16th July 2006
Hyperaction through Hypercomprehension and Hyperdrive
necessary complement to proliferation of hypermedia in hypersociety
- / -
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
Information overload and information underuse
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
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
- visit a site,
- provide a link to a site
- visit a wiki, blog, etc and make comments
- read "my book", "that book", "that document"
- hear "my song"
- see "my etchings", photos, etc
- interact in my world, framework, etc
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
Application of filters: There is necessarily a range of strategies
through which to excuse any failure to respond to such opportunities. These
- refusing to be exposed to them ("turning off"), notably through selective use of "black lists"
- specializing, namely focusing one's interests to exclude unrelated topics
- affirming that those of which one is not aware, or to which one does not respond, are of inferior quality ("rubbish", "trivial", etc), namely some form of denial
- limiting attention to what trusted contacts recommend
- using prioritizing strategies to determine what others consider "most important" as a means of allocating appropriate attention time to them
- relying on insights previously received ("received ideas")
- declaring as suspect the sources to which one does not attend, possibly for ideological or religious reasons
- applying "white lists" to limit exposure only to selected sites
that meet certain criteria
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
Questionable pressure to know "everything": This is illustrated by several phenomena:
- acquisition of general knowledge, as exemplified by the civil service examination in India (cf General Studies Manual, 2006)
- information consumerism (and "snacking"), possibly leading to a form
- personal challenges to memory, as exemplified by memory competitions
- traditional and emerging security services strategies, as exemplified by
the US Total
Information Awareness programme and the highly secretive international Echelon
surveillance system [more]
Such trends are to be contrasted with efforts to minimize the amount of information necessary to make a governance decision in a complex society
Arbitrariness / Contingency
Mortality: In this context of knowledge "busy-ness", it is worth remembering that:
- most of those whose views currently condition thinking, or constitute an
inspiration, are long-dead
- many views currently favoured (possibly as some form of sacred truth)
will be abandoned with the death of their leading advocates
- people "just die" -- irrespective of their views or their aspirations
to immortality of any kind, often sooner than they expect, and frequently with a degree of pain that severely challenges any coherent understanding they may have acquired
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
- "every small achievement is to be appreciated"
- "there will always be setbacks"
- "there is always another day to deal with such matters"
- "someone else will take care of it"
- "everything in its own time"
- "everything is as it should be"
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:
- subscribe to the same viewpoint or "buy into" a particular system of belief
- "sing from the same hymn sheet"
- agree on a set of "common values"
- develop a set of common policies as part of a single strategic plan of action
- seek to impose their preferred system (for the "good of others",
at whatever cost)
Complex dynamics: Within the above setting, typical dynamics for an individual or a group, include:
- sense of overload and oversolicitation, manifesting as stress
- sense of understimulation, manifesting as boredom or loneliness
- coacting with other systems
- eulogizing them
- demonizing them
- apologizing for them
- supporting them
- counteracting them
- coexisting with them
- cooperating with them
- reframing, reinventing, or recreating any self-image, whether in the case of an individual or a group
- efforts to seek subtler ("qualitatively superior") or more concrete ("more
grounded") energies and stimuli
Attention as the primary scarce resource
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:
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):
- time to read, view or listen
- time to engage ("quality time")
- time to enjoy
- energy (efficiency)
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". *****
Beyond knowledge: "wisdom"?
