World Hypotheses is a 1942 book by Stephen Pepper. It is highly recommended that you NOT read this very heavy and difficult book. Gary Schwartz discovered Peter a while back and has been modifying his model for more modern application. This gathering of about 60 selected persons-of-interest was convened in Tucson to test the newest model (by Gary) of World Hypothesis as applied in an Evolving Wisdom Workshop organized by Bob Cook and Ernie Schloss. The three have known each other for many years and have been working to use Sustainability as the example to test the World Hypothesis model during this and future gatherings.
- This is not a report of the gathering, which may be posted elsewhere. The event triggered many thoughts and these are rough notes I made shortly after. The two postings prior to this on this blog were composed and posted after this was initially written. No significant edits. Posted here for the record.
I sense that everyone I interacted with today was in a different “space/place/reality”. These were persons I have known and interacted with in depth for decades and others I only met today. We are all in the same physical spaces and there was no problem when communication referred to these spaces. But, whenever they talked, speaking to a group or to me in personal conversation I really didn’t feel connected. It was if they were talking about a fictitious reality, things and processes not really there. They may sound similar to things I am familiar hearing about – but they were not tangible. And, I senses that everything I said to others was perceived in the same way by then. None of us seemed in real touch with the world we were talking about – that wasn’t in our direct perception at the time.
- This included during the more energetic exchanges in the smaller gathering after 6:30pm, a few hours after the end of the formal gathering. There were back and forth struggles to converge on topics: “food growing systems”, “transition city”, “learning and education”, “what we can do and what we can’t do”, etc.
- When one person queried whether some people were truly pathological, even evil – and I mentioned that Tom and I had been concerned about sociopaths, there were exchanges that seemed to conclude with agreement. This is the closest we came being on the same page, but the dialog frizzled out when the conversation turned to what to do with them – then the contexts shifted and became distant.
- These people were sitting or standing in front of me. There was no issue as to their physical presence. Yet, when they talked about governments or corporations, pollution and global warming, money or suffering, or the World Hypothesis model we were evaluating – it was as if they were ghosts somewhere else. Is this a consequence of my new sense of conceptualizing societal reality as of a distinctly different nature than our commonly shared physical realities were we can gesture agreements? Actually, the moment I expressed this to them I (now remember) that conversation felt real! This was a topic of abstract symbolism (like math or logic) and not like mythological things like the presidency or terrorists.
- Later, I “imagined” each person standing on different platforms, at different heights and pointing in different directions; some platforms are bigger than others, some even at a slight tilt. No one sees any of the others or their platforms. [This without visual imagery.]
- I don’t feel we share the same world beyond our shared physical spaces. I have this same feeling now for members of my family. When they talk about anything I can’t actually see and confirm, it doesn’t seem they are talking about the world I live in.
So, what is nuet, my larger world like? My first reaction was to think of what I witness on TV – these are real, like my colleagues in the rooms today; but what they are talking about on TV is not real in the same sense. I am writing that I am aware of contexts, not specifics. Obama is inaugurated. It was a gathering of people and events – much of which was recorded and I could potentially view all the recordings. But, this is not the same as the societal phenomenon of the Obama presidency entering its second term. That tangles with all the interactivity of all relevant persons in and connected to the administration, and then out to global players and corporations. This is a PATTERN that is “real”, but not directly observable. As in quantum science, what are the uncertainty factors for our eventual knowledge of this pattern? What if evidence is destroyed, never revealed, or fabricated? What if there are conflicting reports? What is the pattern of human activity leading up to and for years after the 9/11 “phenomenon”? What various “conspiracy theories” are woven, including the official conspiracy of Ben Laden and box cutter wielding Arabs in airplanes – leading to the quick passage of an already authored Patriot Act and two subsequent unimaginable wars?
The rightwing news bubble (which I examine briefly daily) talks about “Obama coming after your guns'”. I expect many envision our black president breaking down their door – like in a TV movie. Or, the liberal news bubble talking about voter suppression and imagine the long lines. Individual acts of voter suppression are distinct from an intentional pattern of activity of persons whose result is long lines; as each battle in war is distinct from the pattern of battles (and decisions leading up to them) that comprise wars.
The intricate pattern of individual human actions that comprise our collective world is not the same kind of reality as the physical landscape and weather conditions everywhere on the planet. We record and study enough satellite pictures and other records that we seldom have disagreement as what is happening on Earth at any time. But, what is happening with human societal systems is quite another story. Even if we had 100% surveillance, including all messages anyone sends or receives, it would be an impossible task to map out the societal phenomena in terms we use to summarize them. We don’t attempt to observe all the gas molecules in a jar to confirm its temperature.
Now, and this is most critical – we encounter the same difficulty when we attempt to design, plan, and execute future actions for good causes, including surviving/thriving climate change. Tonight one man was insistent that the only real thing was action, and in a sense he was right. Food producing action is done in real physical time by persons in gardens. However, educating and organizing a sufficient number of Tucson citizens to make us self sufficient takes us into the realm of unobservable patterns of human exchanges.
