A companion blog, The Metacognition Project, has been created to focus specifically on metacognition and related consciousness processes. Newest essay on TMP: Goals and Problems, part two

Thursday, August 7, 2008

The Madness – Another Ship Metaphor

Dealing effectively with societal Madness is impossible.  A metaphor:  A huge ship, much larger than our present largest, seems to need steering.  There are complex and incompletely understood algorithms operating between the wheelhouse and the engine room and rudder.  There is nothing to see from the wheelhouse except the expanse of the ship in all directions.  All information comes from instruments of uncertain reliability, various yelled directions from outside (it is unclear what ‘outside’ actually is) and sets of charts that the helmsman supplies.  The charts are often argued over and may or may not be believed.

The journey began long ago in little open boats.  The coastline was almost always in view and weather could be seen coming.  Gradually boats were tied together, roofed over, motorized, instrumented and the increasingly larger ship headed for the open sea.  It is, however, coming to the other side of the open ocean (or returning, coming to landfall in any case), leaving the deep ocean and heading for banks and reefs, headed for narrow passages and shallow. 

All the things we have done, done for all those good reasons in the moment, are conspiring to make safe passage impossible.  The whole design neglects the persistent Reality.  It is not that there is a reality for which the giant ship is suited; it is that for a time the power of invention was able to stay ahead of the violations of Reality.  Reality was one force, the challenge to Reality from imagination was another and invention was the third.  This drives change faster and faster with the interesting irony that faster change must be applied to a bigger, more cumbersome ship (thus the algorithms). 

The dangers go un-noticed in deep water running.  It is the norm to imagine that where we are is where we intended to be.  But, where we are is in essence unknown; that we got here by the sheerest of chance is unrealized. The moment is artificial; created in the artfulness of imagining. 

To some, whose wanderings about the ship and iconoclastic natures gave both evidence and aptitude, it was clear that the ship was not the appropriate design and function to confront the enforced realities of reefs and shoals, narrow island passages and river mouths.  But those who lead the ship could not imagine in one large movement the shift from the mythology of the open ocean to the Reality of the shore. 

It must be remembered that the ship came to exist in many small and cumulative imaginings acted on in many small implementations.  That what the inhabitants of the ship see and live as absolute reality could be utter madness in the persistent Reality, a more demanding form of which they are soon to reenter, is too large a leap for all but the most unaffected minds.

Of course, those who argue that the ship will have to be broken up, that the passenger/inhabitants will have to learn to operate small open boats, have to acquire a knowledge of the currents and weather, have to navigate using observations of the shoreline; those people are ignored, or worse, disposed of.

With all the skill available to them the leaders attempt to turn the ship again and again to the open sea away from the approaching persistent Realities of their world.  Eventually, however, the ship becomes so large that no matter how it is turned it is immediately approaching the shore.  Then the societal Madness and the inevitability of its crashing headlong into Reality begins to dissolve into individual madness.  As the ship finally founders, those remaining do the best they can with what is left.

1 comment:

James Keye said...

tired of ship metaphors