Quantum Wampum Essential to Navigating Ragnarok
TRANSCEND MEMBERS, 27 Jan 2014
Thrival in Crisis through Embodying Turbulent Flow
Collapse of confidence: The recent global financial crisis, its current unresolved instabilities, and uncertainty regarding its future stability, all suggest the merit of continuing reflection on alternatives. Alternatives are variously debated, notably with respect to alternative currencies. These range from local exchange trading systems (LETS) to the recent emergence to prominence of Bitcoin. Despite its inherently intangible nature, the ongoing crisis has however highlighted as a major challenge the erosion of confidence and trust — and how these are to be (re)built and sustained (Joseph E. Stiglitz, In No One We Trust, The New York Times, 21 December 2013).
The following speculative argument is inspired by the degree of confidence and interest that has been engendered in Bitcoin following its unforeseen emergence as an online gaming currency — and the challenges to confidence it necessarily addressed. Curiously its origins are associated with the design of a peer-to-peer network as “a system for electronic transactions without relying on trust” (Satoshi Nakamoto, Bitcoin: A Peer-to-Peer Electronic Cash System, 2008).
Extraordinary possibilities: Although suggested by Bitcoin, the argument here, as a speculative thought experiment, is of a more radical nature. It explores the nature of confidence through a “system” able to combine both the challenges to conventional thinking offered by quantum mechanics and the traditional psychosocial role of wampum for the indigenous peoples of North America — and elsewhere, by extension.
The approach taken is to weave together contrasting stories variously challenging conventional confidence. These include quantum reality, the early role of wampum, or the gods whose fall is predicted in Ragnarok — all to be fruitfully understood as strategic fantasies of choice (Cultivating Global Strategic Fantasies of Choice: learnings from Islamic Al-Qaida and the Republican Tea Party movement, 2010). Such stories might be understood in terms of the deeper significance of myth (Karen Armstrong, A Short History of Myth, 2006).
The framing here makes use of the Ragnarok of Norse mythology — now predicted for 22 February 2014 — as the Twilight of the Gods. This is highlighted in the Poetic Edda and as the Götterdämmerung in the Ring Cycle of operas of Richard Wagner. The argument is that human civilization has been witness to precursors of a significant decline and fall of its gods over past decades. Exploring the “extraordinary” is justified when there is no concrete proof that the “ordinary” has any hope of working (10 Demands for Concrete Proof by We the Peoples of the World, 2012). Once again there is a case for “thinking the unthinkable” — but with even more imagination.
Here the “gods” are understood as the strange attractors which are a focus for the highest value (Human Values as Strange Attractors, 1993). It is in these which people have most confidence. Ragnarok is thus the collapse of value — of that in which it is possible to have confidence — notably through their embodiment by the highest authorities, as separately noted (Abuse of Faith in Governance, 2009). With respect to the “death of gods”, it is appropriate to note the much-cited compilation by H. L. Mencken of the hundreds in which whole populations have believed for extended periods (Graveyard of Dead Gods In: Memorial Service, 1922).
Rapid decline: The progressive decline is especially obvious with respect to the financial system, to the inadequacies of governance, to the honour with which the military was previously associated, to science (subject to market and other pressures and complicities), to religion racked by various systemic abuses, to psychology (as complicit in torture), to information (subject to invasive surveillance and marketing abuses), and to sport (whose heros are subject to doping, corruption and match-fixing scandals). Related use was previously made of Armageddon (Spontaneous Initiation of Armageddon: a heartfelt response to systemic negligence, 2004).
Irrespective of any predicted date, Ragnarok can be considered as already in process, and well advanced, as was argued with respect to the Mayan prophecy with regard to 21 December 2012 (Imaginative Reconfiguration of a post-Apocalyptic Global Civilization: engaging cognitively with the illusion of the “End of the World”, 2012). Its manifestation may be appreciated otherwise as the dramatically increasing role of depression, whether economic or psychological — or more generally as loss of faith in any viable future and in the collective means of engendering it (Ungovernability of Sustainable Global Democracy? 2011). Beyond psychic income (as noted by the Financial Times Lexicon), there is a case for recognizing the current challenges to the “psychic economy” of individuals.
Life rafting: As implied by the secondary title, the possibility for “thrival” is inspired by the argument of Thomas Homer-Dixon (The Upside of Down: catastrophe, creativity, and the renewal of civilization, 2006). It is by this means that a possibility of eliciting confidence in a healthy global civilization is envisaged.
However, rather than simply eliciting a familiar intangible — confidence — the use of “navigating” in the main title suggests that particular skill may need to be cultivated. Ragnarok might then be usefully compared with the extreme conditions of whitewater rafting — or the challenges of the adaptive cycle highlighted by Homer-Dixon, as separately discussed (Navigating the seasons of the adaptive cycle: natural alchemy? 2014). The emphasis is on the cognitive implications of acquiring strategic nimbleness. Forms of “life crafting” of higher dimensionality could prove more appropriate.
Reference to “raft” is especially appropriate in this context, given the tendency to cling to the simplest two-dimensional conceptual frameworks in the absence of cognitive vehicles designed for such turbulent conditions. Tabular depictions, such as the Standard Model of physics, could be understood in this light.
Enabling flow through metaphor: As metaphors of collective dying, Armageddon, the Mayan prophecy and Ragnarok are characteristic of an argument developed previously (Metaphors To Die By: correspondences between a collapsing civilization and a dying person, 2013). This drew attention to a special sense of “flow” through which such catastrophe might be navigated, raising the question as to the nature of the “flow to be in” through the coming period (Flowering of Civilization — Deflowering of Culture: flow as a complex experiential dynamic, 2014).
The recent study of Douglas Hofstadter and Emmanuel Sander (Surfaces and Essences: analogy as the fuel and fire of thinking, 2013) is suggestive of possibility.
This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 27 Jan 2014.
Anticopyright: Editorials and articles originated on TMS may be freely reprinted, disseminated, translated and used as background material, provided an acknowledgement and link to the source, TMS: Quantum Wampum Essential to Navigating Ragnarok, is included. Thank you.
This work is licensed under a CC BY-NC 4.0 License.
Click here to go to the current weekly digest or pick another article: