sabato 5 luglio 2014

meta Tao design - II: Tecnologia e Realtà

Trampoline of odd imaginings, Mandelwerk

Humberto Maturana


* Technology and Reality.


Technology is operation according to the structural coherences of the different domains of doings in which one may participate as a human being. As such technology can be lived as an instrument for effective intentional action, or as a value that justifies or gives orientation to a manner of living in which all is subordinated to the pleasure lived through doing it. When it is lived in this last manner, technology becomes an addiction whose presence those addicted wish to justify through rational arguments founded on the historical reality of its great expansion in modern times.

Lived as an instrument for effective action technology has led to the progressive expansion of our operational abilities in all the domains in which there is knowledge and understanding of their structural coherences. Biotechnology is a case in which such an expansion has had recursive consequences. Thus, the expansion of biotechnology has resulted in an expansion of the knowledge of living systems as structure determined systems, and the reverse, the expansion of the knowledge of living systems as structure determined systems has led to the expansion of biotechnology. However, the expansion of biotechnology has not expanded our understanding of living systems as systems, nor has it expanded our understanding of ourselves as human beings. Quite on the contrary. The expansion of biotechnology interlaced with the explicit or implicit belief in a reductionistic genetic determination, as well as our immersion in a mercantile culture that penetrates all dimensions of our psychic existence, has obscured our view of ourselves as living beings of systemic identity that can become one kind of being or another according to how they live. In these circumstances we modern human beings live under two basic and penetrating cultural inspirations, one is that the market justifies everything, the other is that progress is a value that transcends human existence. This appears expressed in that practically all that we modern humans do is done in relation to its market value, and we talk and act as if we were carried by a trend of progress to which we must submit.

Thus, for example, now days there is much work and research in relation to the design of anthropomorphic machines, and much is argued that we humans should adapt to a time in which evolution is entering a technologic-scientific phase, looking at evolution as a process that carries us regardless of our awareness of it. Does this means that we must surrender to a cosmic force in which we are irrelevant and will disappear? What are we?

Much is said about a trend towards the technomorphisation of human existence, namely, a trend towards the reorganization of the organic in terms of the model of intelligent machines. May be this is so because the confidence in that what was considered as properly human, like the soul, the spirit, autonomous thought, the condition of self-consciousness, could not be realized through machines is eroding away in face of what seems the triumph of technology and science. In the invitation to write this article it is said: "According to Paul Virilo (a French writer) the new brain frame that is shaped by the adaptation to the electronic media (metadesign), penetrates the human neurological structures more deeply than older formations (relational processes?). Metadesign regenerates the impulses of neural transmission in a living subject and thus creates a sort of cognitive ergonomics. The result is a new anaesthetized relation between the human and the machine. Metadesign is a way of dumbing the infrastructure of human behavior." But, where are we individual responsible humans in all this that we can be so easily manipulated by other humans through their claims of generating progress in the development of the power of the machine while they satisfy their own ambitions, desires or fantasies?

No doubt that as structure determined systems we exist through our structural dynamics. No doubt as dynamic structure determined systems we exist in continuous structural change and our structure can be manipulated intentionally in order to obtain some intended consequences in our living. In that sense we are machines, molecular machines. But our human existence, our human identity does not take place in our structure. And this statement is valid for any machines as it exists as a totality in a relational space. As I have shown above, we exist as human beings as systemic entities in a relational space under continuous structural change. Furthermore, we are the kind of beings that we are as human beings, Homo sapiens amans or Homo sapiens aggressan, only as long as we participate of the systemic dynamics in which we arise and are conserved as that kind of human beings by living with other human beings. We are not predetermined genetically or otherwise to become the kind of human being that we become in our living.

We become according to how we live in a systemic manner by contributing with our living to conserve the kind of being that we become. Furthermore, what we think that we are, recursively forms part of the systemic dynamics in which we become and conserve the identity that we become. Moreover, since what we think forms part of the network of conversations that constitutes our living, we become according to our emotioning interlaced with our doings in the flow of our languaging. So, since our emotions specify the relational domain in which we are at any instant, it is our emotioning what defines the course of our individual living as well as the course of our cultural history, not our reason. This central role of emotions in defining the course of history, is not peculiar to us as cultural beings. Indeed it is the nature of the evolutionary process that it occurs in the constitution of lineages through the reproductive conservation of manners of living that are in fact defined by the relational preferences or choices of the organisms. Biological evolution is not entering a new phase with the growth of technology and science, but the evolution of human beings is following a course more and more defined by what we chose to do in front of the pleasures and fears that we live in our enjoyment or distaste of that which we produce through science and technology. This is why the question of what do we want is the central one, not the question about technology or reality.

