We are information experiencing information: an experimental essay in "Intertwingularity"
GUEST POST BY JASON SILVA
"Intertwingularity" is a term coined by Ted Nelson to express the complexity of interrelations in human knowledge.
"EVERYTHING IS DEEPLY INTERTWINGLED. In an important sense there are no "subjects" at all; there is only all knowledge, since the cross-connections among the myriad topics of this world simply cannot be divided up neatly..."
And on that note, here are a bunch of “cross connections among a myriad of topics” that are very much not divided up neatly.
The Noosphere and IDEA SEX:
This "all knowledge" that Nelson refers to, akin to an invisible compendium of our collective intelligence, was coined by Pierre Teilharrd de Chardin as "the noosphere", the 'thinking' layer of reality, sitting above the biosphere.
If you want to experience this Noosphere directly, this trippy, numinous, truth-composite of the human species, all you have to do is visit a typical museum: art is the mirror we hold up to ourselves: yet more so than ordinary mirrors that only reflect our physical anatomy, museums reflect our psychic mind, our extended selves, they are a physical aggregate of the human species talking to itself at the highest levels, in real time. Our minds come alive in the dance between the vast galleries of art which talk to us in paint or shape , graphics or words, scratching, probing, aching to affect us and engage us. "Wake up" they scream: 6 billions humans are engaged in an informational exchange at every moment: massively fascinating parallel patterns and connections are emerging: complexificaton is no longer limited to DNA and sexual reproduction: the thought-sphere now has "idea-sex" via "techno-social wormholes" that fold time and space and accelerate complexity! Magic exists. It has been engineered!
Chris Anderson, curator of The TED Conference, recently spoke about the human mind, the power of imagination and the life-form Teilhard called the "noosphere". Though he didn't use the word Noosphere directly, he did refer to the world of ideas as a "lifeform":
"I am talking about the talent which some would call... imagination or invention or innovation. It is the remarkable ability first of all to model some aspect of the external world inside our heads... and secondly to play with that mental model until suddenly... bingo... you find a a way to rearrange it so that it's actually better... This is the amazing engine that underpins both technology, the T of TED, and Design, the D of TED. It is this skill that has made possible the human progress of the last 50,000 years...
It's really astonishing that we can do this. For almost the entire period of life on earth, the appearance of design has been driven differently. By random trial and error. Like a drunkard lumbering through a dark maze of passages, life has lurched its way forward. For every evolutionary step forward there have been countless dead ends. In a single lifetime, change was not detectable. It happened slowly, painfully over millions of years. Yet somehow in our species the light came on. We actually found a way to model the future before lumbering into it. That... changed... everything.
Viewed from a different perspective, you could say our brains became the ecosystems for a new kind of life, a life that replicated and transformed itself at a rate hitherto unknown in our corner of the universe. The thrilling life of the world of ideas. TED is devoted to nurturing this life form."
HUMANS ARE AN ANTI-ENTROPIC PHENOMENON:
"The physical is inherently entropic, giving off energy in ever more disorderly ways. The metaphysical is anti-entropic, methodically marshalling energy. Life is antientropic."
- R. Buckminster Fuller
Humans are anti-entropic. We are an exception to the second law of thermodynamics, which is slowly simplifying almost everything in the universe. Life, conversely, is getting more complex, more organized, and more sophisticated.
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, a Jesuit Priest and scientist, had an unrelenting desire to find common ground between his first rate scientific mind and his guttural urge to dance with the divine.
His central thesis is fundamentally that life is anti-entropic: that there is, in the evolutionary process, a direct progression from the simplest structures (for instance, atoms) to single-celled organisms, to multi-cellular organisms, to ever more complex organisms, until the stage of "evolutionary organization known as man" is reached. Accompanying this growing complexity of structure is an ever-increasing complexity of consciousness, crossing a critical threshold at the dawn of man. "Thinking, feeling, striving man is the cutting edge of biological synthesis," he said. The type of complex self-awareness and rich, symbolic inner world characterized by man, whether triggered by the synesthetic ecstasy of "mind-manifesting" mushrooms, or something else, is the point where we effectively switched from biological evolution, to self-directed, technological evolution.