I realize why my distinction between transformation and emergence falls on deaf ears. Why it is never comprehended when I ask that we treat societal metamorphosis as a concrete model and less than a metaphor. These are no societal phenomena to be observed. My mention of an animated simulation did generate some interest.
What is Y-Worlds and the P2P-Foundation, or Transition Colorado? They are each of a totally different nature than the concrete and observable behaviors of persons functioning within those societal systems. Just what ARE these societal systems other than the behavior of their participants and the physical spaces they work in and their material products? What is nuet’s BUS and UPLIFT scenario?
In building human systems, the primary focus should be on the humans, their experiences and their doings. What they do must be secondary. All the content, and challenges in a person’s life is in the deep context of their Personal Being. Activity that provides a person with greater “strength, coherence, understanding, etc.” of themselves in relationship with others is of prime importance and will tend to dominate attention. How a person is treated, respected or rejected, loved or hated, noticed or dissed is the filter to all else. And yet, contemporary attempts to organize others to action re humankind/GAIA survival/thrival issues studiously avoid this essential dimension. The exception being those cults who use tweaking a persons deep emotions to attract and entrap them.
Conspiratorial gangs are realtime. Tribal life was life in real-time, real-place. It was perceptual and gestural, physical and social – long before the advent of conceptual languages. What I call “conspiratorial gangs” are the contemporary equivalent of tribes within societal structures, large and small. “Conspiracy” is used here with a small “c”; a smallish group of persons deliberate and decide on a course of action that specifically benefits themselves and don’t intentionally inform others about their decisions or actions.
- A family that plans a vacation without explicitly informing others is a “conspiratorial gang”. A small group of persons employed in governmental agencies may decide and act in a way not approved by their respective agencies. A football team decides on the next play.
- Is one person deciding on an action a one person conspiratorial gang?
Is chatter on Facebook or Twitter examples of TANGIBLE WEBS as distinct from abstract nets? I suggest that unless they comment to each other about the literal content of messages, in some specific way, it is not tangible. It would also be tangible if persons comment specifically about each other – about concrete expressions (not vague accusations). Now is not the time to draw boundaries; I am exploring the more obvious distinctions, that may well be useful, even if there is blurring at the boundaries.
The importance of societal structures not being tangible is that they can quickly disappear – they can be “paper tigers”.
- The USSR is our exemplar. Poof it was gone. That persons and conspiratorial gangs remained and erected new societal structures doesn’t distract from how truly mythological these societal entities can really be.
- If we fear our inability to make real changes in the future because we imagine these monster entities (CIA, USA, Exxon) as big and massive and resistive to change – then we are enslaving ourselves. They ARE VERY DIFFICULT TO REFORM, but they can crumble like a house of cards.
What is real in the large scale? Patterns. Webs, Systems, nets, ecohols.
Think about it. None of the categorical concepts used in discourse about large human systems have any operation for empirical detection or observation. This is truly weird when we think of it. Where to you observe government, democracy, elections, economics, — much of our most used vocabulary. We need to play with this a bit. PUT IN QUERY ON TNE. They are ONLY referenced in semiotic structures – languaging about language.
Consider an election of a class president in a high school. That should be finite enough to observe almost all events in the phenomena – if it were only the act of voting, not designing and printing the ballots, earlier considering the rules for the election, selection of candidates, counting the votes. Even all this might be recorded and data filed. But, this would be different from a person’s normal view of 1) a campaign poster, 2) hearing the debate, 3) managing the voting station, 4) each person photoed casting their vote, 5) the vote count. Even this is not equivalent to observing a tree, or the keyboard and monitor I am writing on.
Can one observe an instance of inclusion, or exclusion? An instance of addition or multiplication? But, addition per se? We talk about abstractions, but they cannot be observed.
Has this been discussed somewhere in philosophy?
What is the “reality nature” of bills and laws, and agencies “created by” them, such as Social Security, Medicare & Medicaide, Obamacare, IRS, Federal Reserve, etc.?
- A bill or law is a sem, with many associated sems. So is an agency such as Social Security and the IRS. But, to what extent can we say they can be observed? Do we have the same epistemological difficulty observing my thumb, my brain, or my DNA? Or observing the computer I am now using.
- Observation doesn’t imply simultaneous detection of every aspect of a system. How much is necessary to be considered an obseration, more than a mere identification?
- To what extent do we observe the laws of physics? We can do explicit experiments whose results are consistent with a description of a phenemon involving systems. But, the law is not exemplified by one or even many confirming (or non refuting) experiments.
This is getting weird. Really, what do we actually OBSERVE? Did I just observe the letters form to make the word ‘OBSERVE’? How is my visual/mental observation different/same from a particle detector sending numerical data to a computer which I can look at later on a display or printout? What am I observing when I study the printout of data?
The metaphors we employ in our perceptual world seem simple and clear – I see my coffee cup, and my hand moving on the keyboard; I hear the TV from the other room; I sense myself breathing and feel the arthritis pain in my arms. Am I observing this house while sitting in only one room? When I drive to my appointment am I observing the City of Tucson?