supercomputers require use of n-dimensional hypercubes for their memory architecture.
And yet there is concern that none of this will necessarily give rise to the kinds of wisdom and paradigm shifts -- "hyperknowledge" and "hyperknow-how" -- that many see as needed. An exemplar such as astrophysicist Stephen Hawking is sufficiently convinced that such insights will be inadequate for timely response to the challenges that he urges humanity to seek refuge in another star system (CNN, 15 June 2006). This gives legitimacy to the dreams of science fiction writers and their fans regarding the need for "faster than light" drives whereby access to other star systems may be achieved -- possibly through "hyperspace".
The psychodynamic outcome of such a vision has been poignantly and ironically prefigured by the theme line of the cult series Battlestar Glactica (1978): "Fleeing from the Cylon tyranny, the last Battlestar, Galactica, leads a ragtag fugitive fleet on a lonely quest: a shining planet known as Earth" -- following destruction of the 12 Colonies of Man by the cyborg race of Cylons (cf John Sullivan, Battlestar Galactica: re-imagining the ragtag fugitive fleet, 2003). It might be asked, in terms of Hawking's vision: who are the Cylons of this era (the computer-enabled?), what is the nature of their tyranny (exploitation of the disadvantaged?), what constitutes the ragtag fleet (the alternative groups?), what is the Battlestar leading them (the UN?), what are the 12 destroyed colonies of man (the diversity of cultures lost?), and where is the Earth that is the object of the quest of the last remnants of humanity? And how are these metaphors to be understood in terms of knowledge space?
The "quest" motif is highly active in global society -- one example being the legend of the Holy Grail, and the associated popularity of the Da Vinci Code. More obvious is the highly popular EverQuest, a 3D fantasy massively multiplayer online role-playing game. The extremely widespread use of certain drugs (psychedelics, dissociatives and deliriants) may also be understood as a form of quest in that they can affect the subjective qualities of perception, thought or emotion, resulting in altered interpretations of sensory input, alternate states of consciousness, or hallucinations.
There is another way to look at this collective longing for "hyper" to transport ourselves out of the behavioural "gravity well" -- or "black hole" -- in which humanity is trapped. Indeed "longing" might be understood as a kind of built in drive -- a form of "light sail" -- enabling life-long, long-distance travel across forms of "spacetime" with a qualitative psychological dimension, of which a sense is given in the much-quoted verse of T S Eliot:
We shall not cease from exploration
The seeming need for a "hyperdrive", required for "faster than light" travel, is an excellent indicator of what is held to be desirable. It is now the subject of serious research (Haiko Lietz, Take a leap into hyperspace, New Scientist, 5 January 2006; Leonard David, Research Warps into Hyperdrive, 8 March 2006; NASA, Warp Drive, When?). A hyperdrive offers the possibility of escape from things that have not worked -- extending the proven capacity of "closed system" skills, whilst avoiding the need to respond more effectively to the disastrous conditions of the "open systems" on the planet that are so indicative of the limitations of such skills.
Ironically it is the quality of disciplined imaginative thinking applied to the physics underlying such possibilities that is suggestive of the quality of thinking that is required for a sustainable future on this planet -- rather than elsewhere. The adventurous excitement for such travel elsewhere (and elsewhen) exemplifies that required for the challenging changes in perspective here (and now). The key factor is the willingness to consider degrees of complexity and higher dimensionality -- even paradox and improbability -- that are fundamental to the necessarily imaginative response. The point was well made in the much-quoted statement by physicist Niels Bohr in response to Wolfgang Pauli:
"We are all agreed that your theory is crazy. The question which divides us is whether it is crazy enough to have a chance of being correct. My own feeling is that is not crazy enough." To that Freeman Dyson added: "When a great innovation appears, it will almost certainly be in a muddled, incomplete and confusing form. To the discoverer, himself, it will be only half understood; to everyone else, it will be a mystery. For any speculation which does not at first glance look crazy, there is no hope!" (Innovation in Physics, Scientific American, 199, 3, September 1958)
The fundamental flaw lies in framing the challenge as being the "hyperspace elsewhere" of physicists through which elsewhere (and elsewhen) are to be explored and colonized in replication of historical errors of the human race -- and in denial of them. The intuited need has unfortunately been projected onto an inappropriate medium -- a basic form of cognitive displacement.
