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12th November 2006 | Uncompleted draft

Dynamics and Singularities in the Knowledge Universe


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Annex 2 of Towards an Astrophysics of the Knowledge Universe: from astronautics to noonautics?

Dynamics: Periodic processes

The knowledge universe may be experienced as static (unchanging, discussed above) or dynamic (changing, even evolving), or as a mixture of both. From any particular perspective, change may be perceived to occur within the knowledge universe, especially after a more or less extended period of observation. Certain changes may typically only be detectable if the period of observation is a significant proportion of the period over which they occur.

Dynamics: "Non-periodic" events

Dynamics: Evolution

Stellar evolution: As noted by Tim Thompson: "A star is not a static thing, it changes with time. The process of aging in stars is called stellar evolution. As a star ages, it goes through changes reminiscent of the life cycles of living things, the details of which depend on the star's overall mass. Massive stars live short but exciting lives, whereas small stars live long, quiescent lives." [more] The H-R diagram is considered to be a useful way to follow the changes that take place as a star evolves [more]. Its regularity is an indication that definite laws govern stellar structure and stellar evolution. Building mathematical models of stars, based on straight forward physics, and allowing those models to evolve naturally in time as a star ages, recreates the H-R diagram as it is observed -- with a surprising degree of fidelity of agreement between theory and observation that is of great interest in astrophysics. The ability of the theory of stellar evolution to explain the H-R diagram in its finest details, singles out stellar evolution as one of the most successful and productive of scientific theories. Most stars lie on the main sequence, burning hydrogen to helium through nuclear reactions. As they live out their lives, changes in the structure of the star are reflected in changes in stars' temperatures, sizes and luminosities -- causing them to move in tracks across the diagram.

Is there a case for recognizing that the life of community is determined by the rate at which its initial unifying and energizing inspiration (with a propensity to enter successfully into explanatory bonds) is converted into a polarized and essentially neutral or sterile perspective? Are such possibilities suggested by explorations such as that of Ilanit Tof (Modern Cosmology as Psychological Metaphor, 1996)?

Theories / H-R diag:


(Hyperaction through Hypercomprehension and Hyperdrive necessary complement to proliferation of hypermedia in hypersociety, 2006): ****

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:

(Dynamically Gated Conceptual Communities: emergent patterns of isolation within knowledge society, 2004): ****

Astrophysical metaphor for evolution of gated conceptual communities

Hertzsprung-Russell Diagram: A good point of departure is the famed Hertzsprung-Russell Diagram, pioneered independently by Elnar Hertzsprung (1911) and Henry Norris Russell (1913). It is recognized as one of the greatest observational syntheses in astronomy and astrophysics. The diagram plots the luminosity of stars as a function of their temperature. The luminosity, or absolute magnitude, increases upwards on the vertical axis; the temperature (or some temperature-dependent characteristic such as spectral class or color) decreases to the right on the horizontal axis. From this it is readily apparent that stars preferentially fall into certain regions of the diagram along a curving diagonal line called the "main sequence", although there are other regions where other types of stars (red giants, supergiants, white dwarfs, super novae, pulsars, flare stars) also fall [more].

The suggestion is that conceptually gated communities (and various kinds of social group) emerge and live out their lives in a way that could be represented on an analogous diagram. In public relations terms, there is already a familiarity with the visibility of a group (its "luminosity") and a sense of whether it is "hot" or "cool". The analogue to temperature may be more meaningfully understood as degree of communication interactivity amongst members of the community -- especially since temperature is associated with interactivity between atoms. Following from work of B W Tuckman (Developmental Sequence in Small Groups, 1963) the stages of Forming / Storming / Norming / Performing (see also R B Lacoursiere. The Life Cycle of Groups: Group Developmental Stage Theory, 1980; Stan Davis, The Life Cycle of Organizations, 1990). A sense of the knowledge exchange processes is usefully explored by Martha G. Russell and Kaisa Still (Engines Driving Knowledge-based Technology Transfer in Business Incubators and Their Companies, 1999).

In the case of religious groups, the life cycle has for example been characterized by David Moberg (The Church as Social Institution, 1984) in phases:

  1. Energy, charisma, community, fluidity, no tradition and few rules;
  2. Comes as the pioneers are dying out or moving on, accompanied by appeals from the second generation ("help us preserve the past"; "write things down"; "train us to do what you have done"; "let us build in some structures to make sure nothing changes");
  3. Good or bad, with renewal or fossilization. Either the spirit of the original movement wins or the rules and the structure win. Either the life is renewed and flows through the structures, or the structures stifle the life. [more]

Seemingly analogous to the H-R diagram, Lawrence Cada et al. (Shaping the Coming Age of Religious Life, 1979), identified a "vitality curve" in the light of a historical study of the life cycle of religious institutions. As discussed by Mary V. Maher (Between Imagination and Doubt: Religious Life in Postmodern Culture, 2003), Cada distinguishes five separate stages of a religious movement's history:

