Alien Anthropology

The March of the Immaterial Abstractions

A patterned liquid probability and abstract symmetry of information flow.

The form and flow of this life and logical information space we inhabit is as much a matter of what we are not as what we are; we are manifestations and expressions of that life beyond us as much as that within.  There exists a particular narrow focus of abstract pattern or cognitive extension that passes through our material selves and our various technologies of self.  The adaptive container and shaping space of our various paths through life is that aggregate mass of cultural custom, cliché or idiom; a reassuring continuity of cyclic recurrence, unsurprising convention and of course – communication. While we may feel ourselves to embody, perhaps justifiably, living threads of self-determination, it is as much the case that we are mere empty shells that carry our shared worlds around inside ourselves, as our selves.

The entangled patterns and dancing symmetries of information and energy that pass through our lives, and from which we invoke purpose and meaning, are themselves another form of life. Where we are bound for reasons of incarnate self-interest and conventionally reflexive or teleological narrative method to see our world as populated by discrete entities and embodied, purposeful sentience – it is as true that the adaptive, evolving abstractions and complexity of the patterns of behaviour, thought, ideology, fashion or politics (among many more things) are in some sense also living entities. A school of thought, a trend in style or visual affectations of aspirational cultivation of self-identity, of social movement or political governance – these are all the shadow-life of immaterial abstraction that inflates our world with meaning.

Complex abstractions and immaterial patterns of logic, mathematics or statistical regularity are the essence of this world. Of course, this in itself does not in any way provide us with guidance or parameters for acting, understanding the world. The concise mathematical and logical abstractions through which we might capture and represent the patterned flow and form of the world are so far removed from our experience of it that they find themselves corrupted, waylaid and variously exploited for the enlightened self-interests of ideologues and rank egoists of many flavours. The most effective and efficient depths of sophisticated problem-solving available to us (i.e. through science) at any particular point in our shared history are rarely, if ever, able to percolate through our collective and consensus systems of control and governance.

The sheer complexity of our world is not reducible to those caricatured generalisations through which we commonly intend to explain or interpret it. Even physics and mathematics, those most eloquent of the sciences, find themselves at a loss in bridging the gap between the theoretical or logical construction of the world and the experienced practicalities of living within it. The insertion of political or psychological self-interest does little more than muddy the waters, at all scales of endeavour. If we were to ever, as a species, aspire to some simple principles of (self-)organisational wisdom they would always be at risk of exploitation and mischievous misdirection. This is not the problem it appears to be – entropy and turbulence in systemic self-propagation serves a purposes of instilling that difference and dissonance through which change and continuity occur.

A shift in perception is required. We are the peaks and troughs of information patterns passing through a transmission medium of material artefacts, networked minds, information and energy. We are not the owners of this process – an acknowledgement that in so commonly failing is itself a source of most individual and organisational pathology and conflict. We, as our minds and our lived experience, are the immaterial abstractions passing through this world and this world is, to us, the immaterial abstraction passing through us, as us. We are bound by factors of biological necessity and cultural (or psychological) expediency to interpret ourselves as individuated endpoints and self-enclosed atoms of this cultural and material world. This atom of self is, however, quite as insubstantial and logically ethereal as is the modern conception of matter: we are not certainties or rational inevitabilities, we are the probabilistic fluctuations and nodal foci of distributed fields of self-propagating patterns of information and energy. As living entities, we are the pure immaterial abstractions of our own invention.

Shifting perspectives from individual entity to distributed field.

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