Cognitive Osmosis in a Knowledge-based Civilization


Anthony Judge | Laetus in Praesens – TRANSCEND Media Service

Interface challenge of inside-outside, insight-outsight, information-outformation


27 Nov 2017 – A major challenge of the times can be framed metaphorically in terms of consumption, osmosis and circulation — as well as their subsequent consequences. These processes have the advantage of being widely comprehensible with respect to the human body, especially given that osmosis is the process whereby oxygen from the air passes through the lungs into the bloodstream (with an equivalent in plants). The question is what these processes suggest in terms of the processing of information, insight and knowledge.

An argument can be made that there is a case for looking at “information diseases” for clues in this respect (Memetic and Information Diseases in a Knowledge Society: speculations towards the development of cures and preventive measures, 2008). In those metaphorical terms, does society face a challenge of “lung disease” and “circulatory disease” — to say nothing of “nervous disorders” and those of the “digestive system”?

As a process, osmosis is especially significant in that society faces a major difficulty at the interface between “outside” and “inside”, whether with respect to outgroups and ingroups, marginal and mainstream disciplines, or insights restricted to the few which are transferable to the many only with difficulty (as may be true of the reverse). There are obviously major social issues with regard to being on the “inside” (namely “in the loop”) or on the “outside” (“out of the loop”). The emerging concern with recycling suggests that there are major difficulties that could be usefully understood in terms of the system of consumption and waste disposal.

The widepread recourse to psychoactive drugs suggest that issues of “outside” and “inside” are already of deep concern, whether because of the appeal of “inside” or the consequences of alienation from “outside”. Possibilities may be variously explored (World Introversion through Paracycling: global potential for living sustainably “outside-inside”, 2013). Under the circumstances, the manner of current economic preoccupation with “import/export” and “input/output” suggests that these may be obscuring systemic dynamics of greater import.

Expressed otherwise, many of these matters have been extensively debated — seemingly to questionable effect. The difficulty is partly the quantity of information and the form it takes. Have key “insights” become virtually impossible for many to injest fruitfully? Are they successfully embodied? Are they essentially indigestible? What of their ejestion when no longer appropriate?

The issue explored here is whether the challenge can be framed otherwise and more generally through patterns articulated in a different mode — following the adage a picture is worth a thousand words. However, rather than doing this through imagery which has already been deployed to this end, the concern is whether there are patterns which have both a degree of cognitive appeal as symbols (exploiting the potential of 3D and virtual reality), as well as offering further significance from the disciplines with which they are more especially associated.

Basic to this approach is the torus and the transformations to which it lends itself — including the unusual possibility of its eversion. Not to be forgotten is the sense in which the human body (as with many animals) can be understood as a segment of a torus — injesting at one end, ejesting at the other, and forming part of a cyclic system in which what goes around, comes around. The concern is whether forms related to the torus and its adaptations constitute a suggestive set of complementary patterns that can be briefly indicated as a catalyst for further consideration.

One key central to this exploration is the long-valued symbol of the ouroboros — currently used to frame the more fundmental preoccupations of cosmology. The symbol typically features a dragon-like serpent. This has the particular merit in this period of engaging popular imagination due to its extensive use in video games and fantasy movies with their improbable appropriation of a multitude of conventionally deprecated traditional symbols. What is being enabled or sought by such engagement?

The argument clarifies the poorly recognized experiential need to “proprioceive” consciously — in contrast with a detached degree of academic interest in the topic of proprioreception as a form of cognitive appropriation. The argument highlights the potential implications of “unproprioception” arising from the ambiguity between detachment and attachment — whether appropriate or inappropriate, as intimately related to property, its obsessive acquisition and sequestration.

Given the challenges of possession and “letting go”, and the widespread preoccupation with “analysis”, is this coincidentally indicative of a civilization handicapped to an unexplored degree by “anal retentiveness“?

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