  1. Founding: usually by a strong and visionary leader who has been forced out or has chosen to leave a comfortable mainline institution.
  2. Expansion: how far and how fast depends on the culture and the historical situation. This phase usually has two ingredients: a passionate sense of the vision of the founder; and endless energy to communicate that vision.
  3. Stabilization or settled-downness: the movement becomes affirmed by society and is legitimatized as mainstream.
  4. Breakdown of the structures and systems that the founder had brought forth and that had worked during the expansion phase: This is a time of fervent activity to 'fix' the problem, through new structures, systems, and regulations. It is a time of increased polarization between those who want to return literally to the founder's words and policies and those who want to translate them into new realities. Bureaucratic survival of agencies and their leaders means that more financial demands are placed on individual members and congregations, but standards of belief and behavior are lessened. Hence, a loss of attachment to the institution and loss of a sense of connectedness. Most important of all, there is a loss of identity and loss of a sense of a future. Change becomes unbearable for many.
  5. Crisis: this has two possible paths: continued decline, paralysis, and eventual demise; or re-founding through transformation. Change and transformation are not the same. Change is reaction to cultural realities and happens at a point in time. Transformation happens intentionally over time. Change comes from broken functions and structures. Transformation begins at the center of a movement's collective soul. Mere change can be only directionless motion and energy. Transformation re-forms. [more]


**** The metaphor is explored in italicized text in what follows.

Stellar evolution is not studied by observing the life cycle of a single star; rather, by observing numerous stars, each at a different point in its life cycle, and running computer models that simulate stellar structure. Following the Wikipedia description of such evolution, phases to be distinguished are:

The challenge is to explore ways of mapping various organiational types (see below) onto the different stages of stellar evolution and the varieties of stellar objects that can be formed. Of paticular interest is the ways that different groups use the energy resources at their disposal to become "massive", highly "visible", "attractors" (of greater or less attractivity), and "active" (as opposed to being characterized as static).

Promise Keepers
Club of Rome
Trade union
Professional association
Youth movement
Fan club
Criminal network
Order of Druids


The Black Hole metaphor and the American Way of Life (AWOL)

(America as Eve-ill Empire: Evocation of Authenticity Elsewhere, 2003): ********

Characteristics of black holes relevant to their significance as a societal metaphor include (see: Matt McIrvin, FAQs on Black Holes; Ted Bunn, Black Holes FAQ; Cole Miller, Black Holes and Neutron Stars ) are noted in the table below. The metaphor was explored by Peter Russell (The White Hole in Time, 1992) to reconcile understandings of future human evolution and the "meaning of now" -- although significantly his focus was on the contrasting metaphor of "white" holes. The black hole metaphor is presented here as being more consistent with the dynamics of the USA within the world system -- namely as a semantic black hole.

As explicitly affirmed by George Bush Sr (Earth Summit, 1992): "The American Way of Life is not negotiable". This way of life must therefore be sustained by resources continually drawn from the surrounding system -- irrespective of whether this is thereby endangered. The notion within such dynamics of any endangerment elsewhere is in fact then meaningless. The principal resource acknowledged as vital to sustaining this way of life is oil. However other primary commodities are similarly drawn in from "developing countries". The "black hole" also serves as a prime attractor for individuals -- as associated with the "brain drain" process from other countries.

Some similarities between material and societal black-hole dynamics (tentative)
Astrophysical black hole Societal black hole (AWOL)
Simplest objects in the universe having only 3 characteristics: mass; spin rate (angular momentum), and electric charge Simplest form of social organization having only 3 characteristics: "material resources"; "spin" (capacity to "play the angles"); "binary" orientation
a region of space that has so much mass concentrated in it that there is no way for a nearby object to escape its gravitational pull the pattern of resource concentration in the monopolar system supporting the AWOL and its function as an attractor
dependence on mass concentration pulled in from neighbouring regions of space dependence on resource concentration as in the monopolar system supporting the AWOL
gravitational attractor societal attractor
accumulation of matter accumulation of resources
concentration of mass such that there is no way for a nearby object to acquire the escape velocity to escape its gravitational pull concentration of society making it impossible for people to escape its attractive power

severe distortion of space and time; strange properties because the the usual rules of geometry no longer apply

severe distortion of conceptual frameworks and normal rules of society (legality, morality, ethics, boundaries) notably regarding property and the role of time
event horizon, namely a spherical boundary that can be crossed to enter but cannot be crossed to exit; known as the Schwarzschild radius; it is the radius below which gravitational attraction between the particles of a body must cause it to undergo irreversible gravitational collapse. event horizon that makes it impossible to commit to any alternative attractor, once the line has been crossed
invisibility due to the fact that no light can exit across the event horizon a form of invisibility in that it is impossible to communicate its nature to people before they are already captured by it; information cannot be communicated out of it because things change so rapidly within it; the invisibility may be described in terms of processes of denial (as with the institutionalized inability within the USA to recognize its support of state terroism in Nicaragua)
movement within the black hole inexorably closer to the singularity at its centre which cannot be avoided -- due to reversal of the roles of time and radius accelerating movement to accumulate, consume and emulate that draws people into a tunnel logic
singularity at the centre having unknown properties ultimate singular transformation as a process of rapture
stripping inorganic atomic and sub-atomic bonds stripping organic and psychosocial bonds

usually formed in the final stage of the evolution of an extremely massive star collapsing (via a high density neutron star) in a supernova; density of a neutron star is one hundred trillion times the density of water.

