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<eyebeam><blast> Prehuman?


The Friday 13 group of posts formed, to my net.novice eyes, a
fascinating convolute of collective-intelligence-and-dissension. I'd
like to respond explicitly to a few threads.

Jon Ippolito wrote:

"Emergent structures form when identical simple elements--bromide ions,
water droplets, termites--get together to make surprisingly complex
ensembles--eddies, clouds, hives. But individual humans don't get
together and make emergent systems--they're emergent already! When
groups of humans set off in a single direction or rally around a single
banner, I'm not reassured, I'm worried--because that's *submergence*,
the collapse of a rich, complex system into a simple one."

The remark puts a finger on the weakness of the biological and
physio-chemical metaphors for intelligence that have been propagated by
scientific thinkers (including very interesting ones,  like Prigogine
and Stengers with their "chaos theory"). Sheer complexity, however
supple or recursively structured, doesn't necessarily advance human
equilibrium and self-governance. The uncontrolled, quasi-biological
proliferation of complex technology may well result in ecological
disaster, as Joshua LaBare said in his post on suicidal intelligence.
That being the case, however, I can't agree with Jon Ippolito that the
search for intelligent consensus through political debate is
"submergence." Negotiated consensus is an inherent requirement of
complex societies, in which individuals are interdependent. For
instance, the notion that every individual perspective should have its
sovereign freedom of expression and action now forms part of a very
strong consensus, rather like the one that inspired George Bush when he
insisted at the Rio summit on the environment that the USA's mode of
industrial development is not negotiable (a position which barely
changed at the more recent Kyoto summit). Today I think that the
powerful rhetoric of individualism which prevails in the US and has a
strong place in the rest of the developed world is often an extremely
simplistic method for keeping the citizen-consumer in his/her place as a
servant of the industrial proliferation machine, and above all, keeping
him/her from engaging in the extraordinarily challenging effort to
construct a different consensus, and to build bridges between the
oppositional positions which do

I can understand D. Griffin's impatience with the blanket condemnation
of progress. But what I'm saying here is far from being "self-righteous
sneering" at the very benefits of industrial technology which I enjoy.
Positive critique recognizes dangers in an existing state of affairs and
seeks to go on ahead. Humans already made the tremendously positive
decision not to eradicate us as a species in the nuclear conflagration
that threatened during the Cold War. Nice going everybody!

Finally, Matt Gardiner's intriguing "re evolution" post, where he talks
about a meme whose viral reproduction could throw chaos into the
consumer mindset. I'm interested, especially since another post revealed
that all kinds of un-productivist working people like Sarah Pierce,
people who still read for pleasure, might get attracted by this meme.
But what kind of chaos would it spread? The situationists and other
68ers quite liked the chaos idea, and now we see that advertising, in
particular, has used many 1968-type notions of unconstrained spontaneity
as a way to channel spontaneous buying (there are mobile telephone ads
in Paris today which explicitly brag about their recuperation of
sixties' spontaneity - but that recuperation has been going on for a
long time, since dada, unfortunately). Randomness can always be
channeled. Could there be a meme for intersubjective exchange? For
intelligent politics? Not sheer diversity for diversity's sake, but a
higher level of evolution that preserves and re-articulates the best of
human memory? Would that kind of meme qualify as art somewhere?

Brian Holmes

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