Thus, since we are structure determined systems we are open to any structural manipulation that respects the structural coherences proper to the structural domain in which it takes place. Or, the same said in more general terms, and in a way that results more remarkable and at the same time more terrifying: anything that we may choose to design can be implemented, if the design respects the structural coherences of the domain in which it takes place.


The notion of reality is changing but not our living in relation to it. Reality is a proposition that we use as an explanatory notion to explain our experiences. Moreover, we use it in different ways according to our emotions. This is why there are different notions of reality in different cultures or in different moments of history. Yet, we live in the same manner as the fundament of the validity of our experience that which we connote with the word real when we are not using it as an argument, that is, we live the "real" as the presence of our experience. I saw it, ... I heard it, ... I touched it, ... Indeed, this is why I claim that it is a fundamental condition in our existence as structure determined systems that we cannot distinguish in the experience itself between what we call our daily living perception and illusion. The distinction between perception and illusion is done a posteriori by devaluating an experience in relation to another that is accepted as valid without knowing if it will or will not be devaluated later in relation to another one. In fact, this is why virtual realities are called realities. Yes, what we now call virtual realities have a special character because they are associated to modern technology, and are design to involve many of our sensory dimensions, and ideally all possible ones. But in the strict sense they are nothing special, unless we use them as a powerful procedure to cheat and manipulate the lives of others. In these circumstances, what we call real, that is, that with respect to which virtual realities are virtual, are those experiences that we use as the grounding reference for our explanation of those other experiences that we live equally as real in the flow of our living, but we want to devaluate.

Our human life takes place in the relational dynamics in which we live it by living in conversations as languaging beings. As a consequence of our condition of living in conversations, our history as human beings has occurred in the continuous generation of domains of coordinations of coordinations of behaviors that float on the conservation of our living as biological entities, in a flow of shifting human realities that is possible because it does not matter how our biological living is conserved as long as it is conserved. And this historical dynamics has occurred in a way in which the biological realization of our being continuously disappears from our view as an invisible background in our daily operation as human beings unless it is directly interfered with. So, our history as human beings that begun when our ancestors begun to live in conversations, has been one of recursive creations of new realities which are all virtual with respect to the basic one of our biological existence, but which become real (non-virtual) in the flow of our human living as through their operational binding with our basic biological living they become the grounding for some new virtual reality. Therefore, that which should concern us, if we want that concern, is what do we want of our human existence, what course do we want that our humanness should follow.

Reality, when it is not just a manner of explaining our human experience, is that which in our living as human beings we live as the fundament of our living. Under these circumstances, reality is not energy, not information, however powerful these notions may appear to us in the explanation of our experiences. We explain our experiences with our experiences and with the coherences of our experiences. That is, we explain our living with our living, and in that sense we human beings are constitutively the fundament for all that exists, or may exist in our domains of cognition.

Expansions of basic reality.

Changes in the dimensions of structural coupling occurring along the evolutionary history of the different kinds of living systems, have constituted evolutionary transformations of the domains of basic reality in which they exist. The same can occur through design, in the intentional use of prosthetic means that create new dimensions of interactions for an organism which thus become new sensory domains for them. Due to its operation as a closed network of changing relations of activities, the nervous system has no intrinsic limitation for dealing with the expansion of the basic reality of the organism that it integrates. Nor does the nervous system have any intrinsic limitation for dealing with novel sensory dimension that may appear in the lives of organisms if their domains of interactions result expanded as a consequence of some independent structural changes of the medium.

If the manner of living that defines the class identity of a particular living system is conserved through the transformation of the basic biological reality in which it exists, the living system remains of the same kind, but its particular characteristics, and the relational space in which it lives, change. But if the manner of living that defines the class identity of a particular living system is not conserved, the living system disappears as a living system of that kind, and a new one appears in a new relational space.

Human bodyhood.

The love, the spirit, our consciousness and self-consciousness, responsibility, autonomous thought, are central to our existence as human beings, but not only they, also our bodyhood. The present human bodyhood is the result of the history of transformation of the bodyhood of the members of our human lineage as an outcome of their living in conversations, so it is not just any. If we modern humans were to make a robot that in its behavior is not different from us showing spiritual concerns, self-consciousness, emotions and autonomous rational thought, it would still be a robot and not a human being due to the history of its bodyhood. In the history of the cosmos such a robot may replace us and we may disappear completely as many other animal species that have become extinct, and that will be our end and the end of humanness in the cosmos. Does it matter? For me, since I do not consider progress or technology as values in themselves, it matters and I do not want that to happen!

