Let me make this clear: I am in love, in love with Theoretical Man. After listening to a few good talks, drowning in a few great conversations, soaking up some of that Copenhagen sun, and crashing at Henriette and Thomas‘ place, on June 1 I was ready to give it a go.
Warning: > 2’000 words follow…
Just today under the shower I recalled what got all of this going. It was the talk on “Knowledge Ownership” at Lift and something that keeps on coming back to me after Thomas’ talk at SHIFT. Or was it the long essay that I wrote on leadership for Nada Kakabadse upcoming book after that talk? Something has been having me and what I could think of today under the shower was that moment on stage back in February in Geneva when I totally disappeared and all there was was public. During reboot9.0, my presentation changed as the conversations took place and I was given new impulses and discovering some new and old ideas. I had the framework, I had the slides, but what and how I was going to deliver it, was still open. I thought that I had some of the answers, and as the discussions progressed, I got more and more sure of having just the questions. Theoretical Man is about the questions, not about the answers.
When just minutes before my presentation André asked me what I would talk about, I answered that I was going to talk about sex. We laughed, we always do when the mention is of sex and the conversation is in public. A few minutes into the talk I asked you to get comfortable and ready for 40 minutes of intimacy. It was a precious moment, it was confronting to some of you.
Initially I thought that I would start as follows:
English is the language that I have colonized. German is the language that I continually rape grammatically. French is my alter ego’s language. Portuguese is my fist love. Japanese is my infatuation, and I can order coffee or say thank you in Arabic. In Danish, I am blissfully lost, but not for long. Sheer necessity – also known as thirst – made me learn the word for water in Turkish. However the truth is that we were all born with attention deficit disorder or some other affliction, and from day one we do scream for attention, and sometimes we are very loud!
But it all came out different, and it is Tommy Oshima’s Archetype II photo that introduces Theoretical Man before the formal title is shown on the second slide. This photo needs to be looked at and reflected upon, to me it is one expression of that beast and animal whom I have chosen to call Theoretical Man.
Who am I to think that I have anything to say about the future of humanity? If we are indeed born naked and screaming, what is it that makes us so very human?
If we die spent, what is it that happens in between?
We call it life. Some live, some vegetate. Life, the expression of a few atoms not so randomly organized, but self-organized in molecular and macromolecule arrangements, cells, organs, whole organisms, is chemically regulated. Organic!
What kind of expression does our organic chemically regulated void find?
I looked around and I discovered my very own digital culture. Digital? Yes, digital, but we will burrow down on that one another time, not now. Culture is the cohesive expression of human behaviour. I took zattoo for a spin and I watched a few hours of programming from around the world. I found two expressions of this human behaviour that made me wonder.
I observed and saw the news and series full of reports or stories about war, rape, greed, incest, murder, betrayal and violence. In between, there were displays of brands from Gucci to Prada, from Wired to Patek Phillipe, right along with those of Shell, Aston Martin, boingboing and Chanel.
Who am I not to create the future of humanity? Let me make the case that this is all about relationships and that Theoretical Man is relationship. I relate to those with whom I talk, converse, discuss, argue, lecture to, or otherwise interact with, from a stand point of ying-yang, that is, in respect and freedom. I want the absolute freedom to interact with you, and I respect that you are different and may think differently from me. How do you relate to me? Can we be in a place where respect and freedom are on the order of the day?
Man’s nature What makes man a different beast from other animals and living organisms is its ability to abstract. Its ability is indeed what I mean to write. Man has no gender at the level of abstraction that I like to deal with man.
So, what is it that we are doing when we humans are measuring our own? Is there a quantum level to the human? If there is such a level, where is it and what does it look like? If we could answer any of these questions and generate any insight, what conjectures would it permit? Am I insane in advancing such ideas?
Allow me a few quantum leaps in logic, and do bear with me. However Tor asked the very same question (in slide 2) in his opening talk with other words by asking if human beings can simulate human beings. His question is equivalent to my human quantum limit question. One of his possible answers is that the head is governed by meaning and value and that emotions are more efficient than intelligence. Now, in my view, this is precious wisdom. Later it will appear that I disagree with Tor, but that is just the appearance of it. In the quantum limit, we are talking about the same thing, the human.
Man’s abstraction ability allows us to create theories. We have theories for just about everything. Theory formulation is one way of giving meaning and creating value. If meaning and value have any raison d’être, it is that they allow us to learn, expand and evolve. Sometimes, some forget that theories are models, not truths and then dogma and doctrine start percolating through and soon men stop thinking and start fanatically believing in words void of content, value or even reason. Man, in its very nature is a theoretical man (homo theoreticus). We wander from theory to theory testing its assumptions, refining the models, overthrowing worn out ideas, creating new ones, experimenting, exploring, playing. In reality, it is all theory. There is preciously little that we know, actually we do not know much, but we keep on guessing and creating theories in search for meaning and value. We abstract, we learn, and we evolve.
