Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Distributed networks: Thoughts, one subway ride

By James Curcio


Thoughts, one subway ride. It is always concerning to me how much the El in Philly smells like an electrical fire. When you're in a metal box hurtling at 50mph, it seems to me that you don't want it to smell like an electrical fire. 

We are distributed networks within distributed networks within... Ad infinitum. The network runs across each scale as a slice but also between all scales. That's how it works. "Real" was an enlightenment era misnomer, which sought to stake out an unmoving point or common ground (axis mundi) within that everchanging mess, or even the hope of emergence.

Maybe real can mean many other things too, depending on the context. But the point at which real had any sense, any, er... real sense... died with the Enlightenment. (See also The Immanence of Myth if you care about this line of thought because I'm about to drop it.)

Why? Because, that's beside the point, I don't want to totally miss my train of thought -- or my stop -- but yet so is this. There was an asian girl sitting across from me that made my heart skip a beat, and the homeless man behind me smelled of mouldy old cheese. Talk about cognitive dissonance. I see so many beautiful people every day in this city, so beautiful that I just want to cry. And so many broken, twisted things that exist purely on pity or hate. It's all so confusing. And the electric system was messed up as usual so the stop announcements were all reversed. 15th street... 30th street... Was time going backwards? The signs not lining up with the actual stations was weird to me too, though no one else in the car seemed phased. It happens all the time. It shouldn't be weird. It just felt significant somehow but I pinched myself, no I mean I really did, and reminded myself that this was all a red herring. Don't lose the original thought.

Is the emergent consciousness (in the case of the distributed networks of our bodies, the "I") centralized, or is it an autonomous illusion required at a certain level of complexity to apply a will to that one network node?

Let's bring it back to ourselves again though. See...The hard part is, remember when that cell in your lip died? Me either. That's what we are, as a node in the distributed network within network within network.

The flip side is this. Any node can, theoretically, access from the others. As we evolve, if we evolve, we can call on the greater organism more, and more. That is the main optimism I hold for the future, though it feels to me that the challenges we face in the next century we just aren't prepared for.

Still, if humanity has a future, that is it: understanding the true power of distributed networks, and recognizing both our power and relative insignificance. And I won't even begin to conjecture what that would need, aside from the thought that the NWO myth of it occurring through fascism and control have already been proven false a million different ways. Look instead to ant colonies, and to bee hives.* When will humanity act, for the most part, toward the common good of the hive? If never, then it truly will be 404. File not found.

I reached my stop, and scattered out and about like all the other little ants, doing our important unimportant chores, having evolved to the point where we can see a top-down view if we see fit to do so. But then I  think about all the torture we inflict upon one another, sucking our planet dry so that we can kill one another -- and my mind goes blank. 

* This was also talked about at length in The Immanence of Myth


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