It is possible that we human beings are becoming adapted to the interference with the natural processes in our lives through the medical use of organ transplants, artificial organs, or artificial initiation of embryonic development. May be that we accept those practices because it seems to us that they do not alter our human condition as they appear to conserve it. But at the same time it is becoming apparent that what threatens our humanness is in fact the commercial psychic space in which we now live, and in which we are ready to subordinate everything that we do to commerce as if it did not matter what happens in the flow of human history. In a commercial psychic existence, the commercial value is the first and most fundamental concern.

But, is this relation to the bodyhood in humanness essential to humanness? I think it is because those features that make us the kind of beings that we are, namely, love, social responsibility, cosmic consciousness, spirituality, ethical behavior, and expanding reflexive thought, arise in us as dynamic features of our human bodyhood conserved and cultivated in a relational human living that conserves that bodyhood. Humanness is not an expression of some computer program that specifies certain ways of operation, it is a manner of relational living that entails its being grounded on a basic bodyhood. Yes, many of our organs can be replaced by artificial ones, but they will be replacement only if they replace the original organs in the realization of the human living. Yes, it is possible to eventually make robots that openly behaves like us, but their history will be tied to their bodyhood, and as they will exist as composite entities in different domains of components than us, the domains of basic realities that they will generate will be different from ours.

* Art and design.

Art arises in design, but the aesthetic experience occurs in the wellbeing and joy that we live in being in coherence with our circumstances. So art has the artificiality of intention, expression or purpose, and everything can be a means for its realization. As such art exists in the psychic domain of the culture in which it occurs, unless there is the intention or purpose of breaking with it bringing forth some relational dimensions to human life, or some opportunity for reflection. We humans live aesthetic experiences in all the relational domains in which we dwell. It is due to the biological foundation of aesthetic experience, as well as to the fact that all that we live as human beings belongs to our relational existence, that art intertwines with our social existence and our technological present at all times.

I claim that the emotion that constitutes social coexistence is love. And love is the domain of those relational behaviors through which another being arises as a legitimate other in coexistence with oneself. As different technologies open and close different relational dimensions, they offer different possibilities for social and nonsocial coexistence, as well as different possibilities for the artist to create the relational experience that he or she may want to evoke. In all cases, though, whatever he or she does, the artist will be a participant creator of some virtual reality that may or not become a grounding reality in the course of human history. The artist is not unique in this, of course. We all human beings, and regardless of whether we are aware of this or not, are cocreators in flow of the changing realities that we live, but artists are in a very peculiar situations. Artists are poets of daily life that more than other human beings act in intended design, and, hence, what they do to the course of the history of humanness is usually not trivial. Artists as poets of daily life see or grasp the coherences of the present that the human community to which they belong lives, revealing them, according to their preferences and choices of a manner of living.

* Desires and responsibility.

We human beings always do what we want, even when we say that we are forced to do something that we do not like. What happens in this last case, is that we want the consequences that will take place as we do what we claim that we do not want to do. This is why our desires, our conscious and unconscious desires, determine the course of our lives, and the course of our human history. What we conserve, what we wish to conserve in our living, is what determines what can and what cannot change in our lives. At the same time this is why we frequently we do not want to reflect on our desires. If we do not see our desires, we can live feeling no responsibility for most of the consequences of what we do.

Artists, poets of daily life, are some of those people that can be, and frequently are aware of the course that human existence is following. This is particularly evident in science fiction writers that reveal a future that arises from their extrapolations of the coherences of our relational present. At the same time artists can be, and frequently are aware of what is missing in present human relations, such as love, honesty, social responsibility, and mutual respect, but the works in which they reveal or evoke what they see, are frequently dismissed as utopia. But in both cases it is not the medium what is central for the work of the artist, it is what they want to do. The medium is always a domain of possibilities that can be used with great or little knowledge of what can be done with it, but it is always a matter of dedication and aesthetics whether one manages or not to use it at will. What concerns me however, is the purpose, the emotioning that the artist wants to evoke.
Hommage to Benoit Mandelbrot, Mandelwerk
meta Tao design - I: Sistemi viventi

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