Future Global Exodus to the Metasphere
TRANSCEND MEMBERS, 27 Jun 2022
Anthony Judge | Laetus in Praesens - TRANSCEND Media Service
Enabling Mass Migration of Humanity to a Cognitive Frontier
The publicity regarding the rebranding of Facebook as Meta has drawn attention to one particular understanding of the “metaverse” envisaged by techno-optimists (Kyle Chayka, Facebook Wants Us to Live in the Metaverse: what does that even mean? The New Yorker, 5 August 2021). Another understanding is offered from a psychosocial perspective (Future Psychosocial Implications of the Metaverse: exploring possible non-technical and existential dimensions, 2022).
Any framing of “metaverse” in relation to the “universe” of human communication, information and knowledge can be understood as confusing — given the confusion associated with the immensity of the physical universe with its billions of galaxies. Any assumptions regarding the possibilities for humans of travelling freely within it from galaxy to galaxy are indeed appropriately cultivated through imaginative science fiction.
The difficulty for individuals and groups at this time is the obvious impracticality of such travel other than through imagination — or in suspended animation for light years. The focus in practice for some is on the excitement of getting into orbit around the Earth, establishing a base on the Moon and on Mars, orbiting other planets. Again that possibility will in all probability be accessible only to the few whose experience will only be accessible vicariously..
Rather than travelling to distant parts of the solar system, the focus here is on “getting into orbit” around the Earth — understood metaphorically in cognitive terms. This has the considerable advantage of maintaining a degree of groundedness in relation to the reality of the Earth environment in which people live and move and have their being.
From a metaphorical perspective, achieving a sustainable orbit suggests the merit of recognizing the distinctive “spheres” by which the Earth is surrounded — enabling life. The lowest level is the troposphere (with which weather phenomena are primarily associated). Above it is the stratosphere (composed of stratified temperature layers). Between the troposphere and stratosphere is the tropopause border that demarcates the beginning of the temperature inversion. Within the stratosphere is the ozone layer, namely a region that absorbs most of the Sun’s ultraviolet radiation. Beyond the stratosphere is the mesosphere in which temperature decreases with altitude.
The mesophere is surrounded by the thermosphere within which ultraviolet radiation creates ions through ionization of molecules; the thermosphere constitutes the larger part of the ionosphere (composed of the mesosphere and exosphere). Above the thermosphere is the atmospheric boundary of Earth’s energy system, known as the thermopause. The exosphere is a thin, atmosphere-like volume surrounding the Earth where molecules are gravitationally bound to it. The magnetosphere is a region of space surrounding the Earth in which charged particles are affected by the planet’s magnetic field — with the magnetopause as the boundary between the planet’s magnetic field and the solar wind.
The suggestion in what follows is that this intensively studied articulation of atmospheric physics — most obviously by climate scientists — is potentially indicative of a set of metaphors of value to distinguishing cognitive processes in a global psychosocial system. A degree of credibility for the suggestion is already evident in the manner in which “atmosphere” is borrowed to describe the conditions of psychosocial “weather” and “climate” — as with “temperature” in references to “heated debate”. Reference is also made to “stratosphere”, as noted by Andrew Gallagher: As the national debt increases every year, critics of government spending complain that we must do something before the debt goes into the stratosphere (Metaphors of Stars, Meteors and Outer Space, 26 November 2014; see also Stratosphere Quotes, Brainy Quotes).
Indications emerging from such a metaphorical exercise might well prove to be relevant to the “heated” / “charged” debates regarding climate change, especially with respect to “temperature” and to “polarization” (Weather Metaphors as Whether Metaphors, 2015; Climate Change as a Metaphor of Social Change: systemic implications of emissions, ozone, sunlight, greenhouse and overheating, 2008; Playfully Changing the Prevailing Climate of Opinion: climate change as focal metaphor of effective global governance, 2005).
The primary focus of this exercise is however on recognition of analogous cognitive spheres and most specifically a “metasphere”. Clearly “getting into orbit” involves traversing the “lower layers of the atmosphere”, rather than the possibilities of sub-orbital focus on travel around the stratosphere. To what mode of insight and discourse might a metasphere be analogous in the light of the articulation above? If the metasphere is to be recognized as beyond the degrees of abstraction with which “stratosphere” is associated in discourse, what is needed to achieve the requisite escape velocity (Navigating Alternative Conceptual Realities: clues to the dynamics of enacting new paradigms through movement, 2002).
The considerable focus on aeronautics and the potential opportunities of space are a driving force for many. They are seen as fundamental to the future of humanity (Sherry E. Bell and Colonel M. V. “Coyote” Smith, Human Migration into Space is a Biological Imperative, Journal of Space Philosophy 1, 2012 1; Mike Wall, Stephen Hawking Warns: humanity may have less than 600 years to leave Earth, Space, 8 November 2017). “Coyote” Smith writes as Chief Future Scientist of the US Air Force. The Journal of Space Philosophy extends its focus to encompass a degree of recognition of space in non-physical terms, notably as cultural space.
To clarify this exploration, the variety of contrasting current uses of “sphere” and “meta” are noted prior to consideration of their relevance to “metasphere”, “meta-sphere” and “meta sphere”, whether as commercial, technical, or aesthetic/cultural initiatives. All of these have implications for the focus on the metaphorical cognitive framing in what follows. The current “crisis of crises” can then be explored as a “spherological crisis” — as a meta-crisis. In the implications for any understanding of the global brain, civilization could then be understood as faced with a form of “cognitive metastasis”.
The array of subtle spheres currently recognized is presented as a pattern ironically anticipated by the extensive traditional arrays of heavenly and demonic realms — implicitly recognized in references to a much-cited “Axis of Evil” and a lesser known “Axis of Good”. Symbolically at least, these are then presumably to be understood as fundamental to the geometry of any metasphere.
Framed in this way, the question is in what manner a global exodus from an increasingly “uninhabitable” planet is to be envisaged — and facilitated. Rather than the deceptive distraction of a physical exodus — essentially impractical for the many — this is explored as a form of cognitive migration, more appropriately understood as a form of cognitive home-coming. Such a transformation notably has implications for a more fruitful engagement with climate change.
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Tags: Facebook, Metaverse, Social media, Virtual reality
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