Symbiogenetic Enlightenment: To Dare To Sense Together
[Painting by Shoshanah Dubiner, Endosymbiosis: Homage to Lynn Margulis, 2012]
Before the potential technological co-evolution of digitally mediated emotional interfaces for the improvement of human communication, this paper attempts to establish a philosophical framework to dare to sense together. Symbiogenetic Enlightenment builds upon uneasy alliances, which offer us major evolutionary change through transpersonal qualities in sense-making, a fusion of entities, resulting in the emergence of novelty. It tells us that we can only begin to make sense of the world together, not as isolated cells in echo-chambers, hypnotized, and seduced by glowing screens of cybercapital. In times of simulated intimacy, we miss out on the biochemical compounds that complete the full experience embedded in life. Since physical contact is a non-negotiable requisite for many different life forms, we run the danger to degenerate the qualities of our beings and our togetherness that make life worth living. We increase our dependency on a mediated digital experience that leaves us vulnerable to manipulation and misinterpretation. Before predictive analytics with neural modeling can create an even more intrusive architecture that might favor a further re-emergence of authoritarian regimes and retrotopian worldviews, we should preferably evolve our innate systems, which are integrated throughout our bodies, including at the level of the brainstem, where hormones, such as oxytocin and vasopressin, influence behavior, the autonomic nervous system, and the immune system itself. Symbiogenetic Enlightenment, to dare to sense together, presents deep social engagement and truthful social bonding as a prerequisite to evolutionary progress, which essentially supersedes the ideology of Enlightenment that now becomes a dangerous hubris entrenching us further into hypercognition and dissociation from real-life complexity.
Technology is within the established structure of civilization irreversible. Implicit in this understanding is not, if we use technology, but primarily, how it will be used. Presently, a war is raging between those who are deliberately engineering invincible ignorance to advance power hegemonies and those who are willing to fight for the quality of life, the immaterial accomplishments of our civilization. As long as knowledge is shallow, opinions tend to spread into two contrasting extremes, until some thorough researchers and thought leaders enrich the discourse with more differentiated perspectives. With Symbiogenetic Enlightenment, to dare to sense together, it is our goal to create a counter-narrative that can deepen our understanding of the issues at hand. We aim to advance our alignment of a meta-understanding of the transition phase we are currently witnessing and experiencing. However, we insist on pointing out that creativity means foremost, to know more than one answer. At the same time, we still hope to draw a contrast-rich spectrum for the Internet, the epistemological crisis, and the realities of the future.
Inconvenient truths are always-already trans-perspective, trans-paradigmatic, and trans-contextual, hence, trans-disciplinary. “[…] The transcendental standpoint is in a sense irreducible, for one cannot look “objectively” at oneself and locate oneself in reality; and the task is to think this impossibility itself as an ontological fact, not only as an epistemological limitation” (Žižek, 2012, p. 230). Moreover, we “lack any ontological knowledge about the being of ourselves in our capacity of being the subject of scientific knowledge” (Marc de Kesel, 2016). How does then ‘epistemic objectivity of those elements that contain ontological subjectivity’ (Schimmelpfennig, 2016) work in a co-evolving, dynamic, inter-dependent, bio-digital fusion? In other words, how do we fundamentally understand our own “becoming” in a digital life, when the tools and systems we have created, create us now in return (Willis, 2006), and where the ‘exosomatic inheritance’ (Coccia, 2018, p. 42) becomes the collective legacy we leave for future generations?
We unquestionably find a dilemma in Schimmelpfennig’s wager, ‘to live as though the future exists.’ Which future? Out of all those pluralistic potentialities and pure possibilities, ‘the superlinearity of expression’ (Deleuze & Guattari, 1987, p. 72), which is ‘expression ever growing-faster, becoming creation, and potential for dynamics to occur’ (Schimmelpfennig, 2019), can we choose to live? If pluralistic futures do exist, then the re-invention of oneself demands to understand yourself only in the form of always-already ‘becoming’ in a constant self-reflective ‘strange loop’ (Hofstadter, 1999) in a paradoxical time, preferably described in the grammatical form of the perfectum, as always-already been accomplished, and not in the grammatical form of the subjunctive, which would otherwise be the only credible form to approximate what the future might become. We, therefore, finally reverse the predominant paradigm and downgrade Parminedes’ principles of systemic logic to last but not least, embrace Heraclitus’ world of sense (Lent, 2017, p. 152).