Are the "real" questions not rather of the following kind:
How is the notion of "faster than light" travel across light-years to be related to any analogous challenge in the here and know? What indeed are the "light-years" of communication and knowledge space which global civilization has not yet developed the technology to traverse -- despite a variety of claims to "universal" relevance? The distances between disciplines, political ideologies and religious belief systems could be seen in this light -- as with the differences between ethnic groups, genders and age groups. Neither "tolerance", "dialogue" nor "love" appear to have provided the "technology" for the necessary hyperdrive to enable meaningful travel between them.
Perhaps there is a need for a radically new understanding of the meaning of "light" to enable such travel (cf Duane Elgin, Continuous Creation and the Constancy of the Speed of Light, Journal of Non-Locality and Remote Mental Interactions, 2003; People as Stargates: an alternative perspective on human relationships in space-time, 1996).
It would seem that much of the difficulty comes from the dissociation between the "arid technicalities" of the knowledge about "hyperphenomena" (and those who seek to claim such knowledge for their own) and the "simplistic enthusiasms" of those who sense intuitively the need for "hyper" in some form (without being able to give operational expression to the discipline required). This is most evident in the many plaintive calls for the "political will for change" and the shameful capacity to break electoral commitments to any such change -- commitments characteristically expressed through the "hyperbole" of public relations. These inadequacies are accompanied by the inexorable emergence of overwhelming problems -- hyperproblems -- that force unwelcome change at painful cost (cf Peter M. Allen, et al, Evolutionary Drive: new understandings of change in socio-economic systems, Emergence: Complexity and Organization. 8, 2, 2006). These are a current measure of society's primitive "hyperdrive" technology -- matched by the extremely limited capacity of the individual to "be the change".
As evidence of this cognitive displacement, and if the widespread appeal is again any indication of the unconscious understanding of humanity, the motif theme of the Star Trek series bears reflection : "Its continuing mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before." How is it that there is so little collective effort to "boldly go" into the poorly recognized complex psychosocial dynamics associated with so many collective tensions between communities (eg Middle East, indigenous peoples, gypsies, disciplines, religions)?
The question is then what is the nature of the appropriate "hyperdrive" technology that would indeed enable humanity to "reach for the stars" by reconfiguring itself through application of "hyperintelligence" and "hypercomprehension" such as to result in "hyperaction"?
In considering radical possibilities, analogous to the radically fundamental thinking of hyperdrive physics, one answer, strongly advocated by some, is associated with forms of religious fundamentalism. Indeed the associated "hypermotivation" certainly provides suicide bombers with a powerful "hyperdrive" for themselves! But, beyond notions of "psyching up", how is any more appropriate "hypermotivation" for the times to be comprehended and elicited? (cf Alex Kirby, Psyching up the green consumer, BBC, 4 February 2003).
It could be argued that no planetary culture has the right to "inter-stellar travel" until it has proven the capacity to engage in the kinds of "hyperaction" understandable through a "hypercomprehension" capable of interrelating the mutually distant "stars" of its many disciplines and schools of thought -- the only too visible celebrities and VIPs. Religious fundamentalism has failed in this -- contributing only to the exacerbation of social problems. The only culture of an integrity consistent with the requisite "hypercomprehension" -- not of necessity engaged in more appropriate forms of "hyperaction" -- is one engaged in the subtleties of "non-action" (wu wei). It is to this understanding of "hyperaction" that Taoism and Zen repeatedly point (cf The Quest for the Socio-Economics of Non-Action, 1993).
Hyperidentity is a topic of research in mathematics (cf W Taylor, Hyperidentities and hypervarieties, Aequationes Mathematicae 23(1981), 111-127; S. L. Wismath, On finite hyperidentity bases for varieties of semigroups, Algebra Universalis, 1993). An identity is called a hyperidentity if whenever the operational symbols defining it are replaced by any terms of the appropriate order, the identity which results holds for that order. Hyperidentities can be defined more precisely using the concept of hypersubstitution.