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:
- Co-intelligence as
defined by social theorist Tom Atlee (The
Tao of Democracy: using co-intelligence to create a world that works for
all, 2003) to refer to a shared,
integrated form of intelligence (also Leonard Joy, Collective Intelligence and Quaker Practice). This is developed by the Co-Intelligence
Institute by catalyzing co-intelligence in the realms of politics,
governance and cultural evolution (cf Levels/realms of human collective intelligence, 2003)
intelligence defined George Pór (The
Quest for Collective Intelligence, 1995) as the capacity of a human
community to evolve toward higher order complexity thought, problem-solving
and integration through collaboration and innovation (see Blog of Collective Intelligence). A mathematical model
has been developed by Tadeusz Szuba (Computational Collective
2001) assumes an unconscious, random, parallel, and distributed
computational process, run in mathematical logic by the social structure (cf
Marko A Rodriguez,
Hyper-Cortex of Human Collective-Intelligence Systems, 2005). The web may be seen as exemplifying collective intelligence (cf Francis Heylighen, Collective Intelligence and its Implementation on the Web: algorithms to develop a collective mental map; Pierre Levy, Collective Intelligence : mankind's emerging world in cyberspace, 1997)
intelligence namely a measure of the collaborative ability of a group
or entity in terms of the problem solving cabability of a group being
much greater than the knowledge possessed by an individual group member.
- Smart mobs: as articulated
by Howard Rheingold (Smart Mobs:
the next social revolution, 2002)
- Swarm intelligence: an artificial intelligence technique based around
the study of collective behavior in decentralized, self-organized systems [more].
intelligence explored by George Pór to determine whether
big and complex organisations will learn fast enough-before experiencing
dramatic losses and shattering crises-to upgrade such strategic capabilities
as innovation and collaboration or better managing large-scale change
- Military intelligence:
this exemplifies the challenge of obtaining and employing intelligence collectively.
In the case of U.S. Army Intelligence, officers often having IQ's that
place them in the top ten percent of the population.
- Team intelligence: Ken Thompson (Team Intelligence, 2006) argues that team intelligence can be implemented in organizational teams by learning from biological teams and the the natural principles which underpin nature's most successful teams. He expresses these in the form of 4 action zones each of which has 3 action rules (a total of twelve rules summarized in The secret DNA of high-performing virtual teams)
- Consumer collective intelligence: (cf Omar Tawakol, Your
Audience Is Smarter Than You Think, 2004)
- Civic intelligence: (cf Doug Schuler, Civic Intelligence, 2006; Cultivating Society's Civic Intelligence:Patterns for a New "World Brain", 2001)
- Societal intelligence: (cf Democracy and the Evolution of Societal Intelligence, 2002)
- Group intelligence: (cf Rick Dove, Where Is Your Group Intelligence? 2005)
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
- patent count in the case of a research team
- count of papers published in the case of a university, or subsequent citations
- a "test" in the form of analyses of response to "evidence" presented
as a consequence of an event like 9/11, in the case of "the media" or
individual governments, namely the ability to "connect up the dots" correctly
in the light of subsequent understanding
- ability to take account of disparate information in arriving at a conclusion,
namely configuring such information in order to determine relevance rather
than excluding information on the basis of prejudgement
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
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:
- as a characteristic of the neuronal connections of the human
brain, potentially associated with "disorders of hyperconnectivity" such as autism. A contrast is however made with the hyperconnectivity cultivated by poets, for example, in their use of metaphor, leading to the suggestion that the disorder of autism could be better described as hypoconnectivity (Brigitte Nerlich, Seeing as: Metaphors and images in individual and popular consciousness and imagination, 2002)
- in the case of the many hopeful meetings of elites over past decades --
whether wise, powerful, wealthy, activist, spiritual or highly specialized
-- amongst which, in each case, "everybody knows everybody", but
with a seeming incapacity to breakthrough to more useful modes of understanding
Synthesis Initiatives and their Sustaining Dialogues, 2000). The
connectivity associated with the "small
whereby everyone in the world can be reached through a short chain of social
acquaintances, cannot yet be said to have borne significant fruit. In a remarkable
analysis of recent activist action (David Harvie, et al. Shut
them Done: the G8, Gleneagles 2005 and the movement of movements,
2005), concern was expressed at the emergence of dysfunctionality associated
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:
- Type 1: Normative connotations ("beyond the norm") :
It may be a matter of opinion, in a particular case, as to which of the
following two connotations apply, and whether it is then distinguished
as being either unambiguously problematic or to be appreciated:
- (a) problematic dysfunctionality (negative): indicative
of a typically quantitative measure of dysfunctional excess.