When code runs, it is supposed to run straight through without any interruption, until it has completed its tasks, unless there is a runtime error. Futurists are primarily looking for runtime errors, which are the equivalent of cracks in reality, or glitches in the matrix. The fracturing of our ‘consensual confabulations’ (Fisher, 2009, p. 59) that we call reality is, therefore, a welcoming opportunity to install an experimental amount of new operating systems, in order to evolve through divergence. Here, “chance” is not the absence of selection. Instead, we should regard “chance” as the intrusion of a different order of selection (Massumi, 1998, pp. 562–563). Meanwhile, “chaos” is not the absence of order, but rather very complicated information.
However, the depredatory effects of an oppressive form of transparency (Baudrillard, 1996) increases its asymmetric power imbalance over nothing less than our minds. It not only precludes a probably much more desirable ‘fractal and heterarchical trust network’, in which an ‘apex of authority’ (Weyenbergh, 2019), namely, a surreptitious technology based on algorithmic superstructures, would be non-existent. It mainly seems to manifest a ‘totalitarian top-down, high-tech, surveillance’ (Zuboff, 2018), ‘mindplex’ (Goertzel, 2003), ‘neoliberal system’ (Lorey, 2014), which pervertedly consumes our attention and life energy to consume the broad spectrum of possible futures.
The window of opportunity to act is taking into consideration that the system, which we should for apparent reasons consider being totalitarian, has already advanced enough in conducting its agenda at a level that is not accessible to us anymore. However, the complicit role of the circles in Futures Studies in allowing a fascistic systemization of power hegemonies of totalitarian top-down, high-tech surveillance capitalism with mindplex style cognitive integration to prosper, should become evident in observing the current trend of a proactive effort to advance a politics of disaffiliation and radical exclusion. It involves a politicized radical ontological precariousness (Fisher, 2009; Lorey, 2014). Predictive analytics has reached a sophistication in which a systemization of data collection is so ubiquitous that it now weaponizes the intervention, of planting subliminal cues to influence offline behavior, through language and word manipulation (Kramer, Guillory, & Hancock, 2014). The omnipotence of changing real-world behavior reminds us of a perfected degree of Divide et Impare, and Panem et Circenses.
Since such a degree of control of any system is proportional to the sum of information it can accumulate, this system will continue to penetrate the interstices of our world, to gather a diverse set of data, everything it can collect, to increase the control over its subjects. How this system does that, reveals the nested loop of our intellectual and emotional impotence as an integral part of the story, a paralysis that inhibits single individuals from comprehending the sheer complexity of our intertwining systems. Moreover, the lack of a formulation of a future-oriented philosophy or collective mythology of the future that might enable us to dynamize a counter-narrative, to mobilize against the utterly anti-democratic corporate agenda, shows our predicament of already existing within a colonized future.
However, if you are already the anomaly at the fringes of society that is refreshing, divergent, iconoclastic, or enigmatic, then you have successfully jailbroken your imposed mental state of obedience and submission and refuse to be a Cog in the system. Now you have to put in place what you embody, and the story of “becoming” can continue to unfold.
“I believe one of the greatest human failings, is to prefer to be right than to be effective. And political correctness is always obsessed with how right it is without thinking how effective it might be. I wouldn’t class myself as a classical libertarian. But I do relish transgression and I deeply and instinctively distrust conformity and orthodoxy. Progress is not achieved by preachers and guardians of morality. But to paraphrase Yevgeny Zamyatin, by madmen, hermits, heretics, dreamers, rebels, and skeptics.” (Fry, 2018)
It doesn’t require you to take a sort of hallucinatory, impressionistic perspective on contemporary reality to make sense of a phantasmagorical bio-digital fusion. However, it should better not be an oversimplified, linearly predictive, extrapolative stance that is still embedded in an antediluvian Newtonian worldview. A concordant quantum-entangled worldview, in which a quantum superposition of multiple, parallel timelines, reveals the ‘high-dimensional state-space of manifold possibilities’ (Friston, 2017) or ’equally possible impossibilities’ (Archer, 2015), basically ‘possidicts’ (Waskow, 1969, pp. 78–98) a vision of a qualitative difference in a Batesonian sense (Bateson, 1951) that essentially makes a difference. Since, Paideuma (Frobenius, 1921) states that every human culture represents a kind of organism, we should aim to comprehend the heuristics of making sense of the deeper meaning of our immersion within the billion of years of time-proven permutations in nature. Paideuma means that culture is not a mere collection of phenomena (e.g., works of art, systems, techniques, individuals), but a manifestation that is formed and shaped by its co-evolving environment and its autodidactic attitude towards life.
