“What-If” to ∞ = Hypernovelty
What I am trying to communicate here is that the “What-If” divorced from its critical origins is the very essence of our experienced paralysis of emotional and intellectual impotence on a global scale. We are going through a time where nothing can be said anymore, where nobody dares to think, where everything seems unauthorized knowledge, and the lack of interpersonal coherence makes us incapable of confiding anything profound to each other anymore. Fear rules. We seem to be quick in constructing narratives, in order to generate a meaningful experience for our self-deception. Complicity and hypocrisy, exacerbation and malignancy, capitalist realism, we all know the old systems are dying, morbid symptoms are everywhere, and this trajectory of tech-optimism and tendencies towards totalitarian surveillance and mass-manipulation, catapults us into a resource- and future-depleting dystopia of gazillion clusterfucks. The new cannot be born, instead, reactionary and retrotopian images re-emerge. Psycho- and socio-pathologies are the new normal. Future Shock became the sensory overflow, a raging deadlock. But instead of trying to change the world, believing in solutionism or accelerationism, a “What-If” to infinity could actually also be directed towards divergent and dissentient thinking, iconoclasm, idiosyncrasy, away from Gleichschaltung, assimilation and appropriation, towards de-schooling society and de-institutionalizing values, all of it, essentially aiming at divesting from the status quo politics and business as usual. If we could just overcome the politics of disaffiliation and politics of exclusion in the field of Futures Studies and society overall.
“What-if” to Infinity equals Hypernovelty. Hypernovelty is thus the term that describes the superlative degree of mind-altering suppositional questions, pointing sheer endless pathways towards above and beyond something new or unusual. Yes, we can critically argue against it; What if? Then what?’. Prima facie, the world is changing. No argumentum ad hominem can confute the message or interfere with the verisimilitude of the statement. As a geological force, we are altering the conditions of this planet. As a technological culture, we are co-evolving our minds and entire beings in iterative reciprocity with what we design and create, and what then designs and creates us in return. If we intuitively recognize the patterns within the bifurcations, we might be able to pick up clues, hints, weak signals, fringes and signs. But what then?
It might be true that mankind ‘has never truly inhabited a novelty-filled environment before’ (Toffler, 1970). Although, it is probably more accurate to allocate those words to the form of change momentarily occurring and being witnessed, namely, changing change. The antediluvian Newtonian worldview, oversimplified certainty and linear predictability, is now superseded by the quantum logic or quantum mode of causing an effect that allows mutual or two-way causation. The effect of a cause can literally feed back to the cause itself simultaneously (Yang, Peng, & Huang, 2018). Do we understand the implications? Does it require a form of exponential super sensitivity?
It requires social mutation. Transmutation. There is no entanglement without superposition. We thus aim at recognizing non-obvious patterns and invisible fringes. I don’t know if something like spiritual intelligence is required to get use there, or is it aesthetics in the sense of an appreciation for patterns? But we essentially seek out to decipher or discover meaning in narrative structures that are aligned with the advances and sophistication in literary genres like metafiction or biopunk. All the potential is already out there. It is pure potentiality as super-linearity of expression, which is expression ever growing faster, becoming creation, and potential for dynamics to occur. However, it seems that only multi-step, asynchronous, asymmetric, anticipatory analyses, can comprehend through forms of conjectural knowledge, the imbroglio of exponential, interacting, recursive progress of simulated or imagineered future timespace. Moving further from currently simulated intimacy towards ritualizing transformation and novelty in dynamic flow spaces, which are essentially safe spaces, is a question of learning about experience design.
Learning how to use the conscious direction of our thoughts and subconscious imaginations, relates to our hidden capacity to unleash our creative urge, to dream and to poetize ourselves, and to translate those capacities into action, thus; shared experiences. Altering and transforming the directionality of the evolutionary timeline, multiplying the trajectories into potential pluralistic versions, is a cognitive challenge, in which cognition is distributed, enacted, embodied, extended, situated, mediated, being visceral, and transcended.