This is characteristic of conventional diagnosis in the "soft
sciences" where "hyper" is
indicative of a pathological physical, behavioural or psychological condition
(eg hyperactivity, hyperintensity, hypertension), whether in medicine
or as applied to economic and social phenomena (eg hyperexploitation,
hyper-rich, hyper-parenting, hyperviolence). This negative connotation
does not necessarily extend into other uses relating to human psychology
as applied outside the medical profession (eg hyperconsciousness, etc).
- (b) superlative performance (positive): an extension
of the scale of non-problematic, valued performance beyond the norm.
The use of "hyper" may
therefore refer to capacities beyond those described by use of "super" (as
in supergifted) implying a healthy -- even linear -- development beyond
any normal expected capacity. This is most evident in development of
neologisms as part of marketing hyperbole and exaggeration and may then
primarily signify little more than an effort to be other than the conventional
(notably when used in
proprietary trademarks with respect to new companies, products and media
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)
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).
- Type 2: Descriptive structural connotations ("beyond the pattern"): Here the
distinction is between two forms of, typically structural, organization:
The argument in what follows is that consideration of any obvious complexification
in (networks of) relationships, as enabled by hypermedia, may obscure the
potential significance of higher (effectively hidden) forms of order vital
to psychosocial processes of the 21st century.
- (a) complexification of relationships: as with
the emergence of unordered structural relationships of a non-hierarchical
or non-linear nature, typically networks (but including other boundary
crossing structural relationships);
possibly enabling a degree of interactvity (eg hypertext, hypermedia).
Such relationships may be describable generically within "hard science" disciplines
(as with metadata tagging, use of ontologies and network analysis),
and may lend themselves to a degree of visualization but of little global
significance (as with hyperlink mapping). From a psychosocial perspective,
however, this complexification may be associated with a degree of superficiality, "skimming
along the surface", "cruising the web",
"living a hyperlife" perceived
to be associated with postmodernism and the refusal
to pursue epistemological foundations [more].
- (b) higher order of integrity:
typical of use in the "hard sciences" and
technology (eg hyperdimensionality, hyperdrive) implying a non-linear
development, and global organizing principle, beyond any conventional
pattern (eg hyperstructure). The
degree of order emerging beyond three dimensons may pose a particular
problem of description and understanding. From a psychosocial perspective,
however, the intuited potential of such higher order may be held to be
of qualitative significance (eg hyperawareness), whether or not this
can be substantiated or is meaningful within the "hard
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]
understanding raises fundamental issues about what can be considered real as
opposed to a simulacra [more].
This is explained by Nicholas Oberly (reality,
... 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
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
Irrespective of scientific controversy over potentially dramatic global problems,
such as climate change, only a very small minority have been exposed "in
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.
"Hypercomprehension" and "Hyperknowing"?
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):
- a degree of integrative compactness, perhaps associated
with a form of "high density" -- or "hyperintensity" in
dynamic terms -- a mode of "hyperknowing".
Examples of this kind of "packaging" include
pithy sayings ("gnomes") that express a general truth or fundamental
principle, as with proverbs, aphorisms or haiku (cf Ensuring
Strategic Resilience through Haiku Patterns, 2005). These are valued
as collections of wisdom in many cultures (cf VSM de Guinzbourg, Wit
and Wisdom of the United Nations: proverbs and apothegms on diplomacy,
1961). This may be associated with a phenomenon recognized in the field
of linguistics and cognitive science as hypercognition -- referring to an
emotion for which a culture has many words, namely one for which
it has a sophisticated cognitive structure
- an aesthetic synthesis in which the focus is on properties
of harmony capable of embodying complex patterns of relationships and resonances
that cannot otherwise be readily expressed. Examples of this approach may
be the sacred chants of the Rg
Veda. Recognition of "hyper consciousness" is, for
example, promoted by Paradox
Ethereal, a self-transcendental philosophy-and-art movement in defence
of Neo Romanticism. The spirit of the time, or of a moment, may also be associated
with melodies or haiku, notably those used to focus dedication to
personal sacrifice in war (cf Ensuring
Strategic Resilience through Haiku Patterns, 2005). Such a synthesis
may be associated with understandings of hyperaesthesia and synaesthesia (cf
Jason B. Mattingley, et al, Cognitive Neuroscience Perspectives
on Synaesthesia, 2006). Hypermedia even may be understood as developing
in ways that tend to emulate synaesthesia, to the extent possible, through
the use of of colour, sonification and haptic effects.