It might be true that humanity ‘has never truly inhabited a novelty-filled environment before,’ as Toffler (1970) describes it. Although, it is probably more accurate to allocate those words to the form of change momentarily occurring and being witnessed, namely, changing change. Polarization is just one phenomenon, a morbid symptom when the old is dying, and the new cannot be born that derives from the breakdown in sensemaking during changing times. However, we should be more honest about the state of the world and explicitly point out that our times do not consist of actual crises at all, because crises eventually go away. Instead, it should become clear that the morbid symptoms will remain an integral part of our life in a dying world, continue to mutate, and most probably only exacerbate over time. They are permanent in so far, as the introduction to our existence implies, they are not going away anymore.
Online communication is an example within this new equation of a Bio-digital Fusion. Online communication is deprived of the complexity with which we encounter another human being in the analog world. In online communication, the user experience is based on a narrow-minded preselection of choices by the architects. There are not many choices available compared to the richness of interaction outside of the world of simulated intimacy of online communication. But our perception is already a complex non-veridical perception that hides objective reality as it is from us, to tune perception to the relevant fitness functions of species-specific symbols (Hoffman, 2016). Additionally, all the hidden intentions in the design of online communication are not visible to us either. We encounter several layers of consensual confabulations.
We are limited in choosing between like or dislike (that’s very binary). We can share and retweet, comment, block, mute, and report. Engagement happens through a few slightly differentiated thumbs up, hearts, and dopamine inducing collectible gestures of support. Nevertheless, for some people, these choices have not been intense enough, so they also add more nuanced and further-reaching consequences, like Ghosting, which is similar to Schismogenesis ‘Systems of holding back’. Holding back is assumed to be “the single most important key to life-decreasing, reciprocity-trivializing and vitality-downgrading mechanisms in human life” (Hämäläinen & Saarinen, 2007). We have, among many other modes of interaction, also cat-fishing, trolling, the Chewbacca defense, gaslighting techniques, swatting, Deep Fakes, Labeling theory, Microtargeting, trigger warnings, virtue signaling, or tone policing, in echo-chambers-groupthink-filter-bubbles and so forth.
Maybe it does make it easier to bare the complexity of life and another human being, by limiting modes of interaction, dumbing-down the process, by oversimplifying the interface of communication and restricting engagement. It doesn’t satisfy our need to connect, to bond, or to prioritize understanding over the need to be understood. Apart from the hijacking of dopamine levels within the low-level panic environment of Twitter, showcased happiness on Instagram, or dopamine intoxications in competitive, anonymous online gaming, there are not many bio-chemical highs we can experience in online communication. We simply lose out on the biochemical compounds that evolution offered us to complete the full experience of encountering another human being, of genuinely meeting someone else. Truly meeting someone else, is an entirely different world, another qualitative dimension. Emojis as ideograms and smileys do not compensate for what we are missing out.
Margulis writes, “physical contact is a non-negotiable requisite for many different life forms” (Margulis, 1998, p. 3). Online communication is deprived of the haptic sensory sensations, the full-scale of the biochemical compounds, e.g., oxytocin boosts (Bergland, 2012) that can be delivered through a hug, helping us to feel trust, and to feel safe. We are mostly left as isolated cells in front of screens. Screen time forces us to rely on a limited set of senses, which are through a stream of information, signal and noise, a sensory overflow, vulnerable to manipulation, misdirection, misinterpretation, tracking, control, propaganda, socio-psychographic profiling, micro-targeting, and ideological colonization. “Specific areas of the brain detect and evaluate features, such as body and face movements and vocalizations that contribute to an impression of safety or trustworthiness” (Porges, 2011, p. 13). With deep fakes, this insecurity might only intensify. At the same time, the political agenda continues to paint everyone as a potential terrorist threat, who does not submit to the obligatory shopping addiction as well as the induced paralyzing paranoia by social media that silences non-parliamentary oppositions into preemptive obedience.
