Cognitive Implications of Going Strategically Sessile

TRANSCEND MEMBERS, 17 Jun 2024

Anthony Judge | Laetus in Praesens - TRANSCEND Media Service

Towards Comprehension of Detachment in Anticipation of Catastrophe

Introduction

17 Jun 2024 – The following argument is inspired by the commentary of Venkatesh Rao (Going Sessile, RibbonFarm, 24 May 2024). That remarkably resonant commentary focuses on the increasing disinclination of the author to travel widely — as a consequence of aging, problematic environments,, and “been there, done that”. As described by Wikipedia: Sessility is the biological property of an organism describing its lack of a means of self-locomotion. Sessile organisms for which natural motility is absent are normally immobile. This is distinct from the botanical concept of sessility, which refers to an organism or biological structure attached directly by its base without a stalk. Sessile organisms can move via external forces (such as water currents), but are usually permanently attached to something.

The framing offered by that commentary (summarized below) is adapted here, both in terms of its cognitive implications and its implication for aging collectivities. The question addressed is how the decline of collective organization — especially in the case of civilizations — merits exploration in terms of radical downsizing. Whilst readily explored in terms of the rejection of “global” in favour of “local”, it is the cognitive implications of “going sessile” which would seem to merit greater attention. .

The term “sessile” is seldom applied to individuals, although many who are “sedentary” can be understood in that light. More intriguing is the manner in which the sedentary cultivate the illusion of engaging in global processes, whether through commentary on global issues, engagement in global media (especially social media), or video-gaming. Does “going sessile” suggest a form of cognitive downsizing implying a radical detachment from such possibilities?

Could this be usefully explored as a cognitive strategy for individuals, especially when it may be forced upon them by the aging process, the erosion of memory, or by future disasters? What might this imply for collectivities increasingly faced with an aging process, erosion of historical contexts — and concerns with respect to aging leaders? (Societal Learning and the Erosion of Collective Memory, 1980). Are collectivities faced with conditions analogous to the dementia and related pathologies experienced by individuals? The correspondences between a collapsing civilization, culture or group, and a dying person are discussed separately (Metaphors To Die By, 2013).

A curious aspect of “going sessile” is suggested by the familiar experience of waiting (Waiting as an Experience of Fundamental Significance, 2018). This can be understood as related to the manner in which various forms of singularity are now anticipated or awaited (Emerging Memetic Singularity in the Global Knowledge Society, 2009). Of similar relevance are the mysterious dynamics fundamental to hopeful anticipation of enduring viability (Paradoxes of Durable Peace, Heaven and a Sustainable Lifestyle, 2023).

Those indicated memes (“waiting”, “singularity” and “heaven”) could be understood as central to comprehension of the “institutional sessility” of the Catholic Church and Jerusalem, for example (Jerusalem as a Symbolic Singularity, 2017). The argument frames the sobering question, from a collective perspective, as to whether the art of governance is effectively “to do nothing” and “going nowhere” — in anticipation of a magical remedial future (Reframing the Art of Non-Decision-Making, 2017).

The following exploration makes explicit use of AI in the form of ChatGPT 4 and Claude 3 (Opus variant). The role of such AI facilities as an “aggregator” of non-numeric information, rather than as a “computer” of numeric data was previously noted. Reservations regarding such use were also noted, both with regard to the questionable verbosity and style of responses, and what could be termed an undue degree of “algorithmic enthusiasm” for the relevance of the questions posed (Eliciting integrative insight via ChatGPT, 2024). Such enthusiasm could be readily caricatured as a form of “ingratiation” detracting from the responses. Other styles of presentation could have been requested of the AI facilities. A future technical possibility is to present the questions in a single document with links to the responses in separate documents.

As previously noted, a merit of this approach is that readers can explore alternative articulations by repeating (or amending) the questions to the AI facilities to which they have access — especially as those facilities become more sophisticated and have a wider access to relevant published research. As with this experiment, this would involve uploading to other AI facility one (or more) PDF versions. As in the previous experiments, the responses of ChatGPT are distinctively presented below in grayed areas, in parallel with those of Claude 3.

As previously noted with such experiments, a particular concern is with the biases introduced in framing prompts — readily challenged to the extent that they take the form of “leading questions“. Although proposed to the editors of the journal, the opportunity of framing questions from their perspective did not evoke any response. The results presented cannot therefore be construed as reflecting their approval of the exercise in any way.

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