possibly formed by the process of collapse of an extremely massive social system such as a superpower, notably through the collapse of its logical framework and value system

any amount of mass can in principle be made to form a black hole if it can be compressed to a high enough density, as with the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) types of "black hole" have been described in relation to extreme negativity; it is also possible that one could be created as a result of the collision of heavy egos -- "Relativistic Heavy Ego Collider"
initial weightlessness in falling in initial experience of freedom on entering the AWOL
subsequent tidal forces (caused by the difference in gravitational force between two points) pulling differentially to tear any mass apart. This difference may be greatly enhanced over smaller and smaller distances causing the famed spaghettification effect on an object closing in on the black holes event horizon, such that an object approaching a black hole is stretched lengthwise and compressed widthwise. subsequent psychosocial forces pulling differentially to break any psychosocial bonds
increasing speed of fall  

Ironically one of the prime features of the dynamics associated with a singularity, like a black hole, is the manner in which "mass" is subjected to enormous forces and is effectively distorted and "destroyed" -- through action of compressive forces. The matter that forms a black hole is crushed out of existence; a black hole represents matter that leaves only its gravity behind. A monopole could then indeed be described as a "weapon of mass destruction" -- being dependent on such destruction for its survival.

In general systems terms, there is a case for exploring the isomorphism between the evolution of stars -- as portrayed by the Hertzsprung-Russell diagram in terms of a star's luminosity vs. its temperature [more; more; more] -- and the evolution of civilizations. Ironically the HR diagram has been extensively used as a basis for predicting extraterrestrial life [more; more], but not apparently for exploring how hegemonic civilizations collapse and engender "black holes".

The monopole metaphor also draws attention to the socio-political dynamics of monopoly -- notably of economic form. The monopolar system reinforces the engendering of economic monopolies through the progressive consolidation of independent undertakings. Indeed it might be argued that it is the pressures of the "black hole" dynamics which inexorably "crush" social entities forcing them into consolidated form in a manner echoed by the "crushing" of matter as it enters a black hole.

A major characteristic of a black hole is the degree to which its dynamics distort the movement of light effectively causing the black hole to be invisible except by contrast with its surroundings. Much has been made of the existence of an event horizon that constrains vision from within the dynamics of the black hole. Any event inside the event horizon can never be communicated to the universe. This phenomenon might prove to be a useful way of exploring the degree of denial within the AWOL, distorting facts known elsewhere (notably with respect to state-supported terrorism) so as to blame the victim or opponent. From within the AWOL it will never be possible to accept any proof regarding the numbers slaughtered by AWOL initiatives -- notably in the light of the levels of proof required of Iraq in relation to weapons of mass destruction. But, conversely, the AWOL will never be able to prove that it has not covered-up the slaughter of thousands or planted evidence to legitimate its logic.

Another major characteristic of a black hole is the speed of movement associated with its dynamics -- with which the rapid pace of the American Way of Life is consistent. Typically change is perceived as increasingly mechanical or inorganic -- in contrast with the kinds of change characteristic of organic systems, ecosystems and human learning systems which "take time" to grow. In addition to the speed is the acceleration within a black hole. Again the acceleration of the American Way of Life has been the subject of extensive comment (James Gleick, Faster: the acceleration of just about everything, 1999; Jeremy Rifkin, Time Wars: The Primary Conflict in Human History, 1989).

There is also a recognition, notably tracked by the Singularity Watch of the Institute for Accelerating Change, that the ever-increasing rate of technological change in our local environment will undergo a "singularity," becoming effectively instantaneous from the perspective of current biological humanity. It has been postulated that events after this point must also be "future-incomprehensible" to existing humanity.

Peter Russell (The Whitehole in Time, revised as Waking Up in Time: Finding Inner Peace in Times of Accelerating Change ) has explored the doubling effect of such acceleration in social systems in terms of black hole dynamics and has commented on Terence McKenna's computation of such a point of total collapse at 21 December 2012 [more].

Of special interest is the singularity that is the centre of black hole dynamics. In the psycho-social terms relevant to the Armageddon Lobby mentioned earlier as "trying to hurry up God", notably the Christian right associated with the PNAC initiative, this singularity may be best understood in terms of Armageddon and the biblically prophesied "rapture" on which there are many web resources [more; more; more]. As with a black hole singularity, the evangelical perspective holds that the world is being driven inexorably towards the moment of rapture. The term "rapture" does not appear in the scriptures. There are however references to the manner in which people will be caught up and raised up -- expressions that could well be associated with an analogue to the strange physics at the centre of a black hole -- the enraptured become enwrapped and entrapped. Access to this process is restricted in biblical prophecy to a limited group of people -- namely the evangelical Christians with which George Bush is explicitly associated and by which he is notably supported [more; more].

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