Creativity to tackle wicked problems will vanish as long as the attention-seeking business model of social media platforms prevail. The system consumes our energy to consume the future. To simply call out ‘eXistenZ is paused’ (Cronenberg, 1999) won’t help us to exit the game, we are meant to continue to play on this particular operating system. We are enmeshed in the ongoing bio-digital fusion, which reveals itself as an emergent higher order of complexity, but where we slowly begin to see the Biopunk signs and signals. Planetary civilization currently loses against the antediluvian design of inequality intensification based on the corporate agenda, a systemized version of ‘the art of self-destruction’ (Tucker, 2018).
Secularism has helped the civilization to free governance from religious doctrines. Can something new help us to free governance from those corporate doctrines? Maybe then we might be able to liberate those billions of lives, who have been enslaved as so-called Cogs (According to Urban Dictionary, a Cog is a faceless, nameless, unimaginative office fuck who just toe the line) in a predatory, mind-numbing, corporate machine, and whose suppressed frustration and conveniently chosen invincible ignorance work as complicity and hypocrisy in times of a planetary Ecocide. The Pyrocene (Pyne, 2019) will otherwise take care of the rest.
Most probably, we might need to see another league of buttons. The evolution from emoticons to emoji, hence, from typography to actual pictures, now requires the next stage, one that merges the digital world with all that what exists outside of it, the gazillion emerging clusterfucks. Currently, the digital realm, unfortunately, seduces us to entrench us further into hypercognition and dissociation of real-life complexity, leaving us with a loss in actually making sense of the world (Schmachtenberger, Wheal, & Hall, 2019). New buttons that allow further-reaching actions, inviting us to physically leave the digital realm to witness a dying world, and to be allowed to mourn together the irreversible collective losses, to realize, we are not alone with our pain.
Experiencing experimental group dynamics can be overwhelming when we have already become used to the deprived form of existence of an administered and oversimplified mediated digital life, the ivory towers, and safe havens. But without stepping out of our comfort zones, to witness the horizon-expanding positive effect of filter bubble hopping, we will not be able to learn what might eventually come next from the fringes of society. Cognitive Biases cannot and must not become a self-identification in the form of normalization, while tectonic paradigm shifts are piling up, but are still ignored. Alternatively, we are
“[…] reaching further, towards digitally mediated emotional interfaces for the improvement of human communication. Imagine, […] having a relationship with someone and actually feeling their joy, their fear. Being perfectly aware of them all the time, being able to tell them they’re loved when you’re not present to reassure them. Imagine negotiations where you can know for a certainty where there’s room to haggle and where there’s an impasse. Imagine trials where innocence was measurable on a graph.” (Harkaway, 2017, p. 193)
Choices need to open up to new pathways. Hyperlinks and autoplay, both just push us further away from the rabbit hole. They trick us into the other direction of the illusionary dimension of the virtual space of everyday digital life, delivered by screen time until algorithms have read our patterns so well that predictive analytics can enable an addictive degree of temptation and hypnotization, which might enslave our minds and whole beings forever in a self-protective tank-like filter bubble. If this sounds familiar, then we should ask the question; how do we exit the Matrix and see how deep the rabbit hole goes? Can we constructively work with the cracks in reality? Or will the merging of predictive analytics with neural modeling create an even more intrusive architecture that favors the re-emergence of authoritarian regimes and retrotopian worldviews?
“Prosocial behavior will not occur when our neuroception misreads the environmental cues and triggers physiological states that support defensive strategies. After all, ‘playing nice’ is not appropriate or adaptive behavior in dangerous or life-threatening situations” (Porges, 2011, p. 12).
Furthermore, a neoliberal politics of austerity, a politics of disaffiliation, and radical exclusion, throwing the individual into a radical ontological precariousness, will not help an individual to self-heal. It will not help to heal our relationships with each other. It will also not help to transform our toxic relationship with nature. There is simply no incentive for any of this. It certainly won’t liberate us from the inherited collective trauma of ongoing violent structures, the collective unconsciousness of self-sabotaging our transition towards higher forms of complexity and evolutionary cooperation.
“As a species, humans are highly social mammals, dependent on others for survival and reproduction. Under optimal conditions, this dependency is both symbiotic and reciprocal. The evolved neural, autonomic, and endocrine underpinnings of sociability are shared with other species, permitting a cross-species analysis of the processes responsible for sociality. Awareness of the neurobiology of social engagement and social bonding also offers insights into human concepts, such as social support and caregiving, which in turn can be associated with good health and recovery from illness. These systems are integrated throughout the body, including at the level of the brainstem, where hormones, such as oxytocin and vasopressin, influence behavior, the autonomic nervous system, and immune system. Projections to and from these ancient systems are experienced by more modern brain structures, including the cortex, as diffuse and sometimes powerful feelings or emotions” (Porges, 2011).