- a form of embedding of complex patterns of insight into
features of the environment as a dynamic knowledge carrier with integrative
characteristics. Examples of this approach feature prominently in many indigenous
knowledge practices (Darrell A. Posey, Cultural and Spiritual Values
1999; David Abram. The
Spell of the Sensuous: perception and language in a more-than-human world,
1997; and in the science fiction novel of Ian Watson, The
- a form of embodiment of knowledge as suggested by the
work of enactivists and others (cf Gregory Bateson, Mind and Nature --
a necessary unity, 1979; George Lakoff and Mark Johnson, Philosophy
In The Flesh: the embodied mind and its challenge to western thought,
- a high degree of self-reference and self-reflexivity (recognized by some as "hyperreflexivity") in some form as articulated,
for example, by Steven M. Rosen (What
is Radical Recursion? S.E.E.D. Journal: Semiotics, Evolution,
Energy, and Development, 2004); an aspect is recognized as metacognition,
namely the knowledge and control people have over their own thinking and
learning activities; also known through a subclass, metacomprehension,
namely the learners awareness of what they know and do not know, and the
capacity to take action to remedy that situation (cf Sally N. Standiford, Metacomprehension,
- mnemonic skills as cultivated by memorists (cf K A Ericsson,
et al Uncovering
the structure of a memorist's superior "basic" memory capacity,
2004) and documented as characteristic of autistic
savants. These skills are to be
subtly distinguished from the broad-ranging intellectual skills of the polymath or
the polyhistor. In the sense of "hypermemory", this
addresses the challenge of what Alvin Toffler (Future
Shock, 1970) called
"blip culture" -- otherwise to be termed "hyperforgetting".
- the insight associated with acquisition of "culture" and becoming "cultured" --
of becoming a "well-rounded person". This might be extended to a planetary culture, as implied by some uses of "plantary consciousness" and planetary "hyperconsciousness"
- a shift from emphasis on declarative, definitive statements to a dynamic
process associated with (self-)interrogation,
a higher degree of doubt and uncertainty -- perhaps expressed through higher
order questions (cf John and David Keppel, Uncertainty: the ground
for life, 1982; Engaging
with Questions of Higher Order, 2004)
- a sense of higher dimensionality -- "hyperdimensionality" -- associated with what
might be understood as a higher degree of curvature of knowledge space
-- metaphorically expressed through the "curled up" dimensions in string
theory models (cf Robert Garisto, Curling Up Extra Dimensions in String Theory, Physical Review Focus, 1998). Consciousness can be understood as involving hyperdimensionality (cf Robert Neil Boyd, Consciousness, the Brain, and Hyperdimensionality). Hyperdimensionality is notably explored in the arts (eg Salvador Dali, Herbert F. Smith)
- a form of creative or spiritual insight (samadhi,
satori, turiya, etc) or peak experience. Many efforts
have been made to describe and document such "hyperconscious" and "hyperaware" experiences
-- notably those that have been drug-enabled or with pathological associations
(as with "hyperaesthesia" or
D Laing's "hypersanity").
Creativity may be understood as a form of "hyperconsciousness" (cf.
Christopher I. Gonzalez, Hyperconsciousness:
creative mode, 2006). Such hyperconsciousness has also been defined
as the capacity to "perceive hyperspace, where past, present and future
existence and events can be perceived in the oneness of hypertime, where
there is an infinity of knowledge" (Ken Palin, Hyperconsciousness:
a twenty-first century phenomenon, 1997). Pathological forms may
also be recognized as "hypersensitivity".
