Communication: Cyclying and Disinhibition

It has been several weeks if not months since I last opened up the RSS readers that I have in use including Bloglines, endo, netvibes, and Google Reader. This is a statement that I can safely make with some sort of periodical recurrence. I struggle to not drown in information. Finding what I need is much more important than being bombarded with potentially interesting information. I am starting to think that the key to our information universe is indeed mastering the economics of search. When I need information, I need it fast, and I want it yesterday, not tomorrow. Impatience is often one of my driving forces, or alternatively a great source of frustration.

I find that the excuse of not having time is one of the lamest ever for not doing something. When we want it bad enough, we all find the time for it, and most are willing to totally step out of the space-time narrative to attain that which is desired. I easily get bored or overwhelmed or both with the influx of information coming in my direction in the space-time map. Mind you, I am fascinated by people and some people write very decent copy about topics that I find of interest and relevance, but at this point I am much keener on just plain information, and the people while not relegated to the realm of necessary evil, are not on my top priority. Just as a reminder, I still love animals, human animals included. Then there is the litany of the day having 24 hours and all the things that one must do, and that there is not enough time for it all, etc, etc.. ad nauseam, or what I would call caught in the space-time doldrums.

There is one not so very recent bit that I particularly like from Nicolas Nova, and that contains a few words that I like “Disinhibition with virtual partners…” For those interested in real non-utopic urban spaces, then both Nicolas‘ and Fabien‘s are blogs to keep an eye on. If the hypothesis that I am at present exploring within the jazzy gardens of academia will bring any insights to our understanding of the present technology and our relationship to it, then there is much of surprise to be learned in the interaction between machine and man.

When I say that I do not have the time, it is always the equivalent of using polite language to say that I am either not interested, or that I am not willing to take the responsibility for calling it in any other way. It takes great courage to be able to say that I do not want to this now, or that I do not want to talk with you now. When one human approaches another and asks for attention in the form of time, I do wander what exactly it is that it is being asked. Perhaps it does not matter, for there is no such thing is as the true reason for something, yet reason is something very ingrained in our culture. We either do something or do not do it. Reason is the step-child of causality, and to me it often seems to have been poorly educated among most inhabitants of the planet, or it could be that I am the only and sole being afflicted by this calamity. In my case, when I utter the standard issue “I did not have time” then it is either that I totally forgot or that I just am not keen on the task for whatever reason, and more often than not I may not even know what that reason is, it is just something along the lines of “I do not feel like doing this now” or it is that the task luring and not beaconing at me in the future has, for all its projected magnificence, lost all appeal in my mind’s eye. I remember spending summers during my school years in the house library reading books from cover to cover while other kids were out getting into normal kinds of trouble. I would go out towards the late afternoon and then would roam the fields alone as most of the time there were no peers nearby, or those that were nearby did not share my very strange world. If I was not at the country house with said library during the summer, then I was at the beach and with it in a totally different social setting where I tended once more to be the odd one too young for the wilder escapades of my cousins and too odd otherwise. Strange to me now is that although there were always people around, it seems that I chose to be alone regardless of the social setting. In this respect, there is not much that has changed in my life and that is perhaps what I find so fascinating about engaging with virtual partners. I have done this for the whole of my life, and I have often done this in written. I talk to the walls and my computer, I talk to the trees, and I scream at the ocean.

At this point I do not know how the cycling got into the title of this little note, but somehow it seemed relevant when I wrote the first sentences of this a few weeks back. Communication beyond the space-time map has been on the back of my mind quite a bit lately, it happens to be an area that I am researching now. Somehow it all has something to do with entanglement, the big bang and why the Higgs may remain enigmatic.

Death and Others

As I write this there was just one day last week when I thought that after I lay down, I may never wake up. I had a very minor accident and the accompanying strong headache that followed as a result of a mild concussion fed into my awareness that life is finite, that one day I will die and that that day may have just arrived. Mid-afternoon and with no drugs, I laid down, slept the sleep of the innocent and carefree and then woke up when a friend was at my door expecting dinner. Dinner had to wait, and I was alive.

However for some odd reason, death has been very present in my life this year. At one point I bumped into a colleague in the bus and casually asked her how she was. I was not ready for the answer, her husband had just died, she was returning from her sister’s who happens to live around the corner. All I could do was take her into my arms. I could not really imagine what it is like to loose a husband, but I could imagine what it is like to loose a good and dear friend, or a member of the family. When the freshman class at CMU is given the assignment to read Randy Pausch’s Last Lecture, then all of a sudden, brutal or inconsiderate as it may seem, death is about life. It is a call to go for your dreams, and it is a reminder of what the nature of nature is.

At this point theoretical man is on my top priority list, or if I had the say, it would be my top priority. If I think of death, it is my own death that I rarely thing about as that to me is easy because after that event, there will nothing that I will have to do or think about and I am not inclined to dwelling on what those surviving me will have to deal with. Last year at one point I declared to a friend of mine that if I were to die that day, I would die happy. It is a remarkable claim given the very fact that the word happy seldom computes in my world, but then I do live in a world that explores the very limitations of words. Happy is one of those words whose meaning I often question, interrogate and massage while often the yield of these efforts to conclude that there is some form of emptiness to the word. I have experienced immense joy and something that I would want to label ecstasy, but happiness? What is happiness other than the grand Utopia?

Why is it that I think that I do not have the say when it comes to what my priorities are? When last year I first saw the video of Randy Pausch’s last lecture I run a mental inventory of my own dreams and those that I have brought to bear on reality. The score is good, very good, and often I tend to forget how very good the score is and then all sorts of drama surfaces in my narrative. I have however no particular attachment to drama, but do have a great deal of curiosity as to what the nature of nature is and within it, what the nature of man is. I postulate that one aspect of human nature is man’s ability to abstract, conceptualize and theorize.

A few weeks ago a casual friend confided that he often goes through depression phases when he totally shuts out the world and that in him then all is rather dark and that he finds himself in a place inaccessible to others around him. I am not one prone to believing every word of confidence that I hear, however in this case I am willing to assume that this may indeed be as I was told. Intimate interactions, or that which is told in confidence when two humans interact is always fascinating as it reveals detailed aspects of human nature and communication. Depression of any kind is not really what is considered an acceptable conversation topic outside of the clinical and private spheres, much less within a context of technology. The confidence took me by surprise, yet I was curious as to what drives somebody to make such a confidence in a crowded hallway. Am I just asking what it is that attracts one man to another?

Why are humans so susceptible to suggestion? Are other animals equally susceptible to suggestion? What drives the suggestion susceptibility? What does any of this have to do with death or what attracts one man to another? How do any of these questions connect to those dreams that we are all born with?

Many years ago I got to read the novel Das Parfum (1981) by Patrick Süskind. My reading of that novel within the then context of my life has in itself all the great elements of what could de turned into fascinating narrative. Like it often happens to great literature, I get so involved and overwhelmed, that often I can not finish reading the story. There is a Swiss writer whose word-craft seems magic to me, and each time that I sit down to read his work, I get so entrained in his words that I can not proceed with the reading. This is for me the power of words, and how I deal with the books that one of my neighbours writes.

Death is just the only certainty that I do not yet know.

reboot 9.0 – Ah! Theoretical Man – Archetype II

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?

Drivers

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.

Action

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.