A holistic resolution of all those multifarious, multi-factor, multi-correlations depends on the creative evolution of cultural governance, or conscious evolution. Can we govern the emergence of novelty, without suffocating its emancipatory potential for thriving, and with moving above and beyond current self-destructive systemic errors of our competition based operating system? Could we focus on the question, how much fundamental new advantages arise through investing energies in transformative modes of conduct? Is it possible to synthesize the apparently opposing directions of prophets (sustainability) and wizards (tech-optimism)? The process of striving towards the ideal – regenerative, adaptive capacities – is actually performed by means of a differentiation of the concept of possibility. We actualize or materialize progress through continuously transitioning towards the possibilities in any potential direction of supranational, planetary advantages. Meanwhile, a perfect plan is not about satisfying our expectations, hopes and desires. A perfect plan, as an overall strategy, is achieved when it utilizes the plasticity required to flexibly deal with sudden disruptions, unexpected difficulties and wicked problems. Navigating through wicked problems becomes then essentially our only resource, a playful interaction with feedback loops, where the constance of change, is superseded by changing change.
If we are moving further towards circular systems, and advance towards metasystem transitions (Last, 2015), higher and more elegant forms of self-organization might emerge. In consideration of the accelerating telescoping nature of the extended evolutionary paradigm, we can mutually and collectively reinforce adaptive capacities to organize complex, evolving, and dynamic systems. The required experimental and experiential approach should help us to map the emerging hypernovelty timespace (as a concrete visualization of exploratory roadmaps and yet non-obvious, yet invisible fringes and bifurcation points), the novelty-filled future environment. This might essentially lead to cognitive mappings, where the map of the futures and for the futures, is the re-wiring of our mindsets and vice versa.
“What-If” to Infinity as Hypernovelty surpasses false dichotomies through conceptual blending (Turner & Fauconnier, 2002), as well as the blurring of boundaries between film, games, and sciences. Hypernovelty is situating on the one hand mind-blowing and thought-provoking, ever ongoing, fruitful remixes of disciplines and genres. On the other hand, it is depicting fictionalizations of imagineered possibilities, or a fictionalization of the potentiality of the factual. It is a learning journey of and through our cognitive history (Lent, 2017) with a focus on the pre-mediation and pre-validity of the new mythologies of the futures (Lombardo, 2018). I don’t mean it as used futures, or colonized futures, but as guiding principles. Our answer towards Future Shock should be in other words, playfully disrupting our cultural conditioning, governing cultural evolution, and ritualizing transformation and novelty, all in favor of our long-term interests.
Obviously, everything is getting worse, and everything is getting better, paradoxically, simultaneously. That means, the cone of time is expansive. The vicious circles of systems out of control are running rogue, while parallel to that, we are also increasing our adaptive capacities, signature strengths and interpersonal coherence, a virtuous circle. Essentially, the space of what is possible or might become possible is expanding. It is however, not anymore about an attempt to humanize distant tomorrows as alternatives to dehumanized todays as Toffler described it. The anthropocentric viewpoint is outdated. Immersion requires from us to see the holism of it all.
The ideology, that this exploitative system could grow forever, prevails, but must finally be ended. Overcoming planned obsolescence through design fiction, when design fiction is divorced from its origins of criticality, is a tricky task. But important here is, how can moments of transient opening and irreversible closing of windows of opportunities be communicated through other means than academic textbook analysis. Complexity must move out of standardized academia, into richer forms of communication and mediation, in order to be an adequate response to the current challenges and challenges ahead.