- implying a significant degree of paradox (cf Steven M.
Rosen, Wholeness as
the Body of Paradox, 1996)
- a degree of instaneity through which much is comprehended
in a very brief period of time. A much quoted example, in contrast with those of near death experiences, is the experience of
Mozart in envisaging a whole symphony in a brief moment. In reference to "hunches" and insights, the term "hypercognition" has been
psi talents consisting of superfast thinking, usually at a subconscious level,
often using data received via ESP, which then reveals all or part of the
pattern) of a situation; this is then presented to the conscious mind as
a sudden awareness of knowledge (or 'a hunch'), without a pseudo-sensory
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,
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
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.
as Pluckable Tensed Strings: Hypercomprehension through harmonics of value-based
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.
"Hyperspace" and memory architecture
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
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
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
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"):
- the well-recognized intuitive mode of communication between people with
a strong relationship?
- poetry, song (chants) and music -- perhaps of certain types and under certain
conditions (notably the role of troubadors in
- the potential of extreme oratorical ability has been popularized through
the Dune science
fictions novels. Members of a secretive sisterhood, the Bene
Gesserit, are trained in the use of their command
voice to compel obedience in listeners on a subconscious level -- commanding
them in a way that the conscious mind is aware of, but cannot resist. The
electrifying speeches of Adolf Hitler are cited as a real-world example
- the intimidating command shout (kiai)
in martial arts, especially Kiaijutsu ("the
art of shouting").
- given the recognized complexity of whale
song, might it be based on patterns of a higher order -- a sonic version
of hypertext? Perhaps whales "sound" rather than "text"!
Other significance currently attached to hypercommunication (without "s") includes:
- Biological internet: Grazyna Fosar and Franz Bludorf (Spiritual
Science: DNA is influenced by words and frequencies) argue that:
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
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
The above argument in presented in a later article (Grazyna Fosar and Franz
Genetics: on the wave structure of DNA and resonant interactions of genes and
environment, 2005) with a note by Geoff Haselhurst to the effect that: 'Hypercommunication'
is caused by interconnection of spherical standing waves in space - the Russian
researchers are unaware of the wave structure of matter and thus do not understand
this subtle interconnection of matter in space
- Direct communication: An interpretation of communication
with UFOs has been offered by Grazyna Fosar and Franz Bludorf (Hypercommunication
a new scientific interpretation of "UFO experiences",
1999) who suggest that:
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
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:
- communicating with the market with coordinated messages, beginning a long-term dialogue
- conditioning clients in the market for brand introduction
- educate clients by creating an environment that facilitates dialogue and brand acceptance
- highly customized focus associated with continuous innovation
- effective use of interactive hypermedia allowing "many to many" communication, as well as using the web as an autonomous and separate "market", where both buyers and sellers interact for the exchange of goods and money -- enabling previously non-viable opportunities through this virtual market with only limited constraint on distance and cost
- engaging in marketing activities that contribute positively to the development of the hypermedia
- the ability to expose selected ads to viewers according to their personl
profiles (termed "hyper-targeting")
- ensuring customer "hyper-satisfaction"
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.
Hyperorganization, hypergroups and hyperdialogue?
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:
- studies of the structures and processes associated with open source projects.
The classic evolving studies are those of Eric S Raymond (The
Cathedral and the Bazaar; Homesteading
the Noosphere; The
Magic Cauldron). Studies continue to be made regarding the viability
and challenges of open source encyclopedias, especially Wikipedia (Statistics; History flow; Wikimetrics).
Further clues may be obtained from Wikiresearch,
a project to do wiki-style scientific research: collaborative and under a
free license -- notably on the social aspects of wikis in (e-)learning,
knowledge-management and community-building [more]
- higher order organizational configuration processes envisaged by management
cybernetician Stafford Beer (Beyond
Dispute: the invention of team syntegrity,
1994) and the associated syntegration
process. This is related to more general work on tensegrity organization
and its implication for communication protocols in virtual organizations
configuration of interlocking roundtables: Internet enhancement of global
self-organization through patterns of dialogue, 1994)
- the initiative of the Foundation
for P2P Alternatives regarding peer-to-beer
based technology as reflecting a change of consciousness towards participation,
and the strengthening of it; the focus is on the "distributed network" format
as a new form of political organizing and subjectivity, and an alternative
to the current political/economic order, creating a new public domain, an
information commons (cf Michel Bauwens, P2P and Human Evolution: placing peer to peer theory in an integral framework).
- evolving balance between isolation and coherence in an information society (cf Dynamically Gated Conceptual Communities: emergent patterns of isolation within knowledge society, 2004; Shankar Vedantam, Social Isolation Growing in U.S., Washington Post, 23 June 2006)
- Local Exchange Trading Systems (LETS) and Schemes as local, non-profit exchange networks in which all kinds of goods and services can be traded without the need for money.
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
Approaches to an understanding of hyperorganization, in contrast to any dysfunctional
sense of over-organization, include:
- For Diane Martin and
John Schouten (Hyperorganizations: communication
and the grammars of the
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
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 Critical Theory Institute (University of California, Irvine) proposed
in 2002 to research transnational corporate networks in response to the question:
How have they created hyperorganization on some levels of social and ecological
life while producing unprecedented chaos on other levels? [more]
- Kenneth D. Mackenzie (Virtual
Positions, Processes and Organizations, 2000) notes that recent
work has documented a variety of organizational arrangements that bypass the
intended restrictions of a bureaucracy. These virtual-like organizational
arrangements (including hyperorganizations) are viewed as coping mechanisms
for adapting organizations to change and to new possibilities created by changing
information technology. They
are viewed as natural processes for achieving congruency between organizational
ends and the available implementing information technologies.
His paper outlines a basic theory of why such virtual-like
organizational arrangements occur:
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
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:
- "hypermail": as an extension of Stafford Beer's syntegration, it had been
suggested to enable a higher order of communication within a virtual syntegrity
team using software protocols. Such possibilities could be extended in various
ways to provide a higher degree of order (or geometry) to the flow of e-mails
between a group of people (cf Enhancing
the Quality of Email Dialogue using artificial intelligence to moderate an
array of listservers, 2001) or the links between their websites
of Hyperlink Geometry, 1997; From
Information Highways to Songlines of the Noosphere: Global configuration
of hypertext pathways as a prerequisite for meaningful collective transformation,
- "hypersport": chess players have explored many ways of extending
the game, and its challenges, to three or more dimensions (cf ThreeWayChess.org,
2006; Richard A. Harshman, Comparison
of the breadth, depth, and kinds of thinking required in three-way vs. two-way
chess, with possible implications for human-computer competition).
Given the worldwide interest in football via hypermedia, ways of enabling
more complex games could be explored for some. Possibilities include:
- two teams, but with two balls (possibly of different colour)
- three teams (cf three-sided
- four teams, but with the extra two playing on a pitch set orthogonally
across the conventional game -- the goals therefore positioned at the
ends of an equal-armed cross. Separate balls for each game, differently
coloured. Various sets of rules could be explored governing the relationship
between the two, otherwise independent, games
- four teams, as above, with one game between two male teams and another
between two female teams
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".
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:
- Increasing plasticity (cf Umair Haque, Plasticity,
aka The Countdown to Hypercivilization, Bubblegeneration: the
strategy and economics of innovation, 2004).
- Establishment in Japan in 1993 of an Institute
for HyperNetwork Society under the auspices of Ministry of International
Trade and Industry and Ministry of Post and Telecommunications [more more].
- Possible characteristics of a hypercivilization are such that physicist
Michio Kaku (Parallel
universes, the Matrix, and superintelligence, 2003)
has made the point that humanity could be incapable of dialogue with one
in the immediate proximity. Others have speculated further (cf Beatriz
Gato-Rivera, A Solution
to the Fermi Paradox: the Solar System, part of a Galactic Hypercivilization? World
Mystery Forum, 2005).
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).
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:
- rapid patterns of reaction typical of martial arts practitioners, for example
(and improbably exaggerated in many action movies)
- capacity for rapid coordinated response characteristic of those "in the
zone", as associated with "flow experience"
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
- Oscar Arias (Peace
and Human Progress in Latin America, 1999): The phenomenon of intense global integration is not new to the region, which
has always struggled for economic self-determination against colonial and neo-imperial
structures. But what is new is the computerized, hyperactive flow of capital.
Now, 1.5 trillion dollars worth of largely unregulated currency transactions
are processed every day. This frantic quest for quick riches has created a
hollow, speculative economy, unattached to human labor and unaccountable to
- Blake Rohrbacher (Take Off Those Seven-League Boots, ClickZ, August 2001): In this super-fast age of ... instant messaging, and real-time stock quotes, I believe we're seeing a new phenomenon: the Minute Company. These organizations spend precious little time building a strong foundation and much more time chasing venture dollars and issuing press releases in an attempt to build a huge business -- yesterday. The "get big fast" mentality entrenched in the online management culture belies what seems to be a business fact of life -- miracles rarely happen overnight.... businesses wearing seven-league boots probably don't get much of a chance to stop and think about what their customers need or want.
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:
- descriptions by mathematicians (and authors of science fiction) of how
the actions of a higher dimensional entity might be understood, by humans
focused in a three dimensional world. These typically speak of the discontinuity
in the sequence of what is apparent -- since the continuity is only provided
through the extra dimensions (cf Edwin Abbott Abbott, Flatland:
a romance of many dimensions, 1884; Dionys Burger, Sphereland,
1965; A. K. Dewdney, The
Planiverse, 1984; Ian Stewart, Flatterland,
2001). The challenge to comprehension, in sensing such higher dimensional
geometry, is explored mathematically by Ron Atkin (Multidimensional
Man; can man live in 3-dimensional space?, 1981) as described elsewhere
social organization determined by incommunicability of insights).
Atkin uses simplicial
complexes to analyze connectivity in social systems, like cities, committee
structures, etc. Recent work of relevance has focused on acyclic hypergraphs,
namely "hyperforests" to aid in understanding hyperconnectivity (cf
Percy Liang and Nati Srebro. A
Dynamic Data Structure for Checking Hyperacyclicity, 2005)
- the emerging sense of being exposed to "game-playing" associated
with what is gradually understood as a particular pattern of interactions,
notably as popularized through transactional
analysis by Eric Berne (Games
People Play, 1964). The capacity to engage in strategic interpersonal
games, of greater dimensionality than other players, is one characteristic
of hyperaction. This sense may also be associated with the sense that "others" are
engaged in plots and conspiracies -- as exemplified by conspiracy theorists.
This points to the sense that hyperaction may (possibly deliberately) take
on a quality of non-transparency and covertness -- exploiting the strategic
advantages of higher dimensionality.
- the capacity to act out of a higher sense of order or logic, possibly meaningless
and invisible to observers. Through such a process apparently unrelated threads
are woven together, such that from the apparent chaos of preparations a meal,
a party, a play, a film or a building emerges
- the nature of understanding of a special political modality known as the "Belgian
compromise", as described
in the Principia
Cybernetica. Typical solutions derived in this way
are such that complex issues are settled by conceding something to every
party concerned, through an agreement that is usually so complicated that
nobody completely understands all its implications.