In the psychosocial domain, Marisa Zavalloni (Identity and Hyperidentities: the representational foundation of self and culture, First International Conference on Social Representations, Ravello, 1992) clarifies the interplay between words and representations in the creation of identity and culture. She uses the term "hyperidentity" to characterize groups as the sum of all the representations produced about them; the term "figure" is used to describe a unique group representation. These concepts express the transactional nature of group representations, as they emerge in the cultural space and address the Self. In discussing "Hyperidentities and their figures: groups as cultural creations", Zavalloni then notes:
The term hyperidentity refers to social groups as a loose collection, of all the figures that are produced about them and that are exchanged in the cultural space. Some of these figures are internalized as expressing the Self. The term hyperidentity figure that I use to describe a wide range of cultural creations about humans, hints, also, at the fact that all representations of human nature, whatever their source: philosophical, religious, artistic or "scientific," activate, implicitly or explicitly the representations of persons as prototypes or exemplars of a social group.... Hyperidentity figures can be described as cultural elements that are embodied and energized by the brain/mind of those who create and of those receive them. Inside the person, so to speak, as part of the identity system, these figures are invested by desires and emotions that were produced, originally, in a different context. We will refer to this identity process as a resonance effect. The power of these figures to influence the cultural space is conditional on their capacity to produce a resonance in those who receive them, that is to say activate a preexistent affective representational circuit. When that happens, hyperidentity figures become powerful weapons in political and social struggles. The issues of social and cultural influences could, profitably, be addressed in this framework.
The nature of hyperidentity in hypermedia environments has been explored by M Filiciak (Hyperidentities: postmodern identity patterns in massively multiplayer online role-playing games, 2003) -- following the work of Sherry Turkle (Life on the Screen: identity in the Age of the Internet, 1995).
The above pointers call for further "reflection" on the value of reframing the pathological understanding of "hyperreflexivity". As argued by Louis A. Sass ("Negative Symptoms', Schizophrenia, and the Self, International Journal of Psychology and Psychological Therapy, 3, 2, December 2003, pp. 153-180):
Schizophrenia... can best be understood as a self-disorder or ipseity-disturbance... involving 'hyperreflexivity' and 'diminished self-affection'. Hyperreflexivity is a condition in which phenomena that would normally be inhabited, and in this sense experienced as part of the self, come instead to be taken as objects of focal or objectifying awareness. Diminished self-affection involves a decline in the sense of existing as a living subject of awareness.
This needs to be compared to extremely insightful forms of self-reflexivity, whether as highlighted by Douglas Hofstadter (Gödel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid, 1979; Metamagical Themas, 1985), by poets such as Gertrude Stein ("A rose is a rose is a rose is a rose") or in meditation. On the other hand the statement that "Hyperreflexivity is a condition in which phenomena that would normally be inhabited, and in this sense experienced as part of the self, come instead to be taken as objects of focal or objectifying awareness" could be usefully understood as a description of the pathological nature of much conventional thinking in relation to "objective" phenomena with which any identity has been effectively lost..
The challenge with respect to any hyperdrive for individuals or groups -- or any larger collectivity -- is the question of the identity with which that drive is associated. Who or what is driven? Given the concerns in the annex on the harmonics of tensed string "plucking", a valuable understanding of any invariance of identity is offered by the work of Ernest G McLain (The Myth of Invariance: the origins of the gods, mathematics and music from the Rg Veda to Plato, 1978). Of interest is how the classic "WH-questions" are then formulated and the assumptions made about the recipient of any evoked answer (cf Engaging with Questions of Higher Order: cognitive vigilance required for higher degrees of twistedness, 2004; Cognitive Feel for Cognitive Catastrophes: Question Conformality, 2006).
The relationship between learning -- and therefore potentially changing -- identities in a hypermedia environment was evoked by (B A Banathy, From hypertext to hyperquestions: information tools for knowledge workers, 1996). This is cited by Garry Marshall (Creativity, Imagination and the World-Wide Web, Educational Technology and Society 4, 2, 2001) in emphasizing the shift in emphasis from searching for answers in a maze of hypertext to asking questions of experts on a topic (or the originators of the topic) -- enabling the question to be reframed if appropriate. Unfortunately this does not address the fundamental challenge, noted earlier, of constraints on the attention time of the creative nor of the manner in which the "identity" of the originator may have evolved since initiating the topic.
Given the above arguments of Zavalloni, the feminist perspective of K. Burnett et al (Toward the Construction of a Feminist Post-Modern Hyperidentity of Cultural Integration, 1994), and the theological arguments of Sallie McFague (Metaphorical Theology: models of god in religious language, 1997), there is a case for reviewing "God" as a hyperidentity -- especially given the widespread damage resulting from religious conflict based on more reified understandings. One interesting point of departure is the Greek Dodecatheon of 12 Olympian Gods (mentioned earlier). Such a configuration of deities can be understood as implying a consciously uncharacterized hyperidentity -- in a manner consistent with religions that are reluctant to constrain divinity through description and naming. The association to the empty-centred dodecahedron emphasizes such a hyperidentity.
Even more intriguing are the epistemological implications of a hyperdodecahedron [more], especially given recent suggestions for a dodecahedral cosmic topology of the universe (cf J P Luminet, A cosmic hall of mirrors, Physics World, September 2005). This suggests the possibility of a "hyperdodecatheon" as a way of structuring the relationships between the perspectives of the many religions.
As with the cognitive displacement involved in developing a "hyperdrive", there is a case for recognizing the extent to which humanity's fundamental conceptual reframings, such as a dodecahedral organization of the universe, constitute an intuitive insight into organizational principles that may be more immediately relevant to psychosocial organization -- notably in response to seemingly irreconcilable fragmentation of theologies, disciplines, or sense of identity. Such innovations in cosmic topology may constitute the requisite complexity for personal and governance structures at this time -- as a necessary reciprocity and complementarity.
Is personal identity in a hypermediated hypersociety best to be understood as a hyperidentity -- a "hyperself" living a "hyperlife"? In the words of Kenneth Boulding (Ecodynamics; a new theory of societal evolution, 1978):
Our consciousness of the unity of the self in the middle of a vast complexity of images or material structures is at least a suitable metaphor for the unity of a group, organization, department, discipline, or science. If personification is only a metaphor, let us not despise metaphors - we might be one ourselves.
There is a degree of déjà vu in the enthusiasm with which hyperstructure is now being detected and promoted as an organizing principle. It recalls the enthusiasm for "network" from the 1970s -- as a desirable complement to preoccupation with hierarchies as an organizing principle. Whilst networks have been appreciated as a metaphor, little has been done to analyze, design and empower more appropriate social networks -- despite the work of the International Network for Social Network Analysis. It has been mainly in the field of (tele)communications that enabling implementations took form.
There is a danger that the potential of hyperstructure will elicit analogous enthusiasm -- with a primary focus on the (tele)communication implementation of hypermedia as an enabling technology for knowledge society, but with little attention to the operation of hyperstructures in their own right. As with efforts to privilege positive connotations of the "networking society" (ignoring the skill with which networks have been used for exploitation, crime and terrorism), there is the danger that enthusiastic focus on a "hyperstructured society" will fail to accord attention to the manner in which it can also enable new forms of hyperexploitation and hyperviolence.
There is however clearly the potential for these hyperstructures to be of significance in the organization of hypergroups in hypersociety with new forms of hyperstrategy -- underpinned by more approriate hyperorganization of knowledge and values. These may be of considerable significance for governance at all levels of society -- and for a new understanding of the hyperidentity of both collectivities and individuals.
It is especially unfortunate, in a society in need of considerable "healing", that "hyper" should be primarily associated with dysfunctional conditions (by the "healing professions"). It would be especially ironic if any appropriate organization of the "wisdom" of humanity (accumulated in proverbs and the like) needs necessarily to be a form of hyperorganization, as implied by Gregory Bateson (Mind and Nature: a necessary unity, 1979) in making the point that:
The pattern which connects is a meta-pattern. It is a pattern of patterns. It is that meta-pattern which defines the vast generalization that, indeed, it is patterns which connect.
The massive intergovernmental research project on nuclear fusion, launched in 2006, could be understood as an investment both towards new sources of energy necessary for the planet -- and, potentially, towards a hyperdrive as conventionally understood (see ITER International Fusion Energy Organisation, IIFEO). It could be argued however that the current global civilization will exhaust its sustaining sources of meaning before it exhausts its conventional energy sources -- and before ITER bears fruit in 2050.
Rather than "peak oil", perhaps the concern should be with "peak meaning" -- with the former but one metaphor for the latter. Is global society faced with some form of imminent implosive collapse of meaning -- potentially leading to complete collapse of the social contract? Are the outcomes of issue-oriented international conferences, especially global summits, to be seen as indicators of such an onset of meaninglessness? Given the challenge of the relationship between reality and hyperreality outlined above, one site concerned with Life After the Oil Crash tellingly has as its motto: Deal With Reality or Reality Will Deal With You. Perhaps the challenge of "peak meaning" could usefully be associated with the thesis of Jared Diamond (Collapse: how societies choose to fail or succeed, 2005). Just as "peak oil" forces consideration of alternative sustainable energy policies, perhaps "peak meaning" suggests the need for alternative meaning processes -- as much for the individual otherwise facing mortality, as for human society otherwise potentially at the end of a cycle.
Would this reframe the seemingly curious early investigations of Taoists into energy flows conducive to "immortality" -- as an early metaphor for "sustainability"? [more] Such immortality is believed to be the result of a wu xing transformation in the understanding of reality -- described as an "inner alchemy" -- involving recognition that all things are in some dynamic correlation of wood, fire, water, metal, and earth [more | more]. Susantha Goonatilake (Toward a Global Science: mining civilizational knowledge, 1998) argues that "the modern agenda has run out of steam" and competitive advantage in research will in future be derived by Asian cultures from exploration of their own cultural metaphors (cf Enhancing the Quality of Knowing through Integration of East-West metaphors, 2000). It may be that such metaphors, especially their compatibility with 5-fold symmetry in dodecahedral knowledge structures, will prove fundamental to the organization of knowledge capable of underpinning both sustainable strategies and any individual or collective sense of identity (cf Union of Intelligible Associations: remembering dynamic identity through a dodecameral mind, 2005).
In developing the semantic web, will the hyperstructure, constituted by metadata for knowledge representation and ontologies, respond to this challenge? (cf David De Roure, First International Workshop on Hypertext and the Semantic Web, 2003). The distinction made above is effectively between a hyperstructure:
The possibility of hyperaction impelled by a hyperdrive, as outlined above, points to the need for an international research project that is complementary to the ITER focus on nuclear fusion. Such a complementary project has been outlined elsewhere (Enactivating a Cognitive Fusion Reactor: Imaginal Transformation of Energy Resourcing, ITER-8, 2006). The initiative described there is quite distinct from ITER, although it is designed to benefit symbiotically from the creative challenges and breakthroughs in research on controlled nuclear fusion.
From a general systems perspective, are there instructive parallels between the collapse of star systems (normally sustained by nuclear fusion), the collapse of civilizations (as charted by Diamond), and a possible collapse of global knowledge systems -- epitomized by the proliferation of hyperlinked knowledge through hypermedia such that "everything is related to everything else".
The critical element in stellar evolution (as charted by the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram) is the increasing gravitational pressure on the core, perhaps to be paralleled by the increasing "weight" of knowledge on the individual or collective psyche. Two stellar cases suggest distinct psychosocial outcomes:
In the light of the above arguments, ITER-8 could be described as focused on the challenge of developing a "hyperdrive" -- understood as a means of engendering psychocultural energy, notably as a response to the increasing popular apathy with regard to the "hyperaction" required to ensure the effectiveness of major international social projects such as the European Union, the United Nations -- and their many programmes
The initiative is seen as vital to sustaining the creativity, excitement, collective purpose and fun without which unlimited supplies of conventional energy are effectively meaningless to any higher quality of life (cf Humour and Play-Fullness: essential integrative processes in governance, religion and transdisciplinarity, 2005) .
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