The key to dealing with our nascent and ever evolving theoretical nature lies in our ingenuity and creativity in exercising to balance paradoxes. At reboot I touched on two of these without going into much depth. One is the paradox of private and public and the other is that of human and technology.
Dualism and Ubification One of the keys in deciphering the nature of atomic particles – electron, proton, neutron – was the discovery that these have both corpuscular and wave behaviours. This is often referred to as the dual nature of matter. This so called duality was a fact that the so called classical mechanics – Newtonian and electromagnetic theories – could not reconcile. To resolve this (apparent) paradox, quantum mechanics was created.
We are at this stage of an unresolved paradox when it comes to humans and things. The twentieth century was magnificent in its flurry of theories that either mechanized the human and made it a functionality in an economic machine, anthromorphized our beloved mac computers or laundry machines giving them human attributes, or in general treating abstractions as real things in the process called reification.
What if? If we reconcile the dual nature of animal and things through a process that I call ubification, then the nature of the relationship between these two entities – animal and things – changes. It is no longer an either or of mechanization or reification, rather it is a rich manifold of both linear and nonlinear relations that can be envisioned. If we allow this abstraction to draw analogies from topology, then the whole not only increases in complexity, but also becomes a lot easier to understand. It is then as though both humans and things would be represented by either fields, rings or domains and that these could share dimensions and specific relations could be formulated between them to describe the interactions.
Interaction needs Relationship
And if all that there is, is relationship, then it is perhaps time that we spend some time looking at both the entities that interact through these relationships and the relationships themselves.
How is it that we relate to sexuality? Looking around be it in the media, be it in our immediate communities and families, there is much yet to be learned and integrated into life before this very private-public aspect of our existence rests in its noble nature. There are three fundamental aspects to sexuality that form the whole of what it is: reproduction, pleasure and liberation. At one time or another we all relate to sexuality through one of these aspects or fields. Let’s face it, we are here as a result of some form of reproductive activity and for all intents and purposes it is totally irrelevant that you are a test-tube baby, the accidental product of passionate copulation, or the result of some animal drive. Still, how much of sexuality drives us and at what level?
We all know it, sex sells. What are the impulses behind it? Necessity is what I am fond of claiming as the main driver in all that we do. Perhaps this only reflects my own experience, and then again, it could be that I am human after all, and my own experience an attribute of that state of being human. What if the impulses for our needs come from three apparently different loci?
These need loci, or drivers are experience, intellect and consciousness. The need for food is at the experience locus and it is the body that claims this need. That often annoying feature of being human and curious reflects the intellect’s need for knowledge and meaning. But we have a third locus of need, the need spirituality resides in consciousness, and we constantly seek. This is a model that I can live with and which I have experienced on my own as giving some order to my own consciousness and perception.
It was on the tatami of our Aikido dojo that I have learned much about this experience of integrating body, mind, and spirit. With my body I experience, the body can only be. With my mind and intellect I learn. The intellect i pleasure for pleasure as an interpretation of what the experience is. With my spirit I transcend and approach consciousness. Intuition and emotion are part of the various relationships that allow the de-fragmentation of body, mind and spirit. When I can bring all of the three together, then I can experience the serenity and naivety of being human and at peace.
Evolution and Necessity “Save the world and get sex” could be how Tor Nørretranders expresses the same idea. I am not into saving the world, and that is only because the Sun will in a few billion years turn into a red giant thus causing the ultimate singularity for which no trans-humanist of any colouring or shading can really come up with a counter measure other than intergalactic exploration or time travel. However those two last hypothesis do land us right smack in the middle of science-fiction and that is a genre to which I do not easily subscribe.
Not bent on saving the world nor on a mission, I view this thing called life to be one grand experiment and I am happy to be an actor in this story creating meaning and value from a place of respect and freedom. I am aware that we live in a world of inequality and abundance, and that in itself is just an observation at this point.
When I look at what the great technological advances have been ever since humans keep records or can dig for them, there are only two that I can identify as evolutionary in a quantum or nonlinear way. The first evolutionary technological breakthrough came with agriculture. In creating the technology that allowed a greater number of humans to be fed and to survive by taking into account one of the primary necessities of the animal – food – the way was open to move from the locus of the body to that of the mind.
When the body is nourished, then the mind can think. So it was, and eventually the printing press was invented after much thinking and a few adventuresome struggles along the way. The printing press facilitated the sharing of knowledge and allowed an accelerated trans-generational sharing of information thus creating an increased capacity for knowledge among the humans. Eventually we put a man on the Moon, but from my vantage point, that was just kaizen.
Now that we have satiated the body, and perhaps satisfied the intellect’s thirst for learning, are we ready to create the next technology that is going to liberate our mortal beings, not from death, but from the fragmentation of our essence?
What is the next evolutionary technology breakthrough? Has it happened yet? Or is it about to happen? Could it be that we are still quite far from it and still rather steadily doing our kaizen bit like we have done for centuries?
What is the next step in evolution? This short installment – but longish post – about Theoretical Man asks more questions that it answers. That is how I like it. Stay tuned.
While in Copenhagen I took my a few pictures that are related to the mood of this.