Acknowledging the collective loss, where nobody is winning anymore, should actually mobilize every caste of society, in order to engage in a transnational, intergenerational playful endeavor with our evolutionary game principles. Cooperation has to begin small in few-to-few trust networks, and then to be scaled up, in order to get us out of the current mode of conduct of viciously corrosive competition. In other words, we should not be playing according to the rules, but with the rules of the current reward system. Moving even further into the realm of the emerging bio-digital fusion, manipulating millions of years of time-proven permutations in nature, our agency as social-political beings is virtually increasing, while essentially also being assimilated into the irreversible march of historic time of erring forward.
Meanwhile, the depredatory effect of a nontransparent algorithmic superstructure, perfects its ubiquitous atmosphere to quietly silence opposition. It subversively punishes disobedience. It paints ecocide and atrocities as economically justifiable. It especially establishes a state of fear and insecurity that governs us through an insurmountable subjugation to take part through forms of complicity and hypocrisy. A mediated and administered life in the current mode of conduct, equals a radical ontological precariousness, enforced upon us through design. However, if we can realize that we have the agency to self-actualize and level-up, to the degree of becoming super empowered thriving individuals, who follow the obligation to always help each other out, then we would already have an entirely different socio-economic organization. If we furthermore comprehend that consequences of our actions can be as contradictory as our actions itself, that consequences can manifest themselves with a delay in time, not due to mono-causal deterministic factors, but instead as multi-factor correlations in indeterminate causal order, then our degree of awareness and mindfulness, what type of a world we are actually creating, through our daily behavioral patterns, the choices we make, and actions we take, would already be heightened.
The immersive turn can help us. Heraclitus may finally triumph. “[…] Immersion is the eternal form and the condition of possibility of the world” (Coccia, 2018, p. 67).
“The world is not a place; it is a state of immersion of each thing in all other things, the mixture that instantaneously reverses the relation of topological inherence. […] Immersion is not the temporary
condition of a body in another body. Nor is it a relation between two bodies. In order for immersion to be possible, everything needs to be in everything. […] To say that everything is in everything, and thus that immersion is the eternal form and the condition of possibility of the world, means first of all to assert that everyone physical event is produced as immersion and from the starting point of immersion” (Coccia, 2018, p. 67)
To understand ourselves as always already being in the world as part of the world, might equip us furthermore – described in the subjunctive grammatical form as the only serious stylistic device to talk about the futures – with the adaptive, regenerative mindset to journey safely through the adventure of the horror science-fiction jump’n run game of Future Shock. Infused by exponential tech, existential risks, and cognitive biases on a collectividualistic scale, unquestionably, exciting times should be ahead.
Future Shock, or Hypernovelty are not pars pro toto. However, old approaches and antediluvian structures are clearly the enemy of the civilizatory project of humanity. The new cannot be born, as long as the morbid symptoms of the old prevail, which now begin to devour the immaterial accomplishments of our civlization. The predominant authority of our time are unquestionably unquestioned assumptions. The desirable disruption of cultural conditioning is embodied in a self-reflective confrontation with our own biases, our complicity and hypocrisy. Hypernovelty therefore is as much a metatopical timespace of a counter-narrative to the status quo, or even retrotopian politics, as it is a performative utterance, to actually initiate our journey into a difference that makes a difference in quality.
Coccia, E. (2018). Die Wurzeln der Welt. Merkur, 826, 23–33.
Last, C. (2015). Human Metasystem Transition (HMST) Theory. Journal of Evolution and Technology, 25(1), 1–16.
Lent, J. (2017). The Patterning Instinct: A Cultural History of Humanity’s Search for Meaning. Prometheus Books.
Lombardo, T. (2018). Science Fiction – The Evolutionary Mythology of the Future: Prometheus to the Martians (Volume 1). Changemakers Books.
Toffler, A. (1970). Future Shock. Random House.
Turner, M., & Fauconnier, G. (2002). The Way We Think. Conceptual Blending and the Mind’s Hidden Complexities. New York: Basic Books.
Yang, A. C., Peng, C.-K., & Huang, N. E. (2018). Causal decomposition in the mutual causation system. Nature Communications, 9(1), 3378. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-018-05845-7