Alien Anthropology

Self-Knowledge of Nature

We are sentient nature.

It is really simple, in a sense, and is simultaneously also exquisitely complex: the ongoing replication and self-propagation of communications and information transmission systems consist of a recursive, reflexive mapping of communications and information systems back upon, into and through themselves at varying degrees of abstraction and referential or conceptual sophistication. The central task of cultural (or any other flavour of systems) analysis in this context is to determine what this process is and how it functions.

We should perhaps not be so very surprised to discover that the what precisely is the how, that the memory is the processor, and that in regards to material, algorithmic and logically abstract eloquence, nature is billions of years ahead of us. It is transparently and necessarily self-evident that we and all of our cognitive and technological practices are ourselves emergent properties and sentient manifestations of all this gloriously self-propagating complexity. In this sense, all of our science and culture is really just this mischievously recursive process of Cosmological self-reference engaging in the process of recombinatory self-replication and exploratory self-awareness.

I genuinely wonder if the highest attainment and pinnacle of technological sophistication will turn out to be nature itself, as is, and considered as endemically, astoundingly, implacably perfect. Discussions of hyper-advanced technological civilisations converge towards an idea that at a sufficiently advanced level of sentience, intelligence and technology – that civilisation, entity or presence becomes indistinguishable from nature.

If the summit of sophistication should indeed turn out to be the embodiment of sentience or intelligence as nature itself, it certainly begs the question as to why the original fall, separation or discontinuity from a natural state of grace, peace, harmony or wholeness should ever occur. Perhaps nature generates sentience, intelligence and technological complexity as methods of discovering itself. If this were true, and if nature and the Cosmos were capable of sentience, it is just as likely that they have already attained that state and that our exuberant search for life and intelligence in the monumental expanses of deep space and time has already somewhat missed the whole point.

There is an apocryphal ancient Chinese anecdote that asserts that “We are that through which the Earth comes to know itself.” Whether or not this is considered true and could ever plausibly extend to the potential for super-advanced technological civilisation being indistinguishable from nature is irrelevant. It is a fact that we are of nature, that we are nature, and that we are self-aware and it is anyone’s guess where this whole civilisation and blossoming, confused sentient experience of humanity is ultimately going.

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