Margulis explains […] symbiosis, beginning as an uneasy alliance of distinct life-forms, may underlie the origin of major evolutionary novelty (1998, p. 20). Those uneasy alliances and even accidental collaborations, not only symbolize but also foreshadow the maturation of our species towards thriving, to go above and beyond previous baselines.
An evolution of cooperation is an apodeictic necessity to enable us to transcend the certainty of self-destruction, which any species faces that subsumes its foundation.
Since we are the evolutionary masters in niche constructions, always expanding even further, we subsume any system we come in touch with, e.g. lithosphere (ground), hydrosphere (ocean) and atmosphere (air). Even space debris (low-earth orbits, medium-earth orbits, geostationary orbit, high-earth orbits) indicates our aggressive expansion. We, therefore, better reject any form of certainty and thus confirm our ambiguous role, in self-fulfilling any prophecy, implied in our subjectively perceived images of the future. The conflict between an acknowledgment of ambiguity versus the temptation of certainty demonstrates the mark of personality traits that will inform and define the future. Since our brains are self-actualizing prediction machines, it becomes evident that whatever we put out there in the world will eventually self-manifest. The way how we re-wire our neural architecture will enable us to anticipate particular pluralistic futures through specific images or nonimages2, and vice versa (Nonimages of the future are nonimage data that do not relate to or contain an image or visual sensory information, but other sensory input, like auditory sense, gustatory sense, olfactory sense, somatosensory sense, thermoception, proprioception, nociception, equilibrioception, mechanoreceptor, chemoreceptor, neuroception, interoception, hygroreception).
“Gaia, in all her symbiogenetic glory, is inherently expansive, subtle, aesthetic, and exquisitely resilient. No planetoid collision or nuclear explosions have ever threatened Gaia as a whole. So far, the only way in which we humans prove our dominance is by expansion. We remain brazen, crass, and recent, even as we become more numerous. Our toughness is a delusion. Have we the intelligence and discipline to resist our tendency to grow without limit?” (Margulis, 1998, p. 128)
Sapere Aude the Kantian motto used in “Answering the Question: What Is Enlightenment?” (2009) to describe the period of the Enlightenment is undoubtedly not applicable in our time anymore. It merely is outdated, because ‘to dare to be wise’ or ‘to dare to know,’ assumes a capacity that conflicts with our actual existence and neuroscientific understanding today. We are not a distinctively separated being. Instead, we are entirely enmeshed in a digitalized life, immersed in a bio-digital fusion, living through a co-evolving ecocide, while our life itself is administered and mediated by power-over-our-mind craving algorithmic superstructures.
“Immersion makes both symbiosis and symbiogenesis possible: if organisms come to define their identity thanks to the life of other living beings, this is because each living being lives already, at once, in the life of others” (Coccia, 2018).
Now, we need to make sense of the world through new worldbuilding capacities, like exponential sensemaking, evolutionary cooperation (Axelrod, 1984), and anticipatory capabilities (Miller, 2015). Symbiogenetic Enlightenment in which uneasy alliances, embrace the understanding that we are always already being part of the world, that the world is within us, offers us major evolutionary novelty, by merely sensing the impact, effect and affect we—the technoculture, mediated and administered beings—have on each other and the creative evolution of the world. Can Symbiogenetic Enlightenment—To Dare to Sense Together —make a difference that can be a difference, essentially initiating the maturation and transitioning towards planetary evolutionary cooperation leading to major evolutionary change in systems, relationships, and beings?
“Hence it is the first and most important occupation of philosophy to deprive dialectic once and for all of all disadvantageous influence, by blocking off the source of the errors” (Kant, 1998).
With uneasy alliances, we do not tend to block off the source of the errors, but instead, we dare to sense together, we dare to constructively work with the errors, since every statement and sensemaking process about the future, apart from how ridiculous it first appears to be, is considered to be a valuable insight into what the future might become. The distinctions between the dichotomy of nature and technology are increasingly obscured, and the emerging Bio-digital Fusion highlights a new age for how we define intelligence and knowledge, namely, as collective and embodied. Symbiogenetic Enlightenment is thus an attempt to utilize the co-evolving, dynamic, inter-dependent, feedback loops of this fusion, in which uncertainty is an opportunity to sense beyond the cracks in reality.
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