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, March 31, 2011

Thoughts From The Road

It occurs to me as I ride across the country – moving along the back roads from camping spot to camping spot – that what we humans are experiencing in the largest frame is the (absolute?) incompatibility of the system of order that is our sine qua non and the Living System of Order that brought us into existence. Like aerobic bacteria were spawned by anaerobic bacteria, all those billions of years ago (or so goes the theory), these two methods of approaching the energizing of life are incompatible. The living structures that formed in the ‘simpler’ world of sulfur and other relatively milder oxidizing agents created the base physiology from which the heady, dangerous world of photosynthesis and oxygen metabolism would form. The free oxygen was a deadly poison for those living things of earlier vintage and sent them into perpetual hiding from the oxygen that the rest of life has come to depend upon. It must be noted, however, that beyond that simple observation, the analogy fails. These are two solutions to essentially the same problem rather than a meeting of fully developed systems for handling information. The living order was established with all of its essential qualities in either case.

The correct analogy would be if the Living System of Order, in its increasingly full expression, began to disrupt the electron configuration of atoms or change the rates of primary forces like gravity or electromagnetism, thus damaging the very basis upon which it was formed.

Nothing requires that the Living System of Order be like the Physical System of Order accept in the most general ways of having system rules of order: selecting, storing and implementing of information – in fact, the living order is quite creative in how it manages these things while staying, as it must, within physical laws. The Consciousness System of Order selects, stores and implements information in ways utterly impossible in the physical and living orders, and as a result creates patterns of probabilities that can only exist in the consciousness order. It, like the living order, functions with its own agency and has its own rules of order, but unlike the living order, it can decouple in various ways from direct relationships with the other systems of order, primarily by acting in a different time space [1].

As I ride across the back roads two observations press on me. One is that we are everywhere, especially as roads wind easterly. Mile after mile of house, field and pasture. Little towns dot the landscape. Tiny towns like Binger, OK – the boyhood home of Johnny Bench – with just a few houses tucked in next to the two lanes of asphalt. Towns like Booneville, AR with a main drag lined with basic brick store fronts and side streets of frame houses; sad towns with more empty commercial spaces than occupied ones; towns with ‘working people’ in pickups with lettering on their doors.

The second is not so much an observation as an impression; that our product – which is ourselves – is laid over the land with remarkably little regard for what our works are being laid over. Roads, houses, towns big and small, bridges and dams, fields and pastures, strip mines, ditches and canals and all the rest – like a giant net – thrown over the land. As I say, more impression than observation.

It is from this impression that the horrifying thought of real and absolute incompatibility first hit me. It took this initial form: what if the way that humans are manifesting the consciousness order really is fundamentally incompatible with the living order, what if the present iteration of this new system of order can only move toward disrupting the essential properties of the foundational system of order from which it has sprung?

This is the ultimate serious matter. I am inclined to answer that the incompatibility is situational, not just on the grounds of wishful thinking, but based on the fluidity and adaptability of both living and consciousness systems. But, I keep remembering those aerobic bacteria.

More on this from the road as I get the chance.

[1] This is discussed in more detail here and here.

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