An article in Wired said this: "Teilhard went on to argue that there have been three major phases in the evolutionary process. The first significant phase started when life was born from the development of the biosphere. The second began at the end of the Tertiary period, when humans emerged along with self-reflective thinking. And once thinking humans began communicating around the world, along came the third phase. This was Teilhard's "thinking layer" of the biosphere, called the noosphere (from the Greek noo, for mind). Though small and scattered at first, the noosphere has continued to grow over time, particularly during the age of electronics. Teilhard described the noosphere on Earth as a crystallization: "A glow rippled outward from the first spark of conscious reflection. The point of ignition grows larger. The fire spreads in ever-widening circles, he wrote, "till finally the whole planet is covered with incandescence."
As futurist Ray Kurzweil has said, "this makes us very important” because, “...It turns out that we are central, after all. Our ability to create models--virtual realities--in our brains, combined with our modest-looking thumbs, has been sufficient to usher in another form of evolution: technology. That development enabled the persistence of the accelerating pace that started with biological evolution. It will continue until the entire universe is at our fingertips.”
Kevin Kelly, founding editor of Wired Magazine, goes even further back, referring to technological evolution as following the momentum begun at the big bang- he has stated: "...there is a continuum, a connection back all the way to the Big Bang with these self-organizing systems that make the galaxies, stars, and life, and now is producing technology in the same way."
He also points out the complementary relationship between this accelerating 'complexification' and the amount of energy harnessed:
"The energies flowing through these things are, interestingly, becoming more and more dense. If you take the amount of energy that flows through one gram per second in a galaxy, it is increased when it goes through a star, and it is actually increased in life...We don't realize this. We think of the sun as being a hugely immense amount of energy. Yet the amount of energy running through a sunflower per gram per second of the livelihood, is actually greater than in the sun... Animals have even higher energy usage than the plant, and a jet engine has even higher than an animal. The most energy-dense thing that we know about in the entire universe is the computer chip in your computer. It is sending more energy per gram per second through that than anything we know. In fact, if it was to send it through any faster, it would melt or explode. It is so energy-dense that it is actually at the edge of explosion.”...
AND, this anti-entropic complexification is accelerating exponentially, bootstrapping on its own progress. The computer in your pocket today is a million times smaller, a million times cheaper and a thousand times more powerful than a 60 million dollar supercomputer was 40 years ago.
Kelly continues, his interpretations increasingly poetic and beautiful:
"Look what is coming: Technology is stitching together all the minds of the living, wrapping the planet in a vibrating cloak of electronic nerves, entire continents of machines conversing with one another, the whole aggregation watching itself through a million cameras posted daily. How can this not stir that organ in us that is sensitive to something larger than ourselves?"
Ultimately, we can extrapolate a move towards infinity in all directions: infinite creativity, infinite consciousness, infinite intelligence.
I really love this summation by Kelly:
"The story and game begin at the beginning. As the undifferentiated energy at the big bang is cooled by the expanding space of the universe, it coalesces into measurable entities, and, over time, the particles condense into atoms. Further expansion and cooling allows complex molecules to form, which self-assemble into self-reproducing entities. With each tick of the clock, increasing complexity is added to these embryonic organisms, increasing the speed at which they change. As evolution evolves, it keeps piling on different ways to adapt and learn until eventually the minds of animals are caught in self-awareness. This self-awareness thinks up more minds, and together a universe of minds transcends all previous limits. The destiny of this collective mind is to expand imagination in all directions until it is no longer solitary but reflects the infinite."
REACTIONS TO ACCELERATING COMPLEXITY:
Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh the urge to experience this type of freewheeling romantic insight wrapped in unfolding bliss and ecstatic awe is ever-present. I get SAD if I get distracted by anything less than this. I want god-head all the time, I want freedom from fear and freedom from death. Immortality-now: An Ecstatic continuity of self feeding on transcendent stimuli, an emergence of patterns and a ballooning, euphoric self-referenciality.
The fact that we can see this hypertechevolution taking shape should make us feel euphoric!
Albert Camus said life should be lived to the point of tears- Poet Roland Barthes says that 'fulfillment' is to overflow, to literally exceed totality, to spill over. We are told to suck the marrow out of life, to live each moment so intensely that we bleed awe.
It has been said that "art is the lie that reveals the truth"- I think I understand what this means: we are the directors and our life is a film, and like a director, we imbue life's precious moments with poetry by highlighting these moments and enhancing them with music and words and wine and most importantly our attention.
Using different elements, we combine our intention, auditory+ visual media, and diverse environments in order to radically engage our senses in a form of synesthetic ecstasy and emotional catharsis- Albert's Camus' tears of ecstasy, or Roland Barthe's overflowing fulfillment.
TUNING IN, TURNING ON, PLUGGING IN:
Today, with portable devices such as ipods we can create custom soundtracks resulting in what MoMa Curator Paola Antonelli calls "Existenz Maximum" - or perhaps what Ortega once described as "The beaming forth of a favorable atmosphere".
The more custom-engineered our reality becomes, the more we transcend all thoughts of helplessness and death. We are made closer to immortal as we are amplified by our technologically-extended minds.
We all long to experience the world through a lens untainted by bitterness or repetition, a lens not fogged by familiarity and exhaustion, not jaded by the mundane or ravaged by the passing of time.
We must step out of the familiar. An recent esquire magazine article used sailing as metaphor for our desire to transcend familiarity:
"Sailing lifts people out of their normal parameters of understanding; it makes them question their place in the world, because their feet and their brains need time to adjust to their new reality. For some people, the idea is too much to bear, and their sensory systems become overloaded and they throw up their lunch. For other people, the feeling becomes addictive. They learn to love the sensation of being just a little off-balance. It's as though they can find the truth about themselves only when they can't find their feet."
Marijuana, for others, is a way we might "find the truth" or sharpen our 'realitybubble'.
A former beat poet was once asked to describe the psychological merits of the marijuana experience. He answered in no ironic terms:
"You want to know what it is?
John: Chapter 9: verse 25: "Where as once I was blind, now I can see.."
In other words we need to practice side-stepping our reality tunnel. "The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new lands but seeing with new eyes."
Writer Alain de Botton, for one, gravitates towards the sublime and lifting power of technology and aeronautics to quench his thirst for lightness:
"With what ease our seemingly entrenched lives might be altered, were we to walk down a corridor and on to a craft that in a few hours would land us in a place of which we had no memories and where no one knew our names. How pleasant to hold in mind, through the crevasses of our moods, at three in the afternoon when lassitude and despair threaten, that there is always a plane taking off for somewhere, Baudelaire's Anywhere! Anywhere!
But this begs the question: Are we willing to let go of the comforts of familiarity? Perhaps we must accept that in order to find our way, first we must get lost. Indeed in our search for this sense of elation and elevation one might be led to conclude that:
"One does not discover new continents without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time."
JUMP-ROPING ACROSS REALITY TUNNELS:
Here’s the headspace I want to be in: a "reality tunnel" that sees rapture everywhere, the space of the divine wow, the vantage point of the uncompromising child-voyager who sees nothing but wonder and drinks nothing but awe.
The artist has a compulsive need to pay tribute to what he has experienced. The ecstatic surrender, the aesthetic arrest, the rapturous awe, is felt, and upon returning to ordinary consciousness, the residual feeling compels one to honor it in words.
This relentless urge becomes what fuels many of us: The Imaginary Foundation says that to "imbue our artistic work with even a twinkle of that reverence," (felt during the ecstatic moment), is enough to give our lives purpose.
I believe one must be willing to explore oneself while in the ecstatic state, to maintain enough executive function to describe vividly what is felt so deeply.
One must be willing to record oneself having idea sex in real time- we're talking about RECORDING the bursting forth of Aha.
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin wrote, "The living world is constituted by consciousness clothed in flesh and bone." He argued that the primary vehicle for increasing complexity consciousness among living organisms was the nervous system. It is our responsibility to put it to good use!
Jason Silva is a media personality and a Fellow at the Hybrid Reality Institute