- the progressive experiential discovery of the relationship between a three-dimensional
set of rooms in a large traditional house whose layout has been designed
to disorient rather than to facilitate navigation between them
controlled machines, automatically operated under the control of computer
programmes. As a metaphor this indicates the disconnectedness between
the sequence of operations as apparent, for example, in the soldering of
elements on a printed circuit board by some form of robot. Since the sequence
of movements is designed to minimize the movements of the tool, parts that
have no apparent functional relationship may be done in the same time period,
whereas those to which they are connected may be done at seemingly arbitrary
later moments -- the pattern of the circuit board as a whole becoming apparent
only as the process reaches completion. The logic of the sequence of movements
is a logic that is not evident since it has been the subject of the complex
optimization characteristic of operations
research. In this sense the process may seem to be governed by a "hyperlogic"
- the logic governing the operation of any technology that is sufficiently
beyond the comprehension of the observer will tend to be perceived as magic
-- as enunciated by Arthur
C Clarke (Clarke's
three laws): Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable
from magic. This argument has been used to distinguish the subtle "technologies" associated
with people skills ("facilitators", "mediators"), notably
in support of human development ("psychotherapists") and spiritual
insight ("spiritual directors", "gurus"). By such arguments,
and for its practitioners, "magic" itself may also constitute a
form of hyperaction (cf R J Stewart, Living Magical Arts: imagination
and magic for the 21st century, 1987; Advanced Magical Arts: visualisation,
mediation and ritual in the Western magical tradition, 1988).
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
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
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
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
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know it for the first time.
Little Gidding (1942)
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
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
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:
- what is the "hyperspace" of "hyperdimensional" complexity -- the "hyperreality" -- that humanity should really be exploring in order to engage more effectively and meaningfully with complex open systems on the planet?
- what is the "hyperawareness", or "hyperconsciousness", tempered by a higher morality -- a "hyperconscience" -- required to sense appropriately the degree of pain in the world?
- what is the "faster-than-light" speed through which that "hyperspace" can be effectively traversed to ensure the "hyperconnectivity" appropriate to a maturing integrated "global" culture?
- what is the technology required for a "hyperdrive" necessary to achieve that speed in response to the dynamic challenges and uncertainties of turbulent times?
- what is to be learnt from dysfunctional and pathological forms of "hyperphenomena" (hyperactivity, hyperintensity, hypersensitivity, etc)?
- what is the nature of the "hyperintelligence" capable of addressing these issues effectively?
- what is the "hypercomprehension" required to articulate "hyperstrategy" appropriate to enabling appropriate "hyperaction" in response to "hyperproblems"?
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
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.
Symptoms', Schizophrenia, and the Self, International
Journal of Psychology and Psychological Therapy, 3, 2, December 2003,
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
Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid, 1979; Metamagical
Themas, 1985), by poets such as Gertrude
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.
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
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
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:
- understood as a hidden structure (essentially invisible to the user for whom it is held to be of little significance) through which hyperlinked items can be variously ordered in response to fragmentary ad hoc needs -- enhancing the "tunnel vision" capacity of the individual user
- consciously to be understood as an integrative pattern of hyperlinked items, the "songlines of the noosphere", whose integrity itself carries vital significance (for any integrative relationship between disciplines, organizations, etc), but is only comprehensible to the user through a higher order, necessitating tools to enable its collective comprehension
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
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:
- An average-size star sheds its outer layers as a planetary nebula -- perhaps corresponding to Hawking's suggestion to seek refuge in space colonies? The core that remains will be a tiny ball of degenerate matter not massive enough for further compression to take place, supported only by degeneracy pressure, called a white dwarf -- an image meaningful to those focused on the "end times" scenarios of the Abrahamic religions and their consequences for Earth?
- In larger stars, fusion continues until an iron core accumulates that is
too large to be supported by the electron
degeneracy pressure whereby two electrons cannot occupy the same quantum
state at the same time. This core will suddenly collapse as its electrons
are driven into its protons, forming neutrons and neutrinos causing the star
to explode as a supernova (or even a "hypernova"). This suggests a condition in which polarized psychosocial
distinctions can no longer be sustained and simply collapse into one another
-- again an image meaningful to those focused on religious "end times" scenarios
and the dynamic relationship between the fundamental polarities of "